Advice from Suicide Line Victoria about what you can do to improve your mental health if you are worried about finances.
The JobKeeper payment was a great support for many small businesses across Australia going through tough times. If you were receiving these payments, depending on your circumstances, you may now be considering whether your business will be financially feasible going forward.
While it is important to be on top of your financial situation entering this uncertain period, it is also important to keep on top of your mental health and wellbeing.
Situations that are outside of our control are often stressful and cause a range of distressing emotions. The end of JobKeeper in March 2021 and the financial strain that might have come with this can cause heightened stress, and maybe even feelings associated with guilt or loss. Below are some tips to help you navigate these economic tough times.
Dealing with financial stress
The end of JobKeeper payments may have caused you financial stress, and over a prolonged period of time this can lead to poor mental health and increase symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing financial stress, you might also experience:
- Arguing with loved ones about money
- Feeling angry, fearful, or experiencing mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping and feeling tired all the time
- Increased use of drugs and alcohol
- Withdrawal from your family and friends
It’s important to be aware of these signs so you can put things in place that will help you manage these feelings of stress and anxiety surrounding your financial situation:
- Stick to a routine: doing some of the same things each day is a great way feel in control of some parts of your life, even when other things are out of your control. This may include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, sitting outside to drink your morning coffee, or going for a walk each afternoon.
- Connect with others: social support is important to our mental health and helps us de-stress. Sharing your worries with somebody you trust will help you feel like you are not facing things alone.
- Engage in self-care: take some time to do things that you enjoy. This might be cooking your favourite meal, reading a book, or going for a walk. Make sure you leave yourself some time each day to destress and unwind.
- Be kind to yourself: remember that none of this is your fault, and that you have shown amazing resilience to get through the past year. Remind yourself of your strengths and reflect on situations in the past when you made it through stress and adversity.
Coping with feelings of guilt
After JobKeeper ended you may be experiencing feelings of guilt towards your employees and/or family. Maybe you need to lay staff off or cut hours, and maybe you feel guilty that you are not providing the financial stability to your family that you once were. While much of the situation is out of your control, it may not stop you from experiencing these negative emotions. Below are some helpful ways to ease your feelings of guilt.
- Self-talk and positive affirmations: you have likely made a lot of difficult decisions over that past year, reflect on these and think ‘I made the right decision given the information I had at the time’. Be proud of yourself for getting through this and make a list of all your personal characteristics that gave you the strength to.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation: mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, not stressing about the past or future, noticing your thoughts and sensations, and accepting the good and the bad without judgement. This kind of practice can help you accept your current situation and calm your mind.
- Do what you can to help others: feeling guilty is a sign that you care, so you will no doubt do what you can to make this time as easy as possible on others. You may like to volunteer or do something good for your community, like donating food or doing a park clean-up.
Coping with financial loss
For small business owners, losing financial security or even your business can be confronting given the amount of time, effort, and energy that has gone into building your business from the ground up. Losing finances may also mean losing your lifestyle, plans for the future, and your self-image. Being faced with this loss may cause an emotional response similar to grief, and it’s important you can recognise this, and know how to cope. Signs to look out for are:
- A sense of sadness and hopelessness about the future
- Anger at yourself or others over the situation
- Confusion and difficulty comprehending what has happened
- Embarrassment and withdrawal from social situations
- Thinking about money all the time
While these responses are completely normal and understandable, it is important that you are able to accept your situation and look towards the future. Looking after your mental health and wellbeing will enable you to think more clearly and better manage the situation and your emotions. To do this:
- Reach out for support: withdrawing from social situation is common when experiencing financial grief, but it’s important to stay connected. Confide in a close friend or family member, or seek some support from a professional.
- Look after yourself: eat healthy foods, get some physical activity each day, and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Taking care of your physical health will help support your mental health too.
- Plan for the future: remember that things will not always be like this. Take some time to write down the steps of what you need to do to get your business back on track. You can even plan small weekend activities to give yourself something to look forward to.
- Let yourself grieve: financial loss is upsetting, and can impact quite negatively on mental health. Do not hold in how you are feeling and try to soldier on. Sometimes we just need to stop, acknowledge what we are feeling, and let ourselves feel it. The important thing is we do not dwell for too long, and try to focus on the positive things in our lives.
Where to get help
Mental health support
If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed by your current financial situation, it’s a good idea to chat with your GP. You can also call or chat online 24/7 with Lifeline, the Suicide Call-Back Service, or Beyond Blue if you are in emotional distress or feeling suicidal.
If you need help managing your finances, or need some information and advice, you can talk with a financial advisor. You can also use the below services for more information:
- For government information on the financial support available to you as a small business owner, visit My Business Health.
- You can also visit Business.gov.au for financial information and other support related to small business.
- The ATO has a variety of tools and services to help support your business and get it back on track.
- The National Debt Helpline has trained financial counsellors who can provide you with free advice on all financial matters.
Some tips from Reach Out on how to cope with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
10 tips from the American Psychological society on how to cope with the stress of uncertainty, noting the impact of financial stress.
Visit Smiling Mind for some information about what mindfulness is and how to practice it.
Information on how financial loss can affect you and what you can do to help.