“It took extra mascara today.”
Monday Lisa's Podcast
the audio version of her columns
Responding to Anxiety
by Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) April 6, 2020
When your brain senses danger it sends internal warnings to your body that you aren’t conscious of. Even though the warnings are hidden, they directly influence our emotions.
Some warnings evoke an immediate response. For example, touching a hot stove makes us recoil; a sudden bright light makes us blink.
Other warnings influence our mood. Athletes have butterflies before games. Actors pace and even throw up before a performance.
We depend on the real or perceived magnitude of life altering events and we feel tension and anxiety.
Situational factors like waiting for medical test results, coping with an unhappy relationship, or workplace pressure can make us uncomfortable and lead to disruptive, life-altering anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are more prevalent than all the other mental health disorders. Anxiety can be distracting, disruptive and even incapacitating.
You may be surprised, but anxiety can be a good thing if you make it work to your advantage. Consider the message it is sending and the adjustments you may need to make in your life.
Anxiety can be motivational. And it can be directed. Coping with your anxiety can be a real opportunity for self-growth.
Instead of feeling insecure accept your feelings––acknowledge that they exist. Present an honest image of yourself. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to say, “I’m anxious.” Block negative thoughts that increase fear and worrying. The past is the past, it’s done and over.
Focus on what you want to believe in today and continually reinforce those things in your mind. Practice positive thinking, do it daily until it comes naturally.
Anxiety always motivates us to do something. The saying, “if you’re not a little nervous, you’re not alive,” is very true. The more you sit, think and worry, the more energy builds and builds.
Why waste it or let it run wild? Find ways to utilize the power. If your anxiety is caused by a situation that you have some control over, use that as energy to be proactive and find solutions.
On the other hand, if the anxiety is about something you have zero control over, channel your energy in a different direction. If you find yourself forcing something, let it go.
Anxiety can be motivating, but it can also be draining. So know when to take breaks and relax. That is essential to maximizing your energy and motivation in the long run.
The point of all this is not that anxiety is good. But that it can trigger a normal, healthy response. Directed properly, anxiety can help you learn how to be happy.
Today is a wonderful day, live it in the NOW.
See you next Monday
Fear vs. Faith
by Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) March 30, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives in an alarming, even frightening way. There are many rational reasons to be afraid. Accordingly, this is an appropriate time to talk about fear.
Fear is a natural human instinct––a reaction to dangerous situations. Interestingly, we are born with only two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. Other fears arise from threats of danger, pain and harm. Uncertain outcomes leave us with feelings of worry, nervousness and unease.
The human brain protects us when it detects a frightening occurrence. It responds by triggering our body to protect itself. Imagine how you might recoil if you hear gun shots, or get pulled over for speeding or discover a buzzing hornets’ nest in your garage––all nail-biting situations, to be sure. Fear can cause you to fight, run away or freeze, and that is no way to live.
Think about how we drive down highways with nothing but a painted yellow line dividing us from cars streaming in the other direction––many doing the speed limit or more. We know that head-on collusions––often fatal ones involving innocent people––occur daily. We know there are distracted motorists who talk and text on cell phones. Others may be drunk or drowsy. Worldwide, more than a million people die in car accidents each year.
In spite of all that, we motor on, admiring the scenery, because we have faith.
Faith fuels us through times of fear and uncertainty. Faith is our most powerful emotion, it gives us the ability to trust ourselves, to find answers and a higher meaning in the midst of pain––despite our fear.
Faith is knowing and believing that at our core we are stronger than anything we will ever face and we can handle whatever life brings.
Human beings are unique from other species. We are able to control our behavior. We can train ourselves to be emotionally fit. We can create an inner strength, a psychology of resilience.
One failure does not mean we stop trying. After all, we are walking not crawling.
The barrage of COVID-19 media information and statistics has caused uncertainty. This is the time to call on faith.
Have faith that we will conquer this virus, that following guidelines helps us be safe and avoid health issues. We cured small pox, extinguished polio and survived HIV, SARS, ZIKA and Ebola. Faith even boosts immune systems.
Have faith that our ‘new normal’ will be a healthy world and a roaring economy.
Terry's Tool Belt
by Dr. Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) March 23, 2020
Noted psychologist Abraham Maslow, who created Maslow’s hierarchy of needs said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Abraham Kaplan, a professor of philosophy, offered a different version. He said, “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”
An anonymous wit countered with, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
More recently, Robert Kagan, a historian, said, “When you don’t have a hammer, you don’t want anything to look like a nail.”
So much for what you can do with a hammer.
Now let’s talk abut Terry’s Tool Belt filled with the various tools we use to build a better life.
Choosing to build a better life with only one ‘mental tool’ is called cognitive bias––in other words deviating from reality. The odds are stacked against you.
I'll give you specific tips and techniques for specific situations. After all, a pipe wrench isn’t designed for making furniture.
You need several tools in your tool belt, starting with AFFIRMATION.
An affirmation is a positive, inspiring thought to recite to yourself over and over until it “sticks.” Find an affirmation that works for you and put it in your tool-belt.
Think about the adage, “By the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it’s too damn hard.” That will help you avoid being overwhelmed by a large task.
Focus your awareness on one specific object. Train your mind to avoid distraction.
REFRAMING is a favorite tool. If your attitude is negative or destructive, stop immediately and reframe your perspective. View situations from a more positive and constructive viewpoint. If you begin a day with a flat tire be grateful you only have one flat tire, not three.
Add VISUALIZATION to your tool kit. Mentally rehearse a new behavior. And be prepared to use that behavior in the real world when confronted by certain situations. Slow down as you approach an intersection instead of gunning it and risking a photo-radar citation for running a red light.
NUDGES are reminder-tools. Set an alert on your smart phone to remind you to do a chore, remember a birthday or return a call. Nudges also keep you from smacking yourself in the forehead because you forgot something.
A LIST belongs in every old-timer's tool belt. Why not use them earlier in life? A list will refresh your mind and confirm that you did everything you set out to do. Lists also help measure how far you have come, and what you need to do going forward.
Create your own tool belt. Give it a name, make it proprietary. Fill the pockets with offense and defense tools––as many as you deem necessary. Leave room for a new tool or two, if a need arises.
That way, no matter the situation, you’ll have it nailed.
See you next Monday
Your Body Has a Secret
by Dr. Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) March 16, 2020
Believe it or not, your body has a secret. In fact, it's comparable to the sprinkler system in your ceiling, the automatic device that springs into action when a fire breaks out. The sprinkler system is designed to save your life. Your body’s sympathetic stress system––is guaranteed to save your life.
Our built-in stress system kicks in when needed to combat stressful situations. It keeps us safe and alive.
Suffering a panic attack and the intense feeling of anxiety maybe frightening but it's not dangerous or life threatening. Granted, our hearts pound and our breath quickens. We may be paralyzed with fear and feel dizzy or light-headed.
But our bodies respond to perceived threats and involuntary reactions by releasing hormones that contain adrenaline and cortisol. Both can cause alarming symptoms. They increase heart rates, blood pressure and breathing rates––sensations that seem to put us in an overloaded condition. But we will return to normality after an hour or so.
Overreacting to the events is quite natural. Consequently, it’s important to understand the process. You won't suffocate, go crazy or die. Our hearts are incredibly strong and can beat at high speeds for long periods of time.
There are simple medical explanations for everything. Hormones can cause jellylike shaking. Fatigued eye muscles can cause symptoms like blurred vision.
Don’t be afraid about suffocating. Take comfort by knowing your body’s reflex system ensures that you always get enough air. If you are afraid of fainting, understand that fainting is uncommon when you are highly anxious. Fainting results from low blood pressure; anxiety tends to raise blood pressure.
The symptoms we experience are harmless. If you aren’t convinced, please contact your doctor for reassurance.
No matter how strange it may seem, there is a medical explanation for each physical symptom. A panic attack will never hurt you.
See you next Monday
by Dr. Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) March 9, 2020
Are you familiar with Pavlov’s dog study, pairing a stimulus with a conditioned response? Associate ringing a bell with food enough times and before long a dog will salivate at the mere sound of the bell, even without food.
Narcissists condition their partners. But they use ‘destructive conditioning’. They erode their partner’s self-esteem by insulting their intelligence and accomplishments. Abusive relationships are insidious and malicious.
There are people who think they found their soul mate, a magnetic and charming person who draws them in. But it’s a fantasy. Months later they realize they are being manipulated by a narcissist. Others remain oblivious to manipulation, live with it indefinitely and are likely to use drugs and alcohol or even develop eating disorders.
When you believe you are capable of achieving your goals, overcoming obstacles, and addressing problems in your life, you gain confidence. Don’t let a narcissist destroy it. Learn how to recognize and cope with narcissism.
Narcissists have an inflated sense of importance. They try to demean your intelligence. Once you’ve been conditioned to believe your needs are meaningless you distrust your capacity to resist their manipulation.
Never accept a narcissist’s version of who you are.
Narcissists lack empathy. They may demean and intimidate you, especially if they sense you are smarter. They may talk down to you with chronic sarcasm and contempt.
Narcissists will distract you before an important business meeting or event and demand your time when you are focusing on your own objectives.
Your feelings don’t count. See narcissists for who they really are.
Narcissists can make you associate good news or a sense of healthy pride with heart palpitations, sweaty palms, and distressed anticipation thinking the narcissist will attack you and make you defend yourself.
Don’t let them blame or shame you. The fact is it really isn’t about you, it’s the narcissist’s own fault that they project on you.
Narcissists time their insults unexpectedly by playing the encouraging confidante right up to the time you need their support. Imagine sitting down to a romantic dinner to celebrate your promotion and listening to manufactured nonsensical arguments aimed at ensuring you never gain a sense of emotional security.
Defend yourself with a strong sense of will. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are; reject unfair criticism.
If you need to discuss personal concerns avoid being challenged by a narcissist who taunts you. Seek emotional support from a friend or associate who respects you and will listen.
The only way to escape this type of abuse is to end the relationship. Consider all the reasons why the relationship is toxic and how you will move forward.
Eliminate all contact from the abuser. Seek trauma therapy to rewrite the narratives the abuser has written for you. Cognitive behavioral therapy with affirmations and regular debriefing can be tremendously helpful for your journey to recovery. Re-writing your Life Script is a very necessary tool.
See you next Monday
Yes, Yes, Yes!
by Dr. Terry Martin (a.k.a. Monday Lisa) March 2, 2020
Last week’s column was about learning to say ‘no’. I explained the benefits of saying ‘no’ and even suggested that ‘no’ may be the best word in the English language. Master the art, it is an expression of willpower. You will have more free time and improved emotional health.
Ah, but better yet, you will be able to say ‘yes’ when a compelling opportunity arises. Life presents us with chances to grow, learn, do and be more than we currently are. A promotion at work may come before you feel you are ready to accept added responsibility. If you say ‘yes’ you give yourself a chance to grow, to benefit from the experience. If you are skeptical be willing to learn from mistakes. After all, your boss believes you are capable.
Not being able to do something does not mean you’ll never be able to do it.
At times we have to ask for a ‘yes’. When I could no longer maintain an in-office presence due to Multiple Sclerosis restricting my physical ability I asked my therapy patients, “Will you continue as a patient if our sessions are by phone, text or email?” The answer was a resounding ‘YES’ and No Couch Therapy was born. Now my patients enjoy interacting from the comfort and convenience of their home...and they hardly miss the traffic driving to and from my office.
Getting another person to say ‘yes’ to a sales call can require more than just the usual sales pitch. Peter, an advertising executive, found himself in just such a circumstance when he made a cold call and finished his canned sales patter. “That’s interesting,” the prospect said, "but just how much do you know about my business?” Peter snapped back, “Not much, but I will in the morning.” That quip led to an eventual ‘yes’ and a mutually beneficial relationship.
Be open to new ideas. People who turn down all the light bulbs wind up in the dark.
Saying ‘yes’ to difficult circumstances can be uncomfortable. At times we resist saying ‘yes’ but know the time will come when we have to succumb. We just try to put the inevitable off. We avoid a needed surgical procedure, resist retiring from work or put off moving to assisted living. Like it or not advanced age, be it yours or your parents’ demands change. Weigh the facts and accept them by saying ‘yes’ when effective action is required.
The hard part is knowing when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’. Which opportunities to accept and which to let go. Measure the difference between what is important and spreading yourself too thin. Say ‘yes’ when it matters...because it does.
See you next Monday