3 Ways to Manage Stress

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

7 Steps That Will Enhance Self-Care

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:39
                                                                                       Jesus

What comes to mind when you read the words Self-care or Self-Compassion? Are you aware that one of the components of resilient, successful people is they practice self-care?

For many people, the first reaction self-care is often one of concern, misgiving, or uneasiness. They believe that being kind and gracious to themselves might make them weak, more vulnerable, or even snotty (a clinical word that could mean arrogant, puffed up, or aloof). They erroneously think self-criticism keeps them accountable or improves their performance. They are sometimes overly concerned that letting go of the nasty habit of self-criticism will somehow cause them to appear less competent.

I believe one of the things those of us who have struggled in this area have a hard time understanding is that the reverse is true; tormenting ourselves and holding ourselves to be accountable to completely unrealistic expectations which will most likely sabotage our efforts.

I know in my own life; one of the voices that I consistently listened to, was that nagging whisper planted in my head by a teacher in high school that I was a horrible English student and that I might not make it out of high school. FYI, I got through High School and completed 2 Masters. Now in all fairness, she planted the seed, but I did a phenomenal job of watering and fertilizing it. That is until I made a choice to turn the volume down and begin to write. Just so you know, at age sixty-seven and still learning and growing.

News Flash! 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, bludgeoning yourself with self-criticism compromises your goals, impairs your pursuits and steals your dreams, whether they are mental, physical, spiritual, academic, health-related, or professional.

In my work as a therapist and as a Crisis Response Specialist I have learned that self-care, self-compassion is a must if I want to provide adequate care to others. Likewise, self-care, self-compassion is not an option if I desire to impact this world.

I love this story in the New Testament book of Matthew 22: 35–38, One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question; ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses? “Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let me be clear, we are not talking about some narcissistic type of self-love, but of, to use a biblical metaphor, “temple maintenance.” We cannot export what we do not have.

So, what does healthy self-care or self-compassion look like?

It brings forth resilience, and it enables you to be more flexible and agile as you face life’s challenges, it provides you the capacity to identify problems, accept feedback, both good and bad, and to modify habits that no longer serve your best interests. This type of shift in your thinking opens the doors to enhanced resilience, hope, increased strength, optimism, and opportunities.

Self-Care Explained 

Do you remember the safety briefing from your last flight? When the flight attendants get to the part about the unlikely event of sudden cabin depressurization, they explain that the oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling and at that point, they instruct you to put on your mask first, then and only then, help someone else with theirs. 

Self-care is sort of like this in a way. It is a very intentional, active choice that we make to take care of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It’s putting us first…because we can’t care for or be the best help to help others unless we first take care of ourselves. 

The benefits of self-care

Self-care can have the following positive effects:
– Improved self-esteem and self-compassion
– Increased insight in decision making and motivation
– Boosted immune system
– Enhanced stress management by reducing anxiety
– Improved productivity fostered by a greater ability to focus
– Deepened spirituality and sense of meaning
– Heightened connection to yourself and others
– Increased resilience
– Greater ability to set boundaries (internal and external)
– Boosted immune system
– Enhanced stress management by reducing anxiety
– Improved productivity fostered by a greater ability to focus
– Deepened spirituality and sense of meaning
– Heightened connection to yourself and others
– Greater ability to set boundaries (internal and external)

Here are seven ways to practice self-care

1. Get your horizontal and vertical relationships in order. The quote from Jesus pretty much sums it up. Love God and out of that love of God will come the love of self, then love of others.

2.  Remember, we have to all constantly fight the inner poser. We all feel like fakes and frauds from time to time. When you find yourself beating yourself up, calling yourself names, rehearsing old hurts, telling yourself you are a loser or suffering from the paralysis of analysis, STOP. Everybody struggles with this from time to time, and it is all part of being human. They are just thoughts. You always have a choice to give them a place in your brain and heart or to dismiss them.

3. Be a buddy to yourself. Would you offer yourself support and encouragement on a bad day? Would you cheer for yourself on a good one?

4. Use your meals as an act of self-care. When you eat, pause to notice that you are taking time to nourish yourself. Rather than seeing how fast you can consume your meal, a nasty habit that I picked up in the military, chew your food slowly, savor the flavor as you add fuel for your body.

5. Get the rest your body needs, 7–8 hours is a great goal and has been proven time and time again to renew and refresh.

6. Have a time of stillness and quietness in the morning. It could be a time of prayer and meditation. You could read from a daily devotional or have some type of daily reading plan. One that I have used is to read one chapter of the Old Testament book of Proverbs a day.

7. Ask for some help. No, I do not mean therapy, although a good therapist could help. Here is a thought, experiment with giving someone else a chance to help you. It might be a friend, colleague, or mentor who can come alongside you to help out, be an accountability partner or just an encourager.

Action Plan

Choose 2 of the 7 suggestions to begin showing yourself some Self-Care.

Let me hear your thoughts. 
Blessings,
John

Cutting Down Holiday Stress


Well, we are officially off to the retail madness of the Holiday Season with yet another Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday. As I pen this post, I am having a flashback about spending three Christmases managing a Christian Gift Shop in at the Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia. At the time, I was grateful for that chapter in my life, but I am glad is in my past.

For many people, this time of year is about as exciting as being told you need a root canal immediately. There are countless individuals feels an overwhelming sense of dread, worry, anxiety, exhaustion, and isolation. If you feel like this, you could be the victim of the Christmas Blahs, the Hanukkah Malaise, Kwanza Dullness, and for my neo-pagan friends, the Solstice Slump.

If you are someone who struggles with this time of the year, I am going to give you some mood lifting, stress-busting tips which could help bring joy into your life.

Sheila Moss (www.humorcolumnist.com) has a few great lines about Christmas.

Santa is watching; please do not do anything that will embarrass him.
The commercial spirit of Christmas is a mysterious force that causes people to max out their credit cards.
You cannot string more lights than your redneck neighbor.
The harder you try to diet, the higher the likelihood you will get candy for presents.
Famous last words-“I have plenty of time left to shop before Christmas.”

A friend of mine who has been a broadcast journalist was interviewing me a few years ago and asked me to come up with Twelve Stress-Busting Tips for Christmas. The good news, he gave me two hours to come up with them. Thankfully, they were a hit, and over the years I have adjusted them to be current. I hope these thirteen tips will help you enjoy the Advent season, lighten up your stress, and help you catch your breath.

13 Tips for Cutting Down Holiday Stress

1. Shop for the significant people first.

2. Stay active, move around, see the lights, do something to break up your routine.

3. Think before you speak. Consider ruling out all conversations which involve your job, health, marriage, the past, the future, or the present. Keep it “Holiday Light.”

4. Re-read the Christmas story, go to a Christmas musical, or even visit a church. For those of you who have not been to church and feel like the roof might collapse when you walk in-I have great news; churches have particular roofing material can handle the shock of your presence.

5. Stay loose; 21st-century families seem to always shift and change.

6. Look for and pray about creative solutions from problems that might arise during the holiday season.

7. Mom and Dad-let your married kids develop their own holiday traditions.

8. Take your medication, supplements, and vitamins.

9. Limit let eating and drinking be the focus of your Holiday gatherings.

10. Buy an Advent calendar, even if you don’t have kids-it is fun to open the tabs
.
11. Watch movies like The Christmas Star, or a Wonderful Life at least one time.

12. Take some time to be alone and reflect. Relax, catch a breath, smell the fragrances of the holidays.

13. Remember the “Reason for the Season.” The Gospel of Luke 2:11, “The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (NLT).

Would love to hear how you manage holiday stress! Please leave a comment.

Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage

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 Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment or dysfunctions that are often associated with critical incidents and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly, Psychological Body Armor.”Last week Sara got so mad she threw her shoe at me. It missed my head by about three inches!” Larry said.”At the time I thought he deserved it,” Sara admitted. “But the fact that I could do that really scares me! I feel as if our marriage is in serious trouble.”While not every couple throws shoes—or anything else—that sense of uncontrollable anger is not uncommon for many couples regardless of creed, ethnicity, or social status. Unfortunately, some feel that the heightened level of emotion is the beginning of the end of their relationship.

In my more than 35 years of counseling and  45 years of married life, I’ve observed that how couples respond to an event such as Sara’s shoe-throwing can help them develop resilience, the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from change, misfortune, and unmet expectations.

As we explored their past ten years together, I knew that even though they were now in a difficult season, Larry and Sara had built resilience into their marriage. To create a resilient marriage, your commitment to the relationship must be stronger than your history, mood, or situation. Couples who are resilient have these seven qualities in common.

1. Resilient couples don’t fall prey to misconceptions about marriage. 

One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. In the ten years, Larry and Sara had been married, five jobs, one miscarriage, five harsh financial seasons, four moves, and two adventure-filled boys had taken their toll. Not to mention the fact that they came from two different family styles: Sara’s parents were divorced. Her dad had cheated on her mom multiple times, and then abandoned the family when she was ten. Larry, on the other hand, grew up in an intact family—his parents are still together more than 40 years later.

As we talked, Larry nailed one of the great Christian misconceptions about marriage: “We had no idea how difficult marriage would be. If you listen to people at our church talk about their marriages, it would be easy to believe nobody has been through what we’ve experienced.”

It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history.

Many couples mistakenly think that loving each other means always getting along. But conflict is an inescapable part of marriage if the couple expects their relationship to grow and mature.

2. Resilient couples find help when they need it.

Many couples “go it” alone—trying to deal with their issues without getting outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships.

Larry and Sara had always been involved in small church groups, which had been invaluable sources of strength when difficult circumstances such as miscarriage and job loss came along. But when they felt more “out of control,” such as Sara’s shoe throwing, they knew it was a signal to seek professional help.

3. Resilient couples remember the good things about their marriage and each other.

“He’s a good father to our boys,” Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other’s good qualities. “And he’s patient. He puts up with my quirks.”

“I love how loyal and passionate she is,” Larry added. “Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart’s in the right place.”

The longer we talked, the more relaxed they became. “We’re not quitters,” Sara said. “When I see how many of our friends have crashed and burned in their marriages, I’m glad we’ve hung in there.”

Larry looked embarrassed but said, “We had no idea what we could endure as husband and wife. But we still love each other.”

Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad.

4. Resilient couples accept the differences in their personalities, views, and ways of getting things done.

Sara entered marriage fearing the sharp conflict she’d watched her parents experience, while Larry came expecting the intimacy and commitment he’d seen his parents enjoy. For several years, they acted out based on the marriage models and communication styles they brought with them.

Sara tended to over-talk everything. Then if she felt Larry didn’t “get it,” she’d become angry. “When I try to talk to Larry,” she told me, “he always seems to run and hide. He’ll either collapse in the recliner and be sucked into the television, or he’ll retreat to the computer room. When he does that, I feel like going ballistic, and sometimes do.”

Larry responded, “She has an opinion about everything, and when I don’t engage in the conversation, she gets heated, so I retreat. Then she throws a shoe at me!”

Men and women really do have different needs.

For guys, we want to feel competent and needed. We want to feel respected. One friend of mine used to say, “Men are like dogs, they need three things: someone to feed them, play with them, and occasionally say, ‘Good boy.’”

I encouraged Sara to be more mindful before sharing an opinion. She also became intentional about giving Larry positive feedback on things he did around the house and with the boys. She even began to find herself being more sexually provocative with him.

For women, the key is to help her feel valued and cherished. If she feels her husband can love her the way she is, then she feels more secure. When a man listens to his wife, without trying to fix her, for instance, he’ll be amazed to see how she can engage him physically. Larry noticed that as he listened intently to Sara, she actually talked less. He even began to buy her flowers, knowing how much she appreciated the gesture.

Sara and Larry became more focused on their communication styles and began to senseless tension and more hope. Larry was choosing to stay connected and not withdraw, and Sara was trying to lower her intensity level.

“We’re not the same,” Sara mentioned. “And I’m starting to appreciate the fact that that can be a good thing.”

5. Resilient couples develop and maintain an internal locus (focus) of control rather than an external focus.

I asked Larry and Sara to recount some of the difficult times in their marriage and how they got through. They told me that six months into their marriage, Larry lost his job. It could have been devastating, especially since Sara’s part-time job didn’t bring in enough money to cover their bills. When many couples would take out their frustrations, fears, and worries on their spouse, Larry and Sara decided instead to focus on the possibilities.

“We knew we loved each other,” Sara said. “It wasn’t Larry’s fault he was downsized. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we believed Larry would find a job and that God would lead us through this difficult time. And he did.”

“So what keeps you two together?” I finally asked them.

“I love him and want us to get better,” Sara told me.
Larry agreed. “We believe God can and will help us work things out, but it’s tough.” They both took their marriage vows seriously and didn’t want to become another statistic. They hoped to survive this rough time and were committed to the process.

6. Resilient couples manage their emotions.

Larry admitted to me that he can be a “control freak” at times. Sara, on the other hand, is a “free spirit.”

As the weeks went by, Larry and Sara started to focus on their personal responsibility for their portion of the relationship’s troubles and move forward.

After Sara’s fourth overdrawn check, Larry had had enough. Instead of blowing up or withdrawing from her, which had previously proved unsuccessful, Larry took another approach. He waited for a couple of days so he could calm down. Having a measure of control over his emotions, he could talk to her in a calm, rational way and they were able to resolve their money issues.

7. Resilient couples reinterpret past failures and use them as growing points instead of perennial negatives.

In other words, they look at past mistakes to make positive, life-changing applications.

Sara admitted she felt she had to punish Larry with angry outbursts to get him to do anything. As she worked on her side of the responsibility equation, she realized some of her anger was rooted in bitterness toward her dad. So Sara began to pay close attention to the things that could trigger her emotions. In the course of our counseling, she was able to see the hurts for what they were and began to come to terms with the damage. In the process, her feelings about Larry grew softer.

Both Sara and Larry let go of the old hurts and took active measures to reconnect. Larry is “staying in the room” when Sara is struggling. Sara is feeling more secure in her relationship with Larry as she sees the changes he’s making. They use the words, I was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?

In the six weeks, they were in counseling with me, Larry and Sara were able to receive enough mercy and grace to forgive each other and make adjustments necessary to move forward
Today they report that shoes are no longer a weapon of choice, but something to wear.

Call to action:
Are you interested in getting help in your relationship?  Feel free to email me: john@johnthurman.net

Comments welcome.

Twenty-Four Stress Relief Strategies

I have literally just come back from a two week deployment as a Stress Counselor working with the FEMA Call Center in Denton, Tx. The folks at this facility take the calls from Hurricane survivors in all manner of stress, including life and death situations. My job was to be with them ans share tools and tips that could help them deal with the sometimes intense nature of the calls.

My freind, Maggie Anderson from Albuquerque is currently in Tx working with a ministry team to help the Harvey survivors begin the process of recovery, I am thankful for her photo.

Here are twenty-Four Stress Relief Tips.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know men and women are continually being bombarded with stress. Whether you are married or single, young or old, stress is an ever-present challenge. Stress-related illnesses are on the rise and have you noticed all of the sleep aid ads on television. With all of this stress we are faced with I thought it would be a good idea to give you Twenty-Five Stress Relieving Tips.

  1. Quit whining and try smiling.
  2. Take a walk and walk and walk and walk.
  3. Remember the lyrics to your favorite song, as long as it isn’t Johnny Cash’s version of Pain, you should be okay. Danger, if you find yourself singing an ACDC, Donny and Marie Osmond, or a Metallica tune call me, you might need some therapy.
  4. Remember it’s not about you.
  5. Hold spouse’s hand for ten minutes, with no expectations of anything else. He or she will love it.
  6. Pray and meditate. You could start with the 23rd Psalm.
  7. Get rid of your grungy shower curtain.
  8. Admit you were wrong, confess your mess, and clean it up.
  9. Shake it off. Have you ever watched athletes limber up their arms, legs, and head? Research shows  “shaking it off” actually helps release stress.
  10. Go to Starbucks with some friends.
  11. Forgive someone who hurt you. The only one who pays the price of unforgiveness is you.
  12. Go to church.
  13. Water a plant.
  14. Find a great view and savor it.
  15. Let someone cut in line.
  16. Download Tactical Breather and chill out for a few.
  17. Add ten minutes to your Estimated Time of Arrival. Go ahead and drum on your steering wheel or dashboard. A study in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine showed group drumming alleviated stress. A drum solo may bring similar benefits.
  18. Hold your tongue. When you want to answer someone quickly, respond slowly. The Bible says God gave you two ears and one mouth. Apply liberally.
  19. Focus on the good in a situation. Robert Allen, a bestselling author, says, “No thought lives in your head rent-free.” You always have the power to choose your thoughts. If you opt to focus on negative, non-productive thoughts, it will cost you time, money, health, opportunity, and happiness.
  20. Walk barefoot in the park, just watch out for dog flops.
  21. Write a gratitude letter. This message can take one of two forms. First, sit down, with a pen and paper (no keyboarding) and begin to work on a list of things you are grateful. Be creative. Second, think of two people you are thankful for, a spouse, friend, mentor, or parent and write them a gratitude letter. Let them know what impact they have had in your life.
  22. Get out of Debt Denial. Research shows  getting realistic about your financial situation can lower your stress.
  23. Drop the butts, if you still smoke, quit.
  24. Trip silence. A tough one for me since I am a little ADHD. Try taking a trip without the radio, CD, or your iTunes or MP3 playlist turned off. Trip silence can be a welcome break from time to time.

The Good,The Bad, and the Ugly about Anxiety 1

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Stress and Anxiety
By John Thurman

You just received a call from you child’s school that you little one has fallen off of the monkey bars and injured her arm and that they have called an ambulance. Immediately your brain goes into the “Fight or Flight” mode.  Focusing like a laser beam, you rush to your car, call your husband and navigate traffic to get to the school. So now some moron driver on you left swerves into your lane which texting on his stupid smart phone. You are almost ready to have a small nuclear detonation!

Stress and anxiety, when it is chronic or repeated, does more than shake us up; it can make us sick. It diminishes the immune system and dries out the digestive track, setting the stage for a host of disorders from irritable bowel syndrome to ulcerative colitis. It impairs memory and in extreme cases fuel fear. It can even damage chromosomes, thereby accelerating cellular aging.

As puzzling as this might sound stress can also be a noble thing, a wellspring of life and possibilities. Without stress, we’d be as good as dead. We would not have the courage to protect our families, ask the boss for a raise, say, “no” to a boyfriend, or try out a new sport.

Why? Because stress in suitable amounts is the very stimulation that keeps us engaged with the world.

The goal is not a stress-free life; that will only happen when you are dead. The idea is to have the right amount of stress. It is like riding a bicycle; you never have balance when you are riding one, you maintain it. In applying this to your life, it means that stressors are short-lived and manageable.

You experience acceptable stress when you feel a sense of control. No matter how your body may respond at the moment, you know that you are going to come out fine on the other side-and perhaps even better for the experience. A roller coaster may send your stress-hormone levels soaring, but you know the ride will be over in minutes. When you ride any type of “thrill ride” you are voluntarily giving up a degree of control and predictability that will usually have a prodigious outcome.

Being able to anticipate and manage stress and anxiety is part of developing a type of psychological body armor. This type of body armor may be thought of as a “shield” against excessive, destructive stress. It has two major components:

Stress resistance and Stress resilience

Stress resistance may be thought of as a form of acquired immunity to excessive stress. Stress immunity is the ability to resist the development of extreme stress reactions because the stressor (the person, place, or thing that is associated with excessive stress) is not allowed to adversely impact your psychological, spiritual, or behavioral functioning.

Stress resilience is the ability to rebound from the mental, spiritual, and behavioral impact of disproportionate stress. Stress resilience is important because it protects you when your ability to resist stressors breaks down.

Over the next several Monday and Friday posts, I will be sharing some secrets on how to get a grip on stress, anxiety and worry.

Would love to know your thoughts.

Renew Your Vision, Revive Your Mind 3

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(c) 2013 John Thurman – Chalk Talk
Get Unstuck
By John Thurman

I shot this image a little over a year ago at a Living Free Service at Sagebrush Community Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Pastor Rick Bosh had just finished a message and he invited all of those who were attending to some write down some places where they were stuck? It was a powerful time, there was silence in a room for around 800 people with only the occasion sniffle of sadness or joy or the sharp and loud slaps of a man hug.

Do you ever feel stuck? Do some of your old thinking styles trip your up? Reviving your mind is tough work, but it leads to great rewards.

As we look at these styles, let’s review where some of our struggles originate.

What we believe is partially determined by the programming we absorb from our early childhood to the present. Our parents, siblings, peers, teachers, faith group, significant others, books, TV, and so on, all contribute to our perceptions about the world and ourselves. As mentioned in the introduction, there are two basic mindsets people deal with the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.”

If a person is in a fixed mindset and something bad or negative occurs, the following things happen. He or she tends to think:

·      It is personal (it is all my fault)

·      It is permanent (it cannot be changed)

·      It is pervasive (it will affect everything)

Mind Reading

In Genesis chapters 11-25, one of the best-known couples in the Bible, Abraham and Sarah, serve as reminders of what happens when we presume to know God’s plans, and the plans of others. This couple often strayed from God’s will. Early on they gave into fear, dishonesty, and manipulation as they dealt with others. At times, they wrongly presumed to know God’s mind and plans before He had revealed them and then foolishly attempted to assist Him.

The good news is, over time Abraham, and Sarah got the lesson. They learned that a fresh start is always possible. They also learned that the fulfillment of God’s promises does not depend upon our performance, but rather on His grace. Finally, they learned it is dangerous to try to read God’s mind and to move ahead without first seeking His direction.

This mind-reading trap assumes that you know what the other person is thinking or expecting, or that you expect another person to understand fully what you are thinking.

 Mind reading often happens when we know or think we know the other persons well. After forty years of being married to my wife, she is learned she cannot always read my mind.

The way to avoid the trap of assuming you know what another person is thinking is to ask questions. Getting answers is the easiest way to see if what you are thinking matches what the other person is thinking. It takes courage, but it can work.

Here are a few questions to ask:

·      Did I express myself?

·      Did I ask for information and clarification?

·      Am I sure the other person is not holding anything back in fear of my reaction?


Feel free to leave a comment.
(c) 2014 John Thurman

Renew Your Vision, Revive Your Mind 2


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(c) 2014 John Thurman – Feeling beat up after climbing to the top of Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan
Go for a Growth Mindset

by John Thurman
Have you ever had a season in your life when you felt like the biggest loser in the world. I know I have pulled more than a few “no brainers” in my life. While I am not the brightest build on the Christmas tree, I am learning new ways to psi against the “Six Big Stinking Thinking Patters.”

One of the principles for reviving your mind is personal responsibility and agency, which simply means you are an active player in your individual recovery. It is important for us to focus on responsibility and to be forward-looking. Seeing ourselves as perpetual victims of childhood or adult trauma tends to make us a prisoner of the past and gnaws at our sense of responsibility. All successful counseling has two things in common: It is forward-looking, and it requires assuming personal responsibility.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you see the potential for growth and development. With the right motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you believe you can become better at almost anything. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe that the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and that He has an active, life-fulfilling purpose for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such meaning.

From my struggle with depression, I know that working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In the next few posts, you and I will begin our journey of understanding these negative approaches and taking strategic, kinetic steps to replace these with more productive thinking styles.

I am very grateful for the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, I highly recommend her materials for your reading plan. 


(c) 2014 John Thurman

Renew Your Vision, Revive Your Mind 

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Revive Your Mind: It is Cheaper Than Therapy
by John Thurman

Your future is not defined by your past. Your thoughts can change, and consequently, so can your future. Stinking thinking corrupts your brain and triggers harmful neurochemicals and dangerous mental states such as anxiety, anger, and depression. One of the proven ways to revive your mind is to get a grip on your “stinking thinking” styles and make the necessary adjustments. Unless you are willing to do some constructive re-engineering, your thinking becomes automatic, impulsive, and often wrong by bending, deleting, distorting, and exaggerating the truth. Over the next few posts, I will show you the secrets to renewing your mind. 

The first shift is to move into a “growth mindset.” Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. The Bible contains numerous other passages that deal with managing our thoughts. For starters, I’d suggest reading the New Testament book of James 1:1-8

A fixed mindset is one in which you believe you are born with a changeless set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it more difficult to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his potential and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes.

One of the ways to engage these thoughts is to give you some descriptions of how stinking thinking works. Knowing that, you will be able to push back the lies and replace them with the truth.

Stinking thinking traps undermine mental toughness and performance and lead to an inaccurate understanding of the situation. You can use some of these critical questions I’m going to talk about in these thinking traps to help you clarify a situation. In the following blogs,  we’ll talk about developing resistance, resilience, and getting stronger.

In the next few days you will begin to revive your mind with the new truths that you are beginning to implement. Let me know how you are doing.

To learn more about the “Stinking Thinking Traps,” read Chapter 4 of Get a Grip on Depression.
It may also be ordered through Amazon


(c) 2014 John Thurman


Recapture Your Vision through Gratitide

Experience Gratitude

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…” are words from a hymn I remember from my childhood while attending the First Baptist Church of Fort Valley. It is an old song with modern psychological and spiritual implications.

G.K Chesterton said, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude makes your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event. In addition, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.

An exercise called the Gratitude Visit will help you experience relief from depression.

Close your eyes. Imagine the face of someone still alive who did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Got a face?

Your task is to write a letter (handwritten) to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words; be specific about what they did for you and how it affected your life.

Once you have completed the letter, call the person and let them know that you would like to visit them, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting. This type of exercise is more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet with the individual, take your time reading your letter. Notice their reactions as well as yours. If they interrupt you, gently tell them that you want them to listen until you are done. I promise you that you and the recipient will be much happier and less depressed.

Of course, if you cannot hand deliver the note, mail it, but follow up with a call.

Added Monday morning

My pastor, Todd Cook, Senior Pastor of Sagebrush Church in Albuquerque, shared a message Sunday on Psalm 90. One of the quotes I took away was, “If God leads you to it, he will lead you through it. Here is a link to the message, Boom Box if you want to hear it all. It was timely. Warning: this my be a little “out of the box” for you.

You can find this and more tips in my book Get a Grip on Depression.  Obtain a personally autographed copy from me. In Albuquerque, you may pick up a copy at the Sagebrush Church bookstore, or order a copy through Amazon/Kindle.