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Here’s why your mental health needs spring cleaning too

Source: Vogue

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, it helps to declutter the emotional baggage weighing on our minds

BY HASINA KHATIB

In a particularly memorable episode of How I Met Your Mother, its protagonist Ted Mosby visualises people on the street physically carting around their emotional baggage—there are dinky briefcases, there are stuffed suitcases and, in Ted’s case, there is a vintage leather trunk labelled with his unacknowledged trauma over being left at the altar. While this speaks volumes of the show’s penchant for visual metaphors, it serves as a striking indicator of the emotional cargo we heft around as well—invisible to the naked eye, but dragging us down with its weight nonetheless. The only way to get rid of it is to devote time to decluttering your mental space, and with the festive season brimming on the horizon, it might be time to pair your annual spring cleaning with its emotional counterpart as well.

What is mental spring cleaning and why do we need it?

Vidhi Tamboli, counselling psychologist and co-founder of The Mood Space, likens the act of spring cleaning our mental space to the urge that we feel to declutter and clean our homes. “Research suggests that physically cleaning up messy spaces can lead to reduced levels of stress and anxiety. It stands to reason that engaging in both physical and emotional spring cleaning can help you set new goals for yourself in terms of how you prioritise different aspects of life,” she says.

Tamboli believes that engaging in spring cleaning for your mind is necessary because we often don’t notice the emotional baggage we are carrying from the past. She explains, “We are constantly consumed with multiple thoughts racing through our minds. With so many things to take care of, we often tend to push our mental needs to the backseat and end up giving them the least priority. Over time, the thoughts start piling up, leading to an increase in stress, anxiety, emotional outbursts and conflicts in relationships, among others.” Opting for internal spring cleaning, then, helps us recognise the emotional and mental clutter that we are clinging on to.

How to conduct spring cleaning for your emotional health

If you’ve been wondering whether you should indulge in mental spring cleaning, Tamboli would like to affirm that everyone is an ideal candidate, given the stresses of modern life. For those looking to pinpoint the areas of their mental health that could use some sprucing up, she suggests some guided prompts. “Actively listen to your body and mind—what does it need? How are you feeling emotionally? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed? Or do you feel the need to get busy and shut down uncomfortable thoughts? Take a moment to notice this and find consistent ways to engage in self-care,” advises the Mumbai-based counselling psychologist. If you are hoping to get started, here’s her handy blueprint for inviting some peace and calm to your inner space:Become aware of your emotions

We all feel anger, jealousy, frustrations and fear, among a host of other emotions. By becoming aware of these emotions swirling in your mind, you can allow yourself to feel them, accept them and eventually free yourself from them.Try writing a letter

If you have difficulty verbalising what’s on your mind, writing a letter can serve as a form of journaling. By penning down the uncomfortable thoughts, worries and fears on paper, you can free them from within the confines of your mind.Practising gratitude

Contrary to toxic positivity, gratitude helps you acknowledge current challenges while also being appreciative of other blessings of life. Gratitude can be practised in myriad ways in everyday life, whether it is penning a daily list of the things that you are thankful for or prioritising positive relationships and healthy influences in your life.Practising mindfulness

The root cause of mental clutter is a host of anxiety, whether anchored by worries of the past or a fixation on the future. In this scenario, it becomes essential to practise mindfulness by allowing yourself to stay grounded in the present moment.Examine your inner space

Self-care can look different for everyone, and a healthy place to begin is to identify the missing piece. What are some self-care habits that you can engage in, whether that’s relaxation, reading, art or gardening? How can you declutter your mental space and prioritise what you need? Ask yourself which positive influences you need in your life and which are the toxic relationships that it might be time to let go of.

The payoff for setting time aside—whether on a daily, weekly or monthly basis—for decluttering your mental framework is that clean, organised feeling from within. “Think about how you’d feel when you clean up a messy corner of your room. Airing out the messy corners of your mind will usher in a sense of calm, growth and newfound inspiration to act on the things you need to and to get rid of things that are dragging you down,” she concludes.

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Business

Offering certainty to an uncertain PRS

By Paul Foy, CEO, RentGuarantor

The UK private rental sector is facing growing uncertainty. The number of landlords offering properties had already dropped considerably when the government imposed the Tenant Fees Act in 2019, and now, following the pandemic and amidst the current cost-of-living crisis, we are on the verge of a rental crisis – with the average lettings agent having just 11 properties available to rent in July per member branch, and 127 new prospective tenants on average being added to the books.

With the number of properties available already limited, and the recent government whitepaper, ‘A Fairer Private Rental Sector’, proposing drastic changes that are expected to drive more landlords out of the market, tenants looking to move need to make sure they are in a position to make an offer quickly, or else risk losing out on their dream home.  This includes having enough money to pay the deposit, and in most instances providing a guarantor, which is easier said than done in the current financial crisis.

For landlords, the need for a guarantor is becoming ever greater with so many facing financial insecurity. As rising energy bills and higher costs of living continue to put strain on the British public, 400,000 households are already expected to fall behind on their rent payments, meaning landlords need to find a way of ensuring they can still receive rent payments – so as to cover their own costs and income. The issue, however, is that the crisis is affecting us all, and a friend or family member acting as a guarantor may well find themselves in a position where they are unable to pay the rent themselves.

Evictions aren’t beneficial for either party and, despite how they can sometimes be presented in the media, most landlords care about the wellbeing of those renting their properties. But with rent arrears being a top concern for landlords, and 78% of tenants being worried about how they will pay rent, there is a clear need for additional support to be extended to all within the private rental sector.

Extra security for landlords

The last few years have seen landlords subjected to a great deal of uncertainty around their rental properties. Changing laws, the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis have all come together to spur an increase in due diligence when looking at prospective tenants and the security of the tenancy. This has in turn led to an increased demand for tenants to have a guarantor, rising by 36% over the past 4 years.

As financial pressure mounts for many in the country, that need for a guarantor is only expected to rise, but with the increased living costs hitting the majority of people it can dampen the stability granted by a personal guarantor.

Instead, many landlords are recommending tenants use a company guarantor, offering them a guarantee that is underwritten by an insurance company, and providing an additional level of security to both the landlord and tenant. On top of this a professional guarantor service grants the landlord with the peace of mind that any situation arising from a tenant falling into arrears would be managed on their behalf – including eviction in the rare circumstances where it should come to that.

Additional support for tenants

As well as the benefits afforded to landlords, rent guarantor services also provide a much-needed lifeline for prospective tenants. With the private rental sector currently facing a major housing shortage, having the right provisions in place when making an offer could be the difference between securing or losing that dream home.

The service provided by a rent guarantor company means tenants can quickly provide a guarantor when needed, without having to negotiate any awkward or uncomfortable conversions with friends or family members, and can often have a completed application within minutes – only paying once the contract has been signed.

Additionally, the majority of these services offer the option to pay in instalments, taking away the pressure of paying a lump sum up front – which can be a daunting prospect in today’s financial climate. This can, through some companies, include an upfront deposit payment that can be added to the instalments, further reducing the cost burden tenants face and helping to streamline the moving process.

A necessary service in an uncertain sector

While relatively new to the UK, rent guarantor companies provide an important service, which guarantees landlords will receive their payments. In turn, this takes away the financial pressure and concerns of the tenant by granting them a reliable guarantor that will back them if they’re unable to afford rent. With many of these services underwritten by some of the UK’s largest insurance firms, they can provide an invaluable level of security during these difficult times.

While the future of the PRS is still uncertain, and there are likely to be many more hurdles to overcome in the near future, the services provided by rent guarantor companies can at least provide some respite during the current crisis we are facing – offering the extra support needed by both tenant and landlord.

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Business

How to prioritise your customers’ mental health by sharing vulnerability data

Source: Finance Derivative

Author: Tim Farmer, Co-founder and Clinical Director at Comentis

The Consumer Duty and its ramifications are certainly starting to permeate through the financial services sector as a whole. That being said, we still have a long way to go and for financial advisers to make truly informed decisions on the important topic of customer vulnerability, all parties involved in the distribution chain will need to work much more closely together.

Collaboration is key.

If all parties in the distribution chain start to share their vulnerability data more intelligently, and take a more joined-up approach, they will begin to offer a considerably improved customer experience. But most importantly, they will help to ensure that their customer feels truly safe when sharing their story. After all, having to go through the emotional turmoil of sharing their experiences again and again – to multiple different providers – is only going to cause the customer greater anxiety. In some cases, it may even lead to them feeling unsafe to share their story.

I believe safely sharing customer data around vulnerability can actually ease a customer’s anxiety, reduce their stress and help to engender long-term trust between customer and adviser. I would even go so far as to say that a lack of joined up thinking can, unfortunately, allow some incredibly vulnerable people to slip through the net. Ultimately, failing to share data that is this important will only be to the detriment of the individual.

Vulnerability assessments can vary.

When we look at a customer / adviser relationship, we will of course note that who the customer is speaking to and where that conversation takes place will affect the way they feel. For instance, they might open up during a vulnerability assessment because they feel like they’re in a safe space, but then may not in further vulnerability assessments because they don’t feel safe or simply don’t trust one of the other providers they’re engaging with.

Alternatively, the customer might believe that because they have already laid their vulnerabilities out to one provider, they shouldn’t need to do so again to someone else. After all, they might (understandably) assume that all salient information would be passed over.

The other concerning possibility is that when a person tells a difficult story again and again, they forget who they have told which detail to and leave certain elements out the next time they tell it, merely because that information has already been shared at another stage. You can begin to see, without a fully joined up approach, how much potential exists for important information to be dropped.

Why we need an industry standard.

So, what can be done? And upon whose shoulders should responsibility rest, to ensure that key details about a customer’s vulnerabilities aren’t missed?

What we need is an industry standard of information sharing, that works across all product providers. This not only needs joined up thinking, but smart ways of working from a technology point of view. Providers should be using the same platform for inputting key information, and indeed, for intelligently digesting the vulnerability data that comes out.

It’s here that I believe a triage system would really benefit the financial services industry. Creating a triage system, much like you would experience when a patient physically attends an Accident and Emergency room at hospital, would allow all the right information to be gathered upfront and then shared safely and correctly down the distribution chain. This would ensure that the customer avoids needless repetition, continues to feel safe sharing their story in a different setting and won’t have to worry about missing out a key detail. It will also take the emphasis off the customer, who is going to be feeling very raw and exposed and puts it back onto the providers. After all, this is their responsibility.

Put the customer at the heart of all decisions.

The key here is transparency, detailed disclosure and ensuring all providers adhere to the same technology and ways of working. A practical and pragmatic guide or industry standard recognised by all would of course be very beneficial too. Until then however, a collaborative solution by all providers must be agreed – and it must prioritise the customer.

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Business

KICKSTART YOUR SAVINGS WITH THESE TIPS

Source: Finance Derivative

By Shelley van der Westhuizen, financial well-being strategy & applied research at Alexforbes

We often hear people talking about short-term, medium-term or long-term savings. But as an individual or family, it may be more useful to think about what your savings are for, like saving for a home, or a holiday, rather than time-based goals. This approach also helps you work out how much you need to invest for each goal you’re saving for.

Financial Planning Month in October reminds us of the need to have financial goals and to work towards achieving them over time. While many of us are battling to afford our expenses, it can seem quite daunting to also think about saving. The first challenge is making it through the month spending less than you earn.

Your three most important savings questions

To get started, there are three questions that help you work out how much to save regularly:

  • What do I want or need to save for? This is the goal.
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much time do I have until I need the money? For example, you might work out that you need R100 000 for your child’s studies when they finish school, seven years from now.

Considering your various goals and different time periods, which financial products to use and factoring in your expected investment returns, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. This is where a qualified financial adviser can help with a suitable financial plan that you can put into action.

Some savings come first

While we can work on saving for different goals at the same time, we also need to prioritise and manage debt. If you’re worrying about your debt or spending most of your money on debt repayments or have some overdue accounts, it’s time to get help. In the Alexforbes financial courage survey, over 80% of respondents said that they spent most of their time worrying while dealing with their finances. Almost 75% of people attribute their financial stress to debt worries. This means that money worries caused by being over-indebted often interfere with work and quality of life.

The value of protection

One of the ways to avoid becoming over-indebted is to prioritise emergency savings. Having emergency savings is an important part of achieving financial goals because, even if you’re not over-indebted, it means that any other savings you have can be used for their intended purpose.

Once you’ve considered your expenses, including your debt, and have built up your emergency savings buffer against unexpected things going wrong, it’s time to consider your other savings goals.

One of your financial goals is to have enough to live on one day when you can’t work any longer. When Alexforbes asked people if they knew how much of their salary they needed to save to have enough to live on when they got older, 94% didn’t know. Most people would be surprised to find out that they need to save around 17% of their income for 40 years, and always keep their retirement savings invested. In this way, they can enjoy a pension that is about three-quarters of the salary they were earning just before they stop working. How much you need to save for retirement and other goals is a very important personal question that needs an answer and depends on your circumstances.

Being realistic

By the beginning of 2021 the number of people contributing regularly to their own savings had fallen by 28%. Moreover, the average savings amount of those still contributing regularly had decreased by 23%according to Deloitte, The State of the South African Consumer Tracker. If you’re struggling to make good progress towards your financial goals now, you’re not alone. It may be a good idea to invest your energy in what you can manage while times are tough like reducing your spending wherever possible or growing your skills.

End financial anxiety

According to The State of the South African Consumer, our consumers are the fourth most financially anxious in the world. Over 33% of consumers spend more than they can afford.Combined with taking more control of our finances by following some of these suggestions, spending less on nice-to-have items may be a good way to reduce any financial anxiety you might have and have more financial success ahead.

Knowing how much you’ll need is a first step towards knowing how much to save each month. There are some fun tools to help you discover this information for yourself, like the Alexforbes My Retirement Picture(https://retirements.digital.alexanderforbes.co.za/), that’s available to everyone.

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