Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Staying healthy in an unhealthy economy


Kate and Mike Skrable have downsized their family needs to adjust to the unpredictable economy and relax by hiking in nearby parks with 2-year-old Carson.


When the economy started its freefall, Kate Skrable took action. With a 2-year-old son and only five years paid on their home mortgage, she found herself tossing and turning at night, worried about her job security and concerned about finances. One evening, she sat down and created a spreadsheet, trying to anticipate all her family’s expenses and working out the minimum income they would need to keep their home and lifestyle intact if she were to be laid off from work.

“The stress was getting out of hand, so I needed to take steps to be proactive about the things I could control,” said the 36-year-old business developer for a local pharmaceutical company. “I looked at each and every expense. I wanted to be in a position where we would still be OK if something happened to my income. Then we started to make changes to our lifestyle—some big, some small—but they all add up to helping us feel more secure about our future.”

In these troubled economic times, more people report significant stress and anxiety, difficulty sleeping and other disquieting medical problems, both physical and psychological. But Stanford experts say there are ways to stay healthy and maintain your equilibrium despite financial stress. Kate and her husband, Mike, a local high school math teacher, offer some good examples of how to cope. They’ve taken charge of things they can control, still eat well on a reduced budget and focus on getting back to basics.

\For instance, they planted a backyard vegetable garden with pumpkins, zucchini, corn, peppers and herbs, and they recycle rainwater instead of running the hose. Both now bring their lunch to work. They spend more family time outdoors in neighborhood parks and on local hiking trails, and take part in free activities like street fairs to stay connected to the community. Kate clips coupons, buys second-hand clothes and toys, and uses the library instead of buying books. An extra benefit of this economic belt-tightening, she said, is that the household is now more environmentally conscious—an important lesson she wants to pass along to her young son.

“I think the changes we’ve made will keep because now we realize that we don’t really need all that much,” she said. “We’ve made some compromises, but we still have a wonderful life and we certainly don’t feel deprived. Everyone I talk to is making concessions and pulling back a little, but maybe it’s not a bad thing if people are taking stock of need versus want.”

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