By Iona Bain, our financial wellbeing partner and founder of the Young Money Blog
Have you ever thought of money as a mental health issue?
You’ve probably never made the connection before. But we all face what I call The Pressure – the constant, niggling feeling that you should be earning more, spending more and hitting certain material milestones that will prove your success.
The truth is, we all have to deal with The Pressure. You can’t avoid it – it’s just not possible to live without money – but if you try to conquer it by earning and spending more, The Pressure may only get worse.
Some people take out credit to keep expanding these horizons, but only become more obsessive in their desire to acquire…before long, their finances become so complex and fragile that they resemble a giant Jenga tower that could be toppled at any moment.
But I have some good news.
Acknowledging the pressure is the first, crucial step towards making your peace with it, and coping with it.
How we think about money drives how we interact with it. For instance, you might believe you’re bad with money, or that money management is hard or that it’s impossible to be well off today. Or all three things! And these beliefs will play out in how you manage money. You may shun financial decisions, ignore looking at your bank statements and spend like there’s no tomorrow. On a subconscious level, you’re resigning yourself to a life of financial struggles and pain.
But are those core beliefs true or helpful? Just because we’ve been telling ourselves these things for a LONG time doesn’t mean they’re true.
Try flipping those beliefs around - “I CAN be good with money. It’s down to me to improve my financial situation. Prioritising this would change my life for the better.”
Make a note of these statements, or any other positive money mantras that resonate with you (try a few out for size!) Repeat them to yourself. After a while, your brain will actually push out the old unhelpful beliefs. Acting on your new beliefs will give you a HUGE self-esteem boost, making you feel capable and in control.
Like any mental health issue, money worries need to be brought into the open. Otherwise, they fester. We find ourselves in a vicious cycle, where our negative feelings trigger poor financial behaviour…which creates more negative feelings.
If that's where you are right now, don’t bottle it up. Talk to someone.
It could be a friend, a parent or a stranger if you want a non-judgemental ear. There are so many support services out there if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression – here are just are few of them:
- Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
- Mental Health and Money Advice
- Mental Health Foundation
It's not just about managing money; we have to manage our feelings about money.
Brooding about money, in and of itself, won’t help you at all. But identifying that you’re worried about money is a useful first step.
So here are my 5 steps to coping with The Pressure:
- Accept it
- Use healthy core beliefs to deal with it
- Share your money worries
- Devise an action plan
- Keep money in your head, not your heart!