The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
MAY 2007, No. I, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Work Q & A: When a first-line manager sends cards or flowers to employees
Shrink Rap: SPEED Rap
Readers: Burial Plot
Testimonials: DHHS/MD Nurse Advisory Council, Ft. Hood Mid-Tour Pulse Check,
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp,
Heads Up: Circuit City/Legal Department, MacDonald Illeg Jones Britton (Law
Firm), Natl Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration/NESDIS, Training
Officer's Conference, Montana Dept. of Health and Human Services/Nursing
Conference, Canam Steel, Internal Revenue Service/IT Dept.
Main Essay: On Becoming "Positively Negative": The Value of Oppositional
Offerings: Books, Training/Marketing Kit
Overview: Sec. I
1) Work Q & A: How appropriate is it for a first-level [line]
manager to send cards and/or flowers to employees at significant personal
events, such as births of children or deaths in their families? We have such a
person, and we don't have a policy forbidding it... nor are we sure one would be
2) Shrink Rap Ditty: SPEED Rap: The Doc pares down an old lyric to
highlight the essence of Natural SPEED. Selected lyrics are getting a great
response in his live speaking and workshop programs.
Overview: Sec. II
1) Main Essay: On Becoming "Positively Negative": The Stress Doc uses a
recent workshop experience at Ft. Hood to examine the power of seemingly
contradictory thinking. The capacity for relating opposition and unity is not
just a tool for "out of the box" and double-edged or multifaceted thinking, but
it is a paradoxical pathway for imaginative wit and wisdom.
Work Q & A:
How appropriate is it for a first-level [line] manager to send cards and/or
flowers to employees at significant personal events, such as births of children
or deaths in their families? We have such a person, and we don't have a policy
forbidding it... nor are we sure one would be appropriate.
At the first reading of your quandary I wanted to say, "Of course it's okay.
Have we become so impersonal, so "emotionally correct" or litigiously sensitive
that we would try to stifle the compassionate inclinations of a human heart?
But then my rational voice started to demand some equal time. So let me pose
some questions and then some strategic recommendations.
1. Is this supervisor sending out cards to everyone in the company or to just
those on his or her team or department?
2. Is this supervisor able to be consistent, that is, is everyone receiving a
card at a significant personal event (and if the company wasn't small, how would
the person have time to do their work and keep up?) or is the supervisor picking
and choosing? Can the supervisor in any way be perceived as playing favorites?
3. Does the receiver or anyone else in the company or department now feel
pressure to reciprocate in such altruistic behavior? With our diverse
workforce, different cultures often have different ways of acknowledging
personal events or rites of passage.
4. As a therapist, I have to at least ask about the sender's motivation: is
this the action of a kind-hearted person or the actions of a lonely heart. If
the motive isn't clear (and clean) eventually the receiver will sense something
1. If the supervisor were simply sending acknowledgements to a relatively small
number of people in her department, I'd say that's acceptable. If her giving is
going beyond this immediate and intimate boundary, I have some question if not
2. HR might want to query some of the recipients about their level of comfort
upon receiving the supervisor's consideration. I would also have HR inform this
supervisor about this follow-up procedure, perhaps explaining that HR is doing a
survey to discover the preferred method by which individuals and the company (or
department) as a whole might acknowledge these significant markers or events.
3. The following recommendations are based on conversations with a friend who
has been a teacher at both public and private schools. In her organizations, a
Sunshine Fund was established; the whole staff could contribute money for
acknowledging birthdays, weddings, childbirths, etc. For unexpected deaths, an
envelope was passed around. However, this method, especially with the Sunshine
Fund, created some tension when it became clear that there were colleagues not
contributing to the Sunshine Fund. Now some people questioned why they should
give money regarding an event for a non-fund contributor.
4. My solution: establish a Sunshine Fund with company or division funds. This
does not have to be a costly amount. And then let people have the freedom to
make or not make an added contribution. My friend noted, understandably, that
she would contribute more for someone she knew well. Hopefully, mixed (company
and personal) funding method will allow for individuality without sparking
issues of favoritism or exclusion, while simplifying and mostly unifying the
I hope these questions and suggestions help you navigate the increasingly
complex intersection of the human heart, cultural difference and organizational
sensibility and responsibility (if not liability). Hopefully, these are words
and ideas to help one and all
Practice Safe Stress!
Natural SPEED Rap by Mark Gorkin, The Stress Doc
As you sprint to the wire with blood pressure higher
Timeless mind-body tips to heed
For slowing down, getting feet on the ground
And building Natural SPEED.
"S" is for "Sleep"
Now don't be cheap
Seven hours, at least
To be a beauty with mental acuity
Not that snooze-button bashing beast.
"P" stands for "Priority"
You can't do it all everyday.
Urgent means now but important can wait.
Do you know how...to "N & N"?:
Just say "No and Negotiate!"
"E" is for the "Empathy"
Found in a caring shoulder.
But all give without take is a big mistake
For now you shoulder a boulder.
The second "E" is for "Exercise"
Start pumping iron or those thighs.
You may not need SSRIs.
Try thirty minutes of non-stop spin
For your mood uplifting endorphin.
And, finally, "D" is for a healthy "Diet"
Many would rather die than try it.
To manage foods you crave
Grieve, "let go" and then be brave
Sending diet fads to an early grave.
So eat those fruits and veggies
Try fish oils and soy protein.
For too much fats and sugar
Excess alcohol and caffeine
Is a rollercoaster formula
For an artery-clogged machine.
It's time to end this Shrink Rap
With final tips for you --
"A firm 'No' a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too."
So to lessen daily woes, "Do know your limits, don't limit your 'No's!"
Ponder this Stress Doc wit and wisdom
Try to live it day after day:
Burnout is not a sign of failure
You simply gave yourself away.
Remember, sometimes less is more
And more is really less.
Balance work and play, faith and love
And, of course...Practice Safe Stress!
(c) Mark Gorkin 2007
Shrink Rap Productions
Subj: The Burial Plot
A man and his ever-nagging wife went on vacation to Jerusalem. While they were
there, the wife passed away. The undertaker told the husband, "You can have her
shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here, in the Holy Land, for $150."
The man thought about it and told him he would just have her shipped home. The
undertaker asked, "Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your wife home, when it
would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only $150?"
The man replied, "Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days
later rose from the dead. I just can't take that chance."
Department of Health and
Human Services Nurse Advisory Council
(Half-day "Safe Stress, Team Building and Humor" program for 120 nurses)
May 16, 2007
On behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services Nurse Advisory Council,
I want to thank you for being the keynote speaker at the annual Nurse Day
celebration held on May 9, 2007. The presentation "Practicing Safe Stress" was
enjoyable, dynamic, and germane to the fast-pace, demanding balancing act we all
live with each day.
Your humorous, non-threatening approach and expertise in the health and human
service field enabled the participants to identify areas of stress and conflict
in their personal and professional lives. Although the participants work in
different areas and were both managers and direct service providers, it was
apparent that wearing many hats, multi-tasking, and stressing about lack of time
and resources on the job, were commonalities that everyone shared.
Your presentation provided positive and constructive strategies for managing
along with creative and fun ways to express oneself. At the same time, it
encouraged team building and networking.
Generally, a serious, no nonsense group, the nurses were actively engaged in the
interactive presentation and they were rewarded with a morning of respite from
the demands and pressure of the workplace. The group seemed to be energized,
buzzing, smiling, and best of all, left the celebration feeling better about
themselves. (I know this because I have been receiving "thank you" calls and
emails all week.)
Thanks again for a wonderful morning. It's not often that one can be laughing
and learning at the same time.
Public Health Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Montgomery County, Maryland
[In response to my May
5, 2007 Mid-Tour Pulse Check "Safe Stress" Program for 1st Cavalry Division, Ft.
over 100 Senior
Leadership Spouses and base soldiers]
May 15, 2007
Dear Mr. Gorkin,
Good afternoon. I'm COL John Tully with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort
Hood, Texas. My boss, MG Jeffrey Hammond, Commanding General, 4th Infantry
Division would like to invite you to speak to the leadership of 4th Infantry
Division for about an hour on 19 July in San Antonio. We are holding an
off-site conference at the Marriott Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. In
attendance will be the 4th Infantry Division staff and all the brigade
commanders (COLs), battalion commanders (LTCs), their Command Sergeants Majors,
and spouses.....about 200 in attendance. The theme for the 19th is Team
Building and we would love to get your thoughts as the kickoff speaker. You
have a wonderful reputation and come highly recommended.
Elements of the division will return to Iraq for the third time at the end of
this year so the conference is designed as a preparation for upcoming
Please advise if you are available and interested. Thanks for your time.
COL John Tully
Assistant to the CG, 4ID
C: (254) 289-3394
May 13, 2007
It was a GREAT day. Thx so much for sharing yourself. You are a CAV Trooper at
heart! (For a New Yorker!)
COL Larry Phelps
Commander, 1CD Rear
"Managing Everything in the Rear, so that 1CD Can Focus Forward."
"Don't confuse proximity to the target with importance to the mission."
Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection
April 9, 2007
Dear Mr. Gorkin:
Thank you for speaking at the FDIC's Supervision and Application Branch Training
on March 28, 2007. Your program on "Practice Safe Stress" was extremely
valuable and pertinent to the issues within our branch. As evidenced by the
level of audience participation, our staff enjoyed the enthusiastic manner in
which you communicated the poignant stress management strategies. It was also
enlightening for each employee to discuss the sources of stress in the workplace
and the commonalities among us in that regard. We will strive to revisit the
primary issues that were identified by the group, as well as the list of
potential solutions, in an effort to alleviate some of the stressors. We
believe that your session was beneficial and are hopeful that we as individuals,
as well as a work unit, can achieve a healthy, fun-filled, productive
Thank you again for your participation in this important event, particularly for
your willingness to work with us on short notice. We look forward to the
opportunity to work with you on future training sessions.
Gale A Simons-Poole
Acting Associate Director
Some of the clients since April '07:
1) Circuit City/Legal Department
2) MacDonald Illeg Jones Britton (Law Firm)
3) Natl Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration/NESDIS
4) Training Officer's Conference
5) Montana Dept. of Health and Human Services/Nursing Conference
6) Canam Steel
7) Internal Revenue Service/IT Dept.
[References on Request]
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" , is a psychotherapist and
"Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and
"amazing" acclaim -- from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world
with Celebrity Cruise Lines. 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
AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group
Chat." See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com
-- cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR). Finally, Mark
is an advisor to The Bright Side -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award
winning mental health resource. Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on
List-a-Day.com. For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs,
call or email the "Stress Doc": 301-946-0865 or firstname.lastname@example.org . And to
view web video highlights of a Stress Doc Keynote, go to
(c) Mark Gorkin 2007
Shrink Rap Productions