Are you feeling stressed? You are not alone if you answer yes. It could be argued that we are living in one of the most stressful times since WWII. The Coronavirus Pandemic is wreaking havoc on all of us. Shutdowns of schools, businesses, churches, shopping centers, restaurants, entertainments centers, and even medical facilities have forced all of us to live a different way of life. Many have to learn how to work from home, others have been laid off. Social distancing has not only separated us from our family members but also friends, teachers, doctors and others. Children are affected as well, adapting to new ways to learn. At the time in their lives when they need social contact to learn how to relate to others, they are isolated.
Stress affects the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Long term it may make us sick, lowering our ability to deal with a number of aliments. It can cause or exacerbate high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and weaken our immune system.
So what can we do?
You probably don’t need a list of common stress features to tell that you are stressed, but here are a few things you might be experiencing: tension headaches, gritting of teeth, jaw pain, and maybe even stuttering and stammering. Lips and hands may sometimes tremble and you might have sweaty palms. Digestive tract distress is common. Difficulty going to sleep and/or waking up several times a night can occur. We might feel unusually irritable, grumpy, or belligerence and blurt out things we ordinarily would not say. We may argue more or find ourselves reaching more often for an alcoholic drink or drugs to calm our nerves. And you may be getting sick more often.
It goes without saying that our lives are not better when we are stressed. Sometimes it isn’t as important to discover the underlying cause as it is to begin to do something about it. Here are simple suggestions:
Take care of your body. Stay away from stress-promoters like nicotine, caffeine and sugar. Eat foods that are good for you as often as possible and stay hydrated. If there has been a significant weight loss or gain during this time, inform your doctor.
Step away from life for a few minutes. Find a quiet spot and a comfortable chair and sit down. With eyes closed take some deep breaths and slowly breathe out. Think of yourself as a ragdoll totally relaxed. Envision a happy memory, like a childhood Christmas or fishing with your friends.
List happy events in your life. Read this list as often as necessary to help you remember things. Keep in mind that you have the ability to make your life more peaceful. You are in charge of how you deal with what is going on. Don’t let someone else paddle your canoe!
Make a list of your stressors. This list will help you evaluate what you can control and those things you cannot control. Give those things you cannot control over to God. You can do this simply by reciting the Twenty third Psalm. Evaluate those things you have written to determine which things you can control and develop a plan to handle them. Those things you need help with, ask for help. This will help you to stop beating up on yourself. Think about new goals because this pandemic will pass!
Block the outside world. Turn off the news and controversial shows! When you are in front of the TV, watch shows that make you happy. Reduce social media time. And don’t be a slave to your phone; you don’t always have to answer. Turn it off at night.
Make a concerted effort to change. We always feel better if we take charge of even the small things. If you have a home where things are loud and chaotic, you become quiet. Do smile drills in the morning when you rise and practice them all day. Use pleasant language in your home and with your friends. Quit thinking self-defeating thoughts. Give those to God. Stop ruminating about things that you can’t fix. Take a mental tranquilizer. This means when a stressful thing is about to happen don’t do anything for seven seconds. If it’s really stressful take 21 seconds, and say, “I will not allow this to control how I feel.” Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry count to ten before doing anything, and if you are really angry count to a hundred.”
Exercise. Get into the sunshine and take a walk. Sit near windows when you have to be working and have plenty of light in the room.
Try new things. Focusing too much on self is often the basis for stress in our lives. Find a church, or online virtual services, and join. Reach out to help others by offering to help the poor, or volunteer at an animal shelter. Helping others is a sure way to get your mind off yourself.
Take care of the problems you CAN solve. They may at first seem like small things, but even cleaning out a closet, or rearranging the garage, or building a bird house, can help you feel you’ve accomplished something.
And finally, realize your stress is real. While we might be tempted to downplay it, or others might be critical of you for it, it is not only real, it is these days epidemic. I know because as a pastoral counselor I am receiving more calls for counseling than ever before While face-to-face counseling has been the norm in the past, telephonic conferencing, iPhone sessions, or virtual counseling sessions are now available and working well. If you need some help reach out! This is not weakness it is strength, because you are taking charge. The key is to take that first step!
By Pastor Larry W. Johnson
M.Ed., D.Min., FAPA
Congressional Freedom of Speech
As the U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of all her committee assignments, I was reminded of two sections of the Constitution. The first is Article 1, Section 5, which reads, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” Clearly the Constitution gives the House the power to punish its own members for wrongdoing. Yet, at the same time, I also cannot help thinking of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”
Coming to terms with these two sections can be difficult. If members of one party say something that members of the opposite party find extremely offensive, should the opposite party be able to censure someone from the first party? What rights to freedom of speech are given to members of Congress and what have we seen historically?
Anyone who has ever taken a class from me has at least once heard me rant against the misunderstanding of freedom of speech. That clause of the First Amendment does one thing and one think only; it protects you from government censorship and perhaps prosecution. It does not protect you from the consequences of your words. For politicians it could cost you an election, but not your freedom. You can say that Trump is a dictator or that Biden is senile, and government officials will not come kick down your door and take you away.
However, if you are in your workplace and rant about how your bosses are tyrants or senile, you may be fired. The First Amendment does not protect that speech. Not even all political speech is protected. If you wear a shirt that says “Make America Great Again” or “Black Lives Matter” at a workplace that has a policy against wearing political slogans, you can be fired. This is not a First Amendment Issue.
This is the most confused amendment in the Bill of Rights. The Founders did not intend to remove people’s responsibility for their actions or speech. They wanted to protect the people’s right to say what they thought, even peacefully protest the actions of their government. When passed, the Bill of Rights only applied to federal cases, not state ones, so, before the 1920s, the Bill of Rights actually had little effect on most people’s lives. Yet today, “freedom of speech” is thrown around like some sort of weapon every time anyone is criticized for their words.
Where I am torn is that it seems like the one place where there truly should be freedom of speech is in the Congress. The amendment literally says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” yet is that not what is happening? Please understand that I am no way supporting the comments made by Rep. Green. What I am saying is the Constitution does not give freedom of speech only to statements we agree with or only for intelligent comments. No, it’s there for the exact opposite, for the outlandish and controversial things. I said I was torn. It does seem like there should be a line that our elected representatives do not cross. But the Constitution does not say that either. The courts have weighed in on this and have deemed some speech is not protected, such as incitement to lawless action or child pornography, but conspiracy theories are not on the list. Maybe, especially with the House, it should be up to the voters if they think she has gone too far in the next election.
Having said that, there is precedence. In 2019 Republicans removed one of their own, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, from committees after he questioned why “white supremacy” was offensive. Even bigger was the 1954 censure of the junior Senator from Wisconsin Joseph McCarthy. There is no room for many details here, but McCarthy took advantage of American’s fear of communism to make himself powerful. He claimed to have a list of communists who had infiltrated high levels of government and the entertainment industry. He set up a committee to hold hearings to expose anyone supporting the communist cause. During the hearings he accused people of being communists without evidence to the point that it ruined their careers and lives. After four years he finally fell when he questioned the U.S. Army after they refused to defer one of his staff from the draft. With no evidence, he made several accusations on TV that finally showed him as the bully he was. With his fall from grace, the Senate voted 67-22 to condemn his actions and strip him of key committee membership.
There is one key difference between Steve King, Joe McCarthy, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. In the cases of King and McCarthy, Republicans punished their own as is tradition. With the Greene case, the Republicans condemned her comments, yet the Democrats (now the majority party), along with only 11 Republicans, did not feel the punishment was strong enough and stripped her of committee assignments. It is highly irregular to interfere with committee assignments made by each party. Though her comments were inappropriate and have been disproven in the courts, it might just be a slippery slope for the opposing party to start the practice of punishing their opponents for comments made, especially ones they made earlier in their lives. Some Republicans have even talked about retribution if they take over in 2022. They point to racist and violent comments made by Democratic legislators. Is this really how we want Congress to spend their time?
Free democratic governments are hard. There is a reason historically there have not been that many successful ones. Freedom of speech is one of the things necessary for a free government. Yet freedom of speech means people will say things you despise. Rep. Green was elected by her state because of who she is. If her constituents deem her unfit, they are not bound by the First Amendment and have the opportunity to make changes next year.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Thoughts regarding the decision to change the name of LFCC
The Letter to the Editor from Tenia Smith last week regarding the decision to change the name of Lord Fairfax Community College was an accurate assessment of the way things seems to be in this country these days.
I would add another reason that this decision is a frivolous attempt to amend history to make a segment of our community feel better. What we actually have here shows a complete out-of-historical context ignorance: that’s looking at historical figures and events through the context of the 21st Century, not through the context of the life and times in which these personalities lived and the events took place. Such individuals who view history through our present day vision will never understand the people and events of our past.
Hence, the burning need to revise our history to make it much more palatable.
Some people, even those in the business of education, will never understand the personalities and events of the past, and, in their ignorance, the discussions and decisions illustrate quite well that they aren’t really interested.
In fairness to Lord Fairfax, whose holdings in the 18th Century comprised what is now most of 22 states, much of what he accomplished in his life shaped early America and Virginia that we know and enjoy today. Regarding the decision to rename the school, their focus is on the way the world lived in the 1600s, the 1700s, and a good part of the 1800s. In no way am I condoning nor supporting the institution of slavery; right or wrong, it was an accepted practice in many countries, and still remains a practice in a number of countries in the 21st Century.
If these “educators” and politicians behind the name change refuse to permit the name of Thomas Lord Fairfax to remain intact on the college, then I would strongly recommend that they also not allow the Stars & Stripes to fly over LFCC. After all, and this also cannot be refuted, it was the symbol of a slave nation from 1787 to December 1865.
Response to Tom Howarth’s Letters to the Editor
I will say just one thing to Tom Howarth, who has submitted many Letters to the Editor of the Royal Examiner: “Stop crying wolf!”
When you write so many letters, and so frequently, people (myself, included) just tune you out!
Your letters are too predictably partisan.
Front Royal, Virginia
Our trust in the voting process will be forever challenged unless we the people take control of our voting rights
In response to Tom Howarth’s letter to the editor on February 17th:
Mr. Howarth, I watched the trial, which by the way was unconstitutional and so full of hate against a man that no longer was in office.
When it came down to calling witnesses or not, the Democrats called a halt to it by acquitting former President Donald J. Trump! Why, Mr. Howarth? Was it because of who the Republicans could call as witnesses?
Mr. Trump’s lawyers did a great job of bringing out the truth. But Democrats didn’t want the real reason to be brought out on this second impeachment trial, which was the reason for everything coming to a halt! For who really was the people causing insurrection and destruction last summer and for the last 4 years?
No doubt in my mind the election wasn’t held right. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, our voting rights were tampered with and changed without going through the electoral process.
I could accept Biden’s win if it was done fair and square, but it wasn’t! And now our trust in the voting process will be forever challenged unless we the people take control of our voting rights.
Front Royal, Virginia
Open Letter to Town and County officials on county’s high death rate per reported COVID cases
Greetings Community Leader,
As the Front Royal Town Council members spend valuable work time in meetings discussing whether business owners should be allowed to require customers to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus in our community, I am interested in finding out why people in Warren County die from the virus at a rate so much higher than people in most nearby counties. I’m sure this data has concerned you as a community leader as much, if not more, as it has me as a citizen. I am one concerned member of our community while you are a community leader tasked with finding solutions to the problems that plague our whole community. Surely, understanding the high death rate from Coronavirus in Warren County/Front Royal has been a pressing matter on your list of priorities.
Has your research shown that our high death rate is due to a poor health care system in our community? Is it because of the overall poor health of our residents? Is it something else? Please let the citizens of Front Royal and Warren County know what you have learned about why we are dying from COVID-19 more often than our neighbors in eleven nearby counties. The following data for Deaths per 100K people are from the Virginia Department of Health’s website on February 19, 2021:
|County||Deaths per 100K|
|Cases – Coronavirus
Need vaccine? Learn how to get your shot at Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA. Language translation and TTY services available. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ¿Necesita vacunarse?
I look forward to hearing why you think we are doing so poorly and what ideas you have to prevent so many of our fellow citizens from dying of Covid.
Wishing you all good health,
Front Royal, Va.
(reprinted by permission of writer)
What’s really in a name?
Lord Fairfax Community College has decided to change its name because it does not reflect who they are? Really? I thought it was a place of higher learning and opportunities!
I don’t like the name of Fauquier County. I don’t like the name Henry. I don’t like the color green! I don’t like to make mashed potatoes. But I don’t take this to the city council, or the board, or even D.C.!
This all has become so political! What are the bases of all of this? Why not just erase everything!
No one has names: No names on buildings, no names on highways, no names on envelopes, no names on anything? Why not walk around nameless and act like zombies!
We humans can’t seem to focus on the important things, like being kind and caring and making our futures better! Like helping others and looking out for one another. All we seem to be about nowadays is hate, anger, and destruction.
What a sad place the world has become; what a sad place our country has become! The more we seek peace, the more uproar of evil becomes!
Front Royal, Virginia