Less Stress, Mo' Money



It’s about changing the way you think about money so you can make better choices, automatically.

We asked Gloria Chen, the founder of Recalibrate, about mindfulness and why it’s a useful tool—not just for stress relief, but to optimize your finances.

Factora: What is mindfulness and how can it be practiced?

GC: Mindfulness is a mental practice proven to improve stress relief, mental clarity, awareness, and neuroplasticity (scientific jargon for the brain increasing its capacity for complex learning). The formal definition of mindfulness is being deliberately, non-judgmentally aware of the present moment.

Mindfulness can be practiced a multitude of ways in modern day—from using all five senses to increase awareness and anchor yourself out of your mental chatter—to closing your eyes and objectively noticing how your breath, body, and mind feel for a few minutes to turn on some relaxation responses in the body.

How does stress play into our money behaviors?

Overall, chronic stress can often decrease the quality of complex decision-making or emotionally-charged decision-making, such as decisions around money. The stress response is a reflexive response that throws our brains into a largely automated, less rational state of mind.

When the rational part of our brains aren't working optimally, we're inhibiting the quality of our decision-making—which we won't often notice until we retrospectively reflect on certain actions or choices (from budgeting to dating to eating) and wonder to ourselves, "XYZ choice I made doesn't quite make sense now that I think about it; why did I do it that way?" and a lot of that often comes back to how chronic stress detriments how our brains make decisions.

Let's talk about "emotional spending." Where does this stem from?

There are two primary parts of the brain that drive habits such as "emotional spending". One is the basic, animalistic, and reflex-driven part of the brain. The other is the complex, human, rational part of the brain. A mega-simplified explanation is that our brains automate habits as a shortcut to either (1) defend against something bad happening or (2) pursue something good.

The big caveat is that our brains build these habits based on things that happen in the past, which don't always accurately apply to things in the here-and-now. So then, we kind of get stuck in a loop. Part of [what’s important to learn] is how to identify and unstick habits that may not be productive to us but keep happening—aka, emotional spending!

You've said that in America "we wear stress as a badge of honor but stigmatize slowing down or taking care of ourselves." How can we change this?

We need to educate, normalize, and empower! There's modern, proven science to back why chronic stress hurts us and why we need to occasionally slow down and take care of ourselves. On the other hand, there's this weird prevailing stigma that if you slow down, you're lazy or unproductive or XYZ. Why would we want to perpetuate a social culture that detriments us individually and as a whole?

At Recalibrate, we preach science over stigma and it's been pretty dope to see some major shifts in clients, really proving the power of what can happen once you give people the power of information to do better for themselves.

(On a total aside, that's also why I love what Factora is doing—providing more accessible, useful information to a gender group that hasn't gotten all the inclusion or information due to outdated cultural norms and stigmas that are largely detrimental to women.)

Allegra Brantly