Adult life can already be pretty nerve-wracking, even without the added stressor of, you know, a pandemic. Remember when we all thought our problems would magically evaporate at the end of 2020 — only to have 2021 show us what’s what? 

As someone who’s already experienced a fair amount of health-related anxiety, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was suddenly a wreck. Everything in my life loomed larger, and I longed to know when the world would just go back to normal. 

Along with the simple fear of contracting or spreading the virus, one of the biggest pandemic-related stressors has been its effect on our pocketbooks. In fact, FINRA reports that many Americans experienced financial stress even before the coronavirus emerged. 

In my experience, we have to take stress reduction and confidence building into our own hands in all areas of life, financially and beyond. So here are some solutions I’ve found to help reduce my anxiety over the last 18 months. Hopefully, with these tips in your back pocket, you’ll be able to get your groove back by 2022.

Consult a therapist

This is a pretty classic move for those suffering from anxiety — and it can be a pricey one. But many health insurance companies cover mental health services these days, thanks in part to coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act.

It’s always worth double-checking your insurance to see what’s actually covered, and to take advantage of any coverage you have. Additionally, some therapists may offer a sliding scale pricing scheme for those who don’t have insurance and couldn’t otherwise afford therapy.

Treat yourself — within reason 

According to one report, more than 80% of Americans planned a post-vaccination splurge — which, in the wake of what some health experts are calling a mass trauma event, is definitely understandable. 

But the same survey also reports that 15% of people say they’ll never feel financially secure again, after the pandemic revealed exactly how fragile many of our livelihoods are.

Taking on a new hobby or discovering a new skill or talent can do wonders for your self-esteem, and having something fun to focus on can lower anxiety. So if you are planning on a post-pandemic treat-yourself moment, I suggest putting the cash toward those hidden passions you’ve always been curious about but never actually pursued — whether that be buying a ukulele or taking an art class on Zoom.

Take up journaling

Not every stress-reduction tactic has to cost money — in fact, some of the most powerful ones cost nothing at all.

Cultivating a daily journaling habit was key in my journey toward regaining confidence, especially since I paired it with self-help podcasts and audiobooks. Even just the act of setting aside a certain number of minutes in your day for quiet reflection can be a boon, and writing is an excellent way to process your feelings.

Deep clean your wallet

Given how many of us do have financial concerns, taking a close look at your finances can actually be a great way to reduce stress — once you get over the first hump of actually sitting down and tackling the problem. Although it can be upsetting to see how out-of-whack your financial landscape might be, the only way to make helpful improvements is to get honest with yourself.

Once you assess your existing finances, you can start to make specific plans to improve them over time. For example, you might want to automate your bill payments or pay down your credit card balances to help improve your credit score. 

Focus on physical health

Finally, in a world where everyone’s health is at risk, taking care of your physical health can go a long way toward reducing your anxiety — not to mention boosting your immune system. While it’s certainly not a guarantee against contracting the coronavirus or other diseases, eating healthy food and making time to exercise each day can put you in a better place for fighting illness. 

Additionally, research shows that exercise can reduce anxiety and depression, even in the context of the pandemic. 

It’s been a tough year, and most of us are ready for a win… or at least a little bit of peace and stability. We don’t know what the world will look like by 2022, but hopefully by following these steps, you’ll have a lot more agency over what your personal life looks like.