Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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What's Wrong With This Picture?

       What’s Wrong With This Picture?


         Subtitle: How to Please the Stress Monster


Do you remember playing a game as a child where you had to find what was wrong or missing in a picture? You could win the game and sometimes a prize. In this case our game is a word picture of a person starting his or her day in the morning with problem behaviors the stress monster absolutely loves. The more problems you can pick out, the better, because you'll be finding keys to decreasing your stress. When you win the game, you'll qualify for a better and happier life. Dr. Betty can't give you any better prize than the prize you can discover for yourself.


The Word Picture. "Not even the snooze button could stop my alarm from going off. Groggy from the sleep meds, I dragged myself out of bed to the mirror. Ugh, look at those bags under my eyes. I'm going to look awful again today! Going outside to look for the newspaper, I see it's dark and dreary again. Another awful depressing day! Expletive! The paper isn't here again. The fat lazy carrier is probably still in bed. Expletive! I don't even have time to call and complain. Guess I'll turn on the TV and check the news: people screaming about politics, stocks going down, fires in California, what a lousy world. I really really need my coffee jolt this morning. Then I need to take these expletive pills, my anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-blood pressure, anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetes pills and I better throw in something for my headache. My doc said I should exercise: ha ha. Oh, expletive, I should have packed my lunch and now I don't have time, grouch, grouch, grumble. I hope my car will start today. I need to call the dealer and complain. I'd be really happy if I had a Lexus like my neighbor. He never seems to have a problem starting his car. I guess things are better at his house. I know I'm a worrywart, but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my job. I hope the boss doesn't notice that I messed up the Jones account. I can't keep my mind on my work. I certainly don't have time for breakfast. I'll grab a doughnut to take with me. I better comb my hair. What a crappy face. My mom always used to tell me to smile, but who feels like smiling with such a lousy life!"


The magazines used to have the answers in upside down lettering but I won't tax your upside down perception skills. My stress management "answers" can be found in previous Chatham County Line editions or on my website, mostly in the Advice Line section, but some in the Reading Room area. Most of the articles also contain suggestions for useful self-help books. You can see that the person featured in the word picture feels like life is depressing and out of control. With little foresight or planning, this person seems to be relying, unsuccessfully, on medications to deal with life problems. Hopefully you're not this person or if you are, it's important to know that you can change your life. You definitely do not want to try to solve everything immediately, which would end up in failure, or wait for New Years Resolutions, or give up! Psychological research has shown that you can change habits one at a time to improve your life. Each habit will take about a month to change, but you will be encouraged as you start making progress. Yes, emotions are also habits. This person seemed to approach problems with anger rather than learn to turn anger into assertive action and also worried incessantly without a life plan. Jealousy, complaining, blaming and critical self judgments are other aspects of this negativity. The complaint-free challenge will help. Adequate sleep, exercise and good nutrition are great foundations for stress reduction. We certainly can't stop floods or political infighting, but we can approach our personal lives with openness and positivity. Yes, and we can smile in the mirror. A smile lights up your face and lights up your life. As Andy Rooney said, "If you can smile when no one is around, you really mean it!"