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Debt is definitely a bad four-letter-word!  Statistics published by NerdWallet, Inc. suggest that the average household has credit card balances of $16,748.  The average household with any kind of debt owes $134,643, including mortgages.

The strain of debt puts an inordinate amount of strmoney-and-marriage.jpgess on a marriage, especially when coupled with the everyday stressors of marriage such as raising children, caring for elderly parents, career changes, occupational stress, and retirement planning.  As a result, many marriages end in divorce, exacerbated by family debt.

Many couples have discovered that by following some proactive steps, they have eliminated much of the problems associated with being in debt.

Suggestions for proactive financial responsibility:

  • Both parties must be active participants in the ongoing financial process.
  • Discuss finances with your spouse frequently (at least weekly).
  • Agree upon ground rules for credit and debit card usage.
  • Create a system for tracking your purchases.
  • Inform spouse of large purchases and increasing balances.
  • Monitor your balance frequently (at least weekly).
  • Elect to have your credit card company send you phone notification after someone makes a purchase.
  • Close credit cards that are rarely used.
  • When closing an account, do so in writing, and get a closing confirmation notice
  • Monitor you credit rating.imgres.jpg
  • Pay your bills in a timely manner.

Never ignore a credit card bill!

Suggestions for attacking debt:

  • Using cash makes you more aware of what you are spending.
  • Cut all necessary spending.
  • Stop expensive hobbies, habits and travel.
  • Learn to cook, plan budget meals, take your lunch to work, eat at home.
  • Consider a 2nd
  • Sell unnecessary possessions – boats, campers, club memberships…
  • Consign rarely worn clothes and household items.
  • Pay off smallest credit cards first.
  • Don’t buy new cars or new furniture….
  • Repair what you can before considering replacing.
  • Check your account for electronic withdrawals (phone bills, online memberships…)
  • Stop all unnecessary automatic withdrawals.
  • Consider TV options- cable vs. digital receiver; public radio vs. satellite radio
  • Control your thermometer (heating and cooling).
  • Unplug any appliances that you do not use regularly. (printers, computers…)
  • If you must shop for clothing, shop consignment stores.
  • Shop off-brands and wholesale grocery stores.
  • Clip coupons, watch sale papers, and accept free samples.
  • Resist shopping online, watching digital shopping networks, and window shopping.
  • Take good care of what you have, it needs to last!
  • Before you buy, determine if it is a want or a NEED.money-bag-clip-art-bag_of_money.png

Keep some money for an emergency fund.

Extra funds are to be paid toward credit card bills.

There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from paying all of your debt.

Karen Diane Reed, LPCC

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One thing that we can all count on in our life are stressful situations. These moments–long or short–will happen in many different areas. There are strategies to be incorporated in our daily life that will offset, or prevent stress. The following are four common ways to handle stress:

Handling-Stress

Exercise. An active lifestyle is helpful in distracting the mind in addition to the physical benefits. The human brain actually operates in a way that physical activity creates a happier existence.

Prayer or meditation. Taking our stress to God removes the pressure of carrying it all on our shoulders and provides the comfort of knowing we are not alone. Additionally, when prayer or meditation is taking place intentional solitude has been created. This personal time can provide a sense of peace.

Journal. Writing down feelings is a way of letting things out. It is one way to unbottle the feelings and relieves some pressure. Also, writing down all the good things is helpful in remembering the positives in life.

Talk to a counselor. Verbalizing the stressful situations can provide a sense of peace. A counselor can help change thinking process and give suggestions that are specific to the particular situation.

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At the Christian Counseling Center we have training and experience helping those struggling with feelings of stress.

I was in a hurry to get to the mental health center where I counsel. Running late, I felt an urgent need to get there quickly and needed no barriers, especially not four consecutive red traffic lights.

By the time I reached the fourth red light, I was sure I was being punished for some evil deed. While waiting for the light to change, I got ready to peel out.

As my hands tightly clasped the steering wheel and my leg muscles tensed, the light turned a bright green. To my dismay there was a slow poke in front of me. I could not get into the other lane, and I felt trapped.

Just when I was about to call the driver in front of me a “Bozo,” I got a chance to slip into the passing lane. Edging up to pass him, thinking he probably should have his license revoked, I was prepared to glare at him in anger.

When we were side by side, I turned to give my sneer and found it to be a friend. Immediately I smiled and waved. I sure felt stupid.

My own lack of organization had led to grossly exaggerated impatience which could have taken inappropriate ventilation on someone I did not know.

The entire scene could have been avoided had my attitude been more Christlike. Maybe personal study of the gospels will help me become reacquainted with his personality traits. If you have had similar experiences maybe you too could benefit from a personal daily study of the life of Christ.

Roger Thompson, MS / LMFT

Parents play a vital role in the way children handle stress and crisis. Usually, children’s responses are going to be influenced by their parent’s reactions. If parents take a positive response, children will learn the same. Here are some examples of ways to do this. Some of these examples were inspired by an article on everydayhealth.com. When your child seems upset:

  • Take time to talk and make sure you really understand what the problem is.
  • Turn off the TV, internet, etc. Make sure they have your full attention
  • Let them know you are listening by brief comments, and repeating back what you hear them say
  • Let them know that feeling stressed and angry is normal and that all people feel that way
  • Give them security to know that you are going to take action to be a protection
  • Simply spend time with them so they have the chance to share these personal things.
  • It is helpful for some children to know schedules, children like structure

These are just some basic ways a parent can help their child when they appear stressed. It may be that they need to talk to someone outside the situation such as a counselor. Therapy gives children an opportunity to express things they may find difficult in other settings.

It is important to remember that all children will feel stressed and the way they initially learn how to deal with it is from parents. This is yet another way for parents to teach children.

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

If we allow stress to accumulate it can lead to anxiety. So, properly handling stress is a very effective way of preventing problems with anxiety. Reducing stress is sometimes easier said than done. Here are a few ways to reduce stress. These ideas are influenced by an article on everydayhealth.com.

  • Exercise. You are able to work out those tense muscles with exercise. It also helps with your mood. The release of endorphins from your body causes you to feel better emotionally.
  • Compromise. Sometimes stress comes from arguing or being in conflict with someone else. Being able to compromise and realizing that “winning” an argument is coming to a common consensus rather than getting your way prevents a lot of stress.
  • Write it down. Writing out thoughts is a good way to organize them and “get them out of our system.” Whether you type it on your computer or write it with pen and paper it can be relaxing.
  • Set boundaries. Decide what realistic demands are and live within those limits. Only start projects that you intend on finishing and can reasonably finish with a plan on how to do this. Remembering to take time for yourself is also important and can be read about more here.
  • Talk to a counselor. Going to a counselor does not mean you are crazy. It means you care about your well-being. When stress is very high it can be helpful to have an objective person in your life to help you get through it.

There are a few tips on how stress can be reduced. Prevention is always better than treatment, so the quicker these are implemented the easier the stress will be to deal with.

 

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

I was talking with a friend recently about life stages. He said somewhat jokingly, “I thought when I got out of high school things would be good, college would be without problems, when that wasn’t the case I thought once I finished college things would be easy, I would have a job and life would be easy, and now I realize that there are adult problems!”

He is right. At all stages of life we are going to experience stressors. Many people experience similar stressors including illness or death in the family, relationships with family, work environments, or managing time. Not all stressors are negative events, however. Some events in a person’s life cause stress and unsettling emotions but the reason is something positive. This is called eustress. Some examples of this could be planning a wedding and the merging of two families, training for an athletic event, or even the holidays.

As my friend realized, stress is going to occur whether it is “good” or “bad.” So, how are effective ways to deal with it? A professor of mine used to say, “this too shall pass.” There is a lot of truth in that. It seems like the current situation will never end and that you will never be without feelings of stress for the rest of your life. But indeed it is important to remember, “this too shall pass.” But that leaves the question, “what can be done during this passing of time?”

There are a number of stress management techniques that people have used and found effective. Some people look to friends in time of stress. I strongly recommend this. It is important to have people to confide in, to share life with, who are not going to judge you These are people that have your best interest in mind. It is nice to know you have someone “in your corner.” Another thing that can be helpful if you are going through stress, is to learn something new (assuming your stress is not coming from lack of time.) Possibly learning about a new subject, family history, or even a new instrument.

If stress does come from too much on your plate it could be important to clean it off a little and spend some time alone. Some time in prayer or meditation can be calming, although hard to practice in the beginning if you are used to doing something every minute, it can be helpful.

Seeing a counselor can help with stress in that you have someone to listen who is coming from a neutral stance to give you some guidance. The counselor can be a calming presence when your feel like you are in the eye of a storm.

When stress comes remember, “this too shall pass” and there are techniques to get you through.

 

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

 

By Jeffrey Rossman, PhD.

All of us, no matter how blessed and lucky we may be, have experienced trauma, loss, and adversity–or we will. The death of someone we love, the end of a marriage, a frightening illness, financial insecurity. How we cope with a crisis, however, determines whether we become overwhelmed, depressed or ill–or if we emerge stronger, with greater confidence and wisdom. Yes, that can happen.

Imagine a sturdy, flexible tree in a windstorm. Buffeted by gale-force winds, it bends but doesn’t break. Its strong roots keep it firmly anchored to the earth. After the storm, it returns to its prior state and continues to thrive. Just like that tree, you can cultivate the emotional flexibility needed to weather any crisis by following these six steps that will be covered in detail over the next few days: Acknowledge your feelings, erase all blame, draw a circle of support, look for ways to find meaning, believe that you can bounce back, connect with your spiritual side.

Stressful events can make you feel bad about yourself. You might start focusing on only the bad and not the good in a situation. That is called negative thinking. It can make you feel afraid, insecure, depressed, or anxious. It is also common to feel a lack of control or self-worth.

Negative thinking can trigger your body’s stress response just as a real threat does. Dealing with these negative thoughts and the way you see things can help reduce stress. You can learn these techniques on your own, or you can get help from a counselor.

Positive thinking helps you cope with a problem by changing the way you think. How you think affects how you feel. Unwanted thoughts can make you feel anxious or depressed. They may keep you from enjoying life.  A technique called “thought-stopping” can help you stop unwanted thoughts. Thought stopping involves these things:

  • What you think can affect how you feel. Thought stopping helps you change how you think so that you feel better.
  • Changing your thinking will take some time. You need to practice thought-stopping every day. After a while, you will be able to stop unwanted thoughts right away.
  • Some people may need more help to stop unwanted thoughts. Talk to your doctor or a therapist if you want more help to stop thoughts that bother you.
  • Problem solving helps you identify all aspects of a stressful event, find things you may be able to change, and deal with things you cannot change.
  • Assertive communication helps you express how you feel in a thoughtful, tactful way. Not being able to talk about your needs and concerns creates stress and can make negative feelings worse.

Support in your life from family, friends, and your community has a big impact on how you experience stress. Having support in your life can help you stay healthy.

Support means having the love, trust, and advice of others. But support can also be something more concrete, like time or money. It can be hard to ask for help. But doing so doesn’t mean you are weak. If you are feeling stressed, you can look for support from:

  • Family and friends.
  • Coworkers or people you know through hobbies or other interests.
  • A professional counselor
  • People you know from church, or a member of the clergy
  • Employee assistance programs at work, or stress management classes
  • Support groups. These can be very helpful if your stress is caused by a special situation. Maybe you are a caregiver for someone who is elderly or has a chronic illness.

The choices you make about the way you live affect your stress level. Your lifestyle may not cause stress on its own, but it can prevent your body from recovering from it. Try to:

  • Find a balance between personal, work, and family needs. This isn’t easy. Start by looking at how you spend your time. Maybe there are things that you don’t need to do at all. Finding a balance can be especially hard during the holidays.
  • Have a sense of purpose in life. Many people find meaning through connections with family friends, jobs, or volunteer work.
  • Get enough sleep. Your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping.
  • Adopt healthy habits. Eat a healthy diet, limit how much alcohol you drink, and don’t smoke. Staying healthy is your best defense against stress.
  • Exercise. Even moderate exercise such as taking a daily walk can reduce stress.

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  • Learning how not to do for others what they can learn to do for themselves is one of the golden rules of adult maturity. 2 years ago
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