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Email Stress!

Posted on March 11, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

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.

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Surviving the transition to high school

Posted on February 18, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

Kylie Layton: Clinical Psychologist

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.


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Can’t Sleep? Try a ‘Worry Window’

Posted on January 29, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

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 or you can view our team of experienced Clinical Psychologists and their specialty areas here.

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Goals with no SHOULDS attached

Posted on January 9, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

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.



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Putting a Spin on the Back to Work Willies

Posted on January 8, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

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.


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Keeping it Merry

Posted on December 3, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

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.

  1. Set a budget and don’t go over it.

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.

  1. Write a list and delegate tasks to relatives and friends.

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.

  1. Be prepared.

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.

  1. Do a Kris Kringle

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.  

  1. Have a clean-up roster

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.


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What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Posted on November 6, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

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.

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What are Cognitive Distortions and How Do We Stop Them?

Posted on October 24, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Cognitive distortions are irrational or inaccurate thoughts that cause our minds to think negatively about ourselves or others. They are therefore very unhelpful and have a considerable impact on our mental health.

Cognitive distortions are quite common and most of us have experienced irrational thoughts and indulged in a bout of rumination from time to time.  Some people however, experience cognitive distortions on a daily basis and when this is the case, help must be sought. There are a number of different types of cognitive distortions; often the thoughts are overgeneralisations or adopt a black and white approach, and sometimes thoughts can be magnified, also known as catastrophising. Catastrophising is where the person focuses purely on the negative, starting a train of ‘what if’ thinking. Often associated with anxiety disorders, these thought patterns can be paralysing and severely impact quality of life.

Some examples of cognitive distortions include; “I always fail at maths and therefore I am a failure.” “Mary doesn’t like me. I think the whole grade hates me” or “What if the plane crashes and we all die.”

How to Stop Cognitive Distortions?

Whichever ‘strand’ of cognitive distortion you are susceptible to, this way of thinking is unhealthy, affecting self-esteem and your perception of the world around you. It can hold you back from succeeding in your career or personal life and lead to an array of mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Knowing how to take control of the negative voice inside your head is an important step but the first step is acknowledging that the thoughts are occurring.

Some helpful ways to challenge cognitive distortions:

    • Writing a list of the thoughts you have acknowledged as unhelpful and separating them into fact and opinion can assist in understanding your perception versus reality.
    • Using relaxation techniques such as breathing, muscle relaxation and imagery to control the body sensations associated with irrational thoughts can be helpful. Exercise is also strongly recommended as a way to relax the mind and body.
    • Doing something incompatible to what you do when you’re thinking this way such as forcing yourself to smile or laughing can sometimes break the circuit, particularly if you feel your blood pressure rising.
    • Practicing self-compassion can provide you with the positive perspective of a friend and lessen your self-criticism. Self-compassion is the ability, within a state of calm, and with a friendly voice, to reassure ourselves that this is not our fault whilst offering a forgiving hand.
    • Thinking in the spectrum of a rainbow rather than in black and white can help provide a more diverse perspective when polarising thoughts creep in. There need not be one answer or a right or wrong to any given scenario.
    • Don’t conquer your thoughts alone. Psychologists are here to help and guide you in the emotional journey of life. One of the most well-known psychological practices for overcoming irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves challenging irrational thoughts as they enter the mind and shutting them down as to change action and behaviour. Once the thoughts are being cognitively challenged, the next step as a part of CBT is to develop personalised strategies to replace the negative thought with more helpful thoughts and perceptions.






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Simple Steps to Solve Childhood Phobias

Posted on September 29, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

 Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist 

Phobias such as fear of animals, heights, or the dark are common psychological problems in children:probably more so than other better known problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But how do parents know when these phobias will become a problem for their child now or in later life?

Parents may consider whether their child’s phobia is interfering with their or the family’s life. If it is, then something should be done about it.

If parents feel their child’s phobia is becoming out of control, it is important to mange it early, to prevent the risk of them becoming anxious adults.

Fear of everyday experiences such as storms, dogs, spiders, water, or the dark are the most common phobias in children. It is natural for us to have an instinctive fear of these as the fear protects us from possible dangers.

When the natural fear is out of proportion to the real threat and children are worried about what might happen is when the fear becomes a phobia.

To help children overcome simple phobias, it is firstly important for parents to react appropriately to their child’s phobic behaviour. Children learn to  behave in certain ways from the attention they get for that behaviour. So parents need to give their child attention when they are brave about an irrational fear, and minimise attention when they are complaining or avoiding scary situations.

When teaching children to overcome their phobias, psychologists show children and their parents that phobias and anxiety are made up of three parts: physiological- how their body feels; cognitive- how they think; and behavioural-what they do.

Using simple and fun exercises, children can learn about these three components. They can learn how to identify their breathing and other relaxation techniques.

Psychologists will also work with children to help them become more positive in their thinking. Some questions that children could ask themselves to help them think more positively include:

  • How likely is it that this scary thing will happen? Has it happened much in the past?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen? Is it really that bad?
  • What would I say to my friend who was scared of this same thing to make them feel brave.
  • What would your superhero do in the same situation?

Most importantly, we also help parents expose their children to the fear which will reduce their phobic reaction.

Gradually exposing your child to the fear is important because their fear will only escalate if they never have to experience the situation.

Using a step by step approach, gradually exposing the child to their fears and rewarding them as they achieve each step, is the best way to deal with phobias.

Throwing them in the deep end will only reinforce to them that their fears are real. Take for example a child’s water phobia. You may break the exposure into several steps and reward them as they achieve each step. Some initial steps could include taking the child to a private pool to play around the pool and maybe have them dangle their feet in the water. A later step might be to stand on the steps and so on.

To read more about our team of Clinical Psychologist and those who specialise in treating children, head to our Brisbane Psychologists page.

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