Wholly Healthy: How to Stay Physically and Financially Fit

by Sophia Bera on April 22, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post comes to us from Gen Y Planning team member, Megan! 

What does it mean to be wholly healthy? When people talk about overall health and wellness, they usually refer to exercise and nutrition; maybe even relationships, career, and spirituality. What typically gets ignored is your financial health.

So really, what do health and finances have to do with each other?

When we take care of our bodies – when we eat right, we exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and make time for the things we love – you feel amazing, right? You feel less stressed, happy, fulfilled, Your mind and body are truly “fed.”

Sounds so simple. The key to a happy life is to do the things we love, to stay fit, and to be mindful of what we put into our bodies. But then if it’s so easy, what stands in our way?

The reality is the demands of life – work, money, kids, conflicts in our relationships, etc. –are all things that create stress and keep us from living a consistently well-balanced life. It’s easy to get off track when our time and responsibilities are stretched thin and we don’t think we have time (or don’t make time) to truly take care of ourselves.

This can be a slippery slope when it comes to our health and our finances if we aren’t careful.

The Relationship Between Health and Finances Explained

Each year the American Phycology Association (APA) presents a study on stress in America. For years, Americans have attributed the leading cause of stress in their lives to money. What’s more, the survey found that Millennials and Gen Xers report the highest levels of stress compared with the Boomers and Matures.

Research also continues to link stress to more and more symptoms and diseases. Lastly, our population spends an exorbitant amount of money on medications and operations, but virtually nothing on prevention, education and holistic health.

So, if money is a leading cause of stress, stress is a leading cause of disease, we continue to throw money at trying to fix our health issues, and the cost of health care continues to skyrocket, is this not a vicious cycle that will only continue unless we decide to take control of our own health and financial well-being?

I’d say so. If you want to take control of the financial stress and health concerns in your life, consider how you can start developing healthy habits that will help keep you both financially and physically fit.

Step 1: Control the Trigger

First thing’s first — if money is causing stress in your life, you’ve first got to get your finances in order. Most money stresses comes from the fact that we feel as if there isn’t enough to go around.

Before you start beating yourself up about not having enough, make sure you’re spending your money in a way that aligns with your values and priorities. The amount of money may not be the problem; it may actually be that you’re simply spending your money on frivolous things that don’t bring you any satisfaction or joy.

Or maybe you simply don’t have a handle on where your money is going. Determine what your priorities are and then set up a budget so you can take control of your cash flow.

Simply having a handle on what you have and where it’s going can help reduce anxiety over money. But first, take a good look at where you want to be, and then decide how your money can help get you there.

If you analyze your finances and decide that there just isn’t enough income to support yourself and your well-thought-out lifestyle, then you should look at ways to increase your income. Try to negotiate a pay increase at your current job or create a side hustle like babysitting, tutoring, or even creating your own biz doing freelance work.

Once you get your monetary problems under control, your stress levels will decline, giving you the freedom, time (and yes, money!) for the activities that make you truly happy.

Step 2: Find Balance

Some level of stress is inevitable no matter how much we learn to control the triggers, so it’s important to learn to deal with it in a healthy way. The key is to develop a plan that works for you.

What works for one person may not work for you, so try a few different healthy habits to see what works best to manage your stress, because continuing to deal with it in an unhealthy manner can derail not only your physical health, but your financial health as well.

Consider these unhealthy eating and money habits that inevitably lead to frustration, disappointments and ultimately failure.

      • Rigid diets – does this sound similar to a strict budget?
      • Over or under eating – are you someone who overspends or is so obsessed with savings that you underspend to a fault?
      • Emotional eating – do you let your emotions rule your financial decisions (retail therapy, impulse purchases, or emotional investing)?

Cutting yourself off from all fun, exciting things in life is not the answer. Most diets fail because we don’t give ourselves enough wiggle room to enjoy that glass of wine or slice of pizza once in a while.

In the same way, building a budget that makes room for the things we love is equally important. It’s about striking a balance that works for you and having a flexible plan in place so that you’re prepared when faced with an unexpected situation that may sway your decision making.

Try going lean in one area to make room for something more meaningful. Maybe for you it’s cutting the cable bill to make room for the monthly membership to the yoga studio or CrossFit gym. Ask yourself if you’re spending your money in a way that lines up with your priorities, and then fill in the blanks for yourself: I can cut out _________ from my budget to make room for _________.

Step 3: Develop Healthy Habits

So, what are some habits we can develop to keep our body, mind and finances healthy? Here are some ideas that you can start applying to your own life today.

Have more fun! We all think we are so busy, but really, what are filling our time with? TV, work that can be done tomorrow, social media?

Make room in your “busy” schedule for what you enjoy and for what makes you truly happy. If you have a hard time pinpointing what that is for you, think back to when you were a kid. What things did you do simply because it was fun?

As we get older, it’s easy to forget the art of fun. Make a list of the activities you loved as a kid and make time in your schedule and room in your budget to try them out again! Did you love to sing, dance, paint, swim, run, write, read, play kickball, ride a bike, bake, or play a musical instrument? Whatever it is for you, make it happen more often, just because.

Get good sleep. It can be hard to get in bed earlier depending on your schedule, but there are some things you can do to increase the quality of your sleep.

A few things that have helped me include cutting out activities that get your mind wired right before bed like eating, checking your phone or tablet (texts, emails, social media), or watching TV. Instead you might try doing 10-20 minutes of yoga to clear your mind, drink an herbal tea (like Sleepy Time tea), or read a book (but not on your phone or tablet).

Exercise. We release endorphins during exercise that make us feel energized, happy and alert. Exercise is one of the healthiest ways to deal with stress, so definitely work to make this part of your weekly routine. Find a friend to work out with you and you’ll be enjoying double the benefits!

Also, make sure you find a fitness regimen that is fun for you because if you’re doing something you hate, it won’t become a lifestyle change. There are a lot of options out there nowadays that won’t break the bank, so don’t let money be your excuse on this one. When your body and mind are healthy, you’re able to make smart decisions, which is also good news for your finances.

Spend quality time with family and friends. Being with people who make us laugh and care about your well-being is another great way to reduce stress.

When it comes to money, it’s a great idea for couples to set aside time to talk openly about what’s going on with their finances. Open, honest conversation leads to fewer surprises and in turn, less stress around your money. And making more time for friends and family will also help boost your mood.

Adjust your mindset. Sometimes if you simply switch your mindset to focus on the positives, you can eliminate stress immediately. At the end of your day, try writing down three good things from that day.

It could be lessons learned from the day, something you’re grateful for, or something small that made you smile. See if doing that can shed stress by shifting your mindset from negative to positive.

Eat right. Eating healthy has tons of advantages like making you feel good, giving you energy, and helping keep you out of the doctor’s office. And no, eating healthy does NOT have to break the bank.

Typically what adds up at the grocery store are processed foods, so if you try to work more produce into your shopping cart to replace the processed food, you might find that you are eating better AND cutting the grocery bill.

Even better, lots of cities have a farmers market nearby where you can get local produce for less than you can get it in the grocery store. As you start to embrace spring, now is a perfect time to check one out near you. This is one of my favorite Saturday morning routines.

Step 4: Hire Someone to Help You

The last and possibly most important part of your journey to becoming wholly healthy, is finding someone to help you along the way.

Do you ever wonder why the Weight Watchers program has been so successful in helping people lose weight? The entire program is based on building a plan unique to you, building in flexibility for the expected slip ups, and most importantly, accountability.

Just like a fitness or health coach can design a plan to help you reach your goals and make sure you show up each day to get there, a financial planner or financial coach can also help you assess your financial situation and your goals, build a plan that works for you, and be your accountability partner to make sure stay on track towards the life you set out to achieve.

If living a wholly healthy life is something that interests you, consider what you can do today to set the wheels in motion.  No one is holding you back but you.

About the Author, Megan Rindskopf, CFP®: Megan is a member of the Gen Y Planning team and a Financial Advisor with Clearview Wealth Management in Charlotte. Megan loves helping motivated professionals and young families make smart financial decisions from the start. Prioritizing competing demands of a busy life can feel daunting, but Megan brings simplicity to the financial picture to make room for a lifestyle filled with purpose and healthy work-life balance. When not talking finance, Megan loves spending time with friends and family seeking out new experiences and culinary finds in the Queen City, traveling, and taking advantage of barre and outdoor yoga classes.

You can connect with Megan on Twitter @mrindskopf or on LinkedIn.

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