Stress – Chill Out Before You Melt Down by
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Prompted By Stress

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Ah, stress! The ever-present uninvited guest at the banquet of life, refusing to leave even after polite (or impolite) hints. Now, some folks, bless their little cortisol-pumping hearts, seem to thrive on it. They’re like squirrels on espresso, bouncing off the walls with deadlines looming and their smart phones exploding with emails.

Me? I’m more of a wilting lily under a stress hurricane. The mere mention of something like oh say filing my taxes sends me reaching for the gin and a good Lee Child novel (because frankly, fictional murder pales in comparison to real-life financial accounting).

But enough about me, let’s delve into the murky depths of this universal frenemy. Why do we, the supposedly rational homo sapiens, let this invisible gremlin hijack our brains and turn us into jittery messes? Is it the constant barrage of news alerts about impending societal collapse? (YES) The ever-growing pressure to curate a picture-perfect life on social media (while secretly living on Instant Ramen)? (YES) Or perhaps it’s the existential dread of knowing we’re hurtling through space on a giant rock with limited resources and an unsettling continuous fondness for choosing buffoons as leaders? (YES)

Whatever the reason, stress clings to us like a barnacle on a particularly unfortunate seafaring vessel. But fear not, fellow stressed-out souls! Because just like there’s a self-help book for every neurosis, there’s a coping mechanism for every stressor. Here are a few of my personal favorites, guaranteed to either alleviate your anxiety or at least provide some much-needed gallows humor:

Embrace the Absurdity: Sometimes, the best way to deal with the ridiculousness of it all is to laugh. Find humor in the mundane, the absurd, the sheer ridiculousness of being a stressed-out human in a stressed-out world. Watch stand-up comedy, read those satirical essays inside Retrospect, or simply observe the pigeons fighting over discarded french fries in the park – laughter is the best medicine, even if it comes with a side order of cosmic freak out.

Channel Your Inner Zen Master (or at least a decent impersonation): Meditation, mindfulness, yoga – these all sound lovely, but let’s be honest, most of us have the attention span of a goldfish on Red Bull. Instead, try simpler forms of “me-time”: take a long walk in nature, stare at the clouds and imagine shapes (bonus points for rude or crude ones) or even just take five minutes of uninterrupted bathroom time (don’t judge, we’ve all been there).

Retail Therapy (with Caution): Let’s face it, sometimes retail therapy is the only therapy that truly speaks to our souls. But beware, dear reader, for the joy of that pricey new gadget is fleeting, while the dent in your bank account is permanent. So, indulge sparingly, choose experiences and adventures over things, and maybe consider buying a nice stress ball instead of that designer handbag (trust me, it’s more effective).

Complain Out Loud: Venting can be cathartic, but choose your audience wisely. Don’t be that person who turns every conversation into a stress-fueled monologue. Find a supportive friend, a therapist, or even a particularly receptive houseplant (judgment-free zone guaranteed). Just remember, there’s a fine line between venting and becoming a human black hole of negativity.

Remember, We Are All In This Together: In the grand scheme of things, our individual stresses might seem monumental, but we are all just grains of sand on the shared beach of existence. Take solace in the fact that everyone, from CEOs to baristas to bartenders experience stress. We’re all in this crazy big blue boat together, so paddle on, my friends, and try not to capsize from laughter or dread.

Remember, stress in life might be inevitable, but how we deal with it is a choice. So, laugh, breathe, complain strategically, and above all, be kind to yourself. After all, the world needs our wit now more than ever. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a stress ball and a particularly amusing Harry Bosch novel. Cheers to us and surviving the stress storm, one witty remark at a time!


Profile photo of Kevin Driscoll Kevin Driscoll
(Mostly) Vegetarian, Politically Progressive, Daily Runner, Spiritual, Helpful, Friendly, Kind, Warm Hearted and Forgiving. Resident of Braintree MA.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Thanx again for your clever take. Kevin, this time on the stress demon that we humans are heir to!

    Will try to follow some of your stress- reducing techniques, and maybe will try skipping the nightly news!

  2. Wow! Who needs a self-help volume, a Zen master, or a therapist when we’ve got KD? I can hardly wait to jump on a Peleton, cover my social-media sites, assemble the lights for a video shoot (it’s due Wednesday) meditate, pick up my medications, send my Act-Blue donations to the DCCC, send first-aid kits to Ukraine, contribute to Doctors w/o borders in Gaza, and go back to bed. But first… an espresso to get the ball rolling. Thanks, Kevin!

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Oh no, did you have to bring up taxes? Loved your writing on this one though. The only addition I would suggest would be finding supportive folks to try to take action on something (almost anything) you want to change—helps avoid the pit of despair.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Great essay! I love your suggestions for dealing with the stress that bombards our daily existence.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Once again, you’ve struck gold, Kevin. You explain the complexities of stress with superb nuance (I think social media has amplified what has been in the zeitgeist 10-fold), but given us useful antidotes as well. And another I’d offer (that you touch upon, but I’d elaborate) is the blessings of community. Our members of Retrospect are a supportive group. Since the start of lockdown, I’ve Zoomed with my camp friends from around the world, friends since we were teens, and we are now all in our in 70s, we were all voice and drama majors at a huge arts camp in Northern Michigan and are life-long friends. We thought we’d run out of things to discuss long ago, but now share news from the previous month, what we are singing in our choirs, what our children or grandchildren are doing (or struggling with), what shows we’ve seen, who we love who has died recently. It was this group who helped me through a very difficult time I had with my younger child. They are better than any therapist I ever had. I change appointments to be sure I can be on the call with them. It is the best stress-reliever I know. Having a beloved community is important for all.

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