Managing Your Mind
3975 Waldenwood • Ann Arbor, MI 48105 • tel/fax (734)761-6498 •
Geraldine A. Markel, Ph.D. •
Geri Markel
Managing Your Mind Newsletter
March 2008

Welcome to the Managing Your Mind Newsletter, where you can find information and strategies to help you manage your mind and enhance your work, life, and/or school performance.

Feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Previous issues are archived in our Newsletter Archive. Sample checklists and diagrams are archived there under The Geri Checklists.

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You'll find the following sections in this issue:



Author Sheila Feigelson Reviews Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Reduce Stress

"Geri Markel has given us all a real gift through her book, Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress. She describes the 8 little demons that can cause some really big problems in our lives. She provides a framework for understanding why I do 'dumb' things, such as accidentally leaving my purse at the cleaners, driving right past the entrance to the shopping center that I know very well, or ending up at the computer for two hours when I had really meant to be there for only five minutes. Geri helps me get past self-blame to the heart of the problem, which is distraction - in my case, the Fatigue Demon or the Unruly Mind Demon. Then I'm able to take action: 'Darn, those little demons are getting to me; guess I'll have to take a nap or set a timer to make sure I don't stay longer than I intended.' I love being able to 'name that Demon' and then do something about it. Geri's book offers simple techniques to deal with the distractions and to feel in control."

Sheila Feigelson, National Speakers Association member and author of Energize Your Meetings with Laughter

  • A speaker, facilitator and consultant for over 20 years, Sheila brings a background in teaching, training, and leading meetings to her specialty, the positive power of humor. Contact her at (734) 662-1996 or


"It Worked For Me"

Harriet's Story: "Recently, my husband had a health crisis and spent two weeks in the hospital. While he was away, our beloved cat also became ill and had to be euthanized. Between traumatic visits to the hospital and veterinary office, I felt completely overwhelmed by all of the household responsibilities that I was left to take care of by myself. I knew I had to accomplish things but my mind was full of worry and sadness. I decided to use some coping strategies described in Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress. I broke down tasks into fifteen minute segments, such as getting the kitchen counters wiped down or cycling a load of laundry. Then I allowed myself an equal chunk of time to either distract myself from the stress (like watching TV) or to actually address it in a 'worry break.' In that way, I was able to get at least some things done and I didn't sit and wallow in my stress all day long." Harriet was smart to recognize that stress was going to have an effect on her, and to work with it instead of against it. When the Illness/Medication, Stress, or other Demons gang up on you, you may need to adjust your expectations about how much you can realistically accomplish.


Goofs and Glitches

Like everyone else, highly trained professionals can experience momentary distractions. For the physician or dentist, however, the results may be far from humorous; they can have painful, costly, or even dire consequences. News reports of medical mistakes make us shudder and wonder, "How could that happen?" Ann provides a glimpse into one such scenario: she is at the dentist's office, reclined in the chair with a paper bib around her neck, nervously waiting for a cracked tooth to be drilled out and repaired. She is scanning a wall full of diplomas, credentials, and awards when her dentist breezes into the room. With a hasty greeting, Dr. D briskly grabs the topical anesthetic swabs and begins to paint pre-injection numbing solution all over the left side of Ann's mouth. She is puzzled, because the sore tooth is on the right side of her mouth. She hesitates to question someone of his stature, but just as he reaches for the enormous needle, she says, "You're numbing that side?" "Yeah," he replies, in a brusque tone. "But I thought it was the other side," Ann persists meekly. Impatiently, he picks up the X-ray, looks at it, sets down the needle and grabs more anesthetic swabs. As he swabs the right side of her mouth, he admits grudgingly, "The patient right before you had a cracked tooth on the left side. I read your X-ray backwards because I thought you had the same condition." The moral of the story? A fistful of degrees is no guarantee against the Demons of Distraction. Never be afraid to question medical professionals or ask for clarification of your treatment!

Let's laugh together about our experiences. If you have one to share, send it to


Strategies for Success:

Newsletter readers really responded to our February item about the importance of adequate sleep for children. Now it's time to remind adults: sleep deprivation can negatively affect you in ways that you don't expect. Not only does it hamper your performance on the job and at home, it intensifies feelings of stress and dissatisfaction with your daily life. Consider Tips #70 and #71 from Geri's booklet, Defeating the Demons of Distraction: 111 Ways To Increase Work/Life Performance and Decrease Stress: be alert to the Fatigue Demon sapping the energy needed to focus, use memory skills, sustain effort, and maintain positive relationships. Imagine a see-saw. Fatigue sits on one side and factors like attention, memory and patience sit on the other. The other functions go down as the fatigue side goes up. Ask yourself to what degree fatigue is getting in your way when you are spinning your wheels, making mistakes, having minor mishaps, and noticing difficulty in paying attention. Check out Geri's Books and Products to learn about specific strategies to get the 7-8 hours most adults need for optimal function.


Student/Parent Corner

Are you a college student whose GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, or other standardized test scores are getting in the way of your dreams for an advanced degree? Geri just received great news from an aspiring medical student who increased her MCAT scores over 8 points, from a questionable range to a solid slate of scores in all areas. Like many students, this young woman was upset and puzzled about her initial results on this medical school admissions test. She had over a 3.4 college GPA at a competitive school, but was having increasing difficulty demonstrating her abilities on exams.

In high school and undergraduate college classes, many bright students can rely on their listening skills to absorb the information they need to get good grades. As the competition and the complexity of the material increases, however, they start to fall behind and their performance on standardized tests may be sub-optimized. They begin to question their intelligence or think, "I've been fooling everybody," which in turn flattens their aspirations and erodes their self esteem.

Although this student kept attending MCAT preparation classes and taking practice tests, her specific difficulties were not being addressed. Luckily, she discussed her situation with her academic advisor, who suggested that she work with a reading specialist to improve the speed of her reading, her reading comprehension level, and her test-taking strategies. In her case, the most helpful strategy was to examine the questions following each reading or information section before reading the passage. Doing this aroused her curiosity and cued her to the type of information she needed to look for while reading. For example, were the questions factual, technical, or inferential in nature? The type of questions asked gave her an overview of what was expected and helped focus her attention. Also, because she had a procedure to follow, she felt a greater sense of control during the test-taking experience; this in turn reduced her stress level. While every case will be different, many college students can significantly increase their scores on standardized exams by addressing their needs in the areas of reading, learning, test-taking, and stress management skills.


Featured Resources

While the calendar inches toward spring, many areas of the country are still cloaked in snow and ice, making outdoor activities impossible for a few more long weeks. This may be a perfect time to step up your indoor exercise program. You can't control the weather, but the more you feel in control of your body, the better you'll be able to combat the lingering effects of the Winter Blues. Increasing your fitness level now will also get you prepared to take advantage of outdoor sports and hobbies. Geri has turned to certified personal trainer Andrew Phelka, who says, "Exercise (MOVING) is the number one mood booster available and it's FREE! The movement center in the brain is located right next to the higher learning and executive function part of the brain. By deciding to and actually moving, you increase blood and oxygen circulation to the parts of your brain responsible for learning and mood! Your body is DESIGNED to MOVE and doesn't work properly unless you do!" With degrees in Biochemistry (BS) and Nutritional Science (MS) from the University of Michigan, Andrew has a passion for a results-based, scientific approach to exercise, flexibility, and nutrition. Contact him for more information through his website, at or (734) 417-1140.

Dr. Phelka



  • Attention! The second edition of Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress has now been published by iUniverse. New price, $15.95! Copies can be ordered from the publisher's website,, from, and from Books can be special-ordered at Borders and Barnes & Noble, and are on the shelf in Ann Arbor at Nicola's Books. Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction can be purchased in e-book format from iUniverse or as a download through
  • Hey, it's March - do you even remember what those New Year's resolutions were? It's never too late to get started on improving your life! The tips and strategies to help you stay on track are available in several handy formats: paperback, pocket-sized deck of cards, and 16-page concise booklet. Check out all of the "Defeating the Demons of Distraction" products.
Defeating the Demons of Distracton Book Defeating the Demons of Distration Cards Defeating the Demons of Distraction Brochure


Upcoming Conferences

  • Geri will be speaking on "Defeating the Demons of Distraction: Increasing Productivity and Decreasing Stress" at the Ann Arbor Briarwood Rotary Club meeting on Fri., March 28, 2008, 7:15 am at Weber's Restaurant and Hotel, 3050 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor, MI. Learn how to prevent distractions from sabotaging your efforts to increase profitability. Visitors welcome: contact
  • Geri will be presenting a lecture for a University of Michigan School of Social Work course on adolescent development and behavior on March 17, 2008. Her topic is "Helping Adolescents with ADHD and/or Learning Disabilities." Aimed at social workers, counselors, psychologists, teacher trainers, parents and others in the helping professions, she will cover:
    • Profiles of adolescents who have AD/HD and learning disabilities and the ways in which many of these students may compensate for their problems during adolescence.
    • Strategies to improve reading, learning, and self-management skills in early vs. later adolescence.


Cooking: A Positive Distraction

Cooking can be a positive and creative distraction. If you are one of the many people who find that cooking is relaxing, you may enjoy the recipes that are shared each month. If you have a favorite recipe, feel free to send it in to be shared. Here's one you may enjoy.

Recipe: Sylvia's Secret Apricot Jell-O Mold

In New York, where Geri grew up, Jell-O had a single identity: it was red, it had peaches in it, and it was dessert. Those mavericks in the Midwest, however, saw quite a few potential uses for this wobbly substance! Geri's mother-in-law, Sylvia Markel, showed her the way to liven up holiday dinners using Jell-O as a salad. This apricot mold has been a favorite of family and friends for many decades.

  • 2 small packages apricot Jell-O
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Half pint sour cream
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 3 tbs. lemon juice
  • Medium (#2) can peeled apricots in juice; puree fruit and juice together
  • Jell-O mold pan
  1. Dissolve Jell-O in hot water.
  2. Add ice cream.
  3. Add pureed apricots and juice mixture.
  4. Beat half of the sour cream portion at a time into Jell-O mixture.
  5. Pour complete mixture into Jell-O mold and refrigerate for several hours until completely firm.

Consult an experienced cook or a cookbook for tips on successfully un-molding the Jell-O. Don't end up like Elaine, a young bride who flipped her creation out of the mold, only to watch it quickly ooze from the counter into the sink...

Take a photo of your creation and share your success: mail photos and comments to


Have a Happy Easter!

Feel free to forward this newsletter to someone else who might be interested.