Our student loan debt is literally keeping me up at night.
Ever since Danny graduated, we have been feeling the crippling weight of our student loans. I feel the greatest effects late at night, usually around 2:00 or 3:00 am. I guess that is technically the morning. I toss and I turn and then I toss and turn some more. I cannot stop seeing the number $599,464. I cannot hide from it, not even behind the safety of closed eye lids and my fluffy down comforter.
It bleeds over into our family relationship. Stress encourages us to be more curt with each other and with little M. We zone out into our TV shows or phones, or whatever, to not have to deal with it or talk about it.
And I don’t think these feelings of stress are limited to us. According to Forbes, there is plenty of research that backs up the link between stress and depression with student loan debt. Student loan debt stress is robbing many young adults from enjoying their prime of life.
This is not healthy.
As such, it has gotten me thinking. We need coping mechanisms to deal with the crushing weight of our debt.
Stress from student loan debt just feels different than other stress we have felt. Maybe it is because we know that the only escape from it is based on our own efforts. It is up to us to earn enough to pay it off. There is no discharging student loan debt. There is no filing bankruptcy. Even if we had chosen “loan forgiveness” we would still be paying the amount we took out over time, plus we would be taxed on the forgiven portion.
But all is not lost. Eventually we will pay this off, hopefully sooner than later.
In the mean time, I have compiled a list of strategies that I have used when dealing with all different kinds of stress and have found that they are working just as well for managing our student loan debt stress.
6 WAYS TO COPE WITH STUDENT LOAN DEBT STRESS (or any other kind of stress for that matter).
- Create a plan
The first step to managing stress from student loan debt is to create a plan to get rid of your debt. This will help you gain control over your situation. Feeling in control helps us feel less stressed. If you need ideas for how you will take control of your debt, check out our master plan HERE, or feel free to click through our student loan help menu.
Your plan might be to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. Honestly, if the stress of your student loans is keeping you up at night, that is probably the best choice for you for your own mental health. This will likely include refinancing your student loans at a lower interest rate.
You might choose an income based repayment plan. You will need to come up with a strategy to be able to pay the hefty amount you will be taxed the year it will be forgiven.
If your interest rates and debt load are not too high, it might make more sense to choose a standard repayment plan and make the minimum payments on it for ten years, while investing in your own retirement.
Sit down and choose a plan that seems right for you. You will be surprised how much stress this will relieve!
- Review and follow your plan.
There will be people who will question your pay off strategy. There will be temptations to spend money or do things that do not fit within your goals. This will inevitably add stress into your life. So frequently review your plan, and stick to it. Be honest with and good to yourself, and don’t worry too much about what other people are doing. You chose your plan for a reason. Remind yourself of that reason and stick to it.
- Exercise, eat right, and sleep.
There is a reason we have heard this advice 500 million times in various contexts throughout all of time. That reason is because these principles work.
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), physical activity is well known to reduce stress. Do some yoga, go on a run, pump some iron at the gym. You will feel better.
There is plenty of research that also backs up eating healthy to reduce stress. This one feels counter intuitive for me. I always think that stuffing my face with the whole pan of brownies will help me feel less stressed. It never works. In fact, it makes my body feel more stressed. So do yourself a favor, and grab an apple next time.
Finally, just go to sleep. I can attest, this is easier said than done. Huffington Post has an excellent list of 15 things you can do to help yourself fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Do not add more debt.
Now is not the time to buy a fancy new car. It is not likely the time to go on an extravagant vacation or buy a whole new wardrobe. Save those things for when you are out of debt. That day is coming. Spending more money is not going to make you feel better. But it is going to make you feel worse, so don’t do it.
- Practice breathing techniques
I first started practicing breathing techniques when I was preparing for M’s birth using Hypnobabies. I was feeling a lot of stress at the time being pregnant and in my third year of law school, applying for jobs and trying to keep my grade point average up. This technique alleviated so much stress in my pregnancy. In fact, people often commented about how calm I was about everything. Feelings of peace and calm permeated my life because of this technique.
Then, when I was at the police academy almost a year later, I was reminded of these breathing techniques to manage stress in high pressure situations. That’s right. You learn how to breathe at the police academy. This is not baloney. It really works. Plus its free ok? So just try it. (But seriously, it decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, and helps your muscles relax).
- Sitting or lying down if you can. Standing works too. Allow yourself to feel like you are sinking into the floor.
- Inhale. Allow your breath to go as deep into your stomach as possible. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
- Count steadily from one to five as you inhale. You may not be able to reach five at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from one to five again.
- Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
- Confide in someone else.
Talking to someone about the stress you are feeling is one of the most efficient ways to manage stress. “Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.” In fact, it is the feeling of safety when we express ourselves that helps alleviate our stress. Your nervous system perceives that safety, and as a result, your feelings of stress decrease. Build relationships with the people around you, so that you can confide in each other.
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Do you feel stress over your student loan debt? How do you cope with it?