Growing up, we are conditioned to focus on academics, find that almost mythical “good job” and “settle down”. The unsaid sub-theme was that this would allow us to be free to pursue our wider goals if we reach financial stability.
The non-risk-takers among us took the easier option and settled as salaried employees in organizations, while the risk-takers flourished as entrepreneurs and the creative ones blossomed as artists whose works were coveted. Much the same happened for those chasing sporting dreams and who broke into the big league of the IPL and more.
The bottom-line is we all chose academic streams that provided us the means to make a life for ourselves and – hopefully - suited our mental makeup. It is thus fair to say that mental wellbeing and financial stability go hand in hand.
This pandemic has lasted a lot longer than we thought and has affected all of us beyond imagination. The loss of precious lives, the medical fraternity being overwhelmed, the havoc wrought on businesses, the effect on economies and the uprooting of the livelihood of millions.
Each of us experienced differing struggles during the COVID-19 crisis. But the one struggle that most have invariably experienced - barring the rich and famous - was coping with financial stress. If you are worried about the state of your funds, you are not alone.
There are several floundering in the same choppy waters of financial distress. The pandemic is thus not only a health crisis, it is undoubtedly a financial one too.
Capital investments have been put on hold, projects deferred and associated business have taken a hit. Closed borders have dealt a body blow to aviation, F&B, travel and tourism and hospitality are floundering. The limitations on social gatherings have impacted the events industry, and intermittent lockdowns have caused setbacks at SMEs.
They have suffered and unable to manage their working capital. The cascading effect of all of this has been pay cuts, job cuts, higher sales targets, and, in the worst cases, companies shutting down and leaving the workforce without a clue as to what next.
The majority of expats settled in the region are salaried employees and with all the associated expenses related to housing, medical, schooling, and managing families back home. When income becomes erratic, managing commitments becomes a challenge - and overcoming this challenge comes at the expense of mental well-being. It drains out energy and, in the worst of cases, the delicate balance of the mind.
According to Forbes, stress resulting from financial challenges is often chronic. Worries about finances came in as the No. 1 stressor in the latest CreditWise survey, released in December. The results indicate that the state of one’s finances are the No. 1 cause of stress (73 per cent). Financial problems are reported as a major cause of stress more often than politics (59 per cent), work (49 per cent) and family (46 per cent).
Financial stress does impact your mental health, which then makes it harder to take necessary action to address your personal situation. It is one vicious cycle. Engaging in unhealthy behaviour patterns such as overeating or withdrawing from friends and family is a physical manifestation of underlying stress derived from a financial situation.
This underlines the importance of addressing the root cause - financial stress – before it further impacts on life. Focusing on what you can control - understanding your debt cycle, decluttering your budget, being conscious in your spending - can help get your finances back on track. Reach out and to loved ones to alleviate negative emotions.
For many, the past few months have been tougher. But know this - Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain. Like John Lennon said: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
As we move ahead, let us come out stronger. Mental wellbeing is the first step…