Wellness and health (including mental health) have been critical topical issues and discussion points for quite some time. And, since October is Mental Health Awareness Month and with the 2022 World Mental Health Day (10 October) theme: “Make Mental Health & Wellbeing for All a Global Priority”, you, your fellow South Africans, consumers, employers, managers and employees have the opportunity to improve and revive efforts to not only highlight overall healthiness but also to try and live a happy and healthy life intentionally. Happiness and healthiness also include experiencing financial freedom since it is becoming more and more evident that South Africans continually face financially stressful situations. Therefore, money consciousness and deliberate behaviour to protect your financial wealth and overall health are more important now than ever.
Carla Oberholzer, DebtSafe’s spokesperson and debt advisor, says that stress related to finances or debt impacts your and various South African consumers’ health and is not only an economic issue. “To continuously worry about money is not healthy and commonly associated with physical symptoms that impact your general health, for example, your mental and emotional health and wellbeing.”
Over 1 300 respondents (out of the 1 400+ overall participants) of DebtSafe’s 2022 “South African consumers’ financial reality survey” recently emphasised that financial stress primarily affects their:
- stress levels (52%),
- sleep patterns (28%),
- overall health (26%),
- decision-making abilities (19%)
- and relationships (14%).
Andrew Visagie, Clinical Psychologist (MSc), explains: “Numerous South Africans’ wellbeing classify as ‘unwell’ due to their current mental, relational and physical health state.” So much so that South Africa has dropped to the bottom of the “Mental State of the World Report” list for the year 2021. This report measures the mental health of 34 countries across the globe. “One in six South Africans will suffer from anxiety, depression or substance use problems during their lifetime, and these are just the ones who reach out for help,” confirms Visagie.
Visagie highlights that: “South Africans deal daily with trauma, running on adrenaline and operating mainly from ‘survival’ mode. And from a financial perspective, I regularly see some clients living above their means where money is about ego and a measure of their worth. And for the opposite group of clients (that has lost everything), money is all about survival. So, these evident approaches indicate a lack of awareness about what money means to them, and they focus little attention on the price they pay for earning it.”
Oberholzer explains that: “having a healthy money-conscious (purposeful or ‘thoughtful’) mindset and getting impactful daily actions going, can assist you in managing your finances throughout any situation. Ultimately, it can help you return to financial freedom while indirectly motivating you to lower your anxiety – ensuring that you keep your overall health and wellbeing intact.”
So, how can you ‘respect’ your overall health, and what can you do behaviour-wise to be more ‘money-conscious’ during your daily doings or activities? Here are Visagie & Oberholzer’s joined recommendations for you to consider:
- “Firstly, seek help if you are feeling depressed or anxious. It is important to heal from your traumas and get your mind back in line so that you can see and ultimately connect to the abundance of opportunities that you have available,” says Visagie. “And, if you are already struggling with concerning sleep patterns and health issues due to previous or current stressors that you are facing, make sure that you consult a recommended and registered healthcare practitioner. This can help you to get the additional support and non-judgmental, holistic care that you may require,” suggests Oberholzer.
- “Don’t overestimate the goals (including your financial goals) you can achieve in a year, and don’t underestimate what you can do in ten years. Learning to push through struggles and embracing the process will give you abundant drive and motivation to succeed in your goals. And hope is born from struggle. So, if you are over-indebted, get yourself out of it systematically,” recommends Visagie. Oberholzer says you can start by:
- printing out your latest bank statement,
- acknowledging and future-avoiding the spending leaks that you have (for example, weekly takeaway meals, a gym membership or television package/subscription not utilised) and
- trying to pay off your debts one by one. Start with the smallest debt first and move on to the next (implementing the ‘snowball effect’). She recommends negotiating with your creditors or getting registered professional help in challenging debt case scenarios.
- Oberholzer encourages you to stick to your needs and not your wants while going through your daily routine. And think before you do/swipe your bank card to buy and when out shopping. “Remember not to live outside the season you are in, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses,” says Visagie.
- Visagie also suggests cultivating patience to reach your various (including financial) goals. He says that if you start with small steps, no matter how hard it may be, then tomorrow will definitely be different (and better) than today. “Don’t be too hard on yourself or add unnecessary stress and expectations to your plate,” motivates Oberholzer.
Lastly, Oberholzer shares her concluding financial food for thought:
- If you are continually stressing about your financial situation,
- If your income amount is not keeping up/meeting your debt amounts and financial responsibilities,
- If you receive regular threatening phone calls from your creditors or debt collectors,
- If you are already behind with your debt repayments,
- If you have tried everything to up your income and lower your overall debt amount, but nothing seems to help,
- Or, if you are using money (allocated for your living expenses) to service your debt, then the Debt Review process can be the financial solution you require to take control of your debt and lessen the anxiety associated with being over-indebted. Speak to registered professionals and make an informed decision to help resolve your situation while taking care of your overall health.
Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to consider and promote kindness, overall health consciousness, and (when it comes to your financial-related situations) encouragement to get the professional help you need when things are too much to bear alone.