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Breaking Christmas Bads – How to make your weight loss resolutions stick!

Posted on January 2, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
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With the excessiveness of the festive season a distant memory (except for those pants that no-longer fit) and the calendar diary looking fresh and inspiring, most of us take the time to reflect, look forward and set goals for the year ahead. Interestingly (and maybe a direct correlation with said festive cheer) statistics show that ‘weight loss’ ranks as the number one New Year’s resolution.

So why do we set this goal, year after year, and why do we so often fall short of achieving it?

Perhaps this is because our weight loss goals are slightly unrealistic? Commencing a hardcore exercise regime whilst eating gluten free, carb free, organic salads might be difficult to maintain unless you are an elite athlete or live with ‘The Commando’.

So here are are some tips from Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith, on how to keep your New Year’s resolution going strong.

    1. Practice Mindful Eating. What does this actually mean I hear you ask? Try observing the textures, taste, smell and even sound, enjoy and savour the food. The more you observe, often the more satisfied you feel.
    2. Break Bad Eating Habits. A phrase you will often hear from the mouth of a child is: “I’m hungry” when a lot of the time they are actually bored and not in fact hungry. Well… adults do this too. So next time you find yourself staring into the pantry, ask yourself’ “Are you actually hungry?”
    3. Sit Down to Eat. Avoid eating on the fly. Sit down, put down your phone and make a proper experience out of eating, you might find you enjoy the food and count the meal as one.
    4. Weigh up your options. If you are unsure of the caloric value of what you are about to devour, 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. Check in with reality. It sounds hideous but a weekly weigh in will help keep you on track, it’s hard to know how you are doing without a set of scales or a measuring tape.
    6. Wait and See. 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. Be Kind to Yourself. Take a self compassionate viewpoint and be aware of your self-talk. 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.

Despite being experts in behavioural change, psychologists seem to be overlooked as a resource for weight loss management. However, by using cognitive behavioural therapy, a psychologist can help patients address their thoughts and behaviours surrounding eating whilst addressing any underlying causes, like self-esteem issues or depressive disorders.

If you think a psychologist could help you with your weight loss goals this year, check out our team of male and female clinical psychologists on the Brisbane Psychologist page of our website.

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Random Acts of Festive Kindness

Posted on December 11, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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For some, Christmas is the best time of year, a time to relax, reset and spend time with family and friends. For others, Christmas is not quite so jolly and may be a poignant reminder of those lost or just an emotionally stressful time due to finances, family or illness.

Being mindful of everyone’s situation at Christmas can be hard, especially if you are feeling jovial, after all ‘tis the season to be jolly’. So rather than spoil the mood just add to the spirit of the season by acting with generosity, compassion and kindness.

Even the subtlest acts of kindness can be very meaningful to those that are struggling, a simple smile and a wave to a lonely neighbour or letting someone in the very long line, go first.  Don’t forget the person behind the store counter that you may be frustrated with after waiting in line for 20 minutes. They are people too, with real needs and emotions, asking them, “So, how was your day?” and actually listening to their response is unexpected and can go a long way.

Other more obvious charitable acts, include supporting a charity by purchasing greeting cards, donating to a food bin at your local shopping centre or sponsoring a child at Christmas.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Stan Steindl who sits on the board of the global movement, Charter for Compassion, admits that living compassionately can be hard. Often we would like to act more compassionately but putting words or thoughts into actions can be difficult.

“Living compassionately takes a lot of courage, and it helps us and others to feel healthier and happier. Think through your motivations and affirm your commitments. Then, if you take a risk and act with compassion, you won’t regret it” said Dr Steindl.

And finally, don’t forget yourself, in the words of Dalai Lama “If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.”

Psychology Consultants have a diverse team of male and female clinical psychologists committed to the health and wellbeing of their clients. To view the team and their areas of interest, visit the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website.

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Want to maximise the holiday cheer? Make sure to keep control of the beer..

Posted on November 22, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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Dr Mark Wetton, Clinical Psychologist

For many Australians, it wouldn’t be Christmas holidays without a few glasses of sparkling, or a few beers. Alcohol has both desirable and undesirable effects – sometimes people end up doing things that they regret which can turn a time of celebration and relaxation into a time of sadness, hurt, or even physical injury. So to maximise the holiday cheer and minimise these undesired effects, here are a few things to consider:

Alcohol affects thinking

Alcohol has both stimulating and sedative effects on our brain. One of the most concerning sedative effects is that as we get more intoxicated we have decreased ability to think about long-term consequences. This means that we tend to live more “in the moment”, and to not worry about what is going to happen the next day, hour, and or even minute – so it is pretty easy for some people to do things that they might later regret…

Alcohol affects our emotional state and ability to control emotion

The stimulating effects of alcohol can improve our mood and make us feel happy, while the sedative effects usually reduce anxiety and reduce emotional control. So even though a person might initially be more relaxed and chatty after a couple of drinks, as they get more intoxicated they might get overly angry or behave in a way that they will later regret…

Alcohol affects memory

Alcohol interferes with our how our memory works resulting in people often forgetting events that happened when they were very intoxicated. Often we only realise that these gaps in memory exist when friends ask us about our own behaviour on that night and we can’t remember!

The interesting part of this effect is that with only a couple of drinks in the system our memory can still work quite well, so people usually remember the experiences from the early part of the night – the times where the positive effects of alcohol are the main experience. However, if the person keeps drinking and the level of intoxication increases, our memory doesn’t effectively store the experiences from the later part of the night – the part of the night where people might be less in control of their emotions and not able to think about long-term consequences. And because of this effect, we may never learn from these experiences and may keep making the same mistake…

Some people have an easier time controlling their drinking, but control is important for all

Due to their genetic makeup or drinking history, some people can’t control their drinking once it starts. They tend to get a very positive emotional experience once they start drinking, and then get stuck in the ‘chasing the feeling’ mode all night… And due to the effect of alcohol on thinking about long-term consequences, they aren’t at all worried that they might get so intoxicated that they do things that they will later regret…

The best advice is to try to control your drinking, and to learn whether that is possible for you (some people may not be able to drink in a controlled fashion at all!). For most people there is a rate of alcohol consumption that will bring you the ‘upsides’ of alcohol while minimising the ‘downsides’, and this might be something to keep in mind before you start!

So how can we maximise the holiday cheer? Well, here are some ideas to try:

1. Know your limit of drinks per hour, not per night – the rate of drinking is more important for risk management than the total number (though drinking a lot of alcohol on any day can cause you serious health issues if you do it regularly).

2. Eat food with alcohol – this slows the effect of alcohol and makes it more controllable.

3. Always plan an easy way to get home without needing to drive if you have drunk too much – have a designated driver/enough money for a cab tucked away somewhere safe.

4. Try out the new ‘What’s Your Relationship with Alcohol’ website developed by Queensland Government Department of Health:

http://www.mydrinkingchoices.qld.gov.au/

5. Consult the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for the responsible use of alcohol:

https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines

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Don’t Worry, be Happy Now – 5 ways to nurture your inner optimist

Posted on November 6, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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During Psychology Week 6-12th November 2016

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

As humans we all innately search for happiness, contentment, joy and a purposeful life. But what does it mean to be happy and is it possible to be happy without experiencing sadness and a whole range of other emotions?

This week is National Psychology Week, an APS initiative that aims to improve people’s health and well-being with this year’s focus on improving happiness by promoting ways to thrive.

Research from the field of positive psychology has shown that five key pillars (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment) underpin our psychological well-being, and by focusing on these aspects of life we can improve our health, happiness and satisfaction with life (Australian Psychological Society website, 2016).

Unfortunately, try as we might, even the most experienced professionals and scientists cannot provide the exact formula for happiness, as we all have different push buttons and emotional compositions.

“What we do know is consciously promoting positive behavior in all aspects of life; in relationships, in our workplace and at home, has a profound effect on our level of happiness” said Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist.

Having a positive outlook is contagious (as is being negative) and can turn daily situations around. And although some of us are naturally more inclined to view life with a ‘glass half empty’ attitude, research suggests there are ways to turn a pessimist into an optimist.

According to The Pursuit of Happiness organization, “Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope with unfortunate news.

Gratitude is associated with optimism and it has been determined that grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed, and are less depressed.

Recent research indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently, and their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result.” (www.thepursuitofhappiness.org)

So, if optimism doesn’t come naturally, here are 5 helpful ways to view life’s daily challenges with a more positive attitude:

  1. Think about bad situations as temporary. This is the underpinning nature of an optimist. Example situation – you are rejected in a major work submission to win new business.  An optimist would think; “this is just a small set back and there will be more opportunities in the future. This submission has provided great experience for the future.”
  2. Put things in perspective. When you find yourself in a negative head space, it can be helpful to put the shoe on the other foot, or think about others who might be in a worse situation than you.
  3. Consider your own health. Research suggests that optimists live longer and have better physical and mental health. So looking on the bright side of a situation will not only help others, it will positively impact your own health.
  4. Talk it through. Communication is a large part of positive thinking. Whether it is with a friend or a professional, talking about your situation can help you become more positive and put things in perspective.
  5. Be kind to others. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing something to make another person happy. Whether it’s a random act of kindness, volunteer work or being compassionate to a colleague in distress, being kind is emotionally satisfying and may help you nurture your inner optimist.

To view our team of experienced psychologists, visit the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website.

 

 

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Using the ‘F’ word: Tackling the obesity crisis kindly

Posted on October 28, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2011-12, 62.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese and according to Australian Doctor, 80% of adults and close to one-third of children are expected to be overweight or obese by 2025.

The associated health risks and impact on the Australian economy is significant but knowing how to sensitively approach a person’s weight is reportedly a real issue even for many health professionals. (Australian Doctor; “Doctors need to be taught how to discuss their patients’ excess weight”,17 August, 2016, Dr Adrienne Gordon and Associate Professor Kirsten Black).

“Approaching the topic of weight loss with sensitivity, compassion and understanding will avoid a knee-jerk reaction and ultimately reap the best results”, says Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist.

“Using sensitive language and avoiding harsh words like ‘fat’ and ‘obese’ but instead focusing on the positive outcome of weight loss and the patient’s health goals is the best practice.

“Aside from it being the second highest contributor to burden of disease, understanding the psycho-social reasons for the obesity should also rank as a health professionals primary concern, Ms Smith says.”

Once the topic of the person’s weight has been sensitively broached, perhaps as part of a broader discussion about their physical and mental health, supporting the person with external resources and care is integral to the success of the intervention.

Addressing the underlying issues surrounding their weight can be difficult to ascertain and considering a holistic and collaborative approach can be beneficial for the person in managing and maintaining their long-term weight loss goals.

Despite being experts in behavioural change, psychologists seem to be overlooked as a resource for weight loss management. However, by using cognitive behavioural therapy, a psychologist can help patients address their thoughts and behaviours surrounding eating whilst addressing any underlying causes, like self-esteem issues or depressive disorders.

According to Kylie Ball, Research Fellow at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University, “Some of the most effective strategies for encouraging healthy living, exercise and positive eating habits come from CBT” (Australian Psychological Society; “Obesity: attaining positive outcomes” Rebecca Camilleri and Rebecca Mathews)

Many of the clinical psychologists at Psychology Consultants have specialised knowledge and experience in weight management and are committed to achieving long-term success for client’s who present with these concerns. For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists, visit the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website.

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Fit Minds

Posted on October 10, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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During Mental Health Week 9-15th October 2016

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

If you have ever watched an episode of Sex in the City,” you might notice that all of the characters seem to have therapists. They openly and willingly talk about their problems over lunch; “my therapist says I should…”

In fact this is true of most American sitcoms and probably reflective of a more open and honest culture and attitude towards mental health and the importance of feeling balanced and healthy.

Aussies, well, we are a bit different in this regard and generally anyone who needs a therapist “must be crazy” right? Wrong.

The trend to have a personal trainer and/or a gym membership is on the rise with Australia’s health and fitness industry booming. Evident by the popularity of shows like The Biggest Loser and supplemented by the government’s efforts to support healthy lifestyles, this is more than just a trend but a long-term commitment to our nation’s physical health.

But what about our mental health?

Dr Jillian Millar, Clinical Psychologist at Psychology Consultants, Brisbane, likens being a psychologist to being a personal trainer.

“Every single one of us is susceptible to struggling with the ups and downs of life, the stress and pressure we face can catch up with us all.

I see the role of Psychologists as similar to a Personal Trainer for the mind; you don’t have to be unhealthy before you can benefit from prioritising your health and wellbeing.

Sometimes we help clients who are in crisis and may only want or need a short term intervention, other times people may choose to engage in regular psychotherapy to help maintain good mental health and functioning” comments Dr Millar.

So what better time than during mental health week 9-15th October, to take a step back, reflect, and value the importance of your own mental health?

And remember, if you feel like life’s pressures are getting too much, speaking to a professional can really help put things in perspective and provide strategies to help you deal with life’s ups and downs. There is no shame in it; your mind is a vital organ – as important as your heart or lungs.

Check out our team of male and female clinical psychologists on the Brisbane Psychologists page.

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Managing Emotional Distress: What to do when life hurts

Posted on October 2, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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By Kylie Layton, Clinical Psychologist

Have you ever heard anyone say “Everyone else seems to be able to cope, why can’t I”? It is a question that people repeatedly ask as they struggle with the emotional distress that life brings, and their comparison of this distress with their perception of other’s lives. Social media and media in general provide constant access to images highlighting the success and happiness of other’s lives and delivers messages about the things we should be doing for our health, careers, and relationships. This constant stream of information sets us up for emotional distress when we find our lives fall short of these expectations.

Emotional distress is, in fact, a part of everyday life, and is usually the result of a difference in our experience of what we want or expect and what we’ve got. When we encounter these differences emotions naturally arise and, the more our reality differs from our expectation, the more intense the emotional experience. Our quest for happiness and success, coupled with availability of other’s lives for comparison, will continually produce this unpleasant emotional experience. So how can we improve our ability to navigate our unpleasant emotional experience?

1. Acknowledge our emotional experience. Without a conscious awareness of our emotional experience we tend to act on ‘autopilot’ and unconsciously choose familiar actions to allow us to move through or avoid our emotional experience. If these behaviours are unhelpful this process is likely to lead to further distress. By acknowledging our emotion we take the first step to creating the space we need to choose how we would like to respond.

2. Understand what the emotion is telling us. Our emotions are our instincts and our insight into our needs, desires and values. Emotions provide information about the situation and direct our behaviour in the future. Guilt, for instance, is the emotion we feel when our actions are different to how we feel we should have behaved. By understanding that this is what we are feeling we can recognise a need to behave differently in the future.

3. Validate our emotional experience. By reminding ourselves that this is what human beings feel when faced with this difference in expectation and reality, that this feeling is here because there are things that matter to us, and that this feeling is here to help us navigate life, we provide ourselves with permission to have this feeling as well as acknowledge that life can be painful.

4. Allow our emotion. Because of the unpleasant nature of emotional distress, we often have a desire to get rid of the emotion we are experiencing; it is unpleasant and we don’t want to feel it, so we try to do things that get rid of it. Sometimes this works, but often it makes things worse by increasing our distress. For example, we may experience anxiety and then start to worry about having a panic attack thereby becoming anxious about our anxiety. Research indicates us that emotions tend to come and go like waves, if we resist the urge to avoid them or fight with them, and try to give them a space to be, then they will run their course naturally.

5. Choose how to respond. By acknowledging, understanding and validating our emotion we create the ability to consciously make a choice about how to deal with our emotion. We can consider what the ideal outcome is in the circumstances; think about our values, what we stand for as a person, and aim to make a choice that is in line with the life we are wanting to live. This is still possible to do even while we are experiencing emotional distress.

If we can learn to view ALL emotions as a normal part of life and recognise that life is going to be messy, painful, and disappointing at times then our expectations are likely to be more in line with reality and thereby produce less distress. As health practitioners, acknowledging and validating a patients emotional experience, and helping them to understand the informative nature of the emotion, will not only make the patient feel heard und understood but encourage them to experience and run the course of their emotion rather than avoid it or fight with it. This in turn allows the patient space to make decisions that are in line with their personal values and goals for their lives.

For more information on Kylie Layton and the team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit the Psychologists page of our website.

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Meet Our Psychologists Series- featuring Dr Jillian Millar

Posted on September 13, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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Welcome to the “Meet Our Psychologists Series”, where we will regularly profile individual team members about their professional insights and personal experiences as psychologists.

 

Introducing Dr Jillian Millar

Quals:
Doctorate of Clinical Psychology – Edith Cowan University.
Post-Graduate Diploma of Psychology – Edith Cowan University.
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology – Griffith University.

 

Years of Practice:
2008-2016 – 8 years and counting.

Time with Psychology Consultants:
Started in July 2010, just over 6 years.

What inspired you to become a Psychologist?
I am naturally a very curious person and enjoy discovering how and why things came to be the way they are. At school I enjoyed biological science and social science so when it came time to pick a university degree, Psychology seemed to be an interesting intersection of the two fields. They say Psychologists are modern day “armchair philosophers” and ponding all the big existential themes seemed like an incredibly appealing career for me.

What areas do you work in and what are your practicing philosophies?
My primary theoretical orientation is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy with adults. This approach seeks to make the unconscious processes and patterns in our lives more conscious, thereby providing us with an opportunity to alter some of the more problematic patterns within ourselves and our relationships with others. By examining the influence our past has on our present and future, we can gain insights into the links between how we feel and behave.

What’s the best thing about working at Psychology Consultants?
The staff at Psychology Consultants are a remarkable group of people: welcoming, warm, and down to Earth individuals. The office morale is friendly, understanding and generally quite happy; it makes it a nice place to work.

Is there a rewarding moment or time in your career you would like to comment on?
I have so many rewarding and stimulating moments in my work as a psychotherapist every week. When a client and I are able to understand the links between their past and what they are currently experiencing it is such an incredible experience, a mix of feeling fascinated and intrigued, as if I am getting a sense of the overall picture of an incredibly multi-faceted jigsaw puzzle. It’s a very humbling experience to be a part of helping someone understand themselves at a very deep level.

Do you think the negative stigma surrounding mental health is improving?
I do. Slowly but surely I see a growing acceptance and awareness of how important mental health is in our everyday lives. Every single one of us is susceptible to struggling with the ups and downs of life, the stress and pressure we face can catch up with us all. I see the role of Psychologists as similar to a Personal Trainer for the mind; you don’t have to be unhealthy before you can benefit from prioritizing your health and wellbeing. Sometimes we help clients who are in crisis and may only want or need a short term intervention, other times people may choose to engage in a regular psychotherapy to help maintain good mental health and functioning.

If you had one piece of advice for someone considering therapy, what would it be?
It is vital that clients feel there is a good “fit” or “click” with their Psychologist, this can sometimes take a few sessions to determine if it is a good match. But if there is not, it is perfectly reasonable to try a different Psychologist.

Read more about Dr Jillian Millar here.

 

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Why Rejection Can Really Bite!

Posted on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0
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Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

At some time, we have all experienced the crunching feeling of rejection. It happens from an early age in the playground where Sammy turns his back on his friend, and its equally as difficult to watch as a parent. At school you could be the last person to be picked for the netball team. And it happens in your career, when your 30th job application is turned down. And at times, perhaps hardest of all, it happens in your love life.

The simple fact of the matter is humans need to belong; our need for social acceptance is as strong as our need for food and water and that’s why it hurts so badly. Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kipling Williams, PhD, at Purdue University, and colleagues found that social rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain (Science, 2003).

Rejection especially on a continual basis can seriously affect our emotional and psychological state and we therefore need to focus more attention on how to deal with this inevitable fact of life.

Dr Stan Steindl of Psychology Consultants, Brisbane suggests that practicing self-compassion may soften the feelings of rejection.

“Instead of beating ourselves up about not landing a job or missing out on a place on the basketball team, perhaps we need to treat ourselves like we would treat a friend who has just had this experience” he said.

Rejection is hard to take but there are a few ways you can take it onboard and bid it farewell
1. Practice self-compassion – talk to yourself as you would a good friend.

2. Take some time out to get over the experience. Rejection can take time and perspective to overcome.

3. Exercise can be an effective release of anger and negative energy. So embrace your ‘inner Bolt’ and go for a run (or your preferred exercise method).

4. Try not to personalise. Often the reasons for rejection are not to do with our capabilities but can be purely circumstantial.

5. Know that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Take the rejection on board as a character building experience.

6. Talk it through with a friend or loved one, this will help feelings of shame and provide an outlet for frustration.

If your feelings of rejection are more chronic or long suffering, talking to a professional psychologist can help and may prevent ongoing negative behaviour that can lead to further social isolation.

For more information on our Brisbane Clinical Psychologists visit the team page of our website.

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