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Why hormones wreak havoc with women’s sleep and what to do about it

Posted on July 5, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

During Sleep Awareness Week 3-9th July

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist: Psychology Consultants

Most women would agree that they don’t sleep as soundly as their male counterparts and the National Sleep Foundation agrees, with research confirming the widely-held belief that most women don’t sleep as well as men. The International Journal of Endocrinology concurs suggesting women are 1.5 to 2 x more likely to suffer insomnia than men. *1

So why is this the case and what can women do about it?

There are many reasons for the differences in men and women’s sleep architecture, some are psycho-social, some emotional and then there’s the physical. Unfortunately, it’s the physical that women lack control over, particularly with respect to our hormones, with menstrual cycles, pregnancy and later in life, menopause, all wreaking havoc on sleep.

Clinical Psychologist and facilitator of sleep program, Towards Better Sleep, Kathryn Smith says; “There is a significant correlation between a women’s cycle and sleep, mainly due to the fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone. The post-ovulatory luteal phase (premenstrual) is where most women experience bouts of insomnia, when night time body temperature is considerable higher and estrogen levels lower, meaning your brain is more sensitive to noise and disturbances”.

But let’s not accept defeat and get hung up on the fact that your hormones are working against you. The best way to combat these monthly bouts of insomnia is to accept them and be prepared for some sleep disturbance; making the most of your sleep in the lead up and after the pre-menstrual phase. Keeping healthy sleep habits all month round will also give you the best chance of a decent night’s sleep, despite the pesky hormones. This includes:

  • Avoiding the urge to eat chocolate or sugary treats close to bed time
  • Reduce fluid intake within a few hours of bed to avoid getting up to use the bathroom (this includes alcohol that will only inhibit sleep)
  • Keep up the exercise regime but not within 3 hours of bedtime
  • Think about what makes you feel most relaxed and create a night time relaxation routine
  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed, do something that is non-stimulating and return to be 30 minutes later.

For more information on sleep health visit www.psychologygconsultants.com.au/insomnia

References: 1. International Journal of Endocrinology: Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 259345, 17 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/259345

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What’s Keeping Seniors Awake- During Sleep Awarness Week 3-9th July

Posted on July 3, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist & Dr Curt Gray, Psychiatrist

If the phrase; ‘I slept like a baby’ is far from your vernacular and you’ve noticed a gradual change in your sleep pattern, along with other undesirable physical changes, chances are you’ve fallen victim to the human phenomenon of aging. Along with the physical changes that occur with aging, our sleep also deteriorates as we get older.

Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is common in older adults and this can be due to a number of factors, including changes in sleep architecture and circadian rhythm. Sleep is broken up into repeated stages throughout the night, including light, deep and REM sleep (the active dreaming phase). Typically, older adults spend more time in the light phase and therefore don’t get the satisfaction of a deep sleep. In addition to this, the natural circadian rhythms that coordinate timing of bodily function is affected as we age, with the body tiring earlier in the evening therefore resulting in an earlier than normal wake time.

But the real disparity in the human phenomenon of aging, is even though our sleep is on the decline, our sleep needs remain the same throughout adulthood. This may be how the term “Nanna Nap” got its name; with less deep and REM sleep throughout the night, daytime fatigue leads older people to nap. However, unless the nap is kept short (20 minutes or less) and before 3pm, daytime sleep can be counterproductive and lead to even less quality night time sleep.

Aging physiology aside, sleep disturbance in the older adults can also be due to psychological, social or environmental factors, like changes in accommodation, death of a partner, illness or chronic health concerns. Older adults also tend to have more worries or concerns that can keep them awake at night or lead to a restless sleep. It is important for older adults to talk about their feelings and emotional experiences just as they would present physical complaints to a doctor. Talking to a health professional about what is concerning you, at any stage of life, can provide a huge sense of relief, as well as empower you with strategies to manage day to day and probably sleep better at night.

Other effective ways to manage your sleep health include:

  • Get regular exercise, particularly weight or resistance training as this has been shown to increase and deepen sleep.
  • Learn a relaxation routine, this will vary according to what relaxes you most.
  • Avoid alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t help you sleep. It might put you to sleep but can disrupt your sleep throughout the night.
  • Form a worry list. If you are a worrier, write down your worries on a worry list and review them during the day rather than thinking about them at night.
  • Attempt to delay your bedtime to decrease chance of early morning waking.
  • Stay out of bed when you are not sleeping.

For more information on sleep health, head to our website http://psychologyconsultants.com.au/insomnia/ or if you are suffering from insomnia and group therapy interests you visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au


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The emotional rollercoaster of real estate -How to not let it impact your relationship

Posted on June 9, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
couple in  front of one-family house in modern residential area

By Kylie Layton: Clinical Psychologist

Buying your first home, or renovating and creating your dream home, is one of those things most people have on their bucket list. It’s a special moment to step inside a place that you have imagined owning and is now it’s all yours (well yours and the bank’s!). With the arrival of such an event we expect to experience excitement and a sense of satisfaction but other emotions can creep in there as well.

Relationship troubles can often coincide with what should be an exciting and happy time in our lives and although this is perplexing, it is all too common to be a coincidence.  It can make us stop and wonder what this means about the relationship and its chance of success.

Often the first step is, to have a closer look at the process of buying a house to find out what went wrong. First there are a whole bunch of decisions to make: Where should we buy? How much should we spend? Is this a ‘forever house’? How many rooms should it have? These are just a few of the questions that should be answered before embarking on the hunt. Next there was the house hunting and dealing with real estate agents and then the packing and cleaning. And then, of course, the lawyers, building inspectors, local council and negotiations with the bank. It’s a complex process and one that, while exciting, can be inherently stressful. In fact, a recent survey, commissioned by Estates Direct in the UK reported buying or selling a house to be one of ‘the most stressful and unpleasant experiences of modern life’.

So yes it’s exciting and momentous, but it is also a stressful process and one that can put a strain you as an individual as well as on your relationship as you struggle to communicate, compromise, make decisions, and work together through the lengthy process of finding and purchasing a house.

So how can couples navigate this journey and emerge with their relationship relatively unscathed? Here are a few steps to consider throughout the process:

  1. Take the time to share and discuss what it is that you are both looking for before you before you begin the search. We all have non negotiables; a double garage, air-con, or built-in-robes and we need to share these with our partner from the outset. We also need to talk about the role this house will fill; is it for entertaining, for raising a family or as an entry into the market? And then you need to decide what suburbs you looking in and why; near schools, close to transport, or to allow an easy commute to work?
  2. Be prepared to compromise. Chances are your vision is a little different to your partner; who loves the rendered look but you’re dreaming of a renovated Queenslander! Go back to your non-negotiables and the purpose of this new home and be prepared to negotiate the less essential details. This is also important once the search begins and you begin the challenge of finding a building that fulfils your criteria.
  3. Aim to communicate effectively. One of the problems a lot of couple have is an unrealistic expectation that their partner should just understand what they want and need. Unfortunately human beings can’t mind read and we need to clearly articulate what we want, what we need, and how we feel. Using ‘I statements’ (e.g. I feel upset when you don’t say hello when you come home from work) rather than blaming, making requests (it would mean a lot to me if you would…) rather than demands, and remembering to treat each other with love and respect.
  4. Be prepared to listen.  Most of the time in discussions or arguments we listen to respond, as opposed to listening to understand. Listening to understand is the key to allowing our partner to feel heard and understood. Paraphrasing what your partner has said and showing empathy and concern for their feelings and point of view are great ways of showing that you have listened and understood.
  5. Take time out together to reconnect. In amongst work, family, and social engagements it can feel like all our spare time is needed to be spent in the hunt for the perfect house, but it is important to reconnect away from the stresses of house hunting. Spend some quality time together and do things that are fun or relaxing to make sure your connection doesn’t get lost along the way!

If you feel your relationship does need the help of a professional to set some ground rules for effective communication or to help you regain a sense of satisfaction, consider enlisting a psychologist as a positive step forward for your relationship.

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How to avoid weight gain when quitting smoking

Posted on May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Rhonda Stanton, Psychologist on World No Tobacco Day 31 May 2017

The road to quitting smoking is different for everyone. While some weight gain is common, with a healthy diet, it slows down the longer you stay quit. Being aware of what might happen to your mind and body after quitting can put you ahead of the game, and help you stay quit.

Weight gain is common in the first few months of quitting for a number of reasons (Quit Victoria, 2017).

  • Nicotine is an appetite suppressant. After quitting you may feel hungrier. As your appetite returns, along with your sense of taste and smell, food becomes more appealing.
  • Nicotine also speeds up metabolism. After quitting, it returns to a normal rate which can result in weight gain.
  • Smokers often miss the hand to mouth action of smoking and eating can replace this urge.
  • If smoking has been associated with being a reward or treat, or to fill boredom, increased snacking can fill this function.

Tips to help manage weight gain. 

Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Have healthy snacks readily available and clear your house of unhealthy snacks e.g. chips, biscuits, lollies, soft drink. Try to eat mindfully and avoid strict diets because hunger will make quitting more difficult. It helps to increase your physical activity such as walking, to keep your weight down and also to act as a distraction from cravings.

If you use food to help you cope with feelings such as stress, boredom or loneliness, try increasing other activities that you enjoy. Replace your smoke breaks with a “breathing break” – you can still take time out from stressful situations without a smoke.

Research suggests that those that enlist the help of friends, family and health professionals to support you during the quitting phase have a better chance of long term success. Having a support network will help you manage cravings and triggers that tempt you to smoke and provide the emotional reassurance you need.

Psychologists are trained in helping people quit smoking by supporting them with a variety of effective evidence-based approached to combat relapse and help identify triggers. Mindfulness-based therapy is one commonly used strategy to help people be more present and make considered decisions in response to triggers and cravings.

So, when you’re ready to quit, don’t let the fear of weight gain stop you. With the right help and support, you can start living a smoke-free life and enjoying all the health benefits that come with it. If you would like help quitting speak to your GP about a referral to see a psychologist.

Here are some helpful resources and information to help you plan your quit date:




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Top 5 Winter Sleep Tips from Towards Better Sleep

Posted on May 19, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist & Dr Curt Gray, Psychiatrist

1. Stay up later rather than going to bed earlier

2. Avoid the afternoon ‘nanna nap’

3. Keep up the exercise, even though the bed is cozy and warm

4. Develop an evening relaxation routine

5. Keep your evenings tech free 

If you are struggling with insomnia the next Towards Better Sleep group programme starts Tuesday 13th June from Psychology Consultants Morningside. To register contact the office, places are limited to nine people per group, call (07) 3356 8255 or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

What is Towards Better Sleep?

Established 14 years ago by Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray,Towards Better Sleep is a cognitive behavioural treatment programme that uses evidenced based techniques that focus on sleep education and behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.

The group is held in 4 x 1 hour sessions at Psychology Consultant’s Morningside practice. A group setting offers many benefits including reducing the cost of treatment and giving clients the opportunity to share and learn from each others insomnia experiences.

Here are just a few reasons why the programme and its group setting has proven effective for past participants.

  •  A group setting offers many benefits including reducing the cost of treatment and giving clients the opportunity to share and learn from each others insomnia experiences.
  • The cost is far less because of the group format, individual sessions are $185 each and you would need 2-3 sessions minimum.
  • The group has been running with very good results for over 10 years, with the same facilitators – a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist.
  • The format of the group is laid out to successfully educate, correct, and complete homework strategies over the 6 weeks of the course.
  • Participants learn from each other, and keep each other motivated to correct their sleep problems.

Talk to your GP about your suitability for the programme and visit the website for more information. towardsbettersleep.com.au

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Why You Should Never Say; “I don’t know how she does it”

Posted on May 8, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Some advice this Mother’s Day from Erika Fiorenza, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants 

Recent studies reveal that women experience higher overall levels of stress and anxiety than our male counterparts.

Once a woman enters motherhood, her stress levels reach an all-time high as she tries to juggle her career with children, home life and everything in-between.

A woman’s body is also more chemically susceptible to stress and depression with the various hormonal balances associated with premenstrual, post-partum and menopausal change.

Research shows that high levels of stress can impact the immune system, and result in more serious health problems.

The problem is, women, and mothers in particular, are very good at looking after everyone else’s health but notoriously bad at looking after their own.

It’s important to take a minute to check in with ourselves to ensure our emotional, physical and mental health is in balance. This means saying no more often and ridding yourself of that wretched guilt that creeps up when you might consider putting your needs first.

There is also increasing pressure on mothers to be experts at multitasking and keeping it all together. Adding this sort of pressure to your existing work-life stressors is unnecessary and can lead to the mother of all meltdowns.

Enlisting help, keeping it real and being open about how difficult juggling everything can be will help the sorority of motherhood and relieve the pressure to do it all.

My advice this Mother’s Day is to pass the baton and let someone else take charge. Let yourself be spoilt, take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy – and do it guilt-free!

If you are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety or other emotional difficulties, don’t just solider on. Prioritise your own health and seek professional help today.

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Exercising the Blues – During Exercise Right Week

Posted on April 27, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
Exercise_MentalHealth 2

Research and literature across the world concurs that exercise is one of the key components to maintaining your health and wellbeing. This is even more apparent for those that suffer from acute or ongoing mental illness with findings showing exercise as highly effective strategy for alleviating depressive symptoms.

Below you will find a link to a very useful fact sheet developed by ESSA during Exercise Right Week 2017. Download the fact sheet here. 

For more information on the the treatment of depression, visit this page.

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A Mental Shake Up -Pause for Parkinson’s Day

Posted on April 11, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
james-parkinsons 2

Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Today, April 11, is Pause for Parkinson’s Day, a mark of awareness for a neurodegenerative progressive disease that currently affects 10 million people worldwide.

According to the National Parkinson’s Foundations, ‘Parkinson’ Outcomes Project’ the biggest health impact affecting patient’s overall health status is depression and anxiety.

Recent research suggests that Parkinson Disease (PD) patients also suffering from anxiety and depression may experience increased physical effects and a progression of Parkinson’s disease.

As a Clinical Psychologist, this finding is not all together surprising given the symptoms of anxiety and depression, include, insomnia or excessive sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, fatigue, low self-esteem, inability to find pleasure in usual activities and for some, suicidal thoughts.

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the physical and psycho-social abilities of a person, it therefore has major impacts on their emotional and cognitive function and anxiety and depression can often result.

The good news is anxiety and depression are completely treatable disorder and with treatment can result in a dramatically improved quality of life.

Applying a holistic approach to the treatment of anxiety and depression for people with PD is recommended. Combining psychological therapy, medication (in some cases) and other interventions, like exercise, have been proven to slow down the progression of the disease.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of anxiety and depression and to seek medical advice as early as possible.

To get involved in the cause and help raise vital funds for Parkinson’s Disease this April visit https://shakeitup.org.au/





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Running a Fine Line

Posted on April 10, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Rhonda Stanton, Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Regular exercise is recommended by experts the world over because of the range of benefits for physical and mental health. Campaigns encourage us to exercise more and be physically active but for some, too much exercise can be unhealthy.

So how do you know when your desire to be fit and healthy crosses the line to obsession?

There is disagreement within the health field regarding whether exercise addiction is a true addiction or rather, being obsessed with the idea of, and compelled to exercise. Exercise addiction was not included in the DSM-5, one of the main sources for classifying psychiatric disorders.

Generally, a person who exercises excessively has blurred the line between what is healthy and what is obsessive. There are a number of features that distinguish between healthy and excessive exercise.

Those that exercise excessively often find it difficult to balance exercise with other life areas because of a preoccupation with exercise, often, neglecting other important roles and responsibilities in life such as family, work or socialising.

Exercise is an important strategy to prevent and manage stress, although if exercise is the principle way of coping, you may experience emotional discomfort if prevented from exercising.

Another concern would be if a person continues to exercise despite injury and who are unable to allow themselves time to recover.

But I’m exercising the same amount as an athlete and they aren’t considered addicted to exercise…

There are many people who love working out and playing sport. In determining whether a person has crossed over into an unhealthy range, depends in part on the individual and their reasons for exercising. For example, an athlete (or weekend warrior) and a person exercising compulsively may both share a similar training volume but have different attitudes to exercise. Athletes sometimes need to push on and train when they don’t feel like it to meet their goals. However, they include regular recovery periods in their training plan and tend to value and schedule time for family, work and socialising. They also adjust their training if injured.

It should be noted that an obsessive focus on exercise can be associated with poor body image and eating disorders.

Keeping the equilibrium of life can be difficult especially when health messages contradict each other from one day to the next.

Look within to know what is right for you and your family and acknowledge when you may need to regain some perspective. If you are experiencing the signs of compulsive exercise, speaking to a professional counsellor may help you get back on track, to develop a healthier relationship to exercise or yourself.

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Hopping on the Scales this Easter

Posted on March 31, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Easter is a wonderful time of year, religious or not, it’s an opportunity to stop and enjoy some time with friends and family while the weather is still warm.

Like all festive occasions, Easter is a very food oriented celebration and as we count down the days until the Easter Bunny arrives, there is an abundance of chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and various sugar-filled treats, in arms reach. In fact, these tempting sugary delights start filling the supermarket shelves a mere month post-Christmas, but that’s another story.

Without sounding like a complete kill-joy, Easter doesn’t have to be a time to have a complete blow out. Instead, it can be a time to enjoy your food, company and rest time without being fearful of what the scales might show when it’s time to go back to work. But mindful eating needn’t be confined to the festive seasons, when practiced as part of your daily routine it can bring a myriad of health benefits.

So, what does mindful eating actually mean, I hear you say? If you have visions of yoga music and meditation at the dinner table, think again.

Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith says, “Mindful eating, is a very positive notion that encourages being present and enjoying the complete experience of eating, savouring the taste, the smell and being grateful for the nourishment food provides our bodies”.

Here are three simple steps to start putting mindful eating into daily practice.

  1.  Respond to your bodily cues, that is eat when you are hungry not when you are tired, emotional or have a case of ‘3:30itis’.
  2. Sit down to eat. It sounds ridiculous but so many of us rush around shovelling food into our face without even drawing breath, let alone setting the table. Sitting down to eat will encourage you to notice the food you are consuming and register that you have eaten. Eating on the run can cause us to forget we have eaten and therefore snack unnecessarily.
  3. Turn off your phone to eat. Eating distraction free, without checking your emails or latest Facebook feed will allow you to relax, savour the tastes and the surrounding environment.

Think of the down time over Easter break as the perfect opportunity to practice mindful eating, not only will it encourage you to acknowledge and appreciate the culinary delights on the table, it may prevent you from the aftermaths of a chocolate splurge.  For more information on mindful eating, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au/mindfuleating


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