Coping with money worries
Below, Professor David Richards, from mental health services research at the University of Exeter, explains how financial problems can affect your mental wellbeing. He also offers lifestyle tips to help you out of a slump and advice on when to seek medical help.
What effects can financial problems have on mental wellbeing?
When you've been made redundant or you're struggling with debt, feeling low or anxious is a normal response. Losing your job can affect your self-esteem and financial circumstances, which in turn can trigger emotional distress. Fear of redundancy can also lead to worry, which is a very common human emotion. You may be feeling, behaving or thinking in ways that are unfamiliar. This doesn't necessarily mean you're suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder.
What are the symptoms of being emotionally distressed?
General symptoms of emotional distress include:
Changes in the way you feel physically, such as not being able to sleep well, having trouble concentrating, loss of appetite or feeling tearful
Changes in what you do, such as staying in bed all day and no longer meeting your friends
Changes in the way you think, for example having negative thoughts such as "I'm not worth it," or "I'll never get another job."
How can you help yourself?
Professor Richards’ top tips for coping with feeling low and anxious are: “Be more active, face your fears and don’t drink too much alcohol.”
Being more active means not withdrawing from life. Keep seeing your friends. Keep your CV up-to-date. Don't ignore the bills; try to keep paying them. If you have more time because you’re not at work, take up some type of exercise. It can improve your mood if you’re feeling low.
Facing your fears means not avoiding things you find difficult. For example, if it looks like you're going into debt, get advice on how to prioritise your debts. When people feel anxious, they sometimes avoid talking to others. Some people can lose their confidence about driving or travelling. If this starts to happen, facing up to these situations will generally help them become easier.
For some people, alcohol can become a problem. You may drink more than usual as a way of dealing with or hiding your emotions, or just to fill time. But alcohol won’t help you deal with your problems and it could add to your stress.
A routine is important
If you don’t have to go to work in the morning, you can get into a poor sleep routine, lying in bed until late or watching TV all day. Get up at your normal time and stick to your routine.
If you lose your routine, it can also affect your eating. You may stop cooking, you may eat snacks instead of having proper meals, or you may miss breakfast because you’re still in bed.
When should you seek medical help?
Most people who experience emotional distress will pick themselves up after a few days or weeks and then feel able to tackle challenges such as finding a new job. But for a small number of people, the feelings of anxiety and low mood don't go away and these feelings interfere with the way they live their life.
If you're still feeling worried, anxious or low after a few weeks, see your doctor. You may find that talking to a professional therapist could help and your doctor can advise you on talking therapy services in your area.