Ask the therapist: How can I resolve my debts and my anxiety?

In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter every Friday.

A reader asked

I feel that I am in debt and I will never dig myself out. Therefore, instead of working hard to pay off the bill, it is better to keep buying more things. Shopping online makes me very happy. But when the bill came in, I felt overwhelmed and anxious. How can I motivate myself to start paying bills?

Amy answered

Avoiding bills can help you relieve anxiety. This is only a minute, but in the long run, it will also generate more anxiety. Buying things can make you feel better temporarily, but in the long run, it can also cause bigger problems. Facing a little discomfort will help you break this unhealthy cycle of immediate gratification.

You are solving your feelings, not the problem

You are now using emotion-centric coping skills. This means you are doing something to help you feel better in the moment. Emotion-centric coping skills can be helpful in situations where you cannot solve a problem, such as when your loved one is sick.

But debt is a problem that needs to be resolved. Feeling anxious about a bunch of bills is actually healthy. Instead of giving yourself a quick solution to make yourself feel better (in your case, shopping), solving these bills head-on will bring you long-term relief.

Checking your financial situation in the first place may cause your anxiety to spike. But when you start to solve the problem (rather than avoid it), your anxiety will start to drop. Solving your debt problems will help you take better control of your life. This is the key to long-term anxiety management.

There is a clear link between mental health and financial health. They go hand in hand. Addressing both of these issues at the same time can help you feel better, while also helping to process your funds.

Alternative coping strategies

Shopping can make you feel happy and quickly relieve anxiety. But it is counterproductive, because it will cause more bills to pile up. It is important to find alternative coping strategies to manage uncomfortable feelings.

When you want to shop online, please take a moment to pay attention to how you feel. are you bored? Lonely? anxious? Just naming your emotions can help you gain a little clarity.

Then, try some alternative coping strategies to control your discomfort. Walking, calling a friend, listening to music, cleaning the house, doing yoga, reading or engaging in your favorite hobby are just some examples of coping skills that can help you manage your emotions without bringing new problems to your life . You may need to try different coping techniques to determine the best strategy for you.

Solve your financial situation step by step

Unless you face your situation head-on, you cannot begin to solve the problem. You can start to do this step by step.

  • Sort out your debts. Write down how much you owe and who you owe. This can cause anxiety, but it is important to acknowledge the problem so that you can begin to develop solutions.
  • Calculate your income. Add up your monthly income. It is important to know how much money you have to work each month.
  • Budgeting. Determine how much you need to spend on various bills and expenses each month. And determine whether there are expenses you can get rid of (such as unused subscription services) and whether you need to find a way to increase your income. There are many free budget apps that can help you keep track of your monthly expenses.
  • Write down a list of reasons why you don’t want to shop online. Post this list near your computer. When you want to buy something you don’t need, please read this list carefully. Checking the list of reasons why online shopping is bad for you now may help you avoid temptation.
  • Get support. Getting financial advice, mental health treatment, and peer support may help you stay on track. Read books, find online support groups for people who are struggling to get out of debt, or find financial advisors who can help you.

If you need it, get professional treatment

You may find that you can do this without talking to a therapist. But it is also possible that solving this problem head-on may cause you more discomfort than you think you can handle.

Online shopping and debt may themselves be the problem. Or, it may be a symptom of a deep-rooted problem. Sometimes people have a shopping addiction. At other times, people buy things because they have self-worth issues.

It costs money to talk to a licensed mental health professional. But this may be a very good long-term investment. In the long run, it can help you save more money.

Press Play for advice on dealing with money issues

Hosted by Amy Morin, the editor-in-chief and therapist of LCSW, this episode of “The VigorTip Mind Podcast” shares what to do when financial stress affects your mental health. Click below to listen now.

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