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.
As we leap into the New Year, it is easy for us to find ourselves suffering from excessive holiday spending and recalling how each credit card swipe could have been different. Maybe you overindulged, or maybe you stuck to your budget and still feel overwhelmed by that first credit card statement of the New Year.
Rather than looking back regretfully, let the onset of the New Year motivate you to move forward. Here are two steps to get you on the right path:
- Damage control and assessment. To know your numbers is key, and while it may seem like an agonizing experience, it is the pathway to a full recovery! Collect receipts and match them against your holiday spending so you note differences between regular household expenses and holiday transactions. Next, categorize your numbers to give a better understanding of household trends: food expenses, travel, clothing, gifts, etc. Lastly, check your credit report for changes and accuracy of information. This is especially important with the recent breaches at major retailers like Target.
- Strategize Now that you know what you owe, you can construct a viable plan for recovery by setting goals about what gets paid first, in what order and by what method. Use a debt repayment calculator, such as www.powerpay.org, to calculate the best repayment plan for your household, keeping in mind known expenses, such as car insurance renewals, and possible future income, such as a tax return. With this clear picture of your finances, you can also consider discussing your choices with a financial counselor who can help apply objectivity. In addition to your Family Service Center, here are a few online starting resources: http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/ and http://www.militarysaves.org/.
Financial planning can never be done in a vacuum simply because we have competing goals, needs, wants and limited resources. Take this to heart and along with your debt repayment plan construct a savings plan that will help your family thrive both in your holiday spending recovery and all year long.
Additional resources from Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte:
Get Your Financial Bearing by Setting a Budget
A Lifetime of Financial Security Can Begin Today
Fall into Healthier Finances
While the holidays are typically a season of celebration and joy, this time of year may trigger feelings of loneliness, loss or difficult emotions for some. Whether you’re missing your family back home, or are tense after a disagreement with your spouse over holiday budgeting, turning to food for comfort is often accompanied by poor nutritional choices.
So what should you eat when your emotions are eating you?
Contrary to popular belief, not all stress eating is bad for you. In fact, eating the right foods when you’re emotions are running high can actually help calm you down. Try switching your usual comfort foods for these quick and healthy snacks to get you back in the holiday spirit (and to avoid the guilt of overeating):
- Instead of dipping into the cookie jar…go for a handful of almonds.
Almonds contain a winning stress-relief combination: vitamin B12, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. For those who take to the peanut butter jar with a tablespoon – go for a spoonful of almond butter instead!
- Swap the chips and dip for avocado slices.
If you’re craving something rich and satisfying, go for the “good fat.” The monounsaturated fats and potassium found in avocado can lower blood pressure. Make your own guacamole for a special treat that will have the whole family at peace!
- Meat lover? Try a salmon burger instead of ground beef.
Salmon is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which not only fight heart disease, but can keep cortisol and adrenaline levels in check. What does that mean? You’ll be able to calm down and relax after a stressful event, instead of remaining tense and “wound up.”
- Need something sweet and colorful? Go for a bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe.
Put down the M&Ms! Blueberries and cantaloupe are just as colorful and easy on the eye, and are full of stress-busting antioxidants and Vitamin C.
- Oatmeal is the perfect hearty comfort food.
Carbohydrates trigger the release of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. Smart carb choices in moderation are key, which is why a good old-fashioned bowl of oatmeal will do the trick to get you out of your Grinch-like funk, while keeping cravings at bay. The high fiber content will keep you fuller longer. Here’s a tip: instead of buying the flavored oatmeal loaded with sugar, buy plain oatmeal, add some fresh blueberries, and sweeten it to your taste.
Eating the right foods may not get to the cause of your stress, but it will prevent you from dealing with the added stress of trying to lose the extra pounds caused by emotional eating. Take control of your stress eating this holiday season and fuel your body with the right nutrients to keep you cool, calm and collected.
For more tips and strategies visit Navy Nutrition online.
With the holidays approaching, you may experience mixed emotions about family gatherings—especially if you’ve spent a lot of time away from home and loved ones recently. Whether it’s encountering a person that you’ve struggled to get along with in the past, or even a seasonal tradition that you no longer feel connected with, there are bound to be elements of the holidays that can be…well…irritating.
The transition from high operational tempo and incredible mission demands, to basting turkeys, singing carols and toasting with champagne, can be difficult to navigate. Here are a few ways to apply three of the 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) to stressful holiday situations to help you get a better grasp on “the humbugs” and enjoy your well-deserved time off for merriment and relaxation:
- Predictability: If you can predict something, you can prepare for it. Rather than trying to avoid the thoughts, situations or people that may dampen your holiday spirit, accept them and try to move forward. Make a plan for how you’ll deal with these situations, positively, rather than letting them weigh on you. Maybe you’ll find something in common with “weird Uncle Lester,” or realize that caroling really doesn’t bother you so much after all.
- Controllability: You can prepare for the predictable, but inevitably there are some things that may be outside of your control. Maybe you feel obligated to attend three different family dinners because you’ve been away and everyone wants to see you. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and sort through what you can and cannot control. You might not be able to please everyone and make it to all three dinners across town within two hours, but you can regain a sense of control by deciding which suits your schedule best. Don’t feel guilty for declining an invite!
- Meaning: To Thrive during the Holidays, it’s most important to stay focused on what this time of year means to you. Whether you observe the religious significance, look forward to a little time to kick back with your shipmates, or just enjoy the company of friends and family, remember that this is a season of hope. Be grateful for the challenges, triumphs and positivity in your life—they all build resilience!
Whatever humbugs and sticky situations you may encounter, assure yourself that you can navigate through these challenges and still enjoy the holidays without feeling like a scrooge. For more strategies to defeat holiday stress, check out “6 Strategies for Beating the Holiday Blues” on the Chaplain Corps Live blog.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time navigating stress this holiday season or any time of year, help is always available. Dial 1-800-273-8255 (Option 1) for the Veteran’s Crisis Line, or 1-855-NAVY-311 for ChaplainCare. It’s okay to speak up when you’re down.
Attention Shipmates and families!
As part of our new partnership with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for its 58th annual NORAD Tracks Santa campaign, we’ve created a photo album on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/navstress, to display art work that your family can share publically in our album or privately with your Sailor, near or far. Simply print the blank coloring page from the album, and have fun! Check out more information here: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=78336.
We look forward to sharing in the holiday cheer with our Navy family!