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Why Perfectionism is Not Really Perfect

Perfectionism is an interesting idea. Many consider this term a compliment, some pride themselves of being a perfectionist, whilst some would even say that they wish they are a bit more of a perfectionist.  However, as a psychologist, I have to say that a huge chunk of my time is actually spent helping clients learn to be less perfect.  

People with perfectionism tend to find control an essential part of their lives. Of course, we all need to have a certain level of control to be able to operate in our daily lives effectively. However, for people with perfectionism, their sense of control is often excessive. The underlying belief is that “If I am in control, I am safe”. Therefore, they often spend an incredible amount of time trying to be in control. This can manifest in over-preparation, such as packing absolutely everything into their bag before they go out, or spending too much time reading before they start writing their university assignment. Some people might also try to be in control by following rigid internal rules, such as doing house chores in a meticulous way, or being super self-disciplined.

How to be OK with NOT being perfect

In my previous career, I spent many years focussing on error; of technique, resonance, intonation or phrasing. It was possible to rehearse endlessly, and difficult to decide when to stop. When was I finished? Sometimes all that attention to error made it difficult to enjoy music-making at all. And the only way to manage in those times was to try harder, do better. Yet trying harder could feel impossible, and quickly lead to exhaustion and avoidance cycles. Asking myself to be OK with anything less than my very best (on my very best day) would have been too uncomfortable, too vulnerable. It was a demanding and exhausting way to live, yet rewarded each time I attributed success to my perfectionism. There was distress and shame associated with living that way. Colluding with my inner demanding critic robbed me of my joy.

Rediscovering yourself in the midst of Depression

Those experiencing depression often express a sense of hopelessness or helplessness. Like no matter what direction they walk, whether they go under, over, around, or through different obstacles, nothing changes. Sometimes it can feel even worse!

So what can we do when we’re stuck there? There is good evidence to suggest that there is a close relationship between our activity and our mood. When we are feeling happy and content, we spend time with people we value, do activities that provide satisfaction and pleasure, and take up new challenges. These activities have a positive feedback loop: doing things we enjoy gives us feelings of pleasure, challenging ourselves means that we have a chance to grow, and having positive relationships with other people makes us feel connected and valued. 

Is Acceptance the Key to Treating Sleep Problem?

What happens when you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, let’s say, by 2am in the morning? You’ve been trying to fall asleep for a few hours by this point. You can hear the clock ticking away, you can hear the dog snoring, your eyes wide open, perhaps your brain feels too active, and emotionally? You are probably anxious, frustrated, or even angry.

Take a mindfulness moment for your senses

The re-entry into the post-lockdown world can be a daunting and exhausting task for some. I have noticed several clients speaking of their uncertainty about how to adjust to the outside world again. I certainly have noticed that my own social stamina is not what it used to be!

Being mindful of our social and sensory needs and limits is necessary in this adjustment phase, to ensure that we don’t find ourselves burnt out, over-committed to social events, and having our senses bombarded too intensely. Take note of when you are getting tired or overstimulated. Take a mindful break and just be with your experience in that moment.

Sleep Hygiene Handout

Many of our clients have asked how they can be preparing for lockdown ending. When we get to bed and when we get up is something we can control, and getting enough sleep has far-reaching benefits for our health and increases our capacity to face new challenges and experiences. Need a refresher on good sleep habits? We’ve put together a one-page summary to help!

Click the link to get your free resource: https://bit.ly/3DU4fVjy

Re-entry anxiety post lockdown

As we embrace the date for more freedoms in NSW, you may be detecting levels of apprehension about moving back out into the world. A phenomenon known as re-entry anxiety, or reverse culture shock, it is the experience of re-engaging in a formerly known existence after having a different experience for a long time.  It can happen to prisoners who re-enter society, people on expedition, and returning expatriates after living abroad for a while.  Essentially, our brain helps us to survive and acclimatise in situations by focusing on the information we need to have at our disposal right now, and puts away the information we do not need.  As we adapt, new scripts and pathways are written and brought to the front of our mind for ease of retrieval and execution.  You may have automated click and collect groceries as the standard way to get your pantry filled.  Having a night off from cooking would have been a click on an app experience.  For the last few months, the main form of transportation we needed were walking, and perhaps cycling. These are fairly simplified processes.  If you have been circulating around your LGA, the street sights, and the people you encounter have been somewhat uniform.  You would not have needed to use navigational skills, a range of interpersonal skills or use complete sentences (in some situations).  A grunt could suffice as you walked around in your PJs.  Unless you have been having a private rock concert at home several nights a week, you have probably acclimatised to the localised sounds and noises around your home.  These have likely been at a standard decibel level.  Further, our brains have been under a constant state of stress dealing with changing rules, lockdown concerns and vaccination race rates.  Chronic stress impacts our memory and puts our brain in a kind of fog.  Social distancing also impacts our brains as we do not have the same relational and contextual cues to guide our interpretation of events and decision making.

Your inner-Karen: Learning to defuse from critical thoughts with gentleness and humour

One aspect of therapy I really love is getting to know how people experience their inner worlds. It’s so interesting, because we are all incredibly different. While some of us have a ‘radio doom and gloom’ or ‘Sergeant-Major’ commentator, others can see the world in colour and form, with amorphous shapes of grey or bursts of colour and light.

Undoing our new normal: What to expect after lockdown

Restrictions are set to ease. With it, the hope of weekends with friends, of camping, of being with others, of diving under a wave, of picnics, of weekend brunches, of holding onto normality and never letting go. A pinch of normality seems just around the corner.

Yet for many of us, even these pleasurable and long anticipated activities will require re-adjustment, something that is often difficult for our mental health. We’ve become accustomed to living without them.  For many others, the loosening of restrictions brings with it worry or at least uncertainty, especially for those with pre-existing ailments, anxiety or medical vulnerabilities.

Two Ways To Do Conflicts Well: Acknowledging the Existence of Multiple Subjective Realities and The Practice of Assuming Similarity

One of the ways I’ve been passing the time during this lockdown is by listening to podcasts. I recently heard of a podcast with an interesting premise that has stuck with me. It is a podcast that invites two expert guests to speak about their opposing views on a big social issue. The twist is that before a person starts to argue their own perspective, they must first present the most generous, charitable version of their opponent’s argument. In this conversation, understanding and perspective-taking precedes persuasion. I think this premise could also be a game changer for handling conflicts in our relationships.

Done List

During lockdown, it can feel like productivity is drained away, as we spend more time than ever on screens, have less opportunities to see the people we care about, and parts of our daily and weekly rhythms are disrupted.

To help, we’ve put together a ‘Done List’, which, as it sounds, changes our focus from what still needs to be done, from what is hanging over our heads on our never-ending ‘To-Do List’, and instead centres our perspective on what we’ve already achieved, however small. In doing so, we can more readily remember the highlights, achievements and nice moments of our day or week, and feel motivated to add more to our list of accomplishments. Particularly in lockdown, productivity is not the key to wellbeing, but only one aspect. Take some time celebrating the opportunities you’ve made to connect with friends, enjoyed a walk or bike ride, or when you’ve met work goals or household chores.

We’ve made a template to help guide you, but it’s as simple as keeping a list (on your phone or on paper) of what you’ve achieved; eight hours of sleep, eating breakfast, getting news updates… and breaking down larger tasks into the small steps you took to achieve them; clarified with boss the vision for project, attended management meeting, wrote 1000 words on financial report. Why not give it a try this week?

click the link to get your free resource: https://bit.ly/3tHBdV7

What can we control during the uncertainty of lockdown?

The current pandemic we are in has reminded me that as humans we really don’t like ambiguity and uncertainty – we like to have answers to our questions; solutions to our problems; explanations to situations. Many of us find it distressing when faced with the unknown. In psychology, the term for this is ‘Cognitive Closure’, which describes humans’ desire to eliminate ambiguity and arrive at definite conclusions.


“Hands up if you live a busy life?” I think if I asked this question in any group of audience nowadays, the proportion of people who raise their hands is likely to be close to 100%. It is a fact that most of us live a busy life. We have come a long way from the simpler lifestyle that our grandparents might have lived. Living in a world that is dominated by the power of the internet, qualitative changes have taken place in the way we live. We are expected to be connected with our work 24/7, we are constantly reminded of what others expect of us in the way we look, the way our house looks, the type of parents we are, the level of achievements our kids have, and so on. And while being connected with our family and friends on social media is nice and convenient, we are also inevitably impacted by comparisons with images that others choose to present themselves with.

Paint-by-numbers: A sense of achievement in the time of COVID19

“What is your ‘COVID hobby’?”, “Have you tried anything new recently?”, “How are you spending lockdown?”. These are questions that I have often heard in conversation with family and friends over the past few weeks. With changes to routine and lifestyle over the past few weeks, many have turned to trying new activities or finding creative ways to spend their time. For myself, ‘paint-by-numbers' has been the new activity that I have tried during lockdown. It has occupied numerous hours over the past few weeks and I have found it helpful for relaxation.

Interrupting the sound of silence

Sometimes it’s not the things that are said that hurt our relationships the most, but rather the silence. It can be difficult to articulate our hurt or needs to friends, family, and spouses. We shy away from communicating because we’re scared of what honesty might do to the relationship. That it’ll be easier just to hold it in until we get over it. That we’re making too big of a deal of how we feel. Or, that they simply won’t understand. But how often does this help us? 

Worry Beliefs Checklist

Have you ever thought about why you worry? Most of us believe that worry is helping us somehow, even if we would like to worry less. We start to believe that hypothetical outcomes are real and that by doing mental heavy-lifting, we can protect ourselves. Worry has been described as an elaboration of negative future potential outcomes as well as a mental attempt at problem solving.

Stop, Slow Down, and Smell the Roses

“Why are they walking so slowly?!!” “Get out of the way!” “How long does it take to make a latte?!”

We find slowness tough to tolerate in most contexts: slow drivers, slow service at a restaurant, slow internet, slow responses to an important text or email. Yet back In 2006, the average online shopper was happy to wait 4 seconds for a website to load (Akamai Technologies and Jupiter Research, 2006). Now, we’re frustrated if it isn’t instantaneous.”

Giving Importance To Mothers, By Mothers

One of the most difficult tasks in the world—if not the hardest—is being a mother. A mother's love is one of the most natural and most unconditional forms of love. It is without a doubt that mothers tend to think of their family first before themselves. Yet, all mothers are human, too, and need to look after themselves as well. Some may think that the top priority is the nurturing for their family, which is not wrong, but mothers also need time for themselves.

Childhood Challenges

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on Australia’s Children (2020) indicated that in 2013-2014 almost 14% of 4-11-year-olds experienced mental illness, and in 2015 7.4% of 0-14-year-olds had some level of disability.

It is no surprise then that many enquiries are made for children with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Anxiety. These children face additional challenges as they develop and grow, which often impacts their wellbeing. Understandably causing concern for caregivers.

Online resources to support teenage development

Everyone needs some form of support, but teenagers are one of the demographics that need it the most. Teenagers need both support and knowledge as they learn to engage with the world, and parents are a vital source of information for teens for areas they are not familiar with.

Here at the Centre for Effective Living, we have put together some recommended online resources that are perfect for parents to engage with to feel better equipped to support their teen. What is more, these sites can spark opportunities to share and discuss valuable information, as teens live their lives in both the real world and the virtual world.

Will I ever be ‘cured’ of my anxiety?

For those who experience persistent, disabling or overwhelming anxiety it is normal to wonder if it will ever fully go away. However, while there are excellent, evidence-based treatments available to help manage anxiety, it wouldn’t be right to say that we could absolutely ‘cure’ it.

Taking a stand against fat talk

Fat talk – negative words we say to put down our own bodies – is sadly an all too common conversation topic today. An overwhelming number of both men and women report regularly engaging in fat talk with their friends and family. Once you start noticing it, you will hear it everywhere - women in the bathroom or a dressing room trying on clothes, men at the gym wanting to gain more muscle, high schoolers scrolling through heavily filtered, staged and Photoshopped pictures on Instagram, and on TV, on the radio or in magazines.

Tolerating the uncertainty

Uncertainty is a feeling that makes many people uncomfortable and that many people struggle to tolerate. People who struggle with tolerating uncertainty often perceive uncertainty, unpredictability and doubt as awful and unbearable experiences. They often describe feeling like they cannot cope with not knowing. 

Uncertainty can lead to worrying, as one tries to reduce the uncertainty through attempts to plan and prepare for possible negative events. Unfortunately, this rarely leads to feeling better or feeling more control. Rather it can lead to more worrying, along with heightened anxiety and stress. 

Looking out for Future You

Often our default is to think about making our lives easier now, to the detriment of our future selves. We find what is convenient now, and leave our future self to get things done. In the moment, putting off exercise, difficult work tasks, and household chores can feel really good!

But later that day or week, our future self is left to pick up the pieces and is usually pretty unhappy about it. So why is it so hard to learn from this?

Practicing what we teach – how psychology impacts psychologists

No one lives a life without some level of stress, conflict, or difficulty. The same is true for psychologists – and fortunately, the very techniques and skills that form the body of evidence-based practices that we use with our clients – also work for us!

When asked about how the psychologists on our team manage stress and difficult situations – these were some of the tips and strategies we identified as most helpful (you might recognise a few!)

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Jumping to conclusions about how much it will impact our health is not beneficial when this problem is not considered chronic. When we think about many new mums who consistently have very little sleep for the first few years of their child’s life, we realise that lack of sleep is natural and part of the human experience. #Sleep #Wellness #Psychology ... See MoreSee Less
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Permitting to feel your emotions without judgment will process the deeper meaning behind it and may alleviate some of the sadness. Increasing our awareness about our feelings, we can process these feelings with compassion. With self-soothing and reminding that we are human beings and allow us feel a range of emotions which is okay. #selfcare #mentalhealth #psychology ... See MoreSee Less
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Striving to achieve a high standard is not a bad thing when it’s not damaging to your mental health.On this blog, Jennifer Chu talks about perfectionism and how it can sometimes be a problem. Click the link below to read more.bit.ly/3D7WsSV#Perfectionism #MentalHealth ... See MoreSee Less
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Friendships and attachments are essential. Because they contribute to our overall well-being, a lack of friends or poor, superficial friendships can damage your mental health. By taking baby steps toward your goal, you may feel motivated to move forward with forming close connections. #friendship #connection #psychology ... See MoreSee Less
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The science is solid that the benefits of meditation occur only through constant practice. Start slow and gradually build up your meditation. #meditation #selfcare #wellbeing ... See MoreSee Less
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