From losing a wallet to losing power, unpleasant life events tend to occur when we least expect them. In honor of National Preparedness Month, here are 15 easy steps you can take now to be ready for any situation, big or small.
1. HOW TO BE READY FOR: AN EMPTY FRIDGE
It happens to the best of us: You get home late after a long day at work, only to enter your kitchen and realize that you forgot to go grocery shopping. All that’s left in the freezer is a frozen dinner—and it expired last month. Avoid this dilemma by stocking up on healthy nonperishables like oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, canned beans and veggies, and brown rice. That way, you can always make a meal on the fly.
2. HOW TO BE READY FOR: COLD AND FLU SEASON
Getting sick might seem unavoidable if everyone around you is coughing and sniffling, but there are ways to elude the dreaded office bug. Health organizations recommend that individuals six months and older receive their yearly flu vaccine by October. However, getting enough sleep is just as important as getting your shots. Studies show that people who receive six hours of sleep a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who slumber for more than seven hours. Bottom line? If you want to stay healthy this winter, hit the sack. Your immune system will thank you.
3. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A MISSING PET
If your pet isn’t already microchipped, take a quick trip to the vet and request the procedure. Microchips—implantable computer chips placed under your pet’s skin with a needle and syringe— are the most reliable way to find a cat that’s slipped outside or a dog that’s wriggled off its leash. Studies show that cats with microchips are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners than those without; dogs are 2.5 times more likely to be found.
4. HOW TO BE READY FOR: AN EXAM
Want to ace your test? Shake up your usual study routine. Research shows that studying in short 20-25-minute intervals helps you retain information better than hitting the books for hours at a time. While you’re at it, switch locations as well. Go to the library one day; hit up a coffee shop the next. According to cognitive scientists, new environments help reinforce learning.
5. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A BROKEN-DOWN CAR
Even if your car is regularly screened for safety concerns, accidents do happen. Load up your trunk with a toolkit, a jack, a lug wrench, and a jumper cable, just in case. Other handy things to keep in your roadside survival kit? A flashlight, warm clothing, and a first aid kit. This way, you won’t feel helpless while waiting for a tow truck on a dark and cold night.
6. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A LOST WALLET
When your wallet goes missing, you don’t just lose your money—you could also lose your identity. Photocopy the front and back of all your important IDs and cards and keep them in a safe place—especially when you’re traveling in a different country. (It goes without saying that you should cancel all active credit cards and report the wallet as lost to the proper authorities.)
7. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A FINANCIAL EMERGENCY
According to a survey, roughly 44 percent of Americans report that they’re not prepared to cover emergency expenses. Financial planners recommend stashing away a crisis fund that equals 3-6 months of expenses in case you get sick, lose your job, or are slammed with unexpected bills. Of course, this amount varies from person to person.
8. HOW TO BE READY FOR: THE DAY YOU SLEEP THROUGH YOUR ALARM
Rather than setting a second alarm to rouse you from your slumber, try to avoid needing one in the first place by keeping a regimented sleep schedule. Choose a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and adhere to that routine every day. Your body’s internal clock will gradually adjust, allowing you to wake up every morning with ease.
9. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A POWER OUTAGE
When you lose power, you can also lose access to water, heat, and food. A kit stocked with bottled water, blankets, matches, a flashlight, and canned foods can help you hang in there until the electricity’s turned on again.
10. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A COMPUTER CRASH OR MALFUNCTION
Back up important documents and files on an external hard drive every time you use your computer. It only takes a minute or two, and it can save you hours of anxious phone calls to tech support if your files are corrupted or your laptop is damaged or stolen.
11. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A MEDICAL EMERGENCY
Program emergency contacts into your phone, and keep a list of your medications and health conditions in your wallet. That way, others will know what to do if you’re ever sick or injured and can’t take care of yourself.
12. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A STOLEN PHONE
Write down your phone’s model number, serial number, and device identification number after you purchase a new mobile device. You’ll need them on hand if you have to call the police and report it as stolen. Also, make sure to protect your phone with a password so thieves can’t obtain your personal information. If you have a smartphone, you can use an app to wipe the phone’s memory if it’s lost or stolen.
Tracking apps and tags can sometimes help you find your phone—along with the person who took it. However, make sure to call the police instead of confronting the person on your own.
13. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A JOB INTERVIEW
You’ve researched the company, you’ve printed extra copies of your resume, and you’ve picked up your suit from the dry cleaners. Now, nail that job interview by focusing on your body language. Surveys of hiring managers reveal that fidgeting, a lack of eye contact, and a weak—or too firm—handshake can be deal breakers during a Q & A with a potential employer. Mock interviews with friends or family can help eliminate these behaviors and boost your confidence before the big day.
14. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A CLOTHING MISHAP AT WORK
Keep a sewing kit in your work desk in case a button pops off or you spill something on your shirt. Bleach pens and anti-wrinkle sprays are also good for on-the-go wardrobe issues. If you’re in a pinch, packing tape can be used to secure a ripped hem and seltzer water from a vending machine can help remove stains.
15. HOW TO BE READY FOR: A STRESSFUL EVENT
To keep anxiety at bay, psychologists recommend practicing mindfulness, which involves staying focused on the present moment and acknowledging and accepting your feelings. Studies show that mindfulness reduces stress and helps regulate your emotions. You may not be able to control life—but you can control your reaction to it.