Archive for October, 2010


On Wednesday I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of people at HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehab Hospital about the importance of communication in reducing stress and improving overall wellbeing. We talked and laughed about the most important aspects of communication and how to get the most out of it.

1. Speaking from a place of calm – learning to breathe and setting your intention for the conversation can make all the difference. If you aren’t aware of what your goal is, how can you achieve it? If your upset and angry, how will you be listened to and how will you ever get your point across?
2. Be Genuine – people can always tell when you’re being dismissive or dishonest…so make sure to always speak the truth, no matter how difficult. Honesty carries power with it.
3. Avoid Pointing the Finger– take responsibility for what is yours. When you blame people get defensive and stop listening and communication breaks down.
4. Avoid Getting Defensive – it’s not helpful to take things personally. Remember what happens when you get defensive? You don’t want that to happen do you?
5. Be aware of underlying feelings – sometimes we’re not talking about what we think we’re talking about. Speak to the emotion and not the content when you’re talking about the tough stuff or going through a tough time. “I’m sorry your upset.” Acknowledging another’s feelings is hugely supportive.
6. Remember, it’s all in your interpretation -Avoid making your truth sound like THE truth, cuz it’s just your opinion. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. You have a choice in how you look at things…really, you do!
7. Clarify – if you don’t understand, ask and repeat back the gist of what you heard. If you think they don’t understand, ask them to restate what they heard.
8. Keep a Sense of Humor – Be careful not to take yourself too seriously. Laughter can ease tension and help you gain a new perspective. Plus, it just feels so good to laugh!
9. Really Listen – Repeat back what is said to you and let them know you’re listening. “That makes sense.” Avoid giving advice unless asked.
10. Agree to Disagree – sometimes no matter what you say, a person is not going to change their opinions. You may need to decide that escalating the conflict is just not worth it. “I love you too much to argue” can work like a charm and puts the emphasis on the importance of your relationship and not the topic of the conversation.
10.5. Agree to not Disagree – Sometimes being right can come at the cost of being lonely. There are times where deciding you want to find something to agree on is the best option. “You may be right” gets you out of the power struggle and back to your relationship.

Well, what do you think? Have any gems of your own that you’d like to share? I’d really love to hear them.

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D.

Laughing through life

The other night a friend of mine told me on his radio show that he’d never met anyone who laughed as much as me. I must say, I have been accused of this many times before. In fact, sometimes the people at work wonder what I am doing in my office with patients as the peels of laughter can be heard all the way down the hall. When they ask, I just respond by saying, “Don’t I have the best job in the world? I get to laugh everyday!” You might think that being a psychologist and listening to people’s difficulties is serious business, but sometimes a good laugh can be just what the doctor ordered.

So, I am aware that I laugh a lot and that I enjoy sharing laughter with others. But, I have to admit I was a little stumped when my friend asked me an interesting question to follow his initial observation, “Why are you able to laugh so often?” The question caught me by surprise. As I said, I know I laugh a lot, but I never really thought about why. I told him, it was because I tend not to take things too seriously and that I am able to find amusement in most situations.

The question stuck with me though, and the next day I decided to ask an expert…my friend Glen, who laughs even more than I do! He reminded me of something that I had forgotten, but that is very true. We laugh, because we choose to look at the lighter side of things. It’s not that we don’t have troubles or difficulties in our lives – we do, just like everyone else does – but we choose to focus on that which makes us smile or laugh. I learned early in life, not to take so many things to heart. In fact, it was through facing the difficulties, like being teased and bullied, that I learned to take things less personally and smile through it. It just felt so much better and made it easier to take. We forget this sometimes though, as we get older. It’s can be so easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life, or to take everything personally. But if you try, it’s really not that hard to get caught up in the silliness of it too!

It just feels so good to laugh, doesn’t it? It’s contagious, as well. My grandmother used to be a little on the cranky side. She actually used to make me cry. Then one day when I was in my late 20’s I decided to use a different approach when she would say something cranky and negative. I would say, “Oh Grandma, you’re so funny!” as if she was making a joke. In my mind I was thinking “she couldn’t possibly mean this, she must just being feeling badly.” And you know what? It worked. Soon we were laughing together all the time. Previously I had chosen to cry, but I gotta tell ya, once I made the choice to laugh instead it was so much better for the both of us!

Are you willing to try an experiment. Next time you face a difficult situation, or someone says something to hurt your feelings, could you challenge yourself to try to look at the situation from another perspective. You could try what I did with Grandma or perhaps you could even tease yourself a little. I myself am fond of referring to myself as a “dork” (my son likes to call me “Dorkzilla”). Is it that I really think I’m a dork? Well, maybe a little, but really I call myself a dork so that I remind myself not to take myself so seriously. I face so much seriousness everyday, that if I don’t force myself to lighten up, it will weigh me down and overwhelm me. If that happens how can I continue to help others? So I laugh, I tease, I joke, I cajole. I try to do it lovingly and with kindness, but I try to teach those I work with to laugh at themselves too.

The trick is, the laugh has to be genuine. I personally dislike those classes where they ask you to think of something funny from the past to force a laugh in the present. The only way I am able to laugh in those classes is to focus on the ridiculousness of the situation at hand – then I’m laughing with the rest of them! However, you choose to do it is fine. What we choose to laugh at is very personal. All I’m suggesting is that you choose to laugh. A giggle a day might just keep the doctor away…so, try it…and let me know what you think!

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D. (aka “Dorkzilla”)

Please come join me for my free lecture on Getting the Most Out of Your Communication

Wednesday, October 27th from 11am – noon
HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehab Hospital
9630 E. Shea Blvd.
Scottsdale, Arizona

Call Melinda at 480-551-5423 to RSVP so we can make sure there’s plenty of lemonade and fresh baked cookies for all!

This final lecture in a series of three will be about getting the most out of your communication. A tough thing for all of us at times. This series on Stress Management is for anyone who would like to learn simple strategies to help improve their health and well being in today’s increasing stressful world. It would be great if you could join us or pass the word along to someone who you think might like to come. We’ve really been having a good time with it so far! Hope to see you there!

It all starts with you

These words are not mine, they are the words of a very wise man named Rav Kook. They were handed to me today by another very wise man. I wanted to share them with you, as they are quite powerful and perspective making. Forgive the chauvenistic language. I decided to just leave it as is, hoping all will know that this applies to all of us.

“Each individual must find himself within himself, then must also find himself in the world about himself; his society, his community, his nation. The community must find itself within itself; then it must find itself in the world.

Humanity must first find itself within itself; then it must find itself in the world.

The world must find itself within itself; then it must find itself within the universe that surrounds it.

The surrounding universe in its generality must first find itself within itself; then it must find itself in the highest category of universality.

Universality must first find itself within itself; then it must find itself in the fullness that fills, in the highest light, in the hub of light, in the divine light.”

In this way, we are all connected. It is all ours to share. What a responsibility we have to one another. What a relief to know we are always supported. What we do, what we say, how we behave will affect us all. It will ripple from small to magnificent. So, be mindful of the choices that you make…your sadness, your happiness, your anger, your joy, will all be shared far beyond yourself. You can make a difference to yourself, to your community, to your nation, to your world, to your universe, to the divine. How daunting, yet ultimately how wonderful. It all starts with you.

Be happy and well,

Sari

The blame game

Be honest. We’ve all played it. Blaming somebody else for our unhappiness or our upset. Feeling wronged by another and righteous in our indignation. “You make me so mad!” “It’s not my fault” “If only you would have…” But what happens when we do this? When we put the fault into someone else’s hands? Well, first of all, it makes us feel like crap. We may think we deserve our upset. Well, we may have a good reason to be upset, but one could argue that we actually do not deserve to be upset. We really deserve to be free of the upset and to let it go so we can move on. While it might be easier said then done, in truth, all it takes is awareness. Once we become aware of what we are doing – letting someone else have control over our feelings – we can take steps to get back in control of our emotions. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking ourselves “Do I really want to be this upset right now? What can I do to feel better?”

The second, and possibly more important thing to consider is, what happens to our personal power when we blame someoneone else for the problems we are having and the way we are feeling? Essentially, we are handing our power right over to the other person. If we aren’t taking responsibility for being upset, then how can we ever hope to fix it? If we are blaming others, waiting for others to do for us, or asking someone else to make us happy, then we are playing the role of victim. Luckily, once we realize that we are in charge of the way we feel, we can make the choice to feel better. We step out of the victim role and take back our power. At this point we become free to choose whatever good things we want in our lives. This may be as simple as refocusing on our favorite song playing on the radio, or as large as telling ourselves we can accomplish our dreams and goals if we just keep moving forward one small step at a time.

My son and I were at a wonderful event today. We went to hear his favorite author speak, Rick Riordon. As soon as we heard about it, we looked up information and called the bookstore in hopes we could secure a ticket. The paper didn’t say you had to get a ticket, but it did say you could call. Riordon is one of the most popular children’s authors right now, so we crossed our fingers that we could get a ticket and were so happy when we found out we could. We got to the event a little early so we could get a good seat. It was all very exciting. A little while later I left the building to get something and found myself back in line, a few minutes before the author was about to come on stage. There was a man in front of me, who when he heard the event was sold out, exclaimed “This is ridiculous!” He was red in the face and very angry. His young son said to him “This isn’t fair!” I was at first a little surprised. Why would anyone show up 15 minutes before a major author was supposed to speak and expect that there would be tickets left for them? But then, I was just sad for them. Not only were they going to miss out on seeing someone they admired, but they were going to leave feeling victimized. What lesson would it have been for his child to hear his father say “Oh well, we tried and it didn’t work out. I’m sorry. Next time we’ll remember to plan ahead.” They would have left disappointed, but known they would have a plan to prevent this from happening again. Instead, his child left feeling sad and at the mercy of an unfair world.

Victims don’t get far, but they sure go a long way with their sadness and anger. Next time you’re feeling someone or something is to blame for your upset, maybe ask yourself, “what is my role in this?” Once you’ve figured that out you can take the steps you need to feel better. It’s a simple truth, happy people are not victims. Happy people make a choice to be happy and content with what they have, even in the midst of adversity. Victims, on the other hand, do not choose; they give up their power and put themselves at the mercy of others. Sometimes the choice really is as simple as that, “Do I want to be happy or sad right now?” Which would you rather be? Of course, we all know the answer to that question, don’t we? They key is remembering we have the choice.

Addendum:
I just read this post to my son and asked him what he thought. He said,”It’s totally true, Mom.” Then, with his astonishing 12-year-old insight, he told me about how upset he’d been at the end of the lecture that I didn’t get a good photo of him with Riordon at the book signing. I remembered it clearly. He was so mad at me. He’d told me that I had ruined everything! Then he realized that he’d actually had a great day up to that point and that, while he was disappointed, he was going to let it go so he could remember what a great day he had and what a great evening he was looking forward to. I smiled and said “yup, that’s what I’m talking about…” That’s my boy! (Of course, I wish I’d taped the conversation for future evidence, as the teenage years are approaching!)

The blame game? Clearly not a game worth playing. But then again, the choice is yours…

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

Today we walked for breast cancer. Well, not exactly for breast cancer, more like, against breast cancer. At 6:30am we got on a school bus with my son’s bar mitzvah buddies and our temple friends and headed downtown to march for a cure. Free gifts and food aside, what we saw was amazing. Thirty-one-thousand people gathered together for a single cause. Everyone there touched in one way or another by this terrible, but overly popular disease that does not discriminate. Everyone had a story to share. A family member, a friend, a colleague, or even themselves…some were lost, some were triumphant, but all in some way had faced this terrible disease that affects far too many of us. I must confess, initially when we were smooshed together at 7:30am all in a crowd to get our “free stuff”, it was a little stressful and overwhelming. It was literally every person for themselves. But then at 8:30am it all changed. We all came together on the street, lined up behind the big pink balloon arch and we walked. This was not at all stressful, in fact, it was really great. Strangers sharing a purpose, which in essence joined us all. We connected with friends, we made new friends, we spoke with strangers. We smiled and laughed and when we saw a pink shirt or a pink sign with the name of someone with breast cancer, we thought of why we were walking and who we were walking for. Good energy spread among the thousands.

So I wondered. What made the difference? Why at 7:30am did I feel like hyperventilating, while at 8:30am, in the midst of the exact same crowd of people, I was happy and content? It dawned on me that at 7:30am the goal was egocentric, to see what goodies we could get for ourselves. We walked in front of others, we walked against the flow at times, we focused on the booth up ahead and what fun toy or snack it might bring us. I’m really not judging getting free gifts as bad, there’s nothing wrong with a little consumerism and reward, but the emotional charge was definitely different. While at 8:30am when we were all gathered behind the starting line, we extended beyond ourselves and focused on a shared goal. When we were no longer caught in our personal desires, the feelings of happiness and good will seemed to grow exponentially. We walked with each other in the same direction, with one goal in mind, to let it be known that we wanted to eradicate breast cancer and it’s suffering.

I think we forget this sometimes in the drive to fulfill our personal desires. When we focus on something greater than ourselves and join with others in doing so, we are ultimately much happier and likely much more successful in our endeavors. Our energy expands beyond ourselves and we connect with the energy of others. No wonder we feel happy and invigorated. In the process of letting go of our personal desires and joining with others we’ve gained so much more! I always tell my patients that we are by nature social creatures. So when we are feeling down, or low or in a funk of some sort, if we can just remind ourselves to get out of our own way. To let go of clinging to our personal desires and instead to connect with another or many others in a meaningful way to find your path out of the energetic void into a happier place. Go to a place of worship, invite people you love over to dinner, take a walk with a friend, or take a walk with thousands of friends, and it might just put a smile on your face, their faces, and who knows what else might be accomplished? (We might even find a cure for cancer!)

What do you think? ☺☺

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

No time like the present?

I have this great widget on my igoogle home page called self-mediations by thingstobehappyabout.com. I love it. Always some really cool wise words to make me smile and think about my choices. The other day they had a great quote: “being present in the here and now is a conscious choice towards happiness” I posted the quote to my FaceBook profile and added “I definitely wanna be happy…so why is it so darn hard to stay in the present?” One of my friends, KJ, noted the seductive nature of the past and the future. But I wondered why we are so enthralled by things we have no control over, like the past and the future? Why do we favor them over the things we actually have control over, like the present? Is it that we want to be omnipotent and control the things that are uncontrollable? Or is it that we’re just silly and allow ourselves to go on autopilot, without giving thought to the consequences of our actions?

So often we find ourselves living in the past or the future, without realizing how we’re getting in the way of our happiness in the present. What’s the trick? Just like anything else…catching ourselves in the act and making a conscious choice to change what we’re doing to something more helpful. So when we find ourselves ruminating on the past and trying to wish away what has already happened or when we find ourselves fantasizing (or worrying) endlessly about something that may happen in the future at the expense of enjoying our present experience, perhaps we can take that opportunity to STOP, BREATHE, and NOTICE the present. I mean really notice the present. Perhaps looking closely at the face of the person your with, examining a cloud or a tree outside your window, enjoying the taste of the food in your mouth, smiling at the song on the radio, or getting yourself to focus on just about anything concrete that can bring you back into the goodness of the moment your in. Obviously, sometimes it’s harder than others. Sometimes the circumstances really stink. But I gotta tell you there’s always something, no matter how small that can ground you back into the goodness of the present, if you choose to look for it. Even if the happiness you find is fleeting and lasts only for a moment, at least you had the experience of it and know that you can create that for yourself…life is only made up of moments anyhow.

So, why bother? Why go to all of this effort? Because, when you are focused on the present, you can fully engage in your life. You can feel in charge of the decisions that you are making. And ultimately, going back to the quote that started this whole post, you can be happy in the moment. Bottom line…you have a choice. Your experience of the present will be what you make it…so make it something good for your own sake why don’t ya?

Thoughts, anyone?

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

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