Financial wellbeing is about feeling safe and in control of your finances.
It’s knowing with certainty that you can pay the bills and are on track for a healthy financial future.
With the current cost of living crisis, financial stress has become part of our day-to-day lives.
A few weeks ago, MYNDUP’s practitioner and motivational speaker, Jermaine Harris, hosted a fantastic webinar talking about the psychological impact of financial stress. He also provided the steps you can take to feel empowered in uncertain financial times.
If you missed the talk, read on for the key takeaways below.
Disclaimer* all views, research and quotes belong to Jermaine Harris. This blog is only an interpreted summary of his webinar.
The full recording can be found below:Transcribed from Jermaine Harris’s webinar, available here 👇
When we’re stressed, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline. Our bodies detect a threat and then get ready for action. Our breathing speeds up and becomes more shallow, our blood pressure increases, and our senses sharper. Too much stress means our body doesn’t know when to relax and is in a constant, heightened state of fight or flight.
Stress can either save lives, or shorten them. For example, when faced with a lion, that stress primes us for action. But chronic stress, on the other hand, is long-term stress that affects the immune system and physiology. And this is mostly a learned state.
Right now, there is a huge financial burden with most of the nation feeling behind and anxious with what they owe on bills. As well as stresses and strains on finance, we also experience other causes of stress such as relationships, career and bereavement.
But Jermaine reminds us:
“We’ve either got a problem right now, a problem has just left or a new problem is on its way. Therefore, the quality of our lives can be dictated by our ability to thrive and overcome these challenges.”
Stress can impact the body in various ways.
Psychological stress due to financial wellbeing results in anxiety and low self esteem. We feel overwhelmed, worried and unable to concentrate. And these symptoms will show up all over our mind and body, affecting our ability to make decisions.
Behavioural effects, such as angry outbursts, show up through worrying, social withdrawal, changes in appetite, changes in motivation and less motivation.
Whereas physical effects of stress can result in headaches, pain, tiredness, tension, nausea, stomach problems and dizziness. While these aren’t exhaustive lists, a combination can be felt as a result of not fully addressing stress levels.
The first step then, is to decide what you can control.
To do this, change your current beliefs.
You might have the current belief that there’s nothing you can do about your current financial situation. The state of the economy and cost of living crisis is out of your hands. But this belief wouldn’t help you to reduce the current financial stress that you feel. Jermaine suggests that a more empowering alternative would be to replace this belief with a phrase that makes you feel more in control. For example, “when I can control what I can control, I can enhance the way that I feel, feel more relaxed and calm and then I can overcome some of the financial challenges with a calmer mind.” When you take on that belief, you change the empowerment triangle.
Although financial stress is the stressor, different changes of patterns can help reduce and manage stress. Focus on what you can control even if it seems small and unhelpful in the moment.
The empowerment triangle is a model made up of body, self-talk and mind images.
An example of this can be seen with the way we react to stress.
When you’re extremely stressed and in a state of constant worry, your shoulders might drop, your head would be lowered and you’d replay negative self-talk such as “I’m now in more debt, I’ll never afford my payments and I’ll let my family down.” Along with this, you might start visualising losing your house and begin feeling powerless.
To combat this, do anything that gets the body moving. This might be going for a short walk or putting on music that you dance around to. Next, breathe deeply. Ask yourself, ‘what can I do now that will change how I feel?’ Finally, visualise yourself on the other side of this stressful time in your life, for example feeling relaxed that the bills are paid.
While this short meditation takes daily practice, Jermaine highlights that with these steps, your body will change, your breathing will change, and so will your response to how you react to certain events.
Jermaine also shares with us another useful tool that can help reduce stress and anxiety. The BLIA process.
Anxiety is the thought, feeling or belief that you are in danger and something is about to go very wrong. It can be related to one thing, lots of things or nothing at all. The causes can vary, and can be linked to childhood upbringing, drugs, alcohol, current circumstances, health conditions and other factors. To reduce anxiety levels and spiralling thoughts, use the following BLIA process.
Jermaine's example of BLIA in action:
Breathe - Box breathing is breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds and holding again for 4 seconds. This instantly turns off physiological response and quietens the mind.
Locate - Next, ask yourself: ‘what thought is creating these feelings?’ Jermaine gives the example of his speaking business during the pandemic. His self-talk would say things like, “Without my speaking business, I won’t be able to pay the mortgage and I’ll let my family down.” But does the reality of right support these negative thoughts that you’re having? He goes on with a counteractive argument, “right now, the government is offering me financial support. I can also do virtual talks instead of in person, and open my diary to take on more coaching clients.” Locate the thought that's creating the feeling, and realise that in the moment, reality doesn’t support the thought you have. Acknowledging this gives you clarity on what you can control right now.
Intentions - Once you’ve located the feeling, this then allows you to then set some intentions. Circle what you want to achieve and break things down into steps you can take. Write down these steps and set clear and organised intentions.
Action - Jermaine gives some fantastic examples of how to take action in the situation you’re in once you’ve changed your breathing and thought process:
A client was worried about his bills increasing. He started visualising negative outcomes and feeling increased anxiety. After taking deep breaths and asking empowering questions, he was able to write down actionable steps that were in his control. These included, calling the energy provider and getting resourceful by asking helpful questions such as how to reduce bills but stay within budget. The BLIA process gave him clarity and steps to take.
A young lady, who juggles working from home and being a mother, went through the BLIA process to address her financial anxiety. After noting down steps to take to improve her situation, she decided she wanted to declutter her space to aid her mental health. She ended up raising over ₤750 from selling old belongings online. As a result, she felt more relaxed both internally and externally.
Focus on what you can control to feel more empowered. Once you get clarity and calm, you then take action.
Jermaine recommends surrounding yourself with people who are feeling the same as you. Maybe these people might be at different stages of their journey to you, but the important thing is that they understand. Do what you say you will and listen carefully. Know that everyone’s situation is different so ask people what would be helpful to them right now. Invite people to look at their support options and guide them in the direction of resources that would help. Encourage the person to go through a self-help process - like the BLIA method - that will help their situation and mental health.
The one thing you can control is how you look after yourself and what you do on a daily basis.
Make sure the list contains things you are in control of. This trains your brain to feel that you’re in control and can move further away from anxiety and stress.
Writing things down and getting your thoughts on paper is a simple technique of clearing your mind of all the stuff that is bouncing around in there.
Set daily intentions. Ask yourself: How do I want to feel today? What could I get excited about today? How do I want to feel?’
What to do when you don’t feel motivated to move your body, even though it will help you:
Start small. In your current state, you might be thinking “I’m so stressed, I have loads of bills to pay, there’s no chance I have time to go for a run and really can’t be bothered.”
What if you walked once around the block instead? What about playing your favourite upbeat song? Moving your body isn’t necessarily about running 5k. Simply notice the difference if you stand up, stretch and breathe through your belly.
Build up overtime if you notice yourself feeling better. Maybe you start walking around the block twice instead. Small and achievable to notice how you feel.
What to do when you have to spend money but know that doing so will make you feel stressed:
Be practical and realistic. Look at your outgoings and ask empowering questions such as “how can i use ₤15 to bring joy to this person, rather than the usual ₤30 budget?”
By asking this question, you’ll be able to get creative, bring joy and spend half the amount you were going to. Focus on feeling joy, not on spending less. This changes your perception.
What to do when the cost of living crisis is affecting friends differently, with some arranging socials at places you can’t afford:
While this can challenge the friendship dynamic, offer alternatives. Decide to take occasions in your control by suggesting alternative social events that are within your means. For example, politely decline events that you can’t afford, and offer a coffee and walk instead. That way, you can still socialise as well as allowing them the opportunity to still go to the social they want.
What to do when you feel shameful about financial stress, or need to encourage someone else to seek support and overcome this challenge?
Normalise conversations and use inclusive language. Rather than “tell me about your financial struggle” change this to “let's talk about some ways we can get through these tough times together.” This change in language opens up conversations in a more inviting way. Talking alone is helpful. When you open up, you can reduce some of the heavy load you were carrying alone, remove the shame and take positive steps.