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Managing Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. Even happy events like a wedding cause a lot of stress. As discussed at length in this blog, air travel and travel in general causes plenty of stress. Planning a video shoot and dealing with clients of different levels of detail-orientedness are more ways to lose one's hair. Luckily, I haven't got much hair left to lose. This means I need to find other ways to decompress. Here are some ways:

1. After an especially stressful phone call with an angry mob, get up, walk outside and walk around. Even in the dead of winter I have bundled up in my ski jacket, hat, scarf and gloves just to get some air. If it is warm, go for a longer walk. In the Spring and Summer I try to walk half a mile every day during my lunch break, or whenever I need a break.

2. Get a massage. We have the advantage of having a great massage and acupuncture studio right next door, so at least every couple of months a deep tissue massage really gets me relaxed. Sitting in a poor position at the computer for days on end is not good for the neck, the back, the eyes or the hands.

3. Keep healthy snacks at work. You are what you eat - it is an overused expression, but true. If you keep your desk drawer stocked with candy bars and soda cans, you will feel even worse after your 5 minute sugar high. I need to work on this area of my own life, however i recently switched from high carb granola bars to flavored rice cakes. They take some getting used to, but are filling but low in calories. This Summer I plan to keep some fresh fruit at work as well.

4. Drink. I'm not talking about what you do after work - I mean hydration during the day. A narrator once told me that every time he takes a sip from a bottle of water he tries to drink at least 1/4 of the bottle. That's a lot of bottles of water, but we have a well and the water is pretty good. Do you need 8 8oz glasses per day? Who cares about specific quantities. Drink so you don't feel thirsty. I can tell you at the end of a well hydrated day I am a lot more relaxed when I get home. Alternately, when I get home and snap at my wife, she instantly knows I haven't had enough to drink that day. Know thyself, because your spouse surely does.

Keep a nice selection of teas at hand also. I especially like green tea, but flavored teas can be a nice breath of fresh air too. If you can find tea in a silk bag you know it's going to be good.

5. Exercise. For a while I was going to the gym before work. It took discipline to wake up early, make lunch, make a protein shake for after the workout, grab clothes and a clean towel and get out of the house by 6:30am. I did it for a couple of months last year. This year I think I'll do my workouts at home to save some coin, but still need to get disciplined. A good workout before work, for me anyway, does wonders for my energy and concentration. Last Summer I kept my bike in the car but did not use it enough. Lots of resolutions this year. I'm not getting any younger!

In hotels where I am staying for more than one night, I try to take a swimsuit and a t-shirt. Last October in San Fran I actually went for a swim after a long travel day - it really helps. In airports, you can pay for a bad airport massage, but the best thing to do is just walk around. After sitting in steerage for hours, why sit down in the boarding area if you have some time to kill. Walking around a big terminal like DFW or BWI with a camera bag over your shoulder is a pretty good workout. Again, stay hydrated. Don't rely upon the free cup of ice they give you on a plane. Buy the biggest bottle of water you can find, once through security of course, and drink it. And get the free cup of ice.

6. Stay healthy. This is always a challenge. Stress makes you more likely to get sick. Airplanes, hotels and gyms are full of germs. Despite your best intentions, you will eventually get sick. As I write this I am recovering from a nasty virus, no doubt picked up somewhere between FLL and BDL.

Not much to do except let it run its course and eat lots of chicken soup. Here's my recipe:

1 Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (I like Costco) - you're sick, this is much easier than cooking a chicken.
Let the bird cool in the fridge a bit, then tear off all the meat.
Take the bones (not the body, just the wings, legs, thighs) and sear them in an empty pot.
After a few minutes, scrape the bottom of the pan and add enough water to cover the bones. Let this simmer for an hour. Skim off any flotsam that comes to the surface.

Meanwhile, in a larger soup pot, add finely diced celery, onion and carrots. I use a lot of all three. Over medium heat, sautee with some butter or butter substitute and some olive oil. Cover and let it go until soft. Then I add some sliced mushrooms and all the chicken meat, give it a good stir, then add a little water, and stir it again.

By now the broth should be ready. Place a fine strainer over the large pot of veg and meat, and pour the broth through the strainer so you just get the broth. You can either pull any remaining meat off the bones or throw them away - they have done their job.

Now you can add some salt and pepper, parsley and thyme if you like, and simmer for half an hour. Then dig in.

My wife likes dumplings - they are dead easy.
1 cup flour sifted. 2tsp double acting baking powder. Enough dry parsley so when you mix it all together you can see the parsley.
Make a well in the bowl of dry ingredients, crack an egg and beat it gently with a fork. Now fold in the dry stuff and then add just enough milk so the mixture is combined but as dry as you can keep it. You're not making bread here.
Get your soup up to a simmer then with wet fingers, drop dollops of dumpling mix into the soup. About the size of the OK sign you make with your fingers. Once all the dumplings are in, cover the pot and simmer for 11 minutes and 11 seconds. It's the steam the cooks them, not the boiling liquid (it should not be boiling anyway).
When the time is up, dinner is ready. Enjoy, and shake that cold.

Thanks for reading. I'm gonna get me a bowl of that soup.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 5, 2009 at 3:02:00 pm stress, exercise, travel, health

Go Fast Productions

No, that's not the name of a new company - but it sounds good actually.

I actually was thinking of the term "go fast boats" as used in the Miami Vice movie(it has been on HBO in a loop). Basically fast racing boats used for smuggling.

This week was a go fast production week.

Monday - Pack my gear, print Google maps of two hospitals and a client's offices in Massachusetts. Fuel up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (Saturn ION) for a mere $30, and hit the road. I also hit the library to stock up on books for my wife and hit the supermarket to get her some provisions.

Lately my best friend has been a thermos bottle. I brew some coffee using a French Press, add a few spoonfulls of hot cocoa powder and little milk to the thermos bottle, then fill it up with the brew. This stays hot and comforting all day long. I pull over at every rest stop, or about every half hour, and have a small cup using the screw on lid from the bottle. By doing so, I guarantee that I need to stop at every rest stop for obvious reasons.


First stop Brockton Hospital to visit my dear Grandpa Izzy. After an hour or so of visiting, I hit the road for Burlington, MA. Checked into my hotel, a Candlewood Suites. I specifically chose this hotel because it offers a microwave, fridge, stove and even a dishwasher. Although only staying for two days, it is much more enjoyable to me to have breakfast in my room. The hotel has a little food pantry with non-hotel prices for cold cereal, milk, muffins, cookies, cans of soup, juices and the like.

Tuesday - Meet client at a local hospital at 7:30am, get changed into scrubs, get to the OR, setup my gear, plug my DV recorder into the video laparoscope, test the recording, then go to the cafeteria for some toast and mediocre coffee, then back to the OR for the case. Lately I have been shooting surgery with 2 cameras - one overhead, one on sticks.

After the case, I packed up my gear and went back to my hotel to check e-mail, make some phone calls and grab a sandwich. Then I headed back to Brockton to see Izzy for a few more hours and help move him to a nursing home for a (hopefully) temporary stay.

Next day was up to the client's offices for some tabletop product shots, lunch, and some more shooting and brainstorming.

Wed evening I drove back to CT, with a few stops for bad gas station coffee (I may need to start traveling with my French Press and a 12 volt water kettle for the car) and a stop at Trader Joe's for some raspberry jam and gluten free pasta. Got home, not really hungry, I watched this week's episode of New Amsterdam and part 3 of the fantastic John Adams miniseries. Check it out.

Thursday AM - Fire up the trusty laptop, plug in a USB hard drive with 300 gigs free, and capture all my raw footage from this week. While the tapes were loading, I did some more e-mails and did the dishes. Got to the office around 12:45pm and spent the rest of the day on correspondence for other projects, and started chopping up my video from this week. Oh, I also had a conference call at 7:30am!

Thursday evening at home, with the rough narration and script in hand, i cut the first edit of the promo, finishing around 11pm. I rendered an AVI out of Premiere, then used Squeeze to make a WMV file(scaled down slightly from native size - this project is 16:9 SD), uploaded that to our web server for the client to download and shut off the computer around 12:45am.

Friday AM - got to office around 10:30am - more correspondence and followup on other projects, reviewed some DVDs from a colleague, checked the progress on a 2500 DVD in-house duplication project (slow going) and then started preparing some digital stills and graphics for the next edit of the promo. Got home at 5:30pm, watched 2 episodes of Gene Simmon's Family Jewels then fired up the computer for hopefully the final edit of the promo. Final narration from the narrator arrived, new music requested, and some new graphics. Finished at midnight, plus the WMV render got me to bed around 1am.

Now it is Saturday at 9:50am, and I write this blog post while awaiting final edits, so I can make a DVD loop and get to FedEx by 4pm. It is about a 20 minute drive based upon prevailing traffic conditions and weather, so I need to burn the DVD no later than 2:30pm. Presumably i could take the laptop to go and finish burning as I drive, but that's pushing it.

Tonight, as mentioned in my previous post, is the 15 year reunion for my college tv station. Then the rest of this week I get to not drive anywhere besides the office. Joy!

Thanks for reading.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 29, 2008 at 7:10:14 am editing, encore, premiere, travel, driving, stress

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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