How to Cope with Debt

Coping with debt is a skill.

For those of us with crushing long-term debt that it will take us years to pay off, coping with debt is a skill that could save our lives. While we are working our multiple jobs and side hustles,  making more money and cutting expenses, we need to realize that dealing with debt is more than a numbers game.


1. Breathe, Stretch, & Take a Walk

I know it sounds trite, but do it. Really. The stress of debt can be deadly. It has been linked to depression, chronic hypertension, migraines, digestive problems, heart and autoimmune diseases.  Get outside and get some sun. Deep breathing clears the lungs and lowers blood pressure. Stretching and moving increases healthy blood circulation. Taking a brisk walk strengthens the heart and exercises tense muscles. We all know how exposure to sunlight is very good for mood and natural vitamin D production.

girl writing

2. Start and Maintain a Debt Diary

When behind the bars of debtor’s prison, write. Write to save your sanity and your health.

Get a good old fashioned paper diary, regular notebook, Word/Google doc, or even a blog – whatever works for you. This diary / journal / logbook is where  you can vent about all the slights, put-downs, and insultiments you endure on a regular basis. Everytime you have your intelligence insulted on your job, write about it. Everytime you endure a desperation filled and humiliating job interview, write about it. Everytime you get snubbed by family, friends, or strangers, write about it.

Just told someone off because you couldn’t take it anymore – record it here for history. Found out that your  cousin who barely graduated high school/college married a doctor and is now on holiday with him in Europe?  Grind your teeth while you look for your bus pass.  The only place you can afford to go is to work! What about your classmate whose parents helped him start a business and who now works for himself.  Grind your teeth, and buy a dental guard from the store to avoid a nasty dentist bill, while on your way to your second job.

Write about these encounters, feel them, and get them out of your mind and down on paper – every detail. Don’t keep things bottled up. It leads to illness. Write about what happened, who said what, who did what, how the incident ended, and how it made you feel. Vow that once out of debt that this will not happen again. Then think about concrete actions that you can take to prevent it from happening again.


3. Sit Back for Cinema Therapy

Cinema therapy gives us a chance to make sense of our own financial situation by seeing it reflected in the lives of others. For some, distance provides perspective. There a few different forms of cinema therapy.


4. Catch the Reading Rainbow

Whether nonfiction books, fiction novels, or blogs, read things that educate, entertain, or edutain you about personal finance, minimalism, frugality, and lifestyle design. Don’t overlook the fiction genre. One entertaining fiction book about sudden unemployment that I enjoyed recently was Bitter is the New Black. Check it out from your local library. You do patronize your FREE local library, right?


5.  Join a Personal Finance/ Debt Therapy Group

Don’t want to bother your friends and family with another diatribe or cry session? Has your debt diary started yelling back at you to stop harassing it? You may be the perfect candidate for group therapy. There are online and face-to-face groups available for the joining. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover Forums, Early Retirement Extreme Forums, local meetup groups, and countless others can give you the support you need to vent and strategize ways out of debt. Drag those scary financial skeletons out of the closet. No local face-to-face groups in your area? Start one on


6. Reduce or eliminate the junk

Didn’t think I’d let you off the hook that easily, did you? We all know the drill. Cut out, or at least cut down, the sugar, alcohol, and fried foods. Don’t self-medicate with drugs, or alcohol. We all know that it will cause more and worse problems down the line.

There you have it. These are a handful of ways to begin coping with long-term large debt, while we actively work to claw ourselves out of it as fast as we can. I’m working on these myself. It’s not easy.

What are some ways that you cope with your large debt?


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

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