The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
AUG 2001, No. 1
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Heads Up: Paradigm Magazine, Howard U. TV, Dr Hurd Show; AOL/Digital
Stress Doc Q&A: The Endangered Director as "Stress
Shrink Rap: Back to the Future: Reliving the Media Daze
Main Essay: "Stress Brake" Audio Script: Practice Safe
Readers' Submissions: Female Sayings; Disabled Persons Newsletter
a) Two part-series on "Creative Rsk-Taking" in Paradigm Magazine,
Spring and Summer 2001
b) One hour "Stress" taping with Howard University Television; will
air in November,
c) Look for another audiostream interview with me and Dr, Michael Hurd in the
next couple of weeks; the topic is based on my essay "Seven Self-Defeating
Styles of Anger"; www.drhurd.com
(Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to publish any essays, past or
present, in your online or offline publication.)
2. Chat Group and Live Workshops
a) 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 Q & A: Work Stress
The Endangered Director as "Stress Carrier"
Q. A Director in our organization is under scrutiny and may be terminated in
the next few months. This Director is aware of his possible termination and is
now creating a very stressful environment for his employee. The director has
told the employee on several occassions "They're going to fire me and give
you my job. You do too good a job." The Director has created a strained
relationship with this employee who is under stress over the entire situation.
The employee has come to HR claiming he is under work related stress. How should
this be dealt with?
A. Here are three critical steps. HR needs to quickly:
1) Meet with Employee. Get the employee's permission to confront the
Director with his alleged statements to the employee. Assure the employee that
HR will not tolerate any further threats or reprisals - subtle or otherwise.
Also mention an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or counseling option for the
employee. (If your company doesn't have an EAP, I would pick up short-term
stress counseling costs for the employee.)
2) Meet with Director. Have a one-on-one with the Director who is
becoming a "stress carrier," I bet, for more than one employee. (For
example, I wonder if he is trying to enlist allies to his cause?) Assess how the
Director handles the employee's claims of verbal harassment? Does he deny making
the alleged statements, or does he get defensive? Does he acknowledge any
disruptive behavior? Ask the Director if he is under any stress at work or at
home that might be affecting his work/managerial performance? (Obviously, if he
is under scrutiny that is a stress factor. Can the Director understand that the
issue is not whether this or any other employee might get his job; the issue is
whether the Director is performing in a professional and productive manner.) Ask
if he considered speaking with an EAP Counselor or outside therapist? I would
give him a firm recommendation (and again cover the cost).
Firmly remind him that this kind of behavior, whether he acknowledges the
problem or not, is unprofessional and unacceptable and will lead to disciplinary
3) Hold Joint Meeting. Set up a meeting with HR and the conflicted
parties. If needed, bring in a mediation expert to facilitate the exchange. (The
Stress Doc is rested and ready. ;-) Have both parties present their stories. If
a negotiated understanding can be reached, then allow the parties to continue.
Build in a follow-up in a week to ten days to se how they are doing. Also, let
both parties know that either one call on HR or schedule an individual
appointment with HR or the mediator if needed.
If an agreement cannot be reached or if conflict flares, I would transfer the
employee until a final dispensation regarding the Director's status is made. If
you believe the Director is still engaging in problematic behavior, quickly
remove him from his managerial position. Tolerating such dysfunctional behavior
will only undermine HR's and upper management's credibility with all employees.
TLC - "Tender Loving Criticism and Tough Loving Care" - helps all
On the eve of recording a stress segment for a major software company, the
Stress Doc reflects on his early days on New Orleans radio. Obsession with
writing and recording pressure were the norm. What will it be like turning back
Back to the Future: Reliving the Media Daze
Who says, "You can't go home again"? Well, it may not quite mirror
the heart palpitating mid-80s of knocking out in a half hour six 2-minute drive
time "Stress Brake" essays with the WWL-Radio News Director in
"The Big Easy," but these days home is where the net is.
One of the major global software companies, SAS, recently found my
stressdoc.com home page. More specifically, a member of their Studio Productions
department listened to the audio stream interviews on the site (scroll down; see
blue Real.com icon on far right) and emailed about my participating in the
production of a CD as well as a motivational audio stream broadcast for sales
employees - "The Empower Hour." Up till now, they have used in-house
HR and wellness experts.
After some brief negotiation, we agreed on a pilot: the Stress Doc will write
and record a 3-minute stress tips piece. I head to Audiomaster, a local studio
with whom SAS collaborates, next week. If everyone's happy, SAS flies me to its
headquarters in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina to produce a bunch
of "Stress Brake" segments. So I'm psyched returning to the radio hot
Speaking of performance pressure, I can't resist sharing a humorous bit
developed during my formative media days: the five key questions that reveal the
common tension between performing for the media and performing for sex
I mean sexual performance, of course. ;-):
1. Can you do it?
2. How good can you do it?
3. If you can't do it good, how well can you fake it?
4. How long can you last? And most important
5. Will they want you to come back and do it again?
Well, it's taken almost fifteen years, but I'm back in the media saddle. Come
to think of it, about three years ago I taped a brief "Holiday Blues"
piece for AOL's Online Psych in a studio. And about three years before that,
produced an audiotape of an original Tom Lehrer-like song on downsizing and
restructuring called, "The Reorg Rag." (Now that was stressful -
having to record and edit my own singing. Fortunately, the accompanying music
was a wild cross between Western and polka. Maybe I'll try to find a tape and
get my Webmaster to put it on our site.) Hmmm
when it comes to recording,
maybe I'm not quite a "Born Again Virgin." But the butterflies are
still putting on a daredevil air show.
Being candid, there are real differences between this SAS gig and my N'Awlins
radio daze. And the differences are mostly in my head. Fifteen years ago, being
a macho-creative man was paramount. Almost every script phrasing put my artistic
and poetic license on the line. If a pun was good, ten were better. Talk about
self-inflicted brain strain. I should have been reported to the metaphor,
alliteration and aphorism abuse hotlines. Still, a lot of the stuff was clever
but clever. Two memorable titles of essays come to mind, on
burnout and procrastination, respectively: "Breaking Out of a Hell of a
Shell or Don't Feel Too Sorry for Humpty Dumpty
He Needed to Hit Bottom"
and "Don't Clock the Writer's Block or Premature Impatience Will Sow
There was a raw, outrageous innocence to the writing that, to some degree,
has been tamed with some personal maturation and with greater experience as a
scribe. I was both less and more self-conscious back then. When you don't know
what you're not supposed to do, a lot of possibilities open up. Sure you get
more chaff, but sometimes you also get more or richer quality wheat. At the
same, being less assured of my abilities, I would obsess endlessly. Writing an
imperfect draft and then revising and further developing the text was almost
unheard of. Trying so hard for "one take" writing often disrupted the
flow. Still there's wistfulness at recalling the hours spent pacing and writing
in the Tulane Law Library.
Also, part of the writing pressure was getting to the point in about 250
words; less than two minutes in front of the mic. Of course, too many ideas and
forced quips became jammed up hurdles in this recording race. The taping was
invariably a major stress test. The SAS stint should be more relaxed. In fact,
when asking whether we could go 3:30, my liaison said, "Sure, no
problem." The time-driven WWL News Director would never have been so
After all is said and done, who knows if I'll have truly gone home again? At
least this essay has allowed some soulful reflection on my media writing and
recording roots. While, for me, "The Big Easy" never was
"know what it means to miss New Orleans." So today's Main Essay
provides some Stress Doc gumbo for the mind and body; a recipe blending past and
present, seasoned with blood, sweat, tears, laughs and love. Words to help
you...Practice Safe Stress!
In response to a major IT company's request for a short stress audio program
for sales professionals, the Stress Doc provides key motivational tips for
managing time and managing stress: 1) structure and ritual, 2) a rejuvenating
pit stop and 3) some "Couch Time." Enjoy his former fast-paced, pithy
and punchy "radio" style.
Take a Stress Brake with "The Stress Doc"
Practice Safe Stress
It's the fourth quarter, time's running out. You know the expectations but
there's that gap between current sales revenues and winning results. The goal
line seems elusive. And with the economy like a tough away crowd, we're not just
talking performance pressure, you're also grappling with stress!
I'm Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," a Licensed Clinical Social
Worker, international speaker and syndicated writer on stress and anger,
organizational change and team building as well as America Online's "Psychohumorist"
with some tips to help you "Practice Safe Stress."
First, two powerful tools for managing stress and managing the time clock are
structure and ritual, especially when they work with your natural biorhythm. For
example, make the tough calls early if you're a morning person. But if you're
not, and the calls can't wait, then block out a manageable period of time for
intense concentration -- thirty or sixty minutes, for example. Also, try some
inspiring background music - not just a jolt of caffeine - to get the juices
Beethoven's Ninth - "Ode to Joy," "The Impossible
Dream" and the theme from Rocky, come to mind. Okay, even "Who Let the
Dogs Out" can work.
Back to structure and goal focus, carving out a set time for interviews,
report writing and calls is challenging. When necessary, try this Stress Doc
aphorism to set limits on frustrating distractions: "A firm 'No' a day
keeps the ulcers away and the hostilities, too!" Shooting for that
realistically high daily quota won't seem so daunting. And when hitting your
target, build in some short term - ongoing or, at least, weekly - rewards, such
as catching a movie, purchasing that CD or power tool you've been wanting, or
getting in a round of golf.
Next, when moving in high gear around the sales track, think auto-racing
champs: take that critical pit stop for preventing burnout or a blowout. And
nothing beats physical exercise for rejuvenating your head and heart: a brisk
walk or jog at lunch; maybe the "Y" for lifting weights or elevating
your mind-body-spirit with Yoga. I'll even include a weekly massage as a reward,
if not "exercise"? Or how about riding a bike or throwing a ball
around with your kids at home.
Often overlooked, in addition to releasing those feel good, mood-enhancing
chemicals sustained exercise allows you to generate your own beginning and
endpoint for a tangible sense of accomplishment and control. Pretty darn
critical when everything feels uncertain and up in the air. And nothing like
swimming thirty laps, running a mile or two or just getting outside for some
power walking to feel a tad virtuous. But seriously, most important is the
growing optimism, faith and self-confidence upon seeing your commitment to a
plan and, especially, upon seeing results from your task rituals and progressive
exercise regimen. And with the right body-and-mindset, small structured steps
will become bounding leaps towards sales success.
Finally, don't forget a little mutual chilling out time (or maybe a little
heating up ritual) with your spouse or partner: some "Couch Time,"
even if only fifteen minutes of TLC - tender loving and laughing care. In
addition to a good ear, at times we need to poke fun at some of those
aggravating egos. And a hearty laugh can definitely help smooth out the
battlefield bumps and bruises.
My formula for "Natural SPEED" - S-P-E-E-D - provides a fitting
S is for "Sleep." For the long run, sufficient rest is critical for
being at your mind-body best.
P is for "Priorities." You can't do it all, all the time, and
really do it right. Establish realistically high expectations, and then focus on
key goals, skills and tasks.
E is for "Empathy." We all need a stress buddy; a supportive
shoulder to help us maintain psychological balance when grappling with the lows
and highs of selling.
E is for "Exercise." Enough said. Get started. And
D is for "Diet." An optimal level of energy boosting protein,
complex carbohydrates, and grains along with cutting back on high fats and
sugary junk foods will keep you "lean and keen."
So start walking this talk and you will begin to
Practice Safe Stress!
(c) Mark Gorkin 2001
Shrink Rap Productions
Subj: Female Sayings...
This is the word we use at the end of any argument that we feel we are right
about but need to shut you up. NEVER use fine to describe how a woman looks.
This will cause you to have one of those arguments.
This is half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that your football
game is going to last before you take out the trash, so it's an even trade.
This means something and you should be on your toes. "Nothing" is
usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside
out, upside down, and
backwards. "Nothing" usually signifies an argument that will last
"Five Minutes" and end with a huffy "Fine."
GO AHEAD (with raised eyebrows):
This is a dare, one that will result in my getting upset over
"Nothing" and will end with the word "Fine."
GO AHEAD (normal eyebrows):
This means "I give up" or "do what you want because I don't
care." You will get a raised eyebrow "Go ahead" in just a few
minutes, followed by "Nothing" and "Fine" and she will
talk to you in about "Five Minutes" when she cools off.
This is not actually a word, but is still often a verbal statement very
misunderstood by men. A "Loud Sigh" means she thinks you are an idiot
at that moment and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing
with you over "Nothing."
Again, not a word, but a verbal statement. "Soft Sighs" are one of
the few things that some men actually understand. She is content. Your best bet
is to not move or breathe,
and she will stay content.
This exclamation, followed by any statement, is trouble. Example: "Oh,
let me get that." Or, "Oh, I talked to him about what you were doing
last night." If she says "Oh"
before a statement, RUN, do not walk, to the nearest exit. She will tell you
that she is "Fine" when she is done tossing your clothes out the
window, but do not expect her
to talk to you for at least two days. "Oh" as the lead to a
sentence usually signifies that you are caught in a lie. Do not try to lie more
to get out of it, or you will get
raised eyebrows and "Go ahead" followed by acts so unspeakable that
we can't bring ourselves to write about them.
This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can say to a man.
"That's OK" means that she wants to think long and hard before paying
you retributions for what ever it is that you have done. "That's OK"
is often used with the word "Fine" and used in conjunction with a
raised eyebrow. "Go ahead." At some point in the near future when
she has plotted and planned, you are going to be in some mighty big trouble.
This is not a statement; it is an offer. A woman is giving you the chance to
come up with whatever excuse or reason you have for doing whatever it is that
you have done. You have a fair chance to tell the truth, so be careful and you
shouldn't get a "That's, OK."
A woman is thanking you. Do not faint; just say, "You're welcome."
THANKS A LOT:
This is much different from "Thanks." A woman will say,
"Thanks A LOT," when she is really ticked off at you. It signifies
that you have hurt her in some callous way, and will be followed by the
"Loud Sigh." Be careful not to ask what is wrong after
the "Loud Sigh," as she will only say Nothing."
I am Sue, one of the Founders and Editors at Nightengales Medical Maddness
Newsletter, and I wanted to let all of our members (and others) to know that I
am putting together a NEW newsletter.
This newsletter will have loads of information for disabled persons, as well
as their caregivers, family members, and friends.
Some examples of issues I will be discussing will be: