“Wait” Lifting and Breast Cancer

Just a little over a week ago I had my yearly mammogram. I went into the fray, never once thinking anything could possibly be amiss. It’s been nearly nine years since my last breast cancer experience, so I’ve become pretty blasé about my checkups. In fact, I asked the young woman who was doing the mammogram if I needed to use the gown, since in the years since my first diagnosis I’ve shown my breasts to so many people it just seemed like a waste of a perfectly good (and clean) gown.

So, when they called me the next day and said I needed to come back for some additional views, I was more than a bit surprised. Not only surprised, but still in the mindset that the images had been blurry, or I’d moved, or …

They asked me to come back that same day (I began to have “that” feeling) – but I was still pretty chipper. When I got back to the radiology department, the tech took her additional images and asked me to wait in the adjacent room so she could make sure they didn’t need any additional views (thankfully, this time I had opted for the gown).

chairs in waiting roomA few minutes later she ushered me to yet another room (this one had a door on it, which for some reason made me even more nervous) and said the radiologist would be in to talk to me in just a moment. By now “that” feeling was galloping around my head relentlessly. I actually had to ask the tech where the nearest bathroom was. I remember apologizing and saying something like, “When I’m scared I always have to go to the bathroom.” Even in that moment I was astonished that I could go from self-sufficient and sure of myself to meek and mild like a switch had been flipped, almost as though my psyche thought if I behaved myself perhaps I wouldn’t get bad news.

The radiologist came in and explained to me they had found microcalcifications on the views of my left breast. She said there were two places and they are very small, but given my history and the fact they did not appear last year, she felt they needed to be biopsied.

By now my brain and my heart are having a race (and my bladder and bowel seem to be in on it too)! I don’t want to be afraid, but in this moment that is the only emotion I’m able to conjure. Okay, perhaps not the only emotion — I think dread is in the mix as well.
I try to tell my brain to shut up because if I’ve learned nothing else in the nearly 18 years since I first found myself in this position, it’s to not let that little voice take control. I know I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel fear, but I also know that fear serves absolutely no purpose when dealing with the unknown.

I faintly remember putting my clothes back on and gathering my other belongings. The radiologist told me my oncologist would call to set up the appointment for the biopsy. I thanked her and drove back to work. I do remember worrying that I would have to make up the time because I’d been gone longer than an hour. I also recall thinking just how insignificant something like a few minutes lost here and there was in the overall scheme of things.

Fast forward to the stereotactic needle biopsy

In one week, I was back at the clinic. This time for the actual biopsy. Although I’d read repeated firsthand accounts of how painless the procedure is, I was still a sweaty mess. Thank goodness my doctor called in a prescription for Xanax. At least I was able to sleep the night before. I took another that morning because I simply couldn’t bear feeling frightened.

News flash … the doctor was quite handsome. Yes, I may have been a sort of drug-induced zombie at that point … but I’m not dead! I actually find it humorous that not only was he nice to look at, but I was still able to notice under the circumstances. I didn’t just notice his looks, but also the irony. If I’m going to have a strange man look at my breast for this reason, I sure would have preferred someone who looked more like Elmer Fudd.

The procedure was actually completely painless for me. I didn’t even feel the slight needle sticks they warned me about that were used to numb the area. I was in and out in less than an hour, and much of that time was spent while they were making sure they had everything lined up correctly. The biopsy itself took just a couple of minutes for them to perform.

I listened as they told me how to care for the wound, and made small talk while the tech was putting on the gauze and tape dressing used to protect where the incision had been made (she thinks the doctor is cute too!)

And then I went right back to a place I’d visited in 1996 and again in 2005 – having to wait for the results. I’m given a form that talks about things to be on the lookout for – like running a temperature or having my breast feel hot to the touch. I’m told not to take a shower for the next two days so I can keep the wound dry. I’m told that the Steri-strips will either fall off on their own, or my doctor can take them off when I visit her for my follow-up. Then I’m told I should have the biopsy results in five working days. Repeat … five working days.

It is in that instant I feel as though I’m being dragged through a time warp. It could be 1996 or 2005 all over again, because it certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve made much progress when it comes to the tests necessary to see if we have cancer and the time it takes to find out.

So now, every time my phone rings for the next several days my heart is going to skip a beat and I’m going to have to try to put myself in that place all breast cancer patients know much too well. The ungodly no-woman’s-land that resides between illness and health, between happiness and sorrow, between bravery and fear. It’s not a place anyone would choose, and I for one can tell you that it really irritates me that so little progress has been made when it comes to how long we must wait … and wait … and wait. When a huge weight would literally be lifted from our already weary shoulders if the wait for results took less time.

Posted in Breast Cancer Treatment, Early Detection, Lifestyle, Mammograms & other Tests, My Story, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Amoena and Plus Model Magazine, the Love Your Body Issue

plus model magazine cover oct 2013

Front cover feature: Amoena’s Lara Lace in sexy red!

We’ve been so proud to be involved with Plus Model magazine this October, bringing readers the annual Love Your Body issue of their highly successful online venture.

We’re happy they wanted to highlight and honor breast cancer survivors for October, because as we all know, women come in all shapes and sizes — and all of us are susceptible to the disease. In the Editor’s note on page 21, Madeline Jones gives a strong message: “We should love ourselves in the skin we are in, and that means loving our bodies and taking care of them.” Hear, hear! We’d like to add — it also means loving our bodies even after they’ve been through the wringer. Scars and all, you’re beautiful.

Besides highlighting Amoena’s Fall collections, the issue features tons of fashion and beauty tips. Coats and boots, hot perfumes, and one of our favorites is the natural facial and body scrub recipes starting on page 37. You can try these yourself with ingredients you probably already have at home, and rest easy knowing they don’t have any harmful junk in them.

We also really enjoyed the interview with their cover model (who loved our lingerie!), the Brazillian model, Fluvia (p. 135). She’s got advice for aspiring models, stories about her traveling and trailblazing experiences, and honest insight about body image.

PMM and Amoena donated $1,500 to the Young Survival Coalition in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this issue’s partnership.

Don’t miss it — you’ll be inspired!

Posted in Breast Cancer Awareness, Fashion, Giving Back, In the News, Lifestyle, Uncategorized, Young Survivors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Have a Sync-ing Feeling!

I was all set to write a blog post that contained some tasty, healthy recipe – or at the very least was so funny you would feel compelled to send me a thank you note for making your day. That was before. After months and months of trying to act like I know what I’m doing when it comes to anything high tech, I finally managed to upgrade my nearly four-year old iPhone to the latest, greatest, iOS7 system.

I made the mistake of telling everyone within ear shot that I’d been unable to upgrade any of the apps on my phone because it was so outdated there was actually a chipmunk inside running everything by spinning on one of those little wheels. This did not amuse any of my more savvy IT sorts of friends. Actually, it even made people who are still using a slide rule roll their eyes.

While I was in Chicago last month, I made the mistake of mentioning that I’d finally purchased an iPad to my brother-in-law. Jim is retired, so he has lots of time on his hands. And he likes to spend that time puttering and upgrading and improving.

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no time I can call my own, so I spend my days whining, cajoling and (I’m not proud of this) trying desperately not to have to learn anything technically challenging. I can’t even say this is a girl thing, because many of my female friends can run circles around me when it comes to understanding not only what an app is, but what an app does.

So the moment the words “I finally bought an iPad” escaped my lips, Jim was on a mission. When he casually asked me if I had synced my iPhone to my iPad, I thought I still liked him. Even as I cautiously queried, “What does that mean?” I thought there still might be hope for me. I was SO wrong.

I distinctly recall Jim saying that syncing your Apple products was painless and easy. In no time at all, I was convinced he had absolutely no idea what either of those words meant, and that if it were physically possible I’d like for him to have to birth a ten-pound baby. Yes, I am a very bad sister-in-law – but I think Jim has already surmised as much.

I need one of these thingies, right? [photo credit: xololounge, morguefile.com]

I need one of these thingies, right? [photo credit: Aldo Garza (xololounge), morguefile.com]

So as not to ruin our trip to Chicago, I coyly begged off even attempting any sort of sync-related endeavor, vowing earnestly to sync everything in sight once I got home. Although Jim pretended to believe me, I’m pretty sure he knew I had no idea what I was talking about.

He was right.

My first syncing attempts ended with my iPhone’s battery being completely drained while my iPad remained exactly as it had been – un-syncable (though it might have been sinkable, and there were moments when I wanted desperately to throw it in the ocean and run away screaming)!

Lucky for me, after hearing my tale of woe, a co-worker took pity and showed me how to attach my iPhone to a computer and download the new operating system (that’s an OS for those of you I can still impress with my vast computer knowledge – which I’m thinking is pretty much no one).

Although the screen told us it was going to take four hours to download, it actually only took about two (what a miracle of modern technology). The end result? Now I have icons I can’t identify, apps I can’t understand and friends I can’t call because I don’t know how to import their information.

I think this definitely calls for a bit of lip-syncing … @#%^&*+! … if you get my drift!

Posted in Blog Stuff, Humor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Custom Her Service

I was talking to a friend recently about a SurveyMonkey query I took a few weeks ago, asking about my views on what constitutes good customer service. Essentially, the survey was designed to determine whether or not department stores should be offering appointments for their customers to actually meet with a real, live person to assist you while shopping.

[Ed. Note: Most Amoena retailers do offer appointments for bra and breast form fittings, and customers find it very helpful! Call your local store for an appointment today.]

I realized while taking the survey that I actually prefer shopping online and it has nothing to do with waiting in line, or having more of a variety to select from, or even the promise of free shipping. I shop online because I am bombarded with emails on a daily basis offering me a 50% discount here, a 30% off promo code there, sometimes even a deal as enticing as $20 off when I spend $100. This all sounds fantastic until I realize that if I get 20 of these emails a day and actually take advantage of just a few, I may have saved over 100% all told, but I’ve also spent more money than I’d ever intended.

While I was pondering this, I speculated that I am not the only person who deals with this dilemma. We are, after all, consumers – and as women, most of us not only enjoy shopping, we also love a bargain – even if we don’t need it. Which gave me the idea for some customer service that would really be helpful.

woman's eyesI think it’s high time that someone offers a service called Custom-Eyes Your Email. Custom-Eyes would scan all of your incoming emails and toss out anything that is shouting about sales, discounts or any of the other thousands of opportunities “too good to miss” that hit your inbox. And unlike your typical spam filter, Custom-Eyes would provide you with a monthly tally extolling how much money you’ve actually saved by not taking advantage of all of these promotions.

Sure, I might miss the gadget that promises to remove unwanted hair, or the temporary tattoos – even the glow in the dark slippers for those cold nights when I don’t want to have to turn the lights on to go get a drink of water. But I’m thinking that my avid consumerism will still thoroughly enjoy seeing just how much I’ve really saved – that is, unless the Custom-Eyes service itself costs an arm and a leg!

Posted in Bra Fittings, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kathy Steligo, author of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook

With close to 92,000 U.S. women choosing breast reconstruction last year alone, there needs to be A Book. Besides that being a lot of surgery patients, it’s a pretty complicated procedure with a lot of options and potential complications. (Angelina Jolie made it look easy, saying she completed her reconstruction in about nine weeks.)

steligoheadshotThe good news is, Kathy Steligo knew of this need 10 years ago, and wrote the book — The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook — that she, herself needed when she went through her first breast cancer diagnosis. In 2012, Johns Hopkins University Press printed the 3rd edition and it’s circulating now, helping women everywhere distill the process, plan ahead and feel informed.

I had a little chat with Kathy about this excellent news, and about her impressive career as a health writer/editor. (She’s a friend of Amoena, you know, with several excellent articles to her credit.) This month, we also posted a review of the book at TheBreastCareSite.com. We thought you would enjoy getting to know the author.

What does it feel like to have a third edition published?

It feels great! Although much of the information from the original 2002 edition and the subsequent 2005 edition is still relevant, a lot has changed, and as someone who is a bit of a compulsive, it was important to provide information about new procedures and innovative changes. It is a relief to have completed all the new research and writing required, and a comfort knowing that the updated information about mastectomy and reconstruction is available to anyone who needs it.

Do you remember your inspiration for writing the original? 

Absolutely! When I learned I needed a mastectomy in 2002, I couldn’t find answers to my questions or the information I needed about mastectomy and reconstruction. It was frustrating and difficult trying to make a decision without adequate input. Books in the library were woefully outdated with horribly discouraging illustrations of reconstructed breasts, and there really wasn’t much on the Internet at that time. It was hard enough having to understand and make decisions about what I was going through; I didn’t want other women to have the same frustrating experience. I wanted to give them a single, objective and comprehensive source of information about their surgical options and what to expect before and after surgery. And I wanted to answer so many of the questions that doctors don’t explain or discuss. So I began an exhaustive research effort, reading published studies, and interviewing doctors, and surveying more than 400 women who had mastectomy with or without reconstruction. I self-published the book for 10 years, until Johns Hopkins University Press published the new 3rd edition in 2012.

Do you still identify as a “survivor?” Or does one “move on” from that place eventually?

Once you’ve been through cancer and come out the other side, you always identify with the term “survivor.” That’s an important part of recovery and getting back to normal life–not considering yourself a victim. As you’re dealing with diagnosis, treatment and recovery, the experience seems to take control of your life, and you wonder if you’ll ever return to normal. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually your treatment, doctor appointments and checkups slip away, and normal life gradually returns. But you never forget the experience and that you beat it.

Who are some of the great surgeons you’ve met through this process, and what’s special about them?

I’m privileged and grateful to have met many skilled and dedicated plastic surgeons, many of whom I now consider to be friends. During three writings of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, several physicians were abundantly generous with their time, information, and before-and-after patient photos. Among them, Drs. Rudy Buntic, Minas Chrysopoulo, Joshua Levine, and Michel Saint-Cyr were always exceptionally forthcoming and patient, providing insight to procedures and answering so many of my questions. My own surgeon, Dr. Frank DellaCroce, continues to inspire me with his commitment, innovation and exemplary skill. It is no surprise that these are the names that are most often mentioned and recommended by patients with whom I speak during the course of a year. These physicians go above and beyond what is required. They care deeply about the patient experience and they treat each woman as a unique individual. They are dedicated to providing the very best result for their patients.

Tell us a little bit about your work with FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered).

As FORCE’s Editor-in-chief, I edit the organization’s biannual newsletter, member updates, and a variety of other publications and writing. As a faculty member/presenter at FORCE’s annual Joining Forces Against Hereditary Cancer conference, I speak about mastectomy and reconstruction. The organization’s knowledge, reach and compassion on behalf of the hereditary cancer community never cease to awe and inspire me. Our newest project is development of a comprehensive reconstruction learning tool, including a video.

What’s your next project?

My newest book, co-authored with Steven Richeimer, MD, is A Pain Doctor’s Guide To Relief: Confronting Chronic Pain, to be published April 2014 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans, including many who have lingering mastectomy pain, sometimes years after surgery. Many individuals assume or are told that nothing can be done to relieve the pain that controls their lives, but that is usually not the case.

We heard you have a pretty fantastic garden. What do you love about gardening?

Summer is my favorite time of year. My garden supplies enjoyment, solace, and nutrition! Spending time among the lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, celery and a variety of herbs is soothing, no matter how stressful the day has been. Gardens require so little: just water, lots of sun, and a feeding now and again. They give so much more in return.

Kathy’s website, breastrecon.com, is also a very helpful resource. We’re so glad to know this expert, and we encourage you to share her knowledge with your circle of friends.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Breast Surgeries, Reconstruction, TheBreastCareSite.com, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Announcing the 2013 Club Amoena Essay Contest

Allright, fans: Last year we had some excellent submissions to our This is the New Me Essay Contest. (In fact, besides the two winners who are posted here, another of the contest participants is profiled this month at TheBreastCareSite.com… so you can see how inspiring they were!)

But this year, let’s do it up bigger! We would love to read even more of your stories. Announcing:

curved road

Unexpected curve in your road?

Embrace Every Curve: The 2013 Club Amoena Essay Contest!

We want to be inspired, particularly by the way you handled a change or challenge in the last year. Sometimes the curves in the road are not what we expect, but they lead us to a place of even greater joy, acceptance and peace. This is how we’d like you to frame your story: How have you embraced a curve in the last year or so? It may be your diagnosis, or it may be something else, like a new job, a different outcome than you expected on a project, or a hiccup in your routine.

We’ll choose, again, two winners: First place will get 2 new Valletta camisoles (believe me, you can never have too many!) and will be published in our March Amoena Life magazine, and second place will get 1 Valletta and be published here, on our blog.

Essays should be around 800 words, and should be emailed for submission, with “2013 Essay Contest” in the subject line, to info@amoena.com.

Please read the complete Contest Rules here. We’ll accept entries until September 13, 2013, so get started today!

Posted in Contests, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Clear As Mud

I recently had the delight and privilege of visiting a place I’ve heard of for years, but had never seen, called Lotusland. Since I’ve lived in this area for most of my adult life, I was actually a bit ashamed to admit I’d never taken the time to visit before. Granted, for many years the estate was not open to the public because it is housed in a residential neighborhood in the VERY posh environs of Montecito.

Montecito is one of those kinds of places where you drive through and wonder what in heaven’s name someone has to do to be able to afford such opulence. When I was younger, we used to call it the elephant’s graveyard. As the very mature woman I have become (no laughing allowed), I realize those elephants would have to have some substantial scratch to even think about this being their final resting place. Actually, you are more likely to see the Hollywood elite or the dotcom darlings in Montecito these days. And, if you happen to see me you will know that I am either lost, longing, or as in the case last week, on a tour.

When one of my good friends got a job at Lotusland she said no more excuses, I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Thank goodness!

flower garden at lotusland in californiaAlthough Ganna Walska’s estate is known as Lotusland, it also has a cactus garden, a butterfly garden, a fern garden, a topiary garden, a bromeliad garden, a theatre garden, a succulent garden, a blue garden, a water garden, an aloe garden, a Japanese garden, a cycad garden and a tropical garden. There are only a few more gardens than there were husbands, (Madame Walska was married six times) which also adds to the mystique and allure of the place.

Everything about her estate is awe-inspiring and unbelievably beautiful, but the actual lotus garden really touched my heart. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a lotus other than in pictures, so that in and of itself was very cool. But what I didn’t know was the lotus has to grow in mud. It can’t survive in any other environment. And, although it grows in mud, when it emerges it is completely, totally clean as though it had just come from the purest possible place.

The docent actually took a handful of water and tossed it at the lotus’ leaves to show us how the plant repels anything that gets on its surface. She also told us the lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

I couldn’t help but compare this to my breast cancer journey. There is something about nature (if we can just remember to take the time to experience it) that speaks to the soul. I love that the lotus flower pushes its way through the mud not only to show its beauty to the world, but with the natural ability to remain pure and clean regardless of what the environment throws its way.

The next time I’m tempted to feel a bit diminished by my health scares, or experience anxiety or anger about what I’ve been through, I’m going to remember the lesson the lotus flower has taught me, and recognize the beauty this experience has brought to my life.

Posted in Breast Cancer Recovery, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Beautiful Problem

Young women, health, and body image

A young female co-worker recently regaled me with tales of woe after spending time trying to find a bikini that fit her. A bit of an aside is necessary so you will empathize, as I did, with her tale: Erin happens to be one of the most beautiful young women I’ve met in a long time. She is smart, funny, sincere – and as with most of us – always in pursuit of that perfect body. I gave up on that idea years ago, but Erin is still in her 20s, so it’s a good thing she is being mindful of staying in shape. I wish I’d started caring more about what I ate and how much physical activity I did on a daily basis when I was her age. It might have spared me the cancer experience, and I know I would have been a healthier and happier person in general.

Unlike many people, Erin actually works very hard to obtain the desired killer abs, arms, etc. She works out like a fiend nearly every day of the week, pushing herself relentlessly through any number of squats, presses, planks, push-ups and whatever else her boot-camp-style instructor throws her way. When she isn’t enduring boot camp, she’s running. Sometimes I get tired just watching her!

Over the last several months I’ve seen an incredible physical transformation take place. Her work is definitely paying off, but when it comes to a dressing room mirror, two miniscule pieces of fabric (aka a bikini) and a woman’s self-esteem – some things never change. Needless to say, her quest ended in tears and remorse – and to my way of thinking, something much worse – a bit of self-loathing.

I tried my best to bolster her ego and honestly tell her how fantastic she looks. I tried to remember how much credence I would have given to the opinions of a woman my age when I was her age. Sad to say, probably not much, because even at my age I’m not looking for my female peers’ approval – I’m still hoping someone appealing of the opposite sex will take a second look (and NOT because he can’t believe what a train wreck he’s just observed)!

I thought long and hard about what I would have said to my younger self in a similar situation, and what kept coming up for me had nothing to do with the shape of my body. The very best advice I could have proffered to my younger, never-quite-satisfied-self would be: Don’t waste time worrying about what you don’t have or can’t achieve, because perfection is an illusion. Celebrate your youth, your freedom, your good health – and the realization that for your entire life, the people who really matter love you just the way you are!

girl jumping, smiling

Celebrate you!

Posted in Exercise, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Positive Thinking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Meaning of Mouth Watering

While I was going through cancer treatment in the summer of 2005, I had a few comfort foods that sustained me. Watermelon was one of these. The chemo often created mouth sores that were not only painful and bothersome, but that made eating some foods very difficult. I can still remember how wonderful a bite of cold, sweet watermelon felt. It not only soothed my mouth, but delighted my weary palate. As a result, I usually had a container of this succulent fruit cubed and sitting in the refrigerator that entire summer.

I’ve had several blessed summers since that time, and unlike some of the foods that nourished me while I was battling breast cancer that later lost their appeal, my love of watermelon has remained. When I discovered a delicious watermelon salad recipe, the time just felt right for me to share it with you. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s healthy – and it just may be a way in which you’ve never tried watermelon before. As long as the melon you select is firm and sweet – you can’t go wrong!

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 jicama, cut into cubes (you don’t have to add this, but it provides another
source of crunchy satisfaction)
4 cups watermelon in 2-inch chunks

watermelon in a bowl with cheese

photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

Crumbled Feta cheese (I do this to taste; too much can be overwhelming, so I just
sprinkle it on, take a taste, and go from there. A couple of ounces will do the trick.)
1/3 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves (I’ve also had this with basil instead of mint. It provides a more savory flavor. Sometimes I add diced tomato as well – so feel free to experiment!)

Whisk together juices, honey, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the jicama, watermelon and mint and toss to coat. This recipe can serve 4, but that’s only if I let anyone else near it!

Do you have any summer recipes to share? Or foods that helped you through treatment?

Posted in Eating Well, Healthy Living, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Some De-Stressing News

The media in recent weeks has been filled with alarming, stressful stories. Since having had breast cancer, I always find this even more troubling because I fought hard to stay alive, and I fully appreciate just how important it is to keep stress at bay. I shake my head when I see the actions of individuals who don’t seem to place the same value on the incredible beauty of simply being alive. Understanding all of this is way above my pay level, but I do realize it can bring incredible stress into my life. And, I’m assuming if I feel stress, many of you do as well.

With that thought in mind, I felt like this would be a good time to look at some innovative ways we can relieve some of the stress and get back to what is more important – honoring the time we’ve been given here on Earth.

Stress is known to suppress our immune system; raise our blood pressure; elevate the risk of stomach acid and ulcers; contribute to headaches, backaches, and neck-aches; colds; and even cancer. Stress is also linked to shortening of the telomeres, protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell dies. Research suggests that we want our telomeres to be as long as possible, because length is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer and heart disease, as well as a longer life. So, if you ask me, I will take the extra-long version – PLEASE!

Here are just a few innovative ideas to bust that stress and come out the other side feeling, if not worry-free, at least a bit less burdened.

woman inflating yellow balloonBlow up a balloon. Since our bodies need oxygen to relax, this is a simple tool you can use. When we are stressed we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Blowing up a balloon forces us to breathe more slowly and deeply, since we’re using our diaphragm. It also activates our parasympathetic nervous system, reducing our heart rate and relaxing our muscles. No balloons handy? Then remind yourself to take a deep, calming breath each time you walk through a doorway. You know the old saying, when one door closes another one opens – well, you can now add when one door opens I let go of some stress!

Try laughter yoga. Did you know that children laugh about 140 times a day? Adults, not so much. Actually, the average adult only laughs about 12 to 14 times a day. Every time we laugh, we release an endorphin, and those are 200 times stronger than morphine. Laughter yoga, which is becoming more and more popular nationwide, blends attempts to provoke laughter via eye contact and childlike playfulness with breathing exercises. If you can find a local class, try it. The child in you will be very thankful!

Play the drums. Drumming allows you to have fun, stay very much in the present moment, and release stress both consciously and unconsciously. So grab those bongos, snares or tom toms and let the good times roll! Heck, even a tambourine will do the trick. Just remember to choose your drum playing time wisely, or you may be adding to someone else’s stress levels!

If you are still young enough (and lucky enough) to be able to call your mom, do it! Researchers have found that in stressful situations, hearing the sound of your mom’s voice reduces stress hormones while boosting levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Take a break from the news. It’s time to turn off your TV, shut down the laptop, and stack those newspapers and magazines in the corner. A temporary vacation from world events give us time to clear our head, reduce our worries, and put our life in perspective. Give it a week – and don’t feel guilty. Unfortunately, the major stories will still be around in a week, and just think how nice it would be to escape from worrying about something you can’t control for a few days.

Climb a tree. If you are healthy enough (and fortunate enough to live in a place where there are full-grown trees in your neighborhood), now’s the time to revert to some childish behavior! Give yourself a lift. Climbing a tree is active, playful – and fun! Again, don’t add to someone else’s stress level by being too much of a monkey and climbing to a dangerous level. Just high enough to get a new perspective. When you get back to ground level you’ll be surprised at just how much stress you’ve relinquished!

Learn to play again. Try something like jumping on a trampoline. Go rollerblading. Blow bubbles. Spend some time hula-hooping. You have no goal other than to simply cut loose and enjoy yourself.

Create a “life is a banquet” collage. This world we live in does have its stresses, but it is also a place filled with humor, humanity and hope. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look for stories, cartoons, pictures, articles, song lyrics, ads, and quotes that bring these emotions to the forefront. If possible, add to your collection every day. Then, the next time the news is grim, bring out your collage and spend some time immersed in things that make you feel good.

You may also like this post: Feeling stressed? Meditate

Got a great stress buster? If so, please share!

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