Step out of the vicious cycle of DE(BT)PRESSION!
By Professor Ewan Gillon, Counselling Psychologist and Managing Director of First Psychology Scotland.
With each of us owing an average of just under £30,000, getting on top of personal debt has never been more important – or more difficult – for Scots. And what my feel like a little innocent retail therapy can cause long-term problems.
“Debt is about more than your bank balance being in the red”, says First Psychology Scotland’s Clinical Director, Professor Ewan Gillon. “Owing large amounts of money can have serious consequences for our mental and physical health, leading to problems such as anxiety and depression.”
Professor Gillon has seen an increase in patients complaining about debt-related problems at First Psychology Centres across Scotland and he’s not alone: Citizens Advice Scotland reports that more than a quarter of its 2011 clients sought help relating to personal debt. More than half of those admitted it had affected their mental health.
“What we have to do is tackle the problem practically and emotionally”, says Ewan Gillon. While each case is individual, the following tips can help anyone attack their debt and get their bank account back on track:
10 Top Tips on How to Deal with Debt and Depression
1) Accept you have a problem: Debt often creeps up over time and a small, manageable amount can slowly become uncontrollable. Therefore the first step is to accept that you have a problem and seek help.
2) It’s good to talk: Money can be a difficult subject to discuss but by talking about debt with family and friends, or a debt counsellor, you share the worry.
3) Be proactive: The sooner you deal with your problems, the sooner they will be resolved. Organisations like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau offer practical help, or you could talk to your debtors to see if you can come to a payment arrangement. Likewise, consider speaking to your GP for help in tackling mental and physical issues at the root of excessive spending.
4) Start with the easiest tasks: This will give you a feeling of achievement and help you believe that you can overcome your problems, whether they are debt, depression, or both.
5) Understand your spending: You may think you spend money randomly but often spending follows a pattern. Some people buy things to make themselves feel or look better. Try to identify the triggers that make you spend money, perhaps by keeping a diary of thoughts, feelings and situations.
6) How do you feel about money? Money is often linked to strong emotions. To change our spending habits we may need to examine our emotions and assumptions about money. By placing a value on the money we earn, for instance, we put a value on ourselves instead of thinking ‘it’s only money’.
7) Think positively about money: Being ‘no good with money’ is mostly a myth. In order to free yourself from the hold of it, you must substitute your negative thoughts about money with positive statements, and not feel afraid about attracting money into your life.
8) It’s all in the words: Instead of using the word ‘debt’ to describe your situation, use phrases such as ‘working towards being financially free’. Expressions such as ‘cutting back’ and ‘going without’ do little but make you feel like you are depriving yourself of something rather than improving your future.
9) Create new spending habits: Habits can be hard to break, particularly where money is concerned. The best way to create a new habit is to link it with something that you do regularly in your routine. For example, every time you check your email you could also check your bank statement online in order to keep better track of your spending.
10) Address the stress caused by debt: It might take a while to sort out your debt, but it is important to remember that if you do something about it now, it won’t last forever. Combat stress and low mood whilst tackling debt by eating and sleeping well, and taking regular exercise.