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6/Jul/2017

I’m sure we have all experienced the anxious feeling that arises when there just doesn’t seem to be enough money in the pot to cover all our expenses, or the gut-wrenching feeling that arrives when we are hit with unexpected and un-planned for expenses, like car and home repairs, or vet bills.  Financial stressors are not uncommon and feeling overwhelmed by financial pressures is normal.  It is when the stress takes over due to ineffective money management that our long-term mental health may start to suffer.

A nation-wide survey conducted on behalf of Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) showed that 42% of Canadians ranked money as their leading cause of stress, significantly more than work, personal health and relationships (FPSC, 2014).  The survey also found that financial stress is contributing to poor sleep, reconsideration of past financial decisions, arguments with partners and dishonesty amongst family and friends about personal finances.  When we lack sleep and our meaningful relationships are strained, a number of other problems can arise, and we can become overwhelmed, and our ability to cope with it all can start to wither away.  When we are no longer able to effectively cope with these building stressors, and are stuck in a cycle of being stretched beyond our limits to try and make ends meet, we are at greater risk of experiencing long-term mental health difficulties.

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It is often difficult for even the healthiest and wealthiest of individuals to effectively manage their money and the stress it may bring, but in individuals already suffering with mental health disorders or challenges, there is even more to consider.  Those with existing mental health disorders are at greater risk of being affected by financial pressures for a number of reasons: (1) they may have less drive, focus, and motivation to properly manage their finances; (2) they may use spending money on desired items as a means to relieve symptoms; (3) they may be unemployed or on a leave from work for mental health reasons; and (4) they may be more prone to impulsive spending due to weakened inhibitions.  In order to stay healthy, it is important for all individuals to develop a money management plan, and it is important for us to support one another in doing this because we will all fall victim to financial stressors of some kind.  Researchers from The University of South Hampton concluded that the likelihood of having a mental health problem is three times higher among people who have debt, and that depression, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders were among the most common mental illnesses people in debt experienced (Psychology Today, 2015).

It is a difficult and multifaceted challenge in that we can’t always identify the cause and effect – whether the debt caused the mental health issues or whether the mental health issues caused the debt – but regardless, both problems must be addressed.  When you have an effective financial plan and are on top of things, it’s easier to improve your mental state – and when you are healthy, both mentally and physically, it is easier to take action on your debt.

So the answer isn’t simple, but it does exist.  We must become mindful of both our mental health as well as our financial situation and if either are not where we would like them to be, we need to develop a plan.  Seek counselling or reach out for social support if you notice that you are experiencing mental health difficulties, and seek financial advice if you are struggling to stay on top of things financially.  You don’t have to try and do it alone – we are all in this together.  According to a survey done by The American Psychological Association, 43% of those who say they have no emotional support report that their overall stress has increased in the past year, compared with 26% of those who say they have emotional support.


So here are some of our basic tips on tips on how stay mentally healthy.
(If you feel you need more support, in the form of coaching or counselling, we are here to help as well).

  • Practice mindfulness & be mindful of your mental health
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Develop and strengthen your social support network (and use them!)
  • Reach out for professional help when needed
  • Engage in activities and relationships that are meaningful to you
  • Set aside time for reflection to see whether you are truly living the life that you want to be living, and if not, make some changes

Because we are not financial experts, we reached out to a friend, Anton Tucker, who is a Certified Financial Planner and Portfolio Manager, and has many years of experience providing financial advice and support to people.  We interviewed Anton and here is what he had to say about how to stay financially healthy:

‘’Managing money effectively is difficult because we are all so consumption driven. After all, our entire lives have been influenced by media touting the latest gizmo or paradise vacation that will “change our lives”.  Most of us have also never been coached on how to properly ‘save the cents and in turn, grow the dollars’, so we are not to blame for not knowing how to do just that.  Saving money is no different from exercising to get fit and stay in shape to be healthy.  It requires a basic plan, discipline, patience and above all sacrifice.  I believe in order to effectively manage our money we all need to first select a saving number based on our ability, need and life stage.  The number is the percentage of your income that you will commit to save each and every paycheque.  It should typically be 10%, 15% or 20% of your net income.  In the simplest of terms, 10% will result in you being somewhat comfortable, 15% will deliver a good nest egg and 20% will provide a very solid financial base from which to fund an enjoyable lifestyle.  Take this at face value as you contemplate your number and set about thinking how you can do this starting from your very next paycheque.  You will be amazed at just how easy it becomes as you get used to setting this amount aside before you pay bills or think of spending again.’’

Staying on top of your mental health and your financial health simultaneously will go a long way in helping you stay mentally healthy and in not letting financial pressures threaten to take that away from you.  Whether you are already struggling with mental health or financial stressors or are not yet, but still feel there is room for improvement, try some of the tips we have shared with you or reach out for more personalized support whenever needed.

jessica-rickus1

APA. (2015, February). American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Stress Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/02/money-stress.aspx

FCSP. (2014, November). Canadians Cite Money Worries as Greatest Source of Stress. Retrieved from http://www.fpsc.ca/news/publications-research/how-is-financial-stress-affecting-canadians

Georgopoulos, M. (2017, June). End the Stigma: Impact of finances on mental health (or the impact of mental health on finances…). Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/end-stigma-impact-finances-mental-health-maggie-georgopoulos

Morin, A. (2015, June). What Your Financial Health Says About Your Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201507/what-your-financial-health-says-about-your-mental

Richardson TElliott PRoberts R. (2013, December). The relationship between personal unsecured debt and mental and physical health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24121465 


11/May/2017

closet

It’s that time of the year again – the weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, flowers are beginning to bloom – and we’re beginning to notice all of the clutter in our homes.  I don’t know about you, but I know that when my home, garage, shed, or car is cluttered, I feel like my mind is cluttered!  I find myself becoming distracted much more easily and can’t concentrate when the house is a mess.

Spring is a great time to clean out your home and garage in order to prepare for summer barbeques, get-togethers, and longer days spent outdoors.  But it can be a daunting task, especially if it’s a while since the last time you cleaned.  In order to help get the process done as quickly and painlessly as possible, you can follow some of the following tips:

1. Make a List

Not sure where to start?  Try going room to room, and making a list of everything that needs to be done.  Alternatively, create categories and organize your tasks that way.  For example, you could have a list of different things you have to organize versus things you have to clean.  It may also be helpful to include the estimated amount of time it may take to complete each task.  See the example below for ideas:

table

2. Break it Down

Large tasks can seem really intimidating and you may find yourself thinking “I’ll never get that finished”.  Try breaking down a large task, such as organizing the garage, into smaller steps.  This way, instead of worrying about the long-term, daunting task of having a beautifully organized garage, you can instead focus on small tasks one at a time.  For example, you may want to start with one corner of the garage, or begin by organizing your tools and then move onto storage boxes, and from there clean up the kids’ toys.

3. Schedule Your Time

Scheduling in time to do any sort of unpleasant task helps to ensure that we complete the task – we are much more likely, for example, to go to the gym if we schedule it in our calendars than if we do not[1].  Spring cleaning is no different!  Take your list of tasks that you want to complete, and schedule them into your calendar around work, leisure, and family activities in order to help keep yourself accountable and to have a plan.

garage

4. Be Mindful

Spring cleaning can be frustrating, exhausting, and an overall unpleasant experience.  It’s important that we keep in mind all of the reasons you may have to be doing spring cleaning in the first place.  In order to help keep our values at the forefront of our minds, practicing mindfulness can be really helpful.  Mindfulness helps ground you in the present so that you can get back in touch with your values and remind yourself why you’re doing all of this.  Click here for some quick mindfulness practices you can teach yourself.

5. Do What Works for You

All of the above tips can be really helpful for ensuring that your spring cleaning goes smoothly and efficiently.  However, everyone is different, and some of these items may not work well for you.  It is important to plan your spring cleaning in a way that is going to be most beneficial for you.  For example, you may like to get things done all at once, so scheduling your cleaning for a weekend and completing it in two days may be the best way to get it done.  For others, it may make more sense to do a little bit each day, and that’s okay!  Set yourself up for success!

jenny-thomson

[1] See: Coffman, S.J. et al. (2007) Extreme Non-Response in Cognitive Therapy:  Can Behavioural Activation Succeed where Cognitive Therapy Fails?  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 75, No. 4, Pages 531-541 and Dobson, K.S. et al. (2008) Randomized Trial of Behavioural Activation, Cognitive Therapy, and Antidepressant Medicine in the Prevention of Relapse and Recurrence in Major Depression, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 76, No. 3, Pages 468-477.



December has arrived, and the holiday season is officially upon us.  But does it ALWAYS feel like it is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’?

presents

The holiday season is a time when many experience feeling stressed, overwhelmed, in a daze, and maybe even angry (think:  the mall parking lot on Black Friday/Weekends/Boxing Day)!  Some also experience effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, for short), resulting from less daylight during this time of year.  Luckily, there are things you can do to help you stay present, maintain connection to what’s important, and do the things that are meaningful to you this holiday season.


 1.  Stay Present

There are so many things to think about in preparation for the holiday season that it is often difficult to stay present and focused on the here and now.  For example, you may be decorating your tree, but thinking about what presents you still need to buy, which day you need to attend a holiday party, and what you should make for dinner.  This distraction may take away your enjoyment of decorating the tree, as you were not fully “there” while doing it.

Instead, try and implement mindfulness into your holiday activities.  Engage all of your senses, and focus on your experience of that activity instead of thinking about what you have to do next.  To relate this back to our tree example, if you were decorating mindfully, you could be paying attention to the texture of the tree branches and how they feel on your fingertips, the colours of the ornaments, the placement of the ornaments, the sound it makes when you place an ornament onto the tree, the smell of the tree, etc.  If you realize that you become distracted by a thought, notice the thought that distracted you and bring your attention back to focusing on the tree.

decorating

Try and make a point of staying mindful during each holiday activity that you do.  It may also be helpful to engage in a more “formal” mindfulness practice, and dedicate a specific time for it each day.  You can check out apps such as “Stop, Breathe, Think” (available on both Apple and Android devices) or scroll down to read previous blogs we have written to find out more information on beginning a formal mindfulness practice.

2.  Making Meaning

Some holiday stress may result from the disconnection of the activities we are doing and the reasons as to why we are doing them.  There is sometimes a sense of obligation in the holiday season, when we feel like we are obligated or “should” do activities, even though they may not be important to us.

Think of three people who are important to you.  Some examples could be parents, children, spouse, coworkers, friends, or community members.  Now, think of three things that are important to you during this holiday season.  This may include things such as generosity, tradition, connection to others, kindness, etc.

baking

Now compare the things you have listed as meaningful to you to your holiday to-do list.  Do all of the activities on your list correspond to one of the people or things you listed as being important to you?  This comparison is helpful for reminding us why we are doing the activities we have planned for the holidays, and it often makes activities more enjoyable when you know they are fueled by something that is important to you.  Furthermore, if you realize that there are to-do’s that do not correspond with any of your values, it gives you space to make a decision as to whether you would still like to maintain that activity or not.

3.  Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

We can’t stress this one enough!  If you do not schedule activities, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and as though you do not have enough time to complete all of the things you need to do.  Scheduling your activities allows you to plan specific times for each task, and removes the pressure of not knowing what to do next.

Use a blank calendar, day planner, or a smart phone calendar to plan out which days you will do which activities.  If it is a large activity (e.g. buying gifts for the whole family), break the activity down into smaller steps and schedule the smaller steps into your planner.  For example, you may schedule creating a list of gifts, when you will phone someone to go with you, or multiple days of shopping so you do not feel pressured to complete the task in a single day.

When you are creating a schedule of your holiday to-do’s, do not forget to include your regular activities such as exercising, attending work or classes, and volunteering.  Many self-care activities tend to fall by the wayside during this time of year, so it is important to ensure you are continuing to complete self-care activities, even if they may need to be less frequent.


We hope that some of these tips may help you stay present, connected to what’s important, and allow you to find time for activities that are meaningful to you during this holiday season.  If you think that you would benefit from one-on-one support during this time of year, please do not hesitate to contact us to set up a FREE consultation to find out how we can help.

From all of us at J Marlin and Associates Inc. to you, Happy Holidays!

kayleen-willemsen1


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J Marlin and Associates Inc. offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy services to help individuals increase their sense of vitality, well-being, and fulfillment.

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