Right now, many things feel “out of control.” Between COVID-19, a now fragile economy and bear market, rising unemployment, closed schools and universities patching together online courses on the fly, companies facing staggering losses, and governments struggling with massive deficits, it seems like everything is quickly headed south.
Very rarely have so many been affected in so many ways: health, finances, relationships (social distancing), education, and more.
Research indicates that “feeling out of control” is a major cause of unhappiness and stress. Most people don’t like not having at least some type of game plan.
That’s why commuting always ranks high as a source of unhappiness. Commuters often run into unplanned obstacles such as traffic snarls, road closures, and weather-related incidents that force them to adjust their normal routines. Right now, many people are experiencing uncertainty and lack of control on so many fronts.
What to do? There is really only one thing that we can do.
When things seem out of control, control what you can.
We cannot control COVID-19 or the stock market or the closing of schools, stores, and companies, but that does not mean we are powerless. Below are seven things that we can all do to reduce stress:
- Listen to CDC Advice: Follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to wash your hands often, avoid large crowds, and stay home as much as possible. The photo circulating on Twitter of health-care workers dressed in protective gear and holding signs says it all: “I stay at work for you. You stay at home for us.”
- Revise Your Spending Plan (Budget): Update (or create for the first time) a budget that reflects a best estimate of anticipated changes in your income and expenses for the next few months as a result of COVID-related impacts on the economy. A spending plan worksheet is available from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension website.
- Practice Healthy Behaviors: Eat nutritious food, get adequate sleep, exercise at least 30 minutes daily, and quit smoking. Create a new workout routine at home or by walking outdoors if your gym has closed. Exercise has many benefits people need right now. It can help reduce stress, improve energy, burn calories, and boost your immune system.
- Try to Be Early: Time-shift shopping to buy food when supermarkets first open. Shortages of food and supplies are happening frequently and stores are closing earlier to restock their shelves. Get there early in the day before supplies run low again.
- Find Local Resources: Seek out nonprofit organizations and government agencies to help you. Examples include food pantries, utility assistance, and unemployment benefits. Thrift shops that remain open are another useful resource.
- Play the Goodwill Card: Take advantage of various “leniency” announcements for tax filing, interest rates, utility payments, school grades, and more. When so many people are affected by one crisis, there will always be some slack.
- Create New Routines: Develop a new weekday schedule for family members so everyone doesn’t feel so “adrift.” Include time for fun activities as well as telework and/or school assignments. Right now, many people are feeling the way retirees do on their first day of non-work. Putting some structure in your day can help reduce boredom and stress.