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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Empathy vs. sympathy: What’s the difference?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships, Mind Body
Trying to “solve” people’s emotional woes might not solve anything. Learn more about the differences between sympathy and empathy.

Ever have well-meaning people tell you to shake off feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment? It probably didn’t help. Similarly, when someone else is hurting, especially someone you love, you might try too hard to fix it. Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions and letting that person know you fully understand. Sympathy is observing troubling events in someone’s life and letting that person know you’re concerned.

Sympathy is sometimes useful, such as when you want to maintain boundaries or focus on the task at hand, but it’s potentially less impactful than empathy. Make a difference with PACT: Purpose, Awareness, Compassion, and Treaty.

Purpose: Is your goal to let someone know you care (sympathy: e.g., “I wish this wasn’t happening to you; maybe we should talk about something less upsetting?”), or are you aiming to connect more deeply (empathy: e.g., “It feels like maybe part of you wants to talk about this more and part of you wants to set it aside right now.”)?

Awareness: Are you “observing” the person from afar (sympathy: e.g., “I hate that you’ve been having such a hard time lately.”), or trying to see the world through their eyes (empathy: e.g., “It feels like nothing is going right lately.”)?

Compassion: You can try to understand somebody based on similar personal experiences or you can use your imagination to understand more deeply, putting yourself in the other person’s “shoes.”

Treaty: With sympathy, you might feel pulled to agree with someone (e.g., “Yup, you got kicked around.”), but that might also prevent him or her from considering alternative viewpoints. With empathy, you can tune into how somebody feels without necessarily agreeing with that person (e.g., “You feel abused, and it’s hard not to feel like a victim right now.”).

Try PACT daily and decide what’s helpful: empathy or sympathy.

How breaking up can be good for you

To help you get over a breakup, try reflecting on the positive aspects of the split and then writing about it.

The end of a relationship might bring feelings of sadness and stress. But breaking up can be good for you when separating from a relationship leads to self-growth. How can you make this happen? To get there, reflect on the benefits of breaking up and write them down. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do before?

Writing out what led to the break-up, how the breakup happened, and what happened after the break-up can reduce your negative thoughts about the split. Venting to a friend definitely has its place, but to capitalize on the split, focus on what is (or was) going on for you during this time by writing about it. This can help you examine any red flags you might have overlooked or any patterns that you might have developed in how you select partners. Consider how you contributed to the relationship not working and what you might be able to do differently in the future. This self-reflection can lead to powerful conclusions.

You probably know people who seem to choose the same kind of person or relationship every time, and it ends up not working out in the end or not being good for them. Don’t be one of them! By taking some time to write down and reflect on your last relationship, you might be saving yourself from future angst. 

Sleep Awareness Week

Filed under: Health, Napping, Sleep
Sleep Awareness Week is March 6-13! Take this week to learn how healthy sleep can improve safety and performance.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is making sure everyone knows about the importance of sleep. A balanced lifestyle includes proper nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy sleep. A good night’s rest can especially improve your performance on-duty and off-duty.

HPRC offers many resources to help you learn about sleep, assess your own rest patterns, and improve your sleep habits. Also be sure to check out NSF's site, where you can download helpful sleep tips, an infographic with ideas on how to “celebrate” Sleep Awareness Week, and additional healthy-sleep tools.

Duty to country and family

Need your family to be more supportive of your role as a service member? Learn how to get on the same page with your loved ones.

When there’s consensus among family members about your military service, life is much easier. It’s normal for loved ones to have differing views about service and/or levels of commitment over time. But when there’s a big difference, some families might feel an extra burden of stress or sadness. Here are some tips to help build a bridge to family harmony. Read more here.

Exergaming: Is it really exercise?

There are lots of exercise video games on the market, but should they really be considered exercise?

Between the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and the continuing popularity of video games among children, does exergaming actually count as physical activity? Exergaming, or exercise video gaming, is popular among children and adults because it offers entertainment and physical activity. Exergames include:

  • Virtual cycling
  • Interactive climbing machines
  • Aerobics, dancing, and floor games for multiple video game platforms
  • Mobile exercise games for smartphones and tablets

While it’s certainly fun, studies suggest that exergaming is not the best form of exercise for kids. It does increase energy expenditure (compared to rest), but it’s not necessarily enough to meet your children’s exercise needs. For example, when compared to a phys ed class, exergaming fell short. For the most part, kids who play exergames don’t burn enough calories or increase their heart rates enough to make up for exercising.

The good news about exergaming is that it can increase motivation and keep children engaged. It could be a great starting point for inactive children needing to begin a physical activity routine. It can be part of the daily-recommended doses of exercise and physical activity for kids and teens too. Families could find it as a fun alternative to sitting on the couch and watching a movie or TV show. Exergaming might be better than sitting and playing video games, but it shouldn’t replace more vigorous activities such as outside play. Save the exergaming for the next rainy or snowy day!

Teens need their sleep!

Filed under: Sleep, Teens
Teens often have trouble getting enough sleep, yet they need more than adults.

It’s a fact: Teens need more sleep than adults. While most adults require a minimum of 7–8 hours of shut-eye, teens need 9 or more hours. (Newborns sleep 16–18 hours, preschoolers 11–12 hours, and school-age kids 10+ hours.)

However, most teens tend to sleep only 7.4 hours on school nights. Middle- and high-school students also have different sleep cycles from adults, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. most nights. Homework, exams, sports, and other extracurriculars—even changes such as daylight savings time—can also throw your teen’s snooze schedule off-kilter. Does your teen crave screen time late at night? Blue light from computers, tablets, and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles too. Plus, tuning into a recent text or social media post can get the brain going, which can also make it hard to fall asleep.

Teens’ body clocks can cause them to go to bed late and sleep late in the morning. Added to this, early school start times make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep. If possible, ask your local school officials about later start times, or consider finding schools with later start times. Students who attend schools that start later have:

  • More weeknight sleep
  • Less daytime sleepiness
  • Fewer concentration problems
  • Better attendance
  • Improved academic performance
  • Fewer car accidents

For more information, you can visit the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Learn more about helping your teen get a good night's sleep—and wake up ready to start the day!

Kindness always wins

Supporting others with a thoughtful word or act has numerous benefits. Learn how to create “win-wins” in your relationships.

A little kindness goes a long way. Thoughtfully supporting others actually improves your chances for a long life too. There are lots of ways to show helpfulness to neighbors, friends, or relatives such as providing transportation, running errands, or helping with childcare. Everyone benefits from giving and receiving support, and it doesn’t always have to be a deed or gesture.

Providing emotional support to somebody is one of the best gifts you can give. Share your thoughts and feelings, respond to each other’s needs, and listen attentively. Offer advice when asked. Not sure what to say? Sometimes your presence alone can bring comfort to someone who needs it. In fact, a caring gesture often encourages its recipient to return the kindness—so it becomes a “win-win.” Be nice, help others, and develop long-lasting relationships.

Especially for military parents

Being a parent is a tough job, but military parents have extra challenges. There’s a website that can help.

The military lifestyle can sometimes make parenting especially challenging, but there’s a website designed to help active-duty military and veteran parents. It’s a joint project between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The website offers a free parenting course and additional resources, including tip sheets and videos. There’s an opportunity to provide feedback on the parenting course too.

Course topics and other resources include:

  • Communicating with your child
  • Helping your child manage emotions and behaviors
  • Taking a positive approach to discipline
  • Managing your own stress and emotions
  • Talking about deployment

Visit the Parenting for Service Members and Veterans website to find out more. There’s a Parenting2Go mobile app too! For more caregiving resources, check out HPRC’s Rock Solid Families page.

Valentine’s Day rewards

“Candy is dandy, but...” try these ways to reward your loved one even more this Valentine’s Day.

No doubt about it: Being rewarded is a great way to make someone happy. When you were a kid, you loved getting a reward for doing something good, right? It still works when you become an adult, but the reward—and what you did to earn it—is often more subtle. Rewarding your significant other for his or her daily acts of love and care is a sure way to bring you closer.

So this year, in addition to giving the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try these two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.

For more information on supporting your relationship with your partner, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement page.

Shifting from service family to civilian family

Transitioning from active duty to veteran status involves change. Learn how your entire family can weather these changes well.

Have you decided to separate from the military? If your estimated time of separation (ETS) date has arrived, you’ve probably checked off your long to-do list and officially become a veteran. This can be an exciting and emotional time. Regardless of your reason for separating, this is a time of transition for your entire family. Here are some tips for easing your path to civilian life. Read more here.

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