Financial stressors, high unemployment, and increasing economic insecurities are taking their toll on the overall health and wellbeing for many Americans.  Stress is one of the leading causes of health issues, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia.  If worry about money is weighing you down and increasing tension and conflict in your relationships, you are not alone.  

Fear of finances contributes to the daily stress that people felt before the recession, creating more concern about the future.  A recent poll conducted on the Internet estimates that 7 out of 10 households are feeling increased financial stress. 

Unemployment has reached double digits.  For those still gainfully employed, longer working hours are being required by employers.  Some employees feel that job tasks and responsibility have increased due to layoffs with little or no compensation.  The future may seem bleak rather than hopeful.

Here are a few suggestions to help you and your family emotionally survive the financial chaos:
  • Calmly discuss financial issues with family members.  Yelling or flying off the handle will only increase the overall tension of the household and seldom leads to solutions.  Arguing alarms children and leaves them feeling more insecure.
  • Ask yourself if you can afford the purchase?  If the answer is no, then don’t make the purchase.  Buying something that you can’t afford, will only contribute to financial stress and using a credit card leads to uncertainty regarding where the money will come from at the end of the month.  
  • Get creative.  Find new ways to curb your spending.  Pack a lunch instead of eating out.  Brew your own coffee instead of buying a latte.  Borrow books from the library rather than purchasing at your favorite book store. 
  • Make a budget and stick to it.  Most of us have the best of intentions, but actually sticking to a financial budget takes perseverance and determination.  Write up a reasonable budget and encourage participation from the whole family.    
The financial decline will pass.  The economy has brought many difficult challenges for Americans.  Staying calm in the face of financial stress, purchasing only what we can afford, thinking creatively, and maintaining a financial budget will help all of us weather the economic storm.   

January marks the beginning of a new year—optimistically bringing a clean slate for you to start.  Traditionally, people declare New Year’s resolutions to arrive at goals ranging from joining the gym to abstaining from chocolate.  We establish personal objectives to obtain a sense of accomplishment over the next twelve months.  

If we achieve our goals we check them off as successes and feel good about our accomplishments.  But, what if we fail to achieve our goals?  Many would say the answer is failure.  Why set goals that may lead to disappointment and failure? 

And, what if we make minimal gains, but still do not meet our objectives?  Setting goals and striving to achieve them, even when we fall short, brings us closer to completion than not setting goals at all.  We may gleam some sense of satisfaction from making an effort—there is no need to berate ourselves for not trying.

Making time to reflect over the past year is an opportunity to celebrate our successes as well as determine the areas we could stand to gain some improvement.  Taking an honest, non-critical, appraisal of the last year and determining what worked and what might be done differently is an important step to realizing our goals in the future. 

We need to start with some type of benchmark, because without one we have an unclear sense of what was accomplished.  For instance, if the goal is to lose weight in the coming year, our benchmark is how much we weigh to begin the year.  Moreover, we would have to identify the steps and processes that would help us meet our objective.  And, we would need to be realistic. 

Specifically, poor resolutions are:  I resolve to lose weight this year (not specific); or, I will lose 50 pounds this year (unrealistic).  A better resolution would be:  I resolve to lose 20 pounds during the year by eating healthier, cutting out desserts and sweet snacks, and exercising by briskly walking the dog.  But what if I eat healthier and exercise, yet only lose 12 pounds?  Have I failed?  Of course not, because I weigh twelve pounds less than I would have had I chosen to do nothing.  I have made healthy choices and have lost 12 pounds!

If you are wondering how to initiate your resolutions for the New Year, start with pen and paper.  Begin the process by writing down whatever comes to mind.  Do not edit—you need to get your ideas on the paper.  You can go back and edit later after you have finished brainstorming ideas for your list of yearly goals.  Long or short, your list and storm of ideas does not matter.  What matters is your personal investment in achieving the goals on the list.  Narrow the list down to clear, specific goals that would prove challenging but not daunting.  Finally, share your goals with someone you trust.  Explain why you chose certain goals to tackle and describe how you plan to work towards the goals listed.  Reading the goals out loud to another person and talking about your plans for the future creates a commitment and accountability to more than yourself. 

Consider January an opportunity to assess and take inventory of the last year.  Celebrate your successes and chose not to dwell on goals that have not been achieved to your satisfaction.  Do not waste your time or your energy on regret.  Aspire to meet your yearly goals through determination and effort, rejoicing in your progress.