depression

Three Ways to Macguyver Your Dad Brain

As a father, you are faced with responsibilities every day: figuring out how you will divide your time between family and career, parenting, completing your “honey-do” list or other household tasks, or maybe you are training for a marathon or triathlon or are trying to lose weight. Balancing these responsibilities can be like having to juggle flaming torches with a blindfold while walking across a tightrope. At times, it might feel like it wouldn’t take much for it all to come crashing down. Even Macguyver could find it difficult to figure this out. When these things are unbalanced, it can be difficult to experience joy and satisfaction. It can seem that as a father, it is a requirement to perform a balancing act between what you need to do, what others ask you to do, and what you want to do.

The result? Less enjoyment and satisfaction in your life - You stay up late to get more work done, skip lunch in order to make that extra run to the store, show up late to work because you forgot your briefcase. Maybe its none of those, and instead simply high levels of strain and stress, which can impact other areas of your life (i.e. decreased libido). The myth that you need to be a super-dad in order to be a good dad, I think, can weigh on any father; you may find yourself toiling through the week to get everything done, and as Macguyver was often forced to do, solve a complex problem using only a few tools. So, dads before you brew another pot of coffee to help you stay up later tonight, here are three things you can do to help Macguyver your brain to experience more enjoyment.

Sidebar: Did you know that in the pilot episode, Macguyver not only short circuits a missile using a paperclip, but he also makes a rocket thruster out of a flare, uses a fire hose to move a large steal beam, and relays a message, using Morse code, through a facilities’ lighting system, to send a warning signal to stop a missile. All in a days work.

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1. Drop the all-or-nothing thinking. This approach can cause you to see extremes, rather than the middle ground.

It can be a father’s nightmare to have no progress, whether on a project at home or work, or even in your own exercise plan. Consider this as the example: you wanted to get a workout in, but your child woke up from his/her nap early. You might get moody and frustrated since you were looking forward to your workout. Your partner and kid(s) notice, and an argument ensues. In this case, all-or-nothing thinking might include a thought of, “if I miss this workout, my training will be a bust,” or, “I have to get this training session in, otherwise I’m going to gain weight.” This type of thinking leads you to the conclusion that you’re stuck and that you will be less prepared for your next workout or competition.

First off, not true. Second, what good does it do you to focus on the supposed outcome, when you aren’t even there yet? You aren’t laying the foundation to a new home, because sure, a delay there could cause a big backup in future work. In this sense, allowing yourself to be stuck in an all-or-nothing thought pattern can definitely cause a decrease in immediate enjoyment. Staying up late to get that workout in may not be the best thing for you, your weight, or your training. Instead, focus on those things within your control and think about how acting in those areas can benefit you.

2. Don’t jump to conclusions. You might remember the 1988 movie, Big, starring a young Tom Hanks. Central to the movie was Zoltar, the magical wishing machine, to which Tom Hanks’ character makes a wish that ultimately comes true. This machine is similar to a fortune telling machine, which can, you guessed it, predict the future. Now…sorry to burst your bubble, dads, you can’t tell the future, try as you might.

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Here’s an example. Its been a busy day at work, and all you want is some intimate time with your partner. You get home, your house is a mess, the kids need baths, and you hear your partner yelling about how the youngest painted your walls with mud. You say to yourself, there is no way this is happening. Your heart sinks, as does your libido; both are replaced with frustration and irritability as you just know that what you played out in your imagination will not happen. This style of thinking, fortune telling, can lead us to predict that all the mess, the kids and the fresh mud paint will inhibit any and all sexual intimacy. By putting an end to the fortune telling, you can cut down on the frustration and irritability that arises from our negative expectations, and you can exist in the present, one which may or may not lead to the sumthin-sumthin.

3. Do…separate your opinion from fact. As a father, what do you consider your job to be? Is it to guide and lead your family? To set good examples for your children? In both of these, or any role you might have as a father, the potential for you to mix, or mistake, fact with opinion is there. By the way, the answers to those two examples are facts.

For example, you may think to yourself that in order to be the best dad, “I need to get in my daily workout,” or as a father, “I deserve to be catered to by my spouse/partner.” Both of these statements are opinions. No, you don’t always need to get in a workout, and you certainly don’t need to be catered to by your spouse/partner. However, separating the two can be challenging. Maybe you want or would like those things, but they will not make you a better or more complete dad. But, if you hold to them as though they are fact, and they don’t come true, how do you think you will feel? Here’s another one, “my kids require my attention when they are talking to me.” That is a fact. Your children require your attention. That means getting rid of the phone or tablet, and spending that one-to-one time. No opinions there.

Here’s an exercise that can help to Macguyver out of the unrealistic standards or beliefs created by the mix-up of statement and fact: create a list of statements you believe about yourself, or bonafide experiences, (e.g. I am bad, Others must cater to me, I yelled when I got angry) and label them as fact or opinion. Doing this can help us to distinguish between the two when they happen in our own thinking, which can help you to experience greater satisfaction and enjoyment in your life.

Have any other ideas? Feel free to comment below about what has helped you.

Thank you for reading,

Dr. Alex

Please note, by reading this or replying you acknowledge that this does not constitute a therapeutic relationship or agreement to receive treatment. None of the content provided replaces a therapeutic relationship.

Mindfulness, a primer

There is a lot of buzz today about mindfulness. You may hear about it in the media, and if you’re connected with a therapist or PCP, you may even have heard about it from them. A quick google search for the keyword “mindfulness” returned 213,000,000 results, far more than the 108,000,000 for CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and many more than the 23,900,000 for the term DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), from which the therapeutic use of mindfulness has grown. Mindfulness, in essence, is the state of being in the present. Not the future. Not the past. The here and now. When you are mindful, you are focusing you attention to the present. A fun way to approach mindfulness is adopting a curious perspective, examining the present as though it is something entirely new and unique. More on this later.

We are finding that you can receive a lot of benefit from practicing mindfulness. Research has linked mindfulness to an increased ability to manage stress, better work-life balance, and benefits to mental and physical health. Recent research has also shown a connection between mindfulness practices in the workplace and improvements in attention and focus, with some benefits proposed for more short and longer-term use or practice. Further, a large analysis of current research literature indicates that mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) can be effective when used to treat anxiety and depression, and really do support the use of MBT in therapy. It is important to note, that in comparison to other treatment methods, MBT still has a way to go. More research is needed to further validate it; this is happening, and the potential outcomes are promising.

I use mindfulness as a part of my practice, and many have reported finding it helpful to deal with their symptoms coming from anxiety and depression. However, it is not an easy practice, and many have also reported that it can be difficult to engage in. It is also not a panacea, and just like most things, won’t “cure” your problems immediately. When used in the course of therapy, mindfulness practices can become a powerful tool in your toolbox. Working together with a therapist, you might find ways that MBT can be helpful. Dr. Ashley will be creating some videos on mindfulness, which you might also find helpful in deciding whether you would benefit from scheduling an appointment with us.