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A Penny for your Thoughts: five strategies to reduce the impact of financial stress on your mental health

Published on: May 3rd, 2021

This year, May 3rd to 9th marks the 70th annual Canadian Mental Health Association #MentalHealthWeek. Mental Health Week is a Canadian tradition, where communities, schools and workplaces rally to celebrate, protect and promote mental health.

Worrying about finances is one of the most common stressors in modern life, and in a year of economic uncertainty, that worry can be exponentially worse. Like any source of overwhelming stress, financial problems can take a huge toll on your mental health.

Here are five strategies to reduce financial stress.

Take an inventory of your finances

Open all those bills and track everything – your income, debt, spending, all of it. Knowing where you are starting from helps to put your financial situation in perspective. Tracking everything for a month allows you to regain control and highlight some places where improvements can be made.

Determine what you can change

Evaluate where changes can be made in your expenses for the best results. It is probably not realistic to go without a cellphone, but you can explore cheaper providers and rate plans, for example. Your fixed expenses like rent and car insurance are the same every month and may not offer a lot of wiggle room, but within your variable expenses – like groceries – and non-essential expenses – like eating out – there is ample opportunity to optimize your spending.

Make a budget

Making, and sticking to, a budget helps you determine where your money goes each month. Your budget will cover expenses, savings goals, and money you may want to put toward debt. There is a famous quote that says: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” When you have a plan in place, you are setting yourself up for success.

Track your progress

Simply put: focus on the positive progress that you’re making toward your goals. Seeing that savings account balance increase or that credit card balance decrease, even slowly, is a step in the right direction.

Talk about it

Mental Health Week focuses on bringing awareness to how we can #GetReal about how we feel. While naming our emotions rather than just saying “I’m fine” (the theme of Mental Health Week 2021) is imperative for our mental well-being, the same is also true of speaking about our financial worries. It can be a difficult topic to raise, but when you acknowledge your concerns, you can begin to address and resolve them.

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