September 29, 2008

Stressed Out?

By Dr Scott Morris

Let's face it. Recent events surrounding our economy have put a knot in most of our stomachs. If you don't see how the failure of significant segments of our economy is injecting great stress into our lives, you're just not paying attention or you're one brick short of a load.

And stress, as we all know, is a time bomb for physical illness, not to mention its greatest immediate effect, unhappiness.

It's been hard to ignore the roller-coaster ride of breaking news, and maybe you've even found yourself talking about it with friends and colleagues. It has become the central focus of many of our days. There's no way this can be healthy for us.

Now I can't tell you what to do with your investments, but I do have a few suggestions on how to reduce stress.

First, for those of you addicted to the TV and radio, take some time to turn them off for a while. Enjoy some music or even silence.

Second, during that time, remember what makes your life good right now. Your family. Your friends. Your faith. Your connection to the earth. What motivates you. You understand what I'm saying - be smart about the economy, but don't neglect the good and rewarding aspects of our lives.

As I'm writing this column, I'm on my porch after a long, hard day. The stock market was all over the place today, and after I watched a Tivoed version of the news, I just had to turn it all off and go outside. Now that I'm out here, I realize that the weather is perfect. My neighbors are walking their dogs. I can hear the water trickling in a fountain I built last spring for stressful nights just like this one. Had I not turned off the TV, I would've missed out on an otherwise pleasant evening.

Every day at the Church Health Center, I treat patients who face enormous financial challenges. They're unable to pay basic bills, because they're trying to live off jobs that pay $8 an hour. They work day and night while constantly worrying about their children. Shopping at Kroger with only a few dollars to feed five mouths is more than a struggle.

At the same time, they find joy in the small things, or maybe I should say big things. They laugh with friends. Their children touch their hearts. They take what life gives them and still experience joy.

I understand that having your hard-earned money slowly lose value is absolute agony. After all, this is money you depend on today and were counting on having in retirement. I don't want to discount financial worries or the resulting stress - it's real, but it's important to count the blessings you do have and to keep things in perspective.

I have always worried about the strength of our economy, and with rising costs, more businesses and individuals will be forced to drop their health insurance. Will the Church Health Center receive enough in donations to serve the growing needs of the people we care for? I hope and pray we will. I have to remind myself daily that we're all in this together.

So while I don't want to deny that our worries are real, let's not forget to give thanks for our blessings and take time to nurture our relationships. So I for one am going to stop writing this column and go find my wife so we can take our dogs for a walk on this beautiful early autumn evening.

And that makes me smile.

Dr. Scott Morris is the founder and executive director of the Church Health Center, whose ministries provide healthcare for the working uninsured and promote healthy bodies and spirits for all. Morris is also the associate minister at St. John's United Methodist Church. For more information about the Church Health Center, call 272-7170 or visit

Originally published by Dr. Scott Morris .

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