Financial worries are taking the biggest toll on Britons’ mental health amid the pandemic, with 71 per cent worried about having enough money to pay their rent, mortgage and utility bills.
What’s more two thirds of people say they are worried about having enough money to buy basic essentials such as food and clothing, research by virtual psychology clinic, My Online Therapy, shows.
While local furlough schemes are being introduced, worries also stem from the impending halt of the national furlough scheme this month, which could result in thousands more losing their jobs.
Ignoring your bills and debts will only make the situation worse and could result in you spiralling into depression
Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein, co-founder and co-CEO of My Online Therapy says: ‘The world as we know it has changed dramatically as we experience the unprecedented turmoil caused by coronavirus, and it is clear that this has had a considerable impact on our mental health.
‘Britons all over the country are experiencing heightened anxiety amid the pandemic, which is increasing demand for mental health services and putting a strain on the NHS services that are available.’
Today, in line with World Mental Health Day, This is Money’s outlines seven strategies from financial experts which you can adopt to reduce financial burdens and ease some of the stress that accompanies it.
1. Draw up a budget. This may be an obvious thing to do but it’s an exercise that typically gets swept under the carpet and delayed because we don’t want to face our financial reality. But doing this can help set a clear, realistic plan on getting out of financial troubles.
Why do we ignore our money problems?
Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist, co-founder and co-CEO of My Online Therapy says avoiding financial problems can have a psychological impact
The shame and embarrassment from financial struggles often result in people ignoring their money problems, which can ultimately make the situation worse.
Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist, co-founder and co-CEO of My Online Therapy explains: ‘If you’re struggling with debt, it can be difficult to pick up the phone or open the bills that are piling in the letterbox. It can be daunting – and very often our first instinct is to bury our head in the sand.
‘But no matter how much you try to avoid it, the problem is still there. Ignoring it simply stops you from finding a solution, making it easier for debt to spiral out of control. Avoidance can have a psychological impact too.
‘When we feel like we don’t have any financial control, we’re likely to experience a lot of anxiety. It can lead to low self-worth, and over time, even depression. Taking action gives us a sense of mastery over the situation – even if the situation is difficult.’
Touroni says: ‘Work out what finances are available to you. Given the current circumstances, you may find that your spending habits are different to how they were pre-lockdown.
‘Check your direct debits and standing orders, and keep track of any non-essential spending. Are there any areas you’re able to cut back on?’
2. Include self-care in your budget. This means budgeting for activities that bring you a sense of joy and well-being. This can include things like yoga classes and buying books.
Touroni says: ‘When you’re under financial pressure, it can be tempting to cut these out. But it’s a challenging time for all of us. When we’re under stress, it’s even more important that we commit to doing activities which are nourishing and soothing.
3. Embrace mindfulness. Mindfulness is typically described as the practice of paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment.
Touroni says: ‘Financial stress can weigh heavily on our minds. Mindfulness can help us become more aware of thoughts – and thinking patterns – which aren’t necessarily helpful.
‘Mindfulness can also give us a greater understanding of how we’re feeling. As such, it can help us be more gentle and compassionate to ourselves, which is crucial, especially when we’re going through a difficult time.’
4. Embrace technology that could boost mental health. There is an app for everything these days and with increased focus on our mental health more companies are creating apps that help us to calm ourselves.
This month, American Express has collaborated with sleep and mediation app Calm to offer cardmembers complementary membership. The offer, which gives American Express cardholders a one-year premium membership with Calm, ends on 31 October, 2020.
5. Start saving instead of going out shopping. Saving, however small, is a positive step. A study conducted by Hoxton Capital Management surveyed 1,287 individuals aged between 30-50, and found that people who are consciously saving reported that they are less stressed over the long run. In addition, it found that engaging in “retail therapy” only offered temporary relief to stress.
6. Talk about your money problems with a friend or trusted advisor. According to Schroders Personal Wealth, some 16 per cent of consumers said thew would keep financial concerns to themselves and not tell anyone. Schroders Personal Wealth also found that only a quarter (24 per cent) of UK consumers would talk to a financial advisor if they had money concerns.
According to Hoxton Capital Management those who have an outside source to discuss their financial situation with, such as a financial adviser, feel more confident about their financial future.
The company adds: ‘People who made financial decisions, such as completing pension transfers, without previously discussing this with a third-party, experienced higher levels of anxiety regarding the outcome of those decisions.
Referring to a survey it conducted on financial stress it found that 31 per cent (399 people out of the 1,287 they surveyed) of people who reported that they were often stressed about their financial planning.
Of those, 86 per cent (343 people) reported not having a financial adviser in the past or present.
7. Be kind to yourself. You may feel like you need to do all you can by working longer hours to keep your job or spend all your waking hours looking for a job. But putting pressure on yourself is the wrong thing to do.
Touroni says: ‘During difficult times, the need to be kind to ourselves is even greater – and yet our inner critic often has other ideas. Be kind to yourself.
‘Whilst it can be tempting to throw all your energy into applying for jobs, make sure you’re also balancing this with doing things which bring you a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment.
‘In the current circumstances, you might be finding money worries particularly distressing. Maybe you’ve just come back from furlough or you’ve been made redundant. If you’re in this situation, remind yourself that this period of time is finite (even if it doesn’t feel that way right now). In time, opportunities will come your way.’