Stress Management 101

By Rose Ann Sinay

Stress Management 101

Stress management, my family would say, is a course I should take, not a subject I should talk about. For years, they have endured my last minute, stress-filled hustle that precedes every party, big project or serious responsibility. That last hour before the event is my “push time” – that short period that forces me to pull all the loose strings together and stop procrastinating.

According to experts, constant anxiety is unhealthy and dangerous, but an occasional bout of “normal” life stress can be a learning tool. It seems that the brain can change gears and redirect thinking to another area of the complex organ, as panic pushes your envelope. Stress creates a different kind of learning and reaction that we’re all familiar with – that gut reaction/response – the Where did that come from? and How did I pull that off? moment. Unknowingly, I have relied on that little control toggle to finish important jobs, but I think it may be wearing out. I’m not moving quite as fast as I used to.

My methodical, organized daughter has sent me many articles and books on “how to reduce stress in your life.” I’m sure she has a file with my name on it, just in case I lose her attempts at conversion. I have no idea where she came from – I’ve often wondered if she was switched at birth.

I do admit that the older I get, the less effective my life-long coping techniques have become. With a holiday gathering at my home coming up, I decided it might be time to give that abundance of advice a try.

On the morning of my party, I sat down with a check list of chores and a list of stress relievers.

1. Start the day with a nutritious breakfast. I prepared a healthy parfait of yogurt, berries and a sprinkling of whole grain granola. I ate every bite even though I dislike yogurt. It was healthier than the cinnamon bun that kept calling my name.

2. Keep it simple – use your crock pot. Instead of the ten-step, twenty ingredient recipes I normally use for a company meal, I threw a roast, chopped vegetables and spices into the seldom used electric pot. I set it on low and left it to turn my meal into something special.

3. Listen to relaxing music: I flipped through the music stations on my television and found that there really is a Zen music station. “You are listening to health and fitness,” the Zen channel information box assured me. I could feel the tension start to slip away.

4. Treat yourself to a massage. I started to cross this one off my list. It was a tip for those people who plan in advance (and probably don’t need this advice). But then, I remembered the back massager – one of those impulse buys that gets shoved in the back of the closet, never to be seen again. I found the bulky unit, strapped it to my back and lay face down on the floor. The black dog hair that tickled my nose reminded me that I should be vacuuming. After a few minutes, I was able to relax and concentrate on my list of chores. Why hadn’t I tried this before? I felt calm and sleepy.

The door bell rang, jolting me out of the unexpected snooze. Maneuvering into a sitting position with the bulky machine on my back was no easy feat. All those soothed muscles instantly became strained and tight. Mercifully, the Fed Ex delivery man left my package on the step. When I checked the time on the clock I realized my peaceful interlude had lasted longer than I thought.

I grabbed my list.

5. Chew gum. Ancient Greeks used and documented this trick. If one piece was good, two would be better I thought cramming the squares pieces into my mouth. I needed to hustle; I was behind schedule. I crossed out item number three (Zen music) and turned the channel to a heavy metal station. There’s nothing like that loud, grating sound to get me moving.

6. Practice Deep Breathing: Good – this was something I could do while I vacuumed. I took a big breath in as I pulled the vacuum toward me, and blew a whooshing breath out as I ran the machine over the rug. In between breaths, the gum in my mouth popped at a record pace.

7. Surround yourself with calming scents: I turned on the shower and sprayed the room with lavender scented perfume. I wasn’t sure if it was the fog of scented mist or the steam that blurred my eyes and filled my lungs. I coughed and swallowed the flavorless lump still in my mouth. My jaw ached from the intense chewing.

After a power shower, a little make up and no time to dry my hair. I pulled a holiday dress from the closet and frantically searched for my new red shoes. What was a party without red shoes? Buttoning my dress, I ran through the house like a whirlwind, mentally checking off my list, repositioning flowers, lining up the glasses and hiding unnecessary clutter into the junk drawer. What in the world had possessed me to relax on the day of a party, I thought as Led Zeppelin thundered in my ears. This is just the way I function, I realized as I lit the candles on the table. I was wired; I was excited; I was ready.

The phone rang. “I can’t talk,” I told my daughter. “I’m having a party, and my guests will be here any minute.”

“Slow down. You’re stressed,” she said. “Have you tried applying pressure to…”

“Yes,” I said as I firmly applied pressure to the off button.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer typing away in sunny North Carolina. Her articles/stories have been published in The Carolinas Today, The Oddville Press and The Brunswick Beacon.

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19 Responses to “Stress Management 101”

  1. Judy vasile says:

    A girl after my own heart!!!

  2. Beverly Stevens says:

    Loved it!

  3. Sandy Grundy says:


  4. Kathy Strunk says:

    Oh my gosh Roe, I was cracking up…great descriptions, I could totally envision you doing all of these stress reducing tasks! This is my reservations were invented !

  5. Colleen Wenthen says:

    This is crazy funny and so true for many of us! I laughed out loud visualalizung every scene. Keep the stories coming!!

    • Rose Ann says:

      From the responses, I guess we all try to pull it together at the last moment . . . it just gets funnier as we grow older and not as quick!

  6. Betsy Bergstrom says:

    I loved this story. I too am a last minute person. It drives my family nuts, but I do get it done.

  7. BJ Hale says:

    Loved it as usual…you are so insightful and talented!!! I too stress out over dinner parties….reservations are much easier!!

  8. Kailey says:

    So very true… I can only imagine your stress level while writing this!

  9. Ida Konow says:

    Another great story. While reading it I could picture Carol Burnett doing this as one of her skits!

  10. Tammy says:

    Love this story – and I must say have seen this a time or two myself!!!!!

  11. Janet Grillo says:

    Lol! I’ve been to some of those parties, never thought you were stressed. Miss you!

  12. Janet Ingram says:

    Rose Ann, great job!!! I can’t wait to read all of your other stories. I am so glad I finally got to meet my long lost “cousin-in-law”. We are so proud of you!!!!

  13. Mary Russell says:

    Made me laugh, RoseAnn. You convey personal experience very well.

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