Guest blog: Is debt stress making you drink more?
If you’re feeling weighed down by debt you might find this impacts the way you drink. Helen Handzel of debt advice charity Step Change shares some useful tips on how to cope with debt stress.
With the cost of living on the rise, it’s hard not to feel the impact of increased energy costs and food prices. But if you’re already worried about money, these increases can make things even more difficult, and you might worry about falling into debt, or an existing debt problem getting worse.
If you’re struggling to cope with money worries, you’re not alone and there is free and confidential help out there.
What are the common signs of debt stress?
Everyone experiences some level of stress from time to time, but if your money worries aren’t going away you might find it has a negative impact on your mental health.
Watch out for these signs of debt stress:
- Thinking about your debt makes you feel sad, sick or overwhelmed
- You’re finding it hard to cope, eat or sleep because of debt worries
- You feel withdrawn from family and friends
- You’re having trouble concentrating on work or other responsibilities
- You’re already dealing with a mental health condition alongside your money worries
Alcohol and debt stress
If you’re feeling stressed, you might also find yourself reaching for a drink to try to forget about your worries but alcohol is a depressant and can make stress even harder to deal with.
It may feel like a drink can help you relax, but over time, regularly drinking to deal with feelings of stress can interfere with what your brain needs for good mental health. Drinking can also disrupt your sleep and worsen stress levels.
Alcohol can be expensive too – in fact, the average UK household spends nearly £10001 on alcohol every year. This figure varies for everyone and can be a lot higher or lower depending on several things, including whether you drink at home or while out, the types of drinks you have, and how much you drink.
If money worries are getting you down, cutting back on the amount you drink can not only be beneficial to your health and wellbeing but it can save you money too.
Check your drinking
If you choose to drink, the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk guidelines recommend drinking no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days, with several drink-free days and no bingeing.
If you are unsure of how much you are drinking and whether your drinking could be impacting your health, fill out the Drinkaware Drinking Check for an assessment.
How can I deal with debt stress?
Debt can be hard to talk about, but one of the best ways to deal with money worries is by talking to someone – whether it’s a friend or family member, your bank, or even your local GP.
1. Speak to someone
Talking about money with friends and family can be really difficult – but as the old adage goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, and talking to someone you trust can help relieve some of the burden. Being upfront and honest can also help your loved ones to understand what you’re dealing with, so they can be more mindful of your situation.
2. Let your creditors know you’re struggling
If you’re struggling with debt, it’s really important to tell your creditors – those you owe money to – about your situation. This can be daunting, but most creditors will be understanding about your situation and may even be able to offer additional support.
3. Take the 60 second debt test
If you’re worried about money but you’re not sure if debt advice is right for you, this free 60 Second Debt Test can help. If it sounds like you might need debt advice, you can get started straight away, or take a look at our budgeting guides as a starting point to dealing with your money worries.
4. Take smaller steps
When you’re worried about money, trying to deal with everything all at once can feel overwhelming. Breaking down what you need to do into smaller steps or doing a specific task a day can help. No matter how big or small your financial problems might be, help is available. Reaching out, whether it’s emotional support from a friend, practical help from your creditors or expert debt help, is a great first step to resolving your debt stress.
If you are experiencing severe emotional distress that’s being made worse by money worries, you can also talk to the Samaritans on 116 123.
Find out more
Family spending in the UK: April 2019 to March 2020. Office for National Statistics (2021). Accessed on 19 January 2022.