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This month, we’re digging into a very sensitive subject: financial anxiety and the way that money and financial situations can affect our mental health on a daily basis.
Did you know that a recent study found that over half the people that live in the UK (55%) worry about their debt on a daily basis?
These money worries are causing people to avoid buying food or clothes, seeing their friends, taking holidays, getting married and even having kids. This goes to show that financial anxiety adds up and has a huge effect on our daily lives.
The same study found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of all UK adults have been concerned about a friend or family member’s mental wellbeing as a result of money worries, while more than one in five (22%) of us say that we are currently experiencing mental health problems or poor mental wellbeing as a direct result of our financial situations.
That’s pretty eye-opening, especially as we also know that people with problem debt — sometimes called over-indebtedness, like when you can’t pay their debts or household bills — are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.
In a very real sense, our financial situation has a huge knock-on effect on our emotional and personal lives, leading us to feel anxious, often on a daily basis.
What are the symptoms of financial anxiety?
Being conscious of your money — and perhaps even worrying about having enough to pay for something — is all quite normal. Personal finance isn’t always plain sailing. A certain amount of worry is par for the course.
However, there’s a difference between being conscious and cautious with your money and suffering from financial anxiety.
In fact, you — or a friend — may be suffering from financial anxiety without even realising it.
The Money Advice Service released a list of common symptoms that people suffering from financial anxiety exhibit.
The following is a list of symptoms to keep an eye out for — in yourself or those you’re close to — that might indicate financial anxiety:
- Change in mood or temper
- Increased tiredness or a lack of sleep
- Being anxious, stressed or lacking confidence to directly contact the bank or financial service providers
- Spending more money than is available
- Avoiding opening bills or post
- Feeling like there is a lack of control over money. (Often people compare this to drowning or being in over their heads.)
- Avoiding talking about money altogether
- Being anxious about spending any money even when they have it
- Talking to you or others about their mental health or wellbeing or money issues
- Avoiding answering the telephone
- Not checking my/their bank balance
- Forgetting to pay bills on time (or avoiding paying bills that are due)
- Sudden changes in spending behaviour
- Avoiding making important financial decisions
- Unable to take in and process information about money
- Taking time off work unexpectedly
So, what can you do if you or a loved one are being affected by financial anxiety?
If you need help relieving some of the financial straint that is causing you or you a loved one financial anxiety, there are a few steps you can take.
- Borrowing money from a family member or friend is an option, but we understand it can be hard to do. We already wrote an article weighing the pros and cons of borrowing money from family and friends to help you or your loved one make the best decision possible. If you don’t want to borrow money, there are other options available to help as well.
- There are a lot of resources online to help you deal with financial anxiety, like Mental Health and Money Advice. Being aware of all the resources available to help with financial anxiety can help if you are not quite ready to talk to your family or a professional yet.
- Learning to budget and sticking to it is also important. Budgeting helps get a better and more realistic picture of where you are financially. As well, it helps to have a set idea of how much you want to spend on different things so that you don’t increase you debt. It should help you feel some control over your financial situation. You can find a lot of budgeting advice online as well.
However, don’t let your budget define how much you spend. Sometimes things pop up and you have to go over budget, and that’s okay. Try to leave a little room in your budget for if things go wrong if you know that will worsen your financial anxiety.
Where to go when you or a loved one need help with financial anxiety
The NHS have some great advice about fighting financial anxiety — like maintaining a routine and getting plenty of exercise — but they place particular emphasis on facing your fears.
Facing your fears could mean sitting down with all your bills and expenses and getting a clear idea of your situation or it could mean chatting to a friend or family member about your situation.
Talking to people about money can seem really scary, we know.
But it can also be liberating to sit down and talk about your financial anxiety.
You can vent your frustrations, get advice, or use your friend as a sounding board for ideas (‘Should I consolidate these debts?’ ‘Should I take out another loan?’ ‘Should I get another job?’ etc…).
All of this can really help, even if it only lets you think out loud and not bottle it all up.
We’ve already written an in-depth article on how to talk to loved ones about financial problems with loved ones, which you can read if you need advice.
However, if talking to a friend isn’t enough, or your financial anxiety is starting to affect your day-to-day life in noticeable ways, there are other options.
If you’d like to talk to somebody about debt, here are three organizations who will definitely be able to offer free advice.
Money Advice Service: 0800 138 7777
National Debtline: 0808 808 4000
StepChange Debt Charity: 0800 138 1111
And, remember: if you feel anxious, low or worried for a few weeks, constantly, it’s worth seeing your GP or referring yourself directly to psychological therapy services in your area without needing to see a doctor.
Finally, seek help immediately if you feel like you really can’t cope or if you feel it isn’t worth living any longer, regardless of your financial situation.
If you feel like things are helpless, book an emergency appointment with your GP and/or contact the Samaritans on 116 123 for confidential emotional support, 24/7.
Trying something new to help relieve your financial anxiety can’t hurt anyone. If you or a loved one are struggling, try spending a day to take a break and sort out some of the things that have been giving you stress. No matter what speed you do it, doing a few things off of your checklist, even if it seems scary, will help put things into perspective.
- Author The Bamboo Team
- Posted 9 July 2019