Last week I received an anonymous enquiry via my contact form. The enquiry raised some really important questions, so I have published the reply here. This is for ‘Jessie’ and everyone else who is being impacted.
Message: What advice would you give to someone who may be at rock bottom (financially)? Their business is looking in a bad way, all income has dried up and it looks likely their relationship is breaking down. At the moment, it’s not an emergency but what can someone do to plan ahead, financially?
Thanks for your email and sorry to hear about your issues. One of the reasons this situation is so hard is that it has attacked everything the we need to make us feel secure. This means that we feel anxiety at every level – our finances, our future, our family, our health. If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes to read the 4 articles on my blog about coping with money anxiety. It’s really helpful to understand what is going on in your mind so you can build up some coping mechanisms. You will also find some great ideas in the following podcast:
The first thing we need to acknowledge is that this situation is really, really hard. And it’s important to understand that because it means we need to think of ways to offset the extra anxiety that is all around us. This isn’t normal and normal responses won’t cut it right now. You need to carve out some time for yourself every day for some self-healing. This may be a walk, a podcast, a book, yoga – whatever activity you enjoy doing and that leaves you feeling better afterwards. You need this for many reasons but particularly because you can’t make good decisions if your brain is full of adrenaline and cortisol.
Secondly, thinking about the future is hard and anxiety provoking. The huge amount of uncertainty means it’s almost impossible to plan and your brain doesn’t like uncertainty. So, it will take time and lots of thinking. Your aim is to make good decisions so don’t do any thinking when you are hungry, anxious, angry, lonely or tired (HALT). If you find yourself being triggered, stop and let it pass (it takes 20-30 minutes for the cortisol and adrenaline to be absorbed); don’t let your brain catastrophise or it will send you into a tailspin. You can learn about wellbeing techniques to cope with Covid anxiety here:
Regarding your business (which I don’t know anything about), ask yourself whether it needs to change when things get back to normal. For example, if you are a hairdresser, then the answer is no and your business is on hold. It’s not great but you can’t change that. Your brain will want you do to SOMETHING and that feeling will be really POWERFUL. Recognise it for what it is – an ancient survival mechanism for getting away from wild animals – and channel that energy into something else (not easy, I know). Use the time to front load things that need doing – like your taxes – so that you have more time for the business later in the year. Reach out to customers to see how they’re doing. Research on wellbeing show this benefits both parties. Otherwise, ask yourself if there is anything you could be doing right now to change your business. Neil B used to sell fruit to offices in Cambridge. That stopped overnight so he changed to delivering fruit baskets to households instead.
Regarding finances, make sure you have reduced every single utility bill to the minimum cost and taken advantage of every delayed payment scheme. Do NOT DEFAULT on anything as it will seriously damage your credit score and that takes years to repair. We WILL come out of this and defaulting is an example of a bad decision driven by feeling helpless. We have choices and we may not like any of them, but if you start believing you have no control, you won’t be able to figure out how to make things better. Make sure you are aware of every scheme and allowance you are entitled to. Good places to start are:
Getting through to banks, insurers and credit card companies takes time, but the government is pushing all of them to support you and give you flexibility. Taking little steps like these gives you a feeling of control and that’s really important. Further guidance can be found here:
Money is one of the biggest causes of stress in relationships and now this is combined with being ‘trapped’ at home. Suddenly switching to working from home is not a simple transition and you need to create a structure and set boundaries. Communicating around emotional subjects is hard, but it’s also something we can all learn how to do. Healthy communication starts with acknowledging how certain subjects trigger us and how we feel when others talk to us. Very often we don’t understand how we trigger others and this leads us to having the same arguments all the time. A good place to start is here:
and also Esther Perel – https://www.estherperel.com/podcast
As a general piece of advice, avoid things that upset you (where possible). I don’t watch the news on TV because it’s designed to grab your attention with dramatic headlines and music. All it does is send my anxiety levels up. I read the news on online websites and try and minimise use of social media. Cut down on alerts – you don’t need to be hooked into every waking minute (our brains are not designed for it) and nearly everything we know is on hold for the moment. We feel the urge to be in contact with what’s going on and we reach for our phones. But if you find that scrolling through twitter and news feeds is making you more anxious, then you may want to be more conscious about usage.
Please read my blogs as they have more information on what I have talked about. It’s difficult to give you more specific advice without knowing more about your situation., but I can offer you a free 30 minute chat via zoom or phone if you would like.
Take care and stay safe.