There are a lot of reasons for us to be anxious about life, from the environment to the economic turmoil that is impacting just about everyone. The cost of living crisis is a huge cause for concern, and as the winter has set in, people have been faced with a choice between heating their homes or eating food. For example, two-thirds of nurses are being forced to choose between food or fuel in the face of the cost of living crisis.
But one thing that certainly won’t help us come out of this crisis in better shape is burying our heads in the sand about the state of our finances. It can be hard when you are worried about even checking your balance for the fear of what you might see, but there are ways to help you tackle and overcome financial anxiety.
Talk to someone
One of the most important things you can do if your financial situation is beginning to feel overwhelming is to speak with someone. Sharing your problem helps to reduce stress and lightens the load that poor finances can bring. Talking helps us to unblock and harness our resources, or plan how to acquire the necessary resources.
People who find themselves in debt can suffer from a series of mental and physical health problems. Such as:
- Increased anxiety
- Heightened feelings of isolation
- Mood changes
- Lack of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Reduced memory
- Sleep disturbances
- Reduced immune system functionality
Financial anxiety isn’t something that will just take care of itself and sharing your problems with others is the first step towards a healthier financial future.
Create a budget
There is no one reason why people find themselves in debt, from poor financial management to low-paying jobs and the high cost of living, it can all snowball quickly. But to regain control of your finances it’s important to create a budget. From understanding what your income versus outgoings is to how interest adds to the overall cost of your loans, creating a budget requires an honest approach to your finances.
Here are some budgeting tips:
- Take stock of your bills. Creating a list of expenses can help you tally up your total outgoings per month.
- Prioritise essential bills. Make a hierarchy of bills, for example, your mortgage or rent, food and energy bills are commonly at the top.
- Trim the fat. Once you have a list in front of you and cut any expenses that aren’t essential or that feature low down on your list.
- Create a budget. Based on your revised bills, you can create a budget that covers the essentials and allows you to chip away at your debt.
Additional tip: the best ways to reduce debt by budgeting are – trimming expenses, identifying additional income opportunities and finding ways to consolidate debts. You may be able to find a side job that can bring home enough to cover your shortcomings or pay less interest through debt consolidation which often reduces monthly payments.
Focus on what is in your control
There is much around us that we cannot control, and this can lead to increased stress and anxiety as those outside influences impact our lives. But, there are things that we can manage and the more we take control, the better our mental health will be.
Getting to the bottom of your financial woes is just the beginning, once you know where the problems lie, it’s important to control those within your power. For example, you cannot control how the energy crisis is ramping up bills across the board but by creating a budget you can cut non-essentials from your bills to get you through the winter.
If you can see that you can’t afford your bills, reach out to your lender to see what your options are. They may be able to help through consolidation, freezing interest or agreeing to reduce rates for a short period. Taking control by reaching out can prevent putting yourself into debt or defaulting on payments which will impact your credit rating and ability to borrow in the future.
Getting snowed under by the sheer weight of financial difficulty can make it hard to look at your situation rationally. Stress can impact the way we think and feel, even changing the way our bodies behave, so it’s not always possible to be in good form while worrying about your finances. Fortunately, Citizens Advice is always at hand to provide support to those who need it and ask for it, particularly if you don’t know anyone who can help you plan for better financial security.
From helping point you in the right direction when it comes to speaking with creditors to helping you assess what types of debt you have, Citizens Advice is there to help. They may also help you to become part of their Breathing Space scheme, which is backed by the government to give people in debt 60 days of relief from their creditors.
The scheme gives you 60 days when those to who you owe money to are blocked from:
- Contacting you
- Taking action to make you pay
- Or adding further interest and charges to your debt
This “breathing space” can help give you the headspace to put a plan in place and start building up some reserves to begin turning your debts around.
When should you seek help for financial anxiety?
Your physical and mental health must remain a primary concern while you try to gain control of your financial well-being. Many people find they can pick themselves back up after a few days or weeks, finding renewed resolve and a determination to overcome their troubles.
But if you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, or stress or you cannot sleep, then it’s important to seek help from a therapist, doctor or friend sooner rather than later. Reaching out to medical professionals, close friends and relatives, or charities such as the Samaritans can help you get the emotional support you need.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.