The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Canada's The Star Q&A, Training Kit/Book, AOL Chat
Preventing a Burnout Battlefront
Main Essay: Implementing High Tech and High
Readers: Zen This, Parrots
1. Training Kit: Want to strengthen your ability to lead or market a stress
workshop or any kind of speaking/training program? Consider the Stress Doc Training/Marketing
Kit, which includes both "how to" manual and articles and the opportunity for phone
coaching. For more info: Training/Marketing
2. Stress Doc Book:
From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe
Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises,
A 90 page compilation
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lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake" radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and
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creativity, men's and women's issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make
excellent fillers for newsletters.)
Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and
Make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
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1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542
A reporter from "The Star" in Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org) recently
posed these questions. My brief answers from a "stress" perspective:
Why do we need entertainment in our lives?
In a 24/7, anytime/anywhere high stress world,
we all need time for "R & R" -- rest & recreation. The best entertainment
helps our mind-body recovery by both relaxing and stimulating us. It allows us to get our mind
off the daily demands. Alas, too much passive entertainment, like mindless TV watching or
hours on end at the computer seems to be contributing to a more sedentary culture with a host of
psychological and physical problems, e.g., diabetes and obesity problems in children.
certain entertainment, for example comedy, often is stress relieving as it pokes fun at the sources
of stress and trauma in our lives -- an ex-spouse, a devil of a boss, an incompetent terrorist, etc.
This lampooning turns the scary into the absurd or ridiculous allowing viewers/listeners to distance
themselves, feel superior to or have some perceived control over the fear-inducing object.
2. What is the physiology of entertainment?
Technically, what happens to a stimulated brain and why is that so important these days?
also affects our brain functioning. Hardy laughter releases endorphins, the mind-body's
natural pain killers and mood enhancers. Clearly, this helps our separation (from stress
demands) and rejuvenation process. It's less a runner's high, more a runner's or laugher's
Also, some research suggests that watching humorous videos (compared to viewing people
exercising or doing math problems) elicits more creative responding on subsequent problem-solving
tasks. So when not an overly passive, mind-numbing process, at least some entertainment can
charge the brain. And we all have heard how listening to Mozart is supposed to improve IQ.
(More about Mozart in a moment.)
3. How has the cultural role of entertainment changed over the past 20
Alas, I do believe entertainment has paralleled the speeded up tempo of daily
life. Eventually, we can become addicted to the adrenaline highs (and lows) of life in the
fast lane. The only movies or music some can enjoy are loud, fast, action-packed, sexual,
violent...or dark and deathly gothic. Think MTV. Perhaps it's the only input that can
compete with the inner psychic maelstrom. Or it's the wavelength with which these folks are
stuck on. Relaxing with Mozart of Debussy becomes difficult when constantly in overdrive.
as alluded to earlier, the popular computer games, chat rooms, fantasy identity games encourage
non-face to face interaction. While for some very shy people this allows for some interaction
for many it is depriving them of developing certain emotional and interpersonal/communicational
skills and muscles. Akin to the obesity resulting from too much time spent in front of a TV or
computer screen, these folks may have a harder time adjusting to roles at school or at work.
it's not surprising that many people inappropriately try to deal with workplace conflict by sending
an angry or passive aggressive email rather than calling the person on the phone or strolling down
the hall for a heart-to-heart talk.
And we know that children who overdose on aggressive
media entertainment have an increased propensity for violence if they are psychologically
predisposed and engage in this entertainment without proper parental discussion, fedback and
Clearly, there are people who
read, enjoy classical or folk music, the opera, etc. But in general, I suspect this is an
aging market. As Marshall McLuhan noted, "The medium is the message." As the
world becomes attached by global screens -- video games, big screen TV, movies, computer monitors,
the medium both reflects and shapes this increasingly visual and viscous cycle. As noted, many
studies show a link between watching violent movies, playing violent video games, etc., with some
predisposition for violent behavior. (Perhaps the media entertainment allows for more fantasy
elaboration, though soccer fans show that sports, in conjunction with alcohol, can fuel destructive
4. How has entertainment
replaced religion and other institutions?
Being seen on the screen can make one seem larger than life. In the past,
our "larger than life" figures were religious leaders and military heroes, and sometimes
sports figures. Now, not surprisingly, our celebrities spawned and nurtured by the media,
become the new role models, the vanguard for style, hipness, fashion, etc. People who feel
disconnected from their family, religious or native cultural roots are susceptible to this media
worship. As globalization increasingly makes much of the world nomadic, some of the battles
between east and west involve nonwestern countries wanting to preserve their cultural identities,
not to be swallowed up by Nike and Disney and other Western images and lifestyles. At the same
time these people often see these images as beacons of hope and escape to a better world.
Entertainment is at the confluence of all these currents.
Chat Group and Live Workshops
a) Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC Support Chat, Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat. It's a
dynamic, lively, at times witty and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We
raise questions and share our ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.
Stress Doc Q & A:
This question was forwarded by WorkforceOnline:
Preventing a High Demand Work Environment
Turning into a Burnout Battlefront
Q. The seasonal nature of the work does not permit me to increase the size
my workforce, at the same time I know that they are being over worked
and stressed out. Any
A. A NASCAR analogy comes to mind. When folks are frequently in
overdrive and racing the clock two strategic actions are critical: necessary pit stops and a
well-coordinated team effort. Consider these strategic steps:
1. Group Input On
Overtime. Have a team meeting re: optimal amount of overtime; see if employees set
realistic levels. If they are tolerating too much overtime remind folks that they are not
running a short race. For the long haul, too much overtime leads to burnout, mind-body
breakdown and reduced productivity.
2. Buddy System. Have teams or departments come up
with a coverage system whereby people can fill for a coworker who needs a break, a mental health
3. Task and Process Meetings. Team meetings must be more than time- and
task-driven affairs. Build in a ten to fifteen-minute "wavelength" section
(preferably at the end) so people can identify blocks or supports to good communication and
coordination, as well as vent about sources of stress and frustration. Ultimately, allowing
employees to verbalize anger or anxieties in a safe forum, with management, strengthens trust and
provides the foundation for real and effective problem-solving by the troops.
Quickie. Have a quick morning team or department huddle to include: a) is there any
unfinished business, e.g., does the day shift feel the night shift is leaving them too much work?,
b) give folks a heads up on unexpected developments, c) make sure all members are on the same page
regarding assignments and timeframes and d) identify issues that need to be discussed in lengthier,
more formal meeting forums.
5. Accessible Management. As a manager BE VISIBLE!
Walk the workfloor. Your employees want to know you are in the trenches with them. An
overworked, "lean-and-MEAN" work environment can easily become a burnout battlefront.
Leaders must be out in front, getting vital data from those on the front line and sharing the big
picture. You inspire people by being real, by accepting feedback -- the good and the critical.
You also must quickly confront dysfunctional behavior and recognize consistent good work or
If you've really listened to and acknowledged other's perceptions
and positions, people won't always expect you to agree with them. They feel respected when
heard. Employees also want you to make those tough decisions that only management can make.
Just be open and honest when evaluating the consequences of your decisions, continue to elicit
employee input, and, when necessary make changes while pursuing what you believe is the best
direction and decision.
And you can't have too many pizza parties for communal bonding and a
little R & R. Some strategies to help you and your crew win the race and to...Practice
(c) Mark Gorkin
Shrink Rap Productions
While video conferencing and
e-training are capturing imaginations and audiences, the Stress Doc argues for an optimal balance
between the virtual and the real for the most effective learning and teaming.
High Tech and High Touch Teams:
Pros and Cons of Virtual vs. Real Teaming
by Mark Gorkin,
LICSW, "The Stress Doc"
your image of teamwork: University of Maryland basketball, the efficient cooks and servers at
your favorite breakfast place, frequently communicating sales and marketing departments or a
coordinated tradeshow/production outfit? Traditionally, the concept of team has been a group
of people with varying backgrounds and biases, experiences and expectations along with supplies and
skills working together to achieve short-term outcomes and long-term goals. One operational
assumption is that achieving such results would be unrealistic or, at least, more elusive through
solitary pursuit. Another unstated assumption is that the productive channeling of task energy
and conflict along with trust and cohesiveness building results from members eyeballing and calling
out to one another.
However, in our rapidly evolving, 24/7 telecommunications, increasingly
security conscious world, instant cyberspace travel and videoconferencing can seem alluring when
compared with the current burdens of air travel and live conferencing. When e-zines bypass
time zones, and latitudes and attitudes are magically bridged by bulletin boards, webcasting or the
click of a mouse, familiar notions of team will be profoundly tested. Let's focus on two
interrelated dynamics -- one structural (the medium), the other psychological (the motivation) --
that are challenging common sense forms and functions of teaming:
"Virtual" or Electronic vs. "Real" or In-Person Teams and
"Me" vs. "We" and the Process of Relationship/Team Building
Medium Become the Message?
First, let me clarify this
"Medium"--"Motivation" connection. Does sitting alone behind a computer
hours on end posting to a bulletin board (or being inundated with messages), passively watching a
videoconference or being anonymously protected by a screen name mask in a chat group (you never hear
the phrase "chat team") encourage a short-sighted or distracted, self-absorbed or
superficial "me"-ness, if not a "meanness?" For example, how often does
emailing replace calling or face-to-face discussion when there's awkward interpersonal tension or a
time crunch because it's "easier" or "more efficient"? Or, when in
conflict with a colleague or competitor, how frequently are emails transformed into e-missiles?
Invariably, it is civility that takes a hit. To draw on that media guru and grandfather of the
cyber-age, Marshall McLuhan: Is the medium too often diluting, damaging or drowning the
relationship- and team-building message?
Actually, like most profound changes or crises in a
field, the telecommunication-cyber revolution poses both "danger" and
"opportunity" for buyer and seller collaboration and for team building as a whole in the
Hospitality Industry. As in most aspects of life, the golden rule is achieving "dynamic
balance": an ability to blend flexibly high tech and high touch in our day-to-day
Here are brief pros and cons lists of the "virtual" impact on teaming
of the medium still somewhat less traveled. Also under scrutiny is the related "Me"
vs. "We" tensions.
Virtual Impact on Teaming - Positive Aspects
Access, Efficiency and Economics. In today's electronic world, so much information is
available for research and transmission. Targeted data enables a better and quicker
determination of who does and does not fit into the potential buyer-seller team partnership profile.
In addition, not just efficiency but also economics is involved, e.g., a whole department can attend
a videoconference for one fee, saving both time and money.
2. Global Network.
Teams can be far-flung and diverse when casting a worldwide web. Transcending geographical,
cultural and ideational boundaries potentially means both a more expansive project perspective as
well as market specific implementation of team goals and objectives. Writing for e-zines and
newsletters increases one's visibility around the globe.
3. Individual Expression.
Wide ranging data gathering and local feedback enhances the exploratory, creativity and
productivity potential of individuals and companies. With a well constructed and smartly
marketed website, for example, an array of collaborators, clients and consumers can be attracted to
a product-service vision and team. Cutting edge feedback and the potential for upgrading is
In the early days of the environmental movement the slogan was: "Think
Globally, Act Locally." In today's telecommunication age, I like the expansively
empowering, individual and team mantra: "Think Locally, Interact Globally!"
Openness and Intimacy. Having run a "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" (a stress
support group) on AOL/Digital City for four years, the social/networking bonds that can develop
online over time no longer amaze me. The sense of safety and varying degrees of anonymity
often facilitate personal sharing. For some participants there's less fear of criticism or
rejection in an online mode; others feel free to bravely assert their own minority viewpoint, even
And let's not overlook list serve bulletin boards that, in addition to
individual posting, encourage participants to cogitate on issues and questions posed by other
members and then share developed responses and resources. Is that an enlightened
"We" at the end of the cyber-"Me" tunnel?
Virtual Impact on Teaming -
1. Saturation and Addiction. One downside of
increased access is information overload, e.g., being overwhelmed by scores of list serve emails and
the challenge of sorting wheat from chaff. I suspect most readers at some time have been
transfixed by (if not somewhat addicted to) the computer screen - whether single-mindedly working on
a report or caught up in a video game. Warning: Isolation and procrastination, if not
paralysis, may lie ahead.
2. Distraction. While electronic conferencing
often conveys valuable information, what is the state of the message receiver? One industry
exec posited being "only 80% there" during most videoconferences: a secretary
invariably breaks in for a signature or there's an important call. The challenge is
establishing better learning site-work space boundaries.
And speaking of distraction and
boundaries, all cyberites are faced with privacy concerns and invasion of time and space (spam)
3. Creative Problem-Solving Barriers. Virtual teams, bulletin
boards, webcasting or video conferencing often lack the real thing, that is, the crux of teaming:
there's more spontaneous brainstorming when face-to-face. Rough ideas can be more readily generated,
grappled and played with and polished during the course of in-person team meetings.
virtual teams may better allow for individual expression, still idiosyncratic or innovative ideas
must be workable within a team context. Flights of self-absorbed fancy and fantasy are
frequent fliers in cyberspace. Remember, there's often a fine line between vision and
4. Communication and Conflict Resolution Obstacles. As
mentioned earlier, dealing with interpersonal team issues primarily through email suggests avoidance
as a key coping strategy. And while emailing or posting can be freeing, it can also fuel
abrasive, insensitive or impatient messaging
as well as misunderstandings. When you can't
see body language or hear voice intonation, message sent might not be message received.
an anytime/anywhere world, the goal of 21st century teaming must be high tech and high touch.
In unprecedented fashion, telecommunications and cyberspace are bridging and forging uncommon
perspectives, places and partnerships. At the same time, there are both dangers and
opportunities: we must find an optimal balance between the creative-self-centered or solitary
electronic "Me" and the cohesive-conformist or too conservative face-to-face
"We." The challenge, of course, is integration -- from balancing cyberspace and air
travel to blending the best of electronic and the real. Beware one-sidedly succumbing to the
siren sound and seeming "ease" of the virtual.
Telecommunication and cyberspace
travel should further in-person connection: interviews, social-networking events and various
project team and committee meetings and conferences will remain our industry's "bread and
butter," to quote strategic consultant, Jim Daggert (Back to Business," CONVENE, March
2002). It is human and Hospitality nature to use all our senses to get to know each other; to
stir up and channel group chemistry; to mutually solve problems and resolve conflicts, to share pain
and triumphs; to evolve vital interdependence and basic trust
to build relationships.
Especially after a year of 9/11 and a recessed economy, working and playing, sighing and laughing
together in virtual and real space-time becomes it's own reward...and words to help us...Practice
Subj: Zen this
Save the whales. Collect the
A day without sunshine is like, night.
On the other hand, you have
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel
Honk if you love peace and quiet.
Remember, half the people you know are
He who laughs last thinks slowest.
Depression is merely anger without
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
Support bacteria. They're the only culture
some people have.
Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7 of your week.
A clear conscience
is usually the sign of a bad memory.
Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
a new car for your spouse. It'll be a great trade!
Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.
try to be modest, and be proud of it!
If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of
If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
Hard work pays off in the future.
Laziness pays off now.
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
What happens if you get scared half
to death twice?
I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.
repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.
Why do psychics have to ask you for your
goes to her rabbi with a serious problem. Her two female parrots have picked up a bad habit. Any
time she has visitors, the two parrots embarrass her by saying, in unison, "Hi! We're hookers.
Want to have some fun?" To her surprise, the rabbi breaks into a smile, explaining that
he has two male parrots which he has trained to pray and who've become very observant, spending much
of the day davening in their cage. He's
confident that if the woman brings her two parrots
over to his house, his two parrots will exert such a positive influence that her birds will turn
into model parrots.
The next day the woman drives over to the rabbi's house and brings
her two parrots into his home. As she looks around, she notices a large cage with two parrots, each
wearing a little kipah and tiny tallis and each holding a miniature prayer book while they rock back
and forth in prayer. Sure enough, as soon as she places her parrots in the
cage, they shout out
to their male counterparts: "Hi! We're hookers. Want to have some fun?" One of the
rabbi's parrots immediately turns to the other, squawking: "Moishe, put the damn book
down. Our prayers have been answered!"
Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" , is an internationally recognized speaker and syndicated writer on
stress, anger management, reorganizational change, team building and HUMOR! His monthly
newsletter was just featured by List-A-Day.com. The Doc has been profiled in Biography Magazine
and has appeared in a Workplace Violence segment on CBS-TV News. He is America Online's
"Online Psychohumorist" (Keyword: Stress Doc) leading a weekly chat group for
AOL/Digital City -- http://www.digitalcity.com/washington/stressdr DC Stress Chat. Check out his USA Today Online
"HotSite" - www.stressdoc.com Stress Doc homepage. For more
info, email email@example.com or call 202-232-8662 (in Wash, DC).
(c) Mark Gorkin
Shrink Rap Productions