Thrive in Motherhood

Anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity, frustration, self-doubts, guilt, and exhaustion are common feelings shared amongst moms in the counselling room. When the role as a mother inevitably becomes exhausting sometimes, it affects the quality of their relationships with their children and further intensifies their fear of failing in their role as a mom.

In my counselling journey with many moms, I found that three main reasons often lead to overwhelming stress and frustrations during motherhood.

 1. Unrealistic expectations of motherhood

Many mothers tend to set high standards and expectations for themselves as a mother because of the desire to give their children the best. For example, we often hear mothers say “I must be there for my children when they need me.”, “I must be calm and caring to my children.”, or “I should manage my career and parenting as others do.”.

Whether these expectations are from ourselves, family, society, or culture, these can easily put mothers at risk of self-doubt and worries.

 2. Mommy guilt and the resultant lack of boundary setting

Mothers often feel torn between desiring to do something for themselves and their conflicted feelings about leaving their children alone. They might feel guilty for prioritising themselves, their career, or interests over their children, or even feel guilty for not wanting to spend time with them. This guilt can easily lead to shame and self-criticism, which results in the perception of labelling themselves as a terrible mom. These negative and conflicted feelings would impact the mental health of mothers.

 3. Suppressing individual feelings

Another common observation amongst mothers is that they often judge their negative feelings or try to hide them to be “positive” for their children. They might feel that it is essential to create a positive space for their children. Hence, allowing their negative feelings to surface would only affect their children. However, it is really important to remember that negative feelings are normal and as likely to occur as positive feelings in our life. By allowing ourselves to embrace our negative feelings, mothers also model for their children that all emotions can be embraced and validated.

So, let us take some time to reflect on motherhood, take time to take care of ourselves, and celebrate the meaningful and rewarding role of a mother.

Below are some strategies that might help you move towards balancing motherhood and yourself:

  • Take some time to reflect on your expectations of motherhood and check if they are realistic.
  • Supermoms are not superheroes as they are humans too. Recognise your needs and feelings and be honest with yourself. Validate and permit yourself to experience different kinds of emotions. There are no right or wrong feelings.
  • Most importantly, remember that your role as a mother is only one out of the many roles that you play in your life. Occasionally, allow yourself to step out from that role and indulge in your own me time. With that, you would feel more rested and recharged when you return to your role as a mother.

Happy mom! Happy children!

Written by:

Elizabeth Pan

Psychotherapist & Counsellor

SACAC Counselling

An exploration of the relationship between very superior IQ and Mood Disorders

It has long been thought that a positive correlation may exist between an individual having an IQ score of 130 or above (considered a very superior IQ) and having a mood disorder. According to Wlassoff (2014), “the fascination with genius and an obsession with finding a positive link between high intellectual potential and depression and other mental disorders dates back to the time of Hippocrates in the 4th century B.C.” (p. 9). 

Today, scientists continue to explore the concept. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as referred to in this document is measured by well-researched and validated standardised psychological tests that measure intelligence and cognitive abilities. These include: (1) Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and (2) Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Adults (WAIS-IV) and Children (WISC-IV) (various editions.) According to Maron (2003), an average IQ score ranges from 90-109. The above average IQ falls between 110-119, and the superior IQ falls between 120-129. A score above 130 is very high and considered to be very superior, and often referred to as gifted.

Temperament is especially credible as an indicator in the discussion of bipolar disorder, as it is one of the underlying indicators of personality. Some people who could be notably mentioned in this category include Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Beethoven, Tolstoy, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill. It cannot be a coincidence that many of those persons were considered revolutionary or genius during their specific time periods and also suffered from a debilitating mood disorder (Pediaditakis, 2014).

A mood disorder can be a disabling condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2013), 9.5% of the population suffer from mood disorders, and 45% of these cases are considered to be severe. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013), bipolar disorder and depressive disorder (also known simply as depression) are considered

two separate conditions. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder includes at least one manic episode, which may have been preceded by – or may be followed by – a hypomanic or major depressive episode. Bipolar disorder is different from depressive disorder in that mania is a cycle of high elation and deep depression. Depressive disorder, on the other hand, is a state of constant sadness. It is best described as sadness that can interfere with an individual’s life and functioning. Depressive disorders tend to involve “clear-cut changes in affect, cognition, and neuro-vegetative functions and inter-episode remissions” (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 193). However, depressive disorder lacks the mania component, which is a hallmark of bipolar disorder.

In any event, it is hoped that further research on the relationship between a very superior IQ and the presence of a mood disorder may lead to a better understanding of the social and personality implications of those individuals from populations who fall into this category. Ideally, research will lead to early detection, more available interventions, and effective treatment for these individuals in the future. This study is composed of a literature review using various sources and databases.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). 

National Institutes of Health. (2013, March 18). Common Genetic Factors Found in 5 Mental Disorders. Retrieved July 04, 2016, from

Maron, J.P. (2003). Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. Retrieved July 06, 2016, from

Pediaditakis, N. (2014, September 26). The association between major mental disorders and geniuses. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from 

Wlassoff, V. (2014, December 18). Does high IQ increase the risk of depression and mental disorders? Brain Blogger . Retrieved June 27, 2016, from 

Written by:

Leah Selakovic


SACAC Counselling

Foggy brain?

I am pretty sure I have always been a bit foggy. My teachers told me at 9 that I was sometimes great and sometimes a big muddle. They were right. I didn’t ascribe it to any special condition – it was just me!

But maybe it wasn’t just me. Recently, a wind has been blowing which blew some surprising goods, COVID-19, of course. Studies of people with long COVID-19 have found that about half of those may have brain fog. What is good is that brain fog has been noted and discussed for a long time, in relation to a wide range of conditions, such as chronic fatigue, allergies, menopause, ADHD, kidney failure as well as anxiety and depression. COVID-19 has helped to make clearer that persistent difficulties with memory and concentration, a lack of clarity, may have a specific cause.

So far, however, it has not been possible to pin down just what is causing the foggy symptoms. There is considerable variation in the symptoms and their severity, but one study suggests on average a cognitive deficit of about half a standard deviation, with difficulties tending to be around executive functioning (planning, organising, concentrating, etc). 

The neurophysiology underlying the problems has not been clearly identified either, with suggestions of inflammation of some areas or reduced ability of some brain areas to obtain nutrients. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has spurred research in this area. However, it also seems likely that the COVID-19 cases will improve – the fog will not be permanent. Sleep, diet and exercise are very likely to help reduce the problems. Occupational therapy may also help to relearn new ways to do some things.

Sabrina Brennan has written “Beating Brain Fog” about the broader condition, and if like me, you do sometimes forget everyday routines and facts, it might be worth checking it out. It may play an important but neglected role in understanding other conditions, too.


Sukel, K. (2022). Lifting the fog. New Scientist, 254(3390), 38–41. 

Written by:

Dr. Tim Bunn

Consultant Educational Psychologist

SACAC Counselling

What are Bipolar Disorders?

Bipolar disorder is often misconstrued with other mental illnesses, however what is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder which is typically characterised by drastic shifts in mood. These drastic shifts in moods are frequently marked by episodes of mania and depression. Some individuals with bipolar are free of significant mood changes in between episodes, however this can vary from person to person, with some individuals having lingering side effects in between episodes. 

Before defining mania and depression it is also worthy to note the fact that there are more than one types of bipolar disorder. These include Bipolar I, which is characterised by the individual having at least one manic episode. Which can be potentially followed up by less severe manic or depressive episodes. This form of bipolar disorder is also known to affect both sexes equally. 

The second form of Bipolar Disorder is Bipolar II, this form differs in that it consists of one major depressive episode that can last up to 2 weeks. With individuals with Bipolar II also having a lesser manic or depressive episode potentially lasting for 4 days. The form of Bipolar disorder is more common among women. 

The third form of Bipolar disorder is known as Cyclothymia. Individuals with Cyclothymia will typically experience episodes of less severe mania and depression. The symptoms of these episodes are typically shorter and less severe than those of the other two bipolar disorders. It is also possible for additional forms of Bipolar disorder to occur in the case of an individual with a mood disorder that resembles but does not absolutely follow the specifications of the three mentioned disorders. In this case it would be considered an unspecified bipolar and related disorders. 

When an individual is in a manic state they will usually display the symptoms of intense happiness or playfulness for a prolonged period. In addition to speaking rapidly and/or having fast paced thoughts that may seem difficult to keep up with. This can also be compounded with a sense of irritability or poor temper, an over inflated sense of self and a poor sense of judgment leading to potentially reckless decisions. All of these can be potential symptoms or signs of mania. 

Furthermore, the second episodic indicator of bipolar disorder is depression. Depression is characterised by a variety of symptoms including prolonged feelings of sadness or loneliness. Self-imposed isolation from others, a change in one’s eating habits, lack of interest in usual activities, and a change in sleeping habits. It’s crucial to remember that bipolar disorder does not consist of just mania or depression, rather it is the extreme and unusual shifts between these two episodes that is truly indicative of bipolar disorder. 

Furthermore, it is important to note that bipolar disorder can occur in young adults and teens just as much as it can in adults. Therefore it is important to always remain vigilant, and if you know or someone you know is experiencing these thoughts it is crucial that you seek professional help. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). 

Goldstein, B. I., Birmaher, B., Carlson, G. A., DelBello, M. P., Findling, R. L., Fristad, M., Kowatch, R. A., Miklowitz, D. J., Nery, F. G., Perez-Algorta, G., Van Meter, A., Zeni, C. P., Correll, C. U., Kim, H.-W., Wozniak, J., Chang, K. D., Hillegers, M., & Youngstrom, E. A. (2017). The International Society for Bipolar Disorders Task Force Report on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: Knowledge to date and directions for future research. Bipolar Disorders, 19(7), 524–543. 

Miklowitz, D. J., & George, E. L. (2008). The bipolar teen: What you can do to help your child and your family. Guilford Press.

Perez Algorta, G., MacPherson, H. A., Youngstrom, E. A., Belt, C. C., Arnold, L. E., Frazier, T. W., Taylor, H. G., Birmaher, B., Horwitz, S. M. C., Findling, R. L., & Fristad, M. A. (2018). Parenting stress among caregivers of children with bipolar spectrum disorders. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(sup1), S306–S320.

Written by:

Leah Selakovic


SACAC Counselling

How can secure attachment help my family and me?

Families are often described as the cornerstone of society. But what builds a family?

“The building blocks of a family are emotional bonds and the confidence one has in the security of these is a resource of resilience for an individual but also for the family as a whole.” (Furrow et al., 2019).

When we talk about being at home we refer to a feeling and an experience of belonging. It is a safe place from which to explore the world. The originator of attachment theory, John Bowlby, mentioned that “ all of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figure(s).

Going into the world knowing that our loved ones are there for us gives us a secure basis from which to explore the world. The confidence in these connections gives family members more resilience and allows them to face challenges in life better.

Maintaining good family ties helps to keep these connections as life situations change over time. Once these connections are disrupted it can cause distress to the individual family members and to the family as a whole. If that happens then Emotionally Focused Family Therapy can provide support. It focuses on transforming the family’s insecure pattern into positive cycles of security (Furrow et al. 2019).

A key component is learning to regulate emotions. Emotion regulation describes the ability to influence emotion and its expression (Gross, 1998). This is a complex skill that is learned automatically in families when children feel safe. Accepting children, validating them, and assuring them they are cared for and loved, is what parents can do to make children feel secure. So that they can have that secure base from which to explore the world. Throughout our lives, we all need this support though. So do include older family members as well. 

Once we can regulate our emotions better we connect more deeply with significant others. A simple way that can help you be more emotionally responsive to others is by making use of the acronym A.R.E. It stands for: 

Accessibility: Can I reach you? This is about staying open, even if you feel insecure and have doubts.

Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally? This is about tuning in to your loved one.  About accepting and prioritizing their emotional cues.

Engagement: Do I know you will value me and stay close? This is about being emotionally present.

A good way to remember A.R.E. is the phrase “ Are you there, are you with me?” (Johnson, 2008). Knowing that loved ones are there for us calms our nervous system and makes us feel safe. It provides a secure base from which we can explore the world. 


Furrow, J., Faller, G., Johnson, S. M., Palmer, G., & Palmer-Olsen, L. (2019). Emotionally focused family therapy: Restoring connection and promoting resilience. Routledge. 

Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 271–299.

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of Love. Little, Brown Spark. 

Written by:
Allard Mueller
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling