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How to Create Less Stress at Holiday Gatherings

 

Holidays like Thanksgiving are for loving relationships, smiles, laughter and should be a minimal less stress period. However, there can be good and bad stressful experiences at these events. Relationships are often governed by long held experiences, memories, thoughts and beliefs about relatives and friends as well as the things that happen at the event. Beware of old negative experiences leading to Default Emotional Responses (DERs) which lead to Default Behavioral Reactions (DBRs). Here are some tips to help you create less stress during holiday functions:

1)     Be mindful of triggers that activate stressors and avoid or eliminate the triggers

2)     Be mindful of triggers that ignite relationship difficulties and avoid or eliminate the triggers

3)     Create a positive rational dialogue to counter the negative thoughts or situations before the gathering *

4)     Give yourself the permission and power to use the response(s) you have created

5)     Create as much positive talk as possible about a loved one who may not be present

6)     Take mini-stress breaks throughout the day or as needed

7)     Encourage and support the efforts of others to be stress rejecters and tranquility makers

*Decide on any ALTERNATIVE INTERNAL STATEMENT OR DIALOGUE, etc. you want to use to COMBAT and CHANGE each situation. Write down the new approach, especially when you first begin using it, until you feel comfortable about the progress you have made that enables you to handle the situation. (If you were making a presentation at work, you could use a similar approach. If this is important to you, make the commitment to work for the change.)

  1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE the alternative internal statement or dialogue before you engage the person or situation.
  2. Think of the PERSONAL OR RELATIONSHIP BENEFITS or the way things will be different when you use the different approach(s).

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS
Stress Rejecters Nation
www.StressRejectersNation.com
Twitter: @stressrejecters
Facebook: Stress Rejecters Nation

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SRN First Person Interviews Portrait of a Winner: An Interview with Doctoral Candidate, B. Annette Daughtry

 

An Interview with Doctoral Candidate, B. Annette Daughtry (Ain Modeira Baderinwa)

SP: You are among a tremendously invaluable and unsung population of heroes. No one could lay claim to being successful or know how to negotiate properly in life without teachers. Before I begin this interview, I want to thank you. Tell the Serenity Pathways audience a little about your career and current goals.

A: I am a mathematics teacher and I retired from public education in 2010. I am back at work, part time, at a local college. Additionally, I am a student in a doctoral program in Instructional Technology in Education. I think this will help me to be more effective and help my students be better prepared to meet technological changes in the future.

SP: What stage are you in your doctoral program and what has the journey been like for you?

A: As I am nearing the completion of the final stage in my doctoral program, I am thankful for the opportunity to continue my education at this stage of my life. There were times when the water was cold and the waves were high; nonetheless, the voyage has been truly fantastic. Equally challenging is the road ahead that may carry many obstacles. Not all students face the same obstacles and students may approach the challenges of a doctoral program differently. Women may face greater obstacles and may approach the challenges of doctoral studies differently than men.

SP: Could you elaborate on the last statement?

A:  Without going into too many details, studies have been conducted to examine ways in which males and females are treated differently. One study done by Sandler a few years ago, showed subtle biases, such as women are interrupted more than men; faculty members make eye-contact with male students more often than with female students; and faculty members are more likely to know and use the names of their male students than of female students.  A professor at Columbia pointed out that for several years the Honors Calculus course had an enrollment of 90% male; therefore, he made a conscience effort to recruit females but was turned down repeatedly with statements that they knew that they would not pass the admission exam. There are other studies and examples that would infer differences in expectations for males and females. . . but that is a whole new conversation.

SP: Thank you for that enlightenment. That is some interesting information about subtle or indirect pressures.

SP: What other stress factors have come along with the quest to get your doctorate?

A: For doctoral students, frequent evaluation, financial duress, relationships, time management, high-volume workload, and self-expectation can lead to high levels of stress. Consequently, the cumulative effects make this a vulnerable time for those seeking that level of education.

SP: Talk briefly about each of the factors that you just mentioned.

A: Frequent evaluation does not end with the final course; rather, it continues throughout each stage of the doctoral program. My last course was followed by comprehensive examinations. These series of exams were to be completed within a 70-day time frame and they were enough to send any doctoral learner’s stress-a-meter to its highest level.

SP: How did you handle the stress?

A: I took time out for reflection between my last course and my exams and it seemed to have been a good strategy for overcoming that obstacle.  Also, I have been a member of the SRN for two years and used its support programs.

SP: You mentioned financial duress as an obstacle. As you know many people in all walks of life are now facing those burdens; how does one balance the books when education expenses are added?

A: The investment level of commitment must be high to reap a high return. Consequently, a strict budget must be imposed for the four to five-year duration of the program. When funds are lacking, attitudes and anxieties run rampant and relationships suffer. My relationship with my grandchildren has changed and the visits have become few and far in between. To lessen the impact of this obstacle, I set aside two hours each week to stay in touch with them using Skype and playing Words With Friends. During this time, each grandchild is allotted individual time to spend with me to continue and strengthen our bond. I find that taking time out—even for a few hours—to spend quality time with loved ones help to reduce stress and keeps me focused on my goal.

SP: How have you addressed the issue of balancing the budget?

A: I have gotten very creative with keeping spending at a minimum and stretching my dollars.

SP: How have you addressed the issue of balancing the budget?

A:  For educators, the basic salary alone is hardly enough to make ends meet; therefore, many of us moonlight in the evening hours or on weekends. To help me get through this phase, I started a consulting and tutoring business, “Beautiful Minds Tutorial, LLC”—specializing in adult education.  Although my webpage is under construction, advertising on SRN’s website has been a tremendous help in increasing my clientele. (http://www.stressrejectersnation.com/?page_id=15)  The investment level of commitment must be high to reap a high return.  Also, a strict budget must be imposed for the four-to-five year duration of the doctoral program.

I have gotten very creative with keeping spending at a minimum and stretching my dollars by organizing swap-meets where my colleagues, friends, and I swap clothing items that our children/grandchildren have outgrown.  Friends and neighbors have already donated bicycles for Christmas in the same spirit so that each one of my grandchildren will receive a bike that is nearly new and age-appropriate.  Additionally, preparing large one-pot/pan meals and freezing single servings and limiting eating out to special occasions (such as free birthday meals) help me ease the financial woes.

 

SP:   How do you manage your time to accommodate the other aspects of your life, . . . teaching part time, researching, writing, every-day “to do” lists, and finding the time for a social life?

 

A:  Before adding the demands of a doctoral program, I could hardly find enough hours in each day to complete required duties and responsibilities.  After I was well into my program, it was apparent that I needed to seek help with time management if I were to balance the high-volume workload, my job, and my personal life.  Luckily, Stress Rejecters Nation recognizes time management as a stressor in our lives.  With this in mind, I use SRN’s “Action Achievement Planner” which is a time-management organizer/planner to help me avoid “overwhelm” and deal with life’s interruptions.  Not only do I plan my day, I also plan my activities well in advance.  By employing this strategy, I am able to keep on schedule and accomplish each milestone.

 

SP:  Do you find that you place just as many demands on yourself as the program places on you?

 

A:  Well, the most vulnerable time for a student in pursuing an education is at the doctoral level.  Credit for this can be given to the compounding effects of common stressors along with the self-imposed pressure of trying to achieve self-actualization.  Assuming that the needs of levels “one through four” (deficit needs) of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have been met or satisfied, the doctoral learner climbs to the next step, self-actualization or being needs—“the need to fulfill oneself, to become all that one is capable of becoming.”  We are usually very hard on ourselves and we impose strict measures to keep the promise that we made to ourselves of completing our degree program.

 

Q:  Do you feel that there is a way that you can overcome this obstacle of self-expectation?

 

A:  Yes, one way that I could overcome self-expectation is to start looking beyond completing the doctoral program and start looking forward to achieving a level that is beyond self-actualization . . . as Maslow states it, a “selfless-actualization.”  He suggested that there was a “process that transcended the self in self-actualization characterized by such terms as selfless, devoted, working at a calling, and being-values.

 

A:  Additionally, it may help to make reasonable promises to myself and have reasonable expectations.  Further, I have created a Personal Oasis using the suggestion on SRN’s website.  (http://www.stressrejectersnation.com/?page_id=333)  Albeit, taking the time to take care of self should be incorporated into any doctoral program.

 

Q:  Any other thoughts?

 

A:  The road ahead has many obstacles—frequent evaluation, financial duress, relationships, time management, high-volume workload, and self-expectations—that can lead to high levels of stress.  These obstacles could make a difficult doctoral program even more challenging for the dedicated learner.  However, a well-planned program anticipates such challenges and SRN has been the guiding light that has supported me at each stage.  Finally, my faith, and putting GOD first, have helped me to realize that I am not making this journey alone.  I pray without ceasing to reduce stress and I am committed to using stress reduction techniques.  I may take a few stress breaks to overcome the obstacles; however, “I have a promise to myself to keep . . . and miles to go before I sleep.”

 

SP: Thank you for sharing some invaluable insights. Keep up the great work.

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

 

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Fly Into the Rest of Your Summer

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If you are planning to go on a much needed vacation or enjoy a “staycation”, you are invited to view the rest of your summer as a flight to your most desired vacation spot. Fly into that spot in your mind just as you would if you were taking a flight somewhere.  You have the choice to view the takeoff into your experiences as similar to childhood races with your friends when you laughed and felt free and as fast as the wind. If you have some bumpy experiences, your takeoff into your summer months may be a little breath taking but as you ascend into the flight choose to make your enjoyment happen. Realize that you are leaving all stressors behind. Brace yourself as you continue to ascend. This is going to be your time. As the flight levels off high into and among the clouds you can begin to enjoy the silence, enjoy the beauty of the clouds or your surroundings.

When you level off and float among the clouds, take your personal moments. It’s OK it doesn’t make you selfish. It is a good habit that you can pick up during the vacation and use throughout the year. During each day, take your moments, de-stress and use your moments as you want to just as you would enjoy the sights, wonders and differences of another place away from your home. After you land into your vacation spot take time to enjoy your surroundings, nature’s beauty around you and the beauty and uniqueness of your most treasured relationships.

Energize yourself by allocating time for yourself each day during your vacation or staycation. You can chose to take a flight into personal relaxation every day whether you are on a vacation or staycation. Make sure you get 2-3 Serenity Breaks each day.

ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER!

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

The Stress Rejection Doctor

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Georgia Tech “NBA” Players Part I

 


Photo Credit: Edward Keng

Long before it was chic to work out over the lunch hour or jog to stay in shape to eliminate as much stress as possible, an intrepid group of men at Georgia Tech decided that they wanted to exercise and workout over their lunch hour. Whether the attempt was to manage stress or have fun many healthy, competitive, friendships began about 50 years ago and the activities that sparked those relationships are maintained to this very day on the campus. Recently, John Cerny and Edward Keng shared a brief history on Georgia Tech’s NBA (Noon-time Basketball Association).

John and Edward said that among the early participants were John Cerny, Edward Keng, Allen Ivey, Jim Toler, Jim Cofer, Bud Sears, Allen Ecker, Charlie Pollard, Bob Lowell and Dick Johnson. A few first began by playing paddle ball in Peters Park. When the workout evolved into basketball, at first they had to play one-on-one, three-on-three or four-on-four till others joined in, but they would not be deterred. They played outside on concrete until they found a facility, the Old Naval Armory gym in which to play. They later played in the practice facility next to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum and were thrilled to occasionally play in the coliseum. In the late seventies-early eighties the Student Athletic Complex with its hard rubber floors was a welcome playing site for sore, old aching knees.  Today the NBA plays on the fourth floor of the Campus Recreation Center (CRC), one of the most outstanding recreational facilities in the United States. There are often two or three games being played simultaneously on different courts over the noon hour especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  The variety of recreational activities and programs run in the CRC could hardly have been imagined in the late 60’s. Today students, faculty and staff all benefit from the facility and legacy of noon time basketball.

The benefits and outstanding participants in the noon time de-stressors are very impressive.  The positive and healthy life styles led by the NBA players tell only part of the story about the contributions of these early pioneers. The professional and community leadership contributions tell another part of their stories. Dr. John Burson is a reknown EN&T specialist. He has gone back to Afganistan three times to help out or relieve physicians so that they could come home and spend Christmas with their loved ones. Dr. Daniel Papp is president of Kennesaw State University. Dr. Jerry Thuesen still holds the consecutive varsity basketball free throw record at Stanford University. Jim Reedy directed the Student Athletic Complex and was a really great shooter/player. Tom Akins headed the Georgia Tech Co-op Division. Dr. Bill Osher  was the founding director of the Success Center at Georgia Tech and Dr. Thomas A. Parker was the founding director of OMED and directed the Georgia Tech Counseling Center. Allen Ecker became the Chief Technical Officer at Scientific Atlanta. Dick Johnson headed the Radar Branch of the GT Engineering Experiment Station, now GTRI. Unfortunately, there is not enough space in the article to cite the outstanding accomplishments of all of the noon time players. They are all very well respected men in their professions and communities. The guys reported that they still work out in some form and attribute a very positive and healthy life style to the habits born from the attitude that “working out was essential to their mental and physical health.“ Some of the guys passed away but left a legacy with their NBA buddies. Bud Sears, Fred Cain and Dick Johnson are missed. Dick Johnson’s health conscious attitude made him decide that any meetings he had for classes, etc. took place before 11 am or after 1 pm so that he could get in his beloved basketball game. Professor Brooks played well into his 77th year. He was so respected that all of the guys called him Mr. Brooks. Besides him being strong as an ox, he had a deadly underhand shot from what is called today three point range.  Assistant head basketball coach, Byron Gilbreath often played and helped the guys secure facilities in which to play.

Next month in Part Two: Additional insight from participants and more pictures of the joyous meeting.

THANKS TO THE Georgia Tech NBA Players

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

 

 

 

 

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SELF Plans

After battling the national flu epidemic, a lot of which was stress induced, most of America is ready to spring into a better remainder of 2013. Daylight Savings Time will begin March 10, 2013 at 2 am. Let that be a significant day in your De-Stressation process.

Assess your past year from a stress perspective and activate plans to make this year one in which you have more serene experiences. Were you calm and collected most of the time? Were you nervous and jittery? Did the smallest thing throw you off of your intended plans? Were you on your last nerve with your family, your significant other, and/or on the job? Did the drive home and traffic make you want to become the Hulk and destroy whoever or whatever was causing the traffic to move too slowly or erratically? If any of those conditions affected you, now is the time to begin controlling how you feel and react. You do not have to settle for Default Negative Thoughts about situations you face. You do not have to let Default Emotional Reactions / Response(s)(DERs) rule you and cause more problems. Your stress can accumulate and make you more vulnerable to react uncharacteristically. Also, remember that your stress causes you immediate and long term emotional, psychological and physical problems.

No one is immune to anxieties about things that are seen as threatening. Consequently, we all inadvertently practice getting better at being stressed. We think we are really handling things well until some mishap or physical reaction occurs that can surely be attributed to the accumulation of stress. Most people give up, shrug their shoulders and ask themselves, what can I do about it? Another common reaction is to have a short term memory loss once the stressful situation seemingly passes and go on about our daily activities. That reaction does not solve the short term or long term problems that stress produces.

Make this the year that you activate some Secure Enhancement Life Focus plans. It’s OK to have SELF plans. That protective process is different from being negatively selfish.  Here are some suggestions to put forth in your SELF plans:

1) Assess what is happening in your environment. What and Who are your stressors?

2) Identify Triggers for your anxiety

3) Identify physical, emotional, or vocal indications  (higher pitched words, hollering,      screaming, or crying) that indicate your stress level is elevated

4) Work to analyze and find solutions to the problem(s) that exist. Realistically analyze them and decide if you or other parties are responsible for the problems

5) Be proactive in dealing with the next situation by setting up an action plan to combat the situation

6) Practice, practice, practice your response before you face the next encounter

7) Give yourself credit for taking the action that you take.

Your action plan can be specific to the situation(s) you are encountering but you may want to consider using one or more of the following:

1) Assertion to confront the situation or person

2) An internal dialogue to counter the situation

3) Intra Muscular Tension Control that is learned and practiced

4) A regular exercise program

5) Dietary changes which might include the intake of less caffeine or other stimulants that may increase your impulsivity and effect you negatively in the long run.

Above all else, remember that whatever looks like it is terrible and the worst possible situation or series of events is not the end of the world. The next day, the situation may resolve itself, you may develop a better plan to handle the issues or get help to overcome the issues.

 

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPC

The Stress Rejection Doctor

 

 

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SRN Spotlight on Unsung Heroes in the Fight Against Stress: Dr. Maggie Martin

Director of Student Development

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

Chair Elect, CDA; Current Coordinator of the CRN; Past Chair.

Secretary of RACDS; University System of Georgia

President of GA-AHEAD (includes USG institutions, Private Institutions and Technical Colleges)

 

 

 

 

 

SP:            How long have you been professionally involved in stress reduction?

A:            I saw my first client as a therapist in June 1984 so a few years :)

SP:            Have you held specific titles and responsibilities for stress reduction on your job?

A:            I believe the title, “Counselor/Therapist” alone invites discussion about peoples’ lives.  And people talk about their problems—they seek understanding, resolutions, normalcy, right?  So just the professional title, “Counselor” might suggest an opportunity, an avenue, for stress reduction.  As far as the “responsibilities” the answer is: absolutely.  Whether through one-on-one therapy, educational workshops, as an invited guest classroom lecturer, offering screening sessions or handouts/brochures, as well as referral for medical attention, psychiatric support or other specialized support (e.g., nutritional, Vocational Rehabilitation) working in a college counseling center is very much about helping students find healthy ways to manage stress.  Key word: healthy.  Oh, yes—and helping faculty and staff, as well as parents/family members—deal with stress effectively.  And that key word, again, healthfully!

SP:            Have you developed specific programs, workshops or presentations to address stress for your students/clients?

A:            Yes.  I have been blessed by knowing so many wonderful professionals like Dr. Parker who have shared ideas, programs, handouts, thoughts and consultation with me.  In addition, there is so much literature ‘out there’ in the fields of counseling, medicine, psychology, chiropractic medicine, religion, biology, and so on about stress.  I encourage my students to read all they can (internet can be a great resource!) about stress, anxiety, depression—they can be intertwined.  It seems, unfortunately, common to not have one of these concerns without another.

SP:             Describe the program(s) including the name or title, goals and outcomes.

A:            Of course the typical, “Stress Management” titled programs seems to grab attention.  I purchase the Channing-Bete brochures for the counseling center and the one titled, “Stress Management” is hard to keep in stock!  However, I prefer when giving presentations to have a more indirect approach so I address issues that often bring stress to students’ lives.  For example, I can offer a presentation on relationships (students love that topic) and then address abusive behaviors.   If I presented “Abusive Relationships” I doubt I would have anybody show.  It is baffling how so many students do not know or are aware of the many forms of abuse.  They may not be aware that limiting time with friends and family, name-calling, shoving, yelling, pinching, controlling cell phone/texting use are forms of abuse.  “Dream Interpretation” can be a fun way to use dreams to increase self-understanding about issues that may be smoldering in a student’s psyche, or as a lead in to a discussion about what constitutes healthy sleep.  “Time Management” is a workshop all about reducing stress.  “Handling the Holidays” can be an emotional topic and it is rewarding to help students find ways to equip themselves with healthy ways to face the holidays and semester breaks if home is not healthy for the student.  Some of our Community Assistants present “SPA DAY” where they have different stations/tables set up in a room for students or professional volunteers to give a neck rub, a hand rub, a manicure or pedicure, samples of healthy beverages and snacks, a Swiss ball for simple but great exercises, head phones for relaxation tapes and music, and so on in introducing inexpensive but great ways to incorporate healthy ways of managing stress.  It also helps them connect with other students.

A FOOD and SOCIAL time is really important after every event so students have a chance to mingle with each other.  It is hard to do this after a class presentation but I always hand out the Center brochure that includes my credentials, office location and contact information before my discussion so they can contact me later.

SP:            What are the primary stressors faced by your students/clients you have observed or discovered?

A:            Money problems (especially with the economy now—I have so many students trying to help their parents out financially), relationships (dating, roommates, family), anger, family problems (divorce, health, children), history of incest, psychiatric history, not adhering to medical regimen (e.g., not taking prescribed medication for diagnosed disorders including Bi-Polar/Manic-Depressive, ADD, depression), relationships abuse, time management, unhealthy behaviors (substance abuse, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise, minimal sleep, caffeine over-use), serial monogamy,  obesity, legal issues (e.g., underage possession of alcohol, marijuana possession), acquaintance rape, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, eating disorders, cultural issues, sexual identity/orientation/coming out, denial of having a disability and not using approved accommodations, being placed on academic probation/suspension, test anxiety, low self-esteem, first generation students, fear of failure, fear of success.  That touches the surface.

SP:            What approaches have you used to help your students/clients cope with their stress?

A:            Educate, educate and educate.   Students, typically, at first do not understand why I want them to learn all they can about what they are struggling with and want to eliminate! “Really?  You want me to read about something I hate feeling?”   I encourage them to realize that they more they know about something (stress, anxiety, depression) the more they will understand it. Then the constellations of sensations that go along are not so frightening.  For example, “I now realize that when my hands start shaking and my chest is feeling tight, I am not going to die.  I need to think my calm thoughts that Dr. Martin encouraged me to create and I have been rehearsing, do my deep breathing, sip some water and I will be fine.”  I love teaching students about the “Fight or Flight Theory.”  Some may have learned about it in Introduction to Psychology or Biology but they have not yet learned to apply it to themselves.  It is so cool seeing them learn to reframe the four letter words: exam, test, quiz, into something that they no longer need to have a prehistoric life-or-death response to when they can give themselves positive messages instead!

 

1)    Embrace, embrace and embrace.  Students look at me with ‘this look’ I have found to be predictable (the “Really?” look again) until I explain what I mean but I do have their attention!  I use the ‘sand metaphor’.  I do not know who developed it so cannot give credit to the creator but whoever it is gave a gift!  The metaphor is that I give my student a handful of sand that I want to get back in an hour.  I ask what would happen if the student clenched his/her hands together to hold the sand.  They usually figure out that they would squeeze it/choke it and there would not be any sand left. Then I ask what if the student just sat calmly and held my sand until I came back for it?  They almost always say that they would have my sand for me.  So then we talk about the parts of us that we may not like or want but that, they too, are a part of us and that we need to embrace those parts kindly and gently just as they did the sand.  I use the line, “This, too, is a part of me.  I may not like it, but now I can work with it.”  Repeatedly, I see a look of relief on students’ faces.  It is as though the fight is over.  They learn to ‘hold the sand.’

2)    Listen.  It seems so easy to get ‘caught up’ in life and the ‘rat race’ that we lose touch with our inner voice/the siren/the flag/intuition….whatever we call it.  When a student is referred to me, especially if the student has had an angry outburst on campus or has made unhealthy choices (e.g., arrested for underage possession), I always ask, “You know that voice inside?”  They always answer, “Yes.”  I then ask, “Where was that voice when you made the choice you did that got you in trouble?”  The student forever replies, “I did not listen to it.”  I then say, “You are so blessed to have that voice and somebody cared enough about you to help you develop it.  Your task, now, may be to learn to listen to that voice you were blessed with.  It seems to have healthy answers for you.”  Students seem relieved to find they have a tool so ready for their use (and free at that).  I discuss with them about how low they feel right now but how much a relief it is now to know they never have to feel ‘this way’ again since they now know so much more information, know to listen to that inner voice.

 

3)    Best Friend Talk.  It continually amazes me how so very many of us say things to ourselves that we would never, ever say to a dear friend, much less an acquaintance!  We use abusive words with ourselves such as, “That was so stupid!” or “You are such an idiot!” or “You are so fat!” or “Of course you messed [it] up!” or “You are going to flunk this test!” or
“What a jerk!”  and “You are such a failure.”  I talk to my students about talking to themselves in ways they would talk to their best friend. Period.  No more mean self-talk.  Role playing is helpful here.  Or I may use myself as an example.  “Okay, I have to make a presentation to a class here on campus.  If I tell myself I am going to really mess it up, forget what I am supposed to lecture and discuss, the students are going to laugh at me, start texting their friends, some may get up and leave, what is going to happen?”  The student usually says, “You will really mess up!”  Then I ask what might happen if I tell myself, “I am so excited about talking with this class!  This is a topic I really enjoy and I want them to learn to enjoy it, as well! This is going to be fun!”  They usually respond, “It will go well.”  They get it!  Our self-talk is the loudest talk we will ever hear in my book.  And that is regardless of the voice behind the talk!

 

4)    Little Boy/Little Girl.  When I keep hearing the negative self-messages from a client, I ask what he/she would do if, after leaving our session, he/she saw that a child was standing outside the building alone and crying?  Each student seems to have a sweet way of saying he/she would ask the child what was wrong, try to help the child, provide comfort.  Then I use the Inner Child metaphor where each of us has a Child Within.  I ask what the student is doing with his/her Inner Child and they usually say something along the lines of not paying attention to it. They really do seem to understand what I mean.  They know they are not in touch with their inner being/self/soul/heart.  I further it by suggesting they have put the child in a closet and shut the door.  Instead, what if they embraced the Child and let him or her come out and play?  This is a good way to cycle back to the healthy behaviors and having fun.  I emphasize that fun does not mean expensive.  Fun can be reading a book from the campus or public library for 20 minutes a day (free).  A walk around campus (free).  Sitting by the campus lake (free).  Volunteering for 2 hours on the weekend (free).  Listening to music for 20 minutes (free).  Taking a bubble bath….practice deep breathing….call a Grandparent or Aunt/Uncle you miss and connect by sharing your love, appreciation for what they mean to you and the wonderful life lessons you have learned from each.  Write a poem (free).  Dance alone like crazy and laugh at yourself for 15 minutes (free).  Watch a duck (how can you frown when watching a duck waddle….just image it and you will smile!)  Splurge on an ice cream cone (or fat and sugar free frozen yogurt) as everybody smiles when enjoying and ice cream cone!

SP:            If you have 3-5 suggestions to give to your students/clients on how to reduce or cope with stress, what are those suggestions be?

A:        I love imagery, metaphors…..answered in question above?  I always try to ask, “How is your spiritual life?”  That can mean attending church services of a certain denomination to praying to God to praying to an entity to sitting by a lake or spending time in the woods/forest/nature.  Students always have had an answer, even if it was, “Not where it needs to be.”  Students seems to know what they need and what they need to do to get back to their healthy point in spirituality….whatever that means to each.  It is very personal, usually very emotional and healing. This gives a student a ‘plan’ to follow whether making new connections on campus or with past spiritual rituals/connections.

SP:            What percentage of the student population or clients is adversely effected by stress?

A:             I know the highest percentage statistically can be 100%. To answer your question, 150% :)   Seriously, all students, faculty, staff, administration face stress.  Even our most successful student leaders face issues of time management, meeting expectations, financial issues, juggling responsibilities.  Grounds keepers, police and building custodians…and dining services workers?  How can one ever meet everyone’s demands?  “The tree was cropped too short/too tall; the food was too seasoned/not seasoned enough!  I should not have been given a ticket as I wasn’t speeding that much!”  Everybody faces stress.  It is all about how we deal with it.

One night years ago before everything became so automated, I came home to a utility bill that was about $2000 when it was usually about $160.  To use my student response of, “REALLY?” my response was “REALLY?”  A friend was at my home when I opened my bill and saw that I tossed it aside and concurrently asked, “Aren’t you going to worry about it?”  My response was, “It is 6:00pm.  The utility office closed at 5:00pm and will not open until 8:00am.  There is not anything I can do about it now. I will call them tomorrow at 8:01am but I cannot do anything about it now.  Nope, I am not going to worry about it tonight.”  Mark Twain has some great quotes about stress and not worrying.  That “stress stuff” has been around a long time.  He helped me toss aside my utility bill that night and I had a nice evening.  The next day I found out it was a computer glitch that impacted most of the city’s billing.  Whew!  I did not waste that evening!

SP:            Does the severity of stress seem to be a function of developmental stage of your students/clients?

A:            Stress is stress.  “I just won the lottery!” is a positive event but my body does not know the difference versus “I just failed my Chemistry Test!”  That is where the education comes in.  My body just got battered by lots and lots of hormones from my stress reaction regardless of the event being positive or negative.  I really like Hans Selye’s publications that can be found in stress related material and research.  And there is so much ‘out there’ so we can self-educate and help others!

This is a good, challenging question.  I would love to hear from your readers about this question. How thought provoking!   I mean, being bullied as a Pre-K kid is painful, abusive and stressful. Bullying the 7th grade student because of a disability is painful, abusive and stressful.  Being bullied as a college student who is wanting to transgender is painful, abusive and stressful. Being an elderly person who has adult children who are not kind is painful, abusive and stressful.  The severity of stress is case by case on “The Spectrum of Humans”.  Yet, think about the wicked events we hear about on the news, across our country, and/or internationally.  Stress is stress.  How equipped we are to deal with it is so situational. Some ask for help, some begin self-injury, some end their lives, some develop health issues.  What a good question.  Perhaps the stressors change over our developmental ‘rainbow’ (thank you, Dr. Super!) but how we deal with and interpret it is what matters?

SP:            How can stress be helpful to students or your clients if it can be?

A:            Yes!  A little or a low level of stress may motivate me as a student to plan my schedule so I will be ready for my next test or presentation.

I know that for myself as a student, I used to become overly anxious.  I could not stand that feeling!  So I learned to channel that negative energy into a positive direction:  I learned to plan.  I used that painful stress to become a motivation to make an action plan.  Rather than sitting and becoming a nervous wreck (and I became good at that—remember, “Practice makes perfect!”) I learned to take action.  Step 1; Step 2; Step 3.  I keep a calendar so I do not have to THINK about remembering things.  I just look at the calendar!  I keep lists, whether for shopping, work, house ‘to do’s’ or for future plans I need to make.  As long as it is not compulsive and anal, keeping a calendar can be relaxing since I know that simply “At a Glance” I know what is ahead.  [calendar I use is ‘At a Glance’]

SP:            To what degree have you found that gender, race or socioeconomic status played a significant role in the amount of stress in the lives your students or clients?

A:            International students, different cultural/ethnic backgrounds, lower versus higher socioeconomic status, religiosity, sexual orientation/gender, first generation, “cultural imports” like myself (I am from the Midwest and lived in the North and not the South so have had to find ways to be accepted with my differences in understanding), being an only child who had his/her own bed and bathroom to now sharing with others, athletic versus obese, Gothic versus Preppy, campus leader versus campus non-leader, traditional versus non-traditional aged student, and this list goes on.  The degree is huge.

SP:            Are there any questions or comments you would like to address and would suggest as a part of an effective way of addressing stress?

A:            Yup!  Keep a sense of humor.  Always remember that we can find some silver lining in every dark cloud (who penned that?  It is awesome!)  There is always a life lesson to be learned from every obstacle we face.  And what I find really special?  No matter what horrible burden we face in the future, whatever we endure?  From that experience we will have learned and gained a special radar/flag/inner voice that will then allow us to help somebody else in a way that we would not have been able to before.  And that goes across ALL college majors.  A student can be an agricultural major.  The student will still work with workers, vendors, family and staff.  It is a ‘parallel’ healing.  And what a gift we have to offer from our hurtful and stressful experience.  We get to help somebody else!   So….stress does not have to be all negative.  Stress can offer each of us an opportunity to heal.

Interviewer: Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

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Consumer Holiday Stress

      

        When does it ever end? Unemployed or under employed, under paying jobs, no raises, and the list goes on. Yet the desire to show loved ones and friends the value of your relationships and what they mean to you and the overall good feeling of Christmas increase the pressures to buy gifts and provide things that may put you in debt for months or years to come. In the course of getting information about possible gifts or reimbursements, have you been frustrated by calls to companies and being handed from one representative to another. Do you or a loved one have complicated and stressful travel plans? Consumers encounter numerous stressors in preparation for and during holiday seasons.

        If you are experiencing consumer holiday stress, here are a few questions you must consider: How are you going to de-stress? Are you afraid of being seen as a modern day scrooge? Is it necessary to buy gifts for every single family member? Does your family select names for gift exchanges and put a limit on how much the gift should cost? How do you handle the frustration of shopping and the crowds. Did you get pulled into the hysteria of Thursday night/Black Friday? Did you try and avoid a lot of the chaos by participating in Cyber Monday/Week?

        I hope you answered the questions above with self-empowering responses that lowered your level of stress.

        Do not forget to exercise and control your eating. It is still good to use other relaxation techniques including deep breathing, intra-muscular tension control, meditation, and deliberate slow down periods throughout the day. Control your thoughts so that you are not seduced into unnecessary purchases which can look good and manageable at the time of purchase. Reframe from impulse buying and before you purchase, make a list of all of the gifts you want to buy, the prices of the gifts and how long it will take you to pay for the gifts. It is OK to decide that the overall cost or prices of certain items are too high and if it will take you longer to pay for the items than you like, give yourself permission to temper your purchases. Hopefully, you were able to take advantage of the price reductions during Cyber Monday/Week and have used your wisdom to lessen your consumer stress.

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

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Holiday Angst

Holidays really illuminate the essence of stress because there is good stress and there is bad stress during most holiday periods and especially around Christmas. The joy of giving and receiving gifts, seeing the smiles on the faces of our loved ones and a general congenial attitude throughout the country all create mostly pleasant feelings. Everyone welcomes the good times. However, thoughts of losses including loved ones who are no longer with us, lost relationships or loneliness often elicit feelings of depression.

Many of us have been forced to cope with the loss of jobs, homes and, in the current economy, a way of life that allowed us to afford to give in the spirit of Christmas. Some people are feeling extreme stress to buy gifts and, maybe host large gatherings that they cannot afford at this time. The debt will cause the stress to linger even longer. I urge you to make tough decisions and give in the spirit of love if you can. Give only what you can afford to give or buy gifts that are not as expensive as you have in the past.

Sometimes the gift of attention, visit to a friend, relative or the elderly can help them and you feel the true meaning of the holidays. Try Random Acts of Kindness because they can work wonders. Another way to combat holiday depression and stress is to identify things that are triggers for the negative emotions and eliminate negative self talk that may equate your self-worth with the expense of gifts that you give. Engage in self talk that creates a positive internal dialogue about your choices during the holidays.

As the holiday period approaches, generally the good and bad anxieties begin to emerge. You can make this holiday period one to remember and less stressful by giving what you can truly afford to give, identifying negative triggers and creating a positive internal dialogue that allows you to truly enjoy this holiday period.

Utilize the Quick Tips (QTs) – Stress Reduction from the November 2012 issue of Serenity Pathways. Finally, I recommend the Serenity Prayer as an oldie but a goody.

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

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Quick Tips (QTs) – STRESS REDUCTION

  • Begin your day with a mindful, positive view of things you will accomplish that day
  • Decide if you want or deserve to be stressed about any situation today
  • Take the time to think good thoughts about each meaningful situation that you face
  • Evaluate and change your perspective situations (good, acceptable, really negative) to positive perspectives
  • Look at the pros and cons of your rational alternatives and make good decisions
  • Choose the best option and act on it
  • Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the opportunity to be self-empowered

Happy Thanksgiving and have a prosperous holiday season.

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

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How to Create Less Stress at Holiday Gatherings

Holidays like Thanksgiving are for loving relationships, smiles, laughter and should be a minimal less stress period. However, there can be good and bad stressful experiences at these events. Relationships are often governed by long held experiences, memories, thoughts and beliefs about relatives and friends as well as the things that happen at the event. Beware of old negative experiences leading to Default Emotional Responses (DERs) which lead to Default Behavioral Reactions (DBRs). Here are some tips to help you create less stress during holiday functions:

1)     Be mindful of triggers that activate stressors and avoid or eliminate the triggers

2)     Be mindful of triggers that ignite relationship difficulties and avoid or eliminate the triggers

3)     Create a positive rational dialogue to counter the negative thoughts or situations before the gathering. *

4)     Give yourself the permission and power to use the response(s) you have created

5)     Create as much positive talk as possible about a loved one who may not be present.

6)     Take mini-stress breaks throughout the day or as needed.

7)     Encourage and support the efforts of others to be stress rejecters and tranquility makers.

*Decide on any ALTERNATIVE INTERNAL STATEMENT OR DIALOGUE, etc. you want to use to COMBAT and CHANGE each situation. Write down the new approach, especially when you first begin using it, until you feel comfortable about the progress you have made that enables you to handle the situation. (If you were making a presentation at work, you could use a similar approach. If this is important to you, make the commitment to work for the change.)

  1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE the alternative internal statement or dialogue before you engage the person or situation.
  2. Think of the PERSONAL OR RELATIONSHIP BENEFITS or the way things will be different when you use the different approach(s).
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