Top 10 tips for looking after your mental health during the cost of living crisis
Alison Goolnik is an integrative psychotherapist who has been a volunteer counsellor at The Mix for over two years and has her own private practice in London. She is passionate about helping to improve the mental health of young adults; to strengthen their emotional wellbeing and sense of self worth.
The cost of living crisis and mental health
The words ‘cost of living crisis’ are appearing daily on our news feeds, and perhaps the uncertainty of what this may mean or the implications for you are causing increased stress and anxiety. According to a survey by The Independent, one quarter of young adults say the cost of living crisis is the leading cause of anxiety in their life.
A rise in the cost of things such as rent, food and drink, household bills and medication means that you have less disposable income and so you are having to make difficult decisions on what you can afford and choose to pay for. This can be highly stressful and might be affecting your sleep, your mood, your relationships and you may feel you have difficulty coping.
At this time of year, the days get shorter and we have less hours of sunshine; this can affect your mood, making you feel lethargic and perhaps depressed; this is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so the combination of the cost of living crisis and SAD could also be impacting you.
Support for the cost of living crisis and mental health
Here are 10 helpful tips if you are concerned about the cost of living crisis affecting your mental health.
1. Try some meditation, relaxation or breathing exercises
These will help to relax your body, which in turn relaxes your brain and so calms the anxiety. Check out the NHS guide to coping with stress, Calm’s resources or the Headspace app. There are plenty of free resources online, so see what works best for you.
2. Try not to ignore bills
Watching your bills pile up or receiving bill-related e-mail reminders can create even more anxiety, so be brave and address them individually. Check if any direct debits, standing orders or subscriptions can be stopped or paused and research if there are any discounts available or alternative payment options. Check out The Mix’s money page and read this article on managing your money well.
3. Make a list of outgoings and incomings
This will help to give you a full picture of your finances and to create a budget planner for the next week and year ahead. Check out this article to find out which benefits you’re entitled to and head to Citizens Advice to find out how you can get support with the cost of living.
4. Control the controllables
This is more likely to impact you positively than worrying about what is outside of your control. You cannot control what is happening in the news, but you can decide small things such as your daily routine, self care and which media to pay attention to and how you react towards it. Read this article about how to cope when the news is making you anxious.
5. Eat healthily
It is still possible to eat healthily when you have less money to spend, so have fun researching healthy recipes you can make on a budget. Check out this BBC page about cooking on a budget or these recipes from Jack Monroe. A healthy and balanced diet gives the body energy to cope with stress and having proper meals rather than snacking throughout the day gives you a steady flow of energy rather than dips in energy and feelings of hunger.
6. Keep good sleep hygiene
Sleep can get affected when you’re feeling anxious or more stressed, so try to start some healthy sleep habits.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (this can improve sleep, which can also help to ease symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder).
- Avoid watching or reading the news before bed.
- Reduce phone usage at night.
- Exercise regularly (try to do this outdoors in the natural sunlight).
- Try a 60-minute wind down routine before bed e.g., have a bath, do some meditation or deep breathing exercises, listen to calming music, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, turn off your phone and set aside time to write down what’s upsetting or bothering you so that you can leave the worries on the piece of paper until the next day.
7. Keep connected to others
Reach out to a friend, family member or partner to share how you’re feeling. Not seeing friends and family can lead to feelings of loneliness, which has been linked to poor mental and physical health, so it’s very important to continue socialising, even if it means buying one less pint at the pub or meeting a friend for a coffee instead of for dinner; you can still socialise on a budget. If you’re working, speak to HR or your boss so that they are aware of how you are feeling and find out what support your employer has.
8. Keep physically active
Exercise can help to lower stress and anxiety levels; it gives you more energy, helps to relax you and is a great distraction. There are plenty of ways to exercise on a budget, such as going for a walk, run or cycle, doing a home workout and using outdoor gym equipment in parks. Don’t forget exercise can also be a great way to be social.
9. Be kind to yourself
Do something that will take your mind off your finances, such as self care; going for a walk, seeing a friend, listening to a podcast or learning a new skill. Do something that you enjoy and remember to speak kindly to yourself.
10. Make a list of what helps to reduce your anxiety and stress levels
It’s hard to think clearly when we are feeling so stressed and worried so it is helpful to have a list at the ready for when you need it.
Worried about the cost of living crisis affecting your mental health?
If you’re worried about the cost of living crisis affecting your mental health, you do not need to suffer alone and it is important to remember that there’s lots of support out there for you. Talk to someone you can trust and share how you are feeling. You can talk to other people your age on The Mix’s community.
You could also consider professional support such as therapy or counselling. You can get up to eight sessions of free counselling via phone or webchat at The Mix. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage!
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Updated on 19-Dec-2022
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