The Widdershins

Activist Monday:  Deactivate…

Posted on: November 23, 2015

Madam MB is just a bit under the weather today and is enjoying some well-deserved rest.  She will return next week. Prozac stuffing

This week marks the beginning of our annual stress marathon.  For the next month or so we will engage in a mad dash of places, people, and circumstances.  For most of us that means a rendezvous at the corner of unwanted pressure and unhealthy anxiety.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Recently I’ve spent a good deal of time reviewing my personal stress level.  Throughout my career, I gave little or no thought to stress – it was just there.  My work weeks were uniformly sixty to eighty hours.  When my parents became ill, I traded eighty hour weeks for 168 hour weeks of 24/7 care giving with a whole new set of pressures.

The long and short of this – at some point I had a heart attack and was either too busy to care or too busy to notice.  I have no idea when my heart sent me the message, but it was sometime during the last seven years.  During that time I was an ambulatory time bomb.  That bomb went off and during the last ten months I’ve spent more time in the hospital than I ever care to again.

Thanksgiving 1863I mention this not to elicit sympathy, but to make a point.  Even someone in otherwise excellent health, built and educated to handle stress can succumb to its deleterious effects over time.  Stress is a killer – there are plenty of studies and meta-analyses to prove it.  It is particularly harmful to women and can lead to a myriad of heart weakening conditions.

The stress of cooking, planning, escorting, ushering, chauffeuring, hosting, mediating, cleaning, designing, and a hundred other activities associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas does nothing for one’s overall health.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are ways to combat stress.  Things like making sure you get enough sunshine, taking a walk, or listening to music.  There are things that are less obvious, like occasionally sniffing citrus, using honey as a sweetener of choice, or finding your hoko spot and squeezing it for thirty seconds or so.  Your hoko spot is the fleshy spot on your hand just below your thumb.

There are some lifestyle changes that are more difficult – like abandoning old customs.  Instead of fretting and slaving to create a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving production, let a restaurant fret over the giblets this year.Stressed is desserts

Forget about the pretense of perfection.  This has always been a personally difficult concept for me.  I would hold on to a project much too long under the guise of making it perfect.  What I was really doing was elongating the stress to avoid risking failure.  So this Thanksgiving embrace less than perfect gravy or less than perfect place settings.  For those who notice the lumpy gravy, give them a whisk and a disdainful eye roll.  The world will survive.

Probably the biggest lifestyle change is the power of positive thinking.  Positivity goes beyond just happiness since “happiness is an emotion; optimism is a belief about the future.”  Optimistic positivity helps in disease resistance, heart health, better coping skills with dramatic change, and can even slow the aging process.

One of the greatest Thanksgiving stressors is either the drunk uncle or the all-too-sober devoted Fox viewer.  Here’s my best advice and it comes from John Lennon when he said, “I don’t want to be a loudmouth, lunatic, poet, musician, but I cannot be what I am not.”

For the longest time I thought I had some sort of cosmic responsibility to bring the truth and light to those who were totally Foxified.  That self-delusional belief was nothing more than misplaced egotism because no matter how hard you try, you can’t make people “what they’re not.”

Freedom of expectionSo for those guests who are loudmouths or lunatics, accept them for what they are because it is unlikely they will ever be poets or musicians to your ears.  When you let go, the stress reduction is remarkable.

My simple advice for this Activist Monday is to “deactivate” this week.  Reduce your stress.  Walk instead of driving if you can.  If you have to drive, drive in the right lane only.  Leave fifteen minutes early or be complaisant with being fifteen minutes late.  Forget perfection.  Embrace offers of help.  If there are no offers, ask for help and be specific about what you need.  Remember – guilt is a thief living in your head that robs you of life experiences.

Stress is a killer – disinvite it this year.

Have a great Monday and take this conversation in any direction you might want to explore.

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25 Responses to "Activist Monday:  Deactivate…"

Oh, I agree. I triaged patients in one of the busiest ERs in the nation, 7pm to 7am, 48 hours/week. When I came home I looked after a MIL with diabetes and renal failure, a spouse with metastatic cancer, and my own aging father and his spouse. MIL passed in 1993, spouse passed in 1995, my own health deteriorated to the point that I became disabled and oxygen dependent in 1999 after cleaning up the fiscal devastation that numerous long-term illnesses bring with them. Stress maims and kills.
You may have never experienced a symptom with your heart attack. Some 30% are “silent”, with absolutely no symptoms. You may have blown off the attack as indigestion, or your pain may have been in the neck, jaw, back, or arms.
Hear us well, pilgrims: slow down and live longer and better.

There’s a third option, I might just be too plain stoooooopid to realize something was wrong. I think we should coin a new phrase describing such condition as “eat up with the Trump.”

There are those who might fall neatly in that category. I spoke with innumerable people who gave histories of fireballs of the Eucharist (uterine fibroids), sea roaches of the liver (cirrhosis), very close veins (varicose), trash mouth (oral thrush), and the ever-popular smiling mighty Jesus (spinal meningitis). Doubt sincerely that you would fit with that group.

@4, those are good — how did you ever keep from laughing?

So for those guests who are loudmouths or lunatics

Shove a dinner roll in their mouth. 😉

Thank for this!! This is my mantra this holiday season.

@4: years and years of practice, but I was caught off guard from time to time and had to abruptly leave my desk for a moment.

@6, SM, if I had one of Professor Peabody’s “way back” machines, I would have made it my mantra decades ago.

@5, only if there are plenty of dinner rolls — I hate to waste them. If there aren’t enough dinner rolls, recycle the turkey bones or discarded giblet packs.

@8: Ditto!

If there aren’t enough dinner rolls, recycle the turkey bones or discarded giblet packs

Too much chance of a choking hazard. What do you do with the body then? Having to call 911 disrupts the meal too much. Just buy extra dinner rolls and keep one nearby.

@11, Too much chance of a choking hazard.

You say potato, I say tomato — rightly or wrongly, choking is no longer an unpardonable Emily Post faux pas.

Not much more disruptive than a visit from your neighborly rescue squad.

@13, if they are called.

@14: No dinner and political discussions at Prolix’s house!

Prolix, I’m so sad to hear about your heart attack. Yes, fgs, everyone dial down the stress! In 20 years, we can all be still gossiping away on Widdershins!

I did appreciate the important warnings in your post, and will make sure Laker reads it tomorrow. He’s been driving us nuts being a perfectionist with his projects lately. He needs to settle down, and spend more time just being happy. My husband is always happy (seriously–just born that way–people say he’s like a big happy teddy bear), but even he is slowing down and resting more, due to age. I always work more this time of year, but our holidays are simple and thats how we like it. I am doing a turkey dinner this year, but we only asked a couple of “cool” people, and I’m not making a dozen different dishes. I do have a Fox News uncle & aunt, but they only come when my mom is here and just for the day.

Prolix, I hope you’re taking extra good care of yourself. xo

@15, I’m not quite that bad, just like smoking, I allow those type conversations to occur outside in the yard where the lingering stench of Foxified opinions can waft away without defiling others.

@16. thanks so much Annie. The good thing is that I have good doctors who are conservative in their treatment and so far, it has been perfect care. When I got bronchitis in late February it started my cascading condition that quickly turned into an avalanche of “badness and ugliessence”. Honestly, I was so very lucky — it could have been much worse.

Take care of yourself, Prolix. The world needs your wit and wisdom.

just like smoking,

I have spent a lot of time in people’s yards, porches, sidewalks…

What a wonderful post! Great and timely advice. I had a couple of relatives who also had “secret” heart attacks. I believe Chat’s stat! And I also echo Socal’s sentiments about your health, Prolix. I am so glad you survived the February scare.

My hubby was pushing for a big feast this year, for just the two of us! What a waste. We’re going out to dinner. I put my foot down. The stress would have been completely pointless.

Sorry I’ve been AWOL today folks. Real life stuff like plumbers got in the way.

@19, Thanks Sue. I’m getting stronger and feeling much better.

@21, Thanks MB — how are you feeling?

Tell hubby the dishpan hands he’s saving are his own.

Real life stuff like plumbers got in the way.

Oh that’s always fun.

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