Posted in Health, Inspiration, Photo

Don’t get rid of your stress, get better at it!

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case.

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

The next time your heart is pounding from stress, you’re going to think to yourself: This is my body, helping me rise to this challenge.

Stress makes you social. It releases oxytocin, motivating to seek and give support, and strengthening your heart.

I wanted to share this eye-opening TED-talk with you:

I’m going to give this a try. How about you?

Posted in Poems



When life

throws rocks at you

and you feel scared,


and play ball


If the trees

grab with wood fingers

try to hold you down,


and hold their hands


When the wind

swishes your clothes

entangles your limbs,


and hold it tight


Breathe, my child





MC Driessen blogs


photo by

Posted in Six Word Saturday

Not Dressed Yet

My Saturday in Six (and a half) Words:


Quiet. It’s been much too quiet around Figments of a DuTchess. The figments have gone into hiding, sheltering from the mass of work input. Work that normally is balanced between planning and creativity. Managing and writing. Working and spare time. But these last months I’m diving under in Excel schemes and scheduling, coming up for a quick breath and then going down again in exam planning. It’s eating up my Muse. And I hate that! This madness has got to stop. I need to empty my head, so other stuff can sneak back in. So now, indeed, I’m not in daytime mode yet. The Muse needs my attention, before anything else is done. Don’t come calling at my door, because I can’t open: I’m not decent yet!

Is age catching up on me? Or is the work load simply too heavy? My partner-in-work-crime has collapsed under the pressure and is now trying to find her balance again, struggling hard. I miss her each day. She’s the one who keeps me sane through the madness. We laugh and curse, work and rebel together. Get well soon, sweetheart. ♥

Yesterday our students graduated in a festive ceremony. Our team has worked so hard to get this done, and all went well. Many compliments and heart-felt hugs to my colleagues at the academy – you are simply the best. In the evening we all celebrated the start of the summer holidays with a delightful dinner. Only a ‘lucky’ few – including myself – will still have to work next week, but most are off on their six weeks freedom tour. Enjoy!!


Have a happy Saturday!


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Posted in Six word stories

6WSC: Vacation

My own entry in the Six Word Story Challenge: Vacation:

Only three weeks ago?! Need more!


for a larger image, please click the photo

<< If you want to read other six-word stories about vacation, or participate in the writing challenge yourself, then hit the button! :)

Posted in D&D, Six Word Saturday

Dragon Fire

Six Word Saturday. Want to play along? All that’s necessary to participate is to describe your life (or something) in a phrase using just six words.


Dragon Fire Panacea Against Exam Stress

This is an early ‘Saturday’ post. Still three more hours to go ’till midnight, but by then I will probably have passed out on the couch. Or halfway up the stairs, in a desperate attempt to reach my bed. The first exam week of the second period is over, and it was exhausting. Students can relax for two days, and so can we. Next week, two more written exams and then back to lessons for eight weeks. After which the whole circus starts anew.

No matter how well everything has been organized, there will always be unexpected events. PC tests that decide to block all students, profiles that are corrupt and suddenly crash, traffic jams causing students to be late, uncertainty about the right location. With me running back and forth to try and solve the problems. And all of this under the highest stress, since so much depends on the results. The management has forbidden me to ever take a day off, let alone plan a holiday, during the exam periods. And I’m dreaming of nothing else.

But for now the stress is gone. And the excitement of the weekend is building up. I won’t be able to post much, because I’ll be cruising the Dutch roads to the north. A road trip that will take me to the dark caverns and uncanny places of the Underdark. Another weekend of fooling around with imaginary Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D: Drow of the Underdark I have explained a bit about this wonderful Role Playing Game (RPG). And if you are not geeked out after reading it, you can follow our Underdark adventures in my D&D blog Dungeon Dutchess.

Above all though, this weekend will be filled with friendship, hanging out with four wonderful people whom I have know for ten years now. And though we live ‘far’ apart – what is ‘far’ in a tiny country like Holland? – and are far apart in age (twenty years), we still meet every two months to roll the dice, to make up creative adventures, have dinner together, watch movies and talk about past, present and future. Friends through thick and thin.

Cheers. To friendship.


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Posted in Personal

Night Off

Yesterday was a day I dreaded. After three weeks of holidays, the yoke of work weighed heavily on my shoulders. But you know what? It is all not so bad.

My team is the best team in the whole world, I love these women. They are a little nuts, straight forward and have a great sense of humor. We chat about almost anything: weekends, children, food, men, hobbies, diets, recipes, sex, shopping, relationships. And apart from that, we work like hell! Seeing their smiles and listening to their crazy stories made me happy to be back. Hello university, did you miss me too? 

The evenings still offer hours of freedom. The Karate work is over, no more worries about the minutes not being ready before the next meeting. Working on minutes takes hours! The first assignment for my company DutchText – checking a thesis on spelling, grammar and syntax – has been completed to great satisfaction of the client. Now let’s hope the student will graduate. Keeping fingers and toes crossed. The column for the university rests in the editor’s mailbox for the night, publication tomorrow.

So tonight I have a night off. Which means sitting behind my computer, eating salted popcorn and drinking tea. Again television lost the fight. Because I want to be here, with you.


Posted in Inspiration, Personal

Be Here, Live Now

These days, time is very precious. So very precious, it is worth more than money. All year long we get up early to go to work. And before and after that, we try to capture a fragment of time for creative energy, for ourselves, where the madness of the day can not reach us.

Running and making haste all day long, to do what we are supposed to do, when we are supposed to do it. The demands of modern society are very high. So much needs to be done, simply to make a living. Or to have a clean house. Or to get the kids to the right place. I understand that. But what I do not get is that this demanding schedule even tries to sneak in during my vacation. Taking a peek at my work mail, so it will not be too overwhelming when I return. Having a pack of chores hovering over me. Things I have postponed until the summer holiday. So now I have to do them… The pressure is building up as the holidays float by.

But you know what? I have had enough of that! I do not want the demands of every day life take over during the one period of the year when I can really relax. I am living now, not yesterday or in the future. Here and now. I have stopped feeling guilty. Guilty for not using every second of the hour to do something useful. For not finally doing the things I normally do not have time for, like cleaning my whole house. In stead I follow my heart and listen to what I really want to do.

I truly enjoy staying up late sitting here behind my computer to write – like now. To play Bejeweled, to check out my friends on Facebook, to read and even watch a bit of crime TV on 13th Street. Yes, also at 10 o’clock in the morning! To stay in bed and read, trying to prolong the minute I have to put in my contacts to prevent my eyeballs from popping out. To go to the supermarket every single day, because I am too lazy to think and plan ahead. The freedom to do exactly as I want, is what I call vacation.

Amazing things happen when you go against what you are supposed to do. Today I had planned to donate my youngest son’s old bike to the second hand shop in the municipal center, but could not lift it into my little Ford Ka. It was too heavy and of course it did not even fit! Perhaps someone should invent a folding bike. Ah right, they have. Anyhow, there I was, muttering to the bike to work with me in stead of against me, which of course it would not. Getting frustrated. To which I put a deliberate ending. When I let go of the stress, I got this amazingly simple idea. I hauled the front of the bike back out of my car and parked the damn thing on the sidewalk in front of my house. Then I ran inside, grabbed a pen and paper and taped this message to the bike saddle.

If you need me, then please take me with you. For free!

When I looked out of the window half an hour later, the bike was gone, on its way to a happy new owner. I saved myself a bike wrestle mania, did not have to drive into town, plus made a child happy. Now THAT is what vacation is about. By following your heart and intuition, you will create room for new and fresh ideas. When you take the time to simply be, creativity flows in to fill your receptive mind.

Will you join me in the here and now? Please be at ease with what you are doing and do not think about what you perhaps ought to do. Do not feel guilty. There will be time for those things when the time is right. If you watch a movie – even in the middle of the day – then enjoy that film with all your heart. Do not think about the laundry or about cleaning the windows. They can wait. But when you finally decide to clean them, then make it a fun thing. Concentrate on the sparkling cleanness and play with the water and foam. Live in the now and embrace the joy life can give you, if only you take the time to really experience it.

Have a very happy and special holiday!

Posted in Stories

Blue Monday, You Did Not Get Me Down!

Day 17 of the ‘Post A Day 2011′ challenge.

This morning, or better last night, I woke at 4 AM. There were no shrill alarm bells going off, no rooster trying to arouse my neighbors’ neighbors. I simple woke and there I was, greeting the new day. My son Nick had to get up early to shoot a movie and would take an expensive professional film camera by train to his appointment Of course my mind shifted into first gear. What if he forgot the camera. Second gear. What if he had to go to the toilet in the train and left the camera unguarded in the compartment. At 5 AM I decided to stop worrying and take action in stead: I got up in third gear. Vman, son Sean and cat Bandit were still snoring.

Meanwhile Nick was in the shower. We both went downstairs, he had breakfast and I was half dozing on the couch, wondering whether I should take him to the train station in our village by car, or if I should just let him find his own way on foot. It’s a 10 minutes walk to the station. No Mar, don’t pamper him, he’s 19 and can take care of himself! I gave in a bit and made his lunch bag. At 5.45 AM he grabbed the heavy camera and headed for the front door. Aha, I knew I had to get up! Running after him I brought him his other bag. Bye son, have fun, take care, keep a close watch on the camera! ‘Yes mom!’ *insert rolling eyes here*

Pfew, he was going to make it, so I decided to go back to bed to catch half an hour of sleep before I had to get up to write before work. Warmth, lying down, bliss. Ten minutes later my phone buzzed: a stressed son, yelling that the stupid train wasn’t coming – problems near Rotterdam – and that he was going to miss the connection in Breda on his way to Tilburg. The train in the center of Breda would leave at 6.21 AM, which gave me exactly 20 minutes to get dressed, pick up Nick and drive to town.

I broke a lot of records this morning. This is about the only time in my life that I dressed without taking a shower first – legging, sweater, boots – my hair waving merrily in all directions, no make-up. I only took the time to dump contacts in my sandy eyes, jumped in my car and raced towards the little village station where Nick was. Somewhere. I met him halfway, he was walking back home. He jumped in my car, and I sped away like a lunatic. I dimly realized I forgot my driving license and my insurance documents. I shrugged and raced onwards to Breda. It was already busy after 6 AM. Traffic lights were still in Christmas red, when I wished for evergreen.

At one point we were waiting in front of a traffic light. Waiting, with no living soul in sight. Especially no police soul haha. TO HELL with it! I was getting slightly rebellious and hit the gas and we drove through red. Another record. It felt kind of liberating. With only 4 minutes to spare I stopped in front of the train station. Nick half fell out of the car in his haste to get out. Pfew, we made it! Another record.

On my way back I turned on the radio and was singing while the night was westward bound. At the traffic light I stopped behind a police car. If they had been able to read my mind, I would have gotten a lot of tickets LOL. But I put on my poker face – which I don’t have – and drove home again, making sure I didn’t break any more rules. It was too late to start writing, so I took a belated shower, dressed properly, painted a little black around my eyes, ate a hasty breakfast and got back in my car at 7.30 AM.

Today was the start of the exam week at the university. And exams tend to cause a lot of stress, for students and professors, but also for the exam coordinator of our Academy – meaning me. And again this was useful: it kept me awake. The work day ended with a meeting of the Participation Council, which lasted until 6.30 PM. I decided to skip shopping for groceries and drove to the Chinese restaurant, where I ordered Babi Pangang and Foo Yong Hai. No more working today!

Blue Monday. It was hard, it was tiring, it was stressful, but I don’t feel blue. I’m just happy that Nick had a successful day (he made the connection in Breda by the way), that today’s exam went relatively smoothly and that I was able to help out a student friend. On top of that my sons and me had a tasty and cheerful dinner. And for dessert I got to write this post, even in time for today’s PostADay2011. Blue Monday, you didn’t get me down!

What color was your day?

Posted in Stories

Stress-Less state of mind

Day 6 of the ‘Post A Day 2011′ challenge:

Are you stressed out right now?

OK I confess, I’m guilty. You caught me in a total Stress-Less state of mind.

On any other Thursday, I would be racing and running around, fixing things at the university, calming students, uploading content, answering a gazillion emails, helping professors fix their computer problems.

But not today. Today is a Holy-Day! And I’m doing only things that will help me to Stress-Less. Hmmm that would have been another perfect Word for 2011. But I’ll stick to ‘Expression’.

Please share a dose of Stress-Less with me:

Watching TV channel 13th Street:

Sharing the table with my sons:

Working on my Dungeon & Dragons notes for Dungeon Dutchess:

Reading books:

Writing my heart out while keeping a firm grip on it:

All kind of songs pop into my head:

  • I’m in a Stress-Less state of mind – Billy Joel
  • No Stress today, my Work has gone away – Herman Hermit’s
  • Go on, go on, leave me Stress-Less – The Corrs

Can you think of more songs for feeling Stress-Less? Please share!