Rising cost of living and effect on mental well-being | Journalist
Not all of us can easily swipe a card at the supermarket to pay for groceries, or be able to put three meals on the table to feed our families every day.
Over the past two years, the uncertainties of the pandemic have created many job losses and wage cuts for men and women who have had to drastically adjust their lifestyles and minimize their food choices and expenses. What may seem like “no big deal” to some has become a constant worry, shame and embarrassment for many when the money runs out and the month has just begun. When the cost of living increases faster than our wages, more people will experience financial hardship, and money worries will have a serious and debilitating impact on mental health.
Why do so many grocery stores shamelessly exploit their loyal customers with such exorbitant food price increases, the worst I have ever seen in this country, putting a strain on many households? Wages have not increased and there seems to be no sympathy for a population that is bending under this increased pressure on pockets and on tolerance levels. Something has to give, and it has started to manifest itself in increased criminal activity, suicide rates, relationship problems, and poor mental health and general well-being.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “Making mental health and well-being a global priority”. Is mental health a priority for the policymakers of this society, who shake their token whips, and startle us every time budget changes are made in the interests of the economy?
No real concern seems to be given as to how these “necessary” measures have started to affect the overall mental health of citizens and, more importantly, no time given to adjust to these changes in households. At least those changes could have taken effect in the new year, giving people time, once again, to see where corners might be cut. Without money, it is a fact that people feel vulnerable, exhibit many anxiety-related symptoms and panic attacks, as they constantly worry about unpaid bills and mouths to feed, which can lead them to engage in undesirable behavior such as “pimping”. their children girls and boys, and other harmful activities.
The decision to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 is a key example of a lack of awareness about the effect of financial changes on mental well-being. Sure. This will relieve the economy, but will it alleviate the anxieties and sleepless nights of those who were looking forward to a well-deserved rest after more than 45 years, for some, at work?
This continued disregard and lack of awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being to this society by important stakeholders was clearly seen in the Republic Day awards. Many accolades went to everything else, but not even a mention to the mental health counselors and helpline experts who have helped over 2,000 citizens, free of charge, every day for the past two years and to count, to weather the storms of their lives during the pandemic and to bring comfort to a population that sought mental and psychological help in the midst of their many personal and domestic difficulties. Not even a thank you!
Even before the budget, many citizens’ concerns about the rising cost of living and the financial pressures that came with layoffs, drastic pay cuts and cutbacks were addressed in council sessions. More so, the new increases are expected to have a further impact on mental health, causing anxiety, low mood and stress as people make tough decisions about what they can and can’t afford. allow. Poor mental health also affects one’s ability to manage money, like not knowing where to start or how to make the dollar grow a little more…and more. But take heart, people. Let’s look at some changes that can be made in these trying times:
1. Keep track of your expenses. If you know where the money is going, it will be easier to plan. Create a monthly budget. Buy essentials like food first.
2. Identify your spending triggers – when you’re stressed, has that shopping spree or online shopping calmed you down? Maybe you can revisit this and limit impulse spending.
3. Manage your stress level – exercise always increases energy levels. No fancy gym here, just run in place in the morning and stretch. Stop worrying at regular intervals and let your mind and body relax.
4. Eat healthy foods. Limit daily expenses for lunches.
We can’t all do it, but those who can should do it.
In this time of uncertainty, I want to thank everyone on the hotlines who continue to provide mental health services to our people. There is burnout at many levels and in all pockets of society, from the youngest to the oldest. It is therefore important to proactively address the stresses in our lives to minimize the negative effects they can have on our overall health. In this month of October, let’s be more aware of our mental health and that of the people around us. Take care of yourself. Be careful.
—Author Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor is a psychologist/educator; and Team Leader (Crisis Response Team).