Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your health is your wealth

In difficult times, it's important to protect your health, as it can easily make the difference between thriving and.... not thriving. If you are laid up in bed with a bad back, laid low by a heart attack, or simply sleep deprived from nights of tossing and turning, you won't be able to work to your full ability. IMHO, we will all need the best of our concentration and focus, as well as our physical abilities, to deal with the peak oil / financial crisis / climate change problem. It's difficult to do so if you are having major or even minor health problems.

Your income potential or ability to work is your biggest asset, which depends very heavily on your health. Compare the value of a home - which many people consider to be their biggest asset at $250,000 - to the value of a lifetime of work - which could easily be worth $2.2 million at $50,000 a year for 44 years (21 to 65). Your health is not only the valuable ability to work, but also affects your fundamental ability to enjoy life and protect your family. When your health breaks down from neglect or accident, it can be very expensive to get it back.

Unfortunately, during times of stress, health gets pushed to the back burner. Under stress,we tend to eat fast food instead of healthy nutritious food, put off that dentist appointment, forget to exercise and stretch. We self-medicate ourselves with alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, Internet or television rather than properly care for our bodies and minds.

Keep in mind, however, that bad health choices accumulate over time and will eventually contribute to the breakdown of your mind or body. That breakdown could be as small as an inconvenient flu, or it could be an abscessed tooth or a ruptured disc. Any type of health problem may be much more serious in an uncertain future, where health insurance is dicey, hospitals are folding, and pharmaceutical affordability is in question.

With all this in mind, here are some tips for valuing your health for what it is: your number one asset.

1. Use your health insurance.

If you lose your job, you will likely lose your health insurance. So take care of anything you need while you still have it. Dental appointments. Contacts or glasses. Check - ups. Will your health insurance pay for a vasectomy or an IUD? If you don't want more kids, you might think about getting one now. Get your glasses prescription updated if you've noticed your vision deteriorating (or if you are having migraines or frequent headaches). If you have used contacts for years, you might consider getting backup glasses. If you need a tetanus booster (very important if you will be working in the garden), get it now.

If you have not immunized your children, consider your decision very carefully. Currently, your kids could be treated if they contracted the very real and sometimes fatal diseases that are now uncommon due to strong immunization programs. Weigh your fears of immunizations against the potential for outbreaks of these diseases in the future: measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A, polio, and hepatitis B. I know many people consider this to be controversial, but keep in mind that the future of healthcare could be very uncertain. Conditions may not always be as hygienic, safe, and tidy as they are now.

2. Address the stress.

If you know a job loss or foreclosure is imminent, or if you have problems with debt, you are likely experiencing some of the symptoms of stress: anxiety, depression, stomach pain, over/under eating, headaches, lethargy, and insomnia. Stress also depresses your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching infections. People who have just learned about peak oil often experience a lot of stress as well - it can be a life changing event!

Obviously, it is important to deal with your stress. The last thing you need is a heart attack or an ulcer the day after you lose your job. So keep up with your self-care. Exercise, eat right, stretch, take time to breathe. Notice when your shoulders are up around your ears and let them fall back down where they belong. Take time for yourself. Do some things that you enjoy. Get some sunshine and some fresh air.

Don't isolate yourself. When people suspect they are going to lose their job or home, they can become embarrassed or ashamed. People also may isolate themselves when they feel that they are the only person who understands the enormity of the problems facing us. But people need social contact. You need to talk to friends and family, maybe not about your problems, but about something. Keep in touch with your networks - they can be a big asset when you need them. If you can, help others now, when they need it.

3. Keep up your healthy habits.

You probably already know what you need to do: floss and brush, aerobic exercise, exercise to build strength, stretch, eat healthy food, get fresh air and sunshine. Get your teeth cleaned. Don't let your healthy habits suffer for too long or you will pay the price. I can attest to this, being the queen of cavities and having recovered from self-induced symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The actual performance of healthy habits, is, of course the problem. Not everyone knows how to cook healthy, nutritious meals. Not everyone knows how to get enough fiber, veggies and fruits in their diets. Not everyone can cook from scratch. Many people have never developed good exercise habits after losing touch with their high school sport. So get the help you need to develop healthy habits, if you don't already have them. Books, classes, websites, and your friends and family have tons of information, advice and experience. Use them while they are available!

4. If you can afford it, invest in your health.

I consider several things to be vital to my well-being and my ability to treat my occasional aches and pains. First is my mattress. If I delay my routine mattress flipping, I begin to get back or hip pain and have insomnia. A good night's sleep is very important to health!! I know that many people throughout the world sleep just fine without a nice mattress. However, I have not discovered the trick to it.

Secondly, my yoga mat. Although the yoga mat is maybe not strictly necessary to do yoga or stretching, I find it sets the tone. My yoga mat tells me, "The next 20 minutes are for stretching, breathing, and being. Be focused!" A series of beginner yoga classes or videos might also be a good investment. I started taking yoga classes at a local yoga studio, and after several months had memorized enough poses in their correct form to do yoga on my own.

Third, shoes. Life may be more physical in the future - you want shoes that are comfortable and that will last. I have used Merrell's for years, but I've noticed that the company is beginning to sacrifice function for fashion. Work boots? Tennis shoes? Dansko? I am taking recommendations!

Fourth, I use some cheap, handy tools to manage pains that I have - tools that don't rely on electricity to operate. More on that in a future post.

5. Attend to your birth control.

If you don't want any more children, or any children at all, it is vital to pay attention to this area of your life! Whatever method of birth control you pick, use it religiously (sorry, no pun intended). Vasectomy and tubal ligation are permanent solutions. An IUD will last 5 - 7 years. Pills, of course, have to be taken regularly, and condoms and diaphragms used as needed.

There is also the natural family planning method, which I don't know much about. A Greek Orthodox friend (who is prohibited by her church from using artificial methods of birth control)told me that it works for her. I'm not sure if she is using a different method than the standard fertility charting. Orthodox members and Catholics, feel free to speak up!

6. Stocking up.

You'll want a first aid kit, probably a large one for your home and one for every car. You'll also want to take a first aid class. See Chile Chews' series on this for more information. You may want to stock up on other health and medical supplies, ranging from floss to vitamins to Alleve.

Some people, of course, need medications to survive or to manage their serious pain. I don't have any easy answers here. You may be able to find a doctor willing to let you stock up certain medications. If you need refrigerated medications, such as insulin, you might be able to purchase a propane operated fridge that will operate even during a blackout. You have to weigh the cost against the potential of an emergency or electrical blackout lasting longer than your medication supply. This might be a good community purchase - a backup fridge to provide emergency storage for the insulin needs of a whole neighborhood.

7. Long term solutions.

Who knows what the future may hold? Perhaps our health care system will continue in another, lower energy form as the peak oil age progresses. Perhaps we will experience a significant collapse in certain areas of the country or the health care systems in certain cities may become overwhelmed. Perhaps we may have a serious epidemic or pandemic. Perhaps our doctors will re-learn medical skills without the expensive pharmaceuticals we've become so dependent on. You never know - stranger things have happened.

Here are some health care strategies to consider:

  • If you are pregnant, be prepared to go through a natural childbirth.
  • Consider learning herbal medicine.
  • Consider growing a medicinal garden.
  • Think about taking an EMT course.
  • Consider midwifery as a post-peak career possibility - they know how to deliver babies safely without expensive and high-energy requirements such as sterile operating rooms, epidurals, or episiotimies.

And now, I need to go schedule my next dental appointment... and my tetanus booster...


Chile said...

Great post, Hausfrau. We've been thinking along those lines as well and have taken care of most things on the list. The Hesperian Foundation has some books available for free download on health, such as "When there is no doctor" and "When there is no dentist" as well as others.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Thanks Chile. I thought of your TMJ while writing it. Hope you are doing well with your stretches and exercises!

Theresa said...

Very good points and very good post - thanks Hausfrau! I've got a couple years to go on my tetanus shot, but do need to get some dental and medical checkups done - thanks for the nudge :)

Chile said...

The TMJ is doing pretty good. The shoulder only so-so, which is ultimately of more concern to me because it limits the manual labor I can do. My balance is improving very slowly, also important because broken bones are a real problem as people age...and balance is critical for preventing falls.

Cassandra said...

As an Orthodox Christian I am commenting on birth control. We are encouraged not to use any form of birth control that would harm a fertilized egg. So vasectomies and tubal ligations are fine(if you are not a priest) and so are condoms and NFP but not IUD'd and birth control pills which prevent the fertilzed egg from implanting.

My husband and I chose to to have a large family but they are all spread out 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 years apart using these methods and after baby #6 we chose to stop.

The Orthodox church isn't draconian with its pronouncements on birth control. It simply asks that we be respectful of life. You won't be excommunicated for taking the pill but you may find yourself discussing it with your priest to see if there is a better choice that could be made to fulfill your needs while respecting the sanctity fo life.

Lewru said...

Nice piece, lady, and so true. That reminds me that I've got to get a massage! My scapula is seizing up again...

dixiebelle said...

Awesome post! I have been wanting to blog about this for a while, but have not found time, so hope you do not mind, but I linked to this post in my blog... please let me know if there is a problem with that.

I am also getting prepared, healthwise, by learning more about herbal remedies and natural medicine, and wanting to start growing my own when we move, and using it to improve my health too!

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Cassandra - thanks for your perspective! Good to know.

Lewru - feel free to add your 2 cents ;).

Dixiebelle - that's great that you're learning herbal medicine. I have been thinking about looking for a class.

Crunchy Chicken said...

My uncle lived in the mountains of Colorado with his family for a number of years in a cabin he built himself. It was at 12,000 feet or so. In other words, hours away from the nearest town (by snow mobile) and generally inaccessible most of the year.

They raised their own animals, grew their own food and had quite a food and grain storage system. They also carried their own water from the stream. And fended off the bears in the outhouse.

Needless to say, they did their own medical and dental work, too. When my uncle gashed his leg open or fell off the ladder, he sewed himself up. When his tooth became infected, he pulled it out. Himself. With a pair of pliers.

Where am I going with this? Who freakin' knows. My uncle, God bless him, is tough as nails so he may not be the best example, but I guess the point I'm trying to make is this: when things are tough or you don't have a choice, you get shit done.

Most of us are well-pampered when it comes to basic medical and dental. So, learning first-aid and emergency medical care is invaluable because you never know when you're going to need to sew up your leg after an encounter with a bear in an outhouse. Or something.

dandelionlady said...

I love the idea of a Doomer Dinner! I stock up on foodstuffs, but not medicine. Right now, I use standard prescription medicines for my asthma, but there are a lot of herbs that I can use to do pretty much the same thing. The main differences are that the herbal medicines take so much longer to prepare and take, and are much more expensive, since my insurance doesn't cover them. Also, though I know a lot of chronic diseases can be helped with herbs, they can be just as dangerous as drugs and less well studied than prescription medicines. So I feel like for the moment it's better to stick with western medicine, but I know that if we did lose our insurance I could switch over to a herbal regimen if I needed to. One of my next projects is to make sure I have most of the herbs I would need growing in my garden.