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Feeling free to share

Posted on November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

During Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Week 12-18th November

As the age-old expression goes, ‘sharing is caring’ and this notion is the center of this year’s Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness week campaign. The ‘It happened to me’ campaign encourages people (not just mum’s) who have been affected by perinatal anxiety or depression, to share their stories by starting a conversation about the illness.

Being vocal about your experiences by sharing what has happened in your life, helps to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, by saying, it’s okay to talk about this. And although group therapy is not for everyone, it’s effectiveness in treating many types of mental illness, is testament to the power of being free to openly share your feelings with others.

Perinatal anxiety or depression can be a difficult illness to acknowledge and accept with perceptions that this time of your life, should be filled with wonderment and joy at the little person you have created. Unfortunately, the reality can be quite different to the fanciful images that represent motherhood. In fact, the illness affects 100,000 Australian families annually, with 1 in 10 women experiencing anxiety or depression after having a child. It is also important to note that men are not exempt from the woes and struggles of parenthood, with 1:10 men experiencing depression during their partner’s pregnancy and 1:20 men experiencing depression after the baby is born. (Source PANDA)

Symptoms of perinatal anxiety or depression can include;

  • Heart palpitations, shortness of breath or feeling detached from your surrounding
  • Constant and overwhelming feelings of worry, particularly with reference to the baby’s wellbeing
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviours
  • Hyper-sensitivity to noisy environments
  • Obsessively eating or abstaining from eating
  • Insomnia or sleep problems unrelated to baby’s sleep
  • Lack of motivation to complete every-day tasks
  • Feeling overwhelmed with household chores and needs of the baby
  • Extreme emotional and physical lethargy

The good news is, this type of illness is temporary and the sooner you seek help or support, the sooner you can start your journey to recovery. If you are experiencing these symptoms for longer than two weeks, speak to your GP about a referral to a psychologist. For more information or to share your story during this week of awareness, head to www.panda.org.au

Read more articles like this on our blog www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/blog


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Mind the booze if you want a good snooze

Posted on November 2, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Silly season is just around the corner and for many of us this means kicking off the heels and having a bit of fun. In essence, this means more food, more booze and less sleep. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right…for some, it absolutely can be.

At risk of sounding like a major kill joy, alcohol is very bad for sleep health, coupled with decadent festive food and a change in evening routine and you’ve got the trifecta of sleep inhibitors. But like all things in life, moderation is the key and one or two bad night’s sleep is not the end of the world, especially if you had fun in the process. In fact, stressing about sleep, is the very opposite of what we preach through our insomnia program ‘Towards Better Sleep’. It is, however, important to recognise, that if you are already struggling with your sleep, be prepared to accept that the festive period may bring some additional challenges.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not lead to the mother of all sleeps and this is due to a number of reasons. Whilst having a night cap, may help you drift off into la-la land, your slumber will be rudely interrupted, by an alcohol withdrawal effect. Alcohol has been known to prevent a deeper state of sleep and wakes us earlier than usual, throwing your sleep cycle out of whack. Combined with a higher than usual intake of sugar and fat, albeit via delicious festive treats, and you can kiss a good night’s sleep goodbye. Considering these nights as a bit of a write off, is a reasonable approach, as stressing about how you are going to feel and cope without sleep is counterproductive.

Burning the candles at both ends for weeks on end, however, is not our recommended guide to the festive season. Making some responsible drinking choices and carefully selecting which Christmas function you really want or need to attend, will give you some time to catch up on sleep and resume a healthier regime.  Keeping up the exercise, drinking plenty of water and otherwise eating a healthy diet will also help keep things in kilter.

After a long year of work, it’s important to take some time to rest, recoup and prepare for the new year ahead. Partying like its ‘99, might not be the best way to do so, with an inevitable full body burn out likely to prevail. Although, the festive period can be fun, it can also bring a great deal of stress with family and financial commitments and end of year work deadlines. Being kind to yourself by getting plenty of rest, taking time to reflect, plan and project, will do amazing things for your mind, body and soul.

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The Value of Accepting Depression: On World Mental Health Day

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist

If managing depression is one of your life challenges, you may at times feel isolated and alone in your journey. The reality is, you are not alone with approximately 300 million people around the world, swimming in the same tumultuous sea. Like any illness, physical or mental, acknowledgement and acceptance is paramount to recovery.

This week is QLD Mental Health Week with the key messages being; ‘Seek Support, Make Connections and Share Your Experience’. All of these steps are key in managing mental health concerns and underlying these steps is accepting the illness and the journey ahead.

Many people find it difficult to accept depression, denying the feelings brewing inside for fear of the stigma associated with mental illness. Denial is counterproductive and will only prolong the symptoms of depression and its effects on your life. Accepting the illness, as just that, an illness, and working towards managing it, like you would a physical ailment, can bring great long-term value. This does not mean the illness should define you or form part of your identity.

Everyone’s journey with depression is different and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to therapy. There are various, clinically proven treatments for depression and finding the right psychologist and therapeutic approach for you, can ultimately place you on the path to better health and wellness.

Sharing your experience with others and asking for the support of your friends and family can also, for many people play an important part in management and recovery.

So, let this week be an important reminder that it is not the illness that defines you but your strength and courage to accept it and reach out for help and support.

If you need help with depression or other mental health concerns, visit our website for tools, information and resources www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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The power of being aware of your thoughts

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

This week is QLD Mental Health Week, a timely reminder to check in with yourself and other’s and to value our mental health, like we do our physical health. May it also act as a reminder to be aware of our thoughts as they are more powerful than you might know.

A constant flow of negative thoughts can be destructive, leading to low mood and unhealthy behaviour. Challenging these negative thoughts and taking control of your own mind is a powerful step to a healthier you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT is a form of psychotherapy practiced by mental health professionals across the world to clinically treat mental illness as well as non-clinical issues, like relationship distress and trauma. As well as being effective in treating mental illness, CBT can be applied to resolve every-day personal issues and the first step is being aware of your thoughts.

CBT focuses on the way people think about things (including their attitudes and beliefs) and the way they behave. It is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit, and, like any other bad habit, it can be modified. It helps people identify where their thoughts and actions are negative, and then to replace these “bad habits” with more helpful thoughts and responses.

In a nutshell, this form of therapy provides strategies that teach you to be aware of the automatic thoughts that pop into your head, empowering you to take control of how they make you feel and act. Being able to apply these principals into every day settings that challenge you, like your workplace, a social scene or even in your fitness regime, can help you achieve your personal goals, improve mood and outlook on life.

For more information on how challenge negative thoughts,  head to: http://psychologyconsultants.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Challenging-Automatic-Thoughts.pdf


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Do you freak out without your phone?

Posted on September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Our ability to completely switch ‘swipe’ off from the world has set a new-age challenge, with many of us so addicted to our phones that the idea of switching it off or leaving it at home is totally absurd. In fact, so absurd that for many people, particularly amongst the younger generation, it causes a great deal of stress to be without one’s phone.

Many people report feelings of stress when they don’t have their phone with them and this feeling is warranted, after all, the device in many cases has replaced large parts of our brain, namely our memory and imagination. All jokes aside, research has shown that in high stress situations, a person’s phone can provide some relief, acting as a security blanket. Staying connected is important; an inbuilt part of the human psyche, so when faced with stressful situations, being able to reach out is only natural. However, if you are unable to function without your device neatly tucked in your back pocket or hot little hand, you may need to reassess the reasons for your not so fluffy security blanket.

Research shows that the connection between mental illness and phone use depends on the reasons for use and using a phone to avoid boredom or high stress situations has little correlation. The fear of new technology amongst the public is nothing new and has been occurring for generations as each new tech fad replaces the last. The most important thing to remember when it comes to our personal devices is to not to let it replace human interaction, social common courtesy and the ability to make good use of our brain.

It is also important to set a good example for the little people in our world by not always resorting to your phone to fill gaps and fix boredom. Being bored is an excellent way to make use of your imagination, have a conversation, learn something new, and notice the world around you.

Set yourself a little challenge this week by leaving your phone at home for the day and see what differences you notice in yourself by the end of the day.

To read more articles like this, join our blog:  www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/blog

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Music speaking volumes for teens

Posted on September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Music- it’s an amazing universal language that for centuries has been used to create ambiance, calm and excite crowds, cut through cultural barriers, prepare for monumental moments, reminiscence and reflect. And these days, this melodic and wonderful language is being used more strategically as a form of therapy. Recent scientific research into music therapy across a range of age groups, affirms what we anecdotally know, that music regulates mood. This revelation is particularly relevant for parents with teenagers whose hormones may have gone haywire with a brewing mood to match.

If you haven’t tuned into the YouTube sensation by Peter Denahy, “Sort of Dunno Nothin”- Google it for a laugh! The lyrics takes the micky out of communicating with teenagers, with answers like ‘Sort of, Dunno, Yep, Nope, Nowhere’. The ballad provides a good giggle, if you are a parent enduring these trying years, it might lift your mood and provide a lighter perspective.

Perhaps though, the stereotypical image of the grunting teenager, complete with grim look, digital device and earphones firmly plugged, stands to reason. They are niftier than we give credit for, self-regulating, using music as their tool to escape, lighten, relax or sometimes brew in whatever flavour mood they are experiencing.

If you take a walk in their shoes, you may empathise and remember how challenging this stage of life can be. Putting aside the physical trials and tribulations of teenage-hood, is more mounting pressure than ever before, causing stress and anxiety particularly amongst high school students. A 2016 study by Mission Australia revealed the top two concerns for teens aged 15-19 years, were coping with stress, school and study problems. Recognising the enormity of the issue and the mental health ramifications, The University of Queensland’s, Dr Genevieve Dingle (School of Psychology), developed the ‘Tuned In Teens’ program, designed to help high school aged students, regulate their emotions through music and in turn reduce stress and anxiety. For many teens who have tuned into the program, it has literally been music to their ears with results showing this form of therapy, that has stood the test of time, has real life worth.

As amusing as the ‘Sort of Dunno Nothin’ tune is, teenagers can find it very hard to verbalise their thoughts and emotions and parents can find this disconcerting, challenging and infuriating. Music, offers the opportunity to break through the verbal barrier and regulate mood by communicating through visualisation, bodily sensation and making sense of feelings through the thoughts music provokes. Better yet, if the music is a shared experience with parents also tuning in, it can act as a conduit to better understand how their teen might be feeling. To further advocate our tongue-tied teens, recent research shows that the human brain goes through some pretty dramatic development during these years, with physical changes to the frontal lobe affecting the synapse that are responsible for decision making, judgement and control.

We all have experienced, the lift music can provide, making you feel happy, enlightened and relaxed; just imagine a bar or a gym without music.  On the flip side, we’ve all probably experienced the sadness it can sometimes bring, darkening our mood and making us feel angry or resentful. It is important when it comes to teens, to monitor the types of music they are listening to, also ensuring the earplugs are not always accompanied by a screen.  Encouraging teens to unplug, get some fresh air and exercise, provides the ultimate trifecta for natural mood enhancement.

If your teenager is struggling with stress and emotional problems or you would like some parenting strategies, speaking to a psychologist can be a positive step forward. Find out more about our team of Clinical Psychologists at www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Being kind to yourself as the first step to helping others

Posted on September 14, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

On RUOK Day- 14th September 2017

Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

The four prompts to starting a conversation on RUOK day this year are; 1. Ask 2. Listen 3. Encourage Action 4. Check In

This process is great and represents a small but powerful act of human kindness. Perhaps as well, the preparation for these four steps, could be to first check in with yourself, asking yourself, AM I OK? As the famous psychologist Jack Kornfield once said, “Compassion, without self-compassion, is incomplete.”

Practicing self-compassion, that is treating yourself with the same level of kindness as you would others, does not come naturally for many people. However, being kind to yourself by soothing the inner self-critic and softening negative thoughts can lead to a better sense of well-being and inner strength that enables you to also practice compassion towards others in your life.

Try following these six steps to begin practicing self-compassion:

Turn your attention to yourself, and become sensitive to your own thoughts and feelings. Step out of living on autopilot and become aware of your experiences.

If you identify areas in which you may be struggling or suffering, see if you can understand that suffering and be accepting and non-judgemental of yourself.

Know that suffering is a part of life, and a part of what it is to be human and to have these tricky human brains. Rather than criticising ourselves, we can approach ourselves with empathy and understanding.

And we can feel sympathy for ourselves. Not a pitying kind of sympathy, but rather a feeling that what we are going through is really hard and we feel moved by that feeling.

With a fundamental sense of care for our own well-being, we can bring our innate caregiving motivation to looking after ourselves and working out what we can do to help.

And finally, we can ask ourselves the key question: What is it that I really need, or would help me, in this moment of suffering?

So, remember that today, during this national day of awareness, as well as having the wisdom and courage to ask others RUOK, also look within and ask yourself that very same question. As the aeroplane safety video says regarding oxygen masks before take off, “fix your own mask first, and then help others.”

If you are struggling with negative self-talk, persistent anxiety or depressed mood, talking to a mental health professional can help you move forward and start living the way you want to live, Visit our website for more information and to view our team of clinical psychologists www.psychologyconsultants.com.au  

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Rehab for the Soul after Stroke

Posted on August 31, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

During Stroke Awareness Week 4-9th Sept

This week is Stroke Awareness Week with this year’s campaign aiming to educate people on the “fast signs” of stroke, like blurred vision, loss of movement and drooping face. Knowing the signs and acting early is key to minimising the impact of stroke and improving rehabilitation outcomes.

With ample focus on repairing the physical impacts, as psychologists, we are naturally inclined to also ask how the person is coping emotionally and psychologically after suffering a stroke. Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety are common after stroke, not only because the condition affects aspects of brain functioning directly, but also due to the physical changes and personal challenges that may result.

Emotional recovery is a major part of the rehabilitation journey and some attention should be placed on the person’s emotional wellbeing. As well as changes in general mood, many stroke sufferers can feel traumatised or angered by the experience and live in fear of a second occurrence. Speaking with a mental health professional about your thoughts and feelings after stroke, may help alleviate stress and psycho-social symptoms whilst improving physical effects, like sleep that are integral to the recovery process.

Similar to the tools that are provided in physical therapy, stroke survivors can also be provided with a mental health tool kit filled with personalise strategies to help cope with the challenges that lie ahead. Although mood disorders and emotional strain are common after stroke, recovery is also very common, with psychotherapies like cognitive behavioural therapy having positive effects.

Like the late Napoleon Hill famously said; “The body will achieve what the mind believes”, and getting the right help to regain a positive perspective and the self- confidence to embrace life, is imperative to a holistic rehabilitation.

The Stroke Foundation offer a number of resources and support for the emotional and psychological recovery including Enable Me with useful advice and podcasts from a range of professionals.

For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists and their areas of expertise visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/psychologists-2

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Selfies causing mental health problems

Posted on August 30, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Like most new crazes, they come with a side of commentary and debate and the selfie fad is not exempt. At risk of over-analysing simply taking a photo of oneself; the selfie craze is sending people over the edge by promoting narcissistic and self-objectifying behaviour that relies heavily on reward and social approval.

“The mounting pressure to be approved and rewarded by ‘likes’ or follows, can lead to a downward spiral, unravelling the person’s deep seeded doubt and insecurity that may have lead them to this digital space in the first place,” said Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist.

Particularly with the Gen Y’s, selfie obsession has become a real problem with people becoming disconnected from the real world on a search for the perfect post. Not only does the craze promote self-objectification, it removes the ability to be mindful and enjoy the present moment.

The term narcissism was coined by a German Psychiatrist, Paul Näcke (1851-1913) and refers to a beautiful greek mythological character, Narkissos who fell in love with his own reflection. But more often than not, narcissists are deep down insecure people with a burning hunger for acceptance and approval.

It would be extreme to suggest that anyone who has posted a selfie falls into this category, after all, we are probably all guilty of a cheeky selfie-snap. However, the trap that many people unintentionally fall into, when it comes to social media, is becoming obsessed with posting photos only to wait for other people’s digital approval.

Considering the said ‘approval’, is so flippant and empty that is takes a nano-second to offer; why is getting ‘likes’ so important in this social-media obsessed age?

Perhaps it’s because it provides such an easy platform to show others your worth and popularity. For some, it represents a chain of money, a myriad of business opportunity and possibility. And for others, it’s more innocently, just a way of telling your story to the world and knowing it has been received. A little soap box, you otherwise would not have the opportunity to stand on.

The most important thing when using social media is to really think about your reasons for posting and to exercise caution if you feel you are placing too much value or significance on the number of likes or follows you receive.

A good question to ask yourself to bring it all back to reality is; if I received a real-life compliment about this photo I am posting, would it have equal worth?

If you are struggling with personal or emotional problems, speaking to a professional counsellor or psychologist can help you get back on track. For more information on our team of clinical psychologists, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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The art of accepting a compliment

Posted on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Every human being is worthy of a compliment. The baffling thing is, the majority of the us, find taking a compliment totally flustering. Personal compliments trigger strange reactions that range from slight to total embarrassment and for the more discerning, rearing feelings of distrust…. pondering what exactly does this person want from me?

So why is this the case? It is because we are taught to be humble, modest and not show off, or is it our inner sceptic questioning the real reason for the compliment? Maybe, it’s because we spend too much time admiring others, when we should, from time to time, take a step back and value our own abilities, accomplishments and personal qualities. If that sounds rather narcissistic to you, then you are probably not good at taking a compliment- right?

The real art in accepting a compliment is in how you receive it. Deflecting a compliment doesn’t make you humble, there are many other ways to remain humble, whilst still taking on board what other people see as winning personal qualities. So here are a few simple ways you can work towards taking praise on board. 

Stop with the negative self-talk

You are worthy of a compliment, not matter what your inner monologue throws at you. One of the reasons some of us find accepting a compliment difficult, is because it challenges our inner self-belief. Challenging negative thoughts is difficult and not something that will change over-night. Once you are aware of the physical and emotional cues that come with negative self-talk, you can stop, breathe and start to challenge those negative thoughts.

Only counter-compliment if it’s sincere  

A common knee-jerk reaction is to deflect the compliment by giving one back, which is as transparent as rice paper, unless it’s sincere. A better response can be to include the person (if appropriate) in the compliment or express how much the compliment means to you. For example; “Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without your help” or “Wow, thank you, that means a lot to me.”

Last of all- Just Say Thank You!

Sounds easy, right? Not only does saying ‘thank you’ allow you to accept and reflect on the positive praise, it respects the person who has given you the compliment. 99% of the time, there is no ulterior motive, the person genuinely wants to show that they value you as a person. Now it time to start valuing yourself.

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