Stress happens to all of us daily.

Stress is part of our lifestyle. Stress management must be part of everyone’s daily routine. Five years ago, my wife was treated for cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I was her primary caregiver at home.

Halfway through her chemo treatments, I decided to take a little time off and spend outdoors cleaning the swimming pool and enjoying the bright sun and warm days. It was nice to get away from everything and smell the roses. I had not been doing my weekly swimming pool maintenance during the summer of my wife’s chemotherapy. The algae in the pool grew out of control. I felt an itch on my neck during the second day of working outside.

I thought it was a mild sunburn because I had not protected myself adequately. I was outside about three to four hours each day. As a redhead, I should have been more vigilant about a hat and long-sleeved shirt.

Stress is a daily experience when in any caregiver role. I am no exception. I had not been eating properly or exercising. I came down with a rash that would not go away. I had shingles. It is an inflammation of the nerve ganglia. Eruptions usually manifest it on the skin.

I went to the doctor. His initial assessment was that it looked like a “classic case of shingles.” I reflected for a few minutes about what had been going on in my life, and concluded rapidly, that it was brought on by the abuse of my lifestyle. The issues that popped into my mind were:

● Chickenpox as a child
● Too much-unprotected exposure to the sun
● Untreated stress
● No exercise
● Poor eating habits

I took the medicine that that doctor prescribed, and within a few days, the shingles rash vanished. It takes effort for anyone to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Again, I am no exception. I write and speak on healthy lifestyles, but don’t always follow my advice – until something comes up and hits me in the neck.

Stress can do damage to the body – all the way from the cellular level to your brain. Continual high-stress levels are a good predictor of neurological problems to come. Excessive stress leads to cognitive dysfunction.

Whether you exercise daily or eat properly, one thing that costs nothing and takes very little time is to smile. Do it more than a couple of times daily. Do it at traffic lights, when traffic comes to a standstill, or when you go to the bathroom. It doesn’t take a lot of effort.

I tell my audiences to smile when they feel or see something stressful. The smile is usually something that can counter the immediate stressor. You cannot have a positive and negative thought in your brain at the same time.

Your facial expression represents what is going on in your mind at any instant. A smile can force the muscles in the face and neck to send a positive feeling to the brain. It interrupts negative thought patterns.

Smiles cost nothing and take no time out of your busy life. It will make a difference in your life. It is simple, easy, and cheap.

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