As a college student, you have enough to worry about without adding stress about finances into the equation. However, the fact is that many students are burdened by money issues, and in addition to having these concerns affect their studies, worrying about debt can also create a downward spiral of anxiety and depression that a young person should never have to experience.
We all know that college is expensive, but we also know how important it is to earn a degree so we can get a job that we love. To help you through these potentially tough times, we will discuss a bit about financial stress and how you can manage those anxieties and thrive during your higher education.
Understanding Your Situation
To find the right solution for your stress, you first need to understand how and why a lack of financial security can cause unneeded anxiety. The fact is that while many students can secure scholarships and grants to attend the college of their choice, over 40% of adults who attended college had to rely on student loans to help pay for their education. While you might not be stressed about student loans now, you could be in the future because if you are not able to pay off those loans on time, then that debt can follow you around for a lifetime and even affect your credit down the road.
If you are concerned and, then it is important to know that you are not alone. Studies show that at least 72% of college students are experiencing some sort of financial stress, whether it be fear that they cannot afford to finish college, difficulty paying for their rent and utilities, inadequate money to buy food, or anything in between. The situation can be so hard that many students opt to drop out of school to save themselves the burden.
Financial stress can manifest itself in many ways. Over time, constant worry can lead to physical issues like excessive headaches and substance abuse. If not corrected, years of stress can even lead to serious ailments like heart disease and high blood pressure. Anxiety can impact your mental health as well, and you may begin to experience feelings of restlessness and irritability. Eventually, those mental issues can take over, and if not properly handled, you could experience burnout which will negatively impact your college career. Needless to say, you need to have control of the situation, and there are solutions you can try today.
Improving Your Financial Situation
If you are stressed about money, then the chances are that you don’t have enough of it to get by. You are probably one of the 69% of American households that lives paycheck-to-paycheck. If that’s the case, you must be smart about how you make and acquire more money. For instance, when looking for loans, avoid short-term, high-interest loans, such as payday loans that can sound promising at first but come with interest rates as high as 400%, making them almost impossible to pay back. It is also risky to request cash advances from your credit card company as this type of debt can also quickly get out of control.
Instead, you should look for programs in your area that can assist with your financial issues without forcing you to dig a deeper hole. You can start by taking the time to research and apply for scholarships. There are a ton of great resources out there, and since you don’t have to pay them back, it is well worth the effort. Many government programs can help as well. For instance, due to the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is extending their student loan repayment pause until May 2022, which should give you some much-needed breathing room while you continue to create a plan to get a hold of your finances.
The most important part of your debt-elimination strategy is to create a budget that details all of your monthly income streams along with how much you pay for your assorted debts. Once you have an understanding of how much you spend, you can try to take out unnecessary expenses, such as reducing the money you pay at the cafeteria by spending less to get what you need at the grocery store. If you still can’t make ends meet, then consider landing a part-time side hustle like freelance writing or driving for a delivery service, so you can add in some extra funds. Just make sure that you can still prioritize your classes.
Managing Your Overall Stress
Once you start making headway on your financial situation, you need to turn the focus on yourself and find ways to reduce your anxiety so you can have a productive college career. The most important place to start is getting enough sleep. If you don’t get the seven to nine hours of rest that you need, then you will only become more irritable and upset. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, then you may just have to change your sleep routine. Make it a point to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to improve your circadian rhythm. Also, avoid looking at your phone while lying in bed because the blue light it emits can keep you awake. While living with roommates can be a great way to save money, it is important to establish healthy boundaries to ensure you get enough sleep at night.
It is also important to not overexert yourself and to prioritize self-care. It is okay to go out with friends here and there but if you party every night, then you will not only waste money but you’ll also wear yourself too thin and eventually burn out. Have fun during college but remember that it is okay to spend time at home or the library so you can study and focus on yourself. Also, make sure that you exercise and consume a healthy diet so you can feel better inside and out.
Finally, if you continue to feel stressed and your situation is not improving, then you may need to talk to someone who can offer helpful advice. In college, the best person to turn to could be your financial aid office. They may be able to make changes to your aid package, or they can recommend external resources that you can reach out to for the help that you need. Keeping your stress bottled up will only make things worse, so call your counselors, a social worker, or even your parents so you can talk through your problems.
As you can see, financial stress can happen to anyone. However, it is how you handle that anxiety that will dictate what the rest of your college career may look like. Consider the advice and tips above and feel better about your future.
For more information on how to deal with stress during your time at college, check out the infographic below.
SEE ALSO: Balancing College Life and Mental Health