Ways We Cope with Stress: Featuring Plants

Because I’m so darned introspective, I’ve been examining how I cope with stress these days. I find that I can only handle a subset of the priorities I could before, and I avoid duties that appear like they’ll bring on more stress. That’s how I’m coping now, to the detriment of a couple of projects. But, as I look around I realize mine is only one way to cope. I also notice it’s not just us people who cope in different ways, so rather than call out people today, I’ll illustrate my points with how local plants are coping with the stress from Winter Storm Uri.

A perfect example is how some trees have died, some are struggling to come back, and some look fantastic, and this difference can happen in the same types of trees.

Some of us seem to deal with stress as if it’s not there at all. These people are often deeply grounded, have been through a lot, or have lots of support (roots!). These people, just like the Ashe juniper trees, often support others.

Others retreat and focus on one thing at a time, and try their best to do it well, like a rose bush with just one perfect flower.

Only one blossom, but it’s a good one.

There are people, and I know quite a few of them, who not only handle stress well, they thrive on it and so some of their best work when there’s a lot going on. Sometimes doing something is a way of coping and staying busy (I’m guilty of this), while others find challenges energizing. They enthusiastically bloom where they’re planted!

There are those, and who can blame them, who go into hiding, and only begin to peek out when the danger is over. Even then, they go slowly. It takes a lot out of people and plants to get their bearings when a stressful situation begins to ease up.

Stress tends to scatter some folks, too. They try this method of coping, and that method of coping, trying to find one that will actually work and get them through the hard times. I see this a lot in stressed oaks, which start putting out new growth all over, and not just at the ends of their branches. Some pop up along old limbs, and other pop up from the roots (very common).

This motte of oaks is sending out new sprouts all over the limbs and trunks.

When stress is really causing problems in living your usual life, though, sometimes starting again in a new place might help, like the redbud trees I’ve seem who look pretty sad up top, but have vibrant new growth farther down their trunks.

How many of us know people who have no choice to start over, even when that, too, is a struggle. I saw this poor tree with no leaves or other signs of life on its branches, but that hadn’t given up completely, and was starting again, hesitantly, and perhaps slowly. But, it’s still THERE! I count those of us who are in this situation as stronger than they realize.

I’m coming back!

Many of us fail to thrive during stressful periods. And it’s hard to say who’s going to cope well and who’s going to fall apart. One thing I noticed was that often there are two or more trees of the same variety near each other, and one looks great, while another struggles or succumbed to the weather? What’s the difference? You can’t tell on the surface what internal resources a tree or person has. That’s why we need to be patient and not blame people for their problems.

Same tree (an oak), different success rate.

I think flexibility, along with resilience, makes a difference in how we weather the inevitable Winter Storm Uri events in our lives. People who lived very rigid, inflexible lives really have had trouble with pandemic changes, just like a plant that’s been groomed into a stiff hedge with no choice in how it grows may have more trouble in a winter storm.

There are hundreds of these around the office, all very sad looking.

Those of us who aren’t well situated in the first place or already have anxiety issues may cope by throwing things every which way. A lot of the plants I seem seem to be reproducing like crazy, trying to grow, and growing in weird ways, like they’re trying ALL the options to make sure they’re making a good, healthy, happy impression. This has to take a lot of energy, and I wonder how well they’re going to do if they keep all that extra-perky energy up. I’ve noticed some crashing and burning of late…maybe a bit by me, to be honest.

This inland sea oats has come back strong, and has generated dozens of little buddies, just in case things don’t work out.

Now, some of the trees, and some of the people don’t make it at all through intense stress. I know more than one person who seems to be hanging by a thread right now. Some of us are just out of our element, like tropical trees (palms and such) that look pretty awful right now. I can’t fault them, and can only offer support and virtual hugs. And I will honor those we have lost.

We salute you, fallen non-native and non-cold hardy tree.

Looking at all the ways we humans and plants deal with unexpected stress is a good exercise for me. I can easily see the parallels among us, and what’s most clear is that there’s no right or wrong way to cope, nor are we all going to cope equally well. So, I’ll try to be patient with those who are struggling, including those who cope differently from me. I hope you can, too.

An Angry Mob of One

Expressing anger is difficult for some of us. Like Suna.

No, no, I’m not angry about anything right now! Everything’s just fine. If you’re looking for drama, I’m not serving that up today. I’m just thinking about anger.

The book club meeting I attended on Zoom (of course, no in-person meetings for me!) today got on the topic of things we struggle with, and I brought up the fact that I totally suck at getting angry. The very nice women in the meeting were quite supportive of me, and the consensus was not to expect to be great at something you don’t have a lot of experience with. They were right!

Even as a child, I was discouraged from getting angry. If my little brother pestered me, I was told to, “Just ignore him.” And if I did get angry and yell or hit back after he slapped me, I’d get spanked. So, I fairly quickly learned to bottle up any anger I had and to arrange things to be as peaceful as possible in my little world.

Hence, I ended up an Enneagram Number Nine. As the website says:

Key Motivations: Want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.

Enneagram Type 9

That probably also explains my initial resistance to change, even the good kind!

Another thing it explains is why I’m always trying to attain some sort of spiritual transcendence; it’s another way to escape the real world. At least I have the sense to know that “the only way out is through,” and am coming to terms with the whole “life is suffering” concept.

I just want peace, calm, and goodness.

Anyhow, I am just not good at getting angry. Not one bit. I can’t be like Anita, who often declares she’s angry at this that or the other, but she just expresses herself strongly. I keep thinking, “Why is she angry at that? I’m sad, or…some other emotion.” That’s because if I try to express anger, it scares the pee out of people. You know, I also learned from my family or origin how to have a very sharp passive-aggressive tongue. Oopsie.

I can actually remember the two or three times I let my anger spill out. After one time, I was never able to bring myself into a particular community again. I just left and never came back. I’ve only let myself express anger at my spouse a couple of times in all these years. I just get snippy on occasion then over-apologize for it.

Dang, I need to learn how to legitimately express anger when it’s appropriate without alienating people forever, or turning into a sniveling ball of self-abuse. Those seem to be my main anger outlets. I’m just not equipped to be an angry mob of one, I guess.

As my colleagues in the book club pointed out, it helps to remember you’re angry at a situation. (And I point out that it helps to remember people are doing the best they can; though when I’m angry at an institution, that’s hard to apply.) If kindness is my main value, I should apply it to both the object of my anger AND me, right?

This is pitiful, I know, but I Googled “effectively express anger” (because, how else do you figure things out these days?) and I got this:

  1. Address An Issue Immediately Before It Escalates. …
  2. Take A Walk. …
  3. Try A Simple Breathing Technique. …
  4. Try Getting In Some Rigorous Exercise. …
  5. Journaling Can Be Another Great Way To Process Anger. …
  6. Meditate On It.
    Here’s the source of this list, so you’ll know I didn’t do this lack of parallel construction

Well, I do all that! That’s not expressing anger, it’s dealing with anger. Those are all the tools I use to maintain the peace and not rock the boat.

I turned to that oracle of knowledge, WikiHow, who went through all the above anger mitigation techniques that I already do, then FINALLY gave some advice on how to express it! That’s what I wanted!


Choose to express your anger assertively.
 Assertive expression of anger is the most constructive way to express your anger. Assertiveness cultivates mutual respect for each other. You can still express your anger, but you do so in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. You have mutual respect for each other.

  • Assertive communication emphasizes that both people’s needs are important. To communicate assertively, give the facts without making accusations. Simply state how the action made you feel. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know. Then ask the other person if he is willing to talk. [9]
  • For example, you might say: “I was hurt and angry because I felt like you were belittling my project when you laughed during my presentation. Can we talk and work this out?”

    That one’s from How to Express Anger without Hurting People (with pictures).

Enough with the background colors. I didn’t mean to make you all sick.

Yeah! That’s it! Work on my tone!

After reading the information, I conclude that it makes sense, and sounds a lot like things I’d read in all my “how to get along with people” courses and such. I know I try to do that, and sometimes do. I just need to work on my tone, maybe.

In any case, if you have an anger problem, whether inability to express it or expressing it too much, how have you dealt with it? There’s so much anger in the world right now, it might be helpful to band together and make an effort to say what upsets us without turning the audience away completely.

I shall now go look at nice, happy animals and stop with all this self-analysis.

One Day at a Time

That’s how I’m getting by right now. How about you? I celebrated finishing that 40-day project by not writing anything yesterday. I was blissfully involved in a work project that takes all my concentration and passes time quickly, which was a real relief, but left no time for blogging here. Everyone needs an occasional break.

I’ll just keep fiddling while the boat goes down. At least the sunset’s pretty.

As if the days didn’t blur together badly enough these days, I’m in a holding pattern on lots of things right now. Just taking one step at a time is not only all I’m able to do, but the right thing to do right now. I’ll get back to figuring out the future plans and options later, when my head’s clearer (all my stuff is just related to various jobs and their various stresses, nothing horrible).

Randomness and Birds

It’s been nice to have Kathleen doing “stress cooking.” I like it when someone cooks to take their mind off things. She made me the best baked chicken on a bed of collard greens last night. I truly love collard greens (weird southern girl thing), and these may be the best I ever ate. I’m so grateful that she and Chris are here helping me and Lee out right now.

The spring air is making everyone sniffly here, but it’s really been nice to see what kinds of creatures are doing their regular things. My friend Donna, who is not a tech person, wrote a little blog on this topic, if you want some more nice photos. I’m really happy to see her getting out of her comfort zone.

I’m not sure what kind of moth this little guy will grow up to be, but wow, what a pretty caterpillar!

In fact, just this morning I was thrilled to see that bluebirds are nesting in the dead tree by the road again this year. There used to be woodpeckers in there, so I guess they made a nice house. The phoebes are nesting in our garage and spend most of their days screeching PHOEBE at each other and eating bugs. They are a lot of fun to watch.

The phoebes ate dozens of bugs while I was on the phone at my ranch office last evening.

The bug population is doomed around the Hermits’ Rest, or at least less awful than it could be, thanks to the handy birds. The scissortails are back at work, and there’s nothing prettier than watching a male go after a bug. The swallows are in full force, as well as those phoebes. I watch the little sparrows go after bugs every afternoon when I go feed the horses. Just think how many mosquitoes and other bugs we’d have after all this rain if we didn’t have our avian buddies!

Producing pollen this week is the prickly ash. Go tree, go!

Today I’ll head out and see what new is blooming. I’ve seen a couple of winecups, and we have our eyes on the dewberries. Yum. Back to basics. It’s good for you.

Share your coping mechanisms if you wish!

Why This Non-gambler Gambled Last Night (Introverts, Harken!)

We had our own sign!

My dear spouse is the incoming president of the Cameron Rotary Club. Thus, it was sort of his duty to attend their big yearly fund-raiser, a casino night. We never went before due to a strong dislike of crowds and an equally strong dis-interest in gambling. Heck, we never gambled when we had to go to those real estate things in Las Vegas!

But, we had already bought a bunch of tickets to contribute to Rotary. And we were also a corporate sponsor, as we try to get this business going. So, we psyched ourselves up, buoyed by a surprise visit from nephew Chris (Kathleen’s birthday is next week, and this was a GOOD present). We brought along our assistant, Meghan, too.

Eek, a crowd.

The idea was to chat people up and let them get to know who our team is. It became obvious really quickly that the bland snacks were not going to entertain us all evening. I told myself that I might as well do something to pass the time, so we three women took all our pretend money and got coins for the slot machines. A kind woman told me how slot machines work (really, I don’t gamble).

Well, here we go. I can’t say I never gambled anymore.

We ended up having a lot of fun, especially when we were joined by our fellow business owners, Courtney and Jeremy. We lasted way longer than we thought we would, because we kept winning, dang it. It also helped that Chris kept sneaking more coins in our buckets. He is a good supporter of charitable organizations, I guess.

I finally could not take any more dinging and scooping up of germy coins, so I bravely made my way to the nearest gambling table. The dealer had pink hair, so I hoped she might be fun. She was.

Continue reading “Why This Non-gambler Gambled Last Night (Introverts, Harken!)”