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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #10- Get Yourself in Shape for the Emergencies of Life

Lately I've been working on cardiovascular work, weight-training, stretching and knee rehabilitation exercises to strengthen my legs, shoulders, back and abdominals.  I wanted to begin walking and hiking treks with my best friend (who's already in great shape) and I knew that I couldn't do this with her unless I got in much better shape.  It's made me realize that what I'm training for would equally apply to preparatory training for emergencies.  In emergencies, you may be required to walk considerable distances.  You will have to be able to carry armfuls of items around, stretch, crouch, squat, work with tools, wash lots of items by requires fitness to survive and thrive in times of emergencies.

Having a strong immune system is utterly imperative for making it through a crisis, too.  Look seriously at whether or not you are eating and taking the dietary supplements that you know you need for optimum health.  Think about it.  Who is going to take care of you or your family if you're out of shape and unable to keep up with the requirements of an emergency?  Are you doing yourself any favors by eating low-quality food, not taking dietary supplements to boost our body's performance and not exercising.  I'm writing this as much to myself as I am to you!  Yes, life should be lived in balance.  But it is necessary to get some exercise every day.

Times of emergency require endurance, flexibility, strength and adaptability.  Some people are better-equipped naturally to handle this, but almost anyone can train to get better at handling these types of situations. 

Here are some questions that you must ask yourself and answer honestly, to see if you're fit enough to handle an emergency situation with sufficient bodily ability:

* Can you lift up several grocery bags in one hand, a heavy suitcase, a large (full) Rubbermaid container, small children, pets and laundry baskets full of clothes easily and without getting very out of breath?

* Can you climb stairs easily?  If you're in pain and that's the cause of not being able to climb steps, have you been to a doctor, physical therapist, etc., to try and resolve the issues?

* Are you able to balance on one leg?  Can you squat, lunge, kneel and sit on the floor if needed?  Can you easily pull up your own weight onto stairs, platforms, step stools and ladders?

* Can you walk for more than fifteen minutes at a time?  Could you also walk with a backpack on your back for more than ten minutes and still be comfortable enough?

* Do you constantly feel tired?  Do you often wish that you had more energy?  Have you read and studied what you could be doing to improve your energy levels?  Have you had a recent physical and blood work done to rule out any easily-treatable causes of fatigue (such as iron deficiency anemia)?

* Is your sleep hygiene what it should be to induce a good night's sleep?  Sleep is the foundation of a healthy life.  It's not a luxury to sleep well- it is a must to live at your peak when you are awake.  Do whatever you have to do in order to get abundant, high-quality sleep each night. 

* Are you eating healthy and taking a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement each day?  It's not nearly as important to focus on what you shouldn't eat as it is to focus on what you can and should eat for optimum health.  When you fill your diet with clean water, whole grains, lean protein, lots of vegetables, fresh fruit, herbs, spices, healthy fats (coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, etc.), nuts and seeds, I can promise that your cravings for sweets or salty foods will automatically go down.  When your dietary needs are being met through whole, fresh food, your energy levels and brain chemistry will thank you.  People who have incessant urges to eat sweets or salty snacks aren't lacking in willpower or strength; they are undernourished and are not eating enough calories in good food first.  People who eat old-fashioned oats, green or black tea, healthy fats, two to three servings of fruit, three to five servings of vegetables (including a big salad full of dark leafy greens), an ounce of seeds or nuts, 70-150 grams of protein  and a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa every single day simply don't have much appetite left for junk!  Add a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to cover your bases and I can guarantee you that you'll feel neither deprived nor lacking in energy!  Eat the good stuff first and then if you still crave a treat, you'll be able to keep it at a reasonable portion size because you haven't been starving yourself.  That said, look for healthier versions of sweeteners and favorite desserts to indulge in.  Good nutrition aids in having a clear mind, and few things are more important in an emergency than having all your wits about you!  

If you don't already have a program in place, I strongly urge you to slowly but surely get into a regular exercise program.  Weight-training exercises, abdominal training, cardiovascular work and athletic stretching or yoga should all be a part of your program.  Walking, hiking, running, swimming and biking are all excellent cardio choices which would help anyone who wants to become a more serious prepper get in shape.  You don't have to go to a gym to lift weights, either.  There are lots of good workout DVDs out there for cardio, weight-training and stretching or yoga.  My favorites are from The FIRM and by Cathe Friedrich.  Yoga helps not only with flexibility and developing good balance but also de-stresses and energizes (something seriously needed in any time of emergency).  Taking one to two rest days a week from exercise is a good idea, so that your muscles have a chance to recover and so that your joints don't get overused.  Cardio done three times a week for thirty to sixty minutes at a time, a total-body weight-training with abdominal work completed twice a week and stretches done after all of those workouts will ensure a high level of fitness- especially when combined with a good diet.

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #9- Purchase or Set Up Emergency Communication Supplies

Purchase a solar- and/or hand crank-powered cell phone charger which works for your type of phone.  There are a variety of options to fit all different budgets and needs.  Remember that if you have a SmartPhone, you'll need the type of cell phone charger that can handle that.  If it runs on batteries and/or AC power, too, that's great.  But being able to run the charger on solar or hand-cranking power is important in case you run out of batteries, the batteries go bad or you end up in a disaster which ends up being even more long-term than what your initial backup battery supply was intended for.  Naturally, in the case of a nationwide extreme disaster, cell phones aren't likely to keep working, but I'm not trying to prepare you for that level of problems.  My main goal is to keep you and your household functioning for three to seven days in the midst of a regional problem or a blackout. 

This cell phone charger/radio/flashlight combo also has an AC adapter, which is a nice option to have:

This will charge SmartPhones and is invaluable in times of trouble:

For those residing in the United States- If your cell phone doesn't have an NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio on it (all SmartPhones should have this capability or you should at least be able to download a program that does), then you'll need to purchase this type of radio.  They're inexpensive and invaluable in times of disaster.  Yes, a local radio station will have some news in the event of a problematic time, but I really think having NOAA is important, too.  Below are some options for NOAA radios, chargers and similar supplies:

Be sure to pack a cell phone charger, NOAA radio and flashlight in your car emergency kit, too.  You don't want to run down your car battery just to charge your phone or listen to a radio.

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #8- Make Your Environment Comfortable Even During Emergencies

Today I would like you to think about what you and your immediate family will need to stay comfortable during a time of crisis.  Heat, cold, lots of humidity, excess dry air, sleeping accommodation quality...what will influence how comfortable you can be even without power or possibly even running water in your home?  If you're in your own home, then at least you'll be in your own bed when you sleep.  However, if you have to sleep in your car or in someone else's home, would you still be comfortable?  Do you need a sleeping bag, blankets, extra pillows and/or a tent, if you were stuck in these circumstances? 

Assume that it's a very hot summer day and your power has gone out.  Do you have battery-operated fans that can help keep your house manageable to live in?  This is a good time to dunk cooling bandanas in some cold water and pass them out to prevent heat stroke, too.  If you are allowed to do so (I know renters often aren't allowed), do you have curtains up or high-quality blinds at the windows which can be closed fully to block excess hot air and sunshine from warming up the place too much?  If you have shutters on your windows, are they in good working order so that you could use them to further prevent hot air and excess sun from coming in?  Alternately, what if it's super-cold outside?  Do you have a heater that you can use indoors, which doesn't rely on electrical power, in the event of a cold snap during a crisis?  If you have a wood-burning fireplace, do you have plenty of dry firewood at the ready for the cold weather?

If you still have a home telephone line- Do you have at least one corded phone in the house?  Remember that cordless phones don't work (at least in the U.S.) during power outages?  Are you in the habit of keeping your cell phone(s) charged fully?  If not, you need to start doing this.  Pick a schedule to charge your phone and stick to it.  I have a Smartphone and have to charge it once or twice a day.  I charge it while I'm showering and grooming for bedtime each night, then take it off the charger to conserve power.  Depending upon how much I'm using it that day, I often need to charge my phone once again in late morning or early afternoon to keep it perpetually above 50% charged.  I look at my cell phone's charged status like a car's gasoline tank- I never want it less than half-full.

If it's at all possible, a generator is wonderful to have on hand during an emergency.  However, many apartment dwellers, renters and condo owners don't have the option of relying on a generator.  So we must be able to utilize alternate sources of energy, heat, cold, cooking, etc.  Thankfully, in this day and age many preppers have written about this topic and many products are offered to get this done.  Again, know that you don't have to do all of this today.  Just begin to think about it, purchase items as your budget allows and keep them ready for use at all times.  If you spend even five minutes a day on prepping, you'll be in a much better position should an emergency strike.

It should go without saying, but it case there's a need to say it...keep your home de-cluttered and clean.  Clutter and emergencies are like oil and water.  A really dirty house and sudden disasters don't mix.  Period.  Remember the possibility exists in extreme cases that you could be without trash service for several days (or even longer).  Don't keep trash in the house more than a day.  Common sense has to reign here- NO PROCRASTINATION IS ALLOWED. I try not to be hardcore with my readers, but I'm not budging on this rule!

This is all another reason to keep your laundry washed, dried and put away.  Emergencies don't often give us much notice before they come up!  Make sure that your blankets, sheets, towels and more are kept clean and ready to use in the event that you need them now.  Purchase a small drying rack or some hangers with special clips on them that will allow you to air-dry laundry, as well, should your dryer go out.  This is a good idea even if your power is working fine because obviously appliances can and do break down or just die completely without warning all the time.  Keep up your daily and weekly household routines no matter what happens.  Being prepared in advance will help you to continue performing those rituals which maintain your home and life well, even in the midst of a crisis.  Write up a checklist for needed repairs inside and outside your home. When you notice something as you're trolling about that needs work, write it down and get to it ASAP (and as funds allow).

The questions to perpetually keep in mind when doing this kind of planning: Considering the events that frequently or have been known to hit my geographic area with at least some regularity (more than every twenty years), am I ready to protect my home and family to the best of my ability?  Have I stocked up on everything possible and affordable to secure windows and doors in the event of such a disaster?  This includes tarps, duct tape, working locks, etc.  Are all of my doorways and windows free from clutter that makes them inaccessible?  Are any doors, windows or other major parts of my home's structure in need of repairs?  If a fire got started somehow and I was on the second floor, do I have an emergency ladder that I could use to get out should the first floor become impossible to get through and get out of?  Are my gutters clear, bushes and trees trimmed back from my home, leaves raked (as the season warrants)?  Is all of my insurance paid and are my policies up to date?  Have you done your research on what insurance you should have and/or are required to have by law for your home, even if you're a renter?  You cannot be dedicated to emergency preparedness and constantly going on a wing and a prayer with practical issues like this.  If an intruder came along in the midst of such an emergency, do I have any skill or plan or equipment whatsoever to deal with them?  Do I have enough food and water to last me and/or my family at least three days?  If evacuation plans are already in place by my local government in the event of fairly commonplace problems (floods, tornados, etc.), am I aware of what they are and how to follow them?  If I would need to go to the basement in the event of an emergency, is it clean, dry, de-cluttered and does it have an emergency exit to the outdoors?  Are the basement stairs, whether they're indoors or outdoors, safe and not all rickety?  Do all stairways have proper railings to help prevent falls?  If an ice or snowstorm hits, do I have melting fluid, rock salt or kitty (something for tread), a shovel, etc.?

For those who are in any position of leadership (clergy, business owners, politicians, etc.,)- Have I done everything for my business and/or community to help prepare for commonplace disasters that I possibly can?  Have I made use of all local resources and those online to help me prepare mentally and emotionally (not just physically and in supplies) for blackouts, weather-related emergencies, unexpected emergency room visits, etc.?  Are all of my warranties, appliance and electronic handbooks, insurance papers and so on easy-to-find and organized?  Does anyone know the emergency preparedness plans in my head or have I kept them entirely to myself?  It usually takes a whole family, group of friends or community to turn emergency situations around and rebuild, so it pays to keep a strong network of educated-about-preparedness people in your life.

Here are some articles to further help you protect your home from specific weather-related disasters:

Being calm, cool and collected in a crisis is a major asset, and rarely do unprepared people feel this way should said crisis come up.  Typically, it is the well-prepared and those with backup plans who are able to maintain their emotional stability in the midst of some sort of trauma.  Emergency preparedness helps build coping skills- it isn't just about having a set of supplies.  This is not a skill set that should be underestimated.  Planning for emergencies doesn't lead to a fearful attitude about life unless it's taken to extremes- planning for them actually reduces the amount of stress that you feel about such events, so long as it's kept in balance mentally.  I don't believe in sacrificing the joys of today for a possible problem tomorrow, to be clear.  We should enjoy what we have today and set aside a little bit extra so that tomorrow will also be as good as it can be no matter what happens.  

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Take #7- Protect Yourself, Your Home and Your Car Against the Elements (and Other People)

Okay, we're about halfway through our emergency preparation tasks now.  Protecting yourself, your family, your home and your car against the elements is a pretty broad topic and involves many different areas of prepping.  I don't expect you to accomplish any of these tasks in a day or even a week.  Every person and every item will need different kinds of protection.  And that protection will vary based on climate, geographical region, your health and the likelihood of particular disasters hitting you.  Someone living in San Francisco, CA is going to having much more likelihood of experiencing major damage due to an earthquake than someone living in upstate New York.  Others live in areas where week-long blackouts are par for the course, while others would consider that highly unlikely.  Many regions which have particular disasters that tend to plague them repeatedly (San Francisco is one such place) already have written emergency preparations written up which document how to prepare your home and self to deal with those.  I highly recommend that you look these sources up online.  These sites will advise you on specifics that go beyond the scope of what I can broach here, such as how to turn off water, gas lines, etc.  Everyone should be prepared for a blackout, water getting cut off and other very common mishaps, though.  So I'll be focusing on what to do for preparation in those most common circumstances.  In other words, I'll be covering the basics of seventy-two hour protection against a more "normal" emergency.

Get yourself and your immediate family members some rain and foul weather gear.  A rain hat, poncho, some skid-resistant/waterproof boots are a good start.  You don't want to be traipsing out in the dark of night some during a thunderstorm to cut off the power to your house in flip-flops and short shorts!  If you had to evacuate temporarily, you want to have clothing and footwear that will make the job easier.  Again, you'll need to look at your own health and where you live to determine what will work best for you.  If you deal with harsh winters, then you'll need to have a good warm coat, gloves, a winter scarf, snow pants (especially if you live in areas that get deep snows) and winter boots with good tread to travel in.  If the power goes out in the dead of winter and you had to travel to a relatives house thirty minutes away in order to stay safe and warm, could you do it?  Think about the possible adventures and outcomes here, especially based on your past experience.  I'm not telling you to worry about every little problem that could ever arise, just to be realistically prepared.

For this reason, I recommend that you have an overnight bag packed for yourself and any immediate family members at all times.  This comes in handy not just for weather-related disasters, but in the event that one of you gets sick and has to stay overnight in the hospital.  This isn't a bug-out bag, which is meant for an entirely different purpose.  This is just a bag with the essentials that you'd need for a one- to three-day stay somewhere outside of your home.  Please consult my previous blog on packing an overnight bag if you need some direction in this area.

Protecting your home will also be specific to your climate and the particular disaster that's hitting you, but you can prepare yourself ahead of time with at least some basics that will cover a variety of issues.  Having a tool box with wrenches, pliers, a hammer, a small chain saw (in case you have to cut through a tree limb or something similar that falls on your house or car), etc., is a must.  Keep the directions on how to turn off your major utilities in the tool box or in your emergency supply box in the house.  Print these directions off now, if you need to, so that you're ready for a problem if it were to happen today.  Plastic sheeting, duct tape, good sharp scissors and similar supplies should also be on hand to help protect and insulate windows and doors.  If you have a fireplace, stock up on firewood and waterproof matches, a firestarter or a good lighter and fuel for it.

A tool kit for your car should also be on the list of supplies, too.  Don't forget to carry some extra water, motor oil, a gas can, a seat belt cutter and similar supplies when you go on a long journey away from home, especially during a time of emergency.  Always keep your tank as full of gas as possible (or charged, if you drive an electric-powered car), so that you'd be okay to drive for a good distance in the event of an emergency. 

Personal protection against intruders is such a vast topic that I hesitate to bring it up here in depth.  People have such different feelings about what should and should not be allowed when it comes to protecting their home and loved ones.  I'm not advocating going out and buying a gun unless that works for you, you know how to use it safely and you know how to store it safely.  But there are many ways to help protect yourself without having to use weapons of deadly force.  Pepper spray, mace, alarm systems that will work even if the power goes today's world there are lots of options.  In a relatively minor disaster, it's quite unlikely things like this would be necessary.  But if you live in an area where it takes a long time to get emergency services, if you live in a high-crime area or if you just wouldn't feel peace of mind without preparing to defend your loved ones and property this way, look into these measures of self-defense.

This blog is by no means a full-out explanation on personal and home protection, but I hope it has served as a jumping-off point for you, giving some food for thought. 

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #6- Stock Up On Over-the-Counter Medicines and First-Aid Supplies

First aid supplies are essential for anyone and in any household.  After gathering water and food, making sure that you have these supplies on hand should be your next goal.  This is my favorite soft-pack first-aid kit.  I've bought it for family members, too, and they've all loved the kit.  They're so inexpensive that I recommend stocking up on one for both your home and then a separate one for your car.  I've purchased them for extended family members and they have all loved this kit, too.

If you already have plenty of OTC medicines in the house, then there's no real need to buy more unless you want to.  But if you tend to be someone who is unprepared for emergencies, then following this step in our prepping plan is crucial.  In a real emergency, running out to the corner store may simply not be an option.  Just like water and food, stock up on these items a little at a time if you're on a tight budget and starting from scratch on this.  Aspirin, ibuprofen (or something kind of similar, like naproxen sodium), stomach medicines like Pepto-Bismol, these are all essentials to have on hand in the event of an emergency.  However, be aware that purchasing a starter first-aid kit usually gives you more bang for the buck with alcohol wipes, bandages and some small portions of OTC meds than buying each of the items piecemeal.

Don't forget to have a couple of Ace bandages, preferably in different sizes, and some high-quality adhesive bandages on hand, too.  I have a four-inch-wide Ace bandage, which is good for smaller sprains like of the ankle, and a larger six-inch-wide band for things like supporting sore or twisted knees.  My favorite brand of adhesive bandages is the Nexcare waterproof line.  They stay on really well, are truly waterproof if they're sealed on correctly and protect cuts and scrapes so well from infection.  Some preppers go all out and get dental kits, surgical supplies and battle dressing- but this is wayyyyyy beyond the scope of a 72-hour emergency kit!  I'm not going to tell you how to prepare for Armageddon in this blog. :) I'm simply asking you to be ready to sit through three days of a power outage or more "normal" emergency where you can still be at home, someone else's home or in your car. 

Some other toiletries are also important to have just in case.  Have plenty of sanitizing hand gel or spray, soap (for yourself and also for dish washing/household cleaning), deodorant, etc., in the house already.  For women and girls who are menstruating, stock up on some extra feminine supplies.  If stores are closed or low on stock because of a local (or national) emergency, you'll want to have a box or two of your favorite products in reserve.  Please don't be caught unprepared because stores are closed or inaccessible for a few days.  Plan in advance for your purchases so that you're not running out of items in the event a disaster strikes. 

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task # 4- Buy and/or Store Emergency Water (and Water Treatment)

Our next task is to buy or gather together some water for your emergency supplies.  You may want to buy all that you'll need for seventy-hours worth of emergency water now, or you may decide to space it out.  Remember the basic formula for determining how much drinking water to set aside- 3 gallons of water per person for a 72-hour emergency.  If you don't want to buy water, go ahead and put some aside in containers from your tap.  Here is a great article on storing water long-term:

Set aside a gallon of water to place in your vehicle, too.  Some preppers prefer to have some emergency water in packets, as well.  These are good for camping, storing in the car and for backpacks, as well.

Some people use a WaterBob to store emergency water.  As always, I suggest doing whatever works for you and your household.  There will always be new emergency preparedness supplies suggested for purchase- remember not to get carried away and just stick with the basics.  Keep in mind to prepare for a 72-hour emergency for all members of your immediate family at home and in the car first and foremost.  Then and only then should you worry about prepping a bug-out bag (if you wish to do that at all) or for longer-term emergencies.

Also consider buying a water filter and/or water treatment tablets to use in the event of your tap water becoming unusable as it comes out.  Years ago, something happened in the town where my aunt lived with the water supply.  I don't remember what the situation was that caused it, but their water was nasty and undrinkable for several days.  The problem got fixed, but in the meantime they had to buy bottled water for everything- not just drinking water, but for bathing, cooking and housework, too.  I'm not saying that you have to buy water treatment supplies, but they can be a help.  If you are interested, here are some recommended supplies for that job:

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #5- Buy Food for Emergencies and Something to Cook With

This particular task may take awhile to complete, but it's worth it to work on this.  Amazon has many of these items online that will work well for emergencies, but you can always just decide to pick up an item or two each week at the grocery store to set aside.  Remember to only buy items that you and/or your family will actually eat!  Mountain House and some other companies make breakfasts, lunches and dinners that you can just add a little hot water to and then serve.  Canned soup, lean protein (tuna, clams, salmon), fruit canned in water, vegetables such as green beans- all great items to set aside.  Peanut butter, granola bars (get the kind that won't melt if it's hot and humid), trail mix, dried fruit...there are loads of options here.  Powdered milk (I prefer whole dried milk, personally), tea bags, ground coffee or beans that will work in a stovetop coffeemaker- don't forget these items.  If you have pets, don't forget to set aside some extra food for them.  Don't go berserk.  Gather up enough food for the 72-hour period I've been talking about first.  Put a few granola bars and some other snacks in the car, too.  Watch expiration dates.  If you end up not needing these items for an emergency, plan to finish them up in your family's normal meal plan before the items expire.  Some of these items, though- especially foods from companies such as Mountain House- have a very long shelf life.  Some people also buy seeds so that they can plant a garden.  This is a great idea, but not everybody has the land to do this with. 

Also think carefully about the items that you'll need to prepare food without electricity, such as a stovetop coffeepot, a butane cooker that's safe to use indoors, the butane fuel itself, a teapot, etc.  Every household is different.  If you have access to a fireplace that you can cook in, consider getting some cookware that you can use in there.  While these are an additional expense, look at it this way- when an emergency strikes, you won't be totally reliant on neighbors, extended family, the government and more to provide your most basic needs.  There's no way to prepare for every single disaster that may come your way.  But if you're stuck at home without power, you don't have to just sit by and let your home and family go crazy.  The peace of mind that you'll gain from knowing you're prepared for an emergency will be worth the expense and time spent on preparedness.  If you start using a fireplace to do some cooking on a regular basis, for example, you'd be learning a valuable survival skill and would cut back on some electrical/gas use, too. 

I recommend buying some paper plates, plastic flatware and plastic or paper cups so that you'll have less dishes to wash in the event of an emergency.  You may want to go ahead and set aside some extra paper towels, napkins, Wet Wipes for clean-up, too. 

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Emergency Preparedness Task #3- Set Up Space for Your Emergency Preparedness Supplies

Today I would like you to either buy or make containers for your emergency preparedness supplies, setting aside a drawer, shelf or a closet (whatever works for your home/car/lifestyle) as needed.  A small caddy, trunk organizer, plastic bin with a lid or even just a small cardboard box will work fine for the car.  A big cardboard box, a shelf in the linen closet, some pantry space, a big caddy, a tool box or gardening tool organizer- all of these work great for the house.  For the home, I would consider using a waterproof and bug-proof container that is made of thick plastic or a similar material, at least for storing larger amounts of food.  Be creative.  A child's sand pail, a gallon-size food storage bag or an old bucket that's been cleaned out can work well for storing supplies, too.  It doesn't need to cost much or be perfect- just get started today by setting aside some room and a container for your items!  Put a label on the container, especially for the house, so that you and others will know right off the bat what it's for.  Don't mix other stuff in that container or on that shelf.  De-clutter what you need to in order to make space for these items.  Also consider making some space for additional flashlights and/or candles around the house today, too.  I have a flashlight in each bedroom (they're in nightstand drawers), the living room, the dining room, in my office desk drawer and in the family car.  I even have a mini-flashlight on my key chain.  I have a votive candle or oil candle in every room, just in case.  Emergency oil candles are great, by the way.  They burn longer and with less soot than wax candles without taking up any additional room.

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Friday, July 19, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #2- Set Up a Schedule of When to Purchase Your Supplies

Having a specific schedule when you'll be buying some emergency preparedness supplies is a good idea.  Without having a list or a schedule, you'll never quite know where you stand on purchasing enough emergency supplies.  You can opt to purchase a supply or two every week when you go to the grocery store, at least until you've purchased all of the items that you want.  If you take a once-a-month trip to a Big Box or bulk-supply store, you can usually find good prices on emergency preparedness supplies there.  There are many good online stores that sell emergency supplies and sometimes they have good sales going on, too.  Some people like to shop for these items with their tax return or another source of special income once a year, especially if they are in need of a lot of items all at one time.  It's entirely up to you, based on what works for your lifestyle, goals and budget. 

Once you purchase your supplies, keep an eye on the items that have an expiration date, like water, food or OTC medicines.  For this reason, don't buy items that you wouldn't use in the course of your day-to-day life.  Plan to use the water, food and OTC meds up before they expire, if you end up not needing them for an emergency.  Having one big shelf, one closet or one container (as space allows) where you keep all of your supplies will help you know what needs to be used up and when it should be used up by.

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #1- Write Out or Print Off Your List of Needed 72-Hour Emergency Auto and Household Supplies

Having a basic set of emergency supplies on hand is just plain smart, in my humble opinion.  Being prepared for an emergency is something that brings peace of mind, and I can't think of anything more minimalist than possessing that feeling.  There are many great websites, blogs and books on the topic of emergency preparedness.  I highly suggest that you Google the subject.  What I'm going to do for you here is present a series of practical, easy-to-accomplish tasks so that you can get done today for dealing with emergency situations.  There's absolutely no way to prepare for all emergency eventualities- but a little preparation can go a long way.

My first suggestion is to make up a list of supplies today for both your home and also your car that would last you (and your family, if applicable) about 72 hours each.  Many, many websites list those basic supplies, so I won't repeat that here.  If you need it, here's a link to a minimal list of those emergency supplies:

Adapt this to your own and/or your family's needs.  I love perusing Amazon for these supplies, by the way.  Even if I won't be buying the items from that site, there's loads of comments and reviews from experienced preppers that are also incredibly helpful to read.  There's so much to learn about prepping.  People have thought of and invented supplies that would never come to mind for me.  But if you're like me, don't get too carried away!  Keep in mind the basics- keeping warm in cold weather, keeping cool in hot weather, having something to do (books, playing cards, board games, etc.), cooking supplies, sun protection, rain protection, light, shelter, food, water. 

Your first priority should be stocking up on water.  There is no such thing as having too much on hand, especially if running water ends for you if your power goes out.  (Some people have this problem, others don't.)  You don't have to buy the water itself; there are ways to store your tap water for later that are safe, too.  For myself, I also bought some water treatment tablets and a little straw-like gadget that will filter water if my tap water got contaminated somehow.  Second, have plenty of light sources available- flashlights, waterproof matches, lanterns, light sticks, etc.  Third, stock up on food and OTC medicine, including something to cook on that doesn't rely on your household gas/electricity/coal.  This is especially needed if you wouldn't be able to use your regular stove top or a fireplace in the event of a blackout.  Look for a portable cooker that you can safely use indoors.  If you can't cook outdoors due to living in an apartment or something similar, this is very important.  Fourth, protection for yourself, your home and your car against the elements and other people who aren't wanted around your home in the event of an emergency.  Blankets, towels, sheets to spare.  Plastic sheeting and duct tape for your windows, doors, etc.  Water to pour in the toilet if the electricity is out, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, toilet paper to spare...sanitation is going to be key in these types of circumstances, too.  A portable heater and big battery-powered fan are important.  Rain ponchos, hats and boots.  Insulated sleeping bags and tents, especially if you live in a colder climate.  Fifth thing to prepare for is communication- an NOAA radio, a crank- and/or solar-powered cell phone charger, etc.  If you have a SmartPhone, be sure that the charger you buy works on that type of phone.  Finally, especially if you have children, I recommend stocking up on things to do in times of a blackout or other emergency.  Learn a few games that can be done with playing cards and teach them to your kids.  Buy a chess or checkers board and (if needed) a book on how to play.  Coloring books and crayons or a sketching pad and pencils are fine as long as they have enough light.  Depending upon the circumstances, you may not be able to let your kids play outside and you may not have electricity, so they'll need to be able to entertain themselves in a different way.  Some kids are happy playing with Barbies or G.I. Joes, something like that.  For your car, I ask that you eventually pack a couple of different items like this so that you're always ready for an emergency.  I'd recommend stocking up on some light-hearted magazines, novels or books for yourself and your family to read during these types of times, too.  You can't be too prepared!

I suggest making a separate list (or printing off a ready-made one from online) for your automobile and then also one specifically for your house.  Some people also make a list for a bug-out bag.  It's entirely up to you.  Carefully consider the likelihood that you would need to grab a bag and actually leave both your home and your car completely behind before investing in bug-out bag supplies.  Some people live in a country or town where this is a very real possibility- however, for others it is only a very remote reality.  I highly suggest preparing your home first, then car, then a bug-out bag, particularly if you are on a budget.  Some people like to carry a small amount of supplies on them all the time, in a purse or other bag.  There are mini survival kits and first-aid kits available, and of course such things as pepper spray or Swiss Army multi-tools that can be carried almost all the time on your person.  This isn't especially minimalist, but it sure is organized!  Again, use your common sense and judgment to determine what works for you and your budget.  Three-hole-punch these lists and put them in your control journal or household notebook today.

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting Over An Addiction in New Ways

Aerobic weight-training- Getting into an exercise program such as The FIRM (especially the DVDs from 2005 and prior), Leslie Sansone or Cathe Friedrich can really provide dramatic results both mentally and physically.  Aerobic exercise and weight-training each offer a lot of benefits; combined with some abdominal training and athletic stretches, it is often the only vigorous exercise a person needs to maintain a healthy weight when done five to six days a week.  Requiring only the workout DVD, a few small sets of dumbbells, an exercise mat and maybe an exercise step, it can be modified to nearly any fitness level.  Since it can be done at home, there's no fear to be had that you'll have to be seen working out by others.  There's also then no hassle about having to drive to and from a gym.  The psychological sense of well-being can be just as imperative to recovery as the return of physical fitness, and a moderate exercise program will give you some of each.  Combined with clean eating, lots of fresh water and proper vitamin/mineral supplementation, it offers a foundation for physical recovery that very little else can compete with in terms of results.  It's an activity to put nervous energy into and will help relieve depression (at least for a little while).  Start slow and work your way up as your energy and focus allows.  Obviously, the first couple of days of withdrawal probably won't allow for a thirty- to sixty-minute exercise routine to be performed, but after the initial worst days (and depending upon your starting condition) it can be done.  Even if all you can do is five minutes of the workout, every day that you do a little something and at least start the work of rebuilding your body, you'll be making huge strides.  Don't compete with anyone but yourself!

Air, HVAC and water filtration- The eyes, sinuses and skin can get extremely testy during withdrawal.  Besides keeping your home as free from ammonia or bleach fumes, dirt, dust, mildew and mold as possible through regular housecleaning, filtration of common areas of impurities can make a difference in how you feel.  No, filters aren't a cure-all, but reducing allergens and chemicals in the air and water can do nothing but help.  Websites like Amazon, Lowes or Home Depot can provide you with the filters and air cleaners which have the best track record and reviews in these areas. 

Appreciate and revel in the change of seasons or holiday periods- Not every climate experiences such changes, but if you're lucky enough to have them, celebrate them!  I love autumn, personally, so I'm adoring this period of time.  Burning autumn-themed scented candles, reveling in the beautiful foliage in all it's brilliant colors by taking walks or just looking outdoors and also decorating my home for the season are my ways of enjoying this lovely time of year.  I won't kid you- sometimes you'll have to fake the enjoyment a bit.  But the point is to notice the seasons, the climate, the sounds and sights of nature again.  To look outside of ourselves and get involved in the world again.  To appreciate the trouble people go to when they decorate for the season, be it Christmas lights, dyeing Easter Eggs or putting pumpkins out on their front porch for autumn.  Take notice in the thoughtfulness of people around you, who try to make the world beautiful and do unselfish things for others.  Enjoy holiday-specific coffee or cocoa at your favorite coffeehouse.  There are lots of ways to appreciate the nice things in the world around us.  Withdrawal, insomnia, depression and anxiety can be isolating and make us more self-involved, however powerless we may be about it.  You may have to force yourself to ignore the desire just to go hide out somewhere in the midst of those feelings.  But it's worth the trouble to try and do so.

Aspirin- Not everyone can take this, but if your stomach and other internal organs can handle it, aspirin can be a real help during this time.  Ibuprofen is better for the stomach, I suppose (in small amounts), but that medicine doesn't work for everyone.  I think aspirin is especially good when fighting joint inflammation, body aches, headaches and fever/chills during withdrawal.  Some people find relief in ibuprofen, but some feel no relief from that drug at all.  Some people don't even bother to try NSAIDs anymore, heading to the big guns of opiates, benzos or alcohol for pain relief first.  I think that this is a mistake.  Even when they're OTC, though, remember that each NSAID has different properties, side effects, advantages and drawbacks- research them carefully before buying and ingesting.

Aura Cacia Fragrance Mist, Lavender- This can be spritzed on sheets, blankets and pillows right before you go to sleep.  It aids in relaxing the mind- something anyone who experiences insomnia needs, especially those going through withdrawal.  If your sinuses are acting up badly in withdrawal, which often happens, you might want to skip using this until that symptom is gone.  I believe that spraying this right before nodding off is the final step in good sleep hygiene.

Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash and Mositurizing Lotion- A blend of lavender, ylang-ylang and chamomile, using these products before bedtime (or any time you're stressed out) can ease tension and leave you feeling refreshed.  I find the fragrance light and unobtrusive to others, yet it stays with me enough to be worth using.

Beautiful fresh flowers or something else lovely for your physical space- Don't discount the small stuff- there's a reason why people in hospitals are given flowers, candy or a cuddly and cute stuffed animal.  It doesn't need to be expensive; roses or other flowers which are only a day old but still completely new-looking are often deeply discounted in grocery stores.  A small stuffed animal can be a cheerful little addition to a an otherwise drab and painful time.  Any interest you can take up in a new painting, horticulture, going to a museum or something else that's beautiful to be around is both a distraction and a pleasure during tough times like this.  I don't have a garden, but I buy fresh flowers once a month or so to fill my home with a little beauty.  It can really transform a room visually, too.

Body powder, Head & Shoulders shampoo with pyrithione zinc, anti-fungal spray and antibiotic ointment- Increased sweating and the flushing out of impurities from within the body can lead to fungal and other infections during and after withdrawal.  Conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis can flare up during this period, so be prepared (this is what the Head & Shoulders is for).  This won't be true for everyone, but besides showering or bathing every day and staying cool with a high-quality fan, an absorbent body powder can really help prevent clammy skin and skin infections which breed from the skin being too damp.  I like Ammens Shower Fresh best- I find it's the most absorbent.  In withdrawal, sensitive skin can be especially prone to drying out, peeling, cracking and rashes.  Having some antibiotic ointment like Neosporin on hand can help when facial or body moisturizer doesn't cut it.  I recommend using a non-fragranced, designed-for-sensitive-skin moisturizer.  Many people do well with pure extra-virgin oils (like coconut) or pure body butters made without extra chemicals (like shea butter).  Watch out for parabens and other common skin/systemic irritants if you have sensitive skin.  This might be a good time to lay off of haircoloring, makeup and nail polish (if applicable), because your sinuses and skin might be more sensitive than usual for awhile. 

Ear plugs and/or eye mask- This isn't something that I've heard discussed before, but there's nothing worse than trying to get some elusive sleep only to find the dawn of day, headlights or even a nightlight keeping you up.  Equally, even the slightest noise can be disturbing when only light, fitful sleep is possible (and only for a short period of time at that).  Besides using a fan for white noise and sweat relief, I think that having a soft eye mask and good ear plugs can be the difference between five or six hours of steady sleep and no sleep at all.  I have no scientific proof that this is true, either, but I do know that insomnia can be the worst of all withdrawal symptoms (acute and post-), a lack of sleep certainly contributes to the body and mind healing more slowly and probably increases the withdrawal pains themselves.  Withdrawal can be so much harder to sit through without quality sleep, so anything that can be done to prevent the causes of insomnia can't be thought of too highly.  Hearos ear plugs are the best ones I've seen and used.  The come in different "strengths" and are easily found in many drugstores, grocery stores and through online vendors.  Similarly, soft sleep masks with either elastic or Velcro bands to hold them in place can be found without much trouble.  Look for the ones that get the best reviews- I think Dreamtime's lavender sleep mask is quite nice, has minimal scent and isn't uncomfortable even for stomach sleepers who have their face to a pillow all night long.  For less than $20, an eye mask and ear plugs can provide you with some rather inexpensive and non-drug-based sleep help.

Focus on your sleep hygiene, especially if insomnia is a problem- Don't settle for an uncomfortable bed.  Your bedroom should be cool and peaceful.  Keep your bed made with high-quality pillows, sheets and blankets.  Having several light blankets that you can layer on or take off is best during withdrawal, when you alternate frequently between being hot and cold.  Start your bedtime routine before you get to feeling dead tired at night!  If you're going to take any mineral supplements or nighttime herbs, do so now.  Decide whether you want to shower at night or in the morning.  Nighttime showers or baths can be great because then it'll take less time to get ready in the a.m.  If you don't shower or bathe at night, then remove your makeup (if applicable) and wash your face.  Brush and floss your teeth.  Get into comfy nightclothes that allow your skin to breathe and your limbs freedom of movement.  Make a cup of bedtime-related tea (see below).  Turn off all but one light to read or write by.  Grab a relaxing book to read or your journal and engage in that until you're quite sleepy.  Now is not the time to watch TV, work on your laptop or play around on your cell phone- your brain and eyes need to get a break from the light emitted from these electronics.  You don't have to pick a set bedtime- but that doesn't hurt.  Turn the alarm clock away from your view before turning off the light so that you won't focus on what time it is during the night.  Turn on your bedroom fan if you need the white noise and/or the air circulation.  Spritz your relaxing fragrance spray on your bedding.  Put in your ear plugs, put on your hand lotion and sleep mask if desired.  If you don't fall asleep after a long while of laying in bed, turn on one soft light and go back to reading or writing until you do feel sleepy.  If you're suffering from insomnia, try not to get horribly upset.  While it may feel like the lack of sleep will go on for eternity, that will pass.  Your body will get back to normal eventually.  In the meantime, focus on setting up your lifestyle to support healthy, restful sleep.  Be proactive and continue building the habits that facilitate rest.  The brain can be retrained to help you fall asleep more easily, but it takes doing these steps every night (preferably in the same order each time) for awhile before your mind will get the message.  Don't give up on creating good sleep hygiene, because sleep can really be imperative in healing the body and mind.

Going to church, synagogue or some other house of worship- While not first on every one's list, I still believe that going to a spiritual center of some kind once or twice a week can be a big aid in recovery for many, especially in the period right after acute withdrawal.  Will it work for everyone?  Probably not.  But daily prayer, a short Bible study or devotional reading each day and the dedication of one's life to a higher power can make a difference for some people.  Regular worship services can provide a sense of community, a new social outlet and a much-needed charitable spirit for some people.  It can provide a way to get your mind off of yourself for awhile, especially while you're involved in service opportunities.  Similarly, offering your time and skills at a charity or community event can provide a deep sense of satisfaction, perspective and measurable progress often elusive in day-to-day life.  (Building houses with Habitat for Humanity is one such example.)  Alternately, getting involved in political, environmental and/or community outreach programs that are deeply meaningful to you can get you over the anxiety, depression, sense of time dragging on endlessly and self-pity that can plague many (ex-) addicts.  At the very least, such activities make the days and nights pass by faster, fill up a calendar rather quickly and get things done that many in society have no time for or interest in.

Have a trip or vacation to look forward to- While I know this isn't possible for everyone, at least not in the immediate future, planning for a trip can be a great distraction from the myriad withdrawal woes and I believe will rebuild some of the positive brain feelings you've been missing.  It should be a trip that you're truly interested in for your own personal reasons.  The mere act of beginning to set the wheels in motion- even if a trip currently seems impossible- can cause the universe to act in interesting ways towards getting you that vacation.  Research the places you want to see specifically, brush up on foreign language or culture skills (if applicable), read Internet articles and books from those who've already been to the region, browse through hotels, research the restaurants, check out the local sport activities available.  You never know- you may find an inexpensive cruise or plane trip to the area you want to go to while doing this perusing.  You don't have to set a specific date to go unless you want to, but go about it as if you'll be traveling there sometime within the next year even if it's just an imaginary trip for right now.  Having an interest in a culture and language other than your own can be a great starting point for determining where you'd like to visit.  I'd recommend that if you're doing this purely out of imagination, you pick a place that'll take a lot of research (and thus a lot of time and mental investment on your part) to plan.  The more involved you can get your brain and heart, the better.

Hot and cold packs- A wrap that you can microwave is great during these times of achy muscles, bones that feel as if they're about to disintegrate and chills.  A cold pack or ice bag is good for the times when you're sweating, cannot seem to cool down and feel inflammation.  I find that a cold wrap lying on an upset tummy can make a difference.  Warm or cold wraps which have a washable cover are the most desirable.  Not to sound like a broken record, but Dreamtime's wraps can be put in the freezer or the microwave, have a washable cover and a pleasant but light fragrance which make them cozy for use.  Alternately, you could use a hot water bottle.

Hyland's Relax Calf and Foot Cramps, Tablets or tonic water- Any product containing quinine can help with the dreaded, lingering restless leg and calf cramps that hit almost everyone during withdrawal.  The tablets are little and can be dissolved under the tongue- no horse pills to swallow.  The tablets or tonic water are completely harmless and can really help.  Tonic water also helps (obviously) with dehydration, which the frequent urination and diarrhea during withdrawal can cause.

If doing household chores, running errands and getting organized is difficult (especially just the sheer fact of getting started), consider joining FlyLady or a similar program- While not appealing to everyone, is a decent website to peruse and sends out daily emails which can provide motivation and structure for getting one's home and life back in order.  While things like making a bed after getting up, doing a quick bathroom cleanup daily or washing dishes every night after dinner every night are easy for some people to maintain, not everyone feels that way.  Very artistic, creative types who struggle with focus and life management need reminders to do things around the house sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with them.  While I don't think it's a good idea to get locked into any lifestyle or mindset that's too rigid, I don't see that any harm can come from these simple but powerful daily chores.  Even small routines can be overwhelming and exhausting during withdrawal and for awhile afterwards, but the little bit of physical exercise and slight feeling of accomplishment which comes with completing each chore can go a long way physically and mentally.  Doing these chores will also help pass the time and give you something new to put your mind on for a little bit of time each day.  De-cluttering can be very empowering and provides one with gratification and pleasure that's hard to come by other.

Once your brain fog dissipates some, make a list of the areas in your home and life that you want to de-clutter, clean and/or organize.  Read articles, blogs and books on the subject(s) within these realms that appeal to you.  If getting paperwork under control has been an ongoing issue, this can be a great time to set up a file cabinet with hanging file and manila folders, sort through and purge through the old papers and empty out those packed-with-paper areas so that the storage can be put to better use.  Even starting with something small like cleaning out your purse or backpack can provide a sense of getting something positive done in your life, which everyone (recovering or not) needs every day to be happy.

Make a list of all the benefits you're coming across from quitting- These are going to vary from person to person and it'll also depend on what drug(s) you're trying to get off of.  But list it all, preferably as they happen so you won't forget.  A reminder of these positive things which are occurring can be what keeps you from going back to the drug you've worked so hard to get off of.  Some of these things will happen during immediate withdrawal days, while others are only going to come from staying off of the drug long-term.  Not every drug is the same, but here are some examples:

- Long-term bloating from face and body has gone away
- Pressure on knee and ankle joints is eliminated (probably from the water and fecal weight that's diminished)
- Lack of enthusiasm for doing household chores is gone
- There's a desire to be out and about coming back, even mundane things like shopping at the grocery store
- Interest in reading has returned
- No longer over-sleeping
- Desire to meditate daily has come back
- Thoughts which were consuming while on the drug or medication have become far less so, making objective decision-making possible again

Pepto-Bismol- While I've heard loperamide mentioned often and Dramamine even mentioned a few times, Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets aren't something I've read of being used.  However, I think they help with the achy stomach, diarrhea, burping and acidic feeling that can come from withdrawal.  While everyone's experience is different, stomach and intestinal discomfort can linger on well after the other withdrawal symptoms are gone, so having every tool in the belt which can calm such issues is imperative.  A chewable tablet which doesn't taste horrid can be a bit more tolerable to digest when you just can't stand swallowing one more pill, too.

Spending time with pets, especially play time- A pet's unconditional love, need for exercise and sweet purity of spirit can be so uplifting.  Yes, it can be tiring at first to go out for a long walk, toss around a Frisbee or play, "Grab the long red ribbon until you're tuckered out" game, but it's worth it.  Drug dependence can make a person apathetic to their pet(s).  I think one of the chief joys of getting off of such chemical dependency can be a reawakening of love and concern for other beings- and a sweet, non-judgmental animal can provide an easy source of comfort that no human being can quite deliver all the time.  If you're getting outside, too, it'll provide fresh air, exercise and sunshine to you.

Tissues with lotion- The sneezing, sinus drainage and watery eyes during withdrawal can be just insane.  Be prepared with LOTS of tissues, like a big old box in every room!  The kind with lotion seem gentler on the nose and delicate eye area.  I like Puffs brand, but to each their own.

Vicks Dayquil- This is basically acetaminophen and a couple of decent sinus-clearing ingredients.  Sinuses can really act up during withdrawal.  I find that this medication eases allergy symptoms, sinus headaches, low energy and overall body pain.  The liquid caps are easy to swallow and seem pretty easy on the stomach as long as you've eaten and are drinking plenty of fluids.

Walking- I believe that there are several benefits to starting a walking program (or jogging, running, cycling, hiking, swimming- whatever you are fit enough to do and really enjoy).  For one thing, it gets the endorphins going, which is so important during withdrawal and post-withdrawal.  It can help alleviate anxiety and depression to get those endorphins going.  Secondly, aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and can help repair certain types of heart damage that's been caused by addiction and/or poor self-care.  Third, setting goals- such as aiming to walk farther, faster or for a longer period of time every week- is an important part of addiction recovery.  It's another thing to help take the mind off of cravings.  Spending thirty to sixty minutes in aerobic activity each day can help relieve some restless leg and leg cramp symptoms, at least for people who do not have major physical ailments to start with such as arthritis.  Walking each day passes time- and anyone who's been through withdrawal can certainly attest that time seems to go by with painful slowness during that process.  It can strengthen the legs, improving their appearance.  Increased aerobic activity can aid in weight loss.  It can stimulate the appetite in those who've been struggling with a lack of desire to eat (or lots of nausea).  As long as what you're eating is healthy and balanced, full of nutrition, then that's a good thing!  Startly slowly if you're very out of shape and/or weak.  Maybe just aim for ten minutes a day at first.  Walking outdoors is spectacular- you're getting time out in nature (hopefully-this might not be true if you're living in a big metropolis).  On sunny days, you're getting much-needed vitamin D from the sun.  Even in the city, you get to go out and explore the sights with all of your senses intact again.  A regular walking program may lead you to taking up hiking- a wonderful activity that can be a lifelong passion and adventure.

Writing- Whether it's in a journal, blog or for other creative purposes, writing provides a way to both purge the brain and pass the time.  Buying a beautiful hand-bound leather journal, starting a new blog on a topic that fascinates you or doing creative writing for the first time can be symbolic to the mind and body that you're making a fresh start in life.  Writing every night before bed can be another tool towards winding the brain and body down.

Yogi Herbal Supplement Tea, Bedtime or Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea- Yet another step in preparing for bed, but this is another gentle reminder to the body and mind that it's time to wind down in the evening.  If you're urinating a lot while in withdrawal (especially at night), you might want to skip this step- at least for awhile.  Once that common symptom is resolved, a nice cup of iced or hot tea (whatever your preference is) settles one's system nicely.