THANK GOODNESS FOR THE OLYMPICS

If you’re like us, you found the 2016 Summer Olympics to be nothing short of a God-send, a refreshing respite from the harsh negativity of Presidential politics. How long has it been since the political primary season began? Seems like a couple of years! At last, August came and we were down to only two candidates to insult each other, bicker like spoiled kids in the sandbox, and toss grenades with the hope of character assassination. How depressing.

But then, like a desert oasis, the Olympics descended on us, giving us a refreshing look at what really is best about humans: hard work, striving for improvement, reaching out to others, and relishing above all the intrinsic joy and satisfaction of participation, all without the guarantee of a trophy. Oh, sure, human flaws were there: PEDs, stupid indiscretions fueled by alcohol, and mind games energized by petty jealousies. But these scars paled in comparison to so many expressions of humanity at its best.

We think the juxtaposition of presidential politics and the Olympics provides a good analogy to the psychology of effective coping. You are often faced with all sorts of negativity in your life, from seemingly overwhelming stresses to feeling out of control while unpleasant events spin around you. These troubles are your political season. But you resolve to face your issues, to work hard, to empower yourself and initiate actions that bring you feelings of personal satisfaction from living a more productive life. This resolution is your Olympics.

As we note again and again, however, there are rules you must follow if your coping actions are to be successful. First of all, you must determine if you’re dealing with something you can control. Remember, there are only two things you can directly control: your thoughts and your actions. If you take on things beyond your control, you’re going to be frustrated. If you’re stressed out at work because of an overbearing boss who regularly criticizes your work, can you change the boss? Probably not. But can you take steps to improve the quality of your work? Of course. Is there a guarantee the boss will become more reasonable? No. But will you feel a greater sense of personal satisfaction? Yes.

You also need to remember that if you seek help with your life issues, whether that help is informal (friend) or professional (counselor), you must approach the help in the correct way. Consider the comments below:

“I’m so stressed out! Please help me!” This comment sounds like you’re looking for someone to wave a magic wand and magically free you of your troubles. Not good and it won’t work. You’re still in the political arena.

“I’m so stressed out! Please give me some guidance on how to take better control of my life.”  This comment suggests you’re looking for assistance in becoming more autonomous, more empowering, and better able to initiate independent actions in confronting your problems. This approach to seeking help is much more appropriate and more likely to bring you success. Welcome to the Olympics!

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