The cost of living in Ireland is rising significantly. The recent pandemic caused a change in financial circumstances for a lot of people. Many struggled with a loss of earnings, cuts in working hours and struggled to pay bills and support families, while some other benefited from a decrease in spending, as expenses associated with commuting to and from work, social engagements and travel decreased as a result of government restrictions. As we are emerging from the pandemic, we are now seeing a significant rise in the cost of living as a result of worldwide political and economic issues, which is impacting everyone. At the end of May 2022, it was reported that inflation had risen to 8.2%, with inflation in the euro zone now at its highest since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997. The cost of petrol, diesel, electricity and certain food items have all risen and continue to rise. This has led to a lot of people experiencing concern over their finances and stress about their ability to manage their money.
Financial stress is anxiety, worry or tension related to money, expenses, income and/or debt. While many of the symptoms of financial stress are the same as other forms of stress (tension, difficulty sleeping, overthinking, physical aches and pains, anxiety, irritability), the concerns focus on the issue of money and money management. Financial stress can also be accompanied by feelings of shame or embarrassment. Most people worry about money at some point in their lives however it becomes problematic if it is having a negative impact on day-to-day life, such as causing problems in relationships, disrupting sleep or eating patterns or impacting the ability to find enjoyment in life. Taking action to manage your finances and manage the symptoms of stress can help to create a sense of control, relieve pressure and create a more positive outlook.
Tips for managing financial stress
Avoid unhealthy or unhelpful ways of coping:
During periods of stress, people can often turn to unhelpful coping strategies to managing the difficult feelings they are experiencing. These can include isolating themselves, withdrawing from social activities, increased alcohol, drug or tobacco use, under or overeating or increased time on devices or social media. These are all ways of trying to avoid the uncomfortable feelings and/or used as a distraction from the worries; however, they can cause more difficulties in the long run. Focus instead on finding healthy and productive ways to manage your stress. Exercise is a wonderful tool for managing stress as exercise causes your body to release endorphins which trigger positive feelings in the body. Moving your body during exercise also helps to relieve muscle tension associated with stress. Breathing or mindfulness exercises can also relieve stress, help relaxation and reduce rumination and worry. There are several apps and resources available online to support you to develop a regular mindfulness practice.
Focus on what you can control:
In life, there are always things that you can control and things that you can’t control and the same is true when it comes to finances. Focusing on the things that you have no control over, like inflation rates or the cost of your rent or petrol, are likely to cause more stress. Rather than spending a lot of time and energy worrying about those things, try to focus on the things that you do have control over, such as identifying where you can cut expenses by shopping somewhere different, changing gas and electricity provider or eliminating any unnecessary spending. Focusing on the aspects of your finances that you have control over can help you to feel empowered and more optimistic.
Make one decision at a time:
When dealing with issues such as finances, it can feel overwhelming as there are so many factors to consider and so many different bills and expenses to think about. It is not possible to solve them all at once. Set realistic goals and focus on one issue at a time. Identify the issues that are causing the most stress and look at them one at a time. In this way, it feels more manageable and allows you to focus on finding solutions, which can reduce the feelings of overwhelm.
Cultivate healthy habits:
It can be easy to forget about looking after ourselves when we are feeling under pressure or worried. It is important to take care of your basic needs, such as ensuring that you are getting enough sleep, drinking water, eating well and getting fresh air. These things all contribute to your general well-being and will help you to feel calmer, enable you to think clearer and be better able to manage the financial pressures that you are experiencing.
Speak to a friend or family member that you trust about how you are feeling and get support from them. Talking about how you are feeling and expressing your worries can help to relieve some of the pressure. They may also be able to help you come up with some solutions to the problems you are facing. There is also professional support available through therapy and services that specialise in supporting you around financial issues, such as MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service). You don’t need to go through it alone.
Written by Ciara Heaslip, IACP
If you would like to avail of counselling for any financial stress or money problems you may be experiencing, you can book a session with us now by calling 01 611719 or by emailing [email protected]