How to handle financial anxiety during a pandemic

Levels have stress have gone up during the pandemic both over health fears as well as economic uncertainty. Photo: Getty
Levels have stress have gone up during the pandemic both over health fears as well as economic uncertainty. Photo: Getty

Millions of Brits are coping with stress and anxiety as they deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as the economic fallout as a result of COVID-19. When the UK’s lockdown began, nearly half of people experienced “high” anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics, particularly the self-employed and those renting. Anxiety levels were highest among an estimated 8.6 million people whose income fell.

Although lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease and people are returning to work, the virus is continuing to impact our lives. The economic disruption has placed many financially vulnerable people in danger of further hardship.

More than one third (34%) of UK adults surveyed and in full-time work are concerned about losing their jobs, according to a survey of 4,246 adults aged 18 and over by the Mental Health Foundation. A third of those surveyed said they were worried about their finances, such as bill payments and debts.

“Our research is starting to reveal how the financial and employment inequalities caused and exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting people’s mental health,” said Mental Health Foundation director Dr Antonis Kousoulis.

“We have very concerning evidence that many millions of people in the UK are worrying about fundamental financial matters and their job security – both of which are closely linked to poor mental health.”

Although stress caused by money worries can affect anyone, research suggests younger people are particularly at risk. Nearly three quarters of Brits aged 18-34 have at some point experienced mental health or well-being issues linked to money. So what can you do if you are struggling with financial anxiety?

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Working out how much you are spending is the first step towards feeling more in control of your finances. Write down how much you are spending each week or month, including on your rent, bills, food, internet and other expenditures. Make sure you include seemingly minor expenditures which can add up, too.

An online budgeting tool can help you keep track of what you are spending. The Money Advice Service offers a free online budget planner which can help you keep track of your spending and outgoings. Focus on spending money on the essentials – and try to cut out any unnecessary purchases.

When faced with redundancy or a loss of income, it is easy to feel paralysed with panic, but it’s important to work out what you need to survive. Check if you are eligible for government support or speak to your bank.

There are lots of different organisations that can help you with money and debt problems. The Money Advice Service provides free and impartial money advice and can help you with debt and borrowing, budgeting, benefits, savings and mortgages. Citizens Advice can help you with legal or money issues, including benefits, work, discrimination and healthcare.

READ MORE: Four ways you can reduce stress when working from home

It’s tempting to keep financial worries to yourself, but it’s important to speak to friends and relatives that you trust – either for support or advice. Sometimes, other people can help put things into perspective when you’re feeling anxious.

“Across the nation anxiety has been high as people are bombarded with concerns about their health, their loved ones, their jobs among other things. So financial strain has a very real capacity as an unwelcome cherry on top,” said Jane Goodland, corporate affairs director at the financial services company Quilter.

“We know mental health is deeply linked to the state of one’s finances. Living in financial stress can lead to mental health issues problems and those with mental health issues often find it difficult to cope with their finances. These are extraordinary times and we need to support each other. If you are struggling with your finances there is no reason you should bear the burden alone, there are many who are in the same position as you.”

Making sure you spend time doing things you like, or activities you find relaxing, can really help your mental health. Walking or getting some exercise can give you headspace to think more clearly about a problem and reduce anxiety. And if anxiety is seriously affecting your life, your GP will be able to help you decide on the right course of action. Charities such as Mind and the Samaritans also offer advice and support too.

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