Archive for July, 2008

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

COMMON SENSE COPING WITH STRESS

By: Joseph J Kusnell with Karen Turner, Ph.D.

 

“you eat life or life eat you”

Stress Points

Caregiving thru health & sickness
Death of a loved one
Relationship Problems
Problems with Parents
With Friends

&

With Lovers
Balancing Home & Job
Stress and Weight Gain
Managing Your Stress

Introduction

In the movie “Mutiny On The Bounty”, Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando) has led a mutiny that has taken over the HMS BOUNTY from the evil Captain William Bligh (Trevor Howard). Following the mutiny, Fletcher is overcome with remorse. Despairing that he will ever again be able to return to England, Fletcher sails the Bounty back to Tahiti where it had stood at anchor the previous four months. Once safely back among friends, he anchors his ship and proceeds to drink himself into a guilt-induced stupor.

Brando’s love interest in the movie is the beautiful Tahitian princess Maimiti (Tarita). When the ship anchors and Fletcher fails to appear, a concerned Maimiti asks the sailors about him and is told that he remained in his cabin on board the Bounty.

Fearful for his welfare, Maimiti swims out to the Bounty and boards the ship. Making her way down to the Captain’s cabin, she is appalled to find Fletcher drunk and living in squalor. In a dramatic scene, her disgust fueling her anger, Maimiti rushes around the dirty room cleaning up, all the time screaming epitaphs at him: “You pig, you all-a-time pig”.

Finally Maimiti calms down and, turning her attention to Fletcher, begins nursing him back to sobriety. In the process, she tells him that it is wrong to let his emotions ‘get inside of him’. That it is wrong to let his guilt render him so totally ineffective that he is no good to himself or to the men under his command. That what he has done to himself is a worse offense than the mutiny itself. Finally, she offers this counsel: “in Ta-hi-ti, we have saying. Tahiti peoples say, “you eat life or life eat you!”

With that admonition, she leaves Fletcher and jumping from the ship, proceeds to swim back to the shore. Shortly thereafter, Fletcher, now recovered, joins her.

“You eat life or life eat you.” That phrase summarized the message of this book. Certainly, you can phrase it in any number of ways. “Just deal with it”, is one; “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is another. But to me, few phrases have the power of suggestion that is carried by that simple Tahitian maxim: “you eat life or life eat you”. This simple phrase carries a message that stays with you and for that reason it shall become the mantra of this book and I shall refer to it often.

Stress is best defined as uncontrolled emotionalism. Worry takes over an individual’s mental processes and the result is he is left weak and unable to cope. Powerful hormones surge through his body and before long, he has sweaty palms and a pulsating heart and is reduced to an emotional wreck. When this happens, the immune system comes under attack and bad things happen.

Thanks to Dr. Ester Sternberg, director of the Integrative Neural Immune Program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), we have now become aware of the link that exists between the brain and the immune system. According to Dr. Sternberg, chronic stress results in the brain pumping out excessive streams of hormones with the result that the immune system become weakened and ineffective in its response to viral or bacterial attacks leaving us susceptible to illness.

There are in each lifetime, a myriad of unexpected problems of varying magnitude that are presented to us to resolve. Some are easy, many are difficult but they all generate stress. How we handle this stress will determine the amount of happiness we experience in our lives.

We are never going to be stress-free as we are never going to be problem-free; that simply isn’t the way life works. Far more often, resolving one problem simply opens the door for another. Regardless of the problems, how we manage our stress, will ultimately determine how we are able to live our lives.

There is a secret to dealing with problems whether big or little and it has nothing to do with magic. The secret is to stay cool. Be detached. Get tough. Don’t allow yourself to become your own victim.

Excessive emotionalism won’t help but it most certainly will hurt. If you are confronted with a problem whose outcome you cannot change, then you must accept that outcome and deal with it. You wouldn’t stand in front of a brick wall banging your head against it, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. Why not? Because the wall is not going to move and the only one who will be hurt is you. That’s the reality. To continue to pound your head against that wall would only end up with you having one hell of a headache whiling accomplishing nothing.

Life is like that wall - implacable. It keeps coming at you. No matter how you prepare yourself – no matter how you steel yourself for the struggle - you can’t change life and you can’t overcome all of its existences. What you can do however is to learn how to deal with its problems – how to manage life in a way that limits its effect on you and on your life.

Each of us will at some time be faced with problems that threaten to overwhelm us. We can’t escape it. Yet, throwing in the towel – giving in - in my opinion is not an option, not if you want to hold on to your sanity, not if you want to make it through this life in one piece - not if you want to be happy.

Instead, if you understand and accept the fact that you cannot get through life without having to deal with a lot of problems, problems that generate a lot of stress, then you will also understand the importance of stress management. The importance of learning how to cope.

Coping is nothing more than a technique, a mental gymnastic; a skill that for some comes naturally but for others must be acquired. The good thing about it is, once you acquire this skill, it will stay with you for the rest of your life - so learning is well worth the effort.

First a word of caution. There are those who, no matter how hard they try will never be able to learn to deal with crises. They too-quickly succumb to stress and fall into a malaise that renders them incapable of functioning without outside help. These people need to consult a professional and this book is not meant for them.

There are also those individuals that suffer from stress-related emotional disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder. P.T.S.D. is usually the result of an event of such catastrophic impact that those who experience it cannot easily forget it. These people – some of them – are so traumatized that they find themselves re-visiting the disaster over and over in their minds. Such events as the bombing of the Federal Building in Omaha, Nebraska a few years ago or the terrorist attack on World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th, 2001. For those people, these memories are more than they can bear they cannot forget them no matter how hard they try. They need the help of an on-site, trained professional because no amount of self-discipline or prioritization is going to help them deal with their personal trauma.

For the rest of us, however, for those who deal with more ‘normal’ types of stress activators, this book can help. It offers an outlook that can bring your life into focus and give you a better hold on your affairs. Emotional self-control is the goal and it is well within your grasp if you are just willing to make the effort.

“You eat life or life eat you.” It’s your choice and your emotional survival lies in the balance. This is why I say get tough.

Now saying ‘get tough’ is obviously a lot easier than getting tough. I know that and you know it too. We are each of us, products of our environment and of our nurturing, and by the time we get around to reading a book like this, we already have firmly entrenched behavioral patterns imbedded in our psyche that dictate how we want to respond to given situations, particularly stressful situations. If you handle them well, you don’t need our help. If you don’t - if you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed - then it’s likely that you do. Remember:

“you eat life or life eat you”.

Chapter 1

“Common Sense Coping With Stress” deals with the stress of everyday living, with the failures and disappointments that confront each and every one of us on an almost daily basis, and how we react to them. As we have said, it is not intended to deal with serious emotional problems such as P.T.S.D. that sometimes result from cataclysmic human traumatic events. These require more personalized one-on-one professional treatment. This book is for the rest of us.

The inherent danger that we all face with chronic stress is depression. Depression, born of fear nurtured by uncontrolled emotionalism, can and will destroy our lives if we permit it. Depression carries with it the potential to become a much bigger problem than that about which we are becoming depressed.

A famous American – Franklin Delano Roosevelt - four-time President of the United States – once said, ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself. He was right. He was trying to warn the American public that fear itself is the danger. That it is foolish to waste both time and energy anticipating trouble when there is more than enough to concern ourselves in the here and now without worrying about something that may never happen.

That’s the message FDR was trying to convey to us when he said, “you have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Don’t worry needlessly. Don’t beat your head against a wall. This groundless fear will lead you to depression, which will make everything worse. Protect your inner self by controlling your emotions. That’s the secret of good mental health.

There are in each of our lives, a series of events that generate stress. Sometimes it seems they never end. And for some of us, I guess they never do. In “Coping With Stress”, we are going to look at some of these issues and discuss how we might deal with them in a manner to protect both our psyche and our sanity while doing what we have to do.

One of the most trying of these is dealing with the illness of a loved one. This is doubly difficult because not only do we have an added obligation on our time but also because of the emotional involvement we share with that person. What we might deal with easily outside the family becomes much more traumatic when it is inside the family. So what do we do? How do we proceed? How do we do battle with this problem?

The first thing to understand is this: if you are going to be there for your loved one, if you are going to be their caregiver, the first thing you have to learn is how to take care of yourself. That’s right. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t help yourself first.

Let this sink in because it is very important to your – and their – survival. The last thing your family needs is for you to stress yourself out to the point where you are unable to do what is required of you for then you will be no good to anybody. Not to yourself and not to them. Your family needs you as their caregiver. They therefore need you to take care of yourself not for your sake, but for theirs.

In other words, you owe it to those who need you to protect their caregiver, and that happens to be you. It is well to remember that and take strength from it. The reason we point that out is many caregivers feel guilty if they take off for an hour or if they get away for a break. That’s wrong. You need to take away so you can stay strong. You are not just doing it for yourself, you are also doing it for those who depend on you. The following story illustrates this point.

Katie is a 52 year-old working woman, a single mother of two teenagers, one boy and one girl. When I met her, her daughter Stacy was nineteen years old, her son Phillip was eighteen. Phillip was a good son and no longer required his mother’s constant attention. Stacy however, was a different matter. Sadly, Stacy suffered from severe multiple sclerosis and could do very little for herself. She could even bathe herself. .

Katie had to do everything for Stacy. It was a labor of love of course but it was nevertheless a labor filled with stress. Katie worried about Stacy every day. She worried about her daily needs, about whether she could continue to provide the care Stacy required, whether she would stay strong and healthy so that she could be there for her daughter.

For at time, Katie lived with despair, she couldn’t seem to come to terms with her situation. Then one day she happened upon a book. In it she read about acceptance. One line stood out, “all you can do in life is to change what you can change and accept what you cannot.“ The author called it acceptance of the reality.

A while back, we talked about not banging your head against a brick wall. That’s what acceptance means. Don’t swim upstream. It will rob you of your strength. Instead, accept what you cannot change. Once Katie accepted the reality of her situation, once she accepted that her daughter was never going to get well and that she had to accept that and deal with it, she actually reached a level of peace. She could now take the steps that were needed to accomplish what had to be done.

First, she had to set time aside for her son. She had always known she could help her son to grow and learn how to deal with life and she willingly did that. But she had another responsibility whose dimensions were now clear: she was her daughter’s caregiver today and would be tomorrow. It was essential that she protect her own mental health in every way possible, not for herself but for Stacy.

Katie made two resolutions: First, that there would be no wringing of hands and no tears. She knew they wouldn’t help. Instead, she would force herself to ‘grin and bear it’, to accept reality and to suppress her own emotional fears – all for her daughter’s sake. Secondly, she would take time out for herself with no feelings of guilt because her own well being was essential to Stacy’s well being. She had to take care of Katie for Stacy. I stress this point because many caregivers feel guilty if they take a break, take a moment for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Katie came to know this because she accepted the reality of her situation. Now Katie could do things to make her life easier.

Her first move was to incorporate her son into the program. She didn’t want to overburden him because that would have been unfair but she did need his help. She was going to make it a point to get away - to get out of the house – one night a week. To that end, she needed his help. She enlisted him as babysitter for that night and went out with her friends. At first she still had pangs of guilt about what she was doing but soon she came to accept that this was the right thing to do both for herself and her daughter. It was vital that she takes care of Stacy’s caregiver, so the caregiver could take care of Stacy.

Now if this sounds a bit cold to you – unemotional or indifferent– it was neither. What it was in fact was a firm plan to ensure her ability to continue to function as caregiver into the indefinite future. It was a plan for survival. Not just her survival but her daughter’s survival as well. Katie made the determination to lock out emotionalism and converted that energy to self-control and self-preservation. She learned how to cope. She got tough.

Katie was also experiencing financial pressures and was having difficulty making ends meet. Not only were the normal bills of operating a household to be dealt with but Stacy’s illness required medicines that added to the family’s financial burden. But now Katie was a survivor so instead of giving into stress, she took stock and came up with an idea. Since she was home six nights a week anyway, she determined that she could take on a babysitter job. She located a single mother with an eight-year-old girl, who worked nights and she agreed to watch the child four nights a week. For that, she earned eighty dollars a week and over three hundred dollars a month, and though it wasn’t a lot of money, it made things a lot easier.

I wouldn’t want to mislead you. None of this made Katie’s life a piece of cake. Certainly there were many nights that Katie feel to sleep with an aching heart. But Katie fought back and in time, she came to accept her situation for what it was. Then she came to understand that no amount of worry, no amount of self-pity, no amount of crying was going to change her situation, that only she could do that. And finally she did. She reacted to her situation by taking positive steps to deal with her problems instead of giving in to them. Acceptance, understanding, and reacting - the three essential elements of coping with sense.

There is no magic here but there is a message. The message here is that each of us can only do what we are capable of doing and that is all anyone can ask of us. We do what is required to the best of our ability and then live with the result. To ask of us more than that is to buy a one-way ticket to an emotional breakdown. You don’t need that.

There are all kinds of problems in the world. Each of them is a story in itself. Whether it’s a child or a spouse or an aging parent, or problems at work, or problems with a relationship, or money problems, we all have them and we all have to face them on an almost daily basis. As a homemaker, caregiver, or just as a human being, we need to learn how to cope. Here is an example of family stress and its affect on the family caregiver. It is an example of what not to do.

Jean is a fifty-year old single mother with a daughter in her mid-twenties. One day, Jean accidentally learned that her daughter was having an affair with a married man. Jean was appalled, sickened, and deeply hurt that her daughter, the daughter she loves, was engaged in what she saw as sordid behavior. Not only did she feel what she was doing was morally wrong – she was disturbed that her smart daughter would do such a dumb thing. In addition to that, Jean was certain that any man who would cheat on his own wife and family to be with another woman would day one day cheat on that other woman too The whole thing was a one-way trip going nowhere.

Jean became distraught. Certain that she was right and wanting to spare her daughter the pain and heartache she knew was coming, Jean approached her daughter to counsel her but was surprised and hurt when her daughter indicated she did not want to hear about it particularly from her mother. Jean was rebuffed.

Shocked and hurt, and not knowing what to do next, Jean surrendered to her emotions and began crying. What had she done wrong? Where had she failed her daughter? Why wouldn’t her daughter listen to the mother who loved her?

Jean blamed herself. She began internalizing her pain and soon she became depressed. As a result, she was soon on medication, began losing time at work, and could only watch helplessly as the gap between her and her daughter widened. .

Jean’s behavior is a perfect example of how not to handle stress. Jean gave in to her emotions. She let the stress get inside her. She let life eat at her.

The truth was, Jean’s daughter’s problem was not new. Nor was it fatal. And in no way was it Jean’s fault. Things happen. Children do not always emulate the moral stances of their parents. Certainly Jean’s daughter should have known better but there were, nevertheless, much better ways for Jean to handle the situation. What she did was make everything worse. Jean over-reacted. She let her emotions get in the way of dealing with the problem like an adult. She let her distress get inside her where it led her into depression, a depression that rendered her useless to her daughter and to herself.

What Jean should have done, was get tough with herself. She should have taken charge of her emotions instead of giving in to them. Jean should have offered her support to her daughter and, when she was rebuffed, she should have stayed calm and continued to do what she could while she waited for her daughter to come to her senses. This way she would have been there when and if her daughter turned to her which she might have done at a later point. By internalizing the situation and making what was essentially someone else’s problem her problem, Jean effectively rendered herself useless. She became the problem herself. This is what is meant by the phrase, “you eat life or life eat you”. You are either going to be in control of your life or you are not.

Jean’s problem was that she was not. By surrendering to her emotions, she allowed her daughter’s problem to become her problem when what she really needed to do was to get tough. She needed to cope with her problem not give in to it.

So what’s the secret? It’s easy to say ‘cope’ but how do we do it? How do we gain control and refocus our emotional responses. First, we use deliberation. We change our thought patterns. There is a technique known as “thought stopping.” Designed to halt, negative, persistent, obsessive thoughts, Kenneth Ruggiero, PhD, is affiliated with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Dr. Ruggiero suggests that you need to become verbally aggressive in order to change the thought pattern. In fact, just saying the word “stop” to yourself can be very effective. This introduces a distraction that will interrupt the repetitive thought pattern. This distraction will enable you to change focus, to gain control.

Engaging in some positive reinforcement is also helpful. Remind yourself of the times you have performed the task at hand – dealt with this type problem - and have been successful. It’s called the “Power of Positive Thinking” and it works. Such positive feedback helps you to redirect your energies. If you won’t be beaten down, you can’t be beaten down.

Another technique that will interrupt the negative pattern of thought is deep breathing. Andrew Weil, MD, author of Healthy Aging, a lifelong guide to your physical and spiritual well being, suggests that deep, rhythmic breathing, when mastered, will enable you to use the conscious mind and involuntary nerves to modify the unconscious mind and the involuntary nerves, including the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. Dr. Weil suggests that you master a specific breathing technique:

* Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind and above your front teeth and keep it there through the whole exercise.
* Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound.
* Inhale deeply and quietly through the nose to a count of 4 (with your mouth closed).
* Hold your breath for a count of 7.
* Exhale audibly through your mouth to a count of 8.

Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 for a total of four breaths.

Since this may not be practical to engage in deep breathing in public for an extended period of time, there is a modified technique developed by Herbert Benson, MD, Harvard Medical School in Boston. Dr. Benson is a pioneer in stress research and is associated with the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston. Dr. Benson suggests a “Mini” approach that will slow your heart rate and breathing when confronted with a crisis. Dr. Benson advocates breaking the thought pattern by repeating a word, sound or prayer followed by deep breathing. The “mini” is designed to create a relaxation response quickly. He suggests that you take a deep breath in through you nose and hold it for three counts. Exhale through your nose or mouth. Repeating this exercise three times should help you to refocus. More on the benefits of controlled breathing later.

The problem with the way a lot of people deal with stress is that they internalize everything almost as if they want to suffer. Obviously, that doesn’t help. Call it tough love but Jean, the woman we discussed a moment ago, was her own worst enemy. While compassion is fine, too much compassion (or too much empathy) is not fine; it can render you helpless when you are needed the most. It can be destructive rather than constructive.

The secret is, it doesn’t have to happen. It will only happen if you let it. It is to your advantage to get tough with yourself and with your emotions. Ration them out - stay in control – tell yourself that you can handle anything if you just stay cool and then stay cool. It may sound simple but that is the secret.

There are in life those problems that can be resolved and those that cannot. If they can be resolved, resolve them. If they cannot be resolved, accept that fact and deal with it. As we have learned, there is nothing to be gained by constantly swimming against the current. It’s pointless and it’s self-defeating and it will wear you out. It will make everything worse and nothing better. Erect a protective barricade around your psyche and keep as much as possible outside. Even at the risk of having people think you are ‘insensitive’ or that you ‘don’t care’. None of that matters because no one is going to rush to your rescue if you become debilitated or, worse yet, emotionally disabled.

In the end, it is you and you alone who must deal with your personal problems. You are therefore always served best by doing what is best for you. Remember that old adage: “God helps those who help themselves?” Well. it’s still true.

My advice is don’t dwell on problems, deal with them. Tell yourself that problems are a part of life, because they are, and that you are no different than anyone else. Don’t waste your time or energy in self-pity, Certainly some people are luckier than others are but in the end, everyone has problems they have to deal with. You are no different. Don’t ever get down on life. Always strive to control your emotions. Do what is required of you but above all, stay in control.

Your emotions can and will betray you if you let them. So don’t let them. I know that feeling someone’s pain makes us better humans but it doesn’t make us better caregivers. Of course we want to feel for others as we hope they would feel for us but an excess of these feelings can immobilize us and that can create a big problem. While empathy is the hallmark of a mature, sensitive person, someone who feels for those they care for, too much empathy can become counter-productive. In one case, it prevented a doctor from administering to those who needed him.

There was an accident on a busy highway. The emergency crew arrived and the caregivers rushed to the scene. Among them, was Dr. Steve, a young medical intern. When he reached the scene, Dr. Steve looked at the carnage and involuntarily broke down. Tears filled his eyes at the horror strewn before him. It was like a war zone. Dr. Steve had seen other accident sites but this one pushed him over the edge.

This emotional lapse occurred while people were lying on the ground desperately needing his attention but he was unable to function. The terrible scene in front of him had emotionally overwhelmed him.

While this might at first seem a very human reaction, what this young doctor actually did was to allow his emotions to overwhelm him to the point where he was unable to perform his duties as a caregiver. He was useless to help those that needed him.

That’s why I say over and over: ”you eat life or life eat you.” Don’t let life get to you.

No matter the situation, no matter who’s involved, no matter how much you may want to run away and hide from your problems, it doesn’t work. You cannot allow your emotions to get inside you because if you do, they will overwhelm you. Better to be a little standoffish, a little selfish, a little detached so that you can do what needs to be done. And don’t think you can’t do it, because you can. All it takes is an understanding the nature of the problem and then having the will to deal with it. You will be surprised at your own strength once you make the decision to get tough with yourself. And remember the biggest job starts with the smallest step. Just do something.

That is the lesson I would like you to take from this book. Learn to control your emotional responses to life’s problems. Don’t give in. Fight back. Take control. Life is full of stressful situations. Some problems are certainly worse than others but everyone has them. Some will test you to the very core. But the way you face these problems will determine how you get through this life. If you learn to control them, to control your emotions, you will win. If you don’t, you will lose. And if you do lose, those who depend on you will also lose. .

Consider, if you will, the case of a visiting nurse that is called into a home to treat a sick individual. The nurse will treat that patient with professional care and understanding and perhaps even compassion but she will always maintain a professional detachment from her charge. She cannot let her emotions get to her. If she does, she will be unable to do the job for which she was hired. She must stay detached from emotion if she is to do her job.

Of course it is easier for the nurse because she is not emotionally involved with the patient. That goes without saying. Nevertheless, this detachment is what you need. You must learn to deal with your problems in exactly that same way the visiting nurse deals with hers. Control your emotions. Even though you are emotionally involved as the nurse is not, you must learn to act like you are not. You must protect your inner self. The greater the crisis, the more you must protect your psyche. And remember you are protecting yourself not for you but for those who need you.

“You eat life or life eat you.”

Chapter 2

Stress comes in many forms perhaps the most difficult being the loss of a loved one. Dealing with the death of someone you love is perhaps the hardest stress you will ever have to manage. And yet, you must manage it because you can’t bring back your loved one and if you don’t cope with your loss, you can easily destroy your own life and perhaps the lives of others.

The following true story reflects just how quickly this can happen, how you can lose control of your life if you give in to emotion. The year was nineteen thirty-nine, the year before Pearl Harbor.

Marie Jameson was twenty-nine years old, her sister Ann was four years younger. The two women were sitting in a kitchen discussing a young man Ann had become infatuated with. His name was Lloyd Roberts. Marie didn’t like Lloyd much and she didn’t hesitate to say so. She had the feeling the young man was a neer-do-well, someone who would never amount to anything in life. But Ann was in love and like many others before her, she didn’t want to hear anything bad about the man she loved.

So the following year, nineteen-forty, Ann and Lloyd were married and in short order Ann gave birth to a daughter who they named Ann-Marie after her mother and her aunt. The little girl was to all appearances a beautiful, healthy child.

However, despite the presence of the new baby, Ann and Lloyd were never really happy and it wasn’t long before problems developed which put the marriage on the skids. After two years of bickering, Lloyd moved out and Ann and the baby were left to survive as best they could. It was nineteen forty-three and America was at war. Ann was alone and destitute.

Ann became depressed. She was unable to deal with the breakup of her marriage. She stopped taking care of first, her apartment, then of her daughter. Finally, she had a nervous breakdown. Ann had succumbed to her emotions. She had let life eat her. Marie could not sit by and do nothing. Although the two women were not that far apart in age, Marie was far more mature and, seeing the situation, knew she had to act. She knew the baby – now nearing three - needed more security in her life than she was able to get from her mother. She formulated a plan.

Waiting for the right moment, Marie approached Ann and suggested that she be allowed to take the child with her until Ann could get back on her feet at which time she would return the child to her mother. In the meantime, Ann-Marie would be safe.

Marie assured Ann the separation wouldn’t be for long and she would give her niece the best of care until her mother was fully recovered. Having no other options, Ann agreed and Ann-Marie moved in with her aunt. It was around this time that Marie met Trace Thompson, the man she would later marry. It was love at first sight.

Trace was everything that Lloyd was not. He was pleasant and fun loving while at the same time, responsible and steady. He was the kind of man that Marie has always been attracted to. Assuring Marie that he was willing and able to make a home for all of them, Trace and Marie were married the following year. Ann-Marie was then five years old, a little blond-haired girl with an outgoing, vivacious personality and a smile to match. Wherever she went, people smiled. They were a happy family.

But life has its trials for each of us and it was no different for Marie and her family. Over the next year, Ann-Marie began to show symptoms of illness. She would pale suddenly and become tired and listless. At times she appeared to be losing consciousness which scared her aunt half to death. Finally, Marie and Trace took the child to a doctor and in time, the bright fun-loving child was diagnosed with a most serious disease. Ann-Marie was a juvenile diabetic. The year was nineteen hundred and forty-seven. Ann-Marie was six years old.

By this time, Marie had all but become Ann-Marie’s mother and Trace, her father. As the years passed, Ann-Marie grew into a beautiful teenager with blue eyes, blond hair, and possessed of a sparkling personality. She was always on stage and everywhere she went she drew attention. Ann-Marie was not one to hide her light under a bushel.

At this time, about fifty years ago, juvenile diabetes was a deadly disease and managing it carefully was essential to life itself. That meant watching your diet, exercising, not drinking, avoiding all sweets, and even weighing your daily meals. Constant monitoring of your blood sugar was also part of the daily regimen, all of the things that would restrict the life of a vibrant young woman. Ann-Marie would have none of it and, as she grew older, she paid less and less attention to the restrictions and more and more attention to living the life she had, to the fullest. She said over and over, “as long as I am here, I am going to enjoy life,” and she meant it. Her illness hung like a dark cloud over her family as the years slipped by.

As a junior in high school, Ann-Marie met and became friends with a girl – Patsy Connelly - that she had met on a beach at the seashore where her Aunt Marie and Uncle Trace had a summer home. The two teenagers became best friends and their friendship was to last for the rest of both their lives.

By the time Ann-Marie graduated from high school, her undisciplined life-style was such that diabetic attacks had become commonplace. Some were mild and some were severe but that didn’t deter Ann-Marie from living life to the fullest. When an attack would occur, she knew what to do. She would reach for a piece of candy or a glass of orange juice that was also in the refrigerator and the quick burst of sugar would usually circumvent the attack. Then she would go back to whatever she was doing Ann-Marie was simply not going to give in to diabetes.

But there were times when the attack couldn’t be thwarted so easily and, at those times, Ann would be rushed to the emergency room of a nearby hospital where the family would gather to see if she was going to live or die. Stress had become the family’s constant companion.

Three years went by in this manner. During this time, both the girls had acquired boyfriends: Ann-Marie was dating a guy named George and Patsy was dating Angelo, whom she later married. Ann-Marie continued living her life as though there were no problem, which of course was not the case.

During these difficult times, Patsy grew close to Marie and Trace, now called the Uncle and Aunt. On their part, they liked Patsy and felt her stability was good for Ann-Marie so it was a happy arrangement. When Ann-Marie would have an attack, Marie would call Patsy and in moments, Patsy would be on the way to the hospital to be with her friend. When Patsy was twenty-one, she and Angelo got engaged. The foursome of Patsy and Angelo and Ann-Marie and George went everywhere together. They were always at the shore and could be seen on weekend nights in the local bars and clubs where both girls would spend the majority of their time on the dance floors. Were it not for the silent killer stalking Ann-Marie, everything would have been perfectly normal for the four young people. Sadly that was not the case, and the three people who understood this best, Aunt Marie, Patsy, and Uncle Trace, experienced increased emotional stress waiting for what they now were certain would be an inevitable final attack.

Angelo and Patsy were married in nineteen sixty-two. It was a year later that Patsy received the call, Ann-Marie had suffered an attack and fallen into a diabetic coma. She was being taken by ambulance to a near-by hospital. Once there, she was rushed to an ICU. Patsy and Angelo rushed to be with their friend and were with her that night when she died. Ann-Marie the bright eyed, happy-go-lucky, always smiling, twenty-two year old life of the party was dead. Her laughter would be forever stilled.

The death of this wonderful girl was devastating to a lot of people. Her aunt who had loved her and cared for her was emotionally destroyed. Her Uncle Trace, who had adopted her, was overcome with grief. Patsy, her young husband Angelo, and Ann-Marie’s adoring boyfriend, George Castalano were also devastated.

But it was Aunt Marie who was hit the hardest by the loss of her beloved niece. When the funeral was over and everyone had returned to their homes to pick up the threads of their lives, as everyone must do, Marie could not do so. Marie was locked in a world of denial and of grief. Instead of mourning for a time and then returning to the living, Marie closed out those who loved her and became immersed in the past. She would not let go.

Going up to Ann-Marie’s room, Marie created a shrine to her little girl. She got a photograph of Ann and had it enlarged to poster size, then mounted it over the dresser in Ann-Marie’s old room. Then she covered the dresser with flowers and photographs of Ann-Marie and lit incense burners. Around the room, she draped Ann-Marie’s clothing as if Ann was coming in to pick out what she wanted to wear. Then Marie would go in and sit in her chapel for hours and stare at the picture. She was surely driving herself mad.

Becoming alarmed at what was happening to his wife, Trace contacted Patsy. Hearing what was going on, Angelo and Patsy who was now pregnant rushed over to visit and were appalled at what they found. They tried to reason with Marie but to no avail. Aunt Marie has slipped into another world and that was now the new reality in her life. There was nothing they could do. Marie had given in to her emotions and opened the door to depression.

The loss of a loved one is one of life’s most trying circumstances. It is a horrible thing for anyone to have to deal with, but it does happen and in time, it will happen to everyone. Death is a part of life. Those of us who are left behind must come to terms with it, must learn to deal with it. We have no choice. There is little to be gained by sacrificing one’s own life to grief as Marie was in the process of doing. Because she was losing her grip on reality, she was about to let life eat her.

It was a few months later, that Patsy had her child. It was a girl. The happy parents talked about what they should name her and it was Patsy who said, “Angelo, I’d like to name her after Ann-Marie.”

And so it was decided. The baby would be named Ann-Marie after her mother’s best friend. When Patsy got home from the hospital, Uncle Trace called. He congratulated her, then asked about her health. When Patsy assured him that everything was fine, he asked if they had picked a name for the baby. ”Yes we have,“ Patsy said, “we have decided to name the baby Ann-Marie.”

There was a brief silence. When he spoke, Trace’s voice was hushed. “You named the baby after our Ann-Marie?” he asked softly.

“Yes, Uncle Trace,” Patsy replied.

“Hang on a second,” he said.

When he came back on the phone, his words stunned Patsy. “Aunt Marie wants to come over and see the baby,” she said. “When can I bring her over?”

Marie, who hadn’t been out of the house or for that matter out of the shrine she had created in Ann-Marie’s old bedroom, for two months, wanted to come over and see the new baby. Patsy was thrilled. Everyone was thrilled. They decided on the weekend and Trace agreed and hung up. The next afternoon, the phone rang again and Patsy answered. It was Trace. He was almost in tears. “Guess what?” she said

“What is it, Uncle Trace?” Patsy said alarmed, “is anything wrong?”

“No, my dear,” he replied, “nothing is wrong. Marie told me this morning she is going to send our Ann-Marie’s clothing to a charity. She took down the big picture and she put the incense burners away. She is undoing all that she did. She even opened the windows in Ann’s room. It’s the baby that’s done it. All she is talking about is seeing her new Ann-Marie. Patsy, it’s a miracle!”

And it was. From that moment on, Marie regained control of her mind of her emotions, and of her life. She went on to become the new baby’s guardian angel. It was a love affair that would last as long as Marie lived.

I tell you this story because it has a deep meaning for all of us. It demonstrates that Marie, like most of us, had the internal strength to deal with her loss if she just had her mind straight. If only she had not let her emotions overwhelm her. Worse, her near self-destruction would have been pointless because nothing she could have done was ever going to bring her Ann-Marie back. The new baby saved her sanity.

We cannot all hope for something as dramatic as a new baby to turn our emotional lives around or to drag us back from an emotional abyss. We have to do that for and by ourselves. We have to stand up and fight back. We have to take control of our emotions in every circumstance. Marie violated all that we are teaching here by allowing her grief to get inside her where it all but destroyed her. And to what end? To no end because no matter what she did to herself, it would not ever bring Any back.

Marie had time to prepare herself for the inevitable death of her niece. When Ann-Marie elected to live an undisciplined lifestyle despite the consequences, she sealed her own doom. She was well aware of that. She made her choice and willingly assumed the consequences of her decision. There was no need for Marie to sacrifice her own life.

What Marie should have done was deal with her loss, express her grief through mourning, and then go on with her life. In the end, it was the only thing she could do.

“You eat life or life eat you.” That’s the message. If you have a good grasp on reality, you can and will survive. It’s really up to you.

Chapter 3

Dr. Sternberg’s comment on the immune system and its relationship to stress management is very much on point. Dr. Sternberg states that stress breaks down the immune system weakening the body making it more susceptible to other breakdowns which greatly exaggerate your problem. That makes sense. If you merge an emotional problem with a physical problem, your senses are now under multiple attack and that will make your condition much worse. That’s what stress does. It attacks you on multiple fronts until it eats you up. That’s why you must learn how to deal with it.

There are as many different types of stress as there are people. That’s because the human condition itself is stressful. Take for example one of the more frequent types of stress: the stress between child and parent.

When we are children, our parents, usually our mothers pretty much run our lives. They take care of most of the decisions that are important to us and although we have input, we generally accept their decisions. This goes on for years. Over those years, the mother who runs the household gets very used to making decisions and then having her children do what she wants done.

Of course, not all parents are textbook models. Some have their own problems. Some are warm and open and caring and demonstrative toward their children. Others are just the opposite. Some think their children can do no wrong; others think they can do nothing right.

Strangely, it seems that if a mother withholds approval from one or more of her children, that child spends the rest of their lives seeking that approval. It just seems these women never outgrow that need.

The problem of parental approval – this time of mother with daughter - causes a great deal of stress. Some women who suffer with this emotional malady spend much of their adult lives chasing the illusory approval of their mothers which sadly will never become available to them because the fundamental problem lies with the mother and not with the daughter at all. Yet, in this childlike pursuit of parental approval, the adult female will generate even more problems for herself often experiencing mood swings on an almost daily basis between pursuing approval and becoming furious when it doesn’t manifest itself. The result is a lifetime wasted seeking approval from someone who is not capable – or willing – to give it.

What these women should know is that while parental approval is truly necessary for a child, it is not necessary at all for an adult. You can outgrow that need. For example, if you have a parent who has always withheld approval from you, as an adult it might be very healthy for you to say to yourself, ‘it’s not that important’. Because it’s not. Yes, that’s harsh but deliberately so. It’s a harsh reality. It’s never going to change so get over it! What was once an adult/child relationship is now an adult/adult relationship and that makes everything different. It re-defines your relationship. Understanding your mother today, as an adult, may be the first step in coping with this stress. Don’t carry around old hurts. Don’t sulk. It’s time for a new approach. It’s time for you to speak up – to say something - something that will clear the air. Bring your hurt out into the open. Give yourself a chance to change things, to learn to communicate with your mother or other parent. It’s worth a try. Storing the hurt inside you and seething does no one any good, certainly not your mother and certainly not you. Give communication a try. Let her know how you feel. After all, it’s certainly not going to make anything worse and it just might make it better.

When Alice was a little girl, she was the second oldest of five children. For some reason, her older brother and she, were the victims of biting parental humor. It was common as the children grew into their teenaged years, for the father to use these two as the butt of his sardonic humor. So intense was this that on more than one occasion Alice would leave the dinner table in tears. Her brother on the other hand would sit and glower but refuse to give in and leave. Instead he would just sit and stare. It wasn’t very nice but as abuse goes, it wasn’t the worst either. In and of itself, it might not have caused a big problem, but there was something else, something more insidious and with a much longer ranged impact.

In Alice’s neighborhood, there was a family with a daughter the same age as Alice. Looking objectively at this girl – her name was Delores – you would have not found her to be any more attractive than Alice. Nor any more pleasant, nor any more accomplished. But to listen to Alice’s mother, you would never have thought this.

For some reason, Alice’s mother raved about Delores. Sitting at the dinner table with her own daughter, now sixteen, sitting opposite her, the woman would simply gush in praise over Delores. No matter what they were talking about, somehow Delores’ name would come up and the praise would gush forth. Alice of course was deeply hurt. Had it happened once, it would have been easily forgotten but it didn’t. It happened repeatedly as Alice grew up. At high school graduation time, Alice’s mother seemed more proud of Delores’ achievements than in her own daughters.

Now let me stop this story right here. I am certain that some of you reading this feel a sense of identity with Alice. I am afraid this syndrome is anything but rare. For some reason, there are parents who see greatness in their neighbor’s kids and not much in their own. Some of them think it but never show it. Others are not so subtle. When this happens, their children naturally develop various insecurities and if it happens repeatedly, as in Alice’s case, over the years, it does create a deeply rooted sense of inadequacy and that is what happened to Alice.

Alice has two younger brothers and a younger sister. Again, for whatever reason, the youngest daughter was spared this treatment; her mother never bothered to compare her with anyone. And so the family aged. And Alice aged with them. As she did, she became aware that there was some favoritism shown to her younger sister by her mother.

It wasn’t anything overt, but it was there and Alice felt it. The effect on her was to compound the feeling of insecurity that she had gotten over the years listening to her mother praise other people’s children while never saying a kind thing to her own daughter.

It was actually very sad. I don’t know why it happened, I don’t know if the mother had some sort of jealousy as her daughter became a young woman and the mother became middle-aged. I don’t know but certainly it is a possibility. It does happen. What is important however, is that as the years passed, Alice developed a neurosis. She desperately wanted her mothers approval, something that had been withheld from her for all her formative years. Now she had no only that to deal with but the rather obvious favoritism shown to her younger sister.

Before I finish the story, I want those of you who identify with this problem to take stock of where we are. We know that the fault likes not with Alice but with her mother. That’s obvious. Something is wrong with this women, something that affects her oldest two children more than the others. Whatever it was, it was inside her and nothing the children could have done was going to make it any better.

In this book, I have been preaching the doctrine of coping. Find out what the problem is, accept it if it can’t be changed, understand it for what it’s worth, and do what has to be done. In this case, it’s rather simple. The problem is that the mother has a problem and has withheld her mother’s love from her two oldest children, which included her oldest daughter Alice. Were I counseling Alice at the time, I would have pointed out that the mother had a problem and it was likely that she would have that problem probably until she died. I would have counseled Alice to accept that fact. Now we have two of the elements of coping. We have defined the problem, accepted the problem and will now react to it. “Forget getting your mother’s approval”, I would have counseled Alice. It just isn’t happening. Why torture yourself for something that is simply not going to happen. The problem isn’t yours, it’s your mother’s. Hence, there is nothing you can do about it.

I would have further counseled Alice, to wit: “you don’t need your mother’s approval. It doesn’t mean anything because she has bigger problems than you do. I would suggest you enter into a new kind of relationship with her. Be what you want to her, and do that because you want to do it and for no other reason. Do not expect emotional compensation. Do not expect a deathbed recantation. In other words, the woman is what she is and she will be that until she dies. Forget about it.

And those are the words I would want Alice to remember: “forget about it.”

I know it wouldn’t have been easy for Alice but it would have been possible and it would have been absolutely the very best way to handle this mess.

So, what did Alice do? Just about what you might expect. She cantered to her mother seeking one moment of approval. She would be overlooked but then if called upon, she would be Alice-on-the-spot. She let her mother continue to hurt her until the day the woman died. At that point, Alice was sixty-eight years old. She cried at her mother’s funeral.

She cried.

Stress is a mess. No question about it. And it comes in a lot of sizes and shapes and for a lot of reasons. But some of it, perhaps even most of it, is of our own making. Alice knew forty years ago what her mother was but she refused to acknowledge it. Instead, she blamed herself and curried her mother’s favor until the woman died. It was all for no reason because (1) she didn’t get it (2) she was never going to get it and (3) it prevented her from establish a more adult relationship with the woman who was her mother. Had she just stood up to her and made her feelings known, and then dealt with her mother as the woman she was, everything would have worked out better.

But she didn’t. Instead she put up forty years of being mistreated and blamed herself for all of it.

Alice is still alive as of this writing. And she seems to be a more rounded, happier person. I don’t think she’d agree that she feels more secure and more content because he no longer has to seek the approval of someone who was simply not going to give it, but I think that’s a big part of it.

Don’t let life eat you up. That’s what Alice did. Instead of taking charge, she let life do her for forty years. I am not suggesting that they were all miserable years but to say Alice remained deeply hurt for all that time, because of one woman’s problems that had nothing to do with her, would not be overstatement.

Learn from Alice’s story. Learn to see the reality and then, if you can’t change it, accept it and act on that acceptance. Deal with it in a productive manner. If the problem is with your mother and you are a woman, it is time for you two to try talking together as two adults, friends, rather than as mother/daughter. See if that will help. Create a new dynamic and see if this approach breeds a new understanding between you which could be the first step toward creating the kind of relationship between you and your mother that you have wanted for years. Take a stance for yourself. Let her know you are no longer a child and you won’t accept being treated as one. Even if it fails, at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing you tried.

Many women seem to have this complaint; that their mothers refuse to accept them as adults even in their own homes. Well who is to blame for that? If you continue to tolerate this treatment, that would indicate it is as much your problem as your mother’s. You have very likely not truly grown up. fter all, mothers are used to having the last word so this is perfectly natural for them to treat you as a child. You were a child for a long time. Therefore, if you need to change that, you have to start acting as an adult and demanding that you be treated as such. Don’t be a coward. Get tough. Take matters into your own hands and prove that you are now an independent mature adult and you expect – no you demand – to be treated as such. In doing this, you needn’t be harsh, but you do need to be honest and up front. Don’t suffer in silence.. Relationships function best when there is a two-way open exchange. Be honest and out-front with your mother and invite her to be the same with you and after you fight yourselves through to a happy middle ground, you may find you have a lot more in common than you ever suspected. You may even find that you are friends. At least, we can hope so. And what if the mother does not respond? What if she is so totally self-absorbed, she cannot see you as an adult on an equal footing with her. Fine. You can deal with that but in doing so, you needn’t accept bad treatment. You can demand respect and if you don’t get it, you can always just leave. It’s far better than suffering in silence all those unhappy years, as Alice did.

Problems come with life. If today’s problems get resolved, you can bet new ones will replace them tomorrow. That’s the nature of life. It just keeps coming at us and we have no option but to deal with it. We have to learn to cope. Do your best to control the situation around you. Protect your emotional psyche because in the end it’s all you have.

We have said this before and we say it again: don’t dwell on the bad times. Don’t waste time on self-pity. Don’t wallow in despair. None of that will help. Better to learn to cope with reality than sit in a chair wringing your hands and crying out, “why me?” There is no reason why you. It’s just the way things are. Life is random in nature and the things that happen to you happen without design or purpose. They just happen. Today it’s you, tomorrow it’s me. What goes around comes around. You’ve heard all the cliches. The answer is learn to deal with your problems without dwelling on them because excessive emotion is as destructive as any condition or any disease. Hold your head up, take stock, and get moving. That’s the way to handle things. Take charge of your life. Self-pity is best reserved for those who can afford it. The likelihood is that you can’t.

I have tried to explain here that everyone has problems and that everyone must deal with those problems. If it were true that some of is would have them while others would not, it would be a completely different matter. Then those that have them could reasonably complain, “why me?” But that isn’t the case. The truth is everyone gets his share of problems and everyone must deal with those that he gets. How you handle your problems largely determines how you are going to live your life.

We are all traveling the same path, going in the same direction. The only difference is where we stand on that path today and the rate at which we are moving. Some are ahead and some are behind and some get shortcut early. Nevertheless, we are all heading in the same direction and we are all going to reach the same place eventually

So, knowing that, why worry? It’s really useless and it just makes things worse. Think of it like this: no matter what your problem, it will pass in time because everything does. Don’t let it mess up either your mind or your disposition. Stay positive. Be upbeat and determined to make a good life for you and your family at all costs. Grin and bear it. A smile shows the world that they can’t get you down. Don’t let it get to you. Control your emotions.

Now I know you are saying, ‘that’s easy for you to say but it’s not easy for me to do’. Well, of course it isn’t easy. If it were, we wouldn’t have a problem. Actually, it’s very hard but it starts with the right mindset. That is what I am trying to give you: the right mindset. You can do it if you develop the will. It isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. After all, self-control starts with you.

Stress management is a skill, one you have to work hard to acquire. But you can acquire it. You can do it if you just remember this one piece of advice: when faced with a crisis, keep your emotions under control. Don’t lose it. Emotionalism is your enemy. No matter what it is that happens, say to yourself, ‘this is life’ and deal with it as best you can. Don’t quit and don’t give in and don’t demand more of yourself that you can give. Above all never get down on yourself.

As we discussed earlier, losing someone we love causes great anguish. It’s a terribly hard situation to deal with. If you are not careful - if you let the emotions engendered by your loss get inside you - they can drive you into depression and depression will make everything worse without making anything better. Don’t let that happen to you. Tell yourself that your loved one isn’t coming back no matter how much you miss them or how much they meant to you. No one does. Death is permanent. It may be a terrible loss but it is a loss you can deal with because it happens to everyone. If you find it is hard to move on, perhaps that’s because you don’t understand what life is. Thomas Aquinas said, “life is a path between two meadows,” the first being the meadow of birth and the second being the meadow of death. It’s harsh but it’s true. Life is the path we walk between birth and death. And everyone gets to walk the same path. How can you let yourself get upset with this if you are only doing what everyone else has to do. I think that’s the great equalizer. We all are going to the same place so what’s the fuss all about?

Of course you want to mourn the loss of someone you love. You have to express your grief. It’s human and it’s natural. But it doesn’t have to become an obsession. It doesn’t have to hurt so much that it interferes with your ability to go on living. That’s wrong. That type mourning can lead to depression and depression is a serious illness in its own right. What would you allow that to happen to you? What is the benefit in making yourself sick over something you can’t change? I will answer that for you: there is none. The sooner you accept reality, the better off you will be and the sooner you will be able to deal with your loss. We have discussed this earlier. Acceptance is the first rule of coping. What you can’t change, you must accept. That’s what makes depression so sad. It is tot ally useless and it doesn’t change anything. But it could make everything worse. Guard against depression. Guard against excessive emotionalism. If I say this over and over it’s because it the single most important statement in this book. Stay in control of your emotions and survive. You can do it.

We all know that bad things happen even to good people. You can’t prevent that from happening but you can learn to accept it and go on. That’s the key to survival. I said it before and I will say it again, learn to accept what you can’t change. Don’t always swim upstream. Don’t make it hard on yourself. All that will do is wear you out and it will accomplish nothing. You need to learn to identify what you can’t change and accept it. That’s the key. Learn to emotionally accept what you cannot change. There used to be an old prayer that went something like this: “God give me the strength to change what I can change, to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That’s what I am talking about. “Change what you can change and accept what you cannot change.” Repeat that over and over. It is the best advice you will ever get and it will keep you well.

Chapter 4

What do we mean when we say someone is ‘stressed out’? How do we get stressed out and what can we do to avoid it? There are a number of ways to define stress but for our purposes, let’s say that stress is any emotional strain that interrupts the normal function of the brain. Usually stress comes from too much pressure – too many neurons firing across the brain simultaneously – too much ‘excitement’ as it were. As more and more is asked of you, you become tense and that tension causes stress.

Let’s take a simple example. You are faced with a single problem of minimal importance. No problem. Your brain will handle that problem in an orderly fashion and all will be well with you. If you then add some time constraint on the solution to your problem, say the problem must be resolved by noon today, then you add a dimension of pressure to the brain to handle the problem and that increased pressure will generate a little stress. However, this level of stress is normal and will not – or should not - produce a problem for most people.

However, if an unexpected and more complex second problem arises before the first one is resolved and this one has an even more demanding time constraint, then the brain will be subject to significantly increased pressure and that will generate more tension. Like any electrical system, too much demand causes a tension overload.

If you continue to tackle problems, continue to take on more and more, in time your life will spiral out of control. There’s no help for it.

The answer is to organize your day and your schedule. Don’t ask more of yourself that you can give or you will soon be unable to do anything. Stress management is the key to survival. Do what you can, when you can, and that’s all you can do.

We have no secret formula for you to avoid your problems. I wish that were possible. But what we can do is to encourage you to take care of yourself. Don’t give in to panic or excessive worry about things you can’t change. Change what you can and accept what you can’t. Take care of yourself. This may sound simplistic but it is critical to living a healthy life.

Stress is a combination of neurological and physiological tensions that combine to exceed the norm for you. That’s just another way of saying you have taken on more than you can handle at one time. What is the ‘norm’ for you is different from your neighbor but everyone has a limit and when that limit is exceeded, stress is the result. The more stress we feel, the less productive we become. Stress is counter-productive.

It is said that stress management – managing your life - is often more important than the actual problems you may be facing and there are people who do this very well. They just have better discipline and organizational skills, better self-control, and they therefore handle problems with more efficiency. These people don’t let things ‘get to them’. Sadly, that’s not everyone. It’s not even the majority of people.

The human body processes many types of hormones that are essential to its well being. Among other things, stress affects the body’s ability to assimilate these hormones, lowering the body’s ability to function at peak efficiency. Stress also affects our cardiovascular system to a degree we have yet to fully understand. But we do know it is dangerous to our well being because it puts our brain into overdrive and gradually increases tension to a point where it affects us both biologically and psychologically.

We must learn to limit stress and the way to do that is to keep matters under control, keep things orderly, manage our emotions. Don’t let stress get to you.

Earlier we spoke of situations that arise where you simply cannot handle your problems yourself. We remind you if that is your situation – if the power of positive thinking is not going to work for you – if your problems are so great that you need help dealing with them - then by all means seek professional help. Don’t hesitate. There is no need for you to go it alone when professional people are available to help you.

In this book, we have tried to point out that stress blossoms in a climate of emotional chaos. Our advice therefore is – and we have repeated it often because it is so important - get a grip. Tell yourself that you are going to get stronger and do everything in your power to do just that. Get your priorities in line and then act on the problems in the order they are important to you. Do not try to accomplish everything overnight. Chances are your problems weren’t born in a day and they won’t be resolved in a day either. Wherever possible, concentrate on one problem at a time. Above all, protect yourself from your own emotions. Stay calm, cool and collected. Tell yourself that this too will pass, because it will. And take a break as often as is possible.

Can you do this? Can your really organize your problems in a manner to lessen the tension you are feeling? Can you truly learn how to manage your stress?

Yes, you can.

An example of good stress management might be something as near as your local supermarket deli counter. Let’s say you approach the counter in your store and there are three people working there. In front of the counter, there are perhaps a dozen people waiting to be served. The customers are all in a hurry, they are impatient, they are busy and just a little stressed out.

This scene has all the ingredients of a situation waiting to self-destruct. There is far too much pressure on too many people for too long a time. If it’s not the customers, it’s the help.

So what happens? How does the store handle this potentially stressful situation? How do they manage to cope?

On the counter is a ticket machine. Those who desire service at the counter must take a ticket on which is printed a number. As an employee becomes available, he looks at the last number served and calls out the next number (the next problem). The person with that number then steps forward and is waited on. In this manner, a potentially stressful situation is controlled. How? By assigning numbers - priorities - to the people standing in line, then dealing with them one at a time.

Do you see the relevancy here? The thing that saved this situation from becoming stressful for everyone was the control that was effectuated by use of the numbering system. That system provided order to a chaotic situation. It prioritized the individual problems (customers) by putting them in an order where they could be resolved one at a time. This is organization. This single technique permitted providing serving to the public in a relatively stress-free environment. .

If the store had let these people walk up to the counter and begin shouting for service, bedlam would have resulted and no one would have been served and everyone would have been stressed out. But that wasn’t allowed to happen.

Organization and prioritizing saved the day. Call it stress-management if you will, but if you organized your own problems and assigned them a priority just as that store did with its customers, you would have a real shot at controlling your life rather than having it control you. It’s well worth trying. Will it be easy? Of course not, nothing so important is ever easy. But can it be done? Yes it can. Being emotionally out-of-control causes stress; therefore, the way to manage stress it is to stay in control of your emotions. Don’t let things get away from you. Don ‘t let life eat you. Take your problems one at a time, exercise control of your time and your energy and you will take back control of your life.

Above all, take a mental break from your problems from time to time. Do something for fun. No matter what it is, take time for self-maintenance.

You need it.

Chapter 5

So you are reading this book and saying to yourself, ‘this is all fine, but what can I do right now to feel better?’ Well, we can’t take your problems away but we can offer some suggestions that might help. To begin with, let’s start with a few things physically that you can do which should help. Call it ‘a program for survival’.

The first technique will concern escape by meditation, the second will concern relaxation through proper breathing. Both can be of considerable help in strengthening you to deal with your stress. .

These two techniques are combined here into a single exercise which you should do every day, hopefully a few times a day. Whenever you can do it, it will be well worth the effort.

The benefit of deep, controlled breathing to release stress has long been established in the practice of stress management. Since stress emanates from the brain, and oxygen nourishes the brain, you can see the correlation. It is for this reason that we also recommend regular physical exercise as being of invaluable help in preparing yourself to deal with your problems.

Our exercise will take fifteen minutes out of your busy day, time we want you to set aside for yourself. Call it maintenance. Your body and your mind are machines and they require maintenance as any machine does. Since you are stressed out, this is your maintenance program. It is long overdue, so let’s get to it. .

Go to a room in your home where you won’t be disturbed for a little while. Stand in front of a window, if you can, and look out. Hopefully the scene out your window will be a peaceful one. Now, with your arms at your side take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds, and then let it out slowly. Repeat this exercise ten times over, and please take your time. Breathe in and out slowly. Try to relax. This is important because you want your mind to slow down, to take a break.

When you are done, sit down. Breathe normally for a few minutes and then, when you are ready, repeat the exercise sitting down. Lay your hands in your lap. Try not to think of your problems. Free your mind of worry. Consider this ‘your time’, the time you need to restore your energy and your will to survive. It is vital that you use this time to slow down your mental processes. Stress revs you up. That’s a bad thing. Meditation combined with deep breathing slows you down. That’s a good thing.

If you can, try to imagine yourself walking down a beach on a sunny day, or picking flowers in a field. Now I know this sounds a little far-fetched but it isn’t. I am basically hardheaded when it comes to stress management as you may have learned. I want you to get tough. I want you to deal with your problems. I want you to eat life before life eats you. But, there are times when you need to take a break. This is one of those times. It is not a time for combativeness or anger. It is a time to utterly relax, to free yourself of worry and of doubt and of fear. It is a time to pretend – to pretend you have no problems, that you have no stress. Just for these fifteen minutes, let yourself imagine peaceful things, happy things. Breathe slowly and let your mind drift aimlessly. Put yourself almost in a trance-like state where there are no problems, where they is no stress. It won’t last long but for a brief time, I want you to concentrate solely on you.

And for whose sake are you doing this? We answered this question earlier and we will answer it again here. You are doing this, not for yourself, but for the sake of those who need you. Remember: if you take care of the caregiver, the caregiver can take care of those that need caring for. It’s as simple as that. You are doing this for them. That should assuage any guilt that you are pampering yourself and allow you to concentrate on self-preservation, at least for this brief respite.

Once you have completed this exercise, you can get back to your daily routine but hopefully, you will feel a little better. Of course, fifteen minutes is not going to change your life in and of itself. It’s not that easy. That’s why we suggest that you repeat this exercise two or even three times a day, every day.

Whereas it is true that one fifteen minute session is not going to change your life, it is also true that if you repeat this exercise at least once every morning and once every night for a period of a week or so, it is possible – even likely – that you will begin to notice a difference in the way you respond to your problems. And that is the goal.

Taking this time for yourself will revitalize your psyche and make your stronger and that will be to everyone’s benefit. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t cost you anything; but it might be the best ‘investment’ you ever made. So try it. Begin as we have suggested with two fifteen-minute sessions a day and see if you don’t feel better soon.

feel certain that you will.

Chapter 6

Stress is associated with a wide variety of medical problems including heart disease, obesity, IBS, headaches, high blood pressure etc. The list is endless. Just about any and all medical problems are made worse by stress. In America today, stress is so rampant it is nearing epidemic proportions. It is a by-product both of the way we live and how long we live. People who live longer seem to acquire more reasons to be stressed out and that creates stressful situations for themselves but also for those around them.

I am going to offer a hypothesis here that may be upsetting to some. But here goes anyway. I am coming to believe that those who are the most affected by stress are those who are the most self-absorbed. It is not a comfortable thought and I am certain it will not sit well with some people but let me try to explain why I say this.

We all know people who don’t seem to be as badly affected by stressful situations as we are. Where we seem to be confounded, they are confident. Where we get upset, they remain calm. Where we become pessimistic, they remain optimistic.

This contradiction does not seem to be dependent so much on what the situation is as to the type person they are. ‘Perspective’ seems to be the key to surviving stress.

A loved one becomes ill and requires care. To the self-absorbed person, it is all about what is expected of him, how this will affect his life, rather than what is happening to the person who is ill. This is not a deliberate thing and I am not suggesting a lack of caring. I just mean that the concentration of the caregiver attention is on the caregiver’s sacrifice – he or she feels put upon - rather than on the person who needs the service he/she is providing. This type thinking personalizes the sacrifice the caregiver is making and that leads to a feeling of self-pity and that leads to tension or even depression. It’s a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, there are those who never - or at least seldom – center their attention on themselves. Their interest is focused outward, on others. For example, in the case we just cited, the second type individual’s concern would be less on what is expected of him, than it is on the care he/she is providing. They direct their concentration away from themselves and feel less that they are being used than that they are in a position to help a loved one.

Take pride is what you are doing. It is always easier to do what you want to do than what you have to do. By not concentrating on what is expected of you but rather on the needs of those you are helping, you will lessen the pressure on yourself.

Chapter 7

It is generally believed that women are more vulnerable to stress than are men. Well, if you consider the multiple responsibilities that women deal with at home and on the job, that may be understandable; but it is far more likely that men just hide their stress better and are non-communicative on these matters. Women on the other hand tend to talk freely about their problems and hence are more visible. Stress is one of those problems.

So how do we manage stress?. How do we overcome it? How do we live with it without letting it ruin our lives? There are no simple cures for stress. No way to avoid it. Stress is part of the human condition. But even if you can’t eliminate it, there are a number of approved techniques for stress management. Look them over and see which of them may be right for you.

The first thing you have to learn to do in this life if you are going to function successfully is to say ‘no’. It is also one of the hardest. Saying no to anyone let alone someone we love seems cold and heartless so we have a hard time doing it. Our children are a prime example. Both parents have to deal with their kid’s requests but mothers seem to be on the scene far more often. This is true particularly, though not solely limited to, stay-at-home mothers.

Children are frequently busy people. They have things to do and they have places to go. Unfortunately since they don’t drive, getting them where they have to go becomes the mother’s responsibility. This, of course, is in addition to her other duties. It can become quite hectic, who has to go here and who has to go there. Often everyone has to be where he or she has to be, at the same time. It can be very stressful. The first thing you need to understand is that you are not Supermom. You cannot let yourself be pulled in two directions at the same time because that will result in just two things, both of them bad:

* you will quickly become overwhelmed, and
* you will soon drive yourself crazy. You might even have a breakdown, which will create a whole new problem for you.

No, it is far better you take steps to prevent these things from happening before they happen. Learn to say “no” and then, say it as often as is necessary. You are not being a bad mother if you just can’t do everything your kids want you to do, when they want you to do them. For that matter, what anyone wants you to do. All you can do is do what you can and say ‘no’ to the rest. If you don’t – if you don’t learn to say no to some things – you will soon be saying no to everything because you will have a breakdown. It can happen if you don’t take care of yourself. We spoke of this earlier in another context, protect yourself for those who need you. Know your limits and abide by them. Those around you will adjust, take my word for it.

All relationships generate stress at one point or another. Whether it’s the kids or the spouse or the people at work – getting along is a day-to-day struggle. If you are going to meet the demands that are placed on you and do so successfully, then ou must be in charge of your own life. You need to husband your resources, and that doesn’t mean turn them over to your husband. It means to protect them, to use them wisely. You only have so much time that you can give, only so much energy that you can expend on others. You have to use both wisely.

We all need our families. We all need our personal relationships to get through life. But you need to understand that if you allow it, the people you love can often be the greatest source of tension and stress in your life. They don’t mean to be, of course, but they are. Don’t let that happen. If you do, you will find yourself resenting them. Instead, learn to say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is necessary. Don’t try to be all things to all people. It can’t be done.

If you plan to keep your health as well as your senses, you will have to learn to manage your life. You have no choice. Whether you are married or single, whether you have children or not, whether you are in a relationship or not, your life is going to be stressful. It just happens. Managing that stress is essential to maintaining your mental health. .

In today’s society, stress has become the number one malady. The constant pressure associated with living in our fast-paced world has created an environment where almost everyone is suffering to some degree from excessive stress. The effects on our health, productivity and quality of life are devastating–more devastating than people realize.

In the movie “Gone with the Wind”, Scarlet O’Hara was fond of saying ‘tomorrow is another day’. Well, this may sound trite and it may sound simplistic but in reality, it is true. ‘Tomorrow is another day’. Kick back. Take a break. Relax. Read a little. Take a bath. Go for a long walk. Call a friend you can trust, and vent. Eat something sweet and tasty. Pamper yourself. Remember the time you invest in yourself is time well spent. .

That’s what we call stress management, taking charge of your life; knowing when to step on the gas and when to take your foot off the accelerator. You can do it if you just learn how.

When Astronaut Mike Finke returned to Earth from the International Space Station after spending 188 days away from his family, he was asked how he dealt with the stress of having his wife deliver their baby while he was away. His answer was revealing because it emphasized exactly what we are talking about here, understanding the situation, accepting the situation, and dealing with the situation. Mike’s reply to the questioner was as follows: “I didn’t let that bother me because there wasn’t anything I could do about it.” It is a perfect example of the power of positive thinking, a perfect example of personal stress management; understanding and acceptance of the reality.

It is always a good idea to step back from a situation and take another look before reacting. This is never more true than in relationships where an honest look at their value and the specific behaviors and attitudes that can act to defuse any friction, can pay big dividends. A significant aspect of relationships is that they provide a sense of purpose, direction and companionship in our lives. Because they are so important, they require careful nurturing to remain strong. We all must continually strive for an understanding of the value of these relationships and of the role they play in our lives and not let the pressure of day-to-day living destroy them. Don’t wait until it is too late to appreciate what you have.

When relationships lead to stress, it is very often because there is a difference in how each person perceives the relationship. Based on the assumption that it is important that we are aware of behaviors that are personally offensive to the other party, Greg Feldman, Ph.D., a fellow in the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Simmons College, offers the following observations:

“Nearly all stress in relationships stems from a difference in goals, so when there’s conflict you need to come to a shared understanding of your goals before you can make progress. To accomplish this, you need to conduct yourself in ways that support the relationship rather than harm it. This means learning to avoid behaviors such as criticizing, using insults or launching personal attacks, being overly defensive, or refusing to listen to or respond to the other party’s complaints.”

Certain behaviors are stress accelerators. You maybe be exhibiting habits that actively perpetuate and intensity the stressful situation. Some of these behaviors are (1) avoidance of the conflict, (2) refusal to discuss the issue for fear of hurting the other party (3) being judgmental and (4) blaming. Other behaviors that are counter productive according to Dr. Feldman, include refusing to listen, displaying hostile body language, and engaging in character attacks. Name calling and stonewalling are also counter productive.

So, how do we change? What is the issue here? Perhaps it has to do with the way we approach life in general. The professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital offer several suggestions that actually entail looking at life quite differently. Try these seven suggestions for defusing stress in your relationships:

* Look for the best in relationships and in other people. Positive thinking makes positive outcomes more likely.
* Be open and honest: Sharing your feelings and opinions frankly leads to better understanding and more effective solutions to problems.
* Validate others’ points of view and opinions. Express understanding and empathy.
* Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions. What part of the problem is your fault? Don’t make excuses.
* Express positive feelings. Remind others that you appreciate and admire them despite disagreements.
* Make an effort to stay calm. Discussing issues rationally and tactfully offers the best change for problem resolutions. Use breaks and relaxation techniques to counteract physiological arousal.
* Find solutions that are satisfying to both parties.

Earlier, we discussed proper breathing exercises as a tool for managing stress. We now have added the seven steps to better relationships offered by the professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital as additional tools that you can use.

Lastly, we are going to add our own ideas of techniques that are simple but very productive in reducing stress. These are specific activities that you can accomplish in your own home or neighborhood that will help you to control your life. They can and will smooth over the rough spots.

We have all heard the expression ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Well, it’s true. It is far better to take care of yourself today rather than having to deal with the dual problems of stress and depression tomorrow. Here are our suggestions of techniques that may help you in various stressful situations. Select those that seem right for you and give them a try. See if you don’t feel better.

* Music: Have you ever heard that old expression: “music sooths the savage beast”? Well the beast in your house is stress and music indeed will sooth your beast. At a certain time every day, preferably when you are alone, select your favorite performer, put on a CD, then lay back, close your eyes, and let the music sweep over you. Take as long as you can and just listen. The music will cleanse your mind and body of stress.
* Flowers: Another favorite technique is to place flowers around your house, not big vases that cost a lot of money, but small inexpensive ones holding small amounts of real flowers. They don’t have to be expensive and you don’t need a lot but the sight and the smell of flowers seems to have a calming effect on our nervous systems. So give them a try. They won’t make your problems go away of course, but the flowers combined with the music will be a wonderful relaxant.
* Exercise. Regular exercise is a great way to deal with stress and the good thing is everyone can do it. If you can, visit a gym regularly to work off your tension. If you cannot, then take walks whenever possible. Walking is great therapy. It actually changes the chemicals in your brain and helps relieve your mind of stress. As you walk, your brain relaxes and after a while you drift into a kind of somnambulism that takes you far away from your worries. That’s what you are looking for.
* Sex. Yes, I said sex. Frequent sex is one of nature’s great stress relievers. Even if you are angry with your partner, you can still have great sex with him or her. Physical climaxing flushes your emotions. It clears away stress factors, it also keeps you younger and makes you more vital. So try it. Tell yourself, it’s great therapy, and go with it. Besides you can say the doctor ordered it. This will surprise you but when you are through, you may have trouble remembering what your problem was before you started. At least for a little while and that’s a good thing.
* Get organized: Most stress comes from not being in control or at least, thinking you are not in control. It doesn’t have to be that way. That is just your mindset and you can change it. You can be in control of your own life and that is what I want for you. I want you to be a new you. I want you to learn to be organized, to be decisive, to make your decisions and then move on without looking back. Never engage in self-doubt. Don’t re-analyze your decisions. Don’t ever blame yourself. Just do the best you can and move on. If you keep re-examining what you did, you will spend all of your time looking backward and none of it looking forward. All that will do is to greatly increase the pressure on you and prevent you from moving on. Don’t do it. Take control of your own life and of your emotions. You can do it. Tell yourself you will no longer allow yourself to become upset about things that you cannot change. That you will no longer let others cause you to become stressed. That you understand what is expected of you and what you can do, and that you will do it but that is all you will do because that is all you can do. And once again, never look back to see if you could have done something differently or better. You did the best you could and understanding that is the key to a happier life.
* Use Baths to ease the pressure: The Roman Baths have gone down in history as Roman excess. But perhaps they served a much more practical purpose in the highly eclectic society that was Ancient Rome. A little used but highly effective technique for stress relief is the long hot bath. Perhaps the Romans knew that. Some people even include foot baths in to the mix. Both approaches can be considered as tension therapy. Both will work. A warm bath is a wonderful way to end a stressful day. It forces you to stop and take a break. It sooths your mind and relaxes your body. It gives you time alone, time for yourself, time to recover from the tensions of the day. Take a warm luxurious bath every night and think of it as emotional therapy because that’s exactly what it is. Take a book in with you. Spend 30 minutes in that tub, close your eyes and lay back or, if you prefer, read. When you are through, you will be surprised to find that you are completely refreshed. If your doctor were smart, he would prescribe hot baths as he does medication. But even if he doesn’t, you can. Pampering your body means pampering your mind because feeling good physically translates to feeling good mentally and when you feel good, you can move mountains.
* Lean on your Faith: For those of you who are believers, think of your work caring for others as an assignment from God. You are helping Him to care for His children. That should make you feel very good about yourself.
* Schedule your day: There is nothing so soothing as knowing what you have to do and when you have to do it. Planning your day helps keep things under control. Try not to be surprised. Have a schedule and stick to it. If it is not absolutely necessary, do not interrupt one task for another. That creates chaos and chaos causes stress and stress is what you want to avoid. If you have taken the time to create a schedule, stick to it.
* Learn to relax: All these ideas and devices have one goal in mind, to relax you. Where the weather is appropriate, lay in the sun. Use the proper sun blocks of course, but a day on the deck or at the beach is a great stress reliever. Put on the soft music, lay back, and let your troubles melt away. I know you don’t have a lot of time for yourself, but take some time. Set aside thirty minutes or an hour a day for yourself so that you will be able to do what is required of you later. I call this approach self-maintenance.
* Work on your relationships: When relationships become contentious, it is usually because pressure has caused you to forget what brought you and your partner together. If you can, take a moment and have you and your partner sit down with paper and pencil and list the ten qualities you most admired in one another that brought you together. Than have each of you explain them one at a time, alternating as you do. By the time you are done, if you still care for one another, you will find the stress and anger will have subsided. And both of you will be smiling. It’s a device to make you appreciate what you have instead of concentrating on what you do not have. And that’s the secret. Everyone experiences bad times in relationships, but if the basic love for one another still exists, techniques like these will bring it back to the surface. Remember you are a team and as a team, you can conquer all obstacles. Tell yourself how much worse off you would be alone and how much better he/she has made your life by being in it. Love needs reinforcement. Love needs nurturing just as surely – and as often – as do the plants and flowers around your home. Take the time. Don’t give up. The rewards will be well worth it. Remember always that stress is your enemy so anything that helps you to control stress is good. If you won’t be stressed out, you can’t be stressed out. It’s that old Tahitian axiom again: you eat life or life eat you. The choice is yours.

As if there are not enough reasons for wanting to do a better job of managing your stress, here is another and one that is near and dear to the heart of many men and just about all women: weight control. We know today that chronic stress slows up the body’s metabolism. This in turn causes less rapid caloric use, which results in weight gain. It is all tied together in one neat package. And it all makes sense. Stress or its progeny - depression - causes you to:

* Become lethargic.
Lethargy leads to:
* Inactivity.
Inactivity leads to:
* A slower metabolism.
A slower metabolism gives you:
* Weight gain.

It just goes round and round. This is why it is important to learn all that you can about stress, weight, and weight control. Let’s take a moment to see what’s new on this front.

Being fat is at an epidemic level in the United States. That fact that over 50 billion is spent on diets and products to control weight is proof. In fact, when you look around you, it seems pretty normal to be fat. Most people are. At least, they are packing a few extra pounds around the waist, which we laughing describe as a “beer belly.” But just take a look at the facts.

Mark Hyman, MD, (1) author of the new best seller, Ultrametabolism, describes the state of affairs observed in the United States and the world in general. Dr. Hyman writes:

* One billion people in the world are obese.
* 65 % of Americans are now overweight, up 18% since 1994
* 30% of Americans are obese, up 36% since 1994
* Diabetes is now an epidemic in children
* Over 40% of Americans have high cholesterol
* 50% of Americans over 65 have high blood pressure; 28.7% of all Americans have high blood pressure.
* 5.1% of us have type 2 diabetes; a staggering 104% increase from 1980 –2004
* Over 100 million Americans have metabolic syndrome a risk factor for heart disease.
* 92% of Americans are deficient in one or more essential vitamins and minerals.

What we now know is that stress is a major precipitant factor in this weight gain.

Not only are we a nation of fat, stressed out people, but the problem of exceeds weight has supported billions to address the issue:

* Americans spend $117 billion annually to treat obesity-linked disease including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer and arthritis.
* Over $50 billion is spent on weight loss alone.
* Of the $1.9 trillion spent on healthcare, just 2% is spent of prevention.
* Since 2000, the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed 59% while wages have increased a meager 12%.
* Medicaid expenditures will balloon to an estimated 8.9% a year from 2002 to 2012 with Medicare rising by 6.7% per year over the same period.
* And not surprising, health care costs have exploded by 250% since 1990, from $717 billion to 1.9 trillion in 2004.

Clearly we are obsessed with weight gain and diets that continue to fail us. One reason is that too little emphasis has been placed on stress, which we now have identified as a major contributory factor in this epidemic.”

Dr. Hyman continues: “So let’s say you have now become convinced that managing your stress goes hand in hand with weight control and you begin to work on both. You start by checking out books on dieting, see your doctor, or team up with your best friend to insure that you will be successful in your effort. But guess what – you are doomed to fail based on the traditional science of weight loss and nutritional management. Based on Hyman’s research the facts are:

Only 2 – 6% of all attempts at weight loss are successful. And the average person ultimately gains 5 pounds over and above his or her starting weight for every diet undertaken.

* A recent comparison of 4 different diets (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and the Zone) published in the Journal of American Medical Association found no significant difference between any of them. In fact, people who followed them lost an average of only 4.5 to 6.5 pounds a year. (Hyman, 2)

So ordinary diets don’t work! We need to ask why? The reason is that nutritional and medical fields concerned with weight loss are based on outdated science that is no longer relevant. They don’t work. The data has been inaccurate and misleading. As a nation, Dr. Hyman says, we have been helplessly entangled and at the mercy of bad science based on misleading assumptions:

* Eating less and exercising more will help you shed pounds
* Consuming a low carb diet is the way to go
* Skipping meals will make a difference.
* Counting calories is all you have to do.

These are just a few of the misconceptions that have dominated our concepts of weight management. This new science of weight control challenges these misconceptions and urges us to look anew at our metabolism. This involves monitoring your thyroid function, your liver and your internal inflammation levels – as well as managing your stress.”

So, if you really want to control your weight, which will help you feel better about yourself and therefore reduce your stress, you will find that Mark Hyman, MD, author the new science of weight loss to be a key figure. His book, Ultrametabolism, 2006 is a primary resource. Also, you will want to locate health care professionals who are aware and practicing the newer management approach. I suggest that you log onto this website to locate an appropriate physician: www.UltraMetabolism.com.

Learning about the new science of weight management will be a key resource enabling you to get healthy and stay healthy through the twin benefits of a sensible diet program and good stress management.

Trying to avoid stress completely, of course, is not possible, nor is it desirable. Stress is an important part of life because you can’t achieve positive adaptations and growth without stress to trigger them. It’s continuous stress – chronic stress - that must be avoided. Stress that stays with you day to day is the great destroyer.

Throughout this book, I have tried to make my message clear: that understanding and acceptance of reality are the keys to controlling emotionalism and stress. Now you can add in one more: controlling your weight. Don’t let stress put on the pounds. Remember people that look good feel good. You are what you are and life is what it is and your situation can be handled, but only you can do it.

Don’t ask more of yourself that you can give. Don’t expect too much of others so that you won’t be disappointed. Impossible goals lend themselves to failure and failure leads to dejection, and that is a bad thing. Be realistic in what you ask of yourself and of others. To restate an earlier warning, don’t set the bar too high.

Certainly, it is a good idea to set goals for yourself. We are all creatures of habit so if you continue to do what you have been doing, things are not going to improve so it’s a good idea to try a new approach. But it is important that your goals be realistic.

Work at developing good habits mentally and physically. Plan your day. Schedule your time (leaving time for yourself). Be more upbeat and confident. Think positive. Watch your weight and try to get enough exercise. Remember what we said about exercise burning off tension and overpowering stress. Do what you can but do it regularly.

If you make the attempt, I assure you that you will be happier. If you do what you can and be content that you have done all that you can, you will take some of the pressure off yourself and you will also bring some light into your life.. And remember you are not Superman (or Supermom). Superheroes only exist in comics.

Before leaving the subject of stress and its affect on weight control, let’s take one last opportunity to listen to Dr. Mark Hyman’s comments excerpted from his current bestseller: UltraMetabolism.

Dr. Hyman writes:

“The problem with most diets is that you are literally starving yourself to death! And when you’re starving, it doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much you exercise.
The Starvation Myth
Eat less + exercise more = weight loss, right? Wrong. That’s the Starvation Myth. At first glance, it makes sense. After all, if you take in fewer calories, your body has fewer ones to turn into fat, Plus, exercising burns fat, so the more you exercise, the more fat you’ll burn.
It’s a simple equation, but one that just doesn’t add up. If it did, diets would work and far fewer people would be overweight. So why doesn’t the Starvation Myth work? Here are three reasons why.

Reason # 1:

When you eat less, you actually slow down your metabolism. That makes it harder to lose weight…not easier. Why? Well, when you eat less, your body thinks it’s starving. That’s a threat to your survival. The most primitive part of your brain, the part that governs your safety takes over and alerts your body that you are not getting enough food. What happens next helps explain why most diets fail: Your body does everything possible to ensure that you won’t starve to death. That includes slowing down your metabolism. The result? The result is that you have less energy, feel weaker, and burn less fat. And here’s the real kicker — your appetite increases sharply because your brain now thinks, ‘I am not getting enough food, so next time I come across food, eat as much as possible because who knows when the next meal is going to be.’ Once your body hits starvation mode, you start - and keep - eating. And you end up gaining, rather than losing, weight.

Reason # 2:

Exercise hard and you’ll burn a lot of calories. So what’s the problem? The problem is if you burn more calories than you take in, your body gets confused again. Just like eating less puts your body into starvation mode, burning so many calories makes your brain think you’re starving-and your metabolism slows down to conserve fuel. Now you feel wiped out, hungry, and much less likely to keep exercising. That’s because your body keeps you from burning any more calories than is absolutely necessary. So even though exercise burns extra calories, you end up exercising less, eating more and burning fewer calories in the long run. It’s no surprise that this process makes you gain weight. But did you know that all your dieting attempts add up over time - along with the pounds? Every time your diet fails, you store those extra calories as fat. Even worse, any weight that you lose on a deprivation diet is only half-fat. The other half is metabolically active muscle! Losing that muscle actually slows your metabolism since muscle cells burn far more calories than fat cells. Keep losing weight and regaining it (”yo-yo” dieting) and you’re really sabotaging your body’s metabolism. It’s called the skinny-fat syndrome and it can be a terribly vicious cycle.

Reason # 3:

Need another reason not to starve yourself? Consider this. You skip breakfast and lunch, have a long day, and feel drained. On your way home, all you can think about is how hungry you are. You’re desperate to fix the problem. At this point, you’ll eat anything-and it probably turns out to be fast food or junk food. If this rings a bell, then I have a solution, which is one of the keys to an UltraMetabolism. You must control your appetite and harness your brain chemistry for weight loss. To this end, here are 6 ways to control your appetite and erase those unhealthy cravings.

1) Eat often.
If you try to restrict your eating to only once or twice a day, you’ll be so hungry every time you eat that you’ll end up overeating. A better solution? Eat several small meals during the day instead of one or two very large ones. But what should you eat? That brings me to my next point.
2) Eat real food.
Eating real food controls your appetite in a way that processed food cannot. What do I mean by real food? I mean food that is as close as possible to its original
form — food that hasn’t been processed or canned. Food that hasn’t had chemicals added to it. What’s NOT real food? Well - canned fruit or fruit juices - canned vegetables - anything made from processed wheat - squishy bread - packaged mixes - instant potatoes - foods containing anything artificial- soda pop - processed deli-meats et al. These processed foods not only have little or no nutritional value, they actually poison your body. You might as well be eating cardboard! These “fake foods” may fill you up for a few minutes, but your body digests them very quickly. This sharply raises your blood sugar level, which then increases your appetite instead of decreasing it, leaving you feeling hungrier over the long run.
3) Eat breakfast.
If you starve yourself all day long, you will most likely be uncontrollably hungry in the evening, and you will eat a huge meal. You are better off eating breakfast. It will fill you up and will kick-start your metabolism for the whole day. Not all breakfasts are created equal. Foods that contain protein — like a vegetable omelet — will keep you feeling fuller and more energetic than a bagel. Why? The bagel raises your blood sugar, making your body think it needs more food.
4) Eat fiber.
Fiber takes a long time to digest, so it keeps you full longer. This quells your appetite, so you end up eating less throughout the day. Fiber is like a sponge that soaks up fat and sugar in your gut and both slows and prevents some of their absorption.
5) Eat fat.
It may sound strange, but some fats can help you lose weight. In fact, if you eat a completely fat-free meal, you will probably still feel hungry, even if your stomach is full. Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and certain fish, actually help control your appetite.
6) Avoid sugar.
Sucrose, glucose, corn syrup…Sugar (in all of its forms) increases your appetite as soon as you taste it. Even a tiny bite of a sweet snack in between “real” meals can trigger a vicious cycle of sugar cravings making you even hungrier. You’re probably eating a snack in the first place to help turn down your appetite, not turn it up. So make sure when you snack, you snack on something that contains very little, and preferably no, sugar. For example, in the middle of the day, I keep a little pack of nuts and fruits to munch on. Yes, fruit does contain sugar, but it’s in its natural form that our bodies were meant to digest.”

* * *

I hope Dr. Human’s information has given you new information that will help you feel good about yourself because feeling good about yourself is the best medicine of all. And if stress management is the best way to treat yourself to good health, which it is, than diet control is one of the ways you can feel better about yourself which will in turn help to reduce your daily stress. Good habits lead to good health.

Before leaving this chapter we wish once again to thank Dr. Hyman for his help and to recommend his book:

UltraMetabolism.

Chapter 8

In America today, many women must work outside the home. In the past half century the percentage of these women has almost tripled. “Well”, I can hear you say, “so do men”, and that’s true. But there is a difference. The difference is that working outside the home has always been the responsibility of men so nothing has changed much for them. It’s different with women. For thousands of years women had, as their primary responsibility, the management of their homes and the raising of their families. That was considered a full time job and women seldom were asked to take on another.

Today, all that has changed. Over sixty-five percent of women hold two jobs – one in the home and one in the workplace – and it’s all they can do to juggle their priorities in a way that doesn’t shortcut either. There’s nothing easy about it and to say the modern woman is more stressed out than her forebears is to state the obvious. How could she not be? She has been given two divergent priorities and she finds herself confused about what is really expected of her. Is she mother and nurturer first or is she breadwinner? Which job demands the most emphasis?

What makes all this even more difficult in our modern stressful society is the fact that so many mothers now have to deal with this as single parents. Half of all marriages end in divorce and with each passing year, the number of divorced women with small children who are custodial parents seems to increase even as marriages themselves are on the decline. This move away from two parent families dramatically increases the pressure on the women who are left to bear the entire burden of parenting, alone. Stress, as you might imagine in such a situation, is both intense and inevitable.

The truth is, for many people, divorce makes very little better and a lot of things worse.

The pressure on the modern mother is consistent, demanding, and inexorable leaving her no time to kick back and relax. Hence she is at risk for increased stress.

With the advent of divorce, mom has suddenly become a single mom and not only does she have to care for the kids but she needs to find a job. What makes this worse is that for most single mothers who have been out of the job market for a while, even if she does find a job, just like so many older women returning to the workplace after a long absence, she usually has to start at the bottom of the economic ladder and work her way up. This means she has to work as hard as everyone else but she is going to earn less money. The result is, until they can increase her pay level, she is going to have to exist at or near the poverty level and there is little she can do about it. Is it any surprise that this adds to the stress of the moment? The surprise would be if it did not. It’s a heavy burden and many young women are ill prepared to handle it.

In one-parent families, stress becomes a family problem. If the parent is stressed, the children will be stressed. It can’t be avoided. What makes all this worse in single parent families is that the single parent has no one to share the burden with. They have to ‘go it’ alone. And while it is true that partners that have lived in a contentious relationship for a long period of time may breath a sigh of relief when they are out of it, in time that sigh of relief turns into a sigh of loneliness and even despair. It’s no fun having to deal with these problems at any time, but it’s worse when you are alone. .

Since the primary custodial parent in America is the woman, it is she who is most often forced to deal with these problems. Let’s take a moment to address her situation.

Loneliness is a debilitating and depressing emotion in and of itself. It does nothing but add to the problems at hand. For a single mother trying to cope – trying to keep her sanity while taking care of her family alone – loneliness is a pressing and fundamental problem that she must work hard to overcome. How does she do this?

The answer is the same with this stressful situation as with any other stressful situation. Mom can and must learn to manage her priorities in a way that she can take control of her life. Whether she knows it or not, whether it’s obvious to her or not, things will get better with time. Most everything does. The children will get older. She will get used to being on her own. Her earnings will go up as she gets more job experience.

What mom needs to do now is to concentrate on protecting herself until those things do improve. That is what this book is all about. Helping her to deal with her new reality until she can change it. Helping her to take control of her new life. Teaching her how to cope, how to survive.

She must not give up or give in. She must use each and every resource available to her to teach her how to cope. She can survive if she will survive. It’s entirely up to her.

By this time, I hope my message is clear. It is a message of tough love, of self-discipline and self-reliance, of the power of positive thinking. I have no time for defeatism or emotionalism because they don’t help, in fact they will just make everything worse. That is not what I want for you and I don’t think it’s what you want either. I want to help you to get stronger, to take charge of your life; hence, I am not going to offer you a lot of sympathy. That simply won’t help and helping you is my goal.

There are a lot of books written on the subject of stress management but from what I have seen there is still a lot of stress around so I guess that means no one really knows how to eliminate it. I am no exception. Nor am I at all certain that eliminating stress would be such a good idea, were it possible. Stress acts like adrenaline, it helps us to ‘kick start’ our day. It motivates us to get going. So rather than trying to eliminate it, which is probably impossible anyway, what I am attempting to do here is to teach you how to manage that stress, how to use it to your advantage. If you will meet me half way, it you will make a commitment to regain control of your life, then I promise you I can teach you techniques that will help you to make your life better. It won’t be easy and I can’t do it without you, but together we can get it done.

Now make no mistake. I am not talking here about deeply imbedded psychological problems like flashbacks to wartime experiences or to horrendous natural disasters or to cataclysmic tragedies like the loss of a beloved child. Nor am I addressing those who are mentally or emotionally disabled. This is not the forum to deal with traumas of this magnitude. For these, you truly need the help and guidance of a clinical psychologist who can arrange to treat you in a controlled setting and with appropriate medication, if necessary.

Rather, what I am addressing here is what I will call the more ‘normal’ types of stress. Stress that comes from emotional overload or from asking too much of ourselves, stress that is the result of a failed relationship or that comes from any of a myriad of other problems that confront us every day. With these problems, I believe I can help.

To do so, I need you to decide here and now that you have had enough of being beaten down by life, that you want, no not want, but demand something better. If you can do just that much, if you will just make a firm commitment to your own mental health and happiness, then together we can change your life for the better. I truly believe that.

If I were to ask you to tell me what type problem generates the most stress in your life, it is likely that you wouldn’t be able to give me a clear answer. That’s because there are so many problems in our daily lives that your answer would depend largely on which one was causing you the most aggravation at the time I asked. For example, it you are in a relationship and the relationship is not going well, emotional frustration might be it; If you are recently out of a relationship and are feeling alone and depressed, then loneliness might be your answer. If you are a single mom who is beside herself trying to make ends meet, than money or the kids would represent the breaking point. Stress comes in many different packages.

Having said that, I am going to go out on the limb. I think for women, failed or failing relationships generate more continuing stress than any other category of problems. Relationship stress, for a woman, can be terribly destructive. Here’s why I say that.

I believe men are primarily solitary figures. They are quite capable of going it alone emotionally. Sure, they may hang out with other men to watch a ballgame etc., but generally you won’t find them seeking out other men with whom they can share their most personal or deeply felt emotional problems. They just don’t seem to need that.

Women on the other hand are like pack animals. They don’t like to be isolated emotionally. They prefer to share. In fact, women seem to need the interpersonal interactions that come from frequent contacts with other human beings as much as they need sunshine itself. They just need to interact. If they are in a good relationship, their partner will supply that need for them. But if not, then they will seek out a friend or friends or someone with whom they can interact emotionally. It’s just the way women are. Emotional isolation is not their strong point, it is their Achilles’ heel. Women do not choose to interact, they must interact.

For centuries, marriage and family formed the pillars of a woman’s existence. Having children, and raising her family, provided her with meaning, purpose and a daily function and those things fully occupied the middle years of her life. They gave her a job to do that she loved doing and which rewarded her emotionally, and it was that which sustained her for centuries.

Today, everything has changed. The satisfying job of raising a family with a husband has largely been transfigured to raising a family alone. Two-parent families have been transformed into one-parent families – and that one parent in most cases is the woman - and this new role may not be nearly as satisfying as that which preceded it.

Single mothers with increased responsibilities and decreased emotional satisfaction are victims of increased stress. Why is it surprising when some of this stress gives rise to depression?

When a relationship fails, it creates a lot of bitterness and emotional upheaval in the lives of the partners. Both people are hurt. Often one or both feel marginalized or trivialized. Their egos are battered. It doesn’t really matter how good or bad the relationship was, breaking up is hard to do and no one walks away unscathed.

But there is a reality here as there is with most things. The reality is that life goes on. We really have no choice. Whether for ourselves, for our family and friends, or for our children, life must go on and we must therefore find a way to deal with it, to get back to normal as quickly as possible. To accomplish that, there is one essential: we need to take control over our emotions. We need to stop dwelling on what was and begin thinking of what can be. Put those things that we can’t control out of our minds and just move on. We must eat life so that life doesn’t eat us. We must get tough with ourselves and make the firm decision that we are going to find a way to cope with this new situation because it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those around us. Force yourself to think about the future rather than the past. Make specific plans however small, and follow through with them, become more active, join a group activity if possible to be around other people, and finally spend some time outside the home. All of this will help you to move forward with your life by taking you away from concentrating on the past. It will all help you to move forward.

Above all, try to think positive. If you work at it, if you concentrate wherever possible on being positive, it will become natural to you. Above all, think about things that make you happy and smile often. Train yourself to be happy and you will be happy.

Life is a habit. Establish good habits and live well and happy. Establish bad habits and – well you know the rest.

In order to overcome our problems, we must get back to the essentials of coping which are three. (1) Understand what has happened. (2) Accept what you cannot change. (3) Deal with the reality.

It really does work.

I am sure it seems redundant to keep repeating this advice but truly, it is the answer; you will conquer your emotions and your stress ifl you adopt these tenets as fundamental to your existence. If you don’t do this, if you sit home and ask yourself ‘why?’ or “why me?” a thousand times a day, if you continue to look backward and mourn what has gone before that you can never change, then you will live miserably in the past forever. It won’t work. The answer is to get tough and get moving. It’s the future that lies ahead of you, not the past.

Sometimes in life, things just happen and no one is really to blame. Divorce can be one of those things. People marry young then grow apart as they age. They don’t want it to happen, it just does. Or perhaps difficult situations bring out weaknesses in one’s partner that you never knew were there. When the weakness finally evidences itself, you become disillusioned and can never feel the same again. It’s no one’s fault, the weakness that so turn you off today simply didn’t show themselves until now.

The point is that things change and it’s often no one’s fault. People just fall out of love in much the same way as they once fell in love. What once worked no longer works and one or both want out.

In days past, it was much harder to walk out of a marriage and so people stayed together and worked it out and who knows, maybe that was better. But it isn’t like that anymore. Today, we have no fault divorces. When one party wants out, they can get up and leave. It’s destructively easy. When that happens, the other party is left to deal with it as best they can. But they’d better learn because the odds are the departing party isn’t coming back.

Despite the fact that maybe nobody is at fault in a divorce, it hurts just the same. And then it’s natural to want to point to the other person as being the one to blame. And if that worked, I’d say go for it. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work. In most cases, marriages fail because the partners made the wrong choices in the first place. It may have taken some years to show itself, but the weakness was there for a long time and when it finally showed itself, the marriage ended.

If a breakup is mutual, it’s easy to handle it. If it’s not mutual, if only one party wants out, then it can be devastating. One party is going to suffer far more than the other and it can lead almost to hatred. It may not be right but that is the way it is.

There is an old saying that goes: ‘marry someone who, if you didn’t marry them, could still be your best friend.’ Most of us don’t do that. It is said that opposites attract, that we look in others for qualities we lack in ourselves, and maybe that’s what we do. But it usually doesn’t work very well. Opposites may attract initially but in time they will also cause friction and friction can destroy almost anything. So the next time you enter into a relationship, remember this: pick someone who is like you, someone who laughs when you laugh, someone who likes the same kinds of movies and entertainment that you like, find someone that you can sit down and talk with. In other words, pick someone that makes a good friend as well as a good lover. If you do, you won’t have to go through this again.

Of course, I am assuming here that the break is irrevocable, that you can’t put it back together again. If you can, then we go in another direction. We look for ways to smooth over your hurt feelings. We look for methods to improve your communication skills. We even set aside some private time where the two of you can get together to talk out what has happened to see if the marriage can still be saved. But it goes even further.. You both need to eliminate faultfinding, trying to prove who did what to whom, fixing blame for the breakup. Instead of all that, you must concentrate on the positive things in your relationship, how much you once meant to each another, about your kids and what is best for them, and about how you really never wanted to be apart. You should for specific ways to conciliate, to look into the future, to rekindle the love you both once felt. All this is possible if the marriage isn’t irrevocably over.

But if it is, if it can’t be saved, if you are certain that it’s over for good, then you must move on. You must let it go.

This is the understanding we have been talking about. I know separation causes a lot of other problems and they each must be dealt with but understanding what happened and absolving yourself (and maybe your partner) of blame, may make it easier for you to accept the inevitable. That will help you find the strength to resolve the issues and repair the damage to your life and move on. So, let’s concentrate on that.

Being alone is one of life’s most difficult trials. Loneliness is a strong emotion, one of the most painful any of us will ever feel. And the loneliness that follows the breakup of a relationship is as bad as it gets. We cannot help but want to look back, to go over it time and time again, to wonder what happened? What did I do? What did he do? Who was to blame? Was it him? Was it me? It goes on and on each question just adds torment to your daily existence.

Stop it. It really doesn’t matter who was to blame once you have split up because the truth is both parties are usually to blame. One day it was you, another day it was him. But what does it matter? It’s over. It doesn’t matter at all. What does matter is that you move on, accept the fact that it’s over, and get on with your life. Remember the three tenants of coping? Understand the reality, accept the reality, and move on? It’s time to put it all into practice. Let’s try.

We will begin by focusing on the positive side of the situation. Being single again could be something good for you. It could be a chance for personal growth. It doesn’t have to be personally debilitating and it won’t be if you don’t let it. Hold your head up high. Focus on the kids if you have kids and on the job if you have a job. Start making plans for the future without your ex spouse. Concentrate on doing things rather than on the past. The mere activity of thinking ahead and planning things for the future will help you to stabilize your emotions and that is critical to your survival.

Take some time for yourself. Go back and read the chapters on how to pamper yourself, how to relax, how to revitalize your inner-self. Make it a point to think positively. It’s all a learning process but necessary if you are to get yourself emotionally ready to deal with the world as a single woman or as a single mother. It all begins with you.

Next, find a friend. Preferably someone who has gone through what you are going through now but someone you can communicate with. A man would be fine but a woman might be better. Women like to talk. They like to share their experiences. Divorce is a universal problem and you can’t go ten feet without bumping into someone who has experienced it. She has been where you are now so maybe she can help. If she is someone you have known for a long time, that would be great. But if she is a new friend that’s fine too. It won’t matter at all because what you need now is just someone who will listen to you and sympathize with you and let you come to terms with your new situation. Once you have talked it all out, you can then start thinking about how to organize your life and your priorities and get started creating a new life for yourself and your children. Your friend can help you to reach that point.

For most women, being a single mother can be anything but a happy time. They are overwhelmed, overburdened, and alone and all this produces a lot of stress. How could it not? And the loneliness of being alone after being married seems to intensify with each passing day.

Because of this, it isn’t long before the divorced woman begins to think about meeting a new man. What is the best way to that, is it too soon, where should she go? All these things enter into her decision. How is she to proceed? What should she do?

In my opinion, how she approaches this phase of her life will pre-determine how successful she is going to be. So it is a good idea to think things through before she jumps back into the dating game. If it’s any consolation, she won’t be alone. She will soon discover that lots of other women are in exactly the same boat. Still it is stressful so let’s take a moment here to examine her options.

There are six primary vehicles for bringing men and women together in our new second-chance society. Three of these seem to work fairly well, one can work but is fraught with peril, and the last two are, in my opinion, generally hit and miss avenues with only the smallest mathematical chance of success. The six most common methods and places for men and women including single parents to meet are:

* Introductions by friends and neighbors
* Attendance at church or social group activities
* Membership in associations i.e. hobby groups, professional associations, single-parent clubs etc
* The workplace
* Nightclubs and pickup bars
* Internet dating services

Let’s take the most promising method first.

Introductions by friends, family, or neighbors. The first and best way to meet a potential partner, in my opinion, is on the recommendation of someone who knows you both. Certainly it does happen that if you get a divorce, you lose some of your former friends. Those who remain married, for example, or friends of your former spouse. But you usually don’t lose your oldest and best friends, you certainly don’t lose your family, and you don’t lose the friends you had before you were married. You also will also become friends with others through work or your children’s activities and some of them will have gone through what you are going through. These people all know you. They know about you, what makes you tick, what makes you happy and what makes you sad. They understand you. And they have your best interest at heart.

So if one of these friends – new or old - tells you that they know someone they think you might like and who might like you, my advice is give it a try. Meeting a guy for the first time without knowing anything about him, or he about you, is extremely difficult. It may even be unpleasant because few people expose themselves until after you get to know them. Not so with an introduction. With an introduction, there is instant basic exposure and credibility because someone knows you both. Neither of you are coming out of the blue. I think that’s a big plus. We can assume your friend has seen something in both of you that makes he or she think you two could be compatible. Think of that as a ‘pre-qualification’. Someone giving you some assurance that the party in question meets your basic minimum standards. Just the fact that you aren’t going into it totally blind is a big plus. For all these reasons, I believe an introduction by a mutual acquaintance is the very best way to meet someone new. In my opinion, it also offers the best chance of success.

Attendance at church or social group activities. To me there is something reassuring about group activities and the people who attend them, whether they are religious or non-religious. It means the people who attend think they identify with a group and to me that is indicative of the kind of approach that makes for a good partner. We can say that the man who attends these type functions is a joiner. He is not afraid to be a part of something bigger than himself. He is not afraid of social contact. He is not afraid of committing to something. All these characteristics bode well for any potential relationship.

I would suggest you attend these activities as often as possible and go in with an open mind. If it’s a group you enjoy then you are going to find people there that are like you. One way or the other you are going to enjoy the experience and at this point in your life, that alone is a good thing. If the group meets regularly or has regular affairs, that’s even better because you can fit in, take you time, get to know your fellow members.

If you see someone that interest you, you already have established a basis for communication, you share a common interest. What could be better than that?

This is why, in my opinion, joining such a group and attending their social functions is the second best way to meet a match. (And it’s easy to do.)

Membership in associations i.e. hobby groups, gyms, professional associations, single-parent clubs etc. The most successful relationships occur when two people find they have something that they share in common. For example, if you are both artists, real estate agents or accountants, or if you both love sports, or you are workout nuts, these things give you something to build on. They are a ‘starter’. No, they won’t guarantee that you are going to hit it off but what they will do, is give you a common interest, something to talk about. And finding something to talk about – communicating – as we all know is the first prerequisite of any relationship. .

Take for example that you meet someone who, like you, enjoys skiing, or biking, or even snorkeling. You can quickly see how being in such group together would tend to put you together. Keep in mind that sharing leisure activities takes you away from the pressures of everyday life and puts you in a better frame of mind and if you find someone to share that time with, you once again are in a position to initiate or build a friendship that can be the first step to a successful relationship.

And it’s not just hobby groups or fun groups, it can also be true of professional associations be they sports (tennis clubs et al) or stargazing or accounting. As long as they meet regularly and the members share a common interest, it’s a great place to meet people. Even if you don’t find the man (or woman) of your dreams, you will still feel better spending time doing fun things with others who enjoy what you enjoy.

When it comes to new relationships I like have a head start and that’s why I think being a member of such a groups is a great head start on finding someone for the long haul. Membership in these type clubs or associations is my third best bet as a source for future romance.

The workplace. I wasn’t sure whether this would be my fourth, fifth or sixth best choice as a place to meet someone for romance. Obviously you go to work every day and if there is someone there that you meet and like, you are going to have a lot of opportunities to develop that relationship. For the most part it’s easy. You are both there every day, your jobs give you something in common, you have a lot of opportunities to meet and talk, you both usually are dressed up and looking good, and you have lots of time to get to know each other before anything has to happen. So what’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong with it is this: workplace romances are fraught with peril. To be blunt, there are so many ways that this type relationship can implode and become a big problem for both of you and your company that the dangers outweigh any good that can come of it, especially if you like your job. I don’t have to list all these dangers here because everyone knows what they are but the most obvious are

(1) One party is in a superior position and the rest of the office or workplace finds out about what is going on.
(2) One party tires of the relationship and wants to end it while the other does not.
(3) Other employees think you are getting special and/or preferential treatment by a superior and become jealous or vengeful.

These are just some of the problems that can arise as a result of interoffice relations that become too personal. There are others including:

(4) One party misunderstanding the ‘overture’ of another and feeling angry when rejected.
(5) A possible reduction of productivity on the part of one or both parties. .
(6) Running afoul of the law. (There are a number of laws on the books concerning the relationship of men and women in the workplace.)

Most companies simply don’t want the problem and the easiest way to avoid it is to ban interoffice romances, which is what they do. “If you want to date,” they say, “one of you can quit.” I agree.

Nightclubs and pickup bars. It may have surprised you to find that I did not rate bars and clubs as a good place to meet that special ‘someone’. But I don’t. The reason is because they aren’t. In fact they are among the worst places if you measure their success rate against the number of people out there, trolling for a mate. Considering how many people go to bars and meet, the success rate is amazingly poor.

This is not to say you won’t find someone to date because I am sure you will if you go often enough. But there are so many people in bars who have brought their personal problems with them, and there is so little chance to spot these guys in the crowd, that you are going to find you date a lot and get nowhere. Most of the men you meet in bars or clubs simply aren’t going to be your ‘Mr. Right’. Can it happen? Certain it can happen. Will it happen? Probably not. Particularly not for those of us who are over thirty. Maybe it’s the alcohol or maybe it’s just the fact that so many lonely people hang out in bars, but the dates are many while the successes are few and far between. The failure rate could also be attributed to something as simple as the fact that you only have a limited number of decent places close to you and soon you just keep going to the same places and seeing the same people over and over. To fine someone new, you have to travel and once you start doing that, you add a new dimension to the problem. Whatever the reason, it is my opinion that bars are not an effective or productive place to meet people if you are looking for a long-term relationship.

But there are other ways to make that first contact. Here are a few that might work for you:

* Take a camera and ask the guy if he’d mind taking your picture. See what happens.
* Get a job in a local restaurant. Work some days and a few nights. This is one of the best ways to meet a nice guy. Everyone has to eat and men who live alone normally aren’t great cooks. So they eat out. And these guys aren’t hanging in bar. They are simply having lunch or dinner. And they do it often. If you begin to see someone on a regular basis, and you want to get to know him better, you have a chance to encourage him when you see him regularly. This is one of the best places to meet someone.
* Get back into circulation. Accept invitations to parties and reunions. Call old friends. Who knows what it may lead to? An old friend might have a friend you would be interested in.
* If you see a guy at a bar that interests you, send him a drink. Guys are often reluctant to approach pretty girls. Do what you can to make it easy for him.
* If someone throws a get-acquainted party in your neighborhood, apartment building or whatever, be sure to attend. Who knows what neighbor has a fiend that might interest you. Be friendly and mingle. Let people know that you are unattached.
* If you are out and you see someone that you think looks interesting, go up to him and ask for directions to somewhere – to anywhere. If he’s available, maybe it will start a conversation.
* On pleasant evenings, take a walk around your neighborhood. If you have a pet, take him for a walk. If you see someone who is interesting, smile and try to strike up a conversation with him. Pets are good icebreakers.
* Get yourself a pin with your name on it and wear it particularly in bars or clubs. This way guys don’t have to ask your name, they will know it. Make the letters big enough to be seen in a club. Then if a guy says hello and uses your name, you can say, “you have the advantage. You know my name but I don’t know yours.” He should offer his own name if he is interested and it’s a beginning.
* If you are in a club or playground or anywhere men compete, and you see someone you like, walk up to him and tell him you and your friends have picked players to bet on and you picked him. Tell him not to disappoint you and then stay close without getting in the way. Don’t hesitate to smile to show him you like him.
* Some guys are timid about approaching a girl even if they think she is attractive. If you spot one looking at you and you think he is cute, smile at him to encourage him. If that doesn’t work, walk over and say hello.

These are just a few of the methods that you can use to make a first move. There are others. Above all, don’t be afraid to make that first move. If the guy likes you, he will actually appreciate it. Carpe Diem.

Internet dating services. The interesting thing here is that I have listed this category as my last best place to make a match. This despite the fact that millions of Americans are probably online this very minute searching for their so-called ‘soul mate’. So let me explain why I have done so.

First, if you believe all Internet hype, you will be convinced that all you have to do is sign up and Price Charming will be at your door the next morning. That’s simply not true. It’s not even close to being true. The truth is Internet dating leaves a lot to be desired.

Just think of the problems inherent in this type meeting. You know nothing about the man (or women) that you want to meet. They know nothing about you. Unless you are in the local area, there is no extended family to evidence stability. There are no friends that know him (or her) or their family or friends. If they work, the place they work is not usually familiar to you. They have nothing in their background that you can reference. They can be and are, just about anybody. They may even be people with psychological problems because all you know is what they tell you and no on talks about their shortcomings. To go to meet someone from the Internet is a lot like the blind meeting the blind with no help from outside sources whatsoever. This is not a good way to start.

Then there is the problem of distance. More often than not, people go on line and search beyond the local area. Even if the find someone they think they might like, there are fundamental problems. They live a distance apart and if something happens to develop, it means one of them is going to have to pick up and leave to go where the other party is. Now you have to wonder about a man or woman who is willing to leave everything in their life behind to be with someone that they only recently met. And they have to do that if the relationship is going to blossom because to get to know someone you have to see a lot of them and distance is too great an obstacle for most people to overcome. Therefore, one has to come to the other. Think about your own life. Would you be willing to leave family and friends, the locale where you have probably spent a large part of you life, to join a man you met less than a year ago? Do you think dating someone twice a week tells you anything real about him?

I suggest people put on airs when they date and only when you spend a great deal of time together, do you really get the opportunity to get to “know someone”. The Internet is even worse. No only do you not get to know the real person, all you know about them is what they say themselves. They may not be completely forthcoming. Yet there are some successes from dating services so let’s take a look at them.

Here are a few little-known facts about dating services. From 2000 to 2004, the number of people listed on Internet dating services is reported to have doubled every twelve months. It was an amazing period of growth. But in 2005, the growth rate declined precipitously. It dropped to just 7%. I have no figures for 2006 yet.

This is not to infer that the services won’t still enlist a lot of members because they will. There are a lot of lonely people and hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Yet the numbers released are themselves a little suspect because many members sign up on more than one service cause duplications in the reporting and some members sign up on the same service under more than one screen name which does the same. So the number of members isn’t necessarily what is claimed..

EHarmony.com, one of the dating services, reported recently that they were averaging about 1.4 million subscriber ‘hits’ a month. Their enrollment at that time (2005) was reported as1.95 million members, just a little shy of two million. That would seem to be a fairly large database of available persons but keep in mind they are scattered all over the world, not necessarily in your neighborhood.

Eharmony.com also reported that during the year 2005, there were 16,500 marriages. Since each marriage requires two people that means 33,000 of EHarmony’s subscribers ended up married in 2005. That is 33,000 members out of a database of 1.95 million for a success rate of about 1.7%. That also means that 98.3% failed.

It seems reasonable to assume that a great deal more people than the 33,000 who ended up married, dated. So there were far more disappointments that successes on this dating web site.

Still, EHarmony.com is as good as most. In fact, in 2006 they announced they were making a concentrated effort to look for more members who were serious about finding a mate. To this end, they rejected 1.4 million applications for membership because they felt these people were not right for their site. They are to be commended for the effort.

Looking at dating service success rate of 1.7%, I wanted to try and compare that with the success rate from couples who first met in a bar or club, but unfortunately I couldn’t locate them. Yet I suspect the bar or club would be somewhat higher than the online services for good reasons.

When you meet someone face to face in a bar or club, you have no specific expectations. You don’t know anything about them so you have no predetermined ideas to confirm or reject. You meet them and you like them or you don’t. If you do, you have just overcome the number one reason that blind dates (dates off a dating service) fail. One of the parties simply doesn’t connect with the other.

When you meet someone at a club or a bar and you like them, that physical interaction is an important first step. In fact, it puts you well ahead of any Internet Dating Service’s initial encounter. There is good reason for this.

Around each of us, there is a special ‘aura’ (some say an electrical energy field). When you meet someone your ‘auras’ either blend and compliment one another or they don’t. If they don’t, the night is over. It’s what we like to call ‘chemistry’ but a lot of knowledgeable scientists think it is this energy field. Your fields are either attracted to one another or they are not. And you know that immediately.

This attraction commonly referred to as a ‘physical’ attraction certainly does not predict if a relationship will become serious but the lack of it can end any budding friendship. And you can only determine that from a face to face meeting.

So, even though you can be conditioned by talking on the phone or by emailing one another or even by communicating on a computer instant message board, the reality is it won’t matter much unless when you meet, that chemistry is there.

If you spent all that time and it is not, you have wasted a lot of effort. You will have spent hours doing what the two people at the bar did in minutes. Find out if a physical attraction was there. .

When two people meet on line, the first step is to examine one another’s profile. In this profile, which is much the same as personal advertising, the person lists all their great qualities. They usually also include a picture or two, both very flattering. And as you might expect, in their write up, they tend to leave out any negatives. They say that they have a great sense of humor, they are financially secure (whether they are or not), that they love walking on the beach at night (Today? In this world?), they enjoy things like biking, cross country skiing, rock climbing and dancing under the stars into the wee hours of the morning. Some even mention how they love thunderstorms and candles with the perfect night apparently being a night spent on a porch lit by candles in a thunderstorm.

Of course I jest but as anyone who has been online knows, these things are very often found in profiles. And because you are reading what amounts to a synopsis of this person’s entire life and character in one or two pages, you find yourself forming certain opinions or expectations. You think you may have found something here.

But people are not robots. They do not always smile. They are not always happy. Some are brighter than others. Some are taller and some are shorter, some are heavier and some are lighter. People come in many sizes and shapes and there are endless diversities and subtleties, most of which are not going to be posted in a profile. So much so that even if there is a photo or photos attached, it is very likely that this is the best this person has ever looked and it might be anything but current. In other words, you start out with a complete mental picture of this person and his or her personal characteristics and looks as revealed by him or her to you online. There is no connection between this and reality.

In other kinds of first dating, you start out with a limited idea and few expectations. You like a person when you see them or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s over right then and there. No wasted time. If you do, then you go on. But the key is that you aren’t filled with predetermined ideas as would be case if you had ingested all the detail supplied to you online and in the “profile”. If you are disappointed it is with the man or woman in front of you and that’s a good thing. This is not anything like what happens to people who meet through online dating services.

People who meet online often chat for hours. During these chats, they impart tremendous amounts of personal information. Much more than would be the case if they were dating. The reason is obvious. Most dates include doing something other than just talking. Online chatting does not. When you meet someone online, you sit in front of a computer (or talk on a phone), and you give 100% of your attention to the party with whom you are talking. It is totally exclusive with no outside interference or distractions. So much so that it is almost surreal. After a typical three-hour online conversation, you will have communicated more than someone who is married probably has talked to his or her own spouse in three days. This builds your expectations because the person you are taking to is being careful to keep from you anything that is negative. All that is yet to come. Right now, you are flying on positives and that can be emotionally dangerous.

The point I am making is that nothing about an online relationship is real. It’s like a fantasy. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they spoke to someone for months only to meet and find that they were terribly different than the online personality. It does happen. There are people who can and do talk more glibly than they can write and then there are those who can and do write better than they can talk. It’s what businessmen refer to as ‘interviewing well’. Some can and some can’t. That shows up on first meeting. But coming to a first meeting with this person’s self-proclaimed persona firmly entrenched in your mind, may also be a problem. Because the moment you meet is the moment imperfections show up. All those things that were not obvious on line now become evident. This is what those 98.3% found out. Nothing matters much until you meet.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that dating services never work because that would be totally wrong. They can and do work for some. As I quoted in the EHarmony.com statistics, it worked for their members about 1.7% of the time. But that also means it did not work, it failed, some 98.3% of the time.

I think walking into a club on a Friday night say four Fridays in a row, would give you a better chance that that. And in the bar or club, you start out ahead because you are immediately sure of one thing: you like the guy. You like his demeanor and his looks and the way he laughs and the way he dances. You either like it or he’s history. You get to see him in the flesh and know immediately if he’s passed the first test. It’s far quicker and more efficient than online dating.

But here too, there is a caveat. For people over fifty, the online dating service may not be the best thing but it may be the only thing. In other words, most people over fifty don’t want to go to bars every weekend and sit there hoping by some miracle to meet someone, so they go online instead which they can do from the comfort of their own home. And while online dating services are not free, they are not so expensive as to be prohibitive. And this does afford them the opportunity to meet some people and to talk with them. So for a few, it might work. But the number will be very small, less than one percent. No, while I know Internet dating has some successes because so many lonely people are trying it, I believe the failure rate is over 98% simply because too much has to be taken on faith.

That’s why I rate four other means ahead of both Internet dating and bars. I am not saying you can’t try one or the other or that you are guaranteed failure if you do. No one can say that. But the odds on success are long. Still, if you do decide to join an online dating service just remember that all you know or are going to know for a long time, is what the other person wants you to know. There are no other avenues for information such as friends, or extended families etc. They are what they tell you they are until you learn otherwise and that could be too late. So take precautions as you proceed no matter the method you choose to use.

But perhaps, at this particular juncture of your life, finding someone to ‘hook up’ with should not be your first or primary priority. Maybe this might be a good time to change the way you live your life. While your problems may be difficult to deal with, they may also open the door to new opportunities. You might better spend your time right now learning about yourself. Developing your own inner resources, spending some time on self-improvement. After all, if you make yourself a better person, you also become a more desirable person and you attract better people. So maybe instead of going out searching for a new mate, you should spend this time making yourself all that you can be.

Here are some basic rules for you in your new life:

* Don’t set unreasonable goals for yourself.
* Don’t set the bar too high. Set reasonable goals, things that are truly possible.
* Understand yourself and your limitations (we all have them) and try to make yourself a better, fuller person.
* Be happy and positive. Explore new things.
* Train yourself to spend less time on worries and fears and more time on things that make you feel good.
* Expand your personal horizons. Assign yourself priorities what pleases you coming first. Take out a book on a subject that interests you and read. Certainly there are times you have to think about unpleasant things but train yourself to minimize those times.

Remember that nothing worthwhile comes easy. You can have peace and joy but you have to work at it. Go to places that make you feel better. Take a long walk in a beautiful park. If you are healthy, try a morning jog with a partner if you can get away.

And remember you didn’t get the way you are overnight, so give yourself some time to learn this new way.

It’s really not as hard as you might think. First, if you are working, consider your job. See what you can learn to allow you to do a better job. If the job is not satisfying, consider what type jobs you might like. Then, assuming you are not currently doing one of those jobs, go out and find it. If you have set reasonable goals for yourself, you can reach them. Go get that job that you feel is best suited for you. All this is doing is doing what is best for you and you have every right to do that. Too many people hate their job but are too unmotivated to go out and get the kind of job that suits them. Don’t let that be you. Just do it. You are having some problems dealing with life as you do, so let’s try something different. Try finding the type job that you will enjoy because if you do, that happiness will then drift into other areas of your life and everything will look better to you. It’s an axiom that happiness breeds contentment and unhappiness breeds discontent. Why chose one when the other is there for you. Why let life eat you when you can eat life.

That’s the secret. Sometimes it isn’t really what it is as much as what you think it is. You have heard it before: “perception is reality”. And it is. If you can convince yourself that things are looking up, they will. And you will feel better. All it takes is some effort and some perseverance. You can do it. .

Many people who seem to suffer from excessive worry or melancholy seem to want it that way. Something in them fights feeling better. They sit there and complain about this problem and that and if you try to encourage them, they turn away. If you try to offer some positive re-enforcement, they rebel. They have this reason and that why they are worried. They will fight you if you try to lift their spirits.

This is not uncommon. These people are driven to misery. They worry about something in the past, then something in the present and if that isn’t enough, they will worry about their future. They feed off their worry. You will hear them say, “you don’t understand depression because you aren’t depressed”. They seem to actually take pride in it.

My position has been made clear. There are people who are suffering from real traumas for which professional treatment is required. If that’s you, go to your doctor and tell him what is troubling you and see if he can recommend someone.

But I cling to the belief that that is self-pity that is the enemy in most cases. It’s a weakness of desire or a lack of will. It is not that they can’t help themselves so much as it is they won’t help themselves.

Some would council patience, soft words, and encouragement or medication for these people. If that’s necessary, so be it, but in the majority of cases, I do not believe that is what is necessary. What is necessary is a complete emotional makeover.

The individual in question has to toughen up. They have to stop babying themselves. They have to start concentrating not on the bad things in life but on the good. They need to stop worrying about things they cannot change and move on. I will bet there are lots of good things in their lives but what they do is to minimize these good things so they can maximizes the bad. They seem to want to concentrate on the bad.

Why? I don’t know. It’s the antithesis of positive thinking, it is a case of negative thinking and negative reinforcement. The more this type individual concentrates on what is wrong with his or her life –the longer they will suffer.

If this is you, you must open your mind as you open your window. Let the sun in and concentrate on the happy things, the good things, in your life. Do not spend all your time worrying about things you cannot change. You need to work at pushing the happy moments foremost into your consciousness and get outdoors wherever possible. Do physical things that tire you out. Most importantly, remember the three steps to a happier life: (1) understanding what is, (2) accepting what you cannot change and (3) dealing (or coping) with the reality. Don’t dwell on things you cannot change.

You must not wear yourself out fighting imaginary battles that you cannot win or battles that may only exist in your imagination. It is time to retrain the way you think. Take a pad of paper and make two columns. Head one “good things” and one “bad things”. Then, put down the things that are important in your life in one or the other column.

Study the list. Be certain that the things you have written down do exist in reality today. We do not want something that you are worried about happening tomorrow. Something that you are worried might happen. Just write down what is bad today. We need to be dealing with reality not imagination.

Now study your list. Make certain that what you have listed as bad is really bad and not something that you are contemplating. We want to deal with reality.

Now I want you to think seriously about whether you can do anything about any item on the side of the list. Pick one and look at it. Can you make it better? If you can, think of how to do that. But if you cannot, if it is out of your control then move it to a third column which we will call ‘acceptance’.

No matter what it is, if it is hurting you and there is nothing you can do about it, then all you can do is to move it to the ‘accept’ column. Remember, if you waste your energy trying to change what is unchangeable, you are only going to make everything worse.

So now you have started this new third column. My bet is you will have written a few things in the ‘bad’ column to begin with and at least one of those you have moved into the ‘accept’ column. That one we are going to forget. Remember, “God give me the wisdom to change what I can change and accept what I cannot change”. It’s called the serenity prayer. Say it to yourself a few times every day. It will help.

What I now suggest is that you begin to concentrate your energy on the items in the ‘happy’ or ‘contented’ column. At first, you will find it is hard for you to do this. You don’t want to do it. You want to concentrate on the bad because for some reason, you feel more comfortable being unhappy than happy. But we don’t want that. We want you to make yourself concentrate on the happy things because it is your nature to concentrate on the things in the ‘bad’ column and that’s what we want to change.

That’s why you write it down. So you can stare at it and tell yourself things like, “look at how many more good things there are in my life than bad ones”.

Concentrate on the good. If they are activities, allow them more time in your life. It is work. I understand that. It is work and it can be hard work, because it’s not natural to you. But it really is worth it. Train yourself to concentrate on what is good in your life. Spend as much of your time as is possible doing that. Spend as little time as is absolutely necessary on the ‘bad’ things and none at all on the items in your ‘accept’ column.

This technique will teach you how to empower the good and minimize the bad. Because your tendency is to concentrate on what is bad or difficult in your life, and sometimes on things that aren’t even in your life, but that you fear may be a part of your life at some future date, you make yourself unhappy. We have to fight that. You may not realize it but you are actually looking for things to make yourself unhappy. In other words, looking for something to worry about. This condition is called melancholy and for those who suffer from it, it tends to keep you ‘down’ much of the time. But it needn’t be that way and if you work, you can turn yourself around. I am certain of it.

Most of us aren’t this bad. Most of us can indeed use this little approach to make out lives better but we aren’t suffering from melancholy. For those of you who still want to make your life better, make the list as I have just suggested and then begin to move the bad things where they belong. Minimize them. Perhaps even discard them. Write the good things in capitals and the bad in lower case letters. I know this sounds silly but your mind is susceptible to autosuggestion and anything that helps is worth trying.

What this is about is reprogramming yourself to become a positive rather than a negative person. But one further word on melancholy before we move on.

If you suffer from melancholy, it may be something in your basic makeup. Perhaps if you look at others in your family, you will find those who share this unfortunate pessimistic outlook on life. If this is true, I suggest you try all the things we have mentioned in this book to date. Things like making this list and highlighting the good and minimizing the bad. Things like using the techniques we have listed to relax more, to pamper yourself more. Then try to concentrate on others, children in the family, or friends. What I mean by this is to try to live more outside your own being.

Sometimes melancholy comes from too much ‘centralizing’ of your life; thinking of yourself more than of others. Getting out of this habit by concentrating on someone else, or helping someone else, is important and can be of help to you. Opening up your life and letting others in, is like getting up and raising the blinds in your room so the sunshine can flow in. Do it every day and it will help you to keep your life in perspective.

Having said all that, if your are truly suffering from melancholy which is a medical condition, and you simply haven’t got the internal strength to help yourself regardless of the fact that you have tried, then perhaps you are one of the few that does need treatment and medication. See your doctor. There is not need to live in this depressed state. Mostly the things you are worried about are being exaggerated in your own mind. If you have tried some of the things I have recommended and you can’t seem to shake the condition, then a visit to your doctor is in order.

Before moving on, let me restate the premise upon which this book is predicated. If you don’t help yourself, no one is going to help you. For most of you, you can do it if you will do it. I am trying to strengthen your will to do so.

That’s what this is all about. Taking the bull by the horns and demand a better life for yourself. Developing the internal strength and will to have a better life.

The desire to turn your lives around.

Remember it’s all up to you. You do have the internal strength to make your life better if you will empower that inner strength – emphasize the good in your life while diminishing the bad. If you can do that, the rewards are there for the taking.

It’s called a psychology for wellness, a true path to happiness and contentment. But it all starts with you

Remember our axiom: “you eat life or life eat you.”

It’s up to you.

Chapter 9

To this point, we have spent a lot of time talking about what’s wrong and what’s right about your life. What can you do to turn your life around to make it more enjoyable. How can you learn to cope with life’s adversities.

In a moment, I would like to take a few minutes to delve into the ‘you’ that you are. What about you? What kind of person are you? What do you want and expect out of life? In other words, I want you to help you get in touch with yourself.

But first, let me take a moment to summarize what I have said about relationships and how to deal with the stress they often generate in your life.

For most of us, relationships enhance our lives. They provide a sense of well being and of purpose. They are integral to our happiness.

On the other hand when a relationship ends, it can be and usually is devastating. It can become so stressful and emotionally disruptive that it can actually cause other problems. It’s an emotional chain reaction.

These type problems usually come about when two people begin having differences about things they both consider to be important. This leads to strain on the part of both parties and that quickly turns to open conflict. .

At these times, it is so important to be on guard against certain self-defeating behaviors such as:

* Broadening the argument. Stick to the issue at hand. Do not look for other areas to criticize that you have been storing up. This is a dangerous time and if you are not careful, you can win the battle (prove you are right) but lose the war (ruin your relationship). Discretion may be the better part of valor here.
* Don’t decide this is the appropriate time to criticize things about your partner that have been long bothering you. Save that for another day. Do not broaden the argument, stick to the issue at hand.
* Don’t hurl insults at one another that you really don’t mean just because you are angry. Don’t lose control; this is not the time for that. The goal here is to resolve the current conflict not enlarge it. Unless you don’t care if you save the relationship or not.
* Do not use this opportunity to launch personal attacks on your partner. All this will do is to make everything worse – often much worse. This is a dangerous time. Try not to raise your voice, try not to shout. Stay clear of invectives. Remember a nasty word or an accusation once spoken can never be recalled. Once it’s said, it’s said. If your partner hears it I guarantee you, he or she will remember it. And it will come back at you sooner than you think. When it does, you will regret having said it but by then, it will be too late. It is far better to be careful of what you say when you are angry. Better to bite your tongue than say it and sacrifice your relationship to your anger.

Because this is all so important to both of you, learning what I call a ‘relationship maintenance technique’ is vital. These are suggestions as to what to do and not do during a period of crisis. Read them carefully to find the one where you are the most vulnerable then try to work on that. Remember you entered into this relationship for a reason. If that reason is still there, you need to do whatever is necessary to save it.

1. Always be willing to talk. You would be surprised at how many people clam up when the going gets rough. Nothing could be worse than having one party to a relationship wanting to talk it out and the other retreating into a shell. You can’t resolve your differences unless you both talk about what they are. Take turns, be respectful of one another, listen to one another but above all talk.

2. Avoid fixing blame. Do not talk down to your partner when you speak, Do not demean. Do not raise your voice. Your partner is not your child. Keep this one fact in mind: neither of you owns the other. In our society, either or both of you can get up and end this relationship this very minute if you chose to do so. It is well to remember that and to talk with the same degree of respect you normally would afford to a stranger. Because at this moment - when you are in the midst of an emotional upheaval – you are strangers. How you treat one another at this time may determine whether you will spend the rest of your life together. The stakes are that big.

3. At some point, be quiet and just listen. If your partner is one of those people who withdraws during an altercation, you need to understand that and deal with it. Your partner may have something to say, in fact, he or she may have a lot to say, but you have to give them a chance to say it. You need to hold your tongue until they are ready to open up. In too many situations, the parties are so different they can’t communicate because one is outgoing and positive and always willing to talk while the other is just the opposite. One of you has to adjust if this is going to work. It has been my experience that it’s the outgoing loquacious one that has to step back. The surprise will be that once they do begin speaking, you may not be able to stop them. People who don’t like confrontations usually store up a lot of hurt, both real and imagined. To dig it out requires patience and understanding. But if you want to save your relationship and if you are the outgoing one, try biting your tongue. Sit there and wait. Be patient. Be very patient. If you do, you may be surprised at what happens. Give your partner a chance to open up and he or she will and the two of you will be on the path to real communication. Give it a try. You may be surprised at the result.

4. When talking, do not point. If there is one demeaning characteristic that some people have. it is this: to emphasize what they are saying, they point at the other party. Nothing can be more infuriating to your partner. I have often thought that in this situation, instead of listening to what is being said, they are far more likely to be thinking of what they’d like to do with that finger. Don’t do it. Better to sit on your hands. Remember:

Always search for something positive to say. Look for the best in your partner. Positive thinking makes positive outcomes more likely. Remember what it was that you found attractive about your partner and concentrate on that.

* Share your feelings. Be open. This will lead to better understanding.
* Validate your partner’s point of view or opinions wherever you can. Try not to just be critical. Express understanding and empathy wherever possible. Look for areas of accord rather than concentrating on the discord.
* Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions. What part of the problem was your fault? Because believe me, some of it was.
* Look for nice things to day. Remind one another of what brought you together. Look for ways to ‘make up’.
* Stay calm. Losing your temper may mean losing the relationship. Is it worth winning the battle if you lose the war?
* Try to have coffee or ice tea or some sort of tasty snack on the table near you. Eating is a satisfying experience and believe it or not, it will help to mollify your temper and stay calm.
* Search for ways not to prove who is right or wrong but how to resolve your problem. The last thing you need is to prove you are right and lose the relationship. Try to put your ego aside. Above all, be ready to say, “I’m sorry” when you are wrong. That will go a very long way.

In this book, I have made repeated references to getting tough, thinking positively rather than negatively, emphasizing the good and de-emphasizing the bad; taking control of your own life – fighting hard for your happiness.

To me, it’s a most positive approach. Yet, strange as it may seem, there are some people who actually fight this concept of taking responsibility for their own well being. These are people that prefer to think that they are victims, not strong enough to overcome adversity; that they are the product of genes that make them what they are and they can’t be changed. Positive thinking doesn’t work for them because they are genetically programmed towards melancholy and depression. Nothing can be done about it.

They are right. They are right because they lost the battle before it began. They surrendered before they even tried. They seem to revel in their depression. They are people who deal in negativity and strange though it may seem, are almost proud of it. They resist any call to change with the excuse, “that’s just the way I am”.

Well maybe, But it is my personal belief that only the smallest percentage of people are incapable of make positive changes in their life, if they will just try. I therefore fear that if we allow here for those who truly cannot help themselves, we open the door for others who are looking for an excuse, who may want to call it quits before they even try. That would be counter-productive to the theme of this book and so I won’t do that.

Certainly, there are some people for whom the struggle to overcome is too difficult, more difficult than they think they can handle. For them, surrendering to despair or depression – “I can’t do it” – offers an easy way out. But unfortunately, this it is not going to make anything better and it very well may make everything worse. I am not unsympathetic to this “victim syndrome”, but I believe in you and I believe you can learn to cope if you will just make up your mind to try. Therefore, I intend to continue to encourage you to get tough – to fight back – to learn how to cope and I will not provide you with this easy way out because what we are fighting for here, is too important. It is so important that it is worth all the fight that’s in you. I will therefore continue to promote the idea that you can win if you just put your mind to it.

There is an old saying, “God helps those that help themselves”. I agree with this feeling. While God can certainly help, can give you the strength to persevere if you will try, I am afraid you will have to do most of the work yourself. Resolving the daily problems of each of .His children, is not part of God’s plan. So if you sit back and wait for Divine Intervention to solve your problems, you may find it to be a long wait.

As I said, “God helps those who help themselves.” That would be you.

Let me take a moment to explain what I mean by this and let me assure you this is in no way an attack on prayer or on religion, just something to think about. If prayer could resolve human problems, there would be no problems since most humans pray regularly, particularly when things are going wrong. There is a fundamental problem with ‘leaning on prayers’ for the solution to your problems. What praying in this context does is to allow you, the supplicant, to pray and act the part of a victim as you wait for God to resolve your problems. Then when God doesn’t do it, you are worse off than when you started. Waiting for God to come to your assistance is often just an excuse to do nothing – to remain passive – to let life eat you. This type dependency will normally result in matters getting worse. The supplicant would be much better served by getting up and doing what needs to be done himself because the best way to deal with your problems is from the inside out. You are the best person to help yourself.

Instead of sitting there praying, wringing your hands and waiting for Divine Intervention to come to your assistance, I think you should get up and tackle your own problems. Get up and do some of the things we have recommended here as tools for dealing with your situation. You will never know how strong you can be, unless you try. Miracles are really hard to come by. Better you should figure what has to be done and go out and do it. The longer you wait for someone else to save you, the less the chance that you will be saved. Remember, you eat life or life eat you.

It really is up to you.

Someone once said, ‘problems are like railway cars, one leaves and another shows up right behind it’. That’s so true. Life seems to be filled with problem and few of us get through life without them.

Learning how to handle these problems, how to place them into proper perspective and deal with them, is therefore the safest route to emotional security. Learning to handle your problems – how to cope - is as valuable a skill as any other you may acquire in your life. Problems are a lot like toothaches, once you overcome them, you won’t even remember what they were. When that happens you will have it made.

But in the end, it’s all up to you. You can do it but you have to want to do it.

Throughout this book I have offered you tips and ideas on ways to deal with stress and stressful situations. Here are a few more that I hope will give you the strength to overcome.

* Try to hug someone often. If you have a child, hug your child. If you have a pet, stroke your pet. Believe or not there is therapy in making contact with another warm living creature. Do it whenever you can.
* For a while, give up the nightly news. These programs hold viewers by shocking them. All they talk about are bad things. If you are not on top of your game right now, tune them out. You can’t do anything about the problems and you need to concentrate on yourself at this time. Find something pleasant or entertaining to watch instead.
* Get enough rest. This is often overlooked but you need eight full hours of rest a day and it is essential for your body particularly in times of great stress that you get it. There is an old but wise saying, ‘each hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterwards’. I don’t know if it’s true but try to get to sleep about 10:00 PM and sleep at least eight hours. It will help.
* Some vitamins are in short supply in our bodies and stress seems to aggravate the problem so taking a daily supplement can’t hurt. I think two in particular might be beneficial so I will pass that information along to you. Certainly there is no evidence that will help you feel better but I don’t think they can contribute to your feeling worse so give them a try. They may help. The two that I would recommend are “All Natural Vitamin E” and perhaps 1,000 mg of “Vitamin C” taken 500 mg at a time over the course of at least two hours.
* Finally, if your weight is more than you would like, losing a few pounds will help you feel better and that will help you cope with your stress, Here’s a simple two-step plan to help you reach that goal. (1) Drink eight glasses of water every day and (2) don’t eat anything after 6:30 PM. If you do just this much, you will lose up to two pounds a month – 24 pounds a year – without having to diet at all.

Chapter 10

“The silence of a falling star,
That lights the purple sky,
Makes me wonder where you are,
I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

Those lyrics are from Hank Williams’ #1 hit country song in 1949, “I’m so lonesome I could cry”. It is a song that strikes a responsive chord in all of us. Its haunting melody is as heart wrenching now as it was when he first introduced it over fifty years ago. The words of the song reflect how deeply loneliness affected him and how deeply it can affect all of us.

In some respects, I think lonesomeness may be the most difficult emotion that most of us have to deal with on a recurring basis. That’s because we human beings are meant to be with other human beings. We are a ‘herd animal’ that is best satisfied when we are with someone we love who loves us. Being alone is something we never do really get used to it and, in fact, is one of the major causes of chronic depression. But unfortunately, in our society, men and woman often end their lives, alone.

Women feel this loss even more than do men. Social interaction is at the core of a woman’s very being and when she is forced to spend more and more time alone – because of life’s vagaries such as divorce or aging – she find herself slipping into depression. Ours has become a nation where sadly this has become the norm for many women over fifty, particularly since the advent of no-fault divorce.

For many women, divorce is a two-way street. Yes, it may take them out of one rather messy problem but unfortunately it deposits them right in the middle of another. Often the second turns out to be more difficult to deal with than the first.

With a marriage having failed and her children now grown, the new American -middle aged woman finds herself suddenly alone. For a brief time, she may revel in her newfound freedom but like anything, too much ‘freedom’ turns out to be too much of a ‘good thing’. For years she was needed, the hub of a family, then suddenly no one needs her. For years her life was a hectic struggle to get things done – suddenly she has too much time on her hands. Where before she was surrounded by others, now she finds herself alone.

It isn’t long before lonesomeness forces her to make the effort to find someone to spend time with. First, it may be with other women, women in her situation. She goes out two nights a week just for their company. And for a while, that fills her life. But soon, it is not enough. She needs the company of a man and so she goes hunting. Where do she hunt? Well if she is like so many other women, she hunts where other lonely men and woman congregate – in bars.

It is said that the pain of having a first baby seldom deters a woman from having a second. That’s true. What is also true is that the pain of experiencing a first failed relationship seldom prevents a woman from wanting to try again. And again. And again.

This need for ‘company’ unfortunately leads today’s woman into an abyss that often is worse than the mess she left behind her. The American bar scene does not offer much of a lasting nature.

So the woman in question begins visiting bars, looking for a new man. When she returns home she is dispirited and depressed. After a few days, she tries again.

Bars are not a good place to find your life partner. The fact is you know nothing about the men in the bar you are visiting. That means you are starting from absolute scratch. Now there are plenty of men that are okay but that doesn’t mean you will be happy with them. There are plenty of men that look pretty good but neither does that mean you will be happy with them. The only way to find out whether this guy is the guy for you unfortunately is to date him.

Yes, that’s right. Assuming he passes the preliminary tests – and remember no one is showing anyone their bad side when they meet, this is a ‘selling’ situation – but assuming he does, now you have to get to know him. As I said you know nothing about him and everything you learn will be from scratch.

What are the chances in your mind that you can meet someone cold as an adult and have them turn out to be your Prince Charming? The answer: very slim.

Adults bring baggage with them. Just as you have grown children and an ex-husband and certain habits and characteristics, so does he. Just as you may have habits that are irritating to some, so does he. And sadly, you aren’t going to find out about most of them until you get to know him a lot better and by then you may have invested your own emotions. Chances are these things will appear one at a time in response to certain situations that arise. And when you confront these idiosyncrasies face to face, you will find your Prince Charming may have to be home at twelve or he is turning back into a rat.

And when that happens, and you have to say goodbye, you are alone again and depressed again. And it does happen.

Most middle-aged women who are divorced suffer from depression sooner or later. Sometimes it is mild and she can handle it but sometimes it gets the better of her. After all, this was not what she envisioned when she was a girl.

So what do you do? You don’t want to keep repeating the same habits that are making you less and less happy but what is your alternative? Not that I read what I am writing, I can see that it really is depressing.

Earlier in this book, we talked about ways to find someone you might be able to spend the rest of your life with. I gave you a list of places to go to try to meet members of the opposite sex who are interested in something rather than just sex. I listed places I thought would give you a better chance than your local bars.

At this point let me address another sad state of affairs in America. Our older divorced women have bought a bill of goods from society. They have somehow become convinced that the way to find a man is by ‘putting out’. And so, they do so at almost every opportunity.

You are in a club. A guy comes up and asks you if he can buy you a drink He isn’t bad looking, his head is on top of his shoulders where it belongs, he is wearing shoes, so you say ‘sure, why not?”

Next thing, he asks you to dance and you accept. You are on your way. At this point something has gone wrong in America. Women always knew men would say anything and be anything they had to be to get a woman to compromise herself with them. (That’s another way of saying getting her to ‘put out’.) Knowing that, women just didn’t do it. Today, they do. Because of their increased accessibility, a female writer coined a new name for these women, she called them ‘bar whores’ The name stuck.

Definition? Middle aged, usually divorced women, alone and desperate who will do anything for a man to get him to date them because they don’t want to be alone. It is so common it has become an epidemic.

But there’s one small problem with this behavior: it doesn’t work.

People value us as we value ourselves. That was true a thousand years ago and it is just as true today. If you make yourself available in too free a fashion, the person taking advantage of your ‘hospitality’ will treat it for what it’s worth. Who among us has not heard the axiom: what you get for nothing is worth nothing. That’s worth remembering.

By now, I can hear you saying, “yea, easy to say but not easy to do”.

Well no, it isn’t. For many of us, it’s very difficult to do. Facing reality is always difficult but in the end, it is best.

I know, because you see, I have a secret, something I haven’t shared with you before now. I need to follow my advice just as much as you do for I am dying. It’s true. I have a fatal lung disease as I write this called ‘Ideopathic pulmonary fibrosis’. The median life expectancy for IPF is twenty-eight months or less from the time of diagnosis. I was diagnosed sixteen months ago. So when I say to you that you should change what you can change and learn to accept what you cannot change, that is good advice for me for me as well as for you. And I am following it. Since my disease has no treatment, I have accepted it. Remember what I said, accepting what you cannot change is the best route to happiness and stability in your life. No one benefits from banging his head against a wall. I do not seek sympathy when I tell you this; I am merely demonstrating that I need my own advice perhaps as much as you do.

I am not looking forward to leaving the only world I have ever known. I do not face this with any great courage. But I have no choice. It is going to happen whether I like it or not; so, instead of gnashing my teeth and striking out, I strive to handle it. I tell myself that every other living soul on this earth is going to have to face, in time, exactly what I am facing now. That time will come to all, even though right now it may seem remote. And when that time comes, each of us must deal with it. So that’s what I am doing.

Because I am no longer young, I live alone like many senior citizens. I keep busy through contacts with family and friends. I like to read and I like to write. I also go online and from time to time make new friends there. In other word, I stay busy.

Yet, my condition is never really far from my mind. It is of course what it is but it is still my life and so it remains of paramount importance to me. But I try to keep my relations with other people upbeat and pleasant.

The reason is simple. It is ensconced in the slogan: “laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.” It is well to remember this because it is age-old wisdom.

Everyone has problems. Some more than others, but everyone has them. So, when faced with your problems on top of their own it might be too much for them to handle. You don’t want to add to the burden of a close friend or a child or a family member. It will avail you nothing. They cannot change anything so why burden them with your problems. Just keep it to yourself and understand that what is happening to you right now will in time, happen to everyone else on the planet. No one gets out of this world alive.

That’s a parody of an old song, “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”, but the words are just as true today as they were when the song was written. To me, it is a comforting idea. The idea that I am about to do what everyone else either has done or will do. Makes me feel like part of something much bigger than myself. And the thought that so many have done what I am about to do, and have done it successfully, is also comforting. I like that.

I hope you have found this book helpful. I have tried to present it to you in a way to make it easy not just to understand but to emulate. I think you will find life easier to deal with if you do.

Remember our slogan: ‘you eat life or life eat you’.

Better you eat life.

I end with the words of an old prayer: “God give me the wisdom to change that which I can change and to accept that which I cannot change.”

It’s the best way to cope. I promise you.

The End.