The link between money and mental health

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has left many feeling fearful about the risks to ourselves and loved ones, and anxious about the coming weeks and months.

Though the links between money worries and mental health issues are not new, the pandemic has exacerbated existing financial anxiety.

Some people may be facing an uncertain financial future, given the potential impact on everyday life, jobs and income, with the added prospect of having to self-isolate.

This can feel very debilitating and create the feeling of being stuck in a vicious cycle — where worrying about money leads to difficulty managing money and vice versa.

Although it may feel overwhelming right now, there are steps you can take to help manage your finances, which in turn will protect your mental health and allow you to feel more in control.

According to Victoria Mutual (VM) Group’s senior financial service specialist Patrice Bingham, the first step in managing your finances is to begin with financial introspection. This includes acknowledging your actual financial status and creating an attainable plan in moving forward.

“You’re in a situation where it brings on the pressure and you’re stressed, you have to go back to what caused you to get there. When you look on where you are don’t beat down yourself, look at what the root cause is. Is it a case that you need to check in with yourself to see if you’re going through something emotional?” she posed.

“For example, you come to me and you say ‘this is my reality’, I would ask what is it that you really want out of life. If you say it is to become financially independent, I can tell you how to get there but you have to want it. I provide solutions to people but at the end of the day you have to realise the cause of your financial status, and I will possibly see how I can save you from being there again,” Bingham said during a recent episode of VM’s Making Moves series.

She, however, noted that the extraordinary stresses and societal upheaval happening in response to the pandemic can cause persons to make impulsive decisions in trying to cope, which further creates financial anxiety.

“Nothing is wrong for wanting something nice… but you have to be conscious and face your own reality. It doesn’t mean that you have to put away all your money and invest it and suffer, because you have to live while you’re living. The reality is that you live for today, but you also want to exist for tomorrow and that is where planning comes into play,” she said.

“You cannot fill an empty glass with nothing. If the jar is empty, the glass is empty and you’re wondering to yourself how you’re going to get to point B, you have to realise where the hole is, and that is you making impulsive decisions without justifying their cause root which is linked to your mental health,” she continued.

Bingham advised persons to pace themselves and frequently readjust savings marks as needed.

“It’s you against you. Your mental health is delicate and it triggers you to make mistakes and further impulsive decisions. You may have started your plan and things happened throughout the year that caused you to not to get there — don’t beat yourself up about it. You will have your ‘buck-toes’ along the way but once you have the formula down, despite the hiccups you will get to where you need to,” she said.

Additionally, for persons who may have difficulty with personal accountability during this time, she proposed implementing a standing order.

“If you personally find it hard to save, set up something that does it for you which is called a standing order. If your income comes through an account and you know that every month you’re supposed to save ‘X’, set up a standing order to make sure that comes out so on the days when you don’t feel like saving — it’s already done,” Bingham recommended.

Mental health advocate and motivational speaker Juliet Bodley, also known as ‘Julie Mango’, encouraged people who are having serious mental issues to seek professional health.

“You have to stop and recognise that something is amiss, that’s the first step. If your brain is not operating optimally, then everything else is at risk because you’re not able to process normal, logical, chronological things that should usually make sense. So the best thing anyone can do is to get therapy to enhance your mental health,” she advised.

She added, “What you need is for someone to delve into the root cause. Once you have done that and know what you’re supposed to do…and the brain is starting to recalibrate itself then you have operations and maintenance where you put in practice what you have learned in therapy. It’s not a quick fix, sometimes it will take months or years”.

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