This is a topic I want to bring up both because it’s personal to me and because I think it’s important to discuss. Debt and mental health go hand in hand, but I don’t think we take enough time to recognise that.
I would just like to begin by saying that I am in no way a medical professional. My thoughts are simply reflections from my own experiences. It is so important to speak to a professional, be that your GP, therapist, or another qualified individual, when you are dealing with mental health problems of any level of severity.
Debt and Mental Health
When we discuss debt we have to recognise that it is not as simple as a number on paper. The number, our debt total, is the focal point of our debt free journey however it is not the only factor in our mission to become debt free. There are many other really important things to consider, and mental health is one of them.
Mental health itself affects us all to an extent. For some it can be a bit bothersome, for others it is entirely debilitating. Add to that the worry of debt and the pressure, concern and overwhelming emotions are amplified.
When you have a negative number against your name, no matter the size, there are so many negative connotations connected to that. On a surface level it suggest that you might not be able to handle money well. That you might even be irresponsible with your finances. As such it is entirely likely that anyone might worry daily about that negative number and how they might be able to pay it back.
Now factor in someone who spends their entire day worrying about everything in their life already. Someone who overthinks others’ opinions of them. Someone who is triggered into depression by a concerning letter from the bank. The debt is a concern, but it suddenly becomes clouded by a whole other layer of thoughts and feelings and fears.
My own experience
I personally experience anxiety and periods of dealing with very low moods that can stop me from functioning normally. Some days I will be incredibly bubbly and outgoing, other days I want to switch off from the world and speak to no one.
This can be incredibly dangerous when it comes to my debt. If I am already having a low mood day and a text comes through from the bank to tell me that I have gone into my over draft or my credit card sends me a notification to tell me that I’m over my limit I might choose to deal with it straight away. There is also a chance that I might switch my phone off and pretend it hasn’t happened.
I imagine that many others are on a similar boat to myself. Sometimes you find your situation manageable and can face it with a rational mindset. You can make sensible decisions as to how you will handle each account and manage your money well to pay them off. Other times, you will pretend that there is nothing to worry about.
As I am still in the early stages of my debt payment journey, I am also still very new to figuring out ways to help handle my anxiety and low moods that occur as a result. I have to say that opening up on My Debt Diary is proving incredibly helpful for me. Everything is written down, including my thoughts. My head is a little clearer as a result and I can focus on moving towards financial freedom.
Methods to handle metal health
Beyond writing about my debt journey, I have a couple of other things that I do to help myself and my mind when I find my debt over baring.
Put on something that relaxes you.
A film, some music, white noise, whatever it may be. I find that putting on something that is familiar to me, even in the background, can help a great deal. Often that means a film or TV show that I’ve watched a hundred times before. Instead of there being another distraction in my environment, there is something familiar and that seems to calm part of my brain down. This one is key when I’m having a horrible day but really need to get on with some work to meet a deadline.
Use the Calm app.
This one is a recent discovery, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It has useful features such as the 7 Days of Calm guided meditation that introduces you to taking a mindful pause each day. While there is a premium version, it’s basic features are free, which is useful when you’re looking to save money, not spend it!
Whether it be sticking my head out of the window for five minutes (yes I do this…yes my neighbours probably think I’m a bit strange but oh well) or going for a walk, getting some fresh air in my lungs definitely helps my brain to calm down. My mood tends to determine whether I go for a walk or not. When my anxiety is at its worst the thought of leaving the house is hellish. If I’m feeling up to it however, I always notice an improvement in my mood after a long stroll.
For more ideas, you can find a fantastic post here from Wanna Be Debt Free about self care on a budget.
It goes without saying of course that talking can be the best way to relieve stress and worry. As I mentioned earlier, blogging is really helping me to calm my brain with regards to coping with my debt.
Debt is still a big taboo subject for most of us, but that can be such an unhealthy thing. If you can, speak to someone you love and trust openly about your debt. Ask for no judgement, only support.
This is a topic that I will definitely be writing about more in the future. As my journey progresses and my debt total goes down, I imagine that my methods with dealing with my own mental health will change. I really hope that I will find the confidence to talk to more people about it, not only for my own sake but in the hope that others will then open up in return.
If you are looking for further help with debt, Claire from The Money Freak has written a great post with some useful contacts to help you.