COVID-19 “Overwhelm”: Strategies to Move Forward
The country locked down 10 weeks ago and, for many people, mental and physical fatigue are palpable. Sheltering in place at home is “getting (real) old” and weeks with a reduced (or no) income have thrown the finances of millions of households into a tailspin. June will here in eight days and will be the third month that many households will have difficulty paying all their bills. Prolonged “paycheck to paycheck” living can sap mental bandwidth and stress mental health to the point that people are simply not fully functioning.

Then throw in the fact that the duration and lethality of COVID-19 are still unknown. Further, add the consensus from numerous observers, including the venerable Peggy Noonan, that “the ground on which we stand has shifted.” 

Expect that many things in life will be different (Noonan says “plainer”), at least until we get to the “other side” (whenever that is) — and, perhaps, much longer. Examples include: more working from home, new travel procedures, crowd controls, and fewer people making advance plans that require big deposits.

What to do? The only thing that we can do. Create some semblance of a routine and focus on the things we can control. Below are seven specific ways to fight back against COVID-19 “overwhelm” and to navigate change, loss, and uncertainty in this turbulent time:

1. Marshall Resources.

Look for sources of monetary support and human services in your community, if needed. For information about local resources, call 211 or visit or your local office of social services.

2. Create a Spending Plan (Budget).

Make your best estimate of current income and expenses and consider various ways to close the gap. For example, money saved by getting free groceries at a food pantry preserves scarce income for utility payments.

3. Develop a Daily Schedule.

Plan out your days to avoid feeling “unmoored” from normal routines. Include some type of physical activity every day. The Center for Financial Social Work has a useful e-book with helpful scheduling worksheets.

4. Increase Your Financial Literacy.

Set a goal to learn one new thing about personal finance each day.

Financial knowledge can help build financial preparedness, which helps increase resilience in tough times like these.

The COVID-19 website from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) has lots of helpful information about managing money in a time of crisis.

5. Seize Control of Controllable Things.

Make a table with three columns: Control, Adapt, and Monitor. Then list events and actions you have control over in column 1, followed by those you can adapt to and those you should pay attention to in columns 2 and 3. “Controllable” items include scheduling daily routines, self-care activities, home organization tasks, and new spending patterns.

6. Be Grateful and Creative.

Find ways to acknowledge and support others; it will make you feel good too. Also, get creative: Zoom parties, COVID-19 themed bitmojis and videos, and drive-by graduations and Memorial Day parades are just a few examples.

7. Take Deep Breaths.

Acknowledge that you may be feeling confused and overwhelmed right now. Big parts of your life have been turned upside down. Many people are not balancing work and family. They are balancing work with family. You are not alone. Many others are feeling the same way. Health experts often recommend deep breathing as a way to lower stress. Try it and see if it helps.

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