Is a calmer you a more successful you?
If I look back at the period in my life when I was doing a poor job of managing my finances, I was not living a very healthy lifestyle and was quite stressed at work.
I’d recently finished university (this is quite a few years ago now) and, like many young people who start their working life in London, had fallen into some debt.
The situation did not become very troublesome, fortunately, but I had taken my eye off the ball. I ended up with an overdraft and a credit card balance which all of a sudden felt intimidating: I’d racked this up without even leading a terribly lavish lifestyle. How was I going to pay it off?
The first thing to remember is that no matter how much you think things have spiralled out of control, there are steps you can take. I was paying interest on the card balance, so the first step for me was to transfer the debt to a 0% credit card. I also transferred the overdraft balance on to a 0% money transfer credit card – and cancelled the overdraft. I decided what I could sensibly pay off on the total each month and was pleasantly surprised to find that it would only take 18 months.
I gradually paid it off, but long before I had, being in control made me feel less worried. I think I could have avoided getting into debt in the first place had I been less stressed and anxious about succeeding at work.
Avoiding the vicious circle
Since working on MoneyLens, and particularly with it being Mental Health Awareness Week, I have been thinking quite a bit about mental health and money.
Mental health, physical health, and financial health all tend to be interlinked and feed off each other. When things go a bit off track with one or two aspects, it can all start to go wrong.
Physical health can affect mental health; poor mental health can take away the motivation to exercise and lead to, for instance, obesity. Money issues can cause us stress and anxiety; stress and anxiety can make it harder for us to concentrate on managing our finances properly… there are all sorts of loops.
When we’re most on top of things, like our finances and work, we tend to feel strong and in control. And as result we are more likely to do exercise – and feel even better. The opposite, of course, is also true.
MoneyLens' Andrew Lacey has some great advice in his article, Investing in you this Mental Health Awareness Week. Advice I'm following by doing a 2 km rowing machine test in the work gym to kickstart a summer of getting back into rowing (thanks Andrew, I think!).
But I'm obviously not alone. Research this week from The Mental Health Foundation found 81% of women felt overwhelmed and unable to cope in the last year, compared with 57% of men.
Women’s biggest stress issue was personal finance, while for men it was the pressures of work.
The survey of more than 4,600 people also found 18 to 24-year-olds were more stressed than parents.
Given how widespread mental health worries are, I have been glad to see how much Mental Health Awareness Week coverage there has been already from financial money writers.
In the City, a number of companies, including Schroders, are supporting The Green Ribbon Campaign from “This is me”, a London-wide mental health campaign aiming to reduce the stigma of mental health.
On Monday a well-being expert specialising in the impact of digital technology (Laura Willis, co-founder of Shine Offline) gave a talk at MoneyLens’ Schroders HQ.
She pointed to comments from the Bank of England’s analyst Dan Nixon, who wrote a blog post (Is the economy suffering from the crisis of attention) on how technology can “hijack the mind”. He said: “Distracted moments can lead to distracted days… if you keep getting distracted by external stimuli, your mind is more likely to wander”.
He warned of the dangers of the world of "information overload" after comparing shrinking productivity growth in western economies with a tenfold increase in smartphone ownership over 10 years.
I know I am guilty of a lot of the pitfalls of modern working life (checking emails too often, sleeping next to my phone etc) myself and can’t help but think that part of the reason young people are more stressed than their parents is their dependence on technology in both their the work and personal lives.