Talking about money and mental health has always been taboo – we hide our financial problems, we are embarrassed to ask for help, and we are afraid of how people will judge us based on our feelings of anxiety, depression and chronic stress.
The traumatic events of 2020 have made it even more difficult for people to express and cope with their money and mental health issues. For Black Americans, ongoing racial injustice and the coronavirus pandemic has punctuated the mental health burden even deeper.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed emotionally, please do not feel bad. Sis, give yourself permission to need a mental health day, week, month…hell I took a mental health year!
In this episode of Fierce Vision, I invite Dr. Patrice Berry, a licensed clinical psychologist, to talk about the importance of making a connection between money and mental health. Here are some highlights from our discussion.
Knowing the difference between a financial emergency and a financial crisis.
It’s first important to understand the difference between a financial emergency and a financial crisis. Simply put, a financial emergency is an unexpected expense, like a car breakdown or a roof leakage. A financial crisis is when there isn’t enough money flowing into your household to support your daily lifestyle. This happens most often with the loss of a job or loss of a loved one.
According to a Harvard and NPR study, 60% of Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began. And, 53% of Black households experienced loss in earnings early in the pandemic.
Unfortunately, mental health problems follow money problems. In fact, according to a Northwestern Mutual Survey, those who report poor financial health also tend to have poor physical health – 59% don’t get routine checkups, 60% don’t get regular exercise and 38% skip preventative measures due to the cost.
‘Finding clarity in crisis’
Dr. Berry says a strong mindset is important in order to find opportunity in a crisis. It’s important to look past the blur of crisis and see what is actually available to you. To do this, people must respond – not just react. It’s a subtle but significant difference, here’s why:
- Reacting to something is like a reflex – you haven’t put deep thought into what you’re doing, and instead acting on instinct. For example, this might be avoiding paying a bill because you’ve lost your job.
- Responding is instead a deeper contemplation of all the actions that you take and then making the right decision. So instead of avoiding paying your bill, you may decide to pick up a new side hustle or skill.
Repeated trauma and stress have real effects on health — both physical and mental.
America is experiencing a crisis within a crisis. Not only has COVID-19 disproportionately affected Blacks and Latinos, but it is also facing an ongoing racial injustice towards Black Americans. The heinous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and many others weigh on Black Americans heavily. This results in greater anxiety, depression, trauma and health issues.
Dr. Berry suggests, “Anxiety wants control. It wants to know, and it wants certainty.” Rather than turning to alcohol, healthier ways to cope with and regulate feelings of stress and anxiety are:
- Embracing vulnerability and talking openly to people you trust
- Engaging in physical or outdoor activity to release endorphins
- Swapping ‘retail therapy’ for mental exercise, such as a reading a book or listening to a podcast
- Increasing your emotional vocabulary – uncovering your deeper feelings and getting to the root of what is making you mad, sad or happy
- And most importantly, acknowledging and validating your feelings
Crisis reveals character.
Crisis teaches us more about ourselves than we may realize during normal times. It is important to remember that financial coaches and therapists can and do provide support during these unstable times. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for extra support or extra help. They can empower you with knowledge, resources and coping techniques to help you get through a crisis and find opportunity instead.
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