COVID-19: Leading Out of the Crisis!

COVID-19 Leadership Tips

Whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your workgroup, here are 5 Tips to improve your leadership abilities.

Remember all of the articles, posts, sermons, and presentations on Vision 20/20 we heard in the last quarter of last year, not to mentions the new year’s messages from presidents to preachers. Who would have thought we would be where we are today!

As we continue to grind through the impact of COVID-19 and begin to see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about mental health.

May is National Mental Health Month.   Here are my thoughts about how to be more resilient in these tough and uncertain times.

I believe these thoughts will empower you as a person, and if you are a leader, they will help you provide clear leadership in this time of crisis.

These thoughts originally came from  Dr. George Everly, I have personally found them invaluable in my own life journey. 

1. Structure is an antidote to chaos. One of the challenges I have had since becoming a “Work at Home” specialist has been in maintaining a routine. In my own life, if I fail to focus, my mind will naturally tend to drift towards patterns of worry. And, we know all that worry does is distract and wastes time.

So, what it the antipode to worry? Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It is the essential human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Another way of looking at is you cannot control everything in life, you can only control your response to it. That is why it is so important to build structure into your life. Structure minimizes distractions and leads to more positive outcomes.

2. People follow confident people, who display optimism, are forward-thinking and have a plan. So, whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your team, you need to show these qualities. Because the only failure in leadership is the failure to lead.

3. Information is a powerful tool. Why? Because it reduces fear and anxiety and fosters hope and resilience. As a rule, people do not want to be taken care of but want information that will allow them to become more resilient by learning to take care of themselves. If you are a leader and you are not frequent and honest communication with your team, someone else might be. Don’t lose your leadership to someone with faster thumbs and a broader social media outlet.

4. Give and receive support. Dr. George Bonano’s book, The Other Side of Sadness, the most incredible boost to the recovery, and the reinforcement for resilience is feeling supported by family, friends, coworkers, and supervisors. Many researchers have shown the single best predictor of human resilience is to feel supported. Whether it is in your family, a network of friends, or your work team, support is the key ingredient to recovery.  Knowing people have your back and that you have theirs has been proven time and time again to be the single most positive influential factor in overcoming adversity.

5. Maintain and expand your spiritual practices, which may include reading scriptures, meditating, prayer, and worship.

In closing, control what you can, accept, and cope with what you can’t.

The ancient stoic philosopher Epictetus put it this way:

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Have you ever read the entire Serenity Prayer, I think it is very appropriate as we gradually begin to move into a new normal. Though attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, some have traced it back to 500 AD.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

I hope you have a wonderful week.

May you rise to the challenges that you are facing, and in doing so, leave a legacy.

Hey, would love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment!

John

PVB356

COVID-19: How to Effectively Lead in a Crisis

COVID-19How to lea

Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist
and the ability to communicate it.
Simon Sinek

What is leadership? It is the ability to influence others.

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a crisis, a leader must possess a general belief in their ability to make a difference and to be successful, regardless of the challenge. Additionally, this sense of confidence should be communicated to all who will follow. The team must perceive the leader as someone who is trusted, someone who possesses strength and competence to lead those who follow to safety and success successfully.

Throughout history, individuals seek out leadership in a time of crisis. The characteristic qualities that most people seek from a leader are competence, benevolence,  an acute awareness of the present, and a visionary eye towards the future. As a result, leaders seem to exert much of their effectiveness by allaying fears, ensuring safety, and providing hope for those whom they lead.

I have observed the way an organization and its leadership respond to a critical incident that will determine a multiplicity of things.

If the response is reactive, unplanned, or uncoordinated, the response will be ineffective.  A chaotic response will waste resources, and might even be counterproductive. Hurricane Katrina still stands as a dire reminder of the consequences of failed leadership and failed coordination of services. More recently, the failure of key players in the government of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in October of 2017. In both cases, failed leadership and the failed coordination of services cause much unnecessary pain, death, and suffering. NOTE: While the logistical challenges supporting Puerto Rico were massive, there was a significant breakdown of distribution by state and local governments.

If, on the other hand, the response is responsive, planned, and coordinated, the outcomes will be much more favorable. In comparison to Hurricane Maria, the response to Hurricane Harvey in South Texas was handled much smoother.

Now in fairness, you could say I am comparing apples to oranges. Still, when you look at how each area’s leadership responded to their events, I think you will observe a chaotic response in Puerto Rico and a prepared response in Texas.

With that in mind, here are some proven practical things that you can do as a leader.

Begin with the Stockdale Paradox, made famous in Jim Collins book, From Good to Great, is attributed to Admiral James Stockdale (Ret.) Viet Nam POW and Medal of Honor Winner.

 “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail at the end …with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current situation.”

With this in mind, let’s turn out attention to how a leader can maximize their impact in troubled times.

My friend and mentor, Bob Vandepol, is a prominent thought leader in the area of Crisis Leadership And Critical Event Management. He is the Executive Director of Pine Rest Mental Health Services, and Employee and Church Assistance Programs. Before his work with Pine Rest, he was the president of the world’s largest provider of critical event response services to the workplace. He has developed a three-step model, which I was first introduced to in the late ’90s and have used it in close to two hundred events.

Here is one of the best tools to use for communication in a crisis – ACT. [ii]

A – Acknowledge the issue and its impact on people.

In this unique situation, it is wise to acknowledge the fact that so much is currently unknown and that widely different opinions exist.

  • Acknowledge that it is also difficult for you to determine the course of action but that you wish to do so according to the best information available and to protect those you lead and their families.
  • Acknowledge also the impact upon your organization’s operations.
  • Use the real words so that there is no sense you are self-protectively minimizing and “sweeping the issue under the rug.”
  • Do so seriously, but avoid sensationalized language. People may already be anxious, and you do not want to incite greater fear.

C – Communicate pertinent information with both competence and compassion.

Use language such as “This is what we know at this time….” and provide access to credible expert sources such as the CDC, which includes situation updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and printable and video resources.

When anxious themselves, leaders tend to polarize toward either competence or compassion. You need to be both simultaneously. Those looking to you must witness someone who is concerned but not panicked and who has the strength to learn and implement best practices specific to this threat.

This issue is highly personal as people will be visualizing risks to their loved ones, so make sure also to be compassionate. You want people to experience your presence as “My leader knows her/his stuff, is tough enough to handle it, and cares about me as a person.

T —Transition to a future focus.

Do not just share information without outlining the immediate next steps. Immediate next steps. Do we resume operations now? Cancel events and travel? Work from home? How will internal updates be communicated? How and what do we communicate with all external stakeholders? Who are those external stakeholders, and what specific information needs to go to each? 

Also, the ACT Model that is have proven its effectiveness over the years, five proven strategies will help you provide the leadership your team will need, and you move forward.

  1.  Embrace and seize the moment.
  2. Follow the ACT Communication Model

3.  Stay present. Your team needs to see you as a caring, visible, and engaged leader. Influential leaders come out when there is a crisis. There is positive, dynamic energy when the leader leads from the front in both a positive, yet realistic way. (Refer back to the Stockdale Paradox) 

4.  When it’s time to address the media, be sure to plan for every question and eventuality. There is a tendency for CEOs to want to go on camera without thorough preparation because they are used to speaking publicly and know the organization very well. Avoid this temptation and list all possible questions, answers, follow-ups, and counters. Train on camera, relentlessly. An eight to fifteen-second sound bite can ruin your reputation and career. 

5.  Plan your work, work your plan, stay on course, but also stay flexible.

6. Practice Self-Compassion, Self-Care. [iii]

7. Have a consultant or counselor for yourself. 

8. Explore your companies EAP benefit for your organization. These benefits may include counseling, Critical Event Responses, Management Consultations, and Health and Wellness presentation.

In the next few weeks, businesses and ministries will slowly begin moving into an emerging and new routine.

Will you be ready for it?

If not, what do you need to do to prepare for it?

We will get through this!


[i] Everly, George (2008) Psychological Issues in Escape, Rescue, and Survival in the Wake of Disaster; Report Submitted to the National Institute of Occupational Safe and Health, Pittsburg Research Laboratory, Accessed, February 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docket/archive/pdfs/NIOSH-154/0154-010108-everly.pdf

[ii] Vandepol, Bob (2020) Effective Crisis Leadership During COVID-19.  Accessed April 20, 2020, https://www.pinerest.org/effective-crisis-leadership-during-covid-19-blog/

[iii] Lynn, Andrea (2017); 5 Strategies for Successful Crisis Leadership. Accessed April 23, 2020; https://www.fallstongroup.com/blog/5-crisis-strategies/

COVID-19: 4 Phases of Emotional Recovery

COVID-19: The 4 Phases of Recovery. Planning for Chaos and a return to a new normal.

COVID-19: The 4 Phases of Recovery.

Planning for chaos and a return to a new normal

How are you doing today? If you are like most of us, you are probably growing tired and frustrated with the multiple impacts of COVID-19. Two to three weeks ago, you may have been thinking, “Hey, we’ve got this!” Now you might just be feeling a little bit of despair and sadness. I know I have had to keep an eye on my attitude. But there is some hopeful news, you and I will recover. Our resilience and faith as people will help us pull through these tough times.

One of the subspecialties I’ve developed over the past fifteen years is that of a Disaster Mental Health Specialist. In this capacity, I have responded to everything from mass shootings, hurricanes, pandemics, earthquakes, and acts of terrorism. While each event is unique, there are some reasonably predictable phases people move through while on the road to recovery.

Pandemics, and other adverse events manage to bring an incredible range of emotions, from disbelief and anger to an almost euphoric sense of teamwork. Social isolation, a lack of social interconnectivity ranging from being with coworkers to experiencing the power of corporate worship experiences stifle our need to connect. Add the fear of the unknown with this particular virus which has raced around the world.

I was thinking about you when I penned this article. I wanted you to know that some of the things you are feeling are normal.

What I have learned from my training and my experience is that regardless of the event there are four phases that people will go through.

Perhaps, you, like many of my friends, are experiencing some COVID-19 weariness. I hope this helps you see a path through the forest of all that we are dealing with.

Here are the typical Phases of Disaster Recovery. By the way, these are pretty universal, whether its man-made as in terrorism, weather-related, or like other killer viruses like Ebola, the human reaction is relatively consistent.

If you are a leader, these tips will help you effectively reintegrate your team members back into the workforce.

Remember, as we look at these phases following a critical event, like the one we are currently involved with, it is essential to remember there often overlap between phases.

The Historical Phase[i]

This typically occurs at the point and time of impact and the time immediately afterward. Emotions are often powerful and direct. We find ourselves being called upon and responding to the demands for unusual and many times, heroic actions to save our lives, the lives of our families, friends, and loved ones. Altruism is the driving force as we try to look after each other. During this phase, the foremost resources are family groups, neighbors, friends, as well as first responders and medical providers.

The Honeymoon Phase

This period usually extends from weeks to months after the initial impact. Even with the losses, there is a strong sense of having shared with others a dangerous, catastrophic experience together and having lived through it.

The Disillusionment Phase

This phase can last from about two months to one or even two more years. Powerful feelings of disappointment, resentment, anger, and bitterness may arise if expectations of aid and assistance are not fulfilled. Some other things that can add to this can be the loss of or weakening of local community groups. Another component may be the gradual loss of the feeling of a “shared community” as individuals and families, concentrate on rebuilding their own lives and solving their own problems.  Before you get discouraged, know that the next phase is just around the corner.

Reconstruction Phase.

This is such a hope builder. After every type of critical event, people will emerge from the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological rubble and move into their new normal.

The Reconstruction Phase is the place where survivors come to realize they will need to solve the problems of rebuilding their lives, families, relationships, and businesses primarily by themselves. While there is assistance, you and I are the ones ultimately responsible for our lives, our families, and our businesses. As you and I move forward in this phase, we will discover and reaffirm our belief in ourselves, our communities, and our own capacity to handle things. 

Here is a list of helpful coping skills:[ii]

  • When appropriate, let other people give you the support you need.
  • Be sure to take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.Eat a balanced dietGet enough sleepGet up and move aroundTalk with others about your thoughts and feelings, while at the same time being a good listener.

Be patient with one another. Realize that all of us are experiencing some type of loss. It is entirely natural for humans to express disbelief, anger, anxiety, sadness, and depression as we move though all of the ramifications of the COVID-19 response. In a couple of words: Be Nice!

Don’t avoid the feelings of your kids as you deal with all of these new dynamics associated with our current situation. They need to feel that they can count on you to “keep it together” and give them the extra love, support, and attention they may need at this time. Reassure them, being careful to provide them with the space they need to process all that has gone on recently.

Refocus on the Big picture!  The whole idea of, “We are in this together! Is that we will get through it, and we will come out of this as stronger individuals, families, neighbors, and coworkers. We will never be able to go back to the way it used to be, but we will be a part of building a new, recalibrated world.

Be liberal with your words and actions in letting others know that you care for them. An elbow bump, words of encouragement and appreciation, and handwritten notes are all things you can do to build up others. 

Some Extra Tips for Supporting Your Family

Let them know when they are being helpful.

Laugh! It’s cheaper than therapy and a great way to relieve a lot of tension.

Be considerate of all of your family members.

Express love and concern often.

I hope you found this article helpful and if you did, please forward it to your friends.

Action Plan:

Join my email list and Get your free Cabin Fever Tip Sheet by texting the word Cabin Fever to 33777.

Stay tuned for some online learning.

Be safe!

John Thurman

PVB356


[i] Emotional Recovery After a Disaster (2020). Accessed, April 13, 2020. https://www.co.chippewa.wi.us/government/emergency-management/flooding/emotional-recovery-after-a-disaster

[ii] Coping with a Disaster or Trauma (2019). Accessed April 16, 2020. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings

Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings
Empty Tomb (c) 2014 John Thurman

I hope your Easter Celebration went well.

It was one memorable experience for millions of believers around the world as we celebrated this most critical day in Christianity while living in the shadow of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, I chose to reflect on the oldest Creed in the Church. The early church leaders developed The Apostle’s Creed, otherwise known as the Nicene Creed. It was a brief and basic statement that covered the import truths of the Lord Jesus and could be easily taught and recited, as most of the population were illiterate.

I believe in God,

the Father almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day, he rose again from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and life everlasting. Amen.

From a hut in African to the crowded high rises in Dubai, believers spend a part of the day reflecting on these truths. People from around the globe reflected on the fact that Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day, he rose again from the dead.

How did you celebrate yours?

We watched several services today from Franklin Graham and Michael W. Smith in Central Park in front of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital to viewing an Anglican friend, provide his homily, and enjoying my Church’s live stream.

At lunch, our son, daughter in law, grandson, and my daughter in law’s mom came over for lunch. We did elbow bumps, washed our hands, and gave thanks. My daughter-in-law’s family is from Armenia, and one of the dishes that she brought today was a rice dish with golden raisins. I asked her about the tradition, and she said that the rice represents the people of this world and that the golden raisins represent the sweet presence of Jesus in our lives, even in troubling times.

Wow, what a sermon in a simple dish.

No doubt this, Easter will be one that we will remember for the rest of our lives on this earth.

We have been in a time of loss and death over the past several weeks. Not just those individuals and families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, but our society has been forced to hit a life-changing pause button. Our movements are limited, many businesses closed, and life as we have known it has come to an abrupt halt.

So, what’s next? 

Well, many of you know that I am an optimist.

I do not believe that we will pick up where we left off. I don’t think that we will ever be able to go back to the way things were. Hopefully, during this externally forced pause, you and I have had a chance to recalibrate and to do some soul searching. 

So what will be different?

Our ways of socializing will have to jump through some hoops as we begin to reintegrate in our places of work, worship, and gatherings.

Some businesses and churches will adapt and adjust to a new reality. Some will close up shop. 

Some of the most exciting things we will see as the country reopens for business are that we will see young and old entrepreneurs look for opportunities.  I also believe that successful businesses will make the adjustments and expand their opportunities to serve others. Anyone who has caught any news in the past several weeks have heard stories of business leaders and entrepreneurs finding ways to adapt and create systems to deal with the crisis at hand.

In my work as a counselor/coach, and trainer, I am embracing new ways of providing those services with Face Time, Duo, Zoom, and direct telephone services. Besides, I am launching two online learning programs through Thinkific. The two working titles are Tactical Stress Management and How to Effectively Minister in Difficult Times. 

I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead.

How about you?

Entrepreneurial friends, this new reality will either provide you with an opportunity to grow or fail. The decision will be yours.

Did you know that one of the biggest dream killers is fear? A couple of years ago, I wrote The No Fear Entrepreneur, which is based on a survey I did with 1500 primarily faith-based entrepreneurs. The book helps the reader identify those fears and provides the reader with healthy, faith-friendly ways to identify, manage, and overcome those fears that might be holding them back.

I want to hear from you. Whether you are a home-based business operation, a manager at a government agency, or a manager in corporate America, I’d like to know your plan to reboot your business.

I look forward to hearing from you as we launch into this new adventure of restarting commerce.

While we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, also lets hopefully look forward to what lies ahead.

Let’s also come through this unusual cycle of loss to a resurrected economy and fresh ways for doing business and ministry.

I am excited, are you?

Let me hear from you.

Blessings,

John Thurman

PVB356

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.

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