Category: Emotions

How your attitude affects your problem solving skills

When you are frustrated, upset, or angry, you cannot problem-solve very well.

Guess what part of your brain is hijacking your normally calm, cool and collected self? The friggin’ amygdala is at it again. Fight, flight, freeze or fawn stuff. Those are the only options that we see when our amygdala is activated.

July 20, 2022

Friggin’ Amygdala and the Problem-solving Process

We know that the amygdala hijacks our abilities to make good decisions and lowers our ability to problem-solve because we cannot think about our true options. What about our attitudes? I am having a little trouble explaining attitude, so bear with me here. We each have assessments or judgments about “attitude object” We use words to describe what we like or do not like. Examples include, Like, prefer, love, do not like, hate, can’t stand, etc. We make these statements in relation to ourselves. “I like _____.” “I hate ____.” Attitudes are really evaluations that we make based on what is important to us. Our experiences are different and so our attitudes may be different too.

Attitudes are shaped by feelings and emotions. And another tidbit, emotion is sometimes the driving force behind our attitudes and behaviors.

There will be some things that you feel very strongly about. There will also be things that you don’t feel strongly about.

Structure of Attitudes

Attitude’s structure can be described in terms of three components.

    • Affective component: this involves a person’s feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: “I am scared of spiders”.

    • Behavioral (or conative) component: the way the attitude we have influences on how we act or behave. For example: “I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one”.

    • Cognitive component: this involves a person’s belief/knowledge about an attitude object. For example: “I believe spiders are dangerous”.

This model is known as the ABC model of attitudes.

Does a negative attitude affect problem-solving skills?

A negative attitude towards a problem makes it worse. When you think negatively, it only magnifies and deepens the emotional weight of “said problem.” You not only see the problem as a problem, you see it as an enemy or an attack on you. You can become overwhelmed and paralyzed. You know what comes next, don’t you? The downward spiral. Which makes the attitude and the problem much worse?

I like the Fish! Philosophy and want to share a little with you.

The FISH Philosophy to help problem solve

The FISH! Philosophy doesn’t promote “correct” or “approved” attitudes over others. Every situation is unique. But it is important to mindfully Choose Your Attitude. You may not control what happens to you, but you do get to decide how you respond to it.

Making a conscious choice isn’t easy, especially when a situation hijacks your emotions and drives you to react the same way you have hundreds of times before. It takes practice to take control of your response, instead of letting it control you.

Here are four tips to help you take charge and Choose Your Attitude:

1. Be aware of your inner voice
External events may trigger your feelings, but only after they go through an internal filter called your inner voice. Your inner voice starts talking to you as soon as you wake up, issuing opinions about everything you see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

Your inner voice is rarely a neutral observer. It judges each experience through the likes and dislikes you have accumulated over a lifetime. It looks for evidence that you are right and the other person is wrong. It exaggerates how bad the situation is or imagines how it might go off track. Sometimes it puts other people down. Often it puts you down, questioning your talents and capabilities.

If you want to choose your attitude, not just react, you must challenge your inner voice. Catch it in the moment, then take a step back. Instead of just accepting what it is telling you, observe it as a neutral onlooker.

Just becoming aware that it is a voice, and what it is saying is one of several possible interpretations, helps you decide how much to believe it—and the best way to respond. 

2. What’s your goal?
To mindfully choose how you respond to what life throws at you, you need a plan. Decide who you want to “be” today. Keep your goal top of mind. Select a few words that describe your intentions, such as “patient”, “open” or “helpful”. Focus on living those qualities.

Moment-to-moment awareness is key. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What is my attitude now? Is it helping me to be as effective as I can be? Is it helping the people who depend on me?”

Think ahead: What people or situations are likely to test your attitude today? What might push your buttons? Rehearse how you will respond. Reaffirm your goal and stay focused on the response that helps you achieve it.

Consider the long-term consequences of your reactions. Say a member of your team makes a bad mistake or you have a disagreement with them. Is the momentary satisfaction of tearing into them worth damaging your relationship? Disagreements and problems come and go, but your relationships are not so easily replaced.

3. Adopt a “growth” attitude
Your attitudes are shaped by how you see others—and by how you see yourself.

People with a “fixed” attitude see their abilities as set and established. They know what they’re good at and view what they’re not good at as talents they don’t have the capacity to improve (“I could never learn that!” or “I wasn’t born with a brain for that!”).

People with a fixed mindset see tasks requiring them to step outside their comfort zones as threats. Confident in what they already excel at, they fear mistakes that might threaten their identity. They only pay attention to feedback and information that confirms their beliefs.

People with a growth mindset believe they can always improve their skills. It doesn’t mean you can do anything, like play in the NBA or be an opera star. It means you never know what more is possible for you and do not limit yourself before you try. It means seeing mistakes as a chance to learn and stretch yourself.

Studies show people with growth attitudes are more engaged and empowered. They handle change more successfully. They’re more flexible and open to seeing new solutions. In workplaces that support a growth attitude, people collaborate more and feel safe to try new approaches.

4. Challenge your assumptions
It’s natural to assume the worst about other people’s motives and capabilities, especially if we don’t agree or connect positively with them. Believing they offer little of value to us, we usually try to avoid them—which doesn’t do much for team collaboration and camaraderie.

If you have a coworker or employee you think has a bad attitude or lack of motivation, move past your assumptions. Reach out. Find out why—not with accusations but with caring questions. You may learn they are dealing with a trying situation at home or work stresses you didn’t know about. Knowing this will help you respond to them more productively.

Treat them with a little kindness and encouragement and you may see a different side of them. Learn their perspective. Find out what they do well and seek their input. People tend to respond to you based on how you treat them. If not, you have chosen an attitude you can be proud of.

Back to problem-solving.

If you don’t see a problem as a disaster, you are more likely to be calm and think about your options. Are you open to looking at the problem as an opportunity? We like opportunities. Our brains like opportunities. Our brains like to brainstorm. Finding any and all possible solutions to our dilemma. Now, not everything thing will be a winner, but the whittling down comes a little later in the process.

Improve problem-solving skills

Would you like to be a more effective problem-solver? Then invite positivity into your environment. Positive attitudes increase creativity and problem-solving skills. A positive attitude also increases productivity.

    • Some ways to create a positive attitude:

    • Write down three things you are grateful for each day (not the same 3 things, either)

    • Take breaks during your day

    • Tell a few jokes, or watch a funny animal video

    • Think about the ways to have a great morning and do them

    • Don’t spread gossip, don’t listen to gossip

    • Look forward to something outside of work

    • Practice meditation, walk, work-out

    • Have some “you time”- unwind, destress, play

    • Listen to music, watch a funny TV show, read an uplifting or funny book

    • Hang-out with positive people

    • Be open to possibilities

    • Stop the “stinking thinking”

    • Sit with your feelings and acknowledge them

    • Recharge your batteries

    • Stop complaining

    • Assume responsibility, choose your response

    • Laugh


One of the Caregiving Tolls: Negative Emotions Caregivers Feel

You may try stuffing negative emotions down, or you may just ignore them … it will work, for a while. Then watch out! They will come out and it rarely will be in a productive way. Recognize them. Acknowledge them. The emotions you are feeling are valid.

June 29, 2022

Of course, you love them and want to help them. You think that because you love them and you want to help them, everything will be okay. It won’t. Dueling emotions and feelings will arise. It usually becomes overwhelming in a few short months.

Accepting what you feel

Be healthier. Be more on top of things. Be accepting of what and how you feel. It is okay to feel resentful sometimes. It is okay to feel lonesome. It is okay to feel angry at your loved one’s frustrating behavior. You will have some thoughts and feelings that you will feel guilty over. Sadness will creep in. You will probably start grieving for them a little while after the diagnosis.

It takes a lot of energy and effort to hold in your feelings. Stifling your feelings and emotions can cause high stress, sudden angry outbursts, unhealthy life choices, problems sleeping, increased risk of depression and hopelessness.

Give yourself permission to vent

Will you give yourself permission to say what and how you are feeling? You need a trusted person that will listen to you and not judge. You do need to vent. You may also need to tell the person that you are talking with that you just need to vent. You are not looking for solutions or suggestions. This is where support groups can help, too.

Don’t feel guilty about your feelings.

That is always easier said than done. Do you have unrealistic expectations? Do you beat yourself up over negative emotions? It is okay to get mad. For example, your loved one has made a huge mess with the meal. It is at the end of the day and you are tired because it  has been a very tough day. Now, you have to clean up the mess. You have to get your loved one cleaned up and changed.

The problem isn’t that you have negative feelings

The problem is not that you have unpleasant feelings, the problems arise when you haven’t taken care of them and you hurt yourself physically or emotionally or you hurt your care receiver physically or emotionally. You don’t bottle them up and you don’t let loose in front of your loved one. What will be your safe outlet? Take care of the mess and your loved one, then find your ways to decompress.


    • Call or text with a supportive friend, family member or another caregiver

    • Go to a support group meeting

    • Cry

    • Go for a run or walk

    • Journal – let it free flow and write whatever comes up

    • Find a punching bag (a real one or a pillow) to punch, throw or scream into

    • Cleaning

    • Take a break, call in reinforcements

    • Take a hot shower or soak in a bath

    • Watch a TV show or a movie

    • Whatever is healthy and works for you

Caregiver guilt – the self-imposed “oughts’,” “shoulds,””shouldn’ts,”  and “musts.” Doing or saying what you believe is the wrong thing.

When the guilt and negative emotions rear their ugly heads

When the guilt comes, how about asking yourself what is triggering this? Perhaps an unrealistic belief about your abilities, the unrealistic “oughts,” or faults that are imagined or even unavoidable? You will feel guilty sometimes, don’t try to get rid of it, just accept it. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is hard to accept reality sometimes.

Resentment – few people admit to being or feeling resentment, but it happens quite a lot. It is part of the duality. You love them and want the best for them, but you do feel resentment. Your life got hijacked by this new responsibility. You may be feeling resentment because of feeling slighted by others. Maybe your brothers and sisters do not help? Resentment really shows up when your own life is way out of balance. Yet, another reason to take care of yourself.

Anger – being mad for reasons that are both direct (unfair criticism, a loved one that is not cooperating, too many problems that day) and indirect (you are tired from working full-time, helping your loved one, and the lack of sleep, frustration over the lack of control, disappointment,) Chronic anger and hostility has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart disease, stomach problems, headaches and low back pain.

Learn to express your anger in healthy ways when you are a family caregiver

Learn to express your anger in healthy ways. When you blow up or explode, what do you leave in your wake? Who do you hurt? Learn to self-soothe, take a time out, find a constructive way to express your anger. It will take work and practice, but it can be done and you will feel much better and so will your anger targets. Count to five. Take 10 deep breaths. Let your more rational mind catch up to your reactive reptilian mind.

Worry – Worry seems to be good intentions run amok. Our brains need something to focus on or to be engaged with. How many of you are good at ruminating? I know that I can be very good at ruminating. It does nothing but keep me stuck. It is a time waster. It is an energy deplete. It does not change anything. You can “what-if” yourself to death.

Set a timer for 5 minutes and allow worry. When the timer goes off, you then look at the possible solutions to what you have been worrying about. What will be productive? What can make a difference? Who do I need to call?

Loneliness – Caregivers are lonely. Friends step back. Co-workers step back. Some family members step back. You need your peeps. You need them to be present in your life. Go out for lunch or dinner every week or two. Have an afternoon tea and dessert. Take a couple of hours to catch up, laugh, watch a movie, exercise. If you find that your loved ones or friends have stepped back, it may be because they do not want to add to your burdens or they don’t know what to do or how to help you. Be direct and upfront with them. Tell them that you want them to ask you to do things. Tell them that you do want to go out. Tell them to text you or call you and if you can’t talk then that you will contact them later.

Grief – When someone deals with a long-term illness, the grieving process can start soon after diagnosis. Definitely, when the loved one begins to decline. Anticipatory grief is what it is called. I didn’t know it at the time, but that is what happened with  me. You are grieving that your loved one is losing their abilities to be the independent person they once were. You are grieving the loss of their abilities that will come.

Defensiveness – It is okay to bristle at some things that people say. Try not to have a knee-jerk reaction to everything that has been said. If you are having a strong reaction to what the other person is saying. Sit with it a minute and figure out why you are feeling defensive. Realize that being overly defensive makes you closed-minded. The kind of person that can’t see the forest for the trees. Most of the time, people are trying to help. Not everyone, but, most are trying to help. The only thing that I will ask you to do is to listen to the suggestion(s) and give them some thought. You get to decide what is best for you and your loved one.

Find support. Find humor where you can. We need to laugh. Even using inappropriate humor is a coping mechanism. Don’t feel guilty about laughing or finding humor in the stressful times. The absurdity of things will make you shake your head. You are not laughing at your loved one. We all know how serious these chronic health conditions are, but we also know there is stupid shit that happens too, and it is funny.

Emotional Acceptance – It has happened, you have an emotional pain. 

Try this exercise when you feel safe.

    1. Identify the emotion

    1. Close your eyes and put the emotion 5 feet in front of you (you want to look at it)

    1. Give your emotion a size, shape and color – watch it and recognize it for what it is

    1. Let that emotion return back inside of you

    1. Reflect on what you noticed. Did you notice any change in the emotion when you got some distance from it?

Will you be willing to accept and experience the negative emotion? By accepting the emotion, you are accepting the truth of your situation. You don’t have to expend your energy in trying to deny what is happening. You can focus on solutions. When you accept the emotion, you can be curious about it. Why is it arising? What is it trying to tell you? What tools in your emotional toolbox will help you navigate this emotion and diffuse it? Negative emotions are not fun, and accepting them will not kill you. If you want to lose the destructive power of negative emotions, accept and acknowledge them.

Acceptance is acknowledging the moment as it is, right now. No judgement.