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Resilience, how can it help me?

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


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


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


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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What is Bullying?

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

By Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What others Think of Us is None of Our Business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being healthy at every weight.

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

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Managing School Refusal

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

By Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding School Refusal in older children and adolescents

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

Recognising the Symptoms

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

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

Reasons for School Refusal

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

School Refusal = Fear/Anxiety + Avoidance

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

Reasons requiring further assessment include:

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

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

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

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

Tips for Parents for managing School Refusal

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

Send a clear message about school attendance

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

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

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

Manage the morning routine

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

Ignore problem behaviour

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

Model Confidence

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

Communicate with the school

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

Escort to school

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

Encourage anxiety management

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

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


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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