Is a Tax Refund or Stimulus Check Coming Your Way?

 

 

 

 

Is there a tax refund or stimulus check coming your way?  If so, what plans do you have for this money?

 

 

 

 

 

This past year has impacted so many parts of our lives. Many of you lost your jobs, had your hours reduced, you found another job or you found yourself working overtime due to the work that you do. Some of us had to ‘pivot’ and create new jobs to support ourselves.

 

Many started working from home which brought on many different challenges. Parents and children became common fixtures all day, every day. Technology challenges to be able to work or complete schooling from home created new expenses.

 

What lessons have you learned about your finances over the last year? If you lost your job, did you have enough money set aside to pay your bills until you started working a side gig, found an online, remote job or began drawing unemployment?

 

If you kept your job, what savings were you able to see due to reduced family activities, remote work or were your expenses increased due to new expenses?

 

Regardless of which category you fall into, I hope that you have been able to increase your financial knowledge.  Is a tax refund or stimulus check coming your way? If so, consider these four ways for how you can use it to build up a reserve to cover your future expenses.what will you do with your stimulus money or tax refund?

 

I use Dave Ramsey’s recommendations when I am working one on one with individuals who are working through what to do next. He recommends that you prioritize your expenses with the following four categories.

 

  • Groceries–who depends on you for their source of food? Do you have enough money put aside to feed you and those dependent on you for the next 3 months?

  • Roof over your head–are you current with your rent or mortgage? You need to have a safe place to rest your head.

  • Electricity, water, gas, internet--you have to keep warm or cool depending on the season. Internet is included here especially if your income depends on being able to work remotely.

  • Transportation expenses–you have to be able to go to work or school. What does that cost you?  Do you need new tires or have you delayed any maintenance work?  This is a great time to have work done so that you can extend the life of your vehicle.

 

As you are anticipating this next round of stimulus money or an upcoming tax refund, consider how you can use it to build up a reserve to cover the four categories listed above. If you don’t need it for these categories, start a savings account so that you have something to fall back on if an emergency comes up. ($500-1000) After that start working down any other expenses that you have not been able to tackle this past year. 2020 was a crazy year and I hope that 2021 brings more stability.  

 

There are many ways to move forward.  Visit Dave Ramey’s website for more information on this topic and to read about his approach to reducing debt so that you can create wealth.

 

 

 

Self Care Should Be High On Your Priority List

Self Care is where you focus on your own physical and mental health. Self care should be high on your priority list.  How do you do this? How do you know what guidelines to follow? Do the generic guidelines that you read about apply to women your age?
 

The Well-Woman Chart by the Women’s Preventative Screening Initiatives guidelines are used as a baseline. They can be found at the website where you can download the document or use the interactive tool.

 
All of the scientific references are available for your review or you can search by your age group and it will tell you what preventative health screenings you need to discuss with your healthcare clinician.
 
You, and only you, are responsible for your health status. This pandemic has shown us how important it is for each of us to work on ourselves. Whether you are 18 or 70, there are things you can focus on.
 
If you are overweight, you only have to lose 5% of your body weight to begin seeing improvements in your blood pressure or levels of glucose in your blood.
 
Keeping your lungs healthy right now is probably the most important thing you can do and this is something you can address quickly. If you are using tobacco or vaping products, you need to seek help as soon as you can.
 
You will not see major changes happen overnight. Change is very hard and it is harder when you don’t have in-person access to your support network. Trying to motivate yourself is tough but you need to commit to making this a priority if you have not committed to this yet.
 
Take a few minutes and download the document. You can also find it in our Resources page.  Review the information and we will begin reviewing the topics again in the new year.
 
Have a great week

The Importance of Scheduling ‘Me’ Time

There are 3 topics that we strive to discuss in this forum; ‘me’ time, self care and self reliance. For the next 3 Mondays, I will be providing a brief overview on each of these topics and why I think they are the 3 topics hat we need to focus on. 

‘Me’ Time

All of us need a few minutes each day to focus on ourselves.  The importance of scheduling  ‘me’ time cannot be overstressed.  By unplugging from others or your work, you allow your mind to take a break.  This allows you to reset.  According to Happify Daily, women have 25 hours of leisure time each week while men have 28 hours.  Using snippets of time to focus on yourself will improve your relationships, make you more productive and can set a great example for those around you, especially children.

The amount of time is not as important as what you do for that time.  I use a 30 minute time period but this is a random number I picked out because I like to exercise or walk for a minimum of 30 minutes each day and this is my main form of ‘me’ time. Walking outdoors is a huge stress reliever for me. This also allows me to take pictures of my favorite animals or views.

You get to pick out what you want to do and for how long. You may be in a season of life where you have a newborn (or two) and there never seems to be time for anything else. You may be caring for an elderly parent or family member and it may seem that you do not have a minute for yourself. You may be the caregiver of an adult child with special needs who needs your undivided attention. You could be single and responsible only for yourself.  You may be in charge of a household with a partner and children or young adults under your roof.

Your situation is your situation. I am going to challenge you to change your words from ‘I don’t have time for me’ to ‘How can I find time for me?’ The only person limiting this is YOU!

The first place to find time is to quit reading this post and pick out a different activity! Replacing your screen time on social media is the easiest place to find time.  Analyzing your leisure time to identify blocks of time is the next thing.  You can use our Activity Journal
to help you keep track of your activities over the course of the week to see where you are duplicating effort.

Remember that our group came up with a list of 30 Things You Can Do During ‘Me’ Time.  There are other tools that you can use under our Resources table.

Start small and work your way up to 30 minutes. It may mean that you wake up a few minutes early or stay up a few minutes later but make a promise to yourself to make this a priority.  Make an appointment with yourself.  By being intentional you will find that this becomes your new normal.

Ten Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

The weeks between Thanksgiving week and New Years can be very stressful during most years.  2020 is no exception with COVID cases increasing across the county.  As you continue to work on taking care of yourself, look for opportunities each day to help combat this.  Let’s look at a ten ways to help decrease daily stress during this holiday season.

Ten Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

Savings

    • Financial stress can cause medical problems so look for ways to not overextend yourself.  Did you make a holiday budget?  Scrub your gift list.  Draw names and set limits on family gifts.  Set spending limits.  If you have to buy something, can you buy it from someone locally?  If not, search the internet for any savings you can find.  

Say No

    • You are in control of your daily schedule. If someone is trying to convince you that they need your help in order to complete a task or to run an errand, feel free to say ‘no’.  Politely, of course.

Schedule ‘Me Time’

    • This is a great month to continue to work on this. This is a priority and trumps anything else.  Don’t say yes to another commitment if it means you lose this time.  Say no so that you can say yes to yourself.  If you need to find the time to do this, use our Activity Journal to find the time.

Shut Up

    • Do you talk just to hear yourself talk? Ha!  I think this goes back to my high school classroom days.  Speak less and listen more.  Listen and ask questions, especially if you live with someone elderly.  Write down what you learn.  Capturing your family’s stories is priceless.

Sing

    • Turn on some music during your down time. You don’t have to carry a tune to enjoy this.  Trade one Netflix episode with music videos while you are cooking dinner, folding clothes or cleaning up.  Listen to new genres if you are feeling brave.

Simplify

    • As you are going through your holiday decorations, purge anything that you are not using this year. Gift it to someone else who can use it.  If you can’t find an individual who can use it, donate it to your local  charitable donation center.  Reducing clutter can be calming.  Do you really need a tree in each room?  If the answer is yes, then put it up.  If the answer is no, keep it simple.

Sleep

    • Strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day. Work backwards to determine your bedtime.  For example, if you have to be up at 6 am, you need to be winding down by 9 pm so that you can turn off lights at 10 pm.  Maybe you need to begin turning off electronics at 8:30.  Play with your daily routine so that you have an unhurried morning routine.

Soak In a Tub

    • Pamper yourself. Use a bath bomb or essential oils to improve the ambiance.  Candles are a nice addition if you have the shelf space.  If you don’t have a tub, soak in a hot shower for five extra minutes. Let the water hit your upper back and practice your neck, shoulder and upper back stretches while you relax.

Solitude

    • Find a quiet place to read, knit, paint or meditate. You pick your activity.  You may be in cramped quarters but speaking to the others you live with and working out a schedule where there is nap time, bath time or quiet time will help everyone out.  Use our member’s recommendations if you need ideas on what to do.

Stop Complaining

    • Instead of pointing out the negative aspect of something, find something positive to say instead. Purposefully think about what you are going to say and figure out how to say it with a positive spin.  This can change your family’s culture if all agree to work on this.

Sunshine

    • Shorter days increase the chance that you may feel depressed. Find short blocks of time to take a short walk outside or to sit by a window facing the sun so that you can just shut your eyes and ‘sunbathe’.  If this is not an option, there are lighting fixtures you can buy to help with this.

Pick one or more topics to work on each day and you will see an improved outlook.  Be intentional about what you are doing.  Share this information with others in your circle and work on these things together.  

Taking care of yourself should be a priority despite the season. Continue to find ways to make your personal situation better.  Review the list, pick a topic and make a plan.  

 

 

 

Who Is The Event Planner In Your Family?

This next week is the kick-off to the holiday season and I am expecting that it will be different for each of you in comparison to previous years. Between my parents and the families of my five siblings, we usually split up the menu, the cleaning, the decorating and errands. Cooking occurs in 4-5 different kitchens before it is all brought together in my parent’s home. This process makes feeding 20-30 adults appear easy.

My family will not be traveling to Texas this year so I started to take stock of what all needs to happen this week. There will only be five of us this year in my home. I could feel anxiety building up as I pulled out my Thanksgiving planner and realized that there was a lot to do. Eeeek!

 

What do gatherings look like for you and your friends and family?  This year the festivities will probably be different.  What all has to happen and who usually does it?  What can you afford to do?  

Let’s look at this week’s activities.

  • What is your family going to do this year?
  • Who are you going to spend the day with?
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who’s the event planner in your family?
  • What will be on your menu?
  • Who is paying for what?
  • Who’s the shopper?
  • Who’s the cook?
  • Who cleans up?
  • What else?

If the answer is ‘me’ to most of these questions, what can you do to reduce your stress and anxiety this week? If you do not own any of the duties listed above, what can you step up and do?

 Look at the invite list.  Is there anyone who can share the workload and errands? How much meal prep can occur ahead of time and who will do it? How are you going to build in a way to make sure that you get to enjoy the day as well?

Holidays should be enjoyed by all.  By planning out the day and the participants, you can come up with a plan to ensure that everything gets done and that everyone gets to enjoy the day.  

As you look forward to all of the different celebrations coming up in the next 6 weeks, apply this same approach to all of them.  After everyone has enjoyed their feast, make a preliminary plan for any upcoming gatherings so that everyone knows what their future tasks will be.  By laying the framework out, it will make for a more pleasant and less stressful experience for all.

 

Invest In Your Health By Setting Health Goals

I am so not a cold weather person. I am in Pittsburgh for a couple of days and arrived yesterday to very windy and cold weather. One of my first thoughts was ‘I am not walking in this!’

 

I am asking for you to invest in your health by setting health goals.  As you think about how to do this, think about building in movement into each of your days.  What challenges do you face? You may not be able to set up an exercise plan due to medical conditions or disabilities but if your clinician has given you the green light, find something to do that makes you move more.

 

Hot, cold or rainy weather, home situations, shorter days, new COVID restrictions on gyms, malls and other outdoor venues may all impact your ability to get a workout in.

 

Look around you.  Your setting may be in a shelter,  on a couch with a friend or in your home.  You may not have the room or specific equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical or weight lifting equipment) available to you but if you can sit or walk, you can move.  

 

 

Invest In Your Health By Setting Health Goals

  • I will talk to my clinician about starting an exercise routine.
  • I will look at YouTube videos or other online resources and find a series that I like and set a start date within 2 weeks.
  • I will look at my calendar and schedule three 30-minute blocks of time for exercise each week.
  • I will invite my spouse/friend/family member to join me in these exercises.
  • I will keep all of my appointments with myself and not cancel any of the sessions.

We have a  Monthly & Daily Health Goals  planner for you to use.  Write out your weekly and monthly goals.  Writing them down and posting them on the fridge or your mirror will allow you to see them daily.  This will help keep you on track.  You can also click on the Resources Tab to find this planner.

This is a great time to do this.  This will keep the extra holiday pounds at bay, provide natural endorphins to help you counteract the mental stressors that you face every day and make you physically stronger.  Are you ready to do this? 

 

Anxiety Word Cloud

7 Ways To Combat Election Anxiety

Who is ready for this election cycle to be over?  I definitely am!  

I have heard from so many about how stressed they are about the potential outcomes of this election cycle at all levels; local, state and national.  This has been a long election cycle during a pandemic where people have more free time on their hands.  The endless news cycle with both sides pummeling their audiences can be mind-numbing.  Having a civil discourse became difficult in many circles.  

I have been working with many individuals who have been working on personal and professional areas of growth. Some have been working on self-awareness, conflict management, how to deal with difficult employees and on coping skills to help deal with anxiety. This is a great time for them to use these new skills to help them get through the next week.

My parents told me at a young age that the politicians in Washington, DC make the laws but what truly impacts you day to day is what happens in your backyard. As I was raising my family and in my work, I have focused on those things that impacted those areas. 

Regardless of who wins, I ask that you continue to take the passion you have been expressing to truly begin or continue working in your communities. Even better, go up the chain as far as you can.  If you are new to this, pick one thing to focus on and then expand as your time allows.

School boards, County Commissioners, planning commissions, Boards of Health, PTOs, church councils, state government meetings, task forces and so, so many ways to become involved. This is just the tip of the iceberg.  You have a computer at your finger tips which allows you to ‘attend’ many of these meetings.  Many of these entities record their sessions so you can watch them at your convenience.  

Find your passion and become involved. Speak up for those who don’t feel like they have a voice. Listen to those who have a different perspective and opinions to see what you can learn. Accept that not all of your views will be accepted by all. That is OK. Regroup and figure out how to move forward.  

So what can you do to get through the week?

Seven Ways To Combat Election Anxiety

  • Limit the amount of news that you watch to 10-15 minute snippets
  • Stay off of social media
  • Take a walk outside and absorb some sunshine
  • Work on a project that requires focus
  • Exercise
  • Interact with nature
  • Watch your favorite comedy

What will you do to relieve election anxiety?

Who Is Taking Care of You? Celebrates A Milestone

Happy anniversary to us!!!

I started this blog in a private Facebook group one year ago today in anticipation that I was moving to a new city and wanted to maintain the friendships and support group that I was leaving behind. I love the fact that we have social media to help us keep and renew friendships.

The Who Is Taking Care of You? FB group celebrates a milestone today in that we hit our one year mark and it has grown to over 400 members from the US and 14 different countries. I have shared 277 blog posts focusing on the intersection of women’s and public health and created a website for housing our Resource information.  I love the unique perspectives we all bring to this group and I hope to see you engage even more. 

For those new to this blog, WELCOME! I am an ob/gyn that has advocated for women for the last thirty years. I have worked in public health for the last 16 years and am passionate about the intersection of women’s and public health. I can speak and write on this topic for hours.

As I work with women, the common theme I see is that you all do a great job taking care of others but you are not as good when it comes to caring for yourself. I am a firm believer that you need to be knowledgable about these three core factors; mental, physical and financial health. In order to focus on these items, I try to limit our posts to the following topics:

  • ‘Me Time’
  • Self Care
  • Self Reliancy

‘Me time’ is important for your mental health. I want for you to find at least 30 minutes a day to focus internally so that you can quiet your mind. This will enable you to develop tools so that you can handle your daily mini-crisis without increasing your anxiety levels.

Self Care is necessary to ensure that you are in charge of your physical health. You, and only you, are responsible for your health. We use the Well Woman Chart as a foundation so that you are armed with the tools and knowledge that you need to take charge of your health journey.

Self Reliancy is the topic that most of you are surprised by. Why do I think this is important? I believe that all of you need to acquire a skill to support yourselves and then you need to educate yourselves about your personal finances. I do not want you to work or live in a hostile environment because you cannot afford to leave. I do not want you to be lost if you lose your loved one because they always took care of your family’s finances.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I am grateful for each and every one of you!

Velma Taormina, MD profile picture

Simplify Your Holiday Gift Giving and Gain Financial Health

It is Money Monday!

We will continue to destress by having you work on decreasing your financial stressors. Worrying about how to pay for all of your bills can make you physically sick so we want to work on decreasing the amount of money that you owe. You can simplify your holiday gift giving and gain financial health.  

For those of you that are new to this group, I believe that each one of you needs to be financially literate. I don’t want you to stay in a toxic home or relationship because you cannot afford to leave. I do not have any special certifications in this field. I am just sharing my thoughts with you like I share with my kids.

We began our conversation about how to pay for Christmas on September 25th. Three months before Christmas.   I asked if you preplan, budget and prepay for your holiday gifts and expenses or do you spend what you want and worry about it the following year? If you are in the latter group, I want for you to take the next 18 months to convert to a plan where you prepay for all of your holiday gifts and expenses. Yes, a good old fashion Christmas Savings account!

Although the MarketPlace article is from 2018, the average Christmas debt was $1054 and half paid it off within 3 months. Another 29% paid it off in 5 months. Some were still paying on the debt when the next holiday season rolled around.

Let’s walk through an example using my immediate family to see what kind of money we are talking about.

I have 2 parents, 1 mother-in-law, 1 spouse, 3 children and 2 boy/girl friends, 5 brothers + spouses, 4 in-laws + spouses, and 20 nieces and nephews. That is 47 individuals. If I gave each of them a gift and limited my costs to the following this is how much it would cost me.

$10 apiece = $470

$20 apiece = $940

$25 apiece = $1175

$50 apiece = $2350

I will have to decide if I am going to give everyone a gift or do we draw names to limit how many gifts we will exchange. You know that I am going to give my spouse and kids more than one gift. What kind of limits will I place on myself? Maybe I can gift them my time or talents instead.

What about the other special people in your life? Do you factor in your co-workers, employees, friends, church family members, angel trees, mailman, newspaper carrier, sports team coaches, teachers, housekeeper, lawn service, Christmas family donations, etc. When we add them in, it gets scary really quickly. Where does it end? Which of these things can you remove from your list? Again, maybe your time or talents would be a better way to show them you care. Maybe you spread your gifts out over the year instead of all in one month?

What about decorations, holiday outfits, pjs, holiday cards, special meals and drinks? What else can you add to this list?

If it is too stressful to think about prepaying (saving) for this in 2020, then use this year to keep strict records so that you can use 6-9 months of 2021 to save up for the 2021 holidays.

This year is so different for all of us. You have 5 weeks before Thanksgiving week. Your financial situation may or may not be different this year but I am going to challenge you to use this time to make a promise to yourself that you will limit holiday spending in some way this year. Sit down for dinner with your family and talk about it openly. Talk about it at work. I guarantee you that someone will be grateful to hear that you will not have a gift exchange this year.

You can make this decision for yourself and can just announce that you are taking a break this year. You are allowed to do this!

Is this too much for you? Start small. Make a promise to yourself that you will not buy any new holiday decorations this year. What can you reuse or repurpose? How can you simplify your decor? Do you really need a Christmas tree in each room? If you do, do not buy anything new for any of them this year.

For today, without thinking hard, write down ONE thing you will not buy this holiday season.

Me? Christmas Santas.

What about you? Leave a comment below and share your first thought.

mindfulness word cloud

Is Your Mind Full or Mindful?

Mindfulness Monday!
 

Is your mind full or mindful?  It sounds really corny but this is a question you need to ponder.  How are you doing?  How are you feeling?  Do you feel that your mind is cluttered?  Are you being pulled in too many directions?

 

Focusing on yourself is not selfish. Building in ways to combat the daily stress that you face is going to make you mentally stronger. There are many ways to calm our minds. Whether it is yoga, sitting quietly in a room and reading or journaling or listening to Tibetan bells while sitting quietly meditating, there are many tools available to help you with this. You need to experiment with finding the method that is most soothing to you.

 

Some of my girlfriends cannot listen to the raindrops because they feel that it makes them want to pee but for others, it’s ok. See what is right for you.

 

Is meditating a foreign concept to you? It certainly wasn’t something I grew up doing but I have found that this is a useful strategy when I just need to go to another room to get away from others or the noise around me.

 

I have listened to all kinds of videos to see what I like. I have determined that I don’t want someone talking to me telling me what to do or how to breathe. What I do love is when I am sitting on my back porch during a rainstorm. This is what led me to explore the raindrop videos and the raindrops with Tibetan bells are now my favorite.

 
I challenge you this week to go out of your comfort zone and to find ONE new method to soothe your mind. You get to chose if  your mind is full or mindful?. It can be walking, meditating, reading a book, listening to music, knitting or taking a nap. There is no wrong way to do this. You just need to look for something that works for you.
 

You choose.