Sandi Langham, LCPC

The emotional stress of mounting student loans has become a rising issue in the last decade. According to recent studies, one in 15 students has considered suicide as a result of these mounting student loans. This is a range between 3-10 percent of borrowers who has contemplated suicide. There are 2.8 million people who owe $495 billion of student loan debt according to the Department of Education data (Tanze, 2019). This can leave a person wondering if all the schooling is worth the cost and debt involved. Yet most American jobs minimally still expect an undergraduate education degree to be considered for the job. The cost of college continues to rise while many jobs pay the same compensation upon graduation. This leaves many graduates who have borrowed money through loans feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. This has started to impact mental health in recent years.

As a therapist, I have heard clients share about their high student loan debts as one of their top stressors in life. The financial stress overwhelms them and leaves them feeling defeated and hopeless. While they feel aware and open to paying the responsibility of the student loans, it’s the high amount of debt from the combined loans that leaves them feeling discouraged. They feel this holds them back from other life dreams and feel pressured in to making numerous sacrifices where they had wanted to fulfill plans including home ownership, planning a wedding, plans for their children, travel, and other dreams.

This two-part blog will explore ways to manage the emotional stress involved with student loans so that individuals who borrow don’t have to feel so emotionally overwhelmed. This first part will focus on emotional self-care, and the second part will focus on practical planning tips.

Take some deep breaths and practice self-compassion.

While this may be the last thing that you feel like doing, deep breathing calms the nervous system and helps the body relax, so that you can think more clearly and wisely within your neocortex (the logical area of the brain) or order to strategize a plan. Making space for self-compassion in our thought process sends a message to the mind and body that you are going to take care of yourself.

Keep perspective, you are not alone.

These are stressful economic times that we’re in, and there is a clear contrast to the state of student loans when our parents’ generation attended college. The cost of tuition has gone up significantly over the past several decades. The amount of debt that people accumulate for college compared to income has increased. You simply took loans out to pay for your school, you are still a responsible person. Often when a young person takes out student loans, it is hard to truly understand how the payments will look when they graduate, let alone understanding the complexity of how capitalized interest works.

Remember that you have options.

Many people feel overwhelmed and isolated when they graduate from college and see the total balance of their student loans. It can feel overwhelming to even figure out where to begin. But there are several options both for federal loans, and even some options for the private loans.

In Part 2 of this topic of handling student loan stress, some of these options will be explored. If you are struggling with handling the stress of student loans, you may find it helpful to speak with a supportive and encouraging professional therapist.

Resources

Hornsby, T. (June 2019). How Student Loans Kill People by Contributing to Suicide. The Student Loan Planner. Retrieved from https://www.studentloanplanner.com/student-loan-debt-suicide/
Tanze, A. (May 2019). The Far-Reaching Burden of America’s Student Debt. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-05/-micro-problem-of-student-debt-spurs-suicide-thoughts-survey