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How to your safeguard your mental health in times of financial stress

23 November 2020

If money has been a major stressor for you this year, you’re certainly not alone. For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just been a health crisis, but a financial one too. So how do you cope with ongoing financial strain? Our psychologists offer their best tips.

Stress can be detrimental to our mental health.

But financial stress? Well, research shows this type to be particularly pernicious – with increased financial stress and poor mental health feeding into one other in a vicious cycle.

The more worried you are about your finances, the worse your mental health gets, which can consequently impact your finances (from taking time off work or even quitting your job).

Stress can also cause us to engage in harmful behaviours, such as overeating, alcohol or drug use and social avoidance.

But luckily, there are some practical things you can do to alleviate financial stress – and care for your mental wellbeing – during this particularly difficult time. These strategies will become especially important as JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments become less available.

1. Stop, take a moment – and tune into your feelings

It’s easy to go through the motions of life without acknowledging how you’re truly feeling.

But the more we deny our emotions, the more frequent and intense they’ll appear – over and over again.

So instead, take a moment to check in with yourself, regularly. You might notice feelings of anger, grief, sadness or numbness. All of these emotions are okay and completely normal.

Allowing yourself to accept how you are feeling is the first step to taking action and moving forward.

2. Talk to your loved ones

It might feel daunting. But talking to those we love and trust can be really therapeutic.

Also, you’ll quickly realise that you’re not alone. Your friend or family member might be feeling the exact same way, but was too scared or embarrassed to bring it up.

When we confide in those we feel safe with, we feel less isolated. You might even gain a new perspective on things – or some helpful tips.

3. Reflect on your spending habits

While your finances might be out of your control right now, try to focus on managing the money you do have.

This starts with taking a closer look at your spending habits and then drawing up a simple budget. Sometimes, simply writing your expenses down can be empowering, as it can offer a sense of control.

Plus, it might even make you realise that it’s not as bad as you thought.

When it comes to budgeting, make sure you don’t forget the golden finance rules of avoiding credit card debt and frequent use of tools like Afterpay.

For more practical strategies and expert advice, check out Money Smart.

4. Explore your financial support options

You might already be receiving government support. And if you’re renting, perhaps you’ve already asked your landlord about rent reduction.

But have you chatted to your insurer, energy provider and phone company about finance plans and support? You might be surprised by the various forms of assistance being offered this year.

Also, if you’re looking for services that help cover the essentials, consider the Salvation Army, Sikh Volunteers Australia, St Vincent’s, as well as local food banks and community centres. These places provide emergency relief services, such as free food and clothing, plus food, transport and chemist vouchers.

If needed, you can also call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

5. Tap into helpful resources – such as Job Hub & Job Match

We know now is an extremely tough time to look for work. But luckily, there are some clever platforms out there to help increase your chances of securing a job.

The Australian Government’s Job Hub advertises jobs in sectors that are experiencing increased demand.

You can also complete the Job Seeker form on Job Match. Created by the United Workers Union, this service matches workers with employers in industries that are seeing an increase in their workforce.

6. Prioritise self-care – and practise relaxation techniques

It might sound simple. But self-care is paramount when you’re experiencing financial stress.

Every day, try to do at least one thing that brings you joy. It could be taking a warm bath, cooking a meal you really love or snuggling up on the couch to watch your favourite Netflix show at night.

Moving your body is also essential. Whether it’s a gentle yoga flow, a long walk or a HIIT workout, those endorphins will do your mental health wonders.

And for our favourite stress reduction strategies? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Meditation and breathing exercises: These are one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Check out wonderful free meditation apps, such as Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace and Smiling Mind.
  • Cold water immersion: This is another fantastic way to reduce anxiety and panic. Simply splash your face with cold water, have a cold shower, or fill up a tub with ice-cold water and immerse your face in it. Try to hold your breath for 20 seconds and repeat until you are feeling less panicked. Here is more on the scientific benefits of cold water immersion.

Above all, try to remind yourself that this situation is temporary – even if it doesn’t feel like it. History shows that for every major fall in the economy, a period of growth follows. It just takes time.

 

If you need more ongoing support, our compassionate psychologists are here to help. Please call us on 1300 995 636 to make an appointment or learn more.