This is how financial stress can affect your mental health
Although Andy Williams sang about it being ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ in 1963, Christmas time is also a period when many families feel the pinch of a tight budget, when financial woes can come to the forefront, and when mental health is tested.
We spoke to LYSN psychologist Noosha Anzab about how to identify when stress caused by financial woes has become something more serious, what you can do to alleviate that stress, and where you can find help when your mental health needs to some care.
What are the most common mental health issues people with financial woes face?
Noosha says that financial problems can have a dramatic impact on your mental health and personal wellbeing.
“Financial problems can become all-consuming and unrelenting stress that occupies a person’s mind 24/7. The most common signs of financial stress impacting mental health include trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, feeling anxious, feeling angry and arguing with those closest to them about money,” says Noosha. “It’s common for people who face financial woes to withdraw themselves due to heightened stress, anxiety and depressed mood.”
What are the signs that might indicate financial stress may have escalated to anxiety or depression?
“If a person seems on edge, overly stressed, nervous and can’t seem to concentrate on anything, this can point to them having a lot on their mind, and if financial stress is something they’re experiencing, it’s likely that’s the cause,” says Noosha.
“If their physical stature seems different when they are experiencing that stress, such as breathing quickly, clenching their jaw, fidgeting, these can be signs of stress and anxiety. Less obvious signs which can point to someone being depressed are having difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, weight loss or weight gain, being withdrawn from social situations, loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, and just generally being in a downcast mood.”
Take note of behavioural changes
What are some free resources people can turn to when their mental health needs attention?
Noosha suggests speaking to local mental health organisations and groups that deal with financial hardship if you need help, such as ASIC’s Money Smart financial counselling site.
“Lifeline and Beyond Blue both offer free, over-the-phone counselling with trained experts who can be instrumental in helping a person manage any mental health issue,” says Noosha. “There are also financial counsellors available in most areas who will offer free support. The National Debt Helpline website has information to help you prioritise your debts, which can be the practical advice you need to get through a difficult time. Other practical alternatives that can help ease some of the financial burden are seeking support from emergency relief services like Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul.”
Make use of free services
What are some ways people can manage mental stress at home?
Noosha suggests trying these free, at-home methods of dealing with stress and anxiety.
“Journaling is a great option to help ease any type of stress. Writing things down can be cathartic, allowing you to put the stresses down on a page instead of keeping the stress in your mind. It might not help to ease all of the stress, but it will certainly make things feel a little easier,” says Noosha. “Try to look at your debts or bills in smaller amounts too; instead of looking at the whole amount which can be overwhelming, look at what you might owe on a week to week basis and make a plan to slowly chip away at these payments. Visualisations or grounding techniques are a fantastic way to handle the stress. Picturing your safe space when you feel really overwhelmed is a great mental break, and exploring your senses is a wonderful way to get out of you’re the thought-storm that’s caught up in your mind, and instead become present in the here and now.”