First off, remember to breathe.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +9.36% and S&P 500 Index SPX, +9.28% plunged Thursday in the worst drop since the 1987 market crash. The dramatic decline came after President Trump announced Wednesday evening that the U.S. would suspend flights from 26 European countries for 30 days, starting midnight Friday in an effort to slow the silent spread of COVID-19, the sometimes fatal disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Hyper-ventilating about every rise and dip isn’t time well spent, experts said. Rather than freaking out about the market’s rollercoaster ride or the COVID-19 epidemic, there are several steps you can take to improve your emotional, physical and financial health. The World Health Organization has a set of recommendations for how to deal with stress stemming from the virus.
Coronavirus had infected 128,392 people globally and killed 4,728 as of Friday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and 69,607 recoveries. The U.S. had 1,701 confirmed coronavirus cases and 40 deaths.
WHO recommends people limit the amount of time “you and your family spend watching or listening to media coverage that you perceive as upsetting.” It also recommends gathering information about the virus from a credible source like the WHO or a local public health agency. Financial advisers say the same is true for those who are worried about their 401(k) or their investments in their favorite stocks, whether it’s AAPL, +11.98% Google GOOG, +9.40%, Tesla TSLA, -2.48% or Facebook FB, +10.23%.
“Freaking out doesn’t help you stay healthy,” said Catherine Belling, a professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, who studies the role of fear and anxiety in health care. “It just makes you feel really bad and keeps you from doing the rational things that actually might help you stay healthy.” Instead of throwing yourself into a rabbit-hole of panic and anxiety, here are 10 ways to regain your sense of control.
1. Distract yourself from alarming headlines
If you’re a relatively young, long-term investor, don’t even look at your account balance, or the week’s stock-market plunge. It is too difficult at this point to predict the market’s levels years into the future, when young investors will be cashing out accounts such as their 401(k)s. Money that people are saving for short-term goals shouldn’t be invested in the market.
So instead of obsessively checking account balances or worrying about COVID-19, work out or socialize with friends. Exercise has even been linked to financial health; a 2016 study from the American Heart Association found that individuals who exercised moderately paid about $2,500 less in annual health care expenses related to heart disease than those who did not exercise.
Better yet: Do a job you can earn money for, like babysitting, dog walking or signing up for an app like TaskRabbit. Extra money can go toward debt or savings. Just don’t distract yourself through “retail therapy”: Anxiety is linked to making financially risky decisions. And shopping to relieve stress and anxiety can leave you in a worse financial state than before.