My initial lockdown plans to catch up creating all the blogs, articles, podcasts and books I have been mentally planning haven’t really got very far.
It has been business as usual for us, with our team having made a fortuitous change to home working back in 2017, and the addition of home-schooling responsibilities means I seem to be busier than ever, despite not going out!
However, this week is Mental Health Awareness week and with such a strong link between personal finance and mental health I couldn’t let it pass by without banishing the excuses and putting some of my thoughts down on paper!
The state of our personal finances can have a significant impact on our mental health and in times like these, both our financial and mental resilience is being tested more than ever. Concerns over employment, income, future prospects, falling investment markets and so on, can provoke anxiety and fear.
It can be easy to dwell on the negative aspects of what this situation might mean for us and for others, to paint a worst-case scenario in our minds. Subconsciously we will then seek out evidence, in the media or elsewhere, to support our thinking and it can end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have recently started reading “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle and he describes this process of the mind getting ‘trapped’ playing out future or past events as psychological time.
Psychological Time vs Clock Time
The use of ‘clock time’ for practical purposes, like making appointments, setting schedules, deadlines and goals, is useful and necessary. However, if we dwell on a situation and become ‘trapped’ in a problem by projecting ourselves into the future or the past we are creating psychological time which can often have negative implications for our mental health.
An example of this might be replaying a conversation with a friend of colleague and agonising over what impression you made or how you could have done things differently. Or, listening to a news report about the future of the economy and imagining all the negative consequences this might have on your job, your finances or your business.
If there is something that can be done about a situation in the ‘now’, the situation can be dealt with in the present moment in the realm of ‘clock time’. If you have no control over the situation, it could be your interpretation of the situation using ‘psychological time’ that creates or exacerbates the problem.
It isn’t about ignoring a situation, failing to plan or not striving for a solution to a challenge, but it is about seeing a situation not as a problem, but as something that can be dealt with when it comes to the present moment.
Another important distinction Eckhart Tolle makes is between Life and Life Situation.
Life and Life Situation
Eckhart explains that your ‘life’ is the depths of who you truly are. I like to think of it as your ‘inner spirit’ but by its very nature it is impossible to define.
Your life situation on the other hand is an abstract notion, an internal narrative. It is your past the plans for your future, your problems, your relationships, your health, your work situation, your living situation and so on. Your life situation is never perfect; it is filled with external circumstances that are meant to challenge you so that you can rise above its limitations.
You should look to be satisfied by your ‘life’ so that you better can put up with the inevitable imperfections of your life situation.
While there have certainly been difficult aspects of lockdown, we have also seen heart-warming examples of kindness, compassion and inspiration. Making a positive difference to others, performing acts of Kindness and forging community spirit are all constructive for our mental health.
Last week my two children (aged 10 and 12), inspired by the amazing fundraising efforts of others, decided they wanted to do something positive. The came up with the idea of swimming a marathon between them in our 10m pool over a weekend. A massive challenge, 13.4 miles each, but I am very proud to say that they did it! Fittingly they wanted to raise money for Mind – this is a link to their fundraising page if you would like to donate or see more about what they achieved.
Now is an ideal time to reflect on what is truly important in our lives. What have you enjoyed doing during lockdown that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to? Has the experience reshaped your thinking on what you would like your life to look like?
My belief is that your personal finances should be designed to fit your ‘life’, rather than the other way around. Having clarity over your current financial position and a clear (but flexible) plan for rising to any challenges can pay dividends for your mental health.
Please get in touch if you would like any assistance with your personal financial planning.