Tag Archives: distress

Distressing Times Well Worn

I have heard that fashion often reflects the mood of the times.  When we are optimistic as a society, hemlines tend to go up.  When we feel gloomy, we see more dark gray hues.  So it really is no surprise that the fashion trend of the moment seems to be the “distressed” look.   

I’ve seen this everywhere.  Jeans have manufactured holes in them, strategically placed rips and sanded down seams.  Shirts are wrinkled on purpose, just enough to give that worn-for-a-long-time feel to them.  Gone are the starched collars and in is a more “easy” fit.  Our new shoes are to be worn not only without socks, but also with the laces conspicuously missing.

Our clothes are mirroring our distress.  We’ve got a monstrous unemployment rate, and a seemingly endless war or two going on at the same time.  We are dealing with natural disasters all over the globe, and an oil spill with repercussions that reach far into the future.  The economy basically, well, is there any better word than “sucks” right now? And on top of all this, there’s the whole Tiger letdown, Jesse cheating on our beloved Sandra, and the Gores’ divorce!  Yes, “distress” is putting it mildly.

The fact that we have chosen to wear the distressed look tells me that as bad as things are, we have hope.  We know we can get through this.  These are the kinds of clothes we wear when we’re ready to get down to the business at hand.  Those paint splattered khakis?  They say: “I can handle anything!”  That faded denim shirt?  It says: “Put me to work!”

Volunteerism is at its highest level since 1992.  We may be pinching pennies, but we were able to scrape up $1.3 million dollars in just 2 hours when Larry King went on the air to raise money to help clean up the Gulf.  This is definitely a “can do” society.  We are keenly aware that things are bad, and we’re making a concerted effort to do what we can to make things better.

We are banding together more.  Those “six-degrees of separation” have all but disappeared with social networking.  Alyssa Milano personally tweets the importance of the mosquito net in helping to combat malaria and with just a few clicks we are sending a net to the cause.  Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete have raised awareness and inspired us to take action on behalf of families struggling with autism.  Philanthropy has gone viral!

So, yes, with all the events that are happening seemingly at the same time, we’re distressed.  But maybe in this state we finally have our priorities straight.  Maybe we are starting to understand what is important to us.  Our style is changing, and evolving.  I see the current trend as a statement that “fashion” as we know it doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is that we take care of the issues at hand, and that we take care of ourselves and each other.

6 Ways to De-stress, Let Go and Laugh!

Have you ever sat in a busy airport or train station and just people watched?  It doesn’t have to be a busy place, actually. 

 The other day, I met a colleague for a business lunch at a nearby restaurant.  As we were having our meeting, I became a little distracted because a little boy, perhaps 3 years of age, started making funny faces—not at me or anyone in particular for that matter.  It seemed he was simply making silly faces to entertain himself.  His mom, who appeared like she was having a serious conversation with another adult, intermittently chided him to eat his food and get his face off of his cup (it looked like he was trying to experience the feel of the cup as he mushed it against his mouth).

 He then proceeded to not listen to his mom, jump off his chair and lie down on the floor, to get a feel of the cold floor against his face.  Every time his face touched the ceramic floor, he would giggle.

 It made me giggle.  I wanted to get up and put my face on the floor too.  But I held back, of course.  How would that look?  I am a serious doctor in a serious meeting.  Aren’t I?

Well, before I had a chance to convince myself otherwise, the mom picked the boy up, placed him back in his seat, and asked him to behave and eat his food.  She was very sweet about it, so he didn’t cry, but he definitely looked disappointed.  His pancakes were not as interesting as the floor, but the ice in his drink was!

When did we stop being so curious?

When did we start taking ourselves so seriously?

We do have more responsibilities, more worries….And life is certainly hard.  Is this why the laughter has gone out of us?

I don’t mean the little giggles here and there.  I mean the big belly laughter that makes your eyes water and your stomach ache.  You know, the one that is catching and usually makes everyone around you laugh too., with abandon—The kind of laugh that makes you feel so good.

Why don’t you try it right now?  Exactly. I bet you just chuckled.   Can you let out a guffaw? Are you too self-conscious?

 Research is very strong showing that laughter is the best medicine. Yes, life is difficult, especially right now, but laughter and even smiling is so good for you.  It can turn off your stress response long enough for you to get your head cleared when you are feeling overwhelmed or down.  It can also help make you healthier.

 Here’s how to get yourself laughing more: 

1. Laughter yoga (not this can be hysterical–getting the audience involved with ha, ha, ha, until everyone is crying.

2. Watch a funny movie–in fact, you can watch boddisatva on the metro on youtube.com . IT IS HYSTERICAL!

3. Sit across from your friend and do a stare down–see who laughs first 

4. If you find yourself in a stressful situation and you need to calm down, reflect on a funny moment--perhaps your child did something funny or you did something funny. 

5. You can also just make yourself smile–smile at yourself in front of the mirror and exercise those muscles. 

6. A great visualization exercise that you can do to destress is to imagine yourself as a child.

Then see yourself as this child running around, laughing hysterically or making like you just don’t care, which you don’t at that age.

As you imagine, allow yourself to experience the feel good feelings. 

Some people have problems with this imagery because they were serious as children. If this is the case, find your favorite child (hopefully your own) and mimic them (in your imagination if you feel self conscious) 


God’s Dictionary: Stress



strictus = strict, narrow




stringere = to compress


          So here is the most notorious excuse for bad behavior in the book:  stress.  Actually, this is a shortened form of the whole word: distress. As in damsel in distress. (Just to be fair about it, I’d like to point out that there are plenty of stories about knights in distress as well.) At the risk of sounding like I’m metaphysically malpracticing, I truly believe that most stress is of our own making. 


          The Latin root of the word is strictus, which means strict or narrow. We decide on a goal and then we stress ourselves out trying with all our might to push the river to get there. Why? Instead, I think we’d all be better off and nicer about it if we’d decide on a goal, take steps to achieve it, and let go a little more. This is why.


If you’ll look at the deeper etymology of strictus from the Latin stringere, it means to compress. What we do is compress ourselves into smaller and more restricted spaces and timelines and wonder why we feel squashed, and then we call it stress. 


          Instead, how about an upgrade? Let’s say we make a list of dreams for our lives, and then we stress (read: make more important) those that matter to us and let the Tao take care of the rest? Ask: How am I being too strict with myself today?




          I give up distress totally today. Life will go on no matter what I do. I know when to make my goals important and when to let life lead me.


reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)

Read more Divine Definitions at the blog God’s Dictionary

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