In this Article, Sarah Coghlan, Global Director Men’s Health Promotion at Movember shares five tips on how to safeguard your mental wellbeing during times of financial insecurity for those in the FE Sector.
Financial worries are a very common source of stress and anxiety. Like it or not, money, or the lack of it, affects nearly every aspect of our lives, including our mental wellbeing.
Seven in 10 college staff in England are considering quitting their jobs in the next five years, blaming low pay and the cost-of-living crisis which has left them unable to make ends meet, according to research by the University and College Union (UCU).
Last month, the UCU announced that more than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK will strike for 18 days between February and March in disputes over pay, conditions and pensions. The majority (80%) of staff say they are now more financially insecure than they were a year ago and 82% say their lack of financial security is impacting their mental health.
Almost everyone experiences financial difficulties at some point in their lives – but many people find it particularly difficult to talk about money worries because they associate money with their success as individuals or even as a mark of their character. Some view having money problems, no matter what the reason is, as a personal failure and refuse to talk about it or seek help.
Being able to talk about whatever is worrying us and ask for help when we need it, instead of struggling in silence, can prevent problems becoming more serious. Talking is also a great way to improve our relationships and our ability to be open and vulnerable about the tough stuff in life.
Here are five tips to help you cope and look after your mental wellbeing if you’re going through financial difficulties:
Don’t ignore the problem
Sometimes putting off difficult tasks is relatively harmless – but when you’re dealing with money worries or debt, it can cause real problems. Ignoring bills, reminders and final notices won’t make them magically go away, and the worry and anxiety it causes can become overwhelming. Just making the decision to address your financial problems can bring a sense of relief. The earlier you get support you need, the quicker you will be able to resolve your problems.
Talk to someone
Confiding in someone you trust about your money problems may help relieve some of the stress and anxiety you are feeling. If you’re uncomfortable talking face-to-face, then online support may be a better option. Some universities offer this for staff through wellbeing services – so check what kind of support is available via your employer. If your problems are getting too much for you and are in crisis, there are also listening services, such as Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone) or free 24/7 crisis text service Text SHOUT to 85258. If you are worried that your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, call 999 or go directly to the emergency services.
Find out what support is available
Working in education can be challenging. Constant change, long hours culture and pressure to deliver can be significant, putting those who work in the sector at greater risk for poor mental health. Organisations such as Education Support understand the particular pressures that working in further education and higher education can bring. Services for members include independent, confidential 24/7 support, to help deal with stress and anxiety, bullying, career and money worries. A financial grants service for teachers, teaching assistants, supply and support staff, lecturers, and retired staff is also available. Also, check what government benefits and financial support you might be able to get to help with your living costs through the Help for Households campaign.
Know your numbers
Many of the financial issues that cause us distress can be avoided by learning simple budgeting techniques. Creating a list of monthly expenses versus your income can help you to set realistic goals of what you can spend each month. A sense of control is important in our lives and getting on top of our incoming and outgoing cashflow can really improve our wellbeing. Knowing your numbers is a great first step to improving your financial stress. Sticking to a budget and tracking your spending habits helps you better understand and plan where your money is going. For free impartial advice on managing your money visit the Money Advice Trust or call 0808 808 4000.
Prioritise your mental wellbeing
Worrying about money can be all consuming; it can affect your sleep and ability to look after yourself properly. During a stressful period, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you’re getting enough rest, eating well, exercising regularly and spending time with friends, which can all help to boost your mood. Looking out for friends who might also be having a hard time is important as well. Research suggests that helping a friend also creates positive feelings in ourselves and adds to our sense of purpose and self-worth. For further advice on how to talk to a friend about their mental health visit https://conversations.movember.com/en-gb/
By Sarah Coghlan, Global Director of Men’s Health Promotion at Movember