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De-stressing Distress

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. "Blorft" is an adjective I just made up that means 'Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.' I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants 

According to The American Institute of Stress, the word itself is limiting. Stress, not ‘blorft’. Endocrinologist Hans Selye referred to stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Since change is part and parcel of this human existence, and occurs on a day-to-day basis, sometimes without warning, it is in our best interest to understand its causes and how to address it. One measure of the impact of life stressors is The Holmes Rahe Scale. It incorporates 43 life events and the numerical value for each one. 
· Death of a spouse: 100 points 
· Divorce: 73 points 
· Marital separation: 65 points 
· Detention in jail: 63 points 
· Death of a close family member: 63 points 
· Major personal injury or illness: 53 points 
· Being fired at work: 47 points 
· Death of a close friend: 37 points 

Upon adding them up, these figures indicate the risk of major health crises, ranging from 150 points or less, foretelling relatively low risk, up to 300 points or more, increasing the odds by 80 percent. 

When faced with resistance, our muscles may stretch, but if we go too far past our limits, they may tear. Teachers of yoga advise their students to “go to their edge,” but not further, since injury is more likely. The same is true for our emotional muscles. 

A workaholic professional who had a high Holmes Rahe score would often submerge the losses she experienced, including death of her spouse, parents and dear friends, and major health challenges.  A few health challenges nearly ended her life.  She repressed her associated emotions under a shiny veneer, in the service of functioning at an ever-higher level of performance. It sometimes felt as if she was being chased by loss. She would hear in her head "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm the gingerbread woman." 
Eventually stress catches up to us, and left untreated, can result in angry outbursts, impatience, physical pain, depression, isolation, broken relationships, addiction, job loss, and even suicidality. 

Journalist Maxine Schnall, founder of Wives Self Help hotline and author of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: Turning Bad Breaks Into Blessings, believes resilience and strength can indeed come from the unthinkable. In her case, it arrived in the form of the ending of her marriage and the brain injury of her beloved daughter at the hands of a drunk driver.  
Keep in mind that stress is not all gloom and doom. Distress has its polarity called eustress. It can be positive when it is growth inducing. Consider the necessary stress that propels you to success. If you weren’t a wee bit nervous in the face of life challenges such as starting a new job, an athletic or musical performance, or taking an exam, you’d be an amoeba. Coal turns to diamonds when the right amount of pressure is exerted upon it. So too can stress bring out our radiance. 

What are some stress easing techniques? 

· Good self-care, which means listening to what your body is telling you. If you are hungry, eat. If you are tired, sleep 
· Chosen solitude (not isolation), since sometimes it is too people-y out there in the world 
· Listening to music that delights you 
· Meditation 
· Yoga 
· Time in nature 
· Art 
· Journaling 
· An exercise routine 
· Walking 
· Dancing 
· Time with people who put a smile on your face 
· A gratitude practice (stating aloud or writing a list of things you are grateful for) 
· Releasing worn out attitudes and beliefs that no longer serve you 
· Slow your pace 
· Learn to set boundaries, saying yes to what you absolutely want to do and no to what you are not obligated to do 
· Self-compassion 
· Massage 
· Eating food that nourishes you physically and emotionally 
· A spiritual practice if that calls to you 
· Set some manageable goals and relish checking them off your list 
· Be a generous giver and gracious receiver
· Engage in random acts of kindness 
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
Simon & Garfunkel
Max's Corner

I want to remind you that as much as cats pretend to be 'cool,' we too experience stress. Change in routine can be upsetting. Welcoming another animal or person into the home can be anxiety inducing. Calm your cat with favorite food and treats, soothing conversation, chin scritches, pets and cuddles.
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Soul Wisdom Therapy 

Deborah Cohen, M.A., M.P.H., LMFT 

Mailing Address
 P.O. Box 4254
Hidden Valley, PA 15502