Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You – December (2013)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

As always in the field of healthy psyches, pinpointing the cause of a problem leads to the answer of how to address it. The “winter blues” is common to many, many people who live in climates where the cold winter days last 3+ months.

Therapy Online: Getting through just one day stress-free is a rare occasion for many. However, by understanding those around you, in the home, the workplace, or even a personal relationship, you can overcome part of what causes that stress in the first place. Catherine Bridwell answers your questions about everyday challenges that can easily be solved through communication and the help of Identity, of course.


QUESTION: How do you combat the winter blues?

ANSWER: As always in the field of healthy psyches, pinpointing the cause of a problem leads to the answer of how to address it. The “winter blues” is common to many, many people who live in climates where the cold winter days last 3+ months. The causes include: shorter days with less sunshine (+ less vitamin D)/being cooped up inside (loss of freedom of movement)/wearing cumbersome clothing/less casual socializing/craving carbs (fast energy) and not maintaining a well balanced diet/worrisome driving conditions/gray, gloomy vistas…Any of these conditions alone or all of them for shorter periods of time could go unnoticed; but collectively and for a 12-16 weeks period they are very often oppressive.

Add to these common causes your personal life style changes in the cold months: do you see less of a positive person, cocoon yourself in front of the TV, avoid the gym (and exercise in general), change your eating habits…. ?

To combat the winter blues, figure out each cause (the general population ones and the personal ones) and consciously plan an antidote for the ones over which you have some control (you can’t determine the weather): smile at strangers and practice random acts of kindness (how about a contest among your office cohorts for the best random act of kindness?), plan socializing, exercise despite the hassle; look for humor and laugh out loud, buy lightweight insulated clothing to feel freeer …. And, don’t forget that eager anticipation can give balance to a slump: envision and plan for the warm months. And, of course, if doable, escape to a warm clime for a while.

QUESTION: How do you deal with jealousy when you feel like all your friends have what you want?

ANSWER: Whew “all your friends have what you want”: that’s a daunting statement. Begin by delving deeper: is it about possessions or relationships or jobs or social standing, or skills or money…. Once you narrow the scope you can explore how to go about acquiring what it is that you want. Jealousy is a difficult emotion to manage: it can also be a really useful one for gaining self-awareness and setting personal goals.

QUESTION: How do you handle a boss with ADD?

ANSWER: Attention Deficit Disorder, when severe, can be a challenge to those connected to the person who has it. In the workplace though, where the boss has the power, the question becomes: “what is my role?” If a disorganized or single focus boss projects blame or fault for her/his own shortcomings your approach is to seek clarification. Example: “Excuse me Ms.___, I wasn’t told that the file was my responsibility. I’m more than happy to ….” The adept employee refuses responsibility by respectfully stating the problem and agreeing to tasks that are appropriate. If you choose, when the next time a similar situation is probable, double check with the boss about the tasks expected of of you.

QUESTION: I have a boss who is pessimistic by nature. Every time we have a meeting and an idea comes up, she immediately expresses the negative. How do I handle this?

ANSWER: Negativity is irksome for sure, but the boss has the power. You can try acknowledging the point she makes and move to other (more positive) points as a way to get a more productive dialogue going. Example: “I hear that your approach is _____. I wonder if ____ might be considered.” Another tact, although chance-y with a negative boss, is to encourage her to continue the negative thought to its conclusion. Example: “I think you said ___, ___, ___. And then what do you anticipate happening next?” The negative thinking often hits a brick wall at which point the more optimistic options can be offered. And keep in mind, negativity is the boss’s problem; not yours.


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About the author

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Catherine Bridwell

Catherine D. Bridwell is in private practice in Morristown, NJ. She is a psychotherapist and counselor to families, couples, and individuals. She is a Certified Divorce Mediator and a Parenting Coordinator for divorced couples. In addition she lectures and has authored workshop presentations on family related and emotion management topics.


Feel free to e-mail Catherine at

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