The whole world can feel it. Since early 2021, prices have been rising, and our stress levels are following suit. One recent study from the American Psychological Association found that 87 percent of Americans say that the rising prices of everyday items are a significant source of stress. Though there haven’t been any similar studies conducted in the Philippines, it’s safe to say that Pinoys are probably experiencing similar — if not higher — levels of stress.
While we can’t really do anything to avoid inflation, we can improve the way we respond to it. We talked to mental health experts from Filipino startup Mind You about how to deal with inflation stress, and here’s what we learned.
Remember: Financial stress is a NORMAL reaction to money issues
Money can’t buy happiness, but financial stability can make a huge difference to someone’s mental health. When we start feeling insecure about our finances, some level of stress and anxiety can be expected. However, it can become problematic if your stress becomes so severe that it disrupts your life. Left unchecked, your financial stress might lead to anxiety, depression, and could even harm your physical health.
The experts at Mind You identified three groups of people as the most vulnerable to financial stress:
- The financially unstable. Those who are already struggling with their mental health may also find that their symptoms would be exacerbated by this additional stressor.
- Individuals earning minimum wages. These individuals have probably already been struggling to make ends meet before inflation, and now that the cost of living is rising, they’re part of the most vulnerable population.
- Breadwinners. Those who are obligated to provide financial support to their family may be compelled to work longer hours to adapt to the situation, leading to more stress. They may also feel that they have no control over the situation, as they feel the need to provide.
So what can you do to keep your financial stress under control? Here are some tips from Mind You:
1. Be aware of how you react to money-related stress
In times of economic crisis, it’s important to recognize how you deal with financial stress. Being mindful of how you experience stress and how you react can help you understand how stress affects you. Do you become irritable? Do you isolate yourself? Do you feel tension in your body or get headaches? Do you experience negative thoughts? Do you turn to unhealthy behaviors like drinking and gambling?
Ask yourself and be honest: Does the way you cope really relieve stress? Or do your coping mechanisms just sweep the problem under the rug so you’re temporarily distracted?
2. Create a plan
While no individual can single-handedly stop inflation from worsening, there are some things under our control that can help us take control of our financial situation. Doing so can help alleviate financial stressors.
Plot out a plan by seeing where you and your household can reduce expenses. Do you have any unnecessary subscriptions? What about cutting back on online shopping? You could even find ways to create more streams of income, such as taking on a side hustle.
Whatever plan you create, remember to set realistic expectations. This will alleviate that feeling of uncertainty without being overly optimistic. And once you’ve drawn out your plan, stick to it.
3. Focus on the now
Now that you’ve created your plan, turn your attention back to the present instead of being overly preoccupied with the future. Check on your progress regularly, but don’t let your finances monopolize your headspace. Set your focus on things under your control — tomorrow can worry about itself.
4. Make financial decisions slowly and carefully
Don’t make rash decisions. When you’re faced with a big financial decision — such as quitting your job, making a big purchase, taking out a loan, or making an investment — take your time. Think about your options first and weigh the possible repercussions of these actions before proceeding.
5. Be honest
Be honest with your loved ones, especially if you have people relying on you to provide. Breadwinners often feel like they have the whole world on their shoulders, but you don’t have to do it alone. A solid support system — whether financial, physical, or emotional — can help you reach your financial goals.
6. Stay away from unhealthy habits
When faced with financial stress, some people turn to unhealthy habits that offer temporary escapes, such as drinking, smoking, gambling, or stress eating. These habits may relieve stress temporarily, but tend to create more stress in the long run. They might even exacerbate your financial problems.
7. Practice self-care
Self-care has become a buzzword in recent years, but we can’t emphasize this enough. Taking the time to take care of yourself is essential for your mental health. This looks different for everyone: you could practice meditation, journaling,
Eating healthily, getting enough rest, maintaining good hygiene, spending time with friends, and exercising even by just walking around for 30 minutes can help you relax and get your stress levels under control.
8. Get help
There’s no shame in seeking professional mental health assistance when you’re starting to feel the effects of financial stress. Look for free or low-cost mental health services available. Remember: you don’t have to wait before the issue gets worse before you ask for help.
Are you experiencing inflation stress? Tell us about it in the comments below.