In Defense of Relentless Problem-Solving

In Defense of Relentless Problem-Solving

By: Loren Lomme, MA, LPC, RPT

“Deal with it.” This is probably not an unfamiliar phrase to you, and with summer break beginning, you may find these very words coming out of your mouth in response to your kids’ complaints of boredom, sibling issues, and what often feels like incessant demands. I heard it often as a child, I hear other parents say it, and I’ll admit I’ve said it to my own kiddo. Parents tell me that “in the real world” or “when kids grow up” they’ll have to learn to deal with things they can’t control, so why not start now? While I don’t disagree that learning to deal with adversity is most definitely a crucial life and survival skill, I’d like to offer a rebuttal to why telling our kids to “just deal with it” may not be fostering the resilience, compliance, or self-sufficiency that you are hoping for. I would like to provide some insight into the benefits of a different approach – fostering problem-solving.

Parents ask pretty often, “Why can’t my child be expected to deal with this or that and suck it up like I did as a kid?” The first problem with “just deal with it” or “figure it out on your own” is that it conveys no sense of empathy or validation that your child is experiencing distress, no matter how mild it may seem to you. Besides missing out on an opportunity to connect emotionally with your child, you’re communicating that they’re on their own with their problems. Instead, try offering encouragement or reflecting to them that you’re trying to understand their experience. “This sounds tough” or “I can tell how upset/stressed/etc you are. Do you have any ideas yet for dealing with this?” or “I remember something similar happening last week. Do you remember what helped?” The goal is to let your child know that you see and hear them and to get the wheels in their head turning so that they know what options exist. A co-worker and friend once told me that options are the opposite of hopelessness, and in a world where hopelessness fuels anxiety and depression, acknowledging options can provide much-needed relief, even in situations that may seem trivial to you.

Many parents want to foster their children’s independence, accountability, and tolerance for things like boredom and being told no, which is understandable as we live in a society that values these traits. We sometimes struggle with the idea that by not letting our kids “deal with it,” we will be fixing their problems for them and hence hindering the development of the traits mentioned above. While there are definitely issues that kids should at least attempt to work through on their own first, the reality is that kids are not yet developmentally armed with all the tools they need to handle many situations completely independently. The expectation that they “just deal with it” leaves them abandoned and unsupported with insufficient means for self-management. As Dr. Dan Siegel discusses, the “upstairs brain” is under construction during childhood and adolescence. Since this is the part of the brain responsible for thinking, problem-solving, and emotion regulation, we can’t count on our kids to be masters at figuring everything out on their own. While our goal is not to rescue or remove them from difficult decisions and situations, we should work diligently to help develop their upstairs brain skills through engaging them with problem-solving questions, alternatives, compromises, and connection strategies. By actively helping our kids learn and come up with ways to deal with boredom, not getting their way, or problems with friends or siblings, we are building their capacity for independence, accountability, self-efficacy, resilience, and improved decision-making. Another way to engage the upstairs brain is through physical activity. Try getting your child to move their body, and he’ll gain better access to the problem-solving and creative capacities of his upstairs brain.

The third problem with “just deal with it” is the possibility that kids will deal with problems in ways that are unhealthy or unsafe, or they may shut down – deciding to not deal with issues at all. Our job as parents is to shape attitudes and behaviors that help kids grow into kind, cooperative, compassionate adults who can effectively communicate and compromise to identify their needs and get them met appropriately. This is where relentless problem-solving teaches these skills and fosters empathy, confidence, and effective relational skills. The goal may not always be to fix a problem, but instead to problem-solve about how to cope with it. This could take the form of empathy and emotional support, or it may look like modeling through your own behaviors how to deal with problems. It could be that you help your child talk through the problem, the choices available, and the decision making process while helping them manage any emotions that come up along the way. Use these situations as opportunities to exercise and integrate the upstairs brain with the downstairs brain and the body. Not only will your child thrive but so will their relationship with you and others. Think of problem-solving as a chance to be creative in your parenting and know that you are strengthening a skill that your child will be able to use throughout their lives.

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How EMDR Works

How EMDR Works

In 2013, I was certified in EMDR therapy. I found that using conventional talk therapies were helpful, but some clients found that while they understood logically what they needed to do, sometimes they just couldn’t get themselves to do it. It was like the emotional right-side of their brains didn’t talk to their logical left-side. It turns out, this is true! Studies have shown that the right-side of our brains understand symbols, images, smells and sounds, but doesn’t understand the language of our rational left-side.I know this from personal experience. I know about nutrition and the importance of eating healthy, yet there are times when my pleasure center wants candy or french fries! EMDR helps the two sides of the brain talk to one another.

What is EMDR and how does it work? Here are some answers that I think help to explain it.

What is EMDR?   Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a technique for processing past painful experiences and traumas so they may be integrated more adaptively and not cause the same level of emotional reaction.

Why does it work?

The way memory is stored in the brain is seen as the underlying basis of mental health problems because it is the basis of perception, attitude, and behavior. If unpleasant memories get stuck in the nervous system, they can cause distress. We all experience traumatic events in our lives and many times they resolve naturally so the memory is no longer troubling. However, sometimes, the trauma does not resolve itself. EMDR processes this disturbance to an adaptive resolution. The process approaches all material in the past (memory), the present (it’s effects on you today), and the future.

What will it be like?

The therapist will guide you through the EMDR process, which includes information gathering, defining the issues to be worked on, bilateral stimulation and feedback.

The bilateral stimulation is either bilateral movement of the eyes from side to side, physical movement from one hand to the other, or audio from one ear to the other, to activate neurological processing. In a session, this happens when the client follows the therapist’s fingers back and forth, holds tappers that vibrate from one hand to the other or wears a headset that beeps in one ear and then the other. Although the traditional way to work with EMDR is using eye movements, it has been shown that the different methods of bilateral stimulation are equally valid. You and your therapist will find the most effective way for you.

As you use bilateral stimulation to work through the problematic information and digest the old events: pictures, sensations, or emotions may arise. Your job is to notice them, just let them happen. Imagine that you are on a train and the scenery is passing by. Notice the landscape without trying to grab hold of it or make it significant.

How long does it take?

EMDR has proven to be an extremely efficient method of processing traumas, big and small. However, each person is unique and therefore the lengths of time will vary greatly. Most reports find EMDR to be faster than other methods of “trauma” resolution. This has been my experience as well.

Example:

I worked with a woman who was in a car accident. She was understandably very shaken up after the accident which happened in broad daylight. A huge truck came into her lane so she swerved and hit the guardrail going 65 miles per hour. Her car was totaled and she was in complete shock. She remembered vividly the sound of the car hitting the rail and the ambulance ride to the hospital. When she came to see me, she was experiencing nightmares and flashbacks whenever she tried to drive further than around the block from her house. It was impacting her life in every way possible. In our sessions, while getting some history of other traumatic events, she learned some tools she could use when not in session if disturbing memories emerged. We then set up the target of the accident to work on using EMDR. We worked together for three months on a weekly basis. Each time she came in, I would ask her to rate how much the memory of the accident bothered her on a scale from 0-10, 10 being the worst. Over the course of treatment, the level went down to a 0 and although the thought of the accident was still of course upsetting, it didn’t have the same emotional charge that it had when we began.  

Who is it best for?

In my training when I experienced EMDR, I found that it helped my thoughts and the connections of those thoughts happen much faster. It also surprised me how well it works to improve processing of memories and experiences. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or PTSD, EMDR might be a helpful type of therapy for you.

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Tips to Stress Less

Tips to Stress Less

We recently completed our YouTube series on How to Manage Stress. After finishing the series, we wanted to follow it up with some practical takeaways for your action plan.

Stress, what can you do about it:

  • Pay attention to it – say something to your partner or someone around you about it. Expressing the stress can help it to lose its power.
  • Internal check-in – scan from the top of your head through your body (go part by part). Start at the top of your head and scan all the way down and focus on how things feel – if there is tension, and try to relax these parts to alleviate muscle tension.
  • Take 5 minutes and utilize progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Notice when the stress builds and wanes during the day. Keep track of this as it will help you to understand it and make necessary changes.
  • Take a minute to reset for 1-5 minutes: meditate, jumping jacks, squats, push up against the wall (engage large muscles).

Apps that can help:

  • Headspace – meditation programs that teach you to do progressive relaxation.
  • Calm & Brain.FM – both have music that is curated binaural beats. This helps you to relax and focus.
  • Insight timer – even as little as 60 seconds can help – diaphragmatic breathing.
  • CBT-i Coach – sleep app developed by the military for those with sleep difficulties.

Sleep:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene.
  • Try not having your cell phone next to the bed (unless there is a safety concern).
  • Taking a hot shower 90 minutes before bed.
  • Read a book before bed.
  • Going to bed or getting in bed at the same time every night (if possible).

Exercise:

Diet:

  • Eat/Snack/Drink water every 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Talk with a dietician and make a meal plan that works for you
  • HANGRY – Hunger can make you more likely to get angry — and yes, hangry is a real word.

What also helps:

  • Having clear goals
  • Empathetic care team (doctor, therapist, coach, dietician, etc)
  • Vocalizing your goals to those close to you
  • Keeping goals simple and focus on what you think is the easiest to start with.
  • Having a peer support partner

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Moving In Together Do's and Don'ts

Moving In Together Do’s and Don’ts

Living Together for the First Time: Moving In Together Do’s and Don’ts

You’ve met, taken the time to get to know each other, fallen deeply in love, and now you’re taking the next step….moving in together! Chances are you’ve spent time in each other’s separate spaces, but if you have never lived in the same home, there may be a few things to talk about before you move in together.  For an idea of where to start, take a look at these do’s and don’ts of moving in for the first time.

 

When it comes to finances….

Don’t be afraid to talk budget with your partner.

It can be a tough conversation, but there may be some things you just can’t afford at the moment. Creating a budget can help to divide costs accordingly between you and your partner. If one of you is in a better financial position than the other, it’s important to be honest with your partner, and discuss what part of the budget each of you can tackle, based on your individual income. If you take on more than you can handle, finances can be pulled thin, and you will only bring more stress on yourself and your relationship.

Do keep yourself organized.

When you are searching the web for places to live, keep an organized list or spreadsheet with all your expenses. This will keep all your information stored in one place and allow you to compare the costs before making your decision. It will also, help you remember which questions to ask each realtor as you are moving in. This will also, help you and your partner be transparent about finances and bills. The more organized you are, the more confident you will feel in your decision when you make it!

 

When it comes to the furnishings….

Don’t assume your partner doesn’t care about decor.

Once you’ve made your decision on a place to live, the next thing you’ll have to do is pick out your furniture and decor. This is an exciting step, and you’ll want to start pinning photos to your Pinterest boards right away. But, before you design your new space with only your style in mind, have a conversation about the colors or design themes that appeal to both you and your partner.. Be sure to not just assume that your partner won’t care (even about something as small as a shower curtain), because you could end up making a decision that maybe they wanted their input on. So be sure to share those Pinterest boards and ideas to make sure your space conveys both your tastes in style.

Do take the time to pick out your furniture together.

A sure-fire way to remain on the same page as you decorate your apartment is to look for the big pieces together! With larger decor pieces being an investment, it’s important to take your time and pick out something you both love. You’ll both be enjoying meals around the same kitchen table and lounging on the same living room pieces, so you both should have a say in what goes into your space. You might even learn something new about the person that you didn’t before. Maybe you both like reclaimed dining room furniture, and you may not have known that if you had shopped separately.  It can be a really great bonding experience as well, for you and your partner!

 

When it comes to the chores….

Don’t get upset every time something is out of place.

Patience will be a huge part of moving in together, and there are bound to be frustrations that you have after moving in that you may have never noticed before. It’s a huge learning experience when sharing a space with someone for the first time, so be sure to be honest about what some of your pet peeves might be. When there is a  pile of dirty dishes in the sink or laundry on the floor, don’t fret, and just have a conversation with your partner about dividing up the chores to make sure you both feel comfortable in your space… Don’t let frustrations build up, and cut each other a little slack when necessary. It’s a new experience for both of you, and it will take time to adjust to each other’s lifestyles.

Do talk about expectations.

Prior to moving in, you should discuss what the expectations are for cleanliness, organization, and have guests over. You may not consider your significant other to be your roommate, but you should still discuss some pain points that may come up, and set a few ground rules. Now that you are living with your partner, you will no longer have your own space, so it will be important to talk about the expectations of your shared home. It’s also, important to address moments of alone time, and maybe pick a spot for each of you to have a place to unwind by yourselves, and allow for each other to make this little nook their own. It’s okay to not be together 24/7, and it can be healthy for your relationship to have a little time to yourselves.

For more tips, see our related articles like “Tips to Make Moving Easier” and “The Secret to Maintaining Sexual Desire.”

Photo by Brooke Winters on Unsplash