By Caryl Clem:
April is a National Stress Awareness month, ironically during a time America is facing the most traumatic event in decades. As uncomfortable as you may currently feel staying home, flip your feelings using this time to your advantage. Everyone has a story to tell about their experience. Telling your story releases the pent up emotional baggage, reducing stress while increasing brain activity according to research from Harvard. Writing or taping personal experiences turns your brain on to creating a cause effect scenario. ‘Stories are the way we understand and make sense of the world we find ourselves in.’ says Clare Patey, Director of the Empathy Museum.
Creating a story folder could combine your feelings and images. Keep the stories short, they provide a future window to revisit how you faced the pandemic. I remember finding an antique food stamp book in my Mother’s dresser drawer. I had no clue what feelings surrounded this relic. I wrote about how I changed during this time. When I couldn’t fall asleep, I started cleaning blinds at 1 a.m. Never in my life have I tackled a job I hate the most to get so tired I would fall asleep. A friend of mine called ,she felt she was living in a science fiction fantasy, driving down an empty street with empty stores. Years from now these stories will breathe life into the pictures being taken.
During the 1930’s, America was recovering from the epic Depression Era. A phrase heard on the street reflecting the economy was,” Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”. This meager amount could buy a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gas. Couples would gather to share a pot luck dinner and play a game. A popular game was buying and selling real estate, invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1903. There were no written rules, game procedures traveled by word of mouth. A frequent player of this game, Mr. Darrow, unemployed, low on funds, asked his friend to write the rules down. Darrow sold these rules to Parker Brothers. The allure of wealth and power skyrocketed, Monopoly, into a financial success.
A common theme in games is overcoming hardship. If you feel creative, design your own board game that mirrors surviving with practices of stay at home and social distancing. Design a card deck with short examples given either positive or negative points. Running out of food, lose 5 points, utility bill forgiven, 10 extra points, sunny, warm day to walk the dog 5 extra points, free pizza with delivery coupon, 10 extra points are examples of what is possible.
Volunteer work accomplishes releasing stress reducing body chemicals. Health care professionals are notoriously independent. If you know one, reach out and ask if you can help by doing laundry, shopping for groceries, checking on an older person they know, preparing food for their families. These saints among us don’t have the time or energy to conduct their lives normally. Food pantries are short on help. The key to managing stress is STAY POSITIVE. Relish creating memories your family can look back on in the future.