How to survive life when you can’t afford therapy

Repeat after me: My feelings are valid and I’m allowed to work through them as I see fit.

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By now, I think we all know that it’s ok not to be ok. That phrase seems to be everywhere we turn.

However, what we don’t know is how to find the help we need once we realize we’re not ok. More importantly, how do you get help when you just don’t have the money and can’t afford therapy?

Sure, we can tell people to “get help” all we want but that phrase is completely empty once you realize how inaccessible “help” really is. There’s an issue of time, location, finding help that meshes with you, money, etc. And of course there are people who truly don’t want help so in general it’s a phrase I tend to avoid.That being said, I do find value in getting help via therapy. And when 53 percent of high student debt borrowers have experienced depression, it’s clear that some truly are in dire need of therapy.

Just like it’s important to go to a doctor every now and then to check on your physical health, I believe everyone should take a trip to the therapist to check on their mental health. After all, a lot of the circumstances and physical ailments we deal with can sometimes be a result of our mental health. So because it’s not always easy to get help, I’m providing some tips for surviving this thing called life. Whether you can’t afford therapy, have no way to get there, can’t find culturally competent care or just can’t bring yourself to get over the stigma I’m hoping these tips will help bring you some solace until you can get the help you really need.

Exactly what to do if you can’t afford therapy

1. Try meditation

I know meditation seems to be super trendy now, but it’s for good reason. Meditation is the practice of recognizing your thoughts and being in the moment. I’m by no means a meditation guru, but I’ve found that taking just a few moments to count my breath does wonders for me mentally. I also really enjoy the app headspace for guided meditation.

2. Keep a journal of your thoughts

Therapy is a way to offload your thoughts and feelings. If you can’t go to therapy to dump your thoughts, try dumping them in a journal. There may not be a resolution in sight but writing your feelings in a journal could be the perfect way to lift the weight off your shoulders when you can’t afford therapy. Plus, it might be nice to look back, later on, to see how much progress you’ve made. Make it easy to turn it into a habit by choosing a really attractive notebook and using a special pen.

3. Write thank you notes consistently

You ever feel like you don’t thank the people in your life enough? For a while, I felt that way. So I started the habit of mailing thank you notes and notes of encouragement to loved ones and strangers daily. What started as a nice gesture for others turned into a therapeutic ritual for myself. After I ran through the obvious people in my life, like my brother and parents, I started sending notes to those in my life that I had unfinished business with internally. And even though I was still dealing with some painful feelings with them, I still thanked them for whatever they’ve done for me or what they bring to my life. While it was meant to be a kind gesture for them, it ultimately turned into a way for me to make peace with some of the issues I had with them. I was able to forgive them for the things they never apologized for. I learned apologies aren’t for the other person; they’re for the recipient.

Writing thank you notes to people in your life who have hurt you just might be the best way to accept the apology you never received. It’s something worth trying if you can’t afford therapy.

4. Redesign your personal space

You are a product of your environment, so it only makes sense that your home should be as beautiful as possible to help you produce beautiful thoughts. Channel the peace and serenity you often find in hotel rooms and try your best to replicate that in your own space. Change your sheets to the softest and most inviting sheets you can find. Get a new quilt or comforter and even consider repainting your room. Finally, look to aromatherapy and invest in some essential oils and a diffuser. No, redesigning your space won’t fix all your internal issues, but it might certainly help you feel more at peace when you can’t afford therapy.

5. Find someone to talk to

Many people tend to want therapy because they feel alone and as though they have no one to talk to. However, I’ve found that whenever I feel like the world has turned its back on me, I most likely turned my back on the world. Sometimes it takes looking in the places you least expect to find someone willing to listen. And that person might help you feel just a little more whole.

6. Embrace the arts

Whether it’s adult coloring books, dancing or photography, channeling the arts is a great way to deal with challenging emotions if you can’t afford therapy. Using the arts is your personal expression of how you feel to the world. And sometimes dealing with tough situations just requires you find a form of expression that works well for you.

7. Read advice columns

Sometimes all you need is some good advice. If you can’t get it via therapy, look to advice columns. Websites like Slate and XONecole have well received advice columns covering a range of topics.

If advice columns aren’t your cup of tea, try looking to bloggers. They’re usually not experts, but it can help to find bloggers who have experienced something similar to what you are going through and share openly. Though I’m not a widow, I’m a big fan of how expressive and honest Kita of It’s Really Kita is about her grief and survival as a single mother after she tragically lost her husband.

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8. Go to places of worship

Admittedly, I’m not exactly a religious person and have some feelings to sort out as they relate to religion so this wouldn’t be my first choice. However, I do know that places of worship definitely help bring some solace to people in need of help. Not only can it help give you some clarity, but attending regularly can help you feel like you are part of a community. And of course, it can help to know that no matter what there’s a higher power with your best interest in mind.

9. Attend a support group

You may be feeling bad, but chances are you’re not alone. Whether it’s related to grief, life as a single parent, alcoholism, marital issues or debt, chances are there’s a support group of people experiencing something similar.

10. Exercise

As a fitness instructor I always tell people that we should workout because we love our body; not because we hate it. Another reason to exercise is because we love our mind. Never underestimate the power of endorphins. They can definitely be a big help when you can’t afford therapy. Admittedly, there may days that I don’t feel like teaching a class, but I always feel good once class is over.

11. Use essential oils

As I write this, I’m currently breathing in bliss and exhaling stress and worry thanks to my lavender essential oils. I know everyone isn’t a believer, but aromatherapy is the truth. Lavender always works wonders in making me feel calm and relaxed while citrus cents is essential in helping me feel energized.

12. Develop a sound morning routine

The way you start your morning can truly affect how you feel throughout the day. That’s why I do my best to start each morning with a few minutes of reading, a good breakfast and some lipstick. Sure, whatever is bothering me may still be there but my morning rituals definitely make surviving the day much easier.

13. Read self-help books

Reading self-help books aren’t for everyone. I know to some they can be a bit corny and even come off as condescending. However, I have found some that have helped me with some emotions. One of my favorites is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero.

14. Get a massage

It may not be the release you are looking for or need, but that temporary relief from a massage can do wonders. Sure, you may have some problems but even a massage can help you feel like everything is ok even if you can’t afford therapy. Now, if you can’t afford a massage either, there great massagers you can buy for your own use at home. I absolutely love this one from Homedics.

15. Join Facebook groups

I know Facebook isn’t usually the first place you’d think to turn to dump your innermost thoughts and feelings, but over the years I have found it to be helpful. Facebook is home to several support groups for various school, marital, medical situations and more. Many of which are closed and secret groups, meaning no one outside of the group can see what you share or that no one will even know you are a member of the group. It can be very reassuring to read the stories of others who may be experiencing the same things as you.

16. Visit colleges and recent graduates

When I first started attended therapy I was a broke college student who was a tad ashamed of even needing to get therapy so I never asked anyone for help. After doing a little digging I was able to locate a university program that offered therapy for a discounted rate with those who were near completion of their degrees and needed experience working with patients. While it won’t work for every issue, it’s definitely a great alternative if you can’t afford therapy but truly need it.

17. Find therapists on Open Path Collective

Open Path Collective (www.openpathcollective.org) is a non-profit organization that offers low cost therapy for $30-60$ per session to low income and underinsured people. It’s far less than the typical $100-$200 most have to pay with insurance and definitely worth looking into if you’re unable to spend $100-$200 per session thanks to a a high insurance deductible.

Do you go to therapy? What do you do when going through a tough time or need to take care of your mental health?

TERRIfic Words – An essential part of growth is knowing when to ask for help.

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