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June 18, 2017

Some stress-relieving ideas for your downtime in summer

With all the technology and today’s fast pace, it seems that one of the topics in the media is about handling stress.

It seems that anything you buy is out of date in one or two years, and you need an upgrade. Cell phones alone have created two new injuries for people. One is the “cell phone neck,” from the constant looking down at the phone, which creates problems in the neck and upper back muscles.

The latest is the “cell phone thumb” injury. I guess the thumb is not made for the movement of texting so much, and people are showing up in doctors’ offices with problems in the joint of the thumb. It used to be carpal tunnel syndrome, but now that is in third place.

There are several treatments for stress, beginning with the old-fashioned “Count to ten very slowly before you do anything drastic.” It seems that was the standard parents used when raising their kids.

A little more advanced treatment was using meditation for handling stress. This usually takes some professional training to get it to work well. Once the technique for meditation is learned, it is something a person can do on their own in a quiet setting.

One with a little more of a physical component is yoga. A person can try the “spiritual yoga,” which is more closely related to meditation with some physical movements added. The more “physical yoga” is learning poses, and control of the muscles of the body. Both have been highly recommended for handling stress.

Some exercise with a little more movement that others find that works is tai chi. This is a Chinese form of exercise that has a series of slow, controlled movements, with controlled breathing to take away the stress of the day. If you saw the movie “The Intern,” there was a scene at the end of the film where a class was being held.

Of course, there is always the stress-relieving exercise of brisk walking or running. I would use running as a great stress release on several occasions. It is amazing how stress will let you start out with a fast pace; and after a mile or two, things start to come together, and answers to problems seem to emerge.

In my younger days, I would lift weights to get through tough problems. My sister played the piano. When she was feeling good, the music was Beethoven; and on problem days she would bang out Bach. You would listen to the composer and know if she could be interrupted or not.

With running, it seems that where you run is a real factor in how well running will work for stress relief. Running in a congested and busy downtown area of a city may be more stressful. The noise, exhaust fumes, dodging people on sidewalks, traffic-light stops and occasional shouts of, “Watch where you’re going, you ##@&!!#,” don’t help get rid of any stress you may have.

Better choices are a quiet neighborhood where there is less traffic and perhaps nice scenery with homes and yards, etc. to enjoy. Neighborhoods vary with the scenery, but most subdivisions are good for a quiet run. Except for a few loose dogs or kids racing you on their bikes, a run in a neighborhood is a good option for some stress-free runs.

Even better choices are parks with trails running through them. With trees and possibly wildlife to look at, you can achieve a relaxing feeling in a short distance.

One of my favorite runs was one mile from my house. I would run through town to get to the river walk. Running alongside the river under a tree-covered canopy was never tiring or boring. The loop behind the Little League fields was the ultimate path for the run. It was about a quarter-mile loop; and I would run it one way, turn around and run it back the other way before heading back on the trail along the river and on back home.

Take your pick of what fits your liking for getting rid of some stress. A walk in the neighborhood with a friend or going for a run are easy-to-do options that can be done almost anytime and anywhere.

Of the so-called “E” methods of stress control - Exercise and Eating - the better option is exercise. The eating method often results in gaining weight and adds one more thing to stress about. Go for a walk, and take the time to look at the scenery and any wildlife that might be seen. That’s the better choice.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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