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Handle stress as you do bad weather: adjust your sails


Prevention is, as in other aspects of seamanship, better than the cure. — Sir Robin Knox Johnson

As a doctor of Eastern medicine and acupuncture, I have seen many captains and crew over the past 11 years. The lament of being under the pressures of stress are common and persistent. In our modern life, stress is all but inescapable.

Many of us have been told to better manage our stress or to reduce our stress levels, but how? After all, we have jobs to do, people to interact with, responsibilities needing our attention.

These very things are usually the cause of stress in our lives. Add to that a difficult employer or boss, a sudden change in plans, lack of sleep, or the feeling of having no control over circumstances in your life and things can get overwhelming quite easily.

In our effort to handle stress, we often make a list of things to be done, delegate responsibilities and enjoy crossing things off as we accomplish them. But we cannot control other people or the outcome of situations any more than we can control the weather. An experienced sailor, however, has the wisdom to adjust the sails and navigate a tough storm, plan a different route and sometimes leave the journey for another day.

That is the premise of basic stress management.

When you think of it, we are all at sea most days. Navigating the daily flow of our lives requires skill, awareness and tools. These three elements make up the concept of stress management being an “inside job”.

This inside job is directly related to how we emotionally and intellectually deal with stressors such as challenging situations and difficult people. Some might say that it has to do with personality types and that is mostly correct. However, the true factor is one’s consciousness and overall state of mind. Courage, faith and logic are the main components of wisdom. Wisdom is the foundation of our individual awareness and state of mind.

One does not become an experienced sailor overnight. Neither does one’s consciousness expand overnight in order to embrace life with courage and an open mind. As you can see, however, the path is very much the same, metaphorically speaking.

Strive to become like that wise and experienced sailor. Adjust, re-plan and go with the flow. More importantly, take care of your vessel, for all is lost without it. Your body, your mind and your spirit make up your vessel.

Here is a five-piece stress-buster toolkit to have with you on any journey.

  1. Rescue Remedy, used to reduce anxiety and apprehension. Add 3-5 drops in 8 ounces of water and drink.
  2. Lavender essential oil, used to induce a state of calm and enhance sleep. Massage into the soles of the feet at bedtime and place a few drops on your pillow.
  3. Music. Music with melody flattens our neural brain waves and allows us to think more clearly, helping with focus and problem solving.
  4. Hydration. Any engine-propelled form of transport will not go far without proper fuel. Water makes up a great portion of our personal fuel needs. Drink good, healthy water with electrolytes. Electrolytes are paramount. Coffee, tea, soda and alcohol might quench your thirst but your body requires pure water for optimal performance.
  5. Trail mix. Aptly named after the journey food of alpine and long-distance hikers around the world, trail mix is endurance survival food packed with nutrients. Find a mix that includes nuts and dried fruits or veggies (papaya, berries, pineapple, peas and cherries) that you can carry in a pocket and eat at will.

This simple stress-survival tool kit will help keep your mind and body relaxed, focused and nourished, and it will improve your sleep and mood. Schedule time in your day for preventative healthcare. It is always better to take care of something before it breaks. Having your body functioning at an optimal level of health will allow you to take stressors in stride and enjoy daily life in a grander way.

Wishing you all good things. Dr. V.

Valerie Lopez is an acupuncture physician and doctor of Eastern medicine in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact her through


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