Today is 1st April 2020 but unfortunately COVID-19 is no April Fools. These unprecedented times are stranger than science fiction and us mere mortals are doing our best to adapt to our new lives and the conditions in which we need to live to save lives. Our lives have changed in unimaginable ways and our children look to us for answers, questioning what’s next and what their short-term futures hold but perhaps for the first time in our lives, we simply do not know the answers.
The way we interact as humans has so rapidly changed and it’s very difficult to stop oneself from innate acts, like the humble handshake, a hug or even standing close to one another while chatting. There is an absolute inundation of information at both a micro and macro level, with each day seeing a new set of rules that we as a community must absorb and adapt to. Some days, it can all seem a bit too much as we ride the emotional rollercoaster of COVID-19.
So how do we cope and what do we do to keep our mental health in check? Well if there has ever been a time to adopt the ‘one day at a time’ approach, it is now.
During a crisis, humans will react differently, each of us experiencing a wide range of emotions. Across the world we have seen sadness, frustration, panic and utter despair but we have also seen people adapting, looking for new ways to stay connected; we have seen beautiful moments of compassion as people reach out to the vulnerable. We have seen community spirit, love and connectedness and this is something to celebrate.
So, when the doom of the day is creeping in, look for some positives in your day, appreciate the slower pace and the extra time you are spending with your family. Practice mindfulness and gratitude and find ways to let out your daily frustrations as we adapt to this strange and unprecedented time.
Heightened levels of anxiety are to be expected at this time as we try to manage the many layers of repercussion that COVID-19 has brought. If you are experiencing mental health issues or other personal concerns, talking to a Psychologist can be helpful in developing personal strategies to manage your feelings. To view our team of Clinical Psychologists and their areas of expertise, head to the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website.Read more
Psychology Consultants, Brisbane
Even for the little children of the world, Coronavirus is on their radar and for some children, teenagers and even adults, anxiety levels are at an all-time high.
Turn on the radio, and it’s the first news headline you will hear, go to school or university and the teachers are preaching the importance of personal hygiene, switch on the TV and it’s blasted across every channel. And let’s not even mention the toilet paper crisis!
Yes, the World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and so complete media saturation on the topic is to be expected. Nonetheless, for many children and adults alike, this level of alarm can be extremely disconcerting and cause unnecessary levels of panic and anxiety.
It is our job as adults to respond to the current situation calmly and with reason so as to manage the level of threat felt by our youngsters. Of course, awareness and readiness are important, as is following recommended hygiene protocols, but of equal importance is managing concern and not overestimating the proposed threat or danger.
In a media briefing on 13thFebruary 2020, Mr Mike Ryan,Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) health emergencies program said; “We need a vaccine against misinformation as well and in that sense we need a communications vaccine; we need to be able to communicate in a much more effective way.”
Ignoring media hype and talking about the virus from a factual and statistical risk point of view can be helpful in keeping the issue in proportion and clarifying misconceptions for children and teenagers. According to the World Health Organisation; “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.” More information can be found here https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Encouraging distraction and reducing the amount of time spent watching or listening to media can also help to ease the cognitive saturation and associated anxiety. In times of crisis when the world can seem very out of control, remaining in control as an adult is important in setting the right example for your juniors.
If you are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety about coronavirus or other personal issues, talking to a Psychologist can be helpful in developing personal strategies to manage your feelings. To view our team of Clinical Psychologists and their areas of expertise, head to the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website.Read more
Photo credit: John Schnobrich- Unsplash
Gerard, a sales executive in an international IT company, first came to Psychology Consultants because he felt stressed. After discussing his current situation, we quickly became perplexed. He had a good relationship with his wife, a busy, fulfilling job, he exercised regularly, found time for hobbies on the weekends, and his diet was impeccable. Why was he stressed?
After a couple of weeks of monitoring his stress levels and trying to identify his stress “hot spots”, the source of his stress became very clear – he was suffering from email stress.
We find that email is often a source of stress for people, and we think we know some of the reasons why.
Firstly, emails are written, so they do not have the benefit of the verbal and nonverbal behaviours that usually help us decipher the sender’s message. Thus, emails are often misinterpreted.
Secondly, emails are very often written badly, without proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling, making the message even more likely to be misinterpreted.
Thirdly, emails are immediate and reactive, not allowing a person time to think constructively before sending off a message that, if they had time to think, they might keep to themselves. As a result, sending email “missiles” back and forth is a common problem.
Finally, the email sender is usually positioned in an office removed from the receiver. They feel safe and they therefore find it all too easy to send an offensive message.
So Gerard found himself receiving unpleasant emails from colleagues at work on a regular basis. They made him feel uncomfortable and angry, and every time he went to open his email he would feel anxiety and stress. He developed a plan to actively manage email stress. He placed a reminder note on his computer saying “Watch out for email stress. Sometimes I will get offensive emails but I can work around them.”
He began screening his inbox and symbolically trashing any emails that were offensive but not worth responding to. He would not reply immediately to other offensive emails, waiting and then going to the person to discuss the issue directly, which he found often resolved the issue. With an understanding of the role of email stress and a plan for coping with it, Gerard was able to more effectively cope with stress.Read more
Words by Kylie Layton: Clinical Psychologist
Photo by @Gaellemarcel
And just like that your child is off to high school! The transition to high school marks a significant milestone in a child’s life; another step taken in their developmental journey. It is an exciting yet daunting time for both the child entering high-school and for their parents. This transition comes with many new things to learn and many new challenges to face. For even the most resilient and confident of children, adjusting to high school can be difficult. High school means increased responsibility, increased academic pressure and increased exposure to complex social situations.
Moving from grade six to seven can boost a child’s self-confidence or just as easily shake their sense of self. It can strengthen the relationship between the child and their parent or it can start a process of disconnection. With so many important moments occurring outside a parent’s awareness or control, at times it can feel like there is little a parent can do. However, parents are still very much needed; as a safe space to debrief, a sounding board, a teacher of social skills and resilience, and most importantly, as a reminder that the child is loved and valued in a world that can very easily feel overwhelming to a new Grade 7 student.
So how do parents remain connected to their children in a meaningful way amidst all the change and challenge that comes with puberty and the transition to high-school? It can help to have a loose plan of attack based on a few simple points that parents can to apply to the many challenging moments parenting a Grade 7 child can bring.
The first thing to remember is that your child will naturally feel some anxiety around this transition. It may be a little or it may be a lot, but for each child this is a transition into something new and unknown and the human body will naturally produce a degree of anxiety in these circumstances as a warning to tread carefully into a new situation. This experience of anxiety may be triggered by the need to make new friends, the challenge of mastering a new way of learning, or the increased pressure of a new level of academic difficulty. It is also likely that other emotions will come with this milestone including sadness at leaving their previous school and grief for the loss of connection with friends.
When a strong emotion, like anxiety, is experience by a child or adult, their brain becomes absorbed with dealing with that emotion. Emotions are like our body’s instincts, seeking to give us information about the situation we are encountering and when the brain is flooded with emotion it cannot easily access the logic centres of the brain.
A pre-teen who is undergoing puberty is also experiencing changes in the brain including the rapid development of the brain’s emotion centres. In contrast the part of the brain needed for problem solving, planning and effective decision-making; the pre-frontal cortex, is the last to fully develop and in fact isn’t fully developed until around 25 years of age! This means a typical Grade 7 child roughly has adult-sized emotions with a child’s-ability to deal with them effectively!
As a parent, understanding these developmental changes, and that your child will be experiencing a range of normal, understandable and intense emotions, is the first step in successfully navigating these changes. This information also highlights that we need to address the emotion first. We cannot access our logic centre when an emotion is flooding our brain and attempting to get a child to be reasonable or logical has the frustrating effect of retriggering the child’s distress! Instead, our emotional child is seeking validation and understanding for their experience; to be heard and acknowledged. When we validate our child’s emotion, we start to calm that emotion. However, if we aim to ‘fix’ our child’s problem; with solutions and advice, we are inadvertently making the emotion bigger or more complex. Validating an emotional child may take up time we feel like we don’t have, but it can often prevent hours of distress and arguments later. Once we calm our child we can then ask them if they would like any help or if they feel they can navigate this on their own.
It is also helpful to recognise that parents too might have some strong feelings about the transition to high school; based on their fears for their child, their expectations of this transition, and even their own high school experience. Creating an environment at home in which we are seeking to notice, name, and articulate our feelings can, not only allows parents to recognise and navigate strong feelings in a healthy manner but can model, for a child, how to put their experience into words. This in turn allows us to be more able to address and meet the need in front of us.
Having the expectation that our child will be more emotional over this transition to high-school also means giving the child permission to not be at their best emotionally or behaviourally. This doesn’t mean we become accepting of poor behaviours but this might mean that rather than a conversation or consequence focused on the poor behaviour we might first check in with what is going on for them; ‘It’s not like you to be so hurtful, is their something going on you would like to talk about?” Parents may also need to give themselves permission to not be at their best and need a bit of self-care and self-validation for the emotions and challenges they too are experiencing.
This leads us then to boundaries and the need to keep clear boundaries in place around behaviour, freedom, responsibility and, of course, social media. As your child transitions from Grade 6 to 7 they will be subconsciously seeking those boundaries in their new world. Boundaries allow children to feel safe and confident in their experience and this allows them to be more curious learners and explorers within the space available to them. Gently increasing your child’s sense of responsibility while also offering clear limits allows them to start to transition into the adult world at a pace that allows their confidence to grow.
Lastly, carve out some time to maintain a strong connection to your new high-schooler. High school students are still seeking a strong connection to their parents and, while this may be challenging at times, they will be grateful for time spent one on one with their parent doing an activity both enjoy or talking about their day. It can be hard to pick the right time to connect however. Tweens are less likely to spill their thoughts sitting face to face across the table but may be more inclined to share sitting side by side in a car, working alongside you in the kitchen, kicking a ball in the backyard or just before bedtime. These can all be times when a child is feeling less in the spotlight and more able to talk to you about some big issues.
Remember that it is big and important stuff to them! It’s the first time they have experienced these things, and these events make up their whole world. As adults we have the benefit of hindsight and know that our high school moments are not always as crucial as we thought they were, but our children are living these moments for the first time. We show them we hear them when we acknowledge how big this is for them.
The transition to high-school can bring many significant moments; epic highs and tragic lows but the transitioning child will still look to their parent for security, boundaries, connection and love. If parents can expect big emotions and big moments for their child and seek to meet them with validation and understanding (and direct some of that at themselves along the way) than this transition can be a successful one, and set up habits that can mean good things for the child, their parents and the connection between the two in years to come.
Photo courtesy of @mimiori
Do you find yourself stressing about the fact that your stressing, particularly at bedtime or worse, in the middle of the night? Trying to stop yourself from worrying and stressing about the hours of sleep you are losing will almost certainly lead to sleeplessness. Experts suggest that 60-80% of sleep problems derive from stress, worry and anxiety.
If you are a bit of a worry wart or have legitimate reason to be stressed; then let yourself worry; it’s perfectly normal! But here’s a little tip that might help you worry less in the night…give yourself a ‘Worry Window’ during the day. Go to a quiet place and allow yourself to think about what’s causing your concerns. Writing down your worries and even speaking out loud about them, either to yourself, or someone you trust, can help provide some resolve and clarity. Once you have entertained your worries, let them go for a while and refocus your energy on more positive thoughts.
Of course, no stress-based article can forget the proven benefits of exercise as an effective worry outlet. Being physical allows you to unwind, work on your fitness and have a bit of “me time”. Exercise has been clinically proven to increase serotonin levels in the brain and is a natural mood enhancer. You can even use your exercise time as your ‘Worry Window’, to help you think things through, decompress and work through any baggage you may have taken on for the day.
Although cardio based exercise is not recommended within three hours of bedtime, meditation or yoga can be extremely beneficial. Don’t know how you meditate? Why not download a meditation app and learn to listen, breathe and be present and let your daytime worries drift away.
If you do have ongoing insomnia or unmanageable stress, speaking to a Clinical Psychologist can be a positive step forward, improving your health and wellbeing and maximising your personal growth and potential. You may also like to open your mind to group therapy through insomnia programme, Towards Better Sleep. Programmes run in small groups of 9 or less from Psychology Consultants Morningside, with the next programme commencing on 26th March. To find out more visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or you can view our team of experienced Clinical Psychologists and their specialty areas here.Read more
Photo Credit: Ian Schneider
Have you ever noticed that as soon as you set a goal, particularly those around weight or appearance, before you know it, you’ve fallen flat? If you take a step back and think about the real reasons for your goal, you might just find that your failure has a lot to do with the type of motivation that fuels it.
The success rate for a goal that is ‘intrinsically’ motivated, that is one that comes naturally as part of your core value and offers deep personal enjoyment, may be easier to achieve than those that are extrinsically motivated. The ‘Self-Determination Theory’, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan studies the motivation and unique personality of human behaviour and concludes that humans have three innate psychological needs: a need to feel competent, a need to feel related and a need to feel autonomous. Intrinsic motivation stems from these three innate needs and therefore when setting goals, one should ask one’s self; ‘is this goal really about me or is it about the need to please others or fit in socially?’ ‘Will achieving this goal give me pleasure or is it something I feel I SHOULD do’?
“Taken as a whole, extrinsically motivated activities are performed to attain a goal, to obtain a reward, or to avoid a penalty or a negative consequence. When extrinsically motivated, individuals perform the activities not because they simply derive enjoyment.”( C. Levesque, … E.L. Deci, in International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition), 2010)
So, when setting goals for 2020, perhaps you can put the age-old debate of extrinsic motivation undermining intrinsic motivation, to the test by simply redefining your goals to focus on things you want to achieve, not things you think you SHOULD achieve. Rather than lose weight, look at getting fitter or taking up a social sport you can enjoy with friends. Take the SHOULD out of your goals and rewrite the list to include things you want to achieve because the outcome will provide you with pleasure.
Everyone is different and so what intrinsically motivates you will vary greatly but if you want to stay on track in 2020, stick to goals with no ‘shoulds’ attached.
To speak with one of our Psychologists about reaching your potential, visit our Brisbane Psychologist page to check out of team of Clinical Psychologists at our Newmarket and Morningside practice.
Photo by Brooke Lark @brookelark
Returning to work after Christmas holidays can be tough. Even for those who love their job, settling back into the whole work routine can be a little bit depressing. This also goes for kids who can struggle with the concept of going back to school. One way to ease the sting is to reframe the ‘back to normality’ conundrum.
With our country ablaze with the havoc of natural disaster, many without homes and grief stricken, perhaps returning to a safe work environment may not seem quite so bad. Reframing situations to think more positively about your own situation can be a helpful strategy when life gets a bit tough; because generally there is always someone less fortunate than you. Count your blessings doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your emotions, it simple provides the perspective we sometimes need to think more positively about our situation.
That said, it is important to allow yourself time to re-adjust to a normal work routine, offering plenty of self-care and compassion. Setting boundaries around work can help to reduce an onslaught effect and provide the time you need to enjoy what is so good about holidays; friends, family and time to yourself.
Known in therapy as ‘cognitive reframing’, changing the way you look and think about something is a very helpful technique, not just in January but throughout the year. When work stress gets on top of you, changing your perspective can alter the way you deal with the situation, offering a more positive outlook, reducing negative thinking and rumination. One simple way to do this is to break down the situation into more manageable ‘bite size’ pieces and write a plan of attack to handle what you feel is insurmountable. Finding the humour in situations and having a good laugh about things that may seem out of your control, can also be a good way to take the stress out of life in general. Why not give it a try- what’s the worst thing that can happen?
If you are struggling with work stress, or stress in general, talking to a Psychologist can be a positive step forward. You can read more about our team of Clinical Psychologists base at both Morningside and Newmarket practice here.
Christmas can be a stressful time for many but particularly for the ‘host’ who bears the brunt of the shopping, gift buying, prepping, cooking, cleaning, decorating and all with a festive grin planted on her face. A recent survey by Relationships Australia found that Christmas is considered one of the six most stressful life events, alongside divorce, moving house and changing jobs.
Despite the modern ways of the world, this said ‘host’ is usually female but short of women going on strike or becoming ‘The Grinch’, keeping it simple, delegating and remembering to stop to enjoy the moment are key to ‘keep it merry’. After all, it is supposed to be a happy time spent with loved ones; a time to relax and reflect on the year that was.
It’s all well and good to say ‘keep it simple’ but how does that translate to reality?
Let’s break it down.
In doing so you might question whether the bonbons really are necessary whilst allowing you to realise how all the little ‘must haves’ really do add up. A perfect segway to point 2.
Just like Santa and his elves, your minions will be more than happy to share the financial and time-consuming load. The delegation need not just be; ‘bring a salad,’ why not extend the delegated tasks to present buying, house-cleaning and selecting the table decorations. Delegation can be hard for those who like to be in control but relinquishing this power will be a great move in reducing your stress levels.
If you are prepared and have your list of required goods in advance you can reap the stress-free rewards of online shopping. Alternatively avoid peak hour shopping or enlist the help of friends and family to share the load.
Keeping gifts simple and fun by setting up a Kris Kringle will minimise the number of gifts you need to buy whilst enjoying the gift of giving. Better yet, allocate someone else to organise the draw and cross one more thing off your list.
The cook should never do the washing up. Take the time to sit and relax and say goodbye to any guilt about your guests getting their hands dirty.
Remember, the more strain you put on yourself, the less likely you are to enjoy the magic and the moments that truly matter. Learning to let go, delegate and ignore the finer details will go a long way in the happiness stakes.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a modification of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), founded in late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M Linehan. Originally developed to treat Borderline Personality, DBT is now used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, focusing on the psychosocial element of therapy.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, looks at managing emotion, behaviours and interpersonal interactions when the person is placed in a variety of social environments. Whilst CBT focuses on three main components, DBT seeks to fill perceived deficits of CBT by focusing on psychosocial elements to avoid black and white thinking. Therapists will observe the person’s psychosocial interactions and seek personalised solutions to help them to manage extreme emotional reactions. Finding solutions to decline emotional stimulation in social situations and or relationships, allows the person to feel more in control of their emotional extremities.
DBT has 4 main components and often uses a combination of individual and group therapy in treatment. The four main components include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotional regulation.
For more information on our large team of Clinical Psychologists visit this page.Read more