One consequence of the “stay home” mandate is more time to watch and read news stories. That could be dangerous to your mental health.

Google, “How many news stories are negative versus positive?” The answer: “Most of them.” In an April 6 blog post, John O’Leary cited a Harvard Business Review report that 94 percent of media stories were negative.

“That stat,” said O’Leary, “is from 2017, when markets were at all-time highs, unemployment at historic lows, and the notion of a global pandemic unimaginable for most of us.” With the economy in the tank and people sidelined by COVID-19 precautions or dealing directly with the disease, negativity and worry is omnipresent.

O’Leary is an acclaimed speaker, writer and motivator, who as an inquisitive 9-year-old was playing with fire and gasoline when his parents weren’t home. The resulting massive explosion and fire destroyed the house and severely burned young John over 100 percent of his body. His recovery story is nothing short of miraculous, testimony to the reality that attitude is more important than facts.

What are we to make of scary news? Recognize that there will always be scary news. In a Feb. 17, 2018 Guardian opinion piece, Canadian psychiatrist Steven Pinker noted, “Every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse and oppression. And it’s not just the headlines we’re talking about; it’s the op-eds and long-form stories as well. Magazine covers warn us of coming anarchies, plagues, epidemics, collapses, and so many ‘crises’ (farm, health, retirement, welfare, energy, deficit) that copywriters have had to escalate to the redundant ‘serious crisis.’” Are alarming and worrisome breaking news alerts replete with ominous music tracks so common that we are mired in personal negativity in our outlook?

About COVID-19, observes O’Leary, “Because what we choose to focus on expands within our consciousness, it’s highly likely that reading all those negative articles, watching your cable news and becoming a stay-at-home, self-taught epidemiology expert will trigger growing depression for today and hopelessness for tomorrow.” Sure, it’s hard to remain positive and motivated in challenging times, but as one responsible for yourself and most likely for others, what choice do you have?

All musings about our post-coronavirus future are conjecture because we are in uncharted territory. Nevertheless, while time frames are uncertain, we will recover. Stock markets will recover. Struggling businesses will recover. True, some will not recover but opportunists will find ways to fill the void. Yin and yang are normal parts of our journey through the “valley of tears.” You have to deal with what you can control and have confidence in yourself and your ability to overcome, along with faith in God and his providence as a navigation aid. Take health, which is something you can control to a point, i.e., physical fitness.

Parts of the South, Louisiana in particular, have seen the virus as more dangerous to the larger percentages of at-risk citizens, those younger than age 60 included, who suffer from chronic conditions including diabetes, obesity, lung disease (especially ex- or current male smokers), alcoholism, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. What is your plan to improve physical fitness? More stir-crazy adults are out walking or running. Keep it up. If you’re a senior eligible for the Silver Sneakers program, take advantage. One gym owner noted that seniors have a habit of signing up, but then not showing up. At retirement, your minimum time frame target for “financial independence,” being in good physical shape will prolong your “go-go” years as opposed to the inevitable “slow go” or “no go” years!

Opportunities to repair damage to your finances and portfolios emerge after every downturn. While “the bottom” is always conjecture, how will you take advantage of the recovery to come? Bargains are being created for those with capability, vision and resources. If you’ve been living with burdensome debt, or paycheck-to-paycheck, what’s your strategy to improve your fiscal well-being, standard of living, and peace of mind? Do you need to focus on more education, skills upgrades? Job opportunities that will open up? Even now, entities are hiring to meet virus-driven demand surges.

What basics need to be reviewed or put in place? Estate plan, will, trusts, powers of attorney for assets and health care, insurance (including liability, health, disability, life), debt reduction, increases in cash reserves and “what if?” buffers? What should your adult kids know about your affairs? Mr. or Ms. Business Owner, what have you learned about “de-risking,” succession planning and preparation for “next time?”

Rainbows and clear blue skies follow every storm. Attitude is more important than facts.

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;lewis@lewwalker.com. Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;lewis@lewwalker.com.  Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

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