Dealing With Stress in Stressful Times

It's vital to have a quiet corner in your life. (Credit: Ward Clark)

It's been a stressful few days. We Americans are dealing with a lot right now: a dysfunctional government, an incapable and corrupt president, a bitterly fought campaign season already under way, a war in Eastern Europe, and now another one, a particularly savage war initiated by barbarians, in the Middle East. Add to that a non-stop news cycle; if you, like me, are an info junkie, it's hard to stop drinking from that fire hose.

It's important to have healthy ways of dealing with stress.

My parents were well acquainted with stress. Both of them grew up during the Depression. Dad served in WW2 as a bomber navigator in the Army Air Corps; Mom was a Western Union switchboard operator in 1944 and 1945. Even in their older years, when I was a young man in the '70s and '80s, they still had sources of stress: recovering from the occasional floods, issues around their kids and grand-kids, the usual things you cannot get through life without facing at some time or another. I could always tell when either of them was feeling the pressure. In those times, I would find Mom out in her huge flower garden, and Dad would be up in the woods, cleaning up the trails, sitting on one of the benches he had scattered through the timber, or just walking. That's how they relaxed from the pressures of life, and it worked for them.

I'm fortunate enough to live in a place where there are many such opportunities. We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the United States; here in the Great Land, there are endless stretches of forest, millions of peaceful lakes, and hundreds of thousands of miles of wild rivers. Like my father before me, I have always found my peace and solace in wild places. In our Susitna Valley homestead, I'm surrounded by them. Only yesterday, after putting together a piece that made me angry in the writing, I went outside, felt the cold Alaskan autumn breeze, listened to the wind in the birches and spruce around our property, and watched the chickadees and nuthatches at the feeder for a while. As I did that, the stress and anger drained away, replaced with a measure of peace.

The trees don't care about politics. The chickadees don't worry about wars. The mountains, the lakes, the rivers, all of them will be there tomorrow, next week, next year, next millennium, no matter what we humans do to screw up our own existence. It is that very eternal nature of wild places that makes me feel at peace.

I have friends who turn to religion to deal with stressful times, which can be very effective. I know others who deal with it by volunteer work in their kids' schools, or by playing games, or just socializing with friends. The method isn't as important as the result. Stress can damage your health; stress, if not lessened in some way, can kill you. The method of dealing with these times is as individual as each of us, but the key is to have one, a way of escaping the pressures of life into something you enjoy; a means of lessening the stresses of these stressful times. Wild places are mine; your mileage, as always, may vary.

I'm also very fortunate indeed to have a beautiful marriage to someone I love, and who not only loves me in return but who understands me, my compulsive workaholism, my info-junkie nature, my occasional fits of stress, and who helps me deal with it. To her, more than anyone else, I owe my continued sanity.

Bear always in mind the words of Robert Frost. He wrote these words many years ago, but they are just as meaningful today:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

We all have miles to go before we sleep. But it's important, also, to stop now and then, and watch the woods fill up with snow.


Trending on RedState Videos