This week, Maggie sits down with Melanie Lockert, host of the Mental Health and Wealth Show, to discuss suicide, mental health, self-worth, and money.
Content warning: we discuss suicide and depression in this episode. This episode is part of the 5th Annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour presented by MentalHealthandWealth.com. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. In honor of that, host of the Mental Health and Wealth Show, Melanie Lockert, is on the show to talk about how you can care for your mental health and self-worth even during the times that we are in now.
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If you are in distress, please get in touch with a crisis professional by texting HOME to 741741.
Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Melanie Lockert is the author of the book Dear Debt, podcast host of The Mental Health and Wealth Show, and is a full-time freelance writer. Her work covers personal finance, small business, mental health, and relationships and has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more. Melanie has an M.A. from New York University, is passionate about music, boxing, and mental health, and lives in Los Angeles with her two cats, Miles and Thelonious.
To join the Money Circle Community, visit https://www.maggiegermano.com/moneycircle/.
To learn more about Maggie and her coaching and speaking services, visit www.maggiegermano.com.
Maggie Germano 0:07
Thanks for listening to the money circle Podcast. I am your host, Maggie Germano and I’m a financial coach for women. I’m passionate about helping women improve their relationship with money so that they can take better control of their futures. Part of that journey is making personal finance education more accessible and less judgmental, which is why this podcast exists. Each week we’ll discuss a new financial topic to help you explore how you can make a difference in your own financial life or in society as a whole. If you’re interested in diving deeper into issues like income inequality, debt or money, shame, check out my new money circle community. In this safe feminist space women gathered to talk about money without fear of being judged or shamed. We will break down shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggie germano.com Money circle to learn more and to join the community today. I can’t wait to see you there.
Hey there, and thanks for listening. I’m your host, Maggie Germano. And this week I’m chatting with Melanie lockert, who is the author of the book dear debt, and the podcast host of the mental health and wealth show. In this episode in honor of September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, we’re talking about how you can prioritize your mental health and your inherent self worth, even during difficult times like we’re in now. If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health and self worth, especially as they relate to your finances, this episode is absolutely for you. If you know anyone who struggles with these things, please share this episode with them. If you’re experiencing suicidal ideations, text home to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255. you are not alone.
Welcome, Melanie, thanks so much for being here today.
Melanie Lockert 2:16
Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be back.
Maggie Germano 2:20
Great. Yeah, I’m glad you’re here again, too. So, before we get into the interview, why don’t you tell us who you are and what it is that you do?
Melanie Lockert 2:30
Yeah, my name is Melanie lockert, and I am the host of mental health and wealth show and also the founder of mental health and wealth calm as well as Lola retreat, which is a women and money event. And all of this kind of started seven years ago when I started the blog, dear debt, which was my own chronicle of getting out of $81,000 in student loan debt. So I’ve had quite an interesting journey of you know, having this debt blog, then doing this women and money event and then kind of realizing Everyone thought of me as this like money and mental health person like Melanie is the person that talks about debt and depression. Melanie is the one that does the Suicide Prevention blog tour. And I was like, let’s just lean all the way into that. And, you know, I saw that mental health and wealth.com was available as a URL and, you know, thought that I would finally start a podcast, which I did the mental health and wealth show. And, you know, it’s been a journey about talking about money and mental health in different ways over the past seven years.
Maggie Germano 3:28
Yeah, and I’ve always really enjoyed watching how you are able to make that connection and talk about that connection, because I think a lot of people try to talk about money as it’s just this like isolated thing. It’s just about the numbers. But as you know, and as I know, it touches so many other parts of our lives, and it affects how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about our lives. And so what can you tell us a little bit about how, like through launching the dear debt blog how you ended up making some of that connection between the mental health piece and the money piece.
Melanie Lockert 4:04
Yeah, so first of all, I started dear debt really, because I felt like I could not find my voice in the blogging community. Like, I loved all of the advice and all of the personal stories, and I was super inspired by them. But I was like, no one’s really talking about the emotions related to debt. No one’s talking about this mental health tool. And so I started dear debt, which the concept is based on dear john letters, so you write breakup letters to debt, and it was really a way to kind of take my power back and break up with debt and actually address the emotions and the feelings that were going on. I had such severe anxiety and depression all of 2012 before I started my blog, and I just felt stuck and I felt so anxious and it was 100% situational because of my student loan debt. And also because I was working temp jobs making 10 to $12 an hour and it’s like you’re making 10 to $12 nower and you have $60,000 left in student loan debt, you know, it feels heavy. And you know, I really wanted to talk about that. And so as I started the blog, you know, I started sharing my own experience, thinking that I’m the only one, you know, feeling this way. And then, of course, tons of people on the internet commented like, I’m feeling the same way too. Oh, I can’t believe you’re feeling that way. I totally relate. And I was like, so many people are feeling this way. Just no one talks about it. And then, probably about a year into the blog, I realized that someone googled, I want to kill myself because of debt. And that just broke my heart and really just, you know, time to stop for a little bit because I just felt the gravity of that, you know, someone sitting there on the computer, googling that and finding my blog, I felt so much pressure and responsibility to like, connect with this person. And so I wrote a blog post. You know, saying, please seek help. debt is not a death sentence you are not alone You are not a loan. And I started writing, you know, to this person like, debt is not worth dying over. And, you know, I started writing about it more and more and more. And, you know, as I started writing about it more sadly, I started getting more traffic, I started getting more emails, I get emails every week, every month from people who are on the brink of suicide because of debt because of money. And, you know, it’s so devastating to me that people just feel completely trapped and like their life is over. And you know, it’s been interesting because a lot of men email me actually and they just feel so much shame that they can’t provide for their families. You know, I think toxic masculinity goes both ways, right? Like it can be toxic for the men to feel like they can’t share their feelings but they have to be super strong and they have to be the breadwinners and support their families. Like, they’re emailing this anonymous stranger on the internet saying, like, I’m in so much debt, I can’t support my family, like they’d be better off without me. And it’s just like, Oh my gosh, no, no, no, no. And, you know, all of this was really personal because I did have my own experience with debt and depression. I have dealt with suicidal ideation in the past, not related to debt, but you know, I understood the feeling. And also, my grandfather died by suicide. So I never met my grandfather on my mom’s side because he died by suicide when she was five. And she was the last person to see him you know, before he did that, and so like that’s, you know, kind of a stain on the family history, you know, a branch that has been cut off the family tree that is so painful and so when these people email me, I’m just like, please don’t like you. You think that your family would be better off without you, but I promise you like absolutely they would not like the last time Just goes from generation to generation. And it’s just pervasive and so painful.
Maggie Germano 8:06
It really sounds like it and it impacts everyone. Like you said, you’ve never met that grandparent, but I’m sure that still had an impact on you and your life based on the impact it had on your mother. And so those sorts of experiences and impacts really do follow across generational lines, and they, they reach areas where I think you wouldn’t expect and, and so talking about it is really important because I think in our society, we shouldn’t talk about money. And we don’t like to talk about death generally, and especially not about suicide, because there’s so much shame and judgment around that and people think it’s like, you know, it’s a selfish act. It’s this, it’s that it’s like, it’s much more complicated than that there’s a lot of mental health issues wrapped up in that in ways that are just generally not addressed in our society in a way that they really should be. And so what are when you were responding to people in the beginning? What were some of the pieces of advice you kind of gave to people in, whether that was seeking out help or trying to distance their self worth from that Financial Peace worth that they were struggling with?
Melanie Lockert 9:19
So first of all, I would mention to everybody that they are worth way more than their debt. You know, a common thing is conflating your self worth with your net worth, when you’re so much in debt, it’s easy to feel like I’m worthless, I’m worth nothing, you know, something I hear a lot is I’m worth more dead than alive because of life insurance. And, you know, it’s just very sad reality. And so I want to remind people that they’re worth way more than their debt. And also, I try to really instill that this is a temporary problem with the permanent solution. Right? And that even though it feels that this is never ending, and it feels like you’ll never get better, that’s just a feeling, you know, feelings come and go all of the time. Even though this feels longer than it should be, or normal, like, it is possible slowly but surely to get out of that. And so I tried to, you know, remind people that they are in their debt, I always recommend contacting the Crisis Text Line, which you can do by texting home to 741741. I like it because it’s text based. And you know, I know sometimes when you’re really emotional, you can’t really talk or you’re crying and hyperventilating, you know, I’ve been there. So I think, you know, texts can be really nice if you’re really in crisis, and you’re trouble, you have trouble communicating verbally, and I try to share those resources. And I also tried to get a little bit more information about their situation like, I am not a financial professional. And I always tell people that like, I’m not a financial professional. I can’t, you know, give you official advice. But for example, if someone tells me that they have federal student loan debt, then I can say you can go on income driven repayment, and if your income is really low, you can qualify for it. zero dollar payment and still be in good standing and get your loans forgiven. And yes, you’re gonna have to pay taxes on that. And that’s not fun. But like, that’s not the end of the world, right? There’s also deferment, there’s also forbearance, and not that I would recommend this lightly, but like, obviously, bankruptcy is an option. Certainly something to consider over, like, let me harm myself. You know, there are a lot of different options. And like I said, You know, I think someone should talk to a finance professional to get specific advice for them. But, you know, I try to hear kind of where they are and just given my knowledge as a personal finance writer, you know, let them know though I’m not a you know, finance professional. Here’s what I know. And here are some options that you can look into, right? Because I feel like some people just don’t even know where to start. And like, this became very clear to me just a few weeks ago, even I had someone a mom messaged me very worried. She was like, my son has so much debt so much didn’t loan debt. And like he’s not paying them. And it’s just growing and like, I don’t know what to do. And I just messaged back and I was like, actually, if they’re federal student loans, he doesn’t need to make payments right now because of the cares act. And also, if he’s, you know, on a federal student loan repayment plan, he can go to income driven repayment, you can go for forgiveness, there’s so many different options. And I just sent her these links literally as resources. And she was like, Oh, my gosh, I had no idea no one told me this. And it’s like, it sounds like she contacted a lot of people and no one responded. And literally, I’m just sharing links, you know, and so, to me, that’s my biggest goal is like, I don’t have all the answers, but here are some resources that can help you get into the right direction. Right. And I also just try to be a listening ear and, and tell people I care and I’m listening because I think so many people just feel like they’re so alone. Like no one cares about me at all. And I want to show that I do care because if people are googling that and coming to My sight, then, you know, I want to try to help steer them in the right direction.
Maggie Germano 13:06
Yeah, and I love that. And I think that both of those things that you mentioned of like being able to refer someone to the proper information that will help them or their you know their son in that case, but also wanting to just listen and provide emotional support, moral support, that just shows that it’s really important to reach out to people when you’re struggling, whether it’s someone you know, or it’s the Crisis Text Line, or it’s a stranger on the internet, who might actually understand where you’re coming from. reaching out for support can help in so many ways, whether it makes you feel less alone, or it points you in the direction of a solution that you maybe not know what’s out there and it can completely change your whole outlook on your circumstances. Totally. It’s so important not to shoulder that alone.
Melanie Lockert 13:57
Definitely. Absolutely agree.
Maggie Germano 14:00
And so you mentioned like your self worth is not your net worth. And that’s something that I think is really, really important too. Because in a capitalist society like we’re in now our productivity, how much money we make, how much money we save or invest like that is kind of seen as a defining factor of our worth of our ability to contribute to and produce in this economy. And that can be really, really harmful emotionally. I think, even for people who make good money, like you were saying, like the pressure of providing for a family and doing enough and earning enough, it can be really overwhelming and stressful. So how do you kind of recommend people start and of course, it’s going to be like, probably a lifelong journey because of how it’s drilled into us. But how do folks start to separate that self worth from the net worth and recognize that they’re worth something completely separately from their money?
Melanie Lockert 15:00
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think, you know, the answer is that it really has to be a practice. And I will say that, you know, I’m dealing with this very issue right now, you know, like, I was super broke, when I started my blog, then I was, you know, able to quit the nonprofit job I found and build, you know, a great freelance self employment income. And then now because of COVID, and kind of pivoting, my income is down again, and I’m having some of those feelings come up again, like, Oh, my gosh, am I really not worth this anymore? Like, am I gonna go back there and like, I’m dealing with some of those thoughts again, too, and I have to check myself and be like, whether I make 10,000 or 100,000, I’m still a worthy human being. So I think first of all, it’s important to look at where you’re at in society and like the structures that have been in place like capitalism assigns people a worth via their salary. And when you think about it, like a bonus Actively you’re like, wow, people really are putting a value to someone’s time in someone’s life. And like I’m all about like get paid, you know, negotiate more blah, blah, I’m totally about that life. But then also like when you look at it objectively, you’re like, the way it’s it’s made up like people do via their salary are worth more, which is just like crazy to think about, but it’s all messed up. And I think we have to realize that it’s really arbitrary because you think, you know, people that work the hardest, like the essential workers, housekeepers, childcare providers, they’re getting paid the lowest and they’re doing life saving work where, you know, you know, you’ve heard those people making six figures and they’re like, go I just sit at my computer all day, like I still just making bank and you’re just like, what, None of this makes any sense. So I think first of all, just realizing that you’re part of a capitalist trap number one, number two, it is all relatively arbitrary like this salary thing and I it I think it’s important to not let it define yourself worth and get into your head, like you are still valuable. You know, whether you’re making 10,000 or $100,000, you don’t have to, like earn money to deserve to live, or, you know, deserve to just find happiness and peace. And, you know, I think it’s important to investigate your role in that. And also kind of, like where you got that feeling from, because I mean, we’re all like you said, conditioned into feeling like, we have to be productive, we have to constantly make lots of money. And if we don’t, then we must be losers. And, you know, that’s just part of the system that we’re in. And then, you know, really kind of investigating those thoughts and trying to separate them, and just be like, that’s just a thought. But I can choose not to think that anymore because it’s not serving me and it’s just harmful. And just realizing that you being alive, means you’re worthwhile. Your presence is your worth, right and that’s something that I’ve been learning through my Mindfulness, I’ve been practicing mindfulness this summer to try to manage my own mental health and happiness. And you know, part of it is just about being alive, being present, being focused on the breath. And you know, I don’t have to earn rest, I don’t have to work really hard and make a certain amount of money in order to, you know, take this weekend off, right? These are all just bs concepts and constructs that we kind of like, tooled around in our head to make it feel like oh, I did a lot of work. And now I get to rest and it’s like, you really could just rest anytime if you need it. You don’t have to do that. And it’s kind of like the same theory when people are like, Oh, I have to exercise in order to eat this pizza. It’s like, we don’t have to earn food or earn rest. And I think that language in itself is very harmful and something that I’ve just realized myself in the past year or two because I was talking the same way because that’s just what people do it but then when you investigate it, you’re like, wait, I don’t I don’t need to earn rest or earn food like I can just Be and so, you know, I think it’s it’s a process and it’s a practice and something that you have to do every day and kind of just realign yourself. Like I said, I’m dealing with some of those bubbling up emotions again of like, Oh my gosh, like, Am I not worth as much as I was before because I’m not making as much and it’s like, no. And also it’s a global pandemic right now. Like, it’s literally not you. It’s everyone, so, you know, no need to take it personally.
Maggie Germano 19:28
Yeah, and that part’s really hard. Like, I totally relate to that too, as a business owner, myself and like with COVID and being impacted in that way, I’m not sure I know any small business owners who have not been impacted by this. And so and I, you know, that productivity piece of like, I was just talking to a friend earlier and she was saying how she is catching herself being like, oh, as long as I like get these tasks done, I can go like sit on the couch and read a magazine. Or as long as I like, get this done, then I can do this and it’s just like you were saying, like, Where is that coming from and like, generally we kind of know intellectually with, you know, the capitalist society and the how important productivity is and just moving the economy along, like of course, you want people to feel guilty for resting if they need to work in order to make the other the wealthy people wealthier. But it’s really hard to remember that and it’s really hard to keep that kind of top of mind and when you feel yourself falling back into it, reminding yourself again, because like you said, it’s not like recognizing it means it’s going to change for you overnight is a process. It’s something you have to remind yourself about regularly. And notice in your own day to day life, like I am allowed to rest I am allowed to take a day off I am allowed to, you know, take a long lunch or whatever you need to do to just Take care of yourself is totally fine.
Melanie Lockert 21:03
Totally Yeah. And that reminds me of a new account that I’ve been following on Instagram that I love called the nap ministry. And it’s all about, like, you know, the joy of taking naps and like how rest is revolutionary and that, you know, part of being in a capitalist society means that we are considered to be productive workers. And when you think about it, rest does not affect the bottom line, right? So when you work, you make money when you make money, you can spend money when you make spend money than you contribute to the economy, right? That’s all together, right? When you rest, you’re not adding to the economy, right? You’re not adding to money that doesn’t have worth in capitalist society. So when you think of it that way, you’re like, oh, like No wonder I feel bad because I’m in this system, where this one activity literally has no impact on this greater system. And that’s why I feel bad, but it’s like, you don’t need to feel bad. We’re just given this wonky system that we have to try to live in. But, you know, as a human being, we’re allowed to rest. We don’t have to earn it. And we don’t have to, you know, say I must do these top three things first, in order to do this, it’s like, listen to your body, listen to your mind. And, you know, something that I’ve had to deal with COVID and we were talking about this a little bit before is that, you know, on, on one hand, there’s been fewer assignments, clients have smaller budgets. So there’s that that has, you know, led to a decrease in work. But then also, there’s my mental capacity to actually do work and take on work like, you know, 100% is now 70% for me, and even, you know, hundred percent days are like pretty rare. So like, honestly, most days, I’m at 30 to 50%. Like if I was a cell phone, I’d be like, most days, I’m just hanging around 30 to 50%. And obviously, if I’m showing up daily life at 30 to 50% battery, I can’t produce as much as I used to, and for someone that is kind of like a workaholic. Like, like me who loves being productive and getting stuff done like, that is hard. But then also, it’s like, we’re dealing with a collective trauma right now. And I just know that it’s so much harder for me to try to work when it’s like, I literally just cannot. And so I think even just knowing your own boundaries and what you can and cannot take right now, even if it’s like not good for your bottom line, because yeah, I could try to force through it and try really hard to make money into this and that and that, but it’s like, I can just sabotage it in a different way. Like, you have to kind of be honest with yourself and what you need.
Maggie Germano 23:35
Yeah, that’s a really good point. And related to that, a friend of mine yesterday, she was like, you know, I slept well. I ate well, I took my vitamin. I’m getting ready to work out but I’ve just been like, so exhausted lately. And I just don’t know why. And she’s trying to like, come up with all these like, explanations. And I was like, you know, it could be life. It could just be the life that we’re living through right now. That is exhausting to Whoo hoo. I think we’re all pretty exhausted even just like on a bone deep level with everything that’s going on with the pandemic and the racial and justices going on and the impending election and just everything else. Oh, and climate change.
Yeah, not to mention that little thing.
Melanie Lockert 24:20
I know, it’s like between racial injustice and a depression and, you know, the pandemic and climate change. It’s just, it’s too much for us to process and like, that’s something that I’ve been hearing from everybody is that they’re exhausted, like, it doesn’t matter how much sleep they get, how much coffee they have, like, same thing with me. I can get nine hours of rest and have two cups of coffee and I’m still just like, I could probably take a nap again. It’s because like our bodies are just constantly processing all of this in the background. Like I tweeted about this a while ago, like, it takes so much effort to compartmentalize all of this to try to pretend like we’re like a normal human being Like, you know, I can’t even process that verbally. But I know my mind is like working overdrive to be like, let’s try to pretend to be a normal human and function like we normally were when it’s like, literally nothing is normal anymore. And we’re processing like five crises at a time right now. So I mean, it totally makes sense why everyone is exhausted and it’s probably not going to go away until the pandemic subsides, you know, the economy gets better. Hopefully the election changes things. You know, there’s, there’s a lot going on, like, we can’t blame ourselves for being tired. You know, being tired is your body’s way of letting you know that you need to rest more and like, why are you going to argue with that, like, my boyfriend always reminds me He’s like, if you had an employee that came to you and was like, I’m not really feeling good, like, I’m really tired and I just don’t feel great. Would you like force them to work? I’m like, No, I would probably send them home and he’s like, Yeah, do that for yourself. And so it’s just, you know, reminder to myself, like, if I was an employee, you know, yeah, I probably would say go home and rest, but like, why can’t I do that to myself? So I need to train myself, you know, to treat myself the way I would treat other people.
Maggie Germano 26:14
Oh god, that’s like a huge life lesson for me of like, maybe how I talk to my friends, or how I kind of care for my friends and respond to them when they’re struggling should be the same kind of way that I’m reacting to myself. And I say that with clients to where they, you know, they’re complaining about whatever like their debt situation is or maybe the way that they’re struggling with budgeting. And I’ll be like, well, like, how would you react to a friend if they can if they came to you and they were in a similar situation or a family member or someone, someone that you deeply care about? How would you react and it’s almost always so much more loving and caring and gentle than the way that they’re treating themselves. And so then it’s like, Okay, well, how can we kind of turn it around so that you can apply that to yourself too, because you deserve just as much compassion in these issues and in these times as someone else that you’d love would.
Melanie Lockert 27:09
Totally, I think that’s super important. And you know, throughout my time in therapy the past couple of years, I’ve been really trying to rewire this negative self talk and have like a different relationship with myself so I can be more compassionate and loving and like, early on without practice, if my therapist is like, well, what’s your best friend say like, my best friend’s name is Susie and so like, you start thinking like ww SD, what would Susie Do you like those bracelets like back in the day, WWE a day? What would Jesus do? Like, what would Suzy do? And I started thinking, like, if I was talking to Suzy right now, she would, you know, tell me this is like, okay, like, let’s try to embody, you know, how she would talk to me and how she would relate to me, you know, dealing with this issue. So, you know, do whatever kind of exercises you can try to rewire that connection. And be more loving and compassionate. I mean, I’ll tell you for one thing self hatred and self loathing will not get you anywhere. I know in some weird sadistic way can feel good for some weird reason like you’re doing the right thing or that it’s gonna push you or I don’t even know where it comes from but I’m very familiar with the self loathing self hating you know trajectory but it really just gets you nowhere at all and like, if your goal is to be more productive and loving, then letting yourself you know, rest do it need to do actually will help the goal go along further than you going on this like self hatred rampage.
Maggie Germano 28:40
Oh, I totally agree. I find self hatred and shame and all those negative feelings to be very paralyzing. Instead of motivating. I think we think as like a society that punishing someone or saying you know, negative talk is motivating. But I almost never see that it’s, at least for me, it causes me to shut down, it causes the other people that I care about to shut down. And so it’s not like being loving and compassionate means you’re letting yourself or other people off the hook, whatever that means. It means that you’re being compassionate and loving so that you feel capable of getting back up and trying again, because if you feel like you’re worthless, then why would you bother trying to do anything differently?
Melanie Lockert 29:30
Mm hmm. Yeah, totally. And it’s like, when we do that we’re focusing on you know, the consequences and rather than, like, the hopeful actions that can, you know, serve ourselves better, right? And it’s like, totally right. I get totally paralyzed when I feel all of this shame and judgment and I just feel like, I can’t do anything and it literally takes me three times as long to do anything when I’m in that frame of mind. Then where I’m like, okay, I made a mistake or Okay, I need more rest. And then it’s just like I let it go. And then I’m like, oh, wow, like I kind of got over that a lot faster. And it feels great, because now it’s not like weighing on me for three days, right?
Maggie Germano 30:11
Yeah, exactly. And so something that you started talking about with yourself. So with COVID. So obviously, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, which is affecting how much money people have to spend, it’s making businesses certain businesses kind of tighten their belts a little bit with where they’re willing to spend. A ton of people have lost their jobs, because industries are kind of shutting down or slowing down. And we don’t know how much longer that’s going to go on. Because it’s, you know, we just can’t seem to get our shit together in the US. So obviously, a lot of people are probably extra struggling when it comes to seeing their income decline or their income completely evaporate or their career, fully stalling. I know a lot of people the work that they do, it’s impossible to be doing right now. So they just cannot be working. And so when there is that connection between productivity self worth a contribution to society and family, but then you really have no options because of the global pandemic. Are you seeing, like, Are people still coming to you to talk about these things? Are you seeing more people talk about kind of how their mental health is being impacted by COVID? And how it’s affecting their careers and income?
Melanie Lockert 31:31
Yeah, what I’m seeing is, you know, a lot of people, you know, everyone’s getting affected by COVID in some way, you know, for people that are still working, I’m seeing a lot of survivorship bias, they feel very guilty that they still have a job that they can still pay their bills that they’re doing, maybe relatively well and, you know, that’s, you know, manifesting in different ways. They’re spending more and like, you know, more than just like, Oh, I’m going to support the local economy, but maybe just like spending more in general more than they should And then I’m seeing people who, you know, yeah, their incomes and their livelihoods have been decimated, and there’s no way that that can’t affect your mental health. I mean, it’s just completely devastating. And this is just something that we have not experienced. And when you are worried about if you can pay your rent, or if you can eat or if you can pay your bills, I mean, that is stress inducing. And that is, you know, cause for anxiety and so, you know, I think we’re all dealing with this in different ways. There’s like such a chiasm, between, like what people are experiencing right now, even though this has literally affected everyone in some way, you know, financially or mental health wise, you know, definitely in some way. And I just feel like we have to try to take it day by day and then also just not internalize this. And, you know, because I’m dealing with something similar like I can’t do Lola retreat which is an in person And event. And I’m kind of figuring out what I’m doing. Like, honestly, I’m so sick of the word pivot, even though I know that’s like what everyone needs to do. But I’m just like, I’d be happy if I never heard that word ever again, to be honest. But it’s like, there was this time of mourning, which I think that’s normal to like, you’re allowed to mourn, that you have lost work, that you have lost money, that you have lost, you know, companionship in the workforce, and you’ve lost your routine. Like you are allowed to mourn all of these things. And I think it’s disingenuous for us to pretend like we can just go on and be like, well, let’s just see what’s next. It’s like, no, this is like a huge death, like a huge change for a lot of people. So I think you know, you’re allowed to mourn. And then I think something that I’m trying to do is really look at Okay, like with my events and with things that I can no longer do right now. What is the actual like, essence of that? What do I actually like doing? And so for me, it’s like, okay, I like getting people together. Other and so yes, I am trying to pivot it to more online stuff. But you know, like really just trying to figure out the essence of what I like doing and how I could potentially do that in a different way, right. And then if you’re really out of work, I would say, take an inventory of all of your skills, every single one of them. And, you know, people tend to think that maybe they don’t have to have any skills, like you have a lot more skills than you think. Maybe you can be a consultant, maybe you can be a freelancer. You know, I started doing more writing coaching this summer, I’ve also helped people craft their story for PR, because I’ve been featured in a lot of press, and I know kind of the best ways to share your story. And so, you know, while those aren’t like my main full time thing, I’m like, Hey, I can do that. So why not try it? And something that’s been helping me right now is there’s thinking of everything as an experiment. So it’s like, well, why everything is down. Let me just try all of this stuff and see what hits the fan and it’s like, okay, This workshop did better than this one. Oh, like this one, you know, could be catered to this specific audience or like, you can just look at all of the skills and all the things that you have learned and how you can teach others how you can help others. You have to pitch yourself like you have to sell yourself unfortunately, which is like no fun. Nobody likes doing that but essential part of business and making money but you know, I think doing what you can and you know, managing and taking it day by day. Sorry, that was like a mouthful of lobbying.
Maggie Germano 35:34
No, I loved it. I was really, really good advice. I think you’re absolutely right, taking an inventory of your skills. Especially if you’re in an industry, whether you’re self employed or you are working for somebody else. If you’re in an industry that’s really hobbling right now or like completely shut down. It doesn’t mean necessarily that like you literally have no other options, regardless of like, what you ever done in your life, you’re probably capable of doing other things. So being willing to do that, I think is really important. And then I would also add, making sure that you’re taking advantage of the, like options available to you. So with unemployment, insurance and filing for unemployment, obviously Congress went on vacation before. You know, rehabbing all of that, but hopefully your state still has unemployment options for you. Taking advantage of like you said earlier, the deferment for students, federal student loans, whatever is out there, take advantage if you need it, because there’s no shame. That’s literally what it’s there for. You’re not even if it’s like, oh, I’m not as bad off as other people. So I shouldn’t take advantage of this. No, it’s for you. You’re paying for it. Take it, use it. Do what you need to do. Just to get by.
Melanie Lockert 37:01
Yeah, definitely. And food stamps too. I was on food stamps briefly in 2012, which, you know, that was when I was super depressed. And it was, you know, not something that I would I thought that I would ever do, but I did it. And you know, it helped me get by just that $200 for groceries a month. I mean, it didn’t sound like a lot, but like, it truly helped me when I was making like $1,000 a month. And you know, I think yeah, whatever you can do to get by whether it’s unemployment insurance, food stamps, both if there’s any housing assistance, definitely talk to your landlord, so you can get rent reduction, call your utilities and see if you can get discounts or, you know, payment postponed. You know, you just got to talk to people and I think that that’s the problem is so many people are feeling so overwhelmed and with shame, that it’s hard to even start that conversation and that’s when things get really bad. Like you see this especially when people default on their student loans. Like they don’t just default overnight. I mean, it takes 270 days for you to be considered in default. And so you’re delinquent first. And then you know, it takes 270 days, and then you’re in default, but it’s like, that’s a calculated inaction. You know, people are just kind of avoiding payment, and then it just blows up into this thing, and then could go into wage garnishment, and so many different things. And it’s like, if they just took that first call of being like, I can’t afford this right now. They could have maybe gotten income driven repayment plan or, you know, deferment or forbearance and kind of at least settled the situation for now, instead of getting further you know, in the hole.
Maggie Germano 38:40
Totally, I think inaction is one of those the biggest things that snowballs into making your problems bigger and I know that most of my clients probably almost all my clients, they struggle with kind of putting their head in the sand when they’re struggling with something like they’ll just throw a bill away or they’ll stuffing in a drawer or they’ll ignore call or whatever it is. And, of course, it’s scary, especially if you are unemployed and you don’t know how you’re going to get by or how you’re going to get your next job or whatever is going on. That is terrifying. Like, those are some of the most stressful moments in people’s lives where they can’t. They don’t know how they’re going to cover their basic needs and the needs of their families. But ignoring the issue, not asking for help, not trying to find solutions. It doesn’t actually make anything go away. It makes things worse, like you said, wage garnishment is really scary. They just take they just take the money from you, you have no choice. You don’t want to get to that point if you could avoid it.
Melanie Lockert 39:39
Maggie Germano 39:41
And so during COVID and during times, like COVID, even when hope to god COVID is over someday, and we’re just back to the normal day to day stresses of the world. How do you kind of recommend that people really prioritize their Mental Health even as it’s, you know, times of difficulty or times of crisis, like how to actually prioritize the health of your of yourself so that things don’t just kind of get worse.
Melanie Lockert 40:14
Yeah, so I kind of dealt with this a few months ago where I was, you know, kind of getting stuck in this, like, I’m so busy, I don’t have time, I’m lazy, you know, just not really taking care of myself the way that I knew that I could, and I should. And then I just came up with this idea for this mental health and wealth challenge, which is a 13 minutes self care challenge that you can do for a week. The challenge is just for a week, but obviously, I hope that you would continue but I want you to, like kind of see how you progress throughout the week. So mental health and wealth challenge is spending 13 minutes every day for one week on yourself. And the 13 minutes consists of the seven minute workout. So there’s a signature seven minute workouts a hit workout. You can find it on the New York Times there’s a million apps you can do. So it’s a seven minute workout and actually, you know, does get your body warm and your heart rate up. Also, I do a five minute meditation, I use insight timer. And then I spend one minute reviewing my finances. So I have Charlie, which is a finance app that aggregates all of my accounts. So I can look at my spending, I can see where my money’s going, I can see how much money I have. And it’s literally 30 minutes a day, where I focused seven minutes of my physical house, five minutes on a mental health one minute on my financial health. And I do that every day for seven days. And then obviously, the goal is to do it more. And, you know, what I like to do is I like to rate my mood before so from one to 10. So like, let’s say, a three, I’m not in a very great mood. But after I do the 30 minutes, it’s like, oh, not a five I’m, I’m average right now I’m feeling like more stable like during the seven days and during every single time I’ve done it my mood has always improved at least a little bit. And you know, I I have done it on days where I’m like, I feel like a two I feel like crap. And it’s like, gone to a three. But it’s, you know, it’s always gone up in some way. And, you know, I think that has been great. And like, I always think to myself, I spent more than 30 minutes on Instagram, I can spend 30 minutes on myself, and it’s literally in 30 minutes, I do a hit workout that’s, you know, scientific, scientifically proven to help, you know, five minute meditation and I look at my finances and like, obviously, that helps kind of build this habit of self care. And obviously, that’s just like, the building block. Like, obviously, if you can, and you want to do more like, on some days, I’ll go for a 20 minute walk or I will read for 20 minutes, or I will take a long bath or, you know, I’ll take a nap, like whatever I need to do, but at the very minimum, I want to do 30 minutes a day of self care. And I think anybody can do that. And you know, I had a question for someone who was like, Well, what if you’re a parent, you’re super busy and you’re teaching. I think you can break up the 30 minutes, I don’t think you have to do it all in one sitting like, maybe you do seven minute workout in the morning, you do five minute meditation at lunch. And then you know, right before you go to bed, just check out your finances. Like I don’t think it has to be consecutive. I personally like it consecutive. But like, if timing is really an issue, because you’re dealing with children and teaching in work, like, whatever time you can carve away, you know, do that. And I think you know, with those seven, five and one minute increments, you can definitely do that.
Maggie Germano 43:29
I love that. And that sounds so manageable, like, like, you have to meditate for 20 minutes a day, or you have to work out for 30 minutes a day, or you have to do this but you have to do that. And because all of that I know for me, it gets overwhelming like because then if you don’t do it exactly the way that it’s supposed to be, then you feel like you failed. But if it’s like if it’s 13 minutes of just, I mean you use really great examples, but have any kind of thing that identifies as self care and, you know, just take care of your own life in some way. That seems much more doable than a lot of other things.
Melanie Lockert 44:04
Yeah, totally. I think you know, this kind of recommendation of like, Oh, you should exercise for 30 minutes a day and meditate for 20. It’s like, we feel like, Oh, well, if I can’t do that, then why do I do it at all. And I know I get stuck in that trap a lot. And like, the thing that I love about the 13 minutes as it goes by so fast, and like, especially with the seven minute workout, like, sometimes I’m lazy, and I’m like, I hate this. But literally, the exercises are 30 seconds, and you get a 10 second break. So it’s like, I can do any exercise for 30 seconds. And then even if I’m still struggling, just with all of the exercises, I’m just like, it’s seven minutes melody like this is gonna be over like an all of the minutes of your life. This will be over really soon. And then obviously, I always feel better afterwards. I feel like okay, I took care of my body. In some ways, I feel a little bit stronger, my heart rates up and you know that I can cool down with a meditation and love insight timer, because you can kind of search what type of meditations you want. So sometimes depending on my mood, I’ll do a stress relief one or relaxation one or focus one or something about depression. So I love being able to search for meditations that can help my specific mood.
Maggie Germano 45:14
I love that because then it doesn’t have to be the same thing every day. And yeah, something you said earlier I thought was really important to where it’s like you can even if you just get one step above the mood you were in, that still counts as an improvement that you don’t have to go from, like, I’m so miserable today to Oh my God, I’m the happiest person that I’ve ever been. Because I know that I have that kind of pressure on myself. I definitely see my friends put that kind of pressure on themselves. And it’s like, if there’s just been a tiny incremental increase in how I’m feeling and improvement in my day. That’s enough for many days.
Melanie Lockert 45:50
Yeah, exactly. Like I think, you know, any kind of improvement is useful and I like to use that kind of monitoring my mood for different things as well like When I spend money when I do work when I talk to friends, because I think having that rating system can really help you check in with your feelings about certain things like, you know, if you always kind of feel bad after doing this specific client work or talking to a friend, like maybe I shouldn’t be working with them and like it’s just good to, to, to monitor your mood because like, we monitor our expenses, we track our expenses to try to improve our financial health. I think tracking our mood can help our mental health because then it’s like, oh, when I ate this, I felt worse or I felt better. Or, you know, I talked to this friend, I felt so much better or like after I worked on this thing, oh, man, I felt awful. And it’s like, taking inventory of the things that bring you happiness and joy and like something that I have just been trying to do. I was doing this before COVID but now it’s just even more precious. is really just trying to find the joy and beauty and pleasure in life like joy, beauty and pleasure. Just search for them. Find them in every little thing. Like, my friends make fun of me because I literally walk down the street and smell the roses. But it’s like, wow, these roses are so beautiful, and they smell so fragrant. And when you think about the biology of how they even exist, and how we even exist is crazy. So like, really, you know, this life is crazy. You know, we don’t know what we’re doing. This is a crazy time. So try to just find the joy, beauty and pleasure wherever you can.
Maggie Germano 47:27
I love that. I think that’s a really, really amazing takeaway. Is there anything else you want people to take away from this conversation either related to the self worth issue, depression, Mental Health Awareness Month, anything we haven’t touched on yet that you want people to know?
Melanie Lockert 47:45
Yeah, so you know, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and I think now is a really great time to start that conversation. So, you know, if you are suffering from that, definitely reach out for help. If you know someone that could potentially be feeling that way. way, you know, reach out, I always recommend that people, you know, text five people like, Hey, I’m thinking about you hope you’re well, super simple but super effective for someone that might be really lonely and like, especially right now, loneliness is a huge factor in people’s depression and potential suicidal ideation. So, you know, reach out to people. And also just realize that we’re all struggling with this in some way, even though in some ways, it’s comforting in some ways. It’s not. But you know, it’s like, it’s definitely not you. And we’re all just trying to figure this out and try to be more mindful and take it minute by minute, day by day and like, I’m at the place where I can’t really plan my life more than like two weeks out at this point, because my brain just won’t even allow myself to go there. It’s just like, everything just feels so precarious and uncertain. So I’m just letting myself do that. Like I’m a type a planner, where it’s usually like, oh, here’s what I’m doing in 2021. It’s like I have my schedule, like booked two weeks out, and that’s about it. But like, that’s what’s working for me now to get it through the day. And so, you know, do what you need to do to get through the day find joy, beauty and pleasure wherever you can and try to repeat that.
Maggie Germano 49:16
That’s great advice. And is there anything you’re working on that you want to promote to listeners?
Melanie Lockert 49:23
Yes, my podcast mental health and wealth show so I launched it in February and it’s been such a labor of love, you know, kind of was a spin off of dear debt, having this whole mental health and money conversation, this debt and depression, suicide. This is really the whole combination of you really focusing on these two topics and we’ve had wonderful, you know, financial therapist, people talking about being bipolar. Jillian with motherhood and mental health. I mean, there’s been so many topics that we’re covering and I’m really proud of it cuz I think we’re breaking the taboo around money in mental health and we’re slowly getting some more listeners that Excited about the show. And I would love to invite more people to the show. And one of the reviews that I love that someone said, the show is not a downer. You know, you think about money and mental health, like, Oh, it’s gonna be depressing. And it’s not always like that. So definitely take a listen if you are brave and want to learn more about money and mental health.
Maggie Germano 50:23
Wonderful, and I will link to that in the show notes. Everyone has easy access to that. And how can folks get in touch with you or follow along with the work they are doing?
Melanie Lockert 50:33
Now you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @MelanieLockert and my website is mentalhealthandwealth.com, deardebt.com and Lolaretreat.com.
Maggie Germano 50:44
Great. So yes, you’re all over the place. I love it. And I will link to all of those as well so that people can just easily follow along with what you’re doing, see what you’re working on. But thank you so much for being here again to talk about mental health and money. I think it’s an incredibly important topic all the time, but especially right now during the COVID crisis.
Melanie Lockert 51:07
Yes, thank you so much for having me,
Maggie Germano 51:09
Thank you so much for listening to the money circle podcast this week. If you like the conversations we’re having here and you’d like to go even deeper, join the new money circle community. In this safe intersectional feminist space. We will break down money, shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggiegermano.com/moneycircle to learn more and to join. If you’d like to get more connected with me, subscribe to my weekly newsletter at Maggie germano.com/subscribe. To learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings or just to read my blog visit Maggiegermano.com. You can also follow me on instagram and twitter @MaggieGermano. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye bye
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