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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™


SEP 03, Sec. I


Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!


Table of Contents


Networks:      
TBS Professional Center
Offerings:
       Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Work Q & A:   Responding to a Terminally
Ill Employee:  An Organizational Intervention
Shrink Rap:    The Accidental Paradoxical Vacation
Heads Up:       Sprint's University of Excellence, Keynoter for Americas' SAP Users'  
                       Group, Orlando, FL

Sec. II
Main Essay:   
Stages of Burnout:  Strategies for Recovery and Prevention
Readers:        
Classic Bob Hope, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Rodney Dangerfield's Best 
                       and a Letterman "Top Ten"

 


Special Announcement:

The Stress Doc StoreFront will be opening shortly.  Items include:

(1) The Doc's long awaited book (presently as an ebook), Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression ($15)

(2) From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc (see below; $20 includes priority shipping)

(3) New 55-minute "R & R" -- Rap & Relaxation -- CD:  three rap songs, my popular ten minute relaxation-visualization guide (live audiences love it), and me reading two popular articles:  "Four Stages of Burnout" and "Stress Doc's Top Ten Stress Tips." ($20 includes priority shipping)

(4) Training and Marketing Kit and/or Phone Consultation Combo (see below)
 

 

A.  Networks

1. 
Link: TBS Professional Center (TBSPC)
http://www.tbsprocenter.org, a free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals.  [I am on the Advisory Board of TBS or "The Bright Side"

Sign up for a free or expanded listing in our Find A Therapist Directory!

Newsletter: TBS Professional Center (TBSPC) http://www.tbsprocenter.org, a free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals. TBSPC creates an environment where mental-health and allied health professionals can easily interact by exploiting the vastness of the Internet. Therapists from around the world can share ideas, give & receive advice, and expand their horizons. In addition, caregivers can find support from their peers, when they, themselves, need a helping hand.


Sign up for your free or expanded listing on the TBSPC therapist directory. The directory will appear soon on The Bright Side http://www.the-bright-side.org website, the premiere online destination for anyone seeking solace, support and resources for self-help when coping with mental or emotional difficulties.

Please contact Deborah Harper, Director of TBSPC at deborah@the-bright-side.org with any questions or feedback. 

B. Offerings:

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, 20-minute highlights video, and articles, as well as the opportunity for phone coaching.  For more info:   Training/Marketing Kit http://stressdoc.com/kitbook.htm or email.

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, 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.)

Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and handling)

Make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW  #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542


3. Chat Group:

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 Work Q & A

Responding to a Terminally Ill Employee:  An Organizational Intervention

[Ed. note:  This question was originally presented by and answered for WorkforceOnline.com]

Q.  A colleague has throat cancer and all his colleagues know that the treatment has not been going well.  In fact, he has been given about a year to live.  He is very popular, friendly and competent (in fact, a key man) and wants to continue working as long as possible.  How should a case like this be handled?  Management has just realized that a lot of knowledge transfer needs to happen, for one thing.  This organization is pretty much like a caring family with most of us here 10-30 years, including him.  His work is his life.


A.
  In such an intimate work setting, this poignant situation deserves and requires a thoughtful and comprehensive emotional support and problem-solving strategy.  Initially, I'll focus on the manager, and then I'll expand to a systems approach to intervention.  Consider these steps:

1.  The manager approaches the individual with throat cancer.  The manager shares with the individual with cancer how his illness and determination to keep working, as well as their long-standing relationship, is a source of admiration or inspiration for himself personally as well as for Mr. C's colleagues.  (I'll call him Mr. C; while clearly this individual is more than his cancer, using the letter C prevents us from denying the reality of his illness.)  His condition is also a source of anticipatory loss and sadness for company personnel as well.

The manager should explain that he would like support from the EAP and from HR to assist in the following areas:
a. personal help for the manager on how to handle his emotions and how to manage through this unusual and challenging time,
b. guidance for helping other employees process their emotions,
c. help effecting a knowledge transfer from Mr. C to relevant personnel and
d. if Mr. C would like any emotional support or approaching end of life planning guidance, you (the manager) want the company to be in the best possible position to provide the necessary help.

2.  If Mr. C is willing, schedule a meeting with Mr. C, yourself, an EAP counselor and an HR representative.

3.  This meeting needs to acknowledge the wide range of emotions, issues and people touched by Mr. C, and to reach consensus on a goal-and time-oriented strategy for meeting key objectives outlined in #1.

4.  Once consensus is achieved, I would plan to have a meeting with this individual and with the above planning team and the company employees.  The purpose will be to:
a. in an official public forum, acknowledge Mr. C's condition; allow Mr. C to share any personal remarks as well as his determination to keep working.  (If Mr. C can use a little humor, e.g., telling his colleagues "you're not getting rid of me so quickly; I'm going to be around for awhile to keep bugging you," that would be wonderful.),
b. allow Mr. C and colleagues to begin a formal grief process that is facilitated by a trained counselor.  (The counselor might explain the grief process, especially the array of emotions -- from sadness and anxiety to anger and spirituality -- that may be experienced), and
c. have HR and Mr. C's manager assist in eliciting ideas from Mr. C and his colleagues regarding the knowledge transfer process.

5.  Before the meeting ends, the EAP counselor (or external counselor) should summarize the grief process issues and offer his or her services to anyone who might want additional assistance.

6.  A follow-up debriefing with the manager and Mr. C and the EAP counselor is recommended.  This debriefing might also entail individual sessions.  Also, Mr. C should be offered the opportunity to bring in (any) key family members for family and/or individual grief counseling sessions.

7.  As a follow-up to the large group meeting (#4.), a knowledge transfer group should be created to set up objectives, action plans and guidelines.

8.  Finally, there will likely be a need, in some fashion, to replicate the above step-by-step procedures on a formal and on an as needed basis depending on the deteriorating health of Mr. C.  If it can be anticipated, a few months before Mr. C will likely stop working, I would give all parties extra support and enable all to continue with the individual and group grief process.  Once again, the guidance of a professional counselor is vital.

9.  Upon Mr. C's death, in addition to funeral attendance and sending a company note/remembrance to the family, perhaps a company scholarship fund can be established in Mr. C's honor.

Hopefully, this outline will help all involved feel a bit more fortified to confront personal vulnerability, to reach out emotionally and to strengthen interpersonal and communal bonds, to allow the company to preserve Mr. C's legacy, to support Mr. C's termination process and to help all parties…Practice Safe Stress!

 

 

Shrink Rap:

A recent escape to Appalachia provides an unexpected encounter with a melodic ballad.  And the synergy of music and mountains opens up the Stress Doc, not just to the natural beauty without, but also to a poignant and passionate nature within.


The Poignantly Paradoxical Vacation
When Mind-Body Escape Becomes Spiritual Return

Does anyone know a singer who does a stirring rendition of the poignant ballad, "Danny Boy?"  The reason I'm asking is that on a recent trip to Asheville and the mountains of North Carolina I purchased an instrumental CD of favorite Appalachian tunes.  (The featured instruments included hammered dulcimer, mandolin and autoharp.)  Other standards on the disc included "Shenandoah," "Oh Susanna" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"  But the one song that grabbed me emotionally and just wouldn't let go was the old Irish standard.  (This stretch of Appalachia is the home of many former hardscrabble Irish and Scottish settlers.)  Tears would reflexively well up…but why?  My reaction seemed to go beyond mere sentimentality.  Was it for something lost, or maybe something hoped for but still not realized?  And why should there be such wistfulness when meandering along the mountain roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Winding along mountain roads usually evokes a sense of escape -- both excitement and serenity.  Coursing through a seemingly endless forest tunnel of leaning trees and green leaves, I'm both focused and mindless as the car hugs the curves.  While a bit edgy blindly navigating some of those sharp mountain turns, only the picturesque overlooks break my relaxed-focused attention state.  (My obsessive nature makes it hard to bypass even one turnoff.)  The off-road mountain views:  silently rolling waves of misty if not mystical majesty, the design of an otherworldly palette of pastel smoky blues, grays and purples.  These verdant slopes gently rising and unfolding from the valley, unfolding and unfolding to some ethereal horizon beyond my imagination.

Finally, coming back to earth, I reach one destination:  Little Switzerland, an Alp-like resort having the requisite picture postcard views along with European-style guesthouses, curio shops and, of course, that proverbial café with fabulous pastries.

Next stop, just a few miles further along the parkway is The Orchid, with a turnoff that's easily missed.  It's an all-wooden warehouse-like market tucked into a hill above the valley, across from those fruited plains.  And I mean fruited.  Fifty cents brought me the most sweet, luscious, just-picked baseball-sized peach.  And on the weekends The Orchid features local musicians.  Today, it's a marital couple of old-timers playing simple but heartfelt country tunes.  The performance is more for their neighbors than for off the beaten track tourists.  (I discovered this fact while briefly and mistakenly sitting in the front row.  An elderly woman informed me politely yet quite clearly that a pillow on the seat meant the chair was reserved. The first couple of rows were a colorful quilted patchwork.)

Rumination Redux

And despite these mostly delightful diversions and the excursion, when I got back into town, my previous preoccupation resurfaced.  My nonverbal, intuitive ruminations wanted more.  Meandering about the streets of Asheville, one of my favorite mountain retreats, still authentically arty, I stopped into the well-known independent bookstore, Malaprops.

As an aside, Asheville has a definite literary tradition.  This is the birthplace of 1920s-30s novelist Thomas Wolfe, whose passionate poetic-like prose about dysfunctional families and "sui generis" characters, self-discovery, the (southern) small town-big city journey and the evolution of the artistic path make him one of my favorites.  Try Look Homeward Angel or You Can't Go Home Again.  Pat Conroy, perhaps best known for The Prince of Tides, credits Wolfe for inspiring him to become a writer.  Alas, Wolfe died when he was 38.  While pneumonia is the official cause, "Our Gargantua" as likely died from a compelling desire for overliving.

Back to Malaprops…I approached the Gen X female clerk with some hesitancy, suspecting my quest might seem odd:  "Do you have a CD with someone singing "Danny Boy?"  I explained my recent CD acquisition and the desire for more.

The young lady admitted my request (at least for her) was unprecedented; she then proceeded to search her stock.  While no CD was found, this attractive woman (with her reddish blond hair and fair complexion may well have been an Irish lass) did not disappoint.  Actually, she left me speechless when she suddenly began singing the first few lines.  Her soft and soulful lilt truly lifted my spirits; this was a fairly magical moment.

And while she demurely declined my offer of lunch if she would continue singing…this lovely lass did provide additional assistance.  My muse suddenly pulled from behind the counter a compendium of folk songs and turned to the sought after lyrics.  While I copied the words, it was increasingly apparent that for me both lyrics and melody created some harmonic convergence.

The Words

Basically, the lyric captures the sentiment of a young lover knowing that her Danny needs to be leaving home.  She fervently hopes that he will return once again, much like the changing of the seasons, with a full bloom commitment to their love.  And even if she does not (or cannot) survive his absence physically, she holds out the prayerful wish that the two will forever be connected spiritually:  "Then I simply sleep in peace until you come to me."  (I'd like to interpret these lines as not simply a sign of codependence but of a truly kindred connection and also, alas, that many did die too young in olden times.)

With summer fast fading in this Appalachian Mountains setting, the opening stanza of this Old World ballad clears some of the psychic mists and also speaks to me:

O, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer's gone and all the flowers are dying
Tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.
But come you back when summer's in the meadow
Or, when the valley's hushed and white with snow
Tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow
O Danny Boy, o Danny Boy, I love you so.


Over the course of these five-days of "R & R" -- rest and rejuvenation -- what I've called my "incubation vacation," it becomes obvious that more than pastoral ambiance and poignant melody is resonating in some intuitive, deeply felt psychic space.  Ironically, it is my "peace and quiet" escapade, if not an escape from the day-to-day, in surroundings that are externally compelling, that expose large interior clusters of growth, if not overgrowth -- psychic fields of wildflowers and weeds -- that lie within.  And that need some tending!

Wounds and Wellsprings

Here's a brief listing of some key mind-body-spirit issues stirred by music and mountains:

1.  Exhaustion.  In hindsight, the last few weeks before the vacation were fairly crazed with wave upon wave of proposal and pamphlet writing, grinding out final book edits, working up the Stress Doc StoreFront catalogue copy and waiting nervously on a couple of potentially outrageous speaking and training contracts.  While in hyper-coping mode, I may be unaware of the energy toll being extracted.  Then paradoxically, the calm reveals the effects of the recent storm:  suddenly the physical and emotional drain overtakes me.  And one of the consequences of emotional strain and drain (shall we call this "s & d"?) is a weakening of my psychological defenses.  Rushing headlong, an underground wellspring of emotions and memories break the surface and flood my consciousness.  Yet, in yin-yang fashion, this emotional and tearful outpouring is a sign of my letting go, of giving in to my exhaustion and beginning to allow nature's natural recovery process to unfold. 

2.  Existential Aloneness.  At this moment in time, my social support system needs strengthening; there's no cadre of friends or comrades as once existed in my expatriate years in New Orleans.  During my early adjustment to more straight-laced DC, an artists' support group provided a haven of creativity and some intimacy.  An ambitious Type A need for achievement can mute the need for affiliation, but only for so long.  Another poignant association also lingers.  Recalling an observation from above, perhaps it's not surprising that painful memories of an elusive lover still bubble up in these emotionally turbulent, mountain wellspring waters.  When outer and inner worlds coalesce, perhaps serenity, sadness and solitude make surprisingly intimate bedfellows!  (Aha, perhaps I've finally fulfilled my fantasy for a threesome. ;-)

3.  Parental Mortality.  My overdetermined reaction to "Danny Boy" became incontrovertible when without premeditation I unexpectedly transposed the letter "n"s with "d"s.  Now I was singing "Oh, Daddy Boy."  For a father who has recently turned eighty, despite fighting through a series of strokes and prostate cancer in his mid-late seventies, it's not hard to imagine that "the pipes, the pipes are calling."  Alas, the father flower is gradually, if not gracefully, withering.  In fact, this once angry man seems to have accepted with equanimity his evolutionary destiny.  Of course, I'm going through some anticipatory grieving:  he was a model for dogged determination as a salesman, for fighting through depression and for honest confrontation. Dad became an inspiring figure when, in the mid-60s, he finally replaced intermittent shock therapy with a dozen years of ongoing group therapy.

Perhaps because my battle to carve out viable career and vital relationship paths is still raging, I don't want to hear the calling pipes -- his or mine.  At times I still want him to fight his shrinking, slowly dying world.  But for every time and turn, for every person, there is a season.  And with the summer nearly gone, I must embrace this bygone ballad's wisdom about "letting go":

Tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.

4.  Spiritual Connection.  For me, acknowledging feelings of loss, allowing the healing process of grief to unfold, in time stills the psychic Sturm und Drang.  Those dark clouds constricting my vision and aspiration begin to fade and disappear.  Perhaps there's a contrast effect:  this post-tempest dawns early light, embracing the silence and stillness within and without, yields a communal connection beyond words; a connection of such breadth and depth that the experience can only be called spiritual.  From this quietly pregnant space arises an almost overwhelming sensation of oneness, of being part of a much larger life force.  And for a while the loneliness fades and my reach expands to the mountains, and the music of strangers can open and massage my soul.  For an incandescent moment outside of time, I am part of the mysterious if not mystical web of nature, human and otherwise.

Back from my "R & R" vacation -- more regression than rest and rejuvenation -- now, with hindsight, it's clear that a desire for simply getting away from the homeland actually had me returning to and also recovering a most essential and pure heartland.  Hey, I'm a four "m" mix master:  my ingredients are music and mountains, memories and mortality.  As I was asking, does anyone know a singer who does justice to "Danny Boy?"

Words to help me stay connected and to…Practice Safe Stress!

P.S.  I did find another wonderful instrumental of "Danny Boy" on a CD of violinist "Nigel Kennedy's Greatest Hits."  His rendition is particularly haunting.
 


Heads Up:

1.  Confirmed Keynote for Americas' SAP Users' Group, Orlando, FL; Oct. 21


I am writing from the ASUG Headquarters (Americas' SAP Users' Group) in
Chicago and we are preparing for our Annual Forum Meetings in Orlando.  We
are researching keynote speakers for our Human Capital Management Forum (for
more information on this Forum and ASUG in general, please visit our website
at: http://www.asug.com .  This forum focuses on Payroll/Time Management
and Human Resource Management.  The specific date of our meeting is October
20 - 22 in Orlando, FL.  We would like to know your availability on Tuesday,
October 21 from 8:00 am - 9:10 am.

Darrell Sparkman
Education and Programs Division
Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc.

2.  Stress Doc Q & A/Interview on Sprint's University of Excellence

One of our employees pulled the attached Q & A article off the HR.com web site.  We in Sprint's University of Excellence would like permission to put this article on an internal Change Management web site. 

Grace Mooney
Sprint's University of Excellence
Project Manager, Supplier Relations

grace.mooney@mail.sprint.com
www.sprint.com

[Ed. note:  Email stressdoc@aol.com for the interview Q & A.]
 


Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™,
a psychotherapist, an international/cruise speaker (Celebrity Cruise Lines) and syndicated writer, was recently interviewed on BBC radio.  The Doc is America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on AOL/Digital City.  See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature on "Bad Bosses").  Mark is also an advisor to The Bright Side -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award-winning mental health resource.  Email for his monthly newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2003
Shrink Rap Productions