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Can’t Sleep? Try a ‘Worry Window’

Posted on January 29, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

Photo courtesy of @mimiori

Do you find yourself stressing about the fact that your stressing, particularly at bedtime or worse, in the middle of the night? Trying to stop yourself from worrying and stressing about the hours of sleep you are losing will almost certainly lead to sleeplessness. Experts suggest that 60-80% of sleep problems derive from stress, worry and anxiety.

If you are a bit of a worry wart or have legitimate reason to be stressed; then let yourself worry; it’s perfectly normal! But here’s a little tip that might help you worry less in the night…give yourself a ‘Worry Window’ during the day. Go to a quiet place and allow yourself to think about what’s causing your concerns. Writing down your worries and even speaking out loud about them, either to yourself, or someone you trust, can help provide some resolve and clarity. Once you have entertained your worries, let them go for a while and refocus your energy on more positive thoughts.

Of course, no stress-based article can forget the proven benefits of exercise as an effective worry outlet. Being physical allows you to unwind, work on your fitness and have a bit of “me time”.  Exercise has been clinically proven to increase serotonin levels in the brain and is a natural mood enhancer. You can even use your exercise time as your ‘Worry Window’, to help you think things through, decompress and work through any baggage you may have taken on for the day.

Although cardio based exercise is not recommended within three hours of bedtime, meditation or yoga can be extremely beneficial. Don’t know how you meditate? Why not download a meditation app and learn to listen, breathe and be present and let your daytime worries drift away.

If you do have ongoing insomnia or unmanageable stress, speaking to a Clinical Psychologist can be a positive step forward, improving your health and wellbeing and maximising your personal growth and potential. You may also like to open your mind to group therapy through insomnia programme, Towards Better Sleep. Programmes run in small groups of 9 or less from Psychology Consultants Morningside, with the next programme commencing on 26th March. To find out more visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or you can view our team of experienced Clinical Psychologists and their specialty areas here.

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Goals with no SHOULDS attached

Posted on January 9, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

Photo Credit: Ian Schneider

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you set a goal, particularly those around weight or appearance, before you know it, you’ve fallen flat? If you take a step back and think about the real reasons for your goal, you might just find that your failure has a lot to do with the type of motivation that fuels it.

The success rate for a goal that is ‘intrinsically’ motivated, that is one that comes naturally as part of your core value and offers deep personal enjoyment, may be easier to achieve than those that are extrinsically motivated. The ‘Self-Determination Theory’, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan studies the motivation and unique personality of human behaviour and concludes that humans have three innate psychological needs:  a need to feel competent, a need to feel related and a need to feel autonomous. Intrinsic motivation stems from these three innate needs and therefore when setting goals, one should ask one’s self; ‘is this goal really about me or is it about the need to please others or fit in socially?’ ‘Will achieving this goal give me pleasure or is it something I feel I SHOULD do’?

“Taken as a whole, extrinsically motivated activities are performed to attain a goal, to obtain a reward, or to avoid a penalty or a negative consequence. When extrinsically motivated, individuals perform the activities not because they simply derive enjoyment.”( C. Levesque, … E.L. Deci, in International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition), 2010)

So, when setting goals for 2020, perhaps you can put the age-old debate of extrinsic motivation undermining intrinsic motivation, to the test by simply redefining your goals to focus on things you want to achieve, not things you think you SHOULD achieve. Rather than lose weight, look at getting fitter or taking up a social sport you can enjoy with friends. Take the SHOULD out of your goals and rewrite the list to include things you want to achieve because the outcome will provide you with pleasure.

Everyone is different and so what intrinsically motivates you will vary greatly but if you want to stay on track in 2020, stick to goals with no ‘shoulds’ attached.

To speak with one of our Psychologists about reaching your potential, visit our Brisbane Psychologist page to check out of team of Clinical Psychologists at our Newmarket and Morningside practice.



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Putting a Spin on the Back to Work Willies

Posted on January 8, 2020 in Uncategorized - 0

Photo by Brooke Lark @brookelark

Returning to work after Christmas holidays can be tough. Even for those who love their job, settling back into the whole work routine can be a little bit depressing. This also goes for kids who can struggle with the concept of going back to school. One way to ease the sting is to reframe the ‘back to normality’ conundrum.

With our country ablaze with the havoc of natural disaster, many without homes and grief stricken, perhaps returning to a safe work environment may not seem quite so bad. Reframing situations to think more positively about your own situation can be a helpful strategy when life gets a bit tough; because generally there is always someone less fortunate than you. Count your blessings doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your emotions, it simple provides the perspective we sometimes need to think more positively about our situation.

That said, it is important to allow yourself time to re-adjust to a normal work routine, offering plenty of self-care and compassion. Setting boundaries around work can help to reduce an onslaught effect and provide the time you need to enjoy what is so good about holidays; friends, family and time to yourself.

Known in therapy as ‘cognitive reframing’, changing the way you look and think about something is a very helpful technique, not just in January but throughout the year. When work stress gets on top of you, changing your perspective can alter the way you deal with the situation, offering a more positive outlook, reducing negative thinking and rumination. One simple way to do this is to break down the situation into more manageable ‘bite size’ pieces and write a plan of attack to handle what you feel is insurmountable. Finding the humour in situations and having a good laugh about things that may seem out of your control, can also be a good way to take the stress out of life in general. Why not give it a try- what’s the worst thing that can happen?

If you are struggling with work stress, or stress in general, talking to a Psychologist can be a positive step forward. You can read more about our team of Clinical Psychologists base at both Morningside and Newmarket practice here.


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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

Contributed by Elizabeth Galt: Clinical Psychologist

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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