Economic hardship following COVID is affecting many Americans in the middle and lower working classes. Financial struggle is a huge burden to bear and contributes to a decrease in feelings of safety and well-being. While many residents of Hancock County are trying to find a way to meet their needs for basic items and services, such as gas, food and child care, organizations like Healthy365 are working hard to help them navigate these difficult times.
Money isn’t everything, except when you don’t have enough
We all like to think that money doesn’t buy happiness. However, it’s important to remember that having enough money to get by certainly contributes to one’s safety and happiness. You can’t focus on other things—such as a career, a relationship, or even happiness—unless you have some foundational feelings of safety and wellness.
Money troubles are only exacerbated when you have a family to worry about. Parents who are concerned about how they will get food on the table or pay for child care will surely have stress levels through the roof. Many adults who are struggling with financial insecurity fall into insomnia, anxiety, addiction, and even suicidal thinking.
In fact, when you are economically disadvantaged, you may enter a vicious cycle in which you are so worried about your financial struggle that you have severe depression or anxiety—which, in turn, makes it difficult to work or handle money wisely. So, how are we to help those who are struggling to pay for increasing gas prices, housing, and child care in our post-pandemic community?
Hancock County has resources for those in need
Christina DeWitt, MSW, LSW and a Support Navigator at the Healthy365 Connection Center in Greenfield, says that they have seen a “significant increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety due to the stress of our economic conditions.” Not only are many financially at-risk residents of Hancock County worried about how they will pay for gas and food, but they are also experiencing a housing crisis, with little to no options for attainable housing.
While DeWitt and the team at Healthy365 are seeing this rise in rates of mental illness, they are also providing tools to those in need in our community. By empowering individuals to reassess their financial situation, they are helping them to take that first step in figuring out how to create more fiscal stability. The tools they provide are not just for the most at risk. In fact, they are appropriate for anyone who is feeling the economic push and pull of our society.
DeWitt recommends the following tips for gaining more financial steadiness:
- Assess your financial situation – What is causing you the most stress? What factors are contributing to you falling behind financially? Honesty is an important element in this piece of the puzzle.
- Create SMART goals related to your finances and mental health – The acronym SMART refers to goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. This means just saying, “I want to make more money” isn’t a SMART goal and probably won’t help you see success.
- Create a plan – Using your SMART goals, you can now create a plan or a budget for yourself. Write out expenses and income and see if you have a way to begin working toward your goals today.
- Develop healthy coping skills – If you have been suffering from anxiety or depression due to economic insecurity, see if you can opt for healthy coping mechanisms instead of unhealthy ones. For instance, if you have decided to forgo a gym membership to save money and pay off debt, get your exercise for free by heading to the many trails in Hancock County instead of dropping exercise altogether. Instead of reaching for a drink when you are feeling stressed, try to reach for a hobby you love instead.
- Reach out for support – When you are feeling higher levels of depression and anxiety in your life, a professional can help talk you through your feelings and worries. The Healthy365 Connection Center is a great place to start. You can also speak to a friend or loved one, or reach out for support from another trusted professional.
Struggling financially can feel scary and lonely, especially if you have children to worry about. Just remember, you are not alone. Right now, many working families are struggling to put food on their tables and gas in their cars. It’s only natural that higher levels of anxiety and depression are found right here in Hancock County. Take the steps above to begin pulling yourself out of financial hardship—and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.