Like you, my colleagues and I are adjusting to the upheaval of regular life in the middle of the global coronavirus outbreak. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing are forcing us to change the ways we live and work. So, in addition to the health, economic and financial risks of the pandemic, we also have to manage the difficulties in our new home dynamics.
How can you manage it all? It won’t be easy. No matter how hard we want to go back to normal, things are different—and they will be for some time. But remember, while this shutdown has pushed us to modify our lives, it doesn’t have to change everything completely.
Here are some ways we’ve found to stay active and manage the current situation.
Make self-care a priority and monitor your mindset. Stretch, meditate, pray or engage in other activities to relax and alleviate stress and anxiety. Talking with people you trust can help you work through any fears and concerns.
The 24/7 news cycle can also add to anxiety, so limiting your news and social media consumption, particularly as it relates to the pandemic, can help ease tension. Less time reading headlines can also free up time for other hobbies, tasks and relationships with others.
When you’re stuck at home, it’s best to stick to a routine to manage day-to-day activities. Modified home workouts can replace time previously spent at the gym—and outdoor exercise will help you get plenty of fresh air and improve your mood.
Maintaining regular sleep habits and mealtimes can also contribute to a sense of normalcy. Healthy meals gathered around the table can help families (especially those with children) stay grounded and provide a comforting structure during stressful days.
For many years, I have talked with working parents about the idea of “work-life integration” rather than “balance” since we can’t truly separate our home and work titles (parent, MD, spouse, MBA, etc.). Now we find ourselves exactly in that place.
We’re adjusting our work schedules. For some, work may now be at home, with so many facilities shutting down and moving to remote access. For essential workers and others, the pandemic may have completely upended work hours—either working more hours or unpredictable shifts.
With work responsibilities more integrated into home life, it’s still important to be mindful of where those roles begin and end. Depending on your workload, you may not be able to start and stop work at guaranteed times each day, or prevent work interruptions during your free time. Be honest with your employer and yourself about what you can do (and when you can do it) and what’s expected.
For some—those who have been laid off, who have seen their hours cut or whose own business has been affected—this lockdown is straining budgets without a clear end in sight.
Government relief might ease some of the burden: Unemployment benefits have been expanded, and the IRS has started depositing the $1,200 payments for eligible individuals and families as part of the CARES Act. And if you’re struggling, there may be other options to get financial help.
For others, however, staying home for so many weeks can save money (gas, car maintenance, restaurant meals, etc.). If you’d previously set a monthly budget, go through any recent income and expense changes to calculate how much your current situation is saving or costing you. If you can, experts recommend maintaining an emergency account that can cover 3 to 6 months of living expenses.
Be sure you have sufficient internet bandwidth to accommodate more people in your home at the same time, with more streaming on additional devices. Schedule important meetings at a time when no one else has data-heavy activities. In the case of children’s activities, have offline projects as a backup in case of slower internet or bandwidth problems.
In addition to work and school requirements, you can also experiment with technology to be more productive, to learn a new skill or to replace previous leisure or entertainment activities. (Virtual game nights, anyone?)
In addition to employment changes, school and day care closures are adding to the stresses of work-life integration. Many parents and grandparents now have to juggle childcare and distance learning while working from home full time.
Be flexible when creating schedules. Depending on the age of the child and your job responsibilities, you may have to start work earlier or later than usual. It may be that you log in before the child wakes up or after bedtime, or share care duties with others in your household.
Stay in contact with your employer and you child’s teachers. You may have to adjust expectations as you go along to find a schedule that works.
More than anything, physical distancing takes a toll on our relationships. Check in on loved ones—online, over the phone, over the fence or whatever you can do to maintain connections within the distancing guidelines.
And it’s not just relationships with families and friends. We miss our communities. Social clubs, religious services and volunteer engagements may still be happening—just in new ways. Whether online or in-person with proper precautions and gear, it’s important to stay involved with community groups for your own sake and for those you serve.
The magnitude of the coronavirus and its impacts make it clear that we’re living in unprecedented times. We don’t know what the future will hold—and honestly, it’s hard to know what next week will look like.
But when it comes to your life and your financial plans, we’re here for you. If you want to talk about your investments, potential emergency accounts, your retirement plan or any other part of your financial future, let’s talk. We’re in this together.
The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.
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