Stress: What Are Your Coping Mechanisms?


Stress Management. How many articles and books have been written on this subject?  How many medications are taken daily in hopes of managing the stress we experience? What coping mechanisms can we practice?


As a health coach, I regularly see people suffering from various health issues as a result of being under too much stress. Since Battered Hope has been released, one of the questions I get most often is: How did you endure all the trauma? After 41 years of marriage and surviving often insurmountable circumstances, my response is almost always the same, “I learned how to laugh!


You have heard it said “Laughter is the best medicine.” That statement carries a tremendous amount of weight because if we find something to laugh about in any given situation, we get through it so much easier and faster. Allow me to paint you a word picture to illustrate my point.


 My son sold an engine mount for a motor bike on eBay and asked if I would mail it for him. No problem. The postage was going to be astronomical if sent from Canada so I offered to take it to the US.

 My first question to you is this, “Who, in their right state of mind, crosses the border on a Friday long weekend in summer?” I left home at 5:30 in the morning to be sure I would arrive early enough to avoid a line-up. Wrong! It was a 45 minute wait.


 The UPS store opened earlier than the post office so that was my first stop. I had to purchase the necessary supplies for packing this irregular parcel and assumed they would help me do this without incident. I had collected $35 from the eBay customer which, again assuming, would be more than adequate funds. Three wrongs do not make one right!


They told me it would be ready in about half an hour. I went to the post office to mail other items and there was a 30 minute line up. The post office is a great place to watch people deal with stress. For some reason, apparently the person standing behind counter is at total fault for a parcel being lost in transit. It is also the post office employee’s fault that the cost of postage is so high.


I realize how stressful their job can be so usually get the employees laughing. Wicket number one is Joe. He is bald, retiring soon and has a handlebar mustache he plays with consistently – probably a stress reliever. Ken, in wicket number two, is a very short man who thinks he is an Elvis impersonator and usually starts serenading me when he sees me come through the door. I try to ignore him and he just sings louder until I acknowledge him with at least a nod. Is this a way for him to deal with his stressful day?  Then there is Jim. He is a very good looking man with long curly gray hair. He is the most serious of the group.


My lucky day – I get Jim. We chat for a minute and one of the workers in the back recognizes my voice and comes out to say hello. This certainly makes up for all the time spent waiting in line and I joke with them both for a minute and get them laughing.


Back to the UPS store to mail the parcel. The girl that waited on me sighs a big sigh and says “Sorry, but I had to put three boxes together to accommodate the mount and the cost is $20 to prepare it for shipping.” No problem as I had collected $35. I asked for the cheapest rate and she checks UPS, FED EX and USPS. “$120 is the cheapest.” I thought I didn’t hear her correctly and asked her to repeat it. Nope, heard it right! At this point, I decided to try the post office as I ‘assumed’ she could not be right.


This is where it starts to get stressful. Now that the engine mount was in a box, it would not fit into the back of my Jeep. The thermometer was rapidly rising and I was trying to manipulate this monstrosity into my SUV and finally managed with a third of it sticking out the back window. It was over 8 feet long.


After waiting in line for 40 minutes, with a box that is taller than me, Ken waits on me. He starts to sing about how long it has been since he last saw me, laughing because it was just earlier that day! I’m tired and hot and just want to get this done. He points out that a metal part has punctured the box and is sticking out, “Sorry, but you can’t mail it in this condition. You’ll have to fix it and bring it back.” Thanking him I said I would do that immediately but first, “How much will it cost to mail it?”


He measures it and says “$120.” So UPS gal was right. “However, if you can scrape two inches off the packaging, it will only be $35.”


A kind gentleman helped me get the box back into my vehicle and I head to the UPS store. I explain the situation to UPS and we decided we could make it work. First thing was to unbolt the crank that was sticking out the side. The two of us tried to loosen it without any luck. So, we made a little cardboard box to fit around it to cover it. Then I explained the problem with the length. We tried to “squish” it shorter. I sat on the box while she strapped it with heavy duty tape. “There, that should do it!” She measured it and it had now grown five inches. At this point, tears might have come easily but logic had to take over. I could do this. Once again, I didn’t believe her and measured it myself and it was only one inch over the limit. She suggested I go back to the post office and cry and play the sympathy card.


Load it back into the Jeep, get in line – 30 minutes this time. When the guys saw me in line there was loud laughter. Of course it was funny, even though I wasn’t having any fun.


Ken waits on my again. He measures it and I tell him “I have to mail it for $35.” He measures it and says “Sorry, that will be $200. I must have looked like I was going to burst into tears and he started to laugh loudly. “Actually, you did a great job and it will cost you $29.”


By the time I finished my errands and got back to the border I was extremely tired and the border guard asked me a strange question, “Do you have any mace?” Being a baker, I immediately thought of pumpkin pie spice and told him “I don’t make pumpkin pies until Thanksgiving.” He looked at me like I was from outer space and then said, “Do you have any pepper spray?”


I started laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes and wanted to tell him about my day but kept my composure and assured him I did not have any weapons. I realize this is not considered a stressful day for people who have serious problems and dealing with situations that can be debilitating. But my point is, I have had a very traumatic life and overcame cancer, marital abuse, loss of a child, suicide attempt and suffered huge financial losses as a result of partners that were devious and greedy. No matter how stressful the situation you find yourself in, you can find something to be thankful for and realize that it could have been worse. Attitude is extremely important when dealing with tension and having a positive one is the key to being an over-comer.