Health & Medicine

Attack of the killer blackberries!

Help! I’m drowning in blackberries! We transplanted 20 blackberry starts to our orchard 18 months ago. Now, I’m picking two gallons of fruit every day, meanwhile falling hopelessly behind.

The freezer is packed with purple baggies. We eat berries three meals a day. Jam jars line our pantry. We give blackberries to neighbors, friends and co-workers. Still, the sweet globules keep appearing on the vines with ferocity far beyond our control.

At times I’ve felt daunted by all the berries. I’ve dreaded my long walk out to the patch. Our giddiness over those first yummy morsels has been replaced by pleading and angst: “I’m not leaving this yoga class until you all promise to take these cartons of berries with you.”

It’s a classic case of a good thing gone awry; the “be-careful-what-you-wish-for” adage coming true. Stress just doesn’t happen when you lose your job or break up with your boyfriend. Even seemingly happy events can emotionally derail us.

Remember when you brought your first child home from the hospital? You were thrilled and freaked out at the same time. Ask any bride-to-be about her upcoming nuptials. You’ll no doubt hear tales of terror combined with unmitigated joy.

Stress happens whenever we’re on emotional overload.

We get too much data coming into our systems, so our personal networks start to shut down. We can’t absorb any more input. Our psychological computers freeze up. Output comes to a screeching halt.

We all recognize the symptoms of too much stress. We get cranky. We have trouble sleeping. We snap at our innocent loved ones. Decisions are incredibly difficult to make. Life quickly becomes a chore.

Of course, this too-much-of-a-good-thing angst pales in comparison to far more serious problems. I’m completely aware that my overachieving blackberries are comical when compared to living with a child who has cancer or rebuilding a home following a fire. Most folks would love to have problems like mine.

It’s also easy to feel guilty when your stressors are relatively mild. You fully recognize that your issues aren’t life threatening. They’re momentary nuisances at best.

Still, stress is stress. It doesn’t require a rating system to determine if your tensions are justified. It impacts our bodies in much the same way whether the precipitating event is trivial or earth shattering.

My stress levels are already waning as far as my blackberries are concerned. I remind myself that they’re only fruit.

I could never pick another berry and my life would be just fine. My stress arose because I was trying too hard. When I relaxed, it quickly melted away, like ice cream on a hot slice of cobbler.

Tips for managing stress

Need to get your stress under control, regardless of the cause?

Try these sure-fire tips:

• Take care of immediate problems. Focus on putting out the fires. It’s obvious which issues they are. Everything else can take a backseat while you’re preoccupied.

• Calm your thoughts. They get scattered when you’re stressed. Don’t worry about what might happen or regret things that you can’t change. Instead, take a few deep breaths and think about what needs attention now.

• Let go of unnecessary responsibilities. Stressful times require all your energy. Clear everything else off your plate. Enlist the help of friends and family. Or learn to say no to extra demands. You’ll reclaim personal power and save your energy for where it’s needed most.

• Know that your problems are temporary. This situation won’t last forever. It will change or completely go away or you’ll adapt to a new normal.

• Keep things in perspective. Count your blessings. No matter how serious your problems are, there are positives to balance out your life. Focusing on what works draws attention away from areas that are broken.

• Take time off. Back away from your stressors. You can’t fix everything at once. Give yourself ample breathing room to recharge your batteries and clear your head.

• Have fun. Just because you’re under stress doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Go away for the weekend. Have a night out with the girls. Laughter may not solve the problem, but it will restore your ability to face it.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit