Monthly Archives: March 2009

Soothe the Stress: How to Meditate to Anything

Soothe the Stress:  A compendium of tips that work.  Try one, try ‘em all  

If you’ve been practicing my Soothe the Stress posts, you’re familiar with the basics. You’ve probably found you prefer some approaches to others.  Well, now it’s time for a how-to guide for you to create your own meditation.
First, you need to select a focal point. This is the place you gently bring yourself back to when your attention wanders (it will, and that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong). It could be a sound (a bell, chimes, music), a visual image (a candle flame, a picture, a flower), a mental image (the ocean, rolling hills, green), a rhythmic progression (counting breaths, left-right-left-right, a repetitive phrase). Almost anything works. Try out different focal points; you’ll learn what works best for you – and when.
You’ll recognize the first steps from other Soothe the Stress posts.
Make sure you’ve got 3 minutes in a quiet place, with no interruptions. Sit in a straight-back chair, arms and legs uncrossed. 

  • Inhale through your nose to a slow count of 5.
  • Exhale to a slow count of 5.
  • As you inhale to the slow count of 5, allow yourself to focus your awareness on your focal point.
  • As you exhale to the slow count of 5, let go of any tension you feel in your body, moving from the top of your head down to the soles of your feet.
  • Whenever you find your mind drifting, gently but firmly bring it back to your focal point. No blame, nothing to worry about. Just back to the focal point.
  • Repeat. Breathe in the focal point, breathe out any tension.
  • Again. And again, and again, ending with an inhalation, breathing in the essence of your focal point.
    As you slowly open your eyes, allow yourself to bring the feeling of relaxation back with you, as you slowly and gently reenter your everyday life.

    Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


    On Saving Face

    faceAs if it’s not bad enough worrying about losing your job, paying the mortgage, having to tell the kids private school is out for next year, let alone summer camp and the annual (not this year) Spring break trip.
    He’s got to worry about saving face. Or so he thinks.
    He’s walking around all stony-faced, trying to act as if all’s right with his world. He can’t let ’em see him sweat, or they’ll smell defeat and run the other way, and then there’d be even fewer deals, less chance of a job, more pity. So he puts on the mask out in the world. And then comes home and loses it. With you. With the kids. With his poor parents he hardly ever calls. He’s feeling humiliated, ashamed, impoverished outside and in. And now is the time he really needs those emotional intelligence skills. And now is the time he realizes (cross your fingers) how underdeveloped they are. It’s ok, a guy can learn. But, as the light-bulb jokes go, only if he really, really wants to…
    Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

    But Can It Last?

    loveluckofthedrawBianca Acevedo, Ph.D. and Arthur Aron, PhD, reviewed 25 studies with 6,070 individuals in short- and long-term relationships. According to research findings in the March issue of Review of General Psychology: More relationship satisfaction = happier, with higher self-esteem. AND:
    • Passionate love, which includes feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, has an obsessive component that helps drive shorter relationships. More passion, more satisfaction. In short-term relationships. But not in long-term relationships.
    • Companion-like love? Moderately associated with satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships.
    • Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. Greater romantic love, more satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships. Over the long haul, Romantic relationships don’t have to morph into companionship/friendship.
    Romance can last.
    What’s this got to do with the recession? It’s a stretch, but: SOME THINGS CAN LAST. And here comes the corny but true part: those are things that matter more over the long haul.
    Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

    Talk to Your Kids about Money Worries. More Importantly: Listen, So They’ll Talk to You

    Your kids are worried. About the recession? Maybe. About the economy? Maybe. About the state of the world? Maybe.

    But one thing’s for sure: they’re worried about your worrying. And, of course, being kids, they are worried about themselves, and how what you’re worried about affects them. And since you want to shield them (when you aren’t thinking what you really want is not to deal and it should all please, go away), you probably aren’t talking about it. And since they want to shield you (it’s just about the only thing they can really do much about, short of volunteering to drop out of school and go to work. Or give up their allowance), they aren’t asking.

    Radio silence. Which doesn’t mean the anxiety isn’t there. It just means it’s gone underground. They need you to talk to them. talkingmouthThey really need you to hear them, whether or not they’re speaking.ear

    Ok. So you decide to trust me and consider “the talk,” if not ongoing talk. Still hedging your bets that you can hold your breath and just get it over with in one monologue, after breakfast but before soccer practice. But how do you know how much to say? When to say it? How to say it? And how to brace yourself for the questions you are hoping your kid won’t ask?

    Know thy kid.
    And know thyself.

    Tailor your approach to your child’s age, maturity, personality, attention span. Consider the little hints he’s dropping about what’s on his mind: the “what if” questions, the “my friend” stories, the “why can’t we?” queries. Remind yourself that he really wants to know you’re honest (enough), in control (enough), and willing to tell him what he can do to help (enough).

    Do it your way, but do it. While you’re driving in the car, facing forward with the music on, both semi-pretending not to be having the talk. While you’re watching tv together, looking for an opening to discuss what’s unrealistic, or wasteful, or a fantasy, or a good idea.

    Your job really isn’t to offer the definitive guide to Recession 2009, or to make financial reality go away. It’s to make him feel safe. Let him know he can ask whatever he needs to ask, and you can handle it without being angry or falling apart.

    And then remember the good news/bad news. Even if you blow it the first time around, you’ll get another shot at it. Anything you do to open the conversation is better than not talking – or listening! – at all.

    And the really good news: no matter what his emotional reaction, he wants to believe in you, more than you can imagine. You both need to count on that.thumbsupCopyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

    All You Need to Know about Recession 2009

    financialcrisisbooksbarnesandnoble1 Well, it’s happened. And none too soon. It’s got its own section and the verdict is in. I, for one, am relieved to know the experts have figured it all out. All we’ve got to do is read the (hot-off-the-press self-help) books. So, as a public service, here’s the latest on “The Financial Crisis” as per Barnes and Noble (the definitive source): It’s the Last of Capitalism. The $2 Trillion Meltdown. But at least we know the Origins of the Crash, and Why GM Matters…And even if it’s Game Over, You Can Prosper in a Shattered Economy. Whew! Good to know!

    Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

    Laugh (or Cry) of the Day

    Talk about a show stopper!

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    Risk and the Psychology of the Markets

    question_mark_3d7 Questions for the economists:
    What is the price of risk? Who should manage risk, the Fed or a free and unfettered financial marketplace? Do prices always turn out to be rational? How much risk can the system handle and still function?
    Questions for the psychologists:
    What is the human cost of risk? Why wouldn’t we act in our own best interest? How can we affect that behavior? Why are some of us risk-seekers, who thrive on risk, while others are safety-seekers, who avoid it?
    Why does a trader with a long view suddenly start day trading on the sly?
    Have you noticed that every time something happens in the financial marketplace that’s ostensibly irrational, the word “psychology” pops up?
    The two major components of the financial markets: fact (economics) and the human component (psychology). We know from behavioral economists that we humans are not always as rational as we would like to consider ourselves. Our behavior is affected by social comparison, personality, how we integrate what we think with what we feel, where our culture’s values fall on the individual-group spectrum, perception, and so much more.
    This, the first in a series of questions about just those issues. Help me ask the right ones. And please, let’s all work together to answer the important ones.

    Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.