By Daniel Rich, Independent Columnist

I have seen posted on the Internet statements such as “the practice of staying in the present will heal you. Obsessing about how the future will turn out only creates anxiety, and replaying broken scenarios from the part causes anger or sadness. Stay here, in the moment”.

On the surface, it is correct to state that, at this very moment, all you have is the present.

This was the theme of the “Power of Now” book several years ago.


I am not suggesting obsessing about either the past or the future, but just accepting the fact that we are, in fact, influenced by our past experiences. Those experiences become part of us, part of our psyche.

This becomes dramatically apparent if one recalls past traumas of any kind, such as an auto accident or illness.

There are those who suggest that thinking positively or negatively about your life will determine what direction your life will take.

This is basically an exercise in magical thinking. I suppose that this could be actually true if an individual is so pessimistic that they always anticipate the worst possible outcomes in any situation.

I believe that a common sense approach to deal with stress is not to have an unduly negative or pessimistic approach of doom and gloom, but on the other hand, not to engage in the power of positive thinking, which is the exaggeration of always putting on a happy face, regardless of the actual circumstances. Always smiling regardless or how one actually feels is unrealistic and an exercise of denial.

I am suggesting accepting and dealing with whatever reality is facing you.

Perhaps most importantly of all, is to attempt to both recognize and embrace your feelings, whatever they are. These feelings may include feelings of loss, or anxiety, or fears regarding the future.

I also believe that it is helpful to be grateful for one’s blessings since even in times of stress, there is much to be grateful for.

Some individuals believe that if they allow themselves to come face to face with their feelings, especially if those feelings are intense, they are fearful that they could be destroyed by those feelings.

I believe that the opposite is true- that being introspective will not destroy the individual but will actually be freeing.

It is both denial and repression that has been associated with both impaired mental and physical health.

While I am suggesting embracing whatever feelings you are experiencing, I am not suggesting acting out in a hostile or aggressive manner.

I believe that those who believe that to reduce stress, one should pay careful attention to diet, exercise, and adequate sleep are all on the right track.

Additionally, those who advocate including daily pleasures in one’s life are also on the right track. This is different for everyone but could include walking, hiking, gardening, reading, listening to music, or meaningful social contact with others.

What matters most is to include activities that are both pleasurable and meaningful to you.

Volunteering or being helpful to others is not only potentially meaningful but a potential stress reducer as

As previously mentioned, being grateful for whatever blessings there are in your life can not only restore balance but reduce stress as well.

Your comments or reactions are welcomed.

Dan Rich is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at