A survey by BACP revealed that two-thirds (66%) of therapists said that concerns about the cost of living are causing a decline in people’s mental health.
The events of the last few years have placed a significant strain on individuals’ mental health. The uncertainty around the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has pushed money worries into everyone’s minds.
That’s why as part of Stress Awareness Month 2023, Well-being Guide, Mel Craghill at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, has provided insight into the rising cost of living on your mental health and some advice on how you can manage feelings of financial stress.
“The current climate around the cost of living is detrimental to people’s mental health. From concerns over rising energy bills during the winter months and the increasing price of the weekly shop, money worries significantly negatively impact people’s mental well-being. As well as this, stress and anxiety levels are also increasing.”
“It is common to feel concerned and potentially overwhelmed during these challenging times, especially as we head towards winter. However, there are clear warning signs to look out for that could show that the cost of living crisis impacts your mental health or others.”
“These are some potential impacts on mental health that may occur, the warning signs to look out for, and what support is available.”
“A person’s financial situation can significantly impact their mental and physical health. The Financial Health Institute defines financial stress as “a condition that results from financial and/or economic events that create anxiety, worry, or a sense of scarcity and is accompanied by a physiological stress response.
“In the current economic climate and as the cost of living increases, money worries are common. 61% of therapists reported that their clients are feeling anxious about being able to afford their household bills in 2022, according to research published by BACP.
“If financial stress is occurring regularly or consistently, this may have a negative impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being and may lead to a person experiencing anxiety or depression.
Symptoms of financial stress
“If a person is experiencing financial stress, there are common symptoms that occur physically, mentally, and in terms of behaviour:
Financial stress will commonly lead to a person feeling symptoms of anxiety. An individual may feel consistent and sustained feelings of money worry. They may become restless and have trouble concentrating. Physiological responses to anxiety include shortness of breath, chest pains, lightheadedness, and hot flashes.
A person feeling stressed may find that they are having trouble sleeping regularly. This is due to the worry and anxiety about their financial situation keeping them awake at night.
Angry and irritable moods
stress can also manifest itself in the form of anger and irritability. A person’s low mood may cause them to lash out and become short-tempered to those around them.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed by their financial situation may become socially distant and isolate themselves. They may avoid social situations or avoid taking part in activities that they would normally enjoy.
Ignoring the issue
People concerned about their finances may become reluctant to discuss their money worries. They may avoid talking about the subject and may avoid any existing debts.
in some cases, financial stress can lead to a person experiencing depression. Studies have found a positive association between financial stress and depression.”
How can financial stress impact addiction?
All types of stress can have a negative impact on those who are susceptible to addiction or substance abuse. People who suffer from substance abuse are hypersensitive to stress triggers. Stress and concerns around the cost of living may make people susceptible to relapsing or consuming drugs and alcohol to block out their financial worries.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the charity Forward Trust has revealed a sharp increase in addiction since the start of the deepening cost of living crisis. 32% of adults reported having relapsed into addiction or know someone close to them that relapsed. 61% of respondents reported the cost of living crisis as the most significant stress and anxiety trigger.
Tips for coping with stress
“Financial concerns and worries are common, especially given the current economic climate. Not everyone who experiences these concerns will suffer from financial stress or the response symptoms listed above.
“However, it is still important to recognise the signs of stress and the impact that the cost of living crisis has on your mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are some handy tips for coping with stress and improving your mental well-being.
Relaxing with mindful meditation
For many of us, relaxation means putting our feet up and enjoying some television at the end of a stressful day. But according to research, despite feeling calm at the moment, this doesn’t relax or rejuvenate you, as it worsens your feeling of stress and leads to feelings of guilt.
Techniques used to relax the mind and body are the best coping strategy for stress, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and visualisation.
When dealing with stress, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure and balance your mind and body.
Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress, soften anxiety, and improve mental well-being. Taking time to relax the mind with meditation gives you the space to separate your energy, attention and emotions.
Distinguishing the difference between valid emotions and those which are not is a big part of mindful meditation, and recognising this will help your experience with stress and anxiety.
Distract your negative thoughts with physical activity
Physical activity can help reduce stress levels and greatly influence physical and mental well-being. Exercising regularly, even if that’s just 10 minutes a day, can help individuals suffering from stress cope with their symptoms.
When exercising, breathing deeper triggers the body’s relaxation response. But certain exercises can be more helpful than others when relieving stress.
Just like any other cardiovascular activity, walking outside for 20–30 minutes several times per week can improve sleep, increase energy and increase stress-busting endorphins. According to research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, your brain is calmer when walking in green spaces with little to no signs of anxiety.
According to research, writing can help boost positive emotions and reduce stress and anxiety. Spending 20 minutes daily writing about positive experiences can improve physical and psychological health.
The aim is to find the positive during stressful periods to reduce tension and built-up anger. Start by thinking of an experience that makes you feel unhappy or uncomfortable, and begin writing about the positives you can take from the experience.
Social support for stress relief
Reaching out to family and friends for help and support is crucial in coping with stress. Socialisation increases a hormone within our bodies that can decrease anxiety levels and make us feel more confident in dealing with stress.
Limited social support has been linked to increased levels of depression and loneliness. It has also been proven to alter brain function and increase the risk of alcohol use, drug abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. Social interactions with family and friends are crucial in how you function daily, and you spend time each day talking and interacting to relieve stress.
Improving your nutrition can help to improve your well-being
Another approach reportedly effective in helping individuals cope with the symptoms of stress is adopting a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and diet. Certain foods are proven to help combat stress levels and improve emotional response.
It’s tempting to reach for a heavily stacked burger or grease-covered fries, but instead, opt for green leafy vegetables, which produce dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical that keeps you calm.
Other alternatives include oatmeal filled with carbohydrates, yoghurt which helps to reduce brain activity, salmon containing anti-inflammatory properties to counteract stress, blueberries that boost a natural cell to help immunity and dark chocolate which improve circulation.”