It happened last spring when I was stressed and overwhelmed by work.
I was working on a month-long project, putting a countless amount of hours, some days without much sleeping.
Due to my pollen allergy, I’d been using an allergy medication during spring. And that day, I had another attack. I reached my pocket to get my medication before realizing that it expired for a couple of days. What was the worst that could happen if I took it?
A quick google search to check a couple of research articles through my phone revealed that it could be perfectly fine to take a medication near its expiration date. I was super busy, so went with it; continued taking it for couple more days.
But my laziness combined with a busy work schedule made those couple of days become a couple of weeks, finally reaching a month. At that time, I had the worst stomach issue that threw me to ER. Doctors told me that it happened likely because of the expired medication.
I was surprised and frustrated. How could this happen to me? I’d even looked at a couple of research articles.
Unfortunately, it did happen, but I learned from my mistakes as I never want to go through that horrible experience. In this story, we’ll go over the lessons I took by breaking down why it happened. You can also apply these lessons to many other situations to prevent mistakes similar to mine. Let’s get started.
Lesson #1: Make Double-Checking a Routine
When I double-checked further whether taking medications after the expiration date is safe, I read conflicting information. Some sources stated that it is okay to take nearly-expired medications as they are unlikely to cause any health problems. There was even a research article suggesting that only their effectiveness decreases, and it is perfectly safe to use them as long as not much time has passed after the expiration date.
At first glance, this was a piece of advice with a solid source backed by a research article. But when I looked deeply into the other articles, the realization hit me. This information is valid for some medication types, but not for others.
So, to prevent this from happening in the future, I’ve stopped blindly trusting any information on the internet, even though it might be published as a research article and seems reliable. My specific case might differ from what is written online, and it could be hard to notice subtleties without knowing the whole literature on that subject.
I experienced this through a health-related issue, but it could be something else, such as an investment decision for you. To be perfectly safe, make sure to double-check the information you get from the internet, preferably by asking an expert, especially for valuable things.
Another example is the chaotic information written about the Covid-19 vaccines. Some people are claiming that some types of vaccines are safe and effective, but some not. So, it is better not to trust those sources and consult an expert such as your doctor before making any decision that affects your health.
Therefore, I take information on the internet with a grain of salt, and triple-check if necessary.
Lesson #2: Create No-Risk Zones
We all can agree I took a huge risk by taking that expired medication. But what was my reward? It was just saving a couple of hours to get a new bottle from the pharmacy. This is exactly what can be called an unnecessary risk, which is a risk for a tiny reward. I was risking my health for such a small thing.
Although this was the risk of using that medication for me, it could be other things for you. Let’s go over some other applications.
One example might be eating slightly spoiled food. Yes, it might still be good, and you might be okay, but would the benefit — not buying a new one — far exceeds the risk — of having food intoxication? Definitely not.
As you know, during the current Covid-19 pandemic, some people avoid putting on masks claiming masks aren’t effective. But why risk your life for not doing a small thing? Even though the effectiveness of masks might be low, why take the risk?
For this reason, I create no-risk zones and stopped taking unnecessary risks for the valuable things in life.
Lesson #3: Prepare a Success-Target Schedule
One reason this traumatic health problem occurred was my overwhelming work schedule. I always pushed myself to extremes without thinking about its implications for my health. I was super stressed, eating unhealthy as I didn’t want to miss my goals.
When I concentrate on something, especially if it is a demanding area such as my career, I tend to lose focus on the other things. It is mostly because of the unrealistic targets I set for myself in a specific area, underestimating the amount of time needed for others.
But I’ve realized that wasn’t sustainable in the long-term as it takes my focus away from everything else. To this end, I created a success-target schedule to revisit my targets periodically and update them if necessary. For example, I’ve given myself a longer timeline to advance in my job, allowing me to spend more time with my family.
Another example is the unrealistic fitness goals that I set for myself during the Covid-19 pandemic. It felt like working from home could give me more time to focus on fitness. Although this was true to a certain extent, other life aspects needed more attention, so I had to recalibrate my fitness targets.
For this reason, I diligently prepare a success-target schedule so that each life component is prioritized periodically according to its specific value.
Lesson #4: Practice “Imagination Exercise”
Going through the health experience was challenging but very instructive. I realized how valuable every single aspect of life is. We sometimes only understand when we lose. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my health, but it might not have been the case.
This doesn’t just apply to health, it could be our family, career, or any others. It is easy to forget the value of what we have until we lose it.
I always complained about the quarantine during the pandemic. I wasn’t able to go outside, meet friends, and travel as much as I wanted. It was boring, frustrating, and discouraging to stay in my apartment all day. But after I had this health issue, I’ve increasingly appreciated the value of the things that I have. For instance, I’m able to talk to my friends and family virtually, and they are all healthy, among others.
To better appreciate the value of what I have in life, I use the imagination exercise. I write down items that I have and imagine I lost them. How hard and upsetting would that be? This exercise helps me better understand the value of those items that I sometimes forget.
How I Implement These Lessons
To realize these lessons and practice regularly in my life, I follow these steps, and you can too:
- I list the aspects of life, such as family, career, etc., and make sure that I fully appreciate how valuable they are through the imagination exercise.
- For items that are too valuable to lose, I put them into the no-risk zone and never take unnecessary risks on them,
- I triple-check advice that I get from the internet, social media, or any other source for my no-risk zone and ask an expert if needed,
- I create a success-target schedule and update my targets on those items based on their importance and priority.
Summary and Takeaway
You might ask, as you never take expired medication, how would these lessons apply to you? As we mentioned in this article, these apply to many other things such as career, finances, health, etc. To summarize, the lessons are identifying valuable life components with imagination exercise, creating no-risk zones, preparing a success-target schedule, and verifying all advice you get for valuable things.
Although these lessons sound simple, it is easy to take them for granted in the busyness of life. So, it is necessary to internalize them to make sure they don’t slip out of our minds.