Mental Health Awareness week has come round again, and as we reflect on its purpose, it couldn't be more timely..
When you take a step back and reflect over the past 12 months throughout lockdown, no wonder we were all miserable creatures! Being stuck inside limits the amount of sunshine you get, so our brain continues to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. In addition to a lack of fresh air and sunshine, being cooped up indoors also means we get less vitamin D, the hormone responsible for serotonin, aka the happy hormone, which helps us feel more positive and lifts our mood.
So at a biological level, our bodies were producing more sleepy hormones and less happy ones; on top of a global pandemic; so it's no surprise we've been less motivated to work on our goals and make positive changes in our lives.
But why am I telling you this? Because at StepLadder, our mission is to help people buy their first home and the journey to get there isn't easy. It takes discipline, motivation and lifestyle changes to make it happen, and wellbeing is one of the contributing factors to success.
Now, by all means, I'm not suggesting that skipping through the fields of wheat with a ukulele singing kumbaya will suddenly solve all of your money problems because it won't. There's no magic money tree, and you're unlikely to find a two up-two down waiting for you at the end of the pasture just because you meditated over it!
But what we are saying is that when you take care of your wellbeing and practice self-care, you can thrive vs just survive. The key to success is putting rituals in place to keep you focused and having a better understanding of what your obstacles are means you can mitigate against them.
With this in mind, we're here to share some knowledge on the importance of self-care, the impact stress can have on you, as well as practical tips to spur you on. But with a financial spin to it so you can feel motivated and smash your money goals, whatever they may be.
What causes stress
Life likes to throw curveballs at us daily, and these feelings of stress are usually triggered by little or big things happening in our lives, which can involve:
- feeling under pressure
- facing big changes
- worrying about something that has happened or might happen
- not having control over an outcome or situation
- feeling overwhelmed by something
- or times of uncertainty (sound familiar?)
Sometimes stress is caused by one big thing, such as debt. Or a build-up of lots of little pressures, making it harder for us to identify obstacles. When feelings of worry fill our minds, this triggers the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that acts as an alarm system and releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, triggering the flight or fight response.
What this means is that your heart rate goes up, causing your body to tap into energy supplies and curbs nonessential functions. Remember last week when we spoke about the 'body bank account' in our discipline and motivation article - this is what we mean.
For example, when you feel anxious, you're more likely to under or overeat, and next thing you know, you're spending £20 or more on a takeaway. Or, you become restless, preventing you from focusing on your goals and swapping it with a trip to the shop for a bottle of wine or popping down to your local pub for a few pints. And when feelings of worry happen daily, weekly and monthly, this cycle repeats itself, and your body remains in a constant flight or fight response where the long term impacts of this are not good.
From a financial perspective, these weekly 'treats' or avoidance tactics all add up. You're spending hundreds of pounds each month, and next thing you know, you've put on weight, you're in your overdraft, and those around you are getting slimmer and more wealthy. When it comes to money, millions of adults in the U.K worry about this daily. But why is this? Well, let's delve a little deeper into the subject.
Why do we worry about money?
Throughout society, we're brainwashed to think that having more money makes us happy. While being financially stable is necessary, we shouldn't pressure ourselves and compare our situation to others. Still, it is hard when we see people on social media boasting fancy trips to spas or spurlging out on shopping sprees.
For any ABBA fans reading this, do you recall the hit song "Money, money, money"? The song was released in 1976, nearly 50 years and centred on a woman who had to work hard all night and day, but in the end, due to debt, this caused her to enter a state of depression. Decades later, men and women worldwide are still struggling with debt, and, understandably, no one teaches us about money at school. This is why it's important to filter through the stuff that's going to hinder your progress.
Money worries are one of the biggest contributing factors to stress, and in the U.K, more than half of us are having these thoughts daily. What's worse is that there's a huge stigma when it comes to talking about money and some of the common reasons for this are:
Shame: we feel embarrassed that we don't have our finances in check or have more debt than other people.
Not wanting to burden others: we feel bad if we have taken control of our finances and are doing reasonably well.
It causes anxiety: as money does inform most of what we do and influences our goals in life, and if we're not where we want to be financially, we put pressure on ourselves to be more successful.
But how do we overcome this? We're convinced that the first step to financial freedom is to have total transparency of what exactly is worrying you about your finances. Is it debt, not understanding how money works, building better saving habits or simply being more open with your friends, family or partners about your relationship with money?
Here are some practical tips for building a better relationship with your finances.
Visualise your stresses: we recommend writing all of these down, maybe in a journal or a piece of paper, as a way of getting them off your chest.
Identify your obstacles: figure out what's preventing you from being happy or limiting your ability to save and move forward.
Create your goals: write down 3-5 short and long-term goals you want to achieve at the end of the month or year, with some wiggle room for occasional treats.
Share your plan with people you trust: you'll find that surprisingly you're not alone and other people worry about money too. Get yourself a cheerleader or an accountability partner and work together on a common goal.
Never forget that you are worth it. You are strong and you deserve to hit your goals. It’s just your inner saboteur playing tricks on you. And if all else fails, go out and get some fresh air - it gives you perspective.
So say bye to the bad habits and hello a happier and healthy bank balance!
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Marketing Manager with over 5 years expertise in banking, digital and Marketing.