What really increases our stress and anxiety is not knowing. Not just about how we’re going to pay our bills next week, but into next year.
Stress and anxiety can quickly lead to unmanageable depression and, for some of us, more severe depression and panic attacks.
If you start to feel these symptoms, the first call should be with your GP, and the sooner the better.
Having some control over your finances will go a long way
One of the main things that can increase our stress and anxiety is a pile of bills in the corner of the room. We know it won’t go away on its own, but sometimes we’re too scared to open the envelope!
Make sure you get any benefits to which you are entitled. There may be help you don’t even know about, so calling your local Citizens Advice is a good first step. Your local council will also be able to advise you and make sure to check out the government’s ‘home help’ information.
Your local council can also help with emergency grants or loans. These debts are more affordable and more responsive to manage than your existing debts.
Having a realistic idea of your income and expenses can also help understand your financial situation. Try to write everything down to get a real picture of your situation. This will also be useful when you are talking to Citizens Advice, for example. Better than trying to memorize everything, and better organize everything on paper.
You can also try a budgeting app to help better understand your finances. Your application provider provides many of these. Just search for “budget app”. Citizens Advice online can also help you with your budget.
Housing, food and energy costs
We’ve all seen the cost of food go up, and it’s those of us on lower incomes who end up having to spend more, as a percentage of income, on food than others.
Combined with housing and energy costs, those of us who spend most of our time at home, seniors, retirees, pensioners and those with children or caring responsibilities are more affected than others. This is likely to get worse as we head into the cold winter months.
People who live in rural areas tend to be more vulnerable to rising commodity and fuel prices, and driving is crucial. If you live in a rural area, consider carpooling with your neighbors. This connection on the commute will also be valuable to the company.
Many people already know about food banks. Nonetheless, there is similar support in the communities where we run our school uniform bank and toy library, where second-hand items are available to those in need. Your local library is also a great place to find community resources; many also offer activities for families (borrowing books for sleep, of course!).
Many of us are in debt as a result of the recent pandemic, and those debts continue to grow as interest rate hikes take effect.
There has also been concern that we might lose our jobs as a recession hits.
Many of us have been relying on credit cards, loans, and overdrafts to cover our day-to-day expenses, and with the current situation, the problem will not disappear.
However, it is reassuring that most banks, credit card companies and respected lenders are very approachable. They’d rather understand your financial problems and help you arrange your repayments than let your debt get out of hand. Most local councils will also arrange to help pay council tax.
There is absolutely no shame in finding and getting help. Millions of people are in the same boat. So, don’t delay, get in touch with them as soon as possible.
Don’t forget about your health!
When choosing between eating or warming, our health can also suffer.
Many of us sometimes use drugs to get rid of “difficult” feelings such as sadness, fear or shame.
No one wants to feel bad; for some, drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief.
Unfortunately, they don’t stop emotions from returning, and can make things worse or even cause other problems, including damage to physical and mental health, relationships, work or study.
If you think you may be using drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult feelings, it may help to be aware of this, but don’t beat yourself up for it. Understanding and being kind to yourself is as important as anything else and is good for your mental health.
Your next step may be to talk to someone you trust or one of the charities that provides confidential, free information and advice, including how to reduce the harms of drug use. For example, take a look at Talk To Frank.
You can also look for other ways to deal with painful feelings, such as seeking help when possible and finding someone you can trust to talk to. This could be a friend or relative, a colleague, someone who works for a charity line, your GP or a consultant.
Many charities across the country offer free or low-cost treatment. Below is more detailed information on getting mental health help from many potential sources.
Some people find it helpful to attend “anonymous” meetings (such as Narcotics Anonymous) to share with others who have or have had similar experiences. Some of these sessions are also online now.
eat on a budget
This is easier said than done.
Getting the motivation and inspiration to cook and eat healthily on a budget can be difficult, especially when you’re feeling down.
The British Association of Nutritionists has some great ideas to help you cook at home on a budget. Most supermarkets also have budget cooking ideas and inspiration, like the BBC’s ‘Budget recipes and advice’. At least look. You don’t know until you try it!
This is the difficult one. With all the worries we may have, our sleep tends to suffer. Stress, anxiety, and general worry all make this a challenge.
Lack of good sleep can also make everything worse. But there are a few things you can do to help you get a good night’s sleep. These tricks do work, so don’t give up and try them:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day creates a routine that your body clock will thank you for. So, set an alarm!
- No matter how tempting, try to avoid those naps. They feel fine at the time, but they won’t help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Keeping bedroom curtains open during the day and closed at night also helps your body clock understand what’s going on.
- Now comes the challenge. Mobile devices are the enemy of a good night’s sleep. As hard as it sounds, hit the off button and don’t leave your phone by your bed. If you don’t know what to do with your thumbs, other than shaking them, let’s go back in time and read a book or magazine. You may soon find yourself dozing off.
We also have some important information about getting a good night’s sleep.
While millions of us find things really tough, others just manage to keep their heads. If this applies to you, you have some great skills and experiences that you can share with others.
If you’re confident in managing your finances, you’ve probably learned some lessons along the way. Passing on these experiences to others is a great way to help.
Volunteering is also a very practical way to help others. Consider contacting your local food bank to see if they need help. You can also see if you can donate food to them. The Trussell Trust operates the largest network of food banks and your local council will also list food banks in your area.
You can hand over your unused clothes to a local charity. Many of them will come to collect your donation, so it’s easy. These acts of kindness can make everyone feel better, including you!
The stigma of loneliness and poverty
When we’re stressed and anxious, going out for some socializing is one of the first things we suffer. We also feel bad for ourselves when we don’t have the money to go out. The stigma surrounding this can also prevent us from seeking help.
Our theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness, check it out. Our content is filled with stories of people coping with loneliness and making connections.
As we said before, there is absolutely no shame in finding and getting help. Millions of people are in the same boat.
If you are working, find out what support your employer can offer
Most of us are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis, at work or not.
Many employers know this, and some are offering extra support, so don’t be afraid to ask. Please contact your Human Resources department, who will handle your concerns in complete confidentiality. You can also seek advice from your union representative.
no news, only bad news
We all know that news is mostly bad news, and that social media can make doom and gloom worse. Too many of your favorite social media channels can also affect your mental health.
After hearing all about political events and government actions, we can start to feel fearful, anxious, or lose control of our lives and plans. We can start to worry about our safety and our loved ones. If we’ve gone through a similar period in the past, it may start to bring back painful memories.
Check out our page on bad news and mental health.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people, but inevitably, people share stories or how they feel about what’s going on in the world, which can make us anxious.
When you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet, try to pay attention to your emotions and feelings, and if you start to feel depressed, reach for the off switch.
Most importantly, don’t forget yourself. Take a moment to think about the things that made you feel good that day.
If it works for you, try some mindfulness practice. Find a quiet place, sit, or lie down, and close your eyes. Think about the “now” and how you are feeling, how your body is feeling and the environment around you.