How to Cope With Debt and Unemployment Stress

In November of 2016, Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.0%. At this time last year, the same rate was at 6.9%. As unemployment continues to be a result of our current economic state, those who are managing the stress of tight finances or debt, need to know that it can take a toll on mental well-being but also be aware that help is available.

Unemployment can affect mental health in a number of ways including higher stress levels, lower self-esteem, increased risk of problematic substance abuse, and fear and uncertainty about the future. But it can also increase the risk of developing a mental illness or worsen existing symptoms.

According to a national survey, 42% of Canadians rank money as their biggest cause of stress. Causing them to be more likely to lose sleep, argue with romantic partners, lie to family and friends and reconsider past financial decisions.

With a highly competitive job market, and several organizations not hiring, it can be difficult to navigate and accept your situation if you are currently out of work.

Coping with Unemployment

Here are a few tips to consider to help you cope with unemployment:

  • First and foremost, keep busy. It is important to not dwell on the situation and isolate yourself from friends, family and former colleagues. Getting out of the house, meeting new people and networking could help you identify and land a new opportunity.

  • If you find it difficult to keep busy and fill your time, consider making a daily schedule. Set-aside specific times during the day where you will focus on your job hunt. Creating a daily schedule, will help you establish a sense of normalcy and improve self-esteem as you accomplish tasks you have set out to complete.

  • Consider taking a course to build on or keep your professional skills up to date. If budget is a concern, look online for free webinars or tutorials.

  • Volunteer your time or skills to a local charity or organization.

By following these simple tips, you can help maintain a positive attitude and mental well-being as you continue your job search.

Dealing with Debt Stress

On average, households in Alberta have anywhere between $124,700 and $157,700 worth of debt. Research has shown that an increased amount of debt is directly correlated with greater depressive symptoms.

Debt can accumulate for a variety of reasons. Whether you have previous student loans or have been relying on credit while unemployed, there are things you can do the mitigate the amount of stress your debt is causing you.


The first step is accepting that your debt has become an issue. You may feel as though it has grown to be overwhelming and unmanageable and this is often an indicator that it is time to accept it has become an issue.

Getting Help

Once you have acknowledged your debt and are ready to take action there are a few ways you can get help.
First and foremost, there are several organizations in Calgary that can provide support and resources to help you manage your debt and become more money mindful.

Money Mentors, the Credit Counselling Society, and Momentum Money Managementare all organizations with no fees that can help you assess your financial situation and help you come up with solutions to pay off your debt.

If you are in distress and need immediate financial support to pay for basic needs, the Red Cross, Distress Centre of Calgary and CUPS can all provide you with emergency relief funds.

Speak to a Counsellor

Once you have established a plan to address your finances, you may want to consider speaking with a counsellor to talk about the emotional impact of your debt. Debt and depression are often connected. In some cases, shopping and spending money can be used in an effort to boost your mood or happiness, in others shopping can be considered an addiction.

Stress, anxiety, and depression can all result from debt. A Calgary Counselling Centre counsellor can help you address any emotional issues your debt may have caused and help you identify other areas that may have played a role in creating debt as well.

At Calgary Counselling Centre, we understand that reaching out and asking for help can be difficult. If you are experiencing stress or depression as a result of unemployment or debt, we urge you to reach out for guidance. At The Centre, we are committed to providing counselling on a sliding scale, ensuring everyone can access counselling services.

Nick Heer