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Practice What We Preach- Towards a Bully Free Community

Posted on March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Cherie Dalton 

Cherie Dalton “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”

Abraham Lincoln

Today, schools across the nation wave their orange flags in a nationwide movement against bullying.

Friday 21st March marks Bullying No Way Day, an event that takes a very positive step towards a healthier and happier community.

As a nation we are actively stomping out anti-social, negative behaviour towards children in the Australian school systems, recognising the long-standing effects it can have on their self-esteem, development and mental health.

ç€ÀSo while we encourage such positive values of social inclusion, kindness and acceptance in our children, perhaps as adults we should take a moment on Bullying No Way Day to consider the same ideals. In essence, let’s practice what we preach, in our workplace, in the community and at home.

Let’s be aware of our body language and tone of voice. Is it opinionated, judgemental or offensive?  If we can all hold our opinions and judgements just a little more lightly and learn to practice assertive communication, we can avoid a lot of ill feeling, while still supporting what we believe in.

Let’s approach situations and relationships with curiosity, openness and understanding.

Let’s take a child’s untainted view and welcome difference and diversity and the richness it can bring.

Let’s practice compassion as a foundation for how we treat others.

Let’s set the right example as adults for our children. These ideals just might help to extend our awareness of relationships and the part we play in creating a community that enriches us all.

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

 

 

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What is Bullying?

Posted on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett

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School Bullying – Research Changing the Face of How Schools Intervene in Bullying

As published today on Web Child in the lead up to Bullying No Way! Day.  http://www.webchild.com.au/read/viewpoints/what-is-bullying

An ever growing body of systematic international research has shown that school bullying is a frequent and serious public health problem. Bullying at school is an age-old problem with experts estimating that one of five children are bullied on a regular basis with others being infrequently bullied.

Dan Olweus, PhD from Norway is an expert in school bullying and has been researching in the area since the 1980’s. He defines school bullying as a “repeated negative, ill-intentioned behaviour by one of more students directed against a student who has difficulty defending himself or herself. Most bullying occurs without any apparent provocation on the part of the student who is bullied”. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or relational. Boys may be more likely to bully others by more physical means whereas girls often bully others by social exclusion.

Thanks to much research, we now know a lot more than we used to about the nature and effects of bullying. A recent longitudinal study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that bullying is associated with poor health among children. Strikingly, when the researches compared the mental health of kids who had been bullied and kids who had not they found that only 4% of the non bullied kids showed low psychological health versus 31% of the bullied kids. Further, they found that teens who had been bullied in the past had persistently poorer outcomes than those who had not been bullied. Teens who were still being bullied had the worst outcomes of all. The effects of bullying can and often do persist into adulthood. Depression, Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from bullying in childhood, can cause follow on problems such as difficulty holding down a regular job, and poor social relationships. One group of researchers assessed the victims of bullying, the bullies themselves, and those who fall into both categories, so-called ‘bully-victims’. They found that the ‘bully-victims’ were at greatest risk for health problems in adulthood, over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder compared to those not involved in bullying. The results show that bully-victims are perhaps the most vulnerable group of all. This group may turn to bullying after being bullied themselves as they may lack the emotional skills to deal with it. In the case of bully-victims, it shows not only how bullying can affect mental health but in a subset of cases how bullying can spread when left untreated.

We are only just now coming to terms with the long term consequences of bullying. Research has prompted changes in the way schools deal with bullying than they did 20 years ago. In the past, bullying was perceived by some to be a part of childhood. Kids were told various conflicting forms of advice such as to turn the other cheek, to fight back, and we all know the chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. And that’s if parents and educators were aware that anything was happening in the first place. The tittle-tattle was not received well and many kids did, and still do keep their pain and shame to themselves. In the past, there was probably a higher threshold for bullying behaviour and less awareness and reporting of bullying. Through research, psychologists are learning the effects of bullying are so serious that immediate intervention is needed.

The result of all of this research is that we are becoming better at developing programs to inform students, parents, and educators about bullying. Bullying in schools has been around for a long time. However, schools that have embraced cultural change have found the key to preventing bullying is to not wait until a problem has arisen, but to immediately combat any negative behaviour that puts another person down.             

Children who have been bullied or who bully others can be assisted by a clinical psychologist to help stem the long term negative consequences of bullying and provide them with skills to promote future resilience. For more information on Danielle Corbett and the team of Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

Resources:

www.bullyingnoway.gov.au

www.bfaf.org.au

www.ncab.org.au

https://www.humanrights.gov.au/violence-harassment-and-bullying

References:

Bogart, L.M., Elliot, M.N., Klein, D.J., Tortolero, S.R., Mrug, S., Peskin, M.F., Davies, S.L., Schink, E.T., & Schuser, M.A. (2014). Peer Victimization in Fifth Grade and Health in Tenth Grade. Pediatrics (133) pp440-447.

Olweus, D (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Wolke, D., Copeland, W.E., Angold, A., & Costello, E.J. (2013). Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime, and Social Outcomes. Psychological Science 24(10), 1958-1970.

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Could self compassion be the answer to a more positive body image?

Posted on February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

An interview with Cathy Dart, Psychologist and Eating Disorder specialist during Eating Disorders Awareness Week 23 Feb-1March 2104

iStock_000001387457MediumIt’s cool to be thin, or so the media tells us. So what exactly is body image and how do we maintain a positive body image when there is so much pressure to be perfect.

Q1. Cathy, you must see a lot of patients who have a negative body image. Do you ever see women (and men) who are proud or at least satisfied with their bodies? And what fundamental difference do you see between these patients and those with a negative body image?

There are so many people who have a negative attitude to their body image and not all of them have eating disorders but I am pleased to say that at least some of my patients, particularly those who do not have an eating disorder can be pretty happy with their bodies.

It can be very puzzling to know why some do and some don’t like their bodies.  I think the most fundamental difference for those who are content with their bodies is self compassion. The people who are proud or at least satisfied with their bodies generally are a little bit better at being kind to themselves, understanding theirs and other’s limitations and are usually more aware of their emotional state.

Sadly though, body image is one of the biggest concerns for 11 – 24 year olds – a very high percentage of surveyed males and females rate it as a major issue.  Research demonstrates that less than a quarter of Australian girls and a third of Australian boys are satisfied with their weight.(Paxton.S.J. 2002, no.6 body image research overview) and more recent evidence supports an increase in these percentages.  Dissatisfaction with weight will often lead to negative body image that is in turn closely linked to poor self-esteem.  Low self-esteem in adolescents increases the likelihood of eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance use, and suicidal thoughts.

Q2. What causes negative body image and whom does it most commonly affect?

A thin body in our society is given a lot of credit, there seems to be many benefits for looking or appearing slim and fit.  Research has shown that society expresses more approval, acceptance and inclusion for a slim person, but at what cost?  And what if we are not genetically designed to be the perfect height, weight and appearance?

We often judge ourselves and place our self-worth on our outwards appearance, striving to be something we are not.  And no, this isn’t just a female or a youth problem.  Men are striving to have the perfect muscle tone, to look ‘manly’ enough to fit in.  People of all ages are feeling the pressure – to look younger, slimmer, fitter, healthier and more glamorous.

In warring with our own bodies, there is a real risk of developing an eating disorder through trying to attain that elusive, ‘correct’ body or we might become overweight from constant dieting and metabolism failure.  There is reason to believe that there is No Obesity Crisis, what we have is an obesity ‘hysteria’ because the “health” and “beauty” industries stand to lose billions of dollars annually if women and men stopped hating their bodies.

Too often we are overly influenced by other people – or popular media – assuming ‘they’ will define and shape our identities for us.  So much of our time, emotional energy and money can be wasted in trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what we should look like and how we should be.

And all the while we are killing ourselves to try and achieve these impossible standards when we need to realise that we are all in some way insecure, no one is perfect and we need to spend more time trying to be happy and content, not fixated on appearance.

Q3. Do you think that if a positive body image is adopted from a younger age that eating disorders and other related health issues could be avoided?

It makes a lot of sense doesn’t it that we should encourage everyone and particularly our children and young people to have a more positive body image.  Encouraging a common sense approach to caring for our bodies would go a long way towards reinforcing old fashioned ideas of feeding, exercise and maintaining good health.

Developing self acceptance, identity, esteem and confidence are also integral factors to reduce the likelihood that someone will be severely affected by poor body image.

Limit certain influences: Studies show that young people, especially women, who are more focused on mainstream media and in particular reality television, place a greater importance on sexiness and overall appearance than those who do not access as much media.

Adopt non-judgmental language:  focus on the skills and talents of your young person, and encourage them to choose positive and realistic role models.

Model yourself: Don’t diet, don’t talk about dieting or criticise yours or other’s weight and shape.  Remove the emphasis on Good and Bad foods, choose words like ‘healthy’ or ‘sometimes food’ to discriminate types of food.  More than a third of the people who admit to ‘normal dieting,’ the kind you might tell your family about, will merge into pathological dieting. Roughly a quarter of those will suffer from a partial or full-on eating disorder.

Limit Processed or Artificial foods:  In particular limit foods that are based on caffeine and artificial sweeteners.  There is a growing understanding of the negative effects of the overuse of colas and the new wave of energy drinks.  Not only are these chemicals harmful to your body but they come laced with media expectations of perfect.  “You will be happy and beautiful if you drink this cola”!  Not to mention ‘awake’ but ‘awake’ can be achieved by a healthy balanced lifestyle and good mental health.

A healthy body:  Can be maintained by eating a normal range of foods, normal portion sizes and eating them regularly (that is eating every 2 – 3 hours starting from the time you wake up, yes that is right 6 times a day!).  Exercise is important but needs to be realistic and consistent: 20 mins a day (ranging from walking around your office/school to vigorous sport) will have wonderful physical and emotional benefits.

Q4. What are the signs that parents and friends should look for? After all, most of us are pretty hard on ourselves.

Perfectionism, a personality trait (meaning a consistent ideal held by an individual) or a goal of perfection determined by some event or perceived benefit is one of the most significant  indicators of excessive expectations, thoughts and behaviours that might lead to poor self esteem, negative body image and/or disordered eating and exercise habits.

Ban the idea that we have to be a brand of perfect that is determined by someone or something else.  The perception that “what they think of us is more important than what we think of ourselves” is clearly destructive and problematic.

What others Think of Us is None of Our Business.

Teach your children that value is placed on what you do with your life rather than what you look like. When children feel good about themselves they are better equipped to resist negative pressures and handle conflict.

Q5. What should our daily mantra be to maintain a positive body image? And should women take a different approach to men?

Self Compassion is a great start.  Self compassion means relating to yourself in a compassionate way, regardless of what you don’t like about yourself.  It is about feeling, thinking and behaving towards yourself with love and care just the same as you would do for someone else you care for.  Practice acceptance of theirs and/or your personal failings, inadequacies and painful experiences.

High self compassion is positively correlated with health and wellness, including greater life satisfaction, social connectedness, autonomy, resilience, emotional intelligence, personal growth, wisdom, curiosity, attachment, security and relationship satisfaction.

Self Compassion has many of the benefits of high self esteem, however, it is not contingent on perceived success or positive experiences occurring.

Self compassion has 3 elements: self kindness; common humanity; and mindfulness.

Focusing on ‘health and energy’, ‘being good enough’ and ‘caring for myself’ are very useful mantra’s for all of us and I find they also make a lot of sense to men.  Men of all ages can benefit from some introspection – How do I feel?  Do I have the energy and motivation to do the things that I want to do?  What helps me to focus on myself in a healthy positive way?  When can I fit small positive changes into my daily routine?  What helps to build my self compassion?

Only 10 percent of people suffering from an eating disorder will seek professional help.  Don’t waste precious time, if your body image, eating and exercise routines are out of control in some way ‘Ask for help’, ….

An exciting website to look at www.bodyimagemovement.com.au. Promotes the following ideas:

Accept the diversity of our bodies, embracing all body types, shapes, sizes, colours and revelling in the beauty of the human form.

Celebrate the journey our bodies have been on.  Growing old, and acknowledging the privilege to do so.

Focus on things that are important, rather than comparing ourselves to others.

Teach women (and men) that their body is not an ornament, but a vehicle to their dreams.

Teach women (and men) to arm themselves with the skills which will make them resilient and unshakable when bombarded with negative body image in the media.

Being healthy at every weight.

If you or someone you know if suffering from an Eating Disorder, don’t waste another day, make an appointment with your GP today. For more information on Cathy or our team of Psychologists, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Managing School Refusal

Posted on February 19, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett

Stock Photo“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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Danielle Corbett is a Clinical Psychologist with 15 years of professional experience. She has spent most of her career working with adolescents with severe, complex, and persistent mental health problems and has presented her work at national conferences and has also been a guest lecturer at The University of Queensland. She also enjoys working with children and adults and has specialised training and experience in the area of parenting skills, trauma, eating disorders, self harming behaviours, substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders. Danielle works from Newmarket on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

For more information on Danielle Corbett and our team of Psychologists visit our website www.psychologyconsultants.com.au 

 

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Work Stress

Posted on January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0

More than just the workplace blues

By Stan Steindl

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.

 

 

 

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I’m doing this for me, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

Posted on January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0

I’m doing this for me, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

By Clinical Psychologist, Dr James Kirby

How often do you find that you are in automatic pilot? I recently moved house, and yesterday when I drove back home from work, I found I was driving back to my old place rather than my new place. When reflecting on it now I find it comical, but when it happened I was so annoyed. I think I said something to myself like, “James you are an idiot”. As a result of this mistake I was stuck in more traffic, I arrived home late, still had to make dinner, and had no time to do what I really wanted to do and that was go for a run.

I’m sure most people can relate to this kind of experience. I find it happens more and more. I think it’s because I can get so easily caught up in what jobs I should be doing that I forget what I am actually doing. And that is exactly what happened on my drive home, I was thinking about what jobs I still had to do at work and I wasn’t paying attention to the present moment.

I often read or hear in the media how everyone is getting busier and busier, and one of the reasons for this is because we are all so much more accessible due to mobile phones and the Internet. It is like ‘we never turn off’. We all have so many responsibilities. Work obligations, family jobs, chores around the house, and social commitments. At times it can feel like we are just on automatic pilot going from job to job, event to event, with no time to ourselves. And in those rare instances when we do consider the thought, “I’m going to do this just for me” often a feeling of selfishness or guilt can be evoked. So rather than take care of our own needs, we keep trying to attend to all the jobs we should be doing.

But that is the very problem. If we don’t take care of our own needs we can start to become annoyed, frustrated, forgetful, irritable, and sad. All of a sudden we find that we start to lose patience with family, we put ourselves down for forgetting things, and we are constantly stressed. So to manage all the demands we withdraw from the things that we do for ourselves, because we don’t have time for them. And all of a sudden you get the sense that you have no control of your life, rather your responsibilities have control of your life.

This story I am telling is not uncommon. I find clients come to therapy for this exact reason quite often. It’s a case of I am becoming depressed because of just how much work I need to do or I am anxious because I fear I won’t be able to do all of the jobs I am supposed to do. Depression and anxiety are not enjoyable emotions.

So what is the answer?

There is no clear answer. But one small step you can make to improve how you are feeling is something we call, ‘pleasant activity scheduling’.

This might seem counterintuitive and I can already anticipate what you must be thinking, “hang on, I have just told you how busy I am, and now you are telling me to schedule something else in?”

I completely understand that point, it makes perfect sense. My response would be, “how many jobs do you do now that are just for you to enjoy?” Often the answer to that question is “nothing”.

The key to pleasant activity scheduling is looking at what activities you really like and then making sure you do them. When you start to do this, you will find that when your own needs are being met, you are better able to meet the needs of those around you.

An activity doesn’t have to be a 4-week vacation, although that wouldn’t hurt. Pleasant activities can be very small, for example, having a coffee in peace and quiet, enjoying a view of a landscape, seeing a movie, listening to a piece of music that you really like, or maybe reading for 15 minutes or going for a walk. These little activities are what makes life so enjoyable, they are the icing on the cake.

There will be barriers that will get in the way, such as unexpected jobs, work phone calls, and guilt. But the key about pleasant activity scheduling is the scheduling. Here are a few ways you can help improve the chances you will engage in pleasant activity scheduling:

  1. Generate a full list of all the different things that you like. They can be small or big things. For example, a trip away to the coast, looking at old photos, thinking about your next holiday. If you are stuck for ideas do a search on google for a list of pleasant activities.
  2. Write down in your diary a time when you can next do that activity. So you might schedule in a 20 minute walk for 4:30pm on Wednesday.
  3. Think of what barriers might get in the way. For example, another job at work that needs to be completed.
  4. Think of ways you might be able to overcome those barriers. For example, asking if you can attend to the job tomorrow, as you already have a prior appointment.

That is the key to pleasant activity scheduling. Is to view them as appointments that you must keep. By the implementation of simple, but pleasurable activities, we cannot only improve our own quality of life, but we can also prevent depressive and anxious symptoms from taking control of our life. So enjoy your icing on the cake, and go and schedule a pleasant.

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I'm doing this for me, and I'm not going to feel guilty about it.

Posted on January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0

I’m doing this for me, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

By Clinical Psychologist, Dr James Kirby

How often do you find that you are in automatic pilot? I recently moved house, and yesterday when I drove back home from work, I found I was driving back to my old place rather than my new place. When reflecting on it now I find it comical, but when it happened I was so annoyed. I think I said something to myself like, “James you are an idiot”. As a result of this mistake I was stuck in more traffic, I arrived home late, still had to make dinner, and had no time to do what I really wanted to do and that was go for a run.

I’m sure most people can relate to this kind of experience. I find it happens more and more. I think it’s because I can get so easily caught up in what jobs I should be doing that I forget what I am actually doing. And that is exactly what happened on my drive home, I was thinking about what jobs I still had to do at work and I wasn’t paying attention to the present moment.

I often read or hear in the media how everyone is getting busier and busier, and one of the reasons for this is because we are all so much more accessible due to mobile phones and the Internet. It is like ‘we never turn off’. We all have so many responsibilities. Work obligations, family jobs, chores around the house, and social commitments. At times it can feel like we are just on automatic pilot going from job to job, event to event, with no time to ourselves. And in those rare instances when we do consider the thought, “I’m going to do this just for me” often a feeling of selfishness or guilt can be evoked. So rather than take care of our own needs, we keep trying to attend to all the jobs we should be doing.

But that is the very problem. If we don’t take care of our own needs we can start to become annoyed, frustrated, forgetful, irritable, and sad. All of a sudden we find that we start to lose patience with family, we put ourselves down for forgetting things, and we are constantly stressed. So to manage all the demands we withdraw from the things that we do for ourselves, because we don’t have time for them. And all of a sudden you get the sense that you have no control of your life, rather your responsibilities have control of your life.

This story I am telling is not uncommon. I find clients come to therapy for this exact reason quite often. It’s a case of I am becoming depressed because of just how much work I need to do or I am anxious because I fear I won’t be able to do all of the jobs I am supposed to do. Depression and anxiety are not enjoyable emotions.

So what is the answer?

There is no clear answer. But one small step you can make to improve how you are feeling is something we call, ‘pleasant activity scheduling’.

This might seem counterintuitive and I can already anticipate what you must be thinking, “hang on, I have just told you how busy I am, and now you are telling me to schedule something else in?”

I completely understand that point, it makes perfect sense. My response would be, “how many jobs do you do now that are just for you to enjoy?” Often the answer to that question is “nothing”.

The key to pleasant activity scheduling is looking at what activities you really like and then making sure you do them. When you start to do this, you will find that when your own needs are being met, you are better able to meet the needs of those around you.

An activity doesn’t have to be a 4-week vacation, although that wouldn’t hurt. Pleasant activities can be very small, for example, having a coffee in peace and quiet, enjoying a view of a landscape, seeing a movie, listening to a piece of music that you really like, or maybe reading for 15 minutes or going for a walk. These little activities are what makes life so enjoyable, they are the icing on the cake.

There will be barriers that will get in the way, such as unexpected jobs, work phone calls, and guilt. But the key about pleasant activity scheduling is the scheduling. Here are a few ways you can help improve the chances you will engage in pleasant activity scheduling:

  1. Generate a full list of all the different things that you like. They can be small or big things. For example, a trip away to the coast, looking at old photos, thinking about your next holiday. If you are stuck for ideas do a search on google for a list of pleasant activities.
  2. Write down in your diary a time when you can next do that activity. So you might schedule in a 20 minute walk for 4:30pm on Wednesday.
  3. Think of what barriers might get in the way. For example, another job at work that needs to be completed.
  4. Think of ways you might be able to overcome those barriers. For example, asking if you can attend to the job tomorrow, as you already have a prior appointment.

That is the key to pleasant activity scheduling. Is to view them as appointments that you must keep. By the implementation of simple, but pleasurable activities, we cannot only improve our own quality of life, but we can also prevent depressive and anxious symptoms from taking control of our life. So enjoy your icing on the cake, and go and schedule a pleasant.

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More than just the workplace blues

Posted on January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Dr Stan Steindl

STanI 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.

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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 how a Psychologist can help you improve your outlook for the year, visit our website www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

 

 

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