U.S. Air Force photo illustration/ Senior Airman Michael Smith VIRIN: 131211-F-IY918-001.JPG
Is money stress ruining your holiday season? And causing conflict in your relationships? Or leaving you depressed and lonely?
Editor and lead writer Andrea Blundell explores this sensitive issue.
Is money stress really a big deal?
Money stress is a common topic bought up in couples counselling.
A survey on relationship strain sponsored by UK charity Relate found that money came top of the list, with 26 per cent of couples quoting it as an issue between them.
Left to become a bigger problem, it can also lead to suicidal thinking.
According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, over 100,000 people attempt suicide each year over problem debt in England alone.
So yes, it money stress is something to take seriously. Very.
How to take control of money stress
How can you handle money stress, particularly if you feel it’s ‘a lost cause’?
1. Make this most important of all divisions.
Stress and anxiety flourish on a diet of shame. And shame causes us to confuse ourselves with our difficult situation and our negative thoughts.
You are not your money or your money situation. This is the most important thing to recognise.
Even if you think it’s too late, if you think your family will hate you, that you will lose your house, whatever it is….. don’t let shame blind you to the fact that who you are is bigger, far bigger, and far more important, than any issue or any debt. And that those who love you know that, even if right now you don’t.
2. Switch perspective.
When we are in severe money stress we can get so worked up that our perspective narrows to this horrible moment, where we have ‘messed up’.
We forget that life is unexpected. That things can change in a day. That support can arrive and help us. That others might see us differently than we see ourselves.
TRY THIS: What would your eighty-year old self think of this part of your life, looking back? Would he or she really want you to hate yourself so much over a money mess given the perspective of your entire life? And what about Buddha, or Mother Theresa? Or Warren Buffet? What would they have to say? Try on different perspectives until you can feel a widening within.
3. Look at your beliefs.
Not your beliefs about Santa, but your beliefs about yourself and about money.
We all have unconscious powerful beliefs that drive our decisions, what psychotherapy calls ‘core beliefs’. These are ways of seeing we take on board as children, learned from the adults and environments around us.
Such assumptions we mistake for facts can sound like, ‘I am not worthy of good things‘, ‘money is evil’, ‘only bad people are rich’, ‘bad things always happen to me‘.
Recognising your limiting beliefs about yourself and money helps you see that this is not all your fault, but that somewhere you’ve learned unhelpful things.
It also helps you see that you do have power to change things. How would life be different if you, say, decided to believe you were worthy of good things, and that money was not ‘evil’ but a useful tool?
4. Recognise and share your real gifts.
Money blinds us to our real gifts.
We think our children will hate us as we can’t afford the gift they want. And yet attachment theory shows that children need unconditional love and emotional safety most, not things. (In fact this study on toddlers found that too many toys were not good for children, stifling creativity.)
And in adult relationships what matters is real connection. Your friends want your sense of humour, your listening skills, your hugs. These things are more valuable than you have been giving yourself credit for.
TRY THIS: What are three things you have to offer to others? Can you give one of those things to a friend or family member today, to remind yourself of your value?
5. Admit there is a real problem.
Money stress builds around denial. Even if you are here reading this article, you might still be telling yourself, “But I’ve got it under control.”
Things like overspending and gambling are addictions. And nobody has an addiction under control. The addiction has you under control.
In order to change that, you must first admit there is a problem.
TRY THIS: Write out your money problem on paper (you can always rip it up after if it helps you feel better). Or call a free helpline where you can speak to an anonymous volunteer, if that seems an easier way to start than talking to a friend or family member.
6. Let your loved ones in.
Money issues are often extremely alienating. Nobody seems to talk about how lonely it can make you. How the shame causes you to hide from the people you love, and erodes your relationships.
Often family and friends want to help more than we realise. Or are even relieved to know the problem is just money instead of the other things they might have been worried were behind your distance.
If you are worried about how to talk this out, read our article on How to Communicate Under stress for tips.
7. Get support.
There are many charities that can help you understand your finances better and know your options for getting out of debt including:
But often what we need with money stress is also emotional support. Don’t be afraid to call a free mental health help line just to talk (see our list here). Sometimes the biggest problem is just that first step of voicing our problem out loud, and it can be easier with a stranger who isn’t invested in our choices.
And even if you have very little money to speak of, don’t overlook counselling. Getting our mind and emotions in order often results in getting our life and finances in order, too. These days you can find therapists for any budget, or even for free. Use our “Guide to Free and Low Cost Counselling” for tips.
Time to talk through your money stress with someone who understands? Use our booking site to find a UK-wide therapist to match your budget, or an online counsellor you can talk to from anywhere.
Have another question about money stress? Or want to share your own experience surviving money problems with our other readers? Use the comment box below.