Archive

for April, 2018

Why new mums should be taught self-compassion

Posted on April 30, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Entering the world of motherhood for first time is a monumental shift in a women’s life. It can lead to permanent changes in your outlook on life and for many provides enrichment beyond all expectations. It can also be an absolute baptism of fire, as parents enter unknown territory and the challenges that lie within.

Expectant mothers (and often their partners), spend nine months caring for their changing pregnant body, preparing for birth and learning how to care for their pint size arrival. Most hospitals and birthing centres offer peri-natal courses that prepare women for birth, demonstrate how to bath, feed and care for a baby, while briefly touching on postnatal concerns, like the risk of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Having a baby can bring a range of emotions to the surface. It stands to reason that more could be done to help prepare new mothers for what to expect emotionally and psychologically when entering motherhood. By equipping women with effective techniques to practice self-compassion, maternal health and wellbeing could be improved postnatally and in the long term.

A recent study conducted by a group of researchers from the Compassionate Mind Research Group at the University of Queensland, including Dr Stan Steindl, examined the relationship between mother’s self-compassion and the outcomes for child and mother with respect to difficult childbirth and breastfeeding experiences ( . The sample group of women who were roughly 24-months post-patrum were provided a variety of compassion-focused therapy online resources outlining techniques for increasing self-compassion. 96% of study participants agreed that self-compassion is helpful for women experiencing birth or breastfeeding difficulties.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) “is a system of psycho-therapy specifically designed to help individuals cultivate compassion, in order to reduce high levels of self-criticism and shame (Gilbert 2014).”

In practical terms, self-compassion is the act of being kind, wise and courageous with ourselves when we suffer, as one would to anyone who is suffering. When enduring life’s challenges, namely becoming a new mum, it is not surprising that reducing self-criticism and increasing self-compassion has positive and rewarding outcomes for mother and child alike. It’s not easy to change self-critical patterns of thought and feeling, but with appropriate resources, tools and professional help and advice, teaching mothers to practice self-compassion could become as standard as teaching a nappy change.

If you are a new mum this Mother’s Day, think about the words of kindness, reassurance, and encouragement you would offer other new mums, then turn around, take a look in the mirror and repeat the message of self-compassion to yourself.

References: (Feasibility and acceptability of a brief online self-compassion intervention for mothers of infants Amy E. Mitchell1 & Koa Whittingham2 & Stanley Steindl3 & James Kirby3   https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00737-018-0829-y

 

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Food Swings

Posted on April 24, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Ever noticed that your food choices are directly linked to your mood? When mood is low, we often crave carbohydrates, sugar, or junk in an attempt to feed the foully. Contrastingly, when feeling content, we often make healthier choices, considering the long-term health benefits of the food, rather than its immediate effect or release! Its commonly known that carbohydrate and sugar cravings are due to a dip in serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain affecting mood and something carbo/sugars help fuel. But when low mood is more than a passing wave, a healthy diet is absolutely paramount.

It is difficult to make healthy food choices when depressed, and often people in this state of mind fall into a trap of making poor food choices in an attempt to improve mood, all the while impairing physical health, brain function, motivation levels and capacity to exercise. After a binge of junk food, feelings of guilt and disgust often creep in and exercise can fall to the wayside, as energy levels plummet. All in all, the attempt to improve a low mood was completely counterproductive.

Being aware of your relationship with food and eating behaviour is an important first step to making healthier choices. Taking a moment to ask yourself ‘why’ before you eat, will help you become a more mindful eater. The next step is finding a distraction or an alternative ‘comforter’ to food. What do you love doing? What is another indulgence that can replace the habit of eating to improve mood?

Mindful eating is a good practice to be in, whether you are suffering from depression or not. Although, it may be coined as the latest craze, in actual fact, it’s more traditional than trendy; our grandparents would have eaten this way. It involves simple things like, sitting down to eat, not eating on the run, enjoying your food, guilt free and appreciating the nourishment it provides your body. Read this article for more on mindful eating.  

Eating well may also improve energy levels, giving you the motivation to exercise, the best non-pharmaceutical drug going around, with benefits too long to list. But in short, exercise will improve cognitive function and mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, whilst recuperating self-esteem with its positive cosmetic effects.

If you are experiencing low mood or depression, the first step to better health, is to seek professional help. On your journey to wellness, taking a holistic approach by considering all of your lifestyle choices and relationship with food, will help you make good changes, for life.

For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists visit www.psychlogyconsultants.com.au

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Putting Kids to the Test!

Posted on April 17, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Surviving NAPLAN: By Miranda Mullins, Clinical Psychologist- Psychology Consultants

NAPLAN is fast approaching and so is the annual debate about whether this kind of testing is putting young kids under too much pressure.

Whatever your opinion, the fact of the matter is, come May, children across the country in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests.

Although the education department considers the tests essential, as a psychologist the pressure and anxiety the testing can cause children is a concern. It is also one of the many opportunities for kids to develop resilience and the necessary skills to face the challenges of life. And for some children, it is a time when they can learn about the normal nervousness of facing a challenge, whether it be running a race or doing a test.

Children face more daily pressure than ever before with statistics revealing roughly 1 in 10 Australian kids are suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. It is important to manage the pressure and stress felt in the lead up to the tests as this is essential to avoiding an overly anxious child.

Remember that the importance of NAPLAN can be over-emphasised by schools and teachers and who also feel under pressure to perform so as a parent, ‘playing it down’ can help to subside some of the pressure.

If you child is anxious, try to understand the sources of anxiety or the specific concerns and develop coping strategies that are tailored to their needs. You may be surprised at the unrealistic fears your child may be facing.

It is important as a parent to acknowledge any anxiety that may be felt and not dismiss it as silly or unnecessary. After all, it is normal to feel a little nervous before sitting a test. This is human nature and most adults sitting the test would feel a similar level of pressure.

If you feel your child is overly anxious about the test, or has learning difficulties, speak to your teacher about ways to manage the testing process. Psychologists can also provide ongoing strategies for both parent and child if anxiety is affecting your child’s daily life.


 

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Wellness is the new black!

Posted on April 11, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

‘Wellness’- it’s the green smoothie of the health industry, a buzz word that has provoked a movement and attitudinal shift towards health in general. As Psychologists, we are more than guilty of using the word and rightly so, it is central to our cause and what we hope to achieve for all of our clients.

So, what does ‘wellness’ actually mean?

According to the World Health Organization, wellness is; “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

When asked “Are you well?”; most people think of their physical state and the absence of illness when responding. But wellness, encompasses a holistic approach to health, recognising emotional and psychological health, as instrumental to one’s overall health. Impaired emotional and psychological health, ultimately leads to ill physical health through stress and lack of sleep, sparking a vicious cycle. And so, unlike other buzz words or societal fads, wellness deserves every bit of air time that it gets.

In the wellness pie of life there are 8 interrelated dimensions; occupational, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, physical, social, and intellectual. It’s no easy feat ensuring all 8 dimensions are always fulfilled, and it’s unrealistic to expect the scales will always sit neatly. However, by consciously striving for optimal wellness, you are already one step ahead by establishing the foundations for a positive life trajectory.

It’s all well and good to preach this in principal but what do each of these dimensions mean in real life; let’s break it down:

Occupational: The majority of the week is spent working, so gaining fulfilment from your job is a pretty big piece of the wellness pie. This doesn’t mean working your dream job, but rather gaining enjoyment and enrichment from your occupation. This may not necessarily be paid work, it may be raising children, or volunteer work; whatever it is, it is important to either enjoy it, or make a change.

Emotional: Understanding how you feel and coping with life’s challenges is integral to wellness. Practicing mindfulness and being in tune with your emotions will allow you to respond to personal needs and reduce stress.

Spiritual: Not everyone has the same beliefs system but having one is important. Having a strong sense of purpose and meaning for life is enriching.

Environmental: Being in harmony with your environment. Work, home and natural environments that are pleasant, mutually respected and stimulating, will help you thrive.

Financial: Like occupational, this doesn’t mean landing your dream job and reaping fiscal wealth, this arguably will not bring happiness. This dimension is about managing your finances efficiently and being satisfied, to reduce stress and anxiety that financial turmoil brings.

Physical: You are what you eat. Sleep is the pillar of health. Exercise is medicine. This one sounds pretty simple, but life’s schedule and temptations can throw it out of kilter. Strive to keep it on track and you will reap the rewards.

Social: People naturally crave connectivity and building a strong sense of belonging and social support network helps this cause.

Intellectual: Feeling stimulated and responding to our natural inclinations and abilities supports the need to expand skills, knowledge and offering to the world.

Gaining and maintaining the right balance as to achieve optimal wellness is all part of the ongoing, fluid and ever-changing game of life. At times, equilibrium is thrown off balance and we need the help and support of friends, family and sometimes professionals to guide you back on track.

If you need help developing wellness strategies for life, speaking to a psychologist can equip you with positive coping strategies for the challenges we all face. To view our team of Psychologist visit this page. 

 

 

 

 

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