At precisely 6:00 a.m. the alarm clock rudely buzzes. Lori groans involuntarily as she fumbles for the switch to turn it off, then rolls on her back and forces her still-groggy mind to contemplate the day. Rain is softly pelting her window. Its gentle sound sparks a fast and furious flow of thoughts…
Oh, no. . . the last time it rained, there were traffic tie-ups all over the interstates. I won’t make it to work on time! Last week Madeline gave me the most hateful look for arriving a few minutes late. . . just my luck to have a boss who doesn’t like me! If there was ever a layoff at work, my name would be at the top of the list. And then how would I pay the mortgage? What would I tell the children? How would I feed them?
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Today’s 38.5 million kids in this country between the ages of 2 and 18 are part of the digital generation at home, day- and child-care centers, and in schools. They play computer games for at least 20 minutes daily and spend 2.5 or more hours in front of another screen–the television. Kids play computer games at friends’ and relatives’ houses and in their own houses. Their computer playmates include friends, siblings, parents, and child-care providers. Visiting with grandparents has become a computer event too, as the senior generation is becoming computer-literate almost as fast as the digital generation.
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A woman tells of her ex-husband, who became hooked on painkillers and muscle relaxants for years. “He could not hold a job, and we lost our house, our credit, and our friends. We tried counseling and drug treatment centers, both in-patient and out-patient, but nothing worked.” The man continued his addiction, becoming creative in finding doctors from out of state and even out of the country who would ship him pills.
Finally, for her own sanity and the safety of their two children, the woman left him. Here is her description of her husband’s life after she and the children departed: “He fell in and out of jobs and lived on the streets, with friends, or in homeless shelters. All this finally caught up with him, and he died of hepatitis C. He had not seen his children in three years and owed more than $50,000 in back child support. He died broke and alone.”
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Although Deborah is a librarian, stress is no stranger to her. Each of Deborah’s days in the reference section of her city library is a constant juggling act. She deals with questions from library patrons, telephone reference calls, organizing and managing workshops in the library, as well as general administrative duties. At one time stressful days were more associated with certain jobs in our society–firefighter, police officer, neurosurgeon, or emergency room nurse.
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Recently when my schedule was particularly hectic, a friend sent me a greeting card advertising a hotline for stressed-out people. To reach this hotline one dialed 1-Need-to-Cope, and the following automated menu came on the line:
To hear a primal scream, press 1.
To record your own primal scream, press 2.
To play it back, press 3.
For a list of ideas on how to get revenge, press 4.
To order a stress survival kit for $500, press 5.
When I opened the card, it read “To reach a friend who’ll understand, dial my number.” Under my friend’s signature was his phone number.
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The skier perches at the gate awaiting the signal, muscles tense, throat dry, heart racing.
The patient sits in a windowless room awaiting the needle, tense, sweating, heart pounding.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline race through both of their bodies. Their bloodstreams flood with glucose, and their hearts quicken to provide oxygen and fuel to their muscles for the qualifying run or the sprint from the clinic.
The skier spent her energy on the slope. The patient passed out.
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The skeletons in my workout closet are many-an unused athletic club membership, a dusty NordicTrack, a lonely ab-buster. All purchased with the best of intentions. But, alas, they have all fallen to the same fate: while they may have physically challenged me, mentally I was “bored out of my gourd.” Consequently, I became a fitness failure, a workout wannabe.
Then one day my family upset me. Husband, sons, the cat; I can’t remember which one started it, but in the end I decided to take a walk to blow off steam. After 10 minutes I felt better. And after 20 minutes the argument seemed miles away.
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A school system in a large city had a special program to help hospitalized children keep up with their schoolwork. One day a teacher who worked in the program received a routine call asking her to visit such a child. She was given the child’s name, hospital, and room number. Her instructions were to help the boy with lessons in grammar.
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Betsey Carle never autographs napkins, wears sequined gowns, or takes tips.
One day while Carle was on the job an elderly hospice patient with faltering memory gave her a snippet of a lyric from an old song he longed to hear but could not place.
Carle searched her songbooks for four months to finally identify and sing “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies” while strumming her guitar.
“The music made a difference,” Carle says. “Many people in that age group remember the song. They mouth the words. And because music is tied into emotion, cognition, and memory in the brain, it takes them back to a more normal time,” she says. “That’s healing.”
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Every year I eagerly anticipate Christmas. But then I remember how much there is to do! Decorations. Gifts. Church and school programs. Parties. Pictures. New clothes. Caroling. Baking and cooking. Family get-togethers.
If you’re wondering how to get it all accomplished and still enjoy the holiday, try these time, energy, and sanity savers I’ve discovered to help you have a truly Merry Christmas this year.
1. Plan ahead.
You smart ones did this year’s shopping at last year’s after-holiday sales. However, even if the rest of us don’t get around to it until after Thanksgiving, there’s still plenty of time to find some great bargains.
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