SINGAPORE: Today, stress seems to be the default setting of many, leading to self-care becoming an increasingly vital part of the conversation. But how do you balance saving and treating yourself?

Clinical psychologist Ms Jeanice Cheong of Heartscape Psychology talks about the rising stress caused by the escalating cost of living in modern societies, including Singapore, TODAY reports.

Social media can amplify pressure to “live up to social expectations”

Ms Jeanice Cheong argues that social media amplifies the pressure to conform to spending norms. She stated, “In light of increased exposure to social media, there has been increased pressure on individuals to live up to social expectations or norms regarding spending or saving patterns. These can add on to stress they already experience regarding money and finance.”

A recent study by Cigna Healthcare found that almost 9 in 10 Singaporeans reported feeling stressed last year, with 16% describing the stress as “not manageable.”

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Enter the trend of “doom-spending,” where immediate gratification takes precedence over saving for the future.

Dr Oliver Suendermann, vice-president (clinical) of mental healthcare firm Intellect, attributes this to living in a hyper-capitalist society that encourages overspending and warns of the long-term repercussions, such as debt leading to depression.

Ms Jeanice Cheong noted, “If self-care activities that are meant to support one’s well-being start to trigger unfavourable feelings, this can be considered counterproductive and unhelpful to overall well-being.”

How can I do self-care then?

Dr Suendermann suggests “prioritise purchases by aligning them with our values and goals,” urging individuals to define what self-care means to them as the first.

1. Choose quality over quantity

Mr Raymond Ong, CEO of Etiqa Insurance Singapore, said, “It can be more fulfilling to occasionally treat yourself to something truly meaningful rather than frequent, less significant activities or programmes.”

2. Set a monthly budget

Setting a monthly budget for self-care needs is a practical approach endorsed by finance experts.

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Mr Clarence Cheong, a senior group financial services director at Infinity Financial Advisory, advocates “​​creating a financial plan that draws out how much you need to save for long-term goals such as the home or wedding expenses.”

3. Allow yourself to enjoy within your set limit

Mr Clarence Cheong said this helps “alleviate overall spending anxiety and provide a clearer perspective on your financial situation.”

Ms Jeanice Cheong added, “This can provide you with a sense of expectation and certainty, which potentially makes this endeavour less stressful.”

Remember, self-care doesn’t always come with a price tag

Mr Raymond Ong stresses that some self-care activities don’t have a hefty price tag.

It can be:

  • walking in nature
  • practising meditation
  • or spending quality time with loved ones

He noted that when you have to spend, make sure to “include it in your overall budget.”

While Mr Clarence Cheong said, “Decide what you can forgo and what you cannot,” Ms Jeanice Cheong said, if you make lapses, “treat yourself with compassion.”

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“This can increase your motivation to keep to a longer-term financial goal than if you were to engage in self-criticism,” she added. /TISG

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