After a tough day at work or an irritating mound of chores, where do you turn? Do you grab a tub of Haagen-Dazs? Flick on the tube?
     A book by local authors says there's a better way to fight stress. "The Book of Comforts," by Templeton authors Patricia Alexander and Michael Burgos, focuses on using comfort — a favorite food, hobbies, friendship — to renew and heal.
      Whether you're heading off on a hiking adventure or staying home for a nice long soak in the tub, this book emphasizes the importance of taking a break to appreciate life's beauty.

Seeking stress relief

     "People are desperately seeking ways to comfort themselves," Patricia Alexander and Michael Burgos write in the introduction to "The Book of Comforts."
     " More people are instantly relating to the concept that comfort is an anti-stress technique, a strategy, and that's okay," said Alexander, a writer, life coach and group leader for Weight Watchers. "Generally the reaction I get tends to be, 'Oh, I need that.'"
      Rather than give abstract examples, the authors draw on their own life experiences to help motivate readers.
      Alexander shares her frustration over struggles with weight and body image and a failed 23-year marriage. Burgos, a marriage and family counselor, talks about the pain he's experienced over a lifetime of health issues; he survived cancer as a two-year-old only to undergo chemotherapy for lymphoma at age 28 and still deals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
     " We wanted to be real and authentic," Burgos explained. "It's not like we're self-help gurus. We've had and continue to have our challenges."
      The book is sold locally at San Luis Obispo's Barnes&Noble, Borders, and Novel Experience; Arroyo Grande's Halcyon Bookstore, and Ye Old Book Shoppe in Atascadero.
      Despite their struggles, however, Alexander and Burgos say they've been able to find healthy, positive ways to comfort themselves in times of trouble
      The two take readers through three different areas of healing: Spirit, which discusses self-esteem, organization and emotions; Body, focusing of food and physical activity; and Soul, about compassion, friendship and inner peace.
      Each entry is accompanied by bulleted tips about how to comfort oneself, inspirational quotes and ethereal skyscapes painted by Marina del Rey artist Dean Andrews.
      The couple also draws on their friends and family for examples of what people find comforting, whether it's fishing or hot fudge sundaes.
      Alexander, for instance, turns her shower into a day spa or spends a day in bed to renew her tired body and brain.
      Although "The Book of Comforts" authors urge, "Give yourself permission to be happy," they emphasize that the notion of comfort can be taken too far. Overindulging with rich foods or television, of instance, can just be as damaging as violent stress.
      The more stressed people are, the less resourceful they are about what is truly helpful," Alexander said, adding that the book promotes "a different, deeper comfort."


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