Stress and Worry
Life today is stressful. Modern technology means that we pack more and more into our lives, going to and fro and barely stopping to rest and reflect. Pressures of work and the burden of responsibility often lead to a lack of civility in society and pressures bubble just below the surface. With so much going on in our lives it’s little wonder that many of us have trouble switching off and getting a good night’s rest at the end of the day.
Worry is a thief and steals you of your joy. Basically, all of our worries come down to two things: that we won’t get what we need, or that we’ll lose what we’ve got, and this keeps us awake at night. Some of the major problems that we may face in life can cause us emotional or mental tension that can lead to insomnia. Here we will outline some basic practical solutions for dealing with stress and worry, depression and financial uncertainty.
Scientists have found a direct link between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. When a person has anxious thoughts, their heart rate goes up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become alert and stimulated and start producing beta waves. This happens to someone who worries about something when they’re trying to get to sleep – instead of being calm and subdued, their brains are too aroused to sleep. And to make matters worse, once their brain is stimulated in this way, other worries are activated, making sleep even harder to achieve. As a pattern sets in, sleep becomes a thing of anxiety.
To overcome this various techniques can be used to stop these thoughts and calm the heart rate, cognitive behavioural therapy being one of them. This is a psychological treatment that helps people ‘unlearn’ the thought processes that block a good night’s sleep.
One way to manage and slow your heart rate is to place your hand on your heart and quiet yourself so that you can hear it beating. Then breathe in deeply and slowly for three or four –seconds, then breathe out for three or four seconds. Repeat this until you feel your heart rate slowing down. This will then slow the busy brain activity.
A technique to stop the worrying thoughts that cause your heart to race in the first place is to speak positive thoughts instead. Speaking overrides thinking and will stop the negative thoughts in their tracks. To explain how to do this, start thinking the alphabet in your head. When you reach ‘J’ start counting out loud.
What happened to the alphabet? You stopped thinking it in your head because your speaking overrode your thoughts. Do this when you start worrying about something when you’re trying to sleep. Instead of thinking ’the mortgage is due and I don’t have the money to pay it’, say aloud ‘I don’t know where it will come from but I’ll need to get creative to find the money for the mortgage and I will find it.’ Instead of thinking ‘my teenage daughter is going off the rails’ say aloud ‘my teenager’s a strong willed girl and she will succeed in whatever she does’.
Speak softly in your partner’s sleeping beside you, but speak over any negative thoughts. Soon you’ll be able to override negative thoughts with positive thoughts, but until you do, speak them.
Financial worries have become a real and significant problem for many individuals, especially since the global economic crisis of 2008 and all its repercussions since then. Jobs have been lost, wage increases have been frozen, household disposable incomes have fallen, debt have increased, public services have been cut, and most of us have felt the pinch.
Consumerism is at an all-time high and a tolerance of high levels of debt has replaced the tendency, or ability to save money. For some of us the monthly pile of bills and expenses exceeds the amount of income, leading to mounting debts and a threat to our homes and security. This can cause sleepless nights.
The way that we handle these financial challenges can determine not only whether we can sleep through the night, but also how we can get through the difficulties we’re experiencing. In a 2011 survey of 2000 adults who had sleeping difficulties, the top reason cited was money worries at 37%, and second on the list was work issues at 30%.
We sleep better when we have the feeling that we’re in control of our lives rather than at the mercy of circumstance, so it’s necessary to take control and get creative.
If your worries are over financial matters, here are some practical tips on how to overcome them:
- Open all bills and statements. It may be scary, but facing up to debt is the first step to getting on top of the situation and taking control.
- Write down everything you spend in a diary or notebook. Unless you do this you can’t tackle the problem effectively. Include everything and go through your bank statement to make sure you don’t forget anything. Always get receipts so you can write things down when you get home.
- Paying off debt is the biggest money saver because the more you pay off, the more cash you will save. If you can’t clear balances, switch to a lower charging card. If you owe £2,500 on an average credit card you’ll be paying 18.6 per cent in interest, yet charges could be cut to zero with a 0 per cent balance transfer deal. However you need to look closely at arrangement fees to ensure the savings add up.
- Contact the National Debtline (0808 808 4000, nationaldebtline. co.uk) or Payplan (0800 2802816 payplan.com) to talk through your options and work out a repayment plan with your creditors. Payplan will write to inform all your creditors that you are seeking help and ask them to freeze interest and charges. Most lenders will agree based on recognition that your debt is unmanageable. Never pay for this service as organisations like Payplan offer it free.
- Know the difference between a bargain and a promotion. Something that’s half price because it expires today is a bargain. You can usually put it in the freezer for later. Buy two for £5 is not a bargain but a sales promotion designed to make you spend more. If you regularly take up such offers, make sure that you use what you’ve bought otherwise you’re not buying what you need but what you’re being sold.
- Refusing to accept the renewal quote for insurance can also mean savings. Homeowners, for instance, could be wasting an average £132 per household by sticking with their existing home insurance provider instead of shopping around for a better deal.
- Devote a day switching to a cheaper phone/internet/utilities provider. Look on www.energyshop.com or www.uswitch.com
- Learn how to use Skype and instant message to save on phone bills.
- Sell stuff you don’t need any more for free on local classified ad sites such as Gumtree or on ‘free insertion days’ on eBay (though you pay when you sell the item). You can sell on that old desk or artwork for up to £6,000 without triggering any capital gains tax.
- Swap unwanted items with others on Free-cycle, where people give away their old things. Go to uk.freecycle.org
- Find the cheapest petrol prices in your area by typing your postcode into www.petrolprices.com
- Get the latest money-off vouchers at www.my-vouchercodes.co.uk
- Find out about supermarket prices and offers at www. mysupermarket.com and www.hotukdeals.com