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Practice Safe Stress ™ with the Stress Doc: Non-Traditional Book Review

A friend and career consulting colleague, Martha Collar, [email protected], requested a review of my book, Practice Safe Stress, for Best Practice Magazine (she’s editing) – Hong Kong based — with a circulation of 30,000 (including inflight on Cathay and numerous business lounges in hotels and airlines) and the theme is Corporate Wellness. I’ve pasted a preview below. (Don’t miss the witty and wise “Natural SPEED” verse.)

In a 24/7, wired world fraught with uncertainty, that’s cycling from “more with less” downsizing to ever faster upgrading while periodically spinning scarily out of control, managing stress and effective team coordination and cooperation are on everybody’s mind. The pressures to sustain morale while fostering resilience and productivity have never been greater. And in today’s diverse world and workplace, learning to disarm misunderstanding and build communicational bridges with a light touch is invaluable. Hmmm, a pretty daunting task. Still, have no fear…Mark Gorkin, “The Stress Doc” ™ is here with a dynamic, inspiring and fun-filled primer on “combat strategies at the burnout battlefront.” His popular, wide-ranging guide: Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout and Depression.

Here are two key components of the book:

A. The Four Stages of Burnout. “Burnout is a gradual process by which a person detaches from work and other significant relationships in response to excessive and prolonged stress and mental, physical and emotional strain. The result is lowered productivity, cynicism, confusion, a feeling of being drained, having nothing more to give.” The stages are:

1) Physical, mental emotional exhaustion. You may be still holding it together at work, but do you recognize this sequence: as soon as you get home, it’s straight for the fridge, get out the Ben & Jerry’s or light beer, put on the tube, hit the sofa and you’re comatose for the rest of the evening (or wish you could be). And some still question whether there’s anything wrong with this.

2) Shame and doubt. For example, if your supervisor asks you to take on a new assignment you want to be helpful, but suddenly a voice inside screams, “Are you kidding?” You’re feeling shaky in the present and losing confidence about managing the future; you can even start discounting past accomplishments. You probably are an elite member of the “Frequent Sigher’s Club.”

3) Cynicism and callousness. If you’re main motivational mantra is, “Look out for # 1” or “Who gives a d…!” you may be into third stage burnout. And sometimes it’s those nice or accommodating folks who are most susceptible. Alas, burnout is often less a sign of failure and more a sign that you gave yourself away. Not surprisingly, you can become resentful and feel that people are taking advantage of you. Also, beware retreating into a cave or becoming that “strong silent type.” Remember these types get a lot more ulcers than Oscars.

4) Failure, helplessness and crisis. During this final stage, you can feel trapped between “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t; damned if I stay, damned if I leave.” It feels as if your coping mechanism is coming unglued. And while it sounds terrible, consider this: hitting bottom means there’s no more downward spiral. And if you can reach out, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Finally, burnout is not simply a byproduct of too many demands and responsibilities along with insufficient control, authority, autonomy, resources and support. It can also result from tedium or insufficient stimulation, what the Stress Doc calls the Bjorn Bored Syndrome (named for the Swedish tennis great, Bjorn Borg, who burned out in his late 20s): When Mastery times Monotony provides an index of Misery! The Doc’s solution: “Fireproof your life with variety.”

B. Develop Natural SPEED. People are more open to a serious message when it’s gift-wrapped with humor, sayeth the Stress Doc, a self-proclaimed psychohumorist ™ (who lets his audience decide where the emphasis on that word should go). With this in mind, consider the Doc’s witty and wise, survival strategy verse — “Natural SPEED”:

As you sprint to the wire with blood pressure higher
Timeless mind-body tips to heed
For slowing down, getting feet on the ground
And building Natural SPEED.

“S” is for “Sleep”
Now don’t be cheap
Seven hours, at least
To be a beauty with mental acuity
Not that snooze-button bashing beast.

“P” stands for “Priority”
You can’t do it all every day.
Urgent means now but important can wait.
Do you know how…to “N & N”?:
Just say “No and Negotiate!”

“E” is for the “Empathy”
Found in a caring shoulder.
But all give without take is a big mistake
For now you shoulder a boulder.

The second “E” is for “Exercise”
Start pumping iron or those thighs.
You may not need SSRIs.
Try thirty minutes of non-stop spin
For your mood uplifting endorphin.

And, finally, “D” is for a healthy “Diet”
Alas, many would rather die than try it.
To manage foods you crave
Grieve, “let go” and then be brave
Sending diet fads to an early grave.

So eat those fruits and veggies
Try fish oils and soy protein.
For too much fats and sugar
Excess alcohol and caffeine
Is a rollercoaster formula
For an artery-clogged machine.

It’s time to end this Shrink Rap
With final tips for you —
“A firm ‘No’ a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too.”
So to lessen daily woes, “Do know your limits, don’t limit your ‘No’s!”

Ponder this Stress Doc wit and wisdom
Try to live it day after day:
Burnout is not a sign of failure
You simply gave yourself away.

Remember, sometimes less is more
And more is really less.
Balance work and play, faith and love
And, of course…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and “Motivational Humorist.” In addition, the “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant, and is America Online’s “Online Psychohumorist”™. Recent clients include Cleveland Clinic, MITRE Corporation, and Sonoma County, CA, Govt. Managers Conference and the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online “HotSite” — www.stressdoc.com — called a “workplace resource” by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc’s programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email [email protected]

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Lisa Coates

Wow…stress is definitely becoming more noticeable in the workplace. This article will help to relieve some of it. Thanks for sharing.

Mark Gorkin

Thanks for the kind words, Lisa. Yes, based on my speaking and workshop programs, I do sense stress levels are increasing. If you’d like to receive my free monthly newsletter (info/essays on stress, communications, team building, creativity and leadership), just send me your email address. Best wishes and good adventures.


[email protected]

Mark Gorkin

Thanks, Javier. I too have been there and yes it’s a slow and hopefully growing pains, a bit sadder and hopefully a lot wiser, process. If you’d like to receive my free monthly newsletter (essays on stress, communications, team building, leadership and creativity), please send me an email. Best wishes and good adventures.


[email protected]