Friday, September 20, 2013

I'm Calm. I'm calm!

RHYS BOWEN: It's been a bit of a stressful time recently. I had a Royal Spyness book to finish before I left for Bouchercon, then the copy-edits arrived for my next Molly book, and there were contract negotiations for 3 more Molly books and John had cataract surgery last week. So when I saw something called Calm Drops in Whole Foods and saw they were a historical natural remedy, I thought I'd try them.

They tasted fine until I read the label one night. Aconitum , Arsinicum, Nux Vomica, Phosporicum Acidum etc etc.. Holy cow, I thought (of course I used another word but this is a G rated blog) I'm eating arsenic, aconite, phosphoric acid... I didn't know what Nux Vomica was until my friend Bill Fitzhugh told me it was strychnine. Great. I'll probably be dead in half an hour and I am definitely not calm.

Several Facebook friends told me that the doses are incredibly small and can't hurt me, but the drops don't exactly calm me now either. So I'm interested what other Reds do to calm themselves in stressful times. For example Hank is never in the same place two days in a row. How does she handle all those airports? Always looking good for on-air assignments?

I've tried the Rescue Remedy but it doesn't seem to do much for me. I've tried St. John's Wort. But frankly I don't like taking things. I have some meditations on my iPhone. I downloaded sleep inducing noises. It was music with strange little background beeps in it that were supposed to conform to beeps in my brain.  It woke me up completely.

What helps me most on a daily basis is a visit to my health club, sitting in the sauna, swimming and then relaxing in the spa. I come home rejuvenated.  Also when I am at home I love to play my Celtic harp. Very soothing, but it's too big to fit into my suitcase.

And the other thing I've found is a handy-dandy little device called a head massager. It looks like a giant egg whisk and it's brilliant. You move it up and down over your head and say "Ahhhh."

So anyone else want to share a de-stressing secret?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I'm laughing. (No,that's not it, but that's a good idea!) When you emailed me that the Reds should add to this post, I thought: WHEN? I DONT HAVE TIME! That's why I'm laughing. Guess I should go read it again. Anyway--how I handle all the airports? I sing Nessun Dorma to  myself. Truly. And sometimes, Magical Mystery Tour. I always laugh, and i always feel better.

HALLIE EPHRON: I nap if I possibly can. Just a quick one. Or work in the garden. In an airport? I walk. Then I buy the New York Times and read it, cover to cover.

And I must say I am suspicious of all vitamins and "natural remedies" or "food supplements" or anything that touts its "antioxidants." Snake oil.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I bought one of those head massagers! But it was way bigger and it annoyed the bejesus out of me because it didn't fit under the sink in my bathroom. Stressful. Too funny.

I've had more stress this year - moving, not moving, selling apt, not selling. Federer's failure to capture an 18th major. Whenever possible, I just stop what I'm doing and take a spin around my garden. Even when I decide I need to move boulders, it's relaxing. I take the nippers and exert control over my little bit of the universe.
Hank...Nessun Dorma?? They're going to KILL him if he doesn't guess her name? Stress. Full.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Sex. I find sex very calming. It's difficult in an airport, however.

RHYS: What about the Mile High Club, Julia??Come on. Tell all....

JULIA: Oh, my God, I read a story about some couple that got caught in an airplane head recently. All I could think was that both of them together must have been smaller than I am, because I barely have enough space to shut the door after myself. 

I have to add, in a less racy vein, that I also like to sing to de-stress. And hum. It can be very annoying to the people around me, as I frequently don't realize I'm regaling them with a tune.

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  If I sang Nessun Dorma in any public place, someone would murder me and then I wouldn't have to worry about stress.  And weirdly, I actually like airports.  Once I'm through security, it's like an off-limits bubble. No one can ask me to do something, deal with the latest domestic crisis, or gripe at me for anything. I can read, catch up on Facebook, have a cuppa, even WORK without being interrupted. Hmm, maybe I should go live in an airport, like Tom Hanks in that movie...

At home, baths are the best de-stress thing. Walks (at least when it's not 100 degrees.) Watching the birds in the back garden (hummingbirds at the moment.) Throwing the tennis ball for Dax. And when all else fails, I read a good book.

RHYS: I don't think I'll be singing Nessun Dorma either (although I did want to be an opera singer when I was a child). I think I'll stick with my harp and my head massager. Actually I wouldn't object to a shoulder massage by a young muscular but sensitive guy. How about you, dear friends?


  1. Oh, I’m so sorry, Rhys, but I am laughing so hard I can hardly write.
    De-stressing with Calm Drops? Mild laughter [this is a homeopathic remedy, something folks have been using for a long time . . . you’d have to take an awful lot of those drops all at once for them to be dangerous].
    The Celtic harp? Cool; music is definitely soothing.
    The head massager? Now I am laughing so hard I am rolling on the floor. I'm not trying that one!
    Singing? I wish I could sing “Nessun Dorma” [or anything else, for that matter] . . . I love music but can’t carry a tune in a basket.
    Airports? Not happening; I can become extremely stressed just worrying about whether or not I can get an aisle seat.

    Around here de-stressing involves really good music on the CD player, chocolate, a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and a book, although not necessarily in that order . . . .

  2. Let that be a lesson to you, Rhys: Never read the ingredients. I learned that after buying a package of hot dogs.

  3. A cup of decaf tea, a good book, and yoga music on Pandora. Not the yoga, mind you, just the music. Except for the shavasana at the end it's all too stressful for me.

    Also sitting on a rock watching the ocean is very calming for me. There's a part of Acadia National Park called Schoodic Point that is just majestic and great for rock-sitting.

    Hope you're all having a good time in Albany.

  4. Strychnine is an excellent drug to calm yourself with. Once you're dead, relaxation begins immediately.

    Believe it or not, strychnine was used in tonics up until at least the '20s. Agatha Christie's victim in "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" drank it (intentionally I mean). It was still used in prescription drugs in the 1940s. During my research for the annotated version of "Styles," I came across a Life magazine ad touting the fruit of the Quaker button tree (another name for s.) in its medicines.

    What is odd is that it's used in your Calm Drops (I assume it's a homeopathic remedy). Strychnine is close to caffeine, so it was used as a stimulant.

    As a destressor, I found that beta blockers did a wonderful job during my recent troubled times. The doctor prescribing it said it's used by actors to relieve stage fright. It calms you just enough, without making you feel like going to bed. Lately, I found a white noise machine to be a wonderful way to sleep. The one I use has different settings, including ocean noises.

  5. Dodging in for a dose of Reds while I've got some internet access while on the road--literally (I'm in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania right now--gorgeous).

    Rhys, I've got one of those head massagers that look so funny, and they are nice. I have to have my husband or son use it on me, though, because I can't get my arms up that high any longer (lupus and fibro).

    De-stressing for me needs a cup of good, strong hot tea and some green space to look at (if I can't walk in it, which is ideal). I, too, hum and sing to myself to de-stress and sometimes get odd looks from people near me when I forget myself.

    Hope you all have a great time at Bouchercon! xoxo

  6. You people are a good de-stressor!!!!! I try to keep a book nearby as a kind of instant pill -- the kind of novel that makes me feel good about life and people and know that their stresses in the book are way beyond my own! Take heed, some of the bestseller writers who seem to feel your readers want to read about miserable folks! Not you on Jungle, my dears, but you know what I mean... I think that is why a lot of folks buy books - to de-stress! Esp with the current news on this weary lil planet..Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  7. The single best thing you can do to prevent and relieve stress is exercise. It increases good chemicals in your brain and distracts you from what's stressing you out. I really should do it. Instead, I sit in a chair and read a book or watch a movie. Although I gravitate toward the serious ones when I'm in a serious mood, the best stress relief comes from something funny. Laughter is the best medicine, right? Actually, next Saturday is the Sterling North Book Festival in Wisconsin, and the main speaker is Dr. Patch Adams - remember the Robin Williams movie? I'm looking forward to hearing him speak about laughter's place in healing.

    You mentioned St. John's Wort (it's really more for mild to moderate depression rather than stress or anxiety), and I couldn't let this slip by. I use it daily, and for me (and many others) it causes extremely vivid dreams. Some people stop because their dreams are sometimes scary, but mine are what I call movie dreams. They're actual stories that usually make sense. Sometimes I'm in them and sometimes I just watch. I often think I should keep a notepad next to my bed so I can jot down the basics when I wake up! I usually forget the details if I get up quickly or am distracted right away.

  8. Ooh, I forgot to add the two other things I do to relieve stress! If I have time and the weather's cooperating, I go to the local Rotary Botanical Gardens. I literally feel my shoulders lower and my breathing slow when I walk in. Also, have you heard of zentangles? Google it - it's basically doodling on steroids. I didn't buy the book or take any classes (seriously? for doodling?), I just got a super fine point marker and a small sketch pad. It's incredibly relaxing if you just remember that it isn't ART, it's a DOODLE. You don't have to be 'good' at it.

  9. Shoo-boo. A nice, mindless activity, that. But if online shoo-boo won't do it for me, I like to read one of Bernard Cornwell's books, fierce battles, grim revenge, hacking off of arms and legs. Good stuff. He has another coming out in January, I think.

  10. For the last 20 years I've used homeopathic remedies instead of prescription drugs, and have enjoyed the best health of my life. I'm sorry you freaked out about the ingredients, Rhys, but there's nearly no actual ingredient in those thing, just trace elements, and less than you'd find in your average glass of bottled water. Call it snake oil if you must, but I'd prefer to use ancient remedies than to enrich Big Pharma even more, with their arms-length list is side effects scarier than the actual ailment.

    Chocolate, a glass of wine, a nap, a walk, or my new obsession, Candy Crush--all good destressors. The best though is to lose myself in a good book. Know where I can find some? :-)

  11. You all are hilarious. I'm absolutely going to be listening for Hank singing Nessun Dorma sometime....

    My first step to de-stress is to make a list of all the overwhelming tasks or details cluttering my mind--think of it as a download. Then I walk or read a book. I thought about reporting chocolate as a de-stressor, but I think that's more the coping mechanism while dealing with the stress, not the thing that reduces it!

  12. Sure, Bill, it's all fun and relaxation until rigor mortis sets in.

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  15. Let me just say--I sing it to MYSELF! Not out loud, you sillies.


  16. Okay principessa,what song do I sing to myself - Senza Fine. It's an Italian song from the 60s. i have actually gone to to make sure I know all the words in Italian.

  17. Rhys, your picture with the head massager is hilarious! A good laugh is the best de-stressor. Try the Marx Brothers; Groucho's version of flirting still does me in. Groucho not available? A good book and a glass of wine or whisky.
    Or a nice walk with the dog if it isn't 90+ degrees outside. Barring that, you can always talk to someone about funny things that happen. I love to rag my sister about some of her goofs. Like saying horse fish when she couldn't remember sea horse.
    Don't stress about your husband's surgery too much. I did the cataract nonsense last year and survived just fine, thank you very much!

  18. oh, GOD, you women are funny. I LOVE this! Let me just say today has been a busy day - starting with a 9 a.m. mammogram followed by a meeting of the Planning Committee for the High Country Festival of the Book.

    I came home with my mind running a mile a minute (and my boobs smarting) and wondering why I was feeling so scattered!

    Well, it's because I didn't go to the gym, I think. The BEST de-stresser EVER! This from a woman who did not ever (never ever ever) exercise until retiring at age 62. Now, I'm totally addicted.

    So - that's how I handle stress. Now though, I'm gonna go look for one of Rhys' head/egg beater thingies . . . .

    (OH! AND, I could be a little bummed 'cause practically everyone I know is either at B'Con or in New Orleans at SIBA - sniff . . . )

  19. I take an extra anti-convulsant. But I might try that egg whisk head massager thingie of Rhys's and Debs's.