JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

Let it out!

Posted by on Mar 31, 2020

Get it out, let it out, air it out! Keeping things in can make them worse and we all know this. While thinking about how to offer help in this time of the Coronavirus, I started poking around on the internet. Did you know that light and oxygen kill bacteria? There is a growing body of research, of which I will spare you the details, but the interesting science is that disease cannot survive in an environment full of light and oxygen. If light and oxygen can kill physical bacteria, let’s apply this theory to our psychological health and see if we feel a little better as a result. Right now, while things are more difficult and more stressful than usual and perhaps, ever before, you need to “up your game” on your mental, emotional, and psychological strategies. More stress requires more recovery. More upset demands more relief. And one way to relieve stress and pressure is to get things OUT—kill that mental bacteria! Now, we have to figure out a way to do this responsibly. We can’t just vomit our upsetting emotions all over the place, we have to figure out a way to let it out without getting it all over the people or animals around us. Are you a “venter”? Or do you hold it in until you can’t take it anymore and then explode? Maybe somewhere in between? Well, right now, with the additional pressure, your regular mechanism for pressure relief will be a bit off, it might even feel broken. Here are a few ideas for how to get it out and feel better. Identify your “normal” method for processing stress. Tall order, I know, but let’s just think about it in terms of whether you like to “talk it out” or “think it out.” For the most part (not a rule), extroverts will like to talk it out and introverts will like to think it out. The one you responded to, that’s your method.If you like to “talk it out”:Who can you talk to? Not everyone will want to listen nor will everyone be equipped to listen. This is important to consider: just because you need to get it out doesn’t mean the person across from you needs to listen. Ask if they are up for it and if they say no, be sure to respect that. If they say yes, set the...

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Having a bad day?

Posted by on Mar 21, 2020

I had a really bad day yesterday. I wonder if you did, too. It’s getting to me, this pandemic, at least that is how it felt all day. Usually, awareness is the key: notice what I’m feeling, notice what my body is feeling, notice what I’m thinking, and then intervene. But it feels like the ground has been ripped out from under us and so the “intervention” is suspect, uncertain, and makes me wary. My baseline for anxiety and emotion is disrupted, elevated, and is causing problems. It is no longer possible to remain calm and carry on. I hate this. I hate this time in our world. I hate that greed has taken over so profoundly that our president and all his cronies’ value themselves and their stock portfolios over our health. I want to scream, “Where are the tests?” But I sit and try to wait patiently so as not to disrupt others. Is this a good strategy or a compliant one? Is this what they want, for us to give up because it is too hard to fight them? God, I hope not. Lacking the ability to apply the usual governor switch to my thoughts, I wonder how we will survive this. What will it look like on the other side? Will we all get to the other side? What will our “new normal” be like? We have been headed for this crash for a long time. Too much imbalance for too long is not sustainable and inevitably, something breaks. Well, inevitably has arrived. I have been complicit and as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am part of the problem. Waiting for someone else to fix this problem, silently surrendering to the belief that I have no power, no ability to help, no voice to be heard, I have failed to act. And then, selfishly, I have hoped it would take longer to unravel than my life expectancy, but alas, I was wrong. I suspect you have felt this way too, and I wonder what we do now. If you are reading this, you are likely to be in fairly good shape in life. You have a job, a family, most likely a horse, you are educated, you vote, you have a community that brings you support and joy, and you want to do good. If you are like me, you are...

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How to handle the storm

Posted by on Mar 18, 2020

Three nights ago, I got a text message from a family member at 10 pm. Already on high alert, I read it, something I don’t normally do that late. But these are not normal times. It was one of the spam texts going around about how the world was going to end tomorrow but sounded so convincing. I was just at the point of falling asleep, so being jolted awake, both physically and psychologically, was a shock. I paused, replied about us all needing to be careful and mindful, and took a while to go back to sleep. I woke up agitated. I knew it was spam but was still completely disrupted by the fear mongering. Being a planner, I had a plan (that’s what took me a while to go back to sleep, making my plan). I went out to help with the morning barn duties because one of our winter staff was from Canada and had made the wise decision to get home as soon as possible. I was not right though, edgy, irritated, elevated, and upset. Even though it was obvious, I wasn’t seeing it so obviously. I kept telling myself I had a plan and that as soon as I went to the store, filled the gas cans, and met with our staff, it would all be okay. But that wasn’t how it went. I am ashamed to admit this but as I was leaning over to put bell boots on a horse’s feet, he nuzzled my back. Now, he is an infamous nibbler so often a nuzzle will lead to a little nip or even a big nibble, but I yelled at him in a complete, mindless reaction. He went backwards and looked at me as if to say, “Really? Was that really necessary?” Thankfully, horses are incredibly forgiving, and he moved on to his favorite game of I will eat the halter so you can’t put it on my face. His playfulness moved me into a little laugh, making me breathe, and allowing me to recover my fleeing mind. This took less than a minute and left me feeling exhausted, though. The wonderful young woman who works for us asked if I was okay and offered to help. Her generosity moved me back to center and I told her what I was so stressed about. She nodded and listened and then said, “Well,...

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How are you doing?

Posted by on Mar 16, 2020

How are you doing? We are in the midst of a global pandemic, but I want to know how you are doing. A simple question during simple times so I thought I’d get complicated and check in on you. Being a former NY’er, “Joey” from Friends with his Brooklyn accent and flirty smile and head nod saying, “How you doin’?” comes to mind immediately. A little moment of comic relief is welcomed. But really, how are you doing? Checking in on people during tough times, emergencies, or a crisis seems obvious, but how about checking in on the self? Not so much. The state of the state feels a little like panic right now and this is to be expected. The uncertainty of the virus, its course, who will get it, who will survive it, and who won’t, is a perfect recipe for anxiety. Anxiety loves uncertainty so it will spread faster and more virulently than the real thing. A friend said to me today that she is using social distancing not only to prevent the spread of the physical virus, but also the emotional one being passed around. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she might have something there… Today is Monday, March 16, 2020, and I live in central Florida. There are 136 reported cases here and that number is the result of a doubling just over the weekend. I read on NPR the U.S. is ten days to two weeks behind Italy, which would seem to indicate that we have not really begun to feel the impact of this pandemic. Did your heartrate just go up? It should have so let’s talk about how to handle this week and upcoming month. One: Tune into yourself. This will take tremendous energy, I know, but it is critical. If you have followed me at all, you know how much I talk about our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and how it mobilizes when we experience threat or fear. Well, it should be in overdrive now, and rightly so. As a review (skip to next paragraph if you got it), our SNS is triggered by some kind of threat. It can be an actual threat, like finding out your neighbor has the virus, or it can be a thought, like wondering what you would do if your neighbor gets the virus. That’s the tricky part of the SNS,...

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