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The Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease is a proactive, lifestyle treatment plan. It helps us turn toward our daily exercise, our plant-based nutrition, our stress relief, and the promotion of love and support in our lives. Turning our energy toward something is powerful, but sometimes it is also powerful to turn away. A good example is when we feel irritation rising. You know what I mean: those little annoyances that trigger our nervous system into thinking that something terrible is threatening us.

Learning how to manage the stress that accompanies our annoyances is an act of self-love

Often, the only sinister thing going on is that one of our “pet peeves” has just been activated. You might recognize some of these: someone blasting their music in the car next to you when you are stopped in rush hour traffic; a salesperson who overlooks that you are the next person in line; or your dear uncle Rudy who unconsciously hums old tunes through out the entire dinner no matter who is speaking and no matter how many times you have gently (albeit through clenched teeth) brought it to his attention.

In a recent article in O magazine, author Martha Beck cautions: “Catastrophe brings out the best in us, and annoyances bring out the worst.” Her suggestion is that when you get bitten with the “annoyance bug”—brush it off and do nothing. Give no reaction; temporarily suspend all participation in your thoughts and in your actions. After all, we don’t want to reinforce the negativity that we are seeing and feeling.

When we become aware that tension and misery are rising in our body, the best action to take is to step back physically and mentally. If possible, in order to break the tension, it helps to change location—like excusing yourself to the bathroom. The annoyance perpetrators usually won’t follow you there. Unless, of course, they are little ones—who will then stand outside of the locked door asking over and over, “Are you done yet?”


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To distract ourselves mentally, we can call upon a trusted, go-to image of peace in our calming first aid kit. It will instantly help to shift thoughts and feelings into a more gentle place. Being able to use this aid, however, will require that we pre-load our minds with images and memories that carry with them the power to airlift us out of the petty and into the meaningful. This could include a favorite song, a healing word, a phrase or brief prayer, a cherished memory of being in nature, or an endearing image of the smiling face of a loved one.

Learning how to turn away from small irritations sooner will aid us in supporting ourselves. It will not only help to conserve our valuable energy, but it will help to head off an unnecessary escalation of strife (and blood pressure!) before it has a chance to take hold. Learning how to manage the stress that accompanies our annoyances is an act of self-love that empowers us to respond in healthier ways.

Inducing a moment of calm is not a small accomplishment. To aid you, try this two minute practice video, “Feeling Breath.”

Ahhhhh… what a relief it is.

What are the most healing images that come to your mind?



Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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