I’m driving around our town and notice more American flags are flying. Since it’s not Memorial Weekend, Fourth of July or Veterans Day, I know it’s National Stress Awareness Month, and that April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day.
With my awareness renewed, I take several deep breaths. I begin the recommended count—-deep breath in slowly while counting to 4; hold for a count of 8; then exhale to a count of 7. I’m concentrating so hard I pass up a street where I was supposed to turn. When I eventually turn, I’m driving the wrong direction down a one-way street. I snap off the radio so I can focus on the count. Then I can’t remember if I’m on a count of 7 or 8, or if I’m supposed to be exhaling or inhaling. I get very, very stressed.
But, really, I’m an authority on stress relief, and I’m here to share with you the current recommendations for reducing stress and how well they’ve worked for me.
Stress Avoidance Diet: This list of “not-to-eats” is easy to remember. No sugar, no salt, no MSG, no fats, no cholesterol, no glutens, no juices, no carbs, no dairy products, no red meat, no fish from oceans, no farm salmon, no ranch salmon, no desert salmon, no non-organic foods (pesticide-laden), no organic foods (exposure to animal feces), no tap water (high chlorine), no bottled water (Bisphonel A/BPA), no chicken (antibiotics), no pork, no hunted animals, no pets (cats may be o.k. if a low-sodium marinade is used), no canned food (BPA), no caffeine, no milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is permitted at all times since doctors like the taste.
Exercise: Physical activity— 30-minutes a day. However, this does not include heavy exertional exercise such as running, jogging, fast-walking, slow- walking, dillydallying, elliptical machines, treadmills, spinning, rope courses, jump-roping, groping, fast swimming, slow swimming, floating, drowning, team sports, solitary sports, exercising with animals (horseback riding, polo, dog races, cattle driving). As an orthopedist recently told me, “The American Heart Association is my best customer because of their exercise recommendations of daily exercises. I can’t quit because I have an unending supply of patients with joint and bone issues from years of exercising.”
The doctor’s personal recommendations for exercise: driving a car. “The legs and arms are in low-impact movement for extended times. Honking the horn will get your heart rate up. Using the turn signal is a good memory exercise that can prevent dementia.” By contrast, “lap swimming or water aerobics can be physically disabling, especially if the water temperature is less than 92 degrees.” In lieu of swimming, the doctor encourages wading.
I’ve found that “exercise driving” a half hour each day relaxes me, unless I’m deep breathing. This may not work for everyone: the AP reported recently a woman in Marblehead, Ohio was driving around for her daily 30-minute exercise when a Lake Erie freshwater fish fell on her windshield, smashing it to bits. She wasn’t hurt. She could have eaten this lake fish which is permitted on the Stress Avoidance Diet (see above). Glass shards, however, may contain micro amounts of sugar and should only eaten on special occasions.
Meditation: Stress specialists recommend meditation along with deep breathing and guided imagery— picturing oneself in a pretty place where you’ve been or someday hope to go, such as Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand or Neiman Marcus. Meditation can be done several times during a day. The only limitations are (1) leg numbness, particularly if one sits longer than three minutes in the lotus position, and (2) the energy that meditation releases may heat the surrounding people, causing them to undergo fusion and unable to separate, short of surgery.
If meditating at your desk, be sure to place a small pillow over the keyboard since it’s not uncommon in a state of relaxation to fall forward onto your nose, damaging the keyboard and causing individual keys to malfunction, as shown by this example: “Unfortunately after reviewing your job application materials, we hired the next person who applied. However, we feel we are obligated to tell you that pl@&taqw]t]wet90etah9]wetyh8]h8gry]ejnmlsetg. Snbcer00ly, Jhnn Jns.”
Practice Creativity: Too often, our special creative skills are overlooked when seeking relief from stress. Writing, drawing, painting, quilting, cooking, cheating and photography are just a few ways to unwind. Puzzles help. In one of the worst places on earth for stress—Israel—one man, Ephraim Harosis, has used his creative idea to lessen anxiety and tension.
Mr. Harosis realized, after many attempts, that no one would buy his defective older car. He lives in Sderot, a city in the news for missing a vowel and because it’s frequently the target of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. Mr. Harosis, in a “lightbulb” moment, determined which areas in the city were certain to be hit. He then drove his car ahead of time to a now-deserted street, parked the car and left, waiting for rockets and mortars to hit the car and explode so he could collect insurance for a new one. When rockets fell in different places, he continued to move the car to the next best estimated target, and so on. Although Mr. Harosis’s car has never been hit——rockets and mortar perversely seem to land only on new cars— he continues to practice this uniquely creative approach to stress reduction.
European Stress Management: Finally, it’s helpful to look to other countries to see how they manage stress. In addition to diet, exercise, meditation/relaxation, and creativity, currently several European countries are practicing a time-honored stress-reduction technique that, while not as old as yoga, is certainly older than American meditation. This technique is, of course, antisemitism, which helps people and their leaders physically and emotionally cope with stressful economic, social and political problems. One historical practice that’s currently popular in Hungary is re-creating a special matzo recipe that leaders claim uses the blood of Christian children. However, when this recipe was presented at last year’s World Cooking Contest (Bocuse d’Or, named for Chef Paul d’Or) by chefs from Hungary, Spain and Poland, it was disqualified because of missing ingredients: Christian children were on Winter Break and not able to be included. The recipe, both by European standards and the Stress Avoidance Diet, was also considered to contain too much sodium.