Tackling money and mental health
Posted on 13 October 2021
Sleepless nights, loss of appetite, feeling lonely and isolated – the effects of money worries can cast a dark shadow over our lives. Worse still: if we’re struggling financially, we feel more anxious, and when we’re anxious, we’re less likely to make sound financial decisions.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic has triggered a surge in money-related worry. According to the debt charity StepChange, 10.1 million Britons are now showing signs of financial difficulty, with 2.4 million experiencing problem debt.
A problem shared
Mental health and money problems are often linked. One problem can feed off the other, creating a vicious cycle of growing financial problems and worsening mental health that is hard to escape.
So if money worries are taking over your life, how can you take back control?
Talk to someone
The fact that so many of us feel uncomfortable talking about our money worries doesn’t help. Bottling up the shame connected with financial problems will only make mental health issues worse.
Sharing your money worries with a trusted family member or friend is a vital first step. You could also go to charities for free help and advice.
If you feel unable to deal with your money worries by yourself, charities such the Money Advice Service offer free support, while StepChange can help you apply for Breathing Space, a new government initiative that allows you up to 60 days of respite from debt-related interest, fees and court action, giving you time to get a debt management plan in place.
You could also find out if you’re entitled to any benefits that could help plug those financial gaps. Turn2us is a financial support charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services. They have an online benefits calculator and plenty of information on benefits and grants.
Refine your day-to-day finances
No prizes for originality here, but budgeting really is a useful way to make you feel more in control of your day-to-day spending and is the first step to achieving your financial ambitions.
A typical budget involves making a list of what’s going in and coming out every month and where you can make savings. It requires a bit of effort to set up, but once done, you’ll be able to set goals and track your progress towards them.
For more information, check out our article Budgeting for Beginners.
More help dealing with debt
There’s evidence that getting free debt advice makes a huge difference to getting out of debt. You don’t need to pay for the help either, so avoid any firms that charge a fee. There are a number of charities and free organisations that will help you work out the next steps.
You can use the Money Advice Service’s tool to find the free debt advice providers and services local to you. You can speak to an adviser face-to-face, over the phone or via webchat.
It’s best to get in touch as early as possible, before the debt has a chance to snowball, but it’s never too late to seek help. Many people who ask for help with debt say they wish they’d done it sooner. Working on a plan can make you feel less stressed or anxious and more in control of your life.
Everyone’s relationship with money is different, and we all have different goals and priorities. The most important thing is to keep going in the right direction - and ask for help if you need it.
 StepChange, Stormy weather: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on financial difficulty in January 2021. Accessed at https://www.stepchange.org/Portals/0/assets/pdf/Coronavirus-impact-dashboard-January-2021-StepChange.pdf