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Thursday, October 3, 2013

5 Ways to Beat the Furlough Funk

In a break from my regular posts about food, drink, and random musings...

For those furloughed feds and contractors at the bad end of a contract stoppage, you probably have passed the I just don't believe it actually happened phase of this government shutdown. No half-assed agreement was reached to delay the issue until Dec. The doors are shut and you can't even check your e-mail without the threat of legal action. (Did my out of office take? Were there any last-minute instructions?)

We are on Day 3 of the 2013 government shutdown. It's time, if you haven't already, to try to get it out of your mind. For those of you who are struggling to see it as a vacation or sabbatical of sorts, there are some things we can do to make the most of the time off. Though we can't fly across country on a whim, we can work close to home to get out of the furlough funk. Here are my top 5 ways to get over the furlough blues.

5. Home Improvement

Now is the time to get all of those little projects done. For the most part, you probably have the materials for at least one project laying around, so this might not cost you anything but time (which you have). Work on this project to completion. You'll feel a good sense of accomplishment. You'll get the furlough out of your head. It's hard to think about it when you are measuring wood or trying to perfectly edge with new paint. Just don't put the radio or TV news on!

You can plant your fall garden. It's time to get those bulbs in the ground for a beautiful spring flower bed. You can get that garlic or onion in for next season, or even some chard or radish in to enjoy later this fall. Get dirty. If it's raining, get out there anyway (unless it's a thunderstorm). You'll save money on watering the new plants, and the ground will be nice and soft for you to work it. Mud washes off.

4. Exercise

You aren't getting paid to sit in front of the computer any more. Get up and get moving. Dust off your bicycle. Get some yoga stretches in. You'll feel better and your body will thank you for it. Getting your serotonin levels up will help chase away the furlough blues. Go dancing, run on the treadmill, run around the park. Get your Vitamin D, don't stay inside. Get out there and enjoy the beautiful fall. It costs nothing to walk around your neighborhood. 

3. Strengthen Relationships

Make the most of your time off by connecting with family and friends. Take lunch to your spouse. Plan activities with your kids. Meet up with friends for a low-cost picnic. You can visit nearby family. If you have grandparents or older aunts and uncles around, go visit them and help them around the house if needed. You can reconnect over stories you never had time to listen to before. Some family members may welcome a break in childcare costs, offer to help take care of the kids if you can. Aside from the cost of gas and a couple of extras, you can connect with family and friends for free. After you get past the yes, I'm furloughed discussion, you will be focused on the other common interests and events, not on work.

2. Volunteer

With the current lack of action in Congress, I don't see this being over tomorrow. In the meantime, you can arrange to volunteer for local organizations. The local food bank or pantry would be happy to get some weekday help. The library would be happy to have some assistance during the hours most people are unavailable to volunteer. You can make this part of #3 and volunteer at your child's school. Helping out will make you feel better. Aside from the gas, it's free to you, but valuable to the organization you are helping. Stuff envelopes, help decorate, paint walls, tutor kids, clean kennels at the animal shelter. Make a difference while you can.

1. Contact Your Representatives

We should all be contacting our Representatives. Their function is to represent our interest, and I don't think a government shutdown is in anyone's interests. This is a good resource for current contact information for all U.S. Reps:

Writing a nice long e-mail or letter might be therapeutic too. Tell them how this personally affects you. Tell them the realized issues and the feared impact. Tell them what you want. They can't know how to represent you if you don't tell them. I know that their staffers are furloughed too, and they probably don't have anyone manning the phones or e-mail account unless they are doing it themselves (NPR story). Track them down, you have time. See if there is a twitter feed that they are keeping up-to-date. See if they are posting on Facebook. Make your message heard. Even if it's just to vent, do it. It might help you move on during these surreal times.

Make the most of the time you have. Don't dwell on your missing pay, just be smart and occupy your time with low-cost activities. This break might be the time you need to de-stress during this stressful time. Try not to think about it, it will be over soon enough. 

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