Overcome stress with humor, tears, motivation

BLYTHEWOOD—Alice Kemp-DeWitt has overcome many obstacles over the years and uses that experience to help people manage stress.

She survived a broken marriage and severe financial losses, was a victim of violent crime, and her 23-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver.

Now retired, Kemp-DeWitt lives with her daughter in Lexington County and works as a volunteer at a clothing closet that distributes items to patients at a state-run hospital.

On March 12, she spoke about her experiences in “Stressed Desserts,” a workshop for women at Transfiguration Church. She developed the title because “desserts” is “stressed” spelled backward.

Kemp-DeWitt bases her approach to stress on four words: motivation, humor, tears and communication.

She said a person has to really want to overcome stress in order to be successful.

“I think no matter what has happened to you, if you use the talents that God has given you, you can glean something good, a ‘dessert’ from that stress,” she said. “We can go through stressful times and become more compassionate, but you have to be motivated. It’s easy to bog down and cover your head and just say ‘No!’ You have to do the work, be motivated when you get up, be positive.”

Simple acts such as making the bed every morning, not leaving dirty dishes in the sink, and making the decision to hang around with positive people can help a person escape a rut and become motivated to deal with a stressful situation, she said.

Humor is also important because it is universal and can help add a little light to even the darkest moment.

“We are God’s only creation that has the ability to share humor, and I think he gave it to us for a reason, so we could deal with stress,” she said. “It’s never been unfaithful to me. Laughter is healing no matter what the situation is. Humor is everywhere you go, and you need to get in tune with it or you’re going to miss the funny things you can see and hear every day.”

Kemp-DeWitt especially enjoys sharing laughter with her grandchildren and other family members. She said people that live by themselves or are alone much of the time should surround themselves with humorous books, CDs, films or TV shows on DVD so they can get a dose of laughter whenever they need it.

Then there are tears, which are key to releasing emotion and can be a cleansing experience. Kemp-DeWitt said no one should ever feel ashamed about showing feelings through tears.

“I think it’s a shame that years and years ago we as mothers told our little boys not to cry, that phrase ‘Big boys don’t cry,’” she said. “God gave men the same healing chemical he gave us. Crying provides natural healing like nothing else. When you see a man cry, you know you’re looking at a strong man. If you can cry, you know you’re going to feel better.”

Communication is important during stressful times because people need to be able to tell friends and family what they are going through.

“I don’t mean belly aching or complaining, but open, honest communication,” she said. “Every relationship deserves that.”

People dealing with bereavement, an illness, or a divorce often benefit from finding a support group or taking time to talk with friends or relatives who have experienced the same thing.

She said strong religious faith is also crucial to overcoming stress, even though many people find themselves questioning God during difficult times.

“When I lost my son, I remember asking ‘How can God do this?’ and thinking he didn’t hear my prayers, but I really don’t know how anybody could get through anything without the Lord,” she said. “You have to realize that this day, right now, is the day we have, and this is the day we have to work on being what God created us to be.”