Worried $ick

Many of us live with huge money worries. The coronavirus has had an enormous economic impact but financial stress can also result from a relationship break-up, physical or mental ill health, addiction, or unexpected expenses. Whatever the cause, financial insecurity can significantly affect your health and wellbeing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect people out of work. Research commissioned by AMP for its 2019 Financial Wellness report found that two in five employees admitted feeling financial stress. This was across all industries, income levels and job roles. Money concerns impact people in many different ways, the report found.

While many people think money worries are a personal issue, the research shows being financially stressed spills into working life, increasing absenteeism and impacting productivity.

Financial stress, like any form of stress, is also linked to mental and physical health issues, family breakdown and substance abuse, and can lead to feelings of isolation.


Get the help you need

Many people facing financial stress are reluctant to ask for help, feeling ashamed of their situation. But there is free help available and it can make a huge difference.


Talk to a financial or credit counsellor

It’s not easy to talk about money difficulties, especially with family and friends, but getting help early means you will have many more options. If you feel overwhelmed by money worries, contact a financial counsellor as soon as possible.

Financial counsellors, also known as credit counsellors in some places, are skilled professionals who offer a free, independent and confidential service through community organisations, community legal centres and some government agencies.

Financial counsellors can help with things like bills or fines, credit card and other debts, gas, electricity or phone disconnection or the threat of eviction. They can also help you work out a repayment plan for debts that can’t be waived, and help with planning for big purchases, provide information about managing money, and refer you to other services and schemes.

Don’t confuse financial counsellors with financial advisers. Unlike financial advisers, financial counsellors can’t help you with investments and retirement planning.

As well as a financial benefit from talking to a financial counsellor, there’s often an emotional benefit too. Along with the advocacy and information, it can help just to have someone who listens and is on your side.

It can be a huge relief to talk to a financial counsellor. And then, feeling more empowered, to take the next step. To find a financial counsellor in your area, try a quick web search, Government sites dealing with finance may also have resources available to you.

Resilience 101

Do you know someone who seems to be able to cope with life’s ups and downs and ‘bounce back’ after a setback? Their resilience is a skill we can all learn.

It could be an unrealistic workload, on-going stress related to the coronavirus pandemic, or job insecurity. Whatever the cause, work-related stress is common and according to Safe Work Australia, accounts for long periods of sick leave.

To cope with the stresses of life, it’s important to stay as mentally well as possible. Building resilience is one way we can contribute to a more mentally healthy workplace, says Dr Sam Harvey, a psychiatrist with the Black Dog Institute and head of the Workplace Mental Health Research Group.

“We know that resilient people bounce back and don’t get ill where others would in the face of psychological stressors,” says Dr Harvey.

Resilience is more than coping with life’s sudden problems. People who are resilient are also flexible, can adapt to new situations, learn from experience, tend to be optimists, and are able to ask for help when they need it.

Building your resilience

For a long time, resilience was thought to be inherited or acquired early in life, or perhaps something that was internal, part of your personality. We now know that it’s possible to develop resilience.

We have this mistaken image of resilient people as bulletproof, as people who somehow don’t feel pain, or can cope without asking for help, or can cope without asking for help, says Dr David Westley, head of the psychology department at Middlesex University, UK. In fact, the opposite is true, he says. It’s the people who can ask for help, who can express their worries, fears and sadness, that cope with trauma, loss and stress much better, he told the BBC.

Techniques for building resilience include:

  •  Staying connected. Whether this is in-person or remotely, aim to maintain good friendships and family relationships, as social interaction and support is vital to good mental health. Being able to ask for help from your family and friends when you need it is also key to managing stressful situations.
  •  Taking time to recharge. Make sure you take regular breaks, finish work on time, and plan to take leave when you are able. Even if you physically can’t go away anywhere, it’s always good to take a break from what you’re doing.
  •  Practising stress-reducing techniques. This is very personal – mindfulness and mediation may work for you, but they don’t for everyone. You may find exercising, reading a book or listening to music is a better tool for reducing your stress.

How to Work From Your Laptop

Working from home has become the new normal for many of us. But unless you set up your workstation correctly, you’re at risk of developing neck and back problems. Physiotherapist Adam Crisp explains why.

To many people, working from home may sound great. Sleeping in past 6am, no commuting to and from the office and staying in your pyjamas all day. However, this new way of work-life also opens up the door for the potential musculoskeletal complaints.

Many of us are used to working in an office with a monitor (or two if you’re lucky), a comfortable office chair, enough space to fit three people, and possibly even a sit-to-stand desk. When you’re working from home, this is rarely the case, with many of us forced to work using a laptop at a desk or table that may be too high or too low, and an old office chair or dining chair.

Is working from a laptop bad for us?

When using a laptop, your neck and upper back are often flexed forward. This position increases the effort required by the muscles of the neck and shoulder. For short periods of time (less than one hour), this may not lead to any musculoskeletal complaints. However, if this is your new “normal”, you’ll increase the likelihood of developing neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back stiffness and headaches. Here are a few strategies that will help minimize this.

·       Sit at a desk (or table) and use a chair that provides good postural support. If the table is too high or the chair doesn’t provide enough support, use pillows to assist.

·       Place your laptop on some books or a box and get your hands on a separate keyboard or mouse. This will allow you to keep your neck in a more neutral position and reduce the effort required by the muscles. Ensure that your screen is arms-length away.

·       Take frequent postural breaks (every 20-30 minutes) and perform regular neck and shoulder stretches.

If you are finding that you are developing pain, and regular stretching and self-management strategies do not help, please contact your nearest physiotherapist for a tailored exercise and stretching program.