As the cost of living continues to increase with no sign of a reprieve any time soon, it’s worth checking in with how your mental health is holding up under the strain.
In these difficult economic times, My Mind News is on hand to suggest ways to keep your head together as financial pressures on households and individuals rise.
Heat or eat?
As we are all aware, general living costs are on the rise. Not only that but there is no obvious sign of any let-up in the next few months. Everyone is affected by the ‘cost of living crisis’ to a greater or lesser degree. Indeed the phrase stating that there is a choice to be made whether to “heat or eat” is increasingly being used to express the dire position of those in the worst situation.
Regardless of your own personal circumstances, the underlying uncertainty of not knowing how long this situation might go on can be as stressful as the situation itself. Living with this uncertainty can quickly lead to low moods and short tempers, yet more severe symptoms of declining mental health will present themselves for some of us.
Be honest with yourself and others
When things get tough and threaten to get on top of you, the first thing to do is to recognize why that may be happening and to take time out to process those feelings. In doing so, also take some time to consider the positives from each day – what made you smile, laugh, or even forget your worries, even if for a short time.
If it works for you, why not engage in some mindfulness or meditation? Find a quiet place, sit, or lie down and close your eyes.
Park up your worries about what might happen in the future and concentrate on being in the present. Consider your feelings, thoughts, sensations within your body, and surroundings.
Talking things over with someone you trust can help ease the pressure you might feel. The person you choose to talk to may have similar feelings, and you might both feel better by talking things through.
There’s absolutely no shame in finding and getting help for your stress or should you find yourself in financial difficulties. Millions of people are in the same boat, so don’t miss out on where there might be a help.
The stress brought on by debt
In these trying times, one key contributor to stress and anxiety can be the accumulation of debt. This can take many forms, from missed mortgage repayments, unpaid bills, overuse of credit cards, or borrowing money from others.
While bills don’t just pay themselves, it can be easier to stuff bills in a drawer and forget about them rather than deal with them head-on.
Ensure you’re getting any benefits you’re entitled to, as there may be assistance you don’t know about. Why not put in a call to your local Citizens Advice office in the first instance?
Your local council can also help with emergency grants or loans. These are much more affordable and sensitively managed than your existing debts. Help advise you and also look at the UK government’s ‘Help for households‘ information.
Write it all down
Getting a realistic idea about your income and outgoings can also help to get a perspective on your finances. Try writing everything down to get an accurate picture of where you are with things. This will also be useful when talking with organizations such as Citizens Advice.
You could also try using a budgeting app to help get a better idea of your finances. Many of these are available if you search for ‘budgeting apps.’ Citizens Advice online can also help with working out your budget.
Everyday costs going up
Along with most things, the costs of food and fuel are rising. Those on lower incomes end up having to spend more of their total income on food and energy and are likely to be more susceptible to stress and anxiety than those on higher incomes.
Many people are already aware of food banks, given the frequency they’re covered in the media these days.
But fewer people are aware of other similar resources, such as school uniform banks and toy libraries, where second-hand items are available for people who need them. Check out your local library to look for free or low-cost community resources.
Energy costs continue to be a problem for many of us, so why not look at Money Saving Expert’s website, which can provide you with lots of advice and practical information that might help you economize and keep on top of your finances?
If you are having problems with housing or homelessness, you may wish to contact homelessness charity Shelter, which offers a helpline, online advice, and a webchat for your convenience.
Many of us have residual debts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As interest rates continue to rise, such debts can quickly spiral to unmanageable levels.
But you should be assured that most banks, credit card companies, and respectable lenders are very approachable. Financial institutions would much rather know about your financial problems and help make repayment arrangements sooner rather than later.
Leaving this or shying away from telling them can allow your debts to grow out of hand. Most local councils will also have arrangements to help with council tax payments.
Similarly, the StepChange debt charity offers help and advice to those that need it.
Manage your health
In hard times, there is a tendency for at least for some to turn to habits that we only visit when feeling under pressure. These habits might take the form of seeking relief through alcohol, drugs, medication, or so-called ‘comfort eating.’
Indeed, many of us sometimes use such behaviors to block out unwanted feelings such as sadness, fear, or shame.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that any relief found through such behaviors is only temporary. While they might offer perceived short-term benefits, they don’t stop the feelings from returning. They could worsen things or even create other problems, including damage to mental and physical health, relationships, work, or study.
If you think you may be using drugs or alcohol to cope with complicated feelings, it might help to be aware of it but not beat yourself up about it.
Being understanding and kind to yourself is just as important as anything else and is also good for your mental health.
You could also look for other ways of coping with painful feelings, such as getting help with the situation causing them, if possible, and finding a trusted person to talk with. This could be a friend or relative, a colleague, a person working for a charity helpline, your GP, or a counselor.
Many charities around the country offer free or low-cost therapy. Here’s more detailed information about getting help with your mental health from many potential sources.
Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep
With all the worries we might have in the current climate linked to finances and budgeting, our sleep tends to be affected. Stress, anxiety, and general worry can all disturb sleeping patterns and make getting a good night’s sleep a real challenge.
Lack of sleep can also amplify other issues and make everything feel much worse. But there are things you can do to help get a good night’s sleep –
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day creates a routine, and your body clock will adjust accordingly.
- Keeping the bedroom curtains open during the day and closed at night will also help your body clock know what’s happening.
- Avoid napping during the day – while naps offer a short-term fix, they will not help you get a decent night’s sleep.
- Mobile devices are the enemy of a good night’s sleep. Hard as it might be, hit the off button and don’t have digital devices in the bedroom. Use the time you might have spent on your phone before bedtime to do something more productive such as read a book or magazine, listen to music or even talk to your partner.
For further guidance on getting a good night’s sleep, you might look at the information provided by mentalhealth.org.uk here.
Find out what support your employer can offer
Most of us are feeling the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, whether we might be in regular work or not. Many employers know about this, and some offer extra support, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Contact your HR department, which will treat your questions with complete confidentiality. You could also ask your union representative for advice if you have one.
Turn off the news
In the current climate, the news tends to be mostly bad. Furthermore, social media can make the feelings of doom and gloom even worse. Too much engagement in social media can also affect your mental health.
While social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people, people share thoughts and stories or their feelings about what’s happening in the world, potentially leaving us anxious or stressed.
Listening to or watching the news can induce feelings of fear, anxiety, or a loss of control over our lives and plans. We might start to worry about our safety and our loved ones. If we have lived through similar times in the past, it could start to bring back painful memories.
Try to keep aware of your mood and feelings when you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or spending time online, and if you start to feel down, reach for the off switch.
Most importantly, remember the golden rule- that there is no law or legal obligation to engross yourself regularly in the news or social media. If it is not doing anything for you, stay away from it. It really is as simple as that.
You might also wish to read our recent article on what happens when you switch 30 minutes of social media for physical activity, which you can find here.
Are you feeling under pressure with your financial situation at the moment? Do you have tips to share with others that you are finding useful when dealing with such pressure? Let us know in the comments.