Don’t underestimate how financial issues add to overall stress and anxiety. That is the message from Bayport Financial Services, which says that the numbers of financially-stressed and over-extended South Africans is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting the emotional and overall wellbeing of thousands of consumers.
Financial stress can take a huge toll on your mental health, relationships, physical health and your overall quality of life. If you constantly find yourself consumed with how much money you have (or don't), how you are going to put food on the table, get to work and keep a roof over your head, then you could be in line to develop one of several stress-related health conditions. Furthermore, many people resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, taking drugs or gambling trying to escape their circumstances, which, in extreme situations, can lead to suicide.
Two of the most common effects of financial stress are anxiety and depression, and these two conditions usually go hand-in-hand. Each one is a debilitating condition that makes it hard to focus at work, spend time with your family, and enjoy life. If you are behind financially and are feeling discouraged and hopeless or have feelings of constant worry and poor concentration, you may be seeing signs of these disorders.
Anxiety can manifest in many ways, but the most common symptoms range from panic attacks where the chest feels like it is tightening, and it becomes difficult to breathe. Anxiety is mental as well as physical – even if it does not manifest as a panic attack, you may still experience racing and unwanted thoughts, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat.
Depression goes beyond just general feelings of sadness and self-doubt. There is a wide array of physical and mental symptoms associated with depression that may include trouble sleeping, a change in appetite (over or under eating), and a lack of interest in favourite activities or unusual risk- taking behaviour. Depression can be a very unfortunate response to stress caused by personal and financial problems.
“Don’t try and ignore a negative personal finance situation as it will just get worse. The ostrich approach has never helped anyone and it’s much easier to work with the known than the unknown. Acknowledging financial stress is the first step in the right direction towards taking measures to address financial problems,” says Alfred Ramosedi, CEO at Bayport Financial Services.
Some things are easily addressed at home. Bayport outlines several pointers – keep track of all your spending. Don’t spend more money on groceries than what you normally would. Be prepared – plan weekly meals in advance and only buy what is on your list. Make a point of switching off lights and appliances you don’t use, and never leave a tap running. Buying a coffee every day on the way to work might seem small and irrelevant but when you’re faced with mounting debt and a pile of past- due bills every cent counts. Do you have stress patterns? Does boredom or a stressful day at work cause you to shop online? Are you buying take-out meals more regularly with the lockdown easing?
“Once you are aware of your triggers you need to find healthy ways of dealing with them rather than resorting to retail therapy,’’ says Ramosedi.
Money is considered by many to be a taboo subject and many people are not comfortable talking about financial distress. “Unfortunately, thousands of people are struggling financially through no fault of their own. Talking openly with a loved one or trusted friend is a proven means of stress relief and speaking openly about your financial problems can help put things into perspective. Before you default on debt, talk to your creditors, and make arrangements to ease your situation. You also might have credit insurance. Shop around for better premiums on insurance for instance, there is always someone out there offering better deals. Then talk to an expert who has the knowledge to work with you through your problems and find solutions such as debt consolidation, planning and managing personal finances.”
Once you’ve sought professional assistance, continue to enlist support from your family and loved ones. Keep your family up to date on your financial situation and what they can do to help save money as every little bit counts. Find time for inexpensive family fun to enjoy each other’s company and forget about your problems for a while – playing games, taking a walk or exercising together can help ease stress, doesn’t cost anything and will help keep the whole family positive.
“No matter how hopeless your situation seems, there is a solution to every problem,” Ramosedi concludes.
Visit our information centre for resources to help you through financial difficulties: https://www.bayportsa.com/information-centre/