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Managing family budgeting stress during Covid-19

juhee
thesatime | The Southasian times

By Juhee Jhalani, PhD

Dr. Jhalani is a New York state licensed psychologist, practicing in Manhattan. In private practice, she works with adults, couples, and families. She has also been working with underserved populations including immigrants and marginalized individuals. She provides psychotherapy both in English and Hindi. Email: drjuheejhalani@gmail.com

A journey to foster self-love and compassion: Week 5.

A weekly anxiety management practice during COVID-19 pandemic, by a psychologist. 

It is week 5 in our journey! Welcome, we are all in this together holding hope and compassion for each other during these uncertain times. Though the spread of the virus is gradually slowing down, its effects on our physical, mental and financial health continue to perpetuate. This week we are discussing some handy tips to cope with our financial stressors more effectively. In our communities often talking about money and bills within families is a taboo subject. Let’s challenge our mindsets and invite more openness and vulnerability in our communications. Let’s aim to avoid panic, maintain calm and partner with our families as we navigate these hard times.

Honesty is truly is the best policy. If you have recently lost your job, or there is a reduction in the flow of your family income, or you have outstanding bills to pay – talk about these important life changes with the adult family members. Keep conversations with younger children brief and simple. Emphasize what changes in daily family life do you foresee for them. For example — “We will be cooking more meals at home now”, “We are not ordering take-outs because mom and/or dad are not working at this time”. Maintain a realistic yet hopeful tone. Do not project your sadness or anxiety onto young children. It can be an intimidating experience for children to witness their caregivers fearful and them witnessing it all helplessly. Remember anxiety is contagious. Attempt to maintain a realistic yet loving and safe environment at home. A soft and slow start of these crucial conversations will prevent confusion, conflict and anxiety. Have these conversations in the family as soon as possible rather than wait for someone to ask for something non-essential and feel agitated and disappointed.

Make a family budget and identify all essential and non-essential expenses. Involve all family members, pull out credit card statements and bills and together item by item make a list of monthly essential expenses. Calculate the income that must be generated each month to sustain the wellness of the family. Food, utilities, housing and medical expenses take priority at these times. Discretionary spending like ordering take-out, non-essential clothing, toys or electronics may have to wait until times get better. When heading to supermarkets or ordering groceries online, stick to a list of essential items. Do not shop when you are emotional or hungry. You are more likely to overspend or shop impulsively with no shopping list. At the cashier while placing the items on the checkout belt, revisit your items shopped and question yourself “Do I really need this item?” “Can shopping for this item wait?”. Mindful shopping is the key to spending wisely and saving money.

 If you are unable to pay credit card debt, rent, student loans or mortgage payments, then at this time you can benefit from reaching out to your loan service provider for deferment, suspension, reduction of interest rates for some set time. It never hurts to ask and you may be pleasantly surprised to hear an affirmative response. Many companies are forgiving or are offering some rebates such that their customers can manage financial crises better without suspending subscriptions or losing services.

Reach out to your local community outreach program. Reach out to leaders and peers in your professional and religious communities. In many states food and essentials are being distributed to community members for free. Continue to explore more resources to help you become more financially resilient. Be aware and apply for government relief programs. If you are eligible for stimulus checks, small business support programs under the CARES ACT (PPP or EIDL) apply. Reach out and seek advice from people that have already applied and take their perspectives into considerations when filling out your applications.

Once you have a good understanding and hold of what your family’s financial health status is, then do consider reaching out and supporting others in need. Partner with your children, spouse, roommate or peers and make a list of people or organizations in your community that are in need. There are a lot of people that are going through financial hardships at this time. You may not be able to help all of them. Prioritize the people or organizations that you care for most at this time. Simple acts like – delivering groceries, donating to a food bank, cooking a meal, or offering your specialized services can be simple yet effective ways to contribute. Offer a kind and empathic ear to your peers and a safe space to discuss and problem solve their financial concerns. Remember, all big and small acts of kindness are of value at this time.

Finally, regardless of your financial health and resources, each one of us is impacted by this pandemic. It is typical to feel anxious and overwhelmed during this uncertain time. Allow yourself and your loved ones to feel what they are feeling both negative and positive emotions. All feelings are valid and welcome. No judgements and practice compassion. By having a clear financial plan and better understanding of your family budget, financial stressors will become more manageable. We are all in this challenging time together and this shall pass too.

In summary, our goal this week is to mindfully and openly acknowledge and address our financial concerns. Create a list of essential and nonessential expenses, create a list of sources of income, seek partnership from our families, peers, and community for resources and information such that our financial stressors become more manageable.

Vision for Week 6: We look forward to extending our compassion to our elderly during the pandemic.

Disclaimer

  • The content shared in this article is for educational purposes only; it is not a replacement for psychotherapy therapeutic relationship or medical care. 
  • Past or present patients may risk breaching confidentiality by commenting or writing direct to the editor. No response will be made  to comments in public in order to maintain ethical boundaries and respect privacy.
  • Seek professional help if you need immediate assistance – please call National Suicide Prevention life line 1-800-273-8255 or Disaster Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.
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