Are you feeling stressed about money? The pandemic has led to financial challenges for many people. Worrying about dwindling savings can affect your mental health in many ways. Psychologist Nicole McCance from the Toronto Neurofeedback & Psychotherapy Centre shares her tips for dealing with financial stress.


How do the social determinants of health in Canada affect someone’s mental health and well-being?

The social determinants of health in Canada include factors like economic stability and education. Greater education and a stable financial situation create more opportunities for individuals. “Making a good income buys you freedom, and freedom to choose what kind of job you want,” says McCance. “You’re a little bit more limited when you don’t have a higher level of education.” But this doesn’t mean having more money eliminates financial stress. “Economic stability doesn’t give us better mental health, but not having it can deteriorate our health,” McCance explains.


What are the common issues that arise from a mental health perspective when it comes to money?

“Financial worry can lead to not being able to pay your bills, which can lead to anxiety,” McCance says. “This can lead to sleep issues because you’re up at night thinking, what am I gonna do?” Sleep deprivation can then cause irritability, which trickles down into other parts of your life.

“An irritable person argues with their partner more often,” explains McCance. That can cause even more stress and sleeplessness. “It becomes a vicious cycle.”

McCance says that anxiety and irritability also make us crave more comforting, pleasurable experiences. “We tend to have a bit more wine or eat a bit more chocolate,” she says. But these indulgences, while perhaps a nice distraction in the moment, don’t help address the situation.

During COVID especially, McCance has seen financial stresses increase for different reasons. “Some wealthy people really identify and lean on their money for their happiness,” she says. “If you can’t travel to your vacation home in Florida or go out for fancy dinners, you feel lost.” On the opposite end, financial problems can cause anxiety about paying for necessities like food and rent. McCance says that the worry and anxiety about financial stress can contribute to depression for some individuals.


How to deal with financial stress

We asked McCance for her advice when it comes to dealing with financial stress.

“I’d like people to think about what is in their control,” says McCance. She recommends people look at how much money they have in the bank and create a budget. “It’s going to give you a sense of control by having a bit of a plan.”

Financial problems can often come with a feeling of shame or embarrassment. But sharing your feelings with friends or a partner can help. “Venting helps us feel good, but also, we feel less alone,” says McCance. Talking to friends can help remind us of times where we were resilient in the past. “They might say, ‘don’t you remember five years ago, you went through this job loss and how strong you were?’ They could inspire you to be proactive and maybe look for a second job in the short term.”

Speaking to a therapist can also help manage money stress. “It’s tough if you can’t pay for it, but there are a lot of free options now,” McCance explains. “Sometimes there’s a bit of a wait list, but it feels good to be proactive.”

Your family doctor is a good place to start if you’re struggling. For some financial problems, speaking with a financial advisor can also be beneficial.


How can couples and families manage financial stress while still maintaining a good relationship?

McCance says that money in partnerships can be a tricky situation to navigate. “We often have different views of spending,” she explains. “Often, I’ll see one partner who’s really stressed and the other partner thinks everything’s going to be okay. That almost makes the other partner more stressed.” Couples that have mismatched spending habits may feel resentful. “In a partnership, money is often shared. So it can be tough when what’s mine is yours. But I don’t believe what you believe when it comes to spending.”

Couples therapy can be a good way for partners to discuss how money problems are affecting their relationship. If that’s not accessible to you, McCance recommends setting time aside to look at the facts. “Remove the emotion for a minute and look at printouts of bank and credit card statements,” she says. “Negotiate together and create your budget together. Looking at the data gets us back into the logical part of our brain to find solutions.”


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