Blue Monday is Here: 3 Ways to Keep Debt From Turning into Depression

Blue Monday

The arrival of the third Monday in January provocatively referred to as “Blue Monday,” can be a very challenging day for anyone. According to psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday is the single day of the year in which people tend to be the most miserable.

Why? It’s not just that the days are dark, cold, and dreary. The festive holiday season has merely become a twinkle in our memory, our New Year’s resolutions have likely been derailed, and, oh yeah, all those Christmas presents you put on your credit card? The bill is due about now.

Talk about a case of the Mondays…

Blue Monday may have a reputation for being the most depressing day of the year, however, that doesn’t mean people are immune from experiencing physical and mental illnesses as a result of unpaid debt the other 364 days of the year.

In fact, financial stress has been linked to physical and mental ailments including headaches, weight gain, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems, panic disorders, conflicts at work, conflicts at home, and alcohol and/or substance abuse.

To help you manage your financial blues, we wanted to share three ways to stay motivated and become debt-free!

Empower Yourself

  1. Figure out what you owe.

It may sound basic, but for many people with credit card debt, opening a credit card statement can be a terrifying experience. Given that debt is a vicious cycle, many of us with debt know we are in debt and can feel anxious when we see just how much debt we incurred – especially if we’ve been working on paying off our debt.

But knowledge is power.

Once you’ve learned exactly how much you owe, not just with your credit cards, but also any other lines of credit or personal loans, we can face reality and come up with a plan to pay off the debt.

By creating a budget and organizing your finances, you’ll know exactly how much money you have to pay your expenses, how much you can contribute to your emergency savings and/or retirement, and how much you can throw at your outstanding debt.

Devise a plan to become debt-free if you have debt. Consider contacting a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you determine which payback options are best for your financial situation. You can also contact a certified financial planner to discuss options like balance transfer cards, combining credit card debt on a line of credit, etc., to help you pay off your debt faster and spend less on interest charges.

It sounds cliché, but when you have a plan to become debt-free, and an idea of when that date will come, you’re much more likely to be successful in your efforts. But make sure you remain flexible – there will be unexpected expenses along your journey!

Stay Physically Strong

  1. Get Active

Exercise is a great way to combat the winter blues. Whether you take a high-intensity class at your local fitness facility, hike, jog, swim, ice skate, rollerblade, or walk to the local movie theater, it’s important to move your body for at least 30 minutes in order to feel the benefits of physical activity, advises personal trainer Andy Ward.

For many parts of the U.S., winter weather makes it difficult to get outside, so get creative! Invite your friends over and put on a playlist of your favorite songs from the 80s or 90s to dance to all night long. Or make it a theme party and have everyone come in their beach apparel while you learn how to hula from a YouTube video.
Other active activities include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Sweep / Mop / Vacuum
  • Yard Work / Garden
  • Jumping rope

Practice Gratitude

  1. Count your blessings, change your priorities

As the comedian and actor Jim Carrey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Life is about balance. If you find yourself increasingly having thoughts like “I’ll be happy when I’m a millionaire,” “I’ll be happy when I can buy whatever I want, when I want,” etc., you may be setting yourself up for a more miserable experience.

“It is a dangerous trap to always be looking to the future for happiness,” says Nancy Jane Smith, a licensed professional counselor. “I admit sometimes we have to LOOK to find the joys in our lives and sometimes they are pretty small,” she says, but “the positives are there.”

“Even if it is noticing the change of seasons, enjoying a good cup of coffee, laughing with a friend, or smiling at your children. Small joys are everywhere and they pull us out of the ‘I’ll be happy when syndrome’,” Smith said. “We won’t necessarily be happier WHEN something happens,” so “don’t miss out on the joys and happiness you have right now in your search for the ‘when.’”

Personal finance writer Kristin Wong agrees.

“Jealousy is destructive in general, and when it comes to your finances, jealousy often leads to bad decisions,” writes Wong. “The whole concept of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is based on jealousy. For example, like most people, when I feel jealous, I feel inadequate. In the past, when I felt inadequate, I would often compensate with buying clothes or other distractions. Subconsciously, I figured I looked good enough, I’d feel worthwhile. Not only is this emotionally destructive, it destroyed my finances, too.”

So there you have it – three ways to stay mentally and physically strong so we can continue to work toward the ever-so-sweet goal of living debt-free.

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