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Archive for the ‘Stress and Coping’ Category

Learn to put limitations on your whining. Whining can be acceptable in some situations, but your friends and family don’t want to listen to it forever.
We’re told we’re a nation of whiners. True. But is it good to whine? Does whining have any value?

Yes, some of the time. Suppose you’re overwhelmed at work and then your boss asks you to attend a meeting for him. A little whining to a co-worker may be all you need to dissipate your irritation before you gear up for the meeting.

If you lose a job or find your mate has been having an affair, initially you’ll cry, squeal and yelp. It hurts! As the weeks go by, you’ll probably settle into a steady whine. Eventually you’ll move to an on-again, off-again whine.

Whining phrases include: “I can’t believe he did this to me.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I can’t stand it.” “People are stupid.” “Doesn’t anyone give a darn?” “Nobody’s trustworthy.” “I could lie down and die and nobody would notice.” “Life’s crummy.” “I’m so tired of this whole thing.”

Note that most of these phrases place the whiner in a victim position. The whiner feels at that moment in time that he has little control over his life and what other people are doing.

If you have a mate or friend who’s a whiner, here are some tips. Start by listening. Listen for 5 minutes and make a few sympathetic comments such as, “That’s awful…I can see why you’re upset…It’s frustrating.”

After 10 minutes, you might make a suggestion as to what the person could do differently. Or ask if there is anything you can do. If you get nowhere, try switching to another topic. For example, to your friend you might say, “Well, how are your other children doing?” Or, “How do other people in your department cope?” To your mate you might suggest, “Let’s have a nice dinner in spite of….” Or, “Let’s have a nice evening. Why don’t we start by going for a walk.”

How much whining should you allow yourself? It depends on the situation. With a major problem such as a layoff or a cheating spouse, feel free to whine an hour a day. But do it in your head. If you’re whining aloud to a family member or friend, a half-hour goes a long way. If the problem is ongoing, for example, you have a difficult boss or difficult child, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of whining. After 10 minutes, make yourself change the focus of the conversation. Ask the other person what’s going on in her life. What happened with her today?

Another suggestion: Get up and do something physical. Sweeping a floor, taking out the trash, or sorting mail will change your focus of attention.

Everyone who whines, and most of us do from time to time, should keep track. If your whining is on the increase, perhaps there is something you need to change in your life. Also, play a game with yourself. Decide that Wednesdays and Saturdays are no whine days.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Feel tired, dragged out, listless? You may not be suffering from iron deficiency anemia, but from the psychological maladies “reachback” and “afterburn,” two words used by Eric Berne to describe a phenomenon that plagues many an American.

Suppose you’re planning a barbecue for this Sunday. As a minimum, you’ll need to decide whom to invite and what to serve. You’ll also go to the grocery, and more than likely you’ll spend time straightening up the house. These are normal preparations on which you will expend energy.

If, however, you have to make three trips to the store instead of one, and you wind up getting to bed later than usual because of extra cleaning, and one of the guests calls you at the office to find out what time he is expected, the barbecue starts taking more of your time and energy than you bargained for. When this happens, you experience reachback. The barbecue reaches back, so to speak, from the future to the present, and it interferes with your life today.

If you have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Friday because of a persistent cough, you’ll most likely think about your appointment every time you cough. Setting the appointment initially was a normal expenditure of energy. Thinking about it every time you cough or every time you hear someone else cough causes you to neglect, to some degree, what’s happening in the present. The future is reaching back and affecting your thinking.

I know a woman who often hesitated to make a commitment to give a talk, because as soon as she agreed, she started to lie awake at night, first worrying about what she would talk about and then worrying about how her topic would go over with the audience. It didn’t matter how well she knew her subject or that she had given the talk several times previously, she always experienced a considerable amount of reachback. The more advanced notice she had, the more reachback she experienced. Finally she made the decision that she would only accept talks that were a month away. Anything further away caused her to experience too much reachback.

After an event has passed, most people assimilate the event or forget it after a week or two. If, however, a person continues to be troubled by something two or three weeks after it happens, afterburn is occurring.

If someone at the barbecue says something that hurts your feelings and you can’t stop thinking about it, you are experiencing afterburn. If one of your guests trips and breaks a leg, you’ll experience considerable afterburn. You’ll have to visit her in the hospital and talk to your insurance agent. And if your guest decides to sue you, the barbecue will be giving you afterburn a long time.

Certain events in life cause almost simultaneous reachback and afterburn.

If the doctor tells Paul that he has to have bypass surgery, Paul will experience reachback as he thinks about the upcoming operation. He also will experience afterburn as he thinks about what the doctor said in the office.

Loss of a job, a financial reversal, or a poor job evaluation all cause an overlap of afterburn and reachback as a person gets caught thinking about what has just happened to him and what will happen in the future.

When someone experiences too much reachback and afterburn, or worse yet, if he finds himself caught in a kind of cross fire between the two, he will feel tense and apprehensive, and experience some difficulty in his everyday life. The overall feeling is that of being overworked.

It is important, then, not to schedule one event after another, as you need some time to deal with the unexpected, and you also need time to assimilate the incident. Also, it is advisable to get eight hours of sleep when experiencing reachback and afterburn, because dreaming is the natural mechanism for assimilation.

There will always be some reachback and afterburn in your life. It goes with living. The goal is to control it.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Let’s draw a trouble tree. Take out a piece of paper and draw a tree with three branches.

Put your name on one of the branches.

Put two other peoples’ names on the other two branches. You might choose one of your children, a close friend, a neighbor, or a relative.

Now write your troubles on one branch and the other peoples’ troubles on their branches.

For example, on Suzanne’s branch I would hang the following miseries:

  • Son has learning difficulties
  • Oldest daughter has weight problem
  • Husband left for another woman
  • Basement floods periodically
  • New car continues to break down.

Even people who seem to lead a charmed life like Oprah have problems.
Her misfortunes include:

  • born to a single teenage mother in poverty
  • was sexually abused
  • lost a son
  • fired from a reporting job
  • struggles with her weight

Every person experiences troubles in life. Some people seem to experience more than their share of miseries. Others seem to be blessed and appear to have fewer troubles throughout their life. But no one escapes physical and emotional pain.

The trouble tree can help you put your problems in perspective.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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The other day, an editor called me and said, “Doris, I feel crazy. I have so much to do, and I’m never going to get it all done.”

Clearly, this man wasn’t going crazy; but after listening to his schedule with all the deadlines that he had to meet, I could understand why he felt so anxious. It sounded as though he had about 200 hours of work and only about 130 hours left in which to complete the work.

After listening to him list in detail everything he had to do, I asked if he wanted any suggestions, or if I could do anything for him.

He said that just talking helped; and in the end he knew he would get it all done, or at least get done what was absolutely necessary.

So often I hear the same lament in therapy. The person feels that he has too much to do and that he doesn’t have enough time to do it all. His life is disorganized; and if something doesn’t give, he’s going to die of a heart attack.

Usually when someone starts feeling overwhelmed, and most everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally, all the person needs is a good listening ear. In the telling of his tasks, he gets to dissipate some of his anxious feelings. And sometimes in the telling he is able to figure out what absolutely needs to be done versus what he would like to get done.

So when your friend or mate or child tells you how overwhelmed he or she is feeling, give the person an ear. By re­viewing aloud what they have to do, people start to feel more organized because they are sorting through and listing their chores. They feel more in control as they see what they must finish versus what they can put on hold for another week or two.

Rarely do over-extended people need suggestions, but almost always they need someone who will listen.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”.  Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Sometimes I’ll ask a couple I’m seeing in therapy to do the following exercise.

  1. The husband and wife stand about six feet apart.
  2. The husband walks slowly toward his wife until he reaches a point where he no longer feels comfortable. Some men stop about three feet from their wives. Others stop at 30 inches and still others at 27.
  3. The wife now moves toward her husband or steps back from him, depending on how much space she feels she needs between the two of them.

The purpose of the exercise is to help a couple understand that each has an invisible boundary line. If the husband moves into the wife’s space, she’ll immediately step back to reestablish her boundary. Everyone has a different physical comfort level.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon to observe in yourself as well as others. Walk up to anyone and generally you’ll see the person step back from you or move toward you. If the person steps back, you may move closer. If the person steps forward, you may move back. Usually the two of you will move around until you establish a comfortable space between you.

Just as people have invisible physical boundaries, they also have unspoken psychological ones. When these are crossed, there is discomfort and sometimes even an argument.

One psychological boundary people have is their tolerance for talking. Some people like to talk. Others like quiet.

If a wife likes to talk and her husband likes quiet, her talking may create a sense of uneasiness in him. His psychological space is being invaded. He may address his discomfort by walking out of the room or tuning out.

The wife, on the other hand, may feel anxious when her mate doesn’t talk. One might say her psychological space has been invaded by his silence. She may address her uneasiness by picking a fight to get the verbal energy flowing.

Household noises often cross people’s psychological boundaries. One spouse may like the TV volume higher than the other. When the volume is up, one person feels intruded upon, but when it’s down, the other is uncomfortable.

One couple has trouble when the husband watches sporting events, particularly football. His wife becomes anxious and distressed. The continual talking of the announcer and the roar of the crowd impinge so much on her psychological boundary that she feels a need to run away and leave the house.

Another psychological boundary involves how much information spouses believe they should share with others about their relationship. The husband may see no problem with telling his best friend that they’re having financial difficulties. But the wife may think that discussing their problems with others is a betrayal of the relationship.

A couple may have different psychological boundaries when it comes to the number of things they like to have around the house. Some people feel most comfortable with many collectibles sitting around. Others want absolutely clean surfaces and a lot of knick-knacks create a sense of discomfort.

Think of yourself and your mate. How far apart are your psychological boundaries for talking? Noise level? Sharing information with others? Items around the house?

Conflict frequently results when couples fail to respect each other’s psychological boundaries. Understanding your boundaries as well as your mate’s will make you more tolerant and reduce stress between the two of you.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”.
Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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I want to know how can I control my temperament/anger, and increase my patience with my 3 year old son. I am out of energy, struggling with my weight/shape, time management and level of responsibility at work. I feel like a zombie.

Three year olds can be a handful and everyone seems to be overwhelmed today. Regarding your anger and weight, try this affirmation, “I choose not to be angry or overeat, I choose to be in control.”

Why this particular affirmation? Because it addresses both of your issues, anger and weight and the mere repetition of the affirmation will help you feel more calm. Say it several thousands times a day (no joking!).

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Taking this quiz on perfectionism will help you determine if you’re a perfectionist.

Do you fear making mistakes more than those around you do?
When you do make a mistake, do you overreact with anger, defensiveness and self-criticism?
Do you remember critical remarks more than you remember praise?
Do you operate from a belief system that says there is a right way to do everything, including folding socks, loading the dishwasher, writing a paper, reading a book?
Do you have difficulty relaxing because there is always something more to be done?
Do you drive yourself with such statements as “you should do this”and “you ought to do that”?
Do you avoid starting a job because your standards are so high that you don’t have time to complete it?

If you answered yes to five of these questions, more than likely you are trying to be too much of a perfectionist.

It’s fine to want to do your best and even to excel in certain areas, but to continually measure your self-worth by how much you get done and how well you do it can be self-destructive. Not only are you a more difficult person to live with (you secretly have the same high standards for everyone), but you are more likely to suffer from depression, performance anxiety and anxiety in social situations.

One thing you might do is observe how others who are not perfectionists live. You don’t have to pick someone whom you view as a slob. Choose a person who seems to be more middle-of-the-road. Someone, for example, who takes pride in her work but whose desk is never in good order.

Once you’ve picked out your less-perfectionistic brother or sister, find one thing the person does that you admire. If she can leave her desk with things still to do, allow yourself the same privilege. And see it as a privilege, not as a weakness.

Another thing you might do is to adopt a favorite phrase that you can chant in your head while taking a shower or driving your car. You can say something like, “I count more than my accomplishments” or “I’m a good person just for being.”

One fellow was able to give up some of his compulsive drive for perfectionism when I explained that if he were perfect, no one could possibly add anything to his life. His need to be perfect was actually a way of keeping people at a distance.

Having high standards and pursuing excellence is a fine goal, and it does give people a great deal of satisfaction and joy when they do well. But having too high of standards can be self-defeating.

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