The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 1

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. 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, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

The most wonderful time of the year is almost here. But for some, the holiday season seems to appear as a thief would in the night – suddenly and 131231-N-QL471-200unwelcomed. There are any number of reasons why we have these feelings, some vague and others deeply rooted in our experiences. Nonetheless, when said and done, the holiday season can leave us with cold realities to face: lingering debts piled on from two seasons ago, the thought of budgeting for holiday parties, gift exchanges, family visits, travel, and elaborate meal planning—not to mention the great expectations of loved ones. It can leave any soul feeling a bit materially bankrupt this time of year. Before you give into accepting that it’s ok or unavoidable to accumulate another dollar of unplanned expenses, apply the Principles of Resilience to think strategically and act decisively. Meaningful goals can be your offensive tactics to battle any holiday excess and keep an even keel throughout the stress and excitement.

Thinking Strategically
Strategic thinking involves assessing your views and making purposeful decisions that will lead to success. Let’s consider an 80/20 approach. Think of this as a general principle directing us to put more effort, action and concentration into one critical attribute over another. Using this approach, our holiday focus should be personal relationships (80%) and spending (20%). Although the success we hope to achieve here is financial, we can also achieve peace of mind. The starting point of our holiday budget planning should be a conscious process where we identify what is truly important in the scheme of things. Usually, personal relationships and reflection/meaning are answers at the heart of this search.

This 80/20 idea is simply another way for us to understand and accept what most of us already know and believe –the focus of the holidays is family and togetherness, not extravagant spending.

Acting Decisively
A good plan requires gathering information and acting on it in a sensible manner. In addition to having the mental framework to plan for the holidays, a written analysis of your true financial picture must first be completed. Prepare a budget that clearly identifies your spending limits, debt and savings goals. Be sure to account for any extra holiday income, create a buffer for any unplanned activities, and estimate the cost of materials and postage for cards and gifts. Set realistic goals to exercise controllability, like avoiding additional credit card debt (layaway is a good option here). Step back and evaluate your budget based on the 80/20 approach to help you achieve balance and adjust as necessary.

After the budget is prepared, it should be placed in a highly visible place so that you can closely refer to it during those tempting holiday sales and promotions. Conscious holiday spending can also create an opportunity to save cash and put it toward existing debt or savings– whichever will put you in the most advantageous position. Consult your Command Financial Specialist (CFS), FFSC financial counselor or Military OneSource advisor for help creating a spending plan.

Finally, stay focused on what’s important this season, and take care of yourself! In addition to creating your holiday budget, now is a good time to review and update your Stress Navigation Plan.

Stay tuned for parts two and three of our series, “The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season.”

Got Quality Time?

Meaning, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, can help us “Keep an Even Keel” when trying to balance the strain of transitions and separations on family relationships. Lt. Baron Miller, a Navy chaplain assigned to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, offers insight on maintaining the balance between quantity and quality to make time spent with loved ones meaningful this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

As we approach the holidays there is one thing people commonly associate with the season: time with family and friends. People are accustomed to being with loved ones during the holidays—and that’s well and good. We should long to be with our family and friends while we share meals and cheer. However, I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon that occurs during the holidays and that is the expectation of quality time spent with those we love.

Everyone wants quality time; the problem is we want it like microwaved food—fast, easy, and effortless. But guess what? Relationships don’t work that way, nor do marriage and parenting. If you want quality time, you must log the quantity time.

If you’ve ever deployed, you probably understand this principle without even knowing it. Remember those first few precious days home? Though you love the ones you’re with, there is a transition period where you can find yourself readapting to the intimacy of those relationships. That’s because quality time requires quantity time. If we’re not logging in the hours of quantity time it’s difficult to expect quality time to just appear; it must be nurtured and that comes with quantity.

I recall sending postcards to my wife and kids on all my deployments. This may sound crazy, but I would try and send one every day. I would buy huge quantities of silly and serious postcards and spend whatever was necessary on the postage. Daily, I would write a sentence or two, that’s it, just to let them know I missed them and to keep myself fresh in their memories. A few words every day isn’t too difficult, but it went a long way when it came to reintegrating after deployment. It was during this time I realized that I spent the quantity time, even while deployed, that led to quality time when I arrived home.

Maybe you aren’t currently deployed, but in homeport, and life is moving at a normal pace. The danger of letting quantity time slip away is still present. We can get comfortable in routines and forget the ways we once showed those we love how much we value and appreciate them. We can forget that it is in the simple, ordinary and even mundane rhythms of quantity time spent with each other that ripen situations for quality time.

If you want the joy of intimacy that comes with quality time this holiday season, whether in your friendships, your marriage, or with your kids, first put in the quantity time.

Our Chosen Family

By retired Navy Lt. j.g. Laura Root, a Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor enrollee who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2011.

Root PhotoIn May 2013, I returned to D.C. feeling elated about the gold medal in shooting I earned at the recent Warrior Games. I walked through the front door of a friend’s house and stopped short at the tell-tale expression of disaster on her face. The night before, a beloved friend, mentor and Marine died by suicide.

Despite his silent suffering from the invisible wounds of PTSD after multiple combat tours, everywhere he went people were drawn to his charisma and positive attitude. Anytime someone complained, he simply said: “That’s terrible! It’s just like the day I found out MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) weren’t organic!”

Following the loss of our friend, we were asked: “If you had a choice to receive a wonderful gift, but you knew it would only last for too short a time, would you still accept it?” We all nodded in our grief, but the feeling that we should have done more still tugs at us a year later. I can’t help but wonder if my mentor and friend would still be here if he had the opportunities that I did from adaptive sports.

Sports and interactions with the military family are incredibly powerful healing tools for wounded, ill and injured active duty and retired veterans. Focusing minute-to-minute on a shooting range, track or cycling course trains our minds to focus on what we can do, what lies ahead, and what we can still achieve. Interacting with other veterans reminds us that we are not alone. And, ultimately, we realize: shot-by-shot or step-by-step, I can put my life back together and thrive in the face of adversity.

We will never return to being the same people we were before wounds, injury or illness, but we become someone new, adapted and more resilient. Because of adaptive sports programs, there are fewer people like my dear friend – veterans who struggle in silence. To me, being a Warrior Games competitor helps you recover faster, both physically and emotionally, by connecting you to a network of support, which can be a protective factor against suicide. The athletes begin looking towards the future – together – and, with time, they triumph over obstacles that once seemed insurmountable.

Every person at Warrior Games is one more veteran with a better quality of life, with a brighter future and a healthier outlook. It is sometimes said that our adaptive sports community is our “chosen family,” and that is a wonderful gift. It’s where we remember what our lives can become even after we face our worst-case scenarios. It’s where we always find the people we love most and our reasons to carry on.

To learn more about the adaptive sports program at Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, visit: http://navysafeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is just a call or click away. Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (option 1) or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net.

For more information on the Navy’s ongoing efforts to prevent suicide and support Every Sailor, Every Day, visit www.suicide.navy.mil.

Building Resilience in the Face of Injury or Illness

140928-N-OT964-While the day-to-day life in the Navy can be stressful, navigating those stressors combined with the challenges of wounds, illness or injury can make even the most resilient Sailor or family member feel overwhelmed. Adapting to a new normal takes patience and determination, and it can also be an opportunity to perhaps inspire other wounded, ill and injured shipmates to thrive in the face of adversity.

One tool to help Wounded Warriors and their families build and maintain resilience is to create a Stress Navigation Plan. This plan is intended to be private, and it outlines your personal list of positive strategies and support resources. Go to www.navynavstress.com to download a template, then once completed, keep it in a safe place so you can reference it when you are feeling down.

A second way to support your resilience is to enroll in Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor. This program provides non-medical resources and support to guide active duty and retired Sailors and their families through recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. One such program, adaptive athletic reconditioning, trained and guided 39 wounded, ill and injured Sailors to compete in the fifth annual Warrior Games in Colorado and the inaugural Invictus Games in London.

Above all, remember that asking for help, whether for physical or emotional issues, is a sign of strength. We don’t always have control over what life throws at us, but we can learn how to identify stress reactions and take measures to deal with them. There are multiple resources supporting wounded, ill and injured service members and families, including:

A Place to Start, for you and “Every Sailor, Every Day”

By Rear Adm. Rick Snyder, director, 21st Century Sailor Office

Though September may be coming to a close, we must stay the course when it comes to taking actions to help our Sailors and families navigate stress, promote open communication, provide access to resources, and prevent suicide. Navy Suicide Prevention Month isn’t about 30 days of awareness; it’s about energizing deckplate and community efforts for the next 365 days, so that psychological health and wellness remain an ongoing priority—and an all hands effort.

Whether you joined your community to “Walk Out of the Darkness” this month, developed an inspirational Public Service Announcement, helped your shipmates and colleagues “bust work stress,” “Pledged to ACT” or offered reassuring words to others, your efforts made and will continue to make a difference in the lives of those around you—and in your own life. I encourage all to reflect on Suicide Prevention Month and use it as a place to start, for you and for Every Sailor, Every Day. To that end, I share the following blog post authored by Lt. Jay Morrison, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, underscoring the simple, but impactful, things we can do to set a positive example for others and change our perspective during challenging times. It starts with gratitude.

For Suicide Prevention and Operational Stress Control resources throughout the year, visit www.suicide.navy.mil and www.navynavstress.com.

Expressions of Gratitude Go a Long Way
By Lt. Jay Morrison, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam

Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

As we move through suicide prevention month, we’re reminded of the important warning signs to watch for in our shipmates, and to spot signs of trouble: increased substance use, withdrawal, recklessness, changes in mood or personality, and especially expressions of hopelessness or wishes to die.

We all face adversity and can help each other to be ready for the day that adversity rears its head. Cultivating gratitude is a great place to start.

We’ve heightened our sensitivity to shipmates who feel alienated, think they don’t belong, or have a sense they are a burden to others. We’ve pledged ourselves wholeheartedly to reach out to those in distress, or those who have had setbacks in their lives. We’ve pledged to ACT (Ask, Care, Treat). We’ve re-qualified with our weapons to fight suicide: our connections to our chaplains, mental health providers, Fleet and Family Support Centers, Navy suicide awareness resources and suicide prevention hotlines.

Our defenses are ready – our early detection tools for trouble are calibrated and our vehicles for rapid intervention well-maintained. As we move forward, we must commit as a team to building our offense – positively building health, happiness, and resilience in ourselves and those around us. We all face adversity and can help each other to be ready for the day that adversity rears its head. Cultivating gratitude is a great place to start.

Build Gratitude
Expressions of gratitude have been linked to greater goal achievement, improved physical health, increased exercise, better sleep, and even an improved ability to overcome memories of potentially traumatic events. Here are some ideas for promoting gratitude.

  • Before going to bed, list five things that happened in the last 24 hours for which you’re genuinely grateful. Think big (I’m grateful for seeing a good friend) and small (my favorite galley meal today – love that meatloaf!). It can be done mentally, or you can write it down.
  • For a limited time, give up something you take for granted. Even if underway or forward deployed, there’s at least a small luxury you enjoy every day. Let it go for a week and notice what happens. Do you appreciate it even more? Do you feel stronger for having gone without it at will?
  • Express gratitude to others often. Give three sincere compliments a day. We feel at our best when we help others to do the same. Express your appreciation for the actions of others. Be clear and specific. After a week, see what happens – are you more focused on people’s positive qualities? Do those around you seem more motivated? Are you more enthused?
  • Think flexibly about adversity. Bring a challenging experience from your past to mind, or a challenge you’re experiencing now, and write a list of the ways in which this thought-provoking experience has helped you to grow. This is not the same as simply “looking on the bright side” or denying that a bad event was, in fact, bad. It is about looking at stimulating experiences in their totality, flexibly from all sides, and focusing energy on the lessons learned, and the muscles strengthened.

Remaining mentally tough, resilient and ready takes effort, the same way we need three healthy meals a day, and a commitment to regular exercise, psychological strength takes continuous action and reinforcement. These activities are a place to start, for you and Every Sailor, Every Day.

For more ideas, see The Complete Guide to Resilience by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D.