National Stress Awareness Day: 6th November 2024

From delayed trains and traffic jams playing havoc with our commute, to the fridge suddenly packing up or the boiler on the blink, stress is something that affects many of us on a daily basis.

Stress takes on many forms, but as the cost-of-living crisis has impacted the UK, financial stress has become all the more prominent.
Over the past few years, the cost of bills, food, fuel, and other necessities have risen, putting large amounts of people under increasing pressure.

Taking on debt, being made redundant, and experiencing difficulties in paying essential bills can all contribute to feelings of financial stress.

Research has revealed that as many as 34% of adults in the UK felt anxious about their financial situation in the month prior to the study, with a further 29% stating that they felt stressed.

Additional data discovered that financial pressure is the top cause of stress outside of the workplace, with 1 in 5 employees claiming that this affects their productivity.

Know the signs: some of the effects of stress

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Insomnia;
  • Headaches;
  • Muscle tension;
  • Fatigue;
  • Upset stomach; and
  • A weakened immune system.

You should contact your GP if you are experiencing any mental or physical health concerns. While we understand that this can be a difficult first step to take, the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you will begin to feel better.

Things that may help ease financial stress

  • Recognise the signs. It’s easy to dismiss stress as something that many experience at some point or other, but don’t compare your situation to other people’s or brush your feelings under the carpet. You might consider yourself to be in a better position than some, or that your symptoms aren’t as serious as someone else’s; this doesn’t mean that your own feelings of stress are invalid, and it doesn’t mean that you are not entitled to seek help. Stress is stress, and however you experience it, your feelings are valid.
  • Reach out and ask for help. We’ll talk about this in more detail later, but opening up and taking that first, brave step towards a more secure financial position is a great starting point.
  • Set a budget. Write down your monthly income and all of your essential outgoings. This could help you see exactly how much money you’re working with each month. You may even find ways to cut back on certain things. You might like to try out the free Budget Planner on the MoneySavingExpert website for inspiration to get you started.
  • Form a financial plan. Whether it’s paying off your debt, saving more money, or reducing the cost of your weekly food shop, write down exactly what you hope to achieve within the next year. Map out realistic steps on how you’re going to ace your goals. Remember to start small – if your eventual aim is to put £50 a month into a savings account, you may choose to begin with a lower amount and gradually build this up.
  • Do you tend to spend recklessly when you’re feeling low, or as a reward for a celebration? Get to know your spending habits, and work to combat any negative traits. For example, if you regularly blow your budget the day after payday, try to lock your card away for a couple of days, or remove all stored card details from your favorite websites to avoid temptation.

Little ways to look after yourself and your wellbeing during times of stress

  • Take some time out in nature. Jog to your nearest parkrun (a free 5k event for all abilities taking place throughout the UK every Saturday morning), lace up your hiking boots, or simply pack your lunchtime sarnie and head to the local park, and relish a bit of downtime.
  • Prioritise your sleep. Ensure that you’re getting enough each night – experts recommend between 7 to 9 hours a night for an adult. Listen to your body.
  • Look into various relaxation methods, such as yoga or meditation. You’d be surprised just how much these can actually help to relieve tension! These can even be done from the comfort of your own home: here’s a list of some recommended apps you could try for free.
  • When feeling low, it can be easy to shut ourselves away. Try to maintain contact with your loved ones. How about a coffee date with friends, or a Sunday morning walk around the lake with family?
  • Stick to a healthy, balanced diet. This might sound obvious, but often when we’re stressed, we tend to reach for comfort food to temporarily soothe us, or quick meals to save time. This can lead to us feeling worse in the long run. Of course, it’s absolutely fine to have a treat, but try to avoid replacing your usual meals with too much junk or processed food.
  • No matter how busy you are, or how demanding your situation, it’s imperative that you put aside some time for your hobbies and the things you enjoy, even if that’s just half an hour of reading before bed, or listening to your favorite music during your commute.

Need a little extra help?

We should strive to discuss money openly to take away the stigma surrounding it.

Please remember that whatever you are facing, help is always available.

Making that first move towards asking for help can be scary, but you owe it to yourself to take back control and live the stress-free life you deserve.

Sometimes, talking about money with friends and family can feel impossibly awkward. If you are currently experiencing money worries, you may not feel comfortable discussing your concerns with loved ones. Here’s where talking to a trained debt advisor can help. Whether it’s debt counselling, tips on how to manage your monthly budget, or information on grants and benefits you may be eligible to claim, charities and organisations such as MoneyHelper, StepChange, National Debt Line and Citizens Advice offer free, non-judgemental support and advice.

Charity Mind have a page dedicated to the link between money and mental health. You may find some useful information here.

Financial stress can be all-consuming, and it’s easy to feel as though you’re the only person in the world facing these pressures. You are not alone. Reaching out and opening up will hopefully reassure you that there are solutions, and the way you’re feeling now will not be forever.

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