Six Steps to Coping (DE Coast Press)

Much of what people talk to me about in my office is about coping: Just making it through life, day-to-day. Things can get pretty scary out there (have you watched the news lately?) and people can get overwhelmed. From my experience I’ve come up with six basic things you can do to help relieve some of the pressure.

1) Don’t answer your phone if you don’t want to! Few things are more annoying than somebody who breathlessly answers their phone but is too busy to talk. It’s irritating for BOTH parties. If you value a person enough to answer (most everybody has caller ID), then you should value him enough to speak. If you don’t (or if it’s not a good time), then don’t answer. That’s why we have voicemail.

The same applies to other technological interruptions like texts, emails or whatever. Modern technology has made access incredibly easy. Though this can be convenient, it also includes the responsibility to grant others only as much access as you’re willing to give them. It’s stressful for everybody when you try to “be nice” by resentfully giving somebody time you don’t have. Nobody benefits, and it’s certainly NOT nice.

2) If possible, choose work you can be passionate about. If you really want a dynamic occupation or career, “good enough” won’t do. Experiment with different jobs or activities until you find one that really makes you happy. Of course, in the meantime you’ll probably have to make a living, but the time it takes to find your passion will be worth the effort. Don’t settle.

By the way, if you’re retired, don’t assume that you no longer need a purpose in life. Retiring means slowing down, but it doesn’t mean brain dead. If you feel depressed or anxious, think about volunteering. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about money. The key is to keep using your mind by doing something you find meaningful and productive.

3) If you’re still working, concentrate on the job, not the personalities around you. People often focus on office politics rather than their individual competence. Trust me: In spite of the cute posters on the office wall, “teamwork” is not as important as individual proficiency.

Individuals are the dynamic of human progress, and excellence is achieved by taking risks and trusting in your own judgment. People respect individuals, not followers, and you can certainly be a leader and still get along with others. You have the power to pick and choose whom you want to get along with. Move forward and do your best. The “team” will certainly follow and everybody will benefit.

4) Allow yourself time-outs. If you love what you do, you probably don’t mind working long hours. But your body and psyche need an occasional break; a walk, a chat or maybe even a little time alone. Don’t overlook the psychological benefit of music, movies and other forms of entertainment, and make sure your mental “refueling” is uplifting and positive. There’s so much from which to choose when it comes to relaxation and entertainment. Remember the old saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s equally true that you are what you read, watch and think. Emotional nutrition is just as important as physical nutrition.

5) If your work is mental or sedentary, find time to exercise, jog, swim, work out — whatever gets the blood flowing. The running shoe people are right: “Just do it!” It’s more than just a slogan: Your mind and body have to be in sync. The ancient Greeks advised “a sound mind in a healthy body.” Heed the advice of those who gave us Plato and Aristotle!

6) If you want to marry or become otherwise coupled, try to develop a relationship with somebody who respects and understands your desire to work. This might mean a partner who is willing to stay home and run the household, or it could be a spouse who shares your desire and passion for work. Either way, this individual must understand and respect what you do. If he or she doesn’t, then you’re setting yourself up for one battle after another, where life becomes a frustrating compromise instead of pleasurable achievement.

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