Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

In reorganizing my communication files tonight, bulging from years of researching and presenting Get Along programs, I came upon a button that reads, “I’m not bossy. I just have better ideas.” Know anyone who wears this invisible message and then complains of lack of cooperation? Indeed, it’s a big communication crusher when somebody tunes out or invalidates our opinions.

People need to feel they’re being heard and their opinions honored. When our ideas are discredited, it often crushes feelings of capability, makes us angry and creates bad connections. Criticizing or negating ideas can be deadly because it violates our universal need for respect. Think in terms of honoring both egos and ideas. For instance, when someone says, “That’s a really dumb idea!” it gets very personal because their ideas are being discounted and that stirs up a range of responses from anger to embarrassment. Keeping face keeps productive communication flowing. Providing a reason for your perspective instead of any inflammatory remarks allows others to have a better idea where you’re coming from. A face-saving alternative that avoids personal attacks would be,“That idea would cost an extra $50,000 which isn’t in our budget.” This focuses the issue on dollars, not egos.

Resistance sets up polarities—the more you resist, the more others push back and hold firm in their positions. Likewise, the greater the acceptance you express, the more flexibility they will feel, since you’ve honored their need to be heard and respected. You don’t have to like their ideas, you just need to hear and respect their thoughts.

Some responses instantly evoke antagonism, contempt, or animosity, all putting respect in jeopardy:

ž  “Do you really know what you’re saying?”

ž  “You’ve got to be kidding!”

ž  “Oh no, that would never work!”

ž  “Do you know what a stupid idea that would be?”

ž  “You can’t really want that!”

ž  “You can’t be serious!”

ž  “You’re crazy! You want what?”

ž  “Don’t be crazy … ridiculous … stupid … !”

ž  “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

While you may be tempted at times to fling those phrases when others might deserve them, that won’t get what you likely want–less stress, teamwork, greater harmony, and cooperation. Providing an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas creates a safe environment to explore creative solutions, build respect and cooperation.


This morning I received one of those friendship emails, how the bond of friendship sustains us through life’s twists and turns, celebrations and challenges of life, and passed it on to those who have done exactly that. Then, an hour later, I got a call from a dear long-time friend, cancelling her birthday celebration tomorrow, having to deal with the crazymaking throes of her mother’s dementia living hours away. A disappointment because we don’t get to see one another often enough, but more importantly she needs a big dose of R & R because her stress level is tipping the scales in the danger zone between her mom’s care issues, son’s job search and work overload.

Times like this call for more than a Facebook update status. What undoubtedly would help in boosting sagging spirits is a”cappucino connection,” that utterly delicious blending of friends coming together to share a slice of time (and maybe something chocolate to take away some of the stress and heartache)—in a bottomless cup of comfort that lingers long after the last drop. Read the rest of this entry »

Many of us in the Washington DC metro area are still without power, days after the ferocity of Friday’s storm put millions of us in the dark. It perfectly coincided with record-breaking heat. No power + record heat = long days of misery and nights without any flickers of light. This is a ripe opportunity for dealing with “what is”, when unexpected events slam into your life requiring adaptability and some serious attitude adjusting.

Take away our electricity and our lives are instantly changed–far beyond the creature comforts of staying cool when it’s sizzling outside, keeping refrigerated  foods fresh or out of the dark when light is desired. Every time I forget what I don’t have and flick a switch out of habit, it’s a gentle reminder of gratitude for the things taken so much for granted. Living in a plugged in, wired up world of convenience, instant accessibility, work from anywhere, efficiency and countless other ways, what a lesson in adapability and attitude adjustment when it all goes kaput! Read the rest of this entry »

caregivers, AlzheimersChances are, you know someone or quite likely many now, who have been stricken with the debilitating and life-changing impact of dementia. It produces a wide range of stresses and strains upon their caregivers, often family members unprepared for the the anguish it produces.

The disease is escalating, claiming a new victim every 68 seconds. Until you experience a loved one whose brain no longer works the same affecting memory, personality, grooming, independence, and exhibiting behaviors that are so unlike your loved one, it’s hard to imagine the countless ways the quality of life diminishes for them and the toll of the stresses and strains upon the caregiver.

A few startling statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association 2012 Facts and Figures report:

  • One in eight Americans age 65+ has Alzheimer’s.
  • By age 85, nearly half will have the disease.
  • Today, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and over 15 million family members and friends provide their unpaid care.
  • By 2050, as many as 16 million will have the disease and the number of unpaid family caregivers will soar to 45 million.

I have many friends who are currently in the throes of caring for parents or spouses with dementia, and dealing with the drains and stresses from all of its challenges. I know it well, too.  Years ago, I was the caregiver for both my mother and husband whose brains were both ravaged by deterioration. It’s a constant battle of facing a continuing series of unexpected events that often require you to handle ultimately alone, and even with a support network, the extra burden become your responsibility.

Through caregiving, you’re provided daily lessons of patience, compassion, and acceptance, along with coping with the potential for sheer exhaustion. Most importantly, your own reservoir of self-care must be replenished or you’re at risk of developing burn-out or illness and that has a domino effect, and vital that you support your own well-being. Fortunately, the Alzheimer’s Assn. has launched a social networking community, ALZConnected, for anyone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. It provides a safe place for people to connect with others in similar situations to communicate, pose questions and offer solutions to dementia-related challenges, and create public and private groups organized around a dedicated topic.

If you are facing this challenge, get support and join the conversation at

Stress Got You Down?

Posted on January 12, 2012 in [Attitude, Health and Wellness, Stress]

Got stress? Feeling frazzled? Chances are, you’ve got plenty of reasons. Stress quickly descends upon us when life comes at us fast or grinds away and wear us down from heavy loads, especially without receiving much respite.

Unexpected situations that assault our sensibilities is one form, as my daughter experienced last Saturday while celebrating her birthday with friends upon discovering that her new purse, wallet and jacket had been stolen.  Undoubtedly, at the moment of discovery, the stress response kicked in with the realization of what it all meant and everything she now had to do–reporting stolen credit cards, thinking about all the scheduled credit card payments that would have to be updated, changing locks, “doing time” at the DMV to get another license, replacing keys and the countless items stashed away in a purse.

Then this morning, I received news that a friend’s car had been broken into for the seventh time in less than a year, and two days back-to-back!  For sure criminal assaults take their tolls in many ways, robbing us of our stuff, not to mention our serenity, but more commonly, we’re increasingly assaulted with feelings of too many responsibilities, competing priorities, unexpected events, interrupted plans, or any number of self-imposed expectations that breed chronic stress, all with the potential for creating a  noticeable toll upon our health. Read the rest of this entry »

“Will life ever be the same for you?” the reporter asked a Joplin resident on this morning’s newscast following the flattening of a city from a Midwestern monster tornado. What a preposterous question! How could life ever be the same when an entire community is physically decimated with few remnants, if any, of familiarity?  Residents will begin again, rebuilding a new life that could never fully resemble the old. Experiencing such utter destruction shakes up everything, usually  including our priorities, and that changes how a new life is reassembled.

As a metaphor, a storm that twists and tears your life apart as you once knew it, can never be reassembled in the same way.  There’s a natural desire to hang on to the pieces. Just as they’re doing now in Joplin, people sifting through the rubble, to find remnants from the past, of something tangible, representing life before the storm.

When life twists us in new directions–whether through natural disasters or changes in health, relationships, finances, employment and other events, we’re given an opportunity to examine how to re-engineer from the perspective of “what is.”  This means bracing for the arduous task of starting over along with an attitude of acceptance that our life for awhile and perhaps a very long time, will be chaotic, far from the comfort zone of the past.  There’s much to overcome including our own resistance–that’s required for firing up a spirit of resilience to meet all the challenges, but ultimately, that is what’s needed.

Tess Gallagher reminds us, “The past is not only that which happened but also that which could have happened but did not.” So we have to embrace the new reality and not rail against what we have to do to put life back together, if it hadn’t happened. It did. Looking back and wishing your present wasn’t what it is, does nothing to support needed next steps. Moving forward is where you need to focus your energy along with remembering to have patience through the process, often reminding yourself regularly to be patient especially when it’s hard, because it is. Building a new life takes time, an endurance run for the heart.

Taking time to reflect how you want to experience your present as well as how you want your future to look like, is a valuable stress-reducer. That way you’re consciously creating your attitude which is within your control–of setting your intentions, a powerful and productive use of your energy. It’s scary being in uncharted territory, not knowing what’s next, and lots of “what if’s” that rise up  adding to your angst.  Yet,  when you take command by committing to how you will maneuver through all the changes, things fall into place rather than apart.

When my life was in full-blown chaos from the unexpected journey taken in 2004, I remember wailing, “I don’t like my life much right now!” My world had shaken apart, and found myself spinning in so many directions–stressed, confused, with fear thoughts swirling through my head. Read the rest of this entry »

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