It is said again and again that you cannot buy happiness. And yet: You can't do that completely without money. “Financial well-being is absolutely critical to general well-being! After all, without basic financial security, we cannot even meet our basic needs, ”says the psychologist Dr. Eleanor Seddon. She knows the complex and interrelationship between our bank account and our sanity. “Studies have shown,” she adds, “that financial difficulties can cause mental problems - for example, from the stress that comes from it - but can also arise precisely from being unable to work due to, for example, depression.” What follows is a real vicious circle: money worries can worsen mental health problems - and poor mental health makes it harder and harder to manage money sensibly.
And yet: Although this important aspect of adult life can determine our very personal (un) happiness so decisively, our school system spits us out into the big wide world without preparing us very much for the serious financial reality. The rude awakening often comes a few years later, in their twenties, when many young people are busy living month to month without even dreaming of a bulging savings account. Exhibit A: Myself.
I spent my twenties on the verge of the financial abyss - sometimes stumbling close to the cliff, sometimes in a catastrophic free fall. In March 2019, I had accumulated around 30,000 euros in debt, through a combination of bad decisions, big milestones like a wedding and children, and a downward spiral of emotionally-related spending, as I know today. I don't think a day went by without my tossing and turning in bed at night with worries about money. I wasn't happy at the time, in fact, far from it: Either I was busy transferring small sums of money from one account to another, filling the gaping gaps in my budget, and secretly hating my job for not paying better or clicking through the web, desperately looking for something that would make me a little happier in the short term. At first, my worries were limited to my bank account, but over time it seeped into the rest of my life until I was restless, embarrassed, and just insanely dissatisfied 24/7.
The consequences of our expenses can create a situation in which we crave even more emotional expenses.
It took me a while to understand why I was spending money to somehow get my feelings under control - even though the money was the source of my worries. This emotional spending is what defines Dr. By the way, Seddon said: "We spend money on something that we don't need to cheer us up."
I had to learn the hard way: All the self-care in the world will be of no use to you if you don't take care of your finances. Health, happiness, security - impossible if the money isn't right.
And right now, in the Corona era, many of us (perhaps for the first time) are getting into a situation of financial uncertainty without being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Entire industries have already suffered irreparable damage from months of losses; many employees feel compelled to question their earnings, savings and financial management in general. Some of them are now even dependent on help from above - apply for a loan, basic security, perhaps unemployment benefits. This not only causes fear of the future, but also a reduced self-esteem, says Dr. Seddon. And it is all of these worries that lead some to perceive unreasonable financial behavior.
“In childhood, our brains develop a 'comfort system' that helps us deal with difficult emotions and feel safe and calm. The problem with this, however, is that our brains are always trying to make decisions that appeal to us short term doing well - but in the long term it may put obstacles in our way, ”explains Dr. Seddon.
And this is exactly where another vicious circle opens up: The consequences of our expenses can in turn create a situation in which we yearn all the more for further emotional expenses. If our impulse purchases scratch our savings or even plunge us into debt, it affects the mood - and we want to console ourselves with further spending. In addition, other "consolation methods" may not be available during pandemic times: meeting friends, visits to the gym, even hugs are suddenly taboo, and boredom, loneliness and anxiety are now added to possible financial worries. When the arrival of a shopping package suddenly becomes the only dopamine rush of your everyday life in the midst of a flood of zoom calls and depressing news, it doesn't take a genius to understand why your bank account is gradually shrinking.
Mainly because the internet has made it so easy and can also be done very easily from the sofa at home. And the industry (unfortunately) knows that too: Never before have you been bombarded with advertising emails, offers and sales as you are now. In my own Instagram community, at the beginning of the pandemic, I still heard that here and there some had suddenly managed to pay off old debts due to the restricted everyday life - but this motivation has also subsided over the months.
Limited products, sale countdowns, the option to pay later: Don't let all of this stress you, listen to the old farmer's wisdom - and sleep over it for a night.
“At first I hardly spent any money. Today I have the feeling that I can't stop doing it, ”one woman writes to me. “I think we've been through so much now that I deserve to make up for this lost time. At the same time, however, I am also very worried about my professional security - which in turn makes me feel guilty about spending money. "
“I had just paid off my credit card bill - and have now started shopping with it again. I'm really annoyed with myself, ”says another.
Still others try to save every penny in order to protect themselves against possible loss of income, but on the other hand also have the impression that they started much too late - and this feeling can also depress well-being. Either way you seem to be getting it wrong, conveying the chaos of this pandemic. But there is one thing we can definitely influence: our own behavior and how we react to certain triggers.
“You can bring emotional expenses under control by looking for alternative methods of coping with stress. So shopping is no longer your only reaction to difficult feelings, ”advises Dr. Seddon. "Write down a list of coping strategies that you can use as a toolkit in such situations: exercise, podcasts, yoga, meditation - these are all great alternatives for spending money."
And of course we shouldn't just keep an eye on our finances for the benefit of our emotional world. Careful use of money is crucial for a healthy relationship with our finances - and this in turn is important because we ultimately cannot do without spending money entirely. Money is an indispensable part of our everyday life, and in order to learn how to use it sensibly, you need time above all: time to make decisions, time to think, time to save, so that at some point you can afford what you want really wish. Take this time - and ignore the efforts of the advertising industry to convince you to make lightning-fast decisions. Limited products, sale countdowns, the option to pay later: Don't let all of this stress you, listen to the old farmer's wisdom - and sleep over it for a night. And if you are quite sure, this or that right now you can break your impulse thinking with a few questions. Do I really need or want that? Do I already have something similar? Can i afford that? Questions like these can pause your vicious cycle of emotional shopping for at least a few seconds and give your psyche a little breather.
Don't be ashamed of past mistakes or your bank balance. Talk about it openly with others. Get advice and help, and set a clear budget for yourself. Your mind will thank you!
If you don't know what to do financially or if you know someone who might need help, you can call the telephone counseling hotline on 0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222 or call theTelephone counseling chat use.