As we jump into November, we find ourselves neck deep in the Holiday season. Some stores have already started putting Christmas/”Winter” decorations up. Others are waiting until the end of November when Thanksgiving is officially over.
One thing that the holidays mean is increased financial activity for the economy as a whole. People are busy buying lots of food and lots of gifts.
I wanted to discuss the financial pressures that the holidays bring, and ways to relieve the stress.
Causes of financial stress:
Here are some common social pressures that cause financial stress during the holidays:
- Attaching Happiness with Material Things – Retail industry gears up for the holidays, telling you that to be happy you need things and you believe them. You shop till you drop, thinking that the things in your basket will make this holiday a happy one. However, the more you spend, the larger your debt grows. Once the holiday is over, you’re facing large amounts of debt.
- Social Expectations – Oftentimes you feel the need to protect your friends and family from your financial difficulties. You feel the social pressures to be happy and successful. You might spend money you don’t have to meet these social expectations.
- Too Many Responsibilities – You over commit to your loved ones. You schedule too many parties, too many extra activities and too many family obligations. The financial burden of these obligations can make a difficult situation worse.
- Topping Yourself – Every year, you want this holiday to be better than the next one. You feel as if you can’t “beat” last year’s holiday then you’re a failure. Or you’re in competition with another family member to provide the “better” holiday. Sometimes in the heat of the competition with yourself or someone else, you spend far too much.
If you ignore these social stressors, it can have a negative effect on you and your loved ones.
Negative effects of financial stress:
Stress isn’t just a pain in the butt that exists in some sort of emotional vacuum. No, it effects other parts of our lives in drastic ways. Financial stress can affect you in many ways:
- Health – Financial stress can have an effect on someone’s physical and mental health. It can cause someone to feel angry, depressed and fatigued if they’re staying up at night. More extreme cases can cause headaches, upset stomachs and muscular tension. AARP survey on the Impact of Economy on Health Behaviors found that 20% of the participants reported health issues due to financial stress. (Source)
- Lashing Out – Financial stress can cause someone to lash out against their family and friends. In some extreme cases even lead to domestic violence. Last holiday season, National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) ran a 6-week study on the link between financial stress and domestic violence and found that 54% of victims who called their national hotline reported a change in their financial situation in the past year. (Source)
- Self Destruction – Financial stress can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as increased drinking, illicit drug use, over-eating, excessive gambling and even additional spending. These behaviors can start effecting one’s work, school or home life negatively.
You may feel like you’re alone. That you can’t reach out. You might feel guilty that you can’t offer the holiday that you feel you should. Those negative feelings are not going to help you.
How to Cope with Financial Stress
Instead, start coping with your financial stress with these strategies:
- Be Real – Stop putting on airs to your family and friends and be honest about your financial situation. Being honest with them will relieve many of the financial pressures that come with the holiday.
- Take Care of Yourself – It’s hard enough to deal with problems when you’re healthy. If you’re having physical and/or mental health issues, you need to seek help from a healthcare provider, spiritual leader, school counselor, psychologist or community health clinic.
- Deal with Your Debt – Hiding from your debt problems and continuing your current spending habits will only make the situation worse. It’s never too late to start dealing with debt.
- Release Stress – Physical exercise can go a long way to release stress and reduce anxiety. You can also funnel your negative stress into free activities and hobbies to get your mind off your debt problems.
How Do You Cope?
When you feel financially stressed out because of all of the pressure from the holidays, what do you do?
Just realize: You’re not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, this tough economy is impacting two-thirds of families this holiday season. Many families are going to be spending less, shopping the sales, using last year’s decorations and cutting out holiday travel. Focus on your family and be thankful for what you have this holiday, rather than what you don’t. Just by changing your mindset, you can have a happy holiday.