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Financial Wellness: Taking Care of Your Mental Health and Money While in College
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Financial Wellness: Taking Care of Your Mental Health and Money While in College

When it comes to the well-being of college students, mental health and financial health are often seen as separate aspects. However, recent studies have highlighted the strong link between these two aspects of student life. A January 2023 report on university and college students in Kenya revealed that money and finances are the main causes of stress,  with a staggering 30% of students experiencing mild to severe stress related to their financial situation. 

This alarming statistic underscores the need for prioritising financial wellness alongside mental health in college settings. In this article, we will explore the intricate connection between mental health and money and discuss practical strategies for achieving financial and emotional well-being during your college years. 

Read Also: Is Social Media Ruining Your Finances?

What is Financial Wellness?

Financial wellness goes beyond simply having enough money to cover your expenses. It involves establishing a healthy relationship with money and making informed decisions to secure your financial future. But financial wellness is not just about numbers; it’s also about the impact that money has on your mental well-being. 

The Connection Between Mental Health and Financial Health

Financial stress is a familiar burden for many college students, as they juggle tuition fees, textbooks, rent, groceries, and other expenses while also dealing with family struggles. The overwhelming combination can take a toll on their mental well-being. Constant worry about making ends meet and accumulating debt creates a vicious cycle that impacts academic performance, leading to even more financial stress. 

When a student is consumed by financial worries, their mental well-being suffers, affecting his/her ability to concentrate, memorise information, and stay motivated. As a result, their academic achievements may decline, reducing opportunities for financial stability. Moreover, stress impairs judgment, leading to impulsive decisions with negative consequences for finances. When mental health is challenged, making sound financial choices becomes increasingly difficult. This can result in impulsive purchases, missed bill payments, and inadequate savings, further exacerbating financial stress.

Read Also: How Your Relationship With Money Affects Your Life

5 Practical Strategies for Achieving Financial and Mental Wellness

You might wonder how you can establish financial wellness while prioritising your mental well-being considering that every health-related decision often comes with a cost. However, fostering a healthy relationship with money doesn’t have to strain your finances. Here are some affordable strategies you can use to reduce financial stress and take care of your mental health while in college. 

  1. Budgeting and financial planning

Budgeting plays a crucial role in achieving both mental health and financial wellness. By creating a realistic budget and tracking the money you receive and spend, you can gain control over your finances and reduce stress levels. To create a budgeting plan start by tracking your income from various sources, such as part-time jobs, scholarships, or financial aid. Then, meticulously list all your expenses, including tuition fees, textbooks, rent, groceries, transportation, and entertainment. You can use a budget tracker or planning app to monitor your spending habits and ensure you are sticking to your budget. 

While creating a budget is important, it is also essential to remain flexible and adaptable. Your financial circumstances and priorities may change throughout your college journey. Regularly review and adjust your budget to accommodate any changes, such as unexpected expenses or changes in income. Flexibility allows you to respond to new situations while still maintaining financial control and reducing stress. 

Read Also: Tips for Living on a Tight Budget Like a Pro

  1. Develop healthy coping mechanisms

Another way of achieving financial wellness is taking care of your mental health. Prioritising self-care and practicing stress management techniques can significantly impact your overall well-being and positively influence your financial decisions. Here are various methods of financial stress coping mechanisms that can boost your mental health. 

  • Self-care and stress management: This involves prioritising activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and rejuvenation.  Whether it’s practicing yoga, engaging in a hobby, reading, or taking walks, dedicating time to self-care helps reduce stress levels. By managing stress effectively you are better equipped to make sound financial decisions without being influenced by emotional turmoil or impulsive behaviors. 
  • Exercise and physical well-being: Physical exercise has a profound impact on mental health. Regular physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Exercise not only reduces stress and anxiety but also enhances cognitive function and improves overall well-being. When your mental health is in good shape, you're more likely to have the clarity and focus needed to make thoughtful financial decisions and stick to your budget.
  • Mindfulness and financial awareness: Practicing mindfulness involves being fully present at the moment and non-judgmentally aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness can be applied to your financial decisions by cultivating awareness of your spending habits, emotions related to money, and financial goals. By staying mindful, you can make conscious choices about where your money goes, avoid impulsive purchases driven by emotions, and align your spending with your financial priorities.
  • Social Support System: Maintaining connections with supportive friends and family can be invaluable for your mental health and financial wellness. Openly discussing your financial concerns and seeking advice or guidance from trusted individuals can provide emotional support and different perspectives. Sharing experiences and learning from others' financial journeys can inspire you to make informed decisions and stay motivated to achieve your financial goals.

Read Also: 5 Daily Habits to Improve Your Finances

  1. Financial literacy education

By actively engaging in financial literacy education,  you can develop a better understanding of personal finance concepts and gain the skills necessary to make informed financial decisions. This is one of the most affordable methods for achieving financial and mental wellness. Many colleges and universities offer financial counseling services or workshops specifically designed to support students in navigating their financial challenges. These resources provide personalised guidance on budgeting, financial planning, and debt management. By seeking out and taking advantage of these services, you can gain valuable insights, overcome financial hurdles, and foster a sense of financial security that positively impacts your mental well-being.

While at it you can explore financial aid and scholarships offered by your college or third parties that align with your interests and strengths. By doing so, you can alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with higher education. Accessing financial aid options not only relieves financial stress but also allows you to focus more on your studies and personal growth. 

Read Also: 9 Financial Topics You Need an Understanding Of

  1. Build an emergency fund

College students typically have limited income and resources, making them more vulnerable to financial emergencies. Having an emergency fund provides a safety net that can help cover unforeseen expenses like medical bills, unexpected school or travel costs. This financial security allows you to focus on your studies without the constant worry of how you can handle sudden financial setbacks. 

In addition, building an emergency fund can help you reduce debt. Without an emergency fund, you will probably resort to borrowing money from family, friends, or digital lending apps to cover unexpected expenses. Relying on debt can create a cycle of financial stress and make it challenging to manage overall financial health. This is where an emergency fund comes in, to help you avoid debt and maintain control over your financial well-being. 

Remember, building an emergency fund takes time and discipline. The important thing is to start saving consistently, even if it's Ksh200 or Ksh500 monthly or weekly. Over time, your emergency fund will grow, providing you with greater financial security.

Read Also: Easy Steps to Create an Emergency Fund in 100 Days

  1. Seek professional help

It's important to recognise that seeking counseling or therapy is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you find yourself grappling with emotional struggles or enduring significant stress, reaching out to a counselor or therapist can offer invaluable support and guidance. A trained professional in therapy can assist you in developing effective coping strategies, regulating your emotions, and addressing any financial-related concerns that might be adversely affecting your mental well-being. 

In today’s modern era, seeking therapy has become even more accessible with the advent of mobile therapeutic services. This innovative approach to mental health allows you to address your financial or other mental health concerns conveniently and cost-effectively. With mobile therapy services, you can connect with a therapist from anywhere, empowering you to better manage your stress levels even while on the go. 

Final Thoughts

Prioritising your mental health is crucial as it directly affects various aspects of your life, including finances and academic performance. Recognising the connection between mental well-being and financial stability is key since neglecting one will inevitably affect the other. Whether you are battling financial stress or simply looking to improve your overall mental well-being, it is essential to invest in both areas and make your well-being a top priority. By nurturing your mental health and tending to your financial wellness, you create a solid foundation for a more fulfilling and balanced life. Remember, taking care of yourself holistically yields long-term benefits and paves the way for a brighter future.

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Karuana Mwai is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Nairobi Kenya with a passion for telling business, health, and social justice stories. Find here on LinkedIn

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