Every webinar this week, I have recognised that we are all suffering the effects of the cost of living crisis, no matter what the topic. In the UK today even the fulltime staff that I present to all face the similar pressure on our finances. Financial stress is a pervasive issue that affects individuals across various socioeconomic backgrounds. The burden of financial strain can have profound consequences on mental health, relationships, physical well-being, productivity, and lifestyle. Understanding these effects is crucial in addressing the challenges associated with financial stress and promoting overall well-being. Things are bad when even the fully employed are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Financial stress has been linked to a range of mental health issues. A study conducted by Grzywacz and colleagues (2017) found a strong association between financial stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Financial worries can create a persistent sense of uncertainty, leading to increased psychological distress. Moreover, the inability to meet financial obligations may contribute to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and low self-esteem. Recognising the psychological toll of financial stress is essential in encouraging individuals to seek appropriate support and resources. We must be honest with outselves and those around us, if we hope to role model coping skills and also teach the younger people the realities of this new world.
The strain of financial stress often spills over into relationships, causing conflicts and tension. Research by Doherty and colleagues (2018) highlights the significant impact of financial stress on intimate partnerships. Financial difficulties can erode trust, communication, and overall relationship satisfaction. Couples may experience heightened arguments related to money, differing financial priorities, and the pressure to make ends meet. Addressing financial stress within the context of relationships requires open communication, shared financial goals, and mutual support to minimize the detrimental effects on partnerships. Yet we still all fall for the messaging on TV and social media that keep us wanting and keep us feeling that things are fine on the other side of the screen.
The toll of financial stress extends beyond mental well-being and can manifest in physical health problems. A comprehensive study by Pollack and colleagues (2018) established a strong link between financial stress and adverse health outcomes. Chronic financial strain has been associated with higher rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other stress-related conditions. The constant worry and anxiety associated with financial difficulties can disrupt sleep patterns, increase fatigue, and impact overall physical health. Recognizing the potential health risks can help individuals prioritise self-care and seek appropriate medical attention when needed. This financial crisis is sending people to an early grave,
Financial stress can have detrimental effects on an individual’s productivity and ability to focus. Research conducted by Luong and colleagues (2019) revealed that financial stress negatively impacts work performance and job satisfaction. The preoccupation with financial concerns can lead to decreased concentration, impaired decision-making, and difficulty managing responsibilities. Employers and organisations should consider implementing strategies to support employees facing financial stress, such as financial education programs or flexible work arrangements. Many workplace EAP’s now offer financial advice and support.
Financial stress often forces individuals to make significant lifestyle adjustments. Research by Elliott and colleagues (2020) emphasises the impact of financial stress on individuals’ ability to meet basic needs and pursue important life goals. Financial constraints may necessitate cutting back on essential expenses, sacrificing leisure activities, or postponing major life milestones such as buying a home or starting a family. These limitations can create feelings of frustration, disappointment, and a sense of being trapped. It is crucial to provide individuals with resources and strategies to manage their finances effectively and work towards a more secure future. It is also crucial that we face up to the new reliaties and that what we want is no longer available to us and we must re-evaluate so many aspects of our lives.
What can we do?
Here are some advice and practical tips to help navigate financial stress and prioritise your overall well-being:
Seek support and professional guidance: Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when dealing with financial stress. Consult a financial advisor or counselor who can provide expert guidance on managing your finances, budgeting effectively, and developing a plan to reduce debt. They can also help you explore resources for financial assistance or debt management programs. Check out your worplace EAP for financial advice and consultations.
Create a budget and financial plan: Establishing a budget is crucial for gaining control over your finances. Track your income and expenses, identify areas where you can cut back, and allocate funds towards essential needs and savings. Set realistic financial goals and develop a plan to achieve them. Having a clear financial roadmap can reduce uncertainty and instill a sense of empowerment. Have those difficult convesations with family members about cost custing and saving money.
Prioritise and reduce debt: High levels of debt can exacerbate financial stress. Prioritise paying off high-interest debts first and consider strategies such as debt consolidation or negotiation to reduce the burden. Explore resources and strategies for managing debt effectively, such as credit counseling or debt repayment plans.
Build an emergency fund: Creating an emergency fund can provide a safety net during challenging times. Aim to set aside a portion of your income regularly, even if it’s a small amount, to build an emergency fund. Having financial reserves can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of security in the face of unexpected expenses or income disruptions.
Foster open communication: If financial stress is affecting your relationships, it’s essential to have open and honest communication with your partner, family, or close friends. Discuss your financial concerns, work together to develop a plan, and support each other during difficult times. Shared understanding and support can strengthen relationships and provide emotional resilience.
Practice gratitude and focus on the present: While financial stress may make it challenging to see beyond immediate difficulties, practicing gratitude can shift your perspective and improve well-being. Take time each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life, whether it’s your health, relationships, or personal achievements. Focusing on the present moment and finding joy in small pleasures can help reduce anxiety and increase resilience.
Practice self-care: Make self-care a priority to mitigate the negative impact of financial stress on your well-being. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Take care of your physical health by maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and ensuring sufficient sleep. Engaging in activities you enjoy and spending time with loved ones can also provide much-needed emotional support.
Remember, financial stress is a common challenge faced by many individuals, and you are not alone. By implementing these strategies and seeking appropriate support, you can navigate financial stress more effectively and prioritise your health and well-being. Financial stress permeates various aspects of individuals’ lives, affecting their mental health, relationships, physical well-being, productivity, and lifestyle. Acknowledging the far-reaching effects of financial stress is crucial in developing targeted interventions and support systems. By fostering open dialogue about money matters, we can work towards alleviating the burden of financial stress and enhancing overall well-being for yourselves and those around you.
Grzywacz, J. G., Almeida, D. M., Neupert, S. D., & Ettner, S. L. (2017). Socioeconomic status and health
Steptoe, A., Kivimäki, M., & Marmot, M. (2012). Financial strain and health: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Sweet, E., Nandi, A., Adam, E. K., & McDade, T. W. (2013). The high price of debt: Household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health.