Sunday, March 4, 2012


We all have a lot of stress these days and, according to the experts, it can be damaging. Remarkably, studies show that positive events in our lives can be almost as harmful to us as disasters. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), created by Dr. Thomas Holmes and Dr. Richard Rahe, assigns points (referred to as life change units or LCUs) to each type of stress we incur. For example: Marriage = 50 points, Divorce = 73 points; Voluntary change to a different line of work = 36 points while being fired from work = 47 points.
According to the SRRS, if we accrue too many LCUs within a short time, our natural defenses are lowered and we are more susceptible to accidents and illnesses. If we accumulate over 300 points in a year, there is an 80% chance of illness or accident in the near future. Obviously, in order to preserve our health and our sanity, we need to find ways to cope with and manage our stress.
Dr. Susan Thatcher, a psychologist and one of the characters in Mixed Messages, has a lot on her mind both personally and professionally and, as a result, she’s stressed and having trouble sleeping. To calm her nerves and reduce her stress, she uses the same mental image I do, a wonderful memory from a vacation I took a few years ago. I’ll let her tell you.
“Close your eyes. Relax. Clear your mind of all thoughts. Visualize something peaceful and soothing. You’re in the pool in Cabo, lying on a float, gazing out at the sun shimmering over the Pacific Ocean. 
You look up and marvel at the majestic cliffs and the brilliant blue sky. 
When you close your eyes, you can hear two waiters conversing in Spanish at the pool bar and the distant music as the mariachi band practices for their dinner performance. You dangle your hand in the water and splash some on your legs. It cools your burning skin. You’re floating...." 
How do you (or your characters) deal with stress?