Announcing Our October Halloween Contest

We’re taking this week off from blogging, but we wanted to announce our October Contest. It’s all about Halloween, of course!

Here are the prizes:

Our October Halloween contest prizes
Our October Halloween contest prizes

Click HERE for more details and to Enter!

Coming up on the blog in October, preserving our relationships during these strange and challenging times, plus a fun interview with chick lit/mystery writer, Lois Winston!

4 Things Still True After 44 Valentine’s Days (and New Releases!)

by Kassandra Lamb

Hubs and I celebrated our 44th anniversary recently. In honor of that, I was trying to come up with something fresh to say about relationships, so I reviewed the posts I’d already done through the years on the topic of love.

I stumbled on this oldie but goodie from 4 years ago, written right after our 40th Valentine’s Day together. It seemed worthy of re-running. And since my new book, releasing today, is set around Valentine’s Day and contains a love story or two (as well as a mystery, of course), I figured this would be a good post for today.

So here are our 4 most important lessons learned.

Thing #1 still true after 44 Valentine’s Days: Cover your mate’s back.

I fell in love with my husband on our first Valentine’s Day together, a few months after we started dating.

He’d made a reservation for dinner at a fancy restaurant, for 8:00 p.m. But the restaurant had seriously overbooked. By 9:15, Tom had asked several times when we would be seated, each time told it would “just be a few more minutes.”

I’d eaten a light lunch and was now getting lightheaded. “Do you want to go somewhere else?” he asked. But where could we go on Valentine’s Day without reservations? McDonald’s?

My knees wobbled and I clung to his arm as we were finally shown to our table at 9:45! Suddenly my super easygoing boyfriend turned into the Incredible Hulk. He had words with first the waiter and then the maitre ’d, demanding that we be served food RIGHT NOW.

A salad immediately appeared in front of me, and I fell in love with this man who would stand up for me like that. (BTW, that restaurant went out of business shortly after that.)

Things Still True after 44 Valentine's Days -- swans scratching each other's backs
photo by Susanne Nilsson, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

We’ve had each other’s backs at other times through the years… whenever one of us was in the hospital, for example. We’ve both slept on those horrible foldout chairs and been awakened every few hours, along with our spouse, when someone came in to take vital signs or give medication. We were there to be the other’s advocate when they were too sick or too doped up to think straight.

It may not sound all that romantic, but hey, if you can’t count on your mate to have your back, who the heck can you count on?

Thing #2 still true after 44 Valentine’s Days: Accept each other as unique human beings.

There’s a myth out there that couples need to share a lot of interests. Not really. A few shared interests are good, so you have something to do together. But it’s okay for each of you to also do things the other one isn’t interested in. Tom’s into photography and computers. I use my phone camera occasionally and have a refurbished desktop for which I paid $700 (now 6 years old).

I love to shop and play cards, and of course, write. He’d rather stick pointed sticks in his eyes than go shopping, and card-playing is far from his favorite pastime. He’s a good writer but to him it’s more a task that is sometimes required for work.

Instead of resenting the time that the other spends on non-shared interests., honor that those things are important to your mate. I wait patiently when we’re on vacation while he takes a hundred shots of every sight we see (I’m only exaggerating a little). He never says a word about the nights I stay up until 3 a.m. because the muse has struck and I must get those precious words down before they slip away.

And we never try to make the other do what we’re interested in but they’re not. He resists the urge to make fun of my out-of-focus photos and my old computer, and I find other people to play cards with.

Thing #3 still true after 44 Valentine’s Days: Time is the most important gift.

Things Still True After 44 Valentine's Days -- bread and wine and thou
Bread, Wine and Thou (photo by Beatrice Murch, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Having said all of the above, make sure your interests don’t get in the way of spending time with your spouse. As is so often the case, it’s quality as much as quantity (if not more so) that counts. Dinner is check-in time for us. It may only be twenty minutes to a half hour, but we’re not reading or watching TV or playing with our cell phones. We’re telling each other everything important—and some things that are not all that important but are just interesting—that’s happened to us that day.

And on Fridays, we have date night. We started that when our son was about thirteen. We have a special dinner, just the two of us, and really linger at the table until we’re totally caught up on things. Then we relax and watch videos together for the rest of the evening.

Thing #4 still true after 44 Valentine’s Days: Be proud of each other.

Don’t just say it to each other. Tell others about your spouse’s accomplishments. No, you don’t have to be a bore about it. But let your spouse know you’re proud of them by telling the world.

Tom’s my best salesman. If a friend or coworker happens to mention that they like mysteries, or just that they like to read, that’s his opening! He hasn’t sold enough books to make a major difference in my writing income. But it definitely makes a difference in my confidence level to hear that he’s proud enough to brag about my writing to anyone who will stand still and listen.

What things have you found true after how many Valentine’s Days with your honey? Or if you’re not coupled at the moment, what makes you feel especially loved — by friends and/or family?

And Check out our New Releases: Kirsten Weiss’s Oolong, Farewell and my own, My Funny Mayfair Valentine. (plus our September Self-Care Contest below)

Oolong, Farewell, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #3

When all the neighbors want you dead…

Abigail Beanblossom is finally getting into the groove of her new Tea and Tarot room. But in Abigail’s mind, when things are going right, that’s exactly when they’re about to go wrong. She never could have guessed, however, that the mother who abandoned her as a child would suddenly return, looking for tea and sympathy.

Now, all Abigail wants is to escape. So, when her grandfather’s friend, Archer, asks Abigail and her partner Hyperion to investigate the murder of his neighbor, the two amateur sleuths leap at the opportunity. Abigail suspects Archer’s fears of arrest are a tempest in a teapot. The victim’s been renting out his mansion for noisy events and bringing the entire neighborhood to a boil. And the old money and nouveau-riche suspects are as plentiful as they are quirky.

But when Archer becomes suspect #1, Abigail and Hyperion must steep themselves in the fraught world of upper-crust homeowners associations and Instagram stars. Because this cockeyed killer is just getting started…

(Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.)

AVAILABLE NOW ON: AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

My Funny Mayfair Valentine, A Marcia Banks and Buddy, #10

A newcomer to Mayfair charms the socks off of Susanna Mayfair, the sheltered niece of the town’s elderly matriarch. In a panic, the aunt turns to service dog trainer Marcia Banks to dig into the man’s past.

What Marcia finds is a disturbing trail of broken hearts and outstanding warrants. But when the man is arrested, he claims it’s a case of mistaken identity.

While Marcia’s police detective husband attempts to untangle the truth and Susanna struggles with her feelings, Marcia is worried about her friend’s mental health, unaware that Susanna may be in physical danger as well. Will she figure it out in time to protect Susanna…and herself?

Just 99 Cents for a Limited Time on: AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And only one week left to ENTER our September Self-Care Contest HERE!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Family Dynamics in Fiction (And Our Contest)

by Kassandra Lamb

Family Dynamics in Fiction

Family dynamics make fascinating fodder for us fiction writers. Even in mysteries, where the main plot revolves around whodunnit, we can weave in some interesting aspects of our characters, based on their pasts and the often complex dynamics in their families of origin.

The main character in my new story, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) has always described her relationship with her mother as “basically good.” That is, until Mom falls in love with a Florida sheriff. She unexpectedly leaves her home state of Maryland to take up long-term residence in Marcia’s guest room, while she and the good sheriff work out the details of their new life together.

And Marcia discovers that she doesn’t really know her mother as well as she thought she did:

…..“Honestly, Marcia, I think you see me as some two-dimensional cutout that’s still standing on the sidewalk back in Maryland, hand raised in a wave, as you drove off in that ratty old van.”
…..“That’s not fair. I see you as a person.”
…..“Do you?” She shot me an exasperated sideways glance.
…..“I do. It’s just that I thought you were more…” I trailed off, trying to find a word for prudish that wasn’t insulting.
…..“People don’t stop growing and changing in their senior years.” Her voice was still huffy. “All that stuff about you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is hooey.”
…..“I know,” I said, though I honestly hadn’t given it much thought before now. I’d assumed that Mom was Mom and would always be the same.
…..It was a tad disconcerting to realize that might not be the case. Who was this woman sitting in my passenger seat?

Excerpt from My Funny Mayfair Valentine

Slowly, Marcia and Mom work toward a better understanding of each other and a more adult-to-adult relationship (while also trying to figure out what gives with the mysterious newcomer to Mayfair who’s dating the town’s “favorite daughter”).

More Mother Issues

Family Dynamics in Fiction

In Kirsten’s new release, Oolong, Farewell, Abigail Beanblossom is dealing with a more blatantly dysfunctional relationship with her narcissistic mother, who abandoned her at age two in order to seek “spiritual enlightenment.” Most of the time, she can ignore her woo-woo mother, but now she has returned to town and is staying with her grandfather.

At her tearoom, Abigail receives a phone call from her Gramps:

…..“Hi, Gramps. How are you doing?” My chin dipped, my chest squeezing, because I knew my mother was driving him crazy. I just didn’t know what I could do about it.
…..“You’ve got to get out of the tearoom,” he said. “Now.”
…..I stiffened. “What? Why?”
…..“She’s on her way. I’m sorry, Abigail. I couldn’t stop her.”
…..My blood ran cold. I didn’t need to be told who she was. My mother.
…..“I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” he continued. “I think… I think you may be her new spiritual quest.”
…..“What?” I yelped.
…..“I know it sounds nutty,” he said, “but she had an odd look in her eye over breakfast when she was talking about you.”
…..My heart gave an odd lurch. “Oh?”
…..“And she threw out all the milk and replaced it with that soy stuff. And she replaced my favorite peanut butter cereal with nuts and twigs. It’s supposed to be healthy, but it tastes like sawdust.”
. . . .
…..I leaned against the cool, concrete wall. “Aside from the milk and cereal, how are things going? With her in the house, I mean.”
…..“The incense burns Peking’s eyes. She knows we hate incense.”
…..Peking was his pet duck. I wasn’t sure if ducks could smell, but I knew Gramps hated incense.
…..I shut my eyes. “Look. If you need a break. She can stay at my place.” Because the only thing worse than the thought of spending time with my mother was the thought of my mother breaking my grandfather.
…..“No,” he said manfully. “It’s okay”….

Excerpt from Oolong, Farewell

Abigail’s business partner, Hyperion Night, tries to be supportive.

..…“My mother’s on her way to the tearoom.”
..…“Seriously? That takes some brass. No offense,” he added quickly. “It’s bad form to criticize other people’s relatives. But… what are you going to do? I know I said you should rip the proverbial bandage off, but I also know it’s not that easy.”
..…“No, it isn’t.” I slumped in the seat. I’d have to face her someday. Just… not today.
…..“Do you think it’s possible she wants to make amends?”
..…“For abandoning me at the airport when I was a toddler?” I rapped out. How do you make up for that? “No, I don’t. I don’t care how much self-actualization she’s gone through. There’s no coming back from that.” My panicked grandparents had raced to collect me while my parents flew to India. I hoped my parents had at least hit turbulence.
…..Hyperion was quiet for a long moment. “But what if there was a way? What if she could come back from it?”
…..“There isn’t, and she can’t.” But my heart pinched. A tiny part of me wanted to believe it was possible. I mentally gave that part of me a swift kick in the butt.
…..This happened every time my parents came back. I’d get my hopes up that they’d changed, that things would be different, that they wanted me. And every damn time I’d been disappointed.
…..I wasn’t going through all that again.

Excerpt from Oolong, Farewell

Between their efforts to clear a friend of a murder charge, Abigail continues to struggle with a concept that she gets intellectually, but is having trouble applying emotionally. That forgiveness is not about the other person, it’s for one’s own mental health.

Over to you all – As a reader, how do you feel about family dynamics in fiction, especially as subplots in mysteries?

Here are the blurbs and PREORDER links for the books…And don’t forget to enter out contest below!

Oolong, Farewell, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #3

When all the neighbors want you dead…

Abigail Beanblossom is finally getting into the groove of her new Tea and Tarot room. But in Abigail’s mind, when things are going right, that’s exactly when they’re about to go wrong.

She never could have guessed, however, that the mother who abandoned her as a child would suddenly return, looking for tea and sympathy. Now, all Abigail wants is to escape. So, when her grandfather’s friend, Archer, asks Abigail and her partner Hyperion to investigate the murder of his neighbor, the two amateur sleuths leap at the opportunity.

Abigail suspects Archer’s fears of arrest are a tempest in a teapot. The victim’s been renting out his mansion for noisy events and bringing the entire neighborhood to a boil. And the old money and nouveau-riche suspects are as plentiful as they are quirky.

But when Archer becomes suspect #1, Abigail and Hyperion must steep themselves in the fraught world of upper-crust homeowners associations and Instagram stars. Because this cockeyed killer is just getting started…

(Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.)

RELEASES ON 9/21/2020 ~ AVAILABLE NOW FOR PREORDER ON:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

My Funny Mayfair Valentine, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #10

A newcomer to Mayfair charms the socks off of Susanna Mayfair, the sheltered niece of the town’s elderly matriarch. In a panic, the aunt turns to service dog trainer Marcia Banks to dig into the man’s past.

What Marcia finds, with her detective husband Will’s help, is disturbing—a trail of broken hearts and outstanding warrants. But when the older gentleman is arrested, he claims it’s a case of mistaken identity.

While Will attempts to untangle the truth and Susanna struggles with her feelings, Marcia is worried about her friend’s mental health, unaware that Susanna may be in physical danger as well. Will Marcia figure it out in time to protect Susanna…and herself?

RELEASES ON 9/22/2020 ~ AVAILABLE NOW FOR PREORDER ON:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And don’t forget to Enter Our September Self-Care Contest HERE!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Age Is Relative, Especially During a Pandemic (Plus a New Contest!)

by Kassandra lamb

My birthday and Labor Day are usually close together, sometimes on the same day. This year, they were three days apart, and both were bittersweet. On Labor Day, hubs and I grilled burgers, but it was just the two of us, as it has been now for months, and my birthday…well…

At the beginning of 2020, I didn’t feel all that old. I was 67, in my “mid-sixties.” *wink, wink* I was basically in good health, just some annoying chronic issues, but nothing that seriously impaired my quality of life.

And then we had a pandemic.

Age is Relative!
Not my birthday cake, but about the right number of candles, if six of them represent decades! (photo by Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash)

And I was in one of the “high risk” groups—those over 60. Of greater concern was that my husband was 70, higher risk still.

So we hunkered down, as advised by the CDC, for the duration. Only the duration has been a lot longer than we counted on.

And knowing that we have to stay home as much as possible has made us very aware of our age, on a daily basis.

Then, last week, I turned 68. I am now in my “late sixties.” Somehow, this year has aged me more than any year should. I feel like I’ve been robbed of my last year in my “youthful” mid-sixties.

Which brings me to the point of this post…

Age is relative!

And the older you get, the more relative age is.

As in, it’s related to a lot of different factors. One, of course, is how healthy you are. Another is how old you look. I’ve finally hit the age where it’s a good thing to have oily skin. I have virtually no wrinkles.

But one thing I’ve had to come to grips with during this pandemic is gray hair. I’ve gone to the hairdresser religiously every 5 weeks for years, having my roots touched up—not necessarily to cover the few gray hairs I had in my younger days, but because I like being a redhead. I’ve had auburn hair for so long now that my “natural” brunette doesn’t seem natural anymore.

But there’s been no going to the hairdresser for months, and I’m discovering that I am now MOSTLY GRAY! Yup, my “natural” color is no longer brunette; it’s a rather splendid silver tone!

So I keep debating…

Age is relative

Should I let the gray grow out completely, or go for a lighter auburn dye when I can finally get my hair done professionally again? *sigh*

Every few weeks, I hack away at my hair when it gets too long and heavy around my face… and put off the decision to gray, or not to gray.

Meanwhile, restlessness has set in. Time becomes more precious as you age. You become more aware of having only a limited amount of it left. So not being able to see my friends and extended family is starting to get to me.

Okay, I want to stop here and say that I am grateful.

I’ve not lost loved ones to this insane disease, and my heart goes out to those who have. And to the first responders, medical personnel and other essential workers who are putting themselves on the front lines every day! And to those who’ve suffered financial setbacks, sometimes life-changing, because of this pandemic. I do very much realize that I am one of the lucky ones who only has to deal with the self-isolation.

Now back to the concept that age is relative. Barring major health issues, aging is more and more a state of mind the older we get. As a friend of mine once said, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, “How did my 25-year-old mind get trapped in this 50-year-old body?”

I don’t particularly appreciate being reminded on a daily basis, by Covid-19, of my age. It makes it harder to keep myself “thinking young.” One thing that helps, though, is playing with my imaginary friends (i.e., my characters), many of whom are still younger than me. I have been writing a lot, during my quarantine. It’s a good distraction.

Maybe all of this is why the theme of “age is relative” ended up in my new story, coming out on September 22, My Funny Mayfair Valentine. Marcia Banks finds herself dealing with the interplay of age and romance, with her own mother and also other “older” members of the Mayfair community.

(And yes, I know it’s a little weird to release a Valentine’s Day story in September, but it was ready and I figured no point in making my readers wait for it. We can all use as much diversion as possible right now.)

How about you? Do you feel the pandemic is aging you before your time?

Oh, and we have a new contest! See below.

My Funny Mayfair Valentine, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #10

A newcomer to Mayfair charms the socks off of Susanna Mayfair, the sheltered niece of the town’s elderly matriarch. In a panic, the aunt turns to service dog trainer Marcia Banks to dig into the man’s past.

What Marcia finds, with her detective husband Will’s help, is disturbing—a trail of broken hearts and outstanding warrants. But when the older gentleman is arrested, he claims it’s a case of mistaken identity.

While Will attempts to untangle the truth and Susanna struggles with her feelings, Marcia is worried about her friend’s mental health, unaware that Susanna may be in physical danger as well. Will Marcia figure it out in time to protect Susanna…and herself?

Available for Preorder Now for just $0.99 ~ Goes up to $2.99 after release on 9/22/20

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And Our New SEPTEMBER SELF-CARE CONTEST!

Win a Self-Care Box of Goodies from Etsy and 4 Signed Paperbacks!

Age Is Relative -- Sept. Self-Care Contest
Age is Relative -- Sept. Self-Care Contest

Click HERE for more details and to Enter!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

Announcing a New Stress Management Resource For You

We’re taking this week off from blogging. But we wanted to let you know that we now have the information on Stress Management from our blog summarized for you on one topic page HERE. This stress management resource also has links to all relevant posts.

You might want to bookmark this page for future reference.

And Stay Tuned for our September Contest — to be announced soon!!

Here’s a hint:

PLUS SOME PAPERBACKS!!

Handling Stress, Part IV: How We Interpret Stressors (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

As we’re launching our new misterio press Facebook readers group this month, I’m re-running my series on stress management. Definitely useful info right now!

Over the last three weeks, we’ve talked about the three components of stress: the stressors (stressful events) in our lives, our body’s response to those stressors and how we interpret stressors cognitively and emotionally.

And we’ve drilled down some on the subject of stressors and our body’s response, and last week, we explored some easy ways to add relaxation breaks to your daily schedule (and why that’s sooo important). If you haven’t read the three previous posts, they are full of helpful tips, so I hope you’ll check them out.

Today, I want to talk about that third factor: how we interpret stressors. What is our own take on the events in our lives? Because, for the most part, a stressor isn’t a stressor until we view it that way (a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a few exceptions, some sneaky stressors).

This is why something can be sooo stressful to one person and someone else thinks they’re nuts for worrying about it. How we interpret stressors is unique to each individual, influenced by personality and past experiences.

This used to be one of my husband’s biggest stressors…

how we interpret stressors -- fear of flying
(photo by Dylan Ashe, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When we were first married, he was a basketcase whenever we had to fly somewhere. We had to get to the airport extra early, so he could have a drink in the airport bar to brace himself. But once we were on the plane, he wouldn’t drink.

Now, this was back in the days when alcohol on the plane was free (Yes, folks, once upon a time, airlines fed you for free, and they would get you liquored up as well. No extra charge!)

Not only did I think the man was crazy, I was pissed that he was buying overpriced drinks in the airport and then not drinking the free stuff on the plane. One trip, I confronted him, and he explained that he couldn’t drink on the plane because he had to be able to concentrate.

“Concentrate on what?” I asked.

“On willing the plane to stay in the air,” he answered.

At that point, I truly thought I’d married a madman.

I later found out, as a psychology graduate student, that this wasn’t an unusual fantasy on the part of folks afraid of flying. It’s their way of taking control of a situation where they feel out of control. (Control is often a big factor in how we interpret stressors.)

Fortunately, my husband finally figured out what was going on with his fear of flying. I won’t go into details since it’s not my story to tell. Suffice it to say that he’d had some bad experiences with people being in charge of his life, who were incompetent. So having someone else in control of his safety made him very nervous.

how we interpret stressors
(photo by Peretz Partensky, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I, on the other hand, am one of those people who will run you over to get to a window seat. Then I squeal, “Look at the cute little cars and houses down there. It looks like a Christmas garden.” (My husband wears earplugs on planes; I can’t imagine why.)

My attitude is that since I can’t control whether or not the plane stays in the air, I might as well relax and enjoy the ride.

Now, let’s talk about job stress.

My husband handles it fairly well. Why? Because he’s an easy-going guy (has to be, to put up with me!) who doesn’t mind having bosses, as long as they’re not an idiot. And if his boss is an idiot, he just figures out a work-around and moves on.

I, however, have no patience whatsoever with idiot bosses, and it seems like I have had way more than my share of them. Of course, my definition of an idiot boss is any boss who doesn’t leave me completely alone to do my job without any interference. That could be part of the problem.

Yes, I am cussedly independent! So much so that by the time I completed graduate school, I’d decided that I really needed to be self-employed. I went into private practice as a mental health counselor.

how we interpret stressors
(photo by ThisIsRobsLife, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

It was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I totally loved my job! There were plenty of other stressors involved in being self-employed, but they all paled by comparison to how I had felt when I was being micro-managed by others. So I was a happy camper!

Fast forward 15 years and I was burning out on listening to other people’s descriptions of their stressful lives. I had done a little teaching here and there and really loved the interaction with students. Applying to teach college part-time seemed a good solution. Then, I could cut my counseling hours back so it wouldn’t be so stressful.

I landed an adjunct position at Towson University. I  liked the department chair and the atmosphere in the psychology department, and was told there would be an ongoing need for my services as long as I did a good job.

Imagine my shock when halfway into the first semester I started having anxiety attacks any time I crossed paths with my department chair. Did I mention I liked him? I really did, so why was I so nervous around him? By the end of the semester, I was actually considering quitting, even though I loved everything else about teaching.

I finally figured out that having a boss again, even one I liked, was pushing my control buttons. I wasn’t completely in charge of my own destiny anymore, as I had been for years. Indeed, when you teach college part-time, your employment is completely at the whim of your department chair. You are a contractual semester-to-semester employee.

This was the source of my anxiety. And no amount of lecturing myself about how everybody at Towson liked me and said I was doing a good job seemed to help.

After much thought, I hit on a solution, a way to reframe the situation in my own mind. I reminded myself that there were roughly fifty colleges within commuting distance of my home (the Baltimore-Washington area at that time). So I should think of myself as a self-employed contractor, who was offering my expertise to these schools on a contractual basis. If I didn’t like a school or they didn’t hire me back, I would just take my expertise elsewhere.

It worked! I felt so much better and was able to relax and really enjoy teaching. I taught at Towson for 9 years, until my husband and I both retired and we moved to Florida. It turned out to be one of my favorite jobs ever!

Now if you’re thinking, “How silly. All you changed is how you thought about the situation,” you are exactly right. Except about the ‘silly’ part.

That’s the whole point. How we think and feel about a stressor very much affects how much it stresses us!

how we interpret stressors
(photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash)

Back to my husband and his fear of flying. His fears dissipated dramatically when we started using a certain airline that had two things going for it. One, the crews are trained to be super friendly; the pilot stands at the door and greets the passengers as they board. Two, a friend of ours is a pilot for this particular airline, and we know he’s a competent guy.

When my husband felt that those in charge of keeping the plane in the air were real people, friendly and competent, he was able to relax. Over time, his fear of flying completely disappeared. Today, he prefers flying over driving, whenever possible.

How about you? Any stressors come to mind that might not be so stressful if you were able to shift your interpretation of them?

Oh, and don’t forget to check out our new Readers’ Group on Facebook and to enter our August Beach Reads contest there. You get two extra entries by joining the group.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Handling Stress, Part III: Simple Relaxation Techniques (encore) ~ Plus our Contest!

by Kassandra Lamb

For the month of August, while our misterio authors are focused on launching our new Readers’ Group (pop over to enter our contest!), we are re-running my series on stress management. Today, in our third installment, we’ll be talking about the best antidote to stress—relaxation.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve talked about the three components of stress: the stressors (stressful events) in our lives, our body’s response to those stressors and how we interpret stressors cognitively and emotionally.

And we’ve drilled down some on the subject of stressors and our body’s response to stress. (Both of those posts are chock full of tips for reducing stress, so I hope you’ll check them out.) Next week, I’ll explore how we interpret stressors and how to change those interpretations to lower stress.

simple relaxation techniques -- woman receiving shoulder massage
(Rama Day Spa Frankfurt — photo by Thomas Wanhoff from Phnom Penh Cambodia CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

But on to today’s topic…

What do you think of when you hear the word relaxation? A long soak in a hot tub, a massage, going to a yoga class, a vacation to the beach…

Those are excellent ways to relax, but they require some time and effort. So, if you’re like me, you may very well put off doing those things until you are “less busy.” (Which rarely seems to happen for me.)

There are however, many simple relaxation techniques you can use throughout every day. AND it is important to relax throughout the day, every day. Those big relaxers are great, but they don’t last. I get a massage and the tension is back in my shoulders by the next day–sometimes sooner.

Why is it important to relax throughout the day? Remember that part of the nervous system that controls arousal vs. relaxation that we talked about two weeks ago?

Quick refresher:

The autonomic nervous system controls our body’s response to challenges and threats in our environment. When something is threatening/challenging us, the sympathetic branch of the ANS arouses our body to meet that challenge. Our heart rate, blood pressure, etc. go up, muscles tense, respiration increases, etc. When the challenge is over, the parasympathetic branch calms us down again so everything can go back to normal.

(photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash)

These two branches counterbalance each other, like the old-fashioned teeter-toters on children’s playgrounds. When one kid pushes off and goes up, the kid on the other side goes down.

Every time we activate the parasympathetic branch (relaxation) we are deactivating the sympathetic branch (arousal). And then it takes a little while for the body to get all stressed out and tense again.

Let me say that again—every time you take a couple of minutes to relax, it takes a lot more stress to get you all tense again.

In terms of our minds, when we use simple relaxation techniques throughout the day, we recharge our coping batteries so that we go back to the tasks at hand with a clearer focus. Thus the time spent on these short breaks will actually enhance our productivity.

simple relaxation techniques -- get comfy
Get comfortable! (photos by Ian Dooley, Sophie Dale, Kelly McCrimmon, and Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash)

So here are some quick and simple relaxation techniques one can use periodically throughout the day. All of these can be done in 5-10 minutes, some of them even less than that.

Btw, with all of these (except #4) it’s a good idea to be seated or lying down. It doesn’t matter where—you can even do these in a car (preferably not while driving!)—as long as each part of your body is comfortably supported.

1.  Progressive relaxation:

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, then focus on each muscle group, telling those muscles to relax completely. You can start either with your scalp or your feet. I’m a scalp person myself. I imagine the tension just flowing down and out of my body.

After my scalp, I tell my face muscles to relax (sometimes the jaw needs separate attention), then my neck, shoulders, etc. I imagine the relaxation slowly moving down my arms and hands, and down my legs, as all the tension flows out the soles of my feet.

2.  Guided imagery:

simple relaxation techniques -- guided imagery

No need to book a flight or pack your bags. Just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine your favorite relaxing vacation spot. Build the imagery by engaging all the senses.

Lay on the beach and feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze on your skin, hear the seagulls and the lapping waves, smell the salt in the air, etc.

Or perhaps you’re more the cabin-in-the-woods type. It really doesn’t matter where you go, as long as it is relaxing for you. Again, engage as many of your senses as possible to help put yourself in that place.

Can’t think of a relaxing place to go, or not the best at imagining things. Then try a little…

3.  Self-hypnosis:

simple relaxation techniques -- self-hypnosis
(photo by Danny Howe on Unsplash)

Hypnosis has this big mystic around it, that it really doesn’t merit. It’s nothing more or less than using the power of suggestion, while the mind is in a relaxed state, to influence our behavior/mood.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and visualize a set of steps in your mind’s eye (or a hill gently sloping downward in front of you). Imagine yourself slowly going down those steps/that hill and tell yourself (silently inside your head, and repeat the suggestion several times) that with each step you will become more and more relaxed. Once at the bottom, tell yourself that you will relax completely for a certain number of minutes (whatever time you have available), and then you will ‘wake up’ refreshed and energized (again, repeat this suggestion several times).

Then just let yourself drift. You may want to set a timer or alarm on your phone, just in case, but 9 times out of 10, your internal clock will get it right and you’ll “wake up” at the time you designated.

If even imagining a hill or staircase is not that easy for you, then count slowly to 10 or 20, telling yourself that when you reach that final number, you will be completely relaxed.

4.  Deep breathing:

I’ve saved the easiest and fastest of these simple relaxation techniques for last.

Have you noticed a trend above? Each time you start with a deep breath.

simple relaxation techniques

That’s because deep breathing automatically engages the parasympathetic (relaxation) branch of the ANS and gets the ball rolling.

So if you don’t have time to stop even for 5 minutes, you can just do the deep breathing. Three slow, deep breaths in a row can do wonders!

I also saved this one for last because I have a fun story to share. A friend of mine was going through a really busy time (a new job plus planning her daughter’s wedding). I kept reminding her to take time to relax, and she kept saying she couldn’t do that. She would relax once XYZ was off her plate. Everything I suggested, she said she didn’t have time or wouldn’t remember to do it.

So I suggested that I hypnotize her and give her post-hypnotic suggestions that whenever she started to get tense she would automatically take a deep breath. She gave me a skeptical look, but she did sit still long enough for me to do this.

The next time I saw her was about two weeks later. I asked how the deep breathing was going.

“It´s wonderful!” she said. “I don´t have to think about it. I just automatically take a breath whenever I need to relax some. There was one problem though. Jim (her husband) kept looking at me funny. I finally asked him why and he said he was worried about me because I was so depressed.”

“‘I’m not depressed,’ I told him. ‘What gave you that idea?’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re constantly walking around the house sighing.’” 😀

I suggest trying all of these simple relaxation techniques and then focusing on the one(s) that work best for you. I mainly use #1 and #3 myself.

What do you think? Which of these techniques appeal the most to you? Or do you have other ways that you like to relax?

Oh, and don’t forget to check out our new Readers’ Group on Facebook and to enter our August Beach Reads contest there. You get two extra entries by joining the group.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

Handling Stress, Part II: Managing the Stressors in our Lives (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

As the authors of misterio press deal with the “good” stressor of launching our new Readers’ Group, I’m re-running (and updating) my series of posts on stress management from a few years ago.

Last week, I talked about the three factors involved in how stressed we feel at any given time. These are (1) the stressors in our lives, (2) the body’s response to them, and (3) our cognitive/emotional interpretation of those stressors.

Last time, I drilled down some on the body’s response to stressors (the flight-or-fight response), and I talked about how stress is good, energizing even, up to a point—that point being the stress threshold that we all have and beyond which we have maxed out our coping ability.

If we want to avoid stress overload, we have to keep our stress level below our threshold, and in order to do that, we need to understand the stressors in our lives.

Happy Events Are Still Stressful.

the stressors in our lives -- even happy events are stressors
Heading into the church just before my wedding. Note the spaced-out look on my face. My mother’s hanging onto my arm because I think I was staggering a bit.

Can I see a show of hands, folks? How many of you were in a bit of a daze on your wedding day? I know I was.

And it wasn’t a blissful, I’m-so-happy daze either. It wasn’t even an I’m-worried-about-what-can-go-wrong daze. It was more an I’m-so-overwhelmed-because-it-took-so-much-to-get-here daze.

I actually remember very little of the ceremony itself, mainly the bloopers: my father tripping over my train, the fly buzzing around our heads, and my husband forgetting the vows we had written together and supposedly memorized. And no, I’m not remembering those things because I was upset about them. I actually found them to be moments of comic relief that brought me out of my daze a bit.

I have a fairly clear memory of the reception, however, because that’s when the stress level finally got down below my threshold!

So yes, happy events still add to our stress level, because they use our resources: time, energy and emotional coping ability.

And here’s another thing about stressors that most people don’t realize.

Stressors Are Cumulative.

the stressors in our lives are cumulative
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.com

You don’t have to have some major stressor going on in your life in order to end up too close to or even past your threshold. If we’ve got too much little stuff going on, it can push us over the edge.

And we Americans tend to carry around way too big a stack of little stuff, sometimes without even realizing we’re doing it. Then stress overload can sneak up on us.

So one of the things we can do—indeed, we should do—when we realize we are too close to our stress threshold or have passed it, is to reduce the number of stressors. More on this in a moment.

Some Stressors Can Be Sneaky

Some things in our environment are stressful without our realizing it, because we are “used to them.” And/or we may like those things and therefore assume that they are not stressing us.

These stressors include sensory stimulation, noise, environmental temperature, etc.

I’ll use noise as an example. Even if you love the hustle and bustle of the city (85 dB), its noise level is still stressing your body. You may love listening to loud rock music (90+ dB) in order to “relax,” but its noise level is still stressing your body. (For comparison’s sake, the average conversation is about 50 decibels.)

the stressors in our lives -- noise is a stressor
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.com

Regardless of how you feel about the source, any noise above about 70 decibels is triggering that flight-or-fight response.

Again, our nervous systems are designed for more primitive times, to protect us from roaring lions and marauding enemy tribes. So when it registers loud noises, it assumes something threatening is going on. (For more on how noise is stressful, check out this article.)

Reducing Stressors — Hafta vs. Wanna

I used to teach a community education class on stress management. The first session, I’d give my students a homework assignment—to list everything they normally did on an average weekday, including minor tasks like loading the dishwasher or making the bed. Then they were to divide that list into two columns, labeled “hafta” and “wanna.”

The next class, I would ask them how many things were on their hafta list vs. their wanna list. Often there were more haftas than wannas; sometimes they were about even.

I would then point out that if they had more than 3-4 things on their hafta list, it was too long. They’d all look at me like I’d lost my mind – until I started going down some poor volunteer’s list asking, “Do you have to make the bed? …go to work? …pack your children’s lunches?” (Yes, I’d even challenge the premise that they had to feed their kids!)

The conversation would go something like this:

  • “Why do you have to do that?” I’d ask.
  • Usually the answer would boil down to some version of because they were responsible adults.
  • “Do you have to be a responsible adult? What happens if you’re not a responsible adult?”
  • They’d list a bunch of dire consequences, such as losing their house if they didn’t earn a living, or people looking down on them if their kids went to school in dirty clothes.
  • “And you don’t like those things, right?”
  • “Right.”
  • “So you choose to do this other thing (pointing to the item on their hafta list) to avoid those consequences?”
  • “Well, yeah.”
  • “So it’s a wanna. You want to do this to avoid that, because you don’t like that.”
  • “Well, yeah.”

I highly recommend this little exercise. Make your two lists without thinking about it too much. Then go down the hafta list and ask yourself what the consequences would be if you didn’t do that thing, or if you did it differently, in a less stressful way.

One objective here is to take back your sense of power over your life. You are doing these things out of choice, not because you have to do them. Feeling in control of the stressors in your life has been scientifically proven to reduce the amount of stress experienced.

And you may identify some things that you really don’t hafta do, nor do you wanna do them. (Making my own spaghetti sauce from scratch got dumped the first time I did this exercise; why should I go through all that when store-bought sauce actually tastes better than mine.)

Through the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself if a task is a hafta or a wanna, and then I ask do I truly wanna be doing it. This habit has served me well. It’s kept me from tipping over into stress overload on more than a few occasions.

Dump, Delegate, Postpone and Pamper

When we find ourselves on the brink of, or actually in stress overload (i.e., we have exceeded our threshold and we aren’t coping with anything anymore), the first thing we need to do is reduce the number of stressors in our life.

The formula for this, that I developed years ago, is Dump, Delegate, Postpone and Pamper.  “Just remember, DDPP,” I would tell my therapy clients.

One client jokingly said, “That sounds like a pesticide.” And thus DDPP was dubbed “Kass’s stressicide formula.”

reducing the stressors in our lies -- dump, delegate, postpone and pamper
Photo by Ildar Sagdejev CC-BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons

DUMP: Is a particular task really necessary or can you simply stop doing it, temporarily at least?

When I’m stressed out, the first thing that goes is making the bed. I like a neat house and a bedroom with a made bed. But it’s not essential. I can let it go when other things are demanding my coping resources.

DELEGATE: Is there someone else who also legitimately shares responsibility for the task you are stressed about? Or is there someone you can trade off with to deal with some of the current stressors, and you’ll pay them back in kind later?

In the mid 1990’s I was getting burned out as a therapist, so I started teaching part-time and cutting back on my psychotherapy practice. My husband and I negotiated a little deal. During the last three crunchy weeks of the semester, when I had a gazillion papers to grade, final exams to write, etc., he would do pretty much all the household chores. Then during my winter and summer breaks, I would do pretty much all of them so he could have a break.

POSTPONE: I’m not advocating procrastination here. But if it’s something that can legitimately be put off without causing harm or making things more stressful, then do it!

After my husband retired from his long-term career, he began teaching part-time. He quickly came to appreciate just how bad that end of semester crunch can get. And in the fall semester, it came just as we were getting ready for the holidays.

One of his tasks was writing the Christmas cards. That year, he decided to adopt the European tradition of sending New Year’s cards instead—in January when he was on winter break. 🙂

PAMPER: Unfortunately when we’re stressed out, the first thing that goes is taking care of ourselves. But that’s when our bodies and minds need pampering the most.

reducing the stressors in our lives -- pampering
Photo by Perfecto Capucine on unsplash.com

We need to pay more attention, not less, to getting enough sleep and trying to eat a healthy diet. Because when we’re in stress overload we are past that health threshold I talked about last week. We are putting more wear and tear on our bodies than they can really handle.

A few minutes of relaxation, a few times a day, can do wonders. Stop, sit, put your feet up, close your eyes, take a deep breath. Read, take a bubble bath, or both, or just sit and daydream.

The time spent relaxing will be well invested, and not just from a health standpoint. You’ll find that you are more focused and productive when you go back to doing the tasks you need to get done.

More on relaxation next week!

How about you? What’s on your hafta list that’s probably really a wanna? And do you still wanna be doing it? What can you dump, delegate or postpone when you’re in or near stress overload?

Oh, and don’t forget to check out our new Readers’ Group on Facebook and to enter our August Beach Reads contest there. You get two extra entries by joining the group.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

Handling Stress, Part I: Stress Isn’t Always Bad (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Misterio press has started a new Readers’ Group and we’re finding it a bit time-consuming getting it off the ground (Check it and our August Beach Read Contest out HERE), so I figured this was a good time to re-run some posts on handling stress.

Here’s the first one, on why stress isn’t always a bad thing?

I was more than a little shocked, years ago, when my graduate school professor informed my class that stress is a good thing, up to a point. You might—as I did at the time—find this hard to believe.

But hang on! Here’s the definition of stress: The activation of our physical and emotional resources to cope with the challenges of life. Now when that challenge is a traffic jam or a deadline at work, that’s no fun.

handling stress -- it isn't always bad

But if we didn’t like getting activated now and again, why would we do things like ride roller coasters?

Or play sports, or read a mystery novel for that matter. If feels good to get the heart thumping a bit and the juices flowing.

But even when we’re not doing something quite as drastic as hanging upside down from a roller coaster, stress is a good thing, up to a point, in everyday life.

Let me go back and explain a few things first, so this makes more sense.

Why Stress has a Bad Reputation

Our bodies were designed to handle far more primitive challenges than we face today. Most of the challenges our cave-person ancestors encountered were physical, such as hunting for food or fending off wild animals and hostile tribes.

So our bodies have this thing called the stress response that prepares us for physical action to deal with those physical challenges. Heart rate and blood pressure go up, adrenaline’s released, muscles tense, you start sweating, and your digestive system temporarily shuts down (because it’s more important to deal with the sabertooth tiger trying to eat you than it is to digest what you just ate).

handling stress -- pacing tiger

Today, however, 90% of our challenges are psychological and emotional–coping with changes in our lives, relationships, deadlines, etc.

So you’re sitting at your computer all stressed out about the report/paper you’re trying to finish for your boss/teacher, while your body is preparing you to fight off tigers.

All those physical changes take a toll on your body, especially when you don’t actually do anything physical in response to the stressor.

There’s a part of our nervous systems, called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), that deals with all this. The ANS has two branches, the sympathetic branch (SNS) that causes all those changes listed above, plus several more (the flight-or-fight response), and the parasympathetic branch (PNS), that brings our bodies back to a calm state once the challenge or threat is over.

So after our ancestors fought the sabertooth tiger, their bodies would go “ah, time to relax.” (Assuming they won, that is.) Their PNS would kick in. Heart rate and BP came back down, muscles relaxed, digestion came back online, and life was good again. 🙂

In modern society, we tend to be stressed for longer periods of time, with no physical outlet. This is what does such a number on our bodies! You’ve probably heard the old expression, “All dressed up and no place to go.” Well, this is all revved up and no place to go!

Why Do We Feel Stressed?

We tend to assume that our stress level is dictated by how much we have on our to-do lists. But stressors are not the only factors involved when handling stress.

That grad school prof I mentioned above taught us a three-factor model to understand stress. His explanations regarding how stress works and what to do about it made so much sense, they have stuck with me for 30 years! And I’ve passed them on to hundreds of my students.

I’ll go into more detail regarding these factors in future posts. For now, a brief summary.

The first factor is the stressors. Some events–getting married, losing a job, etc.–are biggies in the stressor category, but a lot of little stuff can add up as well. And even good events contribute to our stress load, because they still require resources to deal with them.

photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author (from WANA Commons)

Take vacations, for example. We go on them to relieve stress, right? But they also cause stress! We’ve gotta plan them, pack for them, make sure stuff at work is organized to get along without us, deal with traveling hassles, worry about lost luggage… you get the picture.

The second factor in how stressed we feel is our body’s response to stress. There are several issues here. Do our bodies have any predisposed vulnerabilities to stress-induced illnesses? What is our innate tolerance for stress (called our stress threshold)? More on this in a moment. And last but not least, how often do we relax our bodies? This makes a huge difference in our stress level.

Third is our cognitive and emotional interpretation of the stressors. There are exceptions, but most stressors are not stressors until we interpret them as such. Quick example: I love to drive. I find it relaxing. For my husband, it is one of the most stressful aspects of life. How we perceive stressors is going to be affected by our personalities and our past experiences.

In later posts I’ll dissect these factors a bit more, plus talk about what we need to do to handle stress better. Today, I want to focus on the stress threshold aspect of the body’s response.

So Get to the Point; Why Is Stress Good, Up to a Point?

Okay, okay. Here it is.

We all have a stress threshold, the point at which our coping ability is exhausted. Below that threshold, stress is a good thing. It motivates and energizes us. Have you ever had a day (hopefully you’ve had many like this) when you’re feeling good, chugging along at a nice pace, getting a whole bunch of stuff accomplished?

I love days like that! The challenges are manageable and I’m being activated to meet them. That activation makes me feel alive and gives me a sense of achievement.

The problem arises when the stress level hits our threshold, and sometimes–no, make that often–we don’t see this coming. We may feel our best, the most energized and alive, when we’re hovering dangerously close to this threshold. And then one more little stressor comes along, and whammo, we’re over the edge.

This threshold is an on-off switch. When our coping ability is gone, it’s gone. One minute we’re handling everything, the next, we’re not handling anything.

So it behooves us to stop and think before we pile yet another stressor on an already full plate.

handling stress

Here’s another sneaky problem with this dang threshold thing. There are actually two of them. The one I just described is our psychological one.

The other is our health threshold. We’ve reached that one when our tissues and organs are suffering more wear and tear per day from stress than can be repaired that night while we sleep. When we’re past that threshold, we’re putting ourselves at risk for a whole slew of stress-related ailments, including heart disease and cancer.

And here’s the total kicker. The health threshold is lower than the psychological one. So we may still be handling stress well emotionally, may even feel great about all we’re getting done, when we are already doing our bodies damage from that level of stress!

Optimizing the Good Stress, Minimizing the Bad

So the moral of the story, folks: If we want to live long and prosper, we need to stay in the good stress level zone, comfortably below our threshold. That way, we’re not putting excessive wear and tear on our bodies, and we’re leaving some leeway for unforeseen stressors.

To accomplish this, one has to do two things. First, pay attention to your stress level for a while and get a sense of just how much stuff you can handle (i.e., where your threshold is). And while you’re doing that, pay attention to your early warning signs that you are not handling stress well, that you are getting too close to your threshold.

For me, it’s getting grumpy and short-tempered (my husband would say, getting grumpier and more short-tempered). The big flag is if I start losing it on the road when other drivers cut me off or are dragging their feet. Normally, I just mumble something sarcastic like, “Uh, ya see that pedal, the long skinny one on the right?” And then I let it go.

Beware of Cliff Edge sign -- handling stress
Sign at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

But if I find myself yelling at them (inside my car; I’m not crazy enough to actually get in their face) and I’m still fuming about it when I get to my destination…

As Jeff Foxworthy would say, “Here’s your sign.”

I am way too close to the edge of that cliff. It is time to pare down the stressors in order to get comfortably back in the good-stress-level range again. (More on how to do this next week and other tips for handling stress.)

I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to stand too close to that edge; the ground might just crumble away beneath me.

What about you, what are your early warning signs that you’re getting too close to the stress-overload cliff?

More on handling stress next week. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our new Readers’ Group on Facebook and to enter our August Beach Reads contest there. You get two extra entries by joining the group.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.