Here’s How to Regain Some Control During These Uncertain Times
Little things can make a BIG difference.
Of all the ways to sum up the mood of 2020, “uncertain times” might just be the most accurate. Between the state of the world, the state of the pandemic and the state of all of our stress levels, you’re not alone if you feel like times are trying, to say the least. And while the phrase itself may seem overused by this point, the fact is it remains painfully true. With a global pandemic, climate change wreaking havoc on communities in the form of fires and natural disasters, and a long overdue reckoning over racial justice, the stakes are high and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
One way to feel a bit more in control at a time like this is to look inwards at your own life, and make small changes that will help you feel empowered, like taking some concrete steps toward ensuring financial stability for you and your family. We spoke to an expert and researched some accessible ways to do just that:
Master Your Morning Routine
The best way to set yourself (and your day) up for success is to start early. Establishing a healthy morning routine sets the tone for the rest of your day. And while lately every day might feel the same, it’s worth checking in on your habits to make sure you’re starting your day out right. While there’s no one steadfast routine researchers agree on, there is one thing that several studies can confirm: working out first thing in the morning is the best thing you can do for your mind and body.
Before eating or slamming a shot of espresso, a morning cardio-intensive workout offers a laundry list of benefits including boosting your immune system, mental and physical stamina and can help develop discipline in other areas of life. Just don’t be too hard on yourself if you have trouble sticking to a new routine right away. One study found that on average, it took most adults about 66 days for a new habit to take hold. If the rise and sweat routine is new, start out small with 20 minutes of light activity every other day and work your way up a longer, more intense daily routine.
Because planning for not just your future, but the future of the ones you care for most, is paramount, consider life insurance, which is an important step to providing for your loved ones. According to nonprofit life insurance organization Life Happens, over two-thirds of Americans are re-evaluating their finances in light of the pandemic, with life insurance one of the top topics of conversation.
“Life insurance helps your life’s moments live on,” says David Quinn, Assistant Vice President of Marketing at State Farm. He admits with a laugh that death isn’t the most popular dinner table conversation, but it’s important to plan for the future. With the pandemic, he’s noticed an increased interest in life insurance. “People have seen a real need now to explore life insurance and start having those conversations.”
No matter what stage of life you’re in, there’s a good chance that you have obligations. Whether it’s caring for family, paying off student loans or other financial commitments like a mortgage, life insurance helps take care of these needs when you’re gone. “Nothing can replace you and the role you play in a relationship,” Quinn says, “but protecting your loved ones with life insurance can help ease that loss.”
Quinn adds that life insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. With the one-on-one help of a State Farm agent, you’ll determine exactly what you and your family’s needs are. “Your life will change. Your life will evolve,” Quinn says. “If you want to be there for the people you value when you’re gone, life insurance is a great way to do that. At its very core, it’s a promise to provide for your loved ones at the time of your passing.”
Start a Financial Plan
There’s nothing quite like facing the inevitability of death to make other big life planning decisions seem approachable by comparison. According to Quinn, acquiring life insurance is a great way for new families to lay out a solid financial plan and develop the discipline to stick to it. And beyond that, whether it’s saving for retirement, a home or budgeting for a growing family, developing a plan takes some of the uncertainty out of the future. According to a 2020 study of Certified Financial Planners, 94% believe that despite global uncertainty, Americans who use a financial plan are more likely to reach their goals.
Looking to get started on financial planning today? The first step is setting up a budget. While it might seem like a daunting task, there are plenty of apps and services that make it easy and convenient to get started. Mint provides free, easy to understand budgeting tools and even offers analysis on where you can improve your spending habits — like putting an end to “just this once” purchases of extra lives in your favorite phone game.
Break Big Goals Down Into Small Actions
Those motivational hashtags are actually onto something: setting goals really is a key to success. Whether it’s building up your savings, running a marathon or scoring a promotion, it’s no surprise that research shows we’re more likely to get what we want when we make a plan to get it. Yet goal-setting isn’t just about outcomes. Research shows that when we perceive and experience progress on our way to a defined point we’re happier, healthier and feel a greater sense of autonomy.
The gap between setting goals and achieving them can feel unsurmountable. Start out by writing down what you hope to achieve, whether it’s a savings goal or running a marathon. Then let a friend or loved one know. According to one study, 70% of participants who wrote down their goals and sent regular updates to a friend achieved what they set out to do. Next, identify a small daily habit you can take on that will help you achieve your goal. If it’s running a marathon, for example, start out with a lap around the block. Then, set up a simple system for tracking your progress. Each day you’ll get closer to the future you want because of the actions you took today.
Take Up a Cause and Get Involved
When the whole world feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s easy to fall into thinking that there’s nothing you can do. And while you won’t singlehandedly stop the polar ice caps from melting, getting involved in a cause that you care about is something you can do. A March 2020 study from the United Kingdom found that people who volunteered once a month reported greater happiness and satisfaction with their life.
While the coronavirus pandemic might change the way we volunteer, there’s a greater need than ever to help out those in need. Finding an organization can be overwhelming, but the internet (as usual) is here to help. VolunteerMatch makes it easy to connect with organizations across the country that help out in a wide range of causes from arts and culture to animal welfare and human rights. The site lists over 130,000 nonprofits to get involved with in an easy to use interface.
Carve Out a Space (and Time) For Yourself
Coronavirus has completely changed the way we live and work. That also means it’s impacted how we use our living spaces. We’re all spending more time than ever at home, whether it’s working, homeschooling or just staying in. Achieving a work-life balance in the age of coronavirus takes serious intention, without it you’re on a one-way road to burnout. Start out by setting apart a small area of your home that’s expressly reserved for recharging — and we’re not talking about devices.
Dedicate a set amount of time each day to slowing down and checking in with yourself. If you haven’t dipped your toe into meditation and mindfulness, this is the time to start. Apps like Headspace make it easy. You’ll thank us later (as in, after your first session).