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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

MAY 2001, No. 1, Sect. 1

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


Table of Contents

Heads Up: Audio Stream, BritishMedicalJournal.com, AOL/Digital City Chat
Q & A:
Professional Office Manager or Dysfunctional Office Mother?; Lengthening the Fuse of a Mother of Four (with From the Farce to the Force)
Shrink Rap:
Breakfast -- The Perfect Meal for Champions

Sect 2:
Main Essay:
Developing a Cadre of Motivational Humorists: Part II
Readers' Submission:
Dilbert Quotes

Heads Up:

1. MediaExposure:

a) The Dr. Hurd Interview with the Stress Doc: an audio stream on "Stress, Anger and Humor" is a lively, thoughtful and fun 45 minute program. It's now a permanent feature on my website -- www.stressdoc.com -- and click blue audio stream icon/link.

The reviews have been great. For example, here is the Production Director's take on the show.


I've got to tell you that your show is one of the all-time greats. We can't wait to air it.



b) Another interview on the Dr. Michael Hurd Show. This time we cover stress, burnout grieving the dot.bomb crisis and rebuilding the fire. There's even a five-minute relaxation/visuliazation from yours truly. The show will run for a week starting June 7th. (See below for details.)

We love it when you are on the show. The link to Michael's site is


The link to the radio show page (your show will be on 6/7 thru 6/14) is:




c) Stress Doc noted in BritishMedicalJournal.com

BMJ 2001;322:1188( 12 May )

Reviews: Website of the week


Stress now has its own encyclopaedia that chronicles terrors, traumas, and the latest available treatments for the ensuing psychological fallout (p 1187). The idea of an encyclopaedia made of real paper probably seems rather quaint to the tech-heads and self proclaimed computer uber-geeks here in Silicon Valley. After all, you can find electronic encyclopaedias galore at Freeality (www.freeality.com/encyclop.htm) or Library Spot (www.libraryspot.com/encyclopedias.htm). But the whole point of a paper encyclopaedia, surely, is its smell of bound leather, its sensual feel, and the way it becomes like an old and trusted friend.

It is easy to be cynical about the "stress industry," which is worth over $9bn in the United States. Using the brilliant search engine All the Web (www.alltheweb.com), I found four million sites on stress, many offering unconditional promises of a stress-free life for the right price. There are courses, tapes, stress busting toys, and even an "Online Psychohumorist" (TM) (www.stressdoc.com/) to help you smile through your burnout or grief. The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism takes a wry look at this "commerceof coping" at stress.jrn.columbia.edu/site/intro/index.html.

So how can you tell if you're vulnerable to stress? The "vulnerability test" at www.stressfree.com/vlnr_tst.html suggests that your risk is high if you don't give and receive affection, exercise, or confide in others about your feelings. But I'm not sure what kind of stress the site refers to, since the term encompasses everything from depression, anxiety, and the psychological consequences of trauma through to worries about pets, holidays, or finding the right hair care product for difficult, flyaway hair.

The irony-free American Institute of Stress (www.stress.org/) reminds us of the serious side of the condition. Stress related illness, it says, makes up 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians and is responsible for a million US citizens each day needing to take time off work.

Gavin Yamey.

deputy editor, wjm Western Journal of Medicine gyamey@ewjm.com

Co-published by Stanford University

BMJ 2001

2. Chat Groups and Live Workshops

a) Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) andGroup 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: Work Stress

Professional Office Manager or Dysfunctional Office Mother?

Q. Would you please advise regarding the following situation? How would you handle employees (a very small office and all women) that make judgments and snide remarks about their perception of the office manager’s skills, efficiency, etc.? The manager has utilized all manner of sources for developing better people skills, character, values, integrity as well as work flow systems. How does one maintain the implementation? Thank you very much. C.

A. An immediate association is: "Why are the children rebelling against the "Office Mother?" Two less symbolic and more specific questions come to mind: 1) is the Office Manager (OM) able to lead by example, i.e., does she have good enough skills, aptitudes and experience? And, if she is basically capable, 2) why can’t the manager constructively confront the negative leaders in the pack while building alliances with the less disruptive team members?

Consider these five problem solving steps:

1. Consultation Support for One-on-Ones. Since training alone for the OM/work team hasn’t been effective, with the help of a team-building consultant, the OM needs to start having one-on-one meetings with each of the employees. Employees need to vent their frustration and concerns to the OM.

2. Organizational Assessment. Also needing assessment is whether employees are frustrated with upper management along with their work routine, the amount of Organizational IRAs (Incentives, Rewards/Recognition and Advancement Opportunities) and input into small and big picture visioning and decision-making. Are employees making this OM the scapegoat?

3. Group Feedback to OM/Team. After the individual sessions, comes the team feedback with the OM; the consultant should be playing the role of the facilitator. The group as a whole needs to air their grievances in a direct and non-hostile manner, focusing on specific behaviors and actions as opposed to general personality judgments or attacks.

Another possibility is a 360-degree feedback process. The OM and the employees each evaluate the others in written format. The consultant reviews the data and provides individual feedback. This is a safe way of beginning the feedback process, limiting the likelihood of a group encounter experience or turning a retreat into a rout. Then the consultant can share the results selectively at a group meeting, letting out some of the steam, thereby enabling modulated conflict resolution.

4. Rebuilding of Respect and Trust. Employees seeing the OM accept critical feedback with a professional, non-defensive demeanor (and not be vengeful later) will respect her integrity. This exchange will also rebuild trust between employees and management and repair some of the strained relations with the OM.

5. Serious Confrontation and Consequences. Assuming the OM continues to demonstrate competence, if the scapegoating continues, then I would have a group meeting and individual meetings with the negative players: a) offering them a chance to get counseling services at a company EAP or on their own initiative to change their disruptive patterns, b) placing the negative employee on probation if another unprofessional incident occurs and c) letting them know that their employment with the company is on the line.

Some may say this process is unnecessarily lengthy; several of the employees and/or the OM may have been canned more quickly at another company. But if concern for employees (and for the expense of retraining) is not just idle words, then this trust- and team-building investment is a sound one. You can turn around a dysfunctional department and enable all to…Practice Safe Stress!

Stress Doc Q & A: Love & Relationships

Lengthening the Fuse of a Mother of Four

A poignant exchange with a mother of four, including two teens. Also, see an essay that I sent that provides a paradoxical strategy for defusing a parent-teen power struggle.

Q. I just happened upon your web site looking for advice on anger towards children. Not beating them, but yelling at them. I heard some degree of yelling is normal, but it does not feel right. I have 4 children, 15, 13, 7 and 2&1/2. I fall into the category of Hostile to Rage. I get SO mad at my kids. I never call them names or say bad swears, but I flip when they push me. I hate this, I want to be more in control of my emotions. I don't want them to grow up and yell at their kids, like I do to mine. There is lots of love in our family as well, but a lot of stress. My husband is a Marine Major, and gone a lot. A big responsibility falls on my shoulders all the time. I resent that. My marriage is strong though. Any advice will be much appreciated.


PS. My kids are good kids, A, B honor roll and never get in trouble of any kind. I do a good job parenting. But I get so outraged at times. It’s a big job.

Hi LW,

Thanks for the note. I think you're right to be concerned. Many things can prompt a periodic "hot reactor" hostile to rage reaction. (Am I right in assuming that you have read my "Four Faces of Anger" article? If you haven't, go to the website - www.stressdoc.com - click on Stress Doc Essays in left ladder index; click on Psychohumor Essays, click on Managing Anger category.)

1) the high responsibility (four kids) without sufficient support,

2) some underlying anger with your husband for not being around more,

3) your kid's being angry at dad for not being around and you being the one with whom it's safest to displace this anger;

4) the kids having some opportunity to vent their anger, even if they can be hostile at times, is one the reasons they still can focus on schoolwork and

5) teens are supposed to push adults; this can especially provocative when growing up our parents didn't allow open (and healthy) expression of anger and we were a "too good" child; we aren't prepared to deal with our teen's aggression; why can't they be like I was.

I would strongly suggest some family counseling through the Marine's Employee Assistance Program. They provide short-term therapy free. It will give the whole family a chance to vent/grieve; I would probably get some individual counseling for yourself. (If for some reason you don't want to use the military EAP, call your local United Way Family Counseling Service.)

Also, a support group can be very helpful.

Will place you on my free newsletter list and will attach another anger article.

To hard work, some inner peace and good support.

Mark Gorkin

"The Stress Doc" (TM)

Yes I did read the four faces of anger. It really opened my eyes. The scenario of parent Vs 18 year old, really hit home. I never realized the different ways the situation could and can be handled. I like the way #1 was handled, but unfortunately I saw myself in two undesirable scenarios. It helped me more than you know, or maybe you do know, and that’s why you are in the world of helping people. I would love a book by you to learn more.

Thank you for the good advice. I think family counseling is a good idea. When I apologize the kids, when I over react, that just zones them in on my weakness and they push me to see if I'll crack. I have told them that yelling and losing my temper in a negative way is not right and I'll try not too. But its like they want to push me. Strange. Then I get mad at that! Again, thank you for you sound advise. Your web site was an answer to a prayer.

Thank You, L.

I'll look forward to your newsletters.

And here's a short essay that depicts one way of cutting the dysfunctional power struggle rope between a rigid father and his passive-aggressive son.

From the Farce to The Force

"Yes, sir. No, sir. No, excuse, sir!" Growing up, that was the family motto for a former client, a lawyer and military academy graduate. Now it frustrated him no end that his teenage son had amnesia around 9:00 each night. This father and son were probably engaged in the most popular evening family drama in town: "Garbage Wars." (If only we all could have a little R2D2 at our command.). Now dad, we'll call him George, was tired of always reminding his son to, "Take out the damn garbage." Nagging and the reactive whining - "I'll do it, I'll do it" - was the standard operating procedure in the household. Was this simply a case of good vs. "that no good..."? Dad had to learn that "the force" could be with him - the flexible force of authority - even in the face of those universal teenage terrorists: laziness, defiance and irresponsibility.

I instructed George to say: "Son, I would prefer you take out the garbage directly after dinner. But I'll have to accept your not doing it till 9pm (adding a resigned tone to his voice) if that's what you decide. If it's not taken out by 9pm, I will interrupt what you are doing and escort you with the garbage." George, not surprisingly, rebelled; (not unlike his son, I might add): "Why should I have to go through all this? At his age, he should be responsible enough to take out the garbage himself." George continued to battle me; for example, he didn't always remember to bring up the choice. At least George began to accept that his son was allowed to be grumpy (but not nasty) about doing the chore, as long as it got done, with or without dad's assistance.

It took some coaching for George to understand that the struggle over garbage might reflect family or marital tension, or a need for individual attention, not just a teenager's angry expression. Then, after dropping the subject for a while, one day I inquired about the garbage campaign. George sheepishly acknowledged that his son, "For some reason, had started taking out the garbage on his own." George, despite himself, had discovered the answer to that eternal family quest: "Parent-Teenager Power Struggles or "Why Johnny Can't Take Out the Garbage." The strategy of reluctant and flexible choice allows your adolescent to save face, to defy yet comply with authority. I think you'll find the force of choice to be the choice of force. May this force be with you! And just remember...Practice Safe Stress!

Thank You again! I appreciate your efficient responses. I think you should go on the Oprah show! If your not a millionaire, you should be. I would pay an arm and a leg for you knowledge! Sometimes knowledge can heal a lot of hurt. You're doing a terrific service. There is a lot of advice floating around, but I like your no nonsense, straight to the point approach. You just don't know the tremendous burden you have lifted from my shoulders. I was raised only by my working mother. So I don't have any guide or comparison to go by. My mom was WAY to lenient with me and I thought I had it made, to get away with so much, but it later caused havoc on my life. Mom was sweet and loving, and I always had home made dinner every night, but the lack of proper discipline hurt me worse than anything. I think I harbor resentment from the past as well as now with hubby gone so much. This deep fear I have to fail my children somehow, makes me more tense and stressed when I’m in the position of disciplinarian, and I overreact in a negative way sometimes. Even though my instincts are on the right track. I need guidance. I’m starving for it. I Love my children, and I don't want to live with regrets. I don't want them to reflect back and think, "What a nutcase she was!" Thank You, from the bottom of my broken heart for your help.



Shrink Rap: Expanding the Resource Pool or The Stress Doc Wants You!

The speaking, training and consulting season is moving at full steam. Just completed two highly successful one-day retreats for Center for Population Research scientists of the National Institutes of Health and for the Security Office staff of the Dept. of Commerce. I need to follow that Stress Doc maxim, The Basic Law of Safe Stress: "Do know your limits and don't limit your 'No's!'" Actually, in this case a "Yes" serves an equivalent function. I'm opening up the "Shrink Rap" segment to enlightening and light-hearted essays on health and wellness issues. If you have an essay, send it to stressdoc@aol.com. And today's selection comes from a wellness coach singing the praises of the power breakfast. Definitely some fast food for thought. Enjoy!

Breakfast -- The Perfect Meal for Champions

By Carole Schor-Bowman

A guy walks in to the doctor's office. He's got a carrot in one ear and a tomato in the other and a banana up his nose. "Doc, I don't feel so good. What's wrong with me?" "I don't think you're eating right."

You are what you eat.

Touch your skin. Feel your hair. Lick your lips. What do you feel? You are actually feeling one of the end results of the food you eat. Your body. And if you're reading this, you're probably using your brain - also a product of the food you eat.

What's makes up our bodies and brains is what we put into it - air, water, and food.

"Garbage in, garbage out." If you put good food in your body, chances are you'll have a good body and brain. If you start your day off with a bad breakfast or with no breakfast, you are giving your body and brain nothing to live on. Think of the word "breakfast." It means, "breaking the fast". Chances are you had your last bit of nutrition at least 8 - 10 hours before bed. Your body used that food up during the night - keeping you alive, repairing damage, building tissues and cells - basically, doing its thing. When you wake up in the morning you need to replenish the fuel so you'll keep on living and going for the next 24 hours.

Think of your day like an automobile trip. If you're going on a journey, one of the first things you do is make sure you've got enough fuel to get you to your destination. When you get to the end of the trip, it really doesn't make a difference if your tank is empty. Well, your body is just like that. The start of your journey is the start of the day, and that's when your body needs good fuel to get it going.

Our American diet is actually upside down. Most of us don't eat any breakfast and we think that we are really prepared for the long 24-hour journey ahead of us. Around 10:00 AM we start running on fumes. So we grab a snack - usually high-fat, high-sugar, empty calories with no nutrition - and we soar through on that toxic fuel additive until we get to lunch or later when we're so ravenous we'll eat just about anything. Around 4 PM we're so far behind on our fuel reserves that we're eating standing up at the vending machine trying to make up for lost time and lost food and no energy . . . and then we sit down and gorge out at dinner and eat a quart of HAAGEN Daz at midnight cause our body is still screaming "Feed Me! ! "

And we wonder why we're fat, sick, and tired all the time.

The little engines that can, on the other hand, get up in the morning and fuel up on energy foods - complex carbohydrates that our bodies utilize efficiently - mixed with a little bit of protein for building cells and repairing tissues - and off we go, humming down the road of life, well prepared for the next 24 hour journey.

What's the best breakfast for getting the day and the journey going? Whole grains with a little protein - tuna on your oatmeal {Ed note: longtime readers will know this is an inside joke} - energy and fuel for the day. Nut butter on whole grain bread, or leftover long-grain rice with a piece of salmon for your brain. An omelet with one whole egg and two egg whites served with a whole-wheat bagel and goat cheese, or a low-fat grilled cheese sandwich on whole grain bread. Even leftover pizza with low-fat cheese - they're all the perfect combination of complex carbs and protein - to get that engine revved up and ready for action! ! ! !

Remember - you are what you eat - so eat something great so you can be something great! ! !



Shrink Rap™ Productions