For some of us, life as we know it has ground to a halt. While the news headlines might be anxiety-inducing, there are opportunities to take advantage of the global lull. If you find yourself with more time on your hands than usual, embrace the chance to slow down, to take stock of what has happened in your life over the past few years and to think about what the future holds. Rest, devote the time you’ve longed for during busier periods to hobbies and interests and plan ahead. If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas, here’s a handy guide to help you lay the foundations for a brighter future.
Whether you’re still working, or you’re coming to terms with the fact that it could be weeks, even months before you next do a day’s work, taking some time to think about your career goals is worthwhile. Are you where you want to be, or are there changes you’d like to make? Sometimes, change can be a daunting prospect, but often, taking the plunge pays dividends. If you’re not happy in your current job, you have aspirations to work towards a dream job, or you’re keen to progress and achieve more, start planning your next move. This could mean making a career change, investing in yourself by undertaking a course or degree programme or plucking up the courage to ask your boss about a promotion.
It’s not always possible to secure the job of your dreams, but there are usually things you can do to get closer to the target. Research roles that catch your eye, update your CV and look for courses, workshops or training programmes that will expand and enhance your skill set. If you’re happy with your job, but the hours or the office culture are getting you down, consider going freelance or setting up on your own. This is a bold move that’s not for everyone, but it could provide you with the freedom, flexibility and job satisfaction you crave.
Many of us feel under pressure to reach certain milestones in our professional lives. If you’re in your 30s or 40s, and you’re not CEO, don’t beat yourself up. Focus on finding a job that you enjoy that gives you a sense of satisfaction rather than one that pays the bills and affords a luxurious lifestyle. For a growing number of people, finding a work-life balance is more important than earning a high salary. If you’re on the right track, but you’re not quite where you want to be yet, keep going. If you’re not happy, don’t be afraid to try something new.
Your financial situation
Research suggests that more than half of UK adults experience poor mental health as a result of money worries. If you’re in debt, or you wish your financial situation was a little rosier, there are steps you can take to make improvements.
The first step to take when trying to take control of your finances is learning to budget. Budgeting is crucial because it helps you reduce spending, clear debts and lower the risk of overspending. You can use budgeting apps, spreadsheets or a pen and paper to draw up your monthly budget. Note down your income and any outgoing payments you expect to make in the month ahead. This should include regular expenses, for example, your rent or mortgage, car insurance and utility bills, as well as one-off payments such as a weekend away or a birthday present for your partner. Once you’ve got all the figures in front of you, calculate how much disposable income you have once you’ve paid all your bills. You can then work out how much you can afford to spend each week, and how much you can save or put towards clearing debts.
If you are in debt, and you’ve got to a point where you can’t afford to pay bills, or you’re missing payments, it’s critical to seek advice. The longer you leave it, the worse the situation will get. Falling behind and adding to existing credit and store card debt will affect your credit rating and make it difficult for you to borrow in the future. Speaking to a financial adviser will help you work out a plan of action.
If you don’t have any problems with debts, but you are short of money, and you’re thinking about borrowing, always carry out thorough research first. Borrowing incurs interest fees, and it’s essential to understand how much you’re borrowing in total and how much you’ll be paying back each month for how long. If you don’t have an excellent credit score and you want to take out a loan, it’s worth looking at products like a guarantor loan from Buddy Loans. This type of loan enables you to name a guarantor when you apply. Loans can be helpful if you’re paying bills or you encounter unexpected costs, for example, a broken boiler or car repairs.
If your financial situation is positive, and you’re looking for ways to boost your balances in the future, it’s a good idea to look for savings accounts with high interest rates and to explore investment opportunities. Buying a second property, for example, could provide you with a monthly income through rent, as well as adding an asset to add to your estate.
The relationships we have with others have a dramatic impact on our wellbeing. Some of our relationships make us incredibly happy and joyous, while others can be more challenging and detrimental to our health. Take some time to think about how your relationships affect you. Are you in a loving relationship with a partner, or do you feel like you’ve settled for something that isn’t working? It’s not always easy to make that decision and leave a relationship, especially if you’ve been with a partner for a long time or you thought this was the formula that was going to stand the test of time. Nobody can make a decision for you, but it is important to ask yourself if you want to spend the next 5, 10 or 20 years wondering what would or could have happened if you took the decision to break up. Put your happiness first. You might be able to work on issues, especially if you haven’t really talked about them before, but there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes, relationships don’t work out, and there’s no clear reason why. Time is a healer, and it can also provide clarity.
As well as thinking about the relationship you have with your partner, it’s also worth taking some time to consider your friendships. Social media encourages us to connect with hundreds of people, but in reality, most of us have a much smaller social circle. As you get older, you often realise that quality is much more important and valuable than quantity. If you have a small group of very close friends, this is something to keep hold of and to protect at all costs. Surround yourself with people who build you up and make you happy, and don’t be scared to cut off those who only pop up when they want something and those who put you down to make themselves feel better. Friendships tend to disintegrate naturally and the ones you’re left with are the ones that are worth investing in and working on. Don’t worry if you have fewer friends than others or if you’re not uploading stories or videos every single Friday and Saturday night.
At times like this, when the world is upside down, you realise just how important your health is. It’s not possible to prevent every illness and to feel ecstatically happy every day, but there are steps you can take to improve your physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself is crucial.
Exercise is one of the best natural health tonics. If you don’t already lead an active lifestyle, why not start moving your body more now? Try new activities, get involved in home workouts and interactive classes and enjoy the feeling that dancing, stretching, running, boxing or doing circuits gives you. You might feel horrendous when you’re approaching the final 100 metres or the last exercise of a HIIT session, but fast-forward an hour and you’ll be on cloud nine. Exercise reduces the risk of a host of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, and it also lifts your mood, reduces stress and helps you to sleep.
Mental wellbeing is an increasingly integral part of the conversation about health. You can protect and nourish your mental health using self-help techniques such as exercise, meditation, spending time doing hobbies and talking to friends and family or a therapist. It’s also important to realise that there are people who can help if you’re finding life tough and self-help exercises aren’t providing a solution.
The present may be scary at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the future can’t be bright. If you’re at home for the foreseeable, use your time to think about changes you can make or steps you can take to lay the foundations. Think about your career, your relationships, your finances and your health and start looking forward to happier, healthier, more stable times.