Looking For Stress Relief in All the Right Places

What a day, January 20th, 2017.

As Donald Trump was being sworn in, I was delivering a kick-off presentation to a group of Arizona State University graduate students who are using CalmCircle, my college stress/sleep management program, during the spring semester. They are almost at the end of their higher education and will be going out into the world soon. I asked one of the women what she planned to do with her new degree and she answered, “global social work”.

Once back in my car on an unusually rainy, grey day in the desert, I turned on the King’s Singers and snuck a peek at Twitter, having vowed not to watch any of the inauguration television coverage. The live feed and images that popped up, against the background of that heavenly music, made me burst into tears. And I wept, something I haven’t been able to do throughout the past few months.

Not a Starbuck’s customer because I don’t drink coffee, the idea of a hot chocolate was comforting on such a dreary day. Not familiar with the ordering routine, a very nice young man who worked there assisted me. He asked how my day was going, and for the first time since the marketing world put that annoying habit into place, I felt that he was genuinely interested. I said it was going well and he continued on. Had I gone to work, he wanted to know. I said I gave a presentation at the University. On what, he asked. Stress and sleep support, provided by my company to college students. He was very interested and described a student who came in to the store regularly and whose stress level seemed to rise every time he saw her, reporting that she was getting less and less sleep. He went on to say how important my work was and thanked me for doing it.

Later in the day, my beloved little bratty dog, April, and I defiantly took a walk in the pouring rain. Still feeling emotional from the day’s events, the tears and rain were indistinguishable. It was a long walk and things got processed along the way. April’s paws and belly and ear tips were soaked and filthy when we got home so she had a quick bath and then tore around the warm house, one of her favorite things to do. As I watched her, I felt gratitude for her, for my home, for my feelings, for my work, and for my awareness of that present moment.

I teach people every day how to manage stress by closing eyes, going inside and finding their quiet, peaceful place to rest and reset. But there are many ways to reduce stress. The joy and hope of spending time with college students, the kindness of a stranger who offered gratitude for my work, the simple joy of walking in the rain with my dog, and the ability to rest in the present moment and accept that change and struggle is the part of life where growth lives. Those were the lessons of that particular day. And they were far more important than what was happening in Washington DC.