Money is one of the biggest sources of stress for most of us. According to Citizens Advice, 74% of us feel our mental health is impacted by debt worries and over half of us experience panic attacks over money concerns.
1 in 4 of us experiences mental illness every year. This means there are a lot of people who are particularly vulnerable to money-related stress. Money plays a big part in all of our lives, so it makes sense that it’s also important in regards to our mental health. Here’s why it’s so important to get on top of your money, so you can take care of your mental health.
Sort out your debt
Debt really stresses us out, and it’s not surprising why. Debt is a stressor and there are strong links between mental illness and debt. In fact, half of people with serious debt also have a mental illness.
Half of people with serious debt also have a mental illness
Nobody likes having debt and for some people, the stress that comes with owing debt can trigger or exacerbate mental health issues. Plus, already having a mental illness could make it harder to deal with your debt healthily.
Debt can trigger anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment like forgetfulness and reduced problem-solving ability. Students tend to be particularly vulnerable to the stress of debt, plus if you have a history of mental illness, debt poses an even greater risk.
Sort out your future
Debt isn’t the only part of our personal finances that stresses us out. An uncertain future often contributes to anxiety, stress, and depression. Retirement should be about relaxation and freedom - but when it seems hazy and far-off, it can just make us worry instead.
When you take care of your future, that’s one less thing to stress about. Setting up a pension that you can easily access and manage means that you can take control over your retirement, allowing you to focus better on the present.
In addition to reducing stress, sorting your pension allows you to think seriously and clearly about your ideal future. What does retirement look like to you? Having clear and realistic goals is an important part of managing mental health as well as being a strong motivator for change and progress.
Learn to break the cycle
For people who struggle with money and mental health, it can be hard to break the cycle. A stressful financial situation can trigger poor mental health - which in turn makes it harder to improve your finances. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to break the cycle by taking back control.
Build good habits
Start with a budget to get a clear picture of how your money is working (or isn’t working!) right now. Budgets sound scarier than they are. There are lots of online resources that can help you to build a budget from scratch, or get help from loved ones or Citizens Advice.
Use a budget to find out where your money is going every month and then use this data to make some positive changes. See where you can save some cash and then use this money to start paying off your debt or put it into your pension.
Remember that even a little each month goes a long way. The hardest part is building the habit so focus on consistency (that means saving some money every month!) and be sure to set smaller goals at first to help ease you into it.
Set up a safety net
If you experience chronic mental illness, a safety net is vital. You’re not always going to be able to manage your finances well so you need a way to get through the hard times safely, without negatively impacting your finances.
A safety net is vital
Even if you don’t experience chronic mental illness, safety nets are important. We all go through crises, emergencies, and unexpected setbacks, so it makes sense to be prepared.
Start saving up for an emergency fund to help you get through difficult or unplanned situations. It’s easier than you think and hugely empowering.
Alongside your emergency fund, you should be saving for your retirement too. This is like a safety net for the future! Around 1 in 5 people over the age of 65 experience depression. According to Age UK, depression could be triggered in older people by financial instability and loneliness in retirement.
By setting up your pension early, you could reduce the risk of financial instability in retirement. In turn, this could lessen the chance of experiencing mental illness once you’ve retired. By planning your future, you’re giving yourself something to look forward to and motivating yourself to work towards that goal. Start saving today, and your retirement could be a rewarding period of freedom, relaxation, and quality time with your loved ones.
Find other ways to relax
Money stress sometimes takes a while to overcome. Depending on your situation, it might take weeks or months to get back on top of your finances. In the meantime, you’ll need some ways to de-stress and relax!
Find helpful activities that have nothing to do with your cashflow or money worries. Think about the stuff that makes you happy and be sure to do these activities on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything pricey or anything that seems like a luxury. It could be as simple as spending time with the kids, making a delicious meal, or taking a nap in the sun. The little things are often the most grounding during stressful times.
Remember that it takes time
Managing your money is similar to managing mental health. Learning new processes and habits takes time. Progress and change don’t happen overnight. It’s important to appreciate the journey as well as the outcome.
Progress and change don’t happen overnight
You can do this by celebrating small wins, not just the big goals. Give yourself regular milestones so that you’re better able to see your progress and achievements. This is a great confidence boost too, which will spur you on.
Find your support network
Emotional and practical support are crucial whenever we want to make a change in our lives. Whether it’s solidarity when we’re struggling with mental illness, encouragement when we want to get our finances back on track, or celebrating every time we achieve a victory, our support networks make us happy, keep us healthy, and ensure we don’t feel alone.
Loved ones can be our biggest cheerleaders. If you’re finding it stressful to deal with money or mental health (or both!) it can be really helpful to open up to those closest to you. Our friends and family tend to be a lot more supportive than we think, and might be able to alleviate some of the pressure of sorting everything out yourself.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to those around you, try an unbiased professional instead. For mental health issues, therapists and counsellors offer a safe space for you to chat without fear of judgement. And if it’s money that’s stressing you out, try this handy resources page from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
Remember that both mental health and money problems are common so you aren’t alone in anything you might be struggling with. There’s never been a better time to look after your money - and your mental health.