Advice Pearls

Advice for stressed people: “Make a rule — if someone asks you to do something 2 months in the future, just ask yourself, ‘If it was today, could I make it happen?’ And if your answer is NO, then you should also say NO to the thing that is 2 months away.” Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at Princeton, Eldar Shafir, gave this advice, but when asked if he followed his own rule, he said, “I never follow it.”

How much of the time do we give advice to others when we do not follow our advice ourselves?

We all paddle from a seat in the stress boat at times. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) poll, many Americans struggle with multiple external stressors that are out of their personal control. The 2022 Stress in America survey found 27% of adults (ages 18+) reporting feeling so stressed that they cannot function most days.

Issues vying for top stressor cited:

  • Inflation (83%)
  • Violence & crime (75%)
  • Current political climate (66%)  — with 38% reporting that the state of the nation may lead them to move to a different country 
  • Personal rights under attack (64%)
  • Current racial climate (62%)

Regarding the pandemic, 63% reported that their lives have been “forever changed.” Extensive loss issues (the death of loved ones and/or loss of one’s job or business) coupled with financial stress rocked a boatload of families. The harshest realities capsized those between ages 18-43, parents, and Latino and Black individuals. Over half of the participants reported experiencing strains on relationships or ending relationships. Differences of opinion over vaccines and mask-wearing became overboard issues.

APA’s executive officer, Arthur C. Evans, Jr. gives advice: “Focusing on accomplishing goals that are in our control can help prevent our minds from getting overwhelmed by the many uncertainties in life. From using our breathing to slow racing thoughts, to intentionally limiting our social media consumption, or exercising our right to vote, action can be extremely empowering.” 

Many Americans did vote in the recent mid-term elections (when the usual turnout for midterm voting is abysmally low). Whether voting made a difference in stress levels may depend upon whether your preferred candidates won. However, Evans’s advice is sound.

When we TAKE ACTIONS that are positive (and voting in a democracy is certainly a positive action), we are less stressed. But as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. Rarely, is taking ONE action sufficient to reduce one’s stress cargo. What about contacting your elected politicians regularly to let them know your views on climate change for the 8 billion of us tipping our planet’s boat?

Oops! I confess that I do contact my elected officials, but not on a regular basis. See how easy it is to give advice, but then not follow through yourself?

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

135. Were there losses in your personal life in the pandemic?

136. What are actions that you might take to reduce your personal stress?  

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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