Problem Solving Articles

When Injury Disrupts Exercise: Five Ways to Reduce Stress

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

sneakersThere is considerable evidence that exercise benefits our mental health. Research suggests that in addition to improving memory, lifting mood, moderating depression, and reducing attention fatigue, exercise is a significant stress reducer.

Whether you are a varsity player, a daily walker, a gym rat or an avid golfer, it is likely that the exercise you do helps you psychologically as well as physically. What happens when you get injured?

In most cases physical injury happens in the two minutes we never see coming.  It is physically and psychologically disruptive because it not only involves physical pain and concern about intervention and recovery; it reminds us of the unpredictability of life, and the reality of our vulnerability. For athletes, as well as those determined to exercise, it is a loss that insults our sense of self as well as our sense of mastery.

 “ I can’t be injured, we are in the semi-finals. I have to play!”

 “ I just got the motivation and the routine going and now I break my ankle?”

 “ What will I do if I can’t golf?”

  • If you have ever been taken off the court or out of your usual routine by injury, it is likely you have felt the constraints of a Catch 22.
  • At a time when you are feeling more pain and stress than usual, the one thing you can’t do is use your usual stress reducer–Exercise will make matters worse!

How Do You Proceed?

No matter what anyone says in the first hours, days or week of an injury, it won’t feel right.

“ So You Won’t Run Anymore- You will Do Something Else!” 

“ Don’t Worry—You will be back.”

It is difficult to suddenly adjust to the loss of something that has added value to your life and it is also difficult to suddenly believe you will be ok, when you don’t feel ok. But it does get better…

What seems impossible starts to become possible when you realize there are many ways to reduce stress if you are able to focus on healing, open options, risk possibilities, and draw upon your resiliencies.

Five Ways To Reduce Stress

Become …


A Simple Step to Improve Healthy Eating: Recognize the Roadblocks

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

hamburgerIt is difficult to have a healthy relationship with food in this culture. We are invited to consume food of every kind by every media source on a 24-hour basis. The sale of cookbooks and gourmet items has sky rocketed in tandem with warnings about the health hazards of overeating and the nationwide crisis of obesity. A recent study raises the question of whether billboard Ads make people fat!

Many of us try to “ eat healthy” by adhering to a list of healthy foods only to find that the list keeps changing. Even more have stories of diets tried and failed–ranging from no carbs to no meats, to grapefruits, to eating by blood type.

While most of us love food, we often hate what we do with it or what it does to us. When you add personal histories, the plot thickens and the urge to give up and stay unconscious about what we are eating increases.

A Simple Step

In reality, while the goal to healthy eating is this culture is not easy–it is not impossible. Change of any type becomes more likely when we simplify the plan and make success possible. One simple first step is to recognize the roadblocks that sabotage most people’s efforts to eat less or to eat in a more healthy way. Once informed we are a step closer to motivation and mastery.

The Roadblocks:

Convenience

  • While the causes for overeating or eating problems are complex and personal, research finds that one factor that bears on most people’s eating is convenience.
  • Be it at home, at work, on a plane or at a wedding, if it is convenient– we are more likely to eat it.
  • In A Pew Research telephone survey most people reported convenience as their reason for eating junk food.
  • Food researcher, Brian Wansink found that the farther away a candy dish was from the secretaries’ desks, the less they ate– a difference reflected in 225 extra calories a day. In the debriefing, the secretaries revealed that the longer the distance, the more time to talk themselves out of eating another piece!

 A little inconvenience can reduce …


What Presidential Campaigns Can Teach You About Your Relationship

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

campaigns and relationshipsIf you are human, in a relationship and living on this planet there will be decisions to make and problems to solve. They may be intrinsic to your circumstances, imposed upon you by outside factors, or a function of your personal needs and goals.

For most couples issues related to jobs, residence, children, socializing, religion, sex, money, in-laws and more demand decisions but often invite dissent.

If you want a clear example of the type of behavior to avoid when problem solving as a couple you have only to take a look at the presidential hopefuls.

Recognizing that they are, of course, contenders and putting aside the specifics of their platforms or the campaign engines that drive their rhetoric, they nonetheless offer a glimpse of the type of the exclusionary thinking and reactivity that erodes collaboration, jeopardizes problem solving and risks relationship success.

Dynamics to Avoid:

Consider avoiding the following as you and your partner build the platform for your life together.

  • Coming from an “all knowing position.” “ You know nothing about cars and have no experience buying them, I will choose.”
  • Blaming the partner for things outside of their control. “ Why would I want to go on another family vacation when the kids always get sick?”
  • Assuming the worst about your partner. “ I really want to socialize with the people from work but I know you will be uncomfortable.”
  • Looking only at what the partner has done wrong with respect to an issue. “ When it comes to money, you are the last person who should have anything to say. You used to have a bad credit rating.”
  • Negativity about the other in public. “ He has no idea of the kids’ schedules or what they need on a day to day basis.”
  • Coming into the problem solving with a solution. “ So I have it all figured out – we will buy a two family house with my parents.”
  • Refusing to see problem solving or decision making as a building process. “That won’t work, forget it.”
  • Seeing each other as one-dimensional. “ You are a city person. Why would you …

Grandpets: An Unexpected Love Affair

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Few would argue that this is a country involved with pets.  With 93.6 million cats, 77.5 million dogs, and a wide variety of other pets, there is an increasing appreciation of the growing trend in pet ownership, recognition of pet expenditures that outspan the rate of inflation and mounting evidence of the physical and emotional benefits in having pets.

One trend that is less noted but emerging in this “state of the pet nation” is an increasing number of grandpets – The pets of your adult children with whom you have a special bond and connection.

A closer look at situations involving grandpets suggests that the care and connection to grandpets is more than an easily dismissed event or another version of “ you do what you have to do for your kids.”  Rather it seems there is a confluence of needs faced by parents, adult children and pets for which grandpetting seems a workable solution.

For example, in this era…

  • There are some 79.6 million baby boomers on the brink of retiring, re-inventing or changing lifestyles that have the time and need to help their children.
  • There are financial insecurities that make jobs scarce, commutes longer, travel necessary and pets at risk of being left alone.
  • Close to 46% of young adults return home after college because the cost of living makes moving out impossible – they often come with more than baggage.
  •  Men and women in the military face multiple deployments – someone who loves them needs to love their pet.
  • Married couples often juggle jobs, children and long distance relationships – who do we trust with the kids and the dog?
  • One in two marriages end in divorce – who can help maintain the bond with the pet?

These are situations where having and keeping a pet in a safe and loving way can be a challenge. These are situations where the needs of a pet can be a dilemma for one family member and a way to feel needed by another. These are the situations where families who might not talk enough or might not agree on anything will agree to care for a pet.


The Benefits of a Self-Enhanced View of You: New Findings

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Do you think you have an inflated sense of self?

Do you have positive illusions about the way you compare with others, make decisions, control your circumstances?

While this enhanced self-perception may not, particularly in the extreme, cause you to win friends and influence people – it may actually serve you well in buffering stress and coping with adversity.

A recent study by Gupta and Bonanno gathered longitudinal data to examine the relationship between self-enhancement and adjustment of college students to potentially traumatic events over their four years. It is the only study to date using on-going reactions instead of post trauma retrospective reports.


Is Your Pet The Emotional “Third” in Your Relationship?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Is Your Pet The Emotional Third in Your Relationship?Katie and Rob, a couple in a second marriage for both, never planned to have a pet. They cautiously agreed to take Penny, a little terrier, when a relative became sick. Of course, they fell in love with her. When I asked them how Penny had impacted their relationship, their answer surprised me.

“Penny is our peacemaker. Before Penny we would stonewall each other and not speak for days after an argument.  It is funny what happens now – after an argument one of us will start talking about Penny to the other to break the ice. We never planned it – we just do it and it works.

The concept of the “Third” comes from relational psychology, specifically the work of psychologist, Lewis Aron who drew upon Jessica Benjamin’s work and applied the concept to couples. Aron offered the conceptualization of the see-saw. He considered that often two partners are stuck at opposite ends, moving up and down in terms of their own perspective, needs or opinions, but actually going nowhere and locked into a pattern that can’t bring them together.

In terms of couple’s therapy, Aron identified the therapist as the “third” to open the space. A closer look at partners and their pets invites us to consider that in an unexpected and uncanny way – pets also serve in that role.


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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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