As the pandemic swept through Canada in March — shutting down businesses and keeping us at home — more and more Canadians saw their emotional health deteriorating from COVID-19 financial stress.
A recent survey conducted by FP Canada shows that 49 per cent of Canadians lost sleep over financial worries. Four in 10 said the COVID-19 pandemic has added to their financial stress levels.
“You’re losing sleep, if you’re not eating properly, you’re not exercising,” so stress can build from even just losing those everyday activities, financial therapist Brenda St. Louis says.
To re-align yourself during a pandemic, St. Louis says understanding oneself and limitations with money, reaching out to others, and finding alternative activities can help alleviate financial stress.
Here are her tips:
To cultivate a better relationship with money, St. Louis says that it’s important to go back to the basics with yourself, starting with three pillars: peace, joy and confidence.
First, being at peace with what you have. “We live in a world where we’ve got propaganda that tells us that more is better all the time, we never actually cultivate that real trust and peace with money,” she says. Having that sense of peace with your abundance, and that you’re not going into scarcity, is key and takes practice, St. Louis adds.
“You start to recognize that I can take care of my rent, I can take care of my bills and if I have to cut corners on things, I know what to cut corners on things with.”
Another element is confidence which is understanding financial literacy, knowing where your money is going and if you’re paying extra fees that you don’t need to. “It’s really analyzing your money to see where it’s going and where it’s coming in, and how you can reorganize things when situationss like COVID happen and your income dries up,” St. Louis says.
The final pillar is joy which is being content and happy about the things in your life without having to buy new stuff all the time.
“We are in such a consumer reality where we buy disposable, we don’t buy used, we buy things that are really cheaply made. So we have to buy another one the next year rather than buying stuff that’s really well made,” St. Louis says.
That could come in the form of conscious consumption, which is finding happiness working within your means and looking to alternatives. “(That) could be the positive outcome of this pandemic,” she adds.
Reach out to family, friends:
If the going gets tough and you’ve taken a hit during the pandemic, St. Louis says it’s crucial to start reaching out to a community for support. Those who are well-off need to come together to support other people by depositing money in a community bank.
“I know this is not going to sound like the answer. But we are lacking supportive communities in our lives. And when things like this happen, this is when you need your community more than anything.”
It takes a certain level of vulnerability, she says but a first step would be to reach out to your small, immediate family.
“People are all alone in this. And I think when we can start to recognize that this is the worst thing. [We’ll] be able to reach out and connect with something broader,” she says.
St. Louis says it’s important for people to recognize that alternative treatments that people may have had money to invest in to alleivate stress, whether it may have been going for massages, visiting the chiropractors, buying supplements — aren’t in reach during this time.
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“You need to find ways to take care of yourself that don’t cost money,” St. Louis says. That could be going for those walks, getting a pet, asking people in your bubble to give you a massage, or finding a new hobby.
She adds that free self-care can keep us preoccupied and can offer perspective during this unprecendented time.
“You have to be proactive and find out how to harness that rather than just assuming it’s gone and start thinking outside of the box. It’s a great way of creating a new paradigm of not over consuming and starting to pay attention to the effects of what you buy and why you’re buying it,” St. Louis says.