How to Get Rid of Squirrels without a .22

commentary editorial opinion

Nick Reiher

A friend and I recently were talking about our mutual dealings with high blood pressure.

I chuckled when I told her my cardiologist will ask if I take my blood pressure at home. We do have a nice gauge at home. In the box. Never opened. In the closet.

I am not averse to having my blood pressure checked. But I do know me. If I take it, and it’s high, the next one will be higher. And so will the next. And so on. I cited a recent trip to an immediate care facility an as example.

So, I told her, if I am feeling stressed, I try to relax.

“How do you do that,” she asked.

I told her of several tools I have in the toolbox when the squirrels start running through my head: mainly, get out of the situation I am in at the moment, physically if necessary.

I take a walk, and our puppy Kayley is only too happy to help with that. Even giving Kayley ear scratches and belly rubs helps when I see – and hear – the joy it gives her.

I write. Focusing on the job at the PC helps keep the squirrels at bay. Either they are transfixed at what I’m writing, or I’ve put them to sleep. Works for me.

One of the main things I’ve done is change my mindset. For years, being a reasonably creative person, I could imagine a relatively normal situation, and in a matter of minutes, would have conjured a story in my mind that would give Stephen King nightmares.

This could start with a situation that would be coming up – like an airplane trip or doctor’s visit – or something I would create all on my own, just to keep the squirrels all heated up. And they never seemed to tire of the mental and emotional exercise.

Unlike me, who’s aforementioned blood pressure likely was rising like the poor air quality last week, and doing about as much damage, at least to me.

Thankfully, I have a great GP who knows me in and out. When I had a medical scare last year, my blood pressure was going nuts, even though he assured me everything would be fine. And it was.

Except for my blood pressure. So, he put me on meds for that. Low level. And sent me to a cardiologist who ran me, literally in one case, through a battery of tests to make sure all the fun I had been putting myself through didn’t damage my heart. So far, the tests showed, so good.

But I knew it would eventually catch up with me if I let the squirrels have free rein in my skull. So, I am working on changing that.

My longtime friend, Art Dykstra, sent me a book – “The Power of Bad — after he read another of my columns about me being a worrywart.

One nugget I’ve gotten out of the book is that it takes about five positive thoughts to overcome a single negative one.

“Is it possible to find five positive thoughts?” I thought to myself. I thought I had better work on finding some, and quickly.

It turns out, there are many people and things I am thankful for, and I try to focus on those. But I also had to shut the door on those squirrels and not let negative thoughts even take hold.

If one starts to pop up in my head, I snatch it away before the squirrels even notice. I say, “No, I’m not going there. I’m going here instead.” Sometimes, it takes several times, or more. But I do my best not to give in. If I do, it’s for a few minutes; not days.

Being over 60, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night for a bladder run. That’s a good time for squirrels wanting to play. But I’ll do quick mental inventory instead. “Anything pressing to worry about? No. Everybody doing OK here? Yep. Am I pretty well blessed? Yep, and then some.”

That works pretty well.

Squirrels can come at you from all directions, especially on social media, which, as we know, is not always that social. As well as the general state of politics from D.C. to Will County, I cannot for the life of me understand the griping on pages dedicated to the Cubs or Bears.

Are they Russians? Sox fans? Cardinal fans? Packer fans?

Dunno, so, I stop reading comments on most posts, except the “We Are Italians” page, where the comments sometimes will have good recipes. But even there, the administrator had to ban arguments on whether you call it “sauce” or “gravy!”


I am a work in progress on all of this. I don’t want to ruin my health or limit my days worrying about what was or could be.

I’d be missing a lot of life now if I keep doing that.


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