Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season

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Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year. Back-to-school shopping and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context.

Take some time to think about your finances.

How much do you have to spend?

How much do you need to save?

What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!

This blog was updated from November 2015 and written by Kaitlyn Brodar. Kaitlyn was the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Don’t Overdo It! – Preventing Burn-Out at the End of the Semester

Although we know that self-care is an important part of maintaining holistic wellness, oftentimes it is difficult to truly engage in this practice. Being a college student is not always easy. Many times, competing interests are at work including courses, clubs, organizations, and other activities. It is extremely easy to look at peers and think, “They are doing so much! I’m not doing enough! I need to do more!” This thinking can be destructive for a number of reasons. We are all unique individuals with different aspirations and talents. My talents and interests may not align with my peers, but that does not necessarily mean that I am not doing enough. This means that I am strengthening and utilizing my skill sets in areas that interest me. Each activity and organization that you involve yourself with should be something that you are passionate about. Aside from thinking about what you can add to the organization, as a participant/member, it is perfectly okay to consider what the organization can add to your life as well. For example, will you gain the necessary skills and expertise which will help to guide you along your path?

Being over-involved can lead to fatigue and burnout.

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Burnout image by dskley at Flickr Creative Commons

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/preventing-burnout.htm). The dangerous truth about burnout is that it is a gradual process which manifests differently in everyone. It also directly impacts holistic wellness. Symptoms of burnout include but are not limited to the following:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time,
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits, sense of failure and self-doubt,
  • Loss of motivation,
  • Isolating yourself from others, and
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities

One of the primary ways to avoid and manage burnout is engaging in self-care on a regular basis. Below are some tips:

  1. Set aside at least 15-20 minutes per day after classes or other responsibilities in which you can sit alone and process the day. Alone time is essential for recharging!
  2. Find a hobby unrelated to school and schedule that time weekly (weekends usually work really well).
  3. Make friends! Don’t underestimate the power of these bonds!
  4. Be kind to yourself and others. Adjusting to the college is a process and everyone’s experience is going to be different. I know it is difficult, but avoid comparing your experience and journey to the next person’s.
  5. Embrace your individuality!

If you are having difficulty with any of the topics discussed in this blog, please feel free to stop by UNC Student Wellness or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) https://campushealth.unc.edu/services/counseling-and-psychological-services or call 919-962-WELL.

 

Millicent Robinson is a 2nd year MSW/MPH dual degree program student and Program Assistant with Student Wellness. Millicent went to UNC as an undergrad, earning a B.A. in Psychology with two minors in Spanish for the Professions as well as African and Afro-American Studies. Millicent is interested in holistic health and academic wellbeing, particularly in minority students. She has worked with the Upward Bound program at UNC for three years, and approaches health disparities and inequities using an interdisciplinary approach. 

Why Therapy Is Not For Me (but actually might be)

1. I want to get through it on my own.

We live in a society that places a lot of value on independence, but in truth, we are interdependent. Each of us does need other people to some degree. Participating in therapy is not a passive process. You are not “attending therapy”, or “getting therapy”.  Therapists are not administering something to you. Therapy is an active, collaborative process of figuring out life. Therapists do have some specialized knowledge about mental health, but we act as guides, not fixers. In fact, but of the unique aspects of therapy is that therapists act as guides, not as fixers.

2. If my friends and family can’t help me, how will someone I don’t even know help me?

Friends and family play extremely vital roles in our lives, and there is no substitute for those types of relationships. Often the people in our life have a vested interest in what we choose to do or in what direction we move. The role of a therapist is very different. When you go to therapy, the first task is for the therapist to be able to understand your hopes and goals, because your agenda is our agenda. Sometimes family and friends have the tendency to try to make things better for you. Therapists are trained to help you find the tools to make things better for yourself.

3. It’s not that bad. I’m not crazy. Therapy is a last resort for me.

People participate in therapy for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes things in their lives are pretty bad when they initiate therapy.

Sometimes they start treatment because they aren’t feeling fulfilled, or because something in life feels “off”. They want to not simply get through each day, but instead want to thrive. Sometimes students come to therapy because they are aware that academic stress is unavoidable and they want to learn strategies to manage it before it starts to create problems. At UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we work with people throughout the whole spectrum, between preventing problems before they start and treating issues before they begin.

Mental Health is similar to physical health in that it is often a quicker, easier process if you take a proactive approach. I often hear from students who have recurrent depression that the first episode was the worst, in part because they didn’t know to take action until things felt completely unmanageable.

Stigma is real. Often times we are socialized to have some negative feelings towards individuals with mental health disorders and towards seeking mental health treatment. Where have you heard some of those messages? What do you believe? How might you overcome the stigma associated with seeking services?

4. Therapy is too _____________________ (Expensive, Time Consuming)

There is no arguing with that. Participating in therapy definitely takes time (typically 45-60 minutes weekly). It also may require a financial investment. Although CAPS brief therapy services are free, there are times when students may start off with or transition to a community provider, where there will likely be a copay.

Often when I meet with students, their symptoms are impacting their ability to be as successful as they could be academically. Their friendships or relationships with loved ones may be impacted. Anxiety, for example, could make it extremely difficult for a person to concentrate and learn new material, and to seek frequent reassurance from friends, or to avoid social situations altogether.  Also, some of the symptoms they are experiencing are painful. They are in real distress. Can you relate to this? How are the issues you are having impacting your quality of life?

If one part of the equation is the cost/time/effort, please remember to include the other side of the equation- the impact the symptoms are having on your well-being.

In Conclusion

Therapy is not for everyone. But therapy is helpful for some people, and it just may be that it could be helpful to you. But don’t take my word for it! See if therapy can help you. The best way to get something out of therapy:

  • Come in with some goals in mind.
  • Ask your therapist questions.
  • If you don’t feel as if the first person you see is a good fit, work with someone else.
  • Monitor your symptoms and your progress toward your goals, and work with your therapist to get the most out of your time together.
  • Be open with your therapist about any concerns you have about the therapy process.

If you would like to initiate therapy or simply talk with a clinician more about your options for mental health services, please walk in to CAPS between the hours of 9*-12 and 1-4 M-F (8-5 if you have urgent concerns). *Friday morning initial appointments begin at 9:30 a.m. 

 

Originally posted August 6, 2013. Revised and updated 2016.