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How to let go of the relentless pursuit of perfection

Posted on February 16, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

The thing about perfectionists, those that constantly strive for flawlessness, success and the absolute best in everything they do, is that behind the glossy exterior, they are generally dissatisfied and unhappy with life.

Constantly striving for more and leaving little time to stop and smell the roses, perfectionism is an exhausting feat that can spiral out of control, affecting self-worth and sometimes leading to more serious issues like depression and eating disorders.

Fuelling the perfectionists are those around them, providing the approval, acceptance and praise they yearn for. Praise is not typically counterproductive but for the perfectionist it reaffirms insecurities based on the need to achieve the best, to be worthy.

Living in constant fear of falling short or making a mistake, the perfectionist can live with high levels of anxiety and stress often leading to other mental health issue. Striving for perfection is simply not sustainable; it’s a completely subjective and abstract notion that defies the meaning of being human. Recognising this and showing yourself the compassion, you would to others, is the first step to your personal peace treaty.

Being mindful and appreciating the present, is not something perfectionists are renown for. Rather than forecasting the next goal to kick, sit back for a minute and give yourself a pat on the back for what you have achieved, remembering that you don’t need the approval of others if you have self-approval.

Perfectionist or not, sometimes, we all need a bit of perspective. Taking a break from it all, provides the time and space to appreciate yourself and think more positively about what you have achieved. While you are having a break from ‘it all’, consider a new life project, that is practicing self-compassion. Commit to this with gusto, like you would anything else, and you will soon reap the rewards of being at peace with yourself.

Being motivated to achieve your best at work, home or within oneself is an admirable human trait. However, understanding and defining what is your personal best and accepting that it might not be ‘perfect’ may unlock a new level of self-worth and personal fulfilment. In the words of a disney Ice Queen; “Let it go”!

If you need help with personal challenges and unlocking your inner wealth, visit our website to read about our team of experienced clinical psychologists.


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How to deal with difficult people

Posted on February 14, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

If you have cruised through life without ever having dealt with a difficult person, count your lucky stars and brace yourself for the inevitable. Most of us know or have dealt with a difficult person. It’s hard to typecast “Mr or Mrs difficult” (let’s call him Mr D.) because they are available in a colourful variety pack at most of life’s outlets, whether it’s school, work, dinner parties or the local supermarket, interacting with these types can be a real strain. Ranging from unpredictable moods to explosive reactions and strong vocal opinions, time spent with such types, can have a knock-on effect on your own mood, confidence and daily outlook.

But have you ever stopped to think why they are difficult, perhaps they are going through a tough time or have endured personal experiences that have affected their ability to be positive. Taking a more compassionate approach can be helpful in understanding why Mr D. is so stressful to deal with. That aside, if you are dealing with a difficult person on a regular basis and finding it burdensome, it is important to empower yourself with strategies that make the interaction less stressful.

  1. Don’t let your guard down

Let’s face it, you are never going to be best buddies with Mr D., so don’t share personal or meaning details of your life with this person. Keep to light topics of conversation to reduce the amount of potential conflict and chances of being hurt by their comments or opinions.

  1. Show some compassion

As previously mentioned, difficult people often have problems of their own which have led them to act the way they do. Instead of taking their comments personally, show some compassion for whatever personal journey has led them to be this way. That being said, have your voice heard if you are offended and don’t tolerate bullying or aggressive behaviour.

  1. Just talk about them

Learning to tolerate difficult people is a personal challenge and it might become an easier task if you can see the lighter side of it. Often, difficult people are narcissists and love to talk about themselves. Consider this a humorous indulgence and deflect all conversations to be about them. This will negate any chance of the person offending you or having to divulge personal or sensitive information.

  1. Reward yourself for your tolerance

If dealing with Mr D. is a regular chore, reward yourself with a gift, personal time out, or a treat, for your kind, strategic and mindful behaviour.

If you find interacting with a difficult person is affecting your personal wellbeing, consider talking to a psychologist about personalised ways you can navigate through this challenging part of your life.

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Why writing a list can help you sleep

Posted on February 9, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

You may think that writing a long list of things you need to achieve would be counterintuitive to a good night’s sleep but Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith, thinks not.

“Many people find when they have a lot on their plate that writing a list before bed helps to mentally compartmentalise; an action plan of sorts. So rather than worrying all night about what you have to achieve the next day, writing a list helps many people feel more in control”.

Kathryn Smith, who facilitates a long-standing insomnia program, called Towards Better Sleep, knows a thing or two about the psychology of sleep and it turns out our behaviour during the day has a lot to answer for.

“We live in a society that is busy with high expectations of what one should accomplish in a day. Our daily to do list is constantly expanding to incorporate all facets of work and home life. We are bombarded with emails, text messages, social media alerts and phone calls and by the end of the day, one’s head can be left spinning. With minimal down time in a day’s work, it’s little wonder, sleep can be disturbed” says Kathryn.

But obviously, writing a list is not the only remedy for a good night’s sleep. Here are Kathryn’s top tips for a better night’s sleep:

  1. Stop focusing on the night and start focusing on the day

As afore mentioned, if your day is manic with no down time, chances are you are going to be hyped up and over-stimulated. Taking time for yourself and being mindful of not taking on too much will go a long way in the sleep stakes.

  1. Don’t worry during the day about how much sleep you are going to get at night

Often people experiencing insomnia worry about how much sleep they are going to get that night, usually because they are tired and overwrought. As hard as it may be to switch off the worry button, try to distract yourself from this thought as it only increases anxiety levels and exasperates the problem.

  1. Put down the phone!

All the research points to devices and the blue/green light they omit, as major sleep inhibitors. Shutting down your phone, ipad or laptop within a few hours of sleep is best for sleep health.

  1. Get plenty of exercise but not too close to bedtime

There is no greater way to let off some steam and get your muscles moving than exercise. Whether it’s before or after work, exercise will improve your sleep, just not within 2 hours of bedtime.

  1. Avoid caffeine after 2pm and limit alcohol consumption– both are sleep disruptors.

If you like this article and would like to read more, why not join our mailing list to receive our bi-monthly newsletter: Mental Note: email clarissa@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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What is the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack?

Posted on January 28, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist

Feelings of anxiety are normal and a natural human response to high risk or intense situations. However, some people experience higher levels of anxiety that is unmanageable and interferes with daily life. If this is the case, professional help may be required to manage symptoms.

You may have heard people who suffer from anxiety, talk about having anxiety attacks? So, what exactly is an anxiety attack and how does it differ from a panic attack?

Many people who suffer from anxiety experience physical symptoms like nausea and a racing heart, with thoughts that are distracting, interfering with the task at hand. However, what differentiates physical symptoms of anxiety, commonly referred to as ‘anxiety attack’ and a full-blown panic attack, is the duration and intensity of the symptoms. Panic attacks are intensely unpleasant with sufferers often submitting themselves to hospital in fear of a heart attack or other life-threatening emergencies. A person having a panic attack may report periods of intense fear in which 4 or more of the following anxiety symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes.

o Palpitations, pounding heart
o Sweating
o Trembling or shaking
o Shortness of breath or smothering
o Feeling of choking
o Chest pain or discomfort
o Nausea or abdominal distress
o Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
o Feelings of unreality or detachment
o Fear of losing control or going crazy
o Fear of dying
o Numbness or tingling sensations
o Chills or hot flushes

People who present with panic attacks may appear as composed, competent individuals with fulfilling lives however, beneath the surface they are enduring extreme discomfort and are often struggling to uphold daily life. Fear of a repeat occurrence is common with people avoiding trigger situations that may cause another panic attack. Unfortunately, avoidance behaviour exacerbates the problem and inhibits the person’s lifestyle choices and social freedom. Tackling the problem front on and accepting the need for professional help really is the best way forward. Psychologists work with the cognitive and behavioural features of the condition in an attempt to deal with the triggers of physiological reactions. By addressing the underlying cognitive features, the cycle of anxiety is frequently broken, and the person is able to learn skills to better manage high anxiety and enjoy a free and fulfilling life.

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Feeling seriously unmotivated? Might be time for a mental health check…

Posted on January 19, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

Writes, Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist

Feeling unmotivated at the start of the year is a pretty normal feeling, especially when you had settled nicely into the relaxing pace of holiday season. Reality can bite even more than your sunburn when you walk back through the office door for the start of another working year. This is normal and to be expected, but if your motivation levels don’t return after a week or so and you are feeling persistently down and out, take some time to assess the cause for the way you are feeling. There are a number of reasons for lack of motivation, one of them is depression.

If you are finding that your level of motivation is directly related to how low your mood is, you might be experiencing depression. And as much as you might feel like sitting around doing nothing, this will only feed the beast. The best thing to do, as challenging as it may seem, is to get out of bed, get dressed and start the day. Set some small but reasonable goals and be kind to yourself in the process of achieving them. Over time, your motivation will grow and the small tasks that seem overwhelming will become easier, leaving you room to tackle more significant tasks. Some other suggestions for improving motivation levels when experiencing depression include:

1.     Feed the positive and let go of the negative

Changing the way, you think about yourself, others and the world, to embrace a more positive outlook, will help you become more self-confident and motivated person. Recognizing when negative thoughts are entering your mind and knowing how to deflect them is an art worth learning. If you struggle with negative thoughts, psychologists and mental health professionals can teach the practice, known as managing negative self-talk.

2. Get regular exercise

Research the world over preaches the benefits of daily exercising for improving both physical and mental health. It will also help improve self-confidence and provides the opportunity to socialize. Most smart phones have a health app (a little red heart) that count your daily steps, this is a great way to motivate you to achieve your daily activity goals whilst holding you accountable when you’ve been in training for the couch surfing pro series.

3. Enlist the support of friends

Isolating yourself is definitely NOT the best medicine, despite how you might be feeling. Socialising with friends and letting them know how you are feeling will mean you are giving yourself the best support network to get over this slump and back on a more positive trajectory.

4. Reward yourself for defeating each small goal

It’s important to cut yourself some slack when overcoming a personal challenge like depression and rewarding yourself, even for the small feats, is a good place to start. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend, you will end up liking yourself more than you thought you ever would.

 5. Plan something to look forward to

Whether it be a mini-break a shopping spree or an overseas adventure, having something to look forward to, will go a long way in improving your motivation. Long term goals help you reach your short-term goals and get through the 9-5, in whatever form that may be.

6. Work on your sleep health

 Getting adequate sleep can be difficult if you are feeling depressed but changing the way you think about sleep will help to change your behaviour towards sleep. For more advice on sleep, visit this page.

7. Get professional help

Getting professional help, should not be your last resort, your doctor and psychologist can form part of a helpful support network. If you feel your lack of motivation is affecting your daily life and you have seen no improvement in your mood, speak to your GP about a mental health plan.

If you like this article, you might also like: More than the back to work blues


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Tips on managing ongoing resistance to school

Posted on January 12, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett

“I’m too tired to go to school, I won’t learn anything anyway”

“I’ve got a really bad headache and I can’t concentrate, you don’t know how bad it is, you’re not me!”

“It’s only sports today, I might as well stay home”

“My stomach hurts, I can’t eat breakfast, maybe I shouldn’t go to school”

“I’ve got assignments to catch up on, I can get more done at home”

If you have heard these phrases more than once, you may have a potential school refuser on your hands.

Understanding School Refusal in older children and adolescents

School refusal is when a child refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems staying in school.

Recognising the Symptoms

Children with school refusal frequently complain of unexpected physical symptoms before it is time to leave for school or may repeatedly ask to go to the sick room at school. If the child is allowed to stay at home, the symptoms disappear until the next morning. In some cases the child may refuse to leave the house or be unable to leave the car once at school. Common physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, and diarrhea. Parents should also look out for sleep problems and tantrums.

Early warning signs that parents should look out for include:  frequent complaints about attending school, absences on significant days (tests, carnivals), frequent requests to go home during the school day, excessive worrying about a parent when at school, frequent requests to go to the sick room because of physical complaints, and crying about wanting to go home.

Reasons for School Refusal

The reasons for school refusal can vary, however school refusal tends to be about avoiding something unpleasant.

School Refusal = Fear/Anxiety + Avoidance

Sometimes, resistance to attending school is a blip on the radar. Such resistance is common after a legitimate period of illness creating difficulty getting back to school. The young person may be anxious about all the work they have missed. It this scenario, it’s really important not to prolong time at home. Parents can take control by contacting the teacher and negotiating a back to school plan. Similarly, young people can experience blips of anxiety after holidays, especially the long summer break. Other stressors or illnesses within the family can cause school refusal as can academic problems, difficulty with a teacher, changing schools or transitioning to high school.

Reasons requiring further assessment include:

Separation Anxiety: where the child fears that harm will come to their parent while they are at school.

Performance Anxiety: where the child fears taking tests, giving a speech, athletic/swimming carnival, physical education class, or even answering a question in class. Kids with anxiety about performance fear being embarrassed in front of their peers.

Social Anxiety: some students worry about interactions with peers and/or teachers.

Bullying: children want to avoid school because of the real threat of physical and/or emotional harm.

Tips for Parents for managing School Refusal

School refusal tends to be very stressful for parents as they battle their child’s anxiety about attending school. It can be exhausting to face the daily battle and many parents understandably allow the child to stay at home and do their school work, unknowingly making it more difficult to return the next day. Parents have more control than they think and can try the following in order to assist their children. Make a plan to be clear, calm, and consistent.

Send a clear message about school attendance

It should be clear to the young person that the parental expectation is that they attend school all day, every day. Parents can display this by saying: We will do whatever we need to do in order to get you to school; we cannot allow you to stay at home. You have five minutes to get ready for school.

Try not to take your child’s anxiety and respond to it

Sometimes parents can inadvertently get stuck in a battle with the young person’s anxiety. For example parents may ask if their child is going to school today, they may try and reassure that there’s nothing to worry about. Parents may become frustrated and say things like, why are you doing this you’re upsetting everyone, or we don’t know what to do if you won’t go. Responding to your child’s anxiety just makes it more likely that the child will engage in the same problem behaviours in the future. It can sometimes be helpful to identify for your child that their feelings are controlling their behaviour. You can say, “Your feelings are controlling you at the moment, but they cannot control me”.

Manage the morning routine

Try to ensure that your child knows what is expected of them in the morning and keep the routing consistent to eliminate extra last minute stress.

Ignore problem behaviour

If you are sure that the child is well enough to go to school, and then ignore complaints about sickness. Make sure that the child has seen your GP to eliminate any physical cause for their distress. Treat headaches and stomach aches with paracetamol and send the child to school. Plan to ignore any crying or begging.

Model Confidence

Show the child through your behaviour that going to school is something that you can manage, and so can your child.

Communicate with the school

Talk to your child’s teacher and guidance officer, and enlist support to make sure that your child has the assistance they need to negotiate the school day. This united plan is also important for the child to feel confident that they can tackle their fears.

Escort to school

I find that once school refusal has become a problem, a really useful step is to have the parents take the young person to school every day. We all tend to lead busy lives, but this short term commitment from parents can lead to huge gains and is really worth the juggle. Importantly, don’t stay at school or allow calls and texts during the day. You want to model confidence.

Encourage anxiety management

You can encourage your child to be well rested, with adequate nutrition on board. Exercise is a great stress buster so a morning walk, run, swim, shooting hoops etc can be useful. You can encourage your child to take deep, slow breaths. Some like to imagine peaceful scenes and some like to listen to music. Distraction is another great way to manage anxiety so that your child’s attention is not focused of their worries. Have your child doing things they enjoy to keep their minds busy.

The reasons for school refusal are varied. The longer a young person is able to avoid school, the more difficult it can become to treat so it’s really important to identify and intervene early.  A Clinical Psychologist can help to identify the reasons for school refusal and develop a plan for returning to school with the family and school.

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More than just the back to work blues

Posted on January 10, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

I was sitting with my little boy the other day and out of nowhere, with real anguish on his face, he said, “I don’t WANT the holidays to end!” He needed a little hug and some reassurance, so I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t either!

And I think we all know that feeling. Going back to work after the weekend can be hard enough. We even have a medical name for it…Mondayitis! But returning to work in the New Year can be a very difficult transition for many of us. We’ve settled into holiday mode: spending quality time with family and friends, enjoying late breakfasts, relaxing at the beach and afternoon picnics. Suddenly reality hits – it’s time to go back to work.

For many Australians, returning to work can be a bit of a downer, and it can provoke a case of the ‘return-to-work blues’. This is a really common experience and we can forgive ourselves for going through a little bit of the blues. And should pass within a YEAR or so…umm, actually, within a week people usually find themselves back into the swing of things!

Here are some helpful ways to make this transition a little bit easier.

  • Cut yourself some slack. Ease back into your first week with slightly shorter hours and a less demanding workload, where possible. Be kind to yourself. Imagine your own kids and the way they find going back to school hard, and support yourself a little bit like you might support them.
  • Take time to plan and set goals for the year, both personal and work. This is a real opportunity to stop and think about what you want this year to be like. I’m not really referring to New Year resolutions. More just giving yourself a chance to think about your goals and identifying what you want to get out of the year.
  • Look after your health – exercise regularly, eat well, Look after your sleep and drink lots of water. This is a new beginning, and there is a bit of a long road ahead, so getting into routines and habits early with balanced lifestyle can help to sustain the work ahead and make it more enjoyable.
  • Make a plan for the weekend, something to look forward to. In fact, have a think about other recreation or holiday plans for the coming months. Having little things to look forward to along the way can be very helpful.

For some people, this time of year can be very difficult and a simple case of return-to-work blues can develop into a very real case of anxiety and depression.

So how do you recognise when the return-to-work blues have become something more serious and what can you do about it?

  • Most people will experience low mood at some point in their lives. However, if you are feeling down most of the day nearly every day and/or have lost interest in the things you used to enjoy, you should discuss this with your GP.
  • Take note of any physical changes such as loss of appetite, weight loss/gain and increased/decreased sleep.
  • Are you becoming more withdrawn, turning down social invitations and no longer getting enjoyment from things?
  • Talking to people about your concerns and getting support from a trusted work colleague can offer a different perspective, reduce isolation and help you connect with the right people to help you best manage the situation.

For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists who can help you reach your true potential for 2018, click here

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Stress- the leading cause of sleep problems

Posted on December 19, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Experts suggest that 60-80% of sleep problems derive from stress, worry and anxiety. Most people could relate to this, having experienced a bout of insomnia when stress levels are high and this is unavoidable; a normal part of modern life. However, if the insomnia cycle continues regularly, perhaps you need to assess your stress and worry quota.

Stress, is a normal human reaction to many of life’s journeys and it would be unrealistic to think we can say goodbye to it completely, after all some level of stress is motivating for many of us and leads to improved productivity. However, it is important to be aware of your stress levels and what you are personally able to cope with before it starts to interfere with your sleep and health. Finding personalise strategies that help you reduce stress, whether that be in your work or personal life, is pivotal to better sleep. Although meditation and exercise are not everyone’s ultimate stress relieving combo, there must be a good reason that experts around the world, preach its benefits. According to Washington DC based Sleep Foundation, a lack of physical activity as well as stress and too much screen time are the leading causes of sleep disturbance. Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of the sleep program, Towards Better Sleep, Kathryn Smith says “Combining physical activity and meditation through yoga, is for many people a very effective way to help the mind and body relax. The meditative effects of yoga on the body are very similar to the process of falling asleep, whereby the heartbeat and brain waves become slower.”

Insomnia is complex, as it’s not just a physical disorder; it encompasses our whole being including our emotional and psychological state. And while stress and worry are in the naughty corner, we should reiterate that worrying during the day about a lack of sleep at night is totally counterproductive and will only heighten anxiety levels at night.  But perhaps if we practiced a greater level of self-awareness by knowing our personal limits, we could control stress levels and enjoy a better night’s sleep?

If you are struggling with insomnia and no-longer want to rely on sleep medication, Towards Better Sleep may be the solution for a healthier, more productive 2018. Towards Better Sleep is a group therapy programme, facilitated by Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist, Dr Curt Gray from Psychology Consultants, Morningside. The cognitive behavioural treatment programme uses evidenced based techniques that focus on sleep education and behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies. Set in a small group of 9 or less, the intimate setting offers the benefit of reducing the cost of treatment, whilst giving clients the opportunity to share and learn from each other’s insomnia experiences. The next programme starts 30th January 2018 and runs in the evening over 6 weeks. Email newmarket@psychologyconsultants.com.au if you are interested in registering for the programme and for more information visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au 


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Does your life need a clutter cleanse?

Posted on December 15, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

What better time to declutter your life than the silly season! Sounds kind of boring, but you won’t be bored with the clarity it will bring, paving your way to a more organised life, where you will always know the location of your keys, socks will always have a pair, hair brushes will never be AWOL and bills are always paid on time.  Okay so maybe it is a little unrealistic to think life will always run that smoothly, but if you have time to spare over the summer break, in addition to your post-xmas food and beverage cleanse, consider a clutter cleanse. It is a seriously satisfying experience!

Firstly, we must differentiate between living in a state of clutter and a more extreme condition, that is hoarding. Hoarding is a clinical disorder in which clutter has taken hold of the household with social, emotional, financial and psychological impact. Clutter, on the other hand is within a normal spectrum of human behaviour and comes from our love of things and an aversion to discarding of our valuables. The trick is in defining ‘valuables’ and thinking about the real purpose of the things we are holding onto that are contributing to the chaos of domestic life. Our things, carry emotional baggage and even at a glance can conjure a myriad of feelings, good or bad. Whether it’s a cluttered closet, the bathroom vanity  the overflowing toy box or a Tupperware draw with items dating back to 1962, they all hold emotional value.

Duly noted, that some people thrive on chaos and operate quite effectively with a cluttered household or office. However, for the majority of us, getting rid of things and decluttering your life can be extremely satisfying and lead to greater productivity in your home and work life. So, without further ado, here are a few steps to kick start your clutter cleanse.

  1. Write down what you want to achieve from your decluttering project and put it somewhere visible on the fridge.
  2. List the new rules and processes for how to maintain a decluttered kitchen/wardrobe/study desk etc.
  3. Share the burden. Fair chance you didn’t create all the mess on your own, so if you have kids, a partner or a flatmate, get them in on the act.
  4. Pick the area that irks you most and start there. If it’s a wardrobe, don’t hold onto things that you haven’t worn in years with the hope they might come back in fashion. The sentiment of ‘but I might need it’ is what got you here in the first place.
  5. Don’t try to clean up the whole house in one day but do complete each area now and not later… after all procrastination is really just another word for clutter.

When you’ve finished, give yourself a pat on the back and bask in the high that a clutter cleanse brings.

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