Worried about money impacting your mental health? You’re not alone. In a recent study conducted by Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index, it has been revealed that the cost-of-living crisis has had a profound effect on the well-being of individuals.
Approximately 59% have reported a negative impact on their mental health. This alarming statistic highlights the undeniable connection between financial stress and overall health.
Money and mental health
Understanding how financial worries impact your mental health, and vice versa, can help identify patterns and help you to feel more in control. Here are some examples:
- Situations like opening bills or talking to credit card companies can trigger feelings of panic or anxiety.
- Feeling low or depressed can affect your motivation, making it harder to function or manage your commitments. Depression can also impair concentration, which makes it difficult to focus on things like budgeting or organising Direct Debits.
- Having to budget for higher costs, being in debt or managing benefits can lead to stress and feelings of anxiety.
- Spending money (even when you can afford it) may lead to feelings of guilt or worry.
When is worrying about money a problem?
It’s completely normal to feel worried when facing an increase in living costs. In fact, worry can be helpful when it leads to practical problem-solving and planning, which helps to manage your finances.
Worry can become problematic if it gets out of control, is all-consuming or leaves you unable to focus on other things.
It’s easy to get trapped in an unhelpful cycle of worry, where the more you focus on your worries, the more anxious you feel. This increased anxiety can make it harder to think clearly, make good decisions, or get a good night’s sleep – all of which are essential when it comes to managing our problems.
10 ways to tackle money worries
1. Use the ‘worry time’ technique
If you feel you’re getting overwhelmed by worry, try the ‘worry time’ technique, which involves setting aside time to worry.
Imagine anxiety as a fire. A fire needs oxygen to thrive. Worry is the oxygen that keeps anxiety burning and can include all sorts of thoughts and images. These usually start with ‘What if…’ and often include worst-case scenarios. These thoughts can quickly multiply and interfere with your day-to-day activities.
You may find you’re using a lot of energy worrying about things that aren’t happening, and may never happen (hypothetical worries), rather than focusing on practical issues. This can be exhausting.
You can start to take back control by choosing when to worry, or making worry wait:
- Decide a time of the day that will be your assigned ‘worry time’ – set aside one hour (maximum), and make sure it’s not close to your bedtime.
- As soon as you become aware of a worry during the day, ask yourself whether this is a practical problem that you can solve or take action on. If it isn’t, then postpone it to your ‘worry time’.
- Come back to your worries at your designated time each day, and only worry about the things that are still bothering you. Some may have passed because you’ve interrupted the cycle, so use your allocated time to worry about the ones that are left.
- Stop at the end of the period and actively involve yourself in something else.
2. Focus on what you can control
While you can’t control the events that are impacting the cost of living crisis, there’s still plenty you can control.
Mindfulness can help you deal with day-to-day stresses by helping you keep your focus on the present moment, rather than constantly worrying about the future.
Taking just 5 minutes to sit quietly and notice your surroundings can help you feel more grounded for the rest of your day. Why not try our 5-minute fitness and wellbeing sessions?
3. Remember to breathe
When we experience stress, our breathing becomes more rapid. Slower breathing decreases the body’s stress response.
When you feel yourself getting stressed or anxious, pay attention to the length of your inhales and exhales – try to breathe less than 12 breaths a minute.
4. Avoid avoidance
Money worries often trigger feelings of embarrassment or shame, which also get in the way of problem solving. When we feel embarrassed, our instinct is to hide away and avoid issues, rather than face them. This might make things feel easier in the short term, but over time worries will build even further making things worse in the longer term.
It can feel overwhelming when bills or letters arrive, and it can be tempting to ignore them. Try to deal with them as soon as possible, so they don’t play on your mind, or lead to bigger problems down the line.
5. Reach out for money advice
If you’re struggling with debts or paying bills, speak to the organisations involved, or ask someone to do this on your behalf. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for support. Most organisations will understand and if they’re aware of your situation they may help you come up with a manageable payment plan or negotiate another way forward.
Speak to your employer to find out what support they have available. Even if they don’t offer anything now, sharing the challenges you’re facing may encourage them to put more support in place in the future.
6. Be kind to yourself
Many people feel ashamed when they’re experiencing financial difficulties or in need of support. Some people even blame themselves for having difficulty coping.
It’s important to remember that many people are facing unexpected and unprecedented pressures at the moment. This situation isn’t your fault. Self-blame and self-criticism can further impact your mental health, lowering your mood or sense of self.
Remember to talk to yourself with compassion, kindness and encouragement, the way you would speak to a friend you care about and want to support.
7. Talk about your money worries
Having money worries can be an isolating experience, and isolation can make mental health worse. In times of difficulty, it’s more important than ever to nurture positive relationships.
Speaking to a family member or friend can help you ease the burden and reduce anxiety around your financial situation. Try to stay connected to people around you and aim to speak to someone at least once a day, even if it’s just a quick check-in with a neighbour, or a phone call with a friend or loved one.
If you don’t have someone you can easily talk with about your financial worries, you can call a helpline like Samaritans who will listen and help you think and talk through your options.
8. Prioritise your health
The cost of living crisis means that many people are having to make tough decisions about how to manage monthly outgoings and other expenditures. While these decisions will be different for everyone, you must prioritise your mental and physical health.
Being physically active (ideally out in nature), having good sleep habits, contributing to your community, practising new skills, eating healthily, stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol, are all known to support mental health.
Make time each day for something that benefits your physical and your mental health.
9. Take a break from bad news
Don’t overwatch or overread the news. Living in the digital age we are bombarded with bad news from every angle and even carry it around with us in our pockets.
Limit your updates to once or twice a day and to one or two reliable and trusted sources. Reading every news report and update on every news or social media site can feed anxious cycles.
10. Seek professional support
If you’re experiencing ongoing low mood (more than two weeks) or extreme mood changes, reach out to your GP or speak to one of our mental health professionals for support.
They will talk through your mental health with you and the various options and pathways you can take.
For more information, visit https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/