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:
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.
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.
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!
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|