Category Archives: Stress



At Sea I“At Sea I” fiber art by Shelley Brucar

One of my first posts was about breathing, about how to breathe slowly and deeply for maximum benefit.  Today’s post on the Zen Habits blog is about breathing, about some of the times when we most need to remember to breathe efficiently.  Check it out…

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Here are 5 more tips from my list of “100 Stress Reducers” that are great for summer:

26.  WATCH A SUNRISE OR SUNSET.  Really watch it!  Sit somewhere comfortable and take the time to thoroughly enjoy the sun’s rise or set.  Savor all the colors and the cloud shapes.  If you’re near a body of water, check out the reflections on the surface.

27.  GO FOR A NATURE WALK.  Whether it’s a forest preserve, a botanic garden, a path along a lake or river, nature gounds us.  Walking in a natural setting can be  peaceful and inspirational at the same time.  Be aware of the sights, the sounds, the colors, the breeze and the warmth or coolness against your skin.  I’m convinced that being out in a natural setting enhances health and wellness – both physical and mental.  Allow yourself to be relaxed and refreshed.

Reflections VIII“REFLECTIONS VIII” fiber art by Shelley Brucar

28.  TAKE A BIKE RIDE.  You’re out in nature and getting excercise.  But it’s more than that – feel the wind against your face and rushing through your hair.  Watch the scenery constantly changing.  Ah – exhilarating!

29.  GO TO THE ZOO AND WATCH THE ANIMALS.  This is not just for kids.  Wathcing animals can be relaxing – some of them are completely at peace.  And watching animals is often funny – lions roaring at each other, monkeys flying around from ropes.  At the Racine (WI) Zoo, the peacocks strut around freely, right along with the visitors, and what a treat if one shows your its feathers!

Wayne Racine3aphotography by Wayne Brucar

30.  FEED DUCKS.  Ponds full of hungry ducks can by found almost anywhere.  Bring along some bread and a friend to share the serenity.

If you’re following, you now have 30 of my favorite stress reducers as well as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Visualization and Reframing from negative to positive.  Please click on “comments” to tell me what you’ve used that is working for you.

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All winter I’m stuck inside for dyeing fabric.  As soon as summer comes, I move the dyeing studio outside where I’m so much happier.  So now that it’s finally warm and has stopped raining, I’m up to my elbows in fabric dye and various discharge solutions – all outside.  I start with white fabric, dye it, overdye it, and screen it many times with different screens made from my own or my husband’s photos.  When the fabric is totally saturated and won’t take any more dye, I discharge some of the color, then dye or screen more, and then sometimes paint it.  Here are a few of the pieces that have been created recently in my back yard:





And here’s one new piece that has come from this process:

Weathered Text“Weathered Text” by Shelley Brucar.  Hand-dyed, screened and discharged velvet; machine stitching.

What, you may be thinking, does all this have to do with stress management and serenity?  Did I mention that fiber art is what brings me serenity?  If you don’t already have something you’re passionate about – something that makes the rest of the world disappear when you’re involved with it – find that passion now.  Then make time to pursue your passion.

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Filed under Art Stuff, discharge dyeing, hand-dyeing, Stress, thermofax screens



In my May 15 post, I explained the concept of REFRAMING.  Then in the May 27 post, I listed and explained some typical “irrational” thought patterns that result in negative thinking.  Today’s post is an exercise to help you: 1. define what causes YOUR negative thinking, and 2. brainstorm ideas for reframing negative thoughts into positive thoughts in order to reduce stress and behave in a more productive manner.

Silver Birchfiber art by Shelley Brucar

First an explanation:  The thoughts floating around in your head are known as SELF TALK.  I’m not implying that your are actually talking to yourself – although some of us do this too!  But we all have automatic thoughts going through our heads all day long, which usually do not even enter our awareness.  These are often old tapes playing from childhood about how we “should” feel and act.  These thoughts may have been useful at one time (or not), but they are probably no longer useful to you, and may be counterproductive in terms of how you “want” to feel and behave.  These thoughts are knee-jerk reactions to daily events which influence your behavior, often negatively.  The good news is, this is where you can intervene.  You can REFRAME your negative self talk into positive self talk, thereby altering your behavior and the consequences of your behavior.

Compare these photos.  CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS IN ANY SITUATION.  Choose what works for you.


Focus2photos by Shelley Brucar

Here is an 8-question exercise to help you identify and change your negative self talk and examples of negative self talk that could occur for a new artist (ask me how I know):

1.  TRIGGERS – Identify what specific events result in negative self talk.  Example:  I did not get juried into a show.

2.  FEELINGS – What are the feelings that occur in response to trigger named above?  Example: Sadness

3.  THOUGHTS/SELF TALK – What are the tapes playing in your head, what are you telling yourself about this event?  Example: My art is not good enough; maybe I should give it up.

4.  BEHAVIOR – What is your behavior, how do you react to this event?  Example: I refuse to enter other shows.

5.  CONSEQUENCES – What are the consequences resulting from your behavior?     Example: My work is not being exhibited and therefore, is not being seen.


6.  NEW SELF TALK – Name some positive ways to think about the same event.    Example: Maybe the pieces I submitted were not right or did not fit in for that show.

7.  NEW BEHAVIOR – How might your behavior change based on this new “self talk?”   Example: I will submit entries to other shows.

8. NEW CONSEQUENCES – What would likely be the consequences of your new behavior?  Example: I will be juried into some shows and exhibits, my work will be seen and will sell.

You can go through these 8 steps for any and all events that typically causes a negative and unproductive response for you.  Identifying your “self talk” is important because this is where you can intervene and make changes; this is where you have control.

Remember the serenity prayer:  TAKE CONTROL where you can and let go when you do not have control.  And by the way, here’s another version of the serenity prayer: 

“Grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the Courage to change the one I can, and the Wisdom to know it’s me!”


Filed under Art Stuff, Coping, Reframe, Stress



If you like talking to automated systems, please press or say 1.

If you would like to hear a directory of names from the local phone book, please press or say 2.

If you would like to talk to a human who may or may not be able to help you, please press or say 3.  The wait is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes because we get so many calls about our products not working.

If you would like to speak with a human who will understand your frustration but will still not be able to help you, please press or say 4.

If you would like to speak with a human who will not be reading off a set script, please press or say 5.  Then hang up because we do not offer this option.

If you would like to jump through the phone line and strangle someone, please press or say 6.

If you would like to talk with a supervisor, please press or say 7.  Nothing will happen because supervisors cannot be found.

If you would really like to manage your stress, please press or say 8.  Then hang up immediately and go for a walk.

If you would like to be transferred to a different, but equally unhelpful menu, please press or say 9.

If you are seriously considering giving it all up and becoming Amish, please press or say… oh sorry, we’re out of numbers.

This probably sounds familiar to anyone who has ever phoned just about any company, agency, institution, etc. in our current, advanced technological society.  If by some chance you do get to speak with a human, you can explain that the phone on your account – along with internet and tv – are all not working.  The person at the other end of the line will inevitably ask you if the phone on your account is a good call-back number in case you get disconnected.  Take at least 3 deep breaths and explain that the number you are currently calling from – which actually works – would probably be a better call-back number in case you get disconnected, which by the way, is going to happen fairly soon if that person keeps asking questions like that one.

At the end of any conversation, the voice at the other end of the phone will ask you if s/he can help you with anything else (obviously part of the script).  This wording, “anything ELSE”,  implies that you have already been helped with something.  And you may also be asked how you would rate the service you have received.  They do not want to hear that the “service” you received is quite possibly the worst you can remember in your lifetime.

Swirling Leavesso far “Untitled” by Shelley Brucar – hand-dyed fabric, machine stitching, stretched over canvas.

So yes, in the last 24 hours, I have had the lovely opportunity to deal with three different automated phone systems.  For 2 out of 3, service, or lack thereof, was absolutely appalling.  The voice in my head was telling me I was going to have a stroke if this kept up.  Then the mail came, and I got the (“normal”) results of my “almost annual” mammogram.  I immediately realized that if those results had not been “normal”, all this other stuff would not have the gigantic importance that I had allowed it.  In fact, it would not have mattered at all.  So I went for a walk/run to the gym, worked out, and walked home.  And look at this – up and running again, at least for the moment.

The switch from “I think I’m going to have a stroke.” to “I am so grateful to be healthy.”  – THAT is what I call Perspective.  THAT is what I call REFRAMING!

If you enjoyed reading this post, please click “forward” and share with anyone you choose.

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by SHELLEY BRUCARIn the Breeze

“IN THE BREEZE” fiber art by Shelley Brucar


Let’s further explore negative thinking.  Did you come up with some examples of automatic (negative) reactions to events in your life?  If you have not had a chance to think about this, do it now.  What events/circumstances provoke negative, and often irrational, thought patterns for you?  Is it -the flashing lights in your rearview mirror?  – the phone call from an aging parent?  -criticism/feedback from someone at work or from a friend?  -the end to a relationship?  -a “funny” look or comment from a friend or coworker?

Here are some very common, and very distorted, thought patterns that are counterproductive because they make us feel bad and stressed-out.  And these thought patterns are not necessary because if examined, you can find fallacies in all of them.

1.  ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING:  Everything is good or bad, black or white; there is no middle ground.  You’re either perfect or worthless, and any small problem escalates to gigantic proportions.  For example, “Susie doesn’t agree with me; she must hate me.”

2. OVER-GENERALIZATION:  Reaching a general conclusion based on a single event.  For example:  “I forgot to get gas yesterday; now I’ll be late; the whole day is ruined.”

3. CATASTROPHIZING:  Magnifying the severity of events; expecting disaster.  For example:  “If I don’t get this job, my career is over.” or “Nothing good ever happens to me.”

4. PERSONALIZATION:  Thinking everything others do or say is a reaction to you.  For example:  “Susie hasn’t called yet today; she must be mad at me.”

5. BLAMING:  Holding others responsible for your problems.  For example: “If s/he wouln’t nag so much, I would be happier.”

6. DISCOUNTING WHAT IS POSITIVE: No matter what you do, it’s never enough.  “Yes I got a good grade/performance review, but it could have been better.”

7. LABELING: Identifying yourself with negative labels.  “I’m stupid/incompetent/a failure.”

8. SHOULDS: Strict rules about how you, and others, should behave.  “I should always be available when a friend, parent, spouse, child, etc. needs me.” or “I should have more patience.”

Look at the events in your life that you named at the beginning of this post.  What negative/distorted thinking patterns are at work?

Now look for the fallacies in this distorted thinking.  Ask yourself, where is the evidence that this is true?

To be continued…

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