Business

Take action on debt - because there's light at the end of the tunnel

Peter McGahan
Peter McGahan

CHRISTMAS is over, the bills are on the way and January’s wages may already be spent. Happy New Year and all that!

For some, this is the reality. And while it may not be the case for you, please consider that, around you, there are people who are genuinely struggling and any momentary act of kindness through attention alone may be the lift they need. A pointer to some of the tips will be welcomed.

Before I start, the answers and solutions are all out there. I’ve covered some of the New Year’s debt solutions over the last couple of weeks and they will help lots of people, but also consider options such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Debt Support Trust, National Debtline as well as StepChange. The advice is free.

I rarely watch TV, but most of it is very unhealthy. If you look closely, it’s all about judging people – I’m a Celebrity, Benefit Street, X Factor, or their many equivalents. I could go on for a while – there are actually 65 different court shows shown during daytime TV where people watch and judge court cases let alone the infamous Jeremy Kyle style shows.

We’ve been conditioned to compare and judge. That is nothing but IQ-shortening mental torture and is as pointless as glueing jelly to a tree.

The fear of being judged can paralyse us and stop us taking action. The above debt organisations are very skilled, and very aware of how you might be feeling, so pick up the phone and get started. Find out in the process if you qualify for breathing space which is a scheme that gives you just that, both in its standard form and that of mental health breathing space.

Everyone, yes everyone, has their troubles, trust me, so just pick up the phone to their free service.

Debt, or any bills, are known to affect your mental health by creating anxiety. That anxiety affects sleep quality and longevity as well as gut health. Gut health affects sleep and so we have a negative feedback loop.

Unfortunately the person who needs to lift you off the rock you are stood on is you. The more you try to lift, the heavier it gets. The answer, however, is that there is no shame in getting off the rock. It’s the right answer. Ask friends, family or the professional advisers. The sooner the better.

Worry, or fear, is sometimes described as negative imagination. If you are going to imagine something, rather than the worst scenario, or something bad, why not imagine the best and that the person you will be calling may be helpful in creating a bridge over your current quicksand. There is always a solution.

There are many causes of debt or ineffective spending habits. Faced with gloomy New Year prospects, and an impact on all our emotional needs, we can look to spending as the halo answer. That warm fuzzy feeling we have when we pop a piece of chocolate in our mouth is dopamine, a neurotransmitter which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centre. When you have that warm feeling, your brain says – more please.

Faced with no socialising, lack of community participation, loss of control of our lives because of virus restrictions, the need to feel stretched, as well as the many other emotional needs, we can look to have these needs met in unhealthy ways instead.

Spending for that momentary dopamine rush when we try on our new shoes can be just that – nothing more than a temporary rush. It is hard to make the logical decision in the logical part of the brain when we are so emotional, so you are not alone.

Consider taking apps off your phone. Giving Facebook, and its family of apps, access to everything you do, leaves you with an extraordinary uphill battle. Each app like Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook add to the never-ending data that nudges products, solutions and thoughts in front of you, most of which is assisting in your confirmation bias.

Turn them off. They aren’t helpful. Use Signal or Telegram. It’s all about looking at what causes you to spend, examining that, and leaning into the emotion rather than away. If you do that, you are gaining the autonomy, not them.

:: Peter McGahan is chief executive of independent financial adviser Worldwide Financial Planning, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you have a financial question call Darren McKeever on 028 6863 2692, email info@wwfp.net or visit wwfp.net.

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