Here is a situation posed by one of our guests. To respond just
click the feedback form or e-mail below and send it in. We will
print your response.
I wanted to comment on something very significant that was
reported in the media on Good Morning America. They showed a former
Ku Klux Klan apologizing to a former Freedom Rider with Martin Luther
King 40 yrs ago. The former Klan's man said that someone asked him
if he died today where he would go, he replied: to hell. That question
started him on a journey to apologize publicly to as many people
as possible that he hurt 40 years ago as a Klan's man. He said that
he was wrong. He also said that he did not vote for Obama but he
is happy to see him as the Commander in Chief. The Klan's man and
the former freedom rider hugged each other and the freedom rider
told the former Klan's man that he forgave him. The story caught
my attention because I believe that in the midst of this recession
and all the pain in the world, God is touching human kind in a way
that I have not seen in my lifetime. To me, that was the ultimate
of forgiveness. It calls all of us to a self examination as to where
we are in our walk with God. Forgiveness is a good place to start
in order for healing to take place in our own personal lives and
in our nation. Please comment.
Are you hurting because you have hurt someone or because someone
or an institution has hurt you? Share with our guests. We will do
everything to protect your privacy. Do not bear the burden all by
yourself. Let us hear from you today.
Fill out the form below and share your experience with us....
MANAGING STRESS IN A TIME OF CRISIS - second Installment (go
to archives for first installment)
As we noted in our first installment every living organism comes
under some form of stress especially when there is danger in its
environment. So the question is not whether we will experience stress
but how will we cope when placed under severe stress. What coping
mechanisms do we have to bring to bear on the presenting situation
that is causing the stress.
Whatever your coping mechanisms, I believe the following suggestions
can help us to get that measure of control in managing stress.
Do not let anybody place on you their own agendas of anxiety.
I have seen that a great deal of the stress people go through
has to do with the extent to which they take other people's troubles
into their own lives. There are some people who seem to be in a
perpetual crisis and they will invite people into their lives so
they can dump on them their own pains and disappointments. The invitation
is often subtle and if we are not careful we can be easily sucked
in by them. Before we know it we can be caught up in their chaotic
and crazy world.
We have to be careful how much we are prepared to bear other people's
burdens or the extent to which we are going to allow our lives to
be driven by the anxiety of others. We all want to help at some
point but there are just some situations that cannot be helped however
generous we may think we are. Be careful of the superman myth. The
graveyards of our world are littered with the bodies of those who
lived with the belief that they could right every wrong in the world.
Acknowledge that there is a limit to which you can help people in
their own situations. Know that oftentimes their problems are beyond
your own competencies to deal with, then practice drawing lines
and enforcing them.
Know how and when to say "no." This is a big one that I was
slow in learning myself. The problem to say no often arises out
of a context to please, to let people think well of you. Many of
you would rather work yourselves to a frazzle to show that you care
when you know deep down that you do not have the time or the energy
to do the things you promise. This can cause further frustration
and stress and may hurt your integrity as a reliable person. The
sad thing is that sometimes your best efforts are not even seen
or rewarded by those whose attention you seek.
Experience has taught me that you should be very careful of people
who tell you that they have a lot of time to do a myriad of things.
The truth often is that they have not mastered the art of time management.
They have a lot of time because they are not productively engaged.
Conversely, the person who seems to have little time tends to get
the work done. They are able to prioritize and use their time wisely.
They are busy persons but they achieve much because they have learned
the art of time management. They know that time cannot be found,
because it is never lost. They know that how they manage time is
essential in keeping stress out of their lives.
It is this latter type of person that I feel comfortable working
with because they will not take you for a ride. I know a lady who
once promised all the resources needed for a fund-raising dinner
only to disappear when the time came for her to account for these
items. She knew she did not have the resources in the first place
and only had to say no when asked. But, she is the kind of person
who does not like to hurt anybody's feelings, even if hurting her
own integrity in the process.
This point can also be made for those who feel that their sense
of importance is enhanced by serving on every available committee
or organization. They cannot say "no" because they want
people to think well of them, to pat them on the back and to let
them feel indispensable. People often commend you not because they
want to but because they want to further exploit your labor.
The older I get, the more I find myself scaling back on the commitments
that I give to serve on organizations. The truth is that you can
stretch yourself so thinly, you are no good to any of them. I choose
the ones that I can best give my talents to and once the choice
is made my "no" to other groups from there on becomes
adamant and almost cast in concrete. This is particularly so when
you have family commitments. Major in the things you are gifted
in and pursue them relentlessly. It is not easy to say no but the
more you practice it the more you become accustomed to it.
Be careful of the kind of persons you allow into your life.
I got this one from a movie I watched in which one of the characters
chided another for being the kind of person who would drink a gallon
of gas and then urinate on his camp fire. You have to be careful
of the kind of persons you allow into your life, whether as business
partners or as an intimate friends. Do they share your core values
and your fundamental beliefs concerning life? Be assured that if
they do not there is going to come a point where your values will
clash and you will have one big bonfire in your life to extinguish.
This is more than just having a healthy skepticism. It is ensuring
that you do not leave yourself so open to the predation of other
persons that they mess up your life and ruin your day. You do not
need the stress that they may introduce into your life and the personal
failures that may result. Be careful.
It is not every battle that is worth fighting. Select the ones
you can win and go for them. There is perhaps no greater energy-depleting
activity than to fight battles that you cannot win. There are just
some issues that you have to confront, but there are others you
can walk away from and they will not hurt your life. This is particularly
true of issues over which you have control.
I have known people who have used up the best years of their lives
in internecine war, especially with members of their own household.
The issue is often about land or some form of inheritance. Nobody
wins in this kind of conflict. At the end of the day families are
destroyed and reputations ruined. In the most extreme circumstances
people are likely to be severely hurt physically, if not killed,
as has happened in some instances.
This is not to say that you must not deal resolutely with the challenges
that face you, but to minimize stressful situations, it would be
wise to select your battles as far as you have control over them.
Those that you do not have any direct control over have to be handled
with maturity. Practice the art of compromise. There are times when
you are clearly in the wrong and the wise thing to do may be to
swallow some pride and see how you can best work out the issue with
your antagonist before things escalate into the stratosphere. This
is not easy but this is what maturity demands.
One other thing: do not fight your perceived enemy with his or her
weapons. If you are not good at throwing stones do not come up against
a person who is skilled at doing so. You may end up being blinded.
Try another tactic or strategy knowing that you cannot always have
your way. Be wise to back away if a strategy is not working. One
of the best methods that I have found is to be respectful of my
opponent. Not to do so is to take him for granted and the worst
thing you could ever do is to take your adversary for granted. To
do so is to become self-absorbed in your own sense of invincibility,
which is where the stress mounts, failure sets in, and you begin
to lose the fight.
Challenge self-defeating attitudes and beliefs. Don't support
the labels that others make of you. One of the greatest sources
of stress in people's lives is accommodating self-defeating thoughts
and attitudes. We often accept the labels that people place on us.
We accept their judgments as given and buy into their assessments
of our worth. We become easily deflated by what people think or
say about us. We are easily put down and driven into small corners
as we allow others to define for us the boundaries of our own operation.
If we have boundaries, they are at best insecure and porous. Those
who would seek to do harm easily invade them. When invaded our privacy
is violated and our sense of well-being shattered because we are
not strong enough to tell people when they have crossed a line.
Just like advice given, people also have a tendency to judge us
within the context of their own limitations. Remember, that some
people are severely limited. A person who is a persistent failure
is not the kind of person who can help any of us to face our future
Yet, we need to develop self-confidence to combat the self-defeating
thoughts that lead to stress, and ultimately, failure. Barbra Streisand,
who is today far from being a failure, recounted her own craving
for approval from her step dad and her mom. She was told consistently
that she was too skinny and would not amount to anything much. She
struggled with this self-negation all her life and sought to prove
that she could indeed amount to somebody. She came to realize that
if nobody thought highly of her, she had better start thinking highly
of herself and of her abilities to become great. Look at what she
has become today: a multi-millionaire and one of the world's greatest
singers, actresses and social activists. This is a far cry from
when she was just a child.
The desire to absorb self-defeating thoughts and buy into the negative
descriptions that people make of us is in my view one of the principal
reasons why many people subject themselves to cosmetic surgery to
look good. The "look good" industry is a multi-billion
dollar industry today. It is an industry spawned by self loathing
to an important degree, but it is also rooted in the fact that many
people are not comfortable in their own skin and give too much validity
to what people have to say of them. Those who criticize us and label
us are often struggling themselves to come to terms with who they
are. We should never allow people to make us victims of their own
misshapen view of life, or put us into a cubby hole of their own
insecurities. That from which they should yearn to be released themselves
is that into which they would cause us to be further imprisoned.
We do well not buy into it. We enjoy life so much more when we develop
the freedom to celebrate the beauty that lies within.
I often tell people that it is not the beauty of the dress that
matters but the beauty of the person in the dress. I have known
people who dress beautifully and yet when you get to know them I
have seen a dark, evil side that you never knew existed. I get to
find out that they are struggling with their own demons, with their
own pains and discomforts. Dressing well is a way of subduing the
hurt that they feel inside.
Learn to deal creatively with criticism. People put themselves
under stress by the ways in which they react to criticisms, especially
unjust criticism. However much we try we will never escape criticism.
This is one truth. Another truth is that I am yet to meet a person
who likes to be criticized. Even if he or she pretends to like it,
the truth is that deep inside the person is smarting and is quite
good at masking his or her own feelings.
Yet criticisms are important for our own growth and for the growth
of society, in general. No one viewpoint can be viable. The way
an organization grows rests ultimately on the interplay of ideas
and the use of those ideas that can best advance the prospects of
This is also true with regard to our own personal lives. We do not
live in isolation from other people. What they say of us, and more
importantly to us can be very beneficial in helping us to assess
our own progress in life. Positive criticism is beneficial to us.
It must be admitted that we may not readily see a criticism as positive,
and we often lose the beneficial aspects to be reaped from it.
Negative criticism that is intended to destroy have no merit. It
tears down rather than builds up. It subtracts from life rather
than adds to it. One of the things that I have noticed in life is
that people are most likely to gloat over our demise than praise
us for our successes. It seems that the natural inclination in many
people is to see the worst in others rather than their best; to
take delight from their weaknesses instead of celebrating and praising
their strengths. They will criticize especially if they have failed
in achieving what they see other people achieve. I believe it was
George Bernard Shaw who said that the greatest art critics are those
who have failed at art itself and that dramatic art critics never
leave any turn "unstoned."
People who suffer from weak coping mechanisms are likely to buckle
under the weight of these kinds of criticisms. They can be the greatest
stressors in a person's life. It is true that a positive criticism
may be interpreted as negative given the circumstance in which it
is given, but by and large negative criticism is easily seen for
what it is. It is the kind that I am concerned with in this section.
The truth is that short of slander or libel you cannot stop people
from saying or writing what they wish about you. This is particularly
true if you are constantly in the public glare. It is interesting
how politicians become incensed at what they perceive to be negative
criticism and how elated they are when people speak well of them.
Perhaps the only way you can escape criticism is to lock yourself
into your closet and not ever let the glare of the sun reach you.
Even then, there are those who will criticize your social isolation
and your lack of interest in people. As we all know you do not have
to do anything to be criticized.
The key to combating negative criticisms is to develop a strong
and healthy affirmation of self regardless of what people may think,
say or write about you. This is not easy especially if there are
other factors in your life fighting against self-affirmation such
as self-hatred, lack of self-esteem or other psychological factors
that need to be addressed.
But a healthy self-affirmation will help you to sift through the
criticisms with a critical eye, absorbing and putting to good use
that which is helpful and discarding what is just fluff and unworkable.
A lot of what you are likely to hear is just that, fluff. President
Lincoln who was severely criticized for his attempts to emancipate
the slaves and hold the union together, gave the sage advice to
his detractors that if they were not willing to change something
they have no right to criticize it. All critics would be mindful
of the dictum from Mark Twain that it is better to keep your mouth
shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. The exercise industry has
become a multi-billion dollar industry today because the need to
exercise has become a powerful factor in health management. Its
relationship to managing stress has been well documented and substantiated.
It is sufficient to point out that when you exercise you should
do so wisely. Also, you can relieve stress through exercise by using
relatively inexpensive methods (such as taking a brisk half hour
walk) rather than indulging the expensive hype that comes from the
aerobic industry. It is hardly worth the effort if you have to go
through a great deal of stress to pay for an exercise regime. The
indebtedness that some people incur in doing this is not worthwhile
but is a larger stress factor in itself. The key to exercise in
stress management is consistency. Essential to consistency is self-discipline,
and self-discipline is what many people do not have.
Allied to an effective exercise regime, however small or limited,
is proper nutrition. Again, we do not have to go overboard to develop
optimal health. We need to be very skeptical about a number of the
fad diets that are being advertised all over the place. There is
no magical formula to maintaining good health and here again self-discipline
is of the utmost importance.
Obesity is a strong stressor, and no one can seek to lose weight
through exercise while at the same time paying little attention
to what goes into their mouth. Since exercise is not done only to
lose weight, thin people who are also faced with stress should realize
the need for exercise as a tool of proper stress management. In
the end, it comes down to personal choice, and the more practical
and realistic the choices the greater the chances of success.
Pray and meditate.If you are a person with religious faith,
prayer and meditation are important sources of stress reduction.
One of the reasons that the twelve step program in recovery from
alcoholism is so effective is that by the twelfth step, the level
of stress that is often the reason for alcoholic addiction in the
first place, is considerably reduced. As you reach into a higher
power through prayer and meditation you become relaxed and your
stress level is reduced. The same is true of fasting and other spiritual
disciplines that lead to relaxation.
You do not need to be a religious person to be a spiritual person.
Spirituality is a way of reaching into your inner self and identifying
powerful resources that you did not know you possessed. Religion
and a sense of God can enhance your spiritual quest, but is not
itself the sine qua non of the effective spiritual life. Whatever
your conception of God, prayer lifts you beyond the immediate problems
that you face and is effective in bringing temporary relief. Prayer
fails, however, if the intention is to dump your problem into the
lap of the higher power with the belief that your woes are now ended.
There are various forms of meditation that people find effective.
Eastern yoga techniques have proven themselves effective for a growing
number of people in the West. Buddhist meditation practices are
particularly attractive. These techniques need not be confused with
narrow religious sentiments as to their correctness or validity.
Meditation is not necessarily a matter of faith, but many people
have found that they derive greater strength from them when they
are done in a faith context. Whatever form one adopts, it is good
to begin with a brief breathing exercise. This is important in lessening
anxiety and focusing the mind more precisely on the meditation.