Financial stress

For friends and family - financial stress

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Understanding financial stress and how you can help

If someone you care about is going through financial problems, you might not know how to help. Simply being there for your loved one is the best type of support you can give them.

On this page, you’ll find practical steps you can take to support someone going through financial difficulties.

How can you recognise if someone is experiencing financial stress?

There are some things that people might say or do that suggest they might be experiencing financial stress. For example:

  • They often talk about their money struggles and debt
  • They seem worried and distressed when they talk about money
  • They’ve said that they don’t know how they’re going to cover their expenses
  • They’ve asked you or others for money
  • They’ve sold their personal belongings to help make ends meet
  • They avoid socialising and leisure activities because they don’t have money
  • They’ve been unable to pay back their bills, or they keep paying their bills late
  • They’ve expressed feeling hopeless or helpless about their financial situation
  • They’ve been taking things that don’t belong to them.

These are some of the signs you might notice, but not everyone who goes through financial stress will show it. If you suspect that a loved one is financially stressed but they haven’t opened up about it, they might show these physical signs of stress:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Digestive problems, like stomach aches and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood changes.

Whether the signs are clear or subtle, you can start a conversation with your loved one. They might not be ready to have a conversation or might not want to talk about their problems. If this happens, respect their decision and let them know you’re here for them if they need help.

  • Starting a conversation

    Often, one of the most powerful things you can do for a friend or family member is to let them know that you’re there for them. However, knowing how and when to do this can be tricky.

    Here are a few tips:

    • Try to create time for the conversation. This might mean suggesting a walk or other activity that gives you the time to talk, without distractions.
    • Gently let them know that you care about them, and want to help.
    • Listen and be curious about their experience. Give them space to share if they choose to. You can ask open questions such as ‘how are you feeling?’ or ‘what’s going on for you at the moment?’
    • Sometimes, it can help to open up about your own experiences, which can ‘give permission’ to your friend or family member to also share. Being vulnerable can be hard, but it’s easier if you’re both in the same boat.
    • Rather than jumping to solutions, it can be helpful to ask what they need from you at that moment. You might ask something like ‘would you like me to just listen right now, or would you like help thinking about what you might do from here?'
    • Try to resist the urge to paint a silver lining or minimise their concerns. Instead, it can be helpful to validate their experience by saying things like ‘it sounds like you are going through a really tough time right now’ or ‘that must be so difficult for you.’
    • It can be really hard for people to open up, especially the first time, so don’t be disheartened or hurt if your friend or family member doesn’t want to talk about it.
    • You might like to gently let them know that you’re still there if they change their mind, or if there’s something you can do in the future.
  • Help them brainstorm solutions
  • Spend time with them
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Talk to people with similar experiences

Practice self-care

  • Be kind to yourself

    Being kind to yourself while caring for others is really important. You might feel frustrated, stretched, or even powerless, but adding shame or guilt to those emotions by criticising yourself will only make you feel worse.

    It’s ok to reduce the expectations you’ve set for yourself and to take a break when you need it.

  • Eating well
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding substances
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Getting out into nature
  • Developing a routine
  • Engage in your hobbies
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