Category Archives: Stress

RELAX!!

Some of you don’t have the slightest clue how to STOP and check out the roses…or plant some…or arrange some in a vase.

According to The Wall Street Journal, only 52% of working Americans say they come back from vacation feeling rested and rejuvenated; the rest anxiously cram in too many activities, stay plugged into BlackBerrys, cellphones, iPads, pagers, computers, emails, cell phones – you get the idea.

Attempting to relax even makes some people sick:  including fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, flu-like symptoms and weekend migraines.

For some folks, stopping work means having an actual physical/psychological withdrawal reaction complete with mood swings!  These are most likely the ones who gravitate to high-pressure jobs or those who arrange to be pressured by procrastination and taking on too much that is too difficult.  People do that when they have found this means of dealing with other personal anxieties which become masked by work and work stress.  In other words, if someone feels inadequate, the adrenaline rush of frenzied work is a form of self-medication.

For most of us, it is probably just habit.  Too many wives work themselves out of feeling loving and sexy.  Too many husbands work themselves out of feeling loving and sexy.  The result?  Arguments about nothing and a mutual feeling of having “grown apart.”

My opinion is that the body and mind can only take so much before neither works properly.  Those of you who are churchgoers have an edge on the rest:  a religiously forced “day of rest.”  Very smart.  When my family practiced Orthodox Judaism, we couldn’t work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  At first, it was horrific for us.  After a while, I even began to look forward to my Shabbos nap on Saturday.  Frankly, it was very good for the whole family that we had to pray and chill.

While we are no longer in that community and lifestyle, I still make sure weekends are free to motorcycle over beautiful terrain for lunch, to fiddle with hobbies, to commune with friends, and for us to put up our feet, have a glass of wine, and watch a classic movie.

Whatever your personal anxieties are, you’d better face them or they will eat you (and your relationships) alive.

So, start by picking an hour every day during which you do nothing, and disconnect from all technology.

Try something new.

Get physical.

Get into the moment.

Stop being a human DOING and start being a human BEING.

Divorce, Recession-Style

A number of news sources recently reported that (sniff, sniff) people just can’t afford to get divorced anymore, what with mortgages upside down, and diminished family income.

Furthermore (more sniffs), in most cases, the couples have to stay together under the same roof just to make ends meet.  No longer can divorced spouses count on maintaining a lifestyle.  No longer are kids summarily thrown into visitation chaos and feelings of abandonment….and that, obviously, is a good thing.

One of the sadder aspects of my three decades plus on radio talking to people in some sort of crisis is the growing realization that many people see adversity as a motivation to turn on each other, rather than to turn to each other.  I understand husbands who feel depressed when they can’t adequately support their families, and I understand wives who feel desperate because they worry for the well-being of their home and children.  But I don’t understand turning away from each other at a time when both need support and hope.  Each spouse needs to (as Archie Bunker often said on “All In The Family”) “stifle themselves” and try to buoy up the other’s state of mind.

In trying to make the other person still feel valued, competent and loved; in telling your spouse that you know that, ultimately, you can count on him/her; in letting your once “dearly beloved” feel your support, makes not only them feel better, it makes YOU feel better.

I’m sure everyone reading this has some sort of strain or stress in their marriage.  Generally, it’s something that can be overcome if you both pull together and put aside your individual resentments and fears long enough to follow through on your marital vows to love, honor and cherish.

Children Today Are Overly Anxious and Depressed

There’s a new study out from San Diego State University saying that children and young adults today are the most anxious and depressed of the last seventy years.

I’m not surprised at all.  Having too many choices is chaos.  Morals and values have been sacrificed in favor of infamy and fortune.  When sports heroes are infamous and rich because they took drugs to increase their performance, that is demoralizing to kids who work hard to aspire to athletic greatness simply by practicing a lot.  When other young people get famous for flaunting drugs and anti-social behavior, it makes it difficult for the kids who simply work hard.

When you have a major Hollywood producer/director putting together a movie to excuse and explain Hitler (in context, he says), you have a generation that has no clear understanding of evil.

When you have military dying in the fields of foreign countries because we are at war with a religious ideology that wants to terminate western civilization, and one of their combatants is caught and tried only as a common criminal, you have a generation that is confused.

When you have a culture that does not support the basic building block of education – the family – we have children turning to equally confused peers and pop culture.

When the people in positions of power, authority and fame turn out to be of little character, you have a generation that doesn’t know what to respect or whom to emulate.

It all matters.

Our kids pay the price.

Lessons Learned from Shooting Pool

I thought I’d continue with the theme of new beginnings during the first week of the new year by telling you a “biggie” for me – something I had to learn at a deeper level than just on an intellectual level.  I took up the game of pool about a year ago.  And like everything I do, I jumped into it “full bore” and with ferocity unmatched by any other living creature.  I practiced hours every day in this mad-like rush to conquer this goal as soon as I possibly could.

In general, my enthusiasm and full commitment pay off in learning and conquering new goals, but there are some that actually require a dispassionate approach.  That was tough for me.  I got thoroughly emotional whenever I missed even one shot!  I quit several times out of utter frustration. 

Fortunately, I have a great coach/teacher who keeps trying to get me to be quite robotic.  He has me do what amounts to a ritual routine with each shot:  look at the shot and imagine it happening as I put chalk on the cue tip.  Then, put the chalk down and I pretend I’m doing the shot once or twice in the air, then get way down on the table and do practice motions up to the cue ball and then fire.

Once I am down, no more thinking, moving, judging…just faith that my mind and body have this covered. 

This took the better part of a year to learn.  But it works.

The too easy frustration with myself comes from a most critical father’s constant berating of me, and taking up pool has helped a tremendous amount with getting rid of that knee-jerk response. 

I was setting up my weaving loom the other day, and everything was going wrong.  The set-up looked seriously trashy.  But instead of getting down on myself (like I would have done before), I just smiled, leaned over, cut it all off the loom and threw it away.  I walked away feeling quite accomplished!  Why?  I just accepted that sometimes it doesn’t work – thrown away yarn is not the end of the world – and having the calm to make that decision to come back and loom another day is a big victory!

I hope this story helps you.

Don’t Let Holiday Stress Take Over

Normally on my radio program, we try to vary the subject matter of the calls I take so that each hour has a wide range of issues, philosophies, ideas, information, insight and dilemmas.  However, during the holiday season, this becomes almost impossible.  It seems that family dynamics (especially the negative ones) just take over people’s lives.  This includes everything from having to buy gifts for (or people (or deal with family members) you don’t like, having to go to dinner and parties you don’t really want to go to, to having to travel to four different sets of divorced parents’ houses and have to deal with their new spouses.  And on and on and on….

One of the main problems causing you stress at this time is your unwillingness to accept what “is,” and just hum your way through some unpleasant moments and unpleasant people, and your unwillingness to accept responsibility for making choices that will annoy some others, but will save yourself.

For example:

1. If you have four divorced parents or four sets of in-laws, just have the dinner at YOUR house.  Invite everyone, and let them sort themselves out.
2. If you’re at a family gathering with one or two bad apples, just steer yourself toward the people you do like and immerse yourself in pleasant conversation, virtually ignoring the troublemakers after a cordial “hello.”  If the troublemakers start arguments or get drunk or unruly, excuse yourself and leave.  Do what it takes to keep your blood pressure down and enjoy the holiday time.
3. If relatives are visiting, put them up at a local inn.  They and you will then have the necessary privacy to keep tensions to a minimum.  Pay for the hotel yourself.  It’s a small price to pay for serenity.
4. If you’re invited out of town, and you don’t really want to go, don’t travel. Start new traditions in your own home.

As for accepting what “is,” if there are some situations and people you’d rather avoid, but this would bring pain to others who would miss you terribly, go with good humor, become the life of the party, enjoy what there is to appreciate, and know that in your heart, you did a good deed and the right thing. 

When Students Don’t Make the Grade

When I was in grade school one year, I got a few “D’s” on my report card.  With a pen of contrasting color to the D, I made a line halfway across the letter from left to right, and turned the two D’s into weird looking B’s.  Much to my astonishment, my father noticed the alteration!  And, boy oh boy, I got punished.

The following story ups the ante on my little escapade:  An 11 year old boy from Alabama didn’t want to bring home his bad report card either.  So, he said that a man with a pistol snatched him after he left middle school, forced him into a beat-up car, and threatened to kill him.  He then explained that he escaped by jumping out of the car, but that he wasn’t able to grab his book bag in which was (no surprise here)….the report card.  The police investigators were a bit suspicious when the boy was able to “escape” with his cumbersome band instrument, but not his soft, smaller book bag. 

The boy ran to his grandfather’s house, and admitted to lying.  The grandfather called the police to apologize.

I mention this story because the issue of grades is important.  Grade inflation definitely exists — and it’s like telling a kid he’s special just because he breathes regularly. It builds a false sense of competency and value which condemns a kid to fail in the future and be frustrated that his unconditional perfection hasn’t quite panned out. 

In addition, there’s a lack of willingness to respect children who are able and willing to work hard and attain high grades and become valedictorians.  In fact, the acknowledgment of a valedictorian has been banned in some schools so the feelings of those less accomplished won’t be hurt. 

Then there are parents who want to see A’s, even if their child is capable only of a C+.  I always tell parents that the teacher should let them know at their regular meetings whether or not their child is doing his or her best – that’s the best -accomplishment.

It’s sad when parents don’t know what’s happening with their children’s school work until report card day, and then the yelling starts.  Yes, this Alabama boy did the wrong thing, but he must have been (as I was) VERY scared about the consequences.  He’s 11….11!!  If he’s that scared,  then let’s look at that first, and then help him to do his best.  Punishment for bad grades is not the way to go in this case. 

Punishment for editing the D’s or for lying to police?  Now that makes more sense.