The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about how you can reduce stress and achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle.
While there’s a lot to be said for living in the moment, it’s also helpful to develop new habits to reduce stress and anxiety. For many people, it starts with taking stock of their finances…
Easy as hack
AT A GLANCE
1. Kickstart your new year with financial planning
2. Reduce screen time and focus on better sleep hygiene to reduce stress
3. Why not revisit your childhood to put some extra fun into your life?
How to reduce financial stress
One of the biggest causes of everyday stress is money, particularly at this time of year when all the Christmas bills start rolling in. Make staying on top of your finances one of your first new year goals – here’s how to go about it:
1. Create a financial road map
Planning the year ahead is a whole lot easier with a financial road map or budget planner. Having a calendar specifically for money matters can remind you of key financial dates, such as when you need to renew insurance or get your car MOT’d and serviced. Remember to factor in fun elements too, like summer holidays and family birthdays.
This level of planning allows you to set money aside for particular weeks and months you know you’ll need it.
2. Tackle high-interest debt
Review your existing debts to see if you can manage them more efficiently. Focus on paying off your most expensive debts first, for example credit cards with a high interest rate. Alternatively, if you have a good credit score, you may be able to shift your debt to a 0% balance transfer card. This gives you an interest-free introductory period to help you clear your balance faster.
If you’re struggling to keep up with your credit card or mortgage repayments, you can get free support from debt advice organisations such as Citizens Advice, StepChange and National Debtline. Even just talking to someone can often relieve some of the stress you may be feeling.
3. Build up an emergency fund
It’s a good idea to have some money set aside for a rainy day – especially in these uncertain economic times.
An emergency fund could keep you afloat if the unexpected happens, such as a change in your employment status or your boiler packing up. You should aim to save enough to cover at least three months’ worth of outgoings.
4. Maximise your savings
Savings rates have shot up in the past year as the Bank of England increased its base rate (currently 5.25%, as of Jan 24 1). This makes it all the more important to shop around to ensure you’re getting the most interest you can on your savings.
If you can afford to lock away cash in a fixed-rate account for a certain amount of time, you could access some of the best rates. Some regular savings accounts, which let you deposit a small amount of money each month, offer rates of up to 8% 2 - but only for a year.
Other stress-busting tips for 2024
As well as getting your finances in order, there are plenty of other things you can do to help manage your stress and anxiety levels overall.
1. Reduce screen time
The average screen time for people around the world aged 16 to 64 is six hours and 37 minutes a day, according to research by DataReportal.3
Too much time spent on electronic devices can affect both your mental and physical health, so it’s important to monitor your usage. If you feel your screen time is getting out of hand, schedule screen-free breaks for exercise and hobbies. And set a digital curfew – a time in the evening after which screens are banned.
2. Improve your sleep habits
We all know we’re meant to have at least seven hours of sleep a night, but how many of us actually achieve that? And with studies5 suggesting we need more rest in the dark winter months than in summer, it pays to focus on getting some quality shuteye sooner rather than later.
To improve your sleep habits, the Sleep Charity6 recommends investing in a comfortable mattress, decluttering your bedroom and keeping the room temperature at around 16-18°C.
3. Make more time for those who are important to you
When we’re caught up in the stresses of everyday life, we can often forget what’s really important. This year, prioritise taking time out to connect with family and friends you enjoy being around.
This could involve making a pledge to sit down for mealtimes together, rearranging your schedule so you can take your kids to school or spending more time in the great outdoors enjoying nature… whatever makes you feel more fulfilled.
4. Practise relaxation techniques
However hectic your daily routine is, it’s essential to take time out to relax each day and give your mind a break. Meditating, breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can really help you feel calmer.
Mental health charity Mind has some useful relaxation exercises you can try to reduce stress.
5. Be more childlike
Remember those carefree days of your youth when life seemed a whole lot simpler? While you can’t travel back in time to your childhood, you can still incorporate the joy of play and silliness into your routine.
How you do this is up to you. If you have children, they are a great way to rediscover those moments. Perhaps you could take up a childhood hobby again, re-read books you loved as a kid or dance like no one is watching.
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1 - https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/boeapps/database/Bank-Rate.asp
2 - https://www.nationwide.co.uk/savings/flex-regular-saver/
3 - https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-global-overview-report
4 - https://www.independent.co.uk/advisor/vpn/screen-time-statistics
5 - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2023.1105233/full
6 - https://thesleepcharity.org.uk/information-support/adults/sleep-environment/