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Keeping it Merry

Posted on December 3, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Christmas can be a stressful time for many but particularly for the ‘host’ who bears the brunt of the shopping, gift buying, prepping, cooking, cleaning, decorating and all with a festive grin planted on her face. A recent survey by Relationships Australia found that Christmas is considered one of the six most stressful life events, alongside divorce, moving house and changing jobs.

Despite the modern ways of the world, this said ‘host’ is usually female but short of women going on strike or becoming ‘The Grinch’, keeping it simple, delegating and remembering to stop to enjoy the moment are key to ‘keep it merry’. After all, it is supposed to be a happy time spent with loved ones; a time to relax and reflect on the year that was.

It’s all well and good to say ‘keep it simple’ but how does that translate to reality?

Let’s break it down.

  1. Set a budget and don’t go over it.

In doing so you might question whether the bonbons really are necessary whilst allowing you to realise how all the little ‘must haves’ really do add up.  A perfect segway to point 2.

  1. Write a list and delegate tasks to relatives and friends.

Just like Santa and his elves, your minions will be more than happy to share the financial and time-consuming load. The delegation need not just be; ‘bring a salad,’ why not extend the delegated tasks to present buying, house-cleaning and selecting the table decorations. Delegation can be hard for those who like to be in control but relinquishing this power will be a great move in reducing your stress levels.

  1. Be prepared.

If you are prepared and have your list of required goods in advance you can reap the stress-free rewards of online shopping. Alternatively avoid peak hour shopping or enlist the help of friends and family to share the load.

  1. Do a Kris Kringle

Keeping gifts simple and fun by setting up a Kris Kringle will minimise the number of gifts you need to buy whilst enjoying the gift of giving. Better yet, allocate someone else to organise the draw and cross one more thing off your list.  

  1. Have a clean-up roster

The cook should never do the washing up. Take the time to sit and relax and say goodbye to any guilt about your guests getting their hands dirty.

Remember, the more strain you put on yourself, the less likely you are to enjoy the magic and the moments that truly matter. Learning to let go, delegate and ignore the finer details will go a long way in the happiness stakes.


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What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Posted on November 6, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a modification of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), founded in late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M Linehan. Originally developed to treat Borderline Personality, DBT is now used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, focusing on the psychosocial element of therapy.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, looks at managing emotion, behaviours and interpersonal interactions when the person is placed in a variety of social environments.  Whilst CBT focuses on three main components, DBT seeks to fill perceived deficits of CBT by focusing on psychosocial elements to avoid black and white thinking. Therapists will observe the person’s psychosocial interactions and seek personalised solutions to help them to manage extreme emotional reactions. Finding solutions to decline emotional stimulation in social situations and or relationships, allows the person to feel more in control of their emotional extremities.

DBT has 4 main components and often uses a combination of individual and group therapy in treatment. The four main components include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotional regulation.

For more information on our large team of Clinical Psychologists visit this page.

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What are Cognitive Distortions and How Do We Stop Them?

Posted on October 24, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Cognitive distortions are irrational or inaccurate thoughts that cause our minds to think negatively about ourselves or others. They are therefore very unhelpful and have a considerable impact on our mental health.

Cognitive distortions are quite common and most of us have experienced irrational thoughts and indulged in a bout of rumination from time to time.  Some people however, experience cognitive distortions on a daily basis and when this is the case, help must be sought. There are a number of different types of cognitive distortions; often the thoughts are overgeneralisations or adopt a black and white approach, and sometimes thoughts can be magnified, also known as catastrophising. Catastrophising is where the person focuses purely on the negative, starting a train of ‘what if’ thinking. Often associated with anxiety disorders, these thought patterns can be paralysing and severely impact quality of life.

Some examples of cognitive distortions include; “I always fail at maths and therefore I am a failure.” “Mary doesn’t like me. I think the whole grade hates me” or “What if the plane crashes and we all die.”

How to Stop Cognitive Distortions?

Whichever ‘strand’ of cognitive distortion you are susceptible to, this way of thinking is unhealthy, affecting self-esteem and your perception of the world around you. It can hold you back from succeeding in your career or personal life and lead to an array of mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Knowing how to take control of the negative voice inside your head is an important step but the first step is acknowledging that the thoughts are occurring.

Some helpful ways to challenge cognitive distortions:

    • Writing a list of the thoughts you have acknowledged as unhelpful and separating them into fact and opinion can assist in understanding your perception versus reality.
    • Using relaxation techniques such as breathing, muscle relaxation and imagery to control the body sensations associated with irrational thoughts can be helpful. Exercise is also strongly recommended as a way to relax the mind and body.
    • Doing something incompatible to what you do when you’re thinking this way such as forcing yourself to smile or laughing can sometimes break the circuit, particularly if you feel your blood pressure rising.
    • Practicing self-compassion can provide you with the positive perspective of a friend and lessen your self-criticism. Self-compassion is the ability, within a state of calm, and with a friendly voice, to reassure ourselves that this is not our fault whilst offering a forgiving hand.
    • Thinking in the spectrum of a rainbow rather than in black and white can help provide a more diverse perspective when polarising thoughts creep in. There need not be one answer or a right or wrong to any given scenario.
    • Don’t conquer your thoughts alone. Psychologists are here to help and guide you in the emotional journey of life. One of the most well-known psychological practices for overcoming irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves challenging irrational thoughts as they enter the mind and shutting them down as to change action and behaviour. Once the thoughts are being cognitively challenged, the next step as a part of CBT is to develop personalised strategies to replace the negative thought with more helpful thoughts and perceptions.






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Simple Steps to Solve Childhood Phobias

Posted on September 29, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

 Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist 

Phobias such as fear of animals, heights, or the dark are common psychological problems in children:probably more so than other better known problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But how do parents know when these phobias will become a problem for their child now or in later life?

Parents may consider whether their child’s phobia is interfering with their or the family’s life. If it is, then something should be done about it.

If parents feel their child’s phobia is becoming out of control, it is important to mange it early, to prevent the risk of them becoming anxious adults.

Fear of everyday experiences such as storms, dogs, spiders, water, or the dark are the most common phobias in children. It is natural for us to have an instinctive fear of these as the fear protects us from possible dangers.

When the natural fear is out of proportion to the real threat and children are worried about what might happen is when the fear becomes a phobia.

To help children overcome simple phobias, it is firstly important for parents to react appropriately to their child’s phobic behaviour. Children learn to  behave in certain ways from the attention they get for that behaviour. So parents need to give their child attention when they are brave about an irrational fear, and minimise attention when they are complaining or avoiding scary situations.

When teaching children to overcome their phobias, psychologists show children and their parents that phobias and anxiety are made up of three parts: physiological- how their body feels; cognitive- how they think; and behavioural-what they do.

Using simple and fun exercises, children can learn about these three components. They can learn how to identify their breathing and other relaxation techniques.

Psychologists will also work with children to help them become more positive in their thinking. Some questions that children could ask themselves to help them think more positively include:

  • How likely is it that this scary thing will happen? Has it happened much in the past?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen? Is it really that bad?
  • What would I say to my friend who was scared of this same thing to make them feel brave.
  • What would your superhero do in the same situation?

Most importantly, we also help parents expose their children to the fear which will reduce their phobic reaction.

Gradually exposing your child to the fear is important because their fear will only escalate if they never have to experience the situation.

Using a step by step approach, gradually exposing the child to their fears and rewarding them as they achieve each step, is the best way to deal with phobias.

Throwing them in the deep end will only reinforce to them that their fears are real. Take for example a child’s water phobia. You may break the exposure into several steps and reward them as they achieve each step. Some initial steps could include taking the child to a private pool to play around the pool and maybe have them dangle their feet in the water. A later step might be to stand on the steps and so on.

To read more about our team of Clinical Psychologist and those who specialise in treating children, head to our Brisbane Psychologists page.

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One in Seven Kids…

Posted on September 2, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

1 in 7 young Australians experience a mental health disorder. This alarming statistic is derived from a government report that surveyed the mental health of 6300 Australian families. Rates for depression, self-harm and anxiety are a major cause for concern with almost one in four girls aged between 16-17 years meeting the criteria for clinical depression, based on their own admissions. If mental health was contagious or a physical ailment, this would be deemed an epidemic.

Researchers have identified that sleep deprivation in youth is also on the rise with an estimated 25% of adolescents affected by some form of sleep disturbance. There is a strong correlation between sleep problems and poor mental health; the difficulty can be in determining cause and effect. In either case, technology and its biproducts certainly play a major role in creating sleep disturbance with the increased stimulus causing arousal when the mind and body should be winding down.

Technology and social media get a pretty bad wrap when it comes to its effect on our mental health, but in particular during the turbulent teenage years. With so many reasons to point the finger, it might be time to take a good hard look at the link and how parents can best manage it.

There is no denying that technology has changed us as humans with every generation becoming more tech savvy and some would say tech dependant. Some would argue technology has made us smarter and provides a positive level of human connection, whilst others would claim it has increased stress and rendered parts of our brain redundant. Whatever your stance, technology has undeniably increased the pace of the world and blatantly blurred the lines between work/school and home life. It has changed communication expectations and makes escaping almost impossible.

Managing technology dependence and in particular social media activity is a first-world predicament that many parents face. The need to feel connected and a sense of belonging is paramount during the teenager years and social media and online communication offers this at the click of a finger. However, when it begins to distort your child’s perspective or become an obsession, parents need to trust their intuition by creating healthy boundaries around the use of devices. A teenager’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls decision-making and judgement, does not fully develop until early adulthood, making it difficult to define their own boundaries.  Choosing appropriate time slots, like dinner time, where all devices go on charge for a set time, will do wonders for real-time communication whilst allowing the family to be more present. Of course, phone rules must be abided by all household members including parents. You never know, your teen might silently thank you for the down time and the opportunity to talk.

Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett, who works in adolescent psychology, says; “I am seeing many young clients who are in a state of vigilance with difficulties living in the present moment and it is this state of living that causes social and emotional problems such as anxiety and stress”.

“Basically, social media is opposite of mindfulness in our youngsters, and in particular, girls are struggling with feelings of personal inadequacy, and difficulties living in the present” Ms Corbett said.

Mindfulness has been defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat Zinn). The human brain has great capacity to reflect on the past and think about the future but during this we forget about the present. Children are excellent mimics and will respond to the behaviour of those around them. Creating a more mindful and present home life, whereby you purposely focus on the ‘now’, will reduce stress and anxiety levels and help your child keep things in perspective.

Mindfulness is a practice that has been shown to be effective with clinical disorders including anxiety, depression, chronic pain and substance misuse. It is also an effective strategy to manage stress. Although technology comes with a myriad of negative biproducts, it also offers many positive ones and is not to blame for all mental health cases. Depression is more likely in certain personality types and may also be more likely if you have a family history of the disorder.

The teenage years are difficult ones for parent and child alike and it’s important to trust your parental intuition when assessing your teenager’s behaviour. You may know if something is just “not right” and be able to recognise that its more than just teenager moodiness. If this is the case, or you are unsure, it is crucial to seek professional help from your local GP who will make an assessment and put a mental healthcare plan in place.

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Posted on August 21, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Worry is something that almost everyone will do from time to time. However, sometimes people find that their worry has become a large and interfering part of their daily life. They may not like it but might believe that it is a part of who they are – to be a worrier. Or they may think that it is necessary to worry as much as they do. Sometimes it is hard for people to acknowledge how much they are worrying because the thoughts seem to be justified if about their real life problems. Often their worrying is pointed out to them by other people.

Frequent and interfering worry is associated with anxiety but not all people who worry a lot are aware of feeling anxiety in their body. Some people may have habituated to a higher level of daily anxiety, accepting it as their normal.

Worry is different from constructive problem solving. Problem solving is “here and now” action. Worry typically becomes repetitive and looping patterns of thought that don’t resolve to any practical action or outcome. For example, problem solving a bill that might be difficult to pay could look like calling the company and making a payment arrangement. In the same scenario a worry pattern would look like repeated thoughts of “what if I can’t pay it?”, “what will happen if I can’t pay it?” and similar.

Not all situations that provoke worry will be able to be problem solved. Some situations may be completely out of our control or may require time or other events to unfold. Often people get into the worry habit because it paid off for them a few times. Maybe they were prepared for a situation or felt partly protected from disappointment when something went wrong. It might seem counterintuitive  but often people will have some positive ideas or beliefs about the value or benefits of worry. Unfortunately worry tends to get worse over time and then people find themselves worrying more and more about minor things. Then they can become worried about how much they are worrying, or feel stressed about how easily they are getting stressed.

The good news is that worry doesn’t have to keep its hold and reduce a person’s quality of life. A psychologist can assist with helping an individual to understand their worry pattern and why it has been persisting in their life. The psychologist can then provide strategies and activities that reduce the worry pattern.

There are also self-help approaches that target worry. Resources for these can be accessed at many reputable mental health websites. The Black Dog Institute has some tip sheets available (see http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au) and the Centre for Clinical Interventions has full modules and workbooks available in their Resources section (see http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au).

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What is the best treatment for anxiety disorders?

Posted on August 21, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

According to Beyond Blue, Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. With this in mind, it is important to understand the different treatment options available to people suffering from anxiety disorders, to keep the disorder in check and under control.

Different Types of Anxiety

Anxiety can present in many different ways and therefore must be treated in different ways. Not all anxiety disorders look the same or have the same underlying cause. There are three main types of anxiety disorders including, generalised anxiety disorderssocial phobias and panic attacks.

Generalised Anxiety Disorders typically present in extreme worriers who seem to have a negative or pessimistic view of the world, always assuming the worst will happen. Although it is normal to worry about life, finances, children and relationships, people with generalised anxiety disorder find it difficult to get through the day, as the worry can be all consuming and sometimes debilitating.

Social Phobia is another form of anxiety where a person’s fear of social situations, prevent them from participating in daily tasks, like going to work, meeting with friends and even doing the groceries.

Panic Disorders are a sudden attack or onset of uncontrollable fear or terror, resulting in physical symptoms like a cold sweat and heart palpitations. Panic attacks occur at any time and the person experiencing the attack may feel an intense sense of fear or impending doom. Panic Disorder is one of the most common presentations with many individuals diagnosed with the disorder also meeting criteria for Agoraphobia. A diagnosis of Agoraphobia is given if (a) the patient reports anxiety about places or situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be immediately available, and (b) these situations are avoided or endured with marked distress. Patients who present with panic attacks may appear as composed, competent individuals with full and fulfilling lives, however, beneath the surface they are enduring extreme discomfort and are often struggling to keep going.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety can be caused by a number of things that present as risk factors contributing to the development of an anxiety condition. Such factors include a genetic predisposition, stress and lifestyle, chronic health conditions, substance abuse and mental health conditions just to name a few.

Sometimes anxiety or other mental health problems run in the family therefore giving you a genetic predisposition to it. This is not to say you will definitely have an anxiety condition if your grandmother did but if you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and you know it runs in the family, it would be a good idea to speak to a professional about it. You may also consider your personality type as research shows certain personality types are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Perfectionists, people who like to be in control or those who lack self-esteem sometimes develop anxiety disorders at various stages of their life.

Ongoing stress such as work related stress; marriage or relationship stress or traumatic life events may lead to the development of an anxiety condition.  It is important to recognise the stressor and manage the symptoms by talking to friends, family and a professional.

Chronic health like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other major physical illnesses are challenged to face the reality of the disease and often feel anxiety as an effect of the disease. Faced with problems that the disease places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence and low self esteem as a result of the disease, can also contribute to anxiety.

How do drug and alcohol affect anxiety?

Managing anxiety can be difficult and some anxiety sufferers turn to alcohol or drugs to manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, the immediate effect of the substance that may seem effective, they often lead to long term addiction or substance abuse and may also aggravate the condition.

Treatments for Anxiety

Everyone is different in how they experience anxiety and what might provoke the onset of anxiety or a panic attack, which is why it is important to recognise your individual signs and symptoms and seek professional help. Ideally a team of health professionals will work together to delivery a holistic mental plan that works for the individual.  In terms of psychological treatments for anxiety, talk therapy, has proven effectiveness by equipping the individual with personalised strategies to control symptoms of anxiety.

Also known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) talk therapy often focuses on changing belief and thinking patterns that result in certain behaviours, namely anxiety. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit and like any other bad habit, it can be modified.

So in treating anxiety, our psychologists help people identify when their thought patterns are negative and replace them with more helpful thoughts, resulting in more positive behavioural outcomes.

Part of cognitive behavioural therapy in treating anxiety is monitoring your ‘self talk’ and testing realities of negative talk by evaluating the thoughts that lead to unhelpful fears and beliefs.  For example, people who suffer from anxiety may avoid friends or social situations because of negative beliefs. The treatment focuses on questioning the negative thoughts and beliefs (like, my friends find me boring) that lead to the feelings of anxiousness in social situations.

Finally, CBT not only helps you understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns but can also provide you with a range of  useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or noticing these symptoms in someone you love, we have a diverse team of Brisbane psychologists who can help manage your anxiety. Visit the Brisbane Psychologists page to read about our team and their areas of specialisation.

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Natural treatment for insomnia

Posted on August 15, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

We all know how it feels when you’ve not had enough sleep- tired, cranky, irritable, unproductive and overwrought. Even the simplest task can seem overwhelming and this is largely due to the fact that your brain and cognitive function is not operating at optimal levels.

Although bouts of bad sleep are normal and to be expected in our fast paced society, chronic sleep problems and ongoing insomnia (difficulties with sleep for 3 months or more) should not be ignored. According to the National Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression and an increased risk of other co-morbid conditions.

So how do you break this vicious cycle of bad sleep, poor health and its myriad of negative repercussions and say goodbye to a dependence on sleeping tablets? Research suggests that the most effective long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a psychology based treatment that addresses behaviour and thinking around sleep.

Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray have been effectively treating insomnia with CBT through their long-standing group programme, Towards Better Sleep. Unlike sleep medication, CBT is not a quick fix and takes time to work, which is why the programme spans across 6 weeks, focusing on education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.

A group setting has proven an effective setting to treat people with sleep problems, allowing participants to share their experiences and learn from one another in a more cost effective way.

The next Towards Better Sleep programme and the final one for 2019 commences on 10th October from our Morningside office. For more information or to register your interest in the programme, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Brooding Badly – How to Stop Obsessive Thinking

Posted on August 1, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

When we are stressed or dodging one of life’s many curve balls, it’s common to become obsessed with the subject matter and it can be hard to stop thinking about it. Also known as obsessive thinking or rumination, the mental merry-go-round can be difficult to get off, it’s metaphoric dizziness often interrupting sleep and inducing stress. It has also been known to lead to anxiety and depression. Similarly, those experiencing depression or anxiety, commonly ruminate and their experiences may present in what is often described as ‘catastrophic thought’.

Although it’s normal and sometimes even helpful to ‘workshop’ problems or decisions you’ve made, when there is no solution in sight and the thoughts are becoming obsessive and interrupting daily function, you’ve almost certainly tipped the scales to an unhealthy level of rumination.

Obsessive thinking has been known to lead to depression and anxiety as the negative thought increases the brain’s stress response leading to higher levels of cortisol. It also leads to dangerous physical symptoms of stress like high blood pressure and heart problems.

So how do you short-circuit obsessive thoughts?

The first step is to recognise when you are thinking this way and to know where to draw the line of healthy vs unhealthy rumination. This is the most difficult step as people prone to rumination see it as ‘workshopping problems’ rather than brooding badly! If you find yourself reacting irrationally to the present, it might be because your mind is elsewhere, perhaps dwelling on negative thought. Regularly checking in with yourself and understanding your own individual signs will help you recognise the signs of rumination.

Being mindful and present can also help you let go of past decisions and actions that cannot be changed. Practicing yoga can be a positive way to physically commit to mindfulness, as the ancient art focuses on being present and grateful for the now.

Exercise is a known distractor when negative thoughts are overwhelming you. Walking with a friend or socialising can also be helpful in shifting the focus to more positive and enjoyable experiences.

As cognitive behavioural therapy is focused on stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with more positive, helpful ones, it’s world renowned as one of the most effective treatments for alleviating cognitive distortions. A Psychologist can help guide you through the process of breaking down these thoughts and perceptions and how these may affect your emotions and behaviour.

If you need help with obsessive thoughts or your general health and wellbeing, Psychology Consultants has a large team of experienced, male and female Clinical Psychologists committed to helping you thrive.

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