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What is the World Coming To?

Posted on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Cherie Dalton

positive-300x225As we welcome in the new year, it’s a time to focus on new goals and a fresh start, yet, with recent acts of terrorism, the Ebola crisis and airline crashes many Australians might be facing 2015 thinking ‘What is the World Coming To?’ While these events are confronting and frightening, they are extremely rare, particularly in Australia. Such events are unlikely to impact on us or those we are close to.

It is valuable and human to feel compassion and care for those affected, yet it is also important to keep things in perspective when reflecting on our own lives, particularly if it is affecting our own wellbeing. The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health highlights the “effect of fear and worry is often well in excess of the actual threat (of an attack)”. Maintaining this perspective is helpful. Despite our uncomfortableness with what we sometimes see and hear in the media, there are many actions that we can take to look after the things that matter to us that can offer us comfort and stability. We can:

  • Do activities we enjoy and try to do something enjoyable each day.
  • Spend time with family and friends and stay connected with people that matter to us and leave us feeling positive. Get in contact with friends or family we haven’t seen for a while.
  • Focus on what matters most to us and put energy into that – perhaps family, relationships, health, work relationships, study goals, making friends, helping others, prayer, participating in our community.
  • Limit exposure to media, particularly rolling coverage of incidents, especially before bed and around children.
  • Keep to normal routines and predictable schedules yet also being mindful of welcoming a sense of spontaneity.
  • Practice good stress management strategies such as incorporating exercise, healthy eating, relaxation or meditation and keeping alcohol intake at a healthy level.
  • Engage in positive activities for ourselves and others such as Meals on Wheels volunteering, fun runs or sporting clubs, church communities, walking, noticing the beauty of nature, fundraising for charity.
  • Keep to the facts and watch for people ‘hyping-up’ drama and threat. Keep things in perspective.
  • Ask ourselves each day what we are grateful for.
  • Remember how unlikely an event is to impact on us directly.
  • Focus on the countless positive examples of kindness, helping, courage and compassion around us.
  • Notice the extensive help, preparation and protection response that comes from security and health organisations and governments.
  • Be careful how adults speak around children about events and be aware of conveying a message of calmness and stability in words, reactions, tone and attitudes.
  • Answer questions from children in a caring, reassuring, truthful way. Listen to their feelings, be patient and keep explanations at their level with the over-riding focus on comfort and safety.
  • Watch for signs of becoming preoccupied with things that are beyond our control and turn attention to things that are within our control.

The actions we take each moment and each day make a difference to our wellbeing. Take with you a sense of empowerment and confidence into the New Year.

Cherie DaltonFor more information on Cherie and the team of Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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New Year Resolution and Self Compassion

Posted on January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0
Dr James Kirby

Dr James Kirby

By Clinical Psychologist Dr James Kirby

When the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve we all celebrate and enjoy the moment. However, not long after, we get met with that dreaded question?

So what are your New Years Resolutions?

new-year-resolutions

This can lead to all sorts of responses, such as: lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with my children, save more money, drink less, or even find a new hobby. Sound familiar? Our New Year Resolutions really can be quite diverse. However, one common element to all of these resolutions is that they require a lot of hard work. All the resolutions I listed are also quite vague and not that specific, yet we hear them all the time, indeed many of them are ones I have set myself.

I set lose weight and exercise more as my New Years Resolutions for 2015.

It has been about three weeks since New Years Eve, and around this time many of us can feel like we have failed with the resolutions we set ourselves. Some of us may have even forgotten exactly what we did choose as our resolutions. For example, some research estimates suggest that about 60% of New Years resolution gym memberships go unused, and that these gym memberships are rated as one of the biggest money wasters for our back pocket. Despite this knowledge, joining the gym is still one of the most common New Years resolutions.

One of the problems with New Years Resolutions is when we don’t meet them this can make us feel depressed, frustrated, and sometimes angry, as many of us see it as a sign of failure. Since New Years Eve I have exercised more, but losing weight, well that hasn’t happened yet. One of the problems with these New Years Resolutions is that often they aren’t specific, and research has shown that we are more likely to succeed or come close to success if we set short-term specific goals (Locke, Shaw, Saari. & Latham (1981).

So instead of setting a resolution such as exercising more, what would be better is setting a setting a specific goal such as:

I will aim to exercise three afternoons a week for 30 minutes for the first month.

And then after that first month review how you have been going. If it hasn’t been going as planned you can try to work out how to overcome any obstacles, you might even need to modify the goal, and then try again for the next month. Alternatively if you have met that goal, make sure you congratulate yourself for the efforts you have made. Setting achievable and specific short-term goals are often better than vague, open-ended goals, because we can gauge how we are going. However, when we take a moment to review how we have been going it is important to have a little bit of self-compassion with these resolutions.

But what is self-compassion?

Self-compassion has been defined as involving three important components (Neff, 2003), and I will use exercise as an example of how to apply self-compassion to your resolutions.

  1. Being mindful as opposed to over-identifying with the problem. For example, being mindful that you are struggling with exercise at this present time, as opposed to seeing yourself as a complete failure always with exercise.
  2. Connecting with others as opposed to isolating yourself. For example, realising that you are likely not the only one struggling with exercise, indeed many others struggle with exercise as well.
  3. Being kind and loving to yourself as opposed to being judgemental. For example you could say to yourself, “May I be forgiving of myself, and continue to try and exercise.”

We know when we are more self-compassionate as individuals; it helps with our own psychological health (Neff, 2003). We also know that individuals with greater self-compassion have been found to have less anxiety and depression (Neff & Dahm, 2014). People with higher levels of self-compassion also have been found to ruminate less (Neff, 2003), and tend to have fewer negative emotions such as irritability, hostility or distress (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

So as you can see much can be gained by being a little more self-compassionate. I do a lot of research and clinical work with parents. And often parents will come to the clinic with the problem “I just don’t know if I am doing it right?” In these situations often parents are looking for a little bit of reassurance that they are actually doing a good job. To me it would seem parents would benefit greatly from some self-compassion. For example if you are a parent struggling in a particular situation with your child the following may be useful:

  • I am noticing this is a moment where I am struggling with parenting
  • I am not alone with my struggle, others also struggle with parenting
  • May I give myself the compassion that I need in this moment

Self-compassion is something I think we can all benefit from. It just involves those three important points: (1) being mindful, (2) connecting with others, and (3) be kind and loving towards yourself.

So have a look at your New Years Resolutions. Do you need to change them to specific goals and start again for February? And when reviewing them, be sure to do so with some self-compassion.

For more information on James and the team at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

References

Locke, Edwin A.; Shaw, Karyll N.; Saari, Lise M.; Latham, Gary P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 125-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.90.1.125

Neff, K.D., & Dahm, K.A. (2014). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it related to mindfulness. In M. Robinson, B. Meier & B. Ostafin (Eds.) Mindfulness and Self-Regulation. New York: Springer.

Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and its link to adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154.

Neff, K. D. (2003). Development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.

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Mirror Mirror

Posted on December 4, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

plastic-surgeryBy Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith

Cosmetic procedures are on the rise and with ‘bikini season’ approaching, I pose the question- does improving the outside make you feel better on the inside?

It seems everywhere we look these days, there is a new one stop clinic offering a variety of solutions for aging, fat deposits, uneven skin tone, wrinkles, sun damage, hair removal and so on. Not to mention the burgeoning surgical industry with some even taking a cosmetic surgical holiday.

Rates of cosmetic procedures from lunchtime fixes to more extensive surgery have continued to rise significantly over the past decade in the UK, US and Australia. We seem to be increasingly pressured to fulfil an ideal and are reluctant to gracefully step into the aging process. We are more than ever encouraged to make comparisons to others and to feel that “good enough” is now “not enough”. We are often sold the idea that improving our appearance will actually improve our psychosocial well being. In other words, not only will we will feel good about ourselves, our relationships, work and friendships will also significantly improve. Whilst some people do experience an improvement in self esteem, some studies have shown that most will return to their previous level of dissatisfaction and often those who have undergone more extensive procedures versus restorative procedures are more likely to have a poor adjustment.

So, how do you know if you are making the right choice about a cosmetic procedure?

As a clinical psychologist, I am increasingly concerned about the increase in these cosmetic procedures as individuals who are more susceptible may also be anxious or depressed with a long history of low self esteem. A particular sub-group, is also those who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD. This is typically characterised by an excessive preoccupation in a perceived flaw or defect, which causes marked distress, a reduction in functioning and a number of ritualistic behaviours such as excessive checking, picking, internet searching and reassurance seeking. Individuals with BDD will often believe that their perceived defect is so noticeable that they will either avoid going out into public or conceal themselves when they have to. To others, the perceived defect may be non-existent or only slight but despite reassurance they do not feel convinced. It has times, been referred to as a “preoccupation with perceived ugliness” (APS reference). This subgroup may frequently seek cosmetic procedures ranging from non-invasive to major surgery. I will unfortunately see this subgroup after a number of cosmetic interventions and increasing distress due to complications or misconceptions about the desired outcome.

Now, back to the question of how do you know if you are making the right choice? The first thing to consider is what the risks are associated with the procedure, is it invasive or relatively non invasive? Are you aware of the risks of complications and the realistic outcomes? Do you suffer from anxiety, depression or long standing self esteem issues that you may need to seek assistance with first? Or are you frequently reassured by other people that your perceived defect is non existent or minor but you are significantly preoccupied with this and it causes significant distress to the point you don’t want to be seen? If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, then this may be an indicator of BDD and it would be beneficial to speak to a psychologist to have this accurately assessed before drastic measures are taken.

As Brene Brown, a famous American scholar in social work aptly said… “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together”.

KathrynFor more information on Kathryn and our team of Psychologists visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

 

 

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Tackling Social Isolation- During Mental Health Week 5-12 October 2014

Posted on October 9, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

isolated-youthBy Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

This week is Mental Health Week and today Friday, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day. These events help to raise awareness of mental health issues and well-being in our community, as well as mobilising efforts in support of mental health. The theme for 2014 is “Living with Schizophrenia”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes schizophrenia as “…a severe mental disorder” with “profound disruptions in thinking…perception…” that “includes psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions”, and can significantly “impair functioning”. WHO further makes the point that, “Most cases of schizophrenia can be treated, and people affected by it can lead a productive life and be integrated in society.”

While aspects of schizophrenia, such as psychotic experiences, are more observable, a major problem for the person suffering with schizophrenia is the hidden effects of social isolation. Loneliness, an absence of social supports, and a lack of social connections such as a partner or friends can all have marked effects on a person’s mental health, including exacerbating the acute symptoms of schizophrenia, and increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, substance misuse and suicide.

For the person suffering with mental health issues, finding social outlets, connecting or reconnecting with friends and family, getting involved with the broader community, or joining a group or a club are all ways to overcome loneliness. It takes courage and effort, however getting out and about is a sure-fire way to reaping the benefits of social connectedness. If you haven’t already, try more of these yourself and see what effects they might have.

And everyone can help those who might be suffering.

For all of us, actively noticing people, especially those around us who may be socially isolated, and giving them a friendly smile and wave across the street, speaking with them, listening deeply to them, doing small acts of kindness, resisting our assumptions about the person and instead finding common ground, are all ways to create connections in the community. As a matter of fact, this will offer a greater sense of social connection to the person who might be feeling lonely, and it also makes a tangible difference to our own sense of social connection and therefore our own mental health and well-being.

Have a think about it. What can you do this week that reduces isolation and promotes the social connection amongst people around us who might be suffering from mental health issues, and also the community generally…including ourselves?

For more information on Stan and the team of Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

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The Importance of Sleep-During Mental Health Week- 5th-12th October 2014

Posted on October 8, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith

sleep-deprivation-depression-270

It’s no secret that we all feel a little fuzzy in the head when we have not had enough sleep. But ongoing sleeplessness or insomnia can lead to serious mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith who facilitates sleep programme, Towards Better Sleep says; “Sleep difficulty is one of the most frequent complaints people present to health practitioners, affecting about 10% of the population. It can have major adverse effects on a person’s life, and has been associated with psychological, occupational, health and economic repercussions.

Chronic sleep difficulties can lead to psychological distress, impairment in daytime functioning, fatigue-related error-making or accidents, and increased use of sick leave” she said.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, research suggests that 60-90% of patients with depression have insomnia and approximately 20% of people with depression have sleep apnoea.

The Harvard Mental Health Newsletter states “Once viewed only as symptoms, sleep problems may actually contribute to psychiatric disorders”. People who sleep poorly are much more likely to develop significant mental illness, including depression and anxiety, than those who sleep well.”

If you have ongoing sleep concerns and would like to take action, talk to your GP about your suitability for the Towards Better Sleep Programme.

Towards Better Sleep is a cognitive behavioural treatment programme that uses evidenced based techniques that focus on sleep education and behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.

The final programme for the year commences 23rd October, places are limited. Register your interest by emailing tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au or (07) 3356 8255sleep-deprivation-depression-270

Visit the website for more information www.towardsbettersleep.com.au

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Take Action During Sleep Awareness Week

Posted on September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

If you are suffering from insomnia, there is no better time to act than now, during Sleep Awareness Week. The long standing programme, Towards Better Sleep has a group commencing on 9th October with 3 spots still vacant. For those who want to see an end to sleepless nights, speak with you GP about your suitability for the Towards Better Sleep Programme. For more information visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au
SleepAwarenessWeek-POSTER-0914

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R U OK? Day- 11th September 2014

Posted on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

R_U_OK?_Day_logo

By Clinical Psychologist, Dr Jillian Millar

Every year the second Thursday in September is R U Ok? Day. This initiative encourages everyone to strike up a simple but potentially lifesaving conversation with friends, family, colleagues and strangers by asking if they are okay?

How can a 3 word sentence save lives?

By starting a conversation with someone we can reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness and disconnection; it might even lead to or encourage further help seeking with mental health professionals.

It is estimated that around 180 people attempt suicide every day, that’s more than one new attempt in Australia every 10 minutes! (www.lifeline.org). In the year 2010, 2361 people died as a result of suicide. (Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au)

RobinWilliamsThe recent suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams came as a shock to many given his reputation for being such a funny and genuinely nice person. It seems the man who was able to generate so many smiles and laughter was internally struggling with his own private pain. Appearances can be deceiving, perhaps his smiling face and comedic abilities were his strategy for coping. Although a humour defence has some benefits, it can also come with a sense of emptiness and invalidation.

We can all get caught up with busy lives and may also miss the cues associated with someone who is contemplating attempting suicide. The daily greeting of “Hi, how are you?” which is almost always met with an obligatory “Good” largely out of habit, has lost its meaning. That’s why the R U OK? Campaign is an excellent reminder to take the time to probe a little deeper and find out how the people around you are truly feeling. Show that you are genuinely interested to know how they are coping, and don’t be afraid to open up and share your honest feelings when you yourself are asked R U OK?

R U Ok? Day: https://www.ruok.org.au/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruokday/info

JillianFor more information on Dr Jillian Millar, Clinical Psychologist and our team of experienced Psychologists, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

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A new outlook, a new way to connect, introducing the Compassion Network…

Posted on September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

UQsymposiumphoto

Last weekend, over 300 people from the medical and health industry gathered to attend UQ’s Inaugral Compassion Symposium. Keen to hear the inspiring words of Professor James Doty, the Friday night event saw over 300 guests attend with a further 70 people attend the Saturday talk.

It was exciting to see such energy in the room with groups full of inspired conversation and positive feedback about the topic and the advent of the Compassion Symposium. The overall buzz and success of the event, has led to the formation of a new group called the “Compassion Network”, designed to connect like-minded health professionals who embrace this new style of practice.

If you are a health practitioner who would like to join the “Compassion Network” please email enquiries@psychologyconsultants.com.au and we will take down your contact details.

Momentum is already building for the second installment of the UQ Compassion Symposium 2015 and in the lead up; Dr Stan Steindl will be running various mini-compassion events. More information will be posted on our Facebook page, UQ’s Compassion Symposium page and our website www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Dealing with the emotional impacts of Cancer -Daffodil Day Friday 22 August 2014

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

Daffodil Day CC  logoAlmost everyone will know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, whether it be a loved one, a friend, a neighbour or a colleague. According to statistics held by the Australian Government, in 2014, 128290 Australians were diagnosed with some form of cancer.

Depending on their individual diagnosis and prognosis, everyone copes differently with the disease and the challenges that it presents. Many cancer sufferers and their families find it helpful to hear from others who have been through it, and becoming a member of support groups like that offered by Cancer Council can be very beneficial.

The rollercoaster of emotions cancer patients and their families face after diagnosis can be difficult to deal with. Counselling can help people deal with these emotions. Anger, fear, confusion, uncertainty and also guilt are normal emotions to feel as a person adjusts to this kind of life event. Some people may go through a stage of denial about the diagnosis, especially if they actually feel perfectly healthy.

Cancer and its medical treatment may leave you feeling unwell. As a result, sadness and hopelessness can develop, and can lead to the onset of depression. Cancer can change the way you think about your body and yourself as a person, but there are positive ways of dealing with the emotional grief that the situation presents.

Confiding in a friend or family member can be a good way to outwardly express your emotions, however often such conversations can lead to frustration and anger with feelings that they just don’t understand. Sometimes talking to a health professional, who is not emotionally involved, such as doctor or psychologist, can be a good way to develop positive coping strategies.

This Friday 22nd August, thousands of volunteers across the country will be working towards defeating cancer by selling Daffodil Day merchandise, show you care by buying a pin or flower and help support this very worthy cause.

More information and a list of useful resources is available at: www.cancercouncil.org.au or www.daffodilday.com.au

For more information on our team of experienced Psychologists visit: www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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