According to EducationData.org, student loan borrowers hold an average of $ 39,351 in debt, and many have been under this financial pressure for decades. While federal borrowers have suspended their debt payments since the start of 2020, this administrative forbearance period is expected to expire on January 31, 2022, leaving millions of borrowers to be forced to pay their monthly payments again.
The impending stress of returning to your regular payments and the stress of long-term debt can negatively affect the overall mental and financial well-being of borrowers. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are options that can lessen both the mental and financial impact of paying off student debt.
How Debt Can Affect Your Mental Health
Any form of long term debt has the potential to negatively impact your mental health; Amy Morin, LCSW and editor of Verywell Mind, says people with debt are more likely to develop anxiety and depression. One of the reasons for this is that debt prevents many borrowers from achieving financial goals and objectives, such as saving for retirement or buying a home.
Student loan debt in particular can be problematic for the mental health of borrowers. “A lot of people don’t end up working in the field they graduated from. Others choose to stay home with their children. And many of them get married when they are in debt and their partner is helping them pay off their loans, ”says Morin. “It can lead to feelings of guilt, regret and even hopelessness.”
Rising costs and increasing demand for degrees can increase stress
Student loans are a necessity for many students. However, the net price of a college education is increasing, which usually translates into increased debt, says student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz. “Additionally, federal and state support for post-secondary education has slowed or even decreased, shifting the burden of funding college education from government to families,” he said.
In addition, more and more jobs require higher education than a bachelor’s degree, forcing students to take on even more debt to meet job demands. It’s not uncommon for students to graduate from undergraduate studies with thousands of dollars in student debt and then enroll directly into a master’s program, regardless of their financial situation.
Before jumping straight into graduate school, Kantrowitz advises students to consider whether the cost of a graduate degree is worth it against their expected income: “Typically, if your total student loan debt After graduation (including any undergraduate debt) is lower income, you should be able to pay off your student loans in 10 years or less. You can find projected annual salaries by career through the Bureau of Labor Statistics or on sites like PayScale.
If your debt exceeds your projected annual income, it is likely that you will not be able to repay your loans effectively. If possible, pay off as much of your undergraduate debt as possible before embarking on graduate school, as interest will continue to accrue during graduate school, even if you defer the payments themselves.
Tips For Dealing With Student Debt For Stress Relief
If you’re feeling anxious about paying off your student loan, especially as your forbearance ends, you might be tempted to ignore your balance. However, sitting down and weighing your options will allow you to make smart, informed decisions that will positively impact your mental and financial health.
Practical Ways to Manage Student Loan Debt
Monthly student loan payments can prevent you from focusing on other financial priorities. But there are ways to reorganize your debt:
- Adjust your monthly budget. If there are non-essentials taking up space in your budget, like membership services or gym memberships, consider removing them. An extra $ 20 per month can help you reduce your loan balance faster.
- Contact your lender about hardship options. Federal student loans offer several types of deferments and forbearances that will temporarily suspend payments, and private student loans often come with something similar. Check with your lender to see what options you have.
- Change your repayment plan. If you have federal student loans, you can take out an income-based repayment plan, which could dramatically lower your monthly payments. If you have private student loans, you may also want to consider refinancing with a lower monthly payment or interest rate.
- Call in a professional. If you’re having trouble managing your finances and debt, contact a certified financial planner to help you create a debt repayment plan that’s right for you and your financial situation.
- Avoid big expenses. Morin advises to wait right away to make big purchases like a new house or a new car, as this will only lead to more debt. “You will be able to benefit a lot more from these things when you feel like you have a solid plan to pay off your student loans,” she says.
Practical ways to manage stress
Debt can be one of the many stressors in your life. To deal with stress, you can try:
- Mindfulness techniques. Daily mindfulness practice is a research proven way to cope with stress. Mindfulness and meditation can help reduce your stress response and improve your mental and physical health.
- Logging. Journaling, for some, can be a healthy way to deal with stressors and the mental and emotional challenges that accompany them.
- Exercise. Daily exercise helps release endorphins and relieve tension, improving both mental and physical health.
These methods are great for dealing with the stressors of everyday life, but they are not the solution for all situations. If the anxiety and mental strain you experience because of your student loans is chronic or is affecting your quality of life, consider speaking with a professional counselor or therapist to help you find coping strategies that are right for you. are suitable.
Where to find mental health help
When it comes to finding help for your mental health, there are many resources you can use. Here are some reputable mental health organizations and how they can help:
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call emergency services or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through the live online chat feature or by phone at 800-273-8255.
The bottom line
Dealing with the impact of long-term stress caused by your student loan debt isn’t something you should be doing on your own. Whether you’re looking for help from your lender, a certified financial planner, or professional advice, remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of in student loan debt and every the step you are taking to pay it off is a step in the right direction.