Saturday, July 23, 2011

How to deal best with failure and stress

I absolutely loved the following article on so I thought I would share....

People cope with failures and stress in life in a variety of ways ranging from distraction to getting social support. But what are the most effective strategies?

New research from the University of Kent has revealed that positive reframing, acceptance and humor are the most effective coping strategies for people dealing with failures.

In a paper published by the international journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen from the University's School of Psychology describe a diary study that found these three strategies to be most effective in dealing with small failures and setbacks, and helping people to keep up their spirits and feel satisfied at the end of the day.

For the study, a sample of 149 students completed daily diary reports for 3 -- 14 days, reporting the most bothersome failure they experienced during the day, what strategies they used to cope with the failure, and how satisfied they felt at the end of the day. Their coping strategies included: using emotional or instrumental support; self-distraction; denial; religion; venting; substance use; self-blame; and behavioral disengagement.

Of these, using social support (both emotional and instrumental), denial, venting, behavioral disengagement, and self-blame coping had negative effects on satisfaction at the end of the day: the more students used these coping strategies in dealing with the day's most bothersome failure, the less satisfied they felt at the end of the day. What's interesting to note is that social support by others was not an effective strategy.

In contrast, positive reframing (i.e. trying to see things in a more positive light, looking for something good in what happened), acceptance and humor coping had positive effects on satisfaction: the more students used these coping strategies in dealing with failures, the more satisfied they felt at the end of the day.

Dr. Stoeber, a leading authority on perfectionism, motivation and performance, believes that the findings of this study will be of significant interest to clinicians, counselors and anyone working on stress research. He said: 'The finding that positive reframing was helpful for students high in perfectionistic concerns is particularly important because it suggests that even people high in perfectionistic concerns, who have a tendency to be dissatisfied no matter what they achieve, are able to experience high levels of satisfaction if they use positive reframing coping when dealing with perceived failures.'

He added that a helpful recommendation for anyone trying to cope would be to try to find positive aspects in the outcomes they regard as 'failures'; and reframe these outcomes in a more positive way; for example, by focusing on what has been achieved, rather than on what has not been achieved. 'It's no use ruminating about small failures and setbacks and drag yourself further down,' he said. 'Instead it is more helpful to try to accept what happened, look for positive aspects and -- if it is a small thing -- have a laugh about it.'

While reframing and acceptance are widely used by practitioners in the helping professions, the study clearly identified humor and laughter as effective coping strategies.

For decades, researchers have explored how humor helps patients relieve stress and heal. Melissa B. Wanzer, EdD, professor of communication studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., has taken it one step further, with her research on how humor helps medical professionals cope with their difficult jobs. She also looked at how humor affects the elderly and how it can increase communication in theworkplace and in the classroom.

She wondered, how do health care providers care for terminally ill people and manage to come back to work each day? So she asked them, in large-scale studies. Their answer? Humor. Wanzer has found humor to be beneficial in other areas as well.

"If employees view their managers as humor-oriented, they also view them as more effective," notes Wanzer. "Employees also reported higher job satisfaction when they worked for someone who was more humor-oriented and used humor effectively and appropriately." Wanzer and her colleagues found that humor is an effective way to cope with on-the-job stress - again, when used appropriately.

Wanzer also recently collaborated on research that found aging adults who used humor more frequently reported greater coping efficacy, which led to greater life satisfaction. This was the third study she conducted, with three different populations, where the conclusion was the same.

But what if you don't consider yourself to be particularly funny? Wanzer says that while you can't change your personality, you can find ways to integrate humor into your day-to-day life and change your communication patterns.

"Self-disparaging humor, making fun of oneself, is a very effective form of humor communication, as long as it is not done excessively," says Wanzer, who adds that telling jokes is just a small portion of humor communication.

It is commonly believed that kidding around at work isn't a good thing. Well, it is, says a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, who has examined how workplace humor affects the working environment.

Chris Robert, assistant professor of management at the University of Missouri,'s College of Business, said that humor - particularly joking around about things associated with the job - actually has a positive impact in the workplace. Occasional humor among colleagues, he said, enhances creativity, department cohesiveness and overall performance.

The conclusion was made by examining theories on humor and integrating literature from a wide variety of disciplines that touch on the subject. Several hundred sources were analyzed by Robert and collaborator Wan Yan, a business doctoral student, who have attempted to bring together literature from numerous disciplines to make the case that humor is serious business.

"Humor has a significant impact in organizations," said Robert, "humor isn't incompatible with goals of the workplace. It's not incompatible with the organization's desire to be competitive. In fact, we argue that humor is pretty important. It's not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded."

"Humor is difficult in cross cultural situations," he said. "It's hard to know what's going to be funny or when to use humor. Some people have suggested that you just avoid it all together; don't be funny, don't try to make jokes. We basically reject that and offer some ground rules for understanding when and what kind of humor might be appropriate."

Laughter can play key roles in group communication and group dynamics -- even when there's nothing funny going on. That's according to new research by Dr. Joann Keyton from North Carolina State University and Dr. Stephenson Beck of North Dakota State University, published in a special issue of Small Group Dynamics, which examined the role of laughter in jury deliberations during a capital murder case.

The researchers learned that laughter could be used as a tool, intentionally and strategically, to control communication and affect group dynamics. The researchers also found that "laughter matters, even when it is a serious group task," Keyton says. "Laughter is natural, but we try to suppress it in formal settings. So, when it happens, it's worth closer examination."

"Laughter is one way of dealing with ambiguity and tension in situations where a group is attempting to make consequential decisions and informal power dynamics are in play," Keyton says. "There are very few opportunities to see group decision making, with major consequences, in a public setting," Keyton explains. "It is usually done in private, such as in corporate board meetings or judicial proceedings. But laughter is something that occurs frequently, and not only because something is funny.

Failure, serious work and stress is now commonplace in our society. It seems that having a sense of humor and laughter are critical strategies to help us get through, and remain positive and resilient.

Original article can be found here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Something a little crazy...

So I've started something that some of you may think is a little crazy. Before I dive into exactly what it is, let me give you my reasons. I'm tired of feeling bloated all of the time. My shirts seem to get more snug with each passing day (and believe me, it's not muscle). I looked down at the scale last week and saw myself about 5 pounds away from an all-time high. Note about that, that all-tim high came after a hospital stay in which I was hopped up on prednisone. I managed to pop a button off my shorts during a golf swing two weeks ago. And finally, I needed another physical challenge.

I'm sure you guys have probably guessed it by now - I'm counting calories. Before I mislead you though, let me refine that statement - I'm becoming more aware of how many calories are in the stuff I eat and adjusting accordingly. I can already see many of you gasping and saying "No CFer should be trying to lose weight!". In most cases, I agree, but I don't think I fall under most cases. My BMI puts me up there with the contestants from biggest loser. I've spent most of my adult life between 185 - 190 and last week I was 205. If this was an issue of me bulking up because of muscle mass, I wouldn't be worried. It's not however and I have the fatty tissue to prove it.

I'm not getting crazy (yet) and can hopefully avoid falling over the OCD with my food cliff. I'm pretty OCD about many things, but my food intake is not something that I want it to bleed over into. So what am I doing to cut the weight?

Using smaller plates for my meals
Not returning for seconds
Eating more servings of vegetables and fruit
Taking more time to eat my meals

That's not too crazy right? So far it's working and the adjustment hasn't really been that big. I'm still eating the same types off foods, just less of it. Mandi and I will be able to continue to cook foods that we like, but I will try to enjoy them in a different way. Easy peezy right?

Last Thursday I weighed in at 205, this Thursday, 197. Game on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Lightning & S'mores

It's thankful Thursday time! We all have so much to be thankful for and we love to take this opportunity just to write down each and everything that comes to mind. as I mentioned, I no longer have the "linkytools" but I invite you to share your thankful blog in the comments section. Without further ado, here's what we're thankful for:

Mandi's List:

I'm thankful for This is Better Homes and Gardens' website and man do I love it. I get nearly all of my recipes from there for unique dinners that we want to cook, and rarely do they disappoint. I am not an amazing chef, so these recipes are perfect. They're "easy", unique and we can usually find a great variety!

I am thankful for spin class. Running is getting harder these days, so I am running only about 3 mornings a week and walking 2 mornings a week (I was running 5). Spin is a perfect add on in the afternoons for a lot extra cardio. It kicks my butt and wipes me out, yet the time just flies by!

I'm thankful for s'mores cereal. We've been eating s'mores cereal (no milk) after dinner as a dessert, and man is it good. It's just sweet enough to ease my sweet tooth, but not over-indulgent enough to make me feel guilty for having it every night.

Ronnie's List:

As I wrote about in yesterday's blog, I'm thankful for random acts of kindness. It's just amazing to me that someone who reads this blog or chats with me on CysticLife would feel the need to go out of their way to put a smile on my face. It always feels so undeserved, yet it encourages me to know that at least one person has been impacted by our story.

I'm thankful for lightning. I've always been fascinated by it and I'm not quite sure why. I still don't know where it comes from or why exactly it happens, but I tell you what, I can stand outside and stare at the stuff for hours. I just find it so beautiful. I was fortunate enough to see a lighting storm earlier today and it was absolutely awesome!

I'm thankful that my wife likes to cook. No, not because I don't, but because it's something we really enjoy doing together. We've been making some really tasty meals lately for dinner that also happen to be great for lunch the next day. The other good thing about two folks who don't mind being in the kitchen - the dishes get done twice as fast!

So, what are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Some People Just Go Above and Beyond

We're always caught so off-guard when we get kind notes, or in this case thoughtful gifts, from those in the CF community. We don't feel at all deserving of them, and as people who are uncomfortable accepting gifts from family, accepting kind words and gifts from "strangers" is a whole different ballgame. Nevertheless, when someone goes above and beyond for us, we feel the need to give them some love.

A super special momma to a studly young fibro totally made our day this week. Not only did Julie send us something for Peanut, but she actually took the time to make it with her own hands. I have to give her some love for that, but I also feel the need to give her some love for the email that she sent in order to get our address to send the package. It is by far one of the most entertaining notes I received and I loved every minute of it:

Ok, first off, let me preface by saying I'm not a stalker. Seriously. If I were, it wouldn't be for anyone in a state as stupidly hot as Arizona, because the weather there is simply not conducive for stalking. Beyond that, I'm entirely too lazy to stalk, though I do keep up with your blog because that only takes a click of my mouse, which, while that takes a bit of an effort, is doable for even lazy people.

Now how am I not supposed to give up our address? Seriously, how cute was that? I was smiling ear-to-ear the day that I got it as I'm smiling ear-to-ear today re-reading it. After that splendid intro she hit me with the deets:

I made your baby girl a lightweight sweater for this fall and winter. I don't know how cold it gets there, but this should be fine for Arizona. Not too warm, but warm enough. It fits up to three months old and is made from lightweight, machine washable (on delicate cycle) wool. I'd lay it flat to dry. The buttons are little roses (of course) inside of hearts, replicas from the 1930s. I'm quite proud of it and I want you to have it. So give me an addy. I figure you probably have a PO for Cysticlife, which is cool, but if not, I promise I'm safe to send a personal address to without you having to sleep at night with one eye open.

Classic Julie, simply classic.

I of course wrote an email to her singing my praises, but sometimes that's just not enough for me. I wanted to make sure others could share in my joy. So here it is, a simple public thank you on my personal blog to a woman that I feel needs to be recognized. THANK YOU SO MUCH JULIE!! Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and I hope that everyone reading can see how much hard work you put into this. Truly amazing.

Without further adieu, please check out the cutest hand knit sweater in the world (and yes, those are heart buttons with little roses on them) :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Ran across this article, found it interesting, so I thought I'd share...

( As summer approaches, we often reach for soothing foods and beverages to keep us cool in the heat. But is it true that some foods can actually keep you cool inside and reduce inflammation as well? There is a growing body of research that suggests chronic inflammation within the human body is linked to diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and Alzheimer’s. What would an anti-inflammation menu look like?

Your Anti-Inflammation Menu

Starters: Load up on phytonutrients and monounsaturated fats

Eating the colors of the rainbow is a practical and achievable strategy to get your phytonutrients, the superb antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. They are great at preventing chronic oxidative stresses that lead to inflammation. Some well-known examples are anthocyanin (in blueberries), resveratrol (in grapes and red wine), and lycopene (in tomatoes). And just because some produce such as cabbage or cauliflower appears colorless, don’t skip it: Both these vegetables are high in potent antioxidants. In addition, many fruits and vegetables are great sources of Vitamin C, itself a well-known antioxidant.

Add nuts for crunch and beneficial monounsaturated fats (which help inhibit many pro-inflammatory metabolic pathways or enzymes). Use fresh herbs liberally, and dress salads lightly with a vinaigrette of your choice, which can be as simple as extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Some great options for your anti-inflammation appetizer: cabbage (all kinds – red, napa, white), cauliflower, mushrooms, nuts (walnuts, almonds and cashews), dark leafy greens, avocado, tomatoes.

Mains: Real whole grains with omega-3 rich seafood and protein

Soy protein sources (tofu, tempeh, and edamame) and whole grains (e.g., amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat) are considered anti-inflammatory because they contain micronutrients that play important roles in antioxidant reactions within the body, such as copper and manganese.

Fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, sablefish, and halibut, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. There is a hypothesis that the typical North American diet (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oil blends used in processed foods, and low in omega-3 fatty acids) is associated with higher rates of chronic inflammation and resulting diseases. Many seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids are also high in Vitamin D, which helps inhibit some pro-inflammatory metabolic pathways in the body.

Condiments: Bring on the spices

Rosemary, ginger, and turmeric have been identified as spices that appear to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. In particular, the compound curcumin in turmeric has been shown to activate certain enzymes within brain cells that are protective against inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death. Curcumin has also been studied regularly for its anti-cancer properties. Rosemary that is added to marinades has been shown to lower the formation of carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCA) in grilled meats.

To drink: Sip phytonutrients and Vitamin D

It’s easy to drink your phytonutrients, if you include beverages such as green tea, red wine, and coffee. Recent studies in animal models show beneficial effects of various phytonutrients on dilating the airway (helpful in asthma), improving blood lipid profile, moderating the inflammatory compounds circulating in the blood, and preventing uncontrolled cell growth (which leads to cancer). The green tea catechin EGCG has also been shown to protect neurons against oxidative damage.

Speaking of beverages, milk is another easy source of Vitamin D, particularly for those who do not consume fish or other seafood regularly.

The Bottom Line

It turns out many of the foods that can help fight chronic inflammation are the same ones containing the various nutrients needed to keep us healthy in general. This summer, keep yourself cool inside and out by choosing a variety of anti-inflammatory foods from the above list.

Original article can be found HERE

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dreaded Weekend

Ever have those weekends that you dread? The kind of weekend that you actually are a little bummed about come Friday? That's how this weekend was for me. Why? I'll explain.

A couple weeks back, Phoenix was hit by a haboob (a HUGE wall of it or see picture above, it's actually a picture from this last haboob). So needless to say, the entire outside of our house was covered with dust - the patios, furniture, windows, you name it. So for the last couple of weeks, I knew we would have to hose everything down and wash the windows, buuut I was dreading it. Something about doing work outside for several hours straight when it's 110 degrees out doesn't scream fun weekend activity to me. But this weekend was the weekend for it, and I knew this weekend was the weekend for it, so this weekend was the weekend I was dreading!

So Friday evening came and went, and we didn't hose off the outside. Instead, we went to the gym, rented a Redbox movie (Rango), and enjoyed a really great meal (buffalo chicken wraps..YUM). And then it was Saturday. We got up, made french toast and headed off (after Ronnie's morning treatment of course) to a matinee. Then to get out of hosing off the outdoors, we actually did other chores. We went to Sam's Club to do some grocery shopping. Then we came home, and totally organized and cleaned out the pantry, the fridge and the freezer. Then it was dinner time and we watched another movie (Unbreakable). So Saturday came and went, and I managed to "trick" Ronnie into not doing the outside cleaning. But then it was Sunday...dun dun dunnn...and the last day of the weekend (which meant I could no longer put off the outside). We went to church in the AM, got home to have some lunch, and then it was time to get to work. Four hours later, the outside was hosed down, the windows were washed (inside and out), the window frames on the inside were washed (somehow dirt/dust actually makes it way inside the windows on the window frames), the house was picked up, and the flowers in the yard were pruned.

And at the end of the 4 hours I realize something very important: I was putting off and dreading 4 hours of work. 4 hours that flew by, were very productive, and I hardly noticed the time passing. So I've decided that in the future, instead of dreading something ALL week and weekend, I'm just going to bite the bullet and get it done. In fact, we were so inspired by the clean pantry, fridge and outdoors that we decided each night this week we're going to pick a single job (starting with the closets) and knot it out.

So my question for you is this...what project are you putting off around the house currently? Or what project were you putting off, that once you did it, felt like no big deal?