How the cost-of-living crisis might affect your mental health
The events of the last few years have placed a significant strain on individuals’ mental health. The combination of uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis has pushed money worries to the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Money worries can manifest in feelings of embarrassment and shame with individuals often not knowing where to turn for advice and support.
In many instances, financial worries can impact your mental health causing anxiety, low mood and stress as people make difficult decisions about what they can afford. Poor mental health can also affect people’s ability to manage money for various reasons such as not knowing where to start.
At Mental Health & Money Advice, we recognise that financial difficulty and mental health are interlinked and that the double stigma of mental health and money can be an isolating experience.
In this article, we will offer advice on the range of available support and resources as well as when you should consider visiting a GP or accessing IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services.
Techniques To Manage Anxiety Around Money Concerns
The energy crisis has heightened anxiety across the nation as it dominates news bulletins and conversations. The increased price of food, petrol and energy bills rising to some of the highest levels ever seen is placing a huge strain on households as wages continue to stagnate.
With many living month to month and struggling to pay bills, people feel shaken by the uncertainty and lack of control over the situation.
While it is normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed at this time, it is important to recognise that support is out there to help you manage your anxiety and to help you feel more in control.
Practising mindfulness is an excellent way to combat stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves concentrating in the present moment and tuning into your breathing and surroundings. Mindfulness can be done anywhere and costs nothing.
Mindfulness breathing exercises focus on engaging with the senses and calming racing thoughts so that individuals remain in the moment. The simple practice of breathing in through the nose and into the stomach and out through the mouth can help regulate breathing and calm the body.
Some of the benefits of observing mindfulness include improved sleep, lowered blood pressure and better concentration. Mindfulness can also help individuals to think more clearly and rationalise their worries. Here is a simple mindfulness exercise you can try, from Every Mind Matters
You may also wish to try practices such as yoga and Tai Chi which are renowned for their ability to calm the mind and body and promote relaxation.
Taking Your Thoughts to Court
Another way that you can help manage your anxiety is by adopting techniques that are used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) such as taking your thoughts to court.
This practice involves helping individuals to unravel their thinking and rationalise their thoughts. Instead of jumping to the worst-case scenario, individuals are encouraged to weigh up the factual evidence against negative thoughts. By implementing this thought process into your daily life, you will help to minimise catastrophic thoughts and have a more rational outlook on your worries.
Every Mind Matters
Every Mind Matters is a hub of mental health advice that is run by the NHS and offers expert advice and practical tips on how to maintain good mental health.
‘Your Mind Plan’ offers tailored advice on how you can boost your own mental health and wellbeing by assessing your answers to five questions. Based on your feedback you will be given a personalised plan of action on areas that you should focus on to nurture your wellbeing. For example, you may receive feedback telling you to exercise more often or to practice meditation.
Support for Low Mood
While it is important to stay informed with the news, overconsumption of news can often result in individuals experiencing low moods.
Media often broadcast dramatic news stories that instil fear and anxiety. At the moment, you might see lots of headlines about the cost-of-living crisis, which could make you feel worried and overwhelmed. If you are feeling low, it may be a good idea to limit the amount of news that you read and watch. You might also want to limit the amount of time you spend on social media - if lots of people are posting about the cost of living. Alternatively you could follow accounts or sign up to receive positive news stories.
Every Mind Matters have compiled an informative list of some of the symptoms you may experience if you are suffering from a low mood. These include: -
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Having difficulty sleeping at night
- Experiencing frequent heightened anxiety
- Feeling frustrated, irritated, or angry
- Unmotivated and disinterested
- Distancing yourself from friends and family
The list is also beneficial in alerting you to some of the signs you may notice in friends or family members who are experiencing a low mood.
Every Mind Matters also provide top tips and a range of useful links and resources that you can refer to if you are experiencing a low mood or depression.
Clic is a useful free online resource that provides users with the opportunity to connect with like-minded people across the UK to discuss their mental health, share tips and receive support. As well as being a moderated environment to ensure that Clic remains a safe space, it is also available 24/7 meaning that users can log on from anywhere and at any time to chat with a user about their mental health.
Alongside the chatroom feature, Clic also boasts a range of mental health resources to help individuals manage their mental health. Some of these resources include: - budget planning tools, wellbeing videos and live Q&As to discuss well-being, lifestyle, and mental health.
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services is the formal name for talking therapies which are available through the NHS. You can refer yourself to an IAPT as you do not need to be referred by a GP.
IAPT is a useful way to help manage mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, and depression as they involve discussing thoughts and feelings with a professional therapist.
There are a few different types of psychological therapies which include: - CBT, guided self-help, and counselling for depression.
IAPT can be delivered in a range of different ways including face-to-face, through video consultation and as part of an online course.
If you are experiencing an excessively low mood or extreme mood changes you should reach out to your GP for support. Your doctor will talk through your mental health with you and the various options and pathways you can take.
The support your doctor will suggest will be specific to your own needs. This could take the form of being referred to talking therapies or prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Some GPs can arrange for you to get help with money problems, if this is affecting your mental health. But you can take a look at our page on dealing with money problems during the cost-of-living crisis too.
During the cost-of-living crisis, you may experience feeling stressed as food and energy bills increase, inflation soars and the threat of being plunged into debt looms large.
Stress can manifest in both physical and mental ways and affects everyone in different ways. From stomach aches and headaches to brain fog or suffering from insomnia, the list of ways stress can affect the body is exhaustive.
A build-up of stress can lead to burnout which is why it is important to address the stresses of life head-on and take active steps to minimise its effects on our health.
Rethink Mental Illness
Rethink Mental Illness offer a comprehensive guide on some of the common symptoms and causes of stress as well as advice on how to combat and reduce stress in day-to-day life.
The Stress Bucket Model
The Stress Bucket is an analogy which is used to demonstrate the effects different types of stress can have on a person.
The more stress someone experiences the fuller the bucket gets which makes it hard to carry.
To stop the bucket from overfilling and to lighten the load, you need to find ways to relax and take time out from stress.
Affordable Ways to De-stress
There are many low-cost activities that you can practice day-to-day to unwind and de-stress. Ensuring that you practice self-care and take time to charge your batteries will help you to manage your stress levels and avoid burnout.
Some cost-effective ways you can implement into your life include: -
- Go for a walk or exercise
- Phone or visit a friend or loved one
- Tidy your home or workspace
- Cook your favourite meal
- Journal your thoughts and feelings
- Ensure that you get a good night’s sleep
Mental Health UK
Mental Health UK provide advice and tips on how to manage stress as well as a range of downloadable resources including a well-being workplan to help achieve a healthy work-life balance.