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Teen Sleep Crisis - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teen Sleep Crisis: How Sleep Loss Causes Depression

June 11, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Most of us as parents struggle with getting our teenagers to bed on time. Sports, school and socializing all postpone bedtime in a busy teen’s life but a major new study now reports that sleep loss can be dangerous. A new study of 15,000 teens sends some serious warnings to American parents.

This “just released” study from Columbia University is the first to examine the direct effect of sleep loss on the emotional health of an adolescent.

  • More Depression: Teens whose parents allow them to stay up past midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens in bed by 10 P.M.
  • Suicidal Thinking: Less sleep can contribute to suicidal thinking. Kids who stay up late are 30% more likely to have suicidal thoughts in the past year.
  • Underestimates of Current Teen Distress: These statistics may underrate the severity of teen distress. With social networking sites and smart phones, kids are more active into the night and often refuse to comply with parental commands. It is easy to play on your iPhone into the next morning!

You may be wondering why lack of sleep is such a big deal for kids. There are a variety of problems when kids don’t get enough sleep:

  • Psychological Weakness: Kids who get less sleep are more impulsive, process their environment less accurately, become more helpless and descend into ineffectiveness.
  • Slippage of Grades: Academics are a huge problem for sleep-deprived kids — the less focus you have, the more distracted you are, and the less effectively you integrate new knowledge.
  • Loss of Emotional Stability: Even if they can tolerate sleep loss and still make grades, there is a psychological price that is paid in interpersonal diplomacy, regulation of emotions, and a general build up of frustration.
  • Obesity: Obesity is highly correlated with sleep loss. Teens are less likely to work out and eat moderately when they’re exhausted.
  • Driving Safety: Most fatal teen driving accidents involve sleep loss. Since kids need more sleep than adults, they are particularly vulnerable to carelessness on the road and falling asleep at the wheel.

There are a number of ways to get kids to go to sleep earlier. Here are a few ideas:

  • Eliminate Stimulants: Cut out the stimulants in kids’ lives, things like coffee, sodas and in some rare cases, amphetamines. They will go to bed earlier if they aren’t on a caffeine high!
  • Avoid Yo Yo Scheduling: Also, don’t allow your kids to do what is called “yo-yo scheduling” where they go to sleep late during the week and then go to sleep even later on the weekend! The lack of sleep on weekends has long standing effects on sleep patterns and melatonin levels, and kids often go back in to the work week more tired than they were on Friday!
  • Keep It Pleasant: Don’t engage in emotional conversations close to bedtime. Conflict interferes with regular sleep patterns and kids have a hard time settling down for the night.
  • If you want to know how to get your kids to sleep beyond these tips, the bad news is that there is no magic solution. There really is only one way to get your kids to bed:

    • Set Strong Limits: High school and college age kids average around 6.1 hours of sleep a night when they need 9.25 hours a night, on average. There is no way around it – parents must set stronger limits so their kids will sleep more! Your kids will have to experience that disappointment, but in the end you will also see improved performance both in the classroom and on the field.
    • Quick Emotional Benefits: Beyond the obvious benefits in school, adequate sleep can have a tremendous effect on your child’s mental health. Everything from mood to concentration to safety in the car can be improved. Even behavioral and academic problems can disappear with adequate amounts of sleep.

    Why Women Judge Other Women - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Why Women Judge Other Women

    June 4, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    Women have turned to one another throughout the ages for support, advice and information. But what happens when women turn on one another?

    Women judge one another for the following reasons:

    • Love to Complain: Women love to complain and gossip to each other. In fact, most of us are in constant touch with our closest confidantes, and we love to lament about our latest frustration or irritation. At some point the conversation can turn ugly. We stop talking “about” someone and begin talking “against” them.
    • Confused and Threatened: We move to judgment when we are confused, offended or threatened. Many women do not like the “grays” of life, preferring to “niche” others in negative categories.
    • Self-Absorbed Women: Some women are so self-centered that any woman of achievement is a potential adversary. They do not want another woman to steal their thunder. They are naturally competitive and stab other women in the back routinely just to “stay even.”
    • Grudge Holders: We are chronic grudge-holders due to the fact that we have twice the brain space for emotional memory compared to men. As a result, if you slight a woman once, you may make an enemy for life.

    Unfortunately, the presence of men can make women more critical of other women. In male-dominated situations in the workplace or social setting, women show an innate tendency to turn on one another. When guys hold the power and there are few women with authority, women can get much more nasty. We are as competitive as men but mainly compete with one another when our power is limited.

    When women achieve power, many of us tend to hoard it and fail to mentor the very women behind us who will inherit our influence and skills. As a result, the entire gender is undermined. We must pull together rather than apart.

    Friendships are often challenged when a woman succeeds. Jealousy and dissension may thrive when one woman excels beyond the other.

    Similarity is the common denominator of female relationships. Girls at young ages don’t give orders but emphasize connection, sameness and interdependence. When women ascend in power, they differentiate themselves from the female community by holding that power. Similarity is decreased. With some women, such accomplishments are threatening, and they label the achieving female as overly confident, conniving or even conceited. Gossiping in female social communities is a primary way to undercut a woman who has achieved. Friendships often wither quickly.

    There are specific types of female conversations that evoke this type of female against female criticism.

    There are four broad categories:

    • Tracking the Competition: Women use gossip to keep track of other women, especially when they are competing with them. Sharing information about “when, where and whys” assures them that they can triumph over the other woman.
    • Criticize Her Love Life: Women love to complain endlessly about the men in their lives, but they delight even more in complaining about other women and their love lives.
    • Female Scapegoats: Women turn to others during times of stress, but sometimes the conversation turns nasty. Many times women begin to scapegoat another female as a solution to a problem. We “throw her under the bus” to alleviate our own frustration. Sharing a common view even if it is negative is soothing and bonds women to one another.

    Women can do a great deal to support one another and to strengthen the “girl team.”

    There are infinite ways that women can support each other, but here are some important tips:

    • Be a Mentor: If you see another woman who needs some guidance, coach her on how to navigate to better solutions.
    • Discover and Share Information: Use what we do best—share important information. Knowledge is power, so share the wealth with other sisters.
    • Hold Your Tongue: Don’t “take another woman out” over trivial annoyances. Especially in the workplace, you must present a united front. Thousands of flourishing female careers can be sabotaged by gossip. “Loose Lips sink careers!”
    • Weave a Female Web: Female groups are enhancing of our best attributes, including empathy, understanding and integrity. Connecting with other women is not only good for your mind but is great for your heart.

    Sources include:

    Deborah Tannen’s "You Just Don’t Understand"

    Gail Evans’ "She Wins, You Win"

    Beauty, Brains and Money - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Beauty, Brains and Money

    May 21, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    Today’s competitive job market has led millions of people to rewrite their resumes, update their skills and redefine their expectations. Now a new study argues that while beauty and brains are still powerful combinations for the workplace, getting that education may be the most important factor after all.

    Beauty counts in the workplace because of the following reasons:

    • Early in Life Bias: The relationship between attractiveness and influence on others has been validated by thousands of studies and begins in early life. From babies to adults, we all orient to an attractive face more than to a less attractive one. Evolutionary psychologists argue that such detection is a survival strategy since attractiveness is correlated with physical health.
    • Academic Advantages: Teachers even react more positively to pretty kids in the classroom.
    • Lasting Perceptions: Throughout our lifetime, we endow attractive people with attributes of more intelligence and capability even when it is not warranted. WE tend to assume that strangers with baby faces—wide eyes, full lips, and soft brow—are more trustworthy. By contrast, those with heavy brows, small eyes and thin lips are seen as powerful and cunning. None of these physical attributes predict personality. As a result, we can make serious mistakes in judgment.

    Attractiveness influences employers and unfortunately, most supervisors are making basic, uninformed guesses about people who are attractive. These theories about them are often unwarranted since pretty people are not smarter or harder working then the rest of us. But our universal bias can mislead us. As a result, attractive people are hired more often, promoted more often and earn up to 15% more than other workers who have more average looks.

    New studies reveal that the beauty premium affects employee-employer relations in the following three ways:

    • More Confident: attractive people are more confident to begin with and they use their attractiveness to advance themselves politically. As a result, they garner higher wages.
    • More Capable: employers view attractive people as more intelligent and more capable.
    • Smooth Talkers: Pretty people are often verbally skilled due to their self-confidence and seek verbal interactions with others. Such interactions create an aura of success.

    Education and hard work also count in the workplace.

    While beauty is an advantage, good looks don’t tell the whole story. A just released study shows that intelligence and education still has a greater payoff than good looks. In this economy, especially, it is vital that we build important job skills and education before seeking out physical self-improvement strategies. In addition, nothing trumps perseverance. Hard work is more important than any other attribute including talent, beauty, family connections, and dumb luck.

    Here are specific steps you can take to increase your chances of success at work in this tough economy:

    • Focus on Your Strengths: Few of us are supermodels and those who are have their own challenges! Focus on your unique strengths at work including self-discipline, moral values and loyalty. Do not dwell on past failures and setbacks but maintain a steadfast focus on where you want to go and what you have to do to get there.
    • Set Clear and Attainable Goals: Many of us just float through the workplace rather than having a defined agenda all our own. Make your goals realistic, clearly defined and reachable. Do not “overshoot” since such grandiosity can be self-sabotaging.
    • Go Slower to Go Further: Too often, we stay in high gear rather than taking measured, conservative steps. Extraordinary accomplishments at work take years to build and hard work, education and patience are keys to becoming truly successful. This new study is offering assurance that basic virtues such as perseverance count more than looking pretty!

    Swine Flu Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    Swine Flu Anxiety

    April 30, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    As the global epidemic rages, North Texans are bracing for the onslaught of this deadly virus. While many of us are naturally anxious, it is important to know when normal anxiety crosses the line.

    Swine flu makes us nervous for a variety of reasons. Swine flu is the ultimate enemy. It has infiltrated our country in a matter of days, is highly contagious and is potentially lethal. In the face of such news, it is easy to overreact as we see our mobilized public health officials issuing warnings, closing schools and calling us to new levels of caution.

    That being said, as with any adversity, large or small, remaining focused on the positive and in a problem-solving mode are essential skills. The public must remain calm, realistic and maintain a proper perspective of what this disease is and what it is not. When you repeatedly dwell on scary news without remembering the steps to protecting yourself, it is natural to spin into a terrifying sequence.

    Swine flue anxiety affects us in a variety of ways.

    • Psychological Immunity: if you are a worrier, your psychological immune system may already be depleted. Many of us have been worrying about the economy for months so a health scare is not something we need to bother with. At this point, many of us are mentally exhausted.
    • Vulnerability to Anxiety: Some people’s brains are built to generate anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, you are more likely to dwell on this health crisis in a self defeating way. Remember that your brain does not differentiate between real events and fantasized events and will generate the constant warnings to keep you safe. That adrenaline and cortisol for fighting and fleeing will “amp up” your system continuously.
    • Proximity to Danger: If you have experienced a traumatic situation with a virulent disease or a catastrophic event, you may be more anxious about this one.

    Emotionally effective people know how to think and feel based upon objective reality. They are good at matching their reaction to the situation. If you are becoming less emotionally effective about swine flu, these are the symptoms you will see:

    • Loss of Critical Thinking: Failing to keep the situation in perspective means that you are losing objectivity and are failing to maintain perspective about what you can do to protect yourself. You may be thinking in an illogical manner or overestimating your risk.
    • Overarching Anxiety: If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, you have lost perspective. You should be concerned but not overwhelmed.
    • Lack of Proactive Healthy Behaviors: If it is only danger that dominates your mind, then you are not employing intelligent self-protective steps to guard your health. Sleep, eating and exercise all fall by the wayside when we are too anxious.

    If you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, use these strategies:

    • Get the Facts: Gather the latest information from the media that will help you to accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions.
    • Keep Your Network Going: Talk to other people about what they are hearing and seeing. Such conversations foster a sense of normality and provide great outlets for sharing feelings and releasing tension.
    • Practice Resilience: Differentiate between viewing yourself as effective and strong versus viewing yourself as vulnerable and in danger.
    • Maintain a Hopeful Outlook: Your mental health is one of the keys to staying healthy. Stress leads to an alarm reaction, mobilization and exhaustion. Ironically, by stressing about the disease, you make yourself more vulnerable to it. Distract yourself and break up the negative thinking.

    Should Parents Fight in Front of Kids? - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Should Parents Fight In Front Of Kids?

    April 2, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    The stress of raising a family and dealing with a struggling economy is affecting millions of American families. Conflict often increases with stress and up to now, psychologists have cautioned couples to not fight in front of the children. Now a new study suggests that children may actually benefit from watching their parents disagree openly.

    This new study taught us several things:

    Parental Conflicts are Teachable Moments: These are prime opportunities to teach your children that even the best relationship experiences differences. Adults are not joined at the hip and kids are safer with two strong parents who disagree once in a while.

    Conflict is Inevitable: Even the best adjusted adult reaches his limit once in a while and the marriage is the inevitable forum in which daily tensions are released. All of us snap at the ones we love the most and it is healthy for kids to see mom and dad misbehave, apologize and be forgiven.

    Resolution is Vital: Even intense irritation and frustration can be instructive if the disagreement ends in compromise and resolution. Kids need to see that differences can be respected, argued about and resolved peacefully.

    When parents do not fight, there are hidden dangers. Emotional disengagement is the number one correlate of divorce and parents who rarely fight may be increasingly disengaged. If you don’t disagree occasionally, you may be increasingly apathetic.

    Disagreement signals that there are two adults who have separate opinions that are clashing and that each of the adults cares enough to argue about it. Such disagreements indicate that there is still connection and passion. Surrendering absolute power to another person is very destructive in marriage since it erodes self-confidence and self-efficacy. Through healthy fighting, parents, also demonstrate that each partner is empowered to stand by his convictions while working toward resolution.

    Children who witness chronic and intense fighting between their parents may become symptomatic over time. If your children begin to show regressive behaviors such as uncharacteristic crying, irritability, bedwetting, increased aggressiveness or anxiety, or separation anxiety, pay attention. Parental fighting is highly correlated with childhood anxiety.

    If the fighting is becoming too intense, parents should begin to take steps to resolve the tension. Remember that fighting is a learned discipline. Never let your child witness destructive, contemptuous conflict. Such exposure can be traumatic to your child.

    When you argue, please remember the following tips:

    • Be concise and do not reference history.
    • Focus on constructive concerns and avoid blaming.
    • Start with something positive about your spouse.
    • Maintain empathy for your partner’s point of view.
    • Remain polite and express appreciation for the efforts your spouse is making.
    • Remain focused on achieving a successful resolution for both of you.

    Women Marching To Work During Recession - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Women Marching To Work During Recession

    March 27, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    As the recession lengthens into the longest financial drought since World War II, the number of women in the workplace is now bypassing the number of employed men. During the current recession, 82% of job losses have affected men leaving the breadwinning to millions of American women.

    As women bear more of the responsibility in breadwinning, dramatic shifts in gender roles and power may occur in your relationship.

    Money is Power: Women are going to have more of a say in the marriage. As the saying goes, “he who makes the gold holds the power.” Now it may be “she who makes the gold.” Males have traditionally been trained to lead and to provide while many women focused on the home fires. Decision-making may change as women also hold the reins of power.

    Enhanced Independence: Leadership can be intoxicating and earning a paycheck outside of the home is inevitably empowering. This recession may redefine how women think about themselves. Such independence, self-confidence and a sense of effectiveness influence the marital dialogue.

    This sociological trend has a tremendous effect on marriages. As the woman heads to work and the man heads back home, the balance of power will be disrupted.

    At this point, many couples either pull together or pull apart. Successful couples “put their heads down” and work tirelessly as a team to solve the financial problem. She pulls a paycheck while he runs the carpool. However, in other couples, male distractibility may increase as he hunts for new employment. Some men, discouraged and negative, may retreat to the couch to distract themselves with the latest video game. Male inattentiveness can cause tremendous discord at home, especially if the financial stress is increasing and the wife is working non-stop to help the family financially.

    There are substantial differences between how men and women react to job loss and the resulting financial hardship.

    Individual personality differences play a huge part in how either gender deals with sustained adversity. However, the trauma of financial stress plays out differently with both genders. Men turn to action and distraction while women generally ruminate and obsess. Their opposing coping skills trigger negativity and the couple can quickly be at cross-purposes.

    As the financial strain continues, the chronic stress takes a toll on the physical and psychological immunity of both genders because of the perpetual uncertainty of the economy. Over time, we are increasingly mentally and emotionally exhausted. We do know now that the very nerve cells of the brain and the brain circuitry can be damaged by chronic stress.

    Marital discord may occur when a woman is forced by economic circumstances to work outside of the home. Enormous resentment and even trauma can result. Many women prefer the traditional role of being a wife and mother and are not interested in generating an independent income. Returning to full time work can be a traumatic event, especially when there are young children at home.

    However, in today’s economy, millions of women simply do not have the choices they once did. Seventy percent of women with kids work for pay and that number is growing as the male job layoffs continue. This is a time to “buck up” and take a hit for the family team. Women over the millennia have made the difference between surviving and perishing. Modern times now offer the same opportunity to prove our mettle as a gender.

    There are key coping skills couples should use to deal with negative financial issues:

    Write down the problem that you are facing. Define the triggers that cause you the most worry and conflict. Once you have defined your conflict triggers, work as a couple to do the following:

    • Assess the Threat: Assess how much danger you face and be realistic about each level of threat. Again, make sure you remain realistic.
    • Match Your Emotions to the Situation: Make your emotional responses ‘fit’ the real degree of threat. Do not overreact and pull each other into a downward, negative spiral.
    • Break It Down: Break down the steps to remedying the problem. Make them simple and specific.
    • Likely Outcomes: Prepare effectively for the most likely consequences of the problem.
    • Remain Positive: Lower your anxiety by focusing on positive solutions and outcomes. Keep your focus and remain accurate.

    Spiraling Down With Economic Woes - By Chris Gearing

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Spiraling Down With Economic Woes

    March 19, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    According to the largest and most comprehensive study on American mental health and the economy, our stress continues to soar as our wallets are tightening. The Gallup-Healthways poll of over 355,000 Americans reports that our moods dropped considerably at the end of 2008 and continue to struggle as the recession now stretches into fifteen months.

    This study tells us several things about what is going on with the American mood and money:

    Emotional Blues Tied to Economic Blues: We are all basically worn out by all the continuing bad news. We have become ultra-sensitive and over-reactive as the recession drags out. As a result, our emotional well-being has been on a continuous roller coaster as the economy has shifted up and down.

    Contagious Panic: We continue to drag one another down. Fourteen million more people worried about money at the end of 2008 than at the beginning. This poll demonstrates how money stress, panic and anxiety are contagious. If you lose your job, I’m going to begin worrying about mine, whether it is warranted or not. We are “herd creatures” and we influence one another more than we know.

    Everyone is Affected: No one has been immune from this recession, making our moods even gloomier since the ill effects are so pervasive. Even the affluent have restricted their spending which is affecting everyone since their spending affects the economy disproportionately. According to the March 16, 2009 Gallup Poll, upper income spending fell by 38% since September 2008. The rest of us restricted our spending by 40%.

    Money is closely tied to our mood since it provides choices and money provides control. It is an antidote to stress since it decreases helplessness and increases options and optimism. When money constricts, our mood constricts with it, and we spiral into frustration and irritability.

    Unfortunately, that spiral becomes self-perpetuating and assumes a life of its own. People get caught in a “mind lock” of catastrophic thinking. Worst of all, they no longer pay attention to what they can do to improve their situation. Options appear and we ignore them.

    Here is some good news about the American mindset:

    Love is in the Air: We seem to be loving one another more! In November, the dating web site Match.com reported its largest membership growth since shortly after 9/11. The other dating web sites are up about 20%. Apparently, while we may spend less at the mall, we are spending more money on our love lives. This trend is actually quite adaptive since relationships build life satisfaction. Focusing on our relationships also distracts us from an unpredictable economy. Again, socially connected people have lower levels of depression, better immunity, more money and live longer.

    Consumer Mood Improved: The March 17th Gallup poll indicated an improvement in consumer mood by 13 points over the previous week. The continuing spiraling down may be abated for the time being. However, it is important that we now begin spending more to get the economy rolling again.

    Here is my final advice:

    Relationships Don’t Fix Everything: Do not fly into a new relationship when you are panicked about your money. A new boyfriend cannot pay your credit card bill (hopefully not) so stay smart and keep working at your job. Keep your perspective accuracy when you are assessing how worthwhile a new relationship might be.

    Panicked Minds Do Not Create Money: Our economy will never recover if we all remain frozen. Please begin spending sensibly again. Please discipline your mind to be more optimistic. People who still pull a paycheck need to start spending more of that paycheck to create jobs for the rest of us. Envision the economy as growing around you mightily and don’t dwell on bad economic news. If we all remain negative, the economy will slow down even more.

    Redirect Negativity Away From You: Surround yourself with happy people and put the grumpy ones on “mute.” Mood is contagious and make sure you do not resonate to the difficult people around you. Remain focused on the positives and deflect negative comments and actions away from you. Remember that their bad mood is their problem, not yours.

    Emotional Intelligence - By Chris Gearing

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Emotional Intelligence

    February 26, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    The nation’s jobless claims jumped more than expected last week and over five million Americans continue to receive unemployment benefits. The number of new unemployment claims is the highest in more twenty-six years. Psychologists are now saying that surviving the ongoing challenges is directly linked to using your emotional intelligence.

    Emotional intelligence is like having good emotional software that allows you to be smart in a different way. Managing your emotions when the “chips are down” builds self-confidence and the confidence of those around you. Emotional intelligence refers to those essential qualities of emotional self-management coupled with the effective management of others. When adversity hits, you are armed and ready to handle anything.

    Success at work depends directly on your ability to handle yourself emotionally. You cannot perform if you cannot think and emote effectively. You cannot allow your emotions to run away with your mind. All too often, we act in emotionally unintelligent ways that can be both unproductive and even devastating. Increasing your emotional intelligence can make the difference between surviving and thriving in the current economy. Emotional intelligence trumps book smarts every time.

    Emotional intelligence is a specific set of skills that can be built and cultivated over time. They allow you to combine your best thinking skills with your best emotional skills.

    1.) Knowing One’s Emotions: Self-awareness and the ability to recognize a feeling as it happens is a key characteristic of emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor your emotions in real time is vital. Other wise, your emotions end up running you.

    2.) Managing Emotions: Handling feelings so they are appropriate is an ability that comes from self-awareness. Being able to dispute the discouragement of setbacks and failures is vital to your ability to move forward.

    3.) Motivating Oneself: Channeling your emotional energy to meet a goal is central if you are going to be effective. At the same time, emotional self-control enables you to bend all efforts in the service of a worthwhile goal such as finding a job or keeping a job.

    4.) Recognizing Emotions in Others: Empathy is the ability to identify compassionately with the challenges of others and it is an essential skill for dealing with adversity.

    5.) Handling Relationships: The art of effective relating is managing the emotions of other people. Leadership and interpersonal effectiveness are driven by an ability to understand and manage the people around you.

    According to studies, emotional intelligence is on the decline especially in the younger generations who seemed to feel entitled to achievement without earning it.

    A recent survey of American employers by the Hay Group found the following:

    • More than 50% of the people who work for them lack motivation.
    • Forty percent seem to have difficulty working cooperatively with others.

    Seventy percent of all change initiatives are not netting the desired results due to people issues such as poor levels in leadership, working together in teams, taking initiative, dealing with change, etc.

    Assess Your Stress: If you have a history of trauma, depression and anxiety, you may have more intense reactions to economic stress. People who have a history of depression have twice the intensity rates to economic adversity. We are just more apt to descend into a negative spiral and lose the capacity to extricate ourselves from negativity.

    Use Your Mind and Your Emotions: Disregarding your good common sense when you are in the clutch of negative emotions is damaging, especially in the business world. Do not allow your emotions to engulf your reasoning ability.

    Measure for Accuracy: Perception is not reality especially if you are inaccurate in your interpretation of the events around you. Learn to curb your overreactions to people and events and to take a measured approach to difficult situations. Job acquisition and sustainability may have more to do with your people skills than with your intellectual abilities.

    Overcoming Economic Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Overcoming Economic Anxiety in 2009

    February 19, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    A new Associated Press-GfK poll reveals that the American public is becoming increasingly concerned about the tanking economy. Nearly half of those surveyed fear losing their jobs -- almost double the percentage at this time last year.

    In addition, the latest Gallup Poll indicates that anxious Americans are spending forty percent less than they did a year ago. With daily reports of auto bailouts, layoffs and downsizing, Americans have reached a new level of anxiety and financial stress.

    Here are a few tips on getting through these tough times:

    The Unexpected Economic Downturn: The current economic crisis was upon us before most of us realized that things were this serious. We fell from relative prosperity to economic peril. This change was jarring. The public fell into a dreadful cycle of panic, restricted spending and pessimism.

    Inescapable Headlines: Everywhere we turn, there is negative financial news. We are “marinating” in worry and negativity.

    No Control Over the Economy: Our lack of control in correcting this problem is profound. None of the suggested solutions are immediate or perfect. The prolonged crisis is exacting its toll due to unrelenting uncertainty, no quick fix and no clear idea about what would help make it better.

    No Predictability: Predictable adversity is less stressful than unpredictable adversity. We can’t predict when the recovery will occur. If you knew the current economic stress would end in 93 days, you would feel far less anxiety. With no end in sight, the resulting uncertainty increases our anxiety.

    We keep getting news that things are getting worse.

    One week, Congress passes a stimulus bill and the next week, the auto giants are laying off thousands of people. Such dire news creates images of catastrophe and suffering. If you don’t know when the economy will improve or even if it will improve, your anxiety spirals upward. If you clearly saw that things were getting better, your anxiety would decrease substantially. Unfortunately, we overlook any positive signs in the economy.

    Emotional contagion is a real phenomenon.

    It refers to our tendency to pick up the emotions of those around us, both positive and negative. Our brains are wired to detect fearful expressions from others, and some studies even argue that we can smell fear. People who are anxious are more susceptible to becoming “infected” with the intense reactions of others. The anxiety ripples through the group, leading to ‘wild-fire’ panic and irrational thinking. This economy is a real life example of this phenomenon.

    Tips on Dealing with Economic Adversity:

    This economic recession may be with us for a while, and the public needs to implement long-term stress remedies that really do work. If you cloud your mind with constant worry, your ability to problem-solve when it counts is compromised.

    Stop Catastrophizing: Intrusive ‘doom and gloom’ thoughts are incredibly draining. Monitor your thought patterns, stop the negative thoughts with distraction and/or recreation, and get more rest. Anxiety flourishes in a tired mind and body.

    Fight Against Your Own Negativity: Learn to argue against negative, unrealistic beliefs. How realistic are you being when you descend into gloom? Aren’t there options you are overlooking that could lead to a better outcome?

    Put Your Situation in Perspective: You live in the most affluent country in the world with the most democratic philosophies. Even if you are struggling with financial stress and career uncertainties, you are still better off than 95% of the rest of the world. This country has survived far worse times, and we will definitely overcome this stressful economic period as well.

    Laugh Long and Loudly: “Just twenty seconds of laughter is the cardiovascular equivalent of three minutes of strenuous rowing.” Laughter is good for your breathing, for your cardiovascular system and for your soul. Surround yourself with friends who enjoy life and the blessings at hand.

    Sources:

    "Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

    "Cognitive Therapy" by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

    "Lighten Up" by Metcalf and Felible

    Parenting In Tough Economic Times - By Chris Gearing

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Parenting Tools In Tough Economic Times

    February 12, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing

    As Congress approves yet another stimulus package, North Texans continue to experience more layoffs, downsizing and financial shortfalls. And as we all know, as families struggle to stay afloat financially, tempers can flare and kids can suffer.

    What are the top challenges for parents during these difficult economic times?

    Your Own Fear: Parents are facing their own sense of powerlessness and loss of control in this economy. Even if your job is not in jeopardy, you are bound to know some one who faces a potential financial hurdle. As the recession continues, people are going to have increasing difficulty calming down and retaining perspective.

    Avoid Becoming the Super-Parent: Parents often try to overcompensate for their fear by becoming super-parents and hiding all negativity from the kids. As a result, they tend to dismiss their child’s pain. This avoidance prevents the child from learning how to handle adversity effectively. This dismissive style is disingenuous especially with kids since they generally sense what you feel anyway.

    Remind yourself that your child most likely knows that something is wrong especially if one of the parents has lost a job or money has become especially tight. The older the child, the greater the awareness but even very young children can sense tension in their parents. A child’s worry flourishes in an atmosphere of uncertainty and he begins to feel helpless. His uncertainty combined with a difficult outcome imposes definite health risks including infections, agitation, and aggression toward others.

    Anger and frustration are a part of life but remember that is okay to express displeasure with your child if he misbehaves. Avoid sarcasm, ridicule, and contempt and maintain an evenhanded approach even if you are angry.

    By appropriately expressing your anger, you are teaching your child two things:

    1.) Angry Emotions are a part of a close relationship and these emotions such as anger and frustration can be handled appropriately.

    2.) Kids need limits and they need to know that you care enough to be involved. The child is reassured that you are in control of the family and they will feel safer as a result.

    Emotional neglect is the biggest risk factor.

    Worried parents may be present in body, but not in mind -- unintentional emotional neglect can occur without parents realizing it. According to research, people who are prone to depression are at least twice as likely to have mental problems in the face of economic stressors. Emotional neglect is difficult to measure since there are no bruises or cuts. How can you definitively prove that a child is not being loved enough? But in certain extreme cases, neglect can be more harmful than outright acts of cruelty such as child physical and sexual abuse. We do know that the trauma of neglect can predispose a child to a host of emotional problems as he grows up.

    As families go through tough times, these behaviors may occur:

    Tensions Flare: Families often enter a complex, downward spiral as finances tighten and spirits fall. Increased irritability, anxiety and outright rage become more frequent as the parents become more helpless.

    Parents Become Emotionally Absent: Mothers become less patient and fathers become more withdrawn. Marital spats and bickering over money and daily living become commonplace and a tense silence often invades a once happy home.

    Lost Children: Kids begin to react negatively outside of the home. Socially, academically and psychologically, they begin to struggle and are marginalized to a lower social and academic achievement level. The lack of parental support leads to chronic academic underachievement. They are ill prepared to enter a competitive job market.

    Financial adversity offers a mother lode of teachable moments.

    In fact, the baby boomers have been remiss in not allowing their kids to experience enough negative events and consequences. We have spent too much effort sheltering our kids from the inevitable adversities of life. Now we have a twentysomething generation that is struggling with a sense of entitlement and confusion and lacking the necessary skills to deal with failure successfully. Adversity teaches coping skills as parents model effective reactions and then teach their kids how to deal directly with challenge. Such strategies literally inoculate your children against severe depression, which strikes a full decade earlier than it did a generation ago.

    The secrets to keeping families strong during these tough economic times?

    Family Team: When parents put family first and continue to communicate with the kids, everyone does better. Do not let the adversity define your parenting strategy. By fortifying your kids with activities, games and long talks, you are preventing a feeling of isolation and helplessness to grow. There is no substitute for the time you invest in a child.

    Avoid Dismissive Parenting: Many parents are concerned that negative emotions are unhealthy for their child. Some parents see their child’s distress as an impossible demand and they insist that the child “not feel unhappy.” Instead, they react with humor and reassurance without really hearing what the child is saying. Listen to your child and then help him deal with the anxiety.

    Loss of Parent’s Focus: Children are much less affected by the loss of possessions than they are by the loss of a parent’s focus. Don’t worry that your child lacks the latest fashions or toys. He needs your emotional presence more than a video game.

    Community Counts: Increase your attendance in religious, school and civic activities when times are tough. Being with other people reassures your child that the community is stable, predictable and supportive. Familiar faces of loving, concerned adults are the antidote to a family’s tough times.

    Resources for Readers:

    "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by Dr. John Gottman

    "The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.


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