Practice Safe Stress:
Healing & Laughing In the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression
A Personal, Professional and Organizational Guide
Self-Published: 2004 (By FirstBooks Library now AuthorHouse)
Distributed by Ingram
Price: $20 +
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Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -
stress, burnout, and depression. Learn practical and playful, inspiring and
insightful strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy,
creative focus, and goal-achievement. The book is alive with imaginative
language and memorable "how to" ideas for:
§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Resolving conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™
There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on
mismanaged downsizings. Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the
possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity." The Stress Doc also shares
his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."
Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic
tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts. To quote the
Internet Newsroom: Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:
"The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays. Always witty,
thought-provoking, and helpful." With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun
health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.
the Stress Doc to
purchase the hard copy of Practice Safe Stress :
Electronic Version: Practice
What Experts Are Saying
Mark Gorkin has been a contributor to the Workforce.com site for years, and his
insight has been very valuable for our audience of about a quarter-million
executives worldwide. Gorkin has a real-world, hands-on perspective about what
causes stress, and what can be done to deal with it. He clearly is one of the
Michael Jordans of dealing with stress, depression and burnout, and millions of
people can benefit from his advice.
Todd Raphael, who runs the award-winning Workforce.com site
The Stress Doc has long been one of the most popular contributors to HR.com. He
connects to the true feelings and anxieties of people who work for a living.
His advice is practical and delivered in his inimitable humorous style.
Chief of Content & Research
Stress Doc's writings are insightful, sensitive, and supportive served with
humor and personal care. His Shrink Rap is delightful and playful while at the
same time perceptive and thought provoking. He shares his own experiences,
giving the reader a feeling of familiarity and comfort when dealing with
uncomfortable issues. His articles for The Bright Side (www.the-bright-side.org)
garner rave reviews and heartfelt thanks from readers across the globe. If
Mark's words were films, I'd give them an enthusiastic two thumbs up.
Shie Rozow, Founder, Psyche Minded, Inc.
"Mark Gorkin, 'The Stress Doc,' delivers his unusual blend of a serious message
gift-wrapped with humor as he discusses stress, burnout and depression. This
book provides his witty theories while poking fun at his own absurdity. Paradigm
magazine has featured the motivational and healing notions of Gorkin for several
Mary Allen, Editor
Targeted Publications Group, Inc.
What the Reading Public Is Saying
"After becoming acquainted with Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc" through his
e-newsletter, I purchased "Practice Safe Stress" and it is wonderful. Mark's
writing has amazing insight into the soul of anyone facing or recovering from
stress related burnout. His essays, poems, songs and anecdotes allow the reader
to relate to his or her own struggle to find life's balance. Mark's book has
helped me through a slow and somewhat painful process through the grief to
recovery and planning. This is a book that has earned its place in my permanent
Thank you Mark for your continued words of wisdom."
Make Check to: Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
9629 Elrod Road
Kensington, MD 20895
Practice Safe Stress: Table of
Stress Doc Journey: From Burnout to Breakout. Begins with the unique aspects
of the book followed by humorous background of and insight into the origins of
the phrase "Practice Safe Stress." Next is a lively exploration of the Stress
Doc's first-hand understanding of the book's subject matter after burning out in
a doctoral program despite living in "The Big Easy." But the Doc found a silver
lining by becoming the mass media "Stress Doc" ™ during his "American in Cajun
Paris" N'Awlins years. Then a stormy "north toward home" passage leads to D.C.
and (a) being a stress and violence prevention consultant for the US Postal
Service, (b) overcoming "computer virginity," (c) pioneering his USA Today
Online HotSite and (d) becoming a cyber-psychohumorist for AOL and the Internet.
Chapter One. Diagnostic Stress Overview: Three "B" Barometer, Vital
Statistics, and Family Inventory. Chapter opens with the Stress Doc's
baptism as an organizational stress consultant with a battle-hardened group: VA
Hospital Head Nurses. Next is the "Three 'B' Stress Barometer" exercise,
including a brief list of Brain, Body, and Behavior stress signals. Then comes
the Stress Doc's Smoky Dozen, a mostly light-hearted yet enlightening
description of twelve common stress symptoms. The chapter concludes with some
eye-opening statistics on the damaging effects of stress, e.g., over
three-fourths of doctor visits are stress related and the hundreds of billions
of dollars that stress, burnout, and depression cost American business and
government. And close with a mostly humorous family stress test.
Chapter Two. Stress: "Fight or Flight," Stress Types, and Toxic-Traumatic
Ties. Chapter opens with an illustration of "Fight or Flight" Adaptation
Syndrome – from the dawn of man to a high-tech analogy. Then "goodness of fit"
between kinds/levels of stress and coping skills/resources is clarified with a
case example - a trial attorney whose irrational expectations were paralyzing
his performance. Next are examples of the three basic types of stress - acute,
chronic, and good - along with vignettes of good stress as a catalyst for
creative problem-solving. In light of September 11th, situational disaster and
post-traumatic stress are highlighted, including disorienting dynamics and
factors that influence the degree of post-traumatic reaction. Chapter concludes
with Disaster Recovery phases and the ties among the Toxic-Traumatic Trio -
stress, burnout, and depression - from "Demystifying Depression" to "Burnout:
From Blowing Up to Breaking Down."
Chapter Three. Burnout: Personality Paths, a Journey, and the "Four
Stages." Chapter begins with a definition of burnout, two introductory case
examples, followed by two broad burnout-smoldering personas: the HE MAN and the
SHE MAN. Four specific burnout-prone personality types are illustrated: (1)
The Rescuer, (2) Bjorn Bored Syndrome, (3) Flaming COMETS (Chronically Active,
One Right Way, Multiphasic, Elusive Expectations, Time- & Task-Driven) and (4)
Grandiose Vindicator. Next is the concept of EGOAL Obsession = rigidly
Ego-absorbed and zealously Goal-driven; two brief examples - John DeLorean and
Osama bin Laden. Then a personal narrative shows that the Stress Doc KNOWS
burnout and the egoal process: from a mystical and/or manic-like moment to
doctoral dissertation meltdown. The chapter closes with a compelling
illustration of "Four Stages of Burnout": (1) Mind-Body Exhaustion, (2) Shame
and Doubt, (3) Cynicism & Callousness and (4) Failure, Helplessness, & Crisis.
(Readers often ask if I've been looking in their windows.)
Chapter Four. Organizational Burnout Toxins: Lean-and-MEAN and
Person-Situation Perspectives. Chapter begins with case examples of
person-situation interactive sources of burnout, especially of the youthful,
idealistic professional. Stress Doc's early years as a clinical supervisor is
an example. Then comes a letter from a recently laid-off reader challenging
"perfectionist" personality factors for burnout; blame is placed on incompetent
management. A satire lampooning managerial inadequacy is provided: "Top Ten
Commandments for 'Lean-and-MEAN' Management." The dicey strategy of resolving
conflicts electronically is illustrated. Next are "The Daily Dozen" factors
contributing to a hazardous, burnout-inducing work environment - from the
"Turtle Syndrome" and "The Customer is ALWAYS Right" to "Reorganizational Wreck"
and "Rage Runs Rampant." Closing on a hopeful note, a case vignette that
reverses one-sided decision-making and departmental resistance to change through
theatrical performance and "Thinking Out of the Coffin."
Chapter Five. From Burnout to Breakout: Creative Lightness of Career
Transition. Starts with an email give and take with a recently unemployed
professional who goes from traumatized to triumphant in her job search. Next,
the Doc's father's experience goes beyond downsizing - when he was caught in the
"frightsizing" web of organized crime. There are light-hearted and
enlightening strategies for "Laughing in the Face of Layoffs." Also, a
philosophic "Rebuilding the Fire" response to a high achiever's
existential/career transition angst follows: Living from the Inside Out,
Passion Play, and Exploring the Shadow. Based on personal and professional
experience, the Doc's three components for burnout rehab and rejuvenation: (1)
Good Grief, (2) Four "R"s of Recovery – Running, Reading, Retreating, and
Writing and (3) Transition and Diversification.
Chapter Six. Practicing Organizational Safe Stress: From "Cutting-Edge"
Satire to the Concept of "Motivational Humor." Opens with a satirical
"cutting-edge guide" on how managers can screw up organizational restructuring,
including "Keep Employees Grateful and Humble" and "Instill the Spirit of
Overload and Accommodation." Then, more seriously, Seven Highly Effective
Strategies for Practicing Organizational Safe Stress, including: Group
Grieving, The Triple A - Authority, Autonomy, and Accountability, and Making
Task and Process Meet. Next comes a philosophical and functional basis for the
systematic employment of humor as a stress-busting tool in organizations. First
examined are the four broad functions of humor: A= Arousal, I = Incongruity, L
= Liberation and S = Superiority; humor is good for what AILS you. Then three
specific mind-body higher-power functions of humor are outlined: endorphin
release, humor-creativity connection, and self-effacing and self-affirming
functions. Finally, the motivational humorist requires four characteristics:
(1) paradoxical perspective, (2) comfort with imperfection, (3) harmony over
hostility (with example of the Stress Doc going over the line) and (4) sensitive
and tough skin.
Chapter Seven. Higher-Power Humor in the Corporation: Dynamic Presentation
and Conflict Intervention. Two vehicles for setting productive company
humor in motion are illustrated. The first is a Safe Stress Workshop outline,
including interactive exercises followed by key workshop humor principles and
techniques: (1) be personal and practical, (2) use surprise and contradiction,
(3) be vivid and visual, (4) expose inconsistencies and foibles and (5)
distinguish and integrate humor and wit. Next, four workshop and workfloor
conflict scenarios are presented, along with strategic steps and higher humor
interventions. Two uncommon vignettes include a tense jury process and reducing
pressure on U.S. embassy staff during the Gulf War. Finally, ten principles and
techniques of the Motivational Humorist are outlined, including "Connecting the
Comic and the Tragic," "Theatre of the Absurd," "Reframing the Situation," and
"Biting the Hand that Feeds You."
Chapter Eight. Two Vital Stress Busters: Natural Prevention and Critical
Intervention. This chapter continues along the two tracks mentioned in the
title. Prevention is covered first with the Doc's formula for "Natural SPEED" –
Sleep, Priorities, Empathy, Exercise, and Diet. Based on research with execs
during AT&T's breakup, the Four "C"s of Psychological Hardiness complete the
prevention plan. Then Critical Intervention provides key questions and
strategies for dealing with traumatic stress, coping with crisis and limiting
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: (a) current bio-psychosocial assessment, (b)
historical factors and underlying feelings, (c) cognitive clarification and
grief process, (d) key crisis concepts and (e) post-traumatic coping.
Chapter Nine. From Emancipation Procrastination to Habit Transformation:
Breaking Out from Erosive Burnout. Opening with ten contributing factors,
the Stress Doc reflects on his procrastination history. Next come "Six
Principles for Emancipation Procrastination," including "The Basic Law of Safe
Stress" and the importance of "N & N" and "I" messages. These principles are
followed by a real-life, "eleventh hour" example - just before entering a
radio-recording studio - of creating "the pass in the impasse." The chapter
concludes with the Stress Doc's "Top Ten" for breaking a habit and building
positive habit transformation, including my closing lyric, "The Eight 'P' Path
Chapter Ten. Depression: Diagnostics, Predisposing Factors, and the Van
The chapter begins by highlighting several forms of depression, including
depression diagnostics. There's a brief summary of what are and what are not
signs or symptoms of depression along with a quick Brain, Body, and Behavior
checklist for depression. Next are cognitive-behavior patterns that speed one
down the slippery slope: ignoring negative emotions, overcompensating by
overworking, creating catastrophes, and drowning (self-medicating) troubles.
Situational and non-situational (biochemical) depression triggers are identified
as well as predisposing personality characteristics: strong silent type,
optimism vs. pessimism, sensitive and/or sympathetic.
Finally, the Doc tackles "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity": pondering the
impact of psychotropic medication on the creative genius of van Gogh triggers an
analysis of the interactions among medication and mood disorder, artistic
personality, and the creative process. The Doc also explores the effects of
anti-depressants on his own creative efforts.
Chapter Eleven. A Personal Descent. Concepts come to life with the
Stress Doc's journey into and out of the belly of the depression beast. Journey
markers include family and childhood dynamics; a smoldering chronic condition
that finally erupts from stress overload; trial with Prozac, including manic
moments and other side effects; Prozac Paradigm Shift; coming out of the
depression closet; and "Forever Prozac?" Finally, "Top 12 Tips for Beating
(Mostly) Moderate Clinical Depression."
Chapter Twelve. Grief or Depression: Chronic Loss and/or Creative
Liberation? A comparison is made between the grief landscape and mind-body
depression signs. "Seven Stages of Grief" are delineated, a highlight being the
catchy and memorable stage titles: from Shock and Denial (or "It Can't Happen
Here") to Acceptance (or "The Glass Is Half Empty and Half Full" and "Making
Lemonade from a Lemon.") Then come stressful (mostly work) contexts for turning
grief into depression: sleeping on the job, breakup of a marriage,
posttraumatic losses, battered employee/spouse syndrome, illusion of security
and age anxiety, being multiply downsized, addictive patterns, and depressive
propensities. Two other types of grieving are examined through personal
reflection: anticipatory grieving and dealing with sudden death.
The critical experience of loss is posited along with "The Six 'F's of Loss
and Change": loss of the familiar, the unpredictable future, loss of face,
challenge to regain focus, be openness to feedback and renewal of faith. A
closing link between grief, depression, and creativity is formulated, first by
establishing five connections between the grief and creativity processes: (1)
creation and destruction, (2) rising from the ashes, (3) letting go and taking
an incubation vacation, (4) the "Aha!" moment and (5) crystallizing a new
paradigm and identity.
Finally, a Stress Doc Q&A review of key concepts and a closing summary of
the "Top Ten Commandments" for Practicing Safe Stress.
1. Relaxation-Visualization Script
Script enables self or others to systematically relax mind-body and to
center. (Complements the author's relaxation-visualization CD which can be
ordered through www.stressdoc.com.)
2. Transforming Aggression into Healthy Confrontation
Two-part essay on the susceptibility to power struggles and "I" message
tools for defusing the same.
3. Singular Man Lyric
Playful yet passionately self-affirming lyric written after the author was
accused of being a "commitment-phobe."
4. Gospel of a Country Road
The importance of taking a personal retreat, e.g., truly embracing the
awesome beauty of nature as both a stress reliever and spiritual booster.
5. Safe Stress for the Holidays: Four "F"s of Holiday Friction
Key sources of holiday stress are playfully identified along with strategies
for managing "Fantasies," "Family," "Food," and "Finances."
6. Stress Doc's Survival Tips for the Emotionally Vulnerable or Depressed
Ten steps and strategies – from trusting your gut feelings that you're
depressed (it's not just a stage) to seeking school support, finding a stress
buddy, and creative expression.
7. "Micro and Macro" and "Team Building" Reorg Strategies: Parts I & II
Post-Enron strategies range from recognizing reorganizational uncertainty
and seeking outside in Part One; strategies range from paradigm shifts in team
meetings to autonomy and collaboration among the chiefs.
Stress Doc Bio
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, the "Stress Doc" ™ is a true original: an
uncommon blend of gifted psychotherapist, organizational development consultant,
acclaimed writer and keynoter who is redefining the field of "Motivational
Humor." The Doc has a magical touch for transforming complex psychological
insights and organizational issues into purposeful and practical ideas as well
as playful yet powerful team-building tools that inspire the heart as much as
the head…And will definitely impact your bottom line!
Mark is an international/Celebrity Cruise Lines Speaker, AOL's "Online
Psychohumorist" ™ and leader of the popular "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat" with a
worldwide following as an online and offline syndicated columnist. His writings
appear regularly in such publications as WorkforceOnline, HR.com, Financial
Services Journal Online, Networking today, MentalHelpNet, The Bright Side
and Paradigm Magazine.
The Doc is also the author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in
the Face of Stress, Burnout and Depression, The Four Faces of Anger:
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior
and From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats: The
Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc (a collection of his former syndicated
"Stress Brake" radio and television essays.).
The Stress Doc is definitely battle-tested, having worked as a stress,
team-building and violence prevention consultant for numerous major companies
and government organizations, including the US Postal Service. In fact, Mark is
a "Managing Anger/Preventing Violence" seminar leader for PESI Healthcare, a
national licensing education company.
The Doc is also pioneering a multi-award-winning USA Today Online "Hot Site."
Two of the sites notable achievements: 1) cited as a workplace resource by
National Public Radio (NPR) on a program about "Bad Bosses" and 2) was the basis
for a live interview with BBC Radio-London. The Doc has also been featured in
For you, what all this means is simple: With an audience of any size, the
Stress Doc's high energy programs are dynamic and interactive, inspiring and
So seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor: May the Farce Be with You!
Don't miss your appointment with the Stress Doc.
this book, e-mail the Stress Doc at
Clients have included:
SAP--Human Capital Forum/ASUGS, Celebrity Cruise Lines, America Online, Day and
Zimmerman, Tellabs, Computer Sciences Corporation, SkyLink: The Airline Ticket
Center, Biography Magazine, US Pharmacopeia, Reed Smith (Intl law Firm), Patton
Boggs (Intl Law Firm), Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe (Intl Law Firm),
Blackbaud, Georgetown University
Associations: Business Owners and Managers Intl.--Southwest Region,
National Council of University Research Administrators, Professional Conference
Management Association, Association of Legal Administrators, International
Personnel Management Assn, Society of Human Resource Management, Association of
Insurance & Financial Advisors, American College of Physicians, National
Wildlife Federation, Defense Research Institute, Southwest Industrial
Contractors Association, ColdFusion Conference 2003
Government Agencies: Health & Human Services--Div. of Acquisition
Management, DOD Population Health and Health Promotion, National Institutes of
Health, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (including
National Weather Service), Naval Sea Systems Command, Department of Commerce, US
Postal Service (as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant; the Stress Doc