Coping with financial stress
In November 2020, statistics released by the Money and Pensions service found that 29 million of us don’t feel comfortable talking about money, despite feeling worried about it. Fifty-five percent of us don’t feel comfortable opening up when we have worries about our financial situation, despite 48% admitting they regularly worry about it. And the top reasons for this include shame, not wanting to burden others and conversations about money not happening in our childhood homes.
Money has been and is one of those taboo topics that many of us would rather go 127 Hours than approach it - especially with our partners. And the impact of worrying about money can be detrimental to our wellbeing, and for some our relationships. But even with the looming rise in the cost of living, and the potential impact on our mental health, talking about money is really difficult.
When it comes to money, a lack of or just worrying about it, there is annoyingly very little we can physically do to just overcome financial stress. There are no get rich quick schemes (despite the ads - they’re usually lying), so it’s a case of being able to talk openly and compassionately, and comforting our feelings of stress. But that ain’t easy, trust us, we know.
Approaching the conversation
Starting a conversation about money or your finances or even voicing your concerns around them can be testing. Because financial stress can be particularly overwhelming, the conversations we do have may be more volatile or emotion-provoking than usual. More so even than other difficult conversations we might have. And this is usually down to the anxiety and stress behind the topic, we are quicker to become emotional or snappy, even argumentative, when discussing stressful or anxiety inducing things because we tend to think with our emotional brains rather than the logical brain.
The emotional brain can take over in times of difficulty, think road rage - driving along minding our own business when someone cuts you up. Not only is it super annoying, but it can scare us a little so we immediately react and the emotional brain jumps in with every unmentionable word or name calling. This is known as the emotional hijack, when we lose logic due to feeling heightened emotions.
If we keep this in mind when discussing difficult topics with others, we can approach the conversation with more empathy for these reactions, and keep the tone compassionate rather than accusing or blaming. However, we all experience emotional hijacks so even when we know this, it doesn’t mean we’ll instantly be able to control this.
"Keep some compassion for all parties, including you."
You may also want to consider the timing and place of these conversations - it might be something to plan or schedule together, or to approach when there’s some time and mental space available for both (or all) people involved. Difficult conversations tend to require our full attention and the ability to engage - if we’re in the middle of another task or working, or are exhausted from the day, it’s not going to be a successful conversation. (Reminder: there’s not always a ‘good’ time to have these conversations, sometimes it might be a case of finding a better-than-never time).
Tackling the feelings of stress
Now, as we’ve said there’s no get rich quick schemes or easy ways out of financial stress. With the cost of living rising from April, even those of us without huge money worries may be feeling the heat. Especially as we don’t yet know the extent of the rise in costs or how they'll impact us financially when they kick in. Speaking with a financial advisor or someone at the bank can be helpful to get a better understanding of your financial status ahead of these increases, but it’s not likely to dissolve those stresses, worries or fears. So how can we comfort our feelings?
Be open about how you’re feeling
Being able to share the feelings that financial stress causes allows us to have those compassionate and empathetic conversations. It can reduce the anxiety of approaching the topic and make for a less confrontational or conflicting discussion. When we know how the other is feeling we can be kinder in talking things over, and vice versa. It’s not always easy but it’s certainly worth trying to open up.
Create a plan of action
We may not be able to fix financial stress straight away, perhaps you or your partner (or housemate even) are out of work right now and things feel a little hopeless. Or maybe it’s the uncertainty of the cost of living that's worrying you both. Set some dates to reassess how things are going, or time to tackle your finances. Do some research together to determine what options may be available to you to help, like benefits, payment holidays or even where to find someone to speak with. If we have a plan, we can relieve some of those feelings for now, clearing some of that mental space they’re likely taking up.
Support your feelings
Trying to switch them off simply won’t work, so you might try taking the anxiety for a walk or jotting stuff down if you’re overthinking, or even getting cosy and comfortable to watch your favourite comedy for some light relief. Stress and anxiety are emotionally draining, so you may be feeling more fragile generally and need a mood boost, a shoulder to cry on, or some fresh air. Again, we don’t need to get rid of them, but find ways that help us feel better or even ok while they are going on around us.
Take care of yourself
When things feel tough, our basic self care routines can fly out the window. Try to maintain a level of self-care that feels manageable, but still gets you doing the tougher things like moving or eating well. It’ll help with managing stress and will prevent it from taking over your day-to-day life.
Reality reminder: Money worries are a tough topic to approach and you might be feeling the pressure right now. Remember, you can do hard things like talking about it, sharing your feelings, and taking action to help yourself. When it does feel particularly tough, be kind to yourself and others around you, because we can guarantee you’re not alone in this.