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Coffee Break

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Stress overload finally pushed an SBJ editor over the edge ... and into wet bandages

by Clarissa A. French

I had pretty much let the phenomenon of body wraps pass me by.

In the last year, several body wrap entrepreneurs have invited SBJers to try a body wrap, explaining that it is something that "has to be experienced."

What led me to finally try it was two words emphasized by Sharon Preston, of Healing Hands Herbal Body Wraps, in a letter. The key words? Stress relief.

After five years at the Business Journal, I woke up one morning to discover that I was completely stressed out. In five years, I'd never taken a whole week off at a time. I'd take one day here, two days there, but never a week.

Why? Good question. The truth is, I couldn't bring myself to leave and hand over the reins until I reached a stopping point, never really thinking about the fact that I work in an industry where there is no stopping point.

But it was OK. I was in control. I had my priorities in order. I knew what had to go out, and when. And by God, it went out on time.

There was only one thing missing from my list of priorities: Me.

Sound familiar?

I realized it was time for a break. I put in a request for a week's vacation and made an appointment for a body wrap.

Along with stress relief, Preston said, an herbal body wrap provides detoxification of the cells and typically results in inch loss.

She chatted about the process and its benefits as she wrapped, but for me, stress relief was plenty.

Her talking put me at ease, not a simple task since I was feeling pretty surreal about the whole thing. I mean, here I was, a full-grown, professional journalist, standing around in my underwear being mummified in the middle of the business day.

My whole body was wrapped in hot cloths soaked in an herb-and-sea-kelp solution that smelled pleasantly like herbal tea, then sealed in plastic wrap. I envisioned myself as a giant Twinkie.

I fell into, then stretched out on, a lounge ("Believe me, there's no graceful way to do this," Preston told me as I toppled into the chair).

Preston put booties on my feet, tucked a blanket around me, dimmed the lights and left me for one hour.

A scented candle burned in the corner, water trickled from a table-top fountain and in the background was music, a simple tune plucked on guitar against the sounds of a mountain stream bubbling water and twittering birds.

I was warm. I was comfortable. I was immobilized. There were no phones, no deadlines, nothing to edit. There was nothing I could do ... but relax.

I realized my jaw was clenched. I unclenched it. Listening to the sounds of water and birds, I envisioned myself stretched out in the sun on a big flat rock in the middle of Swan Creek a thing I had not done in real life in more than a decade.

Afterward, I felt great. I was relaxed and mellow. And, Preston informed me, I had also lost more than 13 inches from all over my body. Just an added feel-good bonus.

I was ready to start my stress-free vacation.

So, while this issue you're reading was being produced, I was relaxing in beautiful West Central Springfield, puttering around the house, putting up Halloween decorations, reading, watching movies and enjoying fall with my dogs.

From my new, relaxed perspective, I offer the following lessons I have learned or am learning about handling stress:

?Recognize your limitations. Actually, do more than recognize your limits: respect them. Know that you cannot be all things to all people. Pace yourself, and learn to say no when you need to. Recognize when you need to.

?Include yourself in your list of priorities. Take time for yourself. When's the last time you had a week off?

?Pursue relaxation. There are numerous options available to reduce tension, from body wraps, massage and meditation, to exercise, sports and hobbies. Take the time to find what works for you.

?Realize the importance of play. Have fun. Be silly. Know that you are never too old or too responsible to jump in a pile of leaves, sing, take up painting, ride a bike or do whatever else makes you happy.

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