Students who graduated college in 2014 are a part of the most indebted graduating class ever, with the average student loan debt amounting to $33,000.
There is no doubt that student debt is a financial burden for graduates, particularly for those who do not have high income jobs lined up upon graduation. Financial stress can lead to mental stress, and studies have shown that having student debt can make you anxious and depressed. For example, a 2013 study conducted by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine found that 24- 32-year olds reported greater incidents of high blood pressure and depression as a result of high financial debt.
There are numerous websites that provide tips to financially cope with your student debt, but there is an absence of recommendations for mentally coping with the burden.
Here are our 5 tips to stress less about your student debt.
Take ownership of your debt.
It is easy to blame everyone for your student debt: the country’s education system, loan companies, your parents. Instead of blaming others for your debt, take pride in knowing that you made the decision to go to college, and that that you took out a loan to finance your dream of being a college graduate. The loan that you now must pay back was not spent on frivolous items, the money was an investment in your future. Feel proud that you did what was necessary to advance your education.
Remember the light at the end of the tunnel.
Human beings gravitate towards short-term thinking. Because of this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by having a large sum of money to pay back over a long period of time.When you make monthly payments, it is difficult to see that you are getting closer to your goal of being debt-free. One way to better see the effect of your monthly payments is to mentally break up your student loan into smaller chunks. A chunk can be $5,000, for example. After each chunk is paid off, give yourself a (frugal!) reward. Then repeat.
Don’t focus on everything that you don’t have.
In order to pay back debt, most people have to make some sacrifices. That may mean less fancy dinners with your partner or passing on nights out to the movies with friends. It is easy to feel upset by the things that you do not have because of your debt. Rule number 1: don’t compare yourself to others. It doesn’t feel good to be envious that your friend just bought a pair of $300 boots when you have been eating the same bean salad for lunch for the past week to save some money. Instead of stewing on the negatives, try focusing on the positives in your life. What are the amazing things that you do have? Keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself what makes you so incredibly lucky in life! Is it that you have the world’s best children? Or that your comfortable bed makes you so happy when you snuggle into it at night? What about how proud you feel for going back to school? Whatever the thoughts are, write them down to remind yourself how good your life is!
Make being debt free a tangible goal.
One problem with a large amount of debt is that it is hard to believe that you will actually be able to pay off all of your loans in the future. Let’s make you being free from your student debt real! Take a few minutes to actually picture what it will be like to have no student debt. Imagine what living would be like, and picture day to day experiences. To make it really tangible, create a poster board with pictures that symbolize life without loan repayments. You will get there one day, and making your debt-free life tangible can help you feel less trapped.
End the cycle of negative thoughts.
Are your thoughts based on doing something, such as making higher loan payments? If they are, confront them head on and see if it is actually possible to increase your monthly repayments. If they are negative thoughts that have no real purpose, cut them off. When you experience a negative thought, ask yourself, Is this really true? If your negative thought is that you will never finish paying off your debt, really analyze the thought. Are you making steps to pay back your loan? If so, you banish that thought for not being true.
You may have loans, but you are not a loan. You are a smart, dedicated person who did what was needed to accomplish your goal of advancing your education. Empower yourself with information and take pride in your ability to pay back your student debt!
Do you have advice on how to deal with the stress of student debt? Please share in the comments below.