Financial Stress and Your Mental Health
Many people are feeling the effects of higher prices on their wallets. Putting food on the table takes more of our income, as well as the rising cost of gas, rent or mortgage interest rates. All these additional costs can put stress not just on our bank accounts but on our relationships and our mental health.
Recent studies show that that 38% of Canadians identify money as their biggest concern, ahead of personal health, work and relationships. 39% of Canadians say that they are less optimistic about their financial futures than they were a year ago. Almost as many people report that financial stress is leading to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Financial stress—like the kind we are experiencing globally—can be especially damaging to mental health because people experience it as ongoing and beyond their control to fix. Some people develop physical symptoms like chronic headaches, stomach problems or panic attacks. Over the long term, stress can affect the immune system and contribute to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. For other people, stress can lead to severe anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. Feeling like no matter how hard you work, prices keep rising and it is impossible to get ahead. The combination of anxiety and lack of control can lead to depression. If you were already under financial stress prior to recent cost of living increases, the situation will be even more severe.
Financial stress affects the whole family. Even before the pandemic, money was the number one reason that couples are argued, and the second leading cause of divorce, after infidelity. In some cases, one partner works longer hours than the other and responds to added financial stress by blaming the other partner for not working enough. In other situations, both partners work as much as possible and find there still isn’t enough money to maintain their lifestyle, particularly if there are children in the home.
Ways to cope with financial stress and mental health concerns
How you cope with financial stress can have a big impact on your mental health and determine the severity of the effects of money problems. Some people—through a combination of genetics and experience—are able to compartmentalize their difficulties and give themselves breaks from the stress. They may also frame their problems as temporary and not their fault. Others—particularly those with pre-existing vulnerability to anxiety or depression—find it impossible to turn off the worry. They may blame themselves for their financial situation, and assume that things will not get better.
If you feel like financial stress is impacting your mental or physical health, or affecting your relationships, there are things you can do to improve your situation.
Seek Social Support:
It might be instinctive to withdraw into yourself when under stress, but this is probably the worst thing you can do for your mental health. Instead, find sources of emotional support, people you can discuss your concerns with and share your worries. These don’t have to be people with financial expertise, or people who can come up with solutions to your problems. They may be family members, friends, or colleagues. Sharing your problems with trusted people helps to diffuse the feelings of stress and help you to feel less alone. You may still be struggling financially, but you will feel that it is no longer a burden you have to shoulder on your own.
Manage Your Money:
When you are under financial stress, it can be uncomfortable to look closely at your situation. You many assume that looking at your spending will add to your stress; however, there may be some simple ways that you can cut down on your expenses and give yourself a greater sense of control. Ideally, you will be able to share financial worries with your romantic partner. Together, you can work out ways to reduce household spending. That might mean taking your own food to work, reducing the number of streaming services you pay for, or cutting out restaurant meals. Don’t assume that small savings won’t help. Added together, a number of spending reductions can add up to a significant amount of money. If there are children in the home, they can be enlisted in finding ways to have fun without spending money.
Take care of yourself:
It’s hard to take care of yourself when dealing with financial stress. It may feel frivolous or inappropriate to even take time to consider your own wellbeing, but taking some time to do things that help you to feel better will improve your ability to deal with challenges. Prioritize things like sleep, exercise, spending time with friends and family, or spending time alone doing things that make you feel good. Focusing exclusively on financial stress will not make the stress go away or help you to find solutions to your problems. Particularly when so many factors may be out of your control—like interest rates or food prices—it’s important to focus on things you can control.
Seek Professional Help:
If the stress of a difficult financial situation becomes overwhelming, it may be time to seek help from the professionals. There may be helpful ways to manage your money which you are not aware of. Some organizations offer free counselling for people with financial problems, including help consolidating debt, budgeting, managing expenses and reducing interest charges. They also may be able to provide advice on dealing with banks and other creditors.
When financial problems have a negative impact on your mental health, a trained therapist can help you to manage the stress. Worrying about money can cause insomnia, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, relationship problems and physical symptoms. Some people develop unhealthy coping methods, including drinking too much, self-medicating with prescription drugs or cannabis, gambling or overeating. People under severe stress or those who lack coping skills may even considered suicide or self-harm.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute therapeutic advice.