Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. According to recent Medibank research, the incidence of stress has peaked of late, with the number of Australians affected rising from 3.7 million in 2007-08 to over 4.9 million in 2016-17. On top of this, the Financial Stress Survey by CoreData and Financial Mindfulness, found that one in three Australians feel financially stressed. The saying is “money can’t buy happiness.” It can however, pay the bills which increases our level of contentment and leads to happiness, thus alleviating stress and worry. We are here to remind you that feeling stressed is a normal part of life, particularly when dealing with difficult matters such as debt. Too much stress however, can have a negative impact upon our mental health.
So, how can debt impact our mental health and what can we do about it?
How does debt impact our mental health?
There is no common tolerance of debt. While one person may suffer anxiety over a $2,000 credit card bill, another may not have thought twice about their debt until their bill of $200,000 arrived – It’s all relative.
Debt is about much more than money. Being in debt can lead to a number of other emotional and psychological issues, such as:
Stress can be hard to define, as it affects everyone differently. It manifests itself in obvious ways though, through lack of sleep, loss of focus, lashing out and physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
Debt-induced stress doesn’t just affect the way our work habits and day-to-day activities. It can also affect personal relationships and even strip away the enjoyment of events that would normally be positive for us.
Similar to grief, someone suffering from severe debt stress may go through a number of stages. In essence, you are grieving the loss of being financially comfortable at this time.
Denial can manifest itself in not opening bills and bank statements that come in the mail, stuffing bills and late notices in a drawer and forgetting about them, or not answering the phone when you suspect it’s a creditor.
This of course, only makes the problem worse. It’s like a band aid which has to be ripped off eventually anyway… And in this case, it’s not better late than never.
Anxious feelings can arise from an array of triggers. Feeling overwhelmed, worrying constantly and believing there is no end in sight, all contribute to feelings of hopelessness and anxiety.
It is very common for people with high debt stress to report severe anxiety.
Sometimes, in the later stages of debt stress, Depression can set in.
A sense of hopelessness takes over, as does low self-esteem. This can lead to even more debt since sufferers sometimes try to relieve their depression by going on shopping sprees or even booking themselves a holiday.
But all that does is lead to more debt, which leads to more depression and despair.
What can we do to reduce our debt stress?
We can get help! Our mental health does not have to suffer.
Here are some of the ways you can reduce your debt stress:
- Talk to someone
A great place to start is by simply talking to someone. We know that admitting to debt is not always easy. So initially, to help get you feeling a little more comfortable, you may want to seek advice from trusted friends or family members. It’s always good to have a friendly, listening ear and a warm shoulder to lean on. And, who knows, they may even be able to refer you to a trusted professional.
- Consult a qualified financial counsellor
Consulting a qualified financial counsellor is a good place to start. A qualified financial counsellor can help you to review your finances, re-organise and manage your budget, and provide advice on paying off debts or negotiating repayment arrangements. They can also help you apply for emergency utility bill vouchers that you can use to meet minimum payments. In certain cases, people may elect to use the services of a public or State Trustee to help manage their financial affairs. For help in locating a financial counsellor visit the ACCC or ASIC Money Smart.
- Ask for help
If you have an existing mental health condition, or feel unable to cope, it is important to discuss your financial stress with your doctor, or counsellor, so they can assist you directly or refer you to someone who can.
Need help addressing how your debt stress might be making you feel? Contact Beyondblue Support Service via phone 1300 22 4636 or their website
If you’re feeling stressed about debt, remember that you’re not alone and it’s important to get advice on this debt and the stressors surrounding it. Some people might be embarrassed to seek assistance, and that’s okay, but it is important to realise that debt can happen to anyone. It is better to get advice on how to get on top of financial stress quickly rather than letting it build to the point where it impacts on your mental health.
By talking to people and asking for help, you are looking after your mental health, thus reducing your stress and avoiding any more serious mental health issues. At Life After Debt ® we’re here for you too. We help you manage your debt, with honest and sympathetic advice, without judgement.
Contact us today.