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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

SEP 2000, No. 1, Sect. 2

Main Article

Designing a Receptive and Reflective Incubation Vacation 
The Stress Doc’s Five Prescriptive Interventions

5. Practice "The Four ‘R’s for Rehabilitation and Rejuvenation." The challenge of removing yourself from a chronic environmental stress ambiance is not simply one of escaping to a slower pace. When you finally succumb to mind-body exhaustion you don’t have much choice. Initially, though, the challenge is withdrawing from the "always on" state of adrenaline habituation. You crave excitement and action. For many stress junkies, being quiet feels like screaming emptiness, stultifying boredom or morbid melancholy. Moderate physical conditioning can help in recovery, though compulsive exercise may simply be replacing one Type A biochemical addictive rush for self-medication and consciousness numbing. The tip off: when you are forever driven by faster and faster times and longer and longer distances.

Discovering peace and fulfillment through a quietly observant mode of "being" not just active "doing" is often the key to a "Receptive and Reflective Incubation Vacation." Here are "Four ‘R"s for Rehabilitation and Recovery":

a. Reading. A wonderful conduit for the transition between doing and being is reading. Whether it’s a book that helps you understand your "brain strain" or one that helps you laugh at frustrations, flaws and foibles (and Practice Safe Stress with the Stress Doc: The Art of Managing Stress, Burnout and Depression by AdviceZone.com, Fall 2000, will help you do both) reading provides nurturance and stimulation.

Remember, so often exhaustion is less a sign of failure and more that you gave yourself away. Reading enables you to give to yourself while keeping your mind engaged (unlike so much of mind numbing television). And with reading it’s easy to pause and reflect…which leads to the second "R & R" step.

b. Ruminating. Thinking deeply and intently, being "Reflective," is obviously a mind function. However, the "Receptive" part of our "R & R" process, the way of "being open" and "taking in" (think of most of the senses) has both abstract and concrete, mind-body potential. For example, according to Roget’s Third International Thesaurus, "ruminate" nicely captures the complementarity between mind and body with it’s two categorizing words: "consider" and "chew." Synonyms for consider: contemplate, speculate, reflect, ponder, weigh (a mind-body connector, perhaps) meditate, muse and brood. Selections for chew are fewer but more physically onomatopoetic: masticate, bite, munch and gnaw.

There is holistic wisdom to be gained from ruminating upon, from tuning in to your mind and body. Perhaps this is why we often have insights in the shower (in addition to having slept on the problem). Nothing like a fresh perspective. Actually, for me one incubation vacation mode inducing luxury is taking a hot bath. Several dualities are encountered and transcended in this transitional space, one that may well hearken back to infancy and childhood: sensate awareness-hypnotic-like reverie, pain-pleasure – both the temperature of the water and heightened sensitivity to tensions in the body – all within a primal, seemingly timeless womb-like gestalt that momentarily transmutes an angst-driven state into a soothing and quiescently brooding background trait.

So "R & B" – Ruminating and Bathing – can modulate your rhythm, is definitely good for the blues and enables getting in touch with your genuine relaxation/tension baseline levels. Hydrotherapy, if you will, provides nurturance and stimulation and, as with reading, creates a space for further physical and psychic self-exploration. And once rejuvenation is underway, another sensory medium for rehabilitation and recovery awaits.

c. Writing. Personally, the genesis of soulful, creative writing invariable begins with exhaustion and then allowing my psyche to lie fallow while seeding some perplexing data and brooding upon the heart-and-mind field. This underground and emotionally charged seed is gnawed and plowed, gardened and pondered. Memories are awakened. Recovered or recreated memories are a wellspring for helping ideational seeds percolate upward. These historical psychic constructions potentially provide sustenance for concepts and imaginings trying to survive self-doubt or analytic scrutiny. As has been frequently noted, art is often a fiction that allows us to better grasp essential truth. An immediate example... while playing in my writer’s sketch book, I suddenly recall the stages of the creative process studied years ago as a doctoral student. This recollection then catalyzed the parallels between the aforementioned stages and planting and germinating an amorphous, tender conceptual seed into a creative seedling.

With fits and starts, ebbs and flows, excitements and frustrations, and continually reworking both ground and context overt tentative ideas and subterranean psychic stirrings incubate. Then with persistence, patience and luck these embryonic musings and percolating seedlings finally break the planes of unconsciousness, fleeting imagery and intangible abstraction. Memory, dream content and newly discovered conceptual connections fructify the inner and outer mindscape. Now the focused and free associative writing path further prunes and sculpts and diversifies our creative offshoots.

A heart and mind that can brave and withstand the exhaustive-creative storm, eventually returning with new connections and perspective not only exercises and integrates the logical and the analogical, the left and right brains. Grappling with chaos, then infusing vague and vulnerable ideas with poetic sounds, rhythms and images transforms helplessness, withdrawal and retreat into an "R & R" haven for cultivating "bi-hemispheric peace of mind." Perhaps most vital, the imaginative and integrative writer has evolved a parallel process for recovering vital energy and rejuvenation. Despite its turbulence, the generative process is eventually healing for the mindscape.

d. Reframing. Quiet detachment and meditation especially in conjunction with the ebb and flow of free associative and focused, emotional and analytical journaling and soulful writing, fosters reexaminaion of one’s brain strain and existential conundrum -- past, present and future. This exhaustion to rejuvenation dynamic may be likened to a grief process that opens Camus' "corners of the possible." For example, my back injury, which unexpectedly surfaced early during a recent vacation, was productively reevaluated or reframed as, "an opportunity for discovering the soul of relaxation." (See my August 2000 essay, "Back to Reality and Relaxation: ‘R & R’ for Healing Body and Brain Strain.")

"Rationalization," you say. Perhaps, but it allows for a fresh and fruitful conception of a set of person-situation events and behavioral possibilities. In fact, research affirms that the ability to grieve and conceive conflict and trauma as requisite growing pain experience is a powerful adaptational skill for both individuals and organizations. As the following quotes reveal, when one can reframe poignantly or playfully salutary mind-body effects may range from the sublime to a sanity-preserving equanimity:

Who better than the humanitarian, writer and perceptual pioneer, Helen Keller, to extol the importance of transforming darkness or heaviness into lightness and enlightenment: "The world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks."

Or French poet and author, Anatole France’s lighthearted self-effacing observation that sheds light on how we are more receptive to a serious message when it’s gift-wrapped with humor or absurdity. Pondering his reflection on his 75th birthday, France declared: "Mirrors just aren’t what they used to be."

Closing Summary

Five strategic interventions have been proposed for "Designing a Receptive and Reflective Incubation Vacation": 1) Listen to Your Body, 2) Quiet the Mind, 3) Be with Nature, 4) Seek Solitude in a Wired Web-World and 5) Practice "The Four ‘R’s for Rehabilitation and Rejuvenation" – Reading, Ruminating, Writing and Reframing. Actually, whatever the means for quietly recovering energy, reviving optimism and revitalizing curiosity, your incubation vacation encourages tackling old demons and self-defeating habits. You now can rejoin he fray, serener and wiser. You are ready to surmount external barriers and self-imposed blocks while forging uncertain yet potentially fertile pathways and visions. Allow a parting quote from my article, "Creative Risk-Taking: The Art of Designing Disorder":

Errors of judgment or design rarely confine one to incompetence. These more like signify inexperience or exhaustion; perhaps even boldness. Our so-called failures may be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that ultimately broaden -- widen and deepen -- the risk-taking passage. If we can just immerse ourselves in these unpredictable yet rejuvenating waters.

Words surely to help you reach new heights and depths with "R & R" and to allow you to…Practice Safe Stress! 

Reader's "Higher Power of Humor" Section

Continuing a relationship theme, two submissions on love: first the fantasy then the reality (I think).

Kids and Marriage -- Children's Responses From: We4and

1) How Do you Decide Who to Marry?

You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.

-Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.

-Kirsten, age 10

2) What is the Right Age to Get Married?

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.

- Camille, age 10

No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.

- Freddie, age 6

3) How Can a Stranger Tell If Two People Are Married?

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.

- Derrick, age 8

4) What Do You Think Your Mom and Dad Have in Common?

Both don't want any more kids.

- Lori, age 8

5) What Do Most Peole Do On a Date?

Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say, if you listen long enough.

- Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.

- Martin, age 10

6) What Would You Do On a First Date that Was Turning Sour?

I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.

- Craig, age 9

7) When Is It Okay to Kiss Someone?

When they're rich.

- Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.

- Curt, age 7

The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.

- Howard, age 8

8) Is It Better to Be Single or Married?

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.

- Anita, age 9

9) How Would the World Be Different If People Didn't Get Married?

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?

- Kelvin, age 8

10) How Would You Make a Marriage Work?

Tell your wife that she look pretty, even if she looks like a truck.

- Ricky, age 10

Jack & Jill From: dixiejazzberry@yahoo.com

Jack was going to be married to Jill, so his father sat him down for a little fireside chat. He says, "Jack, let me tell you something. On my wedding night in our honeymoon suite, I took off my pants and handed them to your mother and said, 'Here, try these on' So she did and said, 'These are too big, I can't wear them.' So I replied, 'Exactly. I wear them.' Ever since that night we have never had any problems."

"Hmmm," says Jack. He thinks that might be a good thing to try, so on his honeymoon Jack takes off his pants and says to Jill, "Here, try these on."

So she does and says, "These are too large, they don't fit me."

So Jack says, "Exactly. I wear the pants in this family and I always will, and I don't want you to ever forget that."

Then Jill takes off her pants and hands them to Jack and says, "Here, you try mine on." So he does and says, "I can't get into your pants."

So Jill says, "Exactly. And if you don't change your attitude...you never will!"

Seek the Higher Power of Humor: May the Farce Be with You!

 Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc,"™ is the Internet's and America Online's "Online Psychohumorist"™. An experienced psychotherapist, "The Doc" is a nationally recognized speaker, and training and OD consultant specializing in Stress, Anger Management, Reorganizational Change, Team Building and HUMOR! An expert advisor for www.AdviceZone.com and iVillage/allHealth, his writings are syndicated by iSyndicate.com and appear in a wide variety of online and offline forums and publications, including AOL/Online Psych and Business Know How, Mental Health Net, 4Therapy.com, WorkforceOnline, HRHub.com, SelfhelpMagazine.com, Financial Services Journal Online, CONVENE (The Journal of the Professional Convention Management Assn.), OpportunityWorld and Counsel ing Today. Recently, he has been quoted and/or featured in such publications as Cosmopolitan Magazine, Bloomberg Report/News, Forbes Magazine, FoxNews.com, Dallas Morning News and The Washington Flyer. The Doc also leads his national "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" for AOL/Digital City and WebMD.com. Check out his USA Today Online "Hotsite" Website -- www.stressdoc. com . For info on his workshops or for his free newsletter, email stressdoc@a ol.com or call 202-232-8662. Summer 2000, look for Practice Safe Stress with the Stress Doc, published by AdviceZone.com.

(c) Mark Gorkin 2000 Shrink Rap™ Productions