cost of living crisis: dealing with anxiety

The cost of living crisis is already starting to take its toll on chartered accountants and students. Kirsty Lilley, our mental health trainer, coach, and mindfulness facilitator, explores the impact of the crisis so far. She also shares some practical guidance on how to protect your mental health and deal with anxiety.

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The cost of living crisis is impacting professionals sector-wide, including chartered accountants. According to our latest research report, accountants and students are already struggling financially and feeling anxious. 

Here, Kirsty Lilley, our award-winning mental health trainer, coach and mindfulness facilitator, explores the impact of the current crisis in relation to money worries and mental health. She also shares some practical guidance aimed at helping chartered accountants proactively tackle anxiety and look after their mental wellbeing.

Having a home, access to food, running water and warmth are all basic life necessities. Without them we feel threatened. We begin to sense we can’t provide for ourselves and our family, which can impact other aspects of our life, such as our work and relationships.

When it comes to our financial wellbeing, it’s influenced by control. More specifically, control over our day-to-day decisions and long-term goals. When we lose this control, we feel stifled and helpless. And that’s when anxiety starts to creep in.

It's important we understand this process, as we continue to wrestle with a national, and global, cost of living crisis. 

For chartered accountants, the crisis could prove particularly difficult. Accountancy is an industry in which attention to detail is key, so too is the ability to work under pressure. On top of that, we know that accountants strongly identify with their professional identity, making it difficult to accept when they’re struggling with their own money worries.

How is the global cost of living crisis impacting chartered accountants? 

Unfortunately, we’re already starting to see the pressure of financial stress start to impact the industry.

In our latest research, which explored how the cost of living crisis has affected the accounting profession so far, we found that:

• Two-thirds of working accountants and students are feeling (66%) anxious
• And three-in-five (59%) are feeling stressed

In these circumstances, it’s common for anxiety  to make you want to withdraw and bury your head in the sand. However, there are simple, day-to-day actions you can follow to help tackle anxiety and bolster your mental wellbeing:

1. Be mindful of where you focus your attention

When we’re feeling anxious, our minds drift towards things we can’t control. We dwell and focus our mental energy on things that have happened or worry about what might happen in the future. Try to be aware of this and divert your attention to what you can influence, rather than worrying about what you can’t. By staying in the present, we increase our effectiveness and productivity. More on mindfulness here.

2. Manage your exposure

Our brain is hardwired to focus on negativity, so with words like ‘crisis’ being so readily used in the media – words that tap into our inherent ‘threat system’ – take care that the information you’re absorbing is credible. We like to believe gathering more information will provide a sense of control, but the more we have, the less we’re able to sift through it. Anxiety kicks in and propels us into future scenarios that often won’t come true. Choose balanced, reputable sources of news, and when it’s becoming too much, step back from it.

3. Curb your doom scrolling 

Endlessly scrolling through negative news headlines and comments, or doom scrolling, has been recognised as a growing trend, especially since the pandemic. Before you know it, you’ve spent 30 minutes on your phone reading a never-ending cycle of information and rolling headlines. In turn, this can make you feel even more anxious because of the snippets of negativity that’s managed to infiltrate your feed and mind. It’s ok to scroll and keep tabs on the news, but perhaps you may want to set some boundaries by turning off your notifications and limiting how long you scroll for?

4. Gain some perspective

When it comes to mental health, we tend to place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves. But our mental health is affected by the world around us. By our relationships and the things that happen to us. If someone’s struggling, try not to focus on why they aren’t coping. Instead, consider the broader picture. What’s happening in their lives to make them feel this way?

5. Take care of your body too

Our physical body influences the way our mind processes information, so it’s important to make sure you eat well , sleep well , do some exercise and make time for rest. Protect your weekends and days off if you need to. You can’t take proper care of your mind if you aren’t also thinking about your physical health. More on the connection between anxiety and food here

6. Do things that make you happy

When we’re anxious, our brain tells us that everything’s our fault. As a result, even something as simple as going for a coffee with a friend can seem like an extravagance we don’t deserve. But it’s important to our health and wellbeing that we keep doing the things we enjoy, especially if the financial stress or wider challenges we’re dealing with are going to be with us for some time. It’s about walking alongside the difficulty, rather than waiting for it to pass. More on why self compassion boosts our mental wellbeing here.  

7. Plan for difficult conversations

If you’d like to reach out for help, but you’re feeling nervous about sharing details with your friends or family members, remember that you don’t have to disclose everything about your personal situation. Give some thought to the details you want to share before you approach them. If they try to support you, give them a steer towards what you need – tell them what you think you might find helpful. More on how to open up about your feelings here.  

8. Connect with people

You may not want to speak to your friends and family about what’s bothering you, which is fine; there are external support networks you can tap into (see below). However, the simple act of spending time with people can really give you a boost. When you’re feeling anxious and worried, it can be easy to hide away, but putting yourself out there, even if it’s for a walk or a quick chat, will help you feel more calm and happier, especially if you look for opportunities to laugh and indulge in some shared humour.

9. Reach out for some extra support 

If you’re finding it impossible to cope on your own, it’s time to seek support. That’s where we can help you. Talk to one of our friendly support officers, who can determine what you need based on your circumstances. Whether that’s by getting you access to a qualified counsellor, to help talk through your worries, or working out a plan to get you through it all.

find out abut our emotional support

If you're worried about your mental health and wellbeing, talk to us. From a listening ear, to counselling sessions with a qualified counsellor, we'll help you work through any difficulties you're facing.

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Written by mental health expert Kirsty Lilley

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your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students. 

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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