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for November, 2013

Post Natal Depression- When ideals don’t match reality

Posted on November 19, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Erika Fiorenza

Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist”.
– Michael Levine

Becoming a parent is one of the biggest life changes a person can undergo.  There are changes to their routine, lifestyle, and relationships, ever while parent and child learn together how to do almost everything. And yet, we often expect to effortlessly and naturally slip into this role.

There are a number of unrealistic expectations and misperceptions that can perpetuate distress in the postnatal period.  Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (17-23rd Nov 2013) is a great time to highlight some of the myths that new parents can get caught up with.

photo-professionalhelp Some of these common thoughts can include:

“This should be the happiest time of my life”

“I should know what to do”

“I wouldn’t have these thoughts if I was a good mother”

“If I’m not doing well, I’m not a good mother”

“My life is good….I shouldn’t be feeling depressed”

When these ‘ideals’ don’t seem to match up to reality, mothers (and fathers) can experience feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness.

In addition, the stigma connected to even expressing any dissatisfaction or difficulty with parenting can hold people back from seeking help, leading to further feelings of isolation and helplessness. We all have the tendency to ‘compare upwards’.  It is common for new mothers to compare themselves and their baby’s development to that of their peers and conclude that “everyone else is doing well”.

Women with postnatal distress that present for therapy can describe a number of these unhelpful thoughts.  When they become ‘entangled’ or ‘caught up’ with these thoughts, they find themselves moving further away from the parent, partner, or person they want to be.  There are a number of studies suggesting that cognitive processes (such as those in postnatal depression) can impact on a mother’s capacity to respond to her baby and the outside world (Stein et al., 2012).

In therapy, we work on normalising these thoughts, and help people learn skills to manage their thinking, such that it has less influence over their mood and actions.  In addition to dealing with painful thoughts, therapy for postnatal disorders may also include dealing with painful feelings, urges and sensations.

Another critical part of therapy is getting back into activity.  Low motivation (one of the main symptoms of depression) leads to doing less, enjoying less, and consequently feeling worse.

It’s hard to feel ‘normal’ when we don’t do normal things.

If ‘normal’ is having contact with friends or doing daily activities like cooking a meal or going to the shop, then this is where we start.  In therapy we work on helping people identify what it is they value.  Identifying values such as ‘self-care’, ‘challenge’ or ‘acceptance’ can help parents reconnect with what is important, and help clarify goals for moving forward.

There is a lot of great information online about the signs and symptoms of postnatal disorders.  Check out: www.beyondblue.org.au,  www.panda.org.au,  and www.blackdoginstitute.org.au for more information.  Becoming more informed is the first step to seeking help and starting to debunk the myths.

Psychology Consultants have a number of Clinical Psychologists who are experienced in Post Natal Depression treatment. For more information, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

Sources:

Stein A, Craske MG, Lehtonen A, Harvey A, Savage-McGlynn E, Davies B, Goodwin J, Murray L, Cortina-Borja M, Counsell N. (2012). Maternal cognitions and mother-infant interaction in postnatal depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121, 795-809

 

 

 

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Show Me the Light- Insomnia and Technology

Posted on November 6, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith, explains how technology affects our sleep and shares useful advice on how to cure a sleep delay.  

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The Age of Accessibility

Most of us are connected to the outside world 24/7. We keep our mobile phones by the bed, respond to emails, check Facebook, do all our banking on line, work and shopping.

We can spend a vast amount of time in front of technology. This is not a problem, except when we begin to use the technology near our sleep time or worse during our designated sleep time.

Often, this technology emits a lot of bright light over a long period of time. When you are exposed to this bright light near or during sleep time, it has the effect of delaying your sleep phase. In other words, it prevents you from falling asleep at your usual time. People then feel that they have an insomnia problem. 

The Circadian World

We have long known in the world of sleep research, that our body is controlled by a circadian cycle that defines a period of time that our sleep will occur.

Our circadian cycle is governed by bright light, which enters our body via our retina to track through to a part in our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This part of our brain then drives our body clock and the timing of its rhythms including sleep.

Our circadian rhythm responds to four aspects of light: the intensity of light; timing of light; wavelength of light and the duration of light. These aspects neatly fit into the day/night cycle, except when technology begins to interfere.

Kathryn

Clinical Psychologist,
Kathryn Smith

Three useful tips for curing a sleep delay

1. Computer down time.

  • The first step to avoid upsetting your circadian rhythm is to not use technology 1-2 hours before bedtime and definitely not in bed.

Computers, more so than a television, emit a strong light that contains a blue/green wavelength of light. Why is the blue/green wavelength a big deal? Well, we know from scientific studies that if we shine a blue/green wavelength of light into someone’s eyes before sleep time it will delay the onset of their sleep. Conversely if we shine an amber/red wavelength of light into someone’s eyes before bedtime, it does nothing to delay their sleep time.

2. Decrease blue/green light.

  • The second step is if you are working at a computer or you need to use your phone for an alarm, take some steps to decrease the blue/green light coming from these sources.

This can be done in a number of ways. There is now a computer program that can be downloaded for free called f.lux. This program runs according to the time of the day and dims the screen to produce an amber colour after sunset. This amber colour increases during the night and then gradually lightens towards sunrise. 

Alternatively, stick on amber screens are available for computers and phones that are touch sensitive.

You can even pop on a pair of amber tinted safety glasses and have the same effect.

3. Increase bright light in the morning. 

  • The third step is to reduce sleepiness during the day. The best cure for sleepiness during the day or in the morning is the reverse of the above. Exposure to bright light, particularly the green/blue wavelength of light can push back the sleep cycle and increase the feelings of wakefulness and alertness. 

This can be achieved by spending 45 minutes out in the bright morning light.

Alternatively we now have Re-timer Glasses that are readily for sale online through medical supply companies. These glasses are worn just like normal glasses and produce 100% UV-free green/blue light that shines directly into the retina. You can wear these glasses for 45 minutes during the usual morning routine to help your body recognise when to be awake and when to be asleep.

Problems with Sleep? 

If you have experienced chronic problems with getting to sleep, staying asleep or waking early one of the afore mentioned tips might just help.

It may also be worthwhile speaking to a clinical psychologist to define the area of difficulty and its potential causes.

Our team of clinical psychologists have knowledge about sleep and insomnia. We also have a range of products for demonstration. You may also be suited to a group treatment program. We run a group called Towards Better Sleep, on demand throughout the year.

For more information visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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