Manage Your Holiday Stress and Finances with Mindfulness
How many times have stress and finances ruined your holiday?
Family? Gift picking? Gatherings? Gift giving? It all takes a toll.
You may get through it all, but afterward, you’re left wondering if it was really worth it.
Our current economy is challenging for everyone, and experts believe that this year, much of the anticipated 3% rise in retail sales during November and December will be due to higher prices and not more purchases.
Middle-income families are now more cautious than ever because of challenges like inflation, higher interest rates for consumer debt, and making ends meet with their food and utilities budgets.
Challenging economic factors, including elevated inflation, higher interest rates, savings depletion, energy price increases, and more, influence our spending.
What if, this year, you could move through through the holidays, manage your stress and finances, and come out on the other side feeling good about how you did it all?
It is totally possible!
You can do this with one simple tool: mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
A friend recently told me about a family member struggling to make it through the day. She told me she had encouraged them to be more mindful to help with stress and ease through tough times, but they weren’t listening.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I believe words matter.
When she told me more about the situation, I told her that sometimes a person’s mind can already be full. When this is the case, the word “mindful” is counterproductive. They may ask, “How can I be mindful when my mind is already full?”
I asked her what word she could choose instead. She thought for a moment and landed on Intention.
Being intentional and focusing on the present moment (AKA Mindfulness) is a powerful tool to get through any situation, including the holidays.
When you set aside expectations and settle into the moment, stress disappears. And that’s what we’re talking about! Stopping the rat race (even if it’s just the one in your mind), taking a breath, and settling down.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
Did you know that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything?
It’s true! You’ve seen it yourself!
When you’re stressed at work, you bring that stress home. When you’re stressed at home, you bring that stress to the gym. When you’re stressed at the gym, you take that stress with you to work!
When you take time to be intentional in the way you eat your breakfast, drive to work, and interact with people, you’ll start to see it spilling over into how you interact with your family, your body, the holidays, and your finances.
Every relationship deserves your mindfulness.
How Stress Affects Your Stress and Finances
Well, what the heck is stress anyway?
Taken straight from Mr. Webster, Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Your Central Nervous System, AKA the CNS, activates the stress response. This reaction was once necessary for our very survival!
Your brain operates in black and white: it cannot perceive between a real or imagined stressor. There is a part of your brain that was designed to seek survival in every situation. This is the part that activates your CNS.
Whether you’re being chased by a bear or worrying about how you’ll pay off your holiday debt, your brain sees this as a danger and activates the CNS.
When the CNS is activated, your body responds.
When the CNS is turned on, regardless of why, your
- Heart rate speeds up
- Blood pressure increases
- Respiration quickens
- Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol hormones are released into your bloodstream.
- Blood flow is routed away from digestion and directed towards the arms & legs to make fight or flight possible.
- And your digestion shuts down
Worry and negative thoughts turn on your CNS. When this happens, your body goes through all those physiological changes every single time.
When you are stressed, you cannot make good decisions because your survival brain is ruling your thoughts and choices. You can only make choices that align with your goals when you remove the stress.
If you are moving through the holidays with your CNS working in overdrive, you will see your relationships (with people and your finances) suffer. Check out THIS BLOG POST for more ways to manage your stress.
5 Steps to Managing Your Holiday Stress and Finances
Information is great, but having a tool is even better! Here are five steps to manage your holiday stress and finances.
- Stop. Before you jump into that family discussion or plop that item in your shopping cart, Stop. Those old stress patterns and decisions about spending can be shifted by simply stopping the forward momentum. This isn’t stop in the way you would scold a little child for bad behavior, but stop as in don’t step into the traffic of the stress. When you stop in the moment, you’re destroying the momentum. When you eliminate the forward momentum, you actually have a choice in how you move forward. If you don’t choose to stop the forward motion, you will continue in your old patterns and thought processes. Take a moment to stop to momentum. This first step is HUGE and powerful.
- Breathe. Your breath is the most powerful, accessible, and free stress management tool. By simply chanhowe way you breathe, you release or create stress in your body. After recognizing your old pattern emerging and stopping your forward momentum, take 3-5 deep and intentional breaths. Focus on your breathing and not the situation at hand. This shift in your breath pattern will trigger your central nervous system into believing that stress is no longer a threat, and you will then be able to think clearly and make intelligent and informed decisions about the situation at hand.
- Evaluate. You have already taken considerable steps to reduce your stress. When you’re stressed, it is impossible for your brain to make thoughtful and intelligent choices because it is in survival mode. When you’re in survival mode, your higher thought processes are put on hold to address the threat. Now that you’ve taken two massive steps to reduce your stress, you can evaluate the situation before you. Whether it’s a problematic interaction or a spending decision, you now have a choice. You can think clearly and make a decision that aligns with your goals.
- Wait. I love this step! Instant gratification is a juvenile concept. When you’re a baby with a need, you need it to be addressed for survival. This is how we were designed. However, your immediate need for food and attention diminished as you grew, and your higher thought processes emerged. Many people still exist in this juvenile state with the need for instant gratification. This isn’t to say that the occasional impulse buy dictates everything about your spending patterns. Still, if you see something and feel the need to purchase it immediately, there may be something bigger going on. With this step in the process, you can choose to wait to make the purchase after you’ve stopped, breathed, and evaluated. This is something that I adopted years ago and has served me well. If I see something I like, I wait and think about it. If I return later and it’s still there, and I still want it, I can move forward with the purchase. Otherwise, it wasn’t meant for me.
- Appreciate. This is an extremely powerful step. Appreciation has the power to shift how your brain works and what it chooses to focus on. When you operate from a place of genuine appreciation, your brain begins looking for things to appreciate. After you have reduced your stress and moved through the other steps, stopping to take a look at what you already have in your life that is good can have you walking away from situations that in the past you may have willingly participated in though you knew they were detrimental to your well-being. Choosing to look for things that are good every day will shift how your brain functions and even the chemicals that course through it.
Mindfulness is a tool available to you every moment of every day.
Mindfulness is something you can do for yourself to shift how you view your situations and the world around you.
Using mindfulness this holiday to manage your stress and finances is the one thing that will help you go through the holidays without the usual stress and have you coming out on the other side feeling good about how you managed your stress and finances.