Mental health and money are intertwined. Suffering from mental illnesses can, for instance, affect how we manage our finances. Keeping track of income, expenses and savings can be difficult and, in some cases, almost impossible. Especially when feeling lethargic, unwell, or when overthinking and feeling impulsive. Let’s look at how mental health and money management are co-related.
Mental illnesses like anxiety and OCD can make us feel forced to take up multiple jobs for fear of losing money or never repaying one’s debt off. Sometimes, talking over the phone or going to the bank or opening letters from the bank can induce our anxiety. In some cases, when experiencing depression, impulse buying and spending money on favourite things can make it easier to cope. This is because spending can give us a high and make us feel better temporarily.
Alternatively, suffering from long-term conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Bipolar Disorder can mean experiencing period of mania or hypomania. These are periods of uncontrollable over-active and excited behaviour that significantly impact daily life, with hypomania being a milder and shorter version and mania being a more severe and longer version. Feeling euphoric, restless, impatient and extra creative during these periods can result in taking on extra responsibilities without thinking it through and making impulsive decisions about money that make sense at the time. After the mania passes, one can be left with lots of debt and feelings of regret.
Struggling with mental health not only affects people with working life, but students and younger people as well. It can make it harrowing to concentrate on assignments, work on group projects and keep the grades up while maintaining a social and familial life. As a knock-on effect, money and mental health problems can put a strain on relationships too. For example, you may find it hard to confide in your partner or family regarding your finances or even to confide in them. This can lead to feelings of anger, mistrust and frustration between each other.
Additionally, mental health conditions like dementia can also result in having difficulties making important decisions about money. This ability to make decisions is known as mental capacity, and in England and Wales these mental capacity issues are covered by the Mental Capacity Act. Having these mental health problems can also make it extremely tedious and difficult to find sustainable sources of income, like a stable long-term, and good-paying job. If you already have a good job with decent working hours, then keeping it can become a challenge. Regularly taking time off work or being admitted to the hospital can cause a sudden reduction in income and make it harder to keep up with the bills.
So, how can we survive this kind of financial stress and help ourselves?
- Understand your behaviour: Keeping track of your mental health behaviours and recognising the patterns that involve money and finances can help you find the right solutions for you. So, try to think about why and when you spend money and how it makes your mental health worse.
- Stay active: Remain proactive in your social life, keep your CV up-to-date and keep paying your bills. If you come by some extra time, take up some form of exercise. Remember, meditation and yoga are also good relaxing forms of exercise. Keeping active, busy and fit are the perfect ingredients to improve your mood and keep your focus away from worrying about finance – even if for a short time.
- Get organised: Be smart and on top of things. Keep a diary of your spending and record what you spent on and why (keep a record of your mood too to help in understanding your behaviour). Create a budget and stick to it. Plan for future instances by making it difficult to spend money. You can do this by not saving your card details online or maybe avoiding credit cards completely. Tell yourself: If I really need this, it will be here tomorrow. If it’s not, then something better will have taken its place.
- Talk to someone you trust: Don’t feel shy or embarrassed about your problem – you don’t know how many people around you are probably experiencing something similar. So, talk to a close family member or friend about your triggers and warning signs so they can help you, or sign up to a support group or student services. Get some advice from well-resourced mental health organisations, like Samaritans, Shelter and Mind.
- Look after yourself: When your money problems start to take over your life and mental wellbeing then don’t forsake yourself. Be careful not to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol and binge-eating. Keep up your daily routine and make sure to take a short holiday, even if it’s in the comfort of your own home or have a relaxing girl’s day-in with your friends.