News and Tribune


January 13, 2013

CUMMINS: Stress reduction the modern way

> SOUTHERN INDIANA —  Young people undergo stress, and older people do, too. Whereas older people sweat their vital signs, young people could care less about blood pressure, heart rate and triglycerides. One qualifier, young people’s hearts gush uncontrollably when Cupid takes aim. If, however, an older person dreams of romance, his medication counteracts it.

 The key to sanity in 2013 is to adopt a stress-reduction program. It wasn’t like that in 1953 when fast lanes were in the planning stage. Back then, before “stuff” began consuming our lives, you did what you could do, and that was it.

 It’s a pressure-cooker world out there today, and you’re in it, steaming and stewing, crumbling like an over-cooked meatloaf.

There are two ways to reduce stress. One is reliance on science and technology; the other is not relying on science and technology. Younger people, who were born with a mouse in their hands, understand the benefits of rapidly advancing software. If you’re stymied about anything, there’s an “app” out there for you. (Confession, I didn’t know what an app is until Googling it. It’s a mobile application, thank you.)

 A recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Keep Calm and Carry a Gizmo” explains how to attain inner peace. Do not carry a gun, but an “app,” such as a “HeartMath em Wave2.” This gizmo consists of a heart-rate sensor that clips on to your earlobe and an iPod-size device that can send your data to a computer via USB. If you can get this thing to work, it might tell you to “chill and breathe from the center activating a positive feeling.” Or you could use a Zensorium Tinke instead. This device measures HRV things happening in your heart. It connects to an iPad, iPod or iPod Touch 30-pin connector. The Tinke sends your heart data to a screen, which may indicate a need to meditate and breathe deeper, which, supposedly, creates a positive feeling in you. Pray tell, how does an older person breathe deeper when he’s wheezing?

We older immobile people need more than an application to move us, but I might try one of those “GPS for the Soul,” apps if my sophomore grandson will load it for me. A GPS for the Soul app may indicate I’m “strung out,” preventing my moving “mindfully.” I know that, but first I need more blood work, knowing it collects dirt as it ages. When they draw mine, it’s put through 20 tests. The last time, my urea nitrogen read a high 27, and my bad cholesterol was winning out over my good. I’d go the app route, but what bothers me is the stress involved. What if I hook a gizmo to my earlobe, and it printed out, “This app is temporarily shut down,” or “We don’t know what is wrong with you.”

Back in the old days, tech was not a word. The nearest thing we had to it was a hand-cranked butter churn. The wooden-plunger type slashing away in a wooden barrel wore your arms out. Things change and it’s called progress. Maybe it is, but back before we chose to progress, we sat and talked, played checkers and read books. On line was Monday’s wash. Saturday was a bath and the time to bake a cake for Sunday dinner after church. We carried our Bibles to church, but why do that when you can connect with Jesus on a smartphone?

Strung out is better than strung up, but it’s stressful seeking ways to reduce it. Whatever does it, do it — a walk in the woods, or an app. When I feel tightly strung like a fiddle string, do I let the marvels of nature intrude, or select an application at an Apple store? The problem with an Apple store is the traffic getting there or endless browsing online. I know I should sit and browse more, and upgrade to a tablet or a smartphone. It’s lonely and scary sitting in car traffic or a gizmo log jam. Frankly, tech is worrisome to my divided, wandering soul. One should not be anxious about his soul. Perhaps there is a spiritual dimension inside gizmos. Seek and ye shall find, but when?

 Nerds are trying to program computers to interact socially, even programming them to write jokes. “A smartphone walked into a bar….” That’s progress.

Contact Terry Cummins at




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