3 Ways to Stop Panicking About Student Loans

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financial stress

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It’s hard to get into action when you feel scared and stressed. If that anxiety and worry devolve into full-blown panic, you can forget about reaching the calm mental state required to think clearly, make a financial plan, and change your situation.

And that’s exactly why dealing with student loan debt can be so difficult. Financial stress — and specifically, stress around student loans — affects more young adults than ever.

According to a study conducted by the University of South Carolina and the University of California, people with higher amounts of student loan debt experience higher levels of depressive symptoms.

And in a 2012 study performed amongst psychology graduate students, 64% reported that concern over debt interfered with their ability to function normally.

When you feel depressed, afraid, and worried, it doesn’t matter how much you know about getting rid of your loans. Your mental state and emotions take over, making it nearly impossible to proactively tackle your debt.

If this describes you, take a step back. Let’s look at how to stop the panic so you can stay calm and take productive action. Here’s how to deal with financial stress so you can move on and knock out your student loans from a calm and confident place.

Reduce financial stress by getting mindful

A mindfulness practice provides you with a way to manage anxiety and money stress (along with other worries in your life). Mindfulness means that you maintain a “moment-by-moment awareness of [your] thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment,” according to the Greater Good Science Center.

This allows you to be more present with yourself. Mindfulness gives you the ability to separate yourself from your thoughts and emotions instead of letting them drive your behavior. That, in turn, can help you accept discomfort instead of feeling anxious because of pain, suffering, or bad experiences.

If this sounds a little wacky to you, rest assured that studies around mindfulness show it can reduce stress, increase creativity, and ease anxiety. If you’re less stressed, feeling more creative, and not trapped by anxiety — well, you’re in a much better place to get to work on your student loan debt.

Start asking questions

Once you feel your financial stress is under control, take the student loan repayment process one step at a time. Start by educating yourself and knowing your options.

You can seek out professionals and financial experts to ask questions. Look for fee-only CFPs willing to work as fiduciaries for you, and talk to people familiar with student loans and how they work.

You can also research on your own by asking questions. It sounds simple, and it is: Start by running Google searches for questions about your specific loan types. Take time to review the results and read everything you can get your hands on. As more questions arise, make note of them and research those, too.

You can also get started with these trusted resources on student loans to educate and empower you:

Once you have the knowledge you need, you can make a plan to repay your debt. Explore repayment plans for federal loans and choose a debt pay down strategy like the debt avalanche for other loans.

You may also want to explore other options. Depending on your situation, refinancing or consolidating your loans can help you manage them more effectively.

Asking questions, researching information, and learning about various options can help you deal with financial stress. These actions leave you more informed, which means you can make better decisions around your debt.

Make your situation manageable

Repaying student loans is a huge undertaking, but you’re not expected to go through the process alone. Doing so can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed, which opens the door for that financial stress to creep right back into your life.

Use these tactics to help make your situation feel more manageable instead.

Find support

Reach out to friends and family who understand your struggle and know why you experience money stress.

Simply having someone you know you can talk to — or vent to! — can help make the process of repaying your student loans a little easier. If you can reach out to people in your life who have been there and done that, even better.

You can also get support from online communities and forums, like Reddit’s subreddit for all student loan discussions. Blogs like this one, rich in resources and conversations, can also help.

Seek accountability

Student loan repayment can take years, and it’s a challenge to stay motivated and on track the entire time.

Make it easier by getting someone else to hold you accountable. Again, this could be friends, family members, or a coworker who’s also paying down debt.

You could even start your own blog to document your challenges, wins, and lessons learned. Having a public place to record your progress and share your setbacks can make it more likely that you’ll follow through over the time it takes to repay all your debt.

Create a system

You can use tools and apps to manage your student loans as you repay them, or keep your own records.

There’s no one right answer. It’s about what works for you to remain aware of your progress. Seeing yourself make steps in the right direction can keep you motivated, and allow you celebrate every small win along the way.

And knowing exactly what’s going on in your financial life — both good and bad — can help mitigate money stress for the long term.

What to do if you start panicking about student loans again

Of course, these strategies take work to keep in place. Know that some days will be harder than others.

That doesn’t mean you have to let the panic take over. When you feel anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions triggered by money stress, try the following:

  • Take a big, deep breath. Our breath gets shallow (and sometimes we even hold our breath) when we get stressed. Breathing deeply will help you relax.
  • Acknowledge the feeling. Trying to resist the worry or stress will likely only make the emotion bigger in your mind. Take a moment to simply acknowledge how you feel right now. You can even say something like, “I feel like I’m overwhelmed and stressed out right now” out loud.
  • Practice mindfulness. Remember the first strategy you learned about how to deal with financial stress. Give yourself 2 minutes, 10, or 30 — however long you need — to meditate and practice watching thoughts come and go without attaching to them.
  • Get out of your head and into action. Spending too much time chasing our thoughts about a particular situation can make us feel more stressed. Instead of staying with your thoughts, get into action: Call someone who supports you or holds you accountable, journal, or hustle to earn a little more to make an extra student loan payment.

Financial stress is inevitable when you deal with large amounts of student loans. But it doesn’t have to run the show.

You’re in control, and you have the resources you need to create a plan and get rid of your debt. Now get to work!

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.