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This is a post about the dual crises of both ‘cost of living’ and ‘mental health’.

I hope to show that whilst ‘money’ is the inarguable cure to today’s exorbitant price increases (and, ‘money’ is what many of us intend to push politicians and economic leaders hard for), there’s also a hugely valuable role for something I passionatly believe in the could assuage the knock on mental health effects; CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy.

In doing so, I hope not to cause offence.

It might seem ignorant or even insulting to suggest that the answer to a severe economic downturn could be ‘therapy’. I hope I will show that in fact therapy like CBT can genuinely help in these hard times.

I believe that CBT in particular provides a highly effective ‘mental toolkit’ that can minimise stress and help us identify ways to act positively to improve the lives of both ourselves and others. And, wouldn’t that be nice?

Today’s Bleak World

Cost of living is becoming truly frightening. Without truly significant intervention, it will cause enormous harm to millions of people across the UK and worldwide.

Mental health issues – already affecting 1 in 4 people in the UK each year – will also be exacerbated. Higher prices, unmanageable debt and self-imposed cutbacks will undoubtedly have knock-on effects, causing stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, financial difficulties are already known to be the number one situational cause of mental health issues.

What’s needed most to treat these dual issues, quite frankly, is money. When it comes to heating your home, or buying food, or paying the rent, only money will do.

Money could, of course, solve people’s direct financial hardship, but it could also reduce the knock-on mental health consequences. For those experiencing hardship or poverty money is the best – and, probably only – proper cure.

With that enormous caveat in mind, I’d like to consider what role another treatment could play in response to this crisis; cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT.

What Is CBT?

The NHS explains that CBT “helps you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way.” CBT is focused on the present and the future, teaching new ways to think (‘cognitive’) and showing the actions (‘behavioral’) that will make those thoughts a reality.

In my experience, CBT has been transformational in dealing with both depressive lows and manic highs [to explain; I have a mental health condition called bipolar disorder.]

For me, CBT’s most impactful element is a two-step process.

First, I analyse my ‘mental assumptions’ and ‘core beliefs’, processing them logically and spotting deeply ingrained patterns that are driving my negative thoughts and actions.

Second, I identify new assumptions and beliefs (which, in practical terms, are literally just a couple of lines on a worksheet, having followed the process step by step) and begin acting as if these new thoughts were true.

This element of CBT feels to me surprisingly simple, but it’s not necessarily easy, especially for those already in the fog of depression.

For CBT to work, you need to be open to the process. You need to be able to self-analyse truthfully. And you need to be brave enough to act in a new way in the real world, even when you don’t yet feel like doing so.

For these reasons, CBT usually requires expert tuition to start with…

…which, alas, often costs money!

Accessing CBT (In The UK)

I’m fortunate enough to have accessed CBT via a workplace-provided private healthcare plan. I’m also lucky to have had the time and technology required to attend the online sessions. All this, I know, would seem like a luxurious position for many.

There are, however, widely-accessible – and ‘free’ via the NHS – ways to recieve CBT. Options include online chat-based therapy, 1-to-1 sessions with an expert and group classes. I’ve tried most of these and can vouch for their value.

There are even treatment paths that specifically deal with the combination of mental health and financial difficulties, which of course are so often inextricably linked.

GPs can refer patients for CBT therapy. But, of course, they can only do so when their patients ask for help. Too often this doesn’t happen. Lots gets in the way, from stigma to pride or, for many, a fear that unwanted medication will be supplied.

As many of my friends will know, I would always recommend consulting a GP if you feel you need to. Or, as is often the case, if family and friends recommend you should.

Generally, GPs very nice people who will listen and take you seriously. All GPs are well versed in mental health issues. Since mental health issues are so prevalent in today’s society, they have to be.

Whether or not you accept any treatment offered is entirely your choice. In many cases, something like CBT (the NHS’s go-to) is likely to be offered first, before any medication is considered. And whilst medication has a huge role to play, personally I believe CBT can be far more powerful.

But… I’m Not ‘ill’!

But what if you don’t feel ‘ill’?

What if you actually feel legitimately ‘angry’, or justifiably ‘desperate’?

You might quite rightly feel angry with those in charge of our economy, controlling low wages or profiteering from high prices. You might feel hopelessly pessimistic about a societal system that’s evidently broken.

Why, then, should you be the one to undergo ‘therapy’?

It’s a tough one to argue, but I’ll try.

Firstly, we already explored how if money is the best solution to many, if not all, of the above problems. But, ‘more money’ – adjusted for exorbitant inflation, obviously – is unlikely to materialise any time soon.

Politicians tell us that money doesn’t grow on trees, which of course is literally true (they grow leaves), but also conveys their disposition not to help in any serious way any time soon.

We can protest, or petition, or strike, or vote. That, we can hope, will make a critical difference. But it’s a safe bet that whatever relief is provided over the coming months and years, it won’t be enough.

Oh and by the way, I’ve so far neglected to mention the various other giant problems facing society, such as climate change, populism and war. Even for those of us who regulate our news intake, this backdrop is undeniably bleak.

So, to be frank, the world really is in a pretty rough state. And that’s my argument for seeking out CBT.

I’d argue that in the face of all this dismal-ness, whilst we can push for change, there’s an enormous case for also ensuring we are as mentally resilient as we possibly can be. That, I would say, is the strongest argument for seeking out CBT, in particular, as a proven-effective mental toolkit for dealing with hardship.

The world won’t change for the better in an instant, so instead why not focus on how we perceive things, and how we act on what IS within our control.

CBT Builds Mental Resilience

Personally, I have found that CBT helps me identify the positive role I can play in perceiving and shaping the world.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by sadness or fear about issues far beyond my control (big things like ‘the economy’ and ‘climate change’), it has enabled me to identify small but positive actions (small things like ‘donating to a food bank’ or ‘recycling soft plastic’) that help both me and others.

Through CBT I have understood that chatting to an elderly neighbor, selling ice pops for the school PTA or ‘liking’ something on Instagram can all “change the world” (something which my university chancellor Floella Benjamin told me to do at graduation.)

Small, manageable actions have more impact than being overwhelmed by debilitating emotions. This is something CBT has taught me.

By regaining emotional control, CBT has also helped me regain control over my own life and – together with my numerically astute wife! – my finances. This kind of control is something we will all need as prices grow, wages stagnate and black turns to red.

Again, I want to repeat that money, rather than therapy, is the best answer to the cost of living crisis.

However, I cannot recommend highly enough CBT as way to build mental resilience for any who feel they might need it.

As always, I’ll finish by sharing a few organisations who can provide help on this issue, listed below. I’d also be glad to hear from you if anything here deserves further discussion.

All the best to you, and thank you for reading.

Further Reading Or Help

The charity Mind has a page full of helpful links relating to ‘mental health and money’:

This blog explores more about CBT, from the perspective of a ‘financial therapist’:

This entire website shares advice and stories relating to mental health and money:

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