Coping With Cost of Living Anxiety

squirrel coping with cost of living anxiety

Coping With Cost of Living Anxiety

Bills are going up, inflation is on the rise and the Bank of England is predicting a recession. With headlines like these every day, it’s likely that all of us are going to feel anxious. While I can’t solve the economic issues ahead of us, what I can offer are some strategies to help you deal with feelings of anxiousness and worry. First, let’s take a look at why you might be feeling anxious.

How Anxiety Works

Anxiety is a normal response to stress. It’s a hangover from our ancient history when we might suddenly hear the sound of rustling in the bushes whilst out foraging, or hunting. Our innate instinct at that moment is to freeze for a microsecond, while our body uses all its senses to determine whether to run (flight) or look for the nearest weapon (fight) in case it is a leopard hiding there. In that moment, our heart starts to beat faster, and our blood rushes to our muscles, and our breathing may become fast and shallow. In short, we are getting ready for action.

A moment later a face peeks out from the bushes and we realise it’s our friend, playing a trick on us, and the shock is over. This is the body’s fight or flight response and it’s designed to help us stay alive.

We may not have to contend with leopards nowadays, but our bodies still get bombarded with a huge amounts of stressors that can trigger this response. These stressors include:

  • Conversations at work about the rising interest rates and their impact on mortgages
  • News headlines about inflation and energy bills
  • Social media posts about the price of Lurpack, and whatever is the shocker of the moment
  • Emails from providers saying they are putting prices up
  • Worried chats with loved ones asking how can we afford this?


I don’t know about you but I felt slightly stressed just reading that list. All these stressors, and more, that are happening every day, are putting our body into fight or flight mode over and over again. The issue is that we can neither fight nor take flight, which would at least help us burn off the chemicals. The result can be long-term or chronic anxiety.


cat sleepingWorries may spill out into your sleep. Your REM sleep (the sleep that helps us dissipate emotional arousal over worry) will be tasked with trying to deal with it. If your levels are very high, or this goes on too long, you may find that you need more and more REM sleep, which leads to less refreshing deep sleep. The end result is that you will wake up feeling tired and unmotivated and just want to withdraw and worry even more. These are the prefect circumstances for depression. This is why it’s so important to address our anxiety.

What To Do About Cost of Living Anxiety

Cut down on the stressors

While you want to stay in touch with what’s going on, you don’t need to overstimulate yourself with bad news. Think about just checking in on the news once a day, leading the conversation to something more positive when it gets a bit much, or even telling people about how much it is making you worry. You can also curb your social media time, or make a rule that the first time you see an anxiety provoking money related post that becomes your trigger to close up the app and leave.

Dealing with the anxiety itself

Cutting down some stressors should help, but there may well be moments when you feel overwhelmed to the point of panicking. I teach a very effective way to help with this, called 7/11 breathing. Breathe in for a count of seven, into your tummy, slow and deep, and then out to a count of 11. If you can’t make 7/11, then 5/8 is fine. The main point is that the outbreath is longer than the inbreath. This will help reset your nervous system and push you into using your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax. You can do this every time you feel wobbly, but it’s important that you use it many times during the day, to help you feel less stressed in general.

The best way to do this is to think of triggers to remind you to do a round of three or five 7/11 breaths. Clients of mine have used switching on the kettle, getting into the car or a bus, even going into the bathroom as their triggers, and it does work. Over time, you will taking the arousal out of your nervous system.

Switch off

It’s also important that you switch off from worrying. Distraction is a good way to do this. Think about what distracts you. Perhaps it’s runing, DIY, or painting? Active relaxation is always better for us than passively slumping in front of the TV. Walking with a friend is another good option, as it gives us that sense of connection, as does joining a yoga class or book group.

Working at bringing more of what relaxes you into your life, should leave you calmer and more able to deal with what comes up, including…

Face the fear

piggy bankMany of us bumble along without actually knowing how much we have coming in, and what’s going out. It can be scary to actually work this out, but it’s vital to do for a number of reasons. First, we will be getting an idea of where we are now. Perhaps we don’t have to worry, just yet. Next, it’s a practical task that is moving us from our right hand side of the brain, where a lot of our worrying takes place, into the left hand side, a great problem solving machine.

First, note down everything that comes in, from your pay packet to any freelance earnings, investments or passive income returns. Calculate this on a monthly basis

Next, make a list of all your regular outgoings. Energy bills and food are obvious ones, but also think about insurances, gym subscriptions, Playstation subsriptions, Prime and Netflix, Pet plans, funeral plans, pocket money, and even contact lens subscriptions.

Spending money is less easy, and it may work out best to note what you spend over a typical week. Include lunches, newspapers, travel, ice-creams and coffees. In short, whatever comes out of your pocket over a week.

Finally add in the luxury items such as holidays, weekends away and also birthday and Christmas presents for the year. When you have come up with your total, divide it by twelve so that you have a monthly figure. Don’t forget tax and national insurance if you are self-employed or have side hustle.

These are your monthly outgoings. You should now have an idea of where you are.

Make a plan

Even if things are looking wobbly, many people are inspired into action by this. You can look at ways to bring in extra income – from taking in a lodger to just bringing in one more client. One of my clients takes in foreign language students to earn extra cash. She feeds them breakfast and dinner, gives them a packed lunch, and away they go. Don’t forget that you can earn a nice chunk of money tax free if you have a room to rent. Here’s a nice article for more ideas.

Money Saving Expert, is often a really useful site to follow. It can help you make informed decisions and keep you up to date without scaring the living daylights out of you.

You can also look at where to cut down. Perhaps you can forego the gym and start running, or make coffee shop visits a weekly rather than daily treat. It may be that you move to a different part of town, or, if you have savings that may well get eroded by inflation, use them to pay off your mortgage and bring down your monthly outgoings (check with an expert for advice on this.)

If things get too much, talk

Talk to someone. It could be a therapist (you can book a chat with me here) who can help you come up with a plan as well as work on your anxious feelings, your citizens advice office, or a trusted and calm friend who is good with money. If you are struggling, talk to your energy provider, or bank. See what they can do to help. Double check benefits you may be entitled to here.

Choose people who are supportive, or can offer practical help and ideas, rather than anyone who will, even unwittingly, make you feel worse.

If you’re in Folkestone, then this article on ways to access help in Folkestone, may give you some useful links.