Financial and mental health - is there a connection?
Last Thursday was RUOK day where we are encouraged to take a moment to ask those around us if in fact they are ok? The focus of the RUOK? movement is to specifically target suicide awareness and prevention and to support people in having open conversations about mental health.
What a brilliant concept to take a breath and ask those around you if they are ok in their lives. The idea of asking someone if they are ok is not something that comes naturally to many of us and I do genuinely hope that more open conversations make the discussion about mental health part of our everyday relationships.
This got me thinking.... as a trained financial professional we are in a very privileged position to be given a real insight into one of your most personal things, your money. With this experience, we observe that some people handle their money without a fuss, whereas for others it is a source of stress and anxiety.
So, is there a connection between financial health and mental health? A recent study by Core Data for Sydney based fintech Financial Mindfullness of over 1,000+ Australian’s revealed that 66% those suffering financial stress said that worries about their money led to stress, anxiety and/or depression - this is three times higher than those that are not suffering financial stress. Alarmingly, they are eight times more likely to have poor sleep patterns and four times more likely to argue with their partner about money.
I must confess I have somewhat ignorantly never really explored these stats despite being acutely aware that there is a connection between financial stress and mental health, as we experience this everyday when dealing with clients of our business. Importantly, being aware is one thing but being able to comprehend this and make active and conscious decisions to reduce some or all the financial stress is arguably the hardest part.
To that end, if you find yourself in a financial position that is adversely impacting your mental health or have been confided in by someone who is experiencing this, how do you make a change? I would encourage the following:
Write down the areas that are causing you financial stress and endeavour to quantify the pain point. For example, I am stressed about my credit card debt, the amount owing is $5,000 and monthly repayments are $400 which I am struggling to afford;
Write down what you would like the desired state to look like. For example, I would like to be able to repay my credit card debt or have a clear plan in mind as to how I can pay this off;
Write down your financial assets, debts and cash flow and look for areas that you can improve. Again this sounds easy however the process of looking at your entire financial world in one spot is not something that we do regularly and typically is the best way to start to identify areas for improvement;
Take action. Try something that takes you a step closer to your desired state. This in my view is the best piece of advice. Mark Twain once wrote, Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. In my experience, the sheer thought that you have taken a positive step forward will be a huge relief and will hopefully be the start of the journey to a better financial future.
Modify your actions and stay focussed on the end outcome. If in fact the first action you take doesn’t work, that’s ok, simply stop and try something else. In continuing to try different things you will eventually land in a rhythm that will continue to drive you forward towards your desired state.
Above all else, if you are unable to make the step forward on your own, seek professional help, this may be the best decision you ever make. To help start the journey, there are some wonderful financial tips available for free at https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money.
Finally, if you continue to have trouble and are not coping with your financial position, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to discuss your options in greater detail.