Caring for your BLENDER

Many of us own a blender. You can put two different foods in and something new comes out.

Intimate relationship is like a blender: put two different people in, and something new emerges.

With both food and people, the quality of the output depends on the input and the competence of the blender.

In relationship, we sometimes forget this. Paying attention to the inputs and the process of communication helps us to maintain the connection, and creates a stable and reliable foundation for creating a good life together.

BLENDER is an acronym for seven skills of connection in relationship: Being – Listening – Expressing – Negotiating – Deciding – Executing – Reviewing.

This BLENDER sees connection and communication in a relationship as a process with a direction. The greater our ability with each skill, the easier we can work together.

It starts with B: Being. Being yourself, being real, being present. Presence is seen in so many traditions as a prerequisite for knowing and yourself, and hence being able to know and love others.

L: Listening and E: Expressing are sometimes seen as opposites. Many jokes and skits build on the dynamics of couples who see themselves as specialists in these skills: one expresses, one listens. I hope we can laugh at it, but actually, don’t we sometimes wish that our partner would be a better listener or a better talker?

Both skills are equally important, but there’s no “approved standard” to aspire to. Some couples thrive with constant chatter to and fro, while others say less and learn about each other from observation. (Listening includes watching and emotions!)

N: Negotiating for win / win is so much easier with a clearer understanding of what we both want. Win / lose or even lose / lose are sometimes inevitable, but they feel radically different when both partners feel heard. And in an atmosphere of respectful mutual exploration, new options often emerge naturally and can be considered rationally.

D: Deciding can be better informed after good negotiation. Sometimes we put off decisions because we haven’t properly negotiated. Or one partner may decide unilaterally in frustration.

E: Executing is not about chopping their head off, although that’s sometimes what we feel like doing! Executing means following through with what we decided. Things can go wrong if we’re not clear or not really committed to what we decided.

R: Reviewing brings us to the end of this particular process. When we make time to look back on what worked and what didn’t work, we can get clear about what we’d want to do again, and what we’d want to do different. Using the WDAD process on a regular basis can enhance our ability with this skill.

These seven skills of BLENDER are much more important for relationships than for blenders. Blenders have a limited life. When they’re broken and not easily repaired, we throw them out and get a new one. 

Sometimes we do that with relationships, and sometimes it’s the right choice. Given how much time and effort we invest in relationships, it seems a waste to settle for less than the best. Consciously working on specific skills for connection and communication gives a rich return. 

Written By:
Richard Gee
(the inventor of BLENDER) does sessions with couples. Sign up for an introductory session, and then commit to improve the skills that you feel aren’t working as well as they could. Schedule a regular session every month or so to help you to stay focused.

Coping Skills and Tools for Exams and Assessment Time

Exam time is just around the corner. Just hearing the word can cause all sorts of symptoms and worries to appear.

So below are a few key strategies and tips for you to explore, and hopefully you can transform the exam day from a stress day to a stress-free day!

Prep:
Preparation is key. Feeling prepared is a quick and powerful stress reliever. Create a study schedule that works for you, prioritise subjects and break down the material into manageable chunks. Access and use practice tests and past papers to identify any areas that you might need to put extra focus on. Remember consistent studying is far more effective than last-minute cramming.

Befriend Your Body:
Your body and mind work hand in hand and are a team together. You need to fuel yourself with healthy foods and loads of water. Make sure you have a good night’s sleep before the exam, as a well-rested mind retains information better. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise, as even a short walk can release endorphins and help assist and create a calming effect for you.

Tame the Test Day Monster:
Arrive a little early for the exam, to avoid any last-minute flusters. Take a few good deep breaths before the exam begins. If you feel your nerves taking hold, remind yourself of all the hard work that you have put in, and focus on the task at hand. Don’t look around and wonder what others are doing.

Master the Exam:
Slow down and read the instructions carefully. This can help you to avoid silly mistakes. Manage your time effectively and leave time to review your answers for after you have finished. If you find yourself stuck on a question, move on and come back to it later. Remember it’s better to answer something than to leave it blank. 

Celebrate Your Success:
Exams can be difficult, and they are hurdles not roadblocks. Reward yourself for your hard work, no matter what the outcome is. Remember, a single test doesn’t define you. Take a deep breath and get ready to conquer the next challenge. 

Exams and assessments may be inevitable, but with the right approach, you can view them as an opportunity to show your knowledge rather than a source of stress.

So, stay calm, be prepared, and go ahead and conquer! 

References
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2017/apr/7-tips-help-you-cope-exam-stress

https://students.dartmouth.edu/academic-skills/learning-resources/academic-resources/memory-retention/stress-anxiety/coping-exam-anxiety

https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/student-advice/before-you-start/top-tips-for-coping-with-exam-stress

Written by:
Renee Butler
Counsellor
Lyra, Singapore

Exploring the Efficacy of Multichannel Eye MovementIntegration in Psychotherapy: Insights and Evidence

In the diverse landscape of psychotherapy, Multichannel Eye Movement Integration (MEMI) emerges as a novel intervention, building on the foundational principles of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and extending them into broader applications. MEMI utilizes controlled eye movements to facilitate emotional and cognitive processing of traumatic memories, aiming to enhance psychological healing. This article critically examines the scientific basis, efficacy, and potential application of MEMI in therapeutic settings, supported by current research findings.

What is Multichannel Eye Movement Integration?
MEMI is a therapeutic technique designed to help clients process and integrate distressing memories or thoughts across multiple sensory channels. It operates on the premise that specific eye movements can activate different areas of the brain involved in emotional and memory processing, thereby aiding in the resolution of trauma (Hossack & Bentall, 1996). The technique involves directing clients’ eye movements in various patterns while they recall traumatic experiences, with the goal of fostering new, less distressing associations and facilitating psychological integration.

Scientific Foundations and Research Evidence
The theoretical underpinnings of MEMI are derived from neuroscience, particularly the understanding of how eye movements might interact with the brain’s neural networks involved in memory and emotion regulation. Although closely related to EMDR, which has been extensively studied and validated in clinical settings (Shapiro, 2001), MEMI distinguishes itself by employing a wider array of eye movement patterns and incorporating a more integrative sensory approach.

Initial studies and clinical reports have begun to shed light on its potential effectiveness. For example, a pilot study by Beaton and Levine (2014) explored the use of MEMI with a small group of participants suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study reported significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, as measured by standard clinical scales, following a series of MEMI sessions. These findings, though preliminary, suggest that MEMI could be effective in mitigating symptoms associated with traumatic memories.

Another study by Johnson, Forgeard, and Tedeschi (2017) focused on the broader implications of eye movement techniques, including MEMI, on psychological resilience and post-traumatic growth. The researchers found that interventions incorporating eye movements could potentially enhance emotional regulation and facilitate a reorganization of traumatic memories into more constructive narratives. These outcomes indicate not only symptom relief but also positive psychological growth, highlighting the dual benefits of MEMI.

Clinical Applications and Considerations
MEMI’s flexibility in eye movement patterns allows for tailored therapeutic approaches to meet individual client needs. This adaptability makes it potentially suitable for a broad range of psychological issues beyond PTSD, including anxiety disorders, depression, and phobias. However, the practice of MEMI requires skilled therapists who are trained not only in the technique itself but also in handling emotional responses that may arise during sessions.

Conclusion
Multichannel Eye Movement Integration represents a promising new avenue in the field of psychotherapy, particularly for its potential to process and integrate traumatic memories effectively. While current evidence supporting MEMI is preliminary, the integration of eye movement techniques with therapeutic practices offers a compelling approach that may enhance the psychological well-being of many individuals. Continued research and clinical evaluation will be crucial in confirming the ultimate value and scope of MEMI in psychotherapeutic practice.

References
● Beaton, A. A., & Levine, S. M. (2014). Efficacy of Multichannel Eye Movement Integration Therapy in the treatment of PTSD: A pilot study. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 8(1), 2-15.
● Hossack, A., & Bentall, R. P. (1996). Elimination of posttraumatic symptomatology by relaxation and Visual-Kinesthetic Dissociation. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(1), 99 110.
● Johnson, D. R., Forgeard, M. J., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2017). Eye movement therapies for enhancing psychological resilience and posttraumatic growth. Psychotherapy Research, 27(3), 368-383.

● Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. New York: Guilford Press.

Written By:
Laura Spalvieri
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Rumination: A Cycle of Negative Thinking

Cogito, ergo sum.  “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes, 1637). 

Is it possible to think and think until I feel almost like I’m not? The act of ruminating can be described as getting stuck in an endless cycle of worry or problems.  

As a repetitive thought pattern, ruminating involves dwelling on negative emotions, experiences, or problems without finding a solution to them. Overthinking can cause anxiety, depression, and a decreased sense of wellbeing as a result of a constant cycle of overthinking. For mental health to be maintained and rumination to be broken free from its harmful effects, it is essential to distinguish between productive problem-solving and rumination.

The rising prevalence of rumination can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the fast-paced and demanding nature of modern life often leaves individuals with little time to relax and reflect, leading to an accumulation of unresolved thoughts and worries. Additionally, the constant exposure to social media and technology can perpetuate a cycle of comparison and self-doubt, fuelling rumination tendencies. Lastly, the increasing societal pressure to constantly achieve and succeed can create a sense of perfectionism, causing individuals to excessively ruminate over their perceived failures.

Firstly, it is important to recognize the signs of rumination, such as feeling overwhelmed, feeling stuck, and feeling as if your mind is spinning in circles. Secondly, it is important to identify the source of your worry and develop strategies to deal with it. Lastly, it is important to practice self-care techniques, such as relaxation, mindfulness, and journaling.

Rumination can have detrimental effects on mental health. Depression, anxiety, and stress can all result from these factors. Constantly replaying negative thoughts and obsessing over problems can disrupt sleep patterns, impair concentration, and leave individuals feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmed. It is important to recognize the negative consequences of rumination and take steps to break free from this cycle for the sake of one’s mental well- being.

It is important to note that rumination is not itself a mental health disorder, but it is a symptom that is often associated with anxiety and/or depression.  Rumination is the act of replaying an unpleasant conversation in your mind over and over again.  If you are unable to stop thinking about what went wrong during a presentation at work.  The act of rumination may be viewed as an obsessive thought pattern focused on a negative idea or experience that lacks flexibility or perspective.  The act of worrying and overanalysing is a natural human behaviour, but it becomes rumination when the process is frequent, ongoing, and interferes with the ability to concentrate and engage in other thoughts or feelings.  It is similar to a car without brakes, which continues to go forward without the capability of stopping.  As well, it is often characterized by repetitive thoughts about things that you are unable to change.  Essentially, rumination involves continually exposing oneself to negative experiences and reinforcing them.

Rumination and anxiety have a complex relationship. On one hand, rumination can be a result of anxiety, as constant overthinking and replaying negative thoughts can exacerbate feelings of worry and fear. On the other hand, rumination can also fuel anxiety, as the repetitive and obsessive nature of rumination keeps the mind stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, making it difficult to find relief or gain a new perspective. It’s important to address both rumination and anxiety in order to break free from this cycle and promote mental well-being.

Both rumination and productive thinking involve a deep focus on a particular problem or issue. However, while productive thinking leads to problem-solving and finding solutions, rumination tends to be repetitive and unproductive, leading to increased stress and anxiety. It is important to learn how to differentiate between the two and develop strategies to break free from the cycle of rumination.

One strategy to break free from the cycle of rumination is to practice mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment and observing your thoughts without judgment, you can create distance from the negative thought loop. Another helpful strategy is to engage in activities that bring you joy and distract your mind from rumination, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. Lastly, seeking support from a therapist or counsellor can provide guidance and techniques to help you challenge and reframe negative thoughts.

Connecting your thoughts to your values is one of the recommended practices. Write down your thoughts and consider how they relate to other aspects of your life and what is important to you. 

What is the relationship between these thoughts and your core beliefs? How do these thoughts make you feel?

After writing down your thoughts, asking yourself how they have affected your behaviour. Can you recall any instances in which they have prevented you from being honest, making a choice, or asserting your demands?

References

  1. Tartakovsky, M. Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop. July 2018,
    PsychCentral
  2. Wehrenberg, M. Rumination: A Problem in Anxiety and Depression Psychology
    Today. 2016.
  3. Sun H, Tan Q, Fan G, Tsui Q. Different effects of rumination on depression: Key role of hope. Int J
    Ment Health Syst. 2014;8(1):53. doi:10.1186/1752-4458-8-53
  4. Dar KA, Iqbal N. Worry and rumination in generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive
    disorder. J Psychol. 2015;149(8):866-80. doi:10.1080/00223980.2014.986430
  5. Alderman BL, Olson RL, Bates ME, et al. Rumination in major depressive disorder is associated
    with impaired neural activation during conflict monitoring. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:269.
    doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00269
  6. American Psychological Association. Probing the depression-rumination cycle.
  7. Watkins, E. (2023). Rumination. In D. J. A. Dozois & K. S. Dobson (Eds.), Treatment of
    psychosocial risk factors in depression(pp. 305–331).

    Written By:
    Leah Selakovic
    B.A, MA.MSC Psychologist
    A member of the American Psychological Association (APA)
    A member of the Singapore Psychological Society (SPS)

Navigating Work Stress: How Occupational Therapists can Support Adults

Work stress is a pervasive issue in today’s society, impacting the mental health of countless adults. A Cigna Wellbeing study conducted in 2023 found that 92% of working Singaporeans are stressed, this was 8% higher than the global average. The workplace was frequently identified as a source of this stress. Amidst the challenges, Occupational Therapists (OTs) specializing in adult mental health offer invaluable support in addressing the complexities of stress in the workplace.

At the core of an OT’s role is assessment. They explore the intricacies of the individual’s work environment, identifying stressors and underlying factors contributing to their distress. This holistic approach allows OTs to tailor interventions that address the root causes of work-related stress.

Empowerment is a central theme in OT interventions. Through skill-building practical strategies and coping mechanisms, OTs equip individuals with the tools they need to manage stress effectively. From relaxation techniques to time management skills, these interventions foster resilience and self-advocacy, empowering individuals to navigate workplace challenges with confidence.

Moreover, OTs recognize the importance of work-life balance in maintaining mental well-being.  Assisting with restructuring work tasks and schedules to promote better work-life balance. Collaborating with individuals to identify meaningful activities outside of work that promote relaxation and promote healthy coping strategies. With support to identify realistic ways to incorporate these activities into daily life, individuals can create a buffer against the negative effects of work stress.

In conclusion, OT can offer vital support to individuals grappling with work stress. Through assessment, empowerment, and advocacy, we can help individuals reclaim their mental health and find balance in both their professional and personal lives.

References
Cigna Global Wellbeing Survey, Stressed In Singapore- Employer Opportunity, 2023

Written by:
Jennie Bhangu
Occupational Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Small Habits that Build Marriages

Frances Hodgson Burnett said, “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” What a person focuses on (i.e., their attitude, habits, and actions) determines the outcome and the quality of their relationship.

Marriage is a significant relationship for the building of a society. I believe married couples can have a thriving relationship after years of being married. Many marriages drift apart and experience a fallout because couples do not prioritize the importance of their marriage. They quickly take each other for granted after marriage. As the saying goes, “We reap what we sow.” Thus, a thriving relationship between a married couple can continue to bloom and flourish if they reprioritize and cultivate the following few habits:

1. Treat Your Partner Like a Good Friend

Do not take your spouse’s love and friendship for granted. It is important to carve out time to create a relaxing atmosphere to interact, reconnect, and have fun together regularly. There is a saying, “Happy people stay together.” Married couples should continue to develop trust and intimacy through time together in sharing their vulnerabilities, needs, desires, and dreams they have. It will also give them the opportunities to discuss their expectations and avoid any misunderstanding, disappointment, or frustration they might have with one another. Treating your partner like a good friend means maintaining the essence of friendship in your marriage. It means spending quality time together, communicating openly, and being there for each other emotionally are all essential aspects of this habit.

2. Build A Culture of Appreciation and Respect

We live in a fast-paced world. The busyness and demands of our daily lives can cause us to feel exhausted. We might be operating in survival mode. Marriages will not grow, last, or thrive if we do not give appropriate attention to nurture and develop it. Hence, it is important to create rituals for connection, to establish regular stress-reducing connection, and to attune ourselves to our partners. We can build a culture of appreciation by trying the following activity: Three to four times a week, we can set aside ten to fifteen minutes to take turns telling each other one thing we appreciate or are thankful for. Be specific and sincere in the compliments and listen attentively without interruption. At the end of the conversation, we can hug and give kisses as affirmation and appreciation for our partner. Expressing gratitude and showing respect are vital for fostering a positive atmosphere in a marriage. Taking time to appreciate each other regularly can help reinforce feelings of love and connection.

3. Handle Conflicts Kindly and Positively

John Gottman said, “Conflict is an opportunity to learn how to love each other better over time.” If a couple hopes to maintain an intimate and lasting relationship, they need to learn to communicate and handle conflicts in a kind and positive way. One golden rule to remember is when there is a disagreement, try not to engage negatively. Positive conflict resolution requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude, listening without criticizing, blaming, or becoming defensive, shutting down, or acting superiorly over others. Try to understand the problem from your partner’s perspective. Take turns to speak without raising your voice, listen with empathy, do not give unsolicited advice, and show genuine interest in one another. Take a break or time off when emotions are escalating or overcharged. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but how it is handled makes all the difference. Approaching conflicts with empathy, patience, and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives can lead to resolution and growth rather than resentment.

In conclusion, when I was young because I loved reading fairy tales because I loved seeing couples live happily ever after. Now as I grow older, I still love seeing couples get along and live happily in their relationships as married couples. The world that we live in is a chaotic one, there are people hurting around us. When marriages break down, not only are the couple hurting, but so is everyone else all around them. By consistently practicing these three habits, couples can create a strong foundation for their marriage and navigate challenges together effectively. Healthy relationships will contribute to the well-being of society through the strengthening of families.

If you need any support in your marriage, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.

Written by:
Joyce Ng
Clinical Psychologist MSPS
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counseling Pte Ltd

Dysthymia in Youth

Prevalence of Dysthymia among Youth

The prevalence of dysthymia among youth varies globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018), depression is one of the leading causes of disability among adolescents worldwide, affecting approximately 10-20% of youth. In Singapore, studies (Lim, et al., 2018) have shown that the prevalence of depression and related mood disorders among youth is on the rise, with increased academic pressure, social media usage, and other stressors contributing to mental health challenges.

What is Dysthymia?

Dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), is a chronic mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities (APA, 2013). In youth populations, dysthymia can significantly impair daily functioning and overall well-being. 

Causes of Dysthymia 

The causes of dysthymia in youth are multifactorial, with a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial factors playing a role. Genetic predisposition, imbalances in brain chemistry (such as serotonin and dopamine), childhood trauma or adverse experiences, chronic stress, and family history of mood disorders can contribute to the development of dysthymia in young individuals.

Signs and Symptoms of Dysthymia in Youth 

  • Persistent low mood
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decreased interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors (in severe cases)

Diagnosis of Dysthymia in Youth

Diagnosing dysthymia in youth requires careful consideration of developmental factors, age-appropriate symptoms, and the duration of symptoms. According to DSM-5 criteria, the diagnosis of dysthymia in youth featured with:

1. The depressed or irritable mood has been for at least one year (in children and adolescents) and has caused clinically significant disturbances in daily functioning.

2. Presence, while depressed, of two (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Low energy or fatigue.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.

Treatment for Dysthymia in Youth 

Treatment for dysthymia in youth typically involves a multimodal approach, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle interventions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help young individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns, develop coping skills, and improve problem-solving abilities. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may also be prescribed under the supervision of a psychiatrist or pediatrician.

In Singapore, mental health services for youth are also available through various channels, including school-based counseling programs, community mental health clinics, and private practitioners. Efforts to raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health concerns are ongoing in both Singapore and globally.

References

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

World Health Organization (2018). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health

Lim, S., et al. (2018). Prevalence and correlates of depression in adolescents in Singapore. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 10(3), e12321. https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12321

Written by:
Jenny Zeng
Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Reflections on grief

Manu Keirse is a Clinic Psychologist from Belgium who specialises in grief. He has done a lot of research and has written multiple books. He is an inspiration in the psychology field. 

He has written a book in Dutch, a guide for professionals and families named: “Helpen bij verlies en verdriet”, which means “How to help with loss and sadness”. 

Grief is the emotional, physical and cognitive reaction of people who are confronted with a severe loss. Everything that has to do with “loss” creates a grieving process. Every form of loss, such as health issues, illness, losing a job, loss of faith, the ending of a relationship, death, divorce, failing at school, disabilities related to yourself or a loved one, being diagnosed. 

It usually is a confrontation with feelings of injustice, unfairness and/or a feeling of helplessness. 

Grief is not about saying goodbye or letting go but about learning to hold differently. Sadness about a loss is something that won’t change, but you learn to live with it. With death, a life ends, but the relationship never ends. Grief is like a fingerprint: recognisable to everyone, yet always different and unique. Death transforms relationships but does not end them. 

Important to know is that everyone grieves differently, and it is not something that has an end date. Everyone has their own process, their own pace and their own feelings. 

Manu Keirse mentions that to survive loss, you need to do “grieving work/mourning work”. He mentions grieving is not passive, but it is a heavy emotional active activity. Grieving is working to find meaning and rebuild your personal world that has been shaken by the loss. 

He has defined 4 tasks part of the “grieving work/mourning work”: 

1. Facing the reality of the loss. 
2. Experiencing the pain of the loss. 
3. Adjusting to the world after this loss. 
4. Learning to enjoy again and keep the memories. 

He mentions these tasks overlap. Unfinished tasks can get in the way of happiness in life.

My next blog will be on how to support someone with the “grieving work/mourning work”. “ How to support someone who’s going through grief? “ 

Reference
Keirse, M. (2017). Helpen bij verlies en verdriet. 

Written By:
Flo Westendorp
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

The Executive in our brain

Executive Functions are a very important concept in theoretical psychology that can help us understand our common behaviour and some challenges we encounter in everyday life, especially when it comes to attention and planning.

Research psychology thinks that like in the corporate world, our brain contains an executive control system (or systems) in charge of complex operations, such as solving problems, creating new plans and strategies, and modifying responses in light of new information.

In brief, this system acts whenever automatic psychological processes and a learned set of behaviours are not enough to achieve specific goals. This happens all the time when we need to try to concentrate and pay attention.

Scholars agree that there are 3 main classes of executive functions:

  • Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Cognitive Flexibility

Inhibition helps us focus our attention on a specific target, excluding interference from distractors, both external (like background noises when we want to read an email ) and internal (thinking of yesterday’s dinner when listening to a speech).

This also includes self-control: avoid acting impulsively and resisting temptation (blurting out the first thing we have in mind or grabbing the first snack we see on the shelf)

Working memory is the ability to hold in mind relevant information and do mental work on it (not so different conceptually from a computer working memory). It is thanks to our working memory that we can make sense of what somebody is telling us: by putting together the first sentences with the next one we get the full meaning of what we are being told. The same applies to a written page. 

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to change perspective and see things from above instead of in front or even from another person’s point of view. When we think ‘out of the box’ we use our flexibility and sometimes problems may then appear as opportunities instead of obstacles.

Many factors can impair our executive functions, the most known is ADHD, a condition when executive functions are compromised at some level. Some physical conditions also affect executive functions. However, it is important to acknowledge that common life factors like stress, prolonged sadness, and anxiety also have an impact. Forgetfulness, lack of focus, distractibility, and impulsiveness are common situations we experience when under stress or overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings.

Executive Functions develop at different paces during growth and their development and strengthening continue till young adulthood.

Trained professionals can assess the strengths and weaknesses of our executive functions. Like other skills, most executive functions can be enhanced through training and therapy. CBT is very effective in this sense and many therapists and school specialists offer executive function interventions.

References

Ferguson, H.J., Brunsdon, V.E.A. and Bradford, E.E.F. (2021). The developmental trajectories of executive function from adolescence to old age. Scientific Reports, [online] 11(1), p.1382. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80866-1.

Elliott, R. (2003). Executive functions and their disorders: Imaging in clinical neuroscience. British Medical Bulletin, [online] 65(1), pp.49–59. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/65.1.49.

Diamond A. Executive Functions. Annu Rev Psychol. 2013; 64: 135–168. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750.

De Assis Faria, C., Alves, H. and Charchat‐Fichman, H. (2015) ‘The most frequently used tests for assessing executive functions in aging,’ Dementia & Neuropsychologia, 9(2), pp. 149–155. https://doi.org/10.1590/1980-57642015dn92000009.

Written By:
Claudio Moroni
Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Conflict Resolution  for Siblings

Sibling rivalry is a typical part of growing up and childhood, but that doesn’t mean that there always needs to be loud and constant bickering and arguments. With a few conflict resolution skills, siblings can learn to communicate effectively, express their needs in a healthy way, and find solutions that work!

Here are 5 conflict resolution skills for siblings:

  1. Cool down. It’s hard to have a productive conversation when you’re both angry or upset and in the Red zone. Take some time to cool down before trying to talk about the problem. Take a few long and slow deep breaths, go for a walk, or listen to calming music.
  2. Listen to each other. When you have had your turn to talk, really listen to what your sibling has to say. Try to see things from their perspective and avoid interrupting.
  3. I-statements. Use “I statements” to express your feelings without blaming or coming across as attacking to your sibling. For example, I feel…..when…… Instead of saying, “You always take my things!”, try saying, “I feel frustrated when I can’t find my things.”
  4. Problem Solving. Once you’ve both had a chance to talk, it’s time to start problem solving solutions. Come up with a few different ideas and be willing to compromise.
  5. Agree to disagree. Sometimes, you won’t be able to agree on a solution. That’s okay! Just agree to disagree and move on. You can always revisit the issue later when you’ve both had some time to cool down.

Remember, learning effective communication is key here. The more you talk to each other, the better you’ll understand each other and the easier it will be to resolve any conflicts.

Here are some further additional tips for resolving conflict with your siblings:

  • Avoid name-calling and put-downs. These will only make the situation worse.
  • Be respectful of each other’s belongings. Ask before you borrow something, and put things back where you found them.
  • Try to use 2 conflict resolution tools before going to an adult when having an argument. For example: If you have a problem with your sibling, talk to them directly and try I Statements. 
  • Spend some quality time together doing things you both enjoy. This will help you build a stronger relationship and make it easier to resolve conflicts.

With a little practice, you and your siblings can learn to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in a healthy way. So give it a go!

References

https://www.verywellfamily.com/solutions-for-sibling-fighting-and-rivalry-620104

https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/key-strategies-manage-sibling-rivalry

https://kelsoschoice.com

Written by:
Renee Butler
Counsellor
SACAC Counselling