How to cope with the cost of living



The cost of living crisis has left many of us feeling even more anxious and fearful about paying the bills. It can feel overwhelming, especially with continued rises in gas, electricity and food prices.


So, how do you cope in such an uncertain time?


If you’ve been struggling, here are some ways to help manage your anxiety around the cost of living.


Clock what you're feeling


A small amount of stress isn’t bad for us - but when you’re in a continuous cycle of it, it can become overwhelming.


Constant worries around your income and rising living costs might be making your body react in a fight or flight response, where you’re trying to fight a perceived threat you can’t control. The first step to understanding how your feeling is to recognise if your money fears are impacting your mental and/or physical health.


Have you noticed any changes in your body, like headaches, an upset stomach, or trouble breathing? Or maybe your mood or routines have been affected - are you sleeping too much, or not enough? Or becoming frustrated and irritated with conversations at home or work? Are you always in an on-the-go headspace without being able to rest?


It may be more difficult to register any changes like these, especially if they have been consistent for a long or uncertain time. But any and all of these things can be a sign that stress is taking a toll on your body and mind. Especially when you don’t have a moment to take the time to breathe or enjoy something unrelated to stresses.


Take a step back and understand your feelings of anxiety and stress and how it’s been affecting you, your life, and the relationships you have.


Create a budget sheet


It might feel scary at first to think about planning a monthly budget, but it’s a good way to know what you’re working with. Having a clearer understanding of your financial situation may bring back a bit of power for you, especially in a situation that feels uncontrollable.


For people with certain mental health conditions, or those who are neurodivergent, planning a budget and sticking to it may not be as easy to introduce to your day-to-day.


The Neurodiversity Hub has a guide for managing money for neurodivergent people. And writer and journalist Chanté Joseph, who has ADHD, shares her budgeting tips, too.


If you’re already on a low income, it can feel impossible to budget, especially if you haven’t been able to before. Moneyhelper have some advice on living on a budget.


Everyone is different, though. The most important thing is finding a system that works best for you - and that doesn't need to include a budget spreadsheet if that doesn't feel right or work for you.


Managing day-to-day tasks can get hard - but it's okay


When money anxieties get on top of us, it’s all too easy to let go of doing day-to-day or care tasks, which Struggle Care describe as: any task, chore, or errand that is required to care for self and keep life going.


This can be the daily reality for many people with mental health conditions or who are neurodivergent. But it can also be far more amplified when living in a constantly stressful time.


Struggle Care have practical resources on cleaning your house when you’re depressed, family management and taking things at a pace that works for you.


Draw on past experience, if you have budgeted before


Think back to a time that you have budgeted well, if you have previously. Was it for a family holiday to visit relatives? Or a partner’s birthday? Do you budget every week for your food shop?


Look back over your spending during the time and how you budgeted in the run-up to those events. Those situations may have been for smaller budgets than the whole household, but the principles remain the same.


And if it’s worked for you before, don’t reinvent the wheel. Build on what you had put in place before and try it out.


There’s nothing to feel guilty about if you spend outside of your budget


Finding moments of joy within a tough time of survival can be really important. Far too often people are shamed for buying something they “don’t need” when they are working pay cheque to pay cheque.


You deserve to find joy wherever you can. And spending money outside of your planned budget is your decision to make, not anyone else’s.


No one should judge you or make you feel guilty for buying anything that’s not a basic survival necessity.


Assess whether you need further help


It can be tough to put something like a budget into practice when you may have unexpected costs on top of bills, rent or a mortgage. You may need a different type of financial support also.


Reach out to these organisations if you’re struggling with:


Debts

The National Debtline have everything from budget planners, to a webchat service with specialist debt advisors, to support you


Paying rent/mortgage

Shelter have advice and support on accessing The Breathing Space, a scheme to help people struggling with debt including rent and mortgages


Paying other bills

Stepchange offer support across all kinds of debt – from credit card debt to bankruptcies.


Citizens Advice also have guidance on struggling on a low income.


While it can be a daunting feeling for some to apply for benefits, it’s another support network to explore if you’re struggling. You may have received benefits in the past and had a bad experience – or found it a difficult process to apply for them before. Turn2Us are able to help provide support and more information about claiming benefits.


Opening up to other friends, family members or loved ones who may be in a similar situation

Having people who understand your financial situation because they’re going through a similar struggle can make the world of difference. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to loved ones the weight of anxiety and feelings of helplessness around money if they can't relate.


Opening up about struggling with the rise in living costs isn’t easy, even with others who may be in the same position. We live in a society that tiptoes around conversations to do with money and what support people can seek when they need it.


Feel proud of yourself for even thinking about having a conversation with others in your life – it’s a big step.


If you do decide to talk to a loved one, you may want to discuss different ways that you both manage your outgoings. Or perhaps you’ll regularly check-in with each other to see how you’re both feeling.


We have more resources to figure out your emotional relationship to money or if you're in a financially abusive situation, too.


It’s not your fault

“If I didn’t buy that, would I still have money left over before pay day?” or “did I pay the bills at the right time, so I’d have money left in my overdraft?”


When we’re constantly worrying about money, it’s not uncommon to think of what we could have done differently to change the situation.


If you have anxiety or depression, these feelings can be amplified. We can tell ourselves we’re at fault for decisions that we had to make, even if they come from a place of survival. And when situations which are out of our control arise and hugely impact our day-to-day living, it’s easier just to put the blame ourselves.


If you needed the reminder today, we’re here to say it – the rising cost of living is not your fault and there is no shame in struggling with it.


You’ll manage to get through this


It’s a lot easier said than done, of course. But you will manage and continue to get through this.


Within an incredibly stressful and anxious time, it’s still possible to experience joyful moments. Allow yourself to enjoy those moments, no matter how small they may be.


What you’re feeling now may not look the same in a few weeks, months or a year. Even if the overall situation remains unchanged, our feelings can shift and evolve – likely much faster than you might expect


When you’re struggling with overwhelming emotions, try thinking back to a time you felt that way before and remind yourself of what happened. How long did the feeling last for? And what did you do to help it pass? While we may not be able to change the situation we’re in, we can work on how we respond to it with care and compassion for ourselves.


Mind have advice for how to cope when money worries trigger anxiety.


If you are feeling like you can’t get through this


Your mental health and wellbeing matters. And it’s totally understandable if you’ve found the rise in the cost of living to be hitting you in ways that you’re struggling to deal with.


If you need someone to talk to about your mental health or suicidal feelings, you can reach out to:


Samaritans offer a 24hour helpline for anyone who is struggling with suicidal feelings

Papyrus also have a helpline for young people

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) provide support through their helpline and webchat

MindOut’s helpline is available across the UK, supporting LGBTQ+ people

Mindline Trans+, an emotional helpline service, also offer signposting information to trans communities


Article source: https://www.relate.org.uk/blog/2022/6/20/how-manage-anxiety-around-cost-living-crisis

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