The festive season is usually filled with parties, presents and all sorts of happy celebrations. But it could also involve a mountain of costs and the horror of looking at your bills after it’s over. It can be a tough time if you’re experiencing some sort of financial difficulties. It can also be hard if you are suffering from mental health issues such as depression.
But did you know that these two situations could be connected too? This is because poor mental health can make managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse.
“Studies have found that debts can lead to higher rates of mental illnesses such as depression, generalised anxiety disorders, alcohol addiction and even suicide,” explains Dr Victor Kwok, Head and Consultant, Department of Psychiatry, Sengkang Health. “Borrowing money to repay debts has also been associated with even worse mental health.”
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
It might sound like a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of but, with the right mindset and support, it’s possible to beat this. Look out for the signs. These include: losing your temper over trivial matters, losing interest in television or rejecting invitations to go out with friends, sleeping problems such as having insomnia or bad dreams, and feeling a sense of hopelessness. A symptom could also be something as simple as not putting on make-up or dressing up if you usually do so, as it’s a sign of self-neglect. And, if you are having money problems, look out for signs such as avoiding looking at bills (this is a sign of denial) as well as making more unwise financial decisions such as borrowing money with high interest.
WHERE TO GET HELP
The first step to getting better is to talk about it. “Sometimes, when a person feels overwhelmed, it can be very hard to overcome the inertia to take stock of their financial situation,” says Dr Kwok. “Procrastinating will use up even more of our attention and make us feel worse. Talking to a loved one like a family member or a trusted friend can be very helpful and a lot less intimidating than looking at a spreadsheet of debts and expenditures.” There are also places where you can get professional help. If you’re in debt, consider debt counselling from Credit Counselling Singapore, which offers both tips and practical help. And if you are experiencing mental health issues, Dr Kwok advises: “Consider talking to a mental health professional like a counsellor from a family service centre or seek the family doctor’s advice if they should be referred to a psychiatrist. For those with financial difficulties but require medical treatment, there are financial subsidies available in polyclinics and public hospitals.”
LOOK AFTER OTHERS TOO
Even if you’re not going through this yourself, it’s good to look out for others and understand that the holiday season is not always easy for everyone. “We should also keep a look out for our loved ones and if you notice a change in their behaviour, talk to them and ask if they need any emotional support,” says Dr Kwok. “Financial support may be less helpful as people in debt will sometimes only improve when they face up to their own issues and commit to making their own repayment.”
And if you lost your job in 2016, don’t let the material stresses of the festive season get to you. “We need to remind ourselves that while Christmas is a season of giving, it does not only mean gift-giving,” says Dr Kwok. “Most of our friends do not expect expensive presents from us anyway. Sometimes, a heartfelt message in a simple card or a thoughtful act can mean a lot more. We can celebrate the festive season with any budget by having the right spirit and values.”
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