By Jan Boston Sellers
Today being Valentine’s Day made me think about hearts. Yes, the paper kind and the ones that decorate the gazillions of Valentines being mailed and passed out all over the nation today, but also about the literal heart. The organ in our bodies responsible for pumping blood throughout our physical frames. Our hearts are a very vital organ, which often has the laborious task of working harder than it should because of the things we owners do to it.
One of the major contributors to heart disease and other heart-related problems is stress. That six-letter word makes most of us shudder when we hear it. A lot of stress can, and often does, contribute to a variety of physical, psychological and emotional ailments. It can makes us irritable, angry, sick to our stomachs, give us a headache, contribute to sickness or disease and/or make us want to crawl in bed and stay there for a few days. Unfortunately, the longer we carry chronic stress the more likely we are to develop side effects.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association’s annual stress survey indicates that stress is on the rise among Americans. Forty-four percent of Americans indicated they have elevated or high levels of stress, citing money, work, family, relationships and housing costs as their top stressors.
There are some situations that would stress any of us: death, divorce, serious illness and major financial issues. But there are other situations that can and do stress some people, but are of no problem to others. For example, some people dread seeing snow storms: it makes it more difficult to get to work and other appointments and cars have to be scraped off if it parked outside, etc. But, if you are a school student, the threat of a snow storm brings hope, joy and the possibilities for closed schools, sleeping late, sledding and snowman building. A cruise vacation may spark anticipation and excitement in some people, while simultaneously evoking fear and dread in others who may not like being on the water. Or in other words, it isn’t always the circumstance that creates stress, but our reactions to it.
What is the answer to our rising stress rates? Perhaps we need to do more self-care. Yes, taking care of oneself, particularly for mothers and fathers with children at home, often isn’t a priority. Everyone comes before you, which often results in overwhelmed and fatigued adults. But, I often think of what the flight attendants on airplanes tell us which is: “In the event of an emergency, parents please put your oxygen masks on first.” Why do they say this? The answer is simple: you must be functioning in order to take care of your children or anyone or anything else.
How do you take care of yourself? The answers aren’t exactly the same for all of us, but most of us could benefit from better eating habits, more physical activity, more relaxation and unstructured time left to fuel individual creativity.
If lack of resources is contributing to your stress, you can still relax without spending a ton of money on an exotic vacation by talking a walk, listening to music, having a potluck dinner with your friends, renting a movie or watching a sporting event. So as you celebrate Valentine's Day with heart-shaped cards, foods and other decorations, don’t forget to address your stress and take care of the most important heart of all.
And if the whole winter, tired of snow, sick of the cold weather and hats and gloves, is what is stressing you out the most, just remember: as of today, spring is only 33 days away.
The Fair Park Senior Center is searching for talents for its annual fundraising Gong Show. Talents of all kinds and types are wanted. If you are interested in performing, call Tina at 484- 7416. The show is slated for Friday, Feb. 21, at the Palace Theatre on Main St. with city police and fire chiefs, David Beaty and Mike Turner, as two of the celebrity judges. The show will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the Fair Park Senior Center near the Cumberland County Community Complex.
Schools, banks and government offices are closed Monday in honor of President’s Day. All will reopen on Tuesday morning at normal times.
Post-season high school basketball action gets under way this weekend, and all the SMHS and CCHS teams will be playing in the District 6AAA tournament at Cookeville High School. The Lady Panthers squared off against Rhea County, and the Jets will start their tournament play tonight versus Warren County. Both the Lady Jets and the Panther teams will play their initial contests on Saturday. All the squads are hoping to finish in the top four of district play to advance to the regional tournament that will begin late next week.