Stress and Depression

stressLife is full of demands, hustles, deadlines and other frustrations such as job loss, divorce, and loss of a loved one among several occurrences. For some people, stress has become a commonplace and as a way of life. Stress may not necessarily be bad, small instances of stress are necessary in motivating a person to work under stress to beat deadlines or do the best they can in their activities. However, if stress is persistent, it may be dangerous to health as it leads to depression. Stress can be understood as a normal physical response to incidents that make a person feel threatened or destabilises one’s balance. In this article we will focus on the chronic stress rather than the helpful stress that we experience in our routine activities.

 Causes of Stress

overloadThe situations that bring about stress are known as stressors. Most often, we tend to think that stressors are negative such as a stressful relationship. However, stressors can be anything that places high demands on someone or requires you to adjust, causing stress. Factors that cause stress vary from individual to individual, although some are universal.

Stress can result from various factors. These factors are can be classified into two categories; internal and external stress causing factors.

  • The most common internal stress causing factors include inability to accept uncertainty, negative self-talk, pessimism, perfectionism, lack of assertiveness and unrealistic expectations.
  • The most common external stress causing factors entail major changes, relationship difficulties, children and family, work, being too busy and financial problems.

Long term exposure to stress can cause serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly all the systems in the body.  It can result to increased blood pressure, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, supress the immune system, contribute to infertility, and increase the aging process. In the end, long term stress leads to depression and anxiety.

 The Stress-Depression Relation

Stress whether chronic like the loss of a loved one or acute like loss of a job or a divorce can result to major depression in vulnerable persons. Both forms of stress can cause overactivity of the stress response mechanism of the body. Sustained or chronic stress particularly causes elevation of hormones like the cortisol (the stressor hormone) and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, which is associated with depression. When these chemical mechanisms are working in a normal way, they regulate biological processes such as appetite, energy; sleep and sex drive and allow expression of normal moods and emotions.

When the stress response fails to close down and restart after a stressful situation is over, it can result to depression in susceptible people. It is difficult for a person to be stress free in a real life situation. Loss of any type is particularly a major risk factor for depression. Grieving is considered a normal and a healthy response towards a loss. However, if grieving becomes persistent or goes on for a long time, it can trigger a depression. A chronic illness including depression itself is regarded a chronic stressor.

 Stress and Depression: Lifestyle Factors

The association between stress and depression is a complex one. People undergoing stress usually abandon healthy lifestyles and engage in unhealthy ways. These people may get into smoking, excessive or irresponsible drinking, gambling, casual sex, drug abuse and neglect exercising among other unhealthy behaviour. These behaviours in turn lead to chronic stress and increase the risk of major depression. These behaviours can leave a person in a vicious cycle and they may not recover easily. Stress is linked to all the six major causes of death in the world including heart disease, accidents, cancer, suicide, lung ailments, and also cirrhosis of the liver.

 How to Reduce Stress

The following lifestyle changes can be useful in reducing stress levels and enhance resilience, hence reducing the risk of depression. They include;

  • Exercise: Experts propose moderate exercises of about half an hour a day for about five days each week. Exercise produces chemicals in the body that enhance ones mood and stimulate hormones and neurotransmitters including endorphins that can help alleviate stress.sharma-obesity-exercise
  • Strong supportive relationships: Isolation is a high risk factor for depression while community buffers individuals from the effects of risk. Negative relationships are also dangerous.
  • Sleep: getting enough sleep is important in preventing stress as people juggle between work and family.
  • Eating well and drinking alcohol in moderation: people feeling stress may engage in heavy drinking as alcohol is a known mood suppressor. This may result to serious effects. As such, a person should ensure that they eat well and take alcohol in moderation.
  • Yoga, meditation, psychotherapy, prayer: according to studies, these practices can help in retraining brain circuits. They have a positive influence on the emotional brain circuits.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy: therapy of this nature helps people in reframing events in a more positive way. Negative attitudes and the tendency to worry can heighten the effects of stress.

Ultimately, stress is part of human life and cannot be avoided entirely. The most important thing is to manage these stresses and prevent the occurrence of depression. Professional help can be sought in situation of depression to avoid risk.naturopathy-alternative-medicine-illness-natural-e1354876502320

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11 Tips on buying life insurance


Tips on Buying Life Insurance

Tips on Buying Life Insurance

  1. Understand your needs.
  2. Understand the different types of life insurance policies (term life versus permanent life).
  3. Find the right policy that suits your needs.
  4. Determine how much coverage you need.
  5. Recognize that some insurance products are for protection — not investing.
  6. Ask the tough questions.
  7. Compare similar products.
  8. Don’t replace your already existing life policies. If you have had a life policy for several years, try not to replace it. You may lose all the premiums you have paid. If your situation has changed and you need more insurance, just buy more. (This does not apply to term life.)
  9. Do your homework. Make sure you do your homework before purchasing an insurance product. Make sure it fits your needs and budget, and make sure you understand the contract.
  10. Take a 30-day free look period. You have 30 days to look at the policy and understand it. If you are not satisfied with it during that time, contact the insurance company to answer your queries.
  11. Keep it simple. Do not make your insurance planning complicated. Because it is based on protecting your family, it should be based on your needs.


The Secret to Financial Peace of Mind

The Secret to Financial Peace of Mind

The Secret to Financial Peace of Mind

Time goes by so fast. By mid-year you had planned to increase your savings, make progress towards paying off your debt, start saving for your retirement, your child’s university education or any other financial goal you had in mind, but you realize that you are in the same position you were in when the year started.

Getting started on managing your hard earned money may be harder than it sounds, yet we all agree that financial peace of mind starts with knowing where your money is channeled to, and knowing that you have made appropriate plans for your short and long term goals.

The path to financial peace of mind involves making smart plans for your hard earned money. It also requires getting started the following 5 financial good habits.

Getting started on spending on a budget

Budgeting your money enables you to keep a close watch on your money.  Without a budget, you may be inviting unnecessary debt and making it hard to save for the various financial goals you have. A budget may help you discover that your money can stretch further than you thought possible.

Financial freedom requires making smart plans for your hard earned money

Getting started on handling your debt

When you are in debt, you need to critically analyze every single item on which you want to spend your money on. With your expenses reduced, you will be able to clear your debt faster, and will avoid the trend of taking a loan to pay off an existing debt.

Once your debt is cleared, it is in good habit to continue to minimize your expenses and continue to live frugally in order to put aside that portion of your income into a savings plan.

Getting started on managing your investments

The key to managing your investment is knowing when to invest, where to invest , when to cut your losses and when to lock in your gains.

Most long term investments offered in the financial service industry require you to maintain your focus on your goal. Take your time to understand the investment tools offered to you by your financial advisor, and do your research on how you can benefit most out of that particular investment.

Getting started on planning for your retirement

If you’re expecting to live off the National Social Security Fund after retirement, you’re in for a disappointment. Your social security fund will not sufficiently cater for your living and health care expenses – which drive up retirement costs for most people.

As a general rule, financial experts recommend individuals accumulate enough to replace at least 70% of their pre-retirement income once they retire. Saving for retirement can put extra money back in your pocket. Putting money into a registered retirement benefits scheme can give you tax savings that amount to thousands of shillings; savings that you can then use to meet more of your financial goals.

Getting started on building your emergency fund

While the amount of your emergency fund will depend on your ability, most experts suggest having at least three months’ worth of living expenses set aside. Having an emergency fund creates a risk-free safety net for you and your family.

You may need to automate deposits in order to ensure that you build your emergency fund. It may take you months or even a few years to build up an adequate emergency savings fund. That’s okay. By starting a savings plan today, you move closer to having a robust emergency fund in the future

In a nut shell, the key to financial peace of mind is knowing how to manage that hard earned money you get so as to achieve financial peace of mind now, and in the long term.

What are your thoughts on getting started in achieving financial peace of mind?

10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement

bucketFinancial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money.


  • Fewer than half of us have calculated how much we need to save for retirement.
  • 30 percent of private industry workers with access to a retirement plan do not participate
  • On average we spend 15 years in retirement

1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals

If you are already saving, whether for retirement or another goal, keep going! You know that saving is a rewarding habit. If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Make saving for retirement a priority. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving.

2. Know your retirement needs

Retirement is expensive. You will need about 75 percent of your pre-retirement income lower earners, 90 percent or more – to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Take charge of your financial future. The key to a secure retirement is to plan ahead.

3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan

appleIf your employer offers a retirement savings plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate. Find out about your plan. For example, how much would you need to contribute to get the full employer contribution and how long would you need to stay in the plan to get that money.

4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan

If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.

If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit. Learn what benefits you may have from a previous employer.

5. Consider basic investment principles

How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you’ll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan is invested. Learn about your plan’s investment options and ask questions. Your investment mix may change over time depending on a number of factors such as your age, goals, and financial circumstances. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

Putting money away for retirement is a habit we can all live with. Remember…Saving Matters!

6. Don’t touch your retirement savings

If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an individual pension plan or your new employer’s plan.

7. Ask your employer to start a plan

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, suggest that it starts one. There are a number of retirements saving plan options available. Your employer may be able to set up a simplified plan that can help both you and your em- ployer.

8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account

You can put .Kshs. 3,000 or more a month into an Individual Pension Plan (IPP); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You will enjoy various tax advantages.

When you open an IPP, you have two options – to contribute the amount before tax or contribute the amount after tax. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select. IPP’s provide an easy way to save. You can set it up so that an amount is automatically deducted by check off or bank account and deposited in the IPP or send your contributions via Mpesa.

9. Budget on the back end

Create a budget you can stick to just before you retire. After years of creating new budgets as your net worth grew more and more positive, you should be a pro at making budgets by now. This is not to say that you have to look forward to living frugally for the rest of your life, just wisely. What is it you’ve always envisioned yourself doing when you retire? If it’s travel, then cre- ate a travel category as a monthly expense in your retirement budget. If it’s spending time with your family, then create a “spoil the grandkids” category.

10. Ask Questions

While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Get practical advice and act now.

Understanding Annuities

Charles Dickens – “Buy an annuity cheap, and make your life interesting to yourself and everybody else that watches the speculation.”

An annuity is a financial product designed to turn monetary assets into a regular stream of income payable, immediately or in the future

Annuities are primarily used as a means of securing a steady cash flow for an individual in their sunset years.

Which Annuity suits me best?

There are two main categories of annuities; immediate annuity or deferred annuity

An immediate annuity provides a stream of payments immediately upon purchase. It

acts like your personal pension providing income over a specified period of time, or for the rest of your life, depending on the terms of the contract.

A deferred annuityonthe other hand, provides a regular stream of payments at a predetermined time in future. An individual may start funding for his annuity years before receiving the regular stream of income. Funding your annuity in a registered retirement scheme allows you to enjoy tax relief on your contributions to the prescribed limits of Kshs. 20,000 per month or Kshs. 240,000 per annum.

The above defined annuities can either be fixed, variable or indexed

A fixed annuity provides a guaranteed rate of interest on your contribution for a specified period of time. With this annuity your principal is guaranteed and cannot be eroded by market risk.

A variable annuity is a savings vehicle whose returns are pegged on the performance of the underlying investment portfolio. With this annuity your principal is exposed directly to market risk. This means you investment is exposed to the prevailing market fluctuations.

An indexed annuity is a hybrid with characteristics of both the fixed and variable annuities. It has characteristic the fixed annuity by guaranteeing interest is and there is no erosion of the principal amount and variable because there is a potential to participate in market gains; without exposing your principal to market risk. Some of the features that are available in fixed index annuities are bonuses, various crediting methods, and allocation options that give you choices for your money.

Choose your annuity


Each of these annuities, depending on your particular situation can be right for you. Now that you have a better understanding what an annuity is, you can evaluate your circumstances and choose the one best suited for your purchase. If you aren’t sure which one is for you, feel free to contact UAP Life on 0711 065 300.

What are your comments on understanding annuities? Comment:

Increasing your disposable income

Money Talks… But all mine ever says is goodbye

12 ways to Increase your disposable income

  1. Get a raise or a second job.
  2. Invest your income.
  3. Spend less.
  4. Start a business.
  5. Get clever: reduce the taxes you pay.
  6. Try to avoid eating out as much as possible.
  7. Take a snack lunch to work.
  8. Try to drive less and carpool to work if possible.
  9. Buy generic products.
  10. Take fewer trips to the grocery store.
  11. Know the difference between want and need. You don’t need a 52-inch plasma screen TV or the holiday in South Africa; you want them. What you need is a roof over your head and food to eat. Know the difference.
  12. Reduce your cable bill. Determine how much time you really spend watching some of the premium channels such as MNEt and Discovery Channel and if you can drop the top tier of channels.

In what ways are you trying to increase your disposable incomes? What are your hindrances?  : Share your comments