By: Wilmington Trust, a wholly owned subsidiary of M&T Bank Corporation
The promise of a better tomorrow isn’t always easy to see today
Much has been written about protecting yourself from the coronavirus (COVID-19)—from social distancing, to hand washing, to wearing a mask if you do need to go out in public. All of these precautions are designed to help us stay physically healthy. But what are we doing to ensure that we are staying mentally and emotionally healthy as well?
This is an unprecedented time, with societal changes that many of us have never before experienced. The world has certainly seen it’s share of tragedies and disasters and crises, yet this particular pandemic is changing so much about the way we operate in our own, individual worlds. Working from home, children isolated from school and friends, unable to visit with family members, concerns about loved ones living elsewhere—all of these changes combined create a level of stress and anxiety that can be difficult to maneuver.
It’s important to understand that each person is experiencing his or her own unique type and degree of anxiety. If you’re a business owner, for example, you may be terrified that your livelihood will no longer exist once the pandemic is over. How will you rebuild? Can you rebuild? Consider your teenage son, looking forward to his senior year of high school and all that comes with it. He is now isolated from his social activities, cooped up in the house with family and unable to leave to celebrate his graduation. Or perhaps you have an elderly parent living in a nursing home, and you are unable to visit and provide reassurance. There are countless scenarios to illustrate that we are all facing different levels of emotional despair. “This was my daughter’s last year playing Varsity softball for her high school team,” Wilmington Trust Senior Client Communications Manager, Christina DeNisco, shares. “She’s devastated that she won’t get to compete one more time for her team, can’t even practice in anticipation of her college career. It’s been very difficult to manage that disappointment for her.”
You’re not in this alone
It’s perfectly normal to be afraid and concerned. Know that you are absolutely not in the minority, but that you are a part of an entire society that is experiencing these emotions. By recognizing that these feelings are real and can be addressed, you are taking the first step in creating a more peaceful balance in your life. Start by dealing with your own emotions first before attempting to help the rest of your household. Gauge how you feel and why you feel that way—are worried you or a family member will get sick? Are you anxious about your job and finances? Are you frustrated by the behavior of the people in your home? All of these are valid reasons to become stressed. But you can’t tackle them all at once. Take each case on its own and try to create realistic ways to reduce the anxiety it creates.
Managing stress one moment at a time
It may be helpful to start with the most obvious stressor—the virus itself and the fear that you or a loved one will catch it. Recognizing that the one thing you can control is your own environment may help put you a little bit at ease. Follow all the necessary physical precautions and ensure that your family members do the same. This may seem like common sense, but this critical act can make you feel more in control of your life at this uncertain time.
Next, don’t let the emotions and habits of others in your household determine your mood. Everyone is dealing with this differently, and you can only control your own responses. Try to incorporate some positive experiences into every day, as small as they may seem, to reduce frustration and encourage camaraderie. Find a universal television or movie series all family members might enjoy watching together every night. Clear off the kitchen table and set up a challenging puzzle. Depending on what’s in your pantry, create “breakfast for dinner night” or better yet, “dessert for dinner” night. Small things can go a long way in helping to reduce some of the boredom and forced containment everyone is experiencing. And that, in turn, will help you feel more positive as well.
The nuances of every household are varied so it’s important to make changes that work for your family dynamic. Perhaps it’s just you in the house; being isolated can certainly enhance your feelings of anxiety. Try to do something positive for yourself that you enjoy each day—physical activity of any kind has proven to be an excellent mental health tonic. However, if listening to music, or eating a tub of cookie dough, are more your style, then indulge yourself at times to help keep an even keel. The same is true for larger households. Perhaps you have young children, or teenagers, or even older parents living with you. What might work for one demographic may be a disaster for another. Find your personal positive motivator and then try to find ways to help others do the same.
The challenge of financial anxiety
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is managing your fears regarding your job and finances. While a large number of employees are able to work from home during this crisis, that is not the case for many others, and is a significant source of anxiety. Keep in touch with your financial services provider, actively read any communications they are sending, particularly those regarding financial assistance legislation and relief programs. Being informed of these efforts will empower you to explore relief efforts that may help in your particular situation.
If you’re worried about your investments or retirement assets, stay in contact with your financial advisors and listen to their insights and guidance. Seasoned investment professionals have weathered many economic downturns and volatile markets, and they will have realistic expectations for the future that may help put you at ease.
And remember, if you have a trusted financial advisor, he or she has likely guided clients through many challenging times. Your advisor’s job is not just to manage your money, but to be a source of reason and comfort when you are feeling anxious. Wilmington Trust Investment Advisor Bill Bechstein shares: “When the Great Recession hit in 2008, I knew my clients were going to need my support more than ever. As crazy as my days were, my most important job every day was to pick up the phone, or reply to an email, providing the assurance my clients needed during such a difficult time.”
Sometimes, it goes beyond just providing financial guidance. When you work with someone you trust implicitly to oversee your most important assets, you should feel comfortable enough to reach out when you have other concerns as well. “I take my role as a trusted advisor very seriously,” says Myrian E. Perez’, senior relationship manager in Wilmington Trust’s Family Wealth group. “My clients often seek my advice about things completely unrelated to their wealth plan. I’ve had many conversations about how to raise financially responsible children, or when is the right time to present someone with a prenup, or even once I was asked for a tactful way to request the return of an engagement ring. It runs the gamut, and I appreciate that my clients trust me enough to seek my guidance like that.” And remember, if your advisor is part of a local team, she is also a member of your community, facing the same challenges of quarantines and closures and social disconnect. However, she is likely active in local community organizations through her position as an advisor, and may have access to resources that could be helpful to you, should a need arise.
The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Taking small steps to find a more balanced emotional state can go a long way in not only improving your own mood, but those around you as well. Don’t be afraid to tell your family members how you are feeling, and to encourage them to do the same. Reach out to your advisors for reassurance, even if you don’t have a specific financial reason to call. And if possible, look into your employer’s health care plan to see if there’s an emotional assistance program. Many employers include this type of confidential resource to employees and their family members, typically at no extra cost. No matter how you work towards reducing your anxiety, know that this time will pass and while our society and world may change in ways we can’t foresee, you will be emotionally equipped to handle whatever may come your way.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of a professional advisor should be sought. The opinions, estimates and projections constitute the judgment of Wilmington Trust and are subject to change without notice.