Friday, July 29, 2011

Is it really OK to be NOT OK?

Just read a quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the late psychiatrist and author.

"I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's OK." Said with a few deep breaths can help when you're annoyed with yourself, uptight about someone else, dissatisfied with your current situation, or just grumpy. It's a change of pace from our current cultural competitive, "I'm the best,"mentality. It doesn't fit with the positive thinking mode, but it certainly is realistic and can be relieving.

This morning I tweeted the Dalai Lama's comment about handling hostility and suspicion with love. That's  beyond my current ability — maybe beyond my future ability — maybe beyond what I would even have as a goal.

But reminding myself that it's OK to be not OK sometimes helps. I'm heading out with my new mantra for a long bike ride in the beautiful NW, hoping that the combination will dissipate stress and help move me into productive problem-solving.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Have you Seen the Ad? What Do You Think, intelligentwomenonly?

 This is the message I received earlier in the week from Anne Doyle. "Have you seen the  multi-million dollar  "Hail to the V" ad campaign that Summer's Eve (feminine hygiene products) corporation has just launched?  Voices are beginning to be raised from women who say they are racist and sexist.  I've been asked by Forbeswoman.com to write a column on the ads.   I first saw one of the ads last week during the movie previews before Harry Potters and the Deathly Hallows.
They have a "Hail to the V" website and different versions of the ad for Black, Caucasian and Hispanic women. 

The senior leadership/officers of C.B.Fleet, which owns Summer's Eve, is all male.  Remember, this is the same company that suggested in a 2010 Summer's Eve ad campaign that women should use this product before job interviews or asking for a raise.

I'm conflicted about my reactions.

Take a look for yourself.  Then, let me know what YOU think.  I'll be writing the column later this afternoon so would love your feedback ASAP."

Here's a link to the article she ultimately wrote: http://blogs.forbes.com/annedoyle/2011/07/26/summers-eves-salute-to-the-big-v-campaign-deceives/
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Monday, July 25, 2011

"The perfect is STILL the enemy of the good," but Harder to Apply on Monday.

I hope last Friday's (7/22) post was as useful to readers as it was to me over the weekend. We had company for dinner on Friday night and I completely forgot the Black Pepper/Parmesan biscotti* which was part of the main course. My husband saw it a bit later and brought out the biscotti with dessert. It definitely didn't go well with dessert — and its appearance made obvious that I had forgotten. It didn't matter at all.

This was a simple, small faux pas of course, but I found that thinking about "perfect is the enemy of . . " helped make the whole weekend more relaxing than usual. So, I'm suggesting trying out the philosophy during the week.  Already not quite as easy as I'm working on an article I'm writing for Michigan Today, a publication of the University of Michigan, planning an upcoming board meeting, trying to understand some financial documents that are confusing etc.

I'm interested in your experience with your attempts at weekday applications of the practice.

Wednesday's post will be about the ad "Hail to the V" ad. If you haven't seen it, I'll have a link — I think.

* Here's link to recipe if you're an intelligent women who likes to cook.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

"The perfect is the enemy of the good"

In The Writer magazine, an article titled "5 Keys to Keep Readers Reading," quoted Voltaire. I investigated online (Wikipedia) to get the understory. Voltaire was a French writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. The quote comes from what is called a moral poem, La Bégueule and is considered a proverb:

Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien
Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

(In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of the good)

"The moral is that perfectionism is contrary to a satisfactory competence. Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient." Voltaire is frequently misquoted to instead state, "the good is the enemy of the great," which of course is used as a motivation for perfectionism. e.g. Don't settle for good. Strive for best.

Need I say more? Perhaps this weekend, all negative thinkers  (which generally includes many perfectionists who deny that they are perfectionists) might attempt the practice of accepting that good is better than perfect, that better is in fact even better than best! Maybe that reframe can help reduce stress for a day or two.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Different Perspectives on Living Together-Men and Women

Here's another example of how differently men and women think and feel from Michigan Alumnus magazine, spring 2011. The findings are based on research by sociologist Pamela Smock at U-M.

• "Love" was the reason for living together cited by women, "Sex" was the reason expressed most frequently by the men.
• Men saw the arrangement as a way to "test drive" a relationship while women saw it as a transitional arrangement preceding marriage.
• Women think that living together means commitment and legitimacy. Men see that it is a limitation on their freedom.

The more things change, the more things stay the same — all over again.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

No Wonder Men and Women Get Frustrated with Each Other Sometimes!

 Monday's post is usually a stress reduction technique at the beginning of the work week. This Monday the post will probably stress you out if it reminds you of your life right now. My intention is to give you some distance so perhaps you can problem-solve for "he" and "she" and come to some possible solution strategies that either he or she or both could use to get out of stuck. We'll all benefit if you comment.

Here’s what the dialogue might sound like in everyday life when a couple tries to cope with a common stressful event, a disagreement about shared responsibilities in managing work, children, home, and yard.

She: “I’m exhausted. I’ve been up so late every night with work, then I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get the kids up and out. I can’t even think straight anymore.”

He: “ The kids have to learn to get themselves up and off to school. They’re old enough. Get them each their own alarm clock. You’ll have to be consistent, but it’ll work over time.”

She:  “I’ve tried. I’m so frustrated at this point. Maybe you could make it work, but I can’t. I’m too easy on them I guess.”

He: “Exactly. You need to be firmer with them. I’ve told you that for years, but you keep on being a softy. No wonder you’re so tired. You let everyone take advantage of you.”

She: (now tearful) “Yeah, you’re right, including you. I wasn’t asking for any advice. I wanted a little support, not criticism.  I do just about everything around here except for dealing with the cars and the yard. That’s why I’m so tired all the time.”

Men generally are now puzzled and resentful. His inner perspective: She had a problem that she needed help with. I gave her advice and she ended up over reacting and blaming me. I’ll just keep my mouth shut if that’s what I get from trying to help.

Women often end up feeling helpless, devalued, and lonely in the relationship. Her inner perspective: He doesn’t listen or understand. He thinks I’m a lousy parent and he doesn’t care about how I feel.

No Wonder Men and Women Get Frustrated with Each Other Sometimes!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 15, 2011

Just Notice

Ah, the weekend. The recent theme of Friday posts has related to removing yourself mentally (and sometimes physically) from chaos and intense emotion. Yes, it's a journey not a destination. This weekend just notice, without evaluation, what is happening when you feel a 7-10 sense of inner intensity whether anger or anxiety, apathy or lethargy. Without evaluation means without adding variations of , "That's awful," "I'm terrible," "He's bad," or "She's a brat."

For example, when you just notice, you say to yourself.

The kids were awake on and off all night. I'm exhausted.
The plumber didn't show up when he said he would.
Isabelle bit Jeremy again.
The dog pooped on the new rug.
The back yard needs work and will cost a lot to fix.

When you just notice, sometimes you can move forward without taking any action, without further emotional intensity. It's a neutral statement of reality. Sometimes you can't. Try it out and see if you can use this process to avoid one or two or three intensities over the weekend. I know no one who can have none!
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

To Vent or Not To Vent — The Researchers' Question

  The article, That Jerk! Venting May Make You Feel Worse, (Link below) cites the results of recent research.

"When encountering stressful events in daily life, venting to a friend about them may not always be helpful, a new study concludes.
The results showed that when people with some traits of perfectionism faced daily setbacks, venting to a friend often made them feel less satisfied about their circumstances than before they talked about it." Later in the article, experts suggest that the results are applicable to all, even non-perfectionists.

As much as I rely on good research to help me solve problems and stay current, I do object to this research using college students as subjects, reporting results not separated by gender, and then generalizing the findings to all. Most of us know that women often vent to each other and men rarely vent to each other. In my opinion, sometimes venting might help women and sometimes it might not. It depends on how the venting (release of strong feelings) is done: boring, lengthy, detailed, brief, asking for suggestions, direct, rambling, screaming, whining, whispering.  To whom you vent is also key. It's up to us to figure out if, how, and to whom we can vent and consequently feel better rather than to follow the researcher's prescription that venting will hinder, not help.

In my opinion, venting doesn't usually help men because they don't usually do it. They are not practiced or comfortable in it. They vent to someone primarily when they're angry, rather than when they're sad, uptight, worried, afraid. Generally they don't release strong feelings other than those on the irritability scale; not even euphoric ones. So of course venting will probably make men even more stressed due to embarrassment, discomfort, role conflict, role reversal, anxiety and all the other stuff that goes along with behaving in ways outside of normal boundaries; in men's case, normal is suppressive of feelings rather than expressive.

Wish one of you smart women out there would push back on me! I could be totally off track.

Here's the link.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Take Action

As I prepare to write today's stress reduction technique I realize the wide-range of topics that fuel stress  — and reduction of stress.  And how many are self-controlled.: our own communication (or lack of communication) to others, negative self-talk, procrastination, not listening, thinking, or doing, perfectionism. Admittedly an exaggeration, I'm suddenly looking at life as one big self-creation of stress, followed by one bigger effort to reduce stress, which of course makes me very uptight, so now I have to cool down before I write the rest of this post.

Peggy Klaus's article, "Don't Fret. Just Ask for What You Need," in the Business Section of the NYTimes, July 10th, 2011was the impetus for my thinking. Here's the link: ttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/jobs/10pre.html The vilian in the story isn't just the difficult boss, but women's fears and lack of confidence, shouted by their inner voice, communicated to others by the tentativeness of their communication.

The article sent me to read more about approach and avoidance coping, which notes clearly that approach-related coping methods are generally more successful than avoidant ones; exactly what Klaus's article points out in different words and examples. So asking is better than fretting, telling is better than denying, problem-solving thinking is better than procrastination, strategic and planned allocation of attention is better than day-dreaming and distraction.

Short-take for Monday stress reduction technique. Making and carrying out a plan of action for reduction of stress often works best. Even if your plan and action don't produce the desired result, you've generated new information to use for new planning and new action.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

Engaged Indifference — An Oxymoron? NO.

Suddenly, everywhere I look I find words and phrases similar to detachment, distraction, letting go, describing ways to decrease stress, reduce negative self-talk, and improve problem-solving thinking.  New Resilience, by Douglas LaBier Ph.D., a Psychology Today blogger, uses the term engaged indifference as a way of dealing with difficult people, a boss in particular. It's not avoidance. It's not emotionality or problem-solving or cognitive restructuring. Engaged indifference instead helps us to move on to enlarged problem-solving and less underwhelming emotion.

I also like LaBier's article because it demonstrates that we need to keep building, expanding, trying out different ways to stay calm so we can be most effective and take good care of ourselves. It's all in the realm of human survival. The better skills you have, the more versatile you are in using them, the greater are your chances of laughing at all the stuff that's thrown at you some days or months.

Here's the link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-resilience/201107/dealing-abusive-bosses-and-unhealthy-management-part-2
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lummi Island

I'm off on a July 4th week mini-vacation on Lummi Island in WA, far away from everything. I thought I wouldn't have access to the internet —  but I do.  Still, I decided that I'd like to preserve tranquility for a few more days of not knowing what's going on. And maybe allow faint glimpses of ideas to bloom in my quieted mind. I'm into letting go at the moment.  I'll be back posting on Friday.
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Friday, July 1, 2011

Internal/External Stressors — and Moving On

 If you figured out that your stressor was an external stressor last weekend (June 24 post), then it's time for problem solving. Sometimes even though you think it's external, it turns out to be internal. But assuming it's really external, not your old inner critic, then ask yourself, "Is it something I have control over?".  E.g. your uptightness is truly, too much to do and no available help. Yes, people are coming to dinner, the kids are grouchy, and you have no food in the house and no idea about dinner.

You do have some control — as long as you can manage any inner critic commentary.  The problem is a lack of time, perhaps patience, and freedom from the kids, to do it "all." So here are some possible solutions.

•  You do take out or order in: pizza or Thai food, sushi or deli sandwiches.
•  You call a friend and ask her to do your shopping for you: Safeway or Costco or Trader Joe's — roasted chicken, pre-made salad, ice cream berries. You have some cheese and crackers and some rice.
• You call your guests and say dinner has turned into a pot luck picnic in the back yard: you'll provide the fried chicken and potato salad (from you know where), they'll bring starters and dessert.

You'll feel instant relief once you make a decision, UNLESS your inner commentary takes over.

• "But Mary made such a fabulous mean last time she had us all over for dinner. She'll think I"m just lazy."
• "Why am I so disorganized? What's wrong with me?"
• "I am so ridiculous. Everybody else can pull this off easily, but I'm a mess. And the back yard looks lousy too. I should have weeded it last weekend."

Make a decision, feel the relief, and get that inner critic out of your head. You know how if you've been following this blog.

If you'd like some humor, check out this link about sensuality as a solution to the problem of stress. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201106/the-new-sexy-how-sensualize-your-life

I like the concept, but not really too practical for many women, most of the time!
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