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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

Effects of Stress and Health

May 2024

I keep hearing how stressed everyone is. Living in a very rural community off the road system and without a TV, I claim to fail to understand. That is, until I called a friend to say I can’t find my blog folder on my computer. We started laughing when how absurd, no, how coincidental that sounds. I looked in the 26 folders and four files I have tidily organized on the right side of my computer. Then I looked at every file folder in those file folders. No luck. Looking at one oddly named file “Abigail” at the end of the day, I looked inside and found my file of blogs. Someone, I must be that someone, had just experienced a minor amount of stress. I, also, must look at the amount and effects of stress and my health. There must be some as I am in Juneau and about to depart for Seattle, New York City, and Philadelphia. There must be some as I usually make an effort to follow the world news, which is filled with stressful information these days.

Or I can look at last week when I drove my car into a ditch, only about three-foot ditch and not fully in…but the right tires were off the road and down the embankment. My passenger, Judith, and I immediately burst into laughter so heartily that we had to wait to get out of the car. I pushed my door up at a 45-degree angle only to have it slam shut the first time. She opened hers to fall into the young willows. She tried to protect the young willows as she shut the door, but discarded that and shut a few small ones inside.

I called Aaron, “Are you home?”

“No, I’m at the shop. I’m on my way.”

I was out of the car by then, but how did he know I was in the ditch? Ah, the advantages of a small town.

I think my health and calmness as well as living in a very small town protects me from stress. To a large extent, yes, it has. I’ll see how I feel when I get to New York City.  

However, since I have a phone and internet, I cannot deny that the world still comes in no matter how remotely I live. It just comes in less, and therefore, less intrusively and less viciously. On days when we get no reception, that’s okay. No one needs all the bad news of the day. For a long time now I’ve thought how wonderful it would be to have only good news for a whole day.

Since COVID became a pandemic in early 2020, people, even societies, seem to have changed and not just in the United States but also worldwide. It seems like a pandemic in worry has grown to anxiety, personal tension grown into anger toward others, and inner stress blossomed into rage. We heard about road rage years ago. Over the weekend I saw a picture of it. At first, I thought it was staged, but no, it was real. Some middle-aged fellow with greying hair stood with his face almost pressed against the glass of the passenger door screaming at the driver. What earthshattering offence had the driver committed that inflamed this man and triggered such aggressive rage?

Let me tell you a secret. Anger expressed toward another person is anger felt and expressed by the person yelling. Didn’t I just mention that two months ago when I gave the example of my niece interrupting her yelling at me to yell “…and-furthermore-I’m-not-mad-at-you-I’m-mad-at-me-but-since-I-can’t-yell-at-me-I’m-yelling-at-you….” This poor man, so very busy raising his voice and blood pressure, inflicted his anger on someone who probably had nothing to do with his anger. Looking at the picture, I really thought he was an actor getting paid for this short gig. Reading the paragraph below the photo, I learned his anger was real.

What can we do about our anger? Even if we’re angry at someone for dying, we can’t yell at the person, so we yell at someone else. No matter how upset we are, we cannot yell at a relative or close friend if they are dying. We may feel “Why are you dying when I still want you to be here?” but let’s not yell at someone else. Go yell at a tree or buy some old tomatoes about to rot and throw them in a field or creek.

How do we deal with our anger? Let me list some ways known to work. Some I use, some I don’t. The first ones are immediate, the other longer term if anger is a regular problem.

  1. Count slowly from 10 down to 1. If that doesn’t work, count again.
  2. Picture a beautiful, relaxing scene and focus on that for 10 to 15 seconds.
  3. Inhale deeply then exhale slowly. Repeat three times.
  4. Focus your attention on something else around you such as out the window at a beautiful building or even a light pole or tree. Describe to yourself what you see.
  5. Stand up, put your feet at a 45-degree angle to the wall. Push the wall.
  6. If you’re angry, brush it off your shoulders, literally. (Let the person think you have lint on your clothes!)
  7. Grasp your wrists and press so you feel it in your shoulders. See the picture.
Primroses coming along, but I think they got a touch of frost this spring.

Longer ones include:

  1. Meditate.  
  2. Practice yoga.
  3. Get regular exercise—walk, run, swim, play tennis.
  4. Eat well. Eliminate those things that hype up a person such as lots of caffeine or sugar. Too much alcohol the night before can make a person angry the next morning. (My first husband, who became an alcoholic, told me that from his own experience.)

I write this short piece to help the reader calm before yelling at someone. May it also help someone remain calm when being yelled at by a family member or a stranger.

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