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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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Resilience, how can it help me?

Posted on June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

resilencesign

By Clinical Psychology Registrar, Dr James Kirby

We all face challenging events from time to time. For example, it could be something like not getting the grade we wanted on a project at school or university, losing at a team sport, or receiving some kind of bad news. When moments like these happen it can make some people feel annoyed, frustrated, sad, or even angry. As a result, it can be difficult for some people to continue doing the things that are important to them. In these situations what can be useful is resilience.

But what is resilience?

Resilience is how we adapt and cope to life’s challenges. Resilience can help you ‘bounce back’ when dealing with difficult situations and stress. If we are resilient it means that we can lessen the impact of a bad event and improve our chances of recovery. Importantly, resilience is not about avoiding bad things, or being lucky, or not letting things get to you. Rather resilience is about you taking actions to help adapt to the difficulty you are facing. And the difficulties could range from school things, to work problems, to problems with friends, and health issues.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin

Step 1: Early Warning Signs

The first thing to do in an attempt to build your resilience is to notice when you are feeling low in energy and that you are not coping. We sometimes refer to this as your ‘early warning signs’. Everyone will have different types of early warning signs, some people notice that they aren’t sleeping very well, others will notice physical symptoms such as having a sore throat, or feeling tired, or having a few aches and pains. Others will notice psychological signs, such as they are starting to get cranky with others or get frustrated with themselves. For some people the first time they notice their early warning signs is when someone asks them, “Are you OK, you don’t seem yourself?”. When you have low levels of resilience try to see how it impacts your thoughts, feelings, actions, and relationships with others. The important step here is to try and notice what your early warning signs are, because once you are aware of them you can start to do something to boost up and improve your levels of resilience.

Step 2: Meaningful Action

Once you have noticed your early warning signs, the second step is to do something about it. This requires action, and not just any sort of action, meaningful action. Meaningful action is part of a meaningful life, and a meaningful life increases resilience. Meaningful actions are ones that are consistent with our values as a person. Values are a standard or a principle that we find important, they are what we believe in. Values are the ways we want to live our lives. So your values might be, being a good friend, or being healthy, or being a good brother or sister. We can have values in all different kinds of domains such as with family, social relationships, career, home environment, health, spirituality, community service, and leisure. Values are different to goals, as goals have end points, but values are forever ongoing. For example, you might find the value of being healthy very important to you, so a goal might be to exercise 15-20 minutes each day. When we have low levels of resilience we tend to stop living in the direction of our values, so it is important to take stock of what aspects of your life you value, and what meaningful actions you can take so that you are living your life in accordance with them.

Step 3: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. To appreciate the richness and fullness of life, you have to be in the NOW while it is happening. Each moment is here to be lived. Being caught up with the past or the future means that you may not see opportunities that are in the present moment. Being in the present moment may mean that you become aware of unpleasant or unwanted experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings). Being open to any experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is an important component of resilience as it provides perspective and a connection with reality that allows you to take effective action. One way of trying to use mindfulness is to do mindfulness of sound. This involves the following 5-minute exercise:

  • Find a comfortable position. If you are sitting, be sure you have your feet flat on the floor, back straight, shoulders loose. Make your legs are uncrossed.
  • Make it your intention for the next few minutes to purely and simply be present, here and now – and to notice what is happening.
  • Focus on what you can hear. You may like to close your eyes or fix them on a non-distracting spot. Notice a sound. Notice the quality of the sound, the pitch, volume, and fluctuations. Is it continuous or does it come and go?
  • You might notice yourself being distracted whilst doing this exercise. Your attention can wander, and you may start thinking about other things. As soon as you realise this has happened, notice what distracted you, and gently bring your attention back to the sounds.

The idea of mindfulness of the sound is to bring us to present moment awareness. When we are in the present moment we are more open to experience, which then allows you to be able to decide how you would like to respond rather than responding automatically. Mindfulness also allows you the opportunity to notice your early warning signs. You could do the same mindfulness exercise for sight. An easy way to check in with your mindfulness each day is to try the strategy Five Senses.

  • Pause for a moment.
  •  Notice one thing you can see.
  •  Notice one thing you can hear.
  • Notice one thing you can physically feel.
  • Notice one thing you can smell.
  • Notice one thing you can taste.

Step 4: Thoughts

Another way in which you can build your resilience is to notice your thoughts. Often when we have thoughts we do not want, we try not to think about it. So we distract ourselves, or tell ourselves not to think about it. Although this can feel like it is helpful it sometimes does not work as well as what we would like. For example if I said, “Try not to think of a banana. Can you do it?” While you are trying not to think of it, you might have  a banana in mind, or maybe even thought of a banana split, or maybe the colour yellow. When we try to control our thoughts like this it can sometimes make it worse. The important point here is having thoughts is OK, our minds are thought producing machines. The key is not whether we have the thought, but it is how we react to that thought. Often people can fall into traps where they see their thought as being true and very important. As a result the thoughts can be taken literally and we buy into the thought and we believe in it 100%. When we do this we tend to become inflexible and our thoughts become rigid and fixed. When this happens we can start to lose our ability to be resilient, as being resilient is about being adaptive and responsive.

An alternative to trying to control our thoughts is to just notice that we have all different kinds of thoughts. And we can choose how we would like to respond to them. Remember thoughts are just words. Thoughts are what you have, not what you are. That means you can stand back from a thought, and see the thought, and then choose how you would like to respond to it. One way to help give you space or distance from your thoughts is to say to yourself, “I notice I am having the thought…..” When we put this label before our thought it can help provide distance between the thought being who you are, and rather it is just something you are having. As a result you can choose what you do next.

Take Home Messages

We have just scratched the surface in this blog on ways to help build your resilience, and below is some simple take home messages you can use to help build your resilience.

  1. Notice your early warning signs, they could be physical or psychological.
  2. Take time to consider what values are important to you.
  3. Consider some meaningful actions you could make that allow you to work towards your values.
  4. Try mindfulness, either mindfulness of sound or try the same exercise but try it with your sight.
  5. Try using the technique, “I notice I am having the thought…..” to help build space between you and your thoughts.

Further Information

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

If you would like further information about how to build your resilience you can consider seeking professional help by contacting a professional, such as a psychologist or talk to your doctor about what you can do.

Author- James N. Kirby, PhD.

Dr James Kirby

Dr James Kirby

 

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A Healthy Man Needs His Forty Winks

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

Men’s Health Week- 9-15 June 2014

healthyman

Lack of sleep is often something that we associate with the female population, with pregnancy, motherhood and hormones wreaking havoc with normal sleep patterns.

But are we forgetting the other 50% of the population? 

9-15 June marks Men’s Health Week as part of a national initiative, Men’s Health Month. Over the course of the month, the team at Psychology Consultants will be covering a range of health issues that affect Australian men.

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.

Professor Gary Wittert, Director of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, recently reviewed evidence that demonstrated the important role that sleep had for maintaining healthy testosterone levels in men, energy levels, libido, mood, mental acuity and muscle mass. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24435056, Journal of Andrology).

According to the National Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression.

Individuals may suffer from a range of insomnia symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia), difficulty staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia), un-refreshing sleep and daytime sleepiness.

The good news is; there is a way out of the vicious cycle of bad sleep. The first step is to recognize the problem and to speak with your GP about an appropriate health plan.

Psychology Consultants runs a long-standing group programme called Towards Better Sleep (TBS). The programme focuses on education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.

So if insomnia is troubling you, speak with your GP about your suitability for referral to the Towards Better Sleep Programme, commencing 17th July 2014.

Visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au

Phone (07) 3356 8255

Email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Seriously Unhealthy Sleep Facts

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

 

 

 

Did you know an estimated 6% of the Australian population have a sleep disorder?Image

Research conducted by Access Economics for Sleep Australia reveals some shocking statistics associating sleep disorders with 9.1% of work related injuries, 8.3% of depression, 7.6% of non work-related motor vehicle accidents, 2.9% of diabetes, 0.9% of kidney disease and 6% of cardiovascular disease.

“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, causing substantial psychological, occupational, health and economic repercussions,” Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith said. 

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

So if insomnia is troubling you, speak with your GP about your suitable for referral to the Towards Better Sleep Programme, commencing 17th July 2014. 

Visit: www.towardsbettersleep.com.au

Phone: (07) 3356 8255

Email: tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Music, Tune into your Emotions

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

By Clinical Psychology Registrar, Dr James Kirby

musictherapy

There will be days when I am driving home from work feeling pretty exhausted, tired, stressed, and also anxious about some of the work I still have not completed. Typically, when I am driving my car I have the radio playing in the background, but I often don’t give it that much attention. But yesterday a song was played that really got my attention, it was a song by Australian artist Dan Sultan called ‘The Same Man’. I don’t really remember the lyrics, but the beat and rhythm of the song really ‘picked me up’. Whilst listening to the song, I noticed it really improved my mood, for some reason I was nodding my head, it made me feel a lot more upbeat, positive, and less stressed. It is only a 4-minute song, but listening to that song was in many ways transformational for my mood.

This scenario is not uncommon, indeed, we can all relate to the power of a song to influence mood. Movies exploit the power of music constantly, the soundtracks of movies can really enhance the emotional tone the director is trying to convey in a scene. One of my favourite directors, Quentin Tarantino does it to glorious effect in the movie Pulp Fiction, and Stephen Spielberg was a master employing the music theme song to the movie Jaws. That music used when the shark is circling the boat in Jaws is simply chilling and builds suspense wonderfully. The question is, would the suspense in that scene in Jaws still be provoked to such a high level without the music? Try watching that scene from Jaws on mute, it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact.

What is encouraging for us is that we can use music to help regulate our emotions. What I mean is, at different times of the day, in different circumstances, we can use music to alter how we are feeling. This might mean you want to use music to fully explore the emotional state you are currently in, you might want to use music to get you out of a sad place, you might want to use music to bring on a sense of relaxation, or you can use music to give you the extra energy you need to get to the gym and do a work out.

Dr Genevieve Dingle from the University of Queensland is doing some cutting edge research examining how music can be used to help regulate our emotions with teenagers. The program is called, Tuned In Teens, and it was designed to help young people identify, name, tolerate and modify their emotions strategically, using music as the tool. When examining the Tuned In Teens program, it is more than just listening to a song to make you happy. Music is explored in terms of the effect it can have on our bodily sensations, the visual imagery it can bring, and how we make sense of the lyrics. The program is currently being evaluated with teenagers, however, the program was found to be helpful in a previous study by Dingle and her colleague Carly Fay with young adults aged 18-25 years. Music can be a very helpful way to help regulate mood, as some people find it hard verbalise how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Therefore, music can be a way to break through that verbal barrier. That is the hope of Dr Dingle and colleagues with helping teenagers regulate their moods in their current study at The University of Queensland.

The knowledge that music can influence our mood is of course not new, but it is surprising how little we use music strategically to help us with mood. In many ways, the benefits we can derive from music is under utilised and often can be left to chance. However, below are some simple ways you can use music to help regulate how you are feeling.

  1. When you notice a song playing that impacts your emotional state, try to identify what emotional state you were experiencing before the song and where the song took your emotional state. Also write down the song so you can use it later.
  2. Create multiple playlists to help regulate your mood for different emotional states. For example create a playlist to help improve your mood from being stressed to happy. Create a playlist to help you relax when you are feeling anxious. Create a playlist for when you feel like you have no energy but need to get up and move.
  3. When listening to a piece of music try and notice what body sensations you are experiencing, does it give you a sense of calmness, a ‘chill’ or does it make you want to move?
  4. When listening to music try and think about what visual images come to mind?

Music is a wonderful and powerful tool. However, in order to derive its benefits the key is to use it. Make that playlist on your smart phone, create a CD for your car, or put some songs on your computer. The more you make it easily accessible, the more likely it is you will use it. Right now I am feeling pretty happy that I have finished writing this blog, so to help fully explore and enjoy this feeling I am going to start listening to ‘In your light” by Gotye. It’s one song that always makes me feel happy.

Dr James Kirby

Dr James Kirby

For more information on James and our team of Psychologists visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

 

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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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