lifestyle

From financial planning to meditation: take control of your life with these problem-solving skills for any age


Life can be gliding along quite contentedly when, without warning, a big decision needs to be made. You need to land your first job, choose which university to apply to, or move home and suddenly you’re in need of some strategies to help. It’s tempting to hope your issues will magically disappear, but therapists and financial experts have a number of techniques to get you through these times. You may even end up feeling stronger and happier as a result.

First, though, you should confront your worries. “When we face problems, the emotional side of our brain can hijack the rational side and cause us to panic,” says Simonne Gnessen, financial life planner and founder of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching. “It’s a natural reaction, so let those feelings out. Write your concerns in a journal, go for a run, then once you’ve released those emotions you’ll have the opportunity to be logical.”

Mindfulness instructor and mental health campaigner, Katya Jezzard-Puyraud uses what she calls the “plughole technique” as a way of ridding herself of stress, “whenever I find emotions churning around my head”. Simply stand still for a moment, bow your head, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Imagine your negative emotions drifting slowly from your head down the length of your body to your feet. Next, visualise pulling a plug from each of the soles of your feet, allowing the emotions to drain harmlessly away. Finally, take a large step away from that spot. “It’s an effective way of mentally shaking off unhelpful emotions,” she says.

Illustration of financial planning - a calendar, piggy bank, CV, calculator and bank account on tablet

Once you’ve dealt with the emotion, it’s time to get rational by finding out the reality of your situation, whether that’s by getting expert help or examining your finances.

Taking charge of your finances is an important step towards taking control of your life. You can find tools and tips on how to achieve this on the Barclays LifeSkills site, which hosts a suite of resources designed to help people learn the money and career skills they need to progress in life. It points out: “When economic or financial shocks come, understanding what’s happening to your personal finances and why, will help you to be in a stronger position to do something about it.” It recommends setting up and sticking to a personal budget, seeking out better deals on household bills, keeping a close eye on your credit score and fully understanding your payslip so you can get to grips with your true financial position.

Having completed this practical groundwork, it’s time to take a wider perspective on events. “Sometimes I get a client to imagine they’re in a helicopter, so they’re way up high, looking down at their life below,” says Gnessen. “From that distance, they often describe seeing themselves trapped in a maze or running around like a headless chicken. Then we look at ways to escape the maze or the panic. It’s difficult to find a way out when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, but taking a different perspective can help you see more clearly.”

Barclays LifeSkills has many resources that can help you gain mental clarity, for instance, by accepting negative emotions in order to learn from them so you can overcome setbacks in future.

Giving yourself breathing space can free up your brain to discover creative paths out of your situation. “Stop worrying about the things you can’t control and take action in the areas you can,” says Gnessen. For instance, Barclays LifeSkills recommends listing all your bills and working out which need to be prioritised and if any of them can be cancelled or reduced. Seeing all of your outgoings in one place like this means you get a really holistic view of your financial situation.

LifeSkills

If destructive self-doubt creeps in, Jezzard-Puyraud is ruthless about shutting it down. “If I’m beating myself up mentally about something stupid I’ve done, I stop still for a moment, take a really deep breath and say out loud to the negative voice in my head: ‘Stop bullying me!’ It’s a technique of distancing yourself from the unkind, negative side of yourself.” She also advocates quieting negative thoughts with a calming autogenic phrase meditation, which brings about a state of relaxation and emotional calm by repeating certain words such as: “My body is relaxed, my mind is quiet, I feel serene, I am at ease.” She recommends one created by her mindfulness organisation, LightHearts UK, that can be found on YouTube.

The good news is that all this work, both practical and emotional, can lead you to a more powerful, optimistic place in life. “Sometimes an unwelcome change can bring positives with it,” says Gnessen. “A major change can often be the kick up the backside you need. You might have been in denial about your situation, but when you have to confront it you can gain some new, better habits. Learning to manage money is empowering and can allow you to live your life your way.”

To find out more about how to improve your mental wellbeing, visit barclayslifeskills.com/changing-worklife/wellbeing/improving-looking-after-your-mental-health-seeking-support/



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