By Miranda Massie on April 5, 2017
Congratulations on making it through the end of the fiscal year on campus! This inevitable, yet often trying, time of year can be very stressful, particularly if you are like me and have a fear of tiny boxes filled with numbers.
According to the Financial Planning Standards Council, 42% of Canadians rank money as their top source of stress. As a young professional currently renting a one-bedroom, planning a wedding and hoping to eventually start a family, finances are always top of mind and often a source of stress. Caring for our financial health and finding ways to manage the associated stress is vital to our overall wellbeing and quality of life.
With this in mind, spring feels like a great time to begin thinking about ways to boost fiscal health, perhaps through a financial cleanse. Think of it as spring cleaning for your wallet!
1.Track where you’re at
Though it may be tedious and it might seem like a slow start to the process, it is impossible to make improvements to your spending habits without first assessing where you are at. For best results, track your spending for a minimum of 30 days. The good news is that there are lots of spending trackers and budgeting apps that can make this step less painful.
Mint.com (App or desktop)
Budget Calculator in Excel (Credit Counselling Society)
2.Take stock of your existing inventory
While tracking, take stock of what you already have in the way of clothing, health and beauty products, non-perishable food, etc. Create a list so that you are on top of what you currently own. This decreases the likelihood of making purchases “just in case” or because you’ve forgotten what you’ve already bought.
You might also want to take this time to look at any ongoing monthly subscription services that you are paying into, like Netflix, meal delivery services, gym memberships, magazines or catalogues. Are you receiving the value you expected at the start? Are you making the most of the services? Do you think that the service is worth what you are paying (i.e., would you sign up now if you were not already subscribed)?
3.Consolidate your plastic
The average Canadian has two or three credit cards in their name and close to half are carrying credit card debt month to month. Try making purchases without a credit card (using debit instead), or if you like to get rewards points, ensure that you have the money needed to pay off the purchase in advance. Consider closing one or more of your credit cards (remembering to hold on to the oldest one for credit history purposes). There are a variety of different strategies for how to go about paying off credit card debt, but typically anything that goes above and beyond the minimum payment per month is a positive step.
4.Establish a debt plan
On top of credit cards, many people are also facing car loans, mortgages, student loans and other personal loans. These debts can weigh heavily, restricting daily financial decisions as well as overall mental health. Consider creating a debt repayment plan. List all of your debts and their interest rates and determine a minimum monthly payment for each that you are comfortable with. Explore ways of consolidating loans, and use any savings from other areas to help pay down the remaining balance.
5.Try a fiscal fast
If you are trying to curb spending or change your financial habits, stop spending money (except for essentials of course) for one week. This will force you to make do with what you already have and stop you from spending on “extras” or unnecessary items. You may discover that there is a lot that you can do without money or that you can find new value in what you already have. To make it more fun, try it as a challenge with a friend or within your family.
Check out the Money Diet: Withdraw all the cash you will need for essentials for a week. Avoid using debit or credit cards and see if you can make it through the week.
*Bonus tip: Put up a “digital defense”. Remove temptations that could lead to online shopping by unsubscribing from store newsletters or offers for products. You may also want to consider creating a self-imposed ban on online purchases during certain times of the year.
I realize that some of these steps may not be feasible, or may not appeal to everyone. Even if this is the case, I encourage you to use the start of spring as a reminder to look after your financial health. Financial stress, left untreated, can have significant impacts on our mental health and on the wellbeing of those around us. And don’t be afraid to reach out for support, especially if you just can’t bear to face the tiny boxes with numbers all alone.
All my best,
By Guest Contributor on September 13, 2016
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
As the fall ramps up with task managers and organization tools and the schedules quickly start becoming booked up, our tendency is to jump right in to be productive. Productivity is a reward in itself and it seems that the more productive we are, the less stress we have. Although this is one way to mitigate stress, one of the key pieces of stress management and resilience building that gets forgotten is spaciousness. Without spaciousness, we can eventually crash and burn despite our best intentions.
Creating spaciousness is the art of planning for buffer time in your agenda. Buffer time is not only accounting for the time for unexpected delays or a spontaneous passing conversation with friends/neighbours (which is also important!), but also giving enough time for you to breathe, to notice, and to absorb the context you are in before taking any actions. In our modern society, efficiency and organization can often be placed at the head of stress management and are associated with “doing” or task productivity. Let’s take a step back and – while we give efficiency and organization their due credit – start to view spaciousness as a crucial component of our long-term resilience building.
What is “spaciousness” in daily life?
Just as you might imagine spaciousness in a room or a field, or as the human eye sees the night sky, spaciousness in life is the ‘space between’ – the pauses in between the actions of the day, or a relaxed relationship with time.
Instead of running from meeting to meeting or dropping off someone/ and gobbling your lunch before rushing to your desk, there is a window of time that you “schedule” in, where you become a witness rather than a thinker/doer.
This could be five minutes before a meeting, or 30 minutes between ending a day’s work and walking into the routines of your home. If we don’t build spaciousness into our schedules, the efficiency megaphone within us will call the shots. In modern life, moments of quiet don’t arrive without an element of intention.
We may think that jam-packing our schedules as the act of being present and excited with our days, or as spending our time doing what we love, with people we love. This can be true and yet still be detrimental. The people we connect with and the work we do may be fulfilling, but the sustainability of “doing” constantly is short term and in that time can damage our resilience mechanisms. To build resilience for the inevitable stressors that come with time, we draw our resources from the practice of creating space, even when we feel energetic enough not to need it.
On the flip side, for some of us, there are more than enough energy draining responsibilities to fill up 24 hours. In our current productivity model it can seem we barely have time to sleep, for fear that our precariously teetering stability may falter. Which is to say – it may not be an easy task to create spaciousness. Just because it is not easy does not make it a less important component of stability.
By cramming our days, we cram our minds and bodies, and there is only so long a person can last in a healthy mindset in a crammed headspace.
Stress grows when time is tight. Stress can dissipate when mindful space arrives. Mindfulness is what nourishes resilience. Give your resilience room to grow, so it can be a pillar for you when you need it.
Three factors that influence our capacity for spaciousness:
Planning: Intention matters! Planning to have timed space between actions is a functional way for spaciousness to feed you. If we wait for the “free time” to arrive before taking space to sit back and observe, the spaciousness can feel not only precious, but fleeting and lost to another unforeseen moment in time. The joy of embracing the rarity of spaciousness runs in parallel with lamenting the lack of it. If you know you are choosing to build spaciousness into your days regularly, it is easier to let it nourish you and to let it go. Spaciousness is not handed out randomly, it is fostered.
Prioritizing: The world can tug us in all directions and it is our job to get clear on what helps us serve others. There may be more tasks than you could accomplish in a day. These tasks may be important, but if you remember that your own mental health is the linchpin to being of service to yourself and others, spaciousness takes a front seat. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Valuing your own needs does not mean you are devaluing another’s needs.
Mindfulness: When we bounce from task to task it can be difficult to observe without sliding into a flurry of thoughts. Using the tools of mindfulness and the sensory experience of sight, smell, sound and touch, you can bring yourself into a witness state where resilience grows.
How to build the practice of spaciousness
As you organize each day this week, look at your schedule/tasks and choose ONE time in the day where you could build in a buffer, a spaciousness for breathing and observing without doing, planning or preparing. Be it for five minutes or one hour, let that time be an open field for observing where you are; for arriving and sensing before acting. It may be a practice that you find takes your emotional odometer into a place of calm. It may be a practice that you will take forward beyond this week into your life.
The ‘“space between” is where understanding happens, where meaning occurs and where all this “doing” has purpose beyond task management. Resilience is built on four pillars: Confidence, Connection, Adaptability & Purpose. Spaciousness allows for these pillars to expand.
As Paulo Coelho writes in The Witch of Portobello: “If all the words were joined together, they wouldn’t make sense, or at the very least, they’d be extremely hard to decipher. The spaces are crucial.”
I’d venture a guess that we could look at the way we use time in a similar way. We could consider spaciousness as requirement to make sense of the moments and actions in lives.
Build space. Prevent burnout.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.
By Miranda Massie on September 13, 2016
Eating your Way to a Productive September
Food fuels our bodies including our brains. Nourishing ourselves with good quality foods will help ensure peak cognitive function. It starts with a bright breakfast, then a recharging lunch, followed by delicious supper and balancing snacks to keep us going throughout the day!
Each week in September, we will be sharing tips, tricks, and information to help you have a productive September! Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders, tips and tricks.
Remember to eat breakfast! Trust me, it’s worth it to get up a few minutes earlier than to have your stomach growling mid-morning during an important meeting. Breakfasts including foods with a low glycemic index will produce a slower rise and lower peak in blood glucose concentration after eating. It should also include carbohydrates such as low-in-sugar breakfast cereals, oatmeal, whole grain toast and add in some protein such as plain dairy or non-dairy product, eggs and nut butters to keep you satiated for longer.
Try out these easy and innovative breakfast ideas:
- Think outside the breakfast cereal box with 34 Healthy Breakfasts for Busy Mornings
- Explore a variety of breakfast and brunch recipes
- Easy overnight oats recipe
- Maple-Cinnamon Apple & Pear Baked Oatmeal (one of my favourite recipes from Oh She Glows)
- Additional low glycemic index recipes
This week, learn all about lunches to replace the old boring deli meet sandwich! You can always make extra portions at dinnertime to have an easy lunch the next day.
With a bit of planning and key ingredients on hand, it is possible to make complete dinners during the week!
Who’s ready for snacks? Try bringing a magic bullet to work and your cup filled with your smoothie ingredients for a refreshing pick me up. Bring your snacks for the week to have them on hand and be less tempted to run to the corner store.
Posted in Nutrition, Physical Health | Tagged Back to school, breakfast, dinner, eating, family, food, healthy, healthy eating tips, healthy recipes, leftovers, meals, planning, Recipes, september | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on April 5, 2016
Financial Support through Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Provider
UBC Human Resources is actively involved in promoting and improving the health and wellbeing of our staff and faculty. This commitment is part of the university’s goal to create an outstanding work environment. The spotlight this month is on Financial Support Services available to UBC staff and faculty through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).
UBC’s EFAP provider, Shepell, offers Financial Support Services, which are convenient, personalized and interactive. These services are available to help you and your family understand every-day and complex financial concerns.
You can gain valuable insight and the tools to build a solid financial plan, helping you plan for:
- Credit and debt management
- Aspects of separation and divorce
- Financial emergencies
- Retirement planning
- Employment transitions
- Real estate
Support Delivered in a Convenient Way for You
Shepell’s Financial Support Services are designed to suit your learning, lifestyle and comfort level. The following options are available:
- Online Financial Planning Services
- Interactive and personalized three-month online program
- Provides financial education
- Helps you create a tailored action plan for your future
- Convenient, secure and confidential
- Financial Consultations
- Professional financial advice
- In-person or phone consultations
- Referrals to financial advisors if needed
To get started with Shepell’s Financial Support Services, call 1-800-387-4765 or browse through their available services online.
See Related Workhealthlife Articles
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP | Tagged debt, EFAP, Employee and Family Assistance program, financial support, investing, money, planning, retirement, services, taxes, wills and estates | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on January 12, 2016
A goal without a plan is just a wish. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s the time of year when we set plans to be our best selves for the year ahead, by improving our physical, professional, social, financial and/or mental wellbeing. How can we improve the chances that our goals will unfold and result in the outcome we hope for at the beginning of the year? Reaching and achieving goals can feel insurmountable even when we have the best of intentions. It takes persistence, accountability, motivation and planning.
There’s something satisfying about crossing an item off a to-do list. So why is it that a lot of us don’t take the opportunity to apply the same concept of making a list for our goals? Wouldn’t it be just as rewarding to place a completed check mark next to a goal? We’ve all experienced the feelings of pride, joy, excitement and relief that accomplishment can bring, and those feelings can help our willingness to put forth effort towards developing plans and goals.
A 1968 article by Dr. Edwin Locke, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives” found that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback1. Dr. Locke went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal which, in turn, improved performance.
You might be wondering, where do I start to accomplish my goals? How can I make these wishes realities? No matter how big or small your goal, making change requires planning, and SMART goal setting can be helpful2. Follow these guidelines to setting SMART goals to avoid them falling through the cracks and never getting accomplished.
SMART goals are:
Don’t be vague. Your goals should be clear and unambiguous. Specific goals produce a higher level of output. Break down hurdles by having single, precise, and idealistic end results.
Make sure you can measure how you will achieve your goal, by making your goal quantifiable, include target dates and units of measurements. Measurements such as how much, how often, or how many will allow you to track your progress can help keep you motivated.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, because your motivation relies on success and hope. Breaking down your main objective into smaller sub-goals and getting feedback from your support network can help determine if the end result is attainable within the parameters you have set for yourself. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves. Find a happy medium.
If your goals are not relevant to you, they will likely dissipate. Avoid becoming bored or disinterested by ensuring you are passionate and energized about reaching your potential. The significance of anticipated accomplishment will help keep you interested, and in turn, motivated to follow through.
Place your goals and sub-goals within time frames and stick to it! Re-adjusting may be necessary.
Remember to have a strategy for staying accountable. Make sure to write them down. Thinking about your goals and having them in mind is not enough. You will need to evaluate your plan and re-adjusting will likely be necessary. Remember to translate your sub-goals and goals to your calendar and schedule appropriately.
Finally, it is important to highlight and acknowledge your victories and challenges along the way. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and feedback from your support network. Here are UBC, we are incredibly fortunate to work in a highly collaborative environment and have many services to help and support us.
How UBC can help:
Articles to help with goal setting:
- Understanding and Setting SMART Goals
- How do I get there from here? Setting and Attaining Career Goals
Accessing EFAP for help with:
Contact Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider for help with health coaching, fitness & nutrition support.
- Locke, EA. Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Elsevier, 1968, 3(2):157-189.
- Fuhrmann, CN, et al. Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success. Science Careers, 2013.
By Miranda Massie on April 8, 2015
My partner and I recently met with a financial advisor. We are currently in the midst of planning for our future, feeling caught between student loan debt and an uncertain job market, while looking ahead to home ownership and starting a family.
In a city like Vancouver, the financial prognosis is grim and we have often put off facing our finances due to the stress and overwhelmingly gloomy outlook that comes with it. We have met with advisors at our banks in the past, but often left feeling as though we had sat through a sales pitch instead of a counselling session. Denial was our financial strategy of choice, but that can only work for so long.
In last month’s editorial, I wrote about embarking on an emotional cleanse and getting rid of the negative impact that bottling up emotions can have on our health. I think that this same idea applies to finances. We (as a society) tend to not talk about money. We have been socialized to keep financial matters to ourselves, as well as dealing with the myriad of emotions that come along with them. Keeping all of this stress and uncertainty to ourselves can take a toll on our mental health, relationships and overall wellbeing.
What I discovered is that it feels great to talk about money out loud, especially with someone who knows their stuff. Our discussions with the financial advisor were calm, frank and filled with humour and even prompted discussions with friends on the subject. The advice was invaluable, as well-sensitive and honest.
This month, I invite you to talk about money. Say the words out loud, either to yourself, a loved one or a financial professional. Letting someone else in, especially on this topic, can alleviate some of the inevitable financial crunch that we feel we are under.
5 fun facts I learned from financial planning
It’s ok to dream and to say what you want out loud. Do not apologise for lofty goals. You will only have a chance to achieve them if you are realistic in planning for them.
You find out where you are. Knowing where you stand, whether positive or negative will always set you up in a better position for success than not knowing at all.
Financial advisors are not all sales people. I used to fear going into see a financial advisor because I always felt like I was being pushed towards something I didn’t really need. Find someone you trust and stick with them.
It feels great to have a plan. The benefit of seeing professional advice is that you no longer have to guess at whether you are doing the right thing or making the right financial move. The decisions are still yours accompanied with guidance from a professional.
We don’t need it all now. Of course we have dreams and plans for the future but waiting for them is okay. Taking the time to plan and save now will ensure that our goals are all met in the long run.
Looking for free or affordable financial advice?
Financial Support Services from UBC’s EFAP provider Shepell.
Know Your Financial Advisor-online search tool
Posted in Editorial, EFAP, Mental Health, Miranda Massie, Spot Light | Tagged editorial, facts, financial health, fun, mental health, money, money management, planning, resources, Support | Leave a response
By Guest Contributor on October 29, 2014
Guest Contribution by Sasha Tymkiw
Exercise – when consistent – offers many benefits, among which is an increase in body satisfaction, further lending explanation to the sharp increase in gym memberships after the winter holidays. When enthusiasm starts to wane, however, it’s easy for our former sweaty sanctuary to become another stressor on our list of to-dos – and is often the first one we take off the list altogether.
Often people are surprised to find that almost all of those who have started and just as quickly stopped exercising have one thing in common: a failure to plan. Whether it is an unforgiving work schedule, injury, or a simple loss of interest, these variables can most always be pinpointed to lack of a plan after the initial “I’m going to start going to the gym”. For every skipped workout, however, there is a tool to help you really….no, really, stick to it this time.
When it comes to goal setting, the SMART model is a well established and useful method which for all of its function, is underused for personal fitness. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Oriented. This model is a great way to identify where you are and to plan out the steps necessary to get where you want to go. Templates for creating SMART goals are easily found on the internet.
Where this template proves most useful to exercise adherence is when the user also identifies what has happened in the past when they began missing workouts. Was it the pressures of a new relationship? Tax season? Exams and subsequent vending machine fuel? Because the SMART tool is meant to be revisited, users find a simple change (like increasing workout intensity in order to spend less time at the gym) can help reinvigorate their commitment to fitness.
When embarking on a fitness journey, it can also be wise to approach with a “slow and steady” mindset. Incorporating two workouts a week at first that you can stick to will not only allow your body to build a base level of endurance, but will allow for you to experience the self-esteem that comes from taking these (R for Realistic) first steps.
It can be helpful to think of our fitness like money being invested in stocks: we know we would first look at its past history, invest what we feel comfortable and then continuously monitor its performance. The multiple rewards experienced from exercising are why people jump into programs without much thought. We all deserve the long term security that fitness can offer our health, so let’s plan to “go for broke”, not bankruptcy.
Sasha Tymkiw is a certified Personal Trainer and has been involved in sports (competitive swimming, snowboarding, horseback riding) since childhood, making the natural progression to personal training in her early twenties. With a bachelor of psychology, numerous fitness certifications and years of experience, Sasha views pushing one’s body as an integral part of the human experience. Sasha works both independently as a trainer and teaches around Vancouver, becoming one of the first instructors who offered boot-camp style workouts in East Vancouver. Sasha is sponsored by Garden of Life Protein Powder and will be competing in her second figure competition in March 2015, promoting a long-term, balanced approach to the sport.