Saturday, April 19, 2014

Couples, Families and Deployment

While deployment is often associated with hardship, danger and negative consequences, we can try to switch this frame to looking at the advantages and benefits of what deployment can bring to a family.  How it can provide a sense of strength between the couple, the support of other partners and spouses that have also been deployed before.

By leaving the household chores and responsibilities to the remaining family, it can help develop skills of independence or resentment.  This depends on how things were outlined and communicated prior to deployment.  It can help develop cohesion for the remaining family members  as well with new found interdependency as each begins to pull their own weight more.  The separation can lead to a better appreciation of one another while away, and upon returning if things are discussed frankly and openly from the start.

No matter how you look at it though, deployment requires a significant adjustment to the couple and to the family.  Some may adapt better to this than others, and that is no real measure of the stability of the relationship other than anecdotal.

Focus on accepting the things you can't control such as the mission you are assigned is one thing, but how you think about it is something you and your partner can control.  You can use positive feedback and counseling to help you cope with how you view your partner's deployment, and his or her safe return. By all means there is no need to suffer silently, talk to one another about the upcoming deployment, talk to friends, and professionals. Also this is a difficult time for you both, so cut each other some slack prior to deployment, this is difficult because you are both anxious but nonetheless, try to remember that you are BOTH NERVOUS ABOUT THE DEPLOYMENT.

Most of all make sure that you let each other know how much you care for one another prior to deployment  so that you both feel connected to one another.

As for the children, the more adjusted the parents are the more secure the children will feel.  Remember they know what is going on and they need reassurance that it is not they're fault.  Encourage Skypee email and cards where possible as a means of staying in touch. Have a family outing if there is time prior to deployment such as a picnic or a museum trip is great.  The goal is to create cohesion at home before the deployment so everyone knows their role and that they are loved and cared for.

This is by far not an exhaustive list of strategies.  These are just a few of the ones that I know can help.
For more information check with your base IRR Family Readiness Coordinator, or the local VA or Vet Center for assistance.

It is my hope that you found this helpful as well as informative.

Dr Kevin O'Brien

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Addiction and Underlying Causes Leading to Relapse

Many individuals with addictions are also facing, or not facing, the underlying issues that prevent them from fully recovering from their addictions.  Issues stemming from childhood or other periods of their life that remain unresolved.  Ego and personality problems that get in the way of accepting ones addictions and moving through the process of recovery to stabilization often threaten recovery and lead to relapse.  

It is my belief as it is the belief and that of other professionals, that until one effectively works through the root causes that contributed to ones addiction in the first place there will always be some struggle and the individual will remain at high risk of relapse.  So it is of great benefit to the individual to seek out additional help wherever possible to work through these pre-existing conditions so that they no longer function as "triggers" to relapse.  

Working through pre-existing conditions is certainly not easy and the steps of the AA program are a good outline to help individuals begin to identify them.  This is especially true of "Step 4: where the individual takes a personal inventory of their character defects, or short comings."   This is where one can identify underlying issues that may or may not need additional attention. It is only a start however where the individual can begin to appreciate that s/he has more issues than just alcohol or drugs to deal with.    

It is important to address pre-existing conditions early in the recovery process because that is when one is also most vulnerable to relapse.  Although relapse can happen at any point, one has to look toward the unresolved issues, and not the drug as the cause.  The drug is the salve for the pain one is experiencing in the midst of their abstinence, nothing more. It is a merely a Band-Aid. Once the individual appreciates this fact that they used drugs or alcohol as a means to cover up and to avoid the feelings, of reality associated with their life situation.    

So if you are beginning to feel a bit shaky in your recovery, look at your 4th Step, call a professional and get to work on resolving your underlying issues before you relapse.  In other words, take charge of your life. It is the only one you have.  Be responsible for the quality of your your recovery process, and in turn how you feel about yourself.  

As always, I hope you found this helpful and informative

Dr Kevin O'Brien

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Anxiety: Understanding It and Controlling It

Anxiety is a natural response to new and unusual experiences. These experiences can be anything from the birth of a child to riding a rollercoaster to fighting in combat.  Anxiety
can be best described as a feeling of concern, fear, dread, or worry about an upcoming experience.  Some physical Symptoms of anxiety are: racing or faster heart beat; tightness in stomach or chest; insomnia, difficulty falling and or staying asleep.

We began feeling and controlling anxiety as infants learning to take our first steps as we were encouraged by our parents. Very often anxiety is caused by the anticipation of some upcoming event or experience; driving in traffic to work, or a combat mission. However, anxiety can be about past experiences as well as in PTSD.  Sometimes it is caused by memories of past events and experiences.  

As with infants, not all anxiety is bad and to be avoided.  It helps us remain aware of our surroundings and may save us in the long run.  For instance in combat situations it provides service members with the tools to assess their surroundings, and proceed cautiously, while remaining alert to the success of the mission at hand.  

As I have said anxiety itself is not a problem, but excessive anxiety can be debilitating.  A little anxiety can help motivate us and focus our attention on completing the task(s) in front of us.  Too much anxiety prevents us from taking any action at all.  

Whether it’s a new job or you are just embarking on your first semester away from home, you may find your self doubting your decision and worrying and eventually feeling anxious about it.  Maintaining a flexible attitude is a huge help in starting any new project or career path.   You will eventually gain new friends, and some momentum in your new career path, and feel more secure in your decision.  

Setting goals and mobilizing resources to control anxiety is key to your beginning to feeling back in control of your life again.  Even if the goals seem ridiculously small at first, it is necessary to set them in order to begin to demonstrate to yourself that you can regain mastery over your anxiety and it’s causality.  As needed you may also want to incorporate the assistance of psychologists, psychotherapists or other mental health providers to assist you along the way with various techniques to address your anxiety and any underlying issues you may have.  

As always, I hope you found this helpful and informative.

Dr Kevin O'Brien

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dealing with Disappointments

Often we don't get what we want, or have things turn out the way we had planned.  For instance, a job promotion, or the health of a family member can turn out differentlythan we had hoped.What do we do with disappointment?  Do we let the disappointment fester, or try to walk away with lessons learned.   It is difficult to review why we didn't get the promotion, but it is important to our long term goals. As for the health of family members that is usually out of our control.  but often there is some personal bias as to the choices we make on our family members behalf, just as the choices why one person is chosen over the another for promotion involve some personal bias on the behalf of the one hiring.  We can't forget the political strategies of our bosses for placing another ahead of us.  To what advantage does this play out for your boss in placing  that individual there instead of you.   

So analyzing our game plan post failure is just as important as a post game win. There are different endorphins fired by the brain when we win then there are when we lose.  That's  why we feel depression instead of jubilation when we lose but none the less, there is information to be gathered and new plans to be assessed.   How to work with the new boss?  Adjusting to how to work with this person you were competing with just weeks ago takes some ego-adjustment.  Are you able to do this, or is it a sign to start preparing to leave?  

Before we jump the gun, it is always best to assess our current situation within our company, and remove as much of our ego from the  equation as possible.  Objectively assessing where you stand in the company can help depersonalize the decision your boss made not to go with you.  Also depending on your relationship with and the type of boss you have a post application interview can demonstrate that you have interest in more than what you are currently doing and put you in line for something else that may come up in the future.  This is a good time to also let your boss know of your disappointment but your willingness to work with his selection.  Emphasis here on your willingness to remain a team player and continue to put your best foot forward.  

When dealing with disappointment in yourself try to understand your own circumstances as objectively as possible.  Making lists, or looking at the circumstance through the eyes of "how a close friend would support you" are two examples to help gain prospective.   Once you have a clearer perspective you will be more abt to respond less critically towards yourself. you will still wish to make corrections, but with less severity or personal harm.  

I hope you found this helpful and informative

Dr Kevin

Thursday, January 23, 2014

All Work and No Play

As I was building my career it required a lot of focus, graduate school, full time work, and a part time private practice.  Maintaining this cost a lot.  It cost a lot emotionally, because I found myself tired frequently, but maintained my work and school requirements. It cost me some friendships that I would make plans with but later find I was to busy to have dinner with and cancel or worse yet, forget to cancel.  Of course I felt bad about the social ramifications, but realized that I needed to remain focused on my goal if I was going to succeed, and hope my friends would understand.  Some did, some didn't.   

Once I finished Graduate school however, it allowed for a lot more free time to reconnect with friends and to do things that I have been putting off doing like skiing, scuba diving and other social events with friends.  Feeling free enough to play a little on my vacations was a revitalizing experience for me and it can be for you too.  

It is easy to be seduced by the busy working schedule, but finding time on those business trips to extend them a few days if possible is a great way to recharge your batteries.  Of course these extensions are usually on your own dime, but it will be money well spent for the peace of mind you get in return. The important thing here is trying to find time for yourself.  Going from project to project may look good from the outside, but at what cost is it to you on the inside.  

So plan for little breaks in your schedule to either spend time alone, or with your family before coming right back into the office, especially if you have been away for a week or more.  It will help you feel stronger, and more focused as well as coser to your family when you do get back to the office.   

As always I hope you found this helpful and informative.

All the Best,
Dr Kevin

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Self Care and the Art of Letting Go of the Need to Control

As many of you know I've been tweeting about "Self Care" and "Letting Go" for the past several weeks and recently my mother's stroke. This weeks blog post couldn't be more relevant than now for me as well as you readers now that my mother has just suffered two strokes following her surgery. It's just as important for me to follow these simple guidelines than it is for you and they apply as readily to family as they do to our work lives.

I've been blogging on this because it is such an important aspect to ones mental health, and part of ones achievement of ones goals.  Often we can get get so caught up in caring about how others perform, that we lose track of our own performance standards both at work and at home.  Trying to micro manage the subordinate you assigned a project to wastes so much unnecessary energy and keeps the focus off your own tasks.   Not to mention completely undermines any confidence or creativity the subordinate may have had in the project.  The same can be said for our spouses, and our children when we delegate chores, or homework expectations then undermine the performance of those responsibilities. We set them up to expect us to always "manage" them reducing their creativity and sense of autonomy.   

Your struggle with letting go, is nearly always associated by those around you in a negative light, and most commonly called "co-dependency." Breaking the cycle of control is not easy, but is possible. It also releases you from feelings of unnecessary responsibility for others at work and at home.   It helps you manage more consistently, showing less favoritism for select individuals; usually the friendly under performers who remind you that you are a good boss and help you feel good as long as you continue to show them favoritism.   

Although you feel better giving them a break, for lateness, etc., this behavior sets you up to be an uneven manager, that shows favoritism to a select few and creates animosity among the good performers, decreasing overall team moral.  Not dissimilar from a family system where a sibling is favored and their appears to be nothing the others can do to get the graces of the parent.  Low self-esteem and poor self image result in these children often to the oblivious parent.  

Self Care comes in play when we know our limits, and stand by them.  Stop showing favoritism because we are not responsible for "why" someone is chronically late or under performing.  Those are the responsibility of the employee.  They can either do the job they were hired to do or not, and should be managed as such. This way you become a more consistent manager, and remove your personal subjectivity out of the equation when making judgements.  At first their will be blow back, so allow for this and make adjustments with warnings. Yet remain consistent.  You will soon see a significant improvement in the morale and performance of the entire team.  

You will also feel better yourself as a result of removing the subjectivity out of the equation when dealing with subordinates and coworkers.  It is of course much more difficult when it comes to family.  So be careful here.  They will continue to expect the old behavior for a much longer period.  But again being consistent with your limits, without losing your temper or subjectivity and having patience with them as you help them and yourself become healthier is a major part to feeling better about yourself and how you are handling family matters.  

As always I hope you found this helpful and informative.

All the Best
Dr Kevin

Saturday, January 11, 2014