First Person: Beating Stress on a Budget

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Working as the editor of a print newspaper, I'm under enormous pressure. In addition to employment stress, I worry about the volatile stock market that will determine my future retirement income. And I worry that my home will keep sinking in value faster than I can pay down my mortgage.

The last thing I want to do is overspend on different products or services to reduce stress. According to the Health Enhancement Research Organization, workers who are stressed out spend almost twice as much on health care compared to their coworkers who are mellow. I beat work stress for less in a variety of ways.

Finding help that's free

My company has an excellent Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes several free visits for me and my family members. I learned various stress management techniques through the EAP. I also take advantage of the wellness programs at work. I enroll in complementary stress management programs offered by my health insurance plan. I can follow the online lessons at my desk.

Exercising away the stress

I was able to get a 10 percent discount at the local YMCA. My husband's employer and my employer both have partnerships with the Y. Whenever I'm feeling stressed, I spent a solid hour working out. Sweating releases my built-up stress.

Massaging away the tension

Although my husband gives excellent, free neck massages, he is not always available when I'm feeling stressed. I found a local spa that offers one hour relaxation massages for just $25. Although four massages a week comes to $100, it is money well spent. I have friends who spend $100 on alcohol. I skip the alcohol since that's a dangerous and expensive way to unwind, in my opinion. Giving up caffeine also helped me save $150 an astonishing week.

Facing my financial reality

Some people avoid stress by never looking at their bills. I reduce stress by reducing my financial obligations. When I look at my mortgage statement, I compare it to the value of homes in my neighborhood. Since home values keep sinking each year and I keep paying extra on my mortgage, I usually owe as much as my home is worth. Staying out of consumer debt also relieves financial stress.

Although I do the best I can to cope with work stress, sometimes the only solution is to take a vacation. I save money by taking stay-vacations in my own area.

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