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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™


NOV 2006, 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

Section I

Shrink Rap--I: Program Picture and Testimonials; Fort Hood Herald Article:  "The Stress Doc," speaks to 1st Cavalry Division spouses
Shrink Rap--II:  The Stress Doc in the Hood (i.e., Ft. Hood)
Readers:  Five Tips for a Woman, Gravity Gravitas; Twas The Eve of Elections
Heads Up:  Maryland Accounting Administrators Assn, Bereavement Counselors, Estrin Legal Education

Section II 


Main Essay:  The Four "F"s of Holiday Friction
Offerings:  Phone Consultation/Coaching, Training/Marketing Kit and Books
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Overview:  Sec. I


1) Shrink Rap--I:  a) Picture and Testimonials re: Practice Safe Stress program for 150 spouse and service personnel; the brigade has been sending men to Iraq; FRG wanted an "uplifting program" for the home front]

b) Article and Side Bar, Fort Hood Herald, Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," speaks to 1st Cavalry Division spouses on Oct. 30, at Fort Hood

 2) Shrink Rap--II:  The Stress Doc in the Hood (i.e., Ft. Hood).  Reflecting on past and present times of war provides a backdrop for detailing an unexpected opportunity to serve.  When the Hood and the home front call, the Stress Doc takes his show on the road.
----------------

Overview:  Sec. II

1) Main Essay:  "The 4 "F"s of Holiday Friction."  The Stress Doc dusts off his classic article explaining how "Fantasies," "Family," Food" and "Finances" can turn the "the best of times" into "the worst of times."
 

 
Shrink Rap--I:

Picture & Testimonials:  2-Hour Safe Stress Program at Ft. Hood, TX for 1st Cav Div, on Oct. 30, 2006

  

U.S. Army -- Family Readiness Group (FRG)
3rd Brigade Combat Team
1st Cavalry Division
FT. Hood, TX
[Practice Safe Stress program for 150 spouse and service personnel; the brigade has been sending men to Iraq; FRG wanted an "uplifting program" for the home front]

Nov. 1, 2006

Mark,

Thank you again for your fabulous workshop! Everyone I have spoken with today thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
I'm not sure what will happen with the gal you spoke with from 3rd Corps, but I'm sure if it is something she means to pursue that she will be in touch. She has my info as well so I can direct her your way if she contacts me.

 

Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Stress Doc presentation was everything I had hoped it would be. I have some nice shots and will forward them along after I do a bit of editing....

 

Take care and hope you had a smooth trip home. Enjoy your upcoming travels!

 

Sincerely,

Laurie

Laurie Dunlop
lkdunlop@hotmail.com
Program Coordinator
----------------

Mark,

Great presentation this week. We needed that. Laurie was so right in bringing you down. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Larry Phelps

COL Larry Phelps
Commander, 1CD Rear
Work: 254-287-3782
Every Day...Better
"Managing Everything in the Rear, so that 1CD Can Focus Forward." 

------------------------

 

Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," speaks to 1st Cavalry Division spouses on Oct. 30, at Fort Hood.  Gorkin gave tips on how to maintain healthy stress levels.
U.S. Army/SPC. SHEENA WILLIAMS, Fort Hood Herald

FORT HOOD - A study was done on World War II fighter pilots and their copilots to see who underwent the most stress during missions. Surprisingly, it was found that co-pilots had the most stress because they didn't have a chance to control what was happening, said Mark Gorkin, a motivational speaker and licensed clinical social worker. That same rationale may hold true for military spouses because they must cope with the uncertainty of being their soldiers' co-pilots, he said. Deployments can be more stressful for families because soldiers often have more control or knowledge of a situation, Gorkin said. Gorkin, also known as "The Stress Doc," donated his time and traveled to Fort Hood on Oct. 30 to speak to spouses of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers.
 
The first six weeks of a deployment can be the most stressful for spouses, said Laurie Dunlop, co-adviser of the 3rd Brigade's 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment's Family Readiness Group. She wanted to provide First Team spouses with a tool to help them deal with stress early in the deployment.

Gorkin, using his trademark humor, gave tips on how to practice safe stress, which
included identifying and preventing burnout, using laughter, the importance of exercise
and the do's and don'ts of stress management. He also talked about the six 'F's for managing loss and change, something military spouses are well-versed in. Those 'F's are: let go of "familiar" past, confront unpredictable "future," acknowledge loss of "face," get support for rebuilding "focus," seek trusted, objective "feedback" and have "faith" in a higher/team power.

Andrea Ochoa said that after attending the seminar she felt she had the ability to cope better with stress. Still, she added, there are days when it is hard to deal with. It is important to Ochoa that she hold herself together for her family and three children, all below the age of 9. "It's very important they don't see me like this," she said, laughing nervously at the tears welling up in her eyes. Ochoa's husband, Sgt. Felibeito Ochoa Jr., a soldier, in the 3rd Brigade's 215th Brigade Support Battalion deployed Oct. 5th.
----------------

'Stress Doc' gives advice to spouses -- "Tips to Reduce Stress":
1. Exercise regularly
2. Discover the meditative and sensual mode: relax in a hot tub with candles and your favorite music.
3. Find a hobby
4. Learn to let go. When people are depressed or stressed, they are often clinging to a belief, a situation or a person who is ignoring or denying key aspects of reality.
5. Reflect upon the six "F's for managing loss and change (listed below).
6. Express healthy anger
7. Declare your emancipation from procrastination: the critical step in overcoming endless delay, dalliance and denial is letting yourself feel the anxiety, anger or shame that underlies avoidance or escapist behavior.
8. Seek out others with similar issues
9. Consider a support group or professional help
10. Seek the higher power of humor
By Amanda Kim Stairrett

 

 
Shrink Rap--II:

 

Reflecting on past and present times of war provides a backdrop for detailing an unexpected opportunity to serve.  When the Hood and the home front call, the Stress Doc takes his show on the road.


The Stress Doc in the Hood (i.e., Ft. Hood):
Getting Closer to the Front by (Stress) Managing the Rear

The war in Iraq has stirred many emotions over the years; two that immediately come to mind are angst and anger.  But my vantage point on the war has been from a comfortable distance -- the living room couch watching TV or perusing The Washington Post in Café Monet.  Occasionally I have attended a war rally on the Mall.  I suppose that's the memory bridge.  Nearly forty years ago, the last time an Iraqi-like war raged, I was more involved but ultimately protected:  six years stateside in a trucking unit for the US Army Reserves.  Still the prospect of being activated hovered like a threatening dark cloud.  Actually, back then the palpable danger of Viet Nam did hit close to home -- from a basic training buddy who had seen too much in Nam and just didn't want to talk to a close neighborhood friend who came home and couldn't stop talking.  Alas, the latter's constant and circular jabbering was a sign of imminent psychosis.  And the torment and torrent only stopped after he threw himself out of an apartment window.  [See below my poetic riff, "Who KNOWS War?"]

Of course, the reality and consequences of Viet Nam, continued long after the fighting.  Over the years, as a therapist I have helped several military vets grapple with post-traumatic stress.  And part of the occupational territory is wondering, "How would I have coped under such extreme conditions?"  Assuming I had made it home, would I have followed the strong silent type path or my troubled friend's desperate trajectory if not his tragic arc?  Feelings of relief as well as some guilt always tinge this rumination.

Have Stress?  Will Travel!

Then one day, almost three months ago, into this mix of ever-latent memory and emotion, came a bolt from cyberspace soon to shake my status quo ante bellum.  I received an email from a military wife living in the Ft. Hood, Texas area.  (Ft. Hood, located in Central Texas, about ninety minutes north of Austin, may be the largest military instillation in the free world.)  Ms. D wanted to know if I'd be willing to come and do a program.  The U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division is preparing to send a number of soldiers (mostly men) to Iraq.  They want an "uplifting" event for the spouse on or attached to the base.  The sponsoring office -- the Family Readiness Group (FRG) -- had done a thorough Internet search and decided that the Stress Doc's mix of "stress and humor" was the ticket.  Was I interested?  Before I could answer she stated that they had no money in their budget.  Without hesitation an "Absolutely," leaped from my throat.  However, the event was still up in the air:  moneys would have to be raised for my plane fare and lodging.  Nonetheless, I was hopeful as Ms. D struck me as a real "mover and shaker."

It took a few weeks to firm up a date as well as the funding.  And it was the latter objective and its engagement that had me sensing this was going to be an uncommon mission.  When Ms. D. wasn't able to get sponsorship from the local base hospital, the FRG definitely thought out of the box spring:  they decided to have a pillow sale.  (I couldn't help but recall that bumper sticking advocating for public education and wondering about the Air Force's latest plane being dependent on a bake sale.)  They made and sold pillows for the kids with a picture of their father (or in some rare instances a mother) printed and sewn on the cover.  What a wonderful way to have a head and heart connection with dad thousands of miles from home.  Let me tell you, I had a lump in my throat when Ms. D and I were talking on the phone.  And a month later, after the program, when handed a pillow with the 1st Cavalry Division logos there were tears in my eyes.

From the Silly to the Sublime

Actually, almost every step of this Ft. Hood experience was either playfully touching or poignantly heart wrenching.  As soon as I exited the restricted area of the airport, a big smile broke out.  A 3rd Brigade Captain and an FRG director were holding up a large whiteboard sign:  "Welcome Stress Doc to Ft. Hood."  I couldn't stop grinning and shaking my head.  (This is not the way to encourage a still recovering narcissist. ;-)

We went straight to lunch, Texas Barbeque, of course.   While initially engaging in light banter, we eventually got down to the demands of my hosts' job.  It can be a 24/7 circus responding to the home front needs and anxieties of the military families -- from financial and home maintenance pressures to being a young single parent along with the gnawing uncertainty of not hearing from a loved one.  Not surprisingly, the caregivers too need a shoulder and an ear.

And then I had my existential encounter.  From lunch we went to a gymnasium where a company of soldiers were in formation with their weapons and gear.  Circling the floor were the spouses and kids; a final goodbye before the men boarded the airport bus.  First they would be flown to Kuwait for final orientation/training and then quickly based in the Iraqi war zone.

Chills reflexively started running up and down my body.  I shared this with my hosts and a military chaplain who had joined us.  The latter said that no matter how many of these parting formations he attends, the result is always goose bumps.  I still don't know how much of my visceral reaction was memories of my own basic training experience or empathy for the soldiers and the families.  As the men filed out of the building I felt like an eyewitness to some portentous journey just beginning to unfold.  (And, in fact, a company recently deployed in Iraq had already lost a man.)  The sad, somewhat lost expression and the tears on the faces of the bystanders (who must literally stand by) seemed a smoky, slightly distorted mirror for the heavy, vaguely anxious knot in my heart and gut.  And also lurking inside:  was there actually something I could say or do that would truly touch and uplift the teary and wary?

Slow Time…Show Time…Show and Tell Time

I had a couple of hours by myself before going on stage.  I find the best 11th hour preparation is being quiet, just letting thoughts and emotions percolate up from my subconscious.  But this time, whatever clever opening remarks I had contemplated were quickly deleted.  My instincts propelled me into a familiar story -- my first stress workshop in the early '80s with, appropriately enough, VA Head Nurses.  And both groups definitely wanted the Stress Doc's "Combat Strategies at the Burnout Battlefront."  I won't go into details, but suffice to say that the audience was really with me (intently listening to the concise lecture segments and mostly laughing at my jokes) and with each other (animatedly doing the group exercises).  The team drawing exercise proved especially powerful.  The participants first discuss "the sources of everyday stress and conflict during this time of uncertainty."  Then, in a second ten-minute segment, the five or six team members generate a group picture and cohesive theme or visual story that captures and weaves together the individual stress perspectives.  With drawings completed, I turn the hall into an art gallery, having all 150 attendees walk around and survey their colleague's creations.  The room quickly starts buzzing with excitement and knowing laughter.

Finally, we moved into the "fashion show" part of the program.  Every team has a chance to hold up their drawing at the front of the room while a spokesperson briefly explains the group's artistic invention.  Both the walkabout and the presentations helped reaffirm how no one was alone.  There were many common themes and images that transcended differences in age, race, religion, and ethnicity as well as geographic region, class and family composition.  Ultimately, they were all in a common boat.  The boat might have some holes -- as one group depicted -- but it was their boat to patch up and steer, to sink or swim together.  The drawing and the standup presentation certainly provided an outlet for anxiety, anger and frustration.  However, the exaggerated and edgy imagery (that often poked fun at institutional bureaucracy), the group venting and imaginative design elicited much more shared laughter, vital energy and team camaraderie than tears, fears, angry grimaces or sighs.  And there was a personal affirmation.  Once again, I learned that my program touches universal issues and evokes broadly human responses, no matter how atypical or specific the audience.  (Email for more information on the dynamics of this exercise and how to lead the same.)

The night ended with a standing ovation.  But even more touching, as mentioned earlier, was the buddy pillow along with a 1st Cavalry blanket and cap, with an actual 1st Cav pin (a black head of a horse above a black diagonal bar on a gold shield with black trim).  And the thank you testimonials were icing on the cake:

U.S. Army -- Family Readiness Group
3rd Brigade Combat Team
1st Cavalry Division
FT. Hood, TX

Nov. 1, 2006

Mark,

Thank you again for your fabulous workshop! Everyone I have spoken with today thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm not sure what will happen with the gal you spoke with from 3rd Corps, but I'm sure if it is something she means to pursue that she will be in touch. She has my info as well so I can direct her your way if she contacts me.

Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Stress Doc presentation was everything I had hoped it would be. I have some nice shots and will forward them along after I do a bit of editing....

Take care and hope you had a smooth trip home. Enjoy your upcoming travels!

Sincerely,

Laurie

Laurie Dunlop
lkdunlop@hotmail.com
Program Coordinator
-----------------------
-----------------------

Mark,

Great presentation this week. We needed that. Laurie was so right in bringing you down. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Larry Phelps

COL Larry Phelps
Commander, 1CD Rear
Work: 254-287-3782
Every Day...Better
"Managing Everything in the Rear, so that 1CD Can Focus Forward." 
-----------------------

And in a recent follow-up conversation, Commander Phelps asked if I would be willing to return in the spring when a large contingent of the 1st Cav will be coming home.  Talk about transitional stress for soldiers and families.  So in a few months you'll be hearing more about my home front encounters.

Closing

Comparing and contrasting beliefs about the Iraqi and Viet Nam wars -- including my personal and historical connections -- with my thoughts and concerns for those more directly involved reminds me again of the provocative and wise words of the noted 20th century American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald:  The test of a first rate intellect is the capacity to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  One should see things as hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.

Words to inspire an intellectual appreciation for contradiction and a willingness to grapple emotionally with life's complexity, words to help one and all …Practice Safe Stress!
 

 

The Winds of War

The winds of war stir up remembrances of encounters on the edge of war...and ones tragically over the edge. Whether this current terrorist/military crisis is Known or simply known, the Stress Doc sets the scene and shares some stress survival tips, especially for those at home.

Who KNOWS War?

I have not KNOWN war; I have only known war.

I have not KNOWN the blaze of live machine gun fire pounding, screeching, whizzing overhead with mortar shells, the random blasts of crazed fun house terror. No time for the fireworks flaring, gazing in the blackest night above when you're eating dirt, crawling on all fours, cradling your baby M-16, mind numb save for the point 100 yards ahead that must be reached. But I have known it.

I have not KNOWN the fear of being smoke bombed and tear gassed in troop formation. Blinding smoky clouds, not knowing where the men in front, behind and to the sides have disappeared in a choking shroud of muffled coughs and cries and teary eyed. Paralysis, for an instant, before madly reaching for the protective mask. ("And remember, soldier, it's not a gas mask!") But I have known it.

I have not KNOWN the haunting, screaming, cold sweat post-traumatic nightmares of an Air Force Pilot so enraged and deadened by endless sorties of secret killing in the Vietnam jungle. Yet, inflicting terror and drugs is all he knows to stay alive. And still, ten years later, every night, he's condemned to replay the battle scene. I have not KNOWN this, but a client has.

I have not KNOWN the heroic highs and lifeless lows of the desperate fight to halt the surprise tank invasion of a Mid East enemy. Outnumbered ten to one. Somehow repulsing, somehow surviving despite the loss of most of your buddies in their finest hour. Nor the unspoken guilt for having done so. And this communal guilt only topped by the personal shame of the crash of a jeep you were driving while bleary eyed and bloodied: you survive and two mates die. I have not KNOWN this, but a client has.

Nor have I KNOWN the silent, anxious, weepy wait of a wandering wondering mother each day and night if "The Knock" will come. The knock at the dreaded door. The dreaded door no longer a protection against "The Visit"; against the lonely visitor declaring the end of a son's patriotic duty. I have not KNOWN this, but a friend has.

Nor have I KNOWN my childhood friend, a Hollywood handsome, athletic Adonis, back from Nam, a bloated shadow speaking gibberish until, tiring of his own impostor self on the streets of Flushing, his winning, flashing smile and innocent boyish spirit frolicking in a Killing Field. Not able to comprehend the division within; nor stand it...So jumps to his death to end the madness. But, this alas, I have known.

War is hell for all who KNOW it and it's damn stressful for those who just know it.
 

 Readers:

Subj: Five tips for a woman....

From: im842@sbcglobal.net

1. It is important that a man helps you around the house and has a job.
2. It is important that a man makes you laugh.
3. It is important to find a man you can count on and doesn't lie to you.
4. It is important that a man loves you and spoils you.
5. It is important that these four men don't know each other.


Gravity Gravitas


One saggy boob said to the other saggy boob:
"If we don't get some support soon, people will think we're nuts."
------------------

Subj: Twas The Eve of Elections -- a Blue State Parody
From: Ann W

'Twas the eve of elections in GOP land.
George, Karl, Dick and Rummy, the Great A-hole Band Were playing their
song, "We're Great," ad infinitum, Not knowing the people were all
poised to bite 'em.

"Hey Karl," says our George with his head full of holes, "Now you know I
cain't read but I don't like these polls."
"The evening is young, George. Let's not make a fuss.
My strategic plan says the win is for us."

Dick sits on the side tying flies and just wishin', "This sounds just
like Katrina, I think I'll go fishin'."
While Rummy who's smart feels his gut passing gas As he's starting to
think, "I'll be out on my ass."

The evening wears on, the Dems can't be ignored, But our prez reads the
comics and looks pretty bored.
When the polls finally close, Karl hits George in the head.
"Hey, wake up, buddy boy, I believe we're all dead."

"It's the riff-raff who've won, they want minimum wage.
They want health care and clean air, I'm just in a rage!"
Georgie panics and says, "They all think I'm a baddy,"
So he gets on the phone and he wails to his daddy,

"Daddy help me, I'm stumped. Help me please - please do sompin'
I'm afraid we've been walloped, it's a real Texas thumpin'."
"Now my boy, you remember in '04 way, way back.
I slapped up your head, said don't go to Iraq."

"But no, you had to beat me, show your dad you're a man.
So you marched into war, missing one thing -- a plan.
OK, this time you listen and you do what I say, Follow all my advice and
then you'd better pray."

"First give Rummy the boot, he's the one they all hate.
And I'll get on the stick and deliver Bob Gates.
Then you get on the phone, say congrats to that Nancy.
Just say one or two words, you'll flub up if it's fancy."

"Then get out on TV to the millions of folks.
And whatever you do, don't tell any dumb jokes.
You've just never been bright, son, now you're a lame duck.
Georgie, what can I say, face the facts, you've been screwed (expletive edit)."


Written by Ann W, Ithaca, NY, 9 Nov 2006

 


Heads Up:

Oct-Nov '06 Programs [testimonials upon request]

1. Maryland Accounting Administrators Assn.; 2-hour Stress and Team Building Program
2. Bereavement Counselors; 1-hour Practice Safe Stress Program

3. Estrin Legal Education; 1-hour Managing Anger and Difficult People; Lake County, IL
 


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 and products, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946-0865.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2006

Shrink Rap Productions