Do you have anxiety about debt? If you do, you’re in good company. I go through phases where it’s very stressful and causes me to feel insanely anxious and phases where I feel cool as a cucumber about it. Before reading on, please note that I’m not any sort of mental health counselor or specialist. But, I have experienced anxiety about debt and can share these tips that have helped me from my own experience.
One specific instance I recall when I had anxiety about debt was when I first graduated from law school and looked at the balance of my student loans for the first time. I hadn’t realized that interest was accruing while I was in school on some of my loans. The balance of my loans was MUCH bigger than expected. I was also pregnant with my first baby and getting ready to start a pretty rigorous job as a real lawyer. My anxiety was through the roof. I remember lots of sleepless nights, tossing and turning and worrying about how we were going to pay off this debt that at the time, seemed insurmountable. Have you ever felt that way about money or debt?
I know now that anxiety about money and debt is completely normal. And if you are feeling anxious about it– you aren’t alone! In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 40 million people suffer from depression and anxiety related to financial troubles. That’s a pretty big crowd.
If you’re feeling anxious about debt, here are some of the best coping mechanisms.
HOW TO COPE WITH ANXIETY ABOUT DEBT
Take deep breaths and put your hand over your heart.
If you are really in the think of feeling anxious about debt or money, stop and take some deep breaths. Breath in slowly– count from 1-10, then exhale. Leave your hand over your heart. This will help you reconnect and relax so that you can refocus. When you have done this for a few minutes and are feeling more relaxed, find a different activity to keep your mind focused and occupied to keep yourself from worrying about debt again. And if you find the worry coming back– simply repeat the exercise.
Allow yourself to imagine the very worst.
The next time you start feeling anxious about debt, allow yourself to imagine the honest worst case scenario that could occur. What will happen if you honestly cannot afford your debt payments? What if you get absolutely maxed out on debt so no one will lend you money anymore? What will happen if you have to file bankruptcy? Allow yourself to reach the end of those thoughts. It may seem counterintuitive to lean into those thoughts, but the reality is, you’ll see that things might not be as bad as they feel.
Have weekly money check-ins.
The absolute worst thing for anxiety about debt is to ignore your money problems and think that they will go away on their own. Conversely, one of the best things you can do for your anxiety is to tackle those problems head on so that you are in control of them. That’s why I highly recommend having weekly money check ins with yourself or with your partner (or anyone with whom you share money). Take a quick look at your debt account balances, your spending over the previous week, and any savings that you have. It will help you feel better knowing that you are in control. You can download our free debt payoff app that makes these check-ins a breeze. It puts all of your debt in one easy to see place, grab it here or using the button below.
Track your spending on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure you’re spending is under control. In addition to helping you cope with anxiety you may be feeling, tracking your spending will also help you stay accountable to your partner if you share money (and conversely, they are accountable to you). Sharing money can be anxiety inducing because you can’t control the actions of another person. So checking in with them and tracking your spending together will help. Tracking your spending will help you to know where you stand financially and whether you need to reduce your spending or increase your income to make ends meet.
Set financial goals.
Another thing that will reduce anxiety and help you realize that you are in control of your money is to set specific financial goals. Set goals for how quickly you want to pay off debt, how much you want to pay off, how much money you’d like in savings, how much money you want to save up for a dream car/vacation/house. Setting these goals will help you realize you have things you should be working towards and will help put your mind at ease.
Take care of your body.
In addition, make sure you are taking care of yourself in ways other than your finances. Make sure you are taking the time to exercise, eat healthy, and get rest. This may seem like cliche overstated advice, but there is a reason they are preached so often. They help!
Slay the dragon.
Another thing you can do when you are feeling in the thick of anxiety about debt is to stop and write down exactly what you are feeling. Write down every single little thing that is bothering you and that you are feeling stressed about. Write as much as you can. When you are done, you’ll take that piece of paper and either burn it (safely please) or shred it– and let your anxious feelings go with it. This is a method known as “slaying the dragon” and will help you release those emotions surrounding your debt. If, after you’ve done this exercise, you find those anxious feelings creeping up again, simply repeat the exercise.
Create a budget.
Another easy way to help you manage anxiety surrounding debt is to create a budget. Like tracking your spending, budgeting will help you gain control over your debt. Make a simple budget with as few categories as possible. Remember, the more simple your budget, the more likely you are to stick to it. Here are some tips for creating a simple, easy to follow budget.
Talk to someone.
When you’re feeling anxious about debt or money, one of the best things you can do to help yourself snap out of it is to talk to someone. It can be a friend, spouse, family member, therapist– anyone. Even a financial advisor, just make sure they are a vetted advisor who has your best interest at heart. Some of them are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, trying to sell you expensive financial products like whole life insurance. If it’s student loans you’re stressed about, I highly recommend a consult with the Student Loan Planner.
Start Debt Repayment and Saving.
Another thing that can help ease your worries about debt is to start prioritizing saving and debt repayment. If you don’t have any savings, that can be highly anxiety inducing. So start socking away a little money here and there. It doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars, but every time you get paid, pay yourself first. Once you’ve got a good savings fund going (3+ months of your living expenses) you can start making aggressive debt payments to really get your finances under control and help assuage your anxiety.
Consider your triggers.
Every time you start feeling anxious about money, stop and consider what encouraged you to feel that way. Did you see a post on social media that sparked your thought process? Were you listening to a friend talk about their finances? Did you get stressed in the after math of spending money on something? Take a moment to consider what event led you to feel anxious and acknowledge it. Remember that money and debt are neither good nor bad things. They are neutral. Understanding what led you to feel what you are feeling can help.
If you’re feeling anxious about your debt, know that those feelings are valid and totally normal. I’ve been there! And many others have too. These tools will help you combat your anxiety about debt. The sooner you start implementing them, the better you’ll feel.