How to cope with financial anxiety amid the cost of living crisis
"Feeling anxious or stressed right now is a very usual reaction to unusual times."
As the cost of living crisis continues to affect people all around Ireland, it's no wonder that financial anxiety is also becoming a major problem for many.
According to a survey of our readers, 94% of them have reported feelings of financial anxiety, while 93% have said that this anxiety has become worse in the past year or so.
Some readers got in touch to share their concerns, and many have reported feelings of anxiety, shame and hopelessness regarding the situation, and others are deeply concerned about the winter months.
One reader shared that she was "afraid of how much worse" the crisis could get.
"No matter how hard we work, it's hard to get ahead," she told Her. "I have never felt like everything is so far out of my reach. It makes me feel like I'm failing as an adult and embarrassed about it all at the same time."
For many, housing is a big concern.
One reader got in touch to share that she is experiencing anxiety attacks over finding somewhere to live, while many others have said that due to soaring rents and an untenable housing market, they have no choice but to move back in with their parents.
Others have found themselves in a cycle of anxiety. One woman for instance, is working from home to save money on fuel, but has found that the lack of socialisation is making her feel more isolated. Another shared that due to rising costs, she has cut out activities that would have otherwise helped her destress – like going to the gym.
While some publications are sharing budgeting tips, the majority of these feel distinctly out of touch with the concerns of regular people. Advising someone who is worried about losing their home to skip the takeaway isn't helpful. What's more, these articles tend to overlook the feelings of anxiety and panic that the cost of living crisis has triggered.
"The first thing to understand is that feeling anxious or stressed right now is a very usual reaction to unusual times," says Carmen Bryce, the Communications and Fundraising Manager for Mental Health Ireland. "The first thing to consider is how you can look after yourself and protect your mental health during times of high stress and uncertainty. Nobody is more important than yourself – even if you have a family to support, you can't pour from an empty cup so you have to put your own well-being first and put that metaphorical 'oxygen mask' on before helping anyone else on the airplane."
Acceptance, Carmen says is also an important part of mental health.
"Simply accepting that there are certain things outside of our control, like rising fuel prices for example, and focusing instead on the things we can control, can ease the worries that keep us up at night. If it looks like you're getting into debt, face up to the situation and get advice on how to prioritise your debts or concerns."
In order to let go of the things we can't control, it's necessary to practice self-compassion.
"Remind yourself that you're doing your best, that things are tough, and to celebrate the small wins – like reaching out for help," Carmen says.
Setting boundaries is also a good idea. Saying no to requests can help ease financial anxiety, particularly if you're under pressure, notes Carmen.
"Don't be afraid to speak up if you feel cornered or that your boundaries aren't being respected," she notes. "Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it."
Beyond self-compassion and boundaries, Mental Health Ireland recommend a daily guide of five steps to guard your mental health.
These include staying active, learning something new, staying connected with others, taking notice of your feelings and giving back to others, even if it's just making a loved one a cup of tea.
It's also vital to know that you're not alone, and that support services are out there. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) can advise on debt and financial strain while the Citizen's Advice Bureau offers advice on budgeting and what benefits you may be entitled to if you're made redundant.
Resources for coping with anxiety can be found on Mental Health Ireland's website right here, and if you're struggling with your mental health, your GP can also advise you on what steps you can take.