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Guest Post by Lou Antonelli This global pandemic has placed an untold amount of stress on people trying to enjoy this "most wonderful time of the year," specifically related to the spent money on holiday shopping. A 2020 Credit Karma survey highlights that as well. More than half of consumers (54%) feel "more financially stressed about the holidays than they did last year." As we near the end of the second year of COVID-19 and are now dealing with national supply chain issues, the stress still lingers. Yet hard-working people are still going holiday shopping despite the pressure they feel. Holiday shoppers may suffer from Acute Financial Stress (AFS), according to one of the most regarded psychotherapists in the country, Dr. Galen Buckwalter. He is working with Beyond Finance to help clients understand their relationship with finances while going through the debt resolution journey. Managing financial stress makes a difference, but where do you begin? More than 56 million people over the age of 18 struggle with AFS. Many people silently suffer from fear and anxiety when dealing with their money, so it is essential to help people deal with not just their debt but the behaviors that led to it. In the end, you’ll be able to better recognize some triggers of financial stress, understand its detrimental effects, and prevent it from overtaking you this holiday season and beyond. Triggers of financial stress AFS is an active stressor in the lives of many hard-working Americans. Specifically, research has shown three principal areas where financial stress attacks people the most: Thoughts — Financial stress can cause persistent negative thoughts, such as beating yourself up over past mistakes. Feelings — Financial stress can cause feelings of fear, worry, or regret related to money. Behaviors — Financial stress can cause abrupt changes in behaviors, like avoiding social occasion. "We need to help take the edge off and help people learn about emotional patterns linked to money and finances. That way, we can all have better control of emotional responses. It's all about the person." — Dr. Galen Buckwalter People from all walks of life experience financial stress. Feeling financially uneasy during the holidays can lead to a heightened sense of low self-worth or despair. Many differing circumstances lead to financial stress, and if those dreary times happen during the holidays, it could make the anxiety even worse. Regretfully, debt accumulated at any time during the year can spiral out of control, and that's when debt relief is needed the most. Numbers of financial stress The annual "Holiday Season Tracker" from Morning Consult already shows signs of escalated stress: About 50% of people who have started holiday shopping have faced supply chain issues The most extensive section of American shoppers plan only to spend $100–$499 for gifts Millennials, the largest cross-section of the population, are "just getting by" (46%) or are behind on their finances (37%) 1 in 5 adults will shop on a "Buy Now, Pay Later" (BNPL) method Stress during the holidays is natural, namely as it pertains to personal finances. Without money, the festivities seem bleak. Without options to substitute for something to spend, more BNPL options like layaway or applying for credit cards increase the worry. A recent PYMNTS survey unveiled some more numbers that may shed some light on the reasons for that Yuletide fretting: 125 million U.S. adults believe they are living "paycheck to paycheck." 60% of Millennials earning more than $100,000 annually are "struggling to get by." 40% of Baby Boomers and seniors have said the same Reality of financial stress For most people struggling with debt, it becomes them. People living paycheck-to-paycheck begin to believe debt is who they are, not what they have. There are ways out of debt, and they all begin with changing your behavior toward money. If you can't manage finances effectively during the holidays or throughout the year, how could you handle the stress associated with finances when things become uncontrollable? Money can create potent stressors, and people should learn about them. Dr. Buckwalter found the triggers of financial stress are like that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: "Acute Financial Stress creates many of the same negative stressors as PTSD. This is why we teach leveraging mental strength to temper our physical response to chronic stress," says Dr. Buckwalter. "If you have experienced the nagging collector calls, the pain is familiar. Have you seen a stack of bills piling up and no income to stop it? You know the painful effects of financial stress. Any program focused on financial stress should help people to learn to manage that emotional anguish." The relationship between Americans and money has been strenuous for decades. More than 70% of people believe it is the number one stress in life. The reasons for that could be lack of financial literacy or inability to manage funds. Whatever the cause, Acute Financial Stress is real. Its triggers are real. And the impact on any quality of life is real. However, this can be managed and mastered. Prevention of financial stress Debt relief companies like Beyond Finance can aid clients in finding financial and emotional well-being through debt resolution. If people are successfully educated and empowered, they can finally focus on what matters to live the debt-free life they deserve. To manage and ultimately prevent holiday shopping stress, a life of debt relief and resolution will take work. This month, you are already consumed with where to get the gifts, what exactly to get, and thanks to the supply chain issues, how will I be sure my gift even gets here in time? There are ample reasons for your blood pressure to skyrocket already. You don't need a surprise credit card bill. You can't afford to make it worse. Beyond Finance and other reputable organizations can help if you need debt resolution. However, let's see if you can't avert the holiday blues first with these simple tips: Buy from the heart. Just because you spend half of your paycheck on one gift doesn't mean it will be valued more. Stop guessing and be sure you purchase something that is wanted rather than what you think. The gift is for someone you care about, so be sure it shows when that person unwraps the gift — regardless of how inexpensive it may be. Write your holiday honey-do lists. Don't get caught spending more than you have with a last-minute purchase. Make a checklist of everyone you want to get a gift and how you intend to afford it. Stick to that list. Check things off with satisfaction. And know your limits because staying within those boundaries now will save you a financial headache later. Take care of yourself first. People often spend more than they have and don’t stop to consider the cost this will pose to themselves. Self-care is crucial during the holiday shop-a-thons. How do you manage stress? If you don't know, there's no time like the present to find out and make improvements. Make credit card partnerships. Numerous credit cards compete for your attention, so take advantage of that. The ones that provide you the best rewards (i.e., points, cashback, airline miles) should be the cards you use — if you choose to use them at all. Those rewards aren't an excuse to go crazy. Stick to your budget, and the rewards will come. Sometimes determination and focus can help people get out of debt. What's essential is that other times, credit has been damaged, and loans aren't possible, so other options should be considered before bankruptcy becomes a stark possibility. Debt resolution companies can be trusted, and if you count on the process, you can even learn to trust yourself with your finances. And what a holiday gift that would be. Lou Antonelli is Chief Operating Officer of Beyond Finance, which is one of the largest debt resolution organizations in the country working to move their clients beyond debt.