Stress Awareness Month 2023: How the Cost of Living Crisis Could be Impacting Your Mental Health
A survey by BACP revealed that two thirds (66%) of therapists said that concerns about cost of living are causing a decline in people’s mental health.
The events of the last few years have placed a significant strain on individuals’ mental health. The combination of uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis, has pushed money worries to the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Thats why as part of Stress Awareness Month 2023, Well-being Guide, Mel Craghill at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, has provided insight into what impact the rising cost of living could be having on your mental health, as well as some advice on how you can manage feelings of financial stress.
“The current climate around the cost of living is having a detrimental effect on people’s mental health. From concerns over rising energy bills during the winter months, and the price of the weekly shop increasing, money worries are having a significant negative impact on people’s mental well-being. As well as this, stress and anxiety levels are also increasing.
“It is common to feel concerned and potentially overwhelmed during these challenging times, especially as we head towards winter. However, there are clear warning signs to look out for that could show the cost of living crisis is impacting your mental health, or others.”
“These are some of the potential impacts on mental health that may occur, the warning signs to look out for, and what support is available.
“A person’s financial situation can have a significant impact on their mental and physical health. The Financial Health Institute defines financial stress as “a condition that is the result of financial and/or economic events that create anxiety, worry, or a sense of scarcity, and is accompanied by a physiological stress response.
“In the current economic climate and as the cost of living increases, money worries are a common concern. 61% of therapists reported that their clients are feeling anxious about being able to afford their household bills in 2022, according to research published by BACP.
“If financial stress is occurring regularly or on a consistent basis, this may have a negative impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being, and may lead to a person experiencing anxiety or depression.
Symptoms of financial stress
“If a person is experiencing financial stress, there are common symptoms that occur physically, mentally, and in terms of behaviour:
- Anxiety – financial stress will commonly lead to a person feeling symptoms of anxiety. An individual may feel consistent and sustained feelings of worry in regards to money. They may become restless and have trouble concentrating. Physiological responses to anxiety can include shortness of breath, chest pains, feeling lightheaded, and hot flushes.
- Trouble sleeping – a person who is feeling stress may find that they are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis. This is due to the worry and anxious feelings about their financial situation keeping them awake at night.
- Angry and irritable moods – stress can also manifest itself in the form of anger and irritability. A person’s low mood may cause them to lash out and become short-tempered to those around them.
- Becoming socially withdrawn – a person who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed by their financial situation may become socially distant and isolate themselves. They may avoid social situations, or avoid taking part in activities that they would normally enjoy.
- Ignoring the issue – a person who is concerned about their finances may become reluctant to discuss their money worries. They may avoid talking about the subject and may avoid any existing debts.
- Depression – in some cases, financial stress can lead to a person experiencing depression. Studies have found a positive association between financial stress and depression.”
How can financial stress impact addiction?
All types of stress can have a negative impact on those who are susceptible to addiction or substance abuse. People who suffer from substance abuse are hypersensitive to stress triggers. Stress and concerns around the cost of living may make people susceptible to relapsing, or consuming drugs and alcohol to block out their financial worries.
A YouGov poll commissioned by charity Forward Trust has revealed a sharp increase in addiction since the start of the deepening cost of living crisis. 32% of adults reported to have relapsed into addiction, or know someone close to them that relapsed. 61% of respondents reported the cost of living crisis as the most significant trigger of stress and anxiety.
Tips for coping with stress
“Financial concerns and worries are common, especially given the current economic climate. Not everyone who experiences these concerns will suffer from financial stress or the response symptoms listed above.
“However, it is still important to recognise the signs of stress and the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on your mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are some handy tips for coping with feelings of stress and improving your mental well-being.
Relaxing with mindful meditation
For many of us, relaxation means putting our feet up and enjoying some television at the end of a stressful day. But according to research, despite feeling calm in the moment, this doesn’t relax or rejuvenate you, as it worsens your feeling of stress and leads to feelings of guilt.
Techniques used to relax the mind and body are the best coping strategy for stress, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and visualisation.
When dealing with stress, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure and balance your mind and body.
Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress, soften anxiety and improve your mental wellbeing. Taking time to relax the mind with meditation gives you the space to separate your energy, attention and emotions.
Distinguishing the difference between valid emotions and those which are not is a big part of mindful meditation, and recognising this will help your experience with stress and anxiety.
Distract your negative thoughts with physical activity
Physical activity can help reduce your stress levels and can have a massive influence on your physical and mental wellbeing. Exercising regularly, even if that’s just 10 minutes a day, can help individuals suffering from stress cope with their symptoms.
When exercising, breathing deeper triggers the body’s relaxation response. But there are certain exercises that can be more helpful than others when it comes to relieving stress.
Just like any other cardiovascular activity, walking outside for 20-30 minutes several times per week can improve sleep, increase energy and increase stress-busting endorphins. According to research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, when walking in green spaces, your brain is taken to a calmer state with little to no signs of anxiety.
Expressive writing to express your hidden feelings
Writing can help to boost positive emotions and reduce stress and anxiety, according to research from the British Journal of Health Psychology. Spending a total of 20 minutes per day writing about positive experiences can improve your physical and psychological health.
The aim is to find the positive during stressful periods, to reduce tension and built-up anger. Start by thinking of an experience that makes you feel unhappy or uncomfortable, and begin writing about the positives you can take from the experience.
Social support for stress relief
Reaching out to family and friends for help and support is crucial in coping with stress. Socialisation increases a hormone within our bodies that can decrease levels of anxiety, and make us feel more confident in our ability to deal with stress.
Limited social support has been linked to increased levels of depression and loneliness. It has also been proven to alter brain function and increase the risk of alcohol use, drug abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. Social interactions with family and friends play a crucial role in how you function on a daily basis, spend time each day talking and interacting to relieve stress.
Improving your nutrition can help to improve your wellbeing
Another approach reportedly effective in helping individuals cope with the symptoms of stress is adopting a healthy lifestyle, through nutrition and diet. Certain foods are proven to help combat stress levels and improve emotional response.
It’s tempting to reach for a heavily stacked burger or grease-covered fries, but instead, opt for green leafy vegetables which produce dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical that keeps you calm.
Other alternatives include oatmeal filled with carbohydrates, yoghurt which helps to reduce brain activity, salmon containing anti-inflammatory properties to counteract stress, blueberries that boost a natural cell to help immunity and dark chocolate which improve circulation.”
Content courtesy of: https://delamere.com/blog/2023-wellness-report