Real Life

A Letter to Myself During Quarantine: Your Health Comes First

A few things I've thought about while quarantined with my family... and a couple ideas for when life goes back to normal.
by Shannan Seely June 11, 2020

Dear Shannan,

For the last 2 months, you’ve lost some of your mojo. You’ve been reading about people seizing the day! and making the most of their #stayathome situations. Sometimes it feels like everyone has taken up some new, impressive hobby, like learning five new languages.

You’ve, uh, not hopped on that trend. 

You’ve been busy working (from home), with the girls’ virtual school instruction. With cleaning up after their meal prep (I love that they’re cooking, but we have, um, differing cleanliness standards). And when you’re not distracted with those things, you often find yourself worrying… about all the bad stuff that could happen to you and your family’s health with the presence of the coronavirus.

And look, you’re human. But too much worry is bad, plain and simple.

So I’m writing to you, from you, to try and help you change your perspective.

Tackle Your Fixable Risks

Life Planning Partners’ Carolyn McClanahan says that the coronavirus is an opportunity for you to tackle “fixable risks” with your health. I could and should be taking this opportunity to minimize my own risk factors for a future health issue by taking care of myself right now. 

I’ve been on the CDC’s website a lot lately, as many probably have. I learned that 8 out of 100 people in the U.S. get sick from the highly contagious flu each season. And of course, we know that the flu vaccine is made readily available every year, but guess how many people get it? During the 2017-2018 season, a mere 37% of adults in the U.S. got a flu vaccine (!)

So how are you addressing the fixable risks in your life? 

In his book Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor wrote:

“The point is to tease apart the stresses that we have to let go of because they’re out of our hands while identifying the areas where our efforts will have a real impact, so we can then focus our energy accordingly.”

Shawn recommends you write down the stresses and daily challenges you may have about your health. Then look at the list and divide them into two categories. The first is: the things I have control over. The second: the things I don’t. 

Then identify small, manageable goals you can quickly accomplish to improve the situation.

So… here are my three top health concerns:

  • There’s no vaccine for coronavirus.
  • As you age, you’re more susceptible to disease than your younger self.
  • Diabetes runs in your family.

After doing some research on reliable health information online, and thinking this over, I’m going to take a stab at answering these questions for myself right now.

 

Since we can’t currently vaccinate against coronavirus, think about the (semi-)alternative solutions available. 

You’re a big believer in the power of vaccinations to help prevent disease. So you and your family already get the recommended vaccinations. Keep up your vigilance in this realm because the pandemic has reminded you how easily diseases can be spread.

You’re also aware of the costs of healthcare continuing to increase. And so you and your husband budget for expected health care costs for the year. You also set aside money for future healthcare costs. Good.

You understand the value of a health savings account (HSA) as you focus on fixable risk. You deposit money post-tax (freelance life) into your account and gladly take the deduction at tax time. You withdraw, tax-free, to pay for eligible medical expenses. Your HSA funds also grow tax-free over time. 

 

With age comes greater susceptibility to disease. This is where preventive care comes in.

Screenings are recommended to detect disease early before you have any symptoms of sickness. The type of screening you need is based on age, sex, and medical history. Let’s check out the screening recommendations by the U.S. Health and Human Services.

So hey, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve had your blood pressure checked at least once every two years, cholesterol screening done by guidance per age, and dental exams twice a year. Of course, you’ve needed vision correction since second grade, and your vision changes as you age, so an annual eye exam isn’t something you postpone.

But reality check, Shannan: you’re long overdue for a mammogram. Remember when three months had lapsed before you realized you hadn’t scheduled a well-check up for your youngest daughter? Yep. You can do better. Here are some ways to up the ante for your own preventive measures.

  • Check the last time your family members had their annual check-ups and set a reminder a month before to schedule these appointments.
  • Contact my doctor this month to schedule my annual check-up visit. 
  • Jot down the screenings I want to talk about at the doctor’s visit. 
  • And if you or your family needs treatment later, you can use your HSA to pay for eligible medical expenses tax-free. A great way to minimize your out-of-pocket costs!

Diabetes runs in your family. What can you do to keep on top of that fact, and ensure you and your family are staying safe?

 

On average, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes. Remember: taking action to prevent this illness is important, but so is continuing to contribute to your HSA so you can manage future healthcare costs.

Well, there are no clear symptoms of prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. People who meet this criteria should be tested for prediabetes. 

After looking the criteria over, you can relax a little. You’re doing some good things to keep yourself healthy (like minimizing sugar intake as much as possible), and that’s great. But let’s not relax completely. 

But let’s also be honest with ourselves, shall we? Shannan, you’ve gained a little bit of weight in the last year. And being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes especially.

So let’s talk about your diet. You’ve been having dinner as a family during quarantine, and that’s great. But sometimes only one fruit or vegetable is on the table. This is one matter you have control of: the dinner menu. You can offer more fruits and vegetables to help you and your family get your five a day.

Establish these good habits of focusing on what you can control in terms of your health, and remember: You got this. 

Take care,

Shannan

Take the first step
in taking care of you.