Archive

for July, 2014

5 Common Sleep Problems answered by Towards Better Sleep Facilitators, Dr Curt Gray & Kathryn Smith

Posted on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

light-emitting-technology1. Stay up later rather than going to bed earlier

Going to bed when you are not sleepy can start a vicious insomnia cycle. You feel anxious and frustrated that you can’t fall asleep, and then you lie awake while the problem perpetuates. It is important to differentiate sleepiness from just feeling tired. We can experience tired throughout our body but sleepiness is simply dictated by our eyes closing and literally “getting the nods”. Sleepiness will come in waves and when we get this wave at an appropriate time at night, we need to take this cue and catch it.

2. Avoid napping during the day

Whilst napping might be desirable for those that are not sleeping well during the night, a nap can significantly reduce your sleep drive and will make it harder to initiate or maintain sleep at a desirable time. If you are tempted to nap, try increasing your level of arousal, which is as simple as standing up.

3. Develop a regular exercise regime

We all know that exercise is good for us and will help maintain a healthy mind and body. Exercise also has the added benefit of deepening and extending our sleep. The exercise that works best for this is weight or resistance training. So start pumping that iron or turn up the exercise bike. Anytime of the day is fine however best to keep it a couple of hours clear of bedtime.

4. Learn a relaxation procedure

Having a balance in our lives is important. We often neglect relaxation and use the excuse of being time poor. If you are having troubles sleeping, learning a relaxation procedure can be invaluable. We only enter sleep from a state of relaxation. So if we go to bed and make relaxation our goal, sleep is likely to follow if needed. Whilst alcohol can help us relax and maybe sleep initially, it will typically disrupt our sleep later in the night. So maybe saying no to that glass of wine or two in the evening will pay off.

5. Keep your evenings free of technology.

The main regulator of our sleep is light. It dictates when we wake and when we fall asleep. With increasing use of computers and smart phones we are exposed to more light in the evenings than we have ever been. Computers and smart phones throw out a lot of blue/green light, which can delay the onset of our sleep phase. We can combat this by wearing amber or red glasses, or simply turn off a couple of hours before bed.

For more information on our sleep programme, Towards Better Sleep, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Stress Down Day- Friday 25 July: Working under time-pressure: why working harder isn’t necessarily the best option!

Posted on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Stressed woman in office

By Psychologist, Mark Wetton 

Work-related stress (and of course this includes the important work performed by “stay at home” mums and dads) can have a significant impact on one’s life and is a common reason for people to seek the support of Psychologists.

High levels of perceived stress have the effect of making it harder for us to take a broad, considered view of the situation to work out the best way to solve it. It makes it very hard to identify our priorities, so we often end up just running around trying to put out the “spot fires” instead of focusing on the main fire!

One of the most common causes of work-related stress is feeling like there simply isn’t enough time to get all the jobs done. In this situation, a common approach is to work harder and faster!

Studies investigating the relationship between stress and task performance demonstrate that best performance occurs at medium levels of stress, and worse at low or high levels of stress. While people differ as to how much stress they need for best performance, one strong finding from the research is that for most people, high levels of stress results in lots of errors and therefore worse performance.

Given that high stress makes people perform worse, working faster when experiencing high stress usually results in error leading to precious time spent correcting. Mistakes can also be demoralising and un-motivating, and at worst can have serious consequences for job security and impact our long-term mental health.

So rather than working faster, make small changes that may save you little bits of time here and there. Here are some ways that may help you through stressful periods:

1. Be aware of the difference between urgency and importance.

Make a list of the “important urgent” things, the “important non-urgent” things, the “unimportant urgent” things, and the “unimportant non-urgent” things. Then get stuck into the important things first, and the unimportant things last. As an example, emails are usually urgent but most are not important, yet most people prioritise responding to email first rather than attending to more important tasks like completing a report for the boss!

2. Complete one task at a time.

Most tasks involve quite a bit of attention to complete properly and also require you to remember what part of the task you are up to, and what you need to do next. Research has found that if you switch between tasks frequently you can often lose track of what part you were up to, making it harder to recommence and complete the task. If a task is very large, break it down into smaller chunks and focus on getting one chunk done at a time. This approach will build a sense of making progress and so keep you motivated! Only attempt to juggle tasks when you are completely confident that there is a time benefit in doing so.

3. Be aware that when stressed you are likely to make more mistakes, so slow down!

It is sometimes inevitable when work gets busy to make more mistakes, but recognising that you are perhaps working too fast for the job at hand will allow you to minimise mistakes by slowing down when you need to.

4. Reward yourself for your hard work by taking frequent short breaks, and make sure to eat your lunch!

As the body and brain become fatigued it becomes harder to concentrate and you will be more likely to make mistakes and generally work slower. Brief breaks and nourishing yourself every hour or so allow the body and brain a moment to refresh, thus making you more efficient across the day. Even doing something for five minutes that takes your mind completely off the task at hand is useful, but make sure it isn’t so enjoyable that it makes it hard to start work again!


5. When you have finished work for the day, give yourself a genuine time out!

Working really fast all day can make it really hard to slow down when work is over! People differ in what helps them de-stress. Remember that pleasurable activities are just important as work related tasks. Take some time to exercise, play a team sport, watch tv, do arts and crafts, interact with loved ones, friends, children or animals, take a warm bath, meditate, read or cook. As long as you experience a de-stressing effect from it, it is worth doing!

6.  And finally, when the period of high stress is over, take a little bit of time to plan for the next stressful period.

When stress dies down we often need some time to recover and replenish. This is very important to take but also a time to consider whether there is anything you can do to reduce the amount of work-related stress you may experience in the future. Take a moment to evaluate the most time consuming or stressful tasks and trouble shoot ways to make them easier. As the old adage implies “work smarter, not harder”. Remember, any slight decrease in the time and effort it takes to do your work will add up to much less stress over the long term!

Here are some tools to help you prioritise tasks, and so get things done with less stress!

http://tomorrow.do/
http://gettingthingsdone.com/

Mark250x250For more information on Mark and the team of Psychologist at Psychology Consultants visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au 

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9 effective ways to get your sleep back on track when suffering from jet lag

Posted on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

jetlag

By Towards Better Sleep Facilitators, Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith & Psychiatrist, Dr Curt Gray

Most of us at some stage of our lives will experience the suffering of jetlag, a temporary condition caused by air travel across time zones. Our body clocks are “out of whack” resulting in a temporary circadian rhythm sleep disorder or sleep-wake schedule disorder.

Fatigue and insomnia are the most common signs of jetlag, however some people experience more severe symptoms including anxiety, confusion, headaches, digestive issues, dizziness, and mentation difficulties such as memory loss.

If you have traveled with a child or baby, they are not immune and can also suffer from these symptoms.

Although jetlag is somewhat unavoidable, there are ways to help your body recover more effectively without prolonging the inconvenient symptoms brought on by international travel.

Here are a few tips:

  1. As much as you will feel like napping-don’t! Napping with upsets your normal sleep pattern and will make it more difficult to fall asleep at the adjusted sleep time.
  2. It sounds obvious but caffeine and alcohol should be avoided if you want to catch your zzz’s. Although alcohol may put you to sleep, it won’t result in quality sleep.
  3. Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  4. Relax! Stress is the number one cause of sleeplessness, so find ways to unwind and de-stress during and after your flight. Meditation is a great way to achieve this.
  5. Don’t stress about losing sleep, this will only cause you to be more uptight.
  6. Avoid heavy food close to bed time, both on the plane and after you arrive at your destination.
  7. Avoid strenuous exercise nearing bedtime, although light exercise during the day can be very helpful.
  8. Get some fresh air and soak up the sun. Exposure to daylight is a powerful biological cue for our bodies so it will help in adjusting the circadian rhythm.
  9. Operate within the normal sleep and wake times for your newly adjusted time zone.

 For more information on the Towards Better Sleep program visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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