April is Stress Awareness Month, organised by the Stress Management Society to highlight the negative impacts of stress on our mental and physical health. Stress has for some years been described as the ‘modern killer’, with chronic stress having the same impact on reducing life expectancy as smoking. Common problems linked to stress include; sleeping difficulties, insomnia, depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, high blood pressure, digestive problems, heart disease, migraines and diabetes. On top of this, there can be a lot of shame and guilt around stress and burnout, with many people feeling that they ‘should’ be coping better. 85% of young people report feeling burnt out in at least one area of their lives; one that stands out to me is managing finances.

With inflation in the UK at a 40 year high, the current economic climate is heavy with uncertainty. We are all feeling economic stress to one degree or another and the lost sense of financial security is having a huge impact us all. We do not feel very comfortable with uncertainty, it understandably makes us anxious. For the economy and global financial markets to feel so uncertain is terrifying. It is not surprising that studies are already linking economic stress to depression and panic attacks.

The Vicious Cycle 

The stress caused by financial worry affects your mental health, making it harder to function day to day. The decline in your mental health makes it harder to manage your money and to continue working and earning efficiently. You may find it harder to concentrate and think clearly or lack the energy to tackle a mounting pile of bills and payments. Maybe you work longer hours to try and make up the difference, but this leads to more burn out and puts a strain on your relationships when you need them the most. You may lose income by taking time off work, due to anxiety or depression. These difficulties in managing your money will inevitably lead to worsening mental health and the feelings of guilt and shame that we often feel when we are struggling to cope… and the cycle continues.

We are not very good at talking about money. Especially talking about not having enough of it. Keeping silent through fear of stigma makes us feel like we have to handle money problems alone, makes us feel isolated and makes it harder and harder to see a way through. Money can’t buy happiness… but it certainly is a stress reliever!

5 tips for managing money and economic stress 

1.     Talk to someone! You don’t have to go through this alone, support is out there. Speaking to a professional can help you to manage stress and burnout and to find ways of coping. There are free and low cost support options; speak to your GP or see our Crisis Numbers page for some free helplines. They will be able to direct you to the right place. Try to open up to family and friends, you don’t suffer in silence. They don’t have to fix the problem for you, but they can offer emotional support and reassurance. They can remind you that you are not alone!

2.     Look after you. At times like these looking after your self is more important than ever. The best way to reduce the impact of stress and burn out is through self-care. Make sure that you are taking steps to support your sleep, eating well, getting outside, moving your body, doing activities your enjoy and taking time for relaxation. The Trussell Trust, and other charities, have online advice for eating well on a budget. For tips for self-care, see our February blog post. Be aware of falling into unhealthy coping behaviours, such as; alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating issues, smoking. We all have them, but it is important to be mindful that these coping behaviours will make you feel worse and contribute to the vicious cycle. There is lots of advice out there about managing unhealthy coping behaviours and the Stress Awareness Month website lots of resources.

3.     Get advice. Again please remember, you are not alone! Advice and support is out there and you are entitled to it. What support can your employer offer? A lot of businesses have schemes or guidance in place. Some will be more helpful than others, but this is a good place to start. The Citizens Advice Bureau also has lots of online resources and advice. Also, check out The Step Change, which is a debt advice charity.

4.     Create a budget. There are loads of online resources for creating an efficient budget, stream lining your resources and managing your payments. You have easy access free templates and resources. You can ask for support with this from the above charities or ask a numbers savy friend or family member for some advice.

5.     Stay informed… but selective! It is great to arm yourself with information but make sure to choose the sources of your information carefully. Go to trusted resources, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or registered charities, rather than relying on social media posts which may be unreliable. Also, be wary of immersing yourself on social media as this will likely increase stress.

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