The buy now, pay later lifestyle can be hard to resist, not helped by advertising carefully designed to lure you into believing that using credit for things you can’t afford is a fast track to happiness. Instead, debt can become overwhelming and lead straight to heavy depression.
In fact those who are susceptible to debt problems are usually also prone to depression. Low self-esteem or emotional numbness is usually what made you overspend in the first place. (Learn more about how interconnected your money and your moods are in our article about debt and depression).
It can be all too easy to convince yourself that you can never be happy again until you have money, but this simply isn’t true. Just like you were sometimes unhappy before you were had debt problems, the truth is that you can sometimes be happy even now you are in debt. The secret is to start separating your moods from your money. And the good news is that by dealing with your depression you might suddenly find that you have more energy and clarity to get help with your debt problem.
7 Ways to Shift Your Depression Around Debt Problems
Here are 7 ways to start untangling your depression from your debt and make moves to get your emotional health back on track, despite your money troubles.
1. Recognise that you and your debt are not one and the same.
When you are struggling with debt problems it’s hard not to lose sight of yourself altogether as your every waking moment becomes about money. But you are not a walking currency sign, and money is actually not the only thing that exists in the world!
Make a list of all the things you offer the world and others. Perhaps you are funny, helpful, a good dancer, great at taking care of kids. Post it where you can see it daily to remember your real value. Add to it every time someone thanks you for something, or you notice something else good about yourself.
2. Stop the secretiveness.
Secretiveness is to depression like manure is to weeds. It makes for overgrowth. Debt problems and feeling low are not horrible diseases to keep mum about! This stigma is outdated and is behind many experiencing loneliness, isolation, and deeper levels of depression.
The funny thing about admitting to debt and depression is how many others are relieved that they, too, can now be honest about their own debt and depression – it’s hardly a rarity.
But that aside, don’t feel you have to be the pioneer starting the discussion for everyone. Just discuss it with someone. That can be a private counsellor, a forum about dealing with debt where you don’t have to use your real name, or a drop-in group. You do not have to deal with this alone, and letting go of thinking you should is one of the fastest ways to feel better.
3. Change your perspective.
Our busy lives can quickly have us convinced the way we see things is the only way the world is, and that our thoughts are facts instead of assumptions. Try on some new perspectives around your life and your debts.
Imagine you were talking to your 5 year-old self. They’d think you were mad to have such a world view that only money matters and invite you to play in the backyard. What would Richard Branson think of your debt? He would probably tell you it’s nothing and more than manageable. And what would a person living in a hut in Africa with six months left to live think about the fact that you feel like life isn’t worth living, just because you owe people money?
4. Expand your idea of wealth.
The biggest mistake many of us make is thinking that the only abundance available to us is money. Often we are very rich in other ways, but not letting ourselves see this stops us from breaking through depression. Make it a habit to take time every morning (as you brush your teeth works) to notice five ways you are successful and blessed. What are your inner resources? Do you have good friends? A healthy body? Do you live in a nice city?
5. Recognise what you CAN change.
Debt can have you so mono-focussed on your inability to make the money you need you don’t see all the things you CAN take care of that can make you feel better faster. Self-esteem is one of the best places to start. Can you work on your self-esteem with a coach or online course? Or what about your anxiety levels. Could you learn mindfulness and get those in check? Could you start taking better care of yourself with exercise so that you sleep better?
The more you build a solid foundation of emotional wellbeing, the more you will have the clarity and strength to deal with your debt.
6. Make a plan. On paper.
If you are depressed, it means you often lack the drive to make changes. This means that every day you wake up with the thought you’ll deal with your money troubles, and every day you let it slide. Many people in debt don’t even know the exact amount they owe. If you have ‘head in the sand’ syndrome, know debt has never to this day been known to clear up or go away by ignoring it. Making a game plan to deal with your debt can cause anxiety, yes. But it’s better to go through that anxiety then deal with years of prolonged anxiety not making a practical plan will create.
This is where it’s very important to reach out for help. If there is no friend to help you get practical and make a plan, there are charities who offer help for debt problems, like Step Change in the UK. And write down the plan. A psychology professor at Dominican University found that people were 42% more likely to achieve a goal they committed to paper than one they didn’t.
7. Stop blaming yourself.
Nobody chooses to have money troubles. There are usually good reasons we end up in debt. Often, it’s just lack of knowledge, and we didn’t grow up with parents who educated us about money. Or perhaps you grew up in an environment where you were never allowed nice things and wanted your life to be different, or to spoil your children so they never felt the lack you did.
Can you blame yourself for wanting to do things differently, and to be bigger than your past? Give yourself some credit. Recognise that if you had of known how money and debt works, you probably would have done it better. Think of it this way – if your best friend turned around and told you she was in terrible debt, would you tell her she was a failure? Then why are you treating yourself like one?
Has this article on debt problems and your mood helped you? Share it with your friends. At Harley Therapy we are on a mission to help everyone talk about emotional health. And if you have a question, leave it below, we love hearing from you!