I look at the bigger picture. Beyond food rules and diet plans. I appreciate that health and wellbeing are shaped by so much more than what we eat.
At this stage, research has yet to completely explain the cause of psychosis. However, it is clear that the causes are complex. The most widely accepted theory is the stress-vulnerability model which suggests that a combination of biological/genetic factors and environmental factors increase someone’s “vulnerability” to experiencing symptoms of psychosis. This suggests that someone can have a genetic vulnerability to psychosis and never develop any symptoms!
A number of environmental and biological factors have been identified to increase the risk of psychotic symptoms. These include cannabis use, acute stress, trauma, childhood adversity, migration, obstetric complications, prenatal infection, maternal malnutrition and/or stress during pregnancy. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s no single factor that causes psychotic symptoms but a complex combination of factors.
A helpful way to understand this model is using the image of a bucket, where the size of the bucket represents vulnerability and water represents stress. Someone who is more vulnerable to psychosis (i.e. has more risk factors) will have a smaller bucket compared to someone who has less vulnerability. As stress occurs in life, water begins to fill the bucket. If the bucket overflows, psychotic experiences may occur. However, if someone is able to cope well with stress, it is as if there is a tap at the bottom of their bucket that relieves the pressure by releasing some water. If they don’t have the skills to cope with stress or cope with stress poorly, it’s as if this tap doesn’t work and their bucket overflows.
Therefore, while we are unable to change many of the factors that can occur that increase the likelihood that someone experiences psychosis (the size of the bucket), psychologists and Psychiatrists are able to provide assistance to reduce the level of stress someone is experiencing and/or help them to better cope with that stress.
A bit of brain science…
How does the combination of biology/genetics and stress cause psychosis? Research still has a long way to go on this front, however, a number of findings have brought some light to this question and seem to suggest dopamine, a neurochemical in the brain, plays an important role:
- Excessive amounts of dopamine have been found in individuals with a higher risk of psychosis, and this worsens as symptoms worsen.
- Environmental stress also causes dysfunction in dopamine.
- Some of the genes associated with psychosis are related to dopamine function and response to stress.
- Anti-psychotic medications affect the dopamine system.
- When healthy individuals take substances that increase dopamine, psychotic symptoms occur.
- High levels of dopamine cause people to see ordinary and everyday sensations and experiences as meaningful and significant. For example, security cameras that otherwise would be ignored could become ever-present (due to increased attention to them) and significant (could be interpreted as someone watching them or persecuting them).
This theory has been called the dopamine hypothesis. Researchers continue to explore the causes of psychosis to clarify and improve our understanding and to improve the treatments that are available.
Does a diagnostic assessment make my child vulnerable?
Most parents will at some point will face the ‘diagnosis dilemma’; that is, the decision to investigate whether a child’s academic, developmental or clinical results vary significantly from their peers. For many parents this decision may involve a great deal of fear and uncertainty as they consider the potential impact of a diagnostic label for their child in the school environment, amongst peers or siblings, and whether the impact will follow through to a child’s higher education or work life.
Broader ethical debates can feed these fears, such as a lack of consensus regarding what constitutes a disorder, the limitations of our current diagnostic tools, and the belief that mental health diagnoses pathologise human diversity. However for children, teens and families facing significant challenges, the more urgent issue is how to find their pathway to appropriate support for a set of specific needs.
What’s involved in an assessment?
An assessment usually involves a comprehensive investigation of academic, emotional and behavioural domains via a multi-step process that may involve clinical interviews, interviews with significant adults, behavioural observations, and rating scales. It also seeks to answer a specific referral question or set of questions based on a child’s particular challenges, answers and evidence for which are then outlined in a formal report or explained in a feedback session.
What is the value of an assessment?
For most children and families who present for evaluation, there will already be a sense that something in their lives is far more difficult than they expected it to be, and they are usually wondering why. While going through an assessment process with your child may never be the highlight of your year, there are some potentially life-changing outcomes. A diagnostic assessment may offer you the following opportunities:
- Understand your child’s individual needs. When a child is understood and accepted in their formative relationships, they have the best chance of understanding and accepting themselves.
- Identify lagging skills. Whether this be the inability to manage big feelings, an excessive fear of social situations or phonological dyslexia, an evaluation will give you information about the specific area in which your child is struggling.
- Plan and prepare. With specific information, parents are better able to plan for successful outings, holidays and events.
- Change your child’s developmental trajectory. When assessment and intervention is timely, the future of your child may literally be changed. For example, when ADHD is managed well from an early age, the progression of ADHD to oppositional behaviour and then conduct problems in adulthood may be prevented.
- Draw on the evidence-base. Struggling parents can be vulnerable to adopting pseudoscience, e.g. A child with learning difficulties may feel emotionally deprived if a parent leans heavily on harsh consequences or tough love.
- Set realistic expectations. A child with an executive function deficit for example, will not have the ability to manage his time, or organise his thoughts and will need support and frequent reminders.
- Avoid damaging discipline. When lagging skills play out, parents and teachers with realistic expectations are able to avoid the unethical situation that arises when children are punished for their diagnoses, e.g. When a child with dyslexia seeks verbal confirmation of instructions from a classmate or teacher and is disciplined for calling out.
- Model self-advocacy. When a child is part of a collaborative process they learn that challenges can be spoken about and problems addressed. A good assessment should send a clear message to a child that their struggles are not their fault, and that with information and planning, goals can be achieved.
Managing potential vulnerabilities after a diagnoses has been made
Unfortunately not every person our children come across will respect their individual needs. It can be worth planning ahead with your child who their ‘helpers’ are, so that they are not left with knowledge that feels secretive, or a belief that they are defective in some way. We can also help to reduce the potential for self-stigma by framing diversity as an important aspect of the world we live in.
Parents also have a particular role to play to reduce vulnerability that requires both strength and subtlety. Parents are powerful advocates for the needs of their child in the community, however they must also be mindful to step out of the way of natural development. Sometimes overzealous parents can unintentionally add to the vulnerability of their child by helping too much. This may create a situation where the longer-term burden a child faces is increased by a parent who is over-functioning, essentially denying the child the opportunity to learn to live effectively and resiliently.
If you need support to figure out what your child’s individual needs are and how to support them, the staff at The Centre for Effective Living are able to help.
Not actually - not in the way it is usually meant.
I have been working on some compassion fatigue material and this image of a jar with a lid came to mind. Compassion fatigue is simply the cost of caring. When we care so much that it empties us from the inside out. There is certain thought that some of us naturally are drawn to the wounded and the hurt and our caring roles have existed long before we had formal roles. Caring for our family members even when we were children. Caring for our friends - attracting friends who needed support.
It could be that we grew up in an environment that celebrated us in our caring role. Maybe that was the main time we were given acknowledgement. Perhaps it was what was expected of us. Often, however, what can happen is that our caring from such an early age may have led to us having only other directed care, and not enough care for ourselves.
Psychologically speaking we may have developed certain life scripts that taught us to suppress our on preferences, decision and desires. We may have been pushed only to look at meeting the needs of others, and perhaps made to feel guilty if we attended to our own. Perhaps we do not feel worthy of care ourselves.
Yet we know we cannot care from a glass or tank half empty. Our body needs care and attention, as does our mind and soul. It may be difficult to shed years and years of guilt. But you know what? You can just for today try something a little different.
Why not take a piece of paper and write down all the people you are caring for right now and all the things that weigh them down. Acknowledge that this probably will not change in the immediate. Yet you can lay down that burden for a little while. Then place that piece of paper in a jar and put a lid on it. Put it safely in a cupboard somewhere.
Now. Breathe. Walk away from the cupboard and allow yourself to attend to yourself. Do you need a glass of water? Would you like to take a walk. Perhaps sit in the sunglight for a while. Give yourself the opportunity to experience what it is to direct the attention to yourself and what you need to care for yourself.
Challenges for neurodiverse kids manifest across academic, social, and psychological areas of life and frequently co-occur with other physical and mental disorders. Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) as outlined in the DSM-5, include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication disorders, intellectual developmental disorder, motor disorders and specific learning disorders (SLD).
Parenting a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder and additional learning needs can feel like being trapped in a relentless spin cycle while families around you are pressed and crease-free. While your child's peers are turning homework in, pursuing extracurricular interests and reading for pleasure, you may be simultaneously trying to get your child to put their undies on, preempt a potential meltdown with snack, or revise social skills ahead of the next activity. You may even feel like you yourself are somehow responsible at school pick up when the teacher beckons you over for (yet another) debrief of things that happened while you were not there. Yet what really adds to the burden of parenting a neuro-diverse child is the accumulation of messages parents receive when their child doesn’t meet expectations.
Cultural messages frequently scrutinise parents for being both under-involved or over-involved, lawnmowers, bonsais, helicopters or concierge parents, giving the impression that parents can be a major source of harm and are in fact responsible for a child’s growth and development. Parents of children with NDD have been criticised for seeking diagnoses or not seeking a diagnosis, medicating or not medicating, advocating or failing to advocate, informing educators or not informing educators, their role made more difficult within changing social perceptions of successful parenting.
Additionally, these parents face community stigma, which is now understood to be broader in scope than racism and discrimination and can be thought of as the public acceptance of discrediting stereotypes. Parents of children with NDD experience stigma in a variety of ways, such as in the form of critical evaluation, such as, "Have you tried essential oils?", "If it
were my child, I’d make sure it never happened again", and "She just needs firmer boundaries". They also experience stigma each time there is an attribution made about their child’s character, such as, "He can’t be bothered", "She refused to listen", or "He chose to ignore my instruction". The underlying message blames the child and blames the parents.
So how can parents find their way in contexts where they are held accountable for their neurodiverse child? Well, what is important to remember is that your child will do well where she is able to. If she is unable to, there will be some problems to solve and some lagging skills to address, and she is not deeply flawed in her character! This is best done collaboratively with your child, as opposed to anxiety fuelled ultimatums that may send the message to your child that they are not enough. Although it is sometimes necessary to address and change specific maladaptive behaviours, change is best undertaken together, so your child has every chance to build their own capacity to problem-solve or self-regulate by coming up with solutions. You might just be surprised by what she comes up with! Fundamentally, maintaining a warm and loving relationship without the pressure of your child having to ‘improve’, will let your child know that home is a safe haven where her emotional needs will be met.
Finally, it is important to recognise that there is still a clear gap in knowledge regarding NDD across our communities, which are often ill-equipped to set expectations for the growth and development of neuro-diverse children. Allowing stigma to set the agenda for our children would be to water a garden of toxic weeds. If you find yourself exposed to regular negative feedback, social exclusion or feeling misunderstood, it may be time to gently re-educate or remove yourself and your child from harms-way. We all need to find our village in life, and allies of children with NDD and their parents are usually flexible, open-minded, and less concerned about your ability to meet socio-cultural expectations.
If you are interested in reading more about lagging skills and unsolved problems for children with NDD’s, check out the work of Dr Ross Greene here: https://www.livesinthebalance.org
If you feel the issues you are facing are overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin, why not reach out to our team at The Centre For Effective Living?
When mental illness, physical illness or extreme circumstances hit our families, it is likely that the care of those who suffer will fall on the shoulders of one or a few carers. The role is taken on out of love, and yet it will come as a certain change in direction and identity for the carer.
It can feel that the rest of the world moves on from the incident or tragedy that brought them into the role as carer. And yet, for the carer, the world can feel like it suddenly stopped spinning on its usual axis, and spun out of control or out of usual orbit. That feeling does not necessarily come to a neat resolution. Nor does a sense of normality and control break through.
Many carers will not talk about this, preferring not to burden other people with their "stuff". They may also have fatigue over telling the story over and over again. Yet alienation, grief and loss for a life anticipated (both for themselves their loved ones), profound physical and emotional exhaustion and the resentment-guilt cycle is a reality for most carers.
If you know someone who is a carer, we can help to ease the pathways to burnout by:
1. Listening without judgement. A carer does not intentionally want to sound negative, helpless or hopeless. It is the reality of not being able to see from moment to moment how things are going to turn out. Just being able to voice this can be a tremendous relief.
2. Ask what they need. We can't assume to know what a carer may be feeling, and therefore we can't presume to know what they need. It may not be the right time for a visit, or for providing practical assistance
3. Normalise the normal: Check in as if they were still the person you know, and not the role they perform. A note, a message, a walk, a movie, a tender touch or hug if they ask for it. This helps someone who is caring for others anchor in the knowledge that they are still remembered and seen for who they are.
Being a psychologist is such an honour and privilege. I have the opportunity to sit and hear from clients about their most personal struggles and assist them with moving forward. I get to see them being vulnerable, and have courage in doing so.
In being a psychologist, I have found that is actually a two-way street. Clients learn from their psychologist- for example, how to cope with painful emotions, healthy perspectives, communication skills- however psychologists also learn from their clients. During this blog series, I am going to write about some of the things that I have learnt or been reminded of by clients.
In today’s blog, I am going to focus on what client’s have taught me regarding values.
In today’s society, we are constantly bombarded with messages through the media that you need to be wealthy, successful and attractive to be content and satisfied. Client’s often come into therapy holding these ideals. It can be the pressure to achieve these ideals that maintain their pain.
What I have found though, is although on the surface, clients communicate the allure of being wealthy, successful and attraction, what clients tend to put most value on is experiences and relationships. During therapy, I have often seen clients reflect on their values and become more in touch with what really matters to them. What I have also found, is that when clients reflect on what matters to them most about themselves, it is not necessarily being wealthy, successful and attractive. I have often seen clients communicate that they would rather be a person who treats people well and has good friendships, rather than someone, for example, who is physically attractive.
So as you read this blog, what can you take away? It is always good to reflect on what really matters to us. Valued areas can include family, friendships, work, education, participating in the community, enjoyment and pleasure, health and personal growth. What really matters to you most on that list? How can you take action to improve your life in the areas that matters most? Is it organising to see that friend you have been planning on messaging for a while? Is it joining the sporting team you have always felt you were too busy to be in? Is it leaving work earlier to spend more time with you family?
Living consistently with values is so important for overall mental health. Often people come to see a psychologist for assistance with clarifying their values and problem solving how to increase their satisfaction in valued areas.
Intuitive Eating becomes more popular, and the term gets thrown around a lot,
the message can become a little distorted. So, let’s explore the what, the why
and the WOW moments (as well as a little bit on what Intuitive Eating is NOT).
eating is when we eat based on our internal cues (hunger, fullness, energy
levels etc), and leave all those external “shoulds” behind.
shouldn’t eat that biscuit.
shouldn’t be hungry now, I’ve just eaten.
should eat now, I eat this time every day.
should eat to my diet plan, anything more or less is not good enough.
eating asks us to trust our bodies, and respects that we know how and when to
nourish ourselves. We make peace with all foods.
why is there so much hype? When people eat intuitively we find the following:
in health markers (cholesterol, blood pressure)
levels of exercise
life without food rules frees up so much mental space, and allows us to make
time for the things we enjoy.
I asked a group of intuitive eaters what their WOW moment was these were their
could finally enjoy a stress-free weekend away with friends. I could eat
and drink happily, without having to make up for it when I got home.”
never realised how much stress it caused me to be so preoccupied with my food
and body. It cleared up so much time for me when I learned to trust myself
able to eat with spontaneity was so refreshing, I could go out and eat what was
available on the menu, not what I had pre-planned the week before.”
it is NOT
paint a full picture, we also need to highlight what Intuitive Eating is NOT.
is not a new type of weight loss program.
does not mean we eat donuts and cake all day.
does not mean we are letting ourselves go.
SO WHAT NOW?
Eating teaches us to eat in a way that serves us both physically and mentally,
and helps us to reach a place of food freedom.
that this is just a small snapshot into the world of Intuitive Eating, however
if you are ready dive in, LET’S GO.
E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating. New York: St. Martins Griffin.
E., & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook: principles for
nourishing a healthy relationship with food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications,
Eating in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: The Journey of Atunement. Renfrew
Psychosis is one of the most misunderstood psychological illnesses and
is highly stigmatised by the media and entertainment industry as ‘incurable’
and dangerous. This perception is harmful in many ways – it isolates
individuals with psychosis, increasing hopelessness and lowering self-esteem
which then impact on recovery. Over the course of a few articles, I’ll be
dispelling common myths about psychosis and exploring ways families, carers and
individuals can cope with and address these symptoms.
Psychosis is a term used to describe a group of psychological symptoms
that influence a person’s understanding or perception of reality. Although it
has been sensationalised in the media, psychotic symptoms are quite common,
affecting 3% of Australians. Symptoms of psychosis usually emerge in
adolescence or early adulthood and can look very different from person to
person. There are effective pharmacological and psychological treatments
available which are beneficial for most people.
Psychotic symptoms can
be placed into 5 main categories.
– seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing or tasting something that is not actually
– unusual beliefs or ideas about yourself, the world or others. These can
sometimes be quite frightening and upsetting, or they can be comforting and
disorder – thoughts can seem to become jumbled, speed up or slow down.
Sentences can become unclear or hard to understand, and use made up words.
- Emotions –
emotions can change without reason such as mood swings between excitement and
depression. People with psychosis may express less emotion or feel less
emotion. They may also express emotions that seem strange, for example laugh at
something that isn’t funny.
– people with psychosis may withdraw and become inactive, or they may become
very activity. If the person is experiencing delusions, they can behave as if
these beliefs are true. If they are experiencing hallucinations, they may
respond to things that others cannot see. They may begin to neglect their own
appearance and self-care.
psychosis can have a significant impact on your ability to function and can
cause decline in cognitive functioning such as memory, attention and higher
order functions (such as problem-solving). However, research has found that
early treatment of psychotic symptoms increases the likelihood of a full
recovery. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing psychosis, it is
recommended that you seek professional help from a General Practitioner,
Psychiatrist and Psychologist.
Coming next: What Causes Psychosis?
Psychological trauma involves a frightening or distressing experience where someone feels his her own safety/life or the safety of a loved one is threatened. The person's picture of safety and security is profoundly shattered. The Australian psychological society give examples of some typical traumatic events such as experiencing: a serious accident, an armed robbery, war or terrorism, natural disasters, sexual abuse, or the suicide of a family member or friend.
Because most people have different perspectives, defining what events are ‘traumatic’ can be very subjective. For example, a five year old being lost in a busy city may find this experience traumatic, whilst an adult may find it mildly stressful or inconvenient. In this way characteristics such as developmental stage or even perceptions of one’s own competency can impact if someone perceives an event as traumatic where significant levels of helplessness and fear for one's life or well being is experienced.
If someone has experienced a traumatic event, it can often cause strong physical or emotional reactions and altered thinking patterns. These symptoms are very common and usually last for a couple of weeks. If you have recently experienced a traumatic event it is important to have a good support network and to feel safe. If you find that after a few weeks you are still struggling and unable to function, it is important to seek mental health help and visit a GP who can refer you to a Psychiatrist, or Psychologist.
My child has ADHD - How do I manage my own emotions during
tough parenting challenges?
I have a passion for children
and adolescents with ADHD. They are often larger than life, fun to be around
and have so much to offer to any who take the time to tune in. However, the
growing-up years can be tough, particularly when a child is wired differently
and emotional resources in the family are drained. Despite the inevitable
challenges involved in raising a human with neuropsychological differences,
there is incredible scope for parents to build a strong and resilient bond. In
fact, most therapeutic approaches prioritise supporting parents. One skill fundamentally
important to the parent-child bond is the ability of a parent to regulate their
own emotion. This is essentially an ability to calm oneself down, or pick
oneself up, in response to overwhelming emotion. The good news is, like many
psychological skills, emotion regulation can be strengthened with a little
know-how and practice. When parents become self-aware and model a healthy
relationship with their own emotion, they give their children a powerful gift!
Read on for some key
principals, and food for thought.
What to Do
- Take care of stress, sleep, and self-care – a parent
who is well-rested will find emotion more tolerable, and won’t need to control
the environment around them to keep themselves feeling comfortable
- Stay in the present moment - cultivate a habit of
sticking with what is currently happening in front of you, and make no room for
emotions that belong in the past (whether it be this morning, last night or
- Monitor your
emotional ‘dashboard’ – our emotions send us important signals that guide our behaviour
- it takes practice to interpret this information so that we can make wise
parenting decisions and look after ourselves
- Make a deposit in the ‘attachment bank’ – use plenty
of eye contact, physical touch, words of affirmation and the gift of your time
and interest to communicate unconditional positive regard to your child – a
healthy attachment relationship with your child will help you return to a happy
equilibrium on ‘those days’!
- Practice ‘grounding’ techniques ready and have them
ready to whip out when you find yourself in the middle of an emotional meltdown
– try a few and see what works well for you
What to Avoid
- Unrealistic expectations – take the time to really
understand the problems causing frustration in the relationship – is your child
able to meet the expectation, or are there lagging skills and problems that
need solving? Auditing how ADHD impacts each area of your child’s life is an
empathy-building exercise, and where empathy exists, negative emotion is
- Power struggles – while it’s tempting to ‘make’ a
child meet an expectation, this will inevitably lead to an increase of emotion
in both parties – it is OK to come back for a conversation when everyone is
- Unintentional reinforcement – both positive AND
negative emotion in the parent-child relationship will increase the frequency
of a behaviour – Eg Correcting a child with frustration for table manners may
lead to more of the same behaviour ... and more frustration!
- Forgetting to have FUN! All children/teens/parents
need time to laugh together, and especially families facing challenges
If you are struggling to manage
your emotions as a parent, why not reach out to our team for help?
Do you ever have trouble dealing with your emotions and at times feel like they are just too overwhelming? Do you find yourself making unhelpful or even detrimental decisions in your relationships or everyday life when you are experiencing strong emotions?
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed especially for people who want to manage their emotions better! It’s a therapy that provides you with skills to manage strong emotions, deal with stress, and communicate better with others. Children and adults can benefit from DBT, as the diverse and broad ranges of skills are helpful for all stages of life.
DBT involves a journey through different core skills and can be done with a
therapist or even in a group setting. DBT begins with learning how to be more self-aware and mindful, emphasising focusing your attention and being aware in a non-judgmental way. Next you will begin to identify emotions and learn helpful ways to regulate emotions. Following this, you will work with your therapist to be better prepared for crisis times, when your emotions are heightened, in the hope this will prevent any rash or irrational decisions that we sometimes make when overwhelmed. Finally, you will develop skills to help better communicate with others and have your needs met in a respectful and effective manner.
DBT is well researched and found to be effective for a wide variety of
psychological problems. If you think DBT may be helpful for you, have a chat with your GP for a referral to one of our psychologists who are able to work with you in this way.
If you would like to better manage your emotions here are a few ways to get
- Try being mindful! Download the FREE Headspace App on your
smartphone and be coached through daily mindfulness exercises
- Make sure you are looking after yourself! Not having enough sleep,
exercise, consuming too much alcohol or drugs, or poor eating habits can make it more difficult to manage your emotions!
It is very common to feel nervous about your first appointment with a psychologist. Your psychologist is well aware of what it means to see someone you have never met and share your life's story and challenges with.
Research into therapeutic effectiveness tells us that about 80% of effective therapy has to do with the relationship between the psychologist and the client. This means that the first few sessions, the first 3 session infact are important for a psychologist to establish trust, safety and respect.
At The Centre For Effective Living we ensure that psychologists are well aware of the importance of establishing rapport and trust with clients in their first few sessions. We spend a lot of time ensuring that new clients feel welcomed and embraced in their early sessions.
We’ve all been there. Caught at the last minute, you are now invited to the street Christmas BBQ.
“Just bring a salad” they say. Panic sets in.
So you run to the shops, but the premade options are looking a little uninspiring.
Behold! A list of delicious and fancy looking salads that can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes.
Pecan and Cranberry Salad
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
• 3/4 cup olive oil
• 1 medium bag of mixed greens (300g)
• 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
• 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 cups pecans or walnuts
• 150g fresh goat cheese/feta, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
Whisk vinegar, mustard, and thyme in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Mix greens, cranberries, and onion in large bowl. Mix in enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with nuts and cheese.
Green Bean and Radish Salad with Shallot Dressing
• 500g green bean, trimmed
• 1 x banana shallot, finely diced
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
• juice of half lemon
• 250g radish thinly sliced
Boil a large pan of water. Tip in the beans and cook for 4-5 mins until just tender. Meanwhile, mix the shallot, mustard, oil and lemon juice with a little salt and pepper.
Drain the beans well, then toss with the radishes and dressing. Serve warm.
Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
• 500g trofie or other short pasta
• 2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 3cm lengths
• 3/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup dill, finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to serve
• 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
• Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1/4 cup salted baby capers, rinsed, drained
• 2 cups rocket leaves, roughly chopped
• 200g smoked salmon, sliced into thin strips
Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions, adding asparagus for final 1-2 minutes. Drain, refresh, then cool completely.
Meanwhile, whisk the creme fraiche, olive oil, dill, garlic, lemon juice, half the zest and 2 tablespoons water together in a small bowl, then season and set aside.
When pasta is cool, toss with dressing, capers, rocket, remaining zest and smoked salmon. Serve with extra dill sprigs.
Loneliness: the importance of connection
A recent survey of the Australian population indicated that 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely, and that lonely Australians had significantly worse mental and physical health status. Connection with others matters! Psychologists have long been interested in loneliness and have found that connection with others increases self-esteem, feelings of belonging, and a sense of meaning.
Below are a few tips on how to connect with others if you are noticing signs of loneliness in your life.
- Body cues – when we feel lonely, we can begin to act out those feelings using body cues that also push others away. Common body cues of loneliness are avoiding eye contact, leaving situations without saying goodbye, and turning away from others physically. This can make it more difficult to connect with another person. Being aware of these cues can help you begin to orient your body towards others, rather than away.
- Have an offline presence – people who are lonely can find it easier to connect with others online, but research suggests that this can also cause feelings of disconnection. Perhaps organise an offline, face-to-face meeting with your online friends and grow a deeper relationship with them in person.
- Join in – look out for opportunities to join or participate in activities. When you are already feeling lonely, it can be easy to withdraw or decline invitations to events. This can backfire and reinforce your loneliness. Challenging yourself by becoming actively and intentionally involved. This can counteract your loneliness even though taking the first step may be really difficult.
There are a number of reasons why people may be feeling lonely and psychologists are trained to assisting people to build more meaningful relationships and connect with others, to help you create a meaningful life. If you feel you may need assistance, the team at the Centre for Effective Living can support you in making meaningful changes.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a way of helping us to capture our thoughts and work on them so they are more reflective of a true reality. The way we think impacts our feelings. For example, if you saw a dog approaching you on the walkway, if you thought "That is a ferocious dog who will attack me" you would feel afraid. If you thought "I am not sure about that dog, I will just move to the other side of the road" you might feel quite neutral or a little cautious. If you thought instead "What a cute dog!" you might feel quite happy. Depending on which scenario occurs, our behaviour will also change.
Many situations in our life are a reflection of how we think, sometimes these thoughts are accurate, and sometimes not. Depending on how we appraise a situation, we will not only feel differently, we will also behave differently.
What CBT consists of
Typically, your mental health worker would:
- Help you identify what the problem you are encountering is, discussing onset, duration, and severity of symptoms. This would usually consist of an interview and some validated questionnaires.
- Work with you to identify your goals for therapy. This helps to narrow down goals and sets some realistic expectations about your therapy
- Discover with you the situations that elicit strong emotions and therefore some strongly impacting thoughts
- Work on these thoughts to elicit realistic evidence about whether these thoughts are true, and therefore whether a different emotional experience is appropriate
- Identify new ways of engaging similar situations, where we behave, think and feel in a different way towards a more clarified mental health.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been found to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To take those first steps call us now and we can take you through.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Statistics
In a recent survey of child and adolescent mental health issues in Australia, it was found that about 1 in 7 children aged 4-17 years old had a mental disorder in the previous 12 months. That is 560,000 children and adolescents. The most common issues were ADHD, Anxiety and Depressive Disorders. About 1 in 10 children aged 12 – 17 years had ever self-harmed, and 1 in 13 of the same age bracket had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. Children reported that the most aggravating issues for them were bullying, problems with their eating and weight concerns, smoking and substance use and internet use and gaming.
When to get help
These developmental years are important for seeking help as these are the years identity is formed, social networks are impacted and academic foundations are built. Seeking early intervention leads to much better outcomes. How do you know when to seek help?
The general rule of thumb is if your child or adolescent is going through a period of time of a few weeks where they are showing general signs of not coping, which cannot be alleviated by previous coping strategies, such as:
- Having more days feeling sad, anxious, angry and/or afraid
- Their eating and sleeping patterns are impacted much more than usual
- School performance and attendance is significantly deteriorating
- They are finding it difficult to concentrate not only at school but also in carrying out daily activities
- Avoiding playing with friends or activities and games they would usually find great pleasure in
- Young children who previously had by-passed bed-wetting, thumb sucking return to these behaviours
- Physical complaints – nausea, headaches, pains in their body
- For adolescents – use of substances, getting in trouble, and unusual pre-occupation with weight and eating, withdrawal and wanting to spend more and more time alone
- In young children – emotionally not coping and may want to be with parents more than usual
If your child is showing these signs, a visit to the family doctor is the first step. From there, the doctor can discern if there is anything medical going on. If it looks like a mental health issue, a referral to a mental health professional can be made.
At 7:30pm I was flopped on the bed - spent. My husband walked in and wondered if I was alright? Well...if you are going to ask a Psychologist this question, be prepared for the full analysis...
In the middle of office renovations, moves, lots of farewells, the general busy period, juggling personal and professional demands, planning for next year, I was aware of a kind of Passion burn. I described it as such:
Imagine there were various strands of thick paint. I can see every colour in the distance. The thick red of passion for our burnout prevention work, the bright yellow of excitement for our new office suites in Gordon, the purple, the blue, the green...all representing the different emotions I feel for the futures of very important parts of my life, work and world. For now, though, what I feel is the converging of all these emotions into a thick, muddy, unclarified mess of paint. Out of which will eventually ooze out into the clarified emotional future. For now, though, it is a thick clump of paint I feel I am wading in. The net result is a profound feeling of the double Ds - Discouragement and Doubt. Which leads to the major P - procrastination. Which leads to major impacts on motivation, negative self talk and (shock horror!) giving up.
Ever felt this way?
As we talked through the issues we decided it would be helpful for me to do the following, I share here with you:
1. Focus mindfully on each strand of emotion separately. Feel it, taste, breathe it. Embrace the positive face of each emotion and describe it fully in every detail.
2. Journal and reflect on each of the future versions of those strands. Build hope, build passion, build mental fortitude. This does not mean coming up with a PollyAnna future. It is a realistic view of what can happen, rather than focusing on what catastrophes could happen.
3. Chunk each emotional strand into "What do you need?" questions. Problem solve how to feed this and schedule it into my diary.
4. Have a chip away mentality. With each of those emotional strands clarified and anchored in hope, then chip away at the things I can have control over.
Are you the last person to take care of yourself? Does this mean you are skipping meals and thinking of feeding others? Take a look at how you can slow down and eat to thrive this busy season.
Most people are aware that postnatal depression and anxiety effect women, but few people are aware that up to 10% of new Dads can experience these struggles as well. In fact, depression affects 1 in 10 Dads between the first trimester and the year after the baby’s birth. Anxiety conditions affect 1 in 6 dads during the pregnancy and 1 in 5 Dads in the postnatal period. There are a number of ways that new Dad’s can care for themselves in order to manage the paradigm shift that a new baby can cause.
The Basic Needs
It’s easy to forget the basics when you’re caring for the basic needs of another. Be careful to eat regular and healthy meals, exercise regularly and to be creative about managing your sleep. When these basic resources are low, it is much more difficult to cope with stress, anxiety and low mood.
Remember that you are still a couple and your relationship will also need to be nurtured. Set aside a block of time each week where you can spend quality time together. At the end of each day, debrief together for 10 or so minutes. Reflect on the challenges and successes of each day.
Take note of your self-talk. How we speak to ourselves can have a big impact on how you feel and cope. Start to notice if you’re falling into the trap of making thinking errors (See this summary of thinking errors for more information). Decide whether the way you are thinking is helpful or unhelpful, and start redirecting your thinking in a more realistic and balanced way.
Engaging the help of a professional can be greatly beneficial in supporting you to care for yourself and your family in the midst of this great time of change. Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia provide a national hotline supporting women, men and new families. If you feel you require face-to-face support, the Psychologists at the Centre for Effective Living are able to assist both men and women with adjusting to parenthood.
Do you ever avoid interacting with people because you are afraid that you are ‘too awkward’ or people won’t like you? Have these thoughts ever impacted on your ability to establish meaningful friendships? Or led to difficulties interacting with colleagues? Or difficulties participating in conversations with other mothers from school?
National Psychology week is here again from November 11-17. This year, the theme is the Power of Human Connection, with a focus on helping people to improve their social skills and connections, and enhance their relationships.
In my clinical practice, I have a passion for working with people who experience low self-esteem and social anxiety. I often hear from clients who experience such express concerns that they have difficulty interacting with people or avoid social situations because they are too anxiety-provoking. It seems that self-beliefs that they are “too awkward” or have “nothing to offer” mean that they often avoid interacting in social situations, whether it be at work, with friends or with family. Often this leads to further feelings of worthlessness and provides no opportunity to either improve their social skills or learn that the interaction may go better than they anticipate. Even more so, avoiding social interactions denies people the opportunity to build healthy relationships and experience the satisfaction that comes from quality human connections. Meaningful relationships are often crucial for people’s overall well being.
If you perceive yourself to struggle with social skills or building connections with people, and have for a long time, it can understandably seem hard to begin changing the way you have interacted with people. It can be perceived as too overwhelming to begin facing situations that you have previously avoided because you feel you are too awkward or won’t connect.
In my clinical practice, it has been a privilege to be able to see client’s who have felt helpless in regards to building connection and enhancing relationships, take slow steps to confront their anxiety and build their confidence. Psychologists can assist people through therapy and skills building to build more meaningful relationships and address the barriers that can get in the way.
Saying Goodbye Well
As a trainee psychologist a memorable moment was when it was time to say goodbye to one of the courses I was taking. The trainer of the group finished with a good deal of time spent on asking us to say goodbye "properly". He laboured the point that saying goodbye was a natural part of life, and we all needed to do this well.
I have been thinking a lot about saying goodbye lately. We are moving locations as a practice and in my personal life I am also transitioning to another place. I find myself thinking to an acronym coined by David Pollock who does his work in helping people who move from one culture to another. The acronym is RAFT.
R is for Reconciliation. Thinking through the relationships that perhaps there have been things unsaid or ruptures that have yet to be repaired. This does not mean digging up all kinds of worms for yourself! These may be relationships you would like to keep ongoing. Perhaps there are certain issues that have been side-stepped in other relationships. This is a kind of making peace before moving on to the next stage.
A is for Affirmation. This is a wonderful stage of speaking kind, encouraging and affirming words to the various people in this particular location whom have been connected to you. You could send a card, a letter, or be intentional the next time you meet, to speak words of affirmation. This is a kind of parting gift.
F is for Farewell. This is the markers of the time to say goodbye. Having scheduled events with key groups of people, more intimate coffee meets for those more significant connections, posting on your FaceBook page something symbolic and reflective to signify the farewell - these are all examples. Don't forget the children! Ask them who they would like to have some time to say goodbye to, and how would they like this to happen.
T is for Think about the next destination. This is taking the time to research about, talk about, envisage about where you are going to next. Sometimes we can be avoidant about thinking about the next place. It is painful to do so. Perhaps we are concerned about getting too excited in case we are let down. Having realistic ideas about where you are going next, and also starting to prepare yourself by talking about it is a helpful stage in saying Goodbye well.
Checking in on Carers
Caring for others is a privilege that comes at a sometimes very large cost. In particular the family
and carers of those with chronic illness can experience stress, overwhelm and isolation. They may be
unable to join in regular social activities, and have trouble maintaining regular contact with friends
and extended family. Friends and family can in turn distance themselves.
Often not knowing what to say prevents people from reaching out to those who may be struggling.
This leads to further isolation and further stress for such individuals. Carers and family members may
also be reluctant to talk for fear of being a “burden” to others, being judged, blamed or
misunderstood. They may also struggle to make time for themselves whilst caring for someone else.
R U Ok is an initiative that aims to encourage meaningful conversations with those who may be
feeling overwhelmed and / or isolated. If you know someone who is caring for someone with a
chronic illness, or if you know someone with a family member who has a chronic illness, simply
spending time with them can be useful. You don’t have to have solutions to their problems but your
presence and willingness to listen may be all they need. People often underestimate the power of
simply being there for someone, especially when they have no solutions for the problem at hand.
Simply having someone listen to them or spend time with them can reduce a person’s
sense of isolation and ease their pain. A simple question as to how they are with a genuine willingness to listen can make a lot of difference. They may choose to talk or not. Either way knowing that you are willing to listen and equally willing to simply spend time with them, asking the question and then giving them the opportunity to respond as they wish whilst still accepting them, can make a lot of difference to them. Sometimes all they may want is a distraction, doing something pleasant to get their mind off things. At other times they may simply want someone to listen to them. Either way your time and willingness to listen may be all the help they need.
Mindfulness Glitter Jar
Making a glitter jar is an activity you can do with your kids to introduce them to how their mind works when experiencing difficult emotions and how to calm down during difficult times. When the glitter jar is unshaken, the glitter is settled peacefully at the bottom of the jar. You can see clearly through it.
The glitter can represent thoughts. When we’re feeling angry or upset (shake the bottle), thoughts are swirling around so we aren’t able to think clearly. Watch the glitter though, it always settles. And as
you watch the glitter settle, notice the mind settling too. When the glitter returns to the bottom of the jar, you will feel more calm and can think more clearly.
I recommend creating a glitter jar with your kids as a fun activity, then explaining to them how this amazing thing they just made can represent their thoughts and feelings, calm them down and help them feel better. I tested a few recipes out and ended up coming up with my own recipe that has
ingredients that are easy to find and suspends the glitter in a solution of water and glue that allows the glitter to fall slowly. This, I believe, encourages longer periods of meditation and has a soothing,
Ingredients For Glitter Jar
1. Jar or bottle: For the jar, I use plastic water bottles so I don’t have to worry about glass breaking.
For durability and shape, I prefer to use 11.2oz (330ml) Voss Water bottles. The labels peel off fairly easily, but you have to go slowly.
2. Glue: I really like Elmer’s Clear School Glue for my glitter jars. If you’re using the 11.2oz bottles I recommend above, one 5oz bottle contains enough glue for about 2 glitter jars.
3. Glitter: Fine glitter works best. I’ve used glitter from a glitter sample pack and we added in a few of the larger hearts and stars spangles from this Sugar Sparkles Sample Pack.
4. Water: Warm water, straight from the tap.
1. Fill your bottle about 1/8 to 1/3 full with glue. The more glue you add, the longer it will take for the glitter to settle after shaking.
2. Add glitter, start with a tablespoon or so. Take a deep breath as you watch your child pour glitter everywhere but inside the bottle. PS: a slightly damp paper towel wipes up fine glitter pretty well. A vacuum works even better.
3. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with warm water. At this step, before filling the bottle all the way, you can leave a little less than an inch of space at the top of the bottle, cap it, and shake it to see if you want to add more glitter, more glue, or just more water.
4. When the bottle is full up to the neck with water, glitter, and glue, cap it. I recommend using a hot glue gun to seal the cap closed. I did this by applying a single ring of glue all around the top threading and then screwing the cap on.
For how to use the Glitter Jar click here