8 Strategies for Coping With Your Student Loan Stress

If you’re suffering from student loan stress, you’re not alone. In a study of the psychological impact of student debt, Student Loan Hero found that 61% of respondents said their worries about student loans were spiraling out of control, and 64.5% said they were losing sleep over their debt.

While worrying about debt is natural, there are ways you can manage your anxiety and regain control of your finances. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, these eight strategies can help.

1. Reach out to friends and family
2. Try to focus on the positive
3. Talk to a therapist if needed
4. Come up with a repayment plan
5. Adjust your student loan payments
6. Refinance for a lower interest rate
7. Find out if your employer can help
8. Take one step at a time

1. Reach out to friends and family

Dealing with debt can be an isolating experience, especially since many people shy away from talking about money. But getting support from friends and family can reduce student loan stress and help you feel less alone.

“The most helpful coping strategy that worked for me was calling my parents about it,” said Heather Taylor, a senior editor at PopIcon, who managed to get her student loans out of default and is now nearly debt-free. “They couldn’t help me financially, but they were able to support me emotionally.”

Outside of your inner circle, you may also find a supportive network online. Maybe you could join a student loan forum on Facebook or Reddit, or share your debt payoff journey on Instagram.

“My advice for borrowers who are feeling stressed about their debt is to talk to someone they can trust,” Taylor said. “This person can be a close family member or a friend, but they need to be a good listener and supportive of what you’re doing. The best are looking after you to make sure you’re okay and want updates on how far you’ve come and will be cheering you on to the finish line.”

2. Try to focus on the positive

Though easier said than done, cultivating positive thoughts will also help you cope with your student loan stress.

“Accept that you have debt,” Leslie Tayne, financial attorney and director of Tayne Law Group, advised PC because, honestly, it doesn’t go away on its own.”

Remember, you took out these loans for a purpose and hopefully they helped you graduate and improve your career prospects.

“Think of the positive benefits that student loan debt has brought you, like education and experience,” Tayne said. “Own it, accept it, and know you’re not alone… positive thinking can help reduce your financial stress.”

By adjusting your mindset to focus on the positive, you’ll feel more empowered to take action on your student loans.

3. Talk to a therapist if needed

If your student loan stress is high, you need to take care of yourself before you can take any action on your loans. Talking to a therapist or other mental health professional might help to find coping strategies.

“If you’re completely overwhelmed and feeling paralyzed, consider a therapist to help you with your anxiety and coping skills,” Tayne said. “Always reach out for help when you feel helpless or overwhelmed when it interferes with your daily life.”

Besides speaking to a professional, find other ways to ease your anxiety in everyday life.

“Find an outlet like exercise or volunteering,” Tayne said. “Find a way to refocus your mind. Turn off your brain so it doesn’t focus on the debt.”

At the end of the day, taking care of your mental and emotional health is your number one priority. Once you learn to manage your anxiety, you’ll be better able to manage your student loans.

4. Come up with a repayment plan

Instead of ignoring your student loans, come up with a repayment plan that fits your budget. With a clear strategy, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“The number one thing I recommend individuals do when dealing with student loan stress is to create a financial plan,” said Bob Forrest, financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management. “A lot of our fear as humans in general comes from the unknown… Do yourself a big favor and create a comprehensive financial plan. Not only will you see that you will repay the loan, but you will also see how and when you will repay it.”

Write down all your loans and interest rates, and use student loan calculators to set goals. If your financial situation changes, adjust your plan accordingly. If you find ways to make more money or cut your expenses, you might even be able to make additional payments to pay off your student loans early.

5. Adjust your student loan payments

If your student loan payments are breaking the bank, look for ways to lower them. For example, if you have federal student loans, you can apply for an income-tested repayment plan to lower your monthly payments to better match your income level. You can also request a deferral or forbearance if you need to temporarily suspend payments.

While most private lenders don’t offer income-based repayments, many allow you to defer payments during times of financial need. Pausing payments can get you through a rough patch, but this option should only be used as a last resort as interest will accrue on your loans.

Be sure to talk to your loan servicer and research your options so you can find an approach that works for you.

6. Refinance for a lower interest rate

One of the hardest parts of paying off student loans is keeping up with interest rates, especially when you’re stuck with a high rate. Fortunately, many private lenders and some states offer student loan refinancing options.

“The best advice I always give our members is to refinance their student loans,” said Adam Marlowe, an executive at Georgia’s Own Credit Union. “I recently helped a member take seven years and nearly $50,000 off their burden through refinancing, so it’s a secret weapon that most don’t know they have at their disposal.”

To qualify for a refinance, you must have reasonable credit and a stable income (or apply to a co-signer who does). Make sure you don’t rely on federal protection, however, because refinancing student loans with a private lender means you lose access to federal payment plans and forgiveness programs.

7. Find out if your employer can help

More and more employers are offering student loan repayment assistance as a benefit to help their employees pay off their student debt. It might be worth speaking to HR about your issues to see if they can help.

“If you’re an employee struggling with college debt, contact Human Resources,” said Ellen Mullarkey, vice president of business development for staffing firm Messina Group. “Ask if there is anyone who can point you to the right channels. Let them know you’re dealing with serious stress and they should be able to help you figure it out.”

Even if your employer doesn’t help you pay off your debt, they may be able to point you to financial or psychological resources that could help you.

8. Take one step at a time

Paying off student loans can feel more like a marathon than a sprint. Although it may take years to get out of debt, remember that you are making progress every day.

While your student loan balance can be daunting, it’s best to take things one day and one payment at a time. This allows you to gradually wear down your balance until it goes to zero or you qualify for student loan forgiveness.

Slowly but surely you can move towards life without college debt.

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