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By Katherine Kiang
KaTsZoNe Newsletters > KaTsZoNe - Issue 58 - Living Well With Stress

1 Nov 2009

Hey everyone,

Hope you all had an enjoyable October.  Once again, the month seems to have gone by so quickly for me. 

Hard to believe that we have now changed our clocks once again.  Like a kid, I enjoyed getting an extra hour of staying up and extra hour of sleep.  Wait, does that make any sense?  Anyway, like a kid, I try and enjoy those little things -- whether it's staying up later or getting more sleep.

Just this past Friday, the day before Halloween, I enjoyed the taste of my first eyeball!  It was a hard piece of gum, round and hard like a jawbreaker, but, at least I still have my teeth and did not actually break my jaw.  Yep...enjoying the little things in life.  And, a very special lady named Hallie who works for L'Occitane, located at The Bay downtown, gave me a nice hand massage with a nice dose of sugar scrub and just the smell of honey on my hands made me very relaxed.  I wanted to buy the stuff, but, Hallie stopped me and told me just to relax and not buy everything in sight.  Instead, she gave me a small sample to take home, either to treat my mom or myself.  She is a sweetie.  And, it was a nice way to finish a busy week.

I have been buying Christmas gifts and other Christmas things, just trying to avoid the last minute stuff.  Rushing around last minute streses me out, but, it inevitably happens every year, even though I try and start earlier.   And, when I see my Visa bill go up pretty high, that's enough to make my blood pressure rise, but, I just kept saying to myself, I enjoy giving.  If I did not enjoy giving, I would not be do it to the extent that I do.  More importantly, I know I can pay off my entire Visa bill every month, so, I should not get so stressed about Christmas gifts.  What is important is that as long as it works for me and I can sleep at night, that's what matters.

Last week, my office organized some seminars and I went to a couple of seminars focusing on stress management.  I liked the heading of one of the topics, "Living Well With Stress", so, I decided to borrow it as a title of this episode of KaTsZoNe.

As I have described above, I have found various ways of dealing with stress, and still, I know I have room for improvement.  Stress effects a huge part of your life and mine -- it can make you or break you!  I know that stress has helped me throughout my life to achieve greater things, yet, it has also effected my health in a bad way.

Stress is emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure in the outside world.  These pressures could be either real or imagined.  An event can effect people in different ways. 

As you may know, a holiday can arouse different emotions and reactions.  Take Christmas as an example.  Some people are so excited and happy about Christmas because they look forward to getting together with friends and family, going out to find a Christmas tree and decorating it, singing Christmas carols, going to church, eating plum pudding and other sweet treats.  Some people are just stressed about Christmas because they will be busy putting together Christmas parties and think some family members will be criticizing them again on how they keep their house.  They will go crazy trying to find "the perfect tree" every year which never seems to get easier.  Some people are already busy with Christmas shopping and parties and they also have rehearsals in church for a Christmas cantata or play which takes up extra hours.  Then, there are those who are afraid of overeating because it's going to take a whole year to lose weight and then before that happens, next Christmas will be around the corner.  Stressed?  GAH!!!

I think that the fact that there may be different reactions and emotions to the same event makes me wonder why there are these differences.  I realize that people are all different.  We grew up in different families, different cultures, different religious backgrounds, different educational background, different DNA.

Then, I also believe that fear can be one huge factor in making people anxious and stressed. 
Fear of embarassment, fear of the unexpected, fear of spending money, fear of not securing a good job, fear of a partner's infidelity, fear of not being a good parent, fear of H1N1 and other viruses and diseases, and so on.  And, if we walk around with so many fears, I would be quite surprised if we are not stressed!

So, how can you and I live well with stress?  I am not going to share the methods I have learned during the seminars as I have not had a chance to practice them.  I would like to share with you a list of things which have worked for me.  I hope some or all of these things can help you, depending on the circumstances.

1.  Enjoy the little things in life. 

In more recent years, I have tried to incorporate this into my daily life.  The funny thing is, I saw this mentioned in the latest comedic horro movie called , "Zombieland".  A young man is telling the story of how he is learning to survive in a country where people are turning into zombies.  He is trying not to become killed by them or become one of them.  Watching that movie made me think, "I would be so stressed!"  That's almost as bad as some of my childhood nightmares which even lasted into my twenties when I dreamt that my parents and everyone in my neighbourhood had turned into aliens from outer space.  I felt so alone!  I always woke up crying!  Anyway, just a tip, try and "enjoy the little things" in life and laugh more often.  Turn a stressful chore or event into fun.  Be creative.  I would love to hear how you have changed one stressful thing in your life and turned it into something enjoyable and fun.

2.  Stop being a perfectionist because you are not perfect!

You are not perfect and neither am I!  I think the worse ruler to measure up to is my own.  I think I am harder on myself than anyone else.  Why are YOU so hard on yourself?  Get over the fact that you have to be like your mother -- in reality, your mother was probably not perfect either.  And, the unfortunate thing is, if you feel like you have to measure up to your parents, your kids feel like they have to measure up to your "perfect" standards.  I would like to remind some of you that our moms are great in some areas but we may not have inherited the same talents.  Don't feel bad.  Don't get stressed!  I don't know how many times I have said, "I'm Chinese, but it does not mean I'm great in math!" I must have inherited math genes from my mom because if I had inherited those genes from my dad, I would have achieved 100% on all my math tests! Can't blame me for inheriting imperfect math genes. This is why I went into law and not business! 

If you keep replaying a tape (or DVD) in your mind, that you could have done things more "perfectly" and it just makes you more upset and stressed thinking about it, go and ERASE IT NOW!  Don't keep going back to that same event.  Once you have passed being 3 years old, you cannot go back to being 3 years old again.  Keep growing, keep moving forward.

3.  Have faith and believe.

In the October 2009 edition of "YorkU" magazine (p. 10), there is an article about studies comparing the brains of religious and non-believing people.  Generally speaking, the brains of religious people show reduced stress and anxiety compared to non-believing people. 

I believe that faith/religious belief is a powerful element that can help us reduce anxiety and stress.  I have seen it in myself and people I know.  Stress does not completely disappear from the lives of religious people, but, it having faith in God does reduce the anxiety and stress. 

There were times when I have been so upset and worried that I didn't know what else to do except pray.  Helplessness often makes people upset, anxious and stressed.   When I don't know where to start, what to do, what to say, how to help, I pray because I have faith in God.  I am not praying in repetitive phrases, I speak as though I am communicating with my counselor.  When I realize that I am limited in mind and body and have no control over certain situations and people, my spiritual being takes over and shifts into high gear.  While my physical head wants to bury myself in my fears and anxieties, my spiritual being has no limits and I can soar ABOVE those nasty monsters!

4.  Change the way you think.

I hate being late.  When I am late, I would get really stressed about it.  My heart just pounds faster and my mind anticipates the worse.  So, when other people are late and I have to wait for them, I also became pretty upset.  I have become better at not being quite so upset when I am late or when someone else is late.  It took some hard work to re-think things. 

Years ago, I read a book about finding the love of your life.  One of the things the author mentioned was that if someone is late in picking you up on a date, it indicates that he does not respect you and your time.  I mulled over that idea, so, whenever I was going on a date, if the man was late, that was STRIKE ONE!  To me, it's as though he was already not treating me right because he was wasting my valuable time when he's late and I could be doing other things with my valuable time.  Then, someone comes into my life and everything is going great.  He is a great person, but, one of the things which I did not appreciate was the fact that he was constantly late when we were going out.  And, he would also be late when we were meeting friends or going to a movie.  He tells me, he is on time for work.  I couldn't understand why he was DOING THIS TO ME! 

One day, I said to my sweetie, "My dad always said, if you are late, you are going to miss the boat!"  You have to know, my father was a sea captain.  My sweetie replied, "I would find a way to get to the boat after it set sail and would make it on the boat."  Anyway, I tried to figure out why I would get so upset when he's late and what is the reason that he is late.  My family trained me to be always early (not just be on time).  I heard one of my friends say that her parents were always late getting anywhere when she was a kid.  I wondered if my sweetie inherited the "lateness gene" from his family, but, at the time, I wasn't sure.  But, when we went on trips together, I began to understand the cause of his lateness, which I am not going to get into in detail, but, I just wanted to say that, I tried to step into his shoes and be more understanding. 

I also started to look at myself and my view of lateness.  I realized that the book I had read is not necessarily right in every circumstance, but, because I thought my sweetie was not respecting me by being late, that upset me, and that was not necessarily true.  In fact, if I examined our relationship, if the thing that upset me the most about him was that he was constantly late, I'd say, I have it pretty good!  Other women have reason to be worried and stressed about being cheated on, beaten by their partner, having their life savings depleted by their partner, or having a partner who is into drugs, alcohol or gambling.  Well, I don't even know why I would be so stressed about my boyfriend being late.  If you are laughing, you know what I am talking about and it does sound trivial.  If you are thinking, that's terrible, you have to make him change, I think you must be single.  We all have our shortcomings and mine might be called PMS, except, as one of my friends used to say, the "P" does not mean "pre" (in Premenstrual syndrome), it's "PERMANENT"!

These days, instead of getting upset and yelling at someone because you cannot handle their habits, try and find a compromise.  I admit, I may still complain and bug my boyfriend about being late, but, he will now give me a "heads up" if he is going to be late.  I find that communication has helped ease my anxieties.  It's similar to when we are stuck on a subway or GO train -- even though we know there is a delay, I think we feel a bit better when someone tells us what is going on instead of complete silence.  Bad news is a bit easier to swallow when there is more information, if you are a reasonable person.  If you get upset at everything, then I suppose it won't matter what anyone tells you. 

5.  Seek professional help or turn to friends/family for support.

Depending on what you are stressed about, you can become better educated on how to deal with those areas which cause you to have stress.  If it's related to financial problems or debts, find out from professionals on how to make things financially sound for you.  If you are addicted to substances, again, seek professional help.  If you find it difficult to take care of an elderly, sick parent, turn to additional help from agencies or other professionals.  For day-to-day stress in life, seminars like the ones we had at work, are helpful too.  And, friends and family who went through the same problems as you are experiencing may be a great source of information and also emotional, physical support.

6.  Find an enjoyable past-time.

For me, writing about stress helps!  I came up with some methods of coping with stress just by thinking and writing out a list.  Although this list is for myself, I hope it will also help you.  And, I encourage you to find something which you enjoy doing, just to get your mind off your troubles.  I find that when I am trying to solve a problem, taking a break can sometimes clear my mind and in turn, can help me get back on track in dealing with a situation which I was too emotionally charged to deal with.

So, now that I am feeling more relaxed because I am just about at the end of writing another episode of KaTsZoNe and it's going to get out ON TIME (whew!), I thank you all for your time.  Some of you have told me that you have so much on your plate.  I really appreciate the fact that you print out a copy of the latest KaTsZoNe to read while you are commuting or pull it up on your Blackberry in those few precious minutes that you have.  I am also thrilled to read or hear replies to a topic which has touched your heart.  Remember, the reason I started KaTsZoNe and to continue it on a monthly basis is because I consider you my good friends whom I want to keep in touch with and hope that you will do the same, from time to time.  For me, writing KaTsZoNe is also GREAT THERAPY!  LOL.

Oh my gosh -- Christmas will soon be here again!  But, before I touch on Christmas, I hope to attend the annual Royal Winter Fair again this year, and if I do, you will likely be hearing about that!  The Royal Winter Fair takes place at Toronto's Exhibition Place between November 6 and 13, 2009.  This year, HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will officially open The Royal on November 6th.  (

I hope you will all have a stress-free November (especially my friends in the U.S. who will be organizing and celebrating Thanksgiving dinner).  December is another story! Just kidding!


Katherine (Kat/KK)


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