Financial stress is a common experience in today’s world, with the rising cost of living, rising interest rates and unaffordable housing all causing pressure on our finances and stress levels. It is important to remember that financial hardship is not a sign of weakness or moral failure and feelings of shame and failure are understandable in these tough times. However, it is crucial to recognise the far-reaching effects of financial stress on our mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
One of the first steps in dealing with financial stress is to recognise the signs of it. Symptoms may include arguing with family or friends over money, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, feeling angry or fearful and avoiding socialising with others. If these symptoms continue for more than a few weeks, they can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health.
To take control of any problem it is important to address your immediate stress levels first. Practicing breathing techniques, mindfulness exercises such as yoga and meditation and talking to someone you trust about your money stresses can all help to relax you and make you feel less overwhelmed by your worries.
Everyone behaves differently when they’re feeling stressed about money. Some people avoid checking their bank balance or dealing with financial tasks altogether, while others obsessively check their bank accounts, increasing their anxiety. For some people, stress can lead to emotional spending, which makes the problem worse. Starting a budget and dealing with the issue rather than avoiding, obsessing or emotionally spending can help the situation become less daunting.
It is important to accept that you cannot change everything causing you to worry about money, such as the current economic climate. However, prioritising the things you can control, such as sticking to a budget, can help you feel more in control and less stressed about the situation.
Using “buy now, pay later” services, credit cards and other stop-gap solutions to make ends meet are short-term solutions that can create a larger problem. Recognising the signs of financial stress, reducing immediate stress levels and seeking help from professional resources can all help us take control of our finances and reduce stress levels.
It is important to prioritise the things we can control and accept that we cannot change everything. There just may not be enough time in the day, jobs in your area or money in the budget to reduce the financial stress. There are programs and organisations that can provide extra help like financial counselling and emergency relief. Accessing these resources earlier, rather than later, can prevent the problem from becoming bigger and affecting your emotional wellbeing. Some resources include:
ICAN – Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network provides financial counselling to both Indigenous and non-indigenous people from Townsville to the Torres Strait: ican.org.au
SHAC – Shelter Housing Action Cairns, have financial counselling and emergency relief options for crisis situations: shac.org.au
A mental health plan obtained from your doctor can help with the emotions of financial and other stress.