Beth*, for instance, a 45-year-old manager at a non-profit organization in Toronto, felt ill from her debt: She couldn't sleep and her relationships were in trouble. "Psychologically, you lose your self-esteem," she says. "You lose trust in yourself and your partner. You hide, so you watch a lot of TV. You stop taking care of things around you."
The stress and money link
A paper by the Canadian Mental Health Association referenced a study about Canadians and their physical and mental health. The biggest source of stress? Money problems, with 23 per cent calling it their number-one source of stress and 43 per cent including it in their top three.
Worrying about your debt load just creates a vicious circle where you worry, which makes you ill, which makes you worry even more, and before you know it, you're visiting your doctor, begging for something to help you feel better.
How to deal with debt-related stress
Make a plan
Sit down with a financial planner who can take that big number and break it down so you can pay it off in affordable monthly payments. Yes, it might take a while, but knowing a plan is in place will help ease your stress levels.
Write it down
Debt is only scary until you confront it. Reduce the fear by writing it down. Seeing the numbers can help reduce the fear and gives you a concrete target.
Don't neglect your health
Being in debt doesn't make you a bad person, so don't beat yourself up. Stress can be managed through strategies such as a good diet and plenty of rest, so toss the junk food, get enough sleep and try to stay active.
On those days where you feel the stress nibbling at the back of your mind, distract yourself by calling a friend. You don't have to mention numbers, but talking to someone can help your stress levels.
Leave your plan alone
Once you have a debt reduction plan in place, don't interfere with it. Give the plan time to reduce your debt before fiddling with it. Revisit the plan every six months with your financial planner or if there has been a major change in your finances.
Remember: Debt is manageable; it's how you deal with it that counts. After all, says Beth: "Life is getting better. We are able to travel. We still have debt, but we are crawling our way out."
* Name has been changed
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