Financial Insecurity and Mental Health

One trip to the grocery store and we are bound to feel the impact of the seemingly endless rise in the cost of living our country is experiencing. In this valley we already had an inflated cost of living compared to cities and non-tourist small towns, so we feel the current financial crisis even more. We talk about it, budget, plan, or for some simply pretend it is not happening. As we figure out how to afford food, rent, and mortgages our local businesses also feel the impact as we decrease our meals out, coffees, and retail expenses. There is a ripple effect and it extends to our mental health. 
In my practice I see an increase in worry, perceived and real stress, depression, and a focus on what the future will look like. There are three patterns - one based in worry, one in avoidance, and one in a grounded plan do not panic approach. As you can imagine the healthiest pattern is the plan do not panic approach. If you are currently experiencing distress due to financial here are a few tips to find a little more peace. 

Take a breath. Our brain’s main job in life is to keep us safe. Financial insecurity does not feel safe and the brain will in turn perceive threat, even when none in that moment does not exist. Bringing ourselves back to the moment, knowing we are safe right then and there can help. 

Mindfulness. What is happening right now? Are you okay right now? Are you able to buy food and pay rent/mortgage right now? Much of our stress comes from worry about past decisions and security in our future. Being in the moment with a reminder of what is okay and what is not right now can allow is to feel safe and to plan for our needs in a calm physiological state. 

Talk to someone who can help. If any of the above questions led to the answer “no” or your worries are purely in making ends meet find a financial planner, take advantage of food programs in your area, look into grants and subsidies. This is not the time to feel shame in asking for help as so many are in need. 

Run the numbers and make a plan. Sometimes things are better than we think. Sit down and write it all out. What is the income coming in, what are the expenses, what is left over or what is still needed? Sometimes this can be really calming to help you see that while things are tight, right now in this moment you are okay. Alternatively, if this is not the case then this allows you to look at where you are spending, what you can cut, and may be a motivator to explore how you may find more income through a side hustle or additional work. 

This is not forever. One thing clients find helpful is to remember this difficult time is not permanent. We are dynamic humans living in an ever-changing world. Part of the anxiety exists because we believe what we are feeling right now will last forever. This is learned helplessness as it leads to a thought that we are not capable of making change, and all of us 100% are. 

It is also important to not assume that others are doing okay based on what you believe their income is. You never know what expenses people have in their lives, knowing an income does not equal financial security. If you are in a place of financial security right now consider donating food to food banks, anonymously leave groceries on the doorstep of someone you know in need, or lend an ear to a friend struggling.

The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.

Photo by Vanessa Croome