The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist (tm)
May 1998, No. 2
Here is your free Stress Doc Newsletter. Twice a month I include original or favorite
essays and articles from my various online and offline writings, including my weekly Humor
From the Edge and AOL/Online Psych The Stress Doc @ Online Psych columns.
Today we'll try to anticipate the end of the school year and the rapid approach of
summer with some of my best on a favorite topic, one most are qucik to acknowledge and, of
course, slow to do something about....PROCRASTINATION!
Also, scroll past the essays to find information on my speaking and training schedule,
the library of articles on my award-winning website - www.stressdoc.com - and any
Please forward this letter to interested friends, colleagues and family members, or
send along their email addresses. (Also, if you don't wish to receive the newsletter,
email me - firstname.lastname@example.org .) If you'd like free subscriptions to Humor From the Edge
(email me) and/or to "The Death and Dying" Newsletter, click here, Welcome To Death & Dying...Where Life Surroun...
(See, this newsletter will make you die laughing ;-)
"The Procrastination Puzzle: To Do, Not to Do or Deep Doodoo"
Can you relate to this couplet from one of my "Shrink Raps"?
Deadlines, deadlines all that aggravation Whew...You only have time for
When it comes to procrastination, most of us are quick to acknowledge the problem and,
of course, are slow to do something about it. What's needed is an inspiring guide to break
the chains of putting things off, mental paralysis, missing due dates, diversionary
dusting, hiding out in the bathroom, along with CNN and remote control compulsion or AOL
addiction. You have been shackled by fear, shame, rigid perfectionism and overt or covert
temper tantrums way too long. So forthwith..."The Sermon on the Mental Block."
("The Sermon from the Mental Ward" may come next week.) Believers...There can be
life after deadlines! Here are "The Stress Doc's Seven Guiding Principles and
Strategies for "EMANCIPATION PROCRASTINATION."
1. You Must Be Tortured and Made to Acknowledge Your Sins. Trust me...I know
procrastination. When I was up late with homework or an overdue book report, I had a
mother who would thrash me with a quote from the ancient Roman poet, Horace: "To
begin is to be half done. Dare to know - start!" (And you wonder why I'm such an
expert on stress, guilt and neurosis.) What's worse, she was right. And now I'd rather do
almost anything in a timely manner than let her, or her voice in my head, have the last
word. (Just kidding, mom. ;-)
2. Counteract the Micromanager. Try this strategy for disarming an overbearing mother,
spouse, colleague or boss. It's a subtle ploy: recruit this person as a "designated
nagger." If they agree, the antagonist is doing your bidding. Now you can be critical
when they're not nagging enough (or you're not doing enough). Clever, eh?
3. Discover the 80/20 Principle. 80% of our results are achieved by 20% of our
activities. The implication is clear: you can drop or ignore 4/5 of what you are doing
without feeling guilty.
4. Be Out to Lunch. Liberation from procrastination means recognizing mental
exhaustion; what I call having a case of the "brainstrain." Give your mind
permission to take the tactical taxi retreat: sit or walk around all day with an "off
duty" sign on your head.
5. Pursue Productive Procrastination. In the face of undesignated nagging, the proper
retort is: "I beg your pardon. I am on an existential journey. I'm exploring and
embracing my 'creative doubt.'" Remember, we often need an "incubation
vacation" to hatch a new perspective.
6. Wield a "Stress Doc" Affirmational Aphorism. "A time for waste is not
a waste of time." (Now whether reading this column is a time waster...) And finally,
7. Practice The Basic Law of Safe Stress. "Do know your limits and don't limit
your 'no's!" Amen.
Declaring Your Emancipation Procrastination
Here is the Stress Doc's liberating commandments for "Emancipation
1. Honor the Basic Law of Safe Stress. Now just what is "Safe Stress?" Ah,
it's one of those ephemeral concepts that will always elude precise definition. Sort of
like love, chemistry, spiritual truth, the real Elvis, etc. (Hey, let's have a contest.
Send in your own definition - 100 words or less - of what it means to "Practice Safe
Stress." I'll post the most imaginative and insightful responses.) Still, this
preamble should help clarify the concept: These days, we are often reminded to be careful
in our sexual activity...but what about dealing with stress? Be honest, do you still
engage in casual stress? In the relationship, are you always demanding to be on top ? Or,
as a constant moaner and groaner, do you give others oral stress? Finally, when it comes
to expressing anger, do you hold back or, even, withdraw using "conflictus
interruptus?" Really now!
If these apply, it's time to start "Practicing Safe Stress!" And the Basic
Law decrees: "Do know your limits and don't limit your 'no's!" Or another
aphormation: "A firm 'no' a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities,
2. Practice "N & N." Of course, just saying "no" is not always
easy, nor is it sufficient. The key is to say "No" and to "Negotiate."
And negotiation means when someone asks to pile more work on your plate, you don't
immediately push the peas into the potatoes. And if you mush your mix with your main
course to make room for string beans or, especially, for a piece of liver (who wants to do
liver?)...If you keep adding to your load, you'll likely get indigestion, if not drop the
Let the delegator or cook know your work load. Don't have big eyes with a small mouth.
Renegotiate timelines. There can even be life after deadlines. For example, I've had
undergrad and graduate students gang up on me to reschedule a midterm as they had too many
back-to back exams. (They somehow knew I'd be the softhearted prof.) So, build an alliance
or network - add this "N" to "N and N" - when confronting an authority
about changes in work scheduling. You don't have to be an isolated protester. Remember,
there's strength in numbers. (And please, don't speak up with your mouth full!)
3. Push for Priorities. When adding to a tight workload, ask the person in charge what
are his or her priority assignments. Explain that you are willing to put some work on the
back burner for a high priority, time-sensitive project. Don't promise to complete the new
work and perform your ongoing assignments without making some adjustments in your overall
Some people always try to "do it all." These folks often are: a) reluctant to
define their boundaries or set limits with authority figures, b) afraid of disappointing
others, avoiders of conflict and/or excessively need to be liked, and c) over controlling
perfectionists who either mistrust people's motives or fear being negatively judged and
humiliated by others.
4. Confront HE MAN and SHE MAN Tendencies. I call the above personality types the HE
MAN and the SHE MAN. The "H" stands for "Humiliation" and the
"E" for "Emptiness." The "S" is for "Savior," the
person who enables or rescues out of a denial of others' issues and to avoid confronting
one's own anxieties and dysfunctions. Like the aggressively controlling "Type A"
HE MAN, the SHE MAN allows his or her fears of humiliation and emptiness to obscure a
basic principle of the ultimate procrastination state: "Burnout is less a sign of
failure and more that we gave ourselves away." Of course, I don't discriminate. Both
the HE MAN and the SHE MAN can be male or female.
5. Lubricate the Ebb and Flow. Always revving up at the eleventh hour is for adrenalin
junkies. Doing your best and most creative work on a project or paper requires advanced
research and preparation, thinking out of the box, getting stuck trying to form new or
unusual relationships among your project elements, having time to sleep on the problem and
to attack it again and again, and then, hopefully, the "aha!" - a novel or
elegant solution or design.
If you are mentally dry or exhausted, put on the "stress brakes" and take a
creative juice break: go for a bike ride or a jog in the woods. Take a nap or listen to
Mozart. Read an old Calvin and Hobbes book. (Laughter doesn't just relieve stress; it also
frees up creative energy.) Don't only muscle your way through an intellectual barrier.
Take that "incubation vacation" to hatch a new perspective.
And if you can't get yourself in gear, or give yourself a rest, appoint a
self-regulator. Select a "designated nagger." Per your instructions, this person
will, on schedule, remind or cajole you to ebb and flow. With this arrangement, of course,
you now lay the blame for any procrastination on the other's dereliction of duties. Pretty
6. Mother Knows Best. Learn to break up a big project into smaller, manageable pieces.
If highly anxious, start working for five minutes on a complex assignment, then back away.
It's amazing, but with this new small window, upon your return to the battlefield, you'll
likely feel less intimidated by the overwhelming project dragon.
Of course, as a once big procrastinator, I had to learn the hard and humbling way. I
was subjected to my mother preaching the words of the ancient Roman poet Horace: "To
begin is to be half done. Dare to know - start!" (And you wonder why I'm such an
expert on stress, performance and neurosis.)
Just remember...don't wait for your mother or that internalized mother, or father,
voice to "hock" you (Yiddish for "drive you crazy")...emancipate
yourself and Practice Safe Stress!
"The Stress Doc Letter" features and functions:
1. Psychohumor Writings. To provide you the best of my past and current online and
offline writngs, including Humor From the Edge columns and America On Line/Online Psych
special topical essays, e.g, <A
HREF="aol://4344:972.docwork.1255066.562088752">The Stress Doc Interview @
Online Psych</A> and <A
HREF="aol://4344:972.olpny3.1264502.565460680">Make Your Resolution A Habit
With Help From Online Psych!</A>. For those not on AOL, if you'd like a copy of
these popular series, just email - email@example.com. Or check out my website -
www.stressdoc.com - or my AOL/Online Psych Page - Keyword: Stress Doc, <A
HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych
My writings now appear in Perspectives, the electronic magaine of Mental Health Net.
MHN is a not-for-profit organization devoted to mental health information and education
resources online. They are located at: www.cmhc.com/
2. Special Projects Updates. New or special projects that are flying around or about to
be (or have been) launched:
a) I am now leading a twice a month "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on
AOL/Digital City - Washington. It's an online stress support group. We discuss your
personal concerns on stress and wellness, relationship and family issues, loss and grief,
career transition, creativity and psychological growth, etc., the 2nd and 4th Mondays of
the month, from 9-10pm EDT. Next session: Monday Jun 8th. Here's the link: <A
HREF="aol://4344:363.gorkin.5732839.568857121">Chat with the Stress
This group replaces the Frequent Sighers Club which never quite got off the ground. (I
still like the name.)
b) Stress and Team Communications Program - one day program for CDRH, Food and Drug
Administrationon May 19th. For feedback on the successful program, call Michelle Hudson,
Deputy Director, (301) 594-4550 x-152.
c) Practicing Safe Stress - led an "outstanding" program for the American
Association of Healthcare Administrative Management on May 21. Call David Odar, President
MEDLAW Corp. for details, (410) 353-2404. (They have also asked me to kenote their Annual
Conference in December.)
d) Wrapped up a highly successful, two month stress and team building program for the
Personnel Dept. of the Army Corps of Engineers, HQ. Absenteeism and sick leave usage is
down. For more info, call Shelia Dent, (202-761-4857)
e) These comments from Sally A. Johnston, Program Manager, Navy Civilian Employee
Assistance Program (703-413-0755) on last month's Practicing Safe Stress presentation: We
were tremendously pleased that you were able to schedule a second "repreat"
program when the first session filled to capacity...As a clinician and trainer myself, I
was very impressed with the manner in which you incorporated a muiltitude of learning and
training techniques to reach every participant. The way in which you were able to get the
group down to their "feeling" level was artful and non-threatening. Well done!
3. Stress Doc Calendar. To provide an up to date speaking and workshop calendar - what,
where and when. Of course, if you know of an organization or a conference that needs a
dynamic, thought-provoking and fun-filled program, my motto...Have Stress? Will Travel: A
Smart Mouth for Hire!
Speaking of speaking, some upcoming events:
a) On June 1st, a Managing Anger and Conflict program for Fairfax County Government,
VA, Metro-Area Re-employment Project: for Displaced Federal Employees. For more info,
call: Marilyn Manno, (703) 324-7390.
b) On June 5th beginning an ongoing Team Building Training for Office of Aeronautical
Charting, NOAA/Dept. of Commerce. This program follows two highly successful, all day
Managing Stress and Conflict programs.
c) On June 8th and 9th, two half day programs on Rebuilding the Fire: Transforming
Burnout into Your Creative Career Path for the EACE Annual Conference. Call Ron Lambert,
SAIS, for more info - (202) 663-5710.
d) On June 10th, all day program on Humor in the Workplace for the National Institutes
of Health. For more info., call Joyce LaPlante, Division of Workforce Development, at
e) Here's a heads up for folks in the Metro-Washington Area. Will be leading a workshop
for New Beginnings called, 12 Keys to Purpose, Passion & Play on Sunday June 14th from
1:30-4:30. Discover the Doc's Four Faces of Anger Model and matrix for the integration of
love, work, play and wholeness. For more info, Carol Randolph, (301) 924-4101.
4. Online Coaching/Training. To promote my Coaching for Consultants and Entrepreneurs
Special Announcement: I am starting a Multi-Media Coaching for Consultants Program: **
developing, delivering and marketing workshop programs online and offline ** humor/speech
writing services and website design with the CyberDoc ** online consultation and
participation in chat group
For information on the products and instructional services, email me at Stress
Doc@aol.com. With questions, call (202) 232-8662 or mail me at:
Mark Gorkin Stress Doc Enterprises 1616 18th Street, NW #312 Washington, DC 20009-2530
5. Award-Winning Website. To remind you that there is a lot more material on my award
winning, USA Today Online "Hot Site" website. It's also just been acclaimed a 4
Star, top-rated site, by Mental Health Net, the largest review guide of mental health,
psychology and psychiatry resources online today. Go to www.stressdoc.com or <A
HREF="http://www.stressdoc.com/">STRESS DOC HOMEPAGE</A> . Also, check
out my AOL/Online Psych Page, <A
HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych
</A> or Keyword: Stress Doc. Over 100 articles are arranged in 15 different
Stress Doc Bio and Philosophy Stress and Burnout Managing Anger with Authority Power
Struggles: Dyads-Systems Depression/Teens, Parents... Cyberaddicts Anonymous Good Grief
Searching for Love Career Transition Humor: Art and Science Creativity Unbound Achieving
Peak Performance Spiritual Exploration Readers/ Submissions
6. Readers' Platform. Please submit questions, comments, criticisms, cutting edge
information as well as stories about how you've used humor to help relieve a client's,
family member's or your own stress. I will gladly print your offering and credit you
completely. (And thank you for using your spellchecker.)
Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a
nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader and author on stress, reorganizational
change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. He is also the internet's and the
nation's leading "Psychohumorist." The Stress Doc is a columnist for the popular
cyber-newsletter, Humor From The Edge . Mark is also the "Online Psychohumorist"
for the major AOL mental health resource network, Online Psych and Financial Services
Journal Online -- http://fsc.fsonline.com/fsj . And he is an offline writer for two mental
health/substance abuse publications -- Treatment Today and Paradigm Magazine. His motto:
Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire! Reach "The Doc" at (202)
232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com, or check out his "Hot Site" website:
http://www.stressdoc.com . (The site was selected as a USA Today Online "Hot
Site" and designated a four-star, top-rated site by Mental Health Net.)