Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, July 5, 1999

Best stressed: Grab the reins on stress and make that energy work for, not against you
By Treena Shapiro


STRESS. It's a dirty word that makes your heart race just to read it. It evokes images of missed deadlines, leaky diapers, bounced checks and public humiliation.

Busy people tend to scoff at the advice of stress experts, dismissing much of it as new age nonsense. In this rapid-paced professional world, people feel foolish about taking a couple deep breaths at their desks. Who has time to stand up for 10 minutes of stretching? And, while many people would like to be able to sneak out for a massage in the middle of the day, how can they when even breaking away for a quick lunch is impossible? As for squeezing exercise into a long work day, it often seems easier to settle for a fitful night's sleep.

Instead of relying on clinical advice alone, it might be better to learn by example. For those in some of Hawaii's most stressful positions, the keys to dealing with stress are humor, physical activity, spiritual faith and taking time to relax.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
For stress management, Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue
runs three times a week and practices martial arts in the evenings.
He is shown at left coaching children at the Police Academy.

The goal is managing, not eliminating, stress. Everybody needs some stress for safety and motivation, said Sharone Souza-Hall, a stress management instructor at the Kaiser-Permanente Koolau clinic. The stress just needs to be kept at a healthy level.

Stress can be managed without compromising your professional or family life. Learning to manage stress may even improve your overall health.

Without proper management, stress can build up and create a number of physical and emotional health problems. Dr. Shepard Ginandes, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in stress, said patients usually come in to see him after developing symptoms like anxiety, sleep problems, stomach problems and headaches. Chronic fatigue, depression, elevated blood pressure or a rapid heartbeat may also be indicative of stress-related problems.

Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue said some stress is necessary to work effectively. "For an arrow to go straight, there has to be stress in the bowstring," he said.

But although Donohue typically puts in a 50 to 60 hour work week in a pressure-packed occupation, he said he doesn't feel stressed on the job. "I rely on my experience, I'm usually very prepared, and I realize that complaints and conflicts come with the job," Donohue said.

Donohue also keeps his stress under control with a physical fitness regimen that includes running 4 to 5 miles three mornings a week and practicing martial arts in the evenings.

Spirituality and support from friends, family and colleagues, also help Donohue make it through each day.

Not everyone is able to handle daily stresses with Donohue's ease, however. When the high demand for performance takes a toll on health, some realize they can't do everything at once and have to let up, Ginandes said.

But after 46 years in practice, Ginandes has learned people are reluctant to step back from their self-imposed obligations. "Relaxation is almost a dirty word these days. No one wants to stop to do it," he said.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono knows taking time out for relaxation is crucial for stress management. "Politics is a very stressful career," Hirono said, but her temperament keeps her on an even keel. Still, sometimes a mid-day nap helps. In the tradition of John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill, Hirono said she'll occasionally lie down for 20 minutes if she finds the time.

Hirono realizes the importance of carving time out for herself and her family. "If I did everything that was asked of me, it would not be balanced. I would not be a happy camper."

She admits it's sometimes hard for her to say no, but she finds people are generally understanding. "If I can't do something with a group one time, I try to do it the next time," she said.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue said some stress is
necessary to work effectively.

Away from the office, Hirono spends time with her family, reads, listen to music and runs three times a week. "I like to sweat," she said. "That helps."

Hirono also depends on a positive sense of humor. "Humor always helps. It'd be good if all of us could have a big guffaw laugh once a day," she said.

Dr. Duke Wagner, a psychologist who will lecture on "Laughter: The Best Medicine for Stress" for the Honolulu Medical Group at noon on July 21, said one's outlook on life will affect stress levels. Happier individuals who are able to laugh at the human condition and have a positive attitude will live a better life, Wagner said.

A good sense of humor has helped Margery Bronster keep laughing, even after her recent professional set back. "You have to keep it in perspective and look at the bright side," she said. "When I did not get reappointed (as state attorney general) there was a lot of bright side, and that was that people were so supportive."

Linda Lingle, chairperson of the state Republican Party, exemplifies positive attitude. "I used to have a joke when I was mayor, 'I don't have stress, I give stress,'" she said.

Lingle said swimming 2 miles four days a week helps to keep her even-tempered. In addition, she has a great support system. "I have a lot of close friendships with people. I gain strength from that," she said. "Because a lot of my life is in public, I value my friends so much."

Lingle deals with short-term stress with a Snickers bar. But in general she finds the demands of her position give her motivation. Lingle finds pleasure in taking responsibility for tough decisions and facing challenges. She said she doesn't call it stress.

According to Souza-Hall, those less prone to stress view life as a challenge rather than a demand and they take personal control over their lives instead of feeling out of control. Students in Souza-Hall's course start by learning to take control of the moment, using techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, stretching and meditation.

Souza-Hall said some people use mantras and prayers to stay in the moment. Vicky Cayetano, a successful business woman, mother and Hawaii's first lady, puts great stock in prayer when everything seems to be happening at once. "You tap into a greater energy source than just yourself," she said.

In addition, Cayetano practices deep breathing to center herself and exercises regularly to get the stress out and keep fit.

Cayetano has attended four funerals recently and uses positive thinking to work through the sadness. "Instead of looking at the people that I've lost, I look at the ones that I still have with me," she said. "I focus on what I do have, instead of what I've lost."

For Dr. Mark Magelssen of the Queen's Medical Center emergency room, dealing with loss is a job requirement. "Probably the more stressful situations are pediatric cases, small children that are either critically injured or very very ill. If the child dies, I find it heartbreaking sometimes to tell the parent and the family the news," he said.

Magelssen's spiritual beliefs help him to make it through these times. "I believe that life doesn't end when someone dies and that gives me hope," he said.

Pastor Bill Stonebraker of the Calvary Chapel Honolulu combines prayer with another stress reliever, keeping a journal. Stonebraker calls his method "praying through the Psalms."

When Stonebraker is in a difficult situation, whether in the church or in the home, he goes to the biblical Book of Psalms. "King David wrote it and he experienced every emotion that he could possibly experience," Stonebraker said.

He describes his journal entries as prayers on the page. "I pretty much leave it with the Lord and leave it on the page of my journal. It brings tremendous relief to the stress," he said.

Support from colleagues can also help relieve a stressful situation. Lt. Gregory Lefcourt of the Honolulu Police Department Training Academy said after officers encounter something traumatic like a major traffic accident, the group gets together for a critical incident stress debriefing so the officers can share their personal reactions. Knowing they aren't alone helps the officers to overcome their fears, he said.

Dr. Jean Adair-Leland, chief psychologist at Queen's Medical Center, realizes how important it is to call on others for help.

But Adair-Leland finds avoiding shop talk at lunches with her colleagues beneficial. Humor is better medicine at these gatherings. Her job demands 50 to 60 hours a week, but she tries to leave it behind her when she goes home to her husband and teen-age son. "I try to leave work at work and have fun at home with my family and friends," she said.

Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang sometimes manages to work play into the middle of the day. When he has free time during the week, he heads out to a nearby park to play pick-up basketball with friends. On the weekends, he hits the tennis court.

The rest of the weekend and evenings are dedicated to quality time with his family and pet beagle. Chang's other stress management techniques include reading and, on occasion, smoking a cigar.


Deal with it

Here are some classes for dealing with stress:

Bullet Dr. Duke Wagner's lecture "Laughter: The Best Medicine for Stress" will provide tips on how positive thinking can combat stress, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and increase energy. The free lecture will take place in the Honolulu Medical Group Third Floor Physicians Lounge from noon to 1 p.m. July 21. Call 537-2211.
Bullet "The Wellness Outlook Workshop: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection" teaches participants how to live life in the moment, with more joy, compassion, clarity, wisdom and peace. The five-session class will be offered at the Kaiser-Permanente Honolulu Clinic Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 28 through Aug. 25. The workshop is $100 for Kaiser Health Plan members and $108 for non-members. Call the Lifestyle Department at 597-2270 for information and reservations as well as schedules for future stress management courses.
Bullet The Down To Earth Lifestyle Center at 2515 South King St. offers meditation classes 7 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays. Participants learn to deal with stress and improve their health. Donations are welcome and reservations are not required. The schedule is subject to change, so call 955-7182 for information.

Stress busters

Feeling stressed on the job? Take five minutes to center yourself and try these stress-busting tips from Sharone Souza-Hall, a stress management instructor for the Kaiser Permanente Lifestyle Program.

1) Take a walk.
2) Take a few minutes to stretch your shoulders or lower back. This can be done in your chair.
3) Take a 5 minute "belly breath" break and focus on your deep breathing.
4) Go to a vacation spot in your mind. Use imagery to get to your favorite place.
5) Listen to your favorite music. It sparks the spirit and relaxes your body and mind.
6) Instead of talking to your colleagues, take a couple of minutes to talk to a friend or relative who is not involved in your work.
7) Practice "mindfulness." Take yourself off auto-pilot and focus back on the moment. After a few minutes, things won't seem like they're out of control.


Are you stressed?

Physical symptoms of stress may include: headache, fatigue, insomnia, digestive changes, neck or back pain, loss of appetite or overeating.

Psychological symtoms may include: tension or anxiety, anger, pessimism, resentment, increased irritability, feelings of cynicism, inability to concentrate or perform at usual levels.

Source: at,513.asp

No bad ting, brah

Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps.

Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productive and happy; mismanaged stress hurts and kills us.

Source: Adapted from "The Stress Solution" by Lyle Miller and Alma Dell Smith

Reading material

The American Booksellers Association estimates more than 2,000 self-help titles are published each year, and produce sales of about $500 million. Together with continuing sales of existing titles, the market is estimated at an annual $1 billion.

Source: Stress Inc. -- The Commerce of Coping, a very cool web site at

The way we chill

Most Americans (53 percent) choose to relax with the television. The television topped other forms of relaxation including reading, playing with kids or a pet, and taking a hot bath or shower, according to a relaxation survey of 500 adults nationwide, sponsored by ReaLemonade.

Source: Eagle Family Foods

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