Mental Wellness During The Holidays

While the holidays are a joyful time spent with loved ones, they are also a highly busy and stressful time. It may be a busy time of year at work, and running around shopping and decorating can be stressful. You could also be suffering from the Christmas blues. If you are experiencing the blues, know that you are not alone; they can afflict anyone at any age and are usually caused by a life event. Not to mention the stress of trying to impress others with gifts, attend parties, and deal with family or toxic people, all of which contribute to the blues. People also remember individuals who are no longer alive to celebrate throughout the holidays.  Here is what we do to make it past the awkward hugs, the eye-rolls, and weird, invasive questions about your love life.

Compare Health Plans Online

  • Let us help you find the right Health Insurance Plans for you

Organize and Budget Gifts

Organization will liberate you! Do you believe you have an insurmountable task list? As with the previous step, break them up. It will stress you out much more if you have this cloud of ideas flying about in your head. If your budget is limited, it is okay to decline gift exchanges. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, encourage them to give to charity, make a homemade gift, or organize a low-cost activity for you all to do. If traveling is too expensive for you, ask family or friends to contribute to the cost of the ticket rather than giving you gifts. If you are unable to attend, request to skype or FaceTime with the individual or persons so that you can still participate in the festivities. Plan your budget ahead of time so you know what you can afford. Here’s what to do:

 

  • Make your list – List out the names of people you’ll be seeing during the holidays that you want to buy gifts for.
  • Organize by priority – Once you can physically see the list, rearrange it by priority whether it be kids first, then immediate family, followed by extended family or just by the order that you plan on seeing them in.
  • Pick the presents – You can begin assigning present ideas to each person once you’ve determined who you’ll be buying things for. If the process starts to become stressful , brainstorm with some hot cocoa and/or play some soothing music like jazz or holiday-themed songs.
  • Set realistic goals – You probably have a reasonable estimate of your budget for these things, but price each item separately and sum it up. It is easier to plan when you have specific numbers to work with.
  • Finalize it – Top off the whole process by turning all of your information into a checklist, you can even put the dates you’ll be seeing each person to give yourself a little deadline. This way you can mark off the gifts as you go so you don’t forget anything.

It’s Okay To Say No

The holidays may be stressful, especially if you commit to too many gatherings or have unreasonable expectations. When you say yes when you should say no, it merely leads to a flood of overwhelming and resentful feelings. With work and limited vacation time, your schedule is already packed. Don’t try to be in too many places at once since you won’t be able to appreciate your time. You’ll be too preoccupied with getting to the next party or worrying about hosting your own. Take it at your own speed and learn to say no.

 

You can decline invitations to some gatherings in order to spend more quality time with the people you do prefer to visit. Set priorities and stick to your budget. Take the previous checklist and replace the gifts with family members you want to see. Instead of gift pricing, assign trip prices to each one. If you are unable to accommodate everyone, make plans to visit once the holiday rush has subsided. They’ll probably understand, and also appreciate the break from the hustle and bustle. Visiting after the holidays may end up being more of a gift to everyone involved. 

Don’t Overindulge

Consider all of the pastries and snacks you’ll be eating and drinking throughout the holidays! Our eating habits are tested over the holiday season, with dinners, parties, and cookie tables at every turn.  Overindulging can make you feel tired or sluggish. It can also cause you to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, adding to your mental stress. Take a brief walk to get some exercise. Allow yourself time to be active so that you can appreciate all of the delicious treats.  Attempt to maintain a healthy diet. Consuming whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also aid in leveling out your mood.

Make Self-Care A Priority

This is more than just meditation. If you have a fitness routine, don’t let it slip during family visits. Try to go to the gym or perform some home exercises. Sticking to your routines (whether self-care or otherwise) not only gives you a mental lift, but it also establishes an internal norm. You’re going to dedicate your time and energy to people you care about this Christmas season, but don’t lose sight of yourself in the process. Keep your feet on the ground. Make time for activities that make you happy. It could be reading a book, going to the movies, having a massage, listening to music, or walking your dog. It is okay to prioritize alone time when you need to refuel.

mental health tips graphic

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Some people may experience loneliness during the holidays, but if you don’t want to be alone, you don’t have to be. You can join an organization, volunteer at a soup kitchen, attend community events, and meet new people. Volunteering can be a wonderful source of comfort. You can feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to your community by assisting those who are less fortunate. Start a toy or food drive and invite your neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

Be Present

Have a two-week trip planned to see relatives? Take everything one day at a time. This can work even if you are not staying for an extended period of time. One hour, one minute, one second at a time. Simply concentrate on the subject at hand and give it your undivided attention. Don’t be concerned about the rest of it. It is beneficial to employ these bite-size moments during stressful periods. Pay attention in the present moment. If you spend too much time thinking about future occurrences, you will become more stressed in the present.

Find Health Insurance Plans In 3 Easy Steps

  • Let us help you find the right Health Insurance Plans for you

Seek Professional Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak with your mental health practitioner. They can assist you in identifying particular circumstances that trigger you and develop an action plan to modify them. Keep seeing your therapist if you’re already seeing one. If you’re not already seeing one your health insurance will actually cover some mental health services due to the Mental Health Parity Act. 

 

The Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to handle coverage for mental and behavioral health and drug use problems in the same way that they treat coverage for medical and surgical care. This includes treating them equally in terms of money. For example, an insurance company cannot charge a $40 payment for a mental health professional’s office visit when most medical office visits only require a $20 copay. 

 

In addition, the Affordable Care Act also provides protection for mental health services. Mental health is covered as an essential health benefit in all ACA-compliant plans. As with other medical illnesses, your plan should cover some or all of the cost of mental health care. All ACA-compliant plans must include the following mental health services:

 

  • Outpatient individual or group counseling and therapy
  • Diagnostic services like psychological testing and evaluation
  • Ongoing outpatient treatment such as treatment programs and medication management
  • Outpatient treatment for alcohol or chemical addictions
  • Detox services
  • Substance abuse recovery treatment
  • Inpatient mental healthcare in a psychiatric facility

Work with EZ

Any visit has the potential to cause family turmoil. You want your parents/relatives to have a good time and enjoy your visit, but the holidays may bring a whole new level of stress to the situation. Maintaining excellent relationships with friends and family has surprising health benefits, so these trips are well worth it in the long term. Just keep these pointers in mind, and you should be okay. As for finding health insurance to cover your mental health, consider us Santa’s helpers. A licensed EZ insurance agent can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each plan, while also helping you in developing the plan that is ideal for you. 

 

Working with an agent saves you time and stress because you won’t have to decipher legal language or read fine text. Agents perform all of the heavy lifting, so you can relax knowing that your coverage is tailored to your specific financial and medical needs. Not to mention that EZ agents can save you hundreds of dollars on health insurance rates each year. We accomplish this by being able to search both on and off the market for the most cheap plans.

 

We can also locate and apply any discounts you may be eligible for. Also,we don’t simply provide you a strategy; we also aid you in maintaining it after the fact! We can assist in filing claims with your provider as well as renewing your coverage when the time comes. To get a quote, enter your zip code into the box below or call one of our qualified representatives at 877-670-3557.

Compare Health Plans Online

  • Let us help you find the right Health Insurance Plans for you

Beware of ‘Lifestyle Creep’ and Its Effects on Your Budget

It’s a great feeling when you finally start to gain a little bit of financial independence. Your job is going well, you’re seeing more in your paycheck each year, your bank account is healthy, and you’ve got a little extra money to put towards the things you want, instead of just the things you need. That’s a good position to be in, but it can actually have it’s dangers, too. Making more money can lead to what’s known as “lifestyle creep,” which can end in a blown-up budget. So what is lifestyle creep, and how can you avoid it? 

What Is Lifestyle Creep?

bid beach house with pillars and a pool
It is no secret that as you make more money, you spoil yourself more, but it is important to not let it affect your budget.

Hey! What’s that behind you? Don’t freak out: it’s that extra money you’re making now that you’re more established in your career creeping up on your budget. You might be past the days of ramen, roommates, and happy hours (ok, maybe you’re not above a good happy hour), but if you take a close look at your finances, you might find that you’re somehow not reaching your financial goals, or saving as much as you thought you would be.

The culprit could very well be the phenomenon known as lifestyle creep, or lifestyle inflation. Simply put, lifestyle creep happens when an increase in your income leads to an increase in your discretionary spending – you’re making more, so you start spending more. Or maybe you’ve paid off a big debt and you feel a financial burden lifted, and are jazzed by those hundreds of extra dollars in your bank account. 

It might mean slowly acquiring a taste for the finer things in life, being more free with how you “treat” yourself, or an ever-expanding list of hobbies that suck money from your bank account. 

It can start small: you order better entrees when getting takeout (and you start treating yourself to takeout more often), you buy those shoes you’ve been eyeing up, you trade in your yoga mat and dumbbells at home for a gym membership, maybe even with some personal trainer sessions thrown in for good measure. You think, “Why not? I’ve been working hard, and I deserve it – and I can afford it now!”

Yes, we agree, you have been working hard and it’s great that your hard work is paying off, but here’s the thing. Before you know it, you’ll have every new gadget that you see, a subscription or membership to countless services, a higher and higher rent, maybe even a second car payment. But what you will also see is a dwindling emergency fund, an anemic retirement fund, and nothing saved for big things like a down payment on a house.

Is Your Lifestyle Creeping Up On You?

If you’re not careful, lifestyle creep can be the ultimate killer of building your savings, and your long-term wealth. But it can be tough to spot, as it tends to happen gradually (remember that one pair of shoes that wouldn’t make a difference?): “[Lifestyle creep] happens so slowly, people don’t even necessarily realize it’s happening until they stop and take a good look at their money,” says Allison Baggerly, founder of the personal finance site Inspired Budget. So what should you be looking out for?

  • Mindless rather than intentional spending – We’re not saying you can’t spend any of that hard-earned cash, but experts agree that, as Mary Lyons, an investment advisor and founder of the Benchmark Income Group in Dallas points out, “On the one hand, it’s only natural to increase your spending as your income rises. After all, we work hard to buy and do the things we love in life. It’s when that higher spending happens mindlessly, rather than intentionally, that it becomes problematic.”
  • Forgotten financial goals – You’re earning steadily more, but not saving steadily more, or, even worse, you might still feel like you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.woman taking out a credit card out of a black wallet
  • Budgets that are getting blown up – Maybe you used to have a pretty strict grocery budget, for example, but now you’re consistently spending $50-100 more on each shopping trip. And maybe you’re going hog wild with your food budget in other ways: eating out more often, or not blinking an eye at spending $20 a day on lunch – and forgetting that that $20 a day adds up to $100 a week just on lunch.
  • A “no going back” attitude to your lifestyle – If the things you used to think of as luxuries or as aspirational seem like necessities to you now, and you can’t imagine going back to the way you used to live, your lifestyle is definitely creeping up on you. “The telltale sign of lifestyle creep is the mental or audible reflection, ‘How did I ever make it on less?'” says Katie Waters, certified financial planner at Stable Waters Financial.

Avoiding the Creep

The tough thing about lifestyle creep (other than the slow, creeping pace of it, which can make it something you’re less likely to do something about) is that it can actually feel like progress. Like you’ve made it, you’ve reached your goals, you’ve arrived. And, like we said, no one is saying that you can’t improve your lifestyle, or spend some of your money on the things you want. In fact, some financial experts give you a full 30% of your budget for discretionary spending, if you follow the popular 50/20/30 budgeting rule (the other 50 and 20% go towards necessities and savings, respectively). The problem is that if you’re mindlessly spending in a way that outpaces your savings, you could end up in trouble further down the road.

So speaking of budgeting, and taming the creep, let’s take a look at some other ways you can avoid lifestyle creep and its effects on your financial future:

Open your eyes and take a good, hard look

The first thing you should do if you feel like lifestyle creep has gotten its claws into you is to actually confirm it. This first step might not feel great, but it’ll put you in a better position to move forward with intention. Start by auditing your monthly spending – you might be surprised by what you see, and might feel ready to do some trimming. 

So, next, you can actually start to do that trimming: we’re looking at you, 8 separate subscriptions to streaming services and unused premium gym membership. Finally, really have a think about how you’ve been spending, and what you’ve been spending it on. Back this up by gathering up all of that extra stuff, and doing some decluttering while you consider how spending on all of this (now unused) stuff hasn’t brought you closer to living your best life. Try selling what you don’t need, and thinking about ways you can downgrade, like to a car with payments you can actually afford. 

Stick to a budget

Sure, spending is fun and budgets are boring, but it’s got to be done. The simplest and most general budget you can stick to is the 50/20/30 budget from above; from there, you can break down the 50% you’re spending on necessities into a smaller budget. So, look at your rent/mortgage and utilities (things that aren’t likely to change much), and then figure out money for the rest, like groceries. 

Automate your savingsillustration of a person's hands holding a cell phone with a bank on the screen

Not sure you’ll actually put aside that 20%? Hey, it’s 2022, and with digital banking literally at our fingertips, there’s no excuse not to automatically put money into your savings account each month.

Be aware of mindless vs intentional spending

As we said above, spending can feel good. In fact, you might be an emotional spender, and you’re not alone: our brains perceive shopping as exciting or new, which lights up our brains’ dopamine receptors, and certain things might trigger your responses more than others. Be aware of what your triggers are, and keep a list of your actual dream purchases on things or experiences, and ask if those impulsive, mindless purchases are helping you get there (or reach your other goals, or even actually making you feel good). 

And, remember, this doesn’t mean you should never upgrade, but be intentional with how you’re upgrading, and save your hard-earned money for upgrades that help you:

  • Feel less stressed
  • Improve your relationships
  • Save time
  • Be more genuinely happy
  • Improve your skills
  • Reach your health goals
  • Work toward long-term financial goals 

Plan ahead for your spending

This follows on the point above. If you want to make some big purchases or big lifestyle changes, don’t do it the moment you start earning more! Wait on that much bigger apartment, or luxury car: consider planning a big purchase at least three to six months in advance, then you can evaluate whether the purchase is still worth it as time passes. Doing this also gives you more time to save up for that big expense, and will mean you’ll have enough extra money for your other needs, too.

illustration of a man writing on a poster with graphs on it
It is important to set aside time to figure out what your financial goals are and how you want to prioritize them.

Set goals

We’ve talked a lot about dealing with discretionary spending, but what about those less fun ways to make your money work for you? What are your financial goals for the future? In order to get where you want to go, you have to have a plan, so set aside time to figure out what your financial goals are and how you want to prioritize them. Maybe you want to build an emergency fund, save more for retirement, set aside funds for a vacation, pay down debt, or save up for a down payment on a house. Whatever it is for you, once you’re clear with yourself, you can create a plan for how you’ll get to those goals as you earn more money, maybe by paying off smaller debts, or setting aside a percentage of your increased income.

Put your pay raise into your “wealth snowball”

If your pay raises have settled into the regular old standard 2.5% to keep pace with inflation, pretend you’re making the same amount you were before the raise. Take that “extra money” and save it, or put it towards something on your list that you need or want. 

Limit your revolving debt

Matching the pace of your credit card spending to the rise in your income is a great way to become a victim of lifestyle creep – it’s just too easy to overspend. Not only that, but having too much revolving debt can also hurt your credit, which will make it harder for you to recover from financial setbacks, and can make it harder to secure the best terms on new debt such as a mortgage or car loan.

Remember to treat yourself!

If we’ve been sounding pretty strict, it’s only because it sometimes takes some hard truths, and a serious plan, to get yourself back on track. But, don’t worry, you can avoid lifestyle creep without cutting everything that falls into the “fun” category out of your life. In fact, most financial experts agree that It’s important to enjoy the process of working toward your financial goals. According to Clarissa Moore, owner of the personal finance site the Budget Queen, “I don’t believe you should be sacrificing everything. Do what you want to do, but do it in moderation and always be mindful of those goals.” 

So yes, you can have those experiences that you couldn’t have when you were earning less money, and you can buy that pair of shoes or add an extra side of guac, we won’t tell. Just be mindful of your spending, and don’t let any fiendish financial surprises creep up on you down the road. 

Is your lifestyle creeping up on you? We want to hear from you!