Tag Archives: holiday stress tips

Controlling Your Finances Without Letting Them Control You

2017_21 Days_Financial_Fitness_blog

The new year is here! You may feel a sense of calm and relief now that the holidays are over and you can get back into your regular routine. But perhaps your holiday spending wasn’t ideal, and you need to get back on track financially. Don’t worry! While it may take some work, fixing your finances post-holiday season isn’t an insurmountable task. “Improvement” doesn’t equal drastic changes; it could be a few small steps to help relieve some financial stress. Remembering this can help you stay on track during the process and keep your current financial situation from affecting how you see your value as a person.

People who connect their personal value with their financial state may consider a threat to their finances a huge stressor and threat to their self-worth, according to a study by Dr. Lora Park of the University of Buffalo. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Achieving your definition of financial stability is important, but it won’t make other life stresses and issues disappear. A recent study by Dr. Matthew Monnot of the University of San Francisco found that human connections contribute to happiness more than money and that tying personal worth to extrinsic or external entities such as wealth can cause less satisfaction in life. A focus on intrinsic or internal needs like relationships and community can more positively impact well-being. So, while working on your relationship with your finances, work on your relationships with friends and family, too.

As you try to improve your finances after holiday spending, here are some tips from Every Sailor, Every Day campaign contributor and financial expert, Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte:

  • Be proactive about understanding your spending and how to recover. Look through receipts and other records of transactions to see what you spent, make sure your statements are accurate, and then figure out how your budget needs to change so you can recover financially, get your savings in check, and avoid additional debt. If budgeting isn’t your area of expertise, Military OneSource and MilitarySaves can help!
  • Figure out the financial balance that’s right for you. Making sure bills are paid each month and saving money for the future are important, but having some of your hard-earned money set aside for the fun stuff is good, too. When working on your budget, make reasonable room for all three. Having everything categorized can help you be prepared if unexpected expenses pop up. And don’t forget that the Blended Retirement System (BRS) is available as of January 1, 2018. If eligible and opting into BRS, consider how it may affect your finances.
  • Think ahead and look for bargains. The holiday season isn’t the only time you may find yourself buying gifts. Plan ahead for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations by setting reminders a month in advance so you don’t scramble at the last minute to find a gift you hadn’t budgeted for. Also consider your relationship with the recipient, and think of non-monetary gifts that may be more meaningful. Incorporate ways to save in all of your shopping. Compare prices, use coupons, and take other steps to save on gas, groceries and other daily needs.

Following these steps and others that work for you can put you on the right track to getting your finances closer to where you want them to be.  Recovering financially after the holidays is a process, but dedication and the right mindset make it minimally stressful. Creating and maintaining a budget, determining what financial security is for you, saving daily, and realizing that money doesn’t determine your worth are key steps to making the improvements you want to see in 2018.

A Buffet of Tips to Make Healthy Food Choices during the Holidays


Amidst the bright lights, decorations and cards, this time of year may evoke a range of emotions—from excitement and love, to anxiety and loneliness. Whether sharing the holidays with shipmates at sea, enjoying a big meal with family or celebrating solo, your mindset can affect your nutritional choices and vice versa. “Remember it’s all about balanced eating,” says Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager. “The food we consume can affect the way we think, feel, act and interact with those around us. A balanced diet is an essential part of preserving our mission readiness and ability to thrive in our personal lives and careers.” Here are a few mealtime tips to help you balance your mood, cravings and the stress of shedding post-holiday pounds this FITmas.

Celebrating the Holidays in the Barracks? While you may miss family dinners this season, you don’t have to spend meals alone. Make plans to share a meal with your roommates and other Sailors in the barracks. Eating together creates a community support system, thwarting feelings of loneliness by promoting shared experience. Opt for healthier menu items like steamed vegetables (frozen steam-in-bag veggies can be found at the commissary), low fat cheeses, and quick sources of protein (canned low-sodium salmon or chicken breast). Check out the Guard Your Health campaign’s Class I Recipes for barracks-friendly meals, like this 8-Can Taco Soup.

Find Yourself Stress Eating More Often? Stress-eating may have gotten a bad rap (but we’re not giving you permission to down a bag of M&Ms while reading this post!). Eating the right foods when your emotions are running high can actually help calm you down, and finding the right foods doesn’t have to add to the stress. For example, try going for a handful of almonds instead of reaching into the candy jar. Almonds contain vitamins B12 and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, helping your body balance “fight or flight” responses when stress strikes. And, you don’t have to banish carbs to Mount Crumpit with the Grinch, just choose wisely! Carbohydrates help the body produce serotonin, which helps promote a sense of calm and reduce cravings. Go for complex carbs like 100% whole grains, remembering that moderation is key. Watch for added ingredients like sugar and other markers of highly-processed food. Green vegetables, beans, corn and potatoes are also smart carb choices.

Practice Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is helpful any time—from stressful situations, to facing a plethora of delicious-but-not-so-nutritious dishes at a holiday meal. To practice mindful eating, start by listening to your body. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if you are reaching for food out of emotional pleasure or discomfort. If you are indeed hungry, start with a small serving on your plate (about the size of two fists). Eat your meal with intention, one forkful or spoonful at a time, placing your utensil down between each bite. Focus on your food’s taste, smell, texture and how you feel while eating it. (You can still connect with others during your meal, but try not to talk with your mouth full!) Once you’ve finished your first serving, allow yourself three to five minutes before going for more. Consider whether you’re still hungry or if you’re overindulging just because the food is available. Eating mindfully can help you enjoy the flavor of your meal without plowing through it and seeking more— helping to keep your energy levels balanced and thwart the holiday poundage.

You may not be able to eat your way out of stress altogether, but you can make smart choices to help navigate stress, build resilience and promote Total Sailor Fitness from the inside-out. To help you determine your ideal caloric and nutrient intake, use an online tool such as the SuperTracker on www.choosemyplate.gov.

Mindful Walking Using a Labyrinth

Mindful Walking

Cmdr. Kim Donahue, Group Chaplain for USS Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Strike Group TWELVE, reflects on mindfulness and reconnecting with spirituality through labyrinth walking. To find a labyrinth near you, go to www.labyrinthsociety.org and enter your zip code. Like @NavStress on Facebook and follow us Twitter for more resources to strengthen your Spiritual Fitness as part of the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, now through January 3, 2016.

-NavyNavStress Note

Have you ever started down a path and suddenly realized you had no idea where you might end up? Or maybe you thought you knew where the journey was leading and then all the signs lead you to know that you got it all wrong. Reflection and meditation are as old as the hills, and as seldom visited by most.

Recently, I have started to practice mindful walking. Having just served on board a nuclear aircraft carrier, walking is like a sport. You have to avoid knee-knockers, electrical outlets on the bulkhead, low overheads, other people who are transiting with a mission-paced walk, etc. With a mission in the back of my mind—and places to get to—much of my walking time is spent literally just transporting my body from one location to another. Quick “Hey, how ‘ya doin’s?” fly out of my mouth, answers noted, smiles and eyes lock, and I am off. I am a pretty fast walker!

There was a time about ten years ago—after some extensive surgery—that I had a “smell the roses” pace to my walk. It was absolutely imperative that I had a destination in mind before I began to walk, but along the way I had time to engage the dust bunnies in my path. I still remember the drastic change and the lessons learned as I had to take time moving from place to place. On a carrier, however, that would be dangerous.

As an action-oriented person, walking slowly helps me to slow my mind.  Initially, I am most aware of my feet touching the ground, my breathing and heart rate as they slow down, too.  Then the quieter prayers, thoughts, whispers of truth begin. One of my favorite places to do such mindful walks is in the comfort of a labyrinth.  Labyrinths are excellent tools for such quiet walks, with a single path leading to the center and back out again, no decisions to be made and no traffic to avoid.

Mindful walking is really quite simple. It makes every journey longer. One has the time to notice and pay attention to surroundings—even time to stop and pause. Insights and thoughts come pouring over you, offering a level of awareness that might otherwise be missed when one is walking with arrival being the only goal.  The world seems new and different each time you set out, even if the path is the same.  Wonder is reinstated as a soul state. The song “I wonder as I wander” speaks to this kind of journey of wonderment related to God’s purposes in our lives.  An anonymous author wrote, reflecting on the Christmas story:  “If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things… If we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?  Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel—a star to discover.  And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”

This holiday season, I invite you to become more mindful of life’s sacredness, brought to life in you.  Give yourself the chance to discover beneath all the hustle and bustle—to experience wonder along with the gathering of gifts. Reflect on mysteries as well as accomplishment.

Many Advent blessings to you!

Cmdr. Kim Donahue
Group Chaplain for USS Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Strike Group TWELVE


Balance Your Holiday Spending

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

To be prepared is half the victory.” – Miguel De Cervantes

 Tis’ the season… the decadent smells, the embrace and comfort of friends and family, boxed surprises and gasps of excitement! But before you dedicate yourselves to holiday festivities, do your due dilligence and address the matter of personal finances. What is your holiday financial plan?

First you write down your goal, your second job is to break down your goal into a series of steps, beginning with the steps which are absurdly easy.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

Develop your plan. Set your goals to be both qualitative and quantative and start with something as simple as stating that a total holiday budget for gifts and related expenses will be $1,000. With this in mind, evaluate where you are financially. Do you already have funds set aside, or are you already near your goal? If you plan on using credit, ensure that you have the funds set aside to pay in full before you make your purchases, or pay immediately after purchase. This type of accountability will not only tame uncontrolled holiday splurging, but will also reduce stress.

Balance your expectations. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest challenges to financing the holidays. It is important to share your expectations with whom you celebrate the holidays so that they recognize your limitations to help guard against feeling overburdened with unrealistic expenses, subsequent disappointments, and worst of all, unplanned debt. You can do this in a number of ways – a sitdown chat with those involved  about your planned total holiday budget or by creating affordable gifting pools, such as a white elephant gift exchange. Travel plans, accomodations and the like are other areas to address, as well.

Maintain your checks and balances! Adhering to a plan can bring additional challenges that can test your resolve – balancing your wants versus needs. Do your best to not give into  the “I deserve just this one more item” rationale, or the “it’s just money” line. To keep yourself in check and balance, try these simple suggestions:

  1. Write down your goals and plans.
  2. Do your homework – look for price matching opportunities, coupons, deals, etc.
  3. Make your shopping list, and check it twice.
  4. Time and target your buys to get the best deals.
  5. Track your spending, progress and failures.
  6. Consider homemade gifts or gifts of time.
  7. Remember your plan and your limits.

All of these tips can help you firmly ground yourself in the reality of the holidays and reward yourself with reduced stress and increased feelings of accomplishment. So, before you commit your hard-earned dollars, take care of these fundamentals first: build your emergency cash reserves and budget your interests to secure your household before additional spending is done. Consider this remorseful soul’s words of wisdom:

If I had known
There would be this woe
Then I would have planned
Oh forgive me so!

1. Holiday Budget Calculator
2. Holiday Budget Worksheet

3 Steps to Navigating Holiday Stress

Trying to keep pace with holiday festivities can add pressure to an already exhausting schedule. If working long hours, shift work, or preparing to go underway has you feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done, try a few of these tips to gain control of your schedule.

Enter every activity into your calendar

Write down all your upcoming appointments to include: duty days, command holiday parties, children holiday school programs, etc. By knowing exactly where you are supposed be and when, you are less likely to double-book yourself and it will be easier to say “no” when you are asked to do “one more thing”. Maximize the time you have available by scheduling time with family and friends.  Schedule time for holiday fun.  Invite a friend to dinner or a movie, make your favorite family holiday recipe, take an evening drive to view holiday light displays or take advantage of family holiday themed movie nights.

Make a Holiday Gift List

Shopping for holiday gifts can be difficult. Make a list of everyone you’d like to give a gift to and assign a dollar amount you’d like to spend. This will keep you on budget. If you will be away for the holidays, coordinate with a family member, friend or neighbor to deliver or ship your holiday gifts.

Create a Menu for the Week

When it comes to preparing meals, take an hour to plan the meals for the week and create a shopping list that covers all the necessary ingredients. Post the “Menu for the Week” on the refrigerator and when you are tired from a long day you won’t have to wonder what is for dinner. You’ll lower your stress level knowing you have it all planned and you can prepare a home cooked meal quicker than ordering take-out pizza.

This time of year can be filled with joy.  It can also be very stressful. Planning time for fun, spending time with friends can counter family separation and make our lives more enjoyable.  Taking a few minutes here and there to plan ahead will help lower your stress level and make sure you have time to do the things you enjoy.

To learn more about OSC and the stress zones visit our new YouTube Channel.