Tag Archives: holiday tips

Controlling Your Finances Without Letting Them Control You

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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.

Connecting with the Spirit of the Season

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“On the first day of Christmas, the season gave to me: one cross-country trip, two white elephant gifts, three treks to the mall, four holiday parties, five credit card bills…”

That may not be how the original song goes, but if you can relate to this remix then it might be time to push pause and connect with something a little deeper.

The holidays can be a harried, hectic time of year, but it is also a time of hope, goodwill, celebration and renewal. Beneath the frenetic drumbeat of traveling and to-do lists, this is a time when we recognize the best in people and enjoy the rich traditions and unique customs of Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah to name a few. Whether you are leaving cookies out for Santa, placing candles in the Kinara or lighting a Menorah (or some of each!), try not to let energy spent on gift-giving and merry-making take time away from reflecting on the reason for the season that you identify with the most.

Spirituality can help you cope with stress by connecting you to something bigger than yourself, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, spirituality may come in the form of relationships with shipmates, friends, family, nature, etc. For others, it may come in the form of a relationship with a Higher Power and religious practices. However you choose to express your spirituality, it can create values, beliefs, peace, purpose and connections that give life meaning. Spiritual fitness can increase happiness and well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, promote a positive outlook, mend feelings of moral injury, strengthen personal relationships and help maintain healthy lifestyle choices.

This FITmas time, take a moment to both reflect on your spiritual fitness and strengthen your bonds with these tips for a more fulfilling holiday season:

  • Be purposeful and find perspective. As Navy Chaplain Andrew Sholtes reflected in his post, “December: a Season of Goodness,” it’s easy to feel obligated to go overboard with shopping, cooking, decorating or pleasing others. Keep these things in perspective by pausing to think about what you’re doing and how it fits within the season’s meaning. Let this meaning guide your actions, rather than trying to please everyone or falling into the traps of commercialism.
  • Put your faith or spirituality into practice. Share thoughts and questions with others who have similar beliefs or can help you gain new perspective, read about spiritual teachings and focus on spiritual fulfillment. Explore your personal beliefs and find the best application for you and/or your family, staying connected to tradition. Give yourself and others the gifts of presence and forgiveness by using the spirit of the holidays to rekindle relationships that may have dwindled, mending differences and moving forward.
  • Make new friends, and keep the old. Another Navy chaplain suggests adding new tools to your toolbox during the holiday season by focusing on connection. Engage in fellowship by surrounding yourself with people when you can. A sense of community can warm even the coldest of moments. Reach out to others and make an effort to create new friendships, expand your circle of family and acquaintances and involve those who may be alone or struggling this season. A great way to alleviate your own struggles is to help others with theirs.

This season has different meaning for each and every one of us, but also common threads that we can share to stay connected. As you seek ways to strengthen your spiritual fitness—which can also include brief breaks for mindfulness practices and embracing the outdoors—remember that help is always available whenever you or others need it. Navy chaplains are always available, offering confidential support and guidance for Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families to help reinforce a sense of connectedness, build spiritual resilience and navigate life’s challenges. Call Navy 311 to request chaplain support in your area by dialing 1-855-NAVY-311.

Keep an eye out for more tips to help you strengthen your Spiritual Fitness this season as we continue to celebrate the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas!

Don’t Let Arguments Spoil Your Holiday Meal

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Biting into bad casserole isn’t the only sign of a spoiled holiday meal. Raised voices, passive-aggression and button-pushing top the list of signs that your family gathering is souring quickly as well. Luckily this year you’ll have a few extra tricks up your sleeve if the know-it-all offers unsolicited parenting advice or the overachiever in the room constantly finds ways to remind everyone that he or she is expecting to make this year’s 100 Most Influential People list…

Check in with yourself first. Emotions tend to run higher during the holidays, especially when we’re feeling more stressed than usual. If upon arriving to a friend or family member’s house you see the person who tends to cause friction no matter the setting, employ Predictability and Controllability by reminding yourself that you can’t control others’ behavior but you can control your reactions. Our friends at the Human Performance Resource Center recommend watching for an edgy tone in your own voice and noting whether you’ve stopped using eye-contact as signs that you’re stress level is rising. Also check in with your breathing patterns, noting whether your breath is getting shallow, or if you’re feeling agitated. Before getting to the point that you’re only focusing on a “come-back” and no longer hearing what that person (or anyone else) is actually saying, remove yourself from the situation by going for a walk, engaging with other people or taking a few deep breaths. In the end, you’ll feel better knowing that you didn’t let the person get the best of you despite their best attempts.

Set some rules for engagement. Maybe you’re thinking about avoiding your traditional gathering altogether this year because you know Cousin Larry will bring up that one subject that really grinds your gears. Or perhaps you’re not looking forward to Aunt Sally prying into your relationship or financial status. Rather than no-showing and breaking tradition (see our last post for a quick breakdown of why tradition is important for connection, meaning and emotional well-being), be honest with yourself up front about what issues will lead to highly-charged conversations. Then come up with a few strategies to defuse these discussions before they head into murky-water. For the personal questions, kindly let the inquirer know that you appreciate him or her looking out for you, but that you’re handling it the best that you can and aren’t seeking any advice at the moment. For the broader issues, keep it simple. Short statements like “I’d rather not discuss [topic] today” can often be the hint others need to change the subject and keep the peace. If highly-charged conversations are a regular occurrence, ask if those topics can be saved until after mealtime so that everyone can enjoy their meal and so that those who don’t want to participate can retreat to a quieter space before the storm erupts.

Be the conversation starter rather than the conversation stopper. This proactive approach can help you lead things in the right direction, especially toward the beginning of your get-together when small talk is big. Share some fun highlights of your recent deployment or assignment, spend a moment reflecting and asking others to share what they’re grateful for, or pick a topic that’s fun to debate (like sports, for example). By spending time engaging in positive and light-hearted conversation, you can strengthen your connection with others and your connection to the true meaning of the season.

Spending time with friends and family during the holidays and throughout the year is important for emotional health, helping to protect against the negative effects of stress. However, when those precious moments have the potential to turn into monumental disasters, starting with a little personal reflection and strategizing can help you keep an even keel. If after considering the above strategies, you’re still uneasy about attending the event in question, it’s alright to give yourself permission to say no to that particular invitation if the environment isn’t going to be healthy for you and say yes to a smaller or safer gathering. Check out additional Strategies for Managing Stress at Events from the Real Warriors Campaign for more ways to help you have a Merry FITmas and healthy New Year.

FITmastime is Here!

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The Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas are back just in time for the 2016 holiday season! From now through January 3, 2017 we’ll offer a daily dose of tips, tricks and small acts to keep the happy in the holidays and build resilience into the New Year. Whether you anticipate the holidays or dread them, the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas can help you unwrap new tools to strengthen fitness from the inside out, with a seasonal spin to bring you comfort and joy no matter what challenges you may face.

Each day will focus on navigating holiday stress related to a particular area of Total Sailor Fitness, including physical, psychological, family, behavioral, financial and spiritual fitness.  We’ll address navigating deployments and family separations, simple ways to keep up with your physical training and nutrition to avoid seasonal weight gain (and guilt), facing the stress of attending large gatherings, self-care, connecting with spirituality and more. This 21 day journey represents the 21st Century Sailor Office’s comprehensive programs to help Sailors and families make healthy decisions all year long.

And because the holiday season is about connecting with others, we’ve partnered with our fellow 21st Century Sailor programs, U.S. Navy social media, the Navy Chaplain Corps, Real Warriors Campaign, Guard Your Health, Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center, and the Human Performance Resource Center to bring you the best tips of the season.

To celebrate the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas with us, like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navstress), follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/navstress) and stay tuned right here on NavyNavStress. Tis the season of giving, so don’t forget to encourage those on your gift list to tune in as well. You’ll also find additional tips on our partners’ social media channels.

Looking to start FITmas off right? Spread holiday cheer by contributing to the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery in three easy steps:

  1. Visit http://go.usa.gov/x8qNu to select and print a 1 Small ACT Sign from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign webpage. Choose from a seasonal gratitude sign to share what you and/or your family are grateful for, or our 1 Small ACT sign to share your commitment to be there for yourself or others.
  2. Personalize your sign and take a photo with you and/or your family holding it.
  3. Submit your photo to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com or upload to Facebook and tag @U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control for inclusion in the gallery on Facebook and Flickr.

What’s on your FITmas list? Join us as we help you, your shipmates and your family find simple ways to stay present this season.

For more information, visit the Every Sailor, Every Day webpage.

Getting Ahead of the Post-Holiday Blues

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Now that the gifts have been opened, loved ones have left, holiday leave is ending and leftovers are gone, you may find that the happy is starting to fade with the imminent passing of the holidays. While you might be looking forward to returning to routine, the “come-down” from the fast pace and merriment of the season may leave you feeling a little blue. Here are a few strategies to help you start off the New Year with a positive outlook and shake off the humbugs for good.

Take a Moment to Unplug and Recharge. Though we think of the holidays as a break from work, that’s not always the case. Whether you were forward-deployed, working your usual hours or were hurriedly preparing for family gatherings and last minute shopping, you may have found yourself short on rest. As the New Year begins, make a commitment to incorporate more downtime into your routine and make sleep a priority, aiming for at least seven hours per day. To help you reach this goal, take advantage of any opportunity for brief naps during the day. And, while staying connected with loved ones is important, consider “unplugging” 15-30 minutes before bedtime to create an optimal sleep environment. Check out this post for more tips to help recharge your resilience with a good night’s sleep.

Get Moving! Physical activity helps increase the production of endorphins (our brain’s feel-good neuro-transmitters) helping to counter effects of stress while keeping you physically and emotionally fit. According to the Navy Physical Readiness Program, Sailors should participate in moderate physical activity for at least two hours and 30 minutes per week, and should strength train all major muscle groups at least twice per week. If you’re short on time or motivation, get going with this do-anywhere-workout to help you re-establish your exercise regimen. Short on space? There’s a workout for that, too!

Regain a Sense of Control. Does a lack of green in the bank have you a little blue? Though you may have given it your strongest effort this season, realities of overspending can take anyone by surprise when the bills start to roll in. Knowing where you stand can help you regain a sense of Controllability and peace of mind. Start by collecting your receipts and matching them against expenses to separate holiday transactions from regular household expenses. This will also help to ensure that each expense on your credit card statement is valid (for identity theft information, click here). Now that you have a better idea of what you may owe beyond what you originally budgeted for, you can create a feasible plan to eliminate holiday debt or reduce spending to increase cash on hand. In addition to seeking advice at your local Fleet and Family Support Center, check out www.militarysaves.org, and www.powerpay.org to help you determine the best way ahead.

Connect with Gratitude to Combat Loneliness. Though there are holidays that are oriented toward conveying gratitude and love, you can connect with these feelings at any time of year to reap their benefits. If you find yourself feeling lonely, write a note to a loved one, shipmate or friend describing how he or she makes a difference in your life. Expressing thanks can strengthen connections with others and benefit both parties. Volunteering for a cause that holds personal Meaning is another way to find satisfaction, connection and a sense of purpose.

Try incorporating these small acts into your daily life to help you perk up post-holidays, or choose one to practice throughout the New Year. For more strategies to help you keep an even keel, check out Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s updated Relax Relax Toolkit.