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Money might make the world go 'round, but it sure can make you go mad. Especially when tax day looms, and you can no longer thumb your nose at your financial demons. Paying necessary expenses while trying to save for retirement, your kids' college tuition, or even that overpriced pair of rhinestone-studded shoes you have to have, can take its toll on your nerves. Here are seven ways to de-stress and prepare to tackle your financial challenges head on.1. Pick up a fork.
Emotional eating isn't necessarily the best long-term way to deal with stress, but certain types of foods can produce a fast-acting relaxing effect. Carbohydrates typically top the list because they help increase serotonin, a calming brain neurotransmitter. Foods rich in vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, like asparagus, yogurt, and some fish, may have anti-stress effects too.2. Take a deep breath.
"When we start to panic, the first thing that happens is our breath becomes quick and shallow," says Jean Peplinski, a registered yoga teacher in Michigan. A surefire way to think more clearly is to breathe more deeply. Peplinski suggests a method called alternate nostril breathing: Close your eyes and lightly rest your right thumb and pinkie finger on each nostril. Press gently on your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Press gently on your left nostril, and then exhale through your right. Inhale through the right nostril, then close the right and exhale through the left. Continue alternating a few times. "Not only does this action help center the mind, but the concentration required helps draw you away from the stressful situation a bit," Peplinski says.
"Color can actually calm or stimulate you," notes Hannelore Leavy, director of the Day Spa Association. Ever hear of a celebrity waiting for an interview in the "green room"? That's because green tends to promote peaceful feelings. You can also go with blue to calm the tides of your financial stress. If you're more in need of something to kick you out of your financial stupor, try surrounding yourself with the stimulating color of red, or buy a bunch of yellow tulips to put you in a cheerful, sunny mood. Be careful not to overdo the yellow, though, as it has been shown to trigger angry moods.4. Smell the success.
Aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils, has made a popular name for itself in the last few years. It's not a hard science, but rather an ancient practice that's worth experimenting with. You can buy a diffuser, put a few drops in your bath water, or buy a clean spray bottle and mix with water to lightly mist your house. Besides the commonly used lavender (overrated, some say), other calming essential oils include bergamot, patchouli, sandalwood, grapefruit, and jasmine. Some spas now have computer programs that create personalized blends of oils.
You're getting a bonus from your job or a tax refund, and you're raring to spend it. Before you do, just take a second to think about your decision. "It's hard not to spend your tax refund on something you really want, but one of the best ways to use your new windfall is to pay off debt," says Nancy Wagoner, a tax specialist at H&R Block. "Reducing high-interest credit card debt can save you hundreds of dollars in interest and increase your financial fitness," Wagoner says. If it's too painful to dedicate your entire windfall to your debt, split it 90/10, using 10 percent to treat yourself and 90 percent toward your debt.6. Consider going green.
If you're thinking about buying a new car, you might want to consider a hybrid. "Not only will you save money in fuel, but you may be able to take a healthy tax deduction," Wagoner points out. Honda and Toyota make hybrids that could be worth a $2,000 deductible in 2005 and $500 in 2006.7. When you just need a break...
There's no shame in getting away from it all for a bit. "Going to a spa is a valuable, inexpensive way to relax," Leavy says. Massage or manicure, choose the luxury service that you'll most enjoy and go for it. Just remember that the money matters will still be there when you return.
Originally published on LHJ.com, March 2005.