Cost of Living: Experts Share Tips on How to Manage Financial Stresses

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As the UK sees a 40 year high inflation rate of 9.1%, there has been an increase in financial pressure across the country. Recent ONS data has revealed three in four adults have reported feelings of worry in relation to money[1], with half surveyed saying they felt worried daily.

Charity, National Zakat Foundation, have spoken with Dr Lisa Debrou, clinical psychologist at Leathes Psychology Ltd to offer some ways to identify and cope with financial stress.  

Financial Stress Indicators 

Sleep 

Changes in sleep and sleep quality can be one of the first noticeable effects when someone experiences financial worries. 

This is because ‘at night, human minds have more space to focus on worrying thoughts and there is no distraction for the mind. Many people notice more distressing thoughts at night when they are trying to sleep’, explains Dr Debrou.

Stress

Stress is a normal response to any difficult event or situation. However, Dr Debrou states that it becomes a problem when ‘it is long lasting, and the stressors (the factors making us feel stressed) are recurring.’

Money stresses in particular can lead to heightened levels of stress and chronic stress ‘impacts behaviour, making us less able to think clearly about tasks and responsibilities. It can also adversely impact personal relationships and our ability to complete tasks at hand.’, says Dr Debrou.

Depression and Anxiety
Financial stress may be one factor relating to the onset or relapse of depression or anxiety, say experts.

You may notice diminished interest in activities, eating more or less than usual, fatigue or lethargy, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness and low mood, according to Dr Debrou. 

‘Anxiety symptoms include frequent or uncontrollable worrying, excessive anxiety and avoidance of situations, people or places’, she adds.

Managing Stress 
If you notice any of the above symptoms, experts suggest the following ways to manage stress.


Engage in productive thinking habits
Productive thinking habits are those which are action-focused rather than ruminative or worry-focused thinking. Financial planning, goal-setting and problem-solving are all examples of productive thinking processes, ‘which may help ease feelings of stress.’, explains Dr Debrou.


Self-monitor your mood 
Experts say noticing early warning signs for stress, anxiety or depression is vital.

However, if you need mental health support, see your GP in the first instance. You may also want to consider seeing a clinical psychologist for talking therapy.


Recognise unhelpful behaviour 
Unhealthy behaviours in response to financial stresses may include financial avoidance, dependency on alcohol, drugs or comfort eating, say experts.

But these behaviours ‘will fuel poor mental health and are a sign that people need support to find other ways of coping.’, Dr Debrou adds.


Seek professional support early

If the above coping mechanisms aren’t working, experts stress the importance of reaching out to a professional.

The key message is to be open and transparent about financial struggles and seek help as early as possible from professionals.

The NHS offer free face to face support, or alternatively, they share advice online.


Sohail Hanif, CEO of National Zakat Foundation, says, “People nationwide have been facing poverty for years, and the cost of living crisis has highlighted that there has long been a denial of it in the UK.”

NZF highlight that they have noticed a general sense of shame when it comes to money issues and mental health, and whilst many people are on or below the poverty line, they are afraid to ask for help.

Dr Debrou says, ‘When under financial pressure, it is normal to feel concerned or experience worry.’

‘Worries about money can lead to feelings of doubt and uncertainty about the future. Some people may feel trapped or frightened. This type of thinking can perpetuate emotions such as anxiety, sadness, resentment, fear or anger.’

‘Self-criticism and ‘money shame’ are common experiences, which can lead people to avoid talking about money problems and debts.’, she adds.

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