Self -Care – “A problem shared is a problem halved”

The minute we decide to talk to someone about a problem, we are already doing something about it.  We are beginning to take positive control over whatever it is that is troubling us.  This is extremely beneficial and often paves the way for the beginning of the ending of the problem in its current state.

Once we start to talk about the problem it`s power somehow shrinks. Even hearing ourselves speaking about it can provide new and useful insights which helps to reduce the negative impact  of  the problem.

However,  it can be a very difficult first step for many of us to reach out for support with our problems, particularly if we’ve been used to  thinking that we must always be in control of things on our own. In fact it can be considered  an act of great courage to reach out for support when we have a problem, particularly when it`s not something we’re not familiar with doing.

Family and friends are often the first people we confide in when we have a problem and they can often provide us with invaluable support.  However, sometimes this is not possible, for a variety of reasons.  We really do not need to feel alone when this is the case,  as professionally trained therapists have a lot to offer in terms of problem solving skills. In addition there are often many positive community based mental health initiatives.

It has to be acknowledged that previously there was stigma associated with support-seeking. Thankfully it appears that  this is changing rapidly all over the world and has already completely changed in many places whereby it is now  viewed as part of  positive self-care and   responsibility – taking,  instead of something to be feared.

Sometimes a new perspective is all it takes to solve a problem. Qualified therapists are trained  non-judgmental  listeners  and their skills equip them to view problems from a variety of perspectives, which may not have previously considered.  They are trained to understand the human condition very well.

Therapists`  insight, aided by their personal  distance from the problem can provide novel solutions to tackle even what appear to be  the most entrenched issues.   Talking through issues and problems with a therapist usually provides us with a sense of relief and enlightenment and  definitely can form part of  positive self-care to move forward in our lives  feeling less troubled.

Written by
Dr Anita Corfe
CPsychol., DCPsych., BSc.(Hons)
Reg. Psychol. PsSI., AFBPSs., EAP.
Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist

 

Get Your Laugh On!

Laughter Pig Tree Frogs

Over the past week my house has been filled with close relatives visiting from Australia.  Along with all the usual things that go with having guests there can be no denying that the laughter quota in my home has risen during this time.  Going to bed one evening enjoying the effects of a night spent laughing and story-telling, I was reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a child.  “You need at least one good cry and one good laugh per month”.  This often came after an episode of “heartfelt sobbing” or “laughing until my sides hurts”.  It turns out that Mum was right, research has shown that emotional crying excretes stress hormones and other toxins generally resulting in feelings of relief and improved mood.  Research has also demonstrated many physical, emotional and social benefits of laughter which provide a great incentive to boost your laughter output.

The simple act of smiling causes the brain to produce dopamine which is associated with the production of endorphins, our feel good neurotransmitters.  From the humble beginnings of a smile to full blown laughter the benefits of laughter are far reaching.  One of the reasons that laughter is so good for us is that it stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously, something that is not readily achieved in many other activities.  This dual stimulation activates our centres for creativity, clarity, humour, problem solving and focus.  Thus creating great preparation for a large variety of activities.

Laughter can also result in reduced muscle tension and increased energy a natural form of stress release and a good substitute, if you can’t get to your yoga class. In fact there is growing body of literature on laughter yoga and support for it as a legitimate form of exercise.

During laughter the brain releases nitric oxide which triggers an anti-inflammatory effect that boosts immunity.  This health benefit of laughter is just one of many.  The Cancer Treatment Centres of America report that laughter can boost the circulatory system, stimulate heart and lungs, balance blood pressure, ease digestion, improve memory and alertness, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and strengthen social bonds.  Wow, the benefits are huge.  Research has also shown that laughter can contribute to stronger therapeutic bonds between client and therapist and that laughter during therapy can be a means of clients communicating high level emotions.  All of this suggests that we should seek opportunities for laughter often.

However, if laughter is not something that comes to you easily, never fear as you can always join a Laughter Therapy Group.  Such groups involve participants laughing together and trying out different laughs.  For example, the 1cm laugh a simple repeated “Ha”, the “Boo-Hoo” laugh (fake crying) and the donkey laugh “ee-haw, ee-haw”.  The group silliness generally results in spontaneous laughter creating a positive emotional release, facilitating group bonding.

Whether you get your laughs from TV, movies, books, spending time with friends, your kids or YouTube, it doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to look for opportunities for laughter in your daily life and create a little for those around you, laughter is after all contagious.  It has been found that people who are the most resilient are those who are able to laugh at themselves and see the funny side of life.  For your own physical and mental well-being be sure to “Get Your Laugh On!” 

References
www.laughteronlineuniversity.com
www.psychologytoday.com
Yale Scientific

Written by
Dr Rachel Upperton
B. Psych (Hons) PhD.
Registered Psychologist, MAPS

 

The Revolving Doors of Friendship Abroad

Yana's 120417 blog

“If you think nothing is impossible, try slamming a revolving door”…

If you have lived in country other than your own for any period of time, you have probably experienced the transient nature of friendship abroad.

At any time, there is always someone arriving or leaving, it could be ourselves or others. The constant movement of people in our lives can feel very confusing, like endlessly going around in a revolving door.

The continuous experience of saying goodbye to friends and meeting new ones sometimes seems sad and overwhelming.  We wish we could close those fast moving doors… but of course, that is not possible!

Let’s look at some helpful thoughts for navigating the revolving doors of friendship:

  • Awareness and Openess. It is important to develop awareness about the nature of friendship abroad (constantly changing) and how we feel about it (so we can address our feelings).  Also, to start nurturing an attitude of openness, we might befriend people that in a different set of circumstances we might have never interacted with (eg. different cultures, age groups).
  • Connections and Values.  We might choose to start cultivating connections with people that relate to our different interests. We might also choose to connect with people with whom we share similar sets of life values. In either case, we become part of a community (that regularly changes its members).
  • Flow and Trust.  Two other key elements are: going with the flow and trusting the process. There might be instances where we would need to change our approach or look for help. We may feel completely alone despite all efforts. At that point, it is essential to continue the path and trust that it will lead us to more self knowledge and fullfilling relationships.

Joseph Campbell said that “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  Paradoxically, the constant change provide us an opportunity to stop, look at our life from a different perspective and let go of our preconceived plans and notions.

By developing awareness and openness, we progress in our path towards a more flowing and trusting behaviour.  By focusing on our life values, we develop profound connections that open doors to more adventures.

In summary, learning to navigate the revolving doors of friendship abroad helps us to develop pathways to new life possibilities.

Written by Yana Ricart

SAC Registered Counsellor (Singapore)

MSc(Counselling), MSFP, Diploma(Psychotherapy), Grad Cert(Counselling)

Grad Cert (Expressive Therapies), Diploma (Yoga), BSc(Hons) 

Understanding And Respecting Diversity And Different Abilities Among Schoolchildren

One of my goals as a counsellor is to help people to grow and realise their full potential in life. I think one of the first steps in this is recognising what one’s strengths and talents are. There is a strong tendency towards a ‘cookie cutter, one size fits all’ approach to education. The following letter was posted on Facebook yesterday. It is reportedly from a principal of a school in Singapore. I am uncertain whether or not this authentic but it raises some good points.

‘Dear parents, today your children will sit their exams. I know that you are really anxious for your child to do well. But, please do remember, amongst the students who will be sitting for their exams, there is an artist, who doesn’t need to understand maths. There is an entrepreneur, who doesn’t care about history or English literature. There is a musician, who’s chemistry marks won’t matter. There is a sports person, whose physical fitness is more important than physics. If your child does get top marks, that is great! But, if he or she doesn’t, please don’t take away their self confidence and dignity from them. Tell them it’s okay, it’s just an exam! They are cut out for much bigger things in life. Tell them no matter what they score, you love them and will not judge them. Please do this, and when you do, watch your children conquer the world. One exam or a low mark won’t take away their dreams and talent. And please, do not think that the doctors and engineers are the only happy people in the world.’

Of course it is important for your children to work hard to the best of their ability  But equally, recognising that not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer is essential. You cannot judge a fish by its ability to ride a bicycle! While I was a student at Macquarie university, one of my friends suffered a nervous breakdown. She was studying to be an accountant and was struggling to pass exams. This was despite studying until the library closed. She later changed courses and has since had a very successful career in her field.

Know your children’s strengths and weaknesses. Help to improve their weaknesses and develop their strengths and watch them grow and prosper. Also, a good balance between school work and activity is important. Studies have shown that children who are physically active are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety (http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN14V2C6).This finding is very significant as the rates of self harm and suicide in school children is alarmingly high.

Written By Ian O’Neill
BSc (Psychology), PGDIP (Psychology)
Registered Psychologist