Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't Worry... Be Happy

It's a lot more frugal than paying doctors and buying prescriptions.

It's not very frugal to put ourselves in the position to have to go to doctors and fill prescriptions, and yet that seems to be the modern way of life - frugal or not. Fortunately, we often do it to ourselves. I say "fortunately" because we then have the choice to not do it to ourselves. Avoiding medical expenses is frugal.

The most prescribed drugs in America today are of the mood altering type - to deal with depression. With all of the successes in this nation - material wealth, education within the grasp of nearly everyone, advanced medical knowledge and care, and the freedom to be and do what we like, Americans are in trouble. Fast paced lives, money worries (including keeping up with "the Joneses"), finding more and more demands to use our time and opportunities... all these things put emotional as well as physical and mental stress upon us.

Supermoms, superdads and superkids abound in our ideals. Being busy is the equivalent of being happy, or good, or whatever it is we strive to be. Over scheduling seems to take the place of the more frugal and sensible action of having a full pantry at the end of the harvest. Never slowing down means never having to stop and take responsibility for our own homes, our own kids, our own selves - we're "too busy."

Why do we keep wanting more and more - more stuff, more busyness, more and bigger this and that? It's a compulsion; it's a devil that rides our shoulders and whips us ever onward in a perverted version of the Puritan work ethic. Work harder, work longer, work smarter, but work!

Until it begins to crumble around us and depression sets in.

Women, especially, are prone to depression and simple "blues," but they're not alone by a long shot. Men have their share of the struggle.

While some depression is "clinical" - that is, physically induced and needs to be controlled by medication, the every day variety of blues that many of us face can be controlled frugally by us, without the cost of a doctor's visit or prescription medicine.

What we eat has a huge part in how we feel. It's proven that some foods make us feel better and that's good to know, but good all around nutrition will do better in the long run. Quick fixes are possible though: Butter beans, chocolate and high carbohydrate foods make you feel better quickly. The explanation is too long for this article, but if you're interested, look here: Why some foods make you feel good...

Besides eating well, there are things - very frugal things - that will help you stay on an even keel.

Exercise is free. Walk, run, skip. Work in the garden, wash the windows, play ball with the kids. Physical exercise tires us in a good way, which relaxes us.

Choose your friends wisely. Choose to be around people who make you laugh. Choose to be around people who are interesting and uplifting.

Take time - real time - to rest. Sleep is a great healer, not only of physical stresses, but of mental ones. There's nothing wrong with sleeping. You don't have to get up early every day of your life and you can allow yourself the luxury of a nap. We've so programmed ourselves against even looking "lazy" (more of that misused Puritan ideal) that we are afraid to be caught dozing. Human beings need sleep.

If you pray, pray. Or meditate, or just take time for your own thoughts. A good fifteen minutes of focused time alone can be a life saver in a stress producing environment.

If overwork is stressing you, limit yourself to half hour bursts of activity. Use at least part of the first half hour to organize and list the chores that face you. Work as hard as you can for your half hour of time, but as soon as time is up, (use a timer!) stop and do something different for five minutes. Then go back and notice how much you accomplished in that half hour. The chances are that you'll impress yourself and be ready for the next round of activity.

Busyness is activity with little or no substantial result. Check yourself: Are you being busy to avoid something else? Being busy for the sake of being busy is unproductive, except in terms of running away from reality. Frugal bottom line: Examine your life and get rid of activity that's not in line with your life. (Needs, integrity and personal morality.)

Don't forget about recreation. Watching TV is NOT recreation. Doing something you really enjoy is. Crafting, reading, canoing or hang gliding - whatever rows your boat, find time for it. Even if it costs you a little money, it's more frugal than a visit to the doctor and a lifetime of prescription drugs.

Those are just a few things; I won't make a longer list because we know better. Getting back to the basics of life really is possible in this day and age and if it seems like you can't do it, maybe it's time to take a long look at your lifestyle and make some changes. Your quality of life depends on it, and it's not too late. As the saying goes, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Make it a frugal success.


  1. I'm completely with you on this one. I'm actually part way through drafting something based on a similar idea. We go through life so quickly we never have a chance to take stock of what we actually have rather than what we want and in the end we rarely accomplish anything worthwhile living in the fast lane.

    Brilliant post. Thank you for a different perspective.

  2. Thanks, Leanne, and thanks for the mention on your blog. :) I so understand what you mean about a bad day (wish mine had rain in it, though!).

  3. Hi Pat! I agree with you. I had two doctors tell me that I needed to quit my current job because it stressed me out. The stress resulted in high blood pressure and increased anxiety.

    After hearing the second doctor restate the obvious, I made it my goal to find a new job. After 2 months of intensive job hunting, I start a new job involving more writing!

    By the way, thanks for keeping my blog linked to yours. I am finally back up and running again with "Life in West Houston". Amazing how the freedom of leaving the stress behind brings back the creativity in oneself.

    Take care,

  4. Sounds like you know what I'm talking about, too, Terre! It's good to hear from you again.

  5. Don't forget Wal-Mart has $4.00 prescriptions. My husband was taken by ambulance 2 months ago and I have Aetna BUT like ALL insurance we have limited protection (I pay $400.00 a month for this!!)
    Our ambulance bill is over $600.00 which comes out of my pocket! But at least we saved on the prescriptions!
    At least though we are covered!!!

    Want to get rich quick? Count your

  6. Pat......well said.....people are taking mood alternation medicine more and more easy.

    I know some NEED it.......but once I was 'talking' and so many women mention they were on this or that.

    And I've been told to go on PMS medication many times. NO thanks.. maybe PMS might make me a bit edgy; but that edginess is a natural kind; and with age (47); I learned to be aware of NOT to make any major decision etc when I have PMS. (if you take pills then you never learn to control things naturally).

    Medications are going to have SIDE EFFECTs.. so you fix one thing and then have to deal with the effects; and what? Take more medications for that side effects which might give you more side affect...LIKE A VICIOUS CYCLE.

    BTW I have PMS right now.. it makes me ramble on too...but what the HECK. :)

    Thanks again.

  7. P.S. You know my parents both were addicted to Valiums; and I think that prevented them from dealing with their REAL ISSUES. Numb yourself instead??

    And what is wrong with being SAD if something happens. The sadness strengthens you; ......and if you stay numb you stay in LIMBO.. never quite healing... reaching the LOW.. and then Going Back and UP; and knowing what triggers the sadness/depression and counter it with 'exercise; communicating with friends; support groups..etc.'.

    Just my frugal 2 cents.

  8. You're so right, Betty Ann. Mood swings are NATURAL. They're part of life and there's nothing wrong with being sad when the situation calls for it. There IS something wrong with hiding out behind mind altering drugs - prescription or not.

  9. Longtime lurker here (love the blog) but I wanted to add my two cents. I've done all the things you've suggested Pat and I deal with my mood swings naturally. However, I think this kind of post stops people from seeking the help they need. Everyone can jump on the bandwagon -- yes, pharma companies and doctors are addicting us to a lot of expensive and harmful drugs -- but look, there is a lot more harm in untreated depression. I feel for the person whose parents were addicted to valium, but I was raised by a manic-depressive who was against meds, against therapy, against doctors telling her she needed help and anything else that indicated she should stop beating her kids. All I'm saying is let's not judge others. If you don't want to take meds, great. Just don't judge those who can't get out of bed in the morning to tend their children without some medical intervention.

  10. Absolutely, hallie. By the same token, please no judgment against those of us who do not want to take medication unless it's necessary. You might have missed this line: "the every day variety of blues that many of us face..."

    I was not talking about serious depression that is a physical condition.