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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.

DanielleC100x150

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.

holidaycartoon

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

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

By Clinical Psychology Registrar, Dr James Kirby 

James150x150

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'm doing this for meI 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 act.

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

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

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

By Clinical Psychology Registrar, Dr James Kirby 

James150x150

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'm doing this for meI 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 act.

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

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How to Survive the Family at Christmas

Posted on December 16, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

  By Clinical Psychologist, Kylie Layton

Kylie_L

Christmas time is a special time of year for many people. It’s a time to relax and rejuvenate, and be with loved ones to celebrate the past year and the New Year to come. We look forward to this time and often have hopes and expectations about what Christmas will be like. But along with this excitement and happy expectation comes a lot of other things that may or may not be as enjoyable. Think busy shopping centres, financial expense, planning and organisation, adherence to family ‘traditions’ and interactions with extended family.

National-Lampoon-s-Christmas-Vacation-special-edition-Christmas-review-1062463We all know the Hollywood Christmas day ideal of the loving family happily gathered around the Christmas tree, but more realistically family relationships can be complicated and approaching Christmas festivities can seem daunting.  So how do we survive the family at Christmas and still have the kind of Christmas we’d like?

Here are a few tips that may help you to navigate the interactions at this year’s family festivities.

1. Reflect on what’s important. Research shows that having an awareness of your own set of personal values is like having an internal compass. If we can focus on our values in stressful situations, we are more likely to make effective decisions and choose appropriate behaviours in line with living these values. So consider what matters to you most this Christmas. Then consider how you can apply this to your family gatherings to avoid getting caught up in anything unpleasant.

2. Practice acceptance. We often have that Hollywood ideal in our head and have expectations of a joyous occasion. For many families that is a reality, but for some relationships are strained by the stress of entertaining and perhaps a little too much Christmas cheer!  Be prepared to accept that the day may not always go as well as planned.

3. Pick your battles. Based on your values and expectations of the day, it can help to consider what you are willing to overlook because it’s Christmas. For example, you may be ok to ignore Uncle Tom’s sexist comment but need to intervene when Grandad wants to give your two year old some wine. Christmas isn’t the best time of year to confront someone, so ignore what you can, politely change the topic or move away where appropriate without compromising your personal boundaries.

4. Have a plan if you need to. Have a loose strategy going into family situations regarding how you are going to apply those values and boundaries. Having a strategy could also mean having a plan around how to deal with a person you have previously found difficult, or developing a mindset to help manage interactions. Often it helps to remember that you have little or no control over another person’s behaviour and that any unpleasantness on their behalf is more a sign of something that they have going on than anything to do with you.

5. Don’t be afraid to take some space. Research shows that walking away and taking time to calm down is far more effective in the management of emotion charged situations than pushing forward for a solution.  Our brains find it hard to think calmly and clearly when we are emotional. We need to give the emotion time to reduce before we are likely to be effective in reaching a solution.

6. Try to accept people where they’re at. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Research on self-acceptance and self-compassion shows that when we are able to connect to that shared imperfection, we have the ability to not only be more accepting of ourselves and our own short-comings, but be more empathetic to those around us as well. Everyone has a history, a story, and reasons behind their behaviour. Their behaviour choices may not be appropriate or pleasant but, where we can, Christmas can be a great time to aim to accept the flaws in our family, highlight their strengths and take them just as they are.

We don’t get to pick our family and therefore it is unreasonable to expect everyone to get along. What we can hope for is for people to be accepting, considerate, and to make an effort to make this emotion charged and expectation filled day an ok experience for all. You may need to stand firm, you may need to take a break, or you may just need to lead the way with a bit of Christmas compassion and smile and move on!

Best wishes for the festive season!

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

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Post Natal Depression- When ideals don’t match reality

Posted on November 19, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Erika Fiorenza

Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist”.
– Michael Levine

Becoming a parent is one of the biggest life changes a person can undergo.  There are changes to their routine, lifestyle, and relationships, ever while parent and child learn together how to do almost everything. And yet, we often expect to effortlessly and naturally slip into this role.

There are a number of unrealistic expectations and misperceptions that can perpetuate distress in the postnatal period.  Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (17-23rd Nov 2013) is a great time to highlight some of the myths that new parents can get caught up with.

photo-professionalhelp Some of these common thoughts can include:

“This should be the happiest time of my life”

“I should know what to do”

“I wouldn’t have these thoughts if I was a good mother”

“If I’m not doing well, I’m not a good mother”

“My life is good….I shouldn’t be feeling depressed”

When these ‘ideals’ don’t seem to match up to reality, mothers (and fathers) can experience feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness.

In addition, the stigma connected to even expressing any dissatisfaction or difficulty with parenting can hold people back from seeking help, leading to further feelings of isolation and helplessness. We all have the tendency to ‘compare upwards’.  It is common for new mothers to compare themselves and their baby’s development to that of their peers and conclude that “everyone else is doing well”.

Women with postnatal distress that present for therapy can describe a number of these unhelpful thoughts.  When they become ‘entangled’ or ‘caught up’ with these thoughts, they find themselves moving further away from the parent, partner, or person they want to be.  There are a number of studies suggesting that cognitive processes (such as those in postnatal depression) can impact on a mother’s capacity to respond to her baby and the outside world (Stein et al., 2012).

In therapy, we work on normalising these thoughts, and help people learn skills to manage their thinking, such that it has less influence over their mood and actions.  In addition to dealing with painful thoughts, therapy for postnatal disorders may also include dealing with painful feelings, urges and sensations.

Another critical part of therapy is getting back into activity.  Low motivation (one of the main symptoms of depression) leads to doing less, enjoying less, and consequently feeling worse.

It’s hard to feel ‘normal’ when we don’t do normal things.

If ‘normal’ is having contact with friends or doing daily activities like cooking a meal or going to the shop, then this is where we start.  In therapy we work on helping people identify what it is they value.  Identifying values such as ‘self-care’, ‘challenge’ or ‘acceptance’ can help parents reconnect with what is important, and help clarify goals for moving forward.

There is a lot of great information online about the signs and symptoms of postnatal disorders.  Check out: www.beyondblue.org.au,  www.panda.org.au,  and www.blackdoginstitute.org.au for more information.  Becoming more informed is the first step to seeking help and starting to debunk the myths.

Psychology Consultants have a number of Clinical Psychologists who are experienced in Post Natal Depression treatment. For more information, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

Sources:

Stein A, Craske MG, Lehtonen A, Harvey A, Savage-McGlynn E, Davies B, Goodwin J, Murray L, Cortina-Borja M, Counsell N. (2012). Maternal cognitions and mother-infant interaction in postnatal depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121, 795-809

 

 

 

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