ON THE COVER North Coast Journal Weekly
Nov. 11, 2004


STRESSED OUT [photo of rope almost breaking]


IT WAS "PICTURE DAY" at my son't elementary school last week, the day those all-important school photographs are taken. We had been told in advance, of course, and reminded in numerous ways.

Picture day was also the day after the election, when I and the rest of the Journal's editorial staff spent nearly the entire night at the office, putting together our local coverage for last week's edition. I got back home at 7:30 a.m., just in time to help get Danny, who is 6, ready for school and out the door. Picture day was light years from my mind.

Later that week, I remembered. "Danny, it was picture day on Wednesday!" I exclaimed. What was he wearing? He didn't remember, of course. The blue turtleneck with the stains? His worn out, faded orange T-shirt? The custodian, bless her heart, must have taken pity on him; she combed his hair.

Missing picture day is not the end of the world, of course, but it made me feel like a Bad Parent. And it was yet another example, among many lately, of how my life seems to have slipped out of control, like a performance by a once-competent juggler who is now watching the balls drop all around her.

I am stressed out.

For me, it comes down to having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. I squeeze in the required tasks whenever there's a spare moment, or I try to do two things at once, like cleaning the bathroom sink while I'm watching the kids in the bath. A couple years ago, I told my workaholic friend David in San Francisco about this, that I feel like my life is carved into five-minute increments. That, he said, is not good for your soul. David died of a sudden heart attack last year at age 56.

The effects of this treadmill life are showing.

Not only do I forget things, I'm cranky and impatient with the kids. They don't fail to notice when I put them off because of some "more important" task. I was putting some knobs on our cabinets recently when Danny got completely frustrated with me. "Work, work, that's all you say. I'm going to throw your working tools away!" he said.

On rare occasions, I'm distracted to the point where I space out completely while driving, missing my turn or going past the highway exit I need to take. That's the kind of thing that really starts to scare me. I think about those horrific stories of parents who inadvertently leave their infants in the car all day, forgetting completely about them, with disastrous consequences. Will I forget something really important?

For people in their 40s and 50s, increased forgetfulness is often taken as a sign of early Alzheimer's, when most often it's linked to stress, according to Eve Adamson in her book, The Everything Stress Management Book. Other side effects of stress can include sweating, nausea and vomiting, confusion, panic and hostility. Long-term effects include depression and chronic pain, and may contribute to high blood pressure, Adamson writes. A huge proportion of all visits to primary care physicians -- some 75 to 90 percent -- are for stress-related complaints, according to the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y.

Obviously, I'm not the only one who is grappling with this problem. So I visited Bayshore Mall one day last week to find out what other Humboldt County residents have to say about the stress in their lives -- and maybe get some tips from them on how to deal with it. Here are some of their responses.


There is stress at work, and I have two young children, there's stress about that, they're 9 and 5. I don't know that I ever get to the point where I can't function because of stress. I've heard there are some people who get so [stressed out] they just freeze, but I don't get to that point. If it's nonspecific, if I just feel stressful, I'll just get up and walk around the block. That'll deal with it. Typically, if I'm stressed out, it's because I'm behind or I need to get something done. So I'll sit down with a piece of paper and say, this is what I need to do to get these things done. If I'm not doing it well, I should find somebody who can help me do it better, or if I don't have time to do it, then I either need to be honest about not being able to get it done or find somebody who can help me. If there are things that are beyond my control I need to realize that and not stress out about that. Another way to get rid of stress [is to] go home. The nice thing about living in a small town, certainly in Ferndale, there's a pretty low-stress lifestyle down there, you don't worry about things that folks may worry about in other communities, crime or are the kids are safe, anything like that. My kids actually tend to be good stress relievers because they take your mind off of everything except them.

--Gregg Foster, 39, Ferndale

[Patrick Roach and two children]

I got a high level of stress. It comes in waves, like anything else, I guess. I think stress comes out of relationships, out of a desire to want to do right by the people you love, people in your life, then there's stress that comes from meeting your own expectations for yourself. There's stress from protecting your investments, to include your family, protect the ones you love, protect what you worked hard to achieve, those kinds of things. I'm a helicopter rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard [but] here people don't get in that much trouble. I've been here for two and a half years, and I've flown on three or four things that were the real deal and maybe on four of them I did something directly. [The rest of the time] I try to take care of these guys [his children, Promise, 3, and Tri, 4]. For me there's a little more stress involved because we actually got married a year ago and these are children from another marriage, and the ex-husband's still in the picture. It's not that we wanna cut off visitation from him but I don't think he's equipped to take care of them. Usually I work out a lot [to combat stress], I had a knee injury so I haven't been able to do that as much. Movies -- like the whole put-the-kids-in-bed, get some movies and spend some time with my wife, kind of the lockdown syndrome. Go inside and not come out again. So we do that. We go out to eat as a family, too. We have a Sunday brunch thing at the Trinidad, the casino up there, sometimes. That's really nice.

--Patrick Roach, 29, McKinleyville [above photo]


I t's worse at the holidays. I had a daughter who died [three years ago] next month. [Her twin, Giovanna, survived.] So it's always more stressful at this time. She was 29 days old. Generally I just try to really take care of myself. If I don't feel like dealing with something, then I don't. If I don't feel like being in the company of a lot of people then I don't. I try to take a step back. It doesn't always work. But you do the best you can. I'm [also] looking for a job. That's another story. It's hard to pay the bills when you don't have a job! Kind of hard to make the rent and car payment. [I'm a single mother and I also have a 7-year-old at home.] Now's the time of year for work at the mall, but I don't really want to do that. They want you to be too varied in your hours, and they want you to give up your life, and they only want to pay you $6.75 an hour. Kind of hard to raise two kids on $6.75 an hour.

--Rita, age 28, Eureka


We live on the Klamath River. I'm a fish technician for the Yurok tribe. You get to ride around in boats, it's a lot of fun. Real pleasant work. You're out in nature all the time, riding along the river, and checkin' out God's creation. It's really neat. What good's worry gonna bring to anybody? It can't add a day to your life. If things are gonna happen they're gonna happen, so take `em as they come.

--Thomas Willson, 41, Weitchpec


W e're Christians. We pray, we believe in Jesus. He's always working on our behalf and we really hear from him so we know he's there for us. He really guides us in our life. I'm a maintenance worker with Yurok tribe. We're both Yurok, we both live in the reservation, we both have full-time jobs and we have a home, and we have great Christian friends and other friends, and we both live around our families. And we're thankful that we voted for President Bush, and we're thankful that he's back in, it's something that we were praying for, our church has been praying for. We've been praying that earth will come back to morals, that things won't be so far out of hand, that God's ideas should be our ideas.

--Morneen Willson, 42, Weitchpec


There's a lot of guys involved in my life right now -- I have to choose, and it's stressful. My boyfriend, he just broke up with me and, like, he wants to get back with me, but I'm single and I'm lovin' it. I have a bunch of friends right now and I like having friends, nothing serious. Homework is always something I stress about. And I have asthma and if I don't have my inhaler, I'm always stressing. I always forget it, so I chew my nails continuously, I get really stressed out.

--Raquel Munoz, 17, Hoopa


It's really stressful because I don't know how I'm gonna make it if I move out of my parents' house, just thinking about paying rent and utilities and school and everything. And I just recently bought a really expensive [Dodge Stratus], which was a mistake, because now I'm obligated to that for years. So it's pretty crazy. It's like I want to move away but I don't have money so I'm stuck, and that's really hard, because there's nothing here for me. I want to go to college. I want to major in psychology and become a psychologist and have a career and all that, but I don't see myself doing that because I feel so stuck here.

--Nicole Pacheco, 19, Hoopa


Oh, I'll tell you stressed. We're so stressed out about [the election of Bush]. We're talking about moving to England. Our daughters live in England. And I'm thinking, not too bad. In my lifetime now, we will never see the kind of things happen in the United States [that I'd hoped). It's just awful. I think the environment's gonna be just down the tubes, if it isn't already. It's incredibly depressing. To think that the country has that many stupid people. It's scary, that's what I feel.

--Marlene, 74, Eureka.


I'm a single mom [of 13-month-old Dylan] and I'm working a part-time job right now [in a department store]. I'm learning hardware and it's stressing me out because I got all these other people that are really good. We have to do online training, so I'm trying to take in what I can, but it's so hard because it's on the computer, and I want to learn so much more. I gotta get food for my son and myself, diapers, as well as keep myself sane. I'm 21. I take a bath at night, just sit there and read or something. Gas is a stress too, coming up for money for that. It's outrageous. Right now for training I'm getting $7 an hour. And I'm stressing out about Christmas. I live in my own place now, so just getting a Christmas tree and making it nice for [my son]. I got no furniture, either. It's hard and stressful.

--Misty, 21, Arcata [photo above]


A lot of time at work I start getting stressed out when, like, it's really busy or there's a lot of customers. I usually see it in the beginning. You can tell when you're getting stressed out. I try to fix it, and a lot of the time when I don't, it blows up further. I usually just, when I notice it, I go and take a breather or take a break, try to relax. A lot of the time I turn to cigarettes. It's not a good choice but they relieve stress.

--Maria Remme, 16, Garberville

[Dugo Nore]

At the moment, I've been having a lot of stress. We're moving to Mexico, and we've had four properties for sale and closing all like in the last two months. I'm from out of town, I'm just up here closing the fourth. We bought a house on the beach in the Caribbean, south of Cancun about five hours. So the beach is like right there in front of my house. I'm gonna start doing my sculpture, I'm a marble sculptor, and so I'm actually looking to de-stress. But it's been really, really stressful the last few weeks, especially just because there's so many questions that just aren't even capable of being answered. I'm an artist, and I don't really do well with these real estate, all the dealings with business. It's out of my genre. I lived in Humboldt County for 23, 24 years. I was a student and then I was an artist. For about 10 years I was doing chainsaw sculpting. It's been five years of just incredibly hard work [to move]. We basically renovated our primary residence and then another house that we got really, really cheap as a repossession. That's what I do when I'm not a sculptor, most of the time I'm a carpenter and do renovations. And we found an incredible deal on the south coast of the Caribbean in Mexico. Our dream is coming true.

--Dugo Nore, 52, Arizona [photo above]


I really don't [have stress]. I have my dog, I have a wonderful family and wonderful grandchildren. I think some people might be stressed right now; I discovered a lump in my breast. But I guess because I'm coming from my age, and I already had a breast cancer -- I think if I were 45 or 55 or whatever, I would be stressed, [but] I'm 83. Now I just feel, if it's a cancer, just deal with it. Whatever happens happens. I'm a widow. I live by myself and enjoy it. One of my grandchildren, the first one to do it, got married this weekend, so that was wonderful. I couldn't ask for more. My husband was an alcoholic, so we went through a hard time then, and then he stopped drinking, and everything was great again, so that was probably the most stressful. And then I had a daughter who, as a teenager, was extremely stressful. I'm very disappointed [in the election] but I'm not stressed by it, because I can't control it anyway. I couldn't see [Bush] in there for four more years. I just can't see why people voted for him. And I guess people can't understand why I voted for Kerry, but [Bush] has had almost four years in there and I hate what he's done in every way. I can't do anything about it, but that's a lesson learned by growing older.

--Aida Green, 83, Eureka




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