Top tips to prevent financial stress from harming your mental health

woman with money worries, finances, No Recourse to Public FundsToday marks World Mental Health Day. With six out of ten adults reporting their mental health has worsened during lockdown, looking after our wellbeing has never been more important.

As worrying about money is the #1 cause of stress, HealthTech start up ZavFit shares top tips from its brand new, wellbeing-based programme which focuses on improving mental health around finances. The aim is to feel less stressed, and happier about money.

Anna Freeman, Founder & CEO of ZavFit explains: “Feeling stressed over money is the biggest cause of mental health problems around the world; whether you’re worrying about paying the day to day bills or trying to save a rainy-day buffer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Part of the problem is that our finances are a core part of our wellbeing, but nobody thinks about it like that. To make things worse, we beat ourselves up when money decisions go wrong, and that only adds to our anxiety. Start with some tiny, easy to manage steps and you’ll soon be on the journey to feeling better about money.”

According to recent research by charity Mind, six out of ten adults said their mental health got worse during lockdown; for young people the number was nearly seven out of ten. Stress and mental health issues can affect sleep, the ability to focus, health and overall wellbeing. With money the leading cause of stress, never has it been more important to address anxieties about money.

Tip 1. Check your mood

Have you ever bought something just to cheer yourself up or because you had a touch of FOMO? And afterwards did you feel guilty, or even annoyed at yourself? If the answer is yes, then stop. Before you hit ‘click’ on that late night Amazon buy, try something else instead.

Anna explains: “We all have money moods. For me, I noticed that if a presentation at work went really well, or I was on a high because the weather was great, my happy mood would often lead me into a “why not?” or “let’s celebrate!” splurge. And afterwards, I’d feel really stressed out at myself.

“For others, it might be when you’re bored, perhaps at lunchtime. You’re sat at your desk and just surfing; what starts as a bit of mindless, online browsing soon leads to a purchase. It might not even be something you truly wanted, it’s just something to pass the time.”

Anna adds: “What can work when you’re feeling bored is to give your brain and body a real boost. Go for a quick, blood-pumping walk for a few minutes, or listen to 5 minutes of a funny or inspiring podcast. You could even put on some great music and dance or sing along. You’ll soon be buzzing again, and that bored, potential purchase will be a distant memory.”

Tip 2. Be kind to yourself today

Everyone has been told at some point in their life that saving is good and spending is bad. Right?

Well, no, it isn’t! In reality the picture is much more complicated, and in fact a balance between spending and saving could be the ideal for lowering stress levels and boosting our wellbeing.

Anna says: “It’s time to be kind to ourselves. Talking about money doesn’t have to be boring or complicated, and it doesn’t need to make us feel bad about ourselves. While saving for the future is all well and good, it’s also really important to take care of ourselves in the here and now. In other words, don’t sacrifice your wellbeing today by putting too much of a priority on the future.”

Tip 3. Do something that makes you smile

A great way to start lowering stress levels about money and boosting feelings of happiness comes from understanding yourself better.

Anna explains, “It all starts with knowing which spending really makes you feel happy. If you get it right, it can enhance your wellbeing but if you get it wrong, it can lead to stress and often becomes an unnecessary drain on your mental health. I have a really expensive shoes and clothes habit, but I’ve recognised that there is nothing long-lasting or fulfilling about those purchases.”

Anna continues: “Nowadays, I focus my spending on things that contribute most to my health and happiness, and actively plug some of the gaps in my wellbeing. So if I’m feeling a bit down and lonely, I’d avoid spending on something just for me, and instead opt for a social spend like meeting a friend for a coffee.”

Tip 4. Spend smart

Spending on experiences instead of things can also be a great way to boost your wellbeing and happiness. Research shows that people get more happiness from experiences – such as travelling, concerts, classes – than from acquiring “stuff”. That’s because enjoying an experience tends to last longer in our memory and feel more pleasurable at the time, whereas we all get bored with new things quite quickly: ultimately, stuff only gets tossed away, but memories never get thrown out and can last forever.

Anna explains, “One of the big secrets to feeling happier and less stressed about money is not about spending less but about spending smart. I’m a music fan and when I buy tickets to a gig I’ve got something amazing to look forward to, as well as the buzz and passion of enjoying live music on the night. What’s more I always find it inspires me to want to develop my own music skills. That’s what I call really spending happy, and I know it has helped to improve my wellbeing!”

World Mental Health Day, a programme of the World Federation for Mental Health, is observed each year on 10th October. This will be the 28th year World Mental Health Day has been observed.

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