Learn How To Stress Less

Motivational speaker Debbie Mandel

April 7, 2003

By Amy Shatzkin

Why is it hard to be happy? How is it that anger and anxiety come so easily?

In these tense times shaped by war abroad and the threat of terrorism at home, author and motivational speaker Debbie Mandel eagerly helps Brooklynites answer these difficult life questions and learn strategies for living well with less stress. 

According to Mandel, the author of “Turn on Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,” it’s simple — while you can’t control what happens to you, you can control your perception.

Mandel, a certified personal trainer and Long Island resident, teaches stress-reduction and mind-body wellness workshops for children and adults in local schools, synagogues, and community centers. She has also led weekly seminars for the staff and faculty of Brooklyn College since January 2002 and finds that participants want “to learn how to live in the moment, because that’s really the way to be happy.

“People are hungry for ways to shed personal anger and to make room for joy in their lives,” said Mandel, who claims that her approach doesn’t teach new techniques, but reminds people how to tune into what they already know. 

She helps clients handle feelings of anger and fear, as well as addiction, insomnia and psychosomatic pain. To address these problems, Mandel teaches  clients how to incorporate humor, to relinquish unrealistic expectations, to manage the clutter and distraction of the daily routine and to commit to a sensible health and fitness regime.

Although she recommends serious lifestyle changes, Mandel said she has never had a client complain that the suggestions were too dramatic or unattainable.

She also counters the idea that using humor evades or downplays serious situations. For Mandel, humor puts difficult times “into a perspective for me that takes the sting out of it, so that I can face it. Because if it is so painful I’m going to bury it, I’m going to block it out.”

“Objectifying my pain makes me able to look at it more clinically. If I’m able to do that, I can say, let me deal with it,” she said. “Instead of spending time worrying, I can find the solution.”

Ultimately, Mandel finds that humor does not undermine sadness or grief, but enables people to “see that there’s a little light out there.”

Mandel also thinks the use of humor also helps people understand how to let go of their ego — another key element to letting go of stress.

“Everyone complains about people ‘doing’ things to me. He cut me off. He did it to me.’ Take your ego out of it. ‘He’ doesn’t even know you. ‘He’ didn’t even see you,  Mandel said.  

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Mandel attributes her unique perspective to the lessons of her childhood.

“There was a lot of joy in my house although I came from this dark back drop, which was very unusual. We laughed a lot.”

She also thinks that, “like many second-generation survivors, it’s very important to me to put back a spark of goodness in the world. I think my parents spiritually gave me that legacy and also the strength and immense belief in myself . . .. and that’s been everything for me.”

For Mandel, the reward for choosing to “see heaven on Earth and living for the moment,” is being satisfied that she is living her “true life.”

“Leading your true life, is doing what you think you were meant to be doing, it means being passionate about what you do and being true to yourself.” 

Knowing she’s on the right path allows her to “really find joy and appreciate little things and in those moments, why should be angry? . . . most importantly, I never take myself that seriously.


Debbie Mandel  provides seven steps to help you steer through these tough times.

According to Mandel, the first key is to remember that while you may not be able to control what’s happening, you can control your perception of the world around you. To help you accomplish this, learn how to:


1. Cultivate a sense of humor.

When you’re faced with a difficult situation, objectify it and give it a witty interpretation. Imagine how the event would play out if it were a comedic sitcom and you were the main character. 

For example, if a fear of terrorism makes your morning commute stressful, pretend that your subway ride is a skit on Saturday Night Live and that everyone, including yourself, is a character on the show. 


2. Live in the here and now.

Be in the moment to experience life fully and joyously, because you might only have a moment. Don’t think about the past or the future, but  do whatever you are doing with focus.

If you’re in school, concentrate on your homework. If you’re cleaning the house, wash the floor and don’t think about anything else. If you’re on the subway, make getting to your destination the task at hand. It’s a blessing to clear your mind.


3. Know your limitations and embrace and develop your capabilities.

Admit that you are afraid and that is the liability you must overcome.

If getting on the subway is a difficult task, face your fear.

Imagine the journey as an athletic competition where you will come out ahead.

Visualize the positive outcome of your trip — literally the light at the end of the tunnel. You can also practice on short rides to acclimate and desensitize yourself while working on improving your positive thinking.


4. Let go of unrealistic expectations.

Don’t compare yourself to what you once were, or hold on to what you once had. Move forward.

Be realistic - you can make yourself unhappy with unrealistic expectations. Make your goals small victories. In terms of the war with Iraq, I’m going to be prepared emotionally. I know it won’t be over as quickly as I would like, so I’m grateful for every little victory and step forward.


5. Speak your mind.

Try not to bottle up your feelings and emotions. Don’t keep everything inside until you burst. Talk, write, sing it out - whatever it takes.


6. Clean out the clutter.

Get rid of the distractions in your life. Prioritize your schedule and make sure you have time for the things most important to you. Take things one thing at a time and decide what responsibilities can fall by the wayside.


7. Commit to health and fitness.

Eating right and exercising helps balance your body and mind so that you can concentrate on the important things in your life.

Everyone can take out 5 to 10 minutes a day to exercise. Use the stairs, park your car farther from your destination, do leg lifts while waiting in line. All of those minutes can add up to a 40-minute work out.

Stay away from processed foods, alcohol and sugar. All of these substances over stimulate the body and sap your energy.

For more tips visit: www:turnonyourinnerlight.com