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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wanna get away?

I've never been entirely certain what is meant by the phrase, "dog days of summer," but I know when that time of year arrives. About two hours ago, I took a lunchtime stroll to Walgreen's, only to find that the construction barriers and road closings also applied to sidewalks around the library, forcing me to clamber over the gravelly tracks like a raccoon in high heels. Worse, the temperature had soared into the high 80s and the smell of blacktop filled the air. I love dogs, but they can keep their "dog days" to themselves!

When August rolls around, it's hard to keep your cool, in more ways than one. As July fades away, I'm noticing everyone seems rude, less patient and downright hostile. All the neighborly good will we share around the Independence Day holiday degenerates into mighty uncivilized behavior.

We have a family tradition of seeing some games at Wrigley Field in the summer months, but last Friday's trip was ruined for us, not by the depressing performance on the field, but by some drunken loudmouths behind us who even harassed my elderly parents. (No, they were not Cubs fans -- they spewed obscenities at the players, too! "Why waste the money on a ticket?" I wondered.) I felt sorry for people around us who had children in tow, as the kids were getting not only a lesson in baseball but in excessive drinking, sexist attitudes toward women and profanity.

I just returned from a relaxing four-day jaunt to Door County, Wisconsin, but even there, it was difficult to slow down - if you dared to drive the speed limit, you were often greeted with the universal gesture of ill will and the dust kicked up from an SUV passing you. A shame, in so many ways. The speeders were wasting gas, creating tremendous stress for themselves and missing out on some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Midwest. You can't admire the view at 75 miles per hour.

I say all this but in the next breath I can find myself running out of patience, too. So what's the best way to chill out and keep your priorities straight? Have any suggestions you'd like to pass along to other PlainTalk readers? Music is often my way to de-stress - turn up the iPod and start singing along. A good book, even a bad book, can transport you to another place, far away from the summer heat and humidity. Walking and running on my treadmill help, too, and it's nice to turn anxiety or anger into something positive, namely a healthier you. The proverbial deep breath really can help when you're heating up, as can a prayer, a mantra, even just a visualization of something or someone that makes you very, very happy.

I can't guarantee your results, but I'll tell you something: after my hectic, sweaty, train-track walk at lunchtime today, walking back into the cool quiet of the Library was a major stress reliever! If that doesn't relax you, then check out something that will. We have more than one hundred books and DVDs on stress management - just follow that link and you can browse through a list. If that seems too much like work, then browse the DVDs for a funny flick or a breath-taking summer blockbuster. There are, of course, blogs and Web sites on every topic, including ways to ease stress. Some you might find interesting:

How about you? How do you handle the stress when the dog days of August get to you? Click below and type in your comments. You can sign in with your Google or Yahoo account, or just type a comment with your name - you can even be anonymous. See? Even online, we make things easy for you to keep the stress at bay.

Yes, that's a photo of the construction on the railroad tracks in downtown Des Plaines. The tracks are supposed to reopen on Monday, August 4, 2008. We will keep you posted if there is news to report.


  1. How to de-stress in the summer heat? How about a nice sail on cool lake Michigan? And in August, the water temperature warms up enough to make swimming off the boat a treat too.

  2. Oooh, nice suggestion, Ron. Even though I've lived in the Chicago area my entire life, sometimes I forget just how beautiful Lake Michigan is. When we stayed up in Door County earlier this week, our lodge overlooked the lake, and whether it was sparkling with sunlight or foaming and stormy, it managed to be calming and invigorating all at the same time.

  3. Getting away with friends is a great way to de-stress. I just returned from a getaway to Ludington, Michigan with two friends I've known since kindergarten. Walking, laughing, eating ice cream. You just can't beat good friends. Backyard or another state. It's all good.


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