chapter 3

Kirsty Lilley is an award-winning mental health trainer, coach, and mindfulness facilitator.

There is a tangible link between economic downturn and poor mental health. A home, shelter, food, warmth, even our social standing... these are all basic necessities for life, and without them we feel threatened. We begin to sense that we can't provide for ourselves and our family. In essence, poor finances erode the pillars that keep us afloat.

Financial wellbeing, therefore, is about control. Specifically, control over your day-to-day decisions and long-term goals. When we lose this sense of control, we find ourselves stifled, caged in, helpless. Anxiety starts to creep in.

It's very common to withdraw from that anxiety, and to bury our heads in the sand. Likewise, it's easy to feel as though everyone else is doing a better job of coping than we are, but often that's just not the case. Everyone is affected by the current situation.

If something isn't right, the best course of action is to reach out for support as soon as possible. Ideally, this would come from someone who isn't emotionally entangled with your situation. But even hearing from a friend or a trusted colleague that they're in the same boat can go a long way towards providing some reassurance. Speak to someone, identify the cause of your distress and you can work out a plan to deal with it. It won't just go away, so try to recognise when you're avoiding something and search for credible sources of support. Focus on what you know to be true, rather than allowing anxiety to guide you to false conclusions.

For accountants, specifically, this cost of living crisis could prove particularly difficult. Accountancy is an industry in which perfectionism is rife. On top of that, we know that accountants strongly identify around their professional identity, making it difficult to accept when they're struggling with their financial management. In the same way, academics find it difficult to talk about their emotional state, fearing what it implies about their ability to reason and think logically.

But nobody is immune to financial difficulty, especially in the current crisis. Accountants face exactly the same global challenges as everyone else - there's no shame in struggling to make ends meet, just as you shouldn't be ashamed to need some help with your mental health.

how should we prepare to cope with this situation that is so out of our control?


Be mindful of where you focus your attention. When we’re stressed, our minds drift towards things we can’t control. Try to be aware of this and divert your attention to what you can influence, rather than worrying about what you can’t.


If you’re nervous about reaching out for help, 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 someone. If they try to support you, give them a steer - tell them what you think you might find helpful.


When it comes to mental health, we tend to place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves, the individual. But our mental health is affected greatly 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?


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.


Our brain is hardwired to focus on negativity, so with words like ‘crisis’ and ‘survive’ being so readily used in the media - words that tap into our inherent threat ‘system’ - we need to take extra care that the information we’re absorbing is credible. We like to believe gathering more information will provide a greater sense of control, but with data, 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. When it’s all becoming too much, we need to reduce our exposure to the news, and make sure we’re choosing balanced, reputable sources of information.


When we’re anxious, our brain tells us that the problems we’re facing are of our doing - that everything’s our fault. As a result, we feel guilty about doing the things that bring us pleasure. Even something as simple as going for a coffee with a friend can seem an extravagance that we don’t deserve. But it’s important to our health and wellbeing that we unwind and keep doing the things we enjoy, especially if the stress we’re dealing with is going to be with us for a long time. It’s about walking alongside the difficulty, rather than simply freezing up.


If you reach out to someone and they can’t give you the support you were hoping for, don’t give up. You might not fix all of your problems with one conversation, but that’s OK. There are so many different experts and organisations that will help get you the support you need. Keep going. The help you’re looking for is out there.


Finally, we are social animals, so spend time with people you trust. When all’s said and done, we need each other.


when should you speak to a professional?

We all live on a mental health continuum that we slide up and down on a daily basis. It's difficult to put a line in the sand and say this is the point at which you should speak to a professional. Generally speaking, things to watch out for include your ability to function starting to erode, your usual coping mechanisms not helping anymore or a general sense that things are just getting more painful. Make a doctor's appointment. Alternatively, caba offers a great deal of professional therapy and coaching.


last chapter


chapter 2 

debt advice from Paul Day

caba’s expert debt adviser Paul outlines why we shouldn’t be embarrassed when facing financial issues and shares his recommendations on tackling problem debt.

current chapter


chapter 3 

mental health advice from Kirsty Lilley

Mental health trainer Kirsty explains why changes in our financial circumstances impact our mental health and outlines how we can prepare to manage this period where so much is out of our control.

next chapter


chapter 4 

health and wellbeing advice from Mark Pearce

In this chapter, Mark normalises the idea of debt and explains how tackling hard conversations can help ease the pressure.

want to read a different chapter?


research paper 


caba have pulled together a panel of experts to share their advice on navigating through the cost of living crisis.

On-site-whitepaper-Chapter-image-7_Summary by Dr Christian Holmes.jpg

cost of living crisis 


caba’s CEO, Dr Cristian Holmes, sets the scene for the report and explains why the cost of living crisis is an issue the accountancy profession needs to focus on. Tooba, a chartered accountant, also reminds us why it’s good to seek help when we need it.


chapter 1 

the research

Accountants are already making changes to reduce their expenses, but many are still worried about the winter ahead. Read more of the facts and figures in this chapter.


chapter 5

first-hand advice from Tooba Siddiqui

Amid stress, burnout and now added financial pressures, Tooba shares her view of the pressures facing working accountants.


chapter 6

the role of the business

Now more than ever, employers should be considering financial health as part of their benefits packages - read this chapter to find out how.



by Dr Cristian Holmes

We’re facing a period of uncertainty, but caba is here for the everyday and the exceptional.