How have your stress levels been? 2018 and recent years have seen a surge in housing prices and a rise in global temperatures, and the amount of student debt Americans hold just keeps going up. Sound depressing? Maybe a little anxiety-inducing? You’re not the only one who thinks so. Depression jumped by 47 percent among millennials between 2013 and 2016, and millennials have higher rates of anxiety than any other generation.
So it only makes sense that you might want to know how to improve emotional health. But when you’re saddled with student loan debt, a mortgage and a low salary, as many millennials are, finding the cash flow to support mental health can be tough. Research points to affordability as the top reason people don’t get the mental care they need.
How to Improve Emotional Health on a Budget
Luckily, there are free or low-cost resources that can help. You just have to know where to look and be willing to try new things. Consider, for example:
- Finding in-network therapists. While finding in-network psychologists and psychiatrists may be a challenge, they’re out there. Search your insurer’s provider directory to find in-network mental health specialists near you. Doing so can mean big savings on your out-of-pocket costs.
- Using telemedicine benefits. If you can’t find an in-network mental health provider nearby, ask your insurance company if telemedicine is a part of your plan. You may be able to do counseling over the phone with in-network benefits — and all without leaving your pajamas.
- Filing out-of-network claims. Even if you choose an out-of-network provider, you can still file an out-of-network claim, which may give you the opportunity to apply at least some percentage of that care to your deductible. Check your policy for details.
- Using a health savings account. If you have access to an HSA, use it! You can still pay an out-of-network mental health provider using your HSA funds. This way, you’ll save money by using pretax dollars — up to $3,450 yearly — for your own care.
- Trying a therapy training clinic. Consider going to a therapist in training, such as a supervised graduate student at a local college or university. What these therapists lack in experience, they usually make up for in energy and passion. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), such programs may offer low-cost psychology, psychiatry and behavioral health services to the public.
- Finding a support group. Many local chapters of mental health organizations (or even providers themselves) offer free community support groups on various topics — from addiction to depression and anxiety. Start your search using the ADAA’s online tool or ask your doctor for free resources near you.
- Downloading a free mental health app. Get support on the go with a mental health app on your phone. The chatbot Woebot, for example, uses cognitive behavioral therapy to root out troubling feelings through cheery, friendly questions — and has been shown to improve anxiety and depression in just two weeks. Free apps that encourage mindfulness, hypnosis and meditation may help, too.
The Link Between Mental and Physical Health
Whether you choose to get help digitally or in person, the most important thing is to learn how to improve your emotional health without breaking the bank. Not only will you improve your mental well-being when you learn how to improve emotional health, but you can also greatly improve your physical health (and health costs) down the road, too. That’s because mental disorders are firmly linked to physical problems. Those with depression, for example, are:
- More than twice as likely to have at least one other chronic condition
- Three times as likely to have a pain-related disorder or injury
- Seven times as likely to have an alcohol or substance use disorder
Do nothing and the cost of your care could snowball, so take a look at your budget and decide how much you can invest in your mental health. Do what you can today to protect your mind, body and wallet in the future.