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The Wellness Diaries

News and views on health and wellness from local experts.

My friend tells this story. It was 7:30 a.m. and time to leave for work.The dog was chewing papers on the floor. It was her work report! One kid was twirling around the living room wearing different colored socks — and  nothing else. To top it off, black coffee splattered across her favorite blouse.

"I was stressed," she growled. The "S-word" lies on the tip of every tongue and between our gritted teeth. I avoid saying the word. Too stressful. And as I age (sigh), I try to find ways to reduce the harmful effects stress has on my body.

Stress is another name for fight or flight syndrome, the evolutionary response to danger. Great for my ancestors when they encountered a saber-toothed tiger, but not so great for me now. Stress hormones flood the body, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. If I encounter a flinty-eyed co-worker or demanding Auntie Helen, I can’t attack or flee, much as I might want to do so. With no way to burn off this energy, the stress response can be harmful. What can I do?

For some answers, I spoke with ., a Benicia primary care physician whose practice focuses on prevention and wellness.

Dr.Navalonic's tips on stress relief:

Know your triggers. First, he says, we must recognize what triggers our stress and try to gain control over the trigger. For example, if I am stressed by Auntie Helen’s visits, I could request (or insist) that she try a great Benicia bed and breakfast. If my friend’s twirling child in mismatched socks  is her trigger, perhaps the two could get up 15-minutes earlier for a wardrobe consult.

Pleasure = stress relief.  Dr. Navalonic suggests that we take time to engage in pleasurable activities.  Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music or collecting beetles (a hot hobby in Japan), do something you enjoy.

He also suggests group activities. Socializing is a stress reliever, one of his favorites. In fact, the doctor spoke to me just as he was preparing for a dinner party.

Emergency room nurse Nancy Williams says one of her triggers is sleep deprivation. She uses the Benicia Moms Club to destress, and she and her family enjoy Benicia parks. From yoga and art classes to poetry groups and outdoor exercise — not to mention our glorious shoreline — Benicia is all about stress relief.  Care to join me?  It's on doctor's orders.

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