The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
DEC 2002 networking now, getting resumes out there
more and meeting with various friends and acquaintances," he says.
Fight when you can
when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Heads Up: Wall
Street Journal, Hong Kong Institute of Human
Management, Washington Times and Travis AF Base, CA
Shrink Rap: Laundry
Main Essay: Practicing Safe Stress for the Holidays
Hu's On First, Wedding Plans, HMO Coverage and What's In a Word?
1. Training/Marketing 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
Kit or email.
2. Stress Doc Book:
Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of
the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page compilation of my former
syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in the field of psychologically humorous rap music - "Shrink
Rap" Productions - a creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress
Brake" radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics as
stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity, men's and women's
issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make excellent fillers for newsletters.)
$20 (which covers priority postage and handling)
Make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
3. Chat Group:
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
B. Heads Up.
a) Wall Street Journal Publication
Job Seeker News
Volume 3, Issue 22
Job Searching Tips: Job
Hunting During the Holidays
While job hunting during the holiday season may seem less
than festive, author Dale Buss, provides job seekers with some great advice: Turn
"wassailing" into "networking."
The holidays are a natural time for
socializing, so job hunters should be ready to do so with a different sense of purpose: Take along
your business cards and resume.
For example, Ron Johnson was laid off in July after seven
years with a Herndon, Va., employer where he implemented document-workflow systems for companies and
government agencies. He's now looking for a job in project management or business analysis, with few
nibbles so far. But the 46-year-old Mr. Johnson, who lives in Arlington, Va., plans to step up his
search during the holidays. "I'm doing more
attending a D.C.-area networking group for job seekers. "Groups like this help create a
new community [so] you feel like you're not alone. [They also] put you in
contact with good resources and may get you back into some kind of routine," says Mark Gorkin,
a Washington, D.C.-based psychotherapist and America Online humorist known as the Stress Doc.
"You can go to your own church or synagogue and say, "How about we start
something like 40Plus?"
Source: "How Wise Job Seekers Make the Holidays Work,"
Dale Buss, Career Journal: from The Wall Street Journal, November 2002.
Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management
I am writing for permission to reprint "Purposeful
and playful workshop exercises and strategies: The art of practicing safe stress".
We publish a monthly magazine/journal on behalf of the Hong Kong Institute of Human
Resource Management, copies of which are distributed to all 4,000 members of the Institute in
c) The Washington Times,
Karen Goff, Dec. 22nd story on Holiday Stress, especially the stress of entertaining and being a
d) Holiday Stress; Mental Health Promotions at Travis AF
Greetings. I'm a mental
health technician in the Air Force currently working in Mental Health Promotions at Travis AF Base,
CA. My main job is giving briefings on suicide prevention, workplace violence and
substance abuse for the entire base. I recently received a request to present a briefing to a
group from the hospital here on holiday stress. As I didn't already have a ready made briefing
I went to the internet and found your Holiday Stress: Fact or Fiction article. I
particularly liked the verse "Cruisin for a Bluesin" and was wondering if this had been
put to music and where I could find a copy if it has. I'd like to use that verse as my theme
and entrance as an attention getter to give my briefing a lighter air.
My reply: I feel
flattered, by all means use "Crusin for a Bluesin." It hasn't been put to music, so
feel free to improvise. I use my home grown "Rhythm (he says loosely) and Blues"
beat. Having lived in N'Awlins for 16 years gets me out of a lot of jams. ;-)
Note: Permission in both cases, of course, was granted. See below for entire
article. Anyone else interested in reprinting my writings, just email.)
Stress Doc shares a tale of communal conflict in big city living along with techniques for defusing
an "aggressive" interpersonal encounter. And, lo and behold, assertion, apology and
mutual affirmation has its own rewards.
Strategies at the Communal Battlefront
or Surviving "Laundry Wars"
Living in a big city apartment
building, for me, is a fairly insular experience. I know a couple of neighbors but with the
erratic schedule of one self-employed most fellow residents are but ships passing in the
night. However, there is a dramatic exception to the prevailing anonymity and impersonal
civility -- that communal battle zone, i.e., the laundry room. For a building with about 130
apartments, having five washing machines and five dryers often makes for intense evening
Sometimes stress comes from discovering that all machines are in use or that a
washer is out of service. But the biggest potential source of conflict occurs when a resident
does not retrieve his or her clothes in a timely manner. Some folks leave their clothes so
long that you wonder if they've been left in storage. Maybe the washer has been hired like a
babysitter. (Not a smart strategy as you know this just gives the machine more time to swallow
those socks.) Or you imagine enviously the frolicking that must be transpiring to ignore one's
possessions. Of course, it couldn't be a case of a resident being lazy, self-centered or
insensitive to someone else's needs, schedule and time constraints.
Alas, a few basement
ventures left cooling my detergent or being discouraged altogether from doing a wash eventually
generates a different coping strategy, more individual than communal. It's urban survival and
every man and machine for himself. Okay, it's not quite so Machiavellian. But now, after
about five minutes, if the owner of the clothes is AWOL -- Away Without Laundry
Shootout at the Communal Corral
Before revealing my latest encounter, I will acknowledge
a slightly confounding factor: my tendency to do a wash every three weeks. So I'm
usually scraping the bottom of the underwear drawer by the time I hit the basement. (Go ahead,
when it comes to laundry room duty, call me a closet Social Darwinist.)
Now, on to the recent
communal confrontation. Perhaps a minute or two shy of my customary waiting period I remove
the clothes of the tardy scofflaw and place them on another machine. Suddenly, a guy with
about 3 inches and, at least, thirty pounds on me bursts on the scene with an indignant look and a
loud and challenging tone: "Don't you touch my clothes! Why are you being so
aggressive? The machine only has been stopped for a couple of minutes." And with
his voice getting louder and more agitated, again, "Why are you being so aggressive?"
my ground, resisting backing off or counterattacking, I choose to expose his angry manner:
"Your voice is getting louder and louder; you're the one who is yelling. I call that
My antagonist made some effort to partially lower his voice and reduce his
hard stare, but continued to harp on my role in the invasion of the apparel snatchers. Feeling
more confident that we weren't in a runaway aggressive spin cycle (also feeling pretty solid about
my feedback and position) I countered with some reality: "How am I supposed to know when
you will be picking up your clothes?" I reminded him that the building houses large
numbers of the communal laundry-impaired. Mr. Self-Righteous grabbed his clothes, placed them
in the dryer and left in a huff.
Airing My Laundry and Clearing the Air
In the lobby, needing to
vent, fortuitously, I bumped into a neighbor, one of my few friends. E. is quite a lady, a
spry widow in her '70s, who has raised five kids. She can be everyone's grandma or an
outrageously feisty character. E. often regales me with stories about upsetting folks in her
bible study groups by challenging crusty, unthinking dogma.
Even E., apparently, has had
basement battle fatigue. Upon sharing my encounter, E. could empathize with the dicey
situation: "I now just leave the clothes and wait." Waving her hand
dismissively, she continued: "Those young people just start yelling."
hit the issue on the head: "If you're so worried about my touching your clothes, then you
need to get down before the cycle is over."
My initial response, fueled by some
competitive instincts, was, "Why didn't I say that." But upon reflection, I was not
sorry for missing the chance to tell this guy what he should do (or where he should go). I
suspect the above would have put more fuel, if not fire, on the already smoldering power
struggle. By primarily affirming my concerns and position, by not having to be right, by not
trying to put Mr. Aggressive on the defensive, we were able to move toward more neutral corners.
about forty minutes later, while removing some clothes from the dryer, a startling
development: my antagonist walked into the laundry room and, in a humble tone, said:
"I want to apologize. I don't know what got into me. Of course you can't know when
I'll be coming down (for my clothes)."
Upon recovering, I offered my hand, and said my
first name. Now he was taken aback, but quickly we shook hands. He too introduced
himself. I then quietly affirmed his apology: "I really appreciate this."
also lightheartedly announced, "I've decided to wait three minutes from now on."
Again my message was that "some patience is a virtue" and that our interaction had yielded
mutual learning. Rick shook his head, implying, "No, that isn't needed." He
smiled and left the room. (But knowing my time-conscious nature, I'm planning to buy a pair of
I suspect Rick's acknowledgment wasn't easy; I respect his
actions. But more than his motivation and apology, more than "winning," was
contributing to my inner glow. I had stood my ground. I had stated my position without
having to counterattack or become offensive. This laundry room encounter, once again,
illuminated and reinforced the self-defining power and problem-solving potential of focusing on,
"Who I am," "Where I'm coming from" and "What are my (perceived)
rights" without being invasive, abrasive or a self-sacrificing martyr. This
"I" message vantage point is usually more constructive and effective than telling someone
who or what he is, or what he should be doing. And in this on the spot scenario, it's
certainly better than playing mind games by analyzing motivations. This communication strategy
is a way of being and behaving that can help us all
Practice Safe Stress!
Safe Stress for the Holidays:
Fact or Friction?
many associate the holidays with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and its theme of gaining
and sharing the holiday spirit, the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities may have even
It was the best of times, it was the worst of time
It was the season of
light, it was the season of darkness...
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Dickens, I too have tried to capture the complexity of the holidays; if not through a great novel,
then with my one classic holiday joke. I realized with all this talk of pressure during the
holidays, I needed to distinguish between "Holiday Blues" and "Holiday
Stress." Now holiday blues is the feeling of loss or sadness that you have over
the holidays when, for whatever reason, you can't be with those people who have been or are special
and significant. And holiday stress...is when you have to be with some of those
Now here's some lighthearted, seasonal verse I wrote years ago for my radio feature,
"Stress Brake." It's called "Cruisin for a Bluesin":
holidays may bring you down
And you just sing the blues.
To turn those soured tones around
play these "don'ts" and "dos."
When you're cruisin on the town
charge away the blues.
If you card the credit crown
Your spouse may blow a fuse.
fussy dad the streets you'll pound
To find the perfect muse.
He might as well be tied...and
He'll never change his views.
If you're alone, don't be house bound
Or cuddle up
Go ahead. Drown a frown with tears
And folks who can amuse.
Why not try
that choral sound
Spread some joyous news.
For when the voices do resound
Then notes you
This year don't play the tragic clown
Be bold in how you choose.
You too can
prance above the ground
Put on those dancing shoes.
So now we've come full circle round
lines I must refuse.
Just know when love and friends abound
The blues have many hues.
Shrink Rap Productions 1997
Despite this good advice, we know that when you are
with some of those people (or if they are just in your head), real sparks can fly. Here
are "The Four 'F's of Holiday Friction: Fantasies, Family, Food and Finances."
Fantasies. First, the idyllic image of the holidays portrayed by the media seems so out of
touch with reality, it's enough to make you overload on eggnog (with or without the alcohol).
pressure is the internalized memories we carry around. I recall my friend Linda, a single parent at
the time, berating herself because she couldn't keep up with the holidays - the cooking, the
shopping, the house decorations, etc. - the way her mother had. Of course, Linda's mom did not
work outside the home. I also recall Linda observing that, as a successful professional, she
now has the money but lacks the time for the season. Previously, when she wasn't working, she
had plenty of time and no money: The "Holiday Catch-22."
And, finally, this
season turns most of us into sentimental jelly fish, just waiting to get entangled in the arms of
that "true love." Hey, I'm not saying that Mr. or Ms. Holiday Hopeful is as possible
or as real as Santa Claus. (My motto: "I no longer count on nor discount any
possibility.") Just don't let childhood longings and memories and voices transform you
into a frantic, salivating, love-crazed inner child.
The key to managing this friction:
gently embrace, don't cling, to magical memories. Discover a blend of magical realism that
helps you balance love, work and play in the present.
2. Family. There are
so many permutations in families these days, it's got to get a bit confusing. For separated
families, a poignant question: which parent (or grandparents) will we be with for
Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for New Years? I vividly remember an eight year old's
lament: "Why can't we just be one family again?"
Another common family issue
is when a holiday gathering turns into a competitive arena for sibling rivalry, along with a desire
for long-standing recognition and approval. And if you find in these family therapy sessions,
I mean holiday reunions, that you can't resist trying to change the attitude and behavior of the
parent (sibling or child) that "makes you crazy," patterns which have resisted influence
attempts for decades...maybe there's only one solution. Have you thought about getting far out
of town for the holidays?
3. Food. The holidays turn most of us into
bingeaholics. Running helter skelter, not stopping for lunch, overdosing on the cookies and
chocolate that a colleague has brought to work. And discipline at a party is a contradiction
in terms. This caloric chaos is not surprising considering the biggest role model of the
holidays looks like he hasn't met a single gram of fat in two hundred years that he doesn't
love. Hey, Santa Claus hasn't been doing his aerobic workouts either. But wait...Appoint
a designated nagger, who will gently remind you when you are overdoing it. Don't chat hovering
around the buffet table. Take reasonable portions and move away. Now replace food with
some food for thought.
And face it, no matter what you do, or don't do, you are likely
to add some pounds on the holidays. So go to the malls and walk briskly for thirty minutes
before you start the shopping splurge. You'll spend less and, probably, will eat less as well.
Finances. The holidays heighten our monetary consciousness -- from the end of the year
financial and psychological accounting (did we meet our financial/family security and career goals?)
to the never-ending list of holiday gifts. And as the great Russian novelist, Doestoyevsky,
noted: "Consciousness is depression!"
For the first issue, seek a
budget counselor, a CPA, a career counselor or even a mental health specialist. For the last,
"just say no" to your child's "toy lust." Give your child choices; explain
why there are limits. Try this holiday mantra: "Presence not just presents."
This season, invest time, not just money.
For big families, be creative. Divide
up the gift list with other relatives. You shouldn't have to buy something for everyone.
Making a gift definitely adds a personal touch. And, finally, don't overlook a very important
person. Get a special gift for yourself.
So the holidays may be a stressful time; a
time of feelings of loss and sadness. But with a little higher power humor it also, can be a
source of creative expression and sharing. Here's my gift to you:
Waves of sadness
Raging river of fear
Into the depths of primal pain
Then again...no pain, no gain.
Is it chemistry or confession?
Dark side of perfection!
Dancing at the ledge
The phoenix only rises
On the jagged edge
In a world of
highs and lows
Hey, the cosmos ebbs and flows.
High flying depression
So I'm pumping iron
What else can
A real man do
In a life of muted dreams
How about a primal SCREAM?
Even inner child rejection
Hallelujah for creative
(c) Mark Gorkin 1994 Shrink Rap Productions
remember, for the holidays and beyond...Practice Safe Stress!
HU'S ON FIRST
(We take you now to the Oval Office)
Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?
Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new
leader of China.
George: Great. Lay it on me.
Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.
That's what I want to know.
Condi: That's what I'm telling you.
George: That's what
I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?
George: I mean the
George: The guy in China.
The new leader of China.
George: The Chinaman!
Condi: Hu is leading
George: Now whaddya' asking me for?
Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.
Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?
Condi: That's the man's name.
That's whose name?
George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of
the new leader of China?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I
thought he was in the Middle East.
Condi: That's correct.
George: Then who is in
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir is in China?
Condi: No, sir.
Then who is?
Condi: Yes, sir.
Condi: No, sir.
Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the
U.N. on the phone.
George: No, thanks.
Condi: You want Kofi?
Condi: You don't want Kofi.
George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a
glass of milk. And
then get me the U.N.
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Not Yassir! The
guy at the U.N.
George: Milk! Will you please make the call?
And call who?
George: Who is the guy at the U.N?
Condi: Hu is the guy in China.
Will you stay out of China?!
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: And stay out of the Middle East!
Just get me the guy at the U.N.
George: All right! With cream and two
sugars. Now get! on the phone.
(Condi picks up the phone.)
Condi: Rice, here.
Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should send some to the guy in China. And
the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?
Jacob age 85, and Rebecca age 79 are all excited
about their decision to get married. They go for a stroll to discuss the wedding and on the way go
past a drugstore. Jacob suggests that they go in. He addresses the man behind the counter:
"Are you the owner?" The pharmacist answers, "Yes."
you sell heart medication?"
Pharmacist: "Of course we do. All kinds."
"Medicine for rheumatism?"
Pharmacist: "Of course."
Jacob: "Medicine for
Pharmacist: "Yes, a large variety."
Jacob: "What about
vitamins and sleeping pills?"
"Perfect! We'd like to register here for our wedding gifts."
HMO Coverage or "The Holy Quest for Health Care"
From: gorkil@Pfizer.com (my
Q. What does HMO stand for?
A. This is actually a variation of the
phrase, "Hey, Moe!" Its roots go back to a concept pioneered by Dr. Moe Howard of
"The Three Stooges" who discovered
that a patient could be made to forget
about the pain in his foot if he was poked hard enough in the eyes.
Q. I just joined an HMO. How difficult will it be to choose the doctor I want?
A. Just slightly more difficult than choosing your
parents. Your insurer will provide you with
a book listing all the
doctors who were
participating in the plan. These doctors basically
fall into two categories those who are no longer accepting new patients, and those who will see you but are no longer part of the plan. But don't worry,
the remaining doctor who is still in the plan and
accepting new patients has an office
just a half-day's drive away and that diploma from a small Caribbean Island is very fresh.
Q. Do all diagnostic procedures require pre-certification?
A. No. Only those you need.
Q. What are preexisting conditions?
A. This is a term used by the grammatically
challenged when they want to talk about existing
conditions. Unfortunately, we appear
to be pre-stuck with 'pre and now' meaning the same.
Q. Can I get coverage for my preexisting conditions?
A. Certainly, as long as they don't require
Q. What happens if I want to try
alternative forms of medicine?
A. You'll need to find alternative forms of payment.
Q. My pharmacy plan only covers generic
drugs, but I need the
name brand. I tried
the generic medication, but it gave me a stomach
ache. What should I do?
A. Poke yourself in the eye.
Q. What if I'm away from home and I get sick?
A. You really shouldn't do that.
Q. I think I need to see a specialist, but my doctor
insists he can handle my problem. Can a
general practitioner really perform
a heart transplant right in his office?
A. Hard to say, but considering that all you're risking is the $10 CO-payment, there is no harm giving him
a shot at it.
Q. Will health care be any
different in the next century?
A. No. But if you call right now, you might get an appointment by then.
in a word?
What's in a word? Mark Twain once said, "The
difference between the right word and the wrong word is like the difference between lightning and
the lightning bug."
Here are examples of what he was talking about:
Spotted in a
toilet of a London office:
TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW
In a Laundromat:
WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
In a London
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS
In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE
STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN
In an office:
TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE
ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
Notice in a health store window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS
in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR
Seen during a conference:
ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE FIRST FLOOR
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES
on a leaflet:
IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS
repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK)
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 and his writings appear in such publications as The
Bright Side, HR.com, WorkforceOnline, Event Solutions, Professional Conference Management
Association Newsletters, Mental Help Net and Financial Services Journal Online. 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 (recently cited as workplace
resource in a National Public Radio feature on "Bad Bosses"). For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 202-232-8662 (in Wash, DC).
(c) Mark Gorkin 2002