Thursday, March 1, 2018

Seasonal Fevers

The coming change of seasons from winter to spring has brought to mind two “fevers” that preppers need to be aware of and make plans for. While not actual, physical fevers caused by disease, the effects of “cabin fever” and “spring fever” will be more pronounced after a major disruption. While most of my examples are going to be based on my experience of living in the northern half of the US, those of you who don't normally see snow in winter may experience storms that can cause the same effects. We get blizzards; you get hurricanes.

Cabin Fever
Being cooped up in a small area (easier to heat that way) with too many other people and isolated from the rest of the world for months leads to stress-related mental conditions called cabin fever, which is defined as “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time”, and we need to recognize the dangers it can present. The key word in that definition is “extreme”.
  • People who are restless and under stress can make bad decisions, like trying to get out before it's safe, or attempting to do too much and injuring themselves or others. 
    • Children will get bored and want to do things, especially if their digital toys are dead. Either make sure you have plenty of batteries for the toys, or prepare for kids getting into things that they shouldn't; I see news stories every winter of house fires caused by bored children “playing” with a heater or fireplace, and that's without a major storm.
    • Elderly people that won't accept their age and physical conditions will try to do the same things they did when they were young and end up hurting themselves (or having heart attacks), which causes more stress on everyone around them.
  • Extreme irritability makes interpersonal interactions a mine field of emotions and will amplify reactions to everything. Keeping the peace in a situation like this is going to be a challenge. 
    • Make plans for how you will deal with flaring tempers and fidgety children (not a good mix, trust me). 
    • Angry, bored siblings will need to be overseen to keep disagreements from turning into violence. 
    • Irritated, PMS-ing women are best handled with care. One friend suggested standing back and throwing chocolate, so make sure you have a supply of chocolate (or whatever helps her) on hand.
I think the worst that I've personally experienced was a blizzard 30+ years ago when I got snowed in for five days with no electricity. It took four days for the snow plows to make more than a one-lane path down the gravel road, because the wind kept blowing the snow back over the road as fast as they could clear it. Luckily, I was with family that had lived through worse and we had preps in place: battery-powered radios, kerosene lamps, and a well-stocked library and pantry got us through with minimal problems. It was actually quite peaceful and relaxing to me, but I acknowledge that I'm a bit weird.

We also didn't have cell phones or internet access back then, so we didn't have to deal with digital withdrawal. A prolonged power outage today would be a major disaster to someone who has grown up connected to the internet at all times. Coping skills should be taught before they are needed, parents.

Spring Fever
Spring fever is a bit different in that it can go two ways: people either want to get outside and laze in the sun, or they want to get out and do everything at once.
  • Exposure to sunlight is one way our bodies get the vitamin D they need to function, so there may be a physiological cause for the desire to lie in the sun and soak in the early spring rays. I know it just feels good not needing to wear three layers of clothing to stay warm and that there is a psychological benefit to exposure to sunlight. 
    • Accept that some of the time, people are going to need to be “lazy” and have some down time. I know there is going to be a lot of work that has piled up over the winter, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, allow a moderate amount of laziness. 
    • Make sure the kids have a safe place to play and relax outside so you can have a bit of peace and quiet yourself.
  • I've seen a lot of yard and field work get done as soon as the ground thaws out, only to be redone after the “surprise” frost or snow sweeps in at the end of winter. We have a few farmers and a lot of landscape artists that rush the planting season every year, resulting in replanting or poor performance.
    • If you're limited to the seeds you have on hand, make sure you know the planting seasons for your local area and don't waste them by trying to get them in early. 
    • I don't have a garden right now, but when I did I always made sure I had a back-up plan for late frosts. Covering the new growth with a sheet overnight is often enough to keep frost from killing them, but you need to have the sheets on hand and know if you're going to need them.

The world keeps turning and the seasons keep changing, so we need to keep planning for the future. I know a lot of preppers focus on immediate needs and emergencies, but I feel that preparing for things that we know are going to happen (but may be affected by an emergency or disaster) is important as well. If you have the known problems under control, it frees up resources for the unexpected problems.

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