Millennials and money: Mental health and financial instability
Are you struggling with debt? Do you worry about money? Is it difficult to focus on achieving your long-term goals? If so, then read on for tips to help you deal with money concerns and find ways to help ease stress and anxiety.
Millennials in the current financial climate
The term 'millennials' refers to those born between 1981 and 1996. It is well documented that they are the first generation to earn less than their parents. Over the course of 2019, Common Vision conducted an interactive consultation with millennials across the UK. The inductive reasoning from the study included the idea that "Millennials are more financially insecure than previous generations."
As a Generation Xer, I grew up assuming that I would earn more than my parents. I had access to free education and increased opportunities for social mobility. I must confess, I took these possibilities for granted.
Fast forward to the experiences of millennials and we find quite a different picture. Millennials are very well educated, despite the cost (tuition fees were introduced in 1998). However, regardless of their educational accolades, millennials have been drastically hit by the decline in social mobility.
Compound this with high levels of insecure employment, part-time working, lower-paying occupations and increasing house prices. Also factor in paying off student debt and we can start to see the extent of the problem.
Social media is a very powerful marketing tool. Be aware of your position as a consumer.
Now let’s be clear, there is much evidence suggesting that many millennials have responded by becoming better planners and budgeters. However, there is also evidence to suggest that millennials worry the most about money problems.
Naturally, debt concerns are high on the agenda for millennials. The impact on mental health is vast. Millennials often come to me for counselling, presenting with debt-related stress, anxiety and depression. They tell me about the pressure of spending money to keep up with their peers. They tell me about the difficulty they have saving money to move out or move on from rented accommodation. They often feel trapped. As a result, anxiety and depression are prevalent. Counselling provides them with a space to explore their emotions in a space free from the expectations they believe are placed on them by others.
Millennial mental health management
Here are my tips for how you can manage your mental health in the face of financial instability.
1. Consider your purchases
It is important to be mindful that spending money impulsively will often result in lingering feelings of guilt and anxiety. Before making a purchase, ask yourself is it C.R.U.C.I.A.L?
C = Can I really afford this?
R = is it Really necessary?
U = is it actually Useful to me?
C = Could I find an alternative I already have?
I = am I seeking Instant gratification?
A = am I seeking Approval?
L = will it provide me with Lasting happiness?
2. Be aware of your position as a consumer on social media
Social media is a very powerful marketing tool. Be aware of your position as a consumer. Spending too much time on such platforms often leads to responding to recommendations by Instagram and other social media influencers.
A way to manage your time on social media is to use the Pomodoro technique. This technique involves splitting your day into half-hour sections. Each half-hour includes a 25-minute focus and a 5-minute break. I suggest using this technique to plan your day and increase your productivity. Each section is referred to as a ‘Pomodoro’.
Decide how many Pomodoros a day you will devote to social media and stick to it! You can even set a timer to help keep you on track.
3. Manage your mental health in the here and now
If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by money issues, I suggest you seek professional advice from an organisation like Citizens Advice.
In the here and now there are steps you can take to manage possible side effects on your mental health.
Stress: Talking about stress is so important. Our problems can be the catalyst we need to make changes in our life. A counsellor can also help you to find ways to handle your stress.
Feeling isolated: Remind yourself there are plenty of ways to have fun without spending money. Get out in nature, Skype your friends for a chat. Create your own spa day or games night at home. Staying connected with friends is so important to help stay connected to joy in your life.
Sleep problems: Journaling before bed can help aid sleep. It can also reduce stress by providing an emotional release.
Journaling will help you to find clarity and move towards problem solutions.
Lifestyle: Unhealthy habits like drinking might help you to forget about your money troubles in the short term. Alcohol will however raise anxiety and stress levels.
Staying active is very important. Our physiology is the greatest tool we have in changing our mental state. Physical activity works by providing us with a 'pattern interrupt' which reduces stress.
4. Take steps to work towards your goals
Money issues can overwhelm us. It is important that you refrain from catastrophic thinking. Catastrophic thinking is when we choose to focus on the worst possible scenario. This type of thinking can become all-consuming and lead to depression. Instead, you need to take action in the opposite direction and start working towards your desired goals. Our past doesn’t need to equal our future and we must believe that we can find ways to make our desires reality.
Be clear about your goals and develop an action plan. Spend time and effort actioning your plan and review your progress regularly.
Not having the financial resources desired in the present moment can feel unfair and unjust. Remember however that it is positive mental health and not current financial status which is the key to health, happiness and success.
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