Monday, November 25, 2013

Happier Holidays: Managing Financial Stress

Happier Holidays
Reducing Financial Stress and Increasing Enjoyment

·        Are you feeling stress or pressure to buy gifts for others that you cannot afford?
·        Are you still paying for items purchased during last year’s holiday season?
·        Are you going into deeper debt to pay for holiday gifts and expenses?
·        Do you feel guilty about not being able to afford to buy gifts for loved ones?
·        Are you feeling anxious or depressed about finances during the holidays?

If you answered “Yes” to any or all of these questions, do not despair.  Here are 12 tips to

help you enjoy the holidays and feel in control of your finances.

  • Set and stick to a budget; Pay cash; and Avoid credit expenditures.
  • Shop online for items that cost more in brick and mortar stores.
  • Spend quality time with loved ones and enjoy the gift of each other’s  presence.  
  • Attend free or low cost events such as concerts, social gatherings, community programs, and worship services. 
  • Use your creative talents to make gifts such as artwork, fine crafts or edible treats.
  • Provide inexpensive token, recycled or gag gifts that convey special meaning and joy.
  •  Give gifts of service or skills, such as baby or pet-sitting, cleaning, repairing, etc. 
  • Try more manageable gift exchange ideas, such as drawing only one person’s name, as   opposed to buying a gift for every family or group member.
  • Save up for holiday spending each year, such as participating in a savings club.
  • Scale down and find ways to share the expenses of holiday entertaining.
  • Shop for holiday gifts out of season or during special sales to get lower prices.
  •  Instead of a group gift exchange, make a collective contribution to a charity.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Living with "What Is" vs. "What If"

"What If?":
The "what If?" thinking state can take two forms.  The more common version is comprised of concerns about future things, usually negative, that have not yet occurred.  An  example of this is when we are considering taking some action and we begin entertaining a litany of what ifs", related to the things we can imagine going wrong. When we experience this form, we are likely to experience a great deal of anxiety and fear to move ahead with a decision and action.

The other manifestation of "what if" thinking involves dwelling on the past and on some outcome that we wish had occurred, that in reality, did not happen.  An example of past "what if" thinking is when we berate ourselves for not taking a particular course of action because the decision we actually made had a less than desirable outcome.  In such cases, we are likely to experience regret, sadness, disappointment, as well as sometimes self-blame due to our past actions.

In any case, both types of "what if" thinking are unhealthy because they keep us stuck and paralyzed in terms of taking action in the present.   We are either still living and attempting to change the past or attempting to predict the future; neither of which we can actually do.  Therefore, these are irrational ways of thinking that hinder us and cause us distress.  The healthy goal is to always operate in the present, as effectively as possible.  How, then can we change such ineffective and self-defeating forms of thinking, in order to operate effectively in the present?

"What Is":
This is where "what is" thinking is useful and healthy.  Focusing on "what is" requires us to deal with the present and with reality.  The present is the only time space in which we can actually take action.  Dealing with the real state of affairs enables us to actually address and overcome past problems or to embrace the possibilities of our decisions and actions having a desired and positive outcome.  To do this requires us to adopt some healthy attitudes about the present, the past and the future and ourselves in those spaces, as follows:

  • We only have power to act in the present.
  • The past is over and cannot be undone.
  • The future is unknown and cannot be predicted.
  • When we forgive ourselves for past mistakes, we can free ourselves to act in the present.
  • We can learn lessons from a painful past that enable us to grow and heal.
  • Accepting that something undesirable previously happened means acknowledging it and addressing it, not necessarily liking or condoning it.
  • When we allow ourselves to contemplate the likelihood of future success, based on present positive evidence, we feel more confident to move ahead
  • A simple reminder, to help us refocus our thinking is to recognize that "what if?" is actually a question,that fosters doubt.  In contrast, "what is" is actually a declarative statement, that conveys decisiveness.
  • Also, remember that as we move ahead, we always have the power to change our minds and make reasonable adjustments, based on new information or circumstances, as they present themselves.

It is when we stand in the present and manage our thinking about the past and the future in healthy ways, that we can truly feel and behave in an empowered fashion.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Coping With Job Loss

Coping With Job Loss:  Overcoming Crisis and Moving toward Success

Presenter:  Diane Kern, Ph.D.

Creator of Happy & Healthy U Seminars

The loss of a job is one of the most difficult life events and source of significant stress.  Experiencing emotional distress in response to losing one’s job is very common and to be expected.  The typical experience is grief, which is constituted by several emotional stages.  The model of such grief is characterized by the following stages:

1.       Shock, Disbelief, and Denial:  This is often the initial reaction to losing a job; that the job loss does not feel real. 
2.        Anger/ Resentment/ Bitterness:  Feeling angered about the manner in which one’s job was terminated is very common.  It is important to recognize the underlying feelings that prompt the anger.  Such anger is particularly intense when one feels that they were unfairly terminated; mistreated while they were employed; or unappreciated and undervalued.
3.       Bargaining:  This is the sense that maybe one can suddenly change and undo the job loss.  However, this is a temporary  way that the mind eases the pain and grasps for a way to regain control
4.       Sadness / Depression:  These are feelings of despair and hopelessness.   There may also be some self-blame.
Diminished self-esteem is often experienced, due to the stigma of job loss, as well as the actual financial strain that may result.  This may leave the former employee feeling inadequate to meet their financial obligations and plagued by a sense of shame.
5.       Acceptance:  This is the acknowledgement of the painful and disruptive event; while realizing and desiring to go on.  Instead of engaging in psychological defenses and ways to avoid and minimize the pain; this stage embraces the reality of this difficult occurrence and the desire to get unstuck and move on. It is at this point that one is truly ready to search for a new job or explore  other healthy,  career  related options.

The key to successfully coping with and surviving a job loss is to work through your feelings; not to avoid them or get stuck in them.  The goal is to eventually move on.  Moving on for many may mean finding another job.  For others, it may mean early retirement or establishing a new career.  Below is a model for moving on with one’s life. 

To achieve wholeness and well-being, take good care of yourself in across all dimensions

Spiritually:  It is important that you assign meaning to this experience and make sense out of it.  This is also
an opportunity to confirm or redefine one’s sense of purpose.  Exercise your faith.  Meditation and prayer
can bring a sense of calm, centering, and hope.  Such quieting practices are also helpful in terms of being able to access and hear one’s inner voice.  This is also where we exercise our integrity and allow our healthy, positive standards to guide our actions. 

Physically: Experiencing major stress, such as a job loss can impact one’s health by weakening the immune system, thereby, rendering us more vulnerable for illness.  Therefore, it is essential that we refrain from self-medicating or excessive use of drugs or alcohol. Instead this is the time to concentrate on maintaining one’s health and strength through proper nutrition, exercise and rest.  Also, this is where all of one’s physical and survival needs are important.  This means addressing one’s financial needs by having a plan; utilizing savings; and tapping into other resources, such as unemployment benefits, or other services.

Emotionally:  Here is where our attitude about ourselves and this experience is crucial in determining our ability to recover from this crisis.  It is important that one validates the distressing feelings experienced and to remember that it is natural and part of the grieving such a loss.  It is also essential to recognize that the experience of losing a job, even when fired with cause, does not define a person.  Therefore, do not internalize the experience and beat yourself up.  This is only likely to lead to a depressive state that can keep you stuck. Also do not act out in either self-destructive, violent or other inappropriate ways.  Acting out usually creates yet a whole new set of problems, ranging from legal or criminal charges to negative repercussions to one’s reputation.  Such reactions will only result in negative consequences for you with potentially lasting damage to one’s career life. Exercise self-discipline around your legitimate anger in a way that allows you to retain your sense of self,  integrity and power.    Instead of getting stuck in self-blame, it is healthy to fairly evaluate one’s role in the  job performance and in one’s firing.  This places us in the healthy posture to address our issues or skill deficits.

In cases of wrongful termination, it is sometimes helpful to stand up for and exercise one’s rights.  Such actions may take the form of filing a formal grievance or pursuing  legal action. Another option could simply consist of a written dispute of the firing that would be placed on record. This can be a healthy way to discharge one’s anger and possibly accomplish re-instatement or restitution.  Being clear about the purpose of contesting a firing is essential.  If we do not have a desired goal in mind, it could become very easy to get mired in a protracted fight. Therefore, it is important to recognize one’s stamina for waging such major battles and balancing such actions with continuing to function well in other aspects of everyday life.  Also, it is important that one balances such actions against the need to move on to regaining our career life.  Therefore, it behooves us to decide the relative value of  the various options to fight a job loss against their possible toll or negative impact on our lives. 

Mentally or Intellectually:  Identifying and reminding one’s self about one’s talents, skills, and abilities is very important at this time.  Also, recognize the valuable contributions you made and accomplishments you achieved in your work. Engaging in such reflective exercises can serve as the basis of preparing for a new job or career.  In addition, it is helpful to feel good about oneself and to realize that one’s value and skills are not contingent upon or defined by one’s job.  In other words, we own our value and skill set. This may also assist a person in recognizing new opportunities and developing new interests and skills.  The goal is to regain a sense of empowerment and to become proactive in terms of utilizing our strengths toward reshaping our career lives.

Socially / Interpersonally:  Reaching out to one’s social network for support can be very helpful.  First of all, it is important to know that there are those who care about us and to be reminded that we are not defined by; nor is our worth dependent on our jobs or by the incomes we earn. Those, who truly care about and value us will not denigrate us due to a job loss.   In addition, reaching out to others, who have lost jobs and participating in some level of shared support, helps us realize that we are not alone and that our experience is common.  Therefore, losing a job does not result in one becoming a “loser”. 

Networking with others is a very useful way of connecting socially with others to exchange information and resources for possible job leads.  First of all, letting other trusted individuals in your social circle know that you are now job hunting and what it is you are seeking is a first line of networking.  Other forms of career networking consist of attending job search groups, joining professional organizations related to your interests or particular profession, and obtaining a mentor . 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Looking for Love? Start by Loving Yourself!

The month of February is traditionally associated with Valentine's Day.  Although it is coming to a close,  love is never out of date.  So, here are some reflections on healthy love.

We are much more likely to attract, select and sustain healthy loving relationships with others, when we love and value ourselves in a healthy way.  Whatever attitude and perception we have of ourselves, we carry with us and project to others.  Therefore, one's self-image, one's sense of adequacy, self-worth are critical to the way we treat ourselves and allow others to treat us.  Here are some important guidelines and elements to loving ourselves well.

  • Being Authentic:  Being who we really are, without pretending or faking a false sense of self. 

  • Embracing Self-Acceptance:  Loving our total selves, including our strengths and imperfections.

  • Taking Responsibility for Our Actions:  Acknowledging our shortcomings and making positive changes. 

  • Forgiving Ourselves for Past Mistakes: Understanding, learning,  making amends and moving on.

  • Nurturing Our Positive Qualities:  Engaging in activities that showcase and develop our strengths.

  • Celebrating Our Accomplishments: Giving ourselves credit and feeling good about achievements.

  • Using Ourselves as Our Own Measuring Stick:  Developing and honoring our positive standards.

  • Expanding Ourselves and Growing:  Taking reasonable and positive risks toward new tasks and experiences.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A New Year; A New Attitude of Appreciation

Being grateful for surviving 2012!      Welcoming 2013!

Psychological research findings show that being grateful can help persons effectively cope with challenging and painful life events and avoid becoming depressed. In other words, appreciating what one has, as opposed to focusing on what is missing, helps promote optimistic attitudes that are more likely to provide us with the energy to tackle life problems. Pessimistic and distorted attitudes, perceptions and thoughts are well known to be associated with depressed mood. Therefore, one's thoughts are powerful and impact emotions and actions. One's circumstances do not define a person's sense of self, unless internal personal power is surrendered to the pain of negative external events. Fortunately,  one has total power to manage and change attitudes, perceptions and thoughts in ways that are accurate and positive. 

To generate an attitude of gratitude in your life, consider the following strategies:

  • Recognize that you survived or overcame a challenge 
  • Celebrate overcoming and triumphing over previous difficult life challenges
  • Acknowledge your resilience that enable you to address ongoing challenges
  • Identify and value the following factors that have helped with triumphing or enduring:
    • Spiritual resources (i.e. relationship to Creator; prayer and worship)
    • Personal strengths and characteristics you possess
    • Social support from others, either emotional or material
    • Other external resources (i.e. therapy, financial support, education, etc.)
  •  Learn lessons you might glean from previous challenges to confidently face the future
  • Allow yourself to heal from previous wounds by accessing helpful resources


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