A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: During stressful times, it’s best to take a step back and gain a proper perspective

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

A few weeks ago, I was awash in what I figured was a good bit of stress. On my docket for Monday was leading my first meeting as president for my neighborhood Homeowners Association. Also, seemingly out of nowhere, I had been contacted by ESPN Films to be interviewed about what Kentucky basketball means to the state for a documentary on Southeastern Conference basketball history. That interview would be on Wednesday. If you want to know the truth, I felt a bit inadequate for both events.

What made it worse was that I was feeling under the weather with a bad cough and some fatigue, lasting a few weeks (though I tested for Covid and it showed negative). That so, it stretched my energy level to remain to be reasonably productive, and it wasn’t fun.

Woe is me, huh? Or was it simply First World problems? Yep, I had ‘em for sure. But during that awful “stress storm,” I learned something that reminded of something my mother, who never attended a pity party, said regularly: “There’s always someone worse off.”

I happened to see my neighbor out in the yard and asked her if she would be attending our HOA meeting. No, she said she couldn’t, and then spent the next few moments telling me how her adult son just found out he had stage IV colorectal cancer. He has a wife and children and a hurting mother, among many others. I was feeling anxious about an HOA meeting.

At about the same time in my so-called stressful week, one of my best friends lost his mother and soon headed from Lexington back to Owensboro to make funeral arrangements for her. He’s lost both parents in the last few years. One would be bad enough. And I was worried about somebody asking interview questions and my answers not being perfect. It would make me look bad, I ruminated.

If not enough bad news already, word then came that a long-time friend, eleven years younger than me, has Covid pneumonia and is in an ICU hospital unit. That’s serious stuff, possibly life-threatening. And me, I was frustrated with not feeling as physically chipper as usual and wondered if anyone else felt that way.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

With those incoming messages about others and their misfortunes, my perspective soon nudged toward, I believe, hopefully, one more attuned to the best part of my nature. Call it being empathetic; call it just being realistic. Thinking through the matter, my anxieties that week were likely more of the temporary sort, not likely to have serious long-term repercussions. Call them aggravations.

My friends’ concerns, however, were of the “worse off than me” variety.

As do all, I get stressed somewhat regularly. And the feeling of not liking it a bit is something of which no one will deprive me. But Mom’s words from long ago — as she rests in peace — resonate with me today. It’s called having a proper perspective on life’s circumstances, and it’s a little more about helping others relieve THEIR stress.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Concluding, the whole issue of managing stress in appropriate ways seems to be up to the individual and their interests and comfort level. Here are a few things I do that help.

Walking is a dependable anxiety reliever, especially when I do it intentionally, meaning walking non-stop for at least twenty minutes and achieving a higher heart rate. For simply relaxing and “creative thinking” walks, I slow the pace down (stroll) and check out the scenery. I sometimes make a phone call on the stroll to check on family or friends. Sometimes I add music.

My yard work and flower gardening help to manage stress, too, and as I’ve documented in this column more than once, is a fun hobby I enjoy. Then there is reading. I’m always reading for information for my column, my published books, and to review. Mindful that such might, indeed, increase the stress level, I keep a fun book or magazine for pure enjoyment close, too.

And what activities do I avoid because they add stress? That’s easy… staying away from political “discussions” (ha) on Facebook. Almost never ends well and makes the blood boil—and can tax friendships. Also, if food or alcoholic drinks become too “comforting,” I move in another direction, too.

Stress is a fact of life and contributes to Kentuckians’ often poor health figures. That said, having a thoughtful and sensible plan to confront it can make all the difference.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment