Six Simple Steps To A Stress-free Season

Advice from the Experts at Duke Integrative Medicine

when the world is still sleeping.TAKE TIME FOR TEA
The caffeine and polyphenols in tea have the combined effect of mild stimulation and lasting calm.

Breathe in for 4 counts.
Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Release your breath for 6 counts.
This “UJI” breathing quickly reduces stress and calms your central nervous system.

Take a break from demanding tasks
(like shopping or cleaning)
and difficult people (like that family member who rubs you the wrong way)and do something that nurtures you!


Fill a bucket with warm water and add some drops of rosemary and peppermint oil.
Place a golf ball in the bucket as well.
Soak and massage your feet and calm your entire being.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a local shelter and help someone who is struggling. Discover the benefits of a practice of gratitude.

What tips do you have to share?  I say:

Bake cookies.

Get lots of sleep.

Remember, this too shall pass.

And try to laugh.



My friend, Lisa, asked me to write about gratitude for her blog. (Here’s the link: Lisa’s Cheap Therapy Blog. ) Please check out her website–Cheap Therapy–she makes really cool cards and posters and then gives away a good chunk of any money she makes.
Here’s what I wrote for her blog:

The Gratitude List comes up a lot at 12-step meetings in November. Enough to make me groan sometimes.

Listing the good stuff is easy:

1. my granddaughter laughing and flying in her swing

2. being a cancer survivor

3. a perfect fall day—sunshine, slight breeze, 68 degrees with low humidity, colorful leaves

4. lunch out with a group of smart, laughing women friends

5. a quiet awareness of God’s presence surrounding and protecting me.

What about the hard stuff, though?

1. Illness–mine or a loved one’s

2. Pain–physical and/or emotional

3. Powerlessness–my inability to make it all okay for other people

4. Letting go–not enabling and letting others learn from the consequences of their choices

I rage at God sometimes about the hard stuff. My spirit aches as I watch my adult children struggle with life’s challenges. I ask WHY?

Then I surrender. Trying to change or control people and situations takes too much energy. Because it is impossible.

So I learn:

1. to lean on God

2. to trust that those I love also have a God who loves them

3. to resist my urge to isolate and instead share my hurts and griefs and struggles.

When I was learning to throw pots on a pottery wheel, my hands could only make lopsided bowls. They were goofy-looking. My teacher explained that the beauty of handmade pottery lies in the imperfections that make each piece unique.

So it is with us, I think. We are the clay and God is the potter. It is our imperfections and cracks that make us real. That’s where God’s light gets through to our hearts and where love and compassion flow out from us to others.

Joy and beauty are in the good stuff. Gifts are in the hard stuff.

And so I am grateful.

The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life by Judith Viorst

I’ve had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.

I’m done now with the whys and the becauses.

It’s time to make things good, not just make do.

It’s time to stop complaining and pursue

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I used to rail against my compromises.

I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.

But happiness arrived in new disguises:

Sun lighting a child’s hair. A friend’s embrace.

Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.

It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be

Is not the heroine of some grand story.

But I have learned to find the poetry

In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


Young fantasies of magic and of mystery

Are over. But they really can’t compete

With all we’ve built together: A long history.

Connections that help render us complete.

Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,

Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

Life for Dummies

I am a grumpy, impatient beginner.  I need to feel competent. I don’t like when someone tries to help me.

I love those gaudy yellow and black Dummies books.  They have titles like Baseball for Dummies.  Slightly insulting, yes, but beginner-level information that I can study privately and at my own pace.

I looked months ago for Grandparenting for Dummies. I don’t think there is one, but Amazon has The Idiot’s Guide to Grandparenting.  I refuse to buy any Idiots books–they are an ugly orange and “Idiot” is just rude.

On a quick trip to various bookcases in my house I saw these Dummies books:  Ebay, New York City, Yoga, Chicago, Paris, Feng Shui, Cancun and the Yucatan, Blogging, Pregnancy, Blackberry, iTunes, and Excel.  I keep saying I’m going to put them all in one bookcase so I can find one when I need it, but I haven’t done it yet.

Study —–>Knowledge—–>Control.


Feeling in control is the opposite of feeling powerless.  But then what about risk and adventure?  Going with the flow?  Being in the moment?  Being lost, on purpose?

Can we really control the unknown?  Or is being in the unknowing our Life’s task?

Sometimes I do need to know how to do something, especially computer/technology stuff.  Online manuals don’t help me much.  But I’m learning to have faith that I will be able to handle Life as it comes to me.  If I don’t over-think, over-plan, and over-analyze, I can be amazed and astonished.  That’s why I want to learn new skills and go to new places.

Faith allows me to be comfortable in the unknowing and uncertainty of Life.  That belief takes daily maintenance and awareness of God’s presence.

I am grateful for my faith.  I don’t take it for granted.

Turtle or Gazelle?

Kim and Donna, as part of a Soul Collage workshop, led a guided meditation to help us envision our totem animals.  I was hoping for something graceful and elegant, able to leap in the air and run fast—a gazelle, perhaps.  My Spirit gave me a big, old, ponderous, turtle.

Turtle is not glamorous, but really not as uninspiring as I first thought.  Here is what I learned about turtle symbolism:

1.  Turtle’s whole life is one of steadfastness, effort, and patience. It lives a slow and steady life of “non-doing”.

2.  Turtle takes its wisdom one day at a time – not reacting, simply accepting and moving on in its natural rhythm.

3.  The medicine of Turtle is its deliberate and thorough approach to life.  

4. Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil. It does not need to learn the importance of this focusing inward, it naturally knows.

5.  Turtle is courageous because it makes progress only when it sticks its neck out and moves forward with patient, steady flow.

6.  Turtle is always at home within itself.

I have spent years learning about living one day at a time, being in the moment, and accepting life as it comes to me.  All those words in all those books and discussions are summed up in “Turtle”.  Once again I am humbled.  And delighted by how cleverly Spirit teaches me.