With counsellors pushed to capacity, stressed individuals are turning to mindfulness and meditation as alternatives to help combat growing financial pressures.
Fiona Guthrie, chief executive of Financial Counselling Australia, said increased money worries had led to overwhelming demand for more counsellors.
Almost 180,000 calls were made to the National Debt Helpline by those in serious financial trouble last year, up from 170,000 in 2017.
“There is a huge ratio of the number of callers to counsellors,” says Guthrie. “We need to double the amount we have.”
The rise in the number of people with money worries has led to many seeking out other measures to counter financial stress. Online mindfulness and meditation programs are at the top of the list.
Sage Andreasen said her financial stresses go back as far as she can remember.
“I was a broke, single parent and I had no choice but to try and make ends meet,” she said.
The self-employed acupuncturist turned to meditation for help. After searching online she found many options that promote meditation and mindfulness as a means to fostering financial wellbeing.
“I’ve listened to Eckhart Tolle and Denise Duffield-Thomas as well as Money Bootcamp,” she said.
“Currently, I’m practicing the Anna Thompson’s wealth meditations on iTunes.”
She said the “inner work” had changed her financial mindset.
“You can paste a wealth band-aid over the top, a quick fix, but if you’re not prepared to do the inner work at the deepest level, it won’t stick,” she said.
With the help of her money meditations, she began an action plan.
The first thing was to find a flatmate to help ease rental costs. As her financial burdens lessened, it coincided with her obtaining more work.
If you’re living off Newstart, it’s near impossible to survive… It makes it hard to make good, long-term decisions
Fiona Guthrie, chief executive of Financial Counselling Australia
“A strategy like bringing in a flatmate makes sense but, when you’re under stress, it’s hard to think straight,” she said. “That’s where the meditation helped.”
Fiona Guthrie said anything that helps take away the stress of managing money was a good thing.
“The fundamental problem is that people don’t have enough money,” she said.
“If you’re living off Newstart, it’s near impossible to survive when the problem is poverty. It makes it hard for people to make good, long-term decisions.
“What happens is your mental bandwidth shrinks, so it becomes difficult to weigh up what to do.
“That’s why people often turn to high-cost payday lenders. It’s a short-term fix, for someone who is under financial stress. Sadly though, longer term, it just gets worse.”
As well as meditation and mindfulness programmes, there are also a few apps available to help you shake off the financial blues.
The Financial Mindfulness app is the result of two years of research by neuropsychologists, mindfulness and financial experts.
A self-paced program, Financial Mindfulness encourages users to improve their financial skills as they go by accessing tools that assist in changing bad money behaviours.
Learning modules include how to manage financial pain points, such as paying regular bills on time, mortgage repayments, managing credit cards and dealing with unexpected expenses.
Andrew Fleming, founder and chief executive of Financial Mindfulness, said the creation of a financial stress index was key to the app’s success.
“It allows users to measure their financial stress from the start and to track improvements,” he said.
“They learn new ways to manage their finances. They’re calmer in dealing with stressful financial events and money matters and they worry less about them,” he said.