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Mindfulness for the Whole Family

Posted on 1 June, 2021 at 22:40

Written by Jessica Parker (May 2021) 


Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness. Mindfulness has so many benefits to both physical and mental health, one researcher went as far as to say that he believes the practise of daily mindfulness will be seen as important for one’s health as diet and exercise.


Children and adults of all ages can benefit from mindfulness; however, children are uniquely suited to benefit from mindfulness practice. Habits formed early in life will inform behaviours in adulthood, and with mindfulness, we have the opportunity to give our children the habit of being peaceful, kind and accepting.


There are many ways to incorporate Mindfulness practise into our lives that the whole family can enjoy together. My favourite is Mindfulness eating. This involves using all our 5 senses to be completely present while eating. When doing this with younger children I like to get them to pretend that we are aliens from outer space who have never encountered this food before. Let’s imagine we do this exercise with an orange. We could notice the texture and shape of the orange, hold it up to the light and see if we can see through the segments. We could smell it, we can smell our hands and notice the zesty fragrance has transferred to our fingers. We could take a bite and hold a piece in our mouth and notice the texture and flavour and notice how our tongue automatically moves the orange around and how our mouth starts to water. As we swallow, we can notice the feeling in our body. With this attitude of curiosity and non-judgement, we can turn endless activities into mindfulness practise.


I challenge you to think about what other everyday activities that you could turn into mindfulness moments for your family to be present with. Have fun!

 


How to Support a Loved One with an Alcohol or Other Drug Problem

Posted on 3 April, 2021 at 4:55

Written by Melissa Copeman (April 2021)


Having someone you care about misuse alcohol or other drugs can be confusing and distressing. Harm not only occurs to the person misusing the substance but to their families as well. Relationships deteriorate, there is often financial difficulties, and there may be abusive behaviour towards you. Recent statistics from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey show us whilst some illicit drug use is at an all time high, alcohol use has decreased in men over 18 years of age. However 1 in 4 Australians are drinking alcohol at risky levels, and 1 in 10 people will experience alcohol dependence.


Whilst many feel helpless and frustrated when trying to support loved ones through their addiction or recovery, there are some very effective and positive things you can do to help:


• Be armed with knowledge. Research the signs of abuse or dependence, as well the various treatment options available. Do a bit of the initial leg work so that when you talk to your loved one, you have all the relevant information at hand


• Listen non-judgementally and talk through your concerns in a calm and caring manner. Be specific about what worries you, what you see in their behaviour or attitude. Most people will be very sensitive to being judged and if they feel they are, they might not be willing to listen to anything you have to say


• Choose a time to talk when your loved one has not been drinking or using drugs


• Know the difference between support and enabling. Supporting someone means you hold them to account for their behaviour and you let them experience the natural consequences of their behaviour. You assist them to get help, but don’t do everything for them. Enabling your loved one, for example, might be if you make excuses for them when they have been drinking or using drugs, or if you were to give them money when they have spent all their money or alcohol or drugs. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own behaviour.


• If your loved one is dependent on the substance, it’s really important to understand that addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition, therefore, relapse is often a part of the process and shouldn’t be seen as a failure. You can help your loved one by understanding the process of addiction and recovery and help them to see that they can learn from a relapse so that they can put strategies in place to make different choices in the future


• Get your own support too. It can be extremely emotionally draining supporting someone through these issues. Make sure you are looking after yourself and make time to do the things that help you to live a fulfilled life

 

 

 


5 Common Traits of Healthy Relationships

Posted on 9 March, 2021 at 3:45

Written by Jessica Parker (February 2021)


As we finish up the month of love, lets look at some of the most common traits of healthy relationships and some of the ways that you can introduce them into your own relationships.


1. Showing Affection: Affection is the Number One reason couples seek therapy (Doss et al., 2004). Affection in relationships is essential to get a feeling of satisfaction and support from your partner. A few simple ways to show your partner more affection is to give your partner your undivided attention when he or she is talking to you, make eye contact, give them a hug or just add a little more loving touch to your daily life. A little bit of affection can go a long way.


2. Communication: Effective communication in a relationship not only helps the couple make sure their needs are being met, but it also helps you to be more connected to each other. To improve communication, make sure you say what you mean, and make your feelings and your needs clear. While it may be tempting to avoid conflict, there is no substitute for the trust that is built in a relationship with open communication.


3. Making up after an argument: While we are all human and conflicts do happen in all relationships, the signs of a healthy relationship is the couples attempts at making a repair after a rupture. After an argument has happened try cooling off, apologise, validate your partners feelings and attempt to understand what may have triggered the conflict in the first place.


4. Appreciation: Couples in healthy relationships tend to feel gratitude not only to what their partner does, but who they are as a person. Research has found that showing appreciation can prompt both partners to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships. One way to incorporate more appreciation into your relationship is before bed name one thing that you appreciated about the other person that day.


5. Sharing your dreams for the future: We all have dreams and desires that we want to share with the people we love. One thing that successful relationships have in common is that the couples in them make plans for the future. Making plans builds a bond and a stronger sense of security. So sit down with your glass of wine or cup of coffee and share those wishes for the future.

 


Relationships

Posted on 9 March, 2021 at 3:30

Written by Colette Dekker (February 2021)


With our busy lifestyles, maintaining a work-life balance during a relationship, could be challenging. All too many find it difficult to put their partner first. Then how do one balance the increasing demands of a career with the real-life responsibilities involved in maintaining a happy long-term romantic relationship?


Here is some practical (some obvious) advice:


1. Be completely present.

Think about it. How many times have you been with someone you care about, but at the same time you're:

  • Scrolling endlessly through your Facebook newsfeed
  • Thinking about what you have to do tomorrow
  • Half listening to them
  • Talking nonstop about your projects, and neglecting to ask them about their day

2. Keep things black and white.

When you're at work, work. When you're not at work, stop working. Make your home an asylum where you can escape the day-to-day madness.

It's okay for the two of you to get some extra work done in the evening, as long as you have set aside designated time for your partner. When you get home from a long day, your first instinct shouldn't be to open your laptop and continue working. Take some time to reconnect and recharge with your partner.

If there are kids, schedule “us” time after they went to bed. Unwind together.

Your bedroom is your sanctuary, and therefore a no work zone. Make the rule of no phones and no laptops in bed.


3. Stop glorifying 'busy.'

When people ask how you are, do you automatically reply with, "So busy!" as if it that were the highest-value state you could be in?

If it is, stop filling your calendar with low-leverage work and start adding your partner into it more often. Create non-negotiable dates with your partner and make a physical or digital reminder for yourself, this way you are more likely to take those dates seriously. You'll start treating date night as a priority and be less likely to forget about it.


4. Create more time.

Open up your schedule for your relationship by outsourcing mundane tasks. Hire a cleaning service, have healthy meals delivered to your doorstep or hire a personal trainer to get you up earlier in the day for your workout.

All of these things add up to more hours available to spend with your partner. And, if and when something does come up with work, your partner will be more supportive of your taking time off to deal with it.


5. Be proud of your relationship.

Consider your relationship goals as important as those for your career, and celebrate your successes when you reach significant milestones.

A successful relationship comes with hard work, so don't be afraid to show off a little.


Undoubtedly, you know several entrepreneurs who have divorced several times. And almost always the reason is a drop in communication. So, don't suffer the same fate. Ultimately, what good is a life full of business success when you have no one to share it with?


In the end, putting effort into your relationship will result in your emotional and physical health as well as a thriving career.

 

 

 

The Benefits of Playing Video Games

Posted on 24 November, 2020 at 21:30

Written by Jessica Parker (October 2020) 


Picture this scenario, you have just called your child down for dinner and you are met with a reply somewhere along the lines of ‘Ah mum I’m in the middle of a game, 10 more minutes please!’ Sound familiar? Most parents worry that their children and teens are playing too many games and are going to be negatively affected by them. It’s completely common to worry as video games have been under fire by critics ever since they first appeared. If you had to Google "harmful effects of video games," you will find all sorts of scary articles. So, the question is are these negative claims true or are there actually benefits to playing video games?

 

Looking into the actual research that has been done on the impact of video games, you find a very limited amount of evidence of any negative impact and in fact, considerable evidence against those claims. There are several well-controlled research studies that document positive effects of video games on mental development. In fact, video games are highly stimulating utilizing nearly all parts of the human brain and leads to high level thinking as well as the development of fine motor skills. With the intensity and complexity of each game comes quick analysis, thinking, strategizing, learning to deal with stress and inductive reasoning followed by hypothesis testing (Tumbokon, 2018). Research has also shown the cognitive benefits of video games such as, improvements in basic visual processes, improvements in attention and vigilance and improvements in executive functioning. We also see a number of findings which show that video games can help those who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder (APD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Excitingly, there is also a lot of research currently being done of the therapeutic use of video games.

 

Of course, however, not all screen time is created equal. We know for example the damaging effects social media can have on a child’s self esteem and sense of worth. My suggestion would be to consider quality over quantity. Get to know what your child or teen enjoys doing with their screen time, are they playing stimulating, engaging games or are they mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. This can be a wonderful opportunity for bonding time with your child or teen as well. Ask them questions and get to understand their games with genuine interest and curiosity rather than negativity and scepticism and you will be amazed at what you learn.

 

Am I an Introvert or Could It be Social Anxiety?

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 7:00

Written by Jessica Parker (August 2020)


Have you ever wondered if your Shyness or Introversion is a little out of the ordinary, perhaps a friend or family member has expressed some concern about your avoidance of certain social situations? Well you are not alone. Working in private practice I often see people, particularly young adults who are trying to find their place in the world, come in feeling distressed that being ‘introverted’ is affecting their work, family, and/or social lives.


So, what is the difference between being an Introvert and having social anxiety?

 

Well Introversion is a trait, meaning it is part of your inborn personality. Introverts simply prefer to unwind with more solo, often quiet activities. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to recharge by spending time alone. There are lots of strengths and benefits to being an introvert.


However, if you feel that your choice to avoid certain social activities is more fear driven, then it could be social anxiety.


What is Social anxiety?


While many of us feel some anxiety from time to time, whether it be giving a big presentation or going for a job interview. Social anxiety involves intense fear and avoidance of certain social situations that interferes with daily routine, work, school, or other activities. These situations are often so distressing that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them. Situations that are commonly feared by people with social anxiety include: Talking in front of others, attending parties, talking to strangers, eating in front of others, waiting in line, talking on the phone and speaking to people in authority.


The feared situation usually creates an immediate anxiety response. The symptoms of social anxiety include: Blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, trouble catching your breath, dizziness and feeling that your mind has gone blank.

 

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Intense fear of talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing or sweating
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
  • Spending time after a social situation analysing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

 

The good news is that psychotherapy has been shown to effectively treat social anxiety disorder. While the above is not to be a substitute for a professional psychological diagnosis, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be useful to see a mental health professional who will create an individualised treatment plan to help you effectively cope with your anxiety.


Anxiety and Stimming

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 6:50

Written by Colette Dekker (August 2020)


We have all seen people tapping feet or moving legs or even tapping fingers when thinking or being stressed. What about shouting and clapping hands, jumping up and down when they are happy? These are all know as stimming or “self-stimulatory behaviour”. Everyone of us stims from time to time, however stimming is most commonly associated with autism.

 

One of my young ASD clients explained to me that when he realises that he cannot deal with the situation he is in; he uses his stimming to let the people around him know that he is not ok.

 

Stimming can be healthy. These healthy stimming helps ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) people to deal with sensory overload and anxiety in a positive way. The repetitive behaviours feel good and may counteract an overwhelming sensory environment or may alleviate high levels of internal anxiety even in people without ASD. Next time look around when watching a game of football – you will see people pacing, standing, moving legs, slapping hands on legs ect. just before the match-winning kick.

 

On the other side, there are the uncontrollable stims. These stims occur overly in inappropriate settings, and may prevent a person from socially acceptable interaction and needs intervention.

 

Far more serious are unhealthy stims like self-injurious behaviours such as hair pulling, biting, hitting oneself, hitting the head against something in a harmful way, or picking/nail biting to the point of injury. People whom engage in self-injurious stimulation probably do so because their overload or source of anxiety is so overwhelming, it requires a much more serious stimulation to block it out.

 

There are ways to help people whom engage in harmful stims, these include:

 

1. Removing the cause: remove the stimulus that is causing the overload. The ideal is to recognise the triggers/stressors and remove them BEFORE the overload happens and harmful stimming starts. This comes back to where my client explained that his stimming is to inform others that he is not dealing with the situation. It can remain as just rocking backwards and forwards, however, should the stressor not be removed, this could escalate into unhealthy or harmful stimming such as hair pulling or hitting self.

 

2. Redirect to something less harmful: should it be impossible to remove the overload stressor or if you cannot figure out what it is, then redirecting the behaviour whilst still addressing the need for stimulation is key. These can be as simple as rocking on a chair or jumping. If the stimming is harmful behaviour, then choosing other painful but safe coping stims like holding an ice cube or listening to loud music, even drawing on a piece of paper until it is totally black, might be good options. The key here is knowing the person in order to find something that works which isn’t harmful.


Depression in Men

Posted on 1 July, 2020 at 19:30

Written by Jessica Parker (June 2020)


Mental illness is extremely common. According to the Black Dog Institute one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. However, studies have shown that a large proportion of men do not seek treatment for mental health issues.


Although men and women both experience depression, their symptoms can sometimes be different. Men who are depressed often appear to be angry, irritable, or aggressive rather than sad and therefore those around them including doctors may not recognise the anger as depression. Men have also been found to be less likely than woman to recognise and talk about the depression symptoms in themselves.


So how can we recognise symptoms of depression in men? Of course, as we know everyone is different and different men may experience depression symptoms differently, but some common symptoms of depression in men include:


• Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

• Feeling anxious, restless or ‘on edge’

• Loss of interest in work, family, or leisure activities

• Feeling down, flat, empty, or hopeless

• Difficulty concentrating or being forgetful

• Feeling tired, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much

• Overeating or not wanting to eat

• Thoughts of suicide

• Physical aches, headaches, or digestive problems

• A need for alcohol or drugs

• Engaging in high risk activities

• Failing to meet deadlines at work or inability to meet family responsibilities

• Withdrawing from family or friends or becoming isolated


It’s important to remember that not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. Experiencing a few of the above symptoms may be an indicator that you could benefit from seeking treatment.


If you think your loved one may have depression, you can support him by helping him find a Doctor, talking to a primary care provider is often a good first step in learning about and treating depression. You can also offer him your support and patience.

Self-care for Frontline Workers during COVID-19

Posted on 1 June, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Melissa Copeman (June 2020)


While a lot of us are starting to (hopefully!) see the light at the end of this COVID tunnel, our frontline workers continue to face the ongoing demands and challenges of working in the coalface of a worldwide pandemic. These are our Doctors, Nurses, Police and Emergency Service personnel who routinely risk their own health and safety to reduce the risk to ours. You know how the saying goes... Not all Superheroes wear capes!!!!!! Given the role they play, it is vital our frontline workers prioritise their own wellbeing. In order to achieve this, here are a few simple tips:

 

 

  • Recognise your own stress markers and acknowledge if you need to get some support
  • Educate yourself on the support options available to you
  • Attend your GP for advice and referral to a Psychologist if needed
  • Exercise regularly, eat well and get adequate rest and sleep
  • Take regular breaks, even if it is for 10 minutes during your work day
  • Leave work at work, avoid taking calls and checking emails after you have finished your shift
  • Avoid the use of alcohol at the end of your work day
  • Schedule plenty of enjoyable activities outside of work, such as going on a beach walk, whale watching, hiking, socialising with a small group of friends
  • Spend quality time with those you love
  • Engage in some mindfulness practice


Thank you for your service, Frontline workers! Take good care of yourselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couples: A Healthy Relationship in Isolation

Posted on 14 May, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Colette Dekker (May 2020) Going from simply living together to spending every waking moment together can be demanding on a relationship. But this isolation is not meant to cause distance between you and your partner, but rather strengthen the bond

Wishing to avoid the drama that comes with constant cohabitation as a result of COVID-19? Try these tips to keep both yourself and your relationship healthy while in isolation.


1. Create routines - individual and shared:

Maintaining some structure to your days can help with sustaining your own mental health, as well as that of your partner’s.

Whether you are working from home or just living together, try to go to bed at a reasonable time and get up the same time every morning.

Having a “together” schedule as well as some personal day-to-day routines is important under isolation.

Create a no-go zone (in the house or in the garden) where you are explicitly allowed an hour of uninterrupted me time per day.

Schedule some joint activities into your day-to-day routine such as a coffee or lunch break together as a couple and/or family. This will give you something to focus on and create the experience of re-grouping after spending time on separate tasks specially if working from home.


2. Spend time alone:

In addition of having separate routines, is the importance of setting aside time to be completely by yourself – connecting with friends and family online and participate in activities separated from your partner as much as possible.

These times spend doing things on your own makes coming together for meals/coffee/relaxation more rewarding as you had time apart engaging in something outside your isolation bubble.


3. Maintain open communication:

Being physically together, doesn’t mean you're spending that time talking and listening.

Uncertain times bring anxiety and sometimes frustration over the situation that you have no control over. To avoid the risk of projecting anxiety onto your partner, talk openly with each other about your own anxieties and be open to feedback.

For serious conversation – find a time and space where you are both relaxed and comfortable and able to talk uninterrupted.

For daily communication - In your schedule set aside a time each day to sit and talk. Write down different topics and put them in a box. Pic a topic from the box each day.

Play board or card games. Playing games encourage communication.

Do a daily gratitude diary at dinner time.


4. Keep date night:

All the times before, with work, home and social distractions, intimacy has taken a backseat, but now could be a great time to rediscover the passion you have for each other.

Have some make-believe fun by getting dressed up. Set the table for two for a romantic dinner with candles and music. Whether you are cooking or ordering a take-out, enjoy some special quiet time together.

Make a bed in front of the TV, pop some popcorn and watch a movie or just snuggle up and have an evening of chatting.

 


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