Doing Life Together

stressRichard was feeling anxious. If you asked him, this feeling wasn’t helpful. He was asked to give a speech in front of his company and present his findings to the entire staff. All he felt was dread at the idea of doing this. Sure he knew his material, but having to be front and center at the podium, look at 50 of his fellow workers and talk, created high anxiety. The stress was getting to him. Most of us can relate to a time when we felt the same. Piano recitals, class presentations, work-related speeches, etc. The stress is definitely there and what we do with it matters.

Was there a way for Richard to use those anxious feelings to help him? Yes!

Researchers Blascovich & Mendes (2000) note that when we are motivated by challenge versus threat, challenge can actually improve our performances. Challenge can help us think better, cooperate and be better decision-makers. So when faced with a scary performance, appraise it as a challenge rather than a threat.

So if you look at the scary speech as something that is challenging, you will probably do better. Use your anxiety in a good way–embrace, don’t deny it–seeing it as a normal part of doing something that is challenging. How we think about the situation impacts our physiology and our behavior.

Stressed by that test or recital performance? Tell yourself, this is a challenge I can face, not avoid. Yes, I’m anxious but I can push through this anxiety and do my best.

Anxiety just might be the energy you need to push yourself forward to do what you need to do. This is a much different way to think about how you are feeling. If you cower in nerves and tell yourself you can’t do it, it can make you so tense, you might fall apart. So how you think matters!

And for those of you with a faith perspective, the verse Philippians 4:13  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” gives you confidence to face any challenge! Yes, it might create stress and anxiety, but thinking of the situation as something you can face because of Christ who gives strength, will motivate you through the difficulty.



child playingThe push to academic learning at the expense of exercise has some parents concerned. Connie thinks her preschoolers academic learning doesn’t include enough exercise. She decided to meet with her preschool’s administration. The push for academic achievement is  appreciated, but her preschooler needs recess and the school has reduced it to 10 minutes a day due to needing more academic time.

The mom in Connie knew that exercise was just as important to her son’s development as a good student. Not only does exercise help prevent obesity, but it also helps with developing motor and social skills. And those skills are just as important to her son’s overall education.

Connie knows that exercise and learning are linked together. She wants her preschool to be more creative in finding ways for kids to move, even when engaged in learning. Here are her 5 suggestions:

1) Sing songs with lots of movement and action.

2) Teach math skills with active learning, e.g., jumping, exploring, moving and counting objects in a room, etc.

3) Play cooperative learning games that teach social skills and motor development.

4) Add more recess time to the already limited time it is given. Ten minutes to run outside is not enough towards the 2 hours of exercise preschoolers need.

5) Worry less about dull drilling on numbers and letters, and instill a love for learning through active experiences.

It’s true that exercise can help kids learn better. So maybe we need to listen to this smart mom and take a few of her suggestions.



Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.24.42 AM copyMemorial Day is more than a long weekend to play. Yes, it is a three day weekend and the grills are firing up. But it is a day we recognize those who have died while serving in our armed forces. Honestly, it’s not a day of joy and fun for many families. It’s a sobering day of remembering those we have lost to the sacrifice of service.

If your family has been touched by loss like mine has, you pause, remember and pray. Our brave men and women have given their lives for our freedom. I am again, reminded of that loss.

Until I moved too far away, this is a day I used to visit my brother’s grave. When I looked at the small American flag placed on the stone, the military funeral rushes into my head. Memories of his body shipped over seas from a foreign land, a closed coffin draped by the American flag and laid in the ground, flood my mind; the military officer that appeared in our kitchen on a warm summer day to tell us he wasn’t coming home; the shock on the face of his wife when we had to tell her of his death; his two-year-old son who couldn’t understand where daddy was and why he won’t see him anymore; the second born child brought into this world without his father; and the gut wrenching tears and heartache we experienced as a family. It doesn’t go away, but lurks in the mind to always remind you.

Memorial Day is a time to remember. Are we paying attention?

This year, I urge you to pause from your hamburgers and hot dogs. Take a moment to pray. Consider a donation to an organization that helps families regroup from loss, and reach out to someone who is experiencing this holiday without a loved one. Just the acknowledgment that our service men and women are not forgotten goes a long way.

To my brother Gary, you are missed in ways I cannot express. Thank you for your willingness to put your life on the line so mine can remain free. And to the many that join me in remembering their loved ones, you are not forgotten! And we thank you for your service.


anger2#AngryInNYC Another stupid person runs in to me. Sorry doesn’t cut it. Look up from your phone you idiot.

This is just one example of Sara’s tweets that regular fill her Twitter account. It doesn’t take much to anger Sara. If someone does something she doesn’t like, or seems insensitive to her place on the planet, Sara tweets about it. A cursory look at her Twitter account makes Sara a candidate for an anger management group! Yet she thinks her angry tweets allow her to vent pent up feelings of frustration.

But is Sara’s anger more of a problem than she realizes? Yes, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, venting anger doesn’t release it and make a person feel better. Actually, the opposite occurs. Venting anger doesn’t work. It just fans the flames. Anger is actually more destructive when it is full-on expressed. Expression releases the same hormones that are produced under stress and does damage to the body. A hostile attitude may even lead to heart disease, according to Duke researcher Dr. Redford Williams.[i] Intense anger wreaks havoc on the body.

Feeling angry is one thing, but letting it all out in unchecked ways is worse than repression. Venting damages relationships. Giving someone a piece of your mind can destroy the rest of the pieces of the relationship!

Second, Sara might be surprised to find out that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools decided to look at the language of tweets for expressions of love, boredom and anger. In the 1300 counties they studied, they found a remarkable predictor of heart disease. You guessed it! Angry tweets.

In fact, angry and hostile tweets were such a powerful predictor of heart disease that they did a better job of prediction than 10 leading health indicators.

Do we understand this connection between angry tweets and heart disease? Not really. Maybe Twitter reflects deeper frustrations and the carrying of stress. Maybe angry tweeters create bad feelings in others and themselves. Maybe all that venting is simply raising stress hormones and wreaking havoc on the body.

Whatever the case, perhaps Sara should rethink her tweets and focus less on what angers her,  try to give people a break or focus on the positives. So Sara, here is how you can change that angry tweet:

#WorkingOnMyAngerinNYC. Please look up when you walk the streets. Consider others. It’s a crowded city!


[i] Redford Williams, Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility That Can Harm Your Health (New York: Harper, 1994).