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Mirror Mirror

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

plastic-surgeryBy Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

isolated-youthBy Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

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

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

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

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

And everyone can help those who might be suffering.

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

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

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

 

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

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

By Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith

sleep-deprivation-depression-270

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Take Action During Sleep Awareness Week

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

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

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R U OK? Day- 11th September 2014

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

R_U_OK?_Day_logo

By Clinical Psychologist, Dr Jillian Millar

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

How can a 3 word sentence save lives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

UQsymposiumphoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Common Sleep Problems answered by Towards Better Sleep Facilitators, Dr Curt Gray & Kathryn Smith

Posted on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

light-emitting-technology1. Stay up later rather than going to bed earlier

Going to bed when you are not sleepy can start a vicious insomnia cycle. You feel anxious and frustrated that you can’t fall asleep, and then you lie awake while the problem perpetuates. It is important to differentiate sleepiness from just feeling tired. We can experience tired throughout our body but sleepiness is simply dictated by our eyes closing and literally “getting the nods”. Sleepiness will come in waves and when we get this wave at an appropriate time at night, we need to take this cue and catch it.

2. Avoid napping during the day

Whilst napping might be desirable for those that are not sleeping well during the night, a nap can significantly reduce your sleep drive and will make it harder to initiate or maintain sleep at a desirable time. If you are tempted to nap, try increasing your level of arousal, which is as simple as standing up.

3. Develop a regular exercise regime

We all know that exercise is good for us and will help maintain a healthy mind and body. Exercise also has the added benefit of deepening and extending our sleep. The exercise that works best for this is weight or resistance training. So start pumping that iron or turn up the exercise bike. Anytime of the day is fine however best to keep it a couple of hours clear of bedtime.

4. Learn a relaxation procedure

Having a balance in our lives is important. We often neglect relaxation and use the excuse of being time poor. If you are having troubles sleeping, learning a relaxation procedure can be invaluable. We only enter sleep from a state of relaxation. So if we go to bed and make relaxation our goal, sleep is likely to follow if needed. Whilst alcohol can help us relax and maybe sleep initially, it will typically disrupt our sleep later in the night. So maybe saying no to that glass of wine or two in the evening will pay off.

5. Keep your evenings free of technology.

The main regulator of our sleep is light. It dictates when we wake and when we fall asleep. With increasing use of computers and smart phones we are exposed to more light in the evenings than we have ever been. Computers and smart phones throw out a lot of blue/green light, which can delay the onset of our sleep phase. We can combat this by wearing amber or red glasses, or simply turn off a couple of hours before bed.

For more information on our sleep programme, Towards Better Sleep, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Stress Down Day- Friday 25 July: Working under time-pressure: why working harder isn’t necessarily the best option!

Posted on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Stressed woman in office

By Psychologist, Mark Wetton 

Work-related stress (and of course this includes the important work performed by “stay at home” mums and dads) can have a significant impact on one’s life and is a common reason for people to seek the support of Psychologists.

High levels of perceived stress have the effect of making it harder for us to take a broad, considered view of the situation to work out the best way to solve it. It makes it very hard to identify our priorities, so we often end up just running around trying to put out the “spot fires” instead of focusing on the main fire!

One of the most common causes of work-related stress is feeling like there simply isn’t enough time to get all the jobs done. In this situation, a common approach is to work harder and faster!

Studies investigating the relationship between stress and task performance demonstrate that best performance occurs at medium levels of stress, and worse at low or high levels of stress. While people differ as to how much stress they need for best performance, one strong finding from the research is that for most people, high levels of stress results in lots of errors and therefore worse performance.

Given that high stress makes people perform worse, working faster when experiencing high stress usually results in error leading to precious time spent correcting. Mistakes can also be demoralising and un-motivating, and at worst can have serious consequences for job security and impact our long-term mental health.

So rather than working faster, make small changes that may save you little bits of time here and there. Here are some ways that may help you through stressful periods:

1. Be aware of the difference between urgency and importance.

Make a list of the “important urgent” things, the “important non-urgent” things, the “unimportant urgent” things, and the “unimportant non-urgent” things. Then get stuck into the important things first, and the unimportant things last. As an example, emails are usually urgent but most are not important, yet most people prioritise responding to email first rather than attending to more important tasks like completing a report for the boss!

2. Complete one task at a time.

Most tasks involve quite a bit of attention to complete properly and also require you to remember what part of the task you are up to, and what you need to do next. Research has found that if you switch between tasks frequently you can often lose track of what part you were up to, making it harder to recommence and complete the task. If a task is very large, break it down into smaller chunks and focus on getting one chunk done at a time. This approach will build a sense of making progress and so keep you motivated! Only attempt to juggle tasks when you are completely confident that there is a time benefit in doing so.

3. Be aware that when stressed you are likely to make more mistakes, so slow down!

It is sometimes inevitable when work gets busy to make more mistakes, but recognising that you are perhaps working too fast for the job at hand will allow you to minimise mistakes by slowing down when you need to.

4. Reward yourself for your hard work by taking frequent short breaks, and make sure to eat your lunch!

As the body and brain become fatigued it becomes harder to concentrate and you will be more likely to make mistakes and generally work slower. Brief breaks and nourishing yourself every hour or so allow the body and brain a moment to refresh, thus making you more efficient across the day. Even doing something for five minutes that takes your mind completely off the task at hand is useful, but make sure it isn’t so enjoyable that it makes it hard to start work again!


5. When you have finished work for the day, give yourself a genuine time out!

Working really fast all day can make it really hard to slow down when work is over! People differ in what helps them de-stress. Remember that pleasurable activities are just important as work related tasks. Take some time to exercise, play a team sport, watch tv, do arts and crafts, interact with loved ones, friends, children or animals, take a warm bath, meditate, read or cook. As long as you experience a de-stressing effect from it, it is worth doing!

6.  And finally, when the period of high stress is over, take a little bit of time to plan for the next stressful period.

When stress dies down we often need some time to recover and replenish. This is very important to take but also a time to consider whether there is anything you can do to reduce the amount of work-related stress you may experience in the future. Take a moment to evaluate the most time consuming or stressful tasks and trouble shoot ways to make them easier. As the old adage implies “work smarter, not harder”. Remember, any slight decrease in the time and effort it takes to do your work will add up to much less stress over the long term!

Here are some tools to help you prioritise tasks, and so get things done with less stress!

http://tomorrow.do/
http://gettingthingsdone.com/

Mark250x250For more information on Mark and the team of Psychologist at Psychology Consultants visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au 

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9 effective ways to get your sleep back on track when suffering from jet lag

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

jetlag

By Towards Better Sleep Facilitators, Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith & Psychiatrist, Dr Curt Gray

Most of us at some stage of our lives will experience the suffering of jetlag, a temporary condition caused by air travel across time zones. Our body clocks are “out of whack” resulting in a temporary circadian rhythm sleep disorder or sleep-wake schedule disorder.

Fatigue and insomnia are the most common signs of jetlag, however some people experience more severe symptoms including anxiety, confusion, headaches, digestive issues, dizziness, and mentation difficulties such as memory loss.

If you have traveled with a child or baby, they are not immune and can also suffer from these symptoms.

Although jetlag is somewhat unavoidable, there are ways to help your body recover more effectively without prolonging the inconvenient symptoms brought on by international travel.

Here are a few tips:

  1. As much as you will feel like napping-don’t! Napping with upsets your normal sleep pattern and will make it more difficult to fall asleep at the adjusted sleep time.
  2. It sounds obvious but caffeine and alcohol should be avoided if you want to catch your zzz’s. Although alcohol may put you to sleep, it won’t result in quality sleep.
  3. Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  4. Relax! Stress is the number one cause of sleeplessness, so find ways to unwind and de-stress during and after your flight. Meditation is a great way to achieve this.
  5. Don’t stress about losing sleep, this will only cause you to be more uptight.
  6. Avoid heavy food close to bed time, both on the plane and after you arrive at your destination.
  7. Avoid strenuous exercise nearing bedtime, although light exercise during the day can be very helpful.
  8. Get some fresh air and soak up the sun. Exposure to daylight is a powerful biological cue for our bodies so it will help in adjusting the circadian rhythm.
  9. Operate within the normal sleep and wake times for your newly adjusted time zone.

 For more information on the Towards Better Sleep program visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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