March 16, 2020
COPING WITH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC:
Are you Mentally and Financially Prepared?
As we prepare nationally to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety about this health crisis. COVID-19 is not SARS, and it is not influenza. It is a new virus with its own characteristics. Disruptions to work, living situations, schools, and daily routines have added disruptions and additional strains and stressors to everyone. Psychological first aid has shown that people across the globe struggle to cope with their experiences of disasters and that this is a natural and normal reaction. A pandemic is an invisible disaster, yet its effects are just as real. Understanding how traumatic events affect us can help us to gain control over our lives again. So how should we respond when a pandemic happens? How do we stay centered? Will you be okay financially? How do you support other Flight Attendants around you?
This is a health crisis that is quickly becoming a financial crisis. American is phasing out most International flying with a reduction of 75% year over year from March 16 to May. And will continue to operate only one flight daily from DFW to LHR and one flight daily from MIA to LHR and three flights per week from DFW to NRT. Domestic capacity will be reduced by 20% in April and 30% in May on a year over year basis.
So, amid this outbreak, a financial plan is so important. This may continue for the next several weeks to several months, so we should assess our financial status, but remember not to panic either.
American Airlines Credit Union is ready to help you manage every aspect of your personal finances while providing you with the tools to make changes and ensure you meet your finances and budgets. Credit Education counselors are also available to help with credit consolidation and debt counseling as well. Call (800) 533-0035 or go to AAcreditunion.org for assistance.
Fidelity Net Benefits Account: You have complimentary access to Fidelity one-on-one guidance. Contact the American Airlines 401(k) Service Center at Fidelity
(800) 354-3412 to speak with a licensed financial advisor. You can also log in to your Fidelity Net Benefits page at https://login.fidelity.com/ftgw/Fidelity/NBPart/Login/Init
Here are a few tips to start saving more and help with your financial wellness.
Contact creditors: Communicate with them to let them know of a loss of flying and schedule during this pandemic. They can oftentimes help you by delaying or deferring a payment, reducing your interest, or making an interest-only payment. Many of these companies will work with you if you ask.
Triage Finances: What can you cut out of your budget immediately to get through the emergency? Some easy ones include eating out and entertainment. Call your cable, phone and insurance providers to ensure you are getting the best rates. Many providers will negotiate with you if you just ask.
Look into refinancing your mortgage: Today’s 30 year fixed-rate mortgages are closer to 3.1% and can bring monthly payments down if you bought at a higher rate.
Create a budget (and follow it):
Start with a 50/30/20 budget plan. 50% for necessities. 30% for wants. 20% for savings. Go through your household budget and cut any non-essential items.
Have a no-spend day every week.
Designate one day a week to cook from home, watch a free movie or resist online shopping for an entire day.
Cut your cable cords.
Cable bills average an average of $85.00 and upwards to $200 a month while streaming services like Hulu starts at $5.99. Switch to basic cable to downgrade.
Stay positive: It’s better for your health and remember that what you focus on is what you’ll get more of, so try to focus on what you do have and how you’ll rebuild after the emergency is over.
Temper fear with reason,
Panic with patience, and
Uncertainty with education
To manage a pandemic situation, you need to understand common reactions and offer ways to deal with these concerns, while also maintaining a positive mental health outlook.
The most common reaction to a pandemic is hyper-vigilance – feeling over-cautious and wary about things, such as a person coughing, or not wearing a mask. These feelings can be exacerbated by the fear of contagion. Some people may experience headaches, muscle aches, and stomach aches, and disruptions to their sleeping and eating patterns. Others may have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, making decisions, or feel sad, overwhelmed, or angry. Others may withdraw, and not want to discuss traumatic events. These are all normal reactions, and over time, as life gets back to normal, these feelings decrease. What we must remember is that fears about the coronavirus are understandable. New infectious diseases are scary. It is natural for employees to express fear over the coronavirus pandemic, including the fear that we are exposed to the virus in our workplace. It is particularly anxiety-inducing because of the incredible uncertainty of it. We are more afraid of what we don’t know.
A pandemic can be very frightening. It can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, helpless, and even depressed. If you already struggle with mental health symptoms or addiction, this is a dangerous time for you on many levels. Stress can trigger relapses of both. With Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading and panic setting in, it’s important to maintain perspective, learn the facts, take reasonable precautions, and take steps to manage your mental as well as your physical health. This doesn’t have to be a setback for your progress.
Be aware that fear and anxiety about a disease as the coronavirus can also lead to social stigma towards people, places, or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. People of Asian descent, Flight Attendants that travel to Europe and Asia, stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others. Be kind to one another, support one another.
The three primary strategies for coping with the emotional impact of a pandemic are:
- Education: Seek out reliable information. Keep updated by going to cdc.gov
- Preparation: Personal and family readiness. Focus on what you can control (wash hands, avoid touching face, wear latex gloves during all phases of flight).
- Understanding common reactions to a pandemic: Work disruptions; flight cancellations, commuting disrupted. Financial concerns. Personal and relationship challenges; pre-existing problems and previous losses may resurface. Possible confinement for a period.
- The recent events of COVID-19 have reminded all of us that we can’t control everything in our lives. But there are things we can do to help us manage the emotional impact. Taking control and managing stress is key. Learning stress reduction techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can be good for everyone. Adults can help their children and others by creating an environment of safety and maintaining structure and routines in your life. Keeping a healthy diet, sleep routines, and exercise are all essential.
- Friends Make a Difference. Turn to them for support. Offer to listen to them, vent about concerns and offer suggestions to help them through it and allow your friends to do the same with you.
- If you know someone who has the virus or is elderly reach out to them. Make some time to talk and check on how they are coping with the situation and the stressors in their lives. Watching out for others shows you care. It can be comforting and calming to both of you. If anyone in your family has a pre-existing condition, call them to make sure they are doing okay. Even if you need to stay at home, keep in touch with all the people you know – family, friends, neighbors, from school, from your faith community, co-workers – by phone and email. Keeping your immune system happy and healthy is essential. A healthy immune system starts with a balanced diet and getting the amount of sleep you need to feel well-rested every night.
- Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
- Engaging in regular exercise is also essential.
- Limit your exposure to graphic news stories or images.
- Get accurate, timely information about the disease from credible sources.
- Seek out and follow the advice of experts.
- Keep your daily routines as normal as possible, such as meal and bedtimes.
- Stay busy, both mentally and physically.
Panic arises when people overestimate a threat and underestimate their coping abilities, “watching coverage that repeatedly emphasizes both the rapid spread of coronavirus and lack of effective treatment” is a fuel for anxiety. The best thing we can do is make sure to wash our hands and protect ourselves as we would with any other virus.
It’s also important to support the people who are most vulnerable to anxiety or victims of discrimination and to remember that, more than to panic, it’s human nature to come together in times of crisis. Under crisis situations, people typically rally around one another and they support one another.
Together we are powerful, together we are brave.
APFA National EAP Specialist
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