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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

APR 2005, Sec. II

Main Essay:

Adding two more "jumpstarting" concepts, the Stress Doc illustrates a dynamic exercise along with "D & D" strategies and methods for energizing and exciting program participants.  This motivational methodology may just transform the entire learning context into a synergistic experience:  individual parts begin evolving into a dynamic and cohesive community.

Jumpstarting and Energizing Your Presentation and Your Audience:  Part II

Part I of "Jumpstarting and Energizing Your Presentation and Your Audience" (Stress Doc Newsletter, MAR05) illustrated the first four of ten strategic concepts, tools and techniques for energizing and exciting the performance-learning experience.  These were:

1.  Quickly Capture People's Attention
2.  Change the Temperature of Your Warm-up Exercise
3.  Create Some Uncertainty, If Not Anxiety
4.  Deliver Key Concepts and Applied Tools in Compact Learning Bites

Part II illustrates my signature exercise, an exercise that transforms individuals into a team and, ultimately, teams into a sharing and learning community.  Here are the next two tools and techniques, beginning with an overview of my acclaimed interactive exercise:

5.  A Multifaceted Crown Jewel-Team Building Exercise

For me, a crown jewel exercise has several critical characteristics:
a) it is based on real workplace issues, e.g. sources of workplace stress, barriers to team building, challenges to providing good customer service, etc., yet it feels safe to share,
b) is high task and high touch, i.e., allows for goal-oriented problem solving and safe emotional sharing
c) builds in a variety of experiential and expressive learning modalities that stimulate e.g., analytic and metaphoric cognitive processing, verbal and visual expression, and serious thought as well as hearty laughter,
d) allows for a division of labor, that is, different personalities and skill levels can find ways to contribute; encourages both individual initiative and group consensus,
e) appreciates how diversity of group composition and input often facilitates greater understanding of other colleagues' world view; values the contribution of multi-organizational and multicultural viewpoints to a broader or "big picture" perspective and more creative problem-solving, and
f) is FUN!

And though this exercise is moderately risk-taking, as detailed in Part I of this series, previous didactic and experiential sharing and learning have forged participant readiness to engage with the "crown jewel."  This foundation of readiness is based on two key pillars:
a) the groups have already successfully negotiated a warm-up exercise that involves a lower level of risk-taking and intimate yet safe sharing and
b) immediately preceding the exercise, people should be in a somewhat uncomfortable or slightly anxious state.  My provocative stimulus is taking the audience through "The Four Stages of Burnout" in enough detail that people are starting to think, "Oh, oh…he's talking about me."  (In fact, with regularity, during a break or after a program, in response to "the Erosive Spiral" people come up and accuse me of "lookin' in their window."  Again, participants now have a heightened motivation to throw themselves into the exercise for tension relief and for a greater sense of control.  Little do they realize that they will be experiencing and gaining a lot more.

The "D & D" Crown Jewel

My signature interactive experience is a Discussion & Drawing Exercise.  Key structural and operational aspects of this D & D Exercise are:

1)  Group Composition.  The audience is divided into groups of four-six participants.  Especially when working with the "in-house" staff of an organization, groups are comprised of participants high in diversity:  people from different departments or divisions, demographic diversity, varying levels of experience and seniority, mixing management and employees, etc.

2)  Group Task.  The groups are given up to ten minutes to discuss "the causes or contributing factors to stress and conflict in everyday operations."  A volunteer recorder lists key decision items.  The second stage of the exercise involves challenging the participants to come up with a group picture that pulls together the various stress perspectives.  The goal is to produce a unified theme - a stress logos, a storyboard, a Dilbert-like cartoon within ten minutes.  An integrated example is provided, e.g., people are in a boat that has sprung a leak and is listing.  While trying to navigate uncharted seas, the sharks are circling the craft.  Safe harbor is way off in the distance, if not off the drawing paper.  (Each group has large flipchart paper and a set of broad-tipped colored markers.)  Military and civilian personnel of the US Navy produced the seafaring image.  These folks were understandably worried about the possibility of a base downsizing.

3)  Cognitive-Emotional Impact.  Both stress relief and some increase of tension is achieved through the initial group sharing.  Groups capture the breadth, if not the depth, of the workplace stressors.  At the same time, group members discover that they are not alone.  In fact, misery doesn't just love company"…Research shows it loves "miserable company!"

And the drawing segment especially allows for catharsis and creativity.  By drawing out anxiety and frustration through vivid, exaggerated and absurd imagery, the serious and scary is turned into the humorous and the ridiculous.  People can step back and, at least momentarily, place things in both a more universal and less daunting perspective.  At least, and not insignificantly people feel "we are all in the same boat."   And often there's the fun of drawing a task master authority or outrageously unreasonable customer with "devils horns and tail brandishing a whip."  Not surprisingly the room is filled with bursts of energy and paroxysms of laughter.

While psychiatrist Ernst Kris noted that, "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at," I believe my inversion is more salient to understanding the impact of the group drawing:  "What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!"

6.  Transition from Small Group Consciousness to Sense of Community

Now I lead the group in a series of activities that transform the self-contained teams and the amorphous collective. Individuals and groups interact with the audience as a whole in a variety of ways:

1)  Show and Tell.  Depending on audience on size and time available:
a) each team will hold up and describe their designs; this works well with audiences of less than one hundred or
b )the ballroom or auditorium is turned into an art gallery and participants walk around examining the various group pictures.  Actually, I often have smaller groups do the walk-around for the change of pace movement and informal participant interaction.  Again, the energy and enthusiasm levels are palpable.  If time permits, a handful of groups will describe their pictures.  This is very valuable as the group presenters share "inside information" from a perspective and in a professional language and jargon that truly speaks to fellow attendees.  The audience often erupts in knowing laughter.

2)  Post-Exercise Analysis.  This phase begins with the questions:  "Was this exercise useful? Was it enjoyable?  And if so, why?"  Invariably the audience captures most if not all of my opening characteristics for a "Crown Jewel Exercise."  The most frequent comment is:  "I'm not alone or "We're all in this together."  A close second is:  "We worked as a team."  Participants nod in agreement when I speculate that, "No one person had all the answers."  When someone threw out an idea or image, people could build upon it.  There was room for contribution in different areas - some tossed ideas; some tossed or drew out verbal images.  And whoever was willing could do the actual drawing.  (While I encourage everyone to pick up a colored marker, at the thought of drawing some adults metamorphose into Munch's popular image "The Scream.")

I usually comment on the surprising energy and laughter as people grappled with real and often upsetting issues of stress and conflict.  Why should this be?  A key observation:  being able to safely express frustration in an out-"rage"-ous manner contributes to the comedic catharsis.  However, the activity is not simply entertaining.  In a relatively short period of time, the group has:  a) shared task-relevant ideas and related emotions, b) overcome confusion or hesitancy about transforming ideas into images, c) completed a meaningful and challenging task, thereby generating stress-relieving and satisfying successful closure, and d) enjoyed both viewing others' creations and having their work recognized by the entire audience.

And another critical point:  in this high pressured, "do more with less" age, management shows real wisdom when it allows employees to blow off some steam.  Management is saying:  "I want to hear (and see) what you really are thinking and feeling."  The actual result is less trashing and more trust-building."

3)  From Diversity to Harmony.  The value of forming diverse groups is quite transparent.  First, the groups reflect the actual diversity in the organization.  While some folks are made to move outside their comfort zone, the upside is that interpersonal cliques or departmental silos are temporarily disbanded.  Through discussion and drawing people literally see a more varied and bigger picture; group members are not alone and their plight is usually not unique.  And most important, they can share meaningful concerns and ideas and can work productively and playfully with these now relatively "intimate strangers."

Closing Summary

Perhaps we've come up with a new survival slogan:  Personally, we all know the value of "R & R" – "Rest and Recreation" – in dealing with stress.  For teams, departments, divisions and, even, entire organizations, perhaps D & D is an analogous therapeutic:  A Stress Doc "Discussion & Drawing" Exercise generates "healing and harmonizing" laughter and energy within the various diverse teams and throughout the collective audience.  In fact, the entire "half hour" process has two overriding yet unspoken goals:  fostering the transition from aggression to cohesion and evolving from a small group consciousness to a sense of "we're all in this together" community.

And once actual problems are identified in a "safe to share" climate, organizational teams are in a position to generate real and robust problem-solving strategies.  And Part III will identify exercises to generate such strategies.  This section will provide additional energizing principles.  And finally, this concluding segment will list tools and techniques for closing your program with playful and philosophical fireworks.  Until then, of course…Practice Safe Stress.

Heads Up:
  Successful Programs [References on Request]

1) CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2005 Conference. 
Two 90 minute Managing Anger and Dealing with Difficult People (or When Going Postal or Doing a Soprano Is Not an Option) for 350 and 250 attendees

2) VA Medical Center, Northport, Long Island.
  90 minute Stress and Team Building Presentation for 40 staffl social workers in honor of Social work month.

3) RESOLVE Conference. 
Practice Safe Stress Keynote for attendees going through infertility treatment and/or the adoption process.

4) Society for Professional Journalists Regional Conference. 
Practice Safe Stress workshop.

5) Hospice Network of Maryland. 
Keynote for allied health professionals.  Here’s a testimonial received on 4/14.

My Home Health Aides attended the inservice for The Hospice Network at Witzke's Funeral Home in Columbia, MD on 4/13/05.  They thoroughly enjoyed your segment.

They would like for me to bring you to our organization.  Can I get some information about the types of inservices you offer and your rates. 

Thank you.

Terri Taylor, RN
Nursing Supervisor

St. Agnes Home Care


1. Consultation-Counseling-Coaching Service from the Stress Doc ™

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, the "Stress Doc," is an uncommon psychotherapist-coach with nearly 30 years experience.  Why the distinct perspective?  In addition to being an acclaimed Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader, Mark is also an Executive/Management Consultant, Organizational Development/Team Building Expert, and Critical Incident Specialist (with 25 years experience as a consultant and coach, including a stint as a Stress & Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service).

Much information can also be obtained from his multi-award-winning website -- www.stressdoc.com

The Stress Doc is also the author of two books:  Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  The Doc runs a weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat" as AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. 

Expansion of Service:  In-Office, Phone or Online

The Doc's areas of expertise as a consultant, counselor and speaker include:

+ Stress and Burnout and Rebuilding the Fire
+ Anger Management and Managing Difficult People
+ Growing from Loss, Grief and Depression
+ Couple Counseling and Family Issues
+ Career/Life/Relationship Transition
+ Conflict Resolution and Team Building
+ Executive and Management Coaching
+ Organizational Downsizing and Change
+ Time Management and Personal Organization
+ Motivation and High Performance/Anxiety Issues

Flexibility in length and availability for coaching-consultation sessions; day and evening times.  Fee to be determined during the first contact/consultation.  The first phone or online contact/consultation (up to 15 minutes) is free.

For more information, call 202-232-8662
or email stressdoc@aol.com.

Organizational Clients have included:

Dupont Corporation, SAP--Human Capital Forum/ASUGS, Celebrity Cruise Lines, America Online, Kelley School of Business/Indiana University, Day and Zimmerman, Tellabs, Computer Sciences Corporation, SkyLink: The Airline Ticket Center, Biography Magazine, US Pharmacopeia, Skadden Arps (Intl law Firm), Patton Boggs (Intl Law Firm), LTS, Blackbaud, Georgetown University

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2005, Human Resources Association--Natl. Capital Area, Society of Human Resource Management, Business Owners and Managers Assn Intl, Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, Association of Legal Administrators, International Personnel Management Assn, Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors, American College of Physicians, National Wildlife Federation, Defense Research Institute, American Industrial Hygiene Association

Government Agencies: 
Australian Embassy, Centers for Disease Control, Health & Human Services--Div. of Acquisition Management, DOD/Population Health and Health Promotion, Department of Justice, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (including National Weather Service), Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Sea Systems Command, Department of Commerce, US Postal Service

2.  Stress Doc Books:

Make check to:  Mark Gorkin
Send to:

1616 18th Street, NW  #312
Wash, DC  20009

a) Really Hot:  The Paperback Version of Practice Safe Stress:

Practicing Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises

Published:  2004; Pages:  372

Price:  $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $3.95 in Metro, DC area; $7 in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

Or, download: The Stress Doc's Store Front:   www.stressdoc.com

Ebook Price:  $15

Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout, and depression.  Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative focus, and goal-achievement.  Bringing a personal, professional, and organizational perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and memorable "how to" ideas for:

§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™

There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged downsizings.  Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity."  The Stress Doc also shares his his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."

Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts.  To quote the Internet Newsroom:  Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:  "The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays.  Always witty, thought-provoking, and helpful."  With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.

b) The Four Faces of Anger:  Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior

The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication.  The book is a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics.  You will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful intervention and conflict mastery.  Learn to:

Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles

And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":

Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!

Published:  2004; Pages:  114

Paperback:  $23.95 (includes shipping and handling)
E-Book:  $15


c) Paper Book -- Truly on the Cutting Edge

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)

To purchase books and/or tape, make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

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

Questions?  Call 202-232-8662 or email stressdoc@aol.com


3. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC Debate Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat (Alas, only for AOL members.)

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™,
a psychotherapist, an acclaimed Keynote and Kickoff Speaker (including with Celebrity Cruise Lines), and an OD/Team Building Consultant.  Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  Also, the Doc is America Online's "Motivational Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat."  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2005

Shrink Rap Productions