Keith Upchurch, Herald-Sun, NC: Stress is twisting many Americans in knots, and Durham is no exception.
The pressures of life — especially money concerns — rank high on the list of stressors. But many people are find-ing relief in exercise, music, support groups and prayer, while others are turning to drugs to help them escape reality — temporarily.
Angell Copper, for example, says he has been stressed out for most of his life. The 22-year-old Hillsborough resident has spent time in foster homes and prison, but he’s trying to find ways to deal with his anger and anxiety over having no money or job.
Copper said he was convicted of having marijuana on a high school campus and for a probation violation. Surprisingly, he said going to prison was one of the best things that happened to him, because he got counseling for his anger, which he said is under better control than in the past.
Still, having an empty wallet and no job keeps his stress level high.
Before going to prison, he said, “I’d wake up mad every day, because you’re stressed out over bills and all that other stuff, you know. I think that’s why a lot of black people turn to drugs and weed and stuff like that, because it’s an everyday circle, and you can’t stop stress. And it’s just whacked. Stress is real whacked.”
Copper is taking medication for his anxiety, but he believes he could find more relief if he had someone to talk to.
“I’ve been from foster care to prison, and now I’m out,” he said. “Right now, I’m just trying to make it, and I have a lot of stress, because I have no money, and it’s hard. I just want to cry sometimes, but I try to stay strong, because I have a child, and I can’t let him see me stress out — you know what I mean?”
Copper said prayer helps.
“Just to know that a higher power is there to help you, and that he’s never going to leave you helps,” he said. “So I hold dear to that, because I do love God.”
Pamela Finney of Durham said she’s also stressed because she can’t find a job.
“I relocated from New Jersey about three years ago to be closer to my family,” she said. “But now I’ve been here trying to find a job, and they tell you to go online for jobs,” but that hasn’t worked.
To cope, she turns to cigarettes and a support group.
“That helps a lot,” she said.
For Kelly Morris of Durham, stress comes and goes, but paying bills is his biggest stressor. “I’ve still got a job,” he said. “It’s just hard to make ends meet even with a job.” To cope, he “takes one day at a time” and prays.
But for retired scientist Phil Lawless, 67, life isn’t that stressful, because he no longer has the pressure of work and has enough money for his golden years. He retired about 18 months ago.
“Being able to retire at the time I did means that I wasn’t affected so much by the recession,” he said. Now, he spends a lot of his free time reading and traveling.
“I get to sleep late,” he said. “And my wife is retired too, so we don’t have to get up early in the morning.”
Another retiree, Fred Clark of Durham, also said he doesn’t feel much stress, because the recession hasn’t affected him as much as others. To keep stress at bay, Clark goes to the Q Shack restaurant in Durham every Wednesday to hear blue grass music. He also works out at a health club three times a week.
For some, family is a stressor, but for others, it offers a safe haven from stress.
Maria Manson of Durham has a job and three children under 5, but she said she doesn’t feel unduly stressed, because “I have a good life.” She said her children keep her from becoming stressed, “because they’re so much fun.” But when life gets too tough, she finds relief by relaxing, watching a movie and “thinking about the positive things in life.”
The theme of finding relief through faith was a common thread though many of those who spoke with The Herald-Sun about stress in their lives.
Vietnam War veteran William Caine, 63, is disabled. He’s had open heart surgery, head surgery and now faces a hip replacement. “So stress reaches its peak quite often,” he said. “But I manage to deal with it, thank the Lord.”
“My faith is always there, boss man,” he said. “Faith is there every second of the day.”
Caine also gets a boost from his grandchildren.
“That’s the best thing in my life right now,” he said. “They’re the best thing in the world.”
Becky Tenaglia, a pre-school director, feels the stress in her back and neck. A main stressor for her is not getting enough sleep. She also feels the pressure of trying to balance the many demands of her work and family.
But like so many others, her faith makes a world of difference.
“I’m not sure how I would get through life with God, without prayer,” she said. “Faith is extremely important. When stress is so high, the only thing you can do is pray for help.”