Recovery from debt. A story and some tools.
I was interviewed recently for the Supermum podcast about our money story. Our lives have had a reverse Cinderella effect in the last couple of years and I share candidly about it in this podcast.
1 year into a business buyout deal our business suffered our downturn and the agreement collapsed. So did our income. We had many months of more outgoings than incomings and as a result began to spiral into debt. Our financial life is a lot more stable in 2018 but the experience has also left us in personal debt.
As a follow up to the Supermum interview I wanted to write about money, debt and how we can help ourselves. As a mind-health coach, I focus on how our thinking is limiting us and ways we can change our minds to change our lives. As someone who is recovering from personal financial crash I know the pain and fear of mounting bills and bad credit scores. My aim with this article is to inform and inspire others who are caught in cycles of debt.
I’m grateful for the facilities of borrowing we have available to us. Used properly, credit can be a huge resource. Few businesses are able to operate without lending facilities. However, personal debt is also an isolating and scary reality of our age. It also often caries a stigma.
I have pulled together my best coaching advice for managing personal debt and coming out the other side intact.
But first, a word about time.
Most likely you didn’t get into debt overnight. Usually, it takes time to accrue significant amounts of debt. So, by the same measure, the road out of debt is one step at a time. It can be tempting to imagine a fairy godmother waving her wand and sorting your debt problem out. If you are buying lottery tickets in the hope that this will solve your problem, stop right now! The fantastical solution is just keeping you from owning the actual solution to your debt. Those lottery tickets are holding you back, not helping you. There is a path out of debt for you, but you will need to commit to walking that path. It will need a whole-person engagement; emotions, mind, will and body.
Deciding on a timescale for debt elimination and plotting a realistic budget for that timescale is essential. Find out the exact state of your financial affairs. If necessary, invest in some help from a financial advisor.
Nick and I have committed to getting out of debt in one year. We have switched to an electric car to save money on petrol and we have cut down on holiday budgets, but there are other luxuries that we have decided to keep. We worked out there are some spends that make a big difference to our emotional well being. We are allowing ourselves certain budget lines so that we don’t kill ourselves with restrictions that are just too intense to maintain.
If you’re caught up in debt and need some help, there are some great organisations that help families in debt; Have a look at the list that is compiled here.
But debt is not just a practical matter. It’s also deeply emotional, spiritual and relational, and the stress that debt produces often affects us physically. Ignoring these factors can undermine all your practical plans to eliminate it. Let me explain.
Imagine that you have a carefully crafted budget to eliminate debt. But you also believe that ‘I’m just not good with money’ or ‘I’m bound to be in debt for the rest of my life’. How long will your budget be successful for? Probably only the short-term. As soon as a challenge comes along, your self-beliefs will dictate your actions. There will usually be some self-sabotage; blowing the budget, taking out more loans or any other act of rebellion towards the plan. Deeply held beliefs will always trump budget plans in their ability to dictate how life goes.
So how do we address the emotional, physical and underlying psychological effects of debt?
Discovering and voicing your true feelings about money and debt will be vital if you are to make and stick to a plan.
Emotions have a way of burying themselves just below our consciousness so that we are unaware they are there. Taking some space and time to focus on your feelings can give them a chance to surface. You may be surprised by what comes up.
Journaling, walking or talking to a trusted friend are all really helpful ways to tune into your emotions.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Describe how debt has felt to you. Use specific descriptive words – i.e. instead of ‘sad’, consider ‘controlled’, ‘depleted’, ‘remorseful’, ‘vengeful’ etc.
Where do you feel that emotion in your body?
Do you carry any regrets? Is there anything that you are not admitting to yourself?
What has been the impact of being in debt on you personally? What hurts most about this?
Has debt changed you? Has debt changed your relationships?
Debt is a source of stress for many people. Any stress we experience in our mind, we also experience in our bodies. Science is coming to see the mind and body as being more connected than previously thought. It’s not just the common disorders like high blood pressure or IBS that are linked to stress. Stress can weaken your immune system and make you susceptible to more common illnesses.
Are you frequently at the doctors for minor illnesses? Do you lack energy and feel tired regularly? It could be that your body is under stress.
Consider upping the nutrition in your diet. Find a sustainable exercise routine – five minutes on the trampoline with the kids might make all the difference. For more ideas, check out this article on healthy living.
Of all the parts of self, our psychology can be the hardest one to get a handle on. Our thoughts are the product of our psychology, so using thoughts to examine our beliefs and identities can be problematic.
However, digging out unhelpful beliefs or self-limiting ideas can make the biggest difference in our behaviour and ultimately our success in getting debt free.
I have made an audio recording of 2 tools that examine our psychology towards money.
Money visualisation tool. Download this free audio and use the tool to develop your relationship with money.
Money Affirmations tool. Grab these free affirmations to practice in your own time.
While it can be a daunting idea to examine your psychology towards money the process can have surprising results.
When I looked into my own money psychology I found that in the previous 2 generations of my family there has been remarkably similar stories of being the victim of fraud. Both my father and grandfather had been lied to in business deals involving the purchase of shops. They had both lost out financially and been locked into business ownership in businesses that were failing. As I explored my thoughts and feelings using the tools I realised that I had subconsciously absorbed fear. I tended towards passivity with money and frequently left everything to my husband (this was one of the contributing factors in our debt story).
Without personal debt problems, I am sure I would never have found all that out about my family history. The opportunity that pain provided has benefitted us both as we are able to build for a financial future on a much better psychological footing.
Ignoring the emotional impact of debt can be detrimental to mental health. Ignoring the practical implications of debt can be similarly injurious. Ultimately, getting out of debt requires both practical action and a whole-self engagement in understanding the other factors at play. When you combine the two nothing will hold you back.
If this article has been helpful to you then please comment below. I’m rooting for you to kick debt forever. Hopefully, we will be celebrating a debt-free story together.