You won’t be surprised to learn that financial stress can lead to depression. Unfortunately, 2023 has been a tough financial year, and many South Africans are feeling stressed about money. Rather than letting your money worries overwhelm, you can find ways to cope and get help from experts to make sure your money stress doesn't lead to illness!
Money stress is high in 2023
As many as 75% of South Africans are experiencing financial stress. The Debt Busters 2023 Money-Stress Tracker found this stress is so high that it is affecting people’s home and work life, as well as their health.
One of the main reasons for high stress levels is the ever-increasing cost of living, including big increases in food, petrol and electricity prices, as well as higher interest rates. Incomes are not keeping up, and the family budget is stretched to and beyond breakpoint. As many as half of all South Africans are running out of money before month end and 44% are struggling to keep up with debt repayments.
Stress affects your mental and physical health
Feeling stressed or anxious about something from time to time is not serious, in fact, some stress is good for us.
“A little bit of stress is good and can help us perform daily activities,” says the World Health Organisation.
But, too much stress can cause physical and mental health problems. And too much stress can come from money worries, especially when they are ongoing and there seems to be no relief in sight!
There is a strong relationship between financial stress and depression, as well as debt and depression. Depression is a serious condition that comes with sleep disorders, headaches, body pains and stomach disorders. Depression affects your work life, and it isn’t good for your heart health.
Stress and depression can also lead to unhealthy habits. For example, many will turn to alcohol to numb feelings, or feel better. This costs more money, impairs judgement and can further damage your health.
There are two parts to dealing with financial stress and related health conditions: Take control of the finances and take control of your health.
It’s not easy to be open and honest and talk about financial and mental health issues. Debt Busters found that over a quarter of people say they haven’t looked for help because they feel stuck or needed more time to think about their situation. Over 20% said they were embarrassed to ask for help. For your health, your loved ones’ and your financial wellness, you need to face your financial and health concerns and take control of them.
Take control of your finances
Have an honest look at your finances, work out a budget and see where you can make changes to your income and expenses. If you cannot afford all your expenses you may have to cut, or increase income, even if that means selling a car and using public transport or selling a home and renting a smaller property within your budget.
Many South Africans are cutting back on expenses, including food items, to cope, and they are starting a side hustle for extra income as well as selling items they no longer need or use.
It might be uncomfortable at first, but if cutting back on expenses reduces your money worries you will be healthier and happier!
If you are finding it difficult to take this step or finding ways to cut back, reach out and ask for help.
Who can help you: Your financial adviser, a wealth coach, your bank or a debt counsellor.
Ask for support from: Your family, friends and colleagues
Never: Feel ashamed. You are not alone and you will inspire many others by facing your financial mishaps and finding ways to cope.
Highly recommended: If you are struggling to take charge of your finances why not consider one of the Truth About Money’s free financial education courses? Learning basic money management skills will go a long way towards helping you take back control, not only of your finances but of your mental health too! Take the first step and visit the courses page to learn more about what’s on offer, including the 30-minute Cash Crunch and Ditching Debt short courses.
Take control of your health
You need to be healthy to deal with your financial worries, which means you need to be physically and mentally well. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group's (SADAG) website has lots of information with details of support groups, which can help you cope. However, if you need to, seek professional medical help so that you can deal with depression and stress.
Always remember that stress and depression are health conditions, they are not a sign of weakness and they are not illnesses that go away if left untreated. They affect any and everyone, from the rich to the poor, the educated to the uneducated, even those who seemingly have it all. Depression does not care about any of these things, it can affect anyone.
Who can help you with this step: Your GP, a counsellor, your medical aid (ask about any wellness or mental health benefits), Lifeline South Africa and SADAG. Your GP may also refer you to a psychologist.
Ask for support from: Those you live and work with, as well as family members and colleagues
Never: Feel ashamed or blame yourself. Everyone gets sick, everyone has times in their lives where they need help from a medical professional. And as with facing your money worries, you will inspire others who will take strength from your example.
You can find a way through
Money worries and stress cause sleepless nights, until you face your particular problems and come up with a plan to deal with it. This is when your sleep improves, your health improves, and your finances improve. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen! Take control of your money worries today!