If debt is stressing you out, here are three ways to reframe the way you think about what you owe.
Find at least one person you can be honest with about your debt. “Saying it out loud — ‘I’m up to my eyeballs in debt’ ó can be very powerful and help break the shame cycle around debt,” says Denver psychologist Stephanie Smith. The physical act of speaking can begin to alleviate anxiety, and friends can offer new perspectives. “We only see the bleakest of futures; we donít see our positive options,” she says. “Often when you talk to someone, they can shed some light on the situation.”
Choose your media influences carefully. If looking at pictures of fashionista celebs makes you want to own couture you can’t afford, curtail your fashion-magazine habit. If gadget catalogs are your weakness, get off those mailing lists. If watching lap-of-luxury TV characters makes you feel underprivileged, turn the channel — or turn off the TV entirely. “This stuff gets stuck in your subconscious and it is going to influence your emotions and your behavior even if you tell yourself it won’t,” says Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. “Start to pay attention to that low-level twinge you feel when you see something you want,” she says. “By simply noting how you’re feeling, you can start to withdraw from the cycle of ‘I see, therefore I want.’”
Start saving. As soon as debt-laden people make a little money, they usually scramble to pay off bills, says Brent Kessel, a financial planner and author of It’s Not About the Money (HarperOne, 2008). So they never experience a feeling of abundance or the pleasure of being rewarded for hard work. Instead, they are always in the red, which makes them vulnerable to falling back into old habits of self-soothing by shopping. Kessel suggests opening a savings account and putting away a few dollars every week. “It doesnít take much to help shift your mentality away from deprivation to one of surplus.”
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