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Managing Debt: Common Myths and the Real Deal

Career

Debt is a topic shrouded in mystery and negativity. The fact is, most of us have some form of debt, whether it be a mortgage, student loans, credit card debt, or a car loan, so it is in our best interest to understand how debt works, and our rights when it comes to handling debt. Here are 5 common myths about debt and the truth about them.


Myth: Debt is only for “poor” people.

Truth: This could not be further from the truth. Debt is a “necessary evil” for most people, regardless of their income. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t carry some form of debt in today’s society. Another common misconception about debt is that all debt is bad. However, debt only truly becomes “bad” when you can no longer afford to make payments or when affording basic necessities becomes difficult. And the truth is, “bad debt” happens to people at all socioeconomic levels. So whether you have good debt or bad debt, remember that it can happen to anyone and that there is no shame in it!

Myth: You can go to jail if you don’t pay your debts.

Truth: While this was once the case, the U.S. outlawed debtors’ prisons back in the 1800s. If you fail to pay back a debt, the debtor can be sued and then a civil judgment can be obtained by the creditor or the one that sued the debtor. The debtor, in this case, is summoned to a civil court. Depending on the Court and the jurisdiction (where you were sued) there may be rules that require the debtor to appear in Court. The failure to appear could force a warrant to be issued for your appearance. At that point, the police can jail the debtor until there’s a court hearing, or until they pay the bond. This is not based on the fact that the debtor owes the money, but the fact that the debtor did not comply with Court rules. This is still rare, but cases do pop up here and there. Still, bottom line is it is illegal to throw you into jail for owing a debt! Don’t trust a creditor if they threaten to throw you in jail and be careful about how you handle the legal proceedings once your debts have reached that stage. To be safe, consult an attorney to find out the exact rules and procedures surrounding your debt.

Myth: Telling a debt collector to stop calling you will make them go away.

Truth: This is only partially true. You can tell a debt collector to not call you again at work and they have to comply. You can also request that they stop contacting you altogether, but in accordance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you must make the request in writing in order for them to be obligated to comply. It is important to note that just because a debt collector stops contacting you, it does not mean the debt has gone away. You are still responsible for paying that debt!

Myth: Paying a debt in collection will remove it from your report and raise your score.

Truth: When you pay a debt that is in collection, the debt collector is supposed to update your report to reflect the fact that that debt has been paid. However, the debt collector is not obligated to remove it from your credit report. A debt that has fallen into collection will generally stay on your report for 7 years, unless specifically agreed upon by the collector to remove it once it has been paid in full. And unfortunately, paying a collection account without getting it removed will not improve your credit score. As long as it is listed on your credit report as having been in collection status, it will have a negative impact on your score. It is also important to note that you should always check your credit reports with all 3 bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) to ensure that the collector did, in fact, update your report to show that it has been paid.

It is also important to note that you should always check your credit reports with all 3 bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equinox).

Myth: Bankruptcy is the only way out of debt.

Truth: While bankruptcy is necessary in some cases, it should really only be looked at as a last resort. Often, there are other, much simpler ways of climbing out from underneath mountains of debt. It may be as simple as consulting with a financial advisor to rework your budget and come up with a debt repayment strategy, or you may decide to go one step further and consult with an attorney that specializes in debt resolution. Either way, be sure to research all your options before resorting to bankruptcy.

5 min read
Health

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.