Rising student loan debt has become an impediment to an entire generation’s dreams of success through a college education. If you’re mired in debt yourself, it may feel impossible to make any serious headway on the total amount owed without giving up other important expenses and even the smallest personal luxuries.
Like many Millennials and young people still stuck paying for the promise of “adulthood” and a better life down the road, the burden of student loan debt remains a source of deep concern and stress. If student loans are dragging you down both physically and mentally, it’s time to reevaluate your approach and take decisive actions that will lead to positive, lasting results.
Student Loans in the 2016 Election
With Millennials having finally overtaken the “Boomers” as America’s largest living generation according to The Pew Research Center, the student loan crisis sits front and center on both the Republican and Democratic parties’ platforms going into the November Presidential election.
Taking a leaf from Bernie Sander’s book, Hillary Clinton has now promised to eliminate 4-year college or university tuition for families earning less than $85,000, among other student loan debt relief tactics. While Donald Trump has stated that he’ll release his position on the student loan crisis by the beginning of September, the official 2016 GOP platform is calling for the Federal Government to stop originating student loans.
Discussing the Debt Crisis
It’s common knowledge today that young Americans are saddled with more debt than previous generations; between an anemic job market, higher housing costs, and rising tuition, it’s difficult to find secure economic footing and grow one’s wealth. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances, college students now face a whopping average of $30,156 in debt upon graduation, and a full 18 percent of graduates report being behind on one or more of their loans.
Why Debt Weighs Heavy
A recent study published in the Social Science & Medicine journal revealed that being in debt harms more than just the financial health of young Americans. Owing large sums also tends to negatively impact one’s physical and mental wellbeing, leading to a range of damaging physiological and psychological symptoms. While the study focused exclusively on families with young children, it seems fair to extend their findings to conclude that debt is stressful for all. Additional research also indicates a correlation between high debt and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. According to several other major research projects, debt-related depression and anxiety can lead to serious medical problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of strokes and heart attacks
- Sleeping abnormalities
- Panic disorders
- Weight gain, headaches, and digestive problems
- Alcohol or substance abuse
Finding Balance and Making Changes
It hard not to feel overwhelmed when you’re making consistent debt payments every month and seeing little change in your debt load. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By acknowledging your debt, eliminating negative thoughts about money, and forgiving yourself, you can make positive changes that will help you manage – and reduce — your debt load with less stress. The following are some ways to resist the negative attitudes of others, eliminate poor spending habits, and create a bubble of positivity and support around yourself.
- Become aware of negative thoughts
- Make an effort to think and speak positively about your future
- Reiterate your goals first thing every day
- Surround yourself with inspiring affirmations
- Spend time with positive people
- Break goals into achievable milestones
Creative Student Debt Management
Repaying your student loans and personal debt is a long term process that requires determination and a certain amount of ingenuity. With a creative debt elimination plan you will be able to tackle and reduce your debt more quickly — without resorting to eating ramen noodles or mac-n-cheese at every meal. The following are a few “outside the box” strategies you can employ to conquer your student loans once and for all:
Choose public service. If you enjoy helping others, the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) can help you reduce your Federal Student Loan debt. Additionally, law enforcement, non-profit, military, public school administration, public health, and some government positions may lead to qualification for debt forgiveness.
Ask your employer to foot the bill. Many companies acknowledge the negative impact of their employees’ student debt and may offer benefits packages that include student loan reimbursement.
Don’t forget your deductions. A portion of your student loan payment goes toward interest. Deduct up to $4,000 in interest from your taxes for your qualifying student loans, and up to $2,500 in deductions in qualified higher education expenses through the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Avoid incurring more debt. When you are saddled with debt, it’s not wise to add to it with significant financial obligations such as buying a home, purchasing a vehicle, or getting married.
Use auto-debit payments. By enrolling in an automatic payment program you’ll avoid incurring fees by missing payments, and may be able to reduce your interest rate. For example, Sally Mae offers a .25 percent reduction in loan interest to qualifying applicants.
Negotiate with creditors. If your phone is ringing off the hook with calls from creditors and debt collectors, sitting down for a chat is probably the last thing you want to do. And while buying your own debt is, unfortunately, not possible, you can have a meaningful discussion with your creditor and ask questions that will (hopefully) lead to a payment arrangement, or a settlement agreement, that works better for you given your current financial situation. If possible, try to work out an agreement with creditors before a bill is sent to collection agencies.
By acknowledging your current debt, eliminating negative thoughts about money, and forgiving yourself, you can make positive strides that will help you manage – and reduce — your debt load with less stress. Facing your student loan debt obligation head-on with a positive attitude and a creative approach will can leave you happier, healthier, and debt-free sooner.
The tools are out there, we simply have to take action as we see changes in our overall society happen and hopefully one day see the removal of a debt based system.
Red Team vs. Blue Team | Toxic Tribalism We Must Transcend
- The Facts:
Public discourse is dominated by a dual-based system of categorization and rigid identity. The end-goal of interaction is not to broaden perspective and work together – but to argue and “win” a debate. It is time to transcend this paradigm.
- Reflect On:
How can we institute a more open-minded framework whereby public discourse can be influenced by a multi-directional approach to sharing information and viewpoints? The need for a new narrative is upon us – we are all a part of it.
We’ve all experienced it. You log on to Facebook and scroll through your timeline – and there it is: a fiery argument where insults are flying freely on a subject that charges you. Though you may aim to steer clear of the sludge and toxicity of social media comment sections – perhaps you decided to lunge into a particular topic that you care deeply about.
Almost inevitably – an argument takes place where emotions reach a crescendo and the “debate” devolves into sophomoric insults where both sides are trying to tear each other’s character down instead of engaging in discourse on the merits of respective viewpoints.
Often, we find ourselves scrambling to score points by reflexively reacting to current events based on agenda and cultural identifiers, (nationality, orientation, race, creed, religion etc..) arguing over semantics, using trigger terms, stereotypes, and gross generalizations to stir the pot of frantic frenzy. There is a primordial root to this way of interacting with each other. From the very beginning of our history on this planet, we were thrust into a world where “the others” were viewed as an imminent danger that must be defeated, lest we be invaded and taken over. In modern times, this tribal notion of “the others” often manifests as an idea, viewpoint, or perspective outside of our own, and it is often perceived as a threat that must be beaten down.
This has come to typify our state of discourse – whether it’s in corporate media, in Congress, on social media, or elsewhere – it has become abundantly clear that we are feeding into endless argumentation that features polarized “sides” of an argument – and there are often only two viewpoints presented as acceptable to latch onto. We anger quickly, posit ourselves in a reflexive defensive posture, and prepare to debate with one another in a way that perpetuates conflict instead of fostering education and cooperation.
The quest to be “right” or to “win” the argument takes precedence over actually listening with an open mind to an alternative viewpoint, robbing us of the opportunity to learn something new, expand our perspective, and integrate new data into our thought process to assist in evolving our consciousness. Scientists call this motivative reasoning: a phenomenon where our unconscious motivations (beliefs/desires/fears) shape the way we interpret information. Some ideas resonate with what we identify with – and we want them to win. Other ideas sound like the “other” side – and we want to denigrate, defeat and banish those ideas out of the discourse. When we apply this to our world we see how the polarizing power of partisanship and deeply held belief-systems influences our perceptions of the world around us.
“Motivated reasoning theory suggests that reasoning processes (information selection and evaluation, memory encoding, attitude formation, judgment, and decision-making) are influenced by motivations or goals. Motivations are desired end-states that individuals want to achieve. The number of these goals that have been theorized is numerous, but political scientists have focused principally on two broad categories of motivations: accuracy motivations (the desire to be “right” or “correct”) and directional or defensive motivations (the desire to protect or bolster a predetermined attitude or identity).” ~Thomas J. Leeper
Even when we think we’re being objective/fair-minded – we still can wind up unconsciously arguing for something with mechanical repetition – even when the empirical evidence shows that there is no sound basis for our argument. We’ve become more adept at crafting and presenting an argument than conducting an actual investigation and critical thinking into the truth of the matter at hand.
But shouldn’t our motivation to find truth be more prominent than our motivation to be “right” or to cherry-pick arguments and articles that reinforce our own views? How can we cut through our prejudices/biases and motivation – and look at data and information as objectively as possible?
Making A Change
Perhaps it begins with shedding overly rigid identities and boxes that have been created for us in order to herd us into predictable boxes. How often do you find yourself parroting a viewpoint or argument that you feel is aligned with your primary identity? Perhaps you identify primarily as a Democrat. If so – should your entire viewpoint be defined by this identifier to where you only agree with policies and/or ideas presented by those on your team (Team Democrat)? If you identify as a woman – is that all you are? If you consider yourself a Christian – must your perspective only be aligned with a narrow prescription of popularized Christian “values”? If you consider yourself part of the “conscious community” – must everything be understood and reasoned through that filter?
This isn’t to say that identity isn’t important. Expressing a sense of who we are is paramount – but that expression is unnecessarily limited when we aren’t open-minded and don’t allow for a full-spectrum experience. Identity politics is always an ever-evolving realm, and many of us attach more value to certain identifiers than others, be it race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.. It’s respectful to be supportive of an individual’s universal right to self-identify (or even their right not to identify at all), but it is also helpful to exercise a level of suspicion about the ability of rigid identifiers and social constructs (like race and gender) to accurately portray the multi-dimensional beings that we are.
“There’s a dangerous corrosive side to identity politics, ie: making one’s gender/skin color/religion/sect/sexuality one’s *defining* trait. Between groups this can divide people rather than unite them, promoting rather than reducing group stereotypes, and therefore increasing discrimination.
Within groups this can lend itself to reinforcing a hegemony for those individual members who refuse to conform to what being a member of that group is *meant* to mean, as defined by that community’s internal power structures. This is like the old trope “You can’t be a true Muslim/black man, and be gay”. ~Maajid Nawaz
Breaking down these constructs and constrictive identifiers will usher in a new framework for discourse. Currently, major media and news outlets rarely put forth effort in facilitating an open-range discourse, and are capitalizing (and in many instances feeding) the toxic tribalism where only two-view points are presented without any real effort to find intersectionality or genuine exchange. We see the phenomena of “both sides of the same coin” playing itself out again and again as it pertains to a polarized duality of public opinion. Thus, the vast percentage of the populace are unconsciously bombarded with polarized view-points that unseat their own ability to find the neutral and to explore new thought-forms outside of the limits of dual categorization.
“An unknown ‘something’ has taken possession of a smaller or greater portion of the psyche and asserts its hateful and harmful existence undeterred by all our insight, reason, and energy, thereby proclaiming the power of the unconscious over the conscious mind, the sovereign power of possession.” ~Carl Jung
It would be prudent for all of us to examine whether our own psyches and intellects have been unseated by an unknown, unconscious force. We are now tasked to get back in the driver’s seat of our own consciousness, turn off cruise-control, and navigate our own vehicles. Just as the fleshly body must be cleansed of parasites and toxins such that they don’t become hosts for worms that weaken the body’s vitality, the mind must go through its own filtration process to clear out intrusions and predictive programming that wane our original core vibrational thought patterns. Otherwise, we are often just passive receivers of whatever the TV is downloading into our minds.
The Need for Innovative Narrative
So who are the new story-tellers who can create a more progressive narrative of universality? A narrative where we seek to understand each other by coalescing in multi-sensory empathy and cosmic commonality? A narrative which rejects that humanity is a simple, basic species that can easily be divided into boxes of artificially devised social constructs. A narrative which recognizes that we are coming out of an age of spiritual amnesia – and many of our societal problems are related to our universal yearning for meaning, truth, and a desire to be connected, balanced, and whole in our relationship with each other and our selves. The need for a new narrative is upon us – and we each bring a unique gift that is required to comprise the tapestry of our immediate position in this time/space.
Was Meditation What Kept The Thai Boys Calm While Trapped In The Cave?
- The Facts:
Mindfulness and Buddhist meditation has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. The boys trapped in the cave were taught this technique and many feel it may have assisted them in staying calm.
- Reflect On:
If this practice could help these boys who were literally trapped in a cage, could it be of benefit to those of us who are feeling trapped, emotionally or spiritually?
Recently, 12 Thai boys had been discovered after being trapped in a cave during a heavy monsoon. They all made it out alive and are in good health. One may wonder, how on earth were these boys able to remain calm while in the cave with no knowledge as to whether or not they would be found?
They were reportedly taught a method of Buddhist or mindfulness meditation to assist them with their intensely physical and emotional challenge.
“Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing,” the mother of one of the boys told the AP, referring to a viral video of the moment the boys were found.
How Did This Come About?
The boys’ coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, had led the boys on a hike into the cave that they had been to before, but sadly due to heavy rains, the cave flooded on June 23, trapping the boys inside. Thankfully, Ekapol had been trained in the practice of meditation while he was a Buddhist monk for a decade before becoming a soccer coach. As it turns out this skill was a very good one to have considering the circumstances of their predicament. Multiple news sources reported that he taught the boys, aged 11 to 16 how to meditate in the cave to keep them calm and to preserve their energy through their nearly two-week dilemma.
“He could meditate up to an hour,” Ekapol’s aunt, Tham Chanthawong, told the AP. “It has definitely helped him and probably helps the boys to stay calm.”
Ekapol, 25 went to live in a monastery at the age of 12 after becoming an orphan. The Straights Times reported that he trained to be a monk for 10 years at a monastery in Mae Sai, Thailand, but eventually left to take care of his sick grandmother. After that, he was hired to become the assistant coach of the soccer team, the Wild Boars.
Keep in mind, these boys had no food and very little water while in the cave.
Did The Meditation Save Them?
There is really no way to know the answer to that question with absolute certainty, however, it must have helped tremendously. Meditation can assist to calm the mind, lower stress and help to connect to the power within. This particular style of Buddhist meditation has been around for thousands of years after the Buddha began teaching it as a tool for achieving a level of clarity, peace of mind and a liberation from suffering. No doubt the boys would have felt some despair while in the cave, but it seems as though the meditation was able to help negate some of those emotions.
Though there are few randomized control trials on meditation and mental health, a 2014 meta-analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that meditation, and in particular mindfulness, can have a role in treating depression, anxiety, and pain in adults — as much as medications but with no side effects. Meditation can also, to a lesser degree, reduce the toll of psychological distress, the review found. The research on kids is still fairly preliminary, though more and more schools are implementing mindfulness meditation programs.
How Can This Assist You?
Do you ever feel as though you’re trapped? There are heavy and pressing issues, but you just can’t seem to find a solution, the clarity that’s needed or a way to lessen the burden on your shoulders? If these Thai boys were able to stay calm while being physically trapped through the power of mindfulness meditation, then certainly there may be something here for you, too.
Meditation, in general, may be able to assist you to help you find the clarity and peace that you’ve been longing for, and the best part is — it can be done anywhere, anytime and for free. We have everything we need inside of us, we just have to take the time, to sit down, breathe and listen. To learn the practice of Buddhist or mindfulness meditation specifically, check out, An Introduction To Mindfulness Meditation, or dozens of other articles about the wide array of techniques, guides, and benefits of incorporating meditation into your life.
Related CE Article
When Life Feels Like Too Much
- The Facts:
Sometimes in life, we can become overwhelmed with all that is taking place. Couple this with an increased shift in consciousness taking place, and it can sometimes feel a little 'crazy to get through each day.
- Reflect On:
Are you taking time to reflect and understand yourself? How about others? There is no doubt that we are experiencing a great deal of change, the question is are we meeting that change with open arms? Or resisting?
One of the best things about what we do here, I feel at least, is our ability to share personal experiences that others can draw from and share in the feeling of being in this all together. Let’s be honest, if we didn’t have others to share thoughts, feelings and emotions with, we would probably all go nuts in this shift!
I can say this for my fellow team members as well I am sure, we are all going through our own massive shifts and individually are all having a bumpy ride at times. Sometimes, it just gets a little overwhelming and becomes difficult to handle.
When we think of how much of a large-scale shift/change we are experiencing, we begin to realize how much is and will change, physically and mentally, in such a short period of time within our world. It almost seems like everything speeding up, and it’s tough to handle everything at once.
Energy that our bodies have not experienced much of are coming in all the time from the cosmos, and as we make changes within our own personal consciousness.
Mentally we are going from being very stuck and ingrained in our ways and beliefs, to realizing and remembering the truth of our entire existence and it’s purpose. Who we truly are. This truth may not be clear immediately when we are in the thick of challenges, but life is presenting change many ways for us all individually and collectively.
As we experience times of mental confusion or un-ease, we the chance, with awareness and willingness, to break out of some of the ‘stuck states’ many of us find ourselves in. To do this, we must take the time to reflect on what is taking place and our life, and slow things down.
When the times are uncomfortable and it just seems like it is too much to handle; seeing the world the way it is, watching as we are so disconnected from everything, realizing the differences we have created between one another, feeling like this is just not happening fast enough, and feeling like we cannot help, remember that you are changing – WE are changing.
It is happening very quickly and in many ways all of which may bring up frustration in each and every one of us. Remember to steer clear of creating drama surrounding things that may present, this drama comes from the mind and ego and is not the true self. We can use what the mind and ego has brought up to see what might need to be cleared out within ourselves.
Avoid covering up everything with affirmations and false smiles, this only band-aids the challenges and hides what actually needs to be looked at. Unfortunately, much of the “new age movement” has created some powerful beliefs around band-aiding or spiritual bypassing problems with what we think is “positivity.” Face your problems and your fears, don’t cover them up and pretend its just astral energies. own it, this is how we move forward. This also does not mean we should be reckless and lash out, venting our frustration, it simply means we must take time to be aware, be alone if need be and go easy on ourselves.
Not one of us is alone in this shift, and not one of us will see it pass by without having change take place in our experiences. Feel the knowing that we are collectively in this together, and take note of that when we see what may be presenting in others before we judge them.
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