Financial wellbeing feels like an impossible dream for many people since the coronavirus pandemic; whilst health risk remains to be a key concern, work and money worries continue to cause panic and anxiety for those financially impacted from the lockdown. According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics between March and April 2020 Office of National statistics.
6 million people reported a drop in household income as a result of the Coronavirus. An estimated 26 million people were having difficulty in paying bills and had experienced higher levels of anxiety than those financially unaffected. It can feel like a lonely place when everyone else appears to be coping well except you.
Financial worry can directly impact one’s mental wellbeing. It can reduce self-esteem and trigger emotional unrest and a racing mind. For some, this can lead to using unhelpful coping mechanisms to numb negative feelings, such as alcohol and drugs smoking, emotional eating and avoidance behaviours.
Typical anxious thoughts around money include, how much longer can I afford my rent or mortgage? What if I am made redundant? How can I supplement my income? These thoughts are normal and can be experienced by anyone no matter their income or profession.
If your financial worries are getting in the way of coping with your day to day activities, it is time to press the reset button. Here are 5 essential tools to help you cope practically and emotionally:
- Manage your thoughts and feelings around money. Our brains process thousands of thoughts a day and it is easy for these thoughts to go unnoticed. So being clear on your thoughts and feelings is an important starting point to managing it. Set 15 minutes aside to write down your money worries. The purpose of this exercise is to help you clear your thoughts and feelings about your financial affairs. You will benefit from having all of your thoughts down in one place, giving you a fuller perspective of your situation instead of it ruminating in your head all day.
- Accept where you are now - it's hard to reconcile with everything that has happened during 2020, yet alone trying to accept it. Moving towards a state of acceptance allows you to take stock of things as they are without judgement or blame. When you resist your reality, you create more negativity within yourself, which leads to dis-ease in your mind and body. Find time to take a moment to acknowledge your situation for what it is and your lack of control over it. The serenity prayer is a useful tool for helping you to feel calm and grounded: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Moving into a state of acceptance will allow you to act with a little more kindness and patience towards yourself.
- Be clear about your finances - clarity is an important part of regaining control. Be clear on the most urgent debts due and the consequences of not paying them can be more serious: Mortgage/rent, Council tax Gas/electric arrears. The Money Advice Service provides information on how to prioritise your debts.
- Know your rights. The Government has put together a package of measures to support businesses and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes financial support and the rights of renters and landlords during the coronavirus.
- Talk to someone, so that you can get things off your chest, this is an effective stress reliever. However, when it comes to money it is not as easy to open up about what’s really happening. 2020 has been the year of collective empathy and understanding. If you are feeling shame or guilt then share your concerns with a family member or friend, try not to bottle things up, contact the Money Advice Service helpline on 0800 138 7777 - Mon - Fri 8am to 6pm and 8am-3pm Saturdays.
- See your GP immediately if you are really finding it difficult to cope.
Keep an eye out for the Talk Money Week, an annual campaign to get the nation talking about money and build financial confidence and resilience.