From a global pandemic to an uncertain economic outlook, 2020 has been an anxiety-producing year. Studies show that people are more stressed now than they were a year ago. And the shift to remote work has, in many cases, only made things worse.
Working from home has forced most of us to completely upend our daily routines while losing the benefits of social contact. Leading from afar has proven an interesting challenge — as has juggling work and parenting responsibilities.
For many of us, WFH life shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do right now to give yourself greater peace of mind. Here are some suggestions for safeguarding your home, your health and your finances in these unprecedented times:
1. Revisit your insurance policies.
Most of us treat homeowners insurance as a set-it-and-forget-it protection that we put in place once and never think about again. But now that your home is also your office, it might be a good idea to review your policy.
Most homeowners policies cover damages caused by fire, wind and hail. They’ll also cover your personal property lost to fire or theft up to a specific dollar amount. But most people aren’t protected from those everyday strokes of misfortune — say, when the furnace goes out in the dead of winter. They’re often blindsided by the expense of repair or replacement at the worst possible time.
Consider purchasing a home warranty to help cover problems that could arise from the increased use of your home and appliances. The best home warranties will have a low deductible and a payout that covers the most expensive major appliances. Purchasing a warranty can be as easy as calling your insurance agent or getting a quote online.
2. Secure your home Wi-Fi network.
Early on in the pandemic, cybersecurity experts warned that Covid-19-related cyberattacks were on the rise. Back in March, a wave of 2,500 malware infections hit unsuspecting users in a single day. This is especially troubling since many of us are using personal devices and home Wi-Fi to access sensitive company data.
Luckily, there is one simple thing you can do to protect your information: Secure your home Wi-Fi network. First, make sure your router uses WPA2 security. This means that every new user should be required to enter a password before connecting to the Internet.
Some people think it’s cute to use their dog’s name or part of their address as a password. But this can be extremely dangerous — especially if your network name uses another piece of identifying information. Make your Wi-Fi password hard to guess, and change it on a regular basis (at least quarterly). Update your router’s firmware, and disable remote access.
3. Schedule in time for movement.
We all know that sitting is bad for us. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for early death. This has been exacerbated by WFH since we no longer have to get up for meetings or to chat with coworkers.
Fortunately, moving your body throughout the day can help mitigate the effects of sitting. You can download an app such as Randomly RemindMe to set reminders to get up and stretch. It’s also a good idea to get out at least once a day and go for a walk.
The health benefits of walking are pretty dramatic. A simple 12-minute stroll is enough to make you more cheerful, confident and attentive. Walking has also been shown to improve brain function, sharpen working memory and stoke creativity. Most notably, walking 12,000 steps per day can dramatically reduce your chances of death.
4. Work on your indoor air quality.
We’re already seeing a spike in Covid-19 infections, and experts warn that winter conditions will help the virus thrive. Plummeting temperatures, lower relative humidity and drier respiratory tracts create the perfect storm for transmission. Modern homes with central heating and tight seals aren’t ideal, either. (The relatively stagnant indoor air doesn’t carry virus particles away as a nice cross-breeze would.)
Covid-19 infections are much more likely to occur through household transmission than community transmission. But there are things you can do to protect yourself and the rest of your family.
First, improve ventilation wherever you can. Change your household air filters regularly, and crack a few windows to get air moving throughout your home. You can also use a humidifier to put moisture back into the air. Low humidity makes particles linger in the air longer and makes it easier for them to lodge in our airways. When humidity levels rise, virus particles get bigger and heavier, which means they don’t linger in the air as long. This can help reduce the risk of transmission.
In times like these, it can feel as though nothing is within our control. That helplessness only adds to our stress and puts us more on-edge. But there are a few simple things we can do to ease our anxiety about the future. They may seem simple, but a little peace of mind can go a long way.