COVID-19! 12 Ways You Can Push Fear Back!

COVID-19 12 Ways to Push Fear Back
Refuse to be captivated by fear!

COVID-19! Can you feel the fear that word brings? In this post, COVID-19, I will show you 12 proven ways you can push back fear!

Like it or not, COVID-19 will be a part of the news cycles for weeks and months ahead. It is what it is. But, as for me, I refuse to waste too much time getting “the latest update. How about you? My friend, Dr. Tom Barret has some thought-provoking zingers from time to time. A few years ago, we shared a stage and one of his lines that stuck in my mind like the caliche clay of southern New Mexico, or the beautiful red mud in Middle Georgia. Here it is,

“Don’t get distracted by the bugs on your windshield if you do you are going to have a wreck!

Friends, the threat is real, as we have been given clear, scientifically-based things to do. Wash your hands, as we used to say in the Army, “maintain proper intervals” (social distancing), hang around your living space, only go out for necessary items.

You get it, I know.

With all that is happening, I wanted to share with you some proven, scientific, and biblical principles that will help you keep your stuff together, and who knows, maybe help someone else!

Ever wondered what you could do to increase your resilience and feel more connected to life?

Dr. Dennis Charney is the dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The sixty-seven year- old is the king of resilient studies in North America. Also, he survived a shotgun blast from attempted murder in 2016. In his years of research and collaboration, and most recently in his recovery, he has developed and what he calls the Resiliency Prescription. Here is a brief outline of it, as well as some scriptures that support his points.

1.  Practice optimism – some people are “born optimists,” others are “trained optimists.” You would think this would be a no-brainer for people of faith. Studies show that resilient people have a realistic appraisal of what is going on around them, but they choose to believe that tough times will pass. The key is to stay positive and hopeful while confronting the reality of a given situation. Here is a link to one of my articles on Optimism

On a personal level, I am concerned about the impact of COVID-19, socially, spiritually, and financially, but at the same time, in my heart or hearts, we are going to come out of this crisis stronger. 

For the record, when you practice optimism,  you are not being unrealistically positive, but you are being in a state of mind—a way of thinking and behaving that is strength-based and forward-looking. 

2.  Find a resiliency role model – someone who has done it. It can be a biblical character, a historical figure, or someone you respect. If you have ever read any good stories from the Iliad to a Marvel Comic or stories from Scripture, you have been exposed to resiliency models. It is what epic literature is all about. A good person falls on bad times, gets tested, almost gives up, a guide comes along and points the way, the subject of the story overcomes the challenges, and become a model for others. 

Who models resilience for you? If they are alive, send them a handwritten note thanking them for their input.

3.  Develop a moral compass and firm beliefs. For me, the Old and New Testament provide a clear direction. After all, if we could live by the Ten Commandments, life would be different. Instead, we live more like it was the Ten Suggestions, picking and choosing which ones we want to follow.  

Joshua 1:7-8 has been a favorite verse of Scripture for millions of Jews and Christians for thousands of years and best summed up the importance of having a moral compass and firm beliefs.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning to the right or left. Then you will be successful in all that you do. Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all that you do.” (NLT)

Faith is an essential part of this. It means that you are learning to trust that God has a plan for your life and will look after you. You have a growing belief that a power more significant than you will guide you through the storms of life. You are learning to see the Lord as an active participant in your life.

4.  Practice generosity and kindness – an unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic. One way of doing this is to say things like please and thank you. Another way is to find a way to share your resources with causes you care about. The greedy side of human nature has been part of the daily news cycle, particularly in regards to toilet paper, and other commodities. I have to confess, I did get a big smile when COSTCO and other outlets suspended their liberal return policies regarding toilet paper and other things that people have hoarded. If you bought it, you get to keep it for a long time.

As for us, I have always try to keep some stock on hand. This week one of Angie’s 78-year-old friends asked her to do some shopping for her. Angie could not find any TP, so we shared it with her.  

Folks, this is a great time to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

5.  Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations. One of the lessons I have had to learn the hard way is if you refuse to be flexible, you can become broken. 

6.  Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions. I’d refer back to the past several articles on overcoming fear. We are all stressed more than we were two or three weeks ago. Acknowledge it, embrace it, and learn ways to manage it, but don’t pretend like it is not there. Why? If you don’t handle it, it will take a profound price from you. Here is a link to an article on Becoming AWARE to Overcome Fear.

7.  Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is. One of the exciting things about our modern-day technology is the wide variety of things you can use to help manage your stress. One of my favorites is Tactical Breather. Inc Magazine has an additional 13 Best Apps for Managing Stress.

8. Establish and maintain a supportive social network to help you. My workgroup and I are scattered all over the US, and we are all now WAH specialist (Work at Home) one of the things we are doing is having Zoom Team Meetings twice a week, on our computers and smart devices. Cameras are on as we check in on each other.

Personally, I am checking in with friends on FB, email, and writing handwritten notes.

Dr. George Bonanno’s research, in his book The Other Side of Sadness, points out one of the ways that people and cultures move beyond trauma, natural disasters, depression, and other life events is through a community, family, and other networks of people that give us courage, motivation, and shared history to move forward. His research also reveals how important family, friends, and community are in dealing with depression.

9.  Stay physically fit.  Dr. Oz suggests starting out with walking 30 minutes a day. It is a start. While we are pretty much in a restrictive environment due to social distancing, when you can get outside and walk around Spring is arriving, take a moment to smell it, feel it, and experience it.

10.  Laugh deep and often.  Whether it be some “Old School Comedy” like the Three Stooges or more modern comedians like Steve Harvey, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, Chonda Pierce, Robin Williams, Jenna Kim Jones, and Michael Jr., be sure to find something or someone that can help you keep life on the light side. 

I am proud of my southern heritage, one of the things that I have learned to appreciate over the years is the way some folks use humor. Please check out Ginger Billy’s Video! If should give you a great laugh.

As sad as the loss of Robin Williams is, his humor and zany impressions, and his care for people will live on through the volume of work that he created over his life. 

Proverbs 17:22 – “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT)

11.  Wash Your Hands! Wipe Down Your Surfaces!

12. THINK! St. Paul says Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT 

Dr. Charney shared the most-surprising insight of his career is “the hidden capacity that most people to rebound from adversity.” 

One ancient Latin phrase says it best, Plus est en Vous.” There is more in you!”

Lean into life today.

And take a moment to reflect on one of Saint Patrick’s famous prayers.

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.” 

Taking it one day at a time.

John

I would love to hear how you are doing in these tough days. Please leave a comment.

Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear

Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear. How One Practice can Give You Peace.

How One Practice can Give You Peace in Turbulent Times


Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear, what a crazy title for a crazy time! In this article, I will reveal one practice that can give you peace in turbulent times. It is a practice that resilient people have used for centuries.

What a week! Whoever thought there would be short-term shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And could you ever imagined that we would be starting Shut Down 2020!

There are some explanations for these behaviors, as well as some solutions that I will be discussing in this post.

Who in their wildest imagination would ever dream that Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear would ever be a title for an article?

It has been weird to see friends posted things like “Toilet paper at Kroger! Or even better, “Don’t go to store Costco or Sam’s they have no TP.

So, why are people doing this!

The short answer is drunk people, and panicked people have one thing in common, they make Stupid Decisions!

In the past few days, there have been some exceptional articles on this process.

Multiple sources have quoted the consumer psychologist Paul Marsden demo raw University of Arts, London, who says the short answer can be found in the psychology of “retail therapy”-where we buy to manage our emotional state.[i]

It is all about the perception of “taking back control” in a world that a least for the moment seems to bye spinning out of control. These types of behaviors, accord ding to Marsden, are best understood as playing to our three basic psychological needs. The two, most basic being psychological needs like food, water, shelter, and rest. The second, according to Maslow, is the need for safety and security.

One reason for this reactivity is what we in the mental health field call fear contagion, a phenomenon decelerated by a 24-hour news cycle and airwaves fill with pundit input. When folks are stress their brain hunkers down, their reasoning becomes restricted, and crowd think sinks in and takes over. If others are stockpiling, it draws you into the same herd mentality kicks in. When you always hear stories of empty shelves and panic, you can get swept into the craziness.

According to Dimitrios Tsivrikos, who lectures in business psychology at the University College of London, toilet paper has become the “icon” of this mass panic.

When uncertainty is in the air, people slip into the panic zone; when that happens, it makes them irrational and completely neurotic.

When there is a natural disaster, like a hurricane, blizzard, most people can prepare because we have a pretty good idea of what we might need. Things like extra water, food, medication, and cash. However, when we have something like a relatively unknown virus, a deep primal fear slowly creeps into our minds, and we get a little crazy.

Truthfully, one reason for this is the result of some mixed messaging coming from our governmental leaders. One truth about crisis management, there is a lot of confusion in the early days, and I think, because of that and a 24-hour news cycle, incremental and sometimes incomplete information goes viral.

Two things drive the toilet paper frenzy, how we think and feel in the moment influence our behaviors.

When there is this deep type of fear, the need for self-affirmation, and independence, it can drive us to do some fairly bizarre things like buying six month’s worth of toilet paper.

So what do we need to do?

First, hit the pause button! You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Second, learn to live in the present.

I am reminded of the Scripture I learned as a boy. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NLT

In modern culture, we hear things like: “

Don’t get caught up in overthinking about the past or the future.”

Be mindful in this moment. Resilient people realize they cannot always control their environment, but they can control their response to it.

Live for the day, Carpe Diem. Which originated with the Roman Poet Horace. In Latin, the phrase literally means to Pluck the day (as it is ripe). Enjoy and embrace the day.

So, from the ancient writing of scripture, early Roman poetry, ads, modern psychology, the message is to live in this present moment. Not dwelling in the past or fretting about the future, but being in the day, a task that can be tough in these modern times

With the rapid global expansion of the Coronavirus, not to mention the crazy pace of the twenty-first century, it is no easy task. We are constantly bombarded with little pop-ups of expectations, which like bugs spattering on your windshield, can be a distraction.

I believe it comes back to having a Carpe Diem type of day.

Living in the moment has been a piece sage-like wisdom for about as long as men and women have walked the earth.

Living in the present moment means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening in this moment, this day. It means that I am not distracted by my past or the future.

Being present in this moment in your life is the key to staying healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. It helps in fighting anxiety, worry, and ruminating over the “what if’s, and if only’s. 

Why It’s Tough to Live in the Present

Living in the day that the Lord has given us is tough because we are always encouraged to think about our past or worry about the future. After all, what will you do if you don’t have toilet paper? 

If you don’t believe me think about how many times your smartphone has interrupted you today, voicemail, breaking news, social media updates, so many different alert sand notices that for the most part, add no value to your day or life. Maybe we need to turn them off for a few hours a day. 

A few weeks ago, I was training a work team made up of former military and law enforcement personnel. In the middle of my talk, I heard about 8 Fox News, Breaking News alerts. The group sheepishly smiled, and I said something like, “So how many of you really needed that news tip?

Before I dig deeper, let me say that living in the present is much like riding a bicycle, you are never perfectly balanced, but you are continually using large and small muscle groups to maintain balance.

With that in mind, how do we balance living in the present, with all of the distraction, from day to day living to manage our response to the Coronavirus?

As a Christ Follower, I am reminded of one particular, powerful, and practical verse, 2 Timothy 1:7 from the Amplified Bible.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

God has given us the power, will, and ability to do what we need to do. But, we have to make an effort, put in the time, and discipline to manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotion.

Simply said, trust God, use wisdom, wash your hands, keep your distance, shop wisely.

Right now, I want you to stop reading and think.

Be still for just a moment, focus on getting four good, deep breaths. 

Now, focus on three things that you are grateful for. Take another sixty seconds and thank the Lord for something that you are thankful for.

Research from multiple sources has discovered, once again, that the ancient practices of meditation and gratitude lead to better mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.[ii] Resilient people practice gratitude.

So, here are some proven, practical things that you can do, as we move into Shut Down 2020.

  1. Write a handwritten note, thanking someone for the impact they have had on your life. It is one way of social distancing that is exceptionally personal and intimate. Oh, and you might even write one to yourself.
  2. Reflect and mentally thank someone. Just the positive thoughts of what others have done for you is a great way to relax and recalibrate in these stressful times.
  3. Begin a gratitude journal. In the words of a very old hymn, Count Your Blessings[iii]We are reminded that when we are thankful, we feel better. Keep a hand-written journal of things you are grateful for, I promise, it will lighten your load and soothe your mind.
  4. Pray. People of various faith groups use prayer as a way to cultivate gratitude and enhance personal peace.
  5. Meditate. Learn to focus on the moment, and as a Christ Follower, imagine the Lord is present with you at the moment.

Here are some additional things you can do to experience a sense of Carpe’ Diem by meditation.

  • Set aside a regular block of time, say five minutes, when you rise and when you are preparing to go to bed. A quiet time.
    • Get in a comfortable position-not too comfortable. Sitting up is the best way. NOTE: One of the best books I have recently read on this is titled  Two Chairs: The Secret that Changes Everything, by Mike Beaudine.
    • Focus on the sounds you hear, slow your brain down and repeat slowly something like, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” four times, slowly.
    • As you are sitting quietly and focusing on this truth, allow yourself to relax, focus on your bodily sensations, the pressure of the cushion, the feel of your clothing on your skin, the sounds and smells of your surrounding, as well as any other sensations that you might be feeling. The remember, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Turn your focus to the thoughts in your head; the things on your heart let them swirl around for a minute and then allow them to exit your mind, knowing that “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Finally, focus on your breathing, and for my fellow Christ Followers, remember that one-word picture for the Holy Spirit is the breath of God. So as you breathe out the fear, anxiety, and doubt, breathe in the power of God and biblical principles into your life.

These are unique times, to say the least. I’d love for you to leave a comment about the article, or even better share some things that you are doing to keep your sanity.


[i] Taylor, Taylor, 2020, March 11. Here’s why people are panic buy-in g and stockpiling toilet paper to cope with coronavirus fears. Retrieved March 13, 2020: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html

[ii] Healthbeat: Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Medical School; retrieved March 14, 2020; https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

[iii] Oatman, Johnson, Jr, (1897), Count Your Blessings; retrieved March 10, 2020; https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Count_Your_Blessings/

Resilience at Work

Image of resilience at work
Diagram of Resilience at Work

Have you experienced an increase in workplace stress? Does the notion of Work-Life balance make sense to you or just some weird sort of pipe dream? Do you feel like you can be a success in your chosen field? Or, do you like so many, spend time mining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat looking for that magic idea that will help them make Six Figures?

So how can a person become successful in their chosen field or in any area? How can you be more resilient at work? The answer may surprise you!

Like so many of my generation and the generations that have followed we were told that that “secret to success” is being smart, talented, and going above and beyond the requirements of the job, taking additional tasks, and maybe even sacrifice your personal time for the good of the organization.

Sounds like the Sirens of the Odyssey, distractions from the digital wasteland beckon us to follow some types of “path to riches.” 

There is no doubt that there is a rapid increase in work-related stress. I know, because I have worked as an Employee Assistance Consultant for several years. A big part of that job is helping both employees and employers find ways to increase productivity and positive outcomes while at the same time, minimizing the effects of stress. This is one reason that the workplace is seeing the rapid growth of Work-Life presentations and training.

Just think about the past 10 years, the workplace has been impacted with furloughs, downsizing, massive technological advances along with monumental shift is the way business is done. The “Amazonification” of the retail work has shaken many traditional business models. Globalization has had an impact on all manner of business from small mom and pop shops, governmental agencies, as well as such well older, established nationally branded companies. On an even deeper level, the rapidly escalating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be taking us places that we have never imagined.

Whew! That last paragraph made me feel some stress!

With all of these changes, you must learn how to increase your capacity to manage stress and become more resilient.

Resilience is a word that has been thrown around for years but began to become more prominent after 911.

Resilience is the ability to face adversity and work-related challenges and not only bounce back, but to experience personal growth.

The workplace, whether in a manufacturing plant or the corner office or a high-rise offers a broad range of stressors to people. 

From meeting production quotas to dealing with the ever-changing landscape of various service-related business to the work of big business and governmental agencies, we are seeing a dramatic increase in stress-related issues.

So, what does resilience in the workplace look like? Why is it important? Is it possible for a person to become more resilient?

Here is some promising news!

Resilience is both a mindset and a skill that can be strengthened. As with any life skill, resilience can be enhanced with practice.

Resilience is an active, fluid, and dynamic process.

So, what sets a resilient employee apart from everybody else?

Resilient employees have made healthy connections and have a variety of relationships, both on and off the job. The trademark of these supportive relationships is that there is a history of excellent, two-way communication.

Resilient workers will do what they can do to help others, they are consistent team players.

Another quality of resilient workers that they understand the importance of social support at work, home, and in the community.

They understand the benefits of developing both personal and professional networks, which can be a significant source of guidance, support, and accountability at all times, whether gold or bad.

Some additional qualities of resilient workers are that they habitually demonstrate the ability to build trust with others. One of the unique findings in the research was that resilient team members don’t take work too seriously. They generally tend to be “playful” at times[i], which increases the overall sense of positivity in the workplace.

The modern workplace is stressful. Technology, the rapid & immense shifts in the way we do business, can be a constant source of stress. Rare is the individual who starts a career in one place and stays there until they are retirement eligible unless they are government workers or military.

Employees who are resilient have an ability to managing stress effectively and to keep pressure from becoming detrimental and overwhelming. They are more likely to focus on self-care, after a stressful event. In other words, they take kinetic and focused measures to avoid compassion fatigue and, worse, burnout.

A final characteristic of a resilient employee is they are authentic and strive to behave in a way that is consistent with their core values. They practice what they preach.

They have grit!

Have you ever wondered what grit is? It goes hand in hand with be resilient.

According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’[ii]

Commitment.  They have a sense of purpose in their life.  They are committed to their dreams and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people can stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group, they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be). That purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.

Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges, and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them

They are connected to their dreams and their mission. They tackle things head-on.  People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation.  People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome when they can understand it correctly. Their habit of looking at problems to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.

I remember one of my early mentors who used to continually say things like, “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities to grow, excel, and learn.

This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and problems are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming, or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.

Personal Control.  Gritty people believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. They understand that they cannot control what happens to them. They can only control their response to it. If they don’t have the skill sets to do something, they will go out of their way to get them.

As a group, people with grit people, people who are resilient tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy, or resilient person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? In your work and personal life, are you resilient?

In my next post, I will share the seven secrets to building resilience in your day to day life.



[i] Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardinessJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1 [http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1980-21134-001]

Coronavirus & Telework

Coronavirus and telework

Preparing for Telework

Some proven practices from resilient teleworkers.

The Coronavirus news is penetrating every aspect of our culture from the ancient liturgical customs of the common cup of communion to avoiding crowds. I tend to agree with the medical professionals who are realistic but calm. To be resilient citizens and workers, we need to do the things we can to control the spread of this virus. As a life-saving measure, your company or agency may choose to allow teleworking.

So with the numbers increasing every day, there is a reasonably good chance, at least in some parts of the country that businesses and governmental agencies will move to more teleworking, at least for some time.

With that in mind, I took some time to do some research on good teleworking habits. My goal is to help you become a more resilient worker and manager.

These are from multiple sources as well as from my own work as a Worklife Consultant with numerous governmental agencies.

This article will focus on both employees and managers.

12 TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE TELEWORKING

  1. Dress for work. This helps you get prepared for your regular business hours physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Set normal business hours. Be clear with family and friends that you have certain periods during the day that you cannot be disturbed. One friend actually has a home office in an open space in her home has a homemade sign that says, “DO NOT DISTURB!’ And on the other side, “COME ON IN!” This helps her be able to focus and get work tasks done.
  3. Try “Chunking!” Our human brain works best when we break up a task or day by chunking. Chunking is a process where you take 25 minutes and drill in and focus on your task or project and then walkway for five minutes. This system helps you lower your distraction and really dig into the task at hand, and it has a built-in break of 5 minutes every half an hour. Now you may be tempted to go for fifty minutes and take a ten-minute break. Still, many time management experts feel that the break every thirty minutes actually makes you more productive and increases your personal sense of accomplishment. 
  4. Zone In and focus on the tasks at hand. For me, that sometimes means turning off my iPhone and turning off any notifications for messages and emails. It is amazing, when I do this, I can get tasks done quickly and usually ahead of schedule.
  5. Maximize your use of technology. If this is an area that needs improvement, teleworking is a great way to enhance your skills and use of technology. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other virtual meeting places can keep you and your coworkers both connected and on task.
  6. Stay out of the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom. Work in your home office, or designated space. Who knows, you can do chores if you finish early.
  7. Purchase some inexpensive noise-canceling headphones, if you are easily distracted by noise.
  8. Manage your workload. Many times, we can complete tasks in a more timely manner when we telework because of fewer work-related distractions.
  9. Be intentional about staying in touch with your manager/supervisor and coworkers.
  10. Avoid going to non-work appointments during working hours. 
  11. This one is a little weird, but I have been told it works. Take the time that it usually takes you to get to work, and use that time to help you prepare for your teleworking. For example, if you leave the house at 7:30 and arrive at work at 8:00, use that time to prepare yourself for work. Try not to use if for chores.
  12. Move around when you take your breaks.

5 Tips for Leaders and Managers

  1. Use NATO for a way of leading team meetings. Nature, Agenda, Time, and Outcomes. This helps you stay on time, keep your focus, and helps all participants feel that the meeting was timely and productive.
  2. When holding team meetings, rotate facilitators. This not only maintains individual and group accountability but gives everybody’s voice a chance to be heard and is an excellent way for emerging leaders to develop.
  3. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings, This is a great way to have direct, personal contact with your team members.
  4. Be creative in finding ways for team members to connect, while teleworking. If feasible and practical, try to have some gathering while teleworking. That is if it is safe and appropriate.
  5. Don’t forget the importance of appropriate praise and recognition for the team. Whether texting, messaging, or on team calls, make sure you acknowledge the work of your organization. This is an excellent way towards building morale and can go a long way in keeping the team connected and concerned for each other.

For the latest CDC Reports on Coronavirus

3 Ways to Manage Stress

3 Ways to Manage Stress exploding head. image shows how stress can be destructive.
From Deposit Photos

How Resilience Makes Your Stronger

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to crash and burn when they are faced with difficult times, and others seem to thrive? Why is it that when adversity presents itself, some people feel forced to defend themselves against hard times, and others will take the same challenge and modify it into an opportunity and pull together their personal abilities to meet it head-on?

Today we are going to look at 3 ways to manage stress and how resilience makes you stronger.

Our personal resilience to stress, though times, change and other adverse events depend on our inner resources. And while you and I do not have any control over these external circumstances, our personality, or our intelligence, we can learn to manage our response.

Circumstance doesn’t make the man, it reveals him to himself.”

James Allen

Did you know that we are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for? We are created and equipped to be adaptable to what life throws at us. This article will look into practical tactics and helpful tips that will help you address stress in a variety of circumstances. You can even welcome it as something that can enrich your life.

Why? Because developing a resilient mindset, improves your sense of well-being which results in higher self-esteem, better relationships, and improved business performance.

What do I mean by resilience to stress?

Basically, any positive response to stress is a manifestation of stress resilience!

George Valiant, a respected Harvard researcher, followed a group of 30 Harvard graduated for 30 years and discovered that those who had lived successful and happy lives was their ability to use effective coping strategies as opposed to regressive or defensive responses to stress.[i]

An individual’s response to stress can shift with various levels of intensity, exposure, and durations and can have a definite impact on the body, brain, and soul.

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has developed a constructive model of the various types of stress responses. They have developed three kinds of reactions to stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. As described below, these three terms refer to the stress response system’s impact on the body, not to the adverse event.[ii]

  • Positive Stress Response is a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. 
  • Tolerable Stress Response activated the body’s alert system to higher degrees as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties. This can be buffeted by both an internal attitude as well as supporting relationships.
  • Toxic Stress Response can occur when someone experiences intense, frequent, and/or prolonged exposure to adversity-such as physical or emotional abuse, exposure to violence. Left unchecked toxic stress responses can lead to health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. Research shows that supportive, responsive relationships can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress.

If you see an event as threatening, the body can go into a fight-or-flight response, and over time we learn to avoid these highly stressful situations. When we learn to see an adverse or challenging event as an opportunity for growth, it generates an entirely different outcome.

Always living in the fight-or-flight mode will have long-lasting effects on our body, mind, and spirit. It can, as the Harvard studies show, lead to anxiety, depression, chronic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Victor Frankl

“In life, our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find it good and bad? In me, in my choices.” Epictetus

“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.” Ryan  Holiday, The Obstacle is the  Way  (2014)

Our view of stress can be the most critical factor in how we respond to adverse events. We have discussed the impact of living in the fight-or-flight perspective, now let’s take a look at a healthier, more resilient, enduring, and robust path.

I believe there are two healthier, more enduring choices.

First is the challenge-response, which motivates, boosts confidence, and stimulating personal growth.

One of the most exciting trends today is in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the introduction of the concept of Post Traumatic Growth.

For those who have experienced trauma, it is common to feel like life will never be the same again. As evidenced by a growing body of research, though, humans have the ability not to only “bounce back” from trauma, but to yield a positive life on the other side of the traumatic experience. Those who study and practice in the field of mental health refer to this as post-traumatic growth (PTG), defined as positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges to rise to a higher level of functioning.[iii]

When we respond to an adverse event with the challenge-response, adrenaline, as well as cortisol, combine to release energy. The significant difference between the fight-or-flight response and the challenge-response is the positive response makes us focused and allows us to perform under pressure and ultimately improves our outcomes. 

The result of the challenge-response is enhanced concentration, increased, focused performance and more confidence. You feel focused instead of fearful. 

Here are some questions that can help you utilize a challenge-response:

  1. Where do I have control/influence/leverage in the event?
  2. What specific action plan can I take?
  3. What resources do I have at my disposal?
  4. What allows me to know that I can handle this?  This could be previous experiences, the examples of others, faith, any number of contributing factors.

The second positive choice is to see adverse or challenging situations is the tend and befriend response. This response pushes us towards caregiving, increased courage, and strengthened relationships. In other words, this type of reaction can help transform stress into courage and connection. Social relationships are vital resources for managing the demands of responding to stress.

Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the suffering of others, the way to find hope is to connect, not to escape, to engage, not isolate. The benefits of taking a tend-and-befriend approach is that it makes people more caring, and when we care for others, it changes our biochemistry, activating systems of the brain that produce feelings of hope and courage.[iv]

As I close today, let me ask which way do you deal with stress?

Call to Action

You and I cannot control what happens to us, only how we respond. With that in mind, review the following ancient text and ask yourself, how can I apply this to managing my stress?

Take a look at these three pieces of ancient literature and see how you can apply them to any stressful situations that you find yourself in.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

James 1:5 (NLT) If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Proverbs 12:15 (MSG) Fools are headstrong and do what they like;  wise people take advice.


[i] Barber, Charles. (Winter 2013). What a Decades-Long Harvard Study Tells Us About Mental Health. Retrieved December 2019: https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/winter-2013-is-democracy-worth-it/what-can-decades-long-harvard-study-tell-us-about-mental-health/

[ii] Staff. Toxic Stress. Retrieved February 23, 2020: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/

[iii] Lees-Bank, Adena. (2019, April 19), Posttraumatic Growth, There can be Positive Change After Adversity. Retrieved February 23, 2020: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-thriving/201904/posttraumatic-growth

[iv] McGonigal, Keyy, Ph.D. (2015, May 13. How to Transform Stress into Courage and Connection. Retrieved February 21,202: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_transform_stress_courage_connection

Real Lovers Appreciate Their Differences

“Opposites may not always attract, but differences sustain a relationship.”

John Thurman – Get a Grip on Your Relationship Workshop

Take a moment and reflect on the early days of your relationship. How did you meet? Who made the first move? What were some of the things that attracted you to each other early on?

I would guess that at least one piece of the puzzle was some of the ways that your spouse was different from you.

The difference is one of the things that initially draws us to our partners. Have you ever noticed how a talkative, engaging extrovert could be attracted to a quiet, reflective introvert? How about someone cautious being drawn to someone who is filled with confidence.[1]

And while this is the case in so many relationships, many times, these differences can become distractions down the road, those cute nuances can move from appealing to appalling. As time passes, many of these differences can cause conflict, misunderstanding, and even alienation.

You and your spouse are two different people. You have diverse families of origin, varied family experiences. You may come from an intact family or a family that was impacted by divorce, death, or trauma.

You have different tastes and a sense of style, and I am sure you may even have a different set of expectations. Based on forty-seven years of marriage and countless hours in the chair as a therapist, I know that you have different personality styles and love languages.

Let’s look at a few examples. While you review these examples, be sure to check and see if any of these sound familiar. (I am grateful to my friends Steve and Cindy Wright at Marriage Missions for their colorful insights)

Planners vs. Flexers:

Planners are the individuals who love organization and structure. If you were to look into their cupboard, things would be organized, because everything has a place. They generally prefer that life be neat and tidy. They use planners, keep lists, and can usually tell you what they will be doing a month from now.

Flexers, on the other hand, tend to be more malleable, able to adjust to the ebbs and flows of life quickly. They can sometimes see planners as being inflexible and being control freaks. Flexers tend to be more “in the moment,” flexible, and laid back. They take life as it comes. Loose ends are not deal breakers because they believe that things find a way of working themselves out. Planners may sometimes see this type of behavior as lazy and irresponsible.

This can prove to be testy, particularly when a planner and a fixer are married.

Big Picture vs. In the Weeds:

Big picture people have a general focus on the prize. They tend to think in terms of moving in a direction that accomplishes the mission. They are doers. People who are “in the weeds” are the detailers of life, and Lord knows Big Picture people need folks who love the attention to details.

Big-picture people tend to be abstract thinkers who are likely to see the entire situation. People who are more attentive to details tend to see the nuances of a given scenario. Big picture people paint a great image of what they want to accomplish. However,  without the perspective of the detailers, they will miss the rich nuances of the details of the journey. It is essential to understand that if a couple is matched like this, both perspectives are crucial.

Risk Takers vs. Risk Averse:

One author cleverly divides these two styles into leapers and lookers. Leapers get an emotional boost when they observe an opportunity. They want to grab the opportunity while it is hot. As a general rule of thumb, they come across as fearless and maybe even somewhat reckless as they seem impervious to danger. Those who are more risk-averse tend to be more observant, careful, and are risk-averse. They like to check out the facts, gather the data, analyze the data and take their time to look at multiple options before making a decision.

As a couple, the risk-taker can get bored and may seek new and unique experiences. Those who are more reserved and less likely to take risks will find much comfort in the familiar, routine, and predictable. In marriage, the leaper would be advised to seek the counsel, insight, and plans of the looker. Likewise, the looker needs to be stretched by the leaper. Which would tend to keep the relationship exciting.

Extrovert vs. Introverts:

Extroverts love the excitement and connectivity of the crowd. They are expressive and responsive and frequently are energized when they are around others. Introverts, on the opposite end of the spectrum, would rather have a quiet time either by themselves or with a few close friends. Extroverts tend to be in the moment, whereas introverts tend to be reserved, thinking through options before talking.

Authors Shaunti & Jeff Feldhanm’s books For Men Only and For Women Only are two books that I ask all of the couples that I work with to read. These two books provide the reader with dynamic truths about the differences between men and women. Here are just a few of their insights.

How different areas of insecurity can lead to variable emotional needs. 

Men always question how others view them, so they are filled up by knowing that their wife notices what they do. Saying things like “thank you” or good job” to your man in the little things of life is almost the same as you receive a dozen roses and chocolate. When you verbally express gratitude to your husband, you are making him feel competent, needed, and respected, which are his core needs.

Now to flip the coin. Women need to be reassured of their spouse’s love every day. Many times guys are stunned to learn that 82 percent of women are deeply pleased by simple things like holding her hand, shooting her a text to let her know that you love her, or that you are thinking about her.

Another huge difference is that our brains and, therefore, our communications stages are different.

Neuroscience is blazing many new trails into the understanding of how unique, different, and complex and that men and women’s brains are entirely different. One of the interesting findings is that women’s brains are wired to think things externally. That could be the main reason women like to talk. It seems, in sitting with each other and sharing, they can process solutions. Men’s brains are more structured to problem solve through internal processing, that could be one reason most men are challenged to find a “talking solution.”

How does this work itself out practically? Most of us guys need to pull away from emotional situations to figure out what we are rethinking and feeling to talk about it later.

Women generally tend to process emotions by talking. What a woman doesn’t is a quick, uninvited response or solution because that would short circuit her processing. For our wives, these intense feelings need to be processed by talking, and we as men would do well to learn how to sit with her and draw out those feelings.

Another big difference that we need to appreciate is how different men and women express themselves sexually.

Learning to appreciate different styles when it comes to intimacy in the bedroom and other places can significantly enhance a unique sense of closeness. Special Note: There is probably no other area in a marriage that can present as many opportunities for misunderstanding as those intimate moments.

Ladies, contrary to popular opinion, sex is not just a physical need that we guys have; it’s primarily an emotional one. Think about that; the idea of intimacy for men as an emotional one, an idea that has almost been erased from the map. A husband needs to know that his wife deeply desires him. This type of affirmation gives men a deep sense of well-being that gently flows into every other area of our lives.  

However, many times a husband can avoid these painful feelings by engaging his wife in ways that she needs instead of expecting a response that he thinks she should have if she desires him. Testosterone gives most men the “microwave response,” the ability to be ready in a short time. Women are designed to be more of a “crockpot.” Ladies, please don’t be offended by the term. 

To use a foodie illustration. Would you rather have microwaved soup or a slow-cooked pot roast with vegetables that have simmered all day?

Men, she needs to feel close to us outside of the bedroom, so letting her know ahead of time could help get her in the right frame of mind.

In all fairness, these are generalizations, the key is to appreciate the difference and adjust accordingly and intentionally

Learning to value and work with your differences will provide you an extreme advantage in your relationship as you choose to grow as a couple, experiencing intimacy in multiple areas.

I hope this post will help you be open to understanding the differences and celebrate them as a couple.

Want to learn a little more about personality styles as you learn to appreciate the differences

Hey, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave me a comment. I will respond.

Powered by Eventbrite


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201508/6-reasons-appreciate-differences-your-partner

10 Ways to Boost Communication in Your Marriage

10 ways to boost communication in your marriage

“It is a luxury to be understood.”      Ralph Waldo Emerson

February is traditionally a month that focuses on love and relationships. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be featuring some of my most read articles on relationships.

Building a relationship and being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building intimacy is communication. Two-way communication based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life.

Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have invested their careers studying relationships. They have identified 10 Communication Skills that will enhance your intimacy.

1.     Give full attention to your partner when talking.  My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but am distracted. My suggestion, turn off the phone, Ipad™, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2.    Please focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good.  People tend to rise or fall on our expectations when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3.     Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs.  One way to do this is to the old therapist standby of using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g., “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4.     Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer.  I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.”You can never share too much encouragement.

5.     If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g., “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after. Thanks again for dinner.) 

6.     Listen to understand, not to judge.  Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

7.     Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your reactions to feelings.

8.     Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution.  There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

9.     Manage your conflict.  (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in a few weeks.)

10.  Seek counseling.  If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action.  Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through reliable communication. When men and women feel heard, they usually are open to more intimacy.

Powered by Eventbrite

How to Reset Your Failed New Year’s Resolutions

How to Reset You Failed New Year's Resolutions

STOP!  How are you doing with your resolutions? I hope you are feeling great about them. However, research suggests that most of us are not doing such a good job of maintaining them.

Is it time to reset your failed New Year’s resolutions? We are beginning the second week of January are you feeling hopeful, focused and enriched or hopeless, scattered, dazed and confused?

As we move into what could be an enjoyable and exciting New Year, I thought it would be fun to look at the traditional Top 10 resolutions and then give you some tips on how to be more successful in meeting them.

These are from Statistic Brain.

Lose Weight/Healthier Eating

Life/Self Improvement

Better Financial Decisions

Quit Smoking

Do More Exciting Things

Spend More Time with Family/Close Friends

Work Out More Often

Learn Something New On My Own

Do More Good Deeds For Others

Find The Love Of My Life

NEWS FLASH! According to Statistic Brain, the average American has a 9.2 percent chance of keeping them.

But don’t lose hope! I am going to show you how to reset your failed New Year’s Resolutions.

Here is the 4 Question Tool that will help you reset your failed New Year’s Resolutions.

In reviewing 2019, resist the temptation to overthink 2019.

Instead, ask:

What did I do right?

What did I do wrong?

What can I do better?

What did I/we do, right?

I want you to really drill into this and think about what you did right in 2019. What can you celebrate from this past year? Think about your personal, relational, and professional life. Take some time to review, celebrate, and express genuine gratitude for the positive things that you were able to accomplish. Spend twice as much time answering this question as to the next.

What did I/we do wrong?

Be very careful and proceed with caution when you answer this question. I would not want you to suffer from the paralysis of analysis.

Dolly Parton says, “I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed.”

So, take half of the time you spent reviewing what you did right to reflect and list what you did wrong. 

This way, you can honestly look at the missteps, call them what they are, and take corrective action.

This leads me to the next question, which is the key to having a better year in 2020!

What can I/we do better?

This, I believe, is the most crucial step you can take! After celebrating the victories, acknowledging the lost opportunities and missteps, no, it is time to begin laying out a definite action plan.

A few days ago, I was on Facebook and saw a message that one of my friends had posted, and it got me thinking. The quote said:

You are not born a winner. You are not born a loser. You are born a chooser! So choose wisely!

The key to making and keeping resolutions is to have Sustainable Motivation and Energy.  How do you do that? The key is to be clear about what you want and why you want it. When you understand your “what” and “why,” you will increase the odds of being able to experience success with resolutions.

Michelle Segar, from the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organization, has developed a practical way of streamlining this process.

Segar suggests four action steps to begin applying the Right Why to changes you want to make in 2020:

#1: Reflect

Consider your “whys” for initiating a lifestyle change, and ask yourself if it has symbolized that this change/behavior is a chore or a gift?

#2: Reset

Know that we’ve all been socialized to think about a “healthy” lifestyle from the same perspective, one that has turned them into medicine instead of the vehicles of joy and meaning that they indeed are. Let go of any sense of personal failure because the formula we’ve been taught sets us up for starting and stopping but not sustaining. People feel like failures, and this isn’t very good for motivation.

#3: Choose

Consider the specific experiences, that if you had more of them in your day, would lead you to feel better and drive greater success in your roles. Do you feel drained and need more energy? Do you need more time to connect with loved ones? Then pick one of these experiences – this is what the right Why is – and identify what lifestyle behavior might deliver it to you. It’s essential to focus on changing one behavior at a time because the goal is to institutionalize it into our lives. Humans have a limited capacity for decision making, so we must strategically use it as the scarce resource it truly is.

#4: Experiment

Experiment with a plan for one week to see what happens. Be mindful of the types of things that get in the way. Plan a date on your schedule to sit down and evaluate whether that behavior helped you realize your right. Why and also what you might want to tweak going forward. Because it’s an opportunity to learn, there is no failure. It’s about continuing to experiment with whys and ways to achieve them until you discover what works for you.  From Sustainable Motivation for New Year’s Resolutions, by Chris White.

Here is an ancient text to consider as you move into the New Year. It is found in Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

I hope that 2020 is a year filled with opportunity, hope, and joy. I also hope that this next decade will be filled with blessings, growth, and peace.

Be sure to subscribe to my update as I will be giving you 10 tools you can use to have an Outstanding 2020!

Avoid the 4 Pitfalls of the Holidays!

Stress and the 4 pitfalls, young couple
Stress and the 4 pitfalls, young couple

By John H. Thurman Jr.

Can you believe it? Christmas is almost here. And in the next few days, millions of people will be headed home for the holidays.   If you are a parent, then you are also keenly aware that Saturday morning cartoons, YouTube, and other prime time for kid’s program are filled with toys, computer games or devices that they “just have to have.”

While television and the movies portray the holiday season as a wonderful, magical time, for many people the beginning of the season that can dredge up unpleasant thoughts and memories.  The truth is that the holidays can be a time of great joy and a time of painful reflection. 

With that in mind, I wanted to warn you about four pitfalls to avoid. Why? So you can become more resilient as a person and a couple.

There are at least four Pitfalls that can show up, particularly during the holidays.

The Pitfall to Avoid is Bitterness  

Remember The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Dr. Seuss was writing about bitterness.  Holding on to anger and resentment is not only dangerous to your health but can harm you spiritually, emotionally and relationally.  Bob and his two tweenage (9 and 12) sons were preparing to celebrate their first Christmas after his wife had abandoned he and the boys for another man. “I had heard about anger and resentment in a DivorceCare™ Class at church but had no idea or understanding of how powerful these emotions were until the “Holiday play” at my nine-year old’s school.  At that moment, while watching my youngest son, by myself, I felt a pain and a level of anger that really shocked me.

Part of the recovery from any loss is coming to terms with bitterness, anger, pain, and disappointment. The problem for many people is that they refuse to let it go. The roots of their bitterness usually relate to old anger that many times was righteous anger that failed to get processes.  Carrying around these feelings can literally destroy you from the inside out.  Holding on to these thoughts and feelings can, and usually does lead to some type of emotional and physical manifestation.   

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 

Jesus said, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Forgiveness is a powerful tool.   Forgiveness does not mean that you approve of what happened to you, or that what happened to you was okay.  It does mean that you can learn to forgive. Forgiveness means that I as an individual can learn to release my hurts to the Lord and let Him take care of them.  When I forgive those who have sinned against me, I leave the consequences of the offense for Jesus to deal with.

The Pitfall of Perfectionism

Sally was a hardcore perfectionist who loved God and had a home that would make Martha Stewart proud.  She had struggled for years with her need to be perfect.  The fact that her mom, a professional perfectionist all of her known life, hadn’t helped.  Perfectionism means you are constantly trying to achieve a self-induced standard that you have a slim chance of hitting.  And that standard is usually linked to a parent or family of origin that struggled with the same issues.  Some of you know exactly what I am talking about, remember the eight grade when you brought home a report card that had five As and a B, one of your parents didn’t notice the As, but instead they shared their disappointment over the B.  Now that is a perfectionist family.

Perfectionism is kind of like walking by the chocolate shop at the mall and only having a free sample of their fine chocolate, the perfectionism leaves you consistently unfulfilled. The pressure of perfectionism leaves you feeling like a loser ensuring that you will never enjoy the life God has given you to live right now. You feel that there is this standard that you will never be able to meet and the truth is you won’t, but Jesus already has.

Check your self talk.  It is the chatter of the mind that seems to run on automatic.  It is those thoughts that can consistently build you up or tear you down.  There are specific strategies you can learn to help you more effectively manage those thoughts. If being stuck on perfectionism means that you never feel like you are good enough, your house isn’t clean enough, your project isn’t correct enough, you are stuck, captured by the power of perfectionism.  The following passage of Scripture can help you learn to check your self-talk and manage it in a way that is more realistically based on biblical thinking.

Learn to push back that voice of fear.

As you learn to more effectively manage your perfectionism you will find that you will begin to feel less stress, more focused and be able to enjoy the celebration of the Lord’s birth.

The Pitfall of Shame

You are either living your life with a balance of grace and appropriate guilt or you are living a life out of balance with some grace and a lot of blame, shame or inappropriate guilt.  Our culture has adopted the “find someone else to blame,” and though you may feel like you may be justified in blaming others for things in your life the truth is that there is only one person that can make you feel guilt or shame and that person is you. These feelings can and are usually rooted in some old family relationships, which is one of the major reasons the holiday season puts the issue so close at hand.

Walking around with feelings of shame and guilt about who you are and what you have done in your life will only slow you down and steal the joy of the holidays. When you are consumed by shame and guilt you cannot and will not live a life that has the joy of purposefulness in it.  

Barbara was one of those folk who had grown up in the Southwest.  She was the oldest of four.  Her dad was a pastor and her mom worked as a school teacher.  Being firstborn, she tended to be driven by rules and competition.  In her early teen years, she stopped going to church and began to experience sex, drugs, and the party life.  She had heard all of the talks about how bad premarital sex was, but she had to admit it felt good to be pursued and to feel like someone loved her.  Within two to three years she came to a place where she decided it was in her best interest to slow down the sex, stop drugs, and to rethink her partying pattern, and to rededicate herself to the Lord.  

She struggled to forgive herself and seemed to carry around a fifty-pound sack of shame with her most of the time.  What Barbara needed to do was to accept God’s forgiveness and forgive herself. 

Look in the mirror and forgive yourself.  Remember the story of Jesus and the rich man.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  You need to do an internal, reality-based gut check. 

The Pitfall of Anxiety

If you feel like a cat running through a room of rocking chairs then you are probably having an up close and personal season of stress and anxiety.  If you are stressed up and tweaked out about everything from your relationships, finances, and health, it is inevitable that the holiday season will probably add to your stress and anxiety.  Mix into the soup the sometimes unrealistic hopes for the perfect holiday with tender family time, award-winning decorations and meals that the chiefs from the Food Channel would be envious of and you are heading for a major crash.

Anxiety and stress are usually expressed physically.  This can manifest itself with heart palpitations, racing thoughts, feeling insecure and hopeless.  Stress can also make you feel numb and may cause you to become completely overwhelmed.  Because Christmas and New Years normally cause us to review the past and hope for the future, the Holiday season can be a time of stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. 

Modern research validates the ancient truths of Scripture, with that in mind here are just a couple of short poignant examples.

“As a man thinketh so is he..,” Proverbs 23:7.

Any my favorite antidote to stress and anxiety is Phil 4:4-9

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 

And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT 

I hope that you and your family have a peaceful, blessed, hope-filled Christmas.

Here are some links to other articles:

Reduce Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

Be Aware of Stress

Grief, Recovery, and the Holidays: Christmas and a Recipe Card

Me prepping the chocolate.

For those of us who’ve lost a parent or family member, particularly around the holidays, this time of year can have some rough patches as we remember our loved ones.

In December of 2015, I received the call from my sister that my mom

Mary Anne Thurman had breathed her last breath. As a Jesus Follower, I took comfort in the fact that I believe that when she took her last breath on this Earth, she took her next breath in Heaven.  That being said, her death began a new journey for myself, my siblings, my dad, and my family.

Grief is not a neat, predictable process or orderly thing. It is messy, sometimes unpredictable, and rarely follows the handy, five or six-step path that some folks espouse.

It is also intensely personal and unique for all of us.

And while each of us processes the loss of a loved one is very different and unique ways, I choose to celebrate some of the good memories of mom.

One of the ways that I celebrate her is by preparing one of her favorite Christmas recipes each Christmas.

First, a little bit of a back story, I left at home to go to military school when I was 15, and apart from a few years in the late seventies and early eighties, I have lived away from my family.

Since I was the one who was not home most Christmases of my adult life, mom would always make sure that I received a care package close to Christmas. It usually included fruit cake cookies and Martha Washington Candy. (Here is a great link that gives the story of MWC).

Over the years, I would call mom and ask for some of my favorite recipes, and a few years ago, she sent all of us a box of handwritten recipes. The photo at the bottom is the one for mom’s Martha Washington Candy. (NOTE: Oleo is an old school name for margarine, use butter that is at room temperature instead.)

Every year as I begin to pull our that special recipe box gentle memories of my mom, dad, siblings, and Christmases past slowly trickle through my mind as I remember her.

At the same time, I think about the 47 Christmases with my wife, and thirty-seven years as a parent, and now a grandparent. I am thankful for the life I have.

May your Christmas be filled with joy and precious memories as we celebrate the first coming of Christ the King.