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Four ways to help control financial stress and worry
Heading into the end of the financial year can force us to ‘take stock’ of where our finances are really at. And, that can leave us facing down a few less than pleasant realities. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed about money from time to time – financial issues are one of the top causes of stress for Australians! However, worrying too much can really take a toll on your emotional wellbeing and health. We also know that mental health and financial safety are strongly linked – financial stresses can add to an existing mental illness or create feelings of anxiety or depression.
Our friends at Commonwealth Bank and the University of Melbourne found through the ‘Improving the Financial Wellbeing of Australians’ study that poor financial wellbeing does indeed limit happiness. One in four people do not enjoy life because of the way they are managing their money. While 23% are struggling with money management and almost one-third said their lives are often or always controlled by their finances.
Is financial stress affecting your emotional wellbeing?
Some signs that financial stress is taking its toll on your health and wellbeing include:
- arguing about money with loved ones
- trouble sleeping
- feelings of anger, guilt or fear
- mood swings
- loss of appetite
- turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol
- withdrawing from others
- feelings of self-harm or suicide.
If you’ve noticed any of the above signs, or feel worried about your financial situation in general, try these tips to help you curb that gnawing worry and stress. If you need emergency help, call 000 or contact a 24/7 crisis support service like Lifeline.
1. Don’t wait to seek help
Usually the earlier you ask for help the more options will be available to you. A good place to start is by talking to your bank and seeing what they can offer in terms of financial difficulty programs. All Australian banks have financial hardship teams who deal with situations like yours every day.
There are other support services for tackling financial issues and budgeting. There is a free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007, and the Australian Government’s Moneysmart website has lots of information on how to start getting back on top of things.
It can seem like the last thing you want to do, but be honest with your family about the situation and how you’re feeling. Hiding things can add to your stress and worry, and lead to more complex relationship problems.
2. Learn some ways to switch off from the worry
It’s not helpful or good for your emotional and physical wellbeing to be in a constant state of stress and anxiety. If you find yourself worrying about your finances too much throughout the day, or you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try some techniques to help switch your mind off.
Mindfulness is a great way to help ‘turn off’ those unhelpful thoughts, and refocus on the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you better cope with everyday life as well as stressful moments. Mindfulness enables our mind to be calmer and gives us more clarity to make better decisions, Try this five-minute guided mindfulness video or watch our 30-minute 'Magic of mindfulness' webinar to learn more about the practice and how it can help.
Cultivating a mindset of gratitude is a way to focus our thoughts and feelings on what we have in our lives as opposed to thinking about what may be missing. Gratitude can improve our mental strength, enhance our self-esteem and most importantly it can help us to have a more positive outlook to enable us to be the best versions of ourselves. Here’s more about practising gratitude, including a 21-day gratitude challenge.
3. Remember what’s important
If you have a problem with unnecessary overspending, it’s important to look at why you’re spending. It can also be useful to limit the time you spend on, or even ban, social media from your day. Often, we try to keep up with what we see projected as ‘the ideal life’ online, by buying things we think will help us get there. We can easily fall into the trap of chasing someone else’s version of ‘happy’, falsely believing that’s it’s going to bring us joy and fulfilment. It might not be real anyway.
Take some time to reassess what your values are and what is important to you. Your values reflect what you truly want out of life. They influence whether you care about something and how you prioritise your time (and spending). If you ignore your values and slip into patterns that are in opposition with your values, life can feel unfulfilling.
If overspending has been a problem for you and you’d like to unpack why, it can often help to talk to a counsellor or healthcare professional. They can help you get to the bottom of the emotions that are driving your behaviour and suggest strategies
to help manage it.
4. Take care of you
To face life’s challenges and bumps in the road, we need to be at our best. And to be and feel at your best, it’s important to prioritise self-care, including your nutrition and physical self. Creating positive daily habits – like eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep – can help nourish your body and mind. These are the basic building blocks of resilience.
Stress can sometimes make us feel like we need to lean into unhealthy coping mechanisms, like using alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’ unpleasant emptions. However, these short-term solutions just end up making us feel worse and are not helpful in creating a strong and resilient mindset we need to help tackle our problems head-on.
Taking time to do something you enjoy is a healthy coping mechanism and can help relieve stress and worry. Research from the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has found that the five most popular ways Australians manage stress are:
- watching TV/movies
- focusing on the positives
- spending time with friends and/or family
- listening to music
The best thing about these is that you can do all of them for free! You don’t have to give up your social connections, not at all. In fact, you need your support network now more than ever! The important thing is just being with your family and loved ones, not necessarily what you do. Look for free, fun activities you can do, as opposed to spending loads of money at a restaurant or bar.
It’s important to be kind to yourself. Many people have experienced money struggles or have found themselves in a tight spot before. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. With the right direction and help, you can start feeling better about your future.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as personal medical or financial advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional or financial advisor respectively.
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