AusPsychology Blog

The Counselling Process

Psychology in recent times has gained significantly in terms of acceptance with the general public compared with the perceptions held by them twenty or so years ago. While there may be some resistance in certain people who lack an understanding of the benefits involved, regular counselling has proved to be beneficial for a wide range of issues. There are very few, if any, personal situations that cannot be improved by working with a psychologist trained and qualified in the particular area in question.

The first counselling session is generally an introductory process where the patient meets with their psychologist who establishes with them the purpose of their visit. Through a series of questions, the psychologist gets background information that enables issues to be framed within a context. Working with the patient, some goals are set that may remain the same throughout, but can also change over time as the person removes barriers and sees more possibilities for themselves.

Too Much Too Soon – Unrealistic Expectations

Some people expect too much at the first session and are disappointed when major changes don’t manifest themselves immediately. Issues may seem simple on the surface, but on initial examination, open up more complex problems that have occurred as a result of emotional damage during childhood. These can take many sessions to work through, depending on the severity of the problem. Benefits depend on the person’s willingness to work with their psychologist and to use the tools and techniques given to them outside the treatment room.

Attending counselling is no different from any other endeavour. People get out of counselling what they are willing to put in. When they co-operate with their psychologists and work hard at the process, they gain the maximum benefits and visible change can be quite rapid. Some people are quite surprised at how much better they feel after one or two sessions. Even the process of discussing their problems objectively with someone else can relieve anxiety and generate a feeling of optimism about the future.

Open Communication and Honesty with Emotions Give Best Results

Generally, the people who have the most difficulty at counselling sessions, and who take the longest to see results, are those who struggle to express their feelings and show emotion. They may have come from a culture or family where being open about feelings is considered a sign of weakness and discouraged back in childhood. They may struggle with confronting the people or situations that lead them to this point, or they may not have been encouraged to try new things for fear of failure.

There are as many scenarios that bring people to counselling as there are human emotions. Every session is different and depends on the individual. For the apprehensive, there is one thing to remember about the benefits of counselling. Psychologists are trained professionals who want to help people reach their full potential and live a happy and fulfilling life. Spending a few sessions with someone who will not only listen but give guidance and coaching can be the beginning of something exciting and unexpected.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and your relationship

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterised by obsessive or repetitive behavioural and mental compulsions. To date, the causes of OCD are not fully understood. Research indicates there are a variety of psychological and biological factors that may be involved in causing obsessive compulsive syndromes but that these vary from person to person.

Generally, it is understood that OCD is caused by chemical, structural and functional abnormalities in the brain that may be affected by stressful life events, hormonal changes and personality traits in individuals.

A person who suffers from OCD may display a variety of symptoms. Common obsessions include;

  • fear of germs or people
  • intrusive sexual thoughts
  • fixation with symmetry
  • or intense, irrational phobias

A few common compulsions include washing, cleaning, hoarding, counting, or any other repeated routine activity or action.

OCD symptoms can be alienating and time-consuming, causing severe emotional and financial distress that can significantly impact upon an individual’s quality of life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects not only the sufferer, but their friends and family as well. In particular, OCD can put a strain on a person’s relationship with their partner. An OCD sufferer may expect their partner to comply with their compulsions – insisting they wash their hands or preform some other action repeatedly. Partners may not understand these compulsions and often find it frustrating to comply with OCD demands. Noncompliance may cause anxiety in the OCD person, who may then act out in desperation.

Most people with OCD are aware that their behaviours are irrational but find the obsessions uncontrollable and the compulsions difficult to control. Counselling is often the best option for OCD sufferers and their partners. Professional counselling can help people with OCD manage their compulsions as well as improve the communication with their partners.

Currently, the most effective treatments are cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), community support and recovery programs. A combination of treatments under the guidance of a skilled and experienced psychologist is likely to produce the best outcome.

AusPsychology offers professional counselling services to residents in Brisbane and the surrounding areas. Their experienced counsellors can help you manage your OCD and work towards better relationships with your partner.

If you would like to talk to someone about counselling for OCD, contact the professional counsellors at AusPsychology today.

Posted in Relationships | 46 Comments

Communication – a fundamental ingredient in a successful relationship

It’s a well-known fact that communication is a key ingredient in a successful marriage. Without effective communication, a couple is unable to discuss important issues and resolve their disagreements. This can often lead to feelings of detachment, anger or resentment in the long term. Although I refer to communication in relationships these tips are equally important in any important relationship in your life.

Communication can be tough, especially if it is with someone you have been in a relationship with for a long time. After a while, couples get comfortable with each other and, as a result, the level of communication tends to decrease. Assuming your partner already knows something or not taking the time to communicate with them can lead to a relationship breakdown over time.

Comfort should not equal less communication. There are many issues that may arise if you don’t keep yourself open and make an effort to communicate with your partner. Follow these simple tips to keep the communication lines open between you and your partner.

1. Never Assume

It’s important not to assume something unless you’ve communicated directly with your partner about it. This could be anything from a roster of household chores, to making assumptions about the way your partner thinks or feels about a particular issue. If you’re unsure, ask your partner and avoid arguments or misunderstandings.

2. Say what you mean

If you have something to say, say it. But make sure you’re clear with your communication and that you’re actually getting the right message across. There’s nothing more confusing (and frustrating) than receiving conflicting messages from your partner. In some cases, it may even help to write your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper. By writing it down you are able to construct your thoughts in a clear and concise way and ensure you’re getting all the important bits of information across.

3. Don’t be afraid of a disagreement

If you disagree with something your partner has said or done, you should let them know in a calm and reasonable manner.  Don’t avoid these conversations for fear of a disagreement. While a disagreement may be difficult to deal with in the short term, an open dialogue about such issues will do wonders for your relationship in the long run. By staying quiet about issues that are important to you, you will only become resentful and angry.

4. Communicate the good, not just the bad

Communication in relationships is not just important when there is an issue to address. If you have something good to say about your partner, say it loud and often. By communicating feelings of love and appreciation with your partner you will nurture the love and trust in your relationship.

5. Make time to communicate

With work and kids and extra curriculum activities it’s easy to see how some couples can’t find the time to communicate with each other. It’s very important you set aside some time on a regular basis to reconnect and communicate with your partner. This may be every day or simply on a weekly basis. Make sure you shut off all electronics and remove yourself from distractions to really focus on what each other has to say.

AusPsychology offers professional counselling services to people having communication difficulties. Their experienced counsellors can help you improve your communication skills and work towards better relationships with your partner or significant others. If you would like to talk to someone about communication in your relationship/s, contact AusPsychology today.

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Work Stress Management Advice

 

 What can you do?

  •     Top 10 Stress busters
  •       Relaxation tips
  •       Good Time Management techniques

 

Top 10 Stress-busting techniques

 Be active

If you have a stress-related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. Sometimes speaking to a counsellor can help with this process. To deal with stress effectively, you need to feel robust and you need to feel strong mentally. Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Take Control

There’s a solution to any problem. If you remain passive, thinking I can’t do anything about my problem, your stress will get worse. That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else. Addressing your time management might be helpful or seeking professional help might be your choice of “doing something about your stress”.

Connect with People

A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever. Talking about things with friends can also help you to find solutions to your problems.

Have some me time

You have to have a good work-life-balance. We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise. Set aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. By earmarking one or two days means you won’t be tempted to work overtime on those days.

Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress. By constantly challenging yourself you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life. By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person. It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.

Avoid unhealthy habits

Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking or caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long-term these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. It’s like putting your head in the sand. You need to tackle the cause of your stress to see positive change.

Do volunteer work

Evidence shows that people who help others, whether it is friends or strangers, can gain resilience. Helping others that are in a worse position than yours can help you put your problems into perspective. On a more basic level, do someone a favour every day. These favours might be helping someone cross the road or going out on a coffee run for your work colleagues. Favours cost nothing to do and you’ll feel better.

Work smarter, not harder

Good time management means quality work rather than a quantity of work. Our long hour working culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. You need a work-life balance that suits you. Working smarter means prioritising your work and concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. Leave the least important tasks till last. Accept that your in-tray will rarely be empty at the end of the day.

Be positive

Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of the day which went well or for which you are grateful. Sometimes we lose sight of what we have. Try to look at the glass as being half full rather than half empty. This can be done by making a conscious effort to train yourself to think more positively. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective you will see your situation differently. Perhaps see it from a more positive perspective.

Accept the things you can’t change

Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over. If your company is going under and is making redundancies, there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no point fighting it. In such a situation, you need to focus on the things that you can control such as looking for a new job.

 

Relaxation tips

Relaxed breathing

Practise deep breathing at a regular time and in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Loosen or remove any tight clothes you have on, such as shoes or jackets. Make yourself feel completely comfortable.

Sitting in a comfy chair with head support or lying on the floor or a bed is best. Place your arms on the chair arms, or flat on the floor or bed, a little bit away from the side of your body with the palms up. If you’re lying down, stretch out your legs, keeping them hip-width apart or slightly wider. If you’re sitting in a chair, don’t cross your legs.

Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing. The way to do it is to breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down.

  • Fill up the whole of your lungs with air, without forcing.  Imagine you’re filling up a bottle so that your lungs fill from the bottom.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Breathe in slowly and regularly counting from online casino one to five (don’t worry if you can’t reach five at first)
  • Let the breath escape slowly, counting from one to five
  • Keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe without pausing or holding your breath

Practise this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day (or whenever you feel stressed)

Deep Muscle Relaxation

This technique takes around 20 minutes. It stretches different muscles in turn and then relaxes them, to release tension from the body and relax your mind.

Find a cool, comfortable quiet place with no distractions. Get completely comfortable, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and begin by focusing on your breathing; breathing slowly and deeply, as described above.

If you have pain in certain muscles, or if there are muscles that you find it difficult to focus on, spend more time on relaxing other parts. You may want to play some soothing music to help relaxation. As with all relaxation techniques, deep muscle relaxation will require a bit of practice before you start feeling its benefits.

For each exercise, hold the stretch for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat it a couple of times. It’s useful to keep to the same order as you work through the muscle groups;

  • Face- push the eyebrows together, as though frowning, then release
  • Neck – gently tilt the head forwards, pushing chin down towards chest, then slowly lift it again
  • Shoulders – pull them up towards the ears (shrug), then relax them down towards the feet
  • Chest – breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm (below your bottom rib) so that you’re using the whole of the lungs. Then breathe slowly out, allowing the belly to deflate as all the air is exhaled.
  • Arms – stretch the arms away from the body, reach, then relax
  •  Legs – push the toes away from the body, then pull them towards body, then relax
  • Wrists and hands – stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax

 Spend some time lying quietly after your relaxation with your eyes closed. When you feel ready, stretch and get up slowly.

 

Good Time Management  techniques

 Good time management is essential for coping with the pressures of modern life without experiencing too much stress.

If you never have enough time to finish your tasks, better time management will help you regain control of your day. Good time management doesn”t mean you do more work. It means you focus on the tasks that matter and will make a difference. Whether it’s in your job or your lifestyle as a whole, learning how to manage your time effectively will help you feel more relaxed, focused and in control. The aim of good time management is to achieve the lifestyle balance you want.

Here are some tips for better time management:

Work out your goals

This first step towards improving your time management is to ask yourself some questions. Work out who you want to be, your priorities in life, and what you want to achieve in your career or personal life. That is then the guiding principle for how you spend your time and how you manage it. Once you have worked out the big picture, even if it”s quite general, you can then work out some short-term and medium-term goals.  Knowing your goals will help you plan better and focus on the things that will help you achieve those goals.

Make a list

A common time-management mistake is trying to remember too many details, leading to information overload. A better way to stay organised and take control of your projects and tasks is to use a to-do list to write things down. Try it and see what works best for you. It is preferable to keep a single to-do list, to avoid losing track of multiple lists. Keeping a list will help you work out your priorities and timings, so it can help you put off the non-urgent tasks.

Work smarter, not harder

Good time management at work means doing high-quality work, not high quantity work. Concentrate not on how busy you are but on results. Spending more time on something doesn’t necessarily achieve more. Staying an extra hour at work at the end of the day may not be the most effective way to manage your time. You may feel resentful about being in the office after hours. You’re also likely to be less productive and frustrated about how little you’re achieving, which will compound your stress.

Have a lunch break

Many people work through their lunch break to gain an extra hour at work, but that can be counter-productive.  As a general rule, taking at least 30 minutes away from your desk will help you to be more effective in the afternoon.  A break is an opportunity to relax and think of something other than work. Go for a walk outdoors or, better still, do some exercise.  You’ll come back to your desk re-energised, with a new set of eyes and renewed focus. Planning your day with a midday break will also help you to break up your work into more manageable chunks.

Prioritise important tasks

Tasks can be grouped in four categories:

  • urgent and important
  • not urgent but important
  • urgent but not important
  • neither urgent nor important

When the phone rings, it seems urgent to pick it up but it’s not necessarily important. It may be more important to continue with what you were doing rather than be distracted by a phone call. When it is appropriate, it may be more effective to let your voicemail pick up the message. People with good time management create time to concentrate on non-urgent, important activities. By so doing, they minimise the chances of activities ever becoming urgent and important. “The aim is to learn how to become better at reducing the number of urgent and important tasks. Having to deal with too many urgent tasks can be stressful.

Practise the 4 Ds

We can spend up to half our working day going through our email inbox, making us tired, frustrated and unproductive. A study has found that one-in-three office workers suffer from email stress. Making a decision the first time you open an email is crucial for effective time management. To manage this burden effectively, practise the 4 Ds of decision-making:

  • Delete: half of the emails you get can probably be deleted immediately.
  • Do: if the email is urgent or can be completed quickly.
  • Delegate: if the email can be better dealt with by someone else.
  • Defer: set aside time at a later date to spend on emails that require longer action.

 

 

 

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Financial Stressors at Xmas Time

 

People can become anxious and disheartened with the financial pressures of this time of the year. Making suggestions such as conducting a Secret Santa where everyone buys just the one gift, or making your own gifts, or being prepared and lay buying gifts in order to spread the cost over several weeks are good ways of overcoming some of these financial strains.

Being open and online casino honest with family members about your inability to afford gifts for everyone this year due to unforeseen circumstances is always better than saying nothing and feeling guilty.

Lastly, children are more resilient than we give them credit for and often they are just as happy with a smaller less expensive gift than we think they will be. It’s the whole package that makes it special, such as reading and talking about Santa the evening before, reminding kids that they need to be in bed for Santa to come, and helping the kids to prepare and  leave milk and cookies out for Santa that add to the excitement of Xmas for kids.

 

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Anxiety and Depression bought about by the Holiday Season

For every picture perfect family group getting together and celebrating the festive season enjoying each other’s company there is sure to be another group living the old saying “You can pick your friends, but not your relatives”. The people in the latter group would much rather be out celebrating with friends but find themselves forced to spend time with family out of obligation.

These forced gatherings are perfect breeding grounds for the re-opening of old wounds and quarrels, usually after alcohol has swept away the social niceties like a roadway in a flash flood. Sometimes all it takes is one drink too many , but the resulting name-calling, shouting and drama spoils what is supposed to be an opportunity for everyone to come together in the spirit of peace and harmony.

As a result of this behaviour, for many people this celebratory time of year is not looked forward to with excitement but with dread. The build-up to the family get-together is approached with apprehension and anxiety, and avoidance strategies are mentally rehearsed, all the while knowing that they can never be utilised.  The feelings of powerlessness, generated as a result, can be the start of a slide into depression or anxiety, unless symptoms are recognised and professional help is sought. It is better to seek help sooner rather than later as these mental health issues can have a snowballing effect if left untreated.

Be Proactive and change negative outcomes

AusPsychology specialises in helping people by providing psychological services for a wide range of emotional issues. These include the anxiety and depression bought about by that holiday season stress. As families age there can be sadness that loved ones who have passed on will not be there for the celebrations they once enjoyed. There can be feelings of emotional abandonment if family members have not been supportive over something, and resentment of the expectation that all these feelings will be set aside to keep everyone else happy.

Even making the decision not to attend a family gathering to avoid all these negative emotions can trigger feelings of anxiety and guilt. People can feel quite trapped when thinking that, either way, there is nothing in it for them. It is important that these feelings and emotions are recognised as real, and if they are getting out of control, that professional assistance is sought to overcome them. The qualified psychologists at AusPsychology will work with people who are struggling at this time of the year to find something meaningful for themselves out of these occasions.

To do nothing and hope it will all subside after the holidays is to ignore long-held and often erroneous beliefs that, if challenged, are usually found to be based on false evidence. This is a sure way to spoil many more family gatherings, when the best option is to deal with it now. Taking this step will lift the cloud over future family get-togethers and allow people to look forward to them, instead of dreading their approach.

 

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Anxiety Symptoms

Feelings of anxiety are a natural part of our fear response.  We need this response to protect us from harm, both physical and psychological. Anxiety generally passes as quickly as the perceived threat, but for many people it is not something that they are able to control. Psychologists call anxiety the “common cold of mental health problems”. However, like the common cold, anxiety can get on top of people if left untreated. The thinking side of anxiety can have people feeling like they are going crazy but this is an example of, not the situation itself, but the anxious person’s over heightened interpretation of that situation.

Intrusive worrying thoughts can take over rational thinking, sometimes at an unconscious level.  I recently heard an interesting story.  It was about a middle aged woman who had been suffering from anxiety symptoms for some period of time without realising it. She first began feeling anxious after being out to dinner one night. She had an upset stomach that night and needed to run quickly to the bathroom. She then started to think about how terrible that situation was. How embarrassed she would have been ff she hadn’t made it to the bathroom in time. She became focused on that senario. To cut a long story short she started to make excuses for not wanting to go out to dinner when friends or family invited her out. She had convinced herself that it was better to stay at home and eat in. She did occasionally go out to coffee with friends. She had it in her mind that that was OK as she hadn’t had any bad experiences just simply going out and having coffee. Problems started though when she couldn’t refuse an engagement for dinner. She would become anxious for hours before going out and would end up going to the bathroom several times just prior to leaving. When she arrived at the dinner destination she immediately sought out where the bathroom facilities were. It was only when she had done this that she felt calm enough to order a meal. She also tended to order small meals, often an entree, instead of enjoying a meal like she used to. She started to think that these thoughts were ruling her life when she was out recently with a friend and they bought hamburgers. Whilst she bought the hamburger she didn’t feel comfortable eating it as she realised that they were driving home immediately after eating. Home was a good 30 minutes away.  Her friend asked her why she wasn’t eating and she decided to make the excuse that she wasn’t really that hungry after all and would eat hers later.  She was actually very hungry but only started eating her burger (now cold) when they were a few minutes from home. This lady was “managing” her anxiety symptoms not treating them. These thoughts developed into a major anxiety for her and she eventually sought help.

Anxiety symptoms and intrusive thoughts can keep building if you don’t challenge them. This person was too anxious at the time to consider a number of rational thoughts such as

  1. If she had just been to the bathroom she should be OK for some period of time before she would physical need to go to the bathroom again. She had no medical issues.
  2. That this had happened to her before and she had managed to get to a facility in time and home safely.

When your thoughts start leading to behaviours that are interfering with normal daily functioning it might be anxiety, and treating your anxiety rather than just managing it will help you get back to enjoying life and not feeling stressed about it.

Anxious thinking can present itself in many different irrational thoughts that start out being quite logical.  Some common themes are; concerns about death or dying, medical concerns from perceived pain or symptoms (that seem real to the person at the time), concerns about losing your job, or concerns others will think they are stupid. People with anxiety often experience lots of  “what if” questions that can become very exhausting. It’s like running a marathon inside your head. Anxious sufferers often say “I just want to stop thinking for a while”.

Essentially the person developing an anxiety problem finds it increasingly difficult not to have worrying thoughts which eventually start impacting on their daily functioning and their ability to relax. They develop sleeping difficulties, whether it be trouble getting to sleep or being wakeful, often in the early hours of the morning. If these issues are starting to concern you it might be time to consult your doctor and a psychologist. Anxiety is very treatable and you can get back to living your life normally.

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