One of my “bucket list” items is a trip down the Grand Canyon in a raft. The allure of sleeping under the stars while listening to the Colorado river rush past is the stuff my dreams are made of. For now, I am settling for family camping trips that involve fishing ponds and small creeks for kayaking. Like many people, the biggest benefit I derive from camping is the ability to disconnect from technology and enjoy nature.
In a March 2020 NY Times article, they described a group of rafters who left on a 25 day trip in February and came back as some of the last people to find out about the coronavirus. While I hope that my future rafting trip down the Grand Canyon does not involve a pandemic, there may be some legitimacy to the claim that ignorance is bliss. Now we find ourselves slightly less than two weeks away from a Presidential election and I am beginning to wish I were on that raft…blissfully unaware of the constant news feed of political bickering.
2020: A Tumultuous Year
The weeks leading up to a presidential election can be nerve-wracking enough on their own. Add in the tumult from Covid-19, social justice movements, and recent market volatility, and it’s no wonder that some of us are dealing with significant anxiety as we get closer and closer to punching our ballots.
So many of the problems we have faced in 2020 have felt bigger than we are. That is one reason we are all so energized to vote: even if the result of the election is beyond any one person’s control, it will feel good to take action and have your voice heard.
But are you so wrapped up in big picture challenges that you’re overlooking things in your life that you can control? Taking some purposeful steps in three areas could help lower your anxiety over the next few weeks.
What Areas Can You Control in 2020?
1. Your Mental Health
This is hardly the first time in our tumultuous history that Americans have been on edge about a presidential election. But until recently, most folks only dipped into the campaigns when the paper arrived in the morning and when TV news came on at night. Social media immerses us in politics 24/7, creating an echo chamber that magnifies our anxieties and bounces them back to us repeatedly. Worse, that echo chamber might be sharing screen space with the apps we are using to stay connected to colleagues, family, and friends during the pandemic.
When you are not working or checking on grandma, set some daily screen time limits. Unplugging before bed can be especially beneficial if your brain is still revving from a full day of tweets. Our electronic devices and apps are designed to attract our attention. One thing I have found helpful is to turn off most notifications on my phone throughout the day. Instead of getting an alert every time a new email arrives, or a news article is published, I can control when I look at my email or update myself on the news. When it is time to sleep, there is no better mute button than a good book.
2. Your Physical Health
The pandemic could create a new breed of couch potato: instead of binge-watching TV, we’re in danger of putting in unnecessary overtime, all the time.
Working from home has disrupted many of the routines that kept us active even on days when we were not heading to the gym. Simple things like moving around the office or walking down the street for a coffee break do not happen as much when you and your laptop are parked at the kitchen table all day. Instead, in between tasks, you might find yourself clicking open a new tab and getting sucked into the day’s political brouhaha.
The physical barriers between home and work are a little blurry right now but you have more control over your schedule. You can even buy activity trackers that can remind you to get up and move between Zoom calls. When you hit inbox zero, take a long walk. And when it is time to clock out for the day, turn off your computer, get up from your makeshift desk, and get moving. Even if your gym is now in your living room, separating yourself from your WFH routine will help you get the most out of your new exercise routine.
3. Your Financial Health
Folks who have never set a monthly budget are often surprised by what an empowering experience it can be. The most impactful adjustment you can make to your financial plan is to limit unnecessary spending and maximize saving while continuing to invest prudently, regardless of what’s happening in the markets or on the news.
Still, the investment piece of this picture can make folks anxious during moments of uncertainty, especially if retirement is nearing. A financial plan is only as good as your confidence in it.
Unfortunately, we are probably not going to be on a Grand Canyon rafting trip for the next two weeks, so hopefully these steps will help you navigate the days leading up to the election. We can work together to control these and other variables so that you will feel excited about your plan and your family’s future.