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In the Aftermath of September 11th
Part 3

by Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.


Seven Surefire Strategies for 
Success Over Stress

  • Set Realistic Goals

  • Use the Power of Positive Self-Talk

  • Choose an Optimistic Interpretation of Events

  • Change Your Diet and Exercise Habits

  • Embrace Opportunities for Relaxation

  • Stay Close to Positive People and Influences

  • Search for Opportunities for Fun and Laughter

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

Recall from the last installment that the #1 culprit in causing any attitude--and for that matter, any stress-- is your internal dialogue. What you say to yourself about events that take place in your life has been programmed into your subconscious, initially by well-meaning parents, teachers, and other authority figures.  A large percentage of that programming was negative, with warnings that you should not take risks, do not try to push the envelope of your abilities, stay in your "safety zone," etc.  Often, those directives went so far as to suggest that you were the wrong sex, the wrong race, not smart enough, etc. to follow your dream. This planted "weeds" in the beautiful garden of your subconscious.  Accordingly, "flowers" of contentment, self-esteem, self-confidence and optimism had little room to grow and flourish in that garden.

Continuing this metaphor, we then proceed to unconsciously "water and fertilize" those weeds by repeating similar thoughts to ourselves thousands and thousands of times, reinforcing those self-defeating beliefs.  For example, we tell ourselves we are lucky to be in our relationships or in our career positions and we must put up with the downsides of those situations. We fear making changes, because we tell ourselves that our present situation is better than the unknown and "what if I make a mistake?"

As a result, many of us remain in devastating relationships and unfulfilling/demanding jobs, or we allow spouses, friends, colleagues and supervisors to "fertilize those weeds" with their own hostile, inappropriate, demanding and/or negative comments and behavior toward us.  We fear asserting ourselves because of that programmed internal critic. For example, when unfair demands are made and you have the choice of being assertive and standing up for yourself, you fall back on habitual,negative thoughts, such as, "I don't have the right to challenge him because he is my boss"...or "My spouse will really get mad if I tell him that his demands and the way he talks to me are inappropriate"...or "I'm sure that my friend won't like me if I decline to do what she is asking of me."



Much research shows that when you set attainable, healthy goals and write them down, you will stay focused and have a high probability of accomplishing them.  Put these goals into your  computer to flash reminders to you on a regular basis.  Visualize attaining these goals each night as you fall asleep and you will maximize your ability to achieve them!


The best way to eradicate those "weeds" that fill the "garden" of your subconscious mind is to practice telling yourself positive, self-enhancing thoughts every time you catch yourself being negative.  Regardless of the years of negative programming that you have reinforced, no one needs to be a prisoner of her/his past.  You can re-program your subconscious by recognizing your negative, self-defeating thinking patterns (see the last installment) and changing them on the spot. The more you catch yourself and change those thoughts to positive, more rational       ones, the sooner you will eradicate those weeds. Try it, you'll see!


Martin Seligman, in his wonderful book, "Learned Optimism," gives endless examples of the stress management and physical health consequences of finding a silver lining in every dark cloud that comes your way.  When you view unfortunate events in your life as temporary and not permanent indicators of a weakness, you can continually ward off the stress of life events. More importantly, an optimistic interpretation of events has been shown to lead to remission of disease and the generation of T-cells, which are critical components of our immune systems!


Caffeine is known to increase anxiety.  Blueberries are known to enhance brain power and memory.  Aerobic exercise (e.g., rapid walking, swimming, jogging, tennis, etc.) produces hormones that counteract stress hormones in our bodies.  So, why not eliminate caffeine (coffee, tea, soda), add blueberries to your diet and increase exercise?  Everyone can do these simple things. Of course, maintaining ideal weight and keeping fit also eliminate the negative self-talk and resultant stress that arises from looking into the mirror each morning!


So many of us fill our lives with work and parenting responsibilities, that there is no time is allotted for relaxation.  One of the best stress busters is regular relaxation breaks. These can range from spontaneous mini-vacations (e.g., weekends), to a relaxing walk in a serene place (e.g., the beach or near a babbling brook), to taking 15 minutes twice a day to meditate right in your office. There are many excellent relaxation tapes, yoga exercises, and       visualization/hypnosis tapes on the market.  The key to this is to make the time, be sure you will not be interrupted and stick to your plan.  Recharging your emotional batteries is healthy and easy to do, as long as you take charge of yourself to allot the time and make relaxation part of your weekly routine.


Unfortunately, many of us are married to, related to, or work for negative, pessimistic people.  These are folks who have their own fears of change, do not take risks, and wallow in their       own misery.  These members of the "negativity club" want you to join them, because that helps them to justify their own behavior and ideas.  After all, it would be difficult for a negative,       pessimistic sibling, for example, to justify her/his behavior if you are a positive, optimistic person, who is thriving.  This is similar to smokers discouraging others from quitting.  So, be a  "Teflon" person...let the comments of these folks bounce off you.  Assert yourself and politely tell them to keep their negative opinions about you or your ideas to themselves.  Find positive,  optimistic, successful people to get close to, who will encourage you to move away from your habitual, "inside of the box" ideas.  What a breath of fresh air that will feel like to you!


Ever since the arrival of Norman Cousins' groundbreaking book,"Anatomy of an Illness," which was based on his firm conviction that LAUGHTER alone alleviated his pain and pushed his debilitating disease into permanent remission, a ton of research has shown the immense power of fun and laughter on both our emotions and our bodies.  Sadly, the average youngster, age 6, laughs more than 100 times a day, while the average adult laughs about 15 times. We now know that the primary antidote to stress is fun, laughter and engaging our sense of humor.  Whether it is reading a jokebook, watching a funny movie or sitcom, or using your creativity to lighten up your workplace, bringing fun into your life is immensely important for your health.  Endorphins, which override stress hormones and produce a sense of release and calm, are released by the brain every time we laugh or engage in a fun activity.  In fact, the immune system is impacted in a powerful way by fun and laughter. Someone once said the "people don't stop laughing and having fun because they get old...they get old because they stop laughing and having fun!"  So, by making sure that your life includes frequent episodes of laughing and looking at the funny side of events that take place in your life, and in the       world...you will surely add life to your years and years to your life!

 Read part 1 and part 2 here.

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, author and Consulting Psychologist in Laguna Niguel, California.  Recognized across the U.S. as an expert in helping people to unleash the barriers to their true potential, Jack is President of Psychologically Speaking, and provides powerful and entertaining keynote presentations, training programs, and re-TREATS for Fortune 1000 corporations and for associations across the U.S. You can reach him at (800) 497-9880;
[email protected]       Web: www.funspeaker.com

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