• June 1, 2020

Manage stress during COVID-19 crisis - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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Manage stress during COVID-19 crisis

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Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2020 2:45 am

The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that defend the body against foreign bodies (antigens) such as bacteria or viruses. When experiencing stress, the immune system is compromised and the ability to fight off antigens is reduced.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, many Americans were already experiencing financial stress. The recent drop in the stock market, combined with local job loss due to the drop in oil prices, and the presence of COVID-19 have intensified the level of stress for many local residents.

This increased stress could be jeopardizing your long term well-being. The body responds to stress by kicking the fight flight response into action which pumps adrenalin and cortisol into the body. Heightened levels of adrenalin and cortisol in the bloodstream can lead to a number of problems including headaches, increased blood pressure, and depression or anxiety. This can weaken your immune system and increase your susceptibility to COVID-19.

In addition to practicing social distancing and hand washing, you can work to strengthen your immune system by managing your financial stress. Below are a few tips:

Budget. A budget isn’t going to change the amount money currently coming in, but a budget can help you to stretch the amount to meet your needs. With oil prices dropping and COVID-19 on the rise, budgeting may allow you to spend money more freely.

Prioritize and cancel all non-essential subscriptions. If you’re already living on a budget, that budget may need to be adjusted to account for lost wages due to COVID-19. By prioritizing and canceling any non-essential subscriptions, you will have more money to focus on true essentials. Cable may be nice to have, especially since we are all stuck at home, but is it a true necessity?

Set goals and plan. Planning and goal-setting can help you to gain control of what happens next. This can also help you to budget and prioritize.

Unload debt and consolidate what you can. As part of your planning and budgeting, tackle debt aggressively. Some people choose to focus on the debt with the highest interest, others, such as Dave Ramsey suggest a snowball approach. The debt snowball approach suggests paying off debt in order of smallest to largest to gain momentum. It helps people to feel like they are accomplishing something when they can cross a bill of a list. With either approach, once the pesky debt is paid off, it will free up more of your monthly income for other things.

Call people you owe money to and see what they can do. Perhaps the debt may be forgiven. Perhaps you will be able to delay payment without penalty. Perhaps nothing will be done, but you won’t know unless you ask.

Scan the net to save. There are free comparison site engines out there like billshrink.com, billeater.com and validas.com that can save you money. You input information about how much money you spend on utilities, internet, cable, gas, and a ton of other consumables, and these sites give you money saving alternatives.

Coupon. Using coupons is a serious way to save money. Grocery bills can be cut significantly by using coupons.

Plan meals and make a shopping list. When you plan meals in advance, you are more likely to stick to your list when you are at the grocery store, rather than impulse buying on an empty stomach and over spending.

Ditch your defenseless attitude. You have power and choices to address your financial hardship. The key to altering this attitude is by finding a way to have hope, even if the most dire circumstances. Simple things like making a gratitude list can be helpful.

Practice free self-care techniques. Self-care is an activity we do deliberately to satisfy our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health needs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Walking and running are free. You may be saving some money on your entertainment bill right now because you’re home more often, but it is important to continue practicing self-care. If working out isn’t your thing, there are other self-care techniques you could use that are also little to no cost such deep breathing, meditating, art, music, or reading.

Being financially secure will not necessarily prevent someone from contracting COVID-19. However, it is important to do what you can to manage your financial stress to help decrease your chances for a weakened immune system. With hope, the COVID-19 crisis will be behind us soon, but improving spending habits during this difficult time may lead to a greater sense of security for the future.

Teresa Porath works for ECISD at Wilson and Young Middle School.

Odessa, TX

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