It’s that time of year we all typically clean closets, attics, garages and other storage spaces. But why don’t we do the same thing for our minds? Whether you have a daily stressor that makes life difficult or are carrying some emotional baggage you want to toss, there are tools to help.
- Meditation – sometimes we need a bit of peace and quiet. Meditation has a proven positive effect on mental clarity. Download a meditation app to help take your mind to a calm and relaxing place. Some meditation apps available on the App Store® or Google Play™ are Headspace, Calm, and Unplug.*
- Yoga – stretching for as little as 10 minutes a day can relieve anxiety, improve concentration and provide a sense of peace.
- Walking – a quick brisk walk can increase your breathing and help clear your mind.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – if your company provides an EAP program, take advantage. The EAP can help you take care of everyday activities and provide advice for everything from finding day care to connecting with a financial advisor.
- Online Therapy Apps – therapy has never been more accessible. You can choose from a great variety of apps to connect with a therapist or counselor instantly. Some therapy apps available on the App Store or Google Play are Betterhelp, ReGain, and Cerebral.*
* The cost of some apps may be covered by your medical plan. Check with your provider to see what apps are covered.
Let’s face it, health care benefits can be confusing for employees. What’s my deductible? Should I use my health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) for this expense? Do I have a telemedicine program? The questions go on.
Some employees may even be unaware of their benefits, including the company wellness program that offers medical premium discounts, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides emotional support, or education assistance that reimburses tuition for courses taken to advance their career or earn a degree.
This is where benefits communications come to the rescue.
Providing clear and engaging benefits information to your employees sets them – and your company – up for success. Employees who know how to use their benefits are better able to take care of their health and reach out for support when they need it. It’s a win-win for everyone. After all, employees who are healthy physically, emotionally and financially are more likely to be strivers and producers.
There’s still time to put more money in your health savings account and/or 401(k) plan for tax year 2021. Whether you’re looking for additional tax deductions or simply want to beef up your retirement savings, you have until April 15, 2022, to reach the IRS maximum allowable contribution (as shown below). Just be sure to make your contributions before filing your 2021 taxes so you can get the maximum tax deduction.
IRS Contribution Limits for 2021
Health Savings Account
- $3,600 for individual coverage
- $7,200 for family coverage
- $19,500 for employees
Don’t Forget About Catch-Up Contributions
If you’re nearing retirement age, remember to take advantage of catch-up contributions to your HSA and 401(k) plan. Catch-up contributions allow you to deposit extra money into your accounts in excess of the standard IRS limits shown above.
Health Savings Account Catch-Up
- Up to an additional $1,000
- Age 55 or older
401(k) Plan Catch-Up
- Up to an additional $6,500
- Age 50 or older
Visit your HSA and 401(k) plan administrators’ websites to check your balances and make any last-minute contributions. Keep in mind, investing comes with risks. Always talk to your financial advisor or an investment specialist before making any decisions.
1. Enjoy some dark chocolate-covered strawberries.
Why? This classic Valentine’s Day treat looks great, tastes even better, and is packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for you:
• Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) has flavonoids, antioxidants, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
• Strawberries have Vitamin C, manganese, folate, potassium, and fiber.
2. Get peppy with a post-work café au lait to make it through a longer-than-usual Monday night.
Why? It’s a delicious, low-key homage to the City of Love and Valentine’s Day 2022 is a Monday. All you need to mix in a beautiful mug are:
• Equal parts French press or brewed coffee and hot milk.
• Raw sugar to taste.
3. Show physical affection.
Why? A hug, kiss or handholding from someone you love or care about is a surefire way to get a cuddle hormone (oxytocin) boost and make the day better. If you’re on your own today, try a hot shower or bath to relax your muscles.
4. Commit to being healthy in 2022.
Why? The Lunar New Year was only two weeks ago. Schedule no-cost preventive care appointments for yourself and encourage loved ones to do the same. These include a no-cost annual physical and dental and vision checkups.
5. Relax with a Headspace meditation session.
Why? Even three to five minutes can be enough to transition from a hectic commute to a fun Monday night (or a fun Monday night to bedtime).
6. Watch something fun or romantic on Netflix.
Why? A cozy Monday never hurt anybody. Here are some ideas on what to catch tonight:
• Some episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender — This cartoon series has adventure, jokes galore, friendship, romance, and heart.
• Atlantics — This moving 2019 film brings to life an epic love story that’ll be hard to forget.
7. Make a good-times short video with pictures of you and your friends or special someone.
Why? It worked great for Ben Affleck as a Valentine’s Day gift for J.Lo.
Usually this is the time of year those with a health care flexible spending account (FSA) rush to the doctor’s office or pharmacy to spend the last of their remaining funds. After all, FSAs are “Use it or Lose it” accounts. But, thanks to COVID-related legislation, you may have more time to spend your health care FSA.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress gives employers the option to allow employees to carry over the full amount of their unused health care FSA funds to 2022. This means if you have an FSA, there’s a good chance you don’t have to make a last-minute dash to spend your used funds by December 31. Take action by checking your FSA account balance, then ask your employer if they opted into the FSA carryover.
If your employer chose not to offer the carryover and you still have funds remaining in your account, don’t worry. There are a ton of ways you can spend your balance. In addition to deductible and copay amounts, you can use your funds to pay for a variety of medical supplies and products, such as first-aid kits, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, sunscreen and more. Check out FSAstore.com for more ideas.
Life is constantly changing and that can make it hard to keep up with healthy habits. It’s easy to find comfort in junk food and hours on the sofa binge-watching your favorite shows. Although this may feel good in the moment, these choices can be detrimental to your health. This is where a wellness program can help you stay motivated to exercise, eat well and reduce stress.
Many wellness programs reward you for taking healthy actions, such as:
- Keeping better track of your own health metrics, like blood pressure and blood sugar
- Setting short- and long-term goals
- Delving into the benefits of meditation, quality sleep, and online therapy apps
- Exploring physical activities like online yoga classes
- Participating in online exercise challenges
If your company doesn’t offer a wellness program, keep in mind that regular, simple actions over time can produce big results, even during a worldwide pandemic.