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What to do if the cost-of-living crisis is affecting your mental health

·5-min read
Are money worries affecting your mental health? (Alamy/PA)
Are money worries affecting your mental health? (Alamy/PA)

The cost-of-living crisis has been weighing heavily on many people’s minds.

Nearly half (49%) of UK adults say they feel more anxious and worried than last year, according to new findings from wealth management company St James’s Place, while nearly a fifth (18%) say they’ve suffered from stress-related conditions in the past 12 months.

More than one in five (21%) of those in work have considered taking time off due to the stress, nearly a third of people say their financial status is causing them to lose sleep, while just over a quarter (26%) say it’s affecting their relationships with family and friends. What’s more, 42% have found their general mood has been affected.

Day-to-day living costs such as energy bills, food, transport and fuel are among people’s biggest financial concerns for the next 12 months. Some people also raised concerns about being able to pay their rent or mortgage, while others were worried about being able to live off their current pension.

The survey – which quizzed 2,000 people across the UK – took place in May. Since then, the UK Government has announced a £2,500 cap on energy bills for the average household that will apply in England, Scotland and Wales from October 1, with the same level of support made available to Northern Ireland, which has a separate energy market. While the cap will bring some relief to households, charities have warned people will still be dealing with higher bills than a year ago.

“The cost-of-living crisis is gripping the nation, with most of us feeling the effects of record inflation through rising food, fuel and energy prices,” says Alexandra Loydon, director of engagement and consultancy at St James’s Place. “As a result, household finances are stretched and this is taking its toll on people’s lifestyles and physical wellbeing, as well as their mental health.

“Recent economic forecasts and a looming recession will have only exacerbated this further, and with finances set to be pushed to their limits in winter as energy usage increases, it’s really important people take steps to help with their financial situation, try to take care of their physical and mental health, and seek support and advice where needed.

People shouldn't feel alone and should share their concerns

Alexandra Loydon

“Speaking about finances can be a sensitive topic for many, and as such financial instability can often be an alienating and daunting experience,” she adds.

“However, people shouldn’t feel alone and should share their concerns. It’s important now more than ever to ensure we’re looking after our own wellbeing – seeking advice from debt advice charities, financial advisers and mental health professionals can make the world of difference and provide vital support through these turbulent times.”

Is the cost-of-living crisis affecting your mental wellbeing? Loydon shares the following tips…

1. Confront the reality of the situation

“During times of financial uncertainty, we may feel inclined to avoid the situation and put off tackling the problem head-on. However, this only makes matters worse, both financially and mentally, and it’s important to confront your financial worries as soon as you can, assess your finances, make a plan of action and don’t default on repayments such as mortgages,” says Loydon.

“Speaking to a debt planner or financial adviser during this time can be a useful resource and they can answer any specific questions you may have, and offer tailored advice based on your personal financial situation.”

2. Don’t stop your daily routine

Sharing your concerns can be helpful (Alamy/PA)
Sharing your concerns can be helpful (Alamy/PA)

“We may find ourselves slipping out of our usual daily routines, whether that’s not exercising, not sleeping at our usual times, eating less healthily,” says Loydon. “However, these activities all offer positive benefits to our physical and mental health, so try and make a conscious effort to maintain these habits and a regular routine.”

3. Create a budget

“During these times, our money is having to stretch even further than before, and therefore it’s important to evaluate your monthly outgoings and check you’re not spending unnecessarily,” says Loydon. “It’s good practice to set a budget at the beginning of every month, so you’re adequately prepared for the month ahead.”

4. Reach out for help if you need to

In addition to Loydon’s three general tips, if you are worried about your mental health, it’s important to get help – either from their GP or another health professional, as well as perhaps speaking to trusted family members or friends if you can.

Charities such as the Samaritans, Mind or GamCare (which helps people with gambling issues) can also help, as well as debt help charities such as StepChange, who can give information about debt respite schemes and other support.

Your bank could also be a source of help. They may be able to put blocks on certain types of spending – for example, many banks offer the ability to limit spending on gambling. You could also speak to your boss or HR department, to find out what support could be available via your employer. For example, many organisations now provide employee assistance programmes, giving employees access to confidential and free counselling and advice services.