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  • Writer's pictureManushi Thakur

3M’s of Life: Money, Money, and Mental Health

When would you say the honeymoon phase in a relationship ends? Now, when would you say is the right time that passes before we take off our rose-colored glasses and see capitalism for what it is? 

Maybe you have taken off your glasses or are seriously considering, but let me help you through it. Capitalism often gets cast as the villain, the hunched-back boss squeezing every ounce of effort out of us during our already-aching days. It paints a picture of barely affording rent, let alone therapy (which, ironically, costs a lot! Thanks to the health insurance companies, that do not cover mental health). It's the system where mountains of discarded fast fashion pile up in Chile (Al Jazeera, 2021), while trendy thrift stores struggle to stay afloat.

Remember those holiday colds? Imagine being in the 1930s, where your "cure" might be a smoke-filled cigarette! Doctors in slick suits hawked these "miracle sticks" everywhere – billboards, magazines, even packs themselves! Turns out, those "docs" were just actors in a grand scheme to boost cigarette sales. It took science until the 60s to catch up, but the damage was done. Classic capitalism, peddling snake oil in sleek white filters (LaMotte, 2017).

Now, I'm no economist, but Google tells me capitalism involves private owners running the show, (Merriam-Webster, 2024), but it's clear this system influences more than just wallets. If there is something that is affecting large-scale things like politics and the economy, it will undoubtedly trickle down to affect family and social life (Butler, 2018). It sets the tone for life, with values like competition and financial success taking center stage. The breadwinner becomes the hero, even if it means running ragged just to put food on the table. The working class sandwiched between the upper and lower class gets dragged through the mud the most, having to take on multiple jobs to support their families (Castaneda, 2023). 

Living under this pink daze feels like a solo marathon, where individualism isolates us like lone runners, and anxieties gnaw at our heels like envious rivals. We sprint for the finish line, fueled by productivity's whip, ignoring the beauty of scenic detours and ignoring the whispers of self-care. Stopping means falling behind, and guilt, fueled by comparisons and societal pressures, becomes a heavy backpack we can't seem to shed.

And is the other side truly greener? 

When it comes to socialism, where the emphasis on collective welfare and shared resources can potentially reduce stress by providing universal healthcare and education. However, rigid structures and a lack of individual agency can sometimes dampen well-being. There is nothing in this world that we can see in all black and white. Both sides have their pros and cons so which one is better for your well-being? Nordic countries take a nuanced approach with a mixed economy where individual opportunities meet strong social safety nets, potentially offering the best of both worlds. 

Devil’s Clutch on Our Emotional Health

In this hamster wheel where if you stop running, you fall off, family life takes a similar turn. There is more focus on PowerPoint presentations than answering questions of “how was your day?”, quarterly reviews take up quality time, and building strong bonds starts feeling like a task on its own. Much like building a house on sliding sand, you can’t do anything but watch in anticipation - not your family relationships but watch your screen in your office as you miss yet another birthday. You become the cat on a hot tin roof where instead of climbing the ladder and getting off, you bounce from one work call to another, perpetually precarious. The shadows start talking to you about job insecurity, and you bite your nails, and lips, your body taking the brunt of it because you missed out on another meal to meet a deadline. Because if you don’t, good chances are that you will not survive. 

It doesn’t end there. You have to stay on top of trends. Relationships seem to lose value unless they come wrapped in designer packaging and boasting high brand recognition (You automatically become unattractive to a lot of people if you don’t have a FaceTime feature in your budget Android phone.)). You are surrounded by individualism, pushing self-reliance and independence like shiny new gadgets, leaving genuine connections gathering dust in the forgotten corner of the "emotional needs" department.

The consequences? Marriage rates nosedive like a stock market crash, divorce lawyers become the new celebrity chefs, and single parents juggle responsibilities like Olympic gymnasts while DINKS (Double Income, No Kids) climb the trend ladder themselves. 

Granted, capitalism has its glitter: healthcare advancements, fancy trackers, and organic kale (Spectre, 2023). But for many, these are mirages shimmering above a harsh reality of struggle. Leaky roofs, fleeting meals, and resources being hoarded against an uncertain future. Even those of us teetering between these extremes feel the constant buzzkill of job insecurity, a war looming over our well-being.

Capitalism's ever-present shadow, stress, is relentless. The relentless "more, more, more" mantra, the pressure to outcompete, the constant hustle - it's no wonder 15% of the workforce suffers from mental disorders (WHO, 2022). Environmental health isn't spared either. Corporations, obsessed with efficiency, churn out burnout, anxiety, and blurred boundaries between work and life (midnight work calls, anyone?), leaving a trail of pollution and depletion behind. This isn't just horrible for the planet, but also for our souls.

Salsa With The Devil 

A lot of us have seen movies about devils and demons, but this is a live one that’s the new reality. Capitalism is a powerful engine and it needs careful steering. Please remember that this is satire, and it is not about burning the system down with pitchforks clenched tightly in your hands. It’s about realizing your place in the system and finding what you can do with the rest of the world to secure your sanity and well-being. Just like a resilient wallflower peeking through the cracks, you can find spaces to enjoy the colors of capitalism.

  • Define success:  Humans tend to attach meaning to words. Much like we’ve attached so much meaning to capitalism today, meaning can also be attached to success. It usually grows with us throughout our lives, when we see successful people around us, on mass media and hope to be the same one day. The fun part is that success turns out to mean different things for each of us, so it’s time to define it in a way that fulfills our purpose, aligns with our values, and boosts well-being.

  • Seek support: Support is found in the surrounding community, be it a book club, a volunteering group you bonded with, or even your neighbor with a cute pet. These sources can be undefeatable in the face of stress, and simply being by their side can lessen the burden on your shoulders. 

  • Focus within: Struggling in the fog of consumerism and materialism? Anchor yourself with what feels right and true to you. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises - take your pick! These will help you stay in the moment and take 5 seconds to think to decide if you want to buy that dress because you truly want to or if it’s an impulse buy.

While dismantling capitalism overnight might be a fantasy, questioning its impact on our well-being isn't because those questions will lead to conversations: Are the relentless competition and the pressure to "hustle" compatible with genuine mental health? Start by sparking conversations. Is your friend's constant burnout a personal flaw or a systemic side effect? 

Therapy can also be a safe space to untangle these knots. Capitalism-informed mental health professionals understand the anxieties of a cutthroat job market and the cultural whiplash of globalization. They can help you adjust your vision, navigate the system's complexities, and reclaim your inner rhythm.

Ultimately, the solution isn't to silence the music. It's to adjust the volume. Policy changes like universal healthcare, work-life balance, and income equality can turn the capitalist beat into a more humane melody. In societies where family and community form the bedrock, the individualistic drive of capitalism might be tempered by strong social bonds. These systemic tweaks act as a bassline, providing a secure foundation for mental health across the board.

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