How do I cope with this cost of living?

More people than ever before are struggling to make ends meet.  To many it feels that things have gotten out of control and money worries are starting to have a big impact on their wellbeing and mental health.  

For many, our income and the ability to manage our money adds to our feelings of self-worth. When we can no longer afford things that we are used to having, it can leave us feeling shame, frustration and fear. This makes it hard to speak to others about the difficulties we’re facing and we begin to feel isolated and alone.  Often we can’t even speak to our family because we feel we are letting them down. 

Presented with rising costs,  most people have already implemented simple solutions such as working out a budget, reducing costs wherever possible, and buying cheaper brands.  Now they are finding they still cannot get by and this leaves them feeling hopeless and trapped.  If we don’t have the ability to earn more and already budget as well as we possibly can it is not surprising that we start to feel like there’s no way out. 

This ongoing stress has an impact on mental well-being  and it’s important to address this stress to avoid the vicious cycle where the ongoing struggle with finances contributes to poor mental health and worsening mental health affects our ability to sustain income and manage our money. Stress robs us of our ability to think innovatively, plan and negotiate a way forward which is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

There are five simple things you can do daily to reduce your stress.

1.  Plan

When you are feeling overwhelmed it helps to write a list of things you need to do. Prioritise the most important and plan realistic timescales in which to achieve them. There is tremendous satisfaction in taking them off as they are achieved. 

2. Exercise

It is a cliche for a reason as it really does help by prompting your body to release feel good hormones and relax your muscles. It doesn’t have to be a full workout. A 20 minute walk or 10 minutes of physical activity like star jumps or yoga is all it takes.  

3. Breathe

Stress affects how you breathe, which then affects how your body and mind feels.  Taking a few deep breaths every hour can slow your heart rate, relax your muscles and calm your mind. 

4. Take time out

Stress can affect emotions and how we respond. It can make us short tempered, easily upset or agitated. If you notice that stress is affecting how you feel or behave it might be time to step away and spend a few minutes just focusing on yourself. Do something you enjoy like reading, listening to music or talking to a friend. It is vital to build some “you” time into your schedule each week allowing yourself something enjoyable as part of looking after your health. 

5. Talk about it

Despite how it may seem, you are not alone in struggling with the cost of living. Others around you are having the same issues. Sharing your concerns and also your strategies for coping will reduce your anxiety and enable you to learn from others about what has helped them and in turn, help others from your experience. We know that times are incredibly tough but please remember, none of us have to face this alone. Support is available and although things may continue to be challenging, there is no reason they should be out of control. 

A wealth of self-help guidance and information about managing in the cost of living crisis can be found on the Citizens Advice website and if you need to speak to someone then contact Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire on our free phone number 0808 278 7906 or pop into one of our advice hubs or offices. 

Details can be found on our website www.canosn.org.uk.

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