Can we survive ‘stress awareness month’?

Published 9:23 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

“Stress Awareness Month,” sponsored every April since 1992 by the Health Resource Network, is now half over. Are you stressed out that you haven’t done more to celebrate it?

I’m glad I survived the pre-1992 Bad Old Days, before we numbskulls had a special month to make us slow down and realize the health impact of stress.

Yes, before 1992, the generations who put a man on the moon and developed the internet would succumb to depression, stroke or addiction because of tyrannical bosses, three-hour commutes and cheating spouses —- without ever putting two and two together! Thankfully, “Stress Awareness Month” (inspired by “Gaping Chest Wound Awareness Month”) came along.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

(To be fair, a lot of us did think putting a piece of duct tape over the “check engine soon” light would signal the car fairies to solve all automotive deficiencies, so maybe the Stress Awareness nudge isn’t so condescending after all.)

Okay, I get it. Awareness (of the causes, effects and remedies for stress) empowers us to make changes. And an annual campaign is a nice reminder, but each tightly wound person must address his own problems at his own pace.

When my wife tells me “Relax your muscles for this blood pressure check” or my mother scolds, “Don’t get all uptight,” it does NOT in fact inspire me to mellow out. It’s about as counterproductive as telling someone “As soon as you get your PMS under control, I’ll explain something to you” or “If you don’t stop seeing racial undertones in everything, I’m going to smash this watermelon upside your head.”

A blogger for the Huffington Post advised, “Take time to walk away from technology.” Yes, the absence of earbuds and ringing smartphones helped folks surrounded by the bubonic plague to merrily enjoy the chants of “Bring out your dead!”

Federal regulations have rendered many tried and true relaxation techniques ineffective. You can’t just “go to your happy place,” because you might find it’s cordoned off as a protected wetland.

Some people use religion to overcome the stressors in their lives, but the results may not be completely satisfying. (“I let Jesus take the wheel, but my &^%$# ex-wife already had the REST of the Mercedes.”)

CNBC listed the 10 most stressful jobs in America, but they really should have broadened their scope. Surely being Syrian president is a stressful job. After recent developments about poison gas, Bashar al-Assad doesn’t even dare unwind by playing the old “Pull my finger” gag with his nieces and nephews.

According to a WalletHub study quoted by “U.S. News & World Report,” all 10 of the most-stressed states are below the Mason-Dixon line. Yes, we southerners may need to replace the Rebel Yell with the Rebel Primal Scream. We have to stop seeking comfort in our artery-clogging “comfort foods.” Of course we’re replacing that with the nagging fear that somewhere someone is “enjoying” an even blander diet than we are.

We southerners have to overcome those hang-ups like waking up in the middle of the night to wonder,”Did I accidentally say ‘bless his pituitary gland’ instead of ‘bless his heart’?”

Let’s support Stress Awareness Month, even if April may not be the most appropriate month. People may be thinking, “April. Showers. Hitchcock. Is Norman Bates lurking in my bathroom? I’m suddenly having pain, anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders. Bring out your EMTs!”

Danny Tyree is a syndicated columnist.