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October 2008
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Do bad times = better health?

New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope poses an interesting question in her article, “Are Bad Times Healthy?”  She presents interesting data in response to her title question.

First the good news:

  • People tend to take care of themselves in down times.
  • They have more time and so pay more attention to their families, especially children.
  • More families cook at home, from scratch and eat more healthy foods.

Then, the not-so-good news:

  • Access to good medical care suffers as the cost becomes out of reach for larger numbers of people.
  • Those born in a recession are at higher risk of having problems later in life.
  • General personal stress levels go up.

Then, there’s me. I watch the news and try to decipher the political webs the candidates have woven and wonder how the election of either candidate will affect my ability to keep a job, obtain health insurance and feed my family. My son goes off to college next fall. I worry about whether he will be able to get a loan and how much I will be able to contribute toward his education.

I review the state of my mutual funds, tally my losses and wonder how it will affect the future that I have planned so carefully for. Will I be able to live a comfortable life and do the things I have always dreamed of when I finally have the time? These questions and concerns have kept me awake almost nightly until I came to a realization: I’ve been wasting energy on things that I have virtually no control over.  These problems are far too big for one person to impact.

I realized that in order to better manage my stress over these uncertainties, I needed to take action. I had to feel in control over something. For me, that something turned out to be my body. I made a commitment to use the gym membership that I have had for a while but just never had the time for. I now go to the gym 2-3 times a week to strive toward my fitness goals. I feel better, less stressed and finally able to get a good, solid night’s sleep.

There are some other trends that are at least partly a result of our financial slow-down:

  • A renewed interest in bicycling. (Don’t tell the kids: For many of us, there’s something about getting a brand new bike that even beats driving a new car off a dealer’s lot!)
  • The tomato / spinach / pepper scare has had a side benefit of causing us to rethink locally grown produce. Check out Life Begins@30 to learn 10 reasons to eat locally grown food. I love these guys’ mission. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few tables set up by a local farmer outside of a freeway rest stop in Massachusetts. They were doing a brisk business in corn, tomatoes, squash and other treats.
  • Folks are coming to the realization that having savings in the bank comes before having a flat screen television in the living room.
  • More people are displaying some healthy anger towards those who have been cavalier with our money and financial futures.

As for me…… Bad times are healthy!

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