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RESILIENCY SKILLS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:
How to Add Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life!

by Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.

This article is the first in a series of articles, written exclusively for EXPERT Magazine  readers, 
and directed at showing you how to master the stresses in your life---permanently!

You find yourself getting increasingly irritable, impatient, having difficulty concentrating 
or sleeping, procrastinating, wondering what meaning your life has, or you are being 
accused of acting cold and distant,  displaying  sarcasm and a short fuse.  All of these behaviors and attitudes are symptoms of stress.

"Stress"  is such an overused term, yet in our competitive and impatient culture, 
examples of stress are with us constantly.  Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent 
annually for stress-related medical insurance claims, workers compensation benefits, 
reduced productivity, poor product quality, spillover into marital and family problems, and 
even drug and alcohol abuse, which is often a desperate attempt at coping with the stress.  Stress has surpassed the common cold as the most prevalent health problem in America!

For most of us,  work challenges, managing our teens, and pleasing our spouses represent daily stressors.  But events, per se, being confronted by a disgruntled employee, your teen missing curfew, or an argument with your spouse,  never cause your stress!

EVENTS ARE NEUTRAL

Your feelings of stress, including all of the symptoms mentioned above,  are never caused 
by events that take place in your life...events are neutral!  For example, let's assume that 
I am booked to conduct a full-day training program or motivational speech in Chicago and attendees have flown in from all over the country for this training. Five minutes before I am 
to board my plane, my flight is cancelled due to inclement weather in Chicago.  There are 
no flights going into Chicago and it will not be possible to arrive in time for my program. 
This is a neutral event.

If I find myself irritated at the airline representative, or I begin to perspire and feel a 
tightening across my chest...these are stress symptoms, but they are not due to the event 
of having my flight cancelled. Events do not directly cause stress, or any other emotion, attitude or mood, for that matter.

The emotion or attitude that results from event is strictly caused by your interpretation of, 
or belief about the event. In effect, it's that little voice in your head that communicates 
with you...your self-talk...that always determines how you react to events. We all have a 
little voice that we "listen to" constantly.

To continue my example, if I learn that the flight is cancelled (the event), I might say to myself:  "Oh, that's just great...now I won't make the meeting, everyone is there wasting 
their time, and the CEO will be so angry at me that he'll never hire me to conduct a training program again."

Such a negative, self-defeating statement immediately activates the nervous system necessary to deal with life-threatening situations, and my body reacts accordingly.  My 
blood pressure rises and my behavior may become irrational, such as yelling at the 
attendant, even though she can do nothing to change the flight situation.

On the other hand, suppose that when I learn that the flight is cancelled, I say to myself
the following:  "This is really unfortunate and I feel badly that I will not be there, but it is absolutely beyond my control.  I will phone the CEO right away and see if he would like
me to find a substitute trainer in Chicago...or if we can postpone the training for one day
until I can arrive...or if there is a way that I can do the training through a tele-conference tomorrow.  That way, with the audience all situated in the meeting room, I can arrange to
do the training by interactive television.  I can even use this example with them when I
discuss how self - talk always determines our emotional, attitudinal and behavioral
responses to events!"

  THE CULPRIT...YOUR INTERNAL CRITIC

The "culprit" in all of this is our internal critic...that voice within that spews out an average
of 55,000 words per day, 77% of which are negative, self-defeating messages... messages like, "This employee doesn't respect me, so I need to teach him a lesson," or "My son
doesn't care if we worry," or "My wife will never understand me."

The wisdom about how our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are critical to our well-being has been around for centuries.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, "Men
are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them."  In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, "There's nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

It takes the average human body a full 24 hours to fully recover from only five minutes of negative thinking!  So, with approximately 77% of the thoughts stored in our subconscious being negative and counterproductive and it taking the body 24 hours to recover from only
five minutes of negative thinking, our bodies are taking a tremendous beating...just by our thought processes.

Just think.  Suppose I open a casino and you love to gamble.  If I told you that 77% of the
time the house will win and every time you lose, it will take your body 24 hours to recover, would you enter my casino and gamble?  Of course not...yet many of us literally go through life programmed negatively so that we will not achieve our goals or live stress-free, or be happy.  Of course , this is illogical, but as someone once so aptly put it, "If logic always prevailed, men would ride horses side-saddle!"

Stay tuned for the next installment, where Dr. Singer will explain the relationship between your thoughts,
stress level and your health.
  He'll show you how to change your thinking habits for the rest of your life!

Dr. Jack Singer is a Professional Speaker and a practicing Clinical and Consulting Psychologist in Laguna Niguel, California.   Dr. Jack "Has Couch and Will Travel."   For more  information on his wonderful keynotes and workshops, you can reach him at (800) 497-9880, 
E-mail: [email protected]  or visit  www.funspeaker.com
                                           ExpertMagazine.com 2001

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