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The power of being aware of your thoughts

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

This week is QLD Mental Health Week, a timely reminder to check in with yourself and other’s and to value our mental health, like we do our physical health. May it also act as a reminder to be aware of our thoughts as they are more powerful than you might know.

A constant flow of negative thoughts can be destructive, leading to low mood and unhealthy behaviour. Challenging these negative thoughts and taking control of your own mind is a powerful step to a healthier you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT is a form of psychotherapy practiced by mental health professionals across the world to clinically treat mental illness as well as non-clinical issues, like relationship distress and trauma. As well as being effective in treating mental illness, CBT can be applied to resolve every-day personal issues and the first step is being aware of your thoughts.

CBT focuses on the way people think about things (including their attitudes and beliefs) and the way they behave. It is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit, and, like any other bad habit, it can be modified. It helps people identify where their thoughts and actions are negative, and then to replace these “bad habits” with more helpful thoughts and responses.

In a nutshell, this form of therapy provides strategies that teach you to be aware of the automatic thoughts that pop into your head, empowering you to take control of how they make you feel and act. Being able to apply these principals into every day settings that challenge you, like your workplace, a social scene or even in your fitness regime, can help you achieve your personal goals, improve mood and outlook on life.

For more information on how challenge negative thoughts,  head to: http://psychologyconsultants.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Challenging-Automatic-Thoughts.pdf


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Do you freak out without your phone?

Posted on September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Our ability to completely switch ‘swipe’ off from the world has set a new-age challenge, with many of us so addicted to our phones that the idea of switching it off or leaving it at home is totally absurd. In fact, so absurd that for many people, particularly amongst the younger generation, it causes a great deal of stress to be without one’s phone.

Many people report feelings of stress when they don’t have their phone with them and this feeling is warranted, after all, the device in many cases has replaced large parts of our brain, namely our memory and imagination. All jokes aside, research has shown that in high stress situations, a person’s phone can provide some relief, acting as a security blanket. Staying connected is important; an inbuilt part of the human psyche, so when faced with stressful situations, being able to reach out is only natural. However, if you are unable to function without your device neatly tucked in your back pocket or hot little hand, you may need to reassess the reasons for your not so fluffy security blanket.

Research shows that the connection between mental illness and phone use depends on the reasons for use and using a phone to avoid boredom or high stress situations has little correlation. The fear of new technology amongst the public is nothing new and has been occurring for generations as each new tech fad replaces the last. The most important thing to remember when it comes to our personal devices is to not to let it replace human interaction, social common courtesy and the ability to make good use of our brain.

It is also important to set a good example for the little people in our world by not always resorting to your phone to fill gaps and fix boredom. Being bored is an excellent way to make use of your imagination, have a conversation, learn something new, and notice the world around you.

Set yourself a little challenge this week by leaving your phone at home for the day and see what differences you notice in yourself by the end of the day.

To read more articles like this, join our blog:  www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/blog

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Music speaking volumes for teens

Posted on September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Music- it’s an amazing universal language that for centuries has been used to create ambiance, calm and excite crowds, cut through cultural barriers, prepare for monumental moments, reminiscence and reflect. And these days, this melodic and wonderful language is being used more strategically as a form of therapy. Recent scientific research into music therapy across a range of age groups, affirms what we anecdotally know, that music regulates mood. This revelation is particularly relevant for parents with teenagers whose hormones may have gone haywire with a brewing mood to match.

If you haven’t tuned into the YouTube sensation by Peter Denahy, “Sort of Dunno Nothin”- Google it for a laugh! The lyrics takes the micky out of communicating with teenagers, with answers like ‘Sort of, Dunno, Yep, Nope, Nowhere’. The ballad provides a good giggle, if you are a parent enduring these trying years, it might lift your mood and provide a lighter perspective.

Perhaps though, the stereotypical image of the grunting teenager, complete with grim look, digital device and earphones firmly plugged, stands to reason. They are niftier than we give credit for, self-regulating, using music as their tool to escape, lighten, relax or sometimes brew in whatever flavour mood they are experiencing.

If you take a walk in their shoes, you may empathise and remember how challenging this stage of life can be. Putting aside the physical trials and tribulations of teenage-hood, is more mounting pressure than ever before, causing stress and anxiety particularly amongst high school students. A 2016 study by Mission Australia revealed the top two concerns for teens aged 15-19 years, were coping with stress, school and study problems. Recognising the enormity of the issue and the mental health ramifications, The University of Queensland’s, Dr Genevieve Dingle (School of Psychology), developed the ‘Tuned In Teens’ program, designed to help high school aged students, regulate their emotions through music and in turn reduce stress and anxiety. For many teens who have tuned into the program, it has literally been music to their ears with results showing this form of therapy, that has stood the test of time, has real life worth.

As amusing as the ‘Sort of Dunno Nothin’ tune is, teenagers can find it very hard to verbalise their thoughts and emotions and parents can find this disconcerting, challenging and infuriating. Music, offers the opportunity to break through the verbal barrier and regulate mood by communicating through visualisation, bodily sensation and making sense of feelings through the thoughts music provokes. Better yet, if the music is a shared experience with parents also tuning in, it can act as a conduit to better understand how their teen might be feeling. To further advocate our tongue-tied teens, recent research shows that the human brain goes through some pretty dramatic development during these years, with physical changes to the frontal lobe affecting the synapse that are responsible for decision making, judgement and control.

We all have experienced, the lift music can provide, making you feel happy, enlightened and relaxed; just imagine a bar or a gym without music.  On the flip side, we’ve all probably experienced the sadness it can sometimes bring, darkening our mood and making us feel angry or resentful. It is important when it comes to teens, to monitor the types of music they are listening to, also ensuring the earplugs are not always accompanied by a screen.  Encouraging teens to unplug, get some fresh air and exercise, provides the ultimate trifecta for natural mood enhancement.

If your teenager is struggling with stress and emotional problems or you would like some parenting strategies, speaking to a psychologist can be a positive step forward. Find out more about our team of Clinical Psychologists at www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Being kind to yourself as the first step to helping others

Posted on September 14, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

On RUOK Day- 14th September 2017

Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

The four prompts to starting a conversation on RUOK day this year are; 1. Ask 2. Listen 3. Encourage Action 4. Check In

This process is great and represents a small but powerful act of human kindness. Perhaps as well, the preparation for these four steps, could be to first check in with yourself, asking yourself, AM I OK? As the famous psychologist Jack Kornfield once said, “Compassion, without self-compassion, is incomplete.”

Practicing self-compassion, that is treating yourself with the same level of kindness as you would others, does not come naturally for many people. However, being kind to yourself by soothing the inner self-critic and softening negative thoughts can lead to a better sense of well-being and inner strength that enables you to also practice compassion towards others in your life.

Try following these six steps to begin practicing self-compassion:

Turn your attention to yourself, and become sensitive to your own thoughts and feelings. Step out of living on autopilot and become aware of your experiences.

If you identify areas in which you may be struggling or suffering, see if you can understand that suffering and be accepting and non-judgemental of yourself.

Know that suffering is a part of life, and a part of what it is to be human and to have these tricky human brains. Rather than criticising ourselves, we can approach ourselves with empathy and understanding.

And we can feel sympathy for ourselves. Not a pitying kind of sympathy, but rather a feeling that what we are going through is really hard and we feel moved by that feeling.

With a fundamental sense of care for our own well-being, we can bring our innate caregiving motivation to looking after ourselves and working out what we can do to help.

And finally, we can ask ourselves the key question: What is it that I really need, or would help me, in this moment of suffering?

So, remember that today, during this national day of awareness, as well as having the wisdom and courage to ask others RUOK, also look within and ask yourself that very same question. As the aeroplane safety video says regarding oxygen masks before take off, “fix your own mask first, and then help others.”

If you are struggling with negative self-talk, persistent anxiety or depressed mood, talking to a mental health professional can help you move forward and start living the way you want to live, Visit our website for more information and to view our team of clinical psychologists www.psychologyconsultants.com.au  

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Rehab for the Soul after Stroke

Posted on August 31, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

During Stroke Awareness Week 4-9th Sept

This week is Stroke Awareness Week with this year’s campaign aiming to educate people on the “fast signs” of stroke, like blurred vision, loss of movement and drooping face. Knowing the signs and acting early is key to minimising the impact of stroke and improving rehabilitation outcomes.

With ample focus on repairing the physical impacts, as psychologists, we are naturally inclined to also ask how the person is coping emotionally and psychologically after suffering a stroke. Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety are common after stroke, not only because the condition affects aspects of brain functioning directly, but also due to the physical changes and personal challenges that may result.

Emotional recovery is a major part of the rehabilitation journey and some attention should be placed on the person’s emotional wellbeing. As well as changes in general mood, many stroke sufferers can feel traumatised or angered by the experience and live in fear of a second occurrence. Speaking with a mental health professional about your thoughts and feelings after stroke, may help alleviate stress and psycho-social symptoms whilst improving physical effects, like sleep that are integral to the recovery process.

Similar to the tools that are provided in physical therapy, stroke survivors can also be provided with a mental health tool kit filled with personalise strategies to help cope with the challenges that lie ahead. Although mood disorders and emotional strain are common after stroke, recovery is also very common, with psychotherapies like cognitive behavioural therapy having positive effects.

Like the late Napoleon Hill famously said; “The body will achieve what the mind believes”, and getting the right help to regain a positive perspective and the self- confidence to embrace life, is imperative to a holistic rehabilitation.

The Stroke Foundation offer a number of resources and support for the emotional and psychological recovery including Enable Me with useful advice and podcasts from a range of professionals.

For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists and their areas of expertise visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/psychologists-2

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Selfies causing mental health problems

Posted on August 30, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Like most new crazes, they come with a side of commentary and debate and the selfie fad is not exempt. At risk of over-analysing simply taking a photo of oneself; the selfie craze is sending people over the edge by promoting narcissistic and self-objectifying behaviour that relies heavily on reward and social approval.

“The mounting pressure to be approved and rewarded by ‘likes’ or follows, can lead to a downward spiral, unravelling the person’s deep seeded doubt and insecurity that may have lead them to this digital space in the first place,” said Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist.

Particularly with the Gen Y’s, selfie obsession has become a real problem with people becoming disconnected from the real world on a search for the perfect post. Not only does the craze promote self-objectification, it removes the ability to be mindful and enjoy the present moment.

The term narcissism was coined by a German Psychiatrist, Paul Näcke (1851-1913) and refers to a beautiful greek mythological character, Narkissos who fell in love with his own reflection. But more often than not, narcissists are deep down insecure people with a burning hunger for acceptance and approval.

It would be extreme to suggest that anyone who has posted a selfie falls into this category, after all, we are probably all guilty of a cheeky selfie-snap. However, the trap that many people unintentionally fall into, when it comes to social media, is becoming obsessed with posting photos only to wait for other people’s digital approval.

Considering the said ‘approval’, is so flippant and empty that is takes a nano-second to offer; why is getting ‘likes’ so important in this social-media obsessed age?

Perhaps it’s because it provides such an easy platform to show others your worth and popularity. For some, it represents a chain of money, a myriad of business opportunity and possibility. And for others, it’s more innocently, just a way of telling your story to the world and knowing it has been received. A little soap box, you otherwise would not have the opportunity to stand on.

The most important thing when using social media is to really think about your reasons for posting and to exercise caution if you feel you are placing too much value or significance on the number of likes or follows you receive.

A good question to ask yourself to bring it all back to reality is; if I received a real-life compliment about this photo I am posting, would it have equal worth?

If you are struggling with personal or emotional problems, speaking to a professional counsellor or psychologist can help you get back on track. For more information on our team of clinical psychologists, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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The art of accepting a compliment

Posted on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Psychology Consultants, Brisbane

Every human being is worthy of a compliment. The baffling thing is, the majority of the us, find taking a compliment totally flustering. Personal compliments trigger strange reactions that range from slight to total embarrassment and for the more discerning, rearing feelings of distrust…. pondering what exactly does this person want from me?

So why is this the case? It is because we are taught to be humble, modest and not show off, or is it our inner sceptic questioning the real reason for the compliment? Maybe, it’s because we spend too much time admiring others, when we should, from time to time, take a step back and value our own abilities, accomplishments and personal qualities. If that sounds rather narcissistic to you, then you are probably not good at taking a compliment- right?

The real art in accepting a compliment is in how you receive it. Deflecting a compliment doesn’t make you humble, there are many other ways to remain humble, whilst still taking on board what other people see as winning personal qualities. So here are a few simple ways you can work towards taking praise on board. 

Stop with the negative self-talk

You are worthy of a compliment, not matter what your inner monologue throws at you. One of the reasons some of us find accepting a compliment difficult, is because it challenges our inner self-belief. Challenging negative thoughts is difficult and not something that will change over-night. Once you are aware of the physical and emotional cues that come with negative self-talk, you can stop, breathe and start to challenge those negative thoughts.

Only counter-compliment if it’s sincere  

A common knee-jerk reaction is to deflect the compliment by giving one back, which is as transparent as rice paper, unless it’s sincere. A better response can be to include the person (if appropriate) in the compliment or express how much the compliment means to you. For example; “Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without your help” or “Wow, thank you, that means a lot to me.”

Last of all- Just Say Thank You!

Sounds easy, right? Not only does saying ‘thank you’ allow you to accept and reflect on the positive praise, it respects the person who has given you the compliment. 99% of the time, there is no ulterior motive, the person genuinely wants to show that they value you as a person. Now it time to start valuing yourself.

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What would your friends say at your 80th birthday?

Posted on August 22, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

During Senior’s Week 19-27th August

By Erika Fiorenza, Clinical Psychologist

Values are our heart’s deepest desires. They are about who we want to be on an ongoing basis. There are hundreds of different values. Some common examples are: authenticity, acceptance, challenge, caring, fun, honesty, independence, gratitude and kindness.

One way to clarify your values is the ‘80th Birthday’ exercise.  Imagine it’s your 80th birthday and someone close to you was giving a speech – what would you like that person to say about the person you have been?

In therapy, we help people identify their values and how effectively they are living by these values.  Often, painful thoughts and feelings can get in the way of living in line with our values.  For example, feelings of anxiety, and worry about what people think, can lead to avoiding social situations, and therefore a move away from values like connection and caring.

In a challenging situation, being able to tune into our values can give us some direction.  Making moves in the direction of these values means living a richer, more meaningful life.

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Why psychological distress should not be a normal part of ageing

Posted on August 19, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

During QLD Senior’s Week 19-27 August 

Liz Bamford, Psychologist, Psychology Consultants 

We are all ageing, let’s face it, it’s a beautiful human reality and try as we might to reverse the process, not even the most esteemed scientist has the cure. As we age and particularly beyond 65 years, we accept a new normal, where health conditions are part of daily life and things start to slow down. Although, this is inevitable, many older adults may also accept that feeling of psychological distress are a normal part of the ageing process.

Research findings suggest that as we age, feelings of psychological distress may increase and for some people this may be a symptom of depression or anxiety. Sometimes this emotional distress is triggered by a life event, such as a change in accommodation, death of a partner, or adjusting to a new or worsening health conditions.

Despite the ageing population and rising levels of psychological distress, there are more young people seeking psychological help than the older section of the population.

So why is this so and how can we change it?

Over the last decade, mental health campaigns and industry based initiatives have helped enormously to reduced stigma associated with mental health issues. That said, the social perception of mental health issues being common, is relatively new and for the older generation it may feel counterintuitive to ask for help when feeling sad, lonely and ‘not quite right’.

Feelings of powerlessness amongst the ageing population is common, particularly when experiencing physical changes and this can transcend into emotional and psychological difficulties. Although these feelings are common, this does not mean they are to be expected and should be ignored.

It is just as important for older adults to talk about their feelings and emotional experiences, as it is to present physical complaints to the doctor. Like the physical complaints, if left untreated they may worsen.

Talking to a psychologist can help to understand what might be happening when feelings of sadness, worry or frustration are overwhelming. A psychologist can also devise strategies for dealing with new realities of life and manage feelings of sadness, worry, grief or loss. If you are experiencing emotional or psychological distress that is interfering with everyday life, don’t accept it as normal, speak to your GP about the best steps forward.

Read more about Liz Bamford, Psychologist

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Dear Diary….The therapeutic benefits of putting pen to paper

Posted on August 10, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Dr Stan Steind, Clinical Psychologist

Therapeutic writing; it’s the new technical term for something that’s as old as the ink well itself, perhaps even older. So rather than claim it as a hot new trend, we are here to pay homage to the age-old art of writing down your feelings….with a pen (gasp)!

With technology and more specifically social media taking the world by storm, our ability to share (and overshare) has never been more accessible. Back in the day, people and especially youngsters, wrote a diary to vent their feelings but technology has somewhat replaced putting pen to paper. But does the digital space provide the same opportunity to be true to yourself and express your real emotions?

Social media provides a platform (or soap box) to create a brand for yourself, your business and everything in between; pets you are not exempt. People’s online profiles are usually an embellishment of their normal more vanilla lives and as a result, social media can sometimes create feelings of inferiority and insecurity. So, what does this analogy have to do with writing a diary, I hear you ask? Even though our society has become increasingly expressive, with the ability to share our lives, every waking moment, often those stories don’t convey the real you.

Enter….the good old written diary. This age-old little gem offers a safe haven to say whatever the heck you like with the added benefit of scrunching it up and throwing it in a real-life bin, should you ever feel the urge. Although some people may feel Microsoft word offers the same benefit, your digital footprint is permanent, not to mention grammar and spell check getting in the way of pouring your little heart out.

Strong research backs up the mental health benefits of therapeutic writing with American social psychologist Dr James Pennebaker leading the way since the 1980s. Research aside, the fact that humans have been writing diaries for centuries is testament to the theory that writing down your emotions and taking time to reflect before making your next move is powerful.

For those of you who haven’t contemplated writing a diary since year three, it can be a little confronting but here are a few basic steps to get you back into the groove:

  1. Buy a really nice diary or piece of stationery that you love.
  2. Pick up time when you can allocate 10 minutes to yourself. This may be first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  3. Start writing! It may seem like written diarrhoea but writing anything that comes into your head with no censor will help you to get your emotions on paper. Remember no-one has to ever read it.
  4. Read what you have written
  5. Reflect on what you have written. What sort of emotions are being conveyed?

By writing down a whole raft of uncensored emotions that may have been stored up, you are releasing emotions and developing new personal insight. Although therapeutic writing has many health benefits, if you have experienced trauma or are easily overwhelmed, consulting your doctor and a psychologist before starting this exercise is advised.

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