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How finances affect your physical health

We take all aspects of health and wellbeing seriously at PayPlan – and that’s because we know how finances affect your physical health. Being in debt and worrying about money can seriously impact your long-term health.

When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to make unhealthy food choices, lack the motivation to exercise and may struggle to get the sleep we need. High blood pressure, muscle tension and digestive issues can all be signs of money worries manifesting in physical health.

Fortunately, a lot can be done to improve our physical health even if you’re living on a budget. And, we’ve outlined some of those steps below.

How to look after your physical health on a budget

Eat well

Would you be surprised if we said that eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health. No? That’s probably because we know we should be eating healthily, but perhaps aren’t sure what exactly healthy looks like or how we can afford it.

The price of eating well – In 2020, before they came to us for help, our clients told us:

  • Over half cut down their food spend due to their financial situation
  • Almost half of our clients missed a meal because they couldn’t afford food
  • 59% of our clients, who are parents, were worried about how they would feed their children

Coronavirus and lockdown certainly came with new challenges for putting food on the table, never mind making sure that it’s healthy food. So, how can you eat well when finances are tight?

Top tips to eating well on a tight budget:

  1. Get confident with cooking – we might rely on ordering takeaways instead of making our favourite meals or always buy a jar of sauce instead of whipping up a fresh one. The change4life website has tons of recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner . When it comes to food, sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Porridge for breakfast (with a choice of toppings) can be one of the cheapest ways to fill you up right through until lunchtime.
  2. Know your portions – the NHS’ eat well guide explains how much of your diet should be made up of certain food groups, as well as what’s included in the group. This visual can help you to know how much of certain foods to put on the plate and what you should be buying at the supermarket. Print out or draw your own version to stick onto the fridge.
  3. Compare calories – what do you think a tablespoon of mayonnaise, 9 pringles and 30grams of cheese have in common? They are all 100 calories. We know that stress can trigger unhealthy habits. Ever heard of stress eating? Knowing how many calories your body needs and what they look like could help you avoid overeating. Check out the NHS’ guide to what 100 calories look like.

Go to our save money and boost your income section for more tips on saving money when food shopping. If you’re struggling to feed your family then please do get in touch with the Trussell Trust to find your local foodbank.

Keep active 

Getting moving and spending time doing things that you enjoy can really help to improve both your physical and mental health.

Keep active through hobbies and exercise for free:

  1. Split your fitness into 10-minute sessions – bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to workouts. Try fitting in smaller, quicker sessions into your day instead. Nike and Adidas both have free apps with loads of workouts on there that are split between what you’d like to achieve, what equipment you have and how long they last. Or, try one of the NHS’10-minute workouts.
  2. Set up a buddy group – whether you’re a new parent, a keen runner, or cyclist, or just like to get out for a walk, you can set up a buddy group with friends to keep up your momentum. People often find it easier to keep up routines if they’re doing them with friends. Of course, make sure your buddy group follows current social distance and government guidelines.
  3. Start a new hobby – new hobbies don’t need to cost the earth. There are lots of free tutorials available online these days, you could try yoga, Pilates, kickboxing or tai chi from the comfort of your living room. If you have the outdoor space, gardening or camping are good ways to enjoy and connect with nature.

Stay hydrated

Getting enough water can help you with loads of health benefits from temperature regulation to fewer headaches. But do you always know when you’re getting enough?

There are tons of hydration apps for you to download to make sure you’re getting your eight glasses of water a day. Of course, you’ll also need to make sure you’re not cancelling out your good hydration work by cutting down on caffeine and sugary drinks.

When it comes to booze, we all know that we should keep an eye on how much we drink. But do you really know what a unit of alcohol is? If this sounds like you, head over to the NHS’ guide to work out how many units are in beers and wines.

Get a good night’s sleep

Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Smartphones, on demand tele and money worries can all lead to sleepless nights.

We’ve likely all experienced how we can get irritable, hostile and even depressed when we’re tired. How it affects what we want to eat. But, feeling low, anxious or stressed often makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Suddenly, you’re in a vicious cycle.

Here are some ways to help combat sleeping problems:

  • Set a regular routine – if possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even on weekends. This will help your body to get into a rhythm of knowing when to wind down.
  • Take time to wind down – things like having a relaxing bath, listening to relaxing music or reading a book can help you to wind down. Limit screen time on phones, laptops and television in the hour leading up to bed at least.
  • Make your bedroom sleep friendly – try to keep your bedroom a relaxing place. TVs, electronic gadgets, light and noise can all keep us awake. Your bedroom ideally needs to be dark, quiet, tidy and kept between 18c and 24c.

Support for physical health and illness

If you are suffering from an illness or are concerned about your health, then get in touch with a medical expert. We’ve listed some organisations that may be able to help. Otherwise, contact your GP.

  • Age UK Information and advice for the elderly on anything from health to housing. Call 0800 169 2081
  • Carers UK advice, information and support for anyone looking after someone in a caring capacity. Call 0808 808 7777
  • Macmillan practical, medical and financial support for anyone affected by cancer – and someone who’ll listen if you just want to talk. Call 0808 808 00 00
  • National Bereavement Service offers help with the practical side of bereavement informing people of the actions they need to take. Call 0800 0246 121
  • NHS website helps you take control of your health and wellbeing. Look on the website for more information or for useful medical numbers
  • The Trussell Trust for foodbanks, providing emergency food and support to people in crisis. Call 01722 580180 or email foodbanknetwork@trusselltrust.org

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