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How to Manage Finances for Better Mental Health

When talking about mental wellbeing, one of the topics that comes up most frequently is money – it’s one of the things that causes us the most stress and worry throughout life – from trying to find a job out of school or university, to affording to buy your first house, to shelling out exorbitant amounts on raising children, to building a pension that will keep you secure in retirement in the face of rising social care costs. It all adds up, and it can seem like there’s never enough.

The current global financial situation is making these feelings more acute, as more and more people struggle to afford even the basic expenses. The impact on physical health of not being able to afford to heat your home or buy sufficient food to feed your family seems fairly obvious, but the effect on mental health is just as significant. In fact, one affects the other – not having enough money can negatively impact your mental health, and having poor mental health can affect your ability to earn and manage money.

For example, feeling low or depressed may mean you are unable to work, and may sap at your motivation to try and sort any financial problems you may have. This might lead to ignoring phone calls or opening post, which could cause debt to build up and ultimately make the problem much worse. Or perhaps spending gives you a high or makes you feel better about yourself, leading you to overspend to maintain that feeling; similarly, some mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder, can feature periods of mania where people may make impulsive financial decisions that can lead to severe money troubles.

Experiencing issues with money can make you feel ashamed, guilty and useless, all of which can cause your self-esteem to plummet. You might feel stressed or overwhelmed if you are under pressure to support yourself and others, and this can build to a point where you feel unable to cope.

But what is the best course of action for managing finances? How can you manage your money in a way that benefits your mental health? We’ve outlined some tips below that might help:

- Keep a diary of your spending habits, and try to link it to your mood. It might help reveal patterns in financial behaviours that are associated to how you feel. Having this information can help you to build strategies to avoid spending at times where you are vulnerable, or identify the best times to focus on your budget

- Organise your money:

  • put all your important documents (like bank statements, bills etc) in one place so you know where to find them

  • plan a routine where you deal with money tasks (like paying bills) and do them at the same time every week, to help it become a habit

  • create a budget that will help you understand your outgoing costs versus your income. This budget planner is a good place to start.

  • try to set up direct debits where possible so you don’t have to worry about missing payments

  • make regular payments off debts where you are able to, or seek help for managing debt payments in an affordable way

  • think about what you may require in the future, and build strategies to help you get there.

- Avoid comparisons on social media. Scrolling through reams of people who seem to have everything can negatively impact your self-esteem. Remember - photos and posts on social media are curated for the viewer. They are only an approved snapshot of what the poster is willing to share – they are definitely not the whole story, so it’s unwise to compare your own situation with these images.

- Seek help. Confiding in someone you trust can help you to manage your money, as they can look out for warning signs that you might be struggling. You might even choose to give them your bank cards to stop you overspending. They may also be able to assist you in ensuring you are claiming any benefits that you are entitled to.

- Sometimes, the problem is too big to solve on your own and requires the input of financial professionals who understand the system and can act on your behalf. There are various organisations who offer support or tips to manage your money, and your own bank may offer assistance too:

If you are able to do even some of the above, it will help instil a sense of control over your situation, a confidence that it is in your hands and you are managing it. It’s also important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help – it’s far better to seek assistance early on than let things spiral. It can help to lift the burden, not only on your finances but also on your mental health, enabling you to see things positively – which can be far more valuable than any amount of money.

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