You know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something is seriously wrong? Often accompanied by inability to focus on the here and now (your music, your kids, your grandkids, your partner), trouble sleeping, mind racing? Happens when you get bad news, when someone treats you like crap, when you think you’ve made a serious mistake, grief. It’s the fight or flight stress reaction. Today I got that sensation when I was playing my sax, trying to memorize a piece. I so struggle with memorization-always have-from the days of anatomy and trying to remember bones. Anyway, I thought,why the heck am I feeling this stress reaction playing music? I’ve felt it more often lately-stress at work mostly. It affects my sleep, I struggle to focus. It’s an energy sucker. I only have so much gas in my tank-I hate wasting it on this stress reaction. What can a person do? I’m not one that’s had success with meditation. There are some interesting tricks: I do love the one of pressing on the space above my upper lip below my nose. I think it’s so comical it helps for a second, but doesn’t last past the press. Focused breathing deeply always works, but again doesn’t last. Talking to someone, getting whatever off my chest occasionally works -and it lasts. There’s compartmentalization, denial – I’m not too good at those either. My PCP gave me Ativan to take before I go to bed, but I haven’t tried it. Actually, just having it in the cabinet has almost eliminated my need for it. Powerful stuff, eh – proximity without ingestion. Stress is a part of life. Unavoidable, part of the human condition. The challenge is to keep the cycle short, less frequent. How do people manage who have this sensation all day for days, weeks, months, years on end? Must be crazy making. Managing stress is a magic lever of best health.