Given the ever-changing events occurring globally with Covid-19, we are all experiencing varying degrees of stress, anxiety and fear of what is going on around us. During times of high stress and anxiousness, it is more critical than ever to take steps to safeguard your mental health. Your mental health can impact all aspects of your well-being, including your financial situation. In fact, mental health and financial health are more interconnected than you think.
Medical studies have shown that mental health and financial health go hand-in-hand. For example, if you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can impair your ability to manage your finances effectively. One study showed that people struggling with anxiety and depression were three times more likely to be in debt. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing financial hardship and stress, it can lead to a slow decline in your mental health.
The Covid-19 global pandemic has added another layer of complexity in managing our mental health as we learn to adapt to a new normal of social isolation, physical distancing and financial hardships due to economic lock-downs and the enforcement of public health measures on businesses.
Covid-19: Mental Health & Financial Stress
Money worries were a great source of stress for many Canadians even before Covid-19. For example, in a 2018 report put out by the Financial Planning Standards Council, 48 percent of Canadians indicated they lost sleep due to financial worries. In a survey by the Canadian Payroll Association, 44 percent of Canadians reported they would have a hard time meeting their financial obligations if their pay was even a week late.
The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the financial challenges many Canadians were already facing. In April 2020, Forester Research surveyed 1,119 Canadians to see how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted consumer finances and behaviour. The number of Canadians anxious about their financial situation more than doubled from 19 percent before Covid-19 to 46 percent after. Survey data suggested that older generations are feeling more confident due to less debt and reliance on pensions. However, younger adults, families with dependent children, Millennials and those laid off are worrying more about their financial futures.
With the second wave of Covid-19 here and less government financial support available to Canadians, it is more important than ever to safeguard your mental health so you can also keep your financial wellness top of mind as best as possible through these unprecedented and challenging times. Here are some ways to help you keep both your mental and financial health in check.
Stay connected, not isolated
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, loneliness was a growing public health concern well before the pandemic. However, reducing our social bubbles, quarantine and physical distancing measures brought on by Covid-19 has further exacerbated a sense of loneliness for many Canadians; one of the causes of loneliness is social isolation. The term “social distancing’ is a bit of a misnomer since we are social creatures by habit. Now is the time to be more social than ever. While connecting in-person is challenging, technology platforms do provide us with a way to stay in touch with our loved ones and friends and strengthen our social connection and ties to the community. For more tips for coping with loneliness, click here.
Studies show that exercise is an effective way to manage mental well-being and stress. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, regular physical activity “prevents depression and anxiety disorders and may be as effective as psychological and pharmaceutical treatments for depression and anxiety.” That’s because exercise releases feel-good endorphins and other brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that boost mood and can help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms. Physical activity also helps with sleep and insomnia, boosts self-esteem and can give you a greater sense of control over your life. For more information on exercise and other healthy habits, you can adopt to improve and manage your mental health, click here.
Re-frame your thinking
Mental well-being has a lot to do with how we think. Thoughts can influence feelings and, in turn, how we feel can influence our behaviour. It’s human nature to focus more on the negative than the positive but, it can lead you down a rabbit hole if you let it. Be mindful, analyze and challenge negative thoughts as they come up by re-framing them more realistically. It does not mean you have to deny a problem exists or difficult situations need resolution. It means being open-minded and looking at a situation or issue from different perspectives. Some key questions to ask yourself are: How does this thought make me feel? How can I re-frame this thought objectively to be more productive and hopeful? For some examples of how to re-frame negative thoughts, click here.
Practice compassionate self-care
If you don’t care for yourself first, it is hard to take care of others. The current pandemic has put pressure on parents who are pulling double-duty, trying to balance working from home with home-schooling their children. When you’re juggling so many balls in the air, the first thing you give up is caring for yourself. A new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research reveals the pandemic has taken quite a mental health toll on mothers who reported an increase in insomnia since the pandemic started; approximately 80 percent of mothers reported mild-to-high levels of current anxiety about Covid-19. Practicing self-care is critical for managing stress and anxiety. It can be as simple as getting adequate sleep, connecting with a friend or family member, engaging in a pleasurable hobby or self-soothing activities such as a massage, warm bath or meditation. For additional resources on practicing self-compassion click here.
Talk about your finances
Though we are having more open conversations about mental health, there is still a stigma attached to mental health that often makes it a taboo and complicated subject to discuss. Money is another topic many Canadians are not always comfortable discussing with outsiders. In a February 2020 survey released by Financial Planning Canada called the Discomfort Index, almost one in four Canadians revealed they felt uncomfortable talking about money. Even more startling, only 38 percent of Canadians work with one or more financial professionals for advice related to their finances.
“When it comes to money, Canadians are still feeling embarrassed and ashamed if they have some missteps,” said Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator and consumer advocate for FP Canada.
Do not allow these feelings to thwart your ability to speak about money issues and seek help from a financial advisor/professional or life insurance agent depending on what your needs are. Allowing feelings of shame and embarrassment to dominate will only compound financial problems and the stress you are under instead of working to improve your financial situation.
Ask for help
If you are struggling financially and it is impacting your mental health or if you are struggling with your mental health and it is impacting your ability to manage your finances, know that it’s perfectly human to feel overwhelmed. If you feel like it’s too much and you can’t cope, reach out and ask for the help you need. You don’t need to go through whatever you are facing alone. For more information and resources on mental health and how to reach out for help, consult the links below.
Stay safe and healthy!
Mental Health Associations & Resources
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