How to Ease Your Student Loan Anxiety
Is your college loan debt piling up and you’re dealing with severe student loan anxiety? If it makes you feel any better you’re not alone.
There’s more than $1.3 trillion worth of student debt in the United States. Just over 11% of student loans are in delinquent or default status, according to 2016 fourth quarter numbers released by the New York Federal Reserve.
Those student debt crisis facts alone are enough to make a person anxious.
But what if you’re one of the 44.2 million Americans trying to repay debt incurred for education? You wouldn’t be alone if you had a case of student loan anxiety.
Telltale signs of this unofficial condition include sleepless nights, stomach knots when looking at prices in restaurant menus and fear of answering the phone.
The good news is that there are many ways to ease student loan anxiety.
Read on to discover what they are and how to take action and regain some calm in your life.
Take a Financial Health “Selfie”
Many times, student loan anxiety grows from broader concerns about financial health.
Before tackling any issues about student loans, take a snapshot of your financial health. It will give you a good sense of the bigger picture and help you make smart decisions that can reduce worries about money.
Here are five easy steps:
- Write down your total monthly income after taxes
- Write down your total monthly expenses. (Use averages of utility and credit card bills.)
- Write down the total of all your outstanding debts including personal, student, and car loans
- Get a copy of your credit report.
- Track your daily spending for three months.
Seeing all this information written down and in one place can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry. It can’t hurt you and will soon help you reduce or eliminate your student loan anxiety.
Understand Your Student Loan
We talk about student loans as one thing. But, really, there are many variations.
Often, people don’t know the specifics of their student loans. Mystery is not a helpful ingredient when trying to minimize student loan anxiety.
Check original loan documents for details including:
- Grace period
- Interest amount
- Regular payment amounts
- Repayment term
- Options for Income-Based Repayment or Pay-As-You-Earn
If you can’t put your hand on the documentation, you can do an online search for your federal loans.
Understanding the details of loans before taking them out is also a smart idea. It can prevent a lot of stress in the future.
Make a Financial Plan
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
You want to be rid of student loan anxiety, right?
Then make a plan.
Whether you’re stressed over student loans you’re about to take or those already on your plate, a plan can help ease anxiety.
It can be in the form of a spreadsheet, colorful pictogram, or collection of sticky notes on your bathroom mirror. What’s important is that it’s in a format that appeals to you, increasing the chances that you’ll follow it.
The first step is to write down (or draw) where you want to be financially in 1, 2, and 3 years.
Then, using your “financial selfie”, plot out how you’ll get there.
When creating your plan, remember to:
- Spend less than you earn
- Explore opportunities for earning more
- Cut back on extras such as vacations before basics such as housing, food, and health
- Resist instant gratification, which can be like jet fuel for student loan anxiety
- Deduct student loan interest from income
- Make full student loan payments during the grace period to reduce overall interest costs
If you have multiple student loans, consolidation can be a smart option.
One of greatest benefits of a financial plan when struggling with student loan depression is that it reminds you what you’re working toward. Without a picture of your goals, it can feel like you’re on a repayment treadmill that leads nowhere.
Acknowledge Your Student Loan Anxiety
This tip isn’t about managing money. It’s about how you think.
A great way to help reduce the stress of student loans and other financial worries is to acknowledge them.
Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away. Sure, it’s not fun to accept that you’re under the psychological effects of student debt.
But taking ownership of the situation brings its own kind of strength to get out from under the pressure. It also makes you less vulnerable to scams that can cause more serious financial hardship.
List What Your Schooling Gave You
If you have trouble following a financial plan geared toward paying down student debt or resent having to pay back loans, you’re not alone.
For some people, the reason for the loan feels like ancient history. It can feel like you’re paying for nothing.
This is likely untrue but you’ll need to prove that to yourself.
You can reduce the stress of student loan debt and anxiety by reminding yourself what you gained from your education.
Think beyond specific knowledge and skills. Also consider more abstract but valuable things such as:
- Friendships and community
- Practical experience
- A career path
- New perspectives on the “real world”
- New interests
Reminders about everything you gained as a result of the loans can help reduce the psychological pain of repayment. This is also true if you’re worried about taking a loan now.
Know When to Talk About Your Student Loans
Everyone needs to vent from time to time. But don’t make it a habit.
Friends and family don’t want to always be hearing about your student loan debt depression. Colleagues certainly don’t.
Plus, talking about your loans too often feeds the anxiety because the topic stays front of mind.
To minimize the emotional effects of debt, contain talking about your loans to constructive financial conversations. Those talks might be with people directly affected by your financial health or a professional financial advisor.
Either way, choosing the right time and place will keep you focused on solutions instead of continuous worry.
As mentioned earlier, there is more than one kind of student loan.
Variations come from where and when you went to school, your financial status at the time of the loan, how long you were in school, and more.
There’s also a wide variety of repayment terms and conditions.
Check out our collection of student loan articles to get informed and discover your best next step.
All you have to lose is your anxiety!
Get Control of Your Credit With Our Free Ebook
* indicates required