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In my sessions I have often referred to the movie Inside Out. It helps us understand how emotions are being formed and how anxiety or depression can develop. A wonderful source of information, and certainly not boring to watch. Here is a video providing some more explanation. But what I would certainly recommend: watch the full movie!
A wonderful illustrative video of the feelings and effects of depression. Thanks for this great video BlackDogInstitute!
Anxiety: don't let anxiety control you. We would like to share a few tips on regain control.
1. Fighting your anxiety will just make things worse. Acknowledge that your brain is anxious. Try to understand why.
2. Picture your anxiety as a creature, outside of you. What does it look like? What is it telling you?
3. Focus on things you CAN control instead of worrying about things out of your control. Do something you can achieve, which is within your power (can be as simple as emptying the dishwasher or putting the bins out)
4. Realise that anxiety will pass. We often have waves of anxiety, which will reduce in strength after time. Sit in the midst of the wave and focus on breathing calmly.
5. Go for a walk, gym session, yoga session, run, bike ride. Anxiety builds tension in the body which needs to be released to fade. The longer you maintain inactive, the longer the tension will bother you.
6. Refocus on something completely unrelated to the focus of your anxiety/worry. Set a new goal, do something creative, start preparing dinner... Be mindful while doing this: pay attention to what your hands are doing, to what your eyes are seeing, to what your ears are hearing.
Give it a try, you will feel better!
Still hard to overcome your anxiety/worries? We provide psychological help! Give us a call to start your improvements today!
Motivation: TOO HARD? Maybe we can help you with a few strategies!
1. Set a realistic goal. Failing is around the corner when we demand too much of ourselves in too less time.
2. Ask yourself WHY this goal is so important for you? What would you like to gain/achieve by achieving this goal?
3. Divide your goals into small pieces and set small tasks for particular moments and record your achievements
4. Read over your motivation to change/achieve and goals on a regular basis. Even better: write it on a piece of paper and put it on your wardrobe.
5. Stay flexible: don't give up all together when you experience a set back. Try again as soon as you can.
6. Enjoy moments of success, don't just focus on the next task/goal. Celebrate small moments!
7. Bust your negative self-talk. You can do this, you are making progress. Don't believe in your quitter, listen to your cheerleader!
8. Take the stance of being pro-active for 2 weeks: do all the things you think of doing STRAIGHT AWAY! No delays, no later-s, no tomorrows. Do it immediately.
Helpful? Go through these steps on a regular basis. Continue to make small steps and celebrate the successes.
Hard to do by yourself, need a hand? We can help! Give us a call to support you becoming a motivated changer!
Anger: your worst enemy? Losing the battle from your anger regularly? Try these strategies to make a change and have a more adaptive anger management style!
1. Set a goal: why do you want to change? What do you want to change? How would you like to be?
2. When becoming angry; acknowledge your feelings, be aware of being at risk of lashing out
3. Set a new rule (when you are in a calm state): next time I feel angry, I will ... walk away, call a friend, focus on my breathing. Each time to react to anger, you are allowing yourself to respond that way. Set a new rule and stick with it, as often as you can.
4. Realise the difference between reacting and responding. Reacting is impulsive, with emotion, without control. Responding is an assertive, thought-through response.
5. Learn to sit with your anger. IT WILL PASS. No one has ever continuously angry. Focus on a topic/idea completely unrelated to your anger: What time do I need to go to the gym tomorrow/what are we having for dinner tomorrow?
6. when the biggest wave of anger has subsided, reflect on the situation and try to see it from a different perspective. Is your view the only possible one?
Try these strategies for at least 2 weeks.You will feel a difference. Still no luck? We can help! Give us a call to support you in becoming a calmer.
“John is a 48 year old farmer who is confronted with financial stress due to a change in weather circumstances and changing market demands. He owns the family farm in a remote area and has to work really hard to make a small living. He is concerned for the ongoing impact of the limited financial resources on his family. Lately he has increased feelings of hopelessness which result in disturbing thoughts such as “My family would be better off if I wouldn’t be around anymore” and “What’s the use of it all?” He has been referred to a Suicide Prevention Service. “
As I have been involved in suicide prevention work recently I thought it would be good to share some information about these services with you.
‘Suicidal ideation’ is the official term we use to refer to fleeting or invalidating thoughts about wanting to harm oneself, committing suicide or planning acts of self-destruction. As said, these thoughts can be fleeting or present over a longer period of time. The prevalence of these thoughts is quite common: over 50% of the people have thought about harming themselves at least once in their lives. Fortunately not all of these thoughts result in committed action. Reaching out for professional help still seems to be a problem although the importance of suicide prevention services has been highlighted by the Australian Government. So what are suicidal thoughts, and why do people struggle finding help?
Suicidal thoughts and feelings can be part of a depression but could also result from experiencing trauma or other negative life events. This isn't always the case though. There could be an accumulation of negative life events that can eventually tip someone over the edge of not experiencing the pleasure or sense of living anymore.
Research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics informs us that there are a few specific populations at high risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviour. These groups are identified as: men, Indigenous populations, young people and individuals who have been bereaved by suicide. When we take a closer look at the statistics of suicide, it shows us that in 2012 suicide ranked the 14th cause of death in the general Australian population. 75% of these were male. We see comparable high prevalence numbers in Indigenous populations and young people. This is the main reason why the Australian Government has set up funded services for all people confronted with suicidal thoughts or behaviour. See below a list of services available for people who struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Due to individual, social or contextual reasons not all people in need of help reach out to find professional support. One of the barriers to receive appropriate support is the stigma that surrounds suicide and suicidal behaviours. People might fear being labelled as mentally unstable or fear hospitalisation when expressing their suicidal thoughts. But the simple fact is that a lot of people in need are not familiar with the available services.
A strong push is required to promote these services to the general public and to inform what kind of services are available. The level of support goes far beyond hospitalization and are often even aimed at preventing this. People are usually better off by coping with these thoughts and feeling in their own natural environment with their own social support network on their side. Strategies to cope with stress in an effective way, challenging your negative thoughts, developing relaxation skills, connecting to your friends or social support network, finding treatment for depressive symptoms or connecting to a community support group are some of the interventions offered by these services.
“John has received help through the ATAPS suicide prevention services and feels much better after a few consultations and follow ups. He has learned to communicate with his wife when he feels really down and has developed better coping skills to deal with the work stress, such as asking for help, talking about his challenges and taking time off when he feels too pressured. He can look at the bright side of life again and is appreciative he is still around to enjoy his family and farm. “
When you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and you perceive yourself at risk of harming yourself, these are the available services to contact:
· ACIS (Assessment and Crisis Intervention Services): 24/7 availability. Call 131465 to talk to one of the experienced counsellors to guide you to the best service available for you.
· LifeLine: crisis intervention, call 13 11 14
· ATAPS suicide prevention service SA: available through Mind Australia. This is a service for people at low or moderate risk of suicide. Your GP can refer you to this service by calling 1300 286 463. They also provide after hours phone support when you are connected to these services.
When you would like to receive professional support to overcome negative events or thoughts and you are not at risk of harming yourself, at Sex Therapy & Psychology we can help.
Contact us today to make that first step towards a more happy and fulfilling life.
Imagine Josie: works fulltime, is socially active, takes care of her sick mum and likes playing tennis with her friends at the tennis club. She finds her work challenging: high demands, high workload. She has just accepted a new position. Her department is going through some changes which could threaten her position. In the back of her mind the financial stress of the mortgage is often nagging. She likes to live up to the expectations and she feels very responsible, in her work as well as in her relationship and towards her mum. She sets high standards which are hard to achieve. Lately she is feeling tired, stressed, more anxious than usual, she doesn’t sleep well, and she seems to get into arguments more easily. She hasn’t felt like socialising lately and has been turning down invitations to find herself on the couch in front of the tellie. She comes in to our practice to ask for strategies in how to improve her levels of energy, her mood and her anxiety.
It is quite likely that Josie is suffering from a burnout. The symptoms of a burnout are as follows: extreme fatigue, sleeping problems, concentration problems, feeling stressed all the time, irritable and even small problems can feel impossible to solve. Usually people suffering from burnout feel like their problems and stress have spiralled out of control and they feel helpless and defeated. They can’t see a solution anymore.
A burnout is caused by long term exposure to stress. When the body initially is exposed to stress it will try to shift to a higher gear to provide some extra energy to cope with the stressor. This mechanism is called the ‘fight-flight response’. Due to the release of stress hormones your body will shift to hyperactive mode which enables you to fight the stressor to return to a normal state once the stressor has disappeared. When you are exposed to a long term stressor (such as work pressure) your body doesn’t get the chance to revive and return to the original state. This results in exhaustion and sleeping problems because of the disturbance in homeostatic balance.
Not everyone is likely to suffer from burnout symptoms. People who are self-critical, perfectionistic, responsible and high achievers are more at risk of developing these symptoms. They tend to work even harder when the body is providing signals that it can’t handle the levels of stress and responsibility anymore. Often people become even more focused on work and allow relaxing activities and their physical fitness to drop off. All of this is contributing to the negative cycle ending in a burnout.
The way to get out of this negative cycle and improve your symptoms can be captured in one keyword: Balance. Balance in your work hours, in your social time, in relationship / family time, in physical health time and in ‘you’ time. This requires some reflection: what is important to you? What gives you a sensation of reviving? Walking the dog? Running on the beach? Cooking? Coffee with friends? Reading a magazine/book? Yoga class?
A practical strategy to start your improvements is to set up a diary in which you plan time at work as well as outside of work. You need structure! Book in the things you would like to do with a timeframe attached to it. Make sure you are making a realistic planning. Plan activities that you feel would bring you back in balance as well as down time to relax and de-stress. It will be easier to leave work on time or stop working from home if you’ve got other things planned on those moments.
Besides practical strategies to overcome a burnout, coping with personality traits and habits in a more positive way will help you to prevent a new burnout to develop. Unfortunately there is not a simple trick to instantly change this. Making a list of your good qualities as an employee and putting next to them the pitfalls of these qualities (such as good quality: responsible, pitfall: solving other people’s problems) can create awareness of when you are shifting your quality into a pitfall. This process can be challenging as we all have our blind spots when it comes to our own performance and habits.
One last tip: one problem that is often raised in consultations with people suffering from burnout is their inability to say ‘no’ because of their fear of the consequences. Questioning yourself ‘what would be the worst thing that could happen if I would say no?’ could help in putting your fear into a better perspective.
While writing this, I am fully aware that solving symptoms of burnout often require more than the strategies mentioned above. If you recognise the symptoms of burnout or you feel like you’re getting close to them and you would like to receive professional guidance in how to overcome and prevent these symptoms, give us a call to make an appointment to start your process towards rebalancing your life and work situation.
In my practice I frequently consult people with body image issues. What do I mean with body image issues? Dissatisfaction with the body, particular body parts or body shape to the extent that it’s impacting on psychological health and social activities. To go a bit deeper into theory: we all have an internalised sense of what we look like, an internal representation of our external body. This image can be distorted or not synced with the reality. This could happen due to negative experiences, comments, traumatic experiences or your comparing nature. All of this is reinforced by our current society where we have a lot of opportunity to compare (magazines, internet, Facebook, Instagram).
Body image issues can impact on all kinds of situations and activities. Some people avoid being in a relationship because they are ashamed of their body. Some people don’t go to the gym because of shame of particular body parts. Some avoid looking in a mirror. Some hide particular body parts by clothes, hair or make-up because they feel embarrassed. This dissatisfaction or shame of your body can become a major cause of distraction. You can be overly focused on this body part that you can’t focus on your activity. As if you are wearing glasses and instead of looking through them, you are continuously focused on the frame: you become distracted and unable to focus on what you can see through the glasses. When you are struggling with your weight for example, this might become a major point of attention preventing you to enjoy what you are doing like going to the movies or having a drink somewhere. In many cases this dissatisfaction is associated with low self-esteem: not being able to value yourself for all you’ve got to offer. This could cause even bigger issues possibly resulting in anxiety or depression.
Body image issues can also impact on your ability to be sexually active or to enjoy your sexual activity. When you are making love and you are ‘hyperalert’ on the body parts you are not happy with, it becomes incredibly challenging to enjoy the intimate moment. When nakedness becomes an obstacle you can imagine the impact. Maybe you always need to make love under the sheets, lights dimmed? You might be interested in how to overcome these issues.
As I explained above, dissatisfaction about your body can absorb your attention which can result in the inability to enjoy activities. I will discuss a few key elements to cope better with body image issues. Obviously the first question when you are dissatisfied about your body (parts) is: can you change anything about it? I will assume that you have tried or considered and that it’s not possible. The most effective strategy is to work on shifting your focus: when your mind tries to entertain you with negative thoughts about your body, acknowledge that your mind is trying to distract you and try to shift your focus to your activity: try to notice where you are and what you can see, smell, hear, feel, taste.. When you are in company of a friend, try to shift your attention to listen mindfully to what your friend is telling you or what you can observe. It might also be helpful to name the part that is generating your negative thoughts. Maybe we can call it the ‘Inner Critic’. Can you visualise this voice? Now that you are more aware of the negative comments that the Inner Critic is providing (and I assume all of these comments are ‘old news’) can you install a ‘Good Friend’: a part that will comfort you when you are struggling, that will tell you that you are worthwhile? Try to imagine what this Good Friend would tell you if you would entrust your struggles with them. Try to shift your focus to these words when your Inner Critic is having a go at you.
These strategies are very effective but require practice. You have probably listened to your Inner Critic for quite some time so this shift won’t happen instantly. It’s a process of training to reach a positive change.
If you recognise all the above and you feel you could do with some professional support to change your body image issues, we are there to help you. Selma is well-trained and experienced in helping people with these kind of issues and the impact on their lives. She could explain these and other strategies to you in more detail and add more ways of coping with your issues. Give us a call to book an initial appointment for you so you can win this battle with your negative thoughts.
In my psychology practice people often ask me the question: Why am I suffering from depression? I thought it could be of use to more people to read the answer to this question hence this update. Let’s discuss the aetiology of depression, in other words which factors are involved in the development of depression.
Let me start by providing a brief description of what I, as a Clinical Psychologist, would describe as depression. In psychology the official term for depression is a Major Depressive Disorder, part of the cluster of Mood disorders. Without dissolving in very clinical language there are a few criteria a person must meet to support the diagnosis of a clinical depression. In plain language a person must experience a depressed mood and/or a diminished interest in activities for at least 2 weeks during most of the time. Other essential symptoms involve possible weight loss or impacted appetite, sleeping problems, agitation, fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, concentration problems and thoughts of death. As you can read these are very severe symptoms and usually require professional help of a psychologist to overcome them. If you are recognising these symptoms, please contact us to help you improve your psychological health.
Back to the original question: which factors are involved in developing depression symptoms? I would like to put these possible factors into 3 categories: biological, psychological and social factors. Biological factors refer to your heritage of genes which can cause a vulnerability to develop depression symptoms. In your genetic make-up you could inherit a sensitivity for depression. In general biology definitely plays a role but isn’t exclusive in causing a depression. This is where psychological and social factors come into play, such as circumstances, personality, modelling, social support, and timing. To explain this in more detail read the following example of a imaginary person:
“Mary has noticed a change in her mood in the last few weeks. She can’t enjoy the activities with her children as much as she used to. And her husband mentioned a change in her behaviour as well. She used to be quite active and energetic but lately everything seems too much, even little things like walking the dog. She is easily agitated and teary. Reflecting on her past year she describes it as a tough one. In the beginning of the year her mother became very ill so she took on a huge part of the care for her. Juggling care for her mother, part time work and care for the children left almost no time for friends and her own hobbies. This continued for months.. After her position was made redundant at her workplace Mary realised she had been exhausted and down for quite a while but never had time to notice this. While sitting at home suffering from depression she feels guilty for not being able to find a new job or even manage the household. Mary is staggered she is experiencing these feeling because in the past she has always been able to cope with challenging situations. It feels like her battery is empty and doesn’t recharge anymore.”
As you can read sometimes the overall conclusion to the question of why people have developed a depression is timing: you might or might not have the biological vulnerability to develop depressive symptoms, but when your circumstances are causing stress on several areas of your life, all at the same time, it can be hard to stay afloat. Usually depression doesn’t follow the rules of logic. It’s not as simple as adding up a few factors but it’s the interaction between biology, personality, social support, circumstances and timing. Depression can be seen as a result of the unbalance between resilience and stress. Working on restoring this unbalance by understanding the contributing factors and learning new skills to cope with your circumstances will improve your resilience and will reduce the depression symptoms. This is the focus and aim of my therapy approach for depression.
Are you recognising the symptoms I summarised in this post and would you like to receive professional help for depression, to improve your psychological health and heel happy again? Give us a call to book your appointment and start improving today!