What shall we do with our extra wages? 5 ways to ease the stress epidemic

Apparently, the wage squeeze is lifting. Over the last couple of months wage increases in the UK have eased ahead of inflation. It means that those of us who are privileged enough to be remunerated for our work should be feeling a little less anxious. In government departments and business board rooms the push will now be on to encourage us to spend our extra cash. The nonsense that is the Royal wedding, followed by a World Cup should squeeze a few more pounds out of us, making us feel better and keeping the economy marching on.

I find myself wondering if there might be a better response. You see, a day before this announcement, the Mental Health Foundation released a profoundly disturbing report. In an extensive survey (of just over 4,000 people) they discovered that three quarters of us have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope in the last year. It's higher if you are younger, or if you are female.

One in three of us has contemplated suicide.


I will say that again. One in three of us, in the last year, has contemplated suicide.

The factors behind those statistics: debt (84 per cent of CAP UK clients report debt as a stress factor); long-term health issues; the state of the nations; social media; excessive demands at work — all these play a part.

I would love to be able to claim that the church is immune, but we too have become caught up in working harder and less sustainably. We too have become worried by debt. We too find our fragile egos massacred by other church's highlights on social media.

So what can we do to start turning around this epidemic of stress and anxiety? Or what shall we do with our extra wages?

1. Pay off someone's debt

The Old Testament makes it clear that debt is not supposed to linger, there were regular break points built into the society of the Hebrew people. Surely our command to love our neighbour might just include helping to pay down our neighbour's debt. If you don't want to do it in person, then put your extra wages into a Credit Union where it can be used to help people stay away from loan sharks.

2.  Invest in health

Long term health issues stress people. In a recent survey 61 per cent of Britons said they would pay more tax for our NHS. If you are one of the 61 per cent, why not find a voluntary way to invest in local health care?

3.  Hold out the hope of Sabbath

I wonder of it has occurred to any of us that if we all said no to the excessive demands of work, or school, then the culture would change. The Christian story holds rest, Sabbath and rhythm at its heart. Let us practise it in a sign to the rest of the world that doing less may actually achieve more. For some of us, we might want to eschew the extra cash we could earn in order to gain extra time.


4. Be real

I could pontificate about staying off of social media, but it is here and I think it's a place where people might just get to see into the life of Christian people. But here is my plea: if we are going to do it, then lets be real. Let us tell how life really is, not just some edited highlights package. And when we see need, perhaps our extra wages can go to meeting it, loving our virtual neighbour.

5. Reclaim being overwhelmed

The world is a mess. Its widely documented that there is a global crisis of wise leadership. As I write the best hope of peace in the Korean peninsula appears to be fading. The threats that we face are random, faceless and overwhelming. We don't fix that simply by trying to be smarter or stronger. Ann Morisy writes compellingly about the need for the church in this moment to embrace its vulnerability and lack of power, so that we can be open-handed and ready to welcome the help of the Holy Spirit. She claims the church is at its best when it is in danger of being overwhelmed. So perhaps we invest our extra wages in churches that embrace vulnerability rather strength.

Rev Jude Smith is the team rector of Moor Allerton and Shadwell in North Leeds. Follow her on Twitter @gingervicar