Winter in Vermont can be difficult even for the toughest of Vermonters. It’s dark, cold, and often isolating, which is probably why seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression) hits between nine and ten percent of Vermonters each year. Depression doesn’t just make you feel crummy. It can affect your financial health. And those effects can stretch well into the future.
When you’re feeling depressed, you might not feel like taking on the world every day. In fact, getting out of bed may feel like a challenge. So how do you drum up the energy to pay your bills or plan for your future financial health? Though I don’t have the credentials to help you fight depression, I can suggest some techniques that can help you keep your finances stable while you work with a professional to regain your mental health.
When your life starts to feel out of your control, you may compensate by developing harmful habits. Because depression can cause a decline in self-control, it’s easy to want to turn to things that will make you feel better at that moment, like buying pre-made food instead of groceries or spending money on clothing you don’t need. This is known as retail therapy and can spiral into long-term financial problems. You can go from being able to make partial bill payments to missing them altogether.
Missing payments or putting off bills for more than a month can have an insurmountable negative effect on your finances. You will quickly find yourself paying more due to late changes. If you are more than a month late on a bill, it could go into collections. Falling behind on payments adds even more stress, which can just deepen your sense of hopelessness.
To curb overspending, you can begin reigning in your expenses by categorizing your purchases. This will help you see where you are spending your money. You can do this by holding onto your receipts and reviewing your credit card receipts. As you do this, you can begin to see when you’re spending money on something you want versus something you need.
To build better habits moving forward, you can create and follow a budget that keeps you from spending more than you can afford. Budget what you need for food, shelter, transportation, and other needs. You can also set up direct deposits to help curb your spending. Use direct deposit to funnel money you don’t want to spend into a savings account. This is a way of paying yourself first. The rest of the money you can use on necessities and maybe a few things that you want.
You can get help with debt management and consolidation from your financial institution. A representative there will be able to help you come up with practices that will work for you.
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MANAGING FINANCES WITH DEPRESSION
Depression has many symptoms but not everyone experiences them all. Think about how your symptoms affect your financial health and consider these options for reducing their effects on your finances:
Low Energy: Automate your bills. In most cases, you don’t have to call or be present anywhere to set up an automatic transfer. If you have to go into the bank to set up an automatic payment, inquire about their bill pay services. Financial institutions implemented online bill pay to make it easier for their customers. This will help with making timely payments.
Insomnia: Set a bedtime alarm. Setting an alarm for 15 minutes before bedtime can give you time to wind down from your day and prepare for bed. Going to bed early enough to get the sleep you need, will give you the energy you need to focus on tasks during the day. Tasks that include but are not limited to your financial wellbeing. Taking care of obligations during the day will ease some stress and make it a bit easier to sleep at night.
Trouble Focusing: Make a schedule and stick to it. A detailed schedule can help you to manage and finish daily tasks. This will also help you to keep up with your deadlines, including bill payments. A schedule can bring some structure to your day if you’re struggling to focus. Just remember to breathe.
Interest Change: If you find yourself losing interest in the things you enjoy or things you need to keep up with, take a break. If you once enjoyed reading and are no longer interested, try something new. The change is temporary, and you can go back to what you enjoy at any time. Taking breaks can help improve your mental state.
Although separate, the above-mentioned symptoms are in fact all connected. Insomnia leads up to not having enough energy to perform even the simplest of tasks. Low energy leads to you not being able to focus on current tasks. If you can’t focus and have no energy and nothing seems interesting anymore.
By taking steps (those mentioned above or others that you find helpful), you can begin laying a solid foundation for your overall and financial health.
YOU’VE GOT THIS
Struggling with depression can take up all your time and energy. While there can be a direct link between depression and your finances, you can take control in small ways, to begin with, and in larger ways over time. Give yourself room to focus on your mental wellbeing, use the resources available, and call on your friends to support you and keep you on track.
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