Stress management: Limit stress by being thankful

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Q. What is the single most important factor in dealing with stress?

A. I think it's this: Having a grateful heart. I know plenty of people that have very little, but they live wonderful lives. On the other hand, I know far too many who have more than they need, but they still find ways to not count their blessings. Let me share an e-mail I got from my friend Todd Dewey, who works for Chesapeake Rehab:

On Friday, I was scheduled at 1 p.m to deliver a wheelchair to a kid I have known since he was 6. He has end-stage Duchenne's MD, and he's now 22. I committed to delivering his very complex wheelchair on a Friday night. When I got to his house to unload the chair and two boxes of parts, I thought about how much I wanted to be home.

Well, I went inside and saw Justin and totally let go of all this selfishness. He can't move much more than a finger, breathes with a ventilator and totally relies on his mother and nurses to manage all of his needs. I spent several hours working with Justin and his chair.

When his father got home, he asked Justin's mom if they had hot water. She said no, so he excused himself and came back about 40 minutes later all sweaty and dirty. I asked him what he was doing and he told me how they heat their water with a wood stove/copper coil contraption that he had built. He had been cutting and splitting wood for the fire. I was amazed!

At 9:30, his father asked me if I wanted to call it a night. I said I would work as long as it would take to get the chair completed, but he said Justin was tired and needed to get to bed. Just before getting into bed, Justin began to get sick and throw up, hanging from his Hoyer lift over a bedpan. Mom helped him, and she and Justin stayed calm.

I started packing things up when his dad asked me if I'd join them for a beer and some homemade sausage balls. I said yes and we went out to sit on the porch. His father looked into the sky and said, "What a great night."

Those of us who are selfish at times need to be thankful for many things, including but not limited to: healthy families, food in our house, the ability to use the bathroom on our own without an audience, hot water on demand, etc.

Dr. Gary Schwantz is a speaker, writer and consultant. Reach him at