Doing Life Together

depressed studentsFor 30 years I have taught in medical schools and universities. This generation is different. They are more anxious and suffer from higher rates of anxiety disorders.  And what I am about to say is a generalization. Not all college kids are anxious and acting like victims. But for those who are, listen up. We have a number of stressed out kids, not coping well with life.

Since they were kids, this generation has seen an unprecedented protectiveness from parents. Gone are the days of roaming the neighborhood, entertaining yourself and dealing with boredom. Instead we have consistently given the message that the world is unsafe and we can protect you from harm. You must be entertained and lead with your emotions, especially when you are offended.

In our politically correct culture, all things potentially offend someone. Consider these statements that have been cited as offensive on college campuses:

America is the land of opportunity. 

The most qualified person should get the job.

Really? Individual differences are handled by vilifying people and silencing critical thinking. Be like me or don’t speak. Offend me and I  report you. Then add the power of social media to underscore authority and destroy reputations with no accountability. Basically, students have few conflict resolution skills or even the ability to tolerate distress. Part of the blame is on us as parents–we overprotected, took care of every problem and didn’t allow for competition or failure.

How does all of this relate to anxiety and college students? Those highly anxious stressed kids (and yes, I am making a generalization here) can’t tolerate differences, difficulty or divergent thinking. Emotional reasoning leads the way and determines what is offensive. Civil debate is gone.

We have given in to this constant complaining through more political correctness and speech restrictions instead of telling students to grow up, deal with the real world and learn to tolerate their feelings of frustration.

We have created campuses of homogeneity, where students don’t have to deal with divergent views. They aren’t forced to work through their negative and disquieting feelings –the treatment for anxiety.

To deal with anxiety, you have to be exposed to the triggers, tolerate them and move through the process. But on college campuses, we coddle and try to protect students from bad feelings. It’s the wrong approach.

One day, anxious and stressed students will face the real world of diversity and offense. Will they be prepared to handle it given the atmosphere of most university campuses?

We have to ask, are we really surprised that anxiety rates have risen?


supriseLast year, I wrote a blog, Is Sitting the New Smoking? In that blog, I reported on the impact of too much sitting on physical health. Too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and early death from all causes. That’s right, the World Health Organization puts sitting or physical inactivity 4th on the list of risk factors for death worldwide.

So what do we do with these findings?

It’s time to crank up the James Brown, “Get up off of that thing,” and start to move! If you are a couch potato or a typical office worker, here are your marching (literally) orders.

Professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, Dr. Alan Hedge, recommends we get up and move at regular intervals. Dr. Hedge says it is important to break up our activity. Specifically, he recommends we sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, then move around and stretch for 2 minutes. This means every 20 minutes, we are moving around.

I was in a 3 hour meeting the other day, so I am thinking, how am I going to do this? It seems a bit disruptive. My colleagues would think I lost it if I got up every 20 minutes and stood, then stretched. This isn’t going to work in some parts of the business day.

However, as I sit hour after hour working at my computer, I could give this a try. So I did, but it really ruined my train of thought. I was on a creative roll and then, oops, time to get up and move. I did and lost my train of thought.

So here’s the thing. I’m going with the spirit of the research. As much as I can, I will make it a point to get up and move, stand for some minutes and walk around the building. The key here is movement. Sit, then stand, sit, stand…alternate. Too much sitting or standing isn’t good for our health.

We have to make this work as the researchers found that regular exercise doesn’t mitigate the effects of all our sitting. Sitting too much changes our bodies in negative ways, so we need to change it up. Shake it up, yes, Taylor!

Here are a few ideas I am trying:

1) I don’t have one of those stand up desks,but I do have a shelf that I could move my computer to for a few moments to stand. I’m going to give it a try.

2) I’m being more intentional about standing up and moving around when I am working on the computer. I set my IPHONE on a reminder.

3) I asked a few people to walk and talk instead of meet at a table. They thought I was weird!

4) I stood at the back of the room during a meeting. Yes, it is awkward, but people now know I am doing that health thing.

5) I take the stairs everywhere.

6) I take a short walk at lunch.

Overall, I got the message, but need to work on the application. Let me know if you have more suggestions.


fightingJack and Rachel have been in a contentious marriage for quite some time. Their friends would describe them as a high conflict couple. The stress is getting to their two middle school children who beg their parents to stop fighting and try to get along. The youngest child finds herself covering her ears and retreats to her room crying. But she can hear the conflict and feels sad.

What is the impact of such fighting on the children? Significant.

  • Physiological effects: When parents fight, a child’s heart rate becomes faster and their blood pressure rises. Stress hormones are released in their urine. The immune system is depleted, making them ripe for infections.
  • Emotional effects: It’s hard for children to regulate their emotions during parent conflict. They are more focused on the upsets of their parent and less able to soothe themselves. They experience feelings of powerlessness—they can’t stop the fighting and that loss of control is frightening. The stress is overwhelming. In hostile family situations, children are more at risk for depression and anxiety.
  • Academic effects: Learning suffers. Grade point averages dive and they perform worse on standardized testing. In fact, grade failure is not predicted by divorce, but by constant marital conflict.
  • Social effects: Marital fighting makes children more at risk for teen pregnancy, poverty and being expelled from school. Truancy and absenteeism increase.
  • Relationship effects: Children often feel at fault for their parents’ discord. They may be in the middle of conflict and forced to take sides. The lack of civil conflict discussions and resolutions means they don’t learn how to deal with conflict in their own relationships as a child or later as an adult.

If you need good reasons to work at conflict in a civil and respectable manner with your spouse, consider the above. This is not meant to place guilt, but help you understand the reality of high conflict marriages. Children need you to navigate conflict and provide emotional stability.

For help, We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

When I listen to any political person rail against guns as a fix for school shootings, I get upset. The focus in wrong and yet it persists and dominates headlines. This tells me there is a lack of real concern to address violence in our schools.  Instead we get political correctness.

Journalists, look at the statistics and challenge statements that aren’t true. Gun free zones are targets. Any teen knows that if you want to take as many people out in a shooting, go to the defenseless.  Schools are filled with defenseless kids at the mercy of someone whose intention is to wreak as much havoc and loss of life as possible.

Schools are often the center of community life in small towns and suburban areas-another  reason they are chosen for shootings. The attention of an entire community is gained when a sick person shoots students.

So what can be done to lessen the chances of violence?  Notice I didn’t say stop school shootings. Unfortunately, even when we know what to look for in a shooter and want to prevent  violence, a disenfranchised person with a motive of revenge can’t always be stopped. And that is what is frightening. We don’t know the tipping point for a disturbed individual even when we know the signs.

What we do know: We know the profile of a typical shooter:

  • disconnected to secure relationships (many have father vacuums in their lives)
  • belief in aggression as a means to an end and a way to cope with negative feelings
  • motivated by revenge, prejudice and self-centered sadistic feelings
  • lack of empathy, emotional intelligence
  • untreated mental illness
  • consumer of violent media
  • major life stress that triggers events
  • social media poster who often warns of their hate and intentions
  • severe problems in feeling accepted and getting along with others
  • history of abuse or ineffective parenting
  • fascination with guns and weapons
  • feels powerless and unimportant so seeks fame through violence

What can be done?  Multiple interventions are needed. It’s not a simple solution like gun control.

  • Enforce gun laws, but in reality, criminals obtain guns no matter the law. That’s why they are called criminals!
  •  Arm schools so shooters know students aren’t sitting ducks.
  • Pay attention to threats and social media posts. Maybe it is time to assign a school person to scan social media on a regular basis.
  • Have incentives for peers, adults and school personnel to report possible threats and disturbing comments. People MUST speak up.
  • Use school resource officers-retired police and law enforcement people who will be at schools, get to know kids, and keep their ears to the ground.
  • Teach conflict resolution and how to solve problems without violence. Discuss the impact of violent solutions to problems.
  • Know the warning signs, identify at risk kids and get them connected to mental health services–this means we need to evaluate our community based mental health programs and their access.
  • Stop supporting violent media–it has violent impacts on the developing teen mind, but no one seems to care much about this data. Glorifying violence helps reinforce the sick mind of someone considering violence. Why do we need violent media? What does it feed?
  • Build relationships with alienated kids who appear rejected and troubled.
  • Look for the influence of fathers on alienated boys. All the shooters are males and need strong fathers active in their lives.
  • News media to start acting like journalists and look at what has worked and failed instead of blindly repeating political messages.
  • Stop taking God out of culture and vilifying religion! What transforms the heart of a person? What changes retaliation into reconciliation? Revenge to repentance? A heart change in the most important change that can be made in a teen or adult’s life and yet we are moving more and more away from spiritual solutions to secular ones that promise no change of heart. We are losing our moral compass, creating self-centered, narcissistic people incapable of empathy and care for others. And this should be out number one concern. So rather than a court order to take down the 10 commandment’s monument  in Oklahoma, maybe a reminder, Thou shall not kill, is needed.

Dr. Mintle is the author of We Need to Talk, a book about navigating  interpersonal conflict