Northwest Observer / To Your Health 2021 / July 29 - Aug. 4, 2021

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LIVING WELL IN NORTHWEST GUILFORD COUNTY published by ps communications

5 6

How do you tame the stress?

Survey: Should students wear masks?

8 A nudge toward fitness 10 COVID-19’s ‘long-haulers’ 14 A reluctant caregiver 16 Over the hill? Not these folks! 23 Index of Advertisers


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How do you tame the s�r�s�? ‘Laughter,’ ‘faith,’ ‘exercise’ and ‘gardening’ are some of the responses we received when we posed this question to our readers compiled by ANNETTE JOYCE From pandemic-related health and economic issues to the political climate, the past year and a half has produced mega amounts of uncertainty and stress for many people. While stress can’t be avoided, finding healthy ways to deal with it before it takes an emotional and physical toll on our bodies is the key – on that note, we asked our readers to tell us what they do to minimize their stress and lead a healthy life. When her world starts getting crazy, Stokesdale resident Robin Priddy finds two methods of coping to be effective – laughter and drawing on her faith. “Laughter truly is the best medicine at times. I work with a great group and making each other smile is an important factor at our home away from home,” said Priddy, who works at A New Dawn Realty in Stokesdale. “Moments of fun can be a wonderful stress reliever.

“The second coping mechanism, and most important factor, is my faith. Whatever has happened in my life, I know that God is in control. That gives me great comfort and hope that brighter days are always ahead,” Priddy added. A teacher at Southern Guilford Middle School, Katie Marie Nelson discovered that getting down and dirty was the perfect way to release her feelings of stress. “I started coping with my elevated stress by getting deep into gardening. It gives me a sense of control and I can see progress. Honestly, I probably spend more time weeding than harvesting vegetables, but it brings me joy,” the Colfax resident said. “Teaching middle school through everything led to a very big and productive garden!” she added. Ask Tammy Shearer what keeps her in a positive frame of mind and her answer is immediate. “Hooping,” she said. Think hula hoop, and then take it up several notches. The Summerfield resident makes, sells and uses shiny, colorful hoops

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It’s back to school – with masks required amid differing views by CHRIS BURRITT and ANNETTE JOYCE NW GUILFORD – With the start of the new school year in just over a month, do you think school leaders should still require students, teachers and staff to wear masks? We asked students, parents, other residents and Guilford County school district leaders for their viewpoints on the question. Opinions differed as the debate is rising nationally along with the spread of COVID-19 cases, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant. At present, masking in North Carolina’s schools and on school buses is required by Gov. Roy Cooper and the state Department of Health and Human Services. In mid-July the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidance for the upcoming school year, recommending that everyone two years and older wear masks, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated. That advice contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which earlier this month relaxed its masking guidelines to say fully vaccinated teachers

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At present, masking in North Carolina’s schools and on school buses is required by Gov. Roy Cooper and the state Department of Health and Human Services, despite CDC advice that fully vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear a mask. Guilford County Schools officials plan to follow the statewide mandate for masking in schools, according to Janson Silvers, a media spokesperson for the school district.

and students don’t need to wear masks. While Guilford County Schools officials “read the CDC’s new

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guidance with interest,” they’re following the statewide mandate for masking in schools, according to Janson Silvers, a media spokesperson for the school district. “If or when this changes, we will review our protocols and make adjustments as needed,” Silvers said. “In the meantime, we encourage all students and staff to get vaccinated prior to the start of the new school year.”

Other views: “As I consider the idea of attending school with a mask, I have all sorts of emotions, mostly

sad and frustrated. “I think of what we have gone through over the past year and a half, and I feel we deserve to have a normal school year that entails everything we love about high school, including seeing each other’s smiles in the hallway. This can’t be done if we are wearing masks. “I know I have taken the precaution of getting vaccinated, so that I can go to school normally. As I approach my senior year, I have only had one full year of (inperson) high school, and I do not

like to think that my second full year of high school will be altered due to wearing masks. “So that being said, I think masking should be a choice. If you feel more comfortable in the school setting with a mask, then you should wear one. “I hope the 2021-2022 school year makes up for lost memories and is truly a celebration for a step toward normalcy.”

Annie Badger, 12th grader and student body president, Northern Guilford High School “The Northwest Guilford High School PTSO board represents the parents, teachers and students who are members and advocates for the well-being of the overall school environment. We are comprised of many varying opinions on mask mandates. With that said, we all support the school and the district’s measures to keep our students,

staff and facility safe.

classroom normalcy.

“Additionally, we are thrilled to have our students returning and look forward to a successful school year!”

“A more rational response would be to promote proactive measures including frequent hand cleaning, availability of sanitizing products, physical separation where possible and rapid response through an effective communication plan. Seatbelts and airbags do not protect drivers 100 percent, yet we still drive. Similarly, we should not expect statistical perfection in responding to this complex human condition.

Melissa Stallings, president of Northwest Guilford High School PTSO (Parent, Teacher, Student Organization)

“As the new NGHS PTSA president, I think students and staff who are fully vaccinated should have the option to wear masks. However, I want my child to be back to full-time in-person learning, so we will follow the School Board’s policy – but my preference would be that masks are optional.”

Kelly Reis, president of Northern Guilford High School PTSA (Parent, Teacher, Student Association) “Unequivocally, no (to masks); any such Orwellian mask mandate is an overbearing response and inept strategy in dealing with a return to

“The federal government has totally botched its response to this pandemic with unnecessary hype, conflicting advice and confusing mandates. I agree with the CDC on this point. Common sense should rule the day with fully vaccinated students (and staff) allowed to remain maskless if they so choose.”

Bill Edwards, Oak Ridge “My biggest concern is for the

elementary kids and ESL (English as second language) students. I’ve volunteered as a reading buddy at Northern Elementary in a kindergarten room and fifth grade class. So many students read lips as they begin to understand how words are formed and wearing a mask impedes learning a language. “In high school Spanish, I had to look at my teacher’s mouth to understand what was being said. At work, I’ve had to try to figure out what people need through a mask and there is room for error and frustration when faces are covered. “Students are less likely to ask for help because teachers only want to say things once. There is a fear of asking someone to repeat the sentence because you could be looked at as not paying attention. “So much of language is also reading expression on someone’s

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A nudge toward fitness For some, the pandemic provided greater fitness motivation than traditional jump-starters such as New Year’s and birthdays

to the start of a new year or birthdays.


“In January, everybody wants to lose weight,” Vocke said in a recent interview. “During COVID, people realized the lack of movement and isolation took a toll on their health. It’s been inspiring to see new people who’ve not worked out in years or have never worked out.”

“I definitely think there’s more longevity with the easing of restrictions related to COVID,” said Jen Vocke, a personal trainer and wellness coach for the Fitquest program at Spears Family YMCA in northwest Greensboro.

NW GUILFORD/NW GREENSBORO – For Angela Eberly, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions coincided with a personal milestone. As the Stokesdale resident approached her 50th birthday, she resolved to get serious about exercise and nutrition. For years, she had concentrated on her two children, her work and caring for her mother. The pandemic helped her shift her focus. “COVID made people realize how short time really is,” Eberly said in a recent interview. “I’m trying to make these changes now. I’m tired of putting it off.” For some, emerging from the pandemic has provided greater motivation than resolutions tied

The pandemic provided the backdrop Photo courtesy of Spears Family YMCA for the unfolding of stories such as Eberly’s. Her mother, who suffered from dementia, Easing of COVID-19 restrictions motivated Bill Gibson to return to Spears Family YMCA, where he works out twice daily. died earlier this month. Two years of care took its toll on Eberly and her father. “That is not how I want to end up in my mid-70s,” she said. “I want to be spry and healthy.”

motivated to improve their health, fitness trainers confirmed. In recent months, people have

As the virus claimed lives, many people were

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COVID-19’s ‘long-haulers’ For some survivors of the illness, ailments from dizziness to depression can linger for months

cases since May were among people who haven’t been vaccinated. In North Carolina, vaccination rates have stalled, with about 53 percent of the state’s adult population fully vaccinated. “Unfortunately, we do need to be worried because of the Delta variant,” Dr. Eksir said in a recent interview. “As a result, additional cases of long-haulers will develop.”

by CHRIS BURRITT NW GUILFORD/GREENSBORO – Dr. Samantha Eksir knows the signs. The Wake Forest Baptist Health physician and her colleagues at Family Medicine Summerfield have seen patients who, despite surviving COVID-19, are still suffering from so-called “long-hauler” symptoms. Ongoing fatigue, muscle weakness and a loss of stamina

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According to Dr. Olu Jegede, who directs Cone Health’s post-COVID care center, research has found that about a third of people who survive COVID-19 will develop long-hauler symptoms that can include loss of smell and taste, fatigue, muscle weakness and “brain fog.”

are common to some patients, doctors said. Others suffer from a lingering cough and shortness of breath. Patients also report difficulty sleeping and worsening depression and anxiety, as well as dizziness and “brain fog,” leading to disorientation and an inability to concentrate on routine tasks.

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Doctors predict the number of people suffering from long-hauler ailments is going to increase as COVID-19 cases reverse their decline of recent months. The fast-spreading Delta variant is emerging as the dominant strain of the virus in North Carolina, fueling an increase in cases in July, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency reported earlier this month that more than 99 percent of new COVID-19

Research has found that about a third of people who survive COVID-19 will develop long-hauler symptoms, according to Dr. Olu Jegede, who directs Cone Health’s post-COVID care center. Since opening in March, the center at 104 Pomona Drive in Greensboro has seen more than 200 patients. “By far, the most common symptom is fatigue,” Dr. Jegede said in an interview earlier this month. “The one that is most distressing for our patients is brain fog. They find it difficult to focus. Some of them can’t watch TV because they can’t follow the story.” Such ailments can result from damage to the brain and other organs caused by COVID-19, according to Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Andrew Budson.

Some of the damage can be devastating, such as strokes, while other effects can be more subtle, such as difficulty with staying focused, Dr. Budson said in a March 8 blog post. The range of long-hauler symptoms – fatigue and body aches, as examples – may result “from permanent damage to their lungs, heart, kidneys or other organs,” said Dr. Budson, chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and lecturer in neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Damage to these organs – or even just the symptoms by themselves – can impair thinking and memory and cause brain fog,” he said. “For example, how can you think clearly if you’re feeling fatigued and your body is aching? How can you concentrate if you were up half the night and awoke with a headache?” Long-hauler ailments are confined to people who survived COVID-19, making diagnosis of the symptoms relatively easy when detected during and shortly after the infection, according to health experts. The diagnosis becomes more difficult when symptoms emerge weeks or months after people are clear of the virus, Dr. Eksir said. In some cases, people who come down with long-hauler ailments showed no symptoms of COVID-19 while they were infected. “Because the symptoms are so vague, it is easy to try to blame it on COVID, but there are lots of different diagnoses that can cause these symptoms,” Dr. Eksir said. “If it were

to come up later as a new symptom, it’s harder to diagnose.” As medical professionals study the ailments and seek to improve diagnosis and care, many long-haulers have turned to a Facebook group called Survivor Corps for information and comfort. Posts on the group’s Facebook page reflect a mix of emotions. Earlier this month, a nurse wrote that she has “admittedly been in a pretty dark place lately, and I know I can easily slip back there. However, today I was able to shower (without holding onto the wall), go to physical therapy, and work for 5 hours.”

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Another person asked, “What do you all do when you have a panic attack coming or extreme anxiety? Dealing with this on almost a daily basis.” Another unknown is the duration of long-hauler symptoms, even though they clear up for some people over a period of weeks or months, according to Dr. Jegede.

“That’s one thing we don’t know – when it’s going to be over,” he said. “We continue to learn about the virus every day.” Meanwhile, getting vaccinated is the best option for avoiding COVID-19 and possible longhauler symptoms, Dr. Jegede emphasized. “That’s the only way we can put a stop to this virus,” he said. “This is far from over, especially in the unvaccinated community.”

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A reluctant caregiver by CHRIS BURRITT

The other day I was in a hurry to get out the back door, and my mom shouted, “Your shirt is on inside out.” My mom is 94, I just turned 63. What am I doing here? For the past 2 ½ years, I’ve been living with my mom as her ability to walk has diminished. She relies upon a walker to get around the house, and I’m around to pick her up if she falls down. My responsibilities extend further: preparing meals, picking up her prescriptions and taking her to the doctor. I believe my presence gives my mom comfort, especially during the isolation of the COVID-19 outbreak, when she rarely left the house.

Even during the pandemic, I have had the freedom to leave, sometimes for several hours at a time. But I always worry that some mishap has occurred while I’m away and my mom’s caregiver, Cynthia, isn’t there. Five evenings a week, Cynthia prepares supper for my mom, whom she calls “Ms. Thelma.” They talk at the kitchen table, spending more time together than my mom and I do; my two dogs, Fancy and Inky, also do their part to keep my mom company.

I’m a reluctant caregiver, providing for my mom’s needs as though I’m working down a “honey-do” list. At times, I’m resentful, which I take out on others. I spend some of my spare time driving around, just to get out of the


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Chris Burritt (left), 63, has lived with his 94-year-old mother, Thelma, for the last 2 ½ years as her health has declined and her needs have increased. Although he considers himself to be a “reluctant caregiver,” Chris tries to keep his sense of humor as he juggles his own work and personal responsibilities with things like taking his mother shoe shopping, fixing her breakfast and transporting her to many unscheduled as well as scheduled doctor visits. house. I’m in no hurry, sometimes irritating tailgaters. When they’re finally able to scoot past me, I’ve been known to roll down my window and let them know how I feel. Years ago, I would have been shocked by such behavior. Little things get to me much more now, and that includes instructions and admonitions from my mom. It doesn’t matter that she is usually right, such as when she pointed out I was wearing my shirt inside out. Grown men aren’t supposed to live with their moms. Caring for her, I believe I’m a dutiful son. We’re blessed that others help fill in the gaps, from Cynthia’s care to phone

calls and visits by my mom’s nieces and my children, Christopher and Alice. I’ve made some preparations for the inevitable decline of my mom’s ability to walk. A few months ago, I bought a used battery-powered wheel chair. I called the elderly woman who was selling it, and she said she believed it would fit in the back of my minivan. When I arrived at her house, I discovered the chair actually weighed several hundred pounds, way more than I could lift. I left and returned, pulling a trailer with my car.

“Go faster!” the woman yelled at me as I drove the light-brown machine down her ramp, across her lawn and down the street to my trailer. I’m sure somebody saw me and laughed. Sometimes I laugh, too, about incidents when my mom can’t hear what’s going on. Recently, I took her to the graveside service of one of my father’s childhood friends. He had served in World War II, so he was due military honors.

Of course, the responsibilities were reversed half a century ago. “It’s time to get up,” my mom called down the steps of our house, waking me up for school. From behind the wheel of her Rambler station wagon, she dropped me off at friends’ houses, took me to basketball practices and picked me up from sock hops in the school gymnasium.

The trumpet player didn’t show up, so one of the deceased’s relatives went to his car, opened the windows and played “Taps” over the car’s speakers.

Years later, when I moved out on my own, I inherited my parents’ old cars and their old furniture. They were always generous financially, more so than I feel as though I deserve, especially now as I catalog how I care for my mom.

Afterwards, my mom commented that man sure was rude to leave the graveside and go to his car during the service.

Neighbors’ lawns look better than ours. “Look at our grass,” my mom said the other day as I pulled into the driveway.

When it’s my time, I hope I go quickly to spare my children and others of the responsibility for looking after me. Or will I keep trying to live?

Even so, I think I’ve got the basics down: the strength to pick my mom up if she falls down and the skills to build a ramp on her front steps when she needs to replace her walker with a wheelchair.

My mom is fiercely independent, like many older people. I think she’d prefer to endure aches and pains than moan about them. She’s inclined to smile at the doctor and say “everything’s fine” when in fact, she’s just complained to me about an ailment. I realize that going to the doctor represents an outing for my mom. I know my place: driving the car and pushing the wheelchair that gets her around. I prefer to sit in the doctor’s waiting room. Or if the appointment is going to take a while, I’ll leave to buy a cup of coffee. A few weeks ago, the dental hygienist asked me to push my mom’s chair into the back of the practice. For half an hour, I sat in the corner of the room looking out the window, trying to ignore the whirling of the motorized teeth cleaner.

I don’t think my mom is planning to go anywhere any time soon. She recently renewed her annual membership to AARP. As I was heading out, I picked up the stamped envelope from the kitchen table. Just to make sure I knew what to do next, my mom called out, “Don’t forget to put it in the mailbox.”

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Over the hill? Not these folks! Trying new things, finding ways to contribute and staying as active as possible are some of the ways you can keep going strong in your senior years by ANNETTE JOYCE While some people decide they’re “over the hill” when they hit their 60s, others keep going strong right into their 70s, 80s and 90s. Feeling alive and well, they vow to live life to the fullest and make each day count. So just what are some of the things that keep these people going and set them apart? Phyllis Anders, 77, retired in May. Being able to spend more time with her 16-year-old grandson, Wilson Anders, keeps her motivated and adds purpose to her life. Wilson, who has Down syndrome, has been the joy of Anders’ life since the day he was born. “Every day is a hoot with Wilson,” Anders said. “He lifts me up and doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. He has an inner sense of people’s feelings. He is my biggest fan.” Anders also enjoys contributing to the town of Oak Ridge; she serves on the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Heritage Day Planning Committee, and helps organize monthly Music in the Park events.



Photos by Annette Joyce/NWO

(Clockwise from upper left) Phyllis Anders, David Miller, Sandy Stewart

David Miller, associate pastor at Central Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, chose to deal with the possibility of losing his own purpose upon retirement by simply deciding not to retire. “It’s who I am, not just what I do,” said the 78-year-old Kernersville resident. He loves his job and said he doesn’t plan to leave it until God calls him to do something else. Having a purpose goes handin-hand with feeling needed. “All of us need to feel like we’re needed and that we are contributing to society,” Miller said. “I enjoy helping people. I can’t grasp just sitting down and doing nothing.” Trying new things and devel-

oping new interests are excellent ways to stay young at heart. As an example, Anders recently decided to learn to paint with watercolors and is taking classes while having a blast discovering her creativity. Miller has a passion for cook-

continued on p. 19




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face. I believe masks are a hindrance to the learning process.”

Sophia Davis, 12th grader, Northern Guilford High School

“Masks are an easy way to increase the safety for the students and staff while there is still a very real threat to their health with the COVID-19 virus. I have two children who are vaccinated and one that is too young to be vaccinated. “Wearing masks at school is not a big deal to the kids. Masking protects them inside of buildings without great air quality and with other people in very close proximity. “It may not be a big deal for certain kids to contract COVID-19 because they will recover easily, but there are many families who have vulnerable family members. A child bringing home the virus from school could have very serious complications for the child or others they could spread it to. “I have a friend whose son contracted COVID-19 two weeks ago at an outdoor summer camp. My friend, who is vaccinated, also ended up with a mild case of COVID from caring for his son. Breakthrough cases are happening and children are contracting it. Masking is simple, it isn’t a burden and it protects those around us.”

Laura Soto, Oak Ridge parent “I think you should have the choice to wear a mask if



you’re fully vaccinated, but if you aren’t fully vaccinated I feel like you should have to wear a mask. “A ton of people get the vaccine so they don’t have to wear a mask anymore. But if they change the rules so you still have to wear a mask even after you get vaccinated, less people will get the vaccine, and COVID will stay around longer.”

Vance Bolyard, 11th grader, Northern Guilford High School

“I think school leaders should require students and teachers to wear masks unless they are medically unable to do so. Mask wearing and social distancing have proven to be effective in dramatically slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases such as colds and flu. “None of the vaccinations approved in the U.S. are 100 percent effective, so wearing masks seems to be the safest option. The schools should be as conservative as possible to ensure that all students and teachers remain healthy while in school.”

Nancy Stoudemire, Oak Ridge parent

“I do not think that universal masking makes sense. I believe students should not be required to wear masks. “I’ve heard that it is, in fact, unhealthy for the students to wear masks. Bacteria can accumulate on the masks, and it isn’t healthy for the students to be breathing too much CO2 and not enough oxygen. The number

of students getting COVID has been miniscule.”

Jane Schlobohm, Summerfield

“The thought of my senior year approaching excites me. It is also bittersweet because so much of my high school experience of the past year and a half has been cheated. My senior year will be my second full year of (in-person) high school, and also my final year. “I want to experience all of this year to the fullest extent possible. I long for a year where I don’t have to repeat a question three times because the teacher can’t adequately hear/understand me through the masks, or where I can look back and see my friends laughing in the back of the classroom. All of those little things can make a huge difference in the everyday life of students, and those things are not feasible with masks. “As a nation, we wouldn’t have gotten through the past year and a half if we didn’t listen to the medical advice of our nation’s doctors; we should continue to do so now and listen to the CDC’s recommendations. “Masking school kids should not be required. As nationwide vaccinations are increasing, students should be able to choose if they feel they need to wear a mask. As a community we have taken great steps towards normalcy and if our schools mandate masks, then it takes us all back.”

Rylee Karagiannakis, 12th grader, Northern Guilford High School

OVER THE HILL? NOT THESE FOLKS continued from p. 16

ing and loves sharing that passion with others. With help from his wife, Donna, he recently cooked a meal for 40 members of his Sunday school class.

“I enjoy cooking and I like to watch people enjoy eating,” he laughed. Then there’s Stokesdale resident Sandy Stewart, who loves working with plants and flowers. During COVID restrictions, Stewart decided she needed a new project and commenced with digging up a curved strip of woods that runs by her house and is the length of a football field. Stewart has spent months pulling roots, trees, weeds – and a little too much poison ivy. She’s now reached the planting stage and what was once a tangle of brush is shaping up

to be an attractive addition to her landscape. She joked that often she gets so caught up in what she’s doing that she loses track of time and her husband, Randy, “will call her in.” That’s usually after about six or seven hours of labor. At 66, Stewart could run circles around people half her age. “I’ve never been a couch potato,” she said. “I like staying busy in general and have a hard time staying still.” Stewart believes exercise has played a big role in her being able to remain active even after several surgeries. “Exercising has always been part of my life,” she said. She started out walking about 47 years ago and on the advice of her doctor switched to an elliptical trainer a few years back. She starts her days with 45 minutes on the elliptical, which is set at an incline and an intensity level of 12. “It really gives me more energy and helps

me do more of the stuff I want to do,” she said. Finally, all three agree that being socially connected is critical to keeping that youthful feeling. Along with Wilson and her other family members, Anders has a large network of friends and connects with them often. Miller, who describes himself as a “people person,” said he enjoys doing what he can to help others. Stewart relishes staying close to her tightknit family and group of friends. Before COVID she spent a great deal of time with her mother, who lives in a nursing home, and enjoyed visiting other residents there. She’s looking forward to doing more of that when the facility lifts its visiting restrictions. The bottom line? Aging doesn’t have to put anyone on the sidelines – if you stay physically active, find new interests and a purpose for every day, and spend as much time as possible with those whom you hold dear, your senior years can be some of the best ones of your life.

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DEALING WITH STRESS continued from p. 5

that are bigger and heavier and designed for adults. Whenever she needs a mood booster, she puts on her music and starts twirling. Stokesdale resident Vicki WhiteLawrence has developed an entire list of ways to keep negativity at bay. “I enjoy walking and have incorporated it into my daily life. I walk as soon as I get up each day, sometimes with a friend but mostly by myself,” she said.

“I switch from listening to the local NPR radio station to classic rock music, or play Beatles or Paul McCartney music,” she said. “I’ve also cut out most TV, so I’m watching far less than I used to. I have various projects I’m working on so am not sitting around so much and am more active overall.” Lisa Powers, who lives in Summerfield, has three top stress busters that help her cope.

“I’m also trying to be more deliberate with my eating. I eat less and try to eat more healthy foods, cutting back on sweets and snacks,” she added.

“Deep breathing is an instant method to de-stress,” she said. “Taking a long walk is the second way I clear my head and destress. And lastly, watching a good comedy routine is my go-to for a distraction from my stress.”

White-Lawrence has also learned to tune out the bad stuff.

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a busy person.” That old saying definitely applies to Stokedale’s Alison Huber. With a family, full-time job and an abundance of volunteer activities, Huber’s lifestyle isn’t for everybody. “I’m an odd bird because the more I’m involved in, the more organized I become,” she said. “Time management is on my side.” While time management is definitely key to conquering stress, Huber has a few other techniques to fall back on. “One of my favorite stress relief tools is walking,” she said. “Jennifer Williams, my neighbor and fellow Northwest Guilford Woman’s Club member, and I try to walk at least two miles each night. That’s a great way to unwind in the evening. Even in the winter you are likely to see us in our reflective vests walking Meadow Ridge and Arbor Run.” Huber’s other tool for reducing stress: somehow, she manages to work in eight hours of sleep most nights. Dina Smith of Greensboro deals with stress by ignoring the things that produce it and concentrating on positive things instead. “I turn the news off, read my Bible, think happy thoughts and count my blessings,” she said.

Ridge resident in a positive frame of mind. “I do use work around the house as a stress buster, especially my garden,” he said. “It gives me a sense of pride to watch plants take hold and grow and to get different projects done. “I try to have a list of things to do so I can measure my progress. And then there is always nap time. Being retired has its advantages, and I can pop in a nap at any time of the day.” Along with his various home projects, Yanusz likes to “squeeze in some aspect of art every once in a while. Painting, sculpture and photography are my favorites.” He also finds that exercise helps reduce negativity, so he works out in his home gym several days a week and enjoys swimming laps in his pool. Even with all this, Yanusz said the biggest thing that keeps him positive is something he embraced years ago. “It is the philosophy of living in the ‘here and now,’” he said. “Whenever I get in a stressful situation, I use some humor to diffuse things, go work in the garden, or tell myself ‘It is what it is, just get through the moment.’ “And if all things fail, I go take a nap!”

Even before the world turned upside down, Danny Yanusz was dealing with the kind of stress that would break even the most strong-spirited of people. Yanusz is the primary caregiver for his wife Linda, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia in 2016.

Betty Compton reduces her stress by counting her blessings and staying active.

Staying busy and productive has always helped keep this Oak

“I enjoy making greeting cards. In the fall, I made 50 Christmas

“As I think over this past year, I think still having my husband (Lewis) of 72 years has been wonderful,” she said. “He plants flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale and last year, squash and zucchini.

cards and I’ve been making birthday, ‘thinking of you’ and other cards,” the Stokesdale resident said.

take a breath. Having good friends or family to talk to is a huge help also.”

“When I’m able, I enjoy baking. Lewis always says I’m happiest when in the kitchen cooking. For me, that is a wonderful stress reliever.

“I do not stress, because I keep myself busy,” Colfax resident Penny Shepherd said. “During this past year a lot of people I work with decided to work from home, but I was fortunate enough to be able to work at the office.

“Also, I love to read and work word search puzzles. And I enjoy Hallmark movies. I enjoy being happy, not sad.” How to deal with stress and stay positive? Dena Barnes of Summerfield has a simple answer: “Wine.” “My dogs are a big part of my stress relief,” Greensboro resident Vickie Long said. “When I come home after a long day, they’re always so happy to see me that it just melts the day away.” Exercise is another way Long deals with stress. Along with walking her three dogs, she finds relaxation in swimming laps.

“I also enjoy my dogs, watching birds, and was able to still spend time with grandchildren. Each day is a gift from God and I just have a mindset that life is too precious to stress.” For Julie Surprenant of Oak Ridge, binge watching TV, laughing out loud and drinking wine helps with stress relief, but getting back out into the world has made all the difference in her emotional well-being. During the pandemic, Surprenant got a job at the grocery store, where she could talk to and meet new people.

“I went at least five days a week, put on my headphones and just swam lap after lap listening to music and drowning out the rest of the world,” she said. “I feel so much better when I get out of the pool, and it truly was a lifesaver for me.”

“Being home with my family was great for a while, but I am an extrovert and I needed social stimulation,” she said. “Stress and anxiety are sometimes a struggle for me, but being able to communicate with others helps.”

Unfortunately, due to some shoulder issues Long has had to cut back on her time in the pool, but she has upped her walking time.

At age 87, Oak Ridge resident Carolyn Brown maintains her cheerful outlook by keeping things simple.

“Some days I just need to sit on the couch and binge watch something on Netflix,” she said. “I let myself have days like that, but not too often, as that might lead me to binge eat also. “There are days when I feel like my anxiety is controlling me, and I just have to sit down and

refreshes the soul.” Andy Michels, a resident of Oak Ridge and owner of Oak Ridge Physical Therapy, makes it a point to look on the sunny side. So how does he deal with stress? “My short answer,” he said, “is my Christian faith!” He also has two mottos that he follows. “#1 ‘Be prepared,’ which is the Boy Scout motto,” he said. “And #2 ‘Prepare, Trust and Wait!’ This is something I came up with myself about four years ago that helps me through tough times and decisions. Prepare as best you can for what may be ahead in your life, then trust God and wait on His timing.” “It takes practice and routine to deal with stress,” said Angel Fuller, owner of King’s Crossing Animal Hospital in Stokesdale. “For me,

the key to coping with my stress is to make sure I choose to see the beauty in this world and in life. “I do this by choosing a variety of activities and learning new things. I choose activities like rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and regular exercise. Then I mix it up by trying things that I know I am bad at… like singing lessons. “If I am having a particularly stressful day, I will look forward to doing one of these activities and slowly the stress does not seem worth my attention. The more I do, the happier I am. “Also, super important for me is to have a nighttime wind-down routine,” Fuller noted. “No work stuff after 9 p.m., stretch, go to bed early. I like to listen to either music or guided meditations.

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DEALING WITH STRESS continued from p. 21

been awful, I force myself to think about what I am grateful for prior to falling asleep. Finally, I constantly work toward focusing on what I can control and letting go of what I cannot. That is a work in progress.” Patti Dmuchowski of Oak Ridge discovered several ways to deal with the stress of the past year and beyond. “I turned off the news, continued to attend church, kept in contact with all my friends, walked in our town park on a regular basis and read a ton of books,” she said. “My family was always available to talk to when life became a little bit too much. So glad we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel!” Lowrey Barrow, a native of Stokesdale, has dealt with a lot of stressors this past year – some good and some bad. She got engaged, got a new puppy and was gored by a pig. She and her fiancé closed on their first home and she was furloughed from her job the next week. “While it was extremely stressful at times, I found I could always turn to my family for comfort. They always had some advice or words of comfort that would help me settle down,” she said. “I also turned to God and practiced the power of prayer. I was able to surround myself with good people who cared about me. “I also decided to take better care of myself during this time. I changed my eating habits and began to exercise more often. I felt like I was releasing that


stress with every pound I lost. “Getting outside helped tremendously, whether it was five minutes in the hammock or with the pigs or an hour-long hike through a trail. It really helped clear my mind and keep me sane.” Barrow is hoping the things she has learned will help her cope with yet another big stressor – planning her wedding. “I’m thankful I had the opportunity to work on myself and figure out what helps me in stressful situations,” she said. “2021 has already been amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.” Summerfield resident Sally Randall believes fear is the root of stress and anxiety, but that it offers a great opportunity for growth “Early on with the pandemic I had to stop watching the news because it was a constant cycle of instigating fear,” she said.

“As fearful thoughts would come and try to sweep me under a cloud of stress and anxiety, I would slow down and examine the thoughts and ask myself – ‘Where did this thought come from? Should I accept it as truth?’” she said. “Often the fearful thoughts are other people’s anxieties trying to make their way into my heart, trying to steal my peace, and I have the power to stop that by not allowing that thought to take up residence! Is the thought even the truth?

allowed God to show me the roots of why anxiety is there.

“Truth is that no matter what comes, I still have a choice if I am going to stand on shifting sands of popular opinion, collective fears and current events – or, am I going to stand on the Rock and believe that God is good even when my circumstances say otherwise?

“It has been a tough journey, and a battle. But they have been battles worth fighting as they have brought incredible freedom. I see the time we were given as a great gift to face our giants and see that they could be taken out!”

“I made the choice to believe His truth. In His truth fear has to go when I determine not to agree with it any longer. It was a battle for sure and still is, but over the past 18 months I have

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“When I have laid in bed with anxious thoughts, unable to sleep, I have asked Him to show what is underneath those fears and where they are rooted. I found that so much of what I was facing had roots of fears from my childhood that I had never faced, and old pain that created avenues of thinking I had no idea were there.”

“As I reflect back on 2020 and all the worries and the unknowing of what was to come, I realize I managed my stress by keeping a positive outlook,” said Lori Gray Brookbank of Summerfield. “That probably sounds silly to some, or impossible to others considering all that was going on. “At the end of the day, I felt grateful every single day I got to wake up and see my children, my parents, my new grandbaby, my adoring husband and my amazing friends. Granted, in the beginning those visits were sometimes just by FaceTime but that was enough. “I focused on the things I could control. If I’m down, who keeps my family up? Without my ability to always find the good in any situation, I’m not sure I would have come out as unscathed as I did. But I must say that I am thrilled to see normalcy on the horizon.”


continued from p. 8 returned to gyms and fitness centers after more than a year of exercising at home, if they exercised at all. “I think people are way more conscious about their health than they’ve ever been,” said Emma Skelton, fitness and wellness director for Proehlific Park in northwest Greensboro. Eberly is one of her new training clients. The pandemic “has made people evaluate where they are and how much they’ve let themselves go,” Skelton said. Aside from getting vaccinated, some people are seeking better fitness and nutrition to fend off the virus if it were to resurge or were followed by another contagion, she added. The pandemic “scared a lot of people,” she said, leaving some to worry “they may get it (when) they’re not in good shape.” Elderly people have been the slowest to return to Proehlific Park, wary of the health risks of COVID-19. But the concerns are easing, said Skelton, noting that three of her five new clients are older than 60. “Every one of them had gotten out of shape or had some type of health scare or health issue,” Skelton said. “It has made them rethink how they’re taking care of themselves as they’re aging.” Rising mental stress during the pandemic may have demotivated people from exercising, according to a survey of 1,669 people, mostly women, by researchers from McMaster University and Western University in Ontario, Canada. “Maintaining a regular exercise program is difficult at the best of times and the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may be making it even more difficult,” according to the study published in April by PLOS One, a nonprofit publisher of peer-

reviewed scientific research. Those who reported the biggest deterioration of their mental health were also among the least active respondents, compared to six months before the pandemic. The majority of respondents “were unmotivated to exercise because they were too anxious, lacked social support and had limited access to equipment or space,” the survey said. The survey found those who continued exercising were less motivated by physical health outcomes, such as weight loss or strength, than relief from anxiety and other mental health concerns. Researchers said engaging in half an hour of moderately intense aerobic exercise three times a week may be as effective as taking antidepressant medicine and enduring drug-related side effects such as nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite. The survey’s findings ring true locally. Returning to the gym appears to have improved people’s mental as well as physical health, observed Vocke, of the Spears YMCA. “You overhear conversations, with people saying, ‘I’ve not seen you for a year. It’s so good to be back,’” she said. “Not only did it boost their mood, it also helped jump-start the physical aspect of it.” “Except for people dying, the worst thing coming out of COVID was that the gyms were closed,” said Bill Gibson, who joined Spears YMCA in February after retiring and moving to Greensboro from Tempe, Arizona. Reopening of the YMCA “totally motivated me because I’m playing catch-up,” said Gibson, who exercises at Spears regularly after exercising at home during the pandemic. “I lost a lot of muscle mass and endurance.” Maria Langman has returned to Proehlific Park five days a week. “When COVID came and I couldn’t

go to the gym, I was devastated,” she said. Although Langman walked to maintain her fitness, she said she missed “the weights and the (exercise) bands and the camaraderie. As soon as they opened, I was here with a mask on. It was a joy to come back to the gym. My motivation: get toned up and see people again.” For Stephanie Cordisco, the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 coincided with her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Aiming to reduce stress, she resigned from her position as vice president and general manager of outdoor and sportswear brand Icebreaker, a unit of VF Corp. Cordisco, her husband, Chris, and their three sons had moved from Greensboro to Denver, Colorado, when

VF relocated their corporate headquarters there. Last year, the family returned to North Carolina, with Cordisco running a marketing consultancy from her Summerfield home. “COVID and the diabetes diagnosis made me reprioritize my life,” said Cordisco, who has swapped international business traveling and late work nights for dinners with her family. She’s improved her diet and exercises daily, starting with two hours first thing in the morning, rather than working out only when she could find the time. At 43, Cordisco said she’s “probably in the best shape of my life.” “Being able to take care of myself and my health was the most important thing,” she said. “The quality and ease of life is more aligned with what we need right now.”

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