Alex McRae Column

Chill, y'all

by Alex McRae

Everybody loves a vacation. There is nothing like a few days off to recharge the batteries, adjust the attitude and, most of all, escape the stress.

The problem is, vacations end and we drag ourselves away from fun-filled frolics to face another stretch of hard time filled with personal anxiety, job woes, insolent children, undisciplined pets and septic tank backups.

If you escape those perils, you’re still at risk from America’s three greatest public health threats, which, according to the CDC, are obesity, handguns and Republicans.

How many times have you wished you could go on vacation and never come back? To leave the stress and strain of daily life behind forever. Well, according to a brand new Gallup poll, you can. And you don’t even have to leave home. At least if “home” is in the right state.

The Gallup organization just released its latest rankings of states whose residents are  the “most stressed” and “least stressed” in the entire USA.   

To no one’s surprise, Hawaii was named the most “stress free” state. Hawaii has taken top honors in low stress every year since the poll began in 2008. It’s easy to see why.

How could anyone be stressed in Hawaii? Gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, erupting volcanoes, hula dances, luaus, pineapple plantations, surfing, hordes of tourists. What’s not to love? Hawaii doesn’t even have mosquitoes.

It’s not perfect. A favorite food is fried Spam—which is even served at McDonald’s—but aside from occasional bouts of turmoil (see Pearl Harbor), life doesn’t get any mellower than it does in the Aloha state.

Paradise does, however, have its price. Hawaii also boasts the nation’s highest cost of living. 

According to Gallup, the five most stress-free states are Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa and Wyoming.

Hawaii is a no-brainer. Louisiana? Easy. Spend a week in Cajun country and you’ll wonder why anyone would live anywhere else. Louisiana is low-stress because natives—including me—learn at their mama’s knee that there’s no excuse for not having a good time. When I called New Orleans home, people actually threw hurricane parties when the weather turned treacherous.

I can also understand how Iowa can be a low-stress location. It’s a beautiful place full of wonderful people, but there’s nothing in Iowa to get stressed about unless you’re Orville Redenbacher and the corn crop is failing. 

Wyoming is home to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and downtown Casper. Nothing there to raise a blood pressure. The only recorded incident of civil unrest in Wyoming happened when the price of fly-fishing licenses went up.

Those four make sense. But Mississippi? I’ve lived next door or nearby half my life and have visited a couple of times in the past year. Great scenery, colorful history, the Delta is a delight, Oxford abounds with charm and the fried catfish at the Taylor Grocery is the best you ever slid between two lips.

The evidence—at least according to Gallup— seems to indicate that those things alone are enough to chase that stress right out of your life. Ironically, Mississippi also ranks among the nation’s poorest states by population. Guess that proves that money can’t buy happiness.

Some Southerners still say “Thank God for Mississippi” when they need to convince themselves that things are always worse somewhere else. Namely, Mississippi.

The Magnolia state may not measure up to its neighbors in every category, but the latest evidence shows that when it comes to laid-back lifestyles, God has already blessed Mississippi beyond measure.

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