Would you like to reduce your stress, improve your health and find greater happiness?
If so, I’ve got some powerful tips for you from my own painful experience.
It was September, 2002 and Anne’s and my middle son Kevin, a police officer would undergo his 4th back surgery in November, surgeries that began when a drunk driver smashed into his police car.
As a parent, this was terribly upsetting to me.
It was a Friday afternoon and all of a sudden every few minutes, my heart pounded like a tiny jackhammer for several seconds at a time.
I rushed to the Doctor and from there, to a hospital Emergency Room. They put me in bed and hooked me to machines that blinked, beeped and flashed pulsating lights.
Doctors and nurses asked me questions and spoke to each other in hushed tones as they looked at the machines. Along side of them was my worried family.
I felt frightened and vulnerable and it happened so fast. Will my heart fail? Am I about to die?
After four hours of tests, in which each minute inched by, the pounding gradually declined and the Doctors said the likely problem was stress. But to be sure, they asked me to wear a portable EKG (measures heart activity) for the weekend and see a heart specialist on Monday.
I did and over an agonizing weekend, I tried to relax. On Monday, after seeing the EKG results and conducting more tests, the heart specialist said I would be fine but he strongly encouraged me to find stress relief.
What I did next made my life far better and could do the same for you, as we deal with what one person termed, “The grinding strife of every day life.”
Each day, I take a walk. I used to be too busy to walk that often but it is amazing how much time there is with the realization that what used to seem important won’t matter if I’m no longer living.
Now if I walk along the beach, I watch the blue-green waves hit the white sand with a thunderous roar as I savor the fragrant sea spray. If I walk in a neighborhood, I look at the houses and if I see people, I greet them with a smile. Often, they smile back.
I also notice their flower beds in rainbows of colors and inhale the perfumed scents some of these flowers emit. If it’s evening, I see the sun set as it lights the sky in streams of orange.
On most days I exercise, sometimes in a gym, sometimes in my office. For many years, I went to the gym and intensively lifted heavy weights. Now I do basic exercises and stretches and use this time to relax. I also focus on pleasant thoughts.
I haven’t had any more heart pounding incidents and I’ve discovered life is more fun and filled with little treasures awaiting our discovery, such as watching a blue butterfly flutter by.
If you are physically able to walk, may I encourage you to do so. If the weather is cold or wet, you can walk in a gym, in a mall, in a community center or carry an umbrella and walk outside as you breathe in the fresh, moist air.
If you are unable to walk, maybe with the help of a physical therapist, you could do stretches or use exercise machines. You may also be able to garden and witness the beauty of your flowers, as you feel the tilled brown soil between your fingers. It could stir your soul.
Two weeks ago in heavy traffic, I saw a car cut in front of the car of a 20ish age woman. She was in no danger but she had a tantrum, repeatedly blasting her horn. Afterward her eyes continued to bulge and her nostrils kept flaring as she thrust her arms angrily into the air.
Of course her emotional outburst accomplished nothing. And she didn’t appear to feel better.
Stressful situations are part of life. But you and I can exercise control over situations by how we respond to them. I’ve found the approach I’ve shared with you very helpful and I humbly offer it to you in the hope you will as well.
Success Tip of the Week: To reduce your stress and find greater health and happiness, set aside time to walk and/or exercise daily, and think pleasant thoughts. Notice the beauty around you and as an added bonus; how about giving a big hug to someone you love.
Editor's Note: The following is a reader’s comment from last week’s column about the extreme heroism that was long unrecognized of three U.S. soldiers who rescued villagers during the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam:
“There are people all around you who risk their lives to protect total strangers every day. These people protect the rights of both those they agree with and those whose views they detest regardless of the fact that neither party recognizes the effort.
“They get shot at and take rocks and bottles and yet the next day they show up for work ready to do it again.
“The only recognition they get is when an incident is caught on tape which shocks the public’s conscience regardless of whether the actions taken were correct given all the facts known at the time of the incident.
“I am of course speaking of our police officers. For us it is a battle every day.”
This officer currently helps to keep the peace in a large jail.
“The L.A. Times has succeeded in portraying us to be Keystone Cops who can’t keep the inmates from killing each other. How many people would walk into a confined space with 150 dangerous felons armed with only a radio and pepper spray?
“We do it every day. I put my life on the line just getting to my workstation. My point is there are unsung heroes around all of us everyday.”
The reader who wrote this email is Anne’s and my son Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Kazan. And to the dedicated and compassionate men and women of law enforcement, thank you.
In the next KazanToday: The man who changed the world for the better, one meal at a time.