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Dave Balch: Magazine Puzzles

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I’m on a plane as I write this (ain’t technology grand??) and the woman sitting next to me has been totally immersed in some puzzles in the back of the in-flight magazine for at least an hour now. First it was Sudoku, now it is a crossword.

When I say totally immersed, I mean TOTALLY immersed. She didn’t even realize that the flight attendant was asking her what she would like to drink until I tapped her on the shoulder!

It occurred to me that this would be a great way to relieve stress and forget your troubles, even if only for a short time. I realize that puzzles aren’t for everyone; I’m not much of a fan myself. But the point here is that distraction can calm and relax you.

What is it that you can bury yourself in? Is it a puzzle or a good book? Would you prefer something visual (such as a book or puzzle) or perhaps something more kinesthetic such as woodworking or gardening?

When I was in my early teens I got lost in Tom Swift Jr. books. (Yes, books HAD been invented then…) Tom Swift Jr. was a teenage inventor whose unique contraptions lead him to adventures and mysteries galore. This series held endless fascination for me and kept me busy for hours; once I started a book I couldn’t put it down.

When I was in my thirties, I purchased a model Rolls Royce that had over 1,000 parts and no instructions, only diagrams! The pistons moved up and down in the engine, the steering worked, the windows rolled up and down, it was very complicated to say the least. When I sat down to work on it, the entire day could go by and I wouldn’t have even noticed!

When you are that engrossed in something it is simply not possible to be stressed. How can you be worried or anxious when your mind is so full of something else? Think of it as a calming oasis in the desert of anxiety.

Don’t get a puzzle just to get a puzzle, though. Make sure it’s something that interests you because if it isn’t I can pretty much guarantee that it will go into a pile and actually ADD to your stress. Why? Because you will feel obligated to work on it and it will be yet another thing on your to-do list, adding to your feeling of overwhelm.

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