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A State of Stress

It's Friday. And Suzanne Jessee recommends we take a collective deep breath.

Ready? One…Two…Three…Sigh. Go to your happy place (mine: Mackinac Island). There! Don't you feel better?

The city, the region, the whole state is stressed out, according to Jessee, who counsels people on the topics of panic disorders, mental distress and mental wellness. She's been down those roads herself. And she lives in Michigan (Brighton), so she knows the challenges here.

Between the weather (seasonal affective disorder), the economy (Wall Street) and the overall negative vibes being sent to our state (Congress), Jessee and I agree on one thing: this Mitten needs some help to emotionally detoxify.

Warning: This won't be just a pity party. This is tough love, too. Get ready for it.

Jessee is a Texas native, but she has lived in Michigan over the past decade. This gives her a unique perspective as both an outsider and longtime resident. As an outsider, she appreciates the state's beauty and abundant resources. But as a resident, she understands why we all get so bummed out about “the Remains of Detroit.”

People coast through life in most circumstances, Jessee said. It is in times of stress or anxiety that we must manage our behavior and reaction to stress on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis if needed. We must be more aware of our thoughts and how we perceive things. Negative thoughts (and cruel behaviors) must be banished quickly and completely.

“Stress is 90 percent perception,” Jessee said. “It's not the event; it's how we perceive the event.”

Plus, we're all pretty spoiled when you really look at it. We've been catered to and doted on for so long that we're like a fat cat, Jessee notes. We still have food. We still have a roof to shelter us. And if you don't have either, there are food banks and shelters out there – a true blessing that many forget about.

“You can choose to focus on the haves or you can focus on the have nots in life,” Jessee said.

In fact, this is the time when individuals need to look beyond their own needs and think of others. If you are unemployed, this is the ideal time to offer your skills to others. Not only could it help someone, it makes you feel good. And that is key to reducing stress.

“If you're not suffering, you probably know someone who is and you need to reach out,” she said. “Besides, no one is really suffering here. We're having to make do with less. That's not suffering. Most of us still have everything we need.”

Yup, you heard her right. We are not victims. We made choices – to buy that boat, to take out that home loan, to buy those risky stocks. You can admit you took the risk and be at peace with it. Or you can complain. And now is not the time to complain. Learn from those decisions and become accountable.

Michigan is full of people with top-notch skills. There is a strong community here that supports one another. And the rewards that we believe we deserve will come – in time.

“This is just a season,” Jessee added. “It was necessary and it was a regret. But what goes up must come down.”

Another surprising recommendation: Jessee believes Metro Detroit needs to have some fun. And fun doesn't have to be expensive. It's like when someone invites you to go ice skating. You probably complain throughout the entire preparation, but the actual event is thrilling.

“Thoughts and emotions are like chemicals – stress moves throughout our system and it builds us up or down. Our mental and physical health is affected,” she notes.

“Self-pity is a choice. Engaging in (positive behavior) is a choice. But it takes effort. And a lot of us have a hard time getting over that hump,” Jessee said.

One part pep talk and one part nagging Mother. Aren't you glad you read the Blog today?

Suzanne Jessee also threw down a challenge: If you post a comment here, share an experience that brought you joy. It just might make you go into the weekend with a little less stress.

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