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Opening up about depression in the workplace

Posted on October 8, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

During QLD Mental Health Week 6-14thOctober 2018 

#QMHW #valuementalhealth

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist: Psychology Consultants  

We’ve heard it time and time again, ‘depression is an illness, like any other physical illness’ yet still, so many of us suffer in silence, working the 9-5 with no inference of the daily inner turmoil. Despite world-wide mental health campaigning, there is still some work to do in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. Leading employees to believe they must hide their illness, fearing it may hinder employment prospects and affect attitudes held towards them. But hiding behind depression, pretending you are okay, can be exhausting, may worsen symptoms and will achieve nothing in breaking down the unnecessary stigma associated with the illness.

Having that important conversation

Although lagging behind other countries in workplace wellness, it is certainly a strong focus for Australian government and businesses with many business recognising the need to prioritise their employees emotional and psychological wellbeing.  Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith comments; “Over the years I have seen many clients who have realised the benefits of disclosing their illness with their employer. Opening up and having ‘the conversation’ did not put their long-term employment at risk but rather resulted in more flexibility and the ability to attend important appointments.”

Finding an ice-breaker, like RU OK Day, observed by most workplaces across the country, could be the ideal time to have that important conversation with your manager, HR resource or a colleague you trust. Keep the conversation brief and professional and if you are comfortable with it, impart some knowledge on the illness and how you best manage it. It may also be helpful to reassure your employer that you are capable of the job whilst outlining the areas where you may, at times, need support or additional time.

Taking a holistic approach to the ongoing management of depression

If you have depression, it is important to accept that you will need ongoing help and support and part of that is supporting yourself with the right daily tool. Looking at the illness holistically by addressing all aspects of your life, including, work, social and physical will help you to feel in control and maintain a healthier balance.

Therapeutic writing is commonly prescribed as an going way to note daily moods and make sense of your thoughts and behaviour. It helps to pinpoint what affects your mood, thereby enabling you to do more of what makes you feel good and less of what makes you feel bad. This seems awfully simple, but you are whether suffering from depression or not, reflecting on your daily thoughts, encourages mindfulness and can be quite enlightening.

Another well-known mood enhancer is exercise, even a short amount of physical activity taken on a daily basis, can boost serotonin levels, increase energy levels, improve mood and sleep. Sleep is also pivotal to mental health, so it is important to ensure you are encouraging your body and mind to rest. You can read more about good sleep health here.

Following the right diet for depression, eating mindfully and at the right times of day/night plays an important role in encouraging positive mood and mindset. Extensive researchshows the powerful effects certain foods and diet has on mood and mental health. As the old saying goes; “You are what you eat”.

Talking to people about your illness and surrounding yourself with a support network of medical professionals, friends, work colleagues and family, will reduce feelings of isolation and assist in recognising early warning signs of a depressive episode.

Lastly, learning to love and support yourselfby accepting the illness whilst not letting it define you, will give you the strength you need to continue on the wonderfully complex journey of life.

You can read more about managing depression here and view our team of Clinical Psychologists here.

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Postnatal depression

Posted on October 3, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

MUM’S THE WORD

By Kathryn Smith- Clinical Psychologist

Queensland Mental Health week  is upon us, acting as a timely reminder to speak about a topic which is not often spoken about. We are bombarded with ads on TV depicting how wonderful motherhood is, and whilst it is for many, for some it is a daily struggle.

Recently I was asked to speak at a Perinatal Mental Health Forum. The main topic of focus was Postnatal Depression and how can we help these women deal with this problem and why are they continuing to fall between the cracks?

It is estimated that 1 in 7 women will experience post-natal depression and 1 in 10 men will also experience this.  This is not the same as the “Baby Blues” typically experienced within the first week following birth but quickly resolving. This consists of depressed mood, loss of appetite, exhaustion, poor sleep, often poor attachment to the baby and sometime suicidal and homicidal ideas. Tragically, some of these ideas are acted on if the symptoms are so severe and the parent cannot see any other way out.

Most that experience post-natal depression, often feel guilty for having these symptoms and are too scared to reach out due to the fear of perhaps losing their baby. They also feel like such a failure as “everyone else” seems to be coping and they are constantly reminded of this at Mother’s groups and Facebook posts. They are not filled with a sense of wonderment that is portrayed in the media and feel everyday as a constant struggle with no enjoyment.

Prevention of this is often better than a cure. A topic of discussion at the forum was how do we assist couples with transitioning into parenthood and really prepare them for the relentless demands a new baby will bring? Also when they are beginning to struggle how do they reach out and who do they talk to?

For any parent that is relating to this, it is important to realise that you are not alone and this is not because you are inadequate. It is important to begin a conversation with someone about how you have actually been feeling and to be brutally honest. This can be with another family member, friend or even your GP. It is important to ask for help, even if they are not the person to do it. There are also some organisations that have phone support and resources, they can also direct you to an appropriate service provider. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) is one such organisations that offers such support. If depression is left too late, it can have dire consequences on a relationship and the family functioning.

If we begin to speak about Perinatal Depression more, and reach out more, we may be successful in building more programs and gathering more support for this often untreated and debilitating condition. Instead of “Mum’s the Word’, let’s spread the word and make this everyone’s business.

For more information on PANDA visit www.panda.org.au

Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith works at Brisbane based practice, Psychology Consultants, her bio can be viewed at www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Coffee- Friend by Day- Enemy by Night

Posted on September 5, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Coffee- Most people live for it and there has never been a better time to own a cafe, with Australian coffee culture deemed one of the most advanced in the world.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation Australia, 1 billion cups of coffee are consumed per year at cafes, restaurants and other outlets in Australia in 2006, with consumption of coffee doubling over the past 30 years.

But what does all this caffeine consumption mean for our sleep? With sleep problems also on the rise, affecting 33-45% of Australian adults, we must look to our lifestyle for possible causes.

The hard truth is caffeine is a drug, one that promotes alertness by inhibiting the sleepy chemicals in our brain. And although it’s perky effects kick in very quickly (within 30-70mins), its effects also linger in the system for 3 to 7 hours and up to 24 hours before fully vacating the premises. (source: Sleep Health Foundation).

Caffeine is also a diuretic and may keep you running to the loo at night. So if coffee rules your day but plaques you by night, you may want to reconsider the timing of those flat whites.

If you are struggling with ongoing sleep problems, consider the benefits of group therapy, with insomnia programme, Towards Better Sleep. The next programme, runs over 6 weeks, commencing on 4th October from Psychology Consultants Morningside. Visit the Towards Better Sleep page to find out more about the programme.

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The difference between stress and anxiety

Posted on August 21, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

When feeling stressed, you may also feel anxious, and this leads some people to believe they may have an anxiety disorder. From the outset, it can be difficult to spot the difference as many of the physical symptoms are the same, like heart palpitations, sweating, insomnia and headaches. To make a diagnosis even more complex, prolonged stress can lead to anxiety and depressed, which is why it is so important to learn how to manage stress.

The key difference between stress and anxiety is the period of time in which symptoms are felt. Stress is a normal inbuilt response to a threat, also known as ‘the fight or flight response’ and without it, our race would not have survived. However, for some, stress is not helpful in making that deadline or responding to demands, but instead causes physical decay and emotional distress. And although stress may induce feelings of anxiety, this is different to a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

An anxiety disorder is defined when anxiety is persistent, out of proportion to reality and significantly interferes with a person’s daily life. An anxiety disorder can be typically accompanied by intense uncontrollable worry, avoidance of real or perceived anxiety provoking situations and panic attacks. Speaking to a psychologist may help you deal with anxiety by equipping you with strategies to manage the symptoms and keep panic attacks under control.

Anxiety can be caused by a number of things that present as risk factors contributing to the development of an anxiety condition. Such factors include a genetic predisposition, stress and lifestyle, chronic health conditions, substance abuse and mental health conditions just to name a few. So although there are some key differences between stress and anxiety disorders, the two things are linked and that is why it is so important to not let stress get out of hand.

Symptoms of Stress

Recognising stress can be a challenge because it often manifests before we have had a chance to put a lid on it.  How each of us experience stress varies considerably, with some people becoming irritable and others losing sleep. Stress is typically recognised across four main areas: Physical, Thinking, Feeling and Behaviours. It is important to learn your unique stress symptoms so you can get on top of it, before it gets the better of you.

Here is a table which may help:

 

Physical Thinking Feeling Behaviour
Headaches Forgetfulness Irritable Difficulty sleeping
Muscle stiffness Difficulty concentrating Hopeless Procrastinating
Tight chest “I can’t do this…it’s too much” Numb Increased smoking/alcohol use
Nausea “I don’t have time” On edge Clenching jaw
Weight gain/loss “I should be able to sort this out” Stressed Snapping at people
Tiredness “Do I have to do everything around here?” Desperate Staying in bed
Skin conditions “I don’t want to talk to anyone” Vulnerable Avoiding people

 

Coping with Stress

There are a number of things that can reduce life stress. Learning how to respond differently to stressful situations, taking time to relax, adding some physical activity and eating well, breathing techniques and actually having some fun are helpful strategies.

Other strategies include time management and improving communication skills.

If you think you may need additional help to manage life stress, ask your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan and referral to a psychologist. This provides a Medicare rebate for psychological treatment. Alternatively, you can make an appointment directly with Psychology Consultants as a private client.

 

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Anger Management 101

Posted on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

We all get angry sometimes and this is totally normal, but if your anger is interfering with daily function, work life or affecting relationships, it’s time to question what is fuelling this feeling, and how to best manage the outburst.

Here are some alternative ways to manage anger:

1.Stop and think. Although this is counterintuitive to the feeling of anger, maintaining enough composure to ask yourself some important questions may help you in the long run.                                                                                        Questions like:

  • What has happened here that I don’t like? Put it in terms of who did what without over analysing.
  • Do I need to talk about it, or is it something that can be overlooked?
  • Is it something that the other person can do something about?
  • What do I actually want?

2. Negotiate with the other person. While you are negotiating, remember the following:

  • Create a solution that everyone can accept and keep looking for a solution to the original problem.
  • Take time out if necessary, but make sure you listen and understand what is being said before responding.
  • Do not give in just to end the argument.
  • Be sure you can do and will do what you agree on.
  • Hold firmly to your values while remaining flexible on how you exemplify them.

3. Brainstorm with the other person some possible solutions and keep the discussion focused on the behaviour that will solve the problem.

4. Review your progress. And acknowledge behaviour changes to people making the effort, including your own.

Although it is important to manage angry behaviour, the underlying feeling that are bubbling below the surface must also be addressed to truly move forward in a positive direction. A psychologist can help you understand negative feelings that may be causing anger as well as any other problematic behaviour or associated illness, like depression.

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Anger Management 101

Posted on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

We all get angry sometimes and this is totally normal, but if your anger is interfering with daily function, work life or affecting relationships, it’s time to question what is fuelling this feeling, and how to best manage the outburst.

Here are some alternative ways to manage anger:

1.Stop and think. Although this is counterintuitive to the feeling of anger, maintaining enough composure to ask yourself some important questions may help you in the long run.                                                                                        Questions like:

  • What has happened here that I don’t like? Put it in terms of who did what without over analysing.
  • Do I need to talk about it, or is it something that can be overlooked?
  • Is it something that the other person can do something about?
  • What do I actually want?

2. Negotiate with the other person. While you are negotiating, remember the following:

  • Create a solution that everyone can accept and keep looking for a solution to the original problem.
  • Take time out if necessary, but make sure you listen and understand what is being said before responding.
  • Do not give in just to end the argument.
  • Be sure you can do and will do what you agree on.
  • Hold firmly to your values while remaining flexible on how you exemplify them.

3. Brainstorm with the other person some possible solutions and keep the discussion focused on the behaviour that will solve the problem.

4. Review your progress. And acknowledge behaviour changes to people making the effort, including your own.

Although it is important to manage angry behaviour, the underlying feeling that are bubbling below the surface must also be addressed to truly move forward in a positive direction. A psychologist can help you understand negative feelings that may be causing anger as well as any other problematic behaviour or associated illness, like depression.

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What kids need after parental separation

Posted on August 10, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Marital separation can be a stressful and emotionally difficult time for families, with the focus often on children and how they might cope. Seeing a psychologist during this time, can help parents and children manage the transition, with practical advice and information to help parents build a secure base for your children. How children and adolescents react to their parents’ separation will differ with age, thought to be due to cognitive development and maturity, as older children become more capable of understanding the reasons and implications of a marital separation.

To break it down into simple points, all children need after parental separation is:

  • Protection from parental conflict.
  • A secure emotional base.
  • Help to solve their problems.
  • Firm and reasonable limits to be safely independent.
  • A trusted parent when they need to be dependent.
  • Encouragement to learn.
  • Routines that help them feel in control.
  • Protection from trauma.
  • Protection from parental stress about ongoing unresolved issues with ex-partners.

To break down needs further into age groups:

Infants need:

  • Parents who are tuned into their needs
  • Predictability
  • A lot of time with parents who nurture them
  • Parents who play with them, listen carefully to their efforts to communicate, keep their world safe.
  • Visiting schedules that don’t cause too much change.

Preschoolers need:

  • Plenty of time with their parents to know that they’re still there for them.
  • Reassurance that they will see the absent parent again.
  • Familiar rituals to help make the transition between parents.

Young primary school-aged children need:

  • Help to see that they’re not to blame for the separation.
  • Parents who stay interested and in touch with their school, activities and friends.
  • Encouragement to talk about their feelings.
  • Reassurance that the absent parent still loves them.
  • Clear boundaries to help them manage behaviour that may be a reaction to the separation.
  • Help during transitions between parents. 

Older primary school-aged children need:

  • Reminder that it is not their responsibility to look after their parents’ well-being.
  • Routines that are predictable, and consistent rules and expectations.
  • Parents who can make room for thinking about their children’s needs apart from their own.
  • Permission to love the other parent.
  • Parents who listen carefully to how they feel about things.

Adolescents need:

  • Daily stress in their life kept as low as possible.
  • Parents to be available daily to listen and give support.
  • Predictable routines, consistent rules and expectations.
  • Parents who are able to supervise them, and take a real interest in their lives.
  • Time and space to work out their own reactions to their parents’ separation.
  • Flexibility in arrangements to allow them to participate in normal adolescent social activities and school events.

If you or your family need support during a separation or are experiencing marriage difficulties, seeing a psychologist can be a positive step forward. You can view our team of Clinical Psychologists here to see who is experienced in this field or call our friendly reception team to discuss who may be the right person to see: Newmarket (07) 3356 8255 or Morningside (07) 3395 8633.

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Life After Yo-Yo Diets

Posted on August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

How a Psychologist Can Help You Lose Weight

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist 

Why is it that despite starting off with the best intentions, so many of us fail when we go on a diet?

Often the answer to this question is that our goals around health and weight loss are unrealistic or difficult to maintain. Imagine  you are playing a sport and every time you attempted to kick a goal you continued to fall short. After a while, you begin to ask the question “What’s the point?” and then you come to the conclusion of giving up.

Diet and exercise often fall into this category. So instead of aiming for the same goal, the idea is to move the goal posts closer. So in practical terms, if you haven’t been exercising at all, it’s not realistic to expect that you will do intensive one hour exercise sessions 5 times a week. Rather it would be more practical to aim for a mild to moderate exercise session of 1 to 2 times a week. Once you are successful with maintaining this, then you can either increase the intensity, duration or frequency. It is also best to try and set your exercise sessions at the same time and day as let’s face it, we are creatures of habit!

Now what to do about eating?…

Eating is one of those essential activities we must do. It is very tempting to go on a popular diet but not always practical, and it often doesn’t teach us what we need to eat when we reach our goal weight. An easier way to begin controlling your diet and reducing your energy intake is to begin to be mindful of what you are eating, when, how, how much, how often and what are your thoughts about it.

Below are some simple tips on mindful eating habits that are likely to lead to weight loss and maintenance.

  1. Be sure to notice what food you are eating. Observe the textures, taste, smell and even sound. The more you observe, often the more satisfied you feel.
  2. Ask yourself “Am I hungry?” Often we eat simply out of habit rather than need.
  3. Make eating a purposeful activity. Attempt to avoid eating food on the run or whilst doing other activities as this often discounts the experience of ingesting and enjoying food.
  4. Be mindful of the energy content of food and drinks. If unsure, look it up as often this information is quite enlightening and can clarify a source of previously discounted kilojoules. Don’t mistake fat free or gluten free for being kilojoule free!
  5. Monitor your weight weekly. Without this feedback, it is difficult to know if you are on the right track.
  6. Observe your inner experience. Research indicates that it takes on average 15-20 minutes for the stretch receptors in our stomach to send a message of satiety to our brain. So before you rush off for a second helping, maybe wait and see.
  7. Finally be mindful of your self talk. Take a self compassionate viewpoint. Gently encourage yourself as you would a friend if you make some poorer choices or do not have the expected weight loss. Avoid the “all or nothing approach” as many people will give up their new regime as soon as they have missed something.

Remember, to win the war, you may need to lose a few battles.

Each day is a new experience and presents a new opportunity.

Be kind and nurture yourself.

To read more about Kathryn and our team of Clinical Psychologists, view her profile here.

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Why couple’s therapy should not be your relationship’s last resort

Posted on August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

People often think of ‘Couples Counselling’ as the last resort to save a relationship; a cry for help when the relationship’s engine has completely broken down. This is simply the wrong approach. Just like we need mechanics to tune our car engine, accountants to fix our tax and dentists to polish the smile bones; therapists can help us keep what’s most precious in top nick too!

Couples counselling is a really positive way to encourage open and clear communication between two people in a romantic relationship. Often, despite best intentions, the busyness of work and family life, can get in the way of tuning your relationship’s engine and poor communication and entrenched negative behaviours can cause it to break down. But just like your car, teeth or finances, it’s best to avoid breaking point before enlisting help.

What is Couple’s Therapy?

At Psychology Consultants we have a number of clinical psychologists, specifically trained in the field of relationship counselling. Our Clinical Psychologists use a range of therapeutic interventions to gain insight into your relationship, employing strategies to resolve conflict and improve your satisfaction with each other. Problems may range from specific issues, like sex, money and spending, to generalised concerns with communication and emotions. Your therapist will focus on providing practical everyday solutions to improve your relationship, like rules of engagement, how you agree to talk and interact with one another.

Often ideas of how relationships should function are based on how our parents or family members interact and this is not always ideal. Discussing roles, responsibilities within the relationship as well as mutually acceptable styles of communication can reveal differences in ideologies, sometimes the root of the problem.

Most people come away from couple’s therapy with a much deeper understanding of their partner, having spent time understanding each other’s perspective and emotional needs. It also aims to improve communication and develop better conflict resolution skills, with the outcome often improving the individuals emotional and mental health. Couple’s therapy not only resolve current issues but may prevent major breakdowns. So rather than consider couples therapy as a last resort, reframe it and add it to your annual “check-up” list.

If you think you and your partner could benefit from couples therapy, check out our team of Clinical Psychologists and their areas of specialisation here.

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Stress a leading cause of mental health issues

Posted on July 23, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Today, Tuesday 24th July is Lifeline’s Stress Down Day, an important reminder of the importance of SLOWING DOWN.

For most Australian’s, our daily lives operate at a frantic pace and with smart phone in hand, we can be contacted (or harassed) anywhere, anytime, so it’s little wonder that as a nation our stress levels are at an all-time high. According to a study into stress and wellbeing run by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) in 2014; “Almost two in five Australians reported experiencing at least some depression symptoms, with 13% of these Australians reporting depression symptoms in the severe to extremely severe range [and] more than one quarter of Australians reported experiencing at least some anxiety symptoms, with 13% of these Australians reporting severe to extremely severe levels of anxiety.”

But rather than sit back and accept these statistics, let’s take charge, make a change and start reducing daily stress levels.

Here are 5 practical ways to regain work life balance and improve your health and wellbeing…

  1. Set boundaries around work time and location

Making a rule around not bringing work into the home can be difficult, especially with the expectation that we must be accessible 24/7. But by leaving the laptop at work you may also be more likely to leave the stress of work there too. If you work from home or it is simply not feasible to do this in your position, allocating set times that you work and areas of the house that you work from, may help you ‘shut off’ and stop work stress seeping into your home life.

  1. Put the Smart Phone Down!

According to a Roy Morgan Research study, 45% of Australian smart phone owners (14+ years) say they can’t live without their mobiles. Our obsession and absolute dependence on our smart phones are making it even more difficult to walk away from work with emails accessible at a swipe. Forming some healthy habits around when and where you use your smart phone may help you switch off, allowing you to relax, be present and enjoy home life. Research also shows that the blue/green light omitted from smart phones impacts negatively on sleep, so keeping phones and laptops away from the bedroom is a must.

  1. Share and commit to the plan

Sharing your plan to ‘leave work at the office’ with loved ones or friends will help make your commitment real. Give them the power to call you on it, if you are sneaking in one more email before bed or taking calls when you should be relaxing with the kids. Sharing your ‘de-stress plan’ and forming a good support network will also help share the burden of stress or help manage the symptoms.

  1. Form an End of Work Ritual

Making a cue or signal that works has finished for the day may help your brain switch off. Whether it is going for a run, hitting the pilates studio or listening to music on the way home, these are simple ways to say to yourself and others, ‘I am done for the day’!

  1. Exercise

There really is no better de-stressor than exercise. This can be time just for 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. It can also help you think things through, decompress and work through any baggage you may have taken on for the day.

Achieving the right work life balance can be a challenge in our fast pace society but by learning how to manage stress; you can significantly improve your health and wellbeing. If you are struggling with stress, talking to a professional can help. Psychology Consultants have a team of Clinical Psychologists based at Morningside and Newmarket, who are experienced in stress management. Visit the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website to view the team and their areas of specialisation.

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