Thursday, 11 October 2018

Healing


 H is for Healing

noun
noun: healing
1.
the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, so I thought this blog should focus on emotional and psychological healing.

 Image result for world health mental health day image

***


There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help. – Catherine Zeta-Jones


Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:28-30

***
We all have problems, those stumbling blocks or things that crop up that interrupt the smooth running of our lives. Generally, they stop us from doing what we’d like to be doing. Most problems can be solved, either by problem-solving strategies, asking someone who’s already been through the situation, or enlisting the help of someone with experience in that area.

Sometimes though we cannot solve our problems. Sometimes despite all our best efforts to change things, nothing happens. We are stuck and when a person becomes stuck they will often experience symptoms in their body. It could be the shakes, or avoidance of situations or maybe even staying in bed. Some people try to escape from their problems and symptoms by working late, with food, alcohol, drugs, sex or excessive entertainment. This is not the way to live - we need to find healing.

Help for Your Mental Health

I would often look at the psychologist business cards at my local doctor’s clinic. For many years before I had my anxiety and depression breakdown, I wanted to go and see one, but I was scared and embarrassed. I knew my head wasn’t right. I knew there were things in my past that I needed to deal with. There were things I just couldn’t shake on my own. I knew the stress of my life was getting to me. But did I make the appointment? No. Not until it was forced upon me by my doctor. He told me that as part of my recovery I needed to go and see a psychologist. I had no choice. I had to do it. 
So why didn’t I go and seek help and healing years before when I knew in my heart that I should? 
Because I think there is a stigma about seeking help, particularly where our mental health is concerned. You must be crazy if you go and see a psychologist or a counsellor or go to a support group right? We feel it is a sign that we are not coping. That we are weak. But by not seeking help we are denying ourselves from being the best person we can be. Seeking help can rid us of chains that are wrapped around our brains and our hearts. A friend told me something I have always remembered. ‘If you had a broken arm you’d get it fixed, mental illness is the same. Go get it fixed.’ This is so true.  

Going to a psychologist has given me many ‘aha’ moments and through these 'aha' moments, I have been given healing. I act this way because of something in my past. I react this way because of something in my past. I have fears because of… I am obsessive and a perfectionist because… I married this person because… This is a trigger because… The list goes on. I now understand myself better. And when my anxiety takes over or I have bad or weird dreams, I can look at the situation and my reactions and feelings and ask myself, why I am feeling this way? And normally because of my therapy I can work through it. I can identify the triggers. I now have the skills to cope with my anxiety and depression when it hits. Therapy doesn’t take my feelings away, but I don’t go as low as I used to, and I know how to handle things. And if I don’t feel I can cope, I can ring my psychologist and make an appointment to go and work through it. 

Also if you have children who are displaying symptoms of anxiety and depression, take them to see a psychologist. My daughter has struggled with her mental health since she was 7 years old. It is really difficult to see your child struggling. Make known to them that you are there for them and they can tell you anything. Don’t presume they know that – tell them. I have found that they might not want to tell you anything so be prepared for that. At times I’ve had to read my daughter’s mental health through her behaviour and her Facebook posts. Now on the other hand they may tell you things that shock you. My advice if this happens, is to stay calm inside. If you blow up or react negatively, then they will shut down and may not come back to you in the future. You don’t want to lose their trust, but of course you also have to parent them. It’s a delicate balancing act. They may even say, ‘I’m okay,’ when they’re really not, as they don’t want to talk about how they are feeling. 

I must add here that you may not like the first psychologist you see. I was fortunate, I did, but my daughter did not. For a professional relationship to develop, you need to like your psychologist and need to feel at ease with them. There needs to be rapport between you both. If you don’t feel comfortable, or you feel like you’re being condescended, then you won’t be open or receptive to what the therapist is saying. My daughter tried a few different psychologists until we found her a match. If this happens to you, keep going until you find the right fit.  

Do you use google to solve your problems? There are great articles on reputable sites which can definitely help you but I still recommend seeing a professional, particularly if you have given the practical online advice and strategies a good shot, but you don’t feel any different.  

When sharing with friends, you will find that there are many who are eager to offer solutions to your problem. Before going ahead with the advice, consider things carefully. What gives your friends the wisdom to tell you what to do? Do they have expertise or experience in the field? 

So what does a psychologist do? To put it simply they talk to you and you talk to them. There is nothing scary about it. Now you’re probably wondering why would you talk to a stranger about your problems, particularly when you have friends or family you can talk to? Well psychologists are trained in different types of therapies and questioning techniques which help you to unpack what is at the core of your feelings. It may not be what you think it is. 

In general, going to a psychologist can help a person to:

  • ·         Change negative thoughts and feelings
  • ·         Encourage them to get involved in activities
  • ·         Develop problem-solving techniques 
  •           Speed the person’s recovery
  • ·         Identify ways to manage one’s mental and physical wellbeing


Psychologists can look past the words you are saying. They can pick up on your body language and your tone of voice. They can go deeper. They have the knowledge to explore your issues in a guided way. They are not going to give you answers necessarily but they will help you to express your needs, your hurts, and your wants. And talking to a psychologist is confidential. The psychologist is not going to gossip about you. You can be as open as you want to. There is no fear of embarrassment. You don’t need to keep secrets. You can expose your true self. 

Psychologists also can help you to identify triggers such as someone yelling in the shops may make you shaky if you were in an abusive relationship. They can teach you strategies for coping and ways to solve problems, and they can help you increase your self-confidence and train you to be assertive. They can help change your way of thinking about situations, and help you put everything in perspective. They encourage you to face your fears. They support you as you do face your fears. They can help you to question your own thinking, because our thinking is not always correct. It is affected by our experiences and can at times be irrational and illogical. I'm sure you can see how this can lead to your healing.

If you are in Australia, you can visit your GP and ask for a Mental Health Care Plan. This entitles you to up to 10 sessions with a psychologist in a year. These are free if you are on a pension card, or at a reduced cost as there is a Medicare rebate. You can also get five sessions per calendar year with a general Care Plan and some health funds pay for psychology. 



  • ·         Anxiety
  • ·         Bullying/racism
  • ·         Depression
  • ·         Family issues
  • ·         Health issues - Addictions / Dentistry / Eating Disorders / Illness and Somatoform Disorders / Pain Management / Smoking Cessation / Stress Management / Wellness
  • ·         Stress management
  • ·         Spirituality
  • ·         Trauma/PTSD  


It is important to know that a psychologists cannot prescribe medication. For this, a General Practitioner or psychiatrist needs to be consulted. 

Some more specific examples of when you should see a psychologist:

  1. An issue or your back story is causing considerable distress, and is affecting your life e.g. maybe you have severe anxiety which is stopping you from going to work, or you have diarrhea every day that you have work. Maybe you avoid social situations.  
  2. Your friends or family are pulling away because are tired of hearing about your problems, or they can’t cope with supporting you anymore.
  3. Nothing you have done helps.
  4. You have become addicted or overuse something because of your mental state. Maybe you overeat, or drink or take drugs.
  5.  People have told you to go and get help.

There are also website and helplines you can ring in Australia:

·         Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/
·         Headspace https://www.headspace.org.au/
·         Beyond Blue  https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
·         Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/
·         Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

My final question is - Do you need to find healing for your mental health?

Image result for world health mental health day image

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Goal


G is for Goal

Do you believe in making New Year’s resolutions and if you do, how do you go? Do you start something like a diet with high expectations and then after a little while later it becomes too hard and you give up? One way to help yourself stay on track is to write a goal. 

So, what is a goal? 

A goal is a statement stating what you want to achieve when you want to achieve it and why you wish to achieve it. 

When I write goals, I use the SMART approach. 

Let me give you an example, then I will explain the process. 

I will walk for 30 minutes every day after I drop the children at school. I will do this because it will improve my fitness and mental health. I will begin tomorrow and I will assess how I have gone in a month.


So, SMART is an acronym that represents a framework for creating effective goals. It stands for five qualities your goals should have. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and realistic, and Time-bound. The SMART method has been proven to be one of the most popular and effective tools for creating realistic and achievable goals. And the more realistic and achievable they are, the more likely you are to be successful. 


Step One: Make your goal specific (S) 

Your first step is to decide what you want to achieve, then think about it in specific terms.

For example, a general goal could be, ‘I want to eat healthier. 

But what does the word healthier mean? Break the general term healthier down further. Does it mean one take-away meal per week; taking salads to work for lunch; two glasses of wine a week etc?

For this example, a more specific goal could be, ‘I will drink 8 glasses of water a day.’

You will notice that in this example I have included the number 8. This is something we can measure. Other examples could be: Go to the gym two nights a week. Lose 5kg of weight. Cut out all sugar from my coffee.

Next, answer the 5 "W" questions about your goal: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. 

After deciding what you want to happen, go to the who. Who do you need the help of? Could it be a personal trainer? A dietitian? A buddy? Support from your spouse or family?
Then decide where and when this will happen. Think about the location in which you will do the striving, and when you will fit it into your week. If it is to exercise more, where will you be – at home, the gym, the park, the local neighbourhood? When are you going to exercise? Are you going to get up earlier, or walk in your lunch hour? Also, think about how often. You may wish to exercise three times a week as you feel that is achievable. 
Work out why you are setting the goal. If you don't have a pretty good reason it is unlikely you will achieve it. Write down the reasons for and benefits of achieving your goal. Post them on your fridge or mirror, so when you really don’t want to keep going with your goal, they are there for you to see. 

Also it is important that you work out the obstacles or requirements for achieving the goal. Obstacles may be time-related, your health, family constraints, financial, personal safety. It could even be a psychological obstacle – maybe you hate eating, or you don’t like the way you look in gym gear. A requirement may be that you need a doctor’s clearance or you may need special equipment. If you want to achieve the goal you need to consider how these can be worked around or accommodated? 

Step Two: Make Your Goal Measurable (M)

I talked about this briefly above, when I said to use numbers in your goal. A description of the desired outcome can also be used. These will make it easy to track your progress and know when you have achieved your goal. For example you wish to lose 10 kilograms. So you will need to know your existing weight, so you can measure your progress and know when you have achieved it. Or, you could say as a description, ‘Fit back into my wedding dress.’ Both are able to be measured.
There are some questions that can help you with making your goal measurable:
  • How much? For example, "How much weight do I hope to lose?"
  • How many? For example, "How many times a week do I want to go to the gym?"
  • How will I know when I've accomplished the goal?
Devise a plan to track and measure your progress. Having measurable goals makes it easy to track your progress. If you wish to lose 10 kg, and you’ve lost 3, then you know you have 7 kgs to go. In this planning, decide how often you are going to measure your progress. Will it be in time e.g. once a week or fortnight, or the distance run, weights lifted, number of spoons of sugar, number of drinks of water, number of hours spent writing etc. Some people like to keep a journal. In this journal you can write the results you’ve seen, have motivational quotes, diary your feelings.

Step Three: Make Your Goal Attainable (A)

Think about your limitations and how committed you are to achieving the goal. You need to make sure that the goal you have set can actually be achieved, otherwise you may become discouraged. So think about the obstacles you’ve already identified. Then consider if you’ll be able to achieve your goal with them. If not, it would be best to choose a different goal. For example, if you want to go to the gym three times a week, but you can't realistically fit it into your schedule, then don't make that your goal.  

Step Four: Make Your Goal Relevant and Realistic (R)

Think about if your goal is relevant to your life. Will the goal will fulfil your desires or needs or if there’s a different goal that’s more important to you? For example, maybe you are tossing up between studying a course that will further your career and a course that is for enjoyment,  which would you choose?

Step Five: Make Your Goal Time-Bound (T)

This means your goal should have a deadline or there should be a date set for completion. It can be a long-term goal or a short-term goal, and you may have a long-term goal which is broken up into shorter goals. For example, if my long-term goal is to lose 50 kilograms, then my short-term goal could be to lose 10 kg in 6 months. Setting a deadline or finishing time helps you to stay on track. It takes away, ‘I’ll do it sometime.’

***

After you have written you SMART goal and implemented it, there will be a time you will need to assess how you went. If you achieved your goal, great! But if not, then take the time to reflect on why not. Were there obstacles preventing you? Was it too unreasonable? Did you lose motivation?

When thinking generally about the parts of the goal, ask yourself: What worked well? What didn’t? What was easy about the goal? What was hard about the goal? What would you change? What would you take into your next goal? Consider the time frame, the financial cost, the obstacles you had to overcome, any impact on your family, and anything else that you feel is worth considering.

Then once you have achieved your goal, celebrate, then set another one!



Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Fear


F is for Fear

I think I could safely say that the majority of people have at least one fear. Something that makes their heart race, makes them sweat or makes them scream or run away. An example would be of public speaking, meeting new people or heights. Some fears are imagined such as a fear of rejection or of failure. When fears are paralyzing and irrational, they are known as phobias. Phobias can include but are not limited to, a severe fear of spiders, dogs, small spaces, or crowds.

What is your fear?

When I was a child I had a fear of the bogeyman. I hated being left in the dark, and I even hated hide-and-seek as I didn't feel safe. My grandparents lived next door and I would try to be home before dark, but if I did leave after dark, I would sprint home. It was an irrational fear. As I grew I knew there was no bogeyman, but this fear morphed into the fear of burglars breaking into my family house when I was home alone at night time when my parents and my brothers were out. I would lock myself in my bedroom, or if I had to leave my bedroom, I would cautiously peek out the windows into the dark outside. My fear was so great that I had convinced myself that one day there would be a face peering back through the window at me. I don't know why I had this fear, or what was the trigger. I thankfully have outgrown this.


So why did I outgrow this fear? I guess because I developed my rational brain. I kept telling myself until I believed it, that there was a very slim chance a burglar was outside. I still locked the doors because that is just a sensible safety measure, but I no longer cowered in my bedroom. And I must admit, having a dog also helped!

Another fear I've had since childhood is a fear of meeting new people... looking back it was social anxiety. Extreme shyness and wondering what people were thinking of me, particularly before I'd had my final craniofacial surgery, plagued me. I think I had a pretty good reason to feel that way. The problem was that this fear had become so engrained that it didn't want to leave me, and through my adult life I have battled it. Even now, there are times when I find meeting new people hard. But as I age, I have become determined to overcome it. I want to be free to strike up a conversation with a stranger without a knot in my stomach. To do this, I've had to do some self-talk. I've had to tell myself that they are not judging me by how I look, just as I do not judge them on how they look. I have also taught myself some open questions that I can ask when having a conversation, to alleviate that awkward moment after saying hello. And I have the self-belief that I can do it.


Have you overcome a fear? If so, how did you do it?
 
I like this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. It sums up what I did with my own fear:

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." 

Having faith in God has also enabled me to face my fears. The knowledge that the God of the universe loves me and wants me to live a life without fear, and to live a life of inner peace, has helped me to overcome them. If God is for me and protecting me, why should I spend my life in fear?

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. 
Psalm 46: 1-2 




I did some research and I found the following strategies for overcoming fear. I like them and I hope they help you.

Strategies for Overcoming Fear

  1. Acknowledge the fear. Whether it's imagined or real, the first step in overcoming fear is to admit that it exists. We all have fears; it's human nature. Denying or ignoring them doesn't make them go away.

  2. Analyze it. Where does it come from? Is it real or imagined? Can it be put in a different context? For instance, if you think it through to its logical conclusion, what's the worst that can happen to you? Once you've determined what that might be, ask yourself if you can deal with, or overcome it. More often than not, once you go through the process of analyzing it, the fear isn't as scary as you originally imagined.

  3. Face it. Allow yourself to feel it, and then do it anyway. Act in spite of your fear and treat is as a challenge for personal growth and an opportunity to become stronger.

  4. Be persistent. Do the thing you fear over and over again. By doing it repeatedly it loses its power over you and you become less vulnerable to it.

  5. Develop courage. Sometimes the answer may not be to conquer a particular fear; it may be to develop courage. If you focus too much on any one fear instead of trying to build courage, you may in fact, intensify it. By developing courage you build self-confidence and resilience. You also build a healthy approach towards facing all fear.
 https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/overcomingfear.html



 I wish for you to be free of your fears so you can live your life to the fullest and at peace.




Sunday, 29 April 2018

Empathy


E is for Empathy

I have a question for you. Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy? Two very similarly spelled words. Two words that are commonly used incorrectly.

Just to clarify the difference up, we'll begin this blog post with a grammar lesson.The dictionary definition of empathy is:

  • the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The definition of sympathy is:

  • feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.

In my google search I found this quote, which I think explains the difference well:

The ability to feel sympathy for others is a great part of what makes us human, and it's what compels us to reach out and offer help. So have sympathy for people who confuse this word with empathy — they're awfully close in meaning. Feeling sympathy means you feel sorry for someone's situation, even if you've never been there yourself. Empathy is when you truly understand and can feel what another person is going through.
https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/sympathy



Here is another great example:

Empathy is heartbreaking — you experience other people's pain and joy. Sympathy is easier because you just have to feel sorry for someone. Send a sympathy card if someone's cat died; feel empathy if your cat died, too.
https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/empathy-sympathy/


So why am I focussing on this topic? Was it the only e word I could think of? Well, to be truthful the word immediately came to me, but empathy is something close to my heart. I roam in so many different circles in the world in a medical sense and a family sense, that I understand what many people are going through.

I can't just give my attention to one cause, as many people are able to do, because I do deal with a multitude of issues. For example, Crouzon syndrome (craniofacial syndrome), hydrocephalus, Chiari malformation (spinal issues), Down syndrome, heart defect, mental illness, bullying, domestic violence, inclusive education, Coeliac disease, visual impairment, osteoarthritis, multiple miscarriages, financial difficulties, family dysfunction. .. and if I keep thinking there would be more. I often joke that I don't live in this world, my body is here but I actually reside in my alternate universe. I say this as I often feel alien to what other 'normal' people go through.

People from all over the world message me about their situations, and I know why. I take the time to listen to them and share my walk with them. I offer advice if they request it. People know that I do truly understand what they are going through. I have an arrow in my back, just like they do!



So what if you want to feel empathy but you haven't experienced what someone else is going through? I genuinely think it is possible. Maybe you have been through a similar situation, or someone else you know has, or you have been through something that had a similar outcome. For example, someone may have lost their job and had to sell their house. That may not have happened to you, but you've had financial difficulties where you've had to watch every cent and you feared to lose your house.  Maybe you know someone going through IVF. and has miscarried. Now you may not have gone through IVF, but you know how hard the process is, and you yourself have miscarried and know the grief that comes with losing your baby.

 I found this infographic which I think explains how we can show empathy:


Showing empathy is trying to imagine what the other person is going through, and endeavouring to see their world how it is. You may not agree with the choices they've made or the circumstances they are in, but you cannot be empathetic if you are being judgemental. The person is a fellow human being and they are hurting. Talk to them and find out what they are feeling and actively listen to them. Ask questions but don't offer advice unless they request it.

You cannot ease another person's grief - it is a process they need to work through. You may be able to give some short-term solutions, but generally, the person will need to work their situation and deal with whatever that means.



Most human beings want to feel connected with other people. They want to know that other people understand or will try to understand their situation. Unfortunately, so many people are so preoccupied with their own lives that they often don't reach out to show empathy to others.

My challenge for you is to reach out to someone today who is hurting. You may just be the blessing they need.