Institute Inbrief - 07/04/2015
Welcome to Edition 222 of Institute Inbrief! In part one of our Helping and Stress Management series we explored three critical components of a stress management program and identified sources and signs of stress that, as a helper, you must be on the lookout for.
In this edition’s follow-up article we share an inventory of some of the more well-known stress management strategies, including methods to tend to the body and mind/emotions, and the importance of emotional integrity.
Also in this edition:
- Latest news and updates
- Articles and CPD information
- Wellness tips
- Therapist Q&A
- Social media review
Enjoy your reading!
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A Brief Comparison of Psychologies
What is it about a counselling or psychotherapy process that makes people change? In other words: what are the mechanisms of therapy? What does the paradigm supporting a given school of psychology assume about the nature of human beings and therefore how they can change? What are the main concepts of a given psychology and who were their famous proponents? With what kinds of client issues does a given psychology naturally sit well?
In this video, Richard Hill attempts to answer these questions by briefly exploring and comparing chief counselling modalities. Whether you are a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or simply a lay person with an interest in mental health issues, it is helpful to be clear on what different psychologies assume and what, therefore, they can offer the client and the therapist.
Helping and Stress Management: Part 2
Stress is any pressure, demand, or threat placed on an organism (say, a human being) that causes a need to re-establish balance or “equilibrium”. The Oxford Dictionary online adds that stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”
In this two-part article series, we look at stress management from the perspective of a helper: that is, anyone who is currently providing emotional or psychological support to a friend, client or loved one. Hence, the concepts outlined in this series apply to therapists as well as people without any specific counselling or mental health training.
In this second article (click here to read the first part), we share an inventory of some of the more well-known stress management strategies, including methods to tend to the body and mind/emotions, and the importance of emotional integrity.
Strategies for managing stress
Given the numerous sources and symptoms of stress, the wise stress manager develops a full arsenal of stress-busting weapons. Below is an inventory of some of the more well-known stress management strategies. As you read through it, ask yourself honestly how many of these you already employ. Note also whether they tend to be more physically-based, such as exercise, mental/emotionally-based, such as changing your thought patterns, or spiritually-based strategies, such as regular meditation practice.
Strategies to tend to body
Exercise: How much of this do you do? Many experts recommend at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. More importantly, how much do you like what you do? Jogging may be a great exercise for those who enjoy it, but if you just feel tired and stressed with joint pain afterwards, you may be a better candidate for cycling, swimming, or low-impact aerobics or “aquarobics”.
The exercise guru Joe Weider used to say that we need a balanced triangle of aerobic/cardio-development, resistance/strength-training (such as with weight-lifting), and stretching exercise (such as with yoga, Pilates, or tai chi) in order to fully serve the physical needs of our body for exercise. You may wish to consider engaging exercises that can be done indoors on a winter night (e.g., stationery cycling or dumbbell weight-lifting at home) with activities to get you outdoors and/or with friends, such as tennis or team sports, cycling, tramping, or exercise classes such as Zumba. Varying what you do is a great idea, because you not only work different muscles and different systems (e.g., musculo-skeletal for strength training and cardiovascular for aerobic), but also you keep the interest alive. Your ability to self-regulate will help you to manage getting enough appropriate exercise. Your ability to balance can help you to vary the type of benefits you are receiving.
Food: How is your relationship with food? Unlike other substances to which we develop strong preferences or addictions, we cannot just abstain completely from this one in the interest of managing stress! We therefore need to find a plan for building and maintaining a good relationship with food. You need five to seven servings of fruit and vegetable in a day; we all know that. The question is: how can you make that an interesting proposition, so that you are motivated to habitually grab (for example) the carrot instead of the cookie at morning tea, the grilled fish instead of the fried fish at the restaurant, and the high-fibre carbohydrates that ensure a well-functioning digestive system?
How willing are you to honestly examine when you are “comfort eating”, instead of doing so because your body needs nourishment? How aware are you of any food allergies or intolerances which might be causing stress to your system? Many people who need to be lactose or gluten free do not even realise it until circumstances force them to temporarily go off one of those categories of food and they start to feel better. How consistent are you able to be in your eating habits, finding a food regime which works to keep you and your weight stable (unless you are trying to lose or gain), while providing all the essential nutrients? The yo-yo dieting system does not work in the long run, and only leaves your body more stressed and depleted.
In terms of both stress management and general health, the idea is to find an eating plan which works for you most of the time (allowing, of course, for occasional indulgences). How you manage food involves all three of the critical skills: self-awareness (of what you actually eat), self-regulation (so that you do not eat too little or too much), and balance (so that you eat a proper balance of nutrients, and – for interest’s sake – a variety of cuisines/types of food).
Substances: How are you with potentially addictive substances, such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol? Overuse or abuse of these is rife in modern life, and yet sometimes a bit of them can be helpful. An administrator at a nursing home once remarked that his healthiest patients were not the teetotallers, but the folk who had one glass of wine with their dinner. Green tea has been shown to have numerous benefits with all the anti-oxidants, but if you are having so much of it that you cannot sleep at night, you are off-balance, and creating problems in other systems of your body-mind. Again, we come to: awareness, regulation, and balance. The key seems to be moderation, and genuinely being able to pull away when enough is enough.
Rest: We have only to look at the chronically sleep-deprived young mum, or the overworking-not-sleeping executive to be reminded of how important this component is for our overall vitality. The negative effects of sleep deprivation on both physical and mental functioning are well documented, with claims that half of us mismanage our sleep to the point of negative consequences for our health and safety (Dement, 1999). Those attempting to lose weight are sometimes surprised to hear the research finding that insufficient sleep can even cause us to gain weight. Here’s the bottom line: your body needs sufficient, high-quality rest. It needs it every night, and also in the form of “down-time” (we consider that separately) during the day. Six to eight hours nightly is generally recommended, and you probably know about how much you personally need. How well are you doing on getting it? And if you regularly are depriving yourself of this vital component of your wellness program, how willing are you to ask yourself why you matter so little in your life?
Sexuality: How is your sex life? The issues surrounding the expressing and gratifying of sexual needs are as complex as for the other issues involving the physical self. Crucially, we must understand the relationship between our sexuality and our emotional well-being. What differentiates us from animals is that we can do more than merely copulate. We can make love and engage in mutually satisfying rituals with an emotionally engaged partner. Through sex, we can promote love, intimacy, and romance. Though no single sexuality routine is advocated for all people, what is clear is that the more we are able to develop emotionally, sexually, and spiritually fulfilling relationships – sustained over the long haul – the more we attain high levels of health (Ryff and Singer, 1998).
If you are not partnered, what can you do for yourself to experience legitimate, benevolent touch? Some examples might be getting a relaxing massage, taking a ballroom (or other partnered) dance class, or taking a class on therapeutic massage.
Medical care: Does your stress management regime include routine consultations with medical people such as general practitioners, dentists, and whichever allied healthcare professionals you may need to see? Again, that issue of helpers not tending to themselves rears its ugly head in the form of procrastination around medical check-ups, annual dental cleaning times, and missed appointments with the chiropractor. How faithfully do you maintain your health? How congruent are you with your helpees if you are urging them to get medical care and you are not doing it?
Strategies to tend to mind/emotions
Identifying and replacing stress-inducing attitudes: For many modern stress managers, this is a really the big one! How willing are you to acknowledge unhelpful attitudes and beliefs that you may have? Some of these may be unexamined ways of thinking about yourself and your life that were given to you by parents and other early caregivers. They may not really be your attitudes and values, but they were put there so early on, it is hard to tell that they do not belong with you. You can recognise them because they are often distorted, exaggerated, self-critical, or self-defeating “tapes” that re-play over and over again in your head, causing personal anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. In this category belong attitudes such as:
- Compulsion to overwork
- Feelings of incompetence
- Non-acceptance of self
- Unprocessed regret
- Distorted sense of control
- Placing conditions on happiness
- Messages of unworthiness
- Non-acceptance of others
- Sense that the world ‘should’ be a certain way
- Lack of perspective
- Intolerance for self and others
- Obsession with envy
- Fear of committing
- Lack of gratitude
As with all of these unfortunate mental “glitches” in our wiring, the antidote, for both the sake of our own peace of mind and our ultimate effectiveness with helpees, is to strongly challenge each one of these as they come up. We do this by making a disputing statement which gives a kinder, more realistic evaluation of ourselves or our situation. The disputation helps us to solve problems where the original statement, a “cognitive distortion”, would tend to keep us stuck.
For example, if we are stressing ourselves by obsessing over what Jamie has that we do not (let’s say, great professional standing), we can remind ourselves of what we do have (possibly a loving family, excellent health, or a loyal set of friends). If the problem is, say, a feeling of incompetence, we can remind ourselves that, as a developing human being, we are allowed to have “growing edges”, and that even if we are only moderately skilled at, say, knowing how to respond to a helpee’s grief, we are quite effective at, say, helping them to derive meaningful goals.
Working on this stress management strategy can be a lifetime effort, but it is a most worthwhile one. Self-awareness is key. Which attitudes or beliefs do you identify for yourself as problematic? How do you currently deal with these distortions? How else might you handle them?
Practicing unconditional self-acceptance and compassion: One attitude/belief that deserves special mention is the art of accepting ourselves on an “as is, where is” basis. For us to be peacefully in relationship with our own humanness – our own combination of strengths, growing edges and unique quirks – means to have less stress from the source of our own critical voice. You know the voice: the one that yells at us that we are not _____ (fill in the blank: “slender”, “clever”, “good at business”, etc), or that we have not achieved enough. The more we can truly live from a genuine sense of “I am ok”, the more that we can be in compassionate, accepting relationship with helpees and others.
The more we manage to fund a deep sense of esteem from our own internal resources, the more we develop the autonomy and inner authority that prevents us crumpling from criticism, or needing acceptance and approval from others. It is not a short-term strategy, but there are few efforts that yield greater happiness and hardiness. The skills of self-awareness and self-regulation can work wonders here. Our increasing awareness of when we fail to accept ourselves can lead to increased ability to regulate our minds towards compassion.
On a scale of 1 – 100, how accepting of yourself are you? Which specific areas of yourself do you identify as really hard to accept? This could include anything from physical characteristics (e.g., “I hate my nose”) to mental skills (“I am a terrible salesperson”) to global put-downs (“I’m a loser; I haven’t done anything with my life”). How willing are you to choose one of these areas and re-write the negative self-talk you are giving yourself?
Developing and maintaining meaningful human connections: This one is a long-term strategy that pays dividends until the day we die. Research identifies the crucial importance of perceived social support. People who sense that they have satisfying, supportive connections with friends, family, and colleagues are shown over and over again in social support studies to have higher levels of wellbeing, happiness, and resilience than those who do not (Bokhorst, Sumter and Westenberg, 2010; Carbonatto, 2009). Such connections provide a robust antidote to overwork and burnout.
Being connected does not mean that you need to become an extrovert or “party animal” if you are not that way inclined. It does mean that you can count on at least a few special people being available for you when you need them. Of course, to have a friend one must be a friend, and you are called upon at some stage to return the favour. Developing availability, while arguably a stress management tool in its own right, is a topic we take up shortly under the heading of emotional integrity. Suffice it to say here that meaningful relationships are a powerful stress-buster. The balance element comes in when we are deciding how much time to be “in relationship”, and how much to take for ourselves, alone.
Taking “down time” and time to replenish: A woman said recently that she had had several hours of doing nothing on the weekend. The others at the lunch table remarked that that must have been nice. She replied that it wasn’t, really, as she didn’t know what to “do” with herself! A huge stressor in modern life is the relentless time and task demands. Helpers feel these keenly, as there is always more that could be done, more people that could be helped. We have already addressed over-functioning and the resultant emotional depletion as conditions for which we in the helping fields are at higher risk. The antidote is to have unscheduled time: time when nothing is expected of you, time to play and renew.
Non-work endeavours such as hobbies and leisure-time activities are integral to the full expression of ourselves as human beings. As helpers, we need to proactively schedule in time and energy for creative and self-expressive pursuits, play activities, and growth hobbies. Gardening, arts and crafts, music-making, and taking in concerts and museum exhibitions are all self-renewing ventures when we engage them voluntarily. Play can be something as simple as laughing with a friend or chasing a beloved pet around the garden. Walking in nature, drumming, and dancing can all bring us to another level of awareness, which short-circuits the stress response. The goal is to recreate rather than to “numb out”, to let go of burden and responsibility rather than to demonstrate more competence or status to the world. What we choose will ultimately be a function of factors such as our stage of life, what is available in our environment to do (including cost-wise), and what our personality preferences (including introversion and extraversion) dictate that we should choose. The point is to simply enjoy ourselves, thereby refilling the emotional tanks left empty by our helping work.
“R and R” periods such as holidays serve a similar purpose. The absence of phone calls, actual helping sessions, and freedom to not engage the helping response all give helpers the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective, and to better assess their needs and options. Unbelievably, some observers claim that this is harder for helpers to do than the actual work (Baker, 2003). As helpers, we may best serve ourselves and thus our helpees early on through “cultivating relaxation habits with the same energy and commitment that you apply to your work” (Ziegler and Kanas, 1986, p 180).
Self-care rituals: Not really confined to any one category, self-care rituals span the spectrum of body-mind-spirit strategies for managing stress. They may be something that we physically perform, such as an elaborate relaxing bath, or something that we take mental/emotional space in order to do, such as a daily visualisation program. But they are organised with the idea of calming and centring ourselves to compensate for the chaotic, hurley-burley of life. In this, they gently bring us to another perspective. Scan your mind for such activities in your life. Which rituals might you have? Have any of them been started in order to support you as a helper? Would you like more rituals? If so, of what type?
Strategies to tend to spirit
Spirituality means different things to different people. For some it is a humanistic sense of how we can collectively care for our environment, make better lives for the less fortunate, and generally connect better on a human-to-human level. For others, spirituality has to do with formal and organised religion and the rituals that are related to that. While both of those aspects are important, the sense in which we mean “spiritual” here is that of overarching “whole of life” questions. These are concerns about the meaning and purpose of our life, the values that we live by, and the consequent desire to draw towards the “something more than”. Connecting with spirit or spiritual experiences helps us to counter the physical and mental symptoms of the stress response (Benson, 1996).
Studies and objective observations of healing progress from medical procedures support the idea that engaging stillness activities such as contemplation, meditation, and prayer accelerates healing, generates higher levels of functioning and ushers in a sense of wellbeing, hopefulness, and optimism (Miller, 1999). Which stress management strategies do you have in this category?
1. Do you have a spiritual holding? A particular way of connecting with the divine or your higher self that brings you peace, joy, higher insight, and other stress-reducing qualities?
2. What spiritual practices do you currently observe? This could include daily prayer/ contemplation/meditation periods, spiritually-oriented exercise, or other aspects of mindfulness and deep breathing. How regular are you in observing these practices?
3. How often, if ever, do you allow yourself to have retreat space for several days? Retreats vary widely in their orientation, from the 10-days-in-silence retreats to facilitated group events where there is much sharing of experience in addition to periods of reflection.
4. What sorts of activities, such as journal writing, biofeedback, or visualisation might you do to supplement your regular program?
5. As you reflect on this slice of your life, especially in regard to its stress management capacity, how satisfied are you with your overall spiritual practice?
Stress management techniques, strategies, and approaches seem unlimited. Hopefully by now you have identified strategies at which you are already proficient, and equally, some which you might like to try in order to mitigate the ever-present drain on your personal resources through stress. The good news is that you can start small: one new technique or strategy, done consistently, can work wonders to improve your self-care, and thus ability to care for your helpees.
There is another angle to the importance of self-care that goes beyond the ability to manage stress. It is the ability to be with someone in emotional integrity. Imagine this scene. You have gone to see someone you never met before about a problem in your workplace. The person asks you how they can help you, and you begin to explain your situation. Before you get very far, you hear a tapping noise. Looking down, you see that the person’s foot is tapping the floor. As you continue, you observe that their eyes frequently move to their left. What are they looking at, you wonder: the clock? Are they staring out the window? Their impassive face reveals nothing. They say “um-hum” occasionally, but do not ask any questions or reflect anything back to you, so you are uncertain if they are getting what you are saying.
As you get to a crucial revelation, their phone rings and – to your surprise – they answer it. When they come off the phone, they can’t remember what you were talking about. After you have explained the situation as you see it, they say how much treatment will cost. There is nary a summarising wrap-up statement from them, and no indication whatsoever about how they view you or your predicament. You certainly do not feel welcomed. It is possible that the person you went to see did not have emotional integrity. They did not know how to be genuinely with you such that they were there for you.
Perhaps the single most significant gift we can give our helpees is to be with them in a way that demonstrates emotional integrity. A state of unified being, of completeness, emotional integrity occurs when heart, mind, and will are aligned (van Warmerdam, 2008). It is characterised by a quality in someone that goes beyond helping techniques. In the book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman (1995) popularised the notion that being able to deal positively with emotions – both our own and others – is as important as cognitive (mind) intelligence for personal and professional success. While Goleman has drawn criticism for his ideas being difficult to measure scientifically (Locke, 2005), many supporters find the general idea a useful one for explaining how helpers can be more in tune with our helpees. Goleman outlined four aspects of understanding about ourselves in relation to emotions.
These are considered the pillars supporting emotional integrity:
- Self-awareness: the ability to read one’s emotions and recognise their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-management: being able to control one’s emotions and impulses and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness: the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
- Relationship management: the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict (Goleman, 1995).
Communicating with emotional integrity
If you would like to hold a discussion from a place of emotional integrity, how would you need to communicate with others? Here is a list of suggestions:
1. Be open to receiving input from your helpee. You have to be willing to test and be tested. You don’t have to say everything you’re thinking, but everything you do say has to be accurate. If your helpee asks you if you’re upset, and you are, you have to be willing to say, “Yes.”
2. Reflect content and feelings. After receiving input from your helpee, verify that what you are hearing is what the other person is actually saying. You can say, “What I hear from you content-wise is...” Then, to make sure you understand what he/she is feeling, you can say something like, “The feeling I’m getting from you is resentment/ anger/hurt, etc.”
3. Accept feedback and respond. If you are the person who is giving the input, you have to clarify things if your helpee isn’t hearing what you are honestly trying to say. If you are the person receiving the input, you can respond once you know what you are responding to. Once you are clear on what the other person is really saying, you can accept the feedback.
4. Stay in the moment. Stay with the issues at hand (McGraw, 2009).
5. Keep to the time boundaries of the session. That way, both of you know the maximum time the conversation will last. If the discussion occurs as part of a regularly scheduled session, keep to the time boundaries of the session.
Working through personal issues
There is an area of stress management strategy, focused at the mental/emotional level, which we have not included directly yet: the question of how (or even whether) you are working through your own personal issues related to providing support.
Helpers have the huge challenge of working with people in pain and not being blocked in their work by the triggering of their own same pain. You may discover that working with individuals or families throws up themes in your life. Some of these will have been outside your awareness. Your unawareness of your own family of origin issues may cause you to avoid dealing with these same potentially painful areas in helpees. As helpees begin to confront events that trigger their pain, memories of your own pain may be stimulated.
For example, let’s say you are volunteering your time on a telephone counselling line, or perhaps at a university recruitment centre. You receive a call from a man who is conflicted around returning to university at night to complete his degree. It would significantly advance his career to have the degree, but as he has a young family, he hesitates. If he were to attend classes at night for the next five years while working fulltime during the day, it would mean that he almost never saw his young children. You hear his story and reflect on how your own father did just that. You rarely saw him as a youngster, and have wrestled with feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, and unworthiness for most of your life as a result of the lack of any real attention from him.
Now, you find yourself drawn to advising the man that his family obligations are supremely important. On some level, you might be protecting his children from the same fate that you endured, yet you may not even realise the extent to which your advice to the man is influenced by your own pain. It is crucial to recognise that your ability to facilitate the healing forces in others results from your willingness to experience your own wounds, and do what is needed to bring about healing for yourself.
Baker, E. K. (2003). Caring for ourselves: A therapist’s guide to personal and professional wellbeing. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Bokhorst, C.L., Sumter, S. R., and Westenberg, P.M. (2010). Social support from parents, friends, classmates, and teachers in children and adolescents aged 9 to 18 years: Who is perceived as most supportive? Social Development, 19(2), p 418.
Carbonatto, Meg. (2009). Back from the edge: Extraordinary stories of human survival and how people did it. Auckland, New Zealand: Cape Catley, Ltd.
Dement, W.C. (1999). The promise of sleep. New York: Dell. In Baker, E. K. (2003). Caring for ourselves: A therapist’s guide to personal and professional well-being. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Locke, E.A. (2005). Why emotional intelligence is an invalid concept. Journal of Organizational Behavior 26, pp 425–431. Retrieved from: doi:10.1002/job.318.
Miller, W.R., (ed.). (1999). Integrating spirituality into treatment: Resources for practitioners. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Oxford Dictionaries Online. Retrieved from: hyperlink.
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9(1), 1—28. In Baker, E. K. (2003). Caring for ourselves: A therapist’s guide to personal and professional well-being. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Van Warmerdam, G. (2008). Emotional Integrity. Retrieved from: hyperlink.
Ziegler, J.L. & Kanas, N. (1986). Coping with stress during internship. In C.D. Scott & J. Hawk (Eds.), Heal thyself: The health of health care professionals (pp 174 – 184). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
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Wellbeing through creativity
- How many different ways can you use a brick?
- What would happen if dogs could talk?
- What will our homes and workplaces look like 100 years from now?
When you read the questions above, what is your reaction? Do you shrug and start to click away from this page? Get irritated? Or possibly, get curious and start to imagine some possibilities? Your response might give you a clue to how you are presently engaging with your innate creativity and that, we are told, might have a lot to do with your levels of wellbeing.
Creativity: What is it and who’s got it?
You may protest, “Oh, I’m not creative.” But I used the phrase “innate creativity” deliberately. Evidence is mounting to show that we all have an inbuilt capacity to think or behave in ways that are imaginative and which direct activity in a purposeful way, toward a goal: that is, to be creative. We can define the creative process as one which is original, giving birth to ideas that are new to the person involved with them, and perhaps new to others, too. The outcome of the process is of value, providing solutions to problems, being useful, or giving enjoyment to the creator or others.
Naturally, the creations of some people (think famous chefs, scientists, artists, and writers) are widely valued because they are innovative: new to just about everyone. But all of us can have a go at the process of combining things in ways novel and unusual to ourselves, thus exercising our creativity – and we can do this in any profession and just about any human activity.
Why do it? The benefits of creative activity
“I’m busy,” you say. “Maybe when the kids leave home/I win Lotto/I retire I’ll have time to create stuff.” OK, but do you really want to wait that long to gain the wide-ranging benefits which creative involvement confers on us? Just look at this list of qualities and skills (which are also present in people with high levels of wellbeing). Creatively messing about helps us to gain:
- Additional perspective(s)
- Concentration and flow, as we focus on projects
- Discipline and self-control as we come to exercise mastery in a creative area (think practicing your guitar every day)
- Emotional intelligence: being able to understand, read, and express emotions
- Empathy: being able to feel our way into others’ experience (not just through drama)
- Autonomy, as we learn to operate from an internal authority and sense of independence
- Open-mindedness and “out-of-the-box” thinking
- Flexibility, as we develop lateral thinking to approach problems in multiple ways
- Problem-solving ability
- Willingness to take risks, embarking on projects without knowing the outcome
- Tolerance for ambiguity (holding lightly the fact that we don’t “get” it all)
- Intrinsic motivation (that is, being involved in something for the sake of that activity, not just because someone will like us or pay us if we do it)
- Communication skills, as we sharpen our ability to deliver our most deeply held messages in ideas, words, pictures, or created things
Using creativity leads to self-development
As if the above list weren’t good enough, researchers in Scotland have linked the development of the above abilities to those of achievement, self-confidence, self-respect, a sense of belonging, the capacity to align with purpose, the development of strengths and interests, and the ability to aim high, taking on noble aspirations. And all of this stems from a simple willingness to play, muck about, and try new ways of seeing and doing things: that is, to be creative. So how do we boost our creativity?
The World Happiness Forum has put out a list of ten creativity-enhancers:
- Enfold yourself in the colour blue; a Canadian study of 600 participants showed it doubled creative output.
- Read up on what the creative greats have said; follow their advice.
- Put some distance between yourself and your creative endeavour; it helps you to think more abstractly about the problem, which enhances creativity.
- Drop yourself into a stimulating, enriched environment (say, one that is rich with metaphor and abstract understanding). That way your brain cells work hard, your neuronal connections multiply, and your creativity takes a quantum leap (hint: this rules out too much dabbling in cyberspace, which is not typically abstract or full of metaphor).
- Combine imagination and association: by imagining things and associating them with other things, we recall better, and also boost our creativity.
- Get the right side of your brain zapped with a (weak) electrical charge; it stimulates the right, creative side of you and temporarily suppresses the logical, linear left brain
- Take a power nap – even 15 minutes. Nana did it and so can you; no explanation (or apology) needed.
- Become more introverted. The world’s great mystics didn’t have their revelatory epiphanies carousing in a bar. As one sage and spiritual teacher said, “The price of greatness is seclusion.”
- Start young. Well, ok, if we’re several decades too late for you on that one, you can still practice playing, seeing things in new ways, and allowing yourself to feel safe while you creatively explore.
- Act on your creative ideas. Remember, creative involvement develops your independence. You may need it, because really novel ideas throughout history have often received a hostile reception. Take your amazing idea and run with it. You reap the creative harvest.
Written by Dr Meg CarbonattoB.S., M.A., and Ph.D.
Hands-On Scotland. (n.d.). Creativity: Encouraging children and young people to be creative.
Hands-On Scotland. Retrieved on 4 March, 2015, from: hyperlink.
World Happiness Forum. (n.d.). 10 ways to boost your creativity.pdf, from: hyperlink.
Coping with the Death of a Loved One
Losing someone you love can be like losing one half of yourself. The pain and emptiness felt during the grieving process can go on for months or years, however no two people will ever respond to the same situation in the same way. Working through grief is a day by day, week by week process. You may have bad days when you think you will never recover from this loss. You may also think that you will never function successfully without this person in your life. The good news is that you will recover and you will be fully functional, if you choose to.
Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive Eating
Also referred to as “food addiction” and “binge-eating disorder” (BED), compulsive overeating is characterised by an obsessive-compulsive relationship to food. This condition is not only manifested by abnormal (amount of) food intake, but also by the intake and craving for foods that are, in themselves, harmful to the individual. People suffering from this disorder engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binge eating, during which they may feel out of control, often consuming food in frenzy, past the point of being comfortably full. The binge is usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. In order to feel better about themselves, binge eaters will surrender to cravings with another binge, which they hope will numb out the bad feelings; thus, the cycle repeats itself.
Q&A with Toula Gordillo (Clinical Psychologist)
Q. How can I support clients suffering from continued stress and anxiety?
A. Often a client will feel stressed, and subsequently develop mental health problems, due to an inability to control/accept life circumstances around them or when they feel outcomes in their life are being very “unfair”. As a therapist, I use an eclectic approach to deliver important historical, cultural or psychological information and strategies. I tend to use stories and images based on the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and a number of other scientifically validated therapies, to help clients accept that: 1. Life is unfair i.e. “It is not a perfect world”, and 2. Circumstances will happen beyond their ability to control.
Clients’ awareness of their own cognitions influencing their behaviour, as part of CBT for example, can be revealed through stories. Clients can learn to identify their cognitive schemas and replace ineffective patterns of thinking with more effective patterns by reading about a person’s (or story character’s) struggles thought pattern struggles, and discussing how they managed to challenge and overcome these during therapy.
Stories and images, based on the principles of ACT as part of Story Image Therapy & Tools (SITT), can help a client accept what they cannot change and commit to changing what they can through reading and discussing a relevant story with their therapist. The “The Little Fish” is a perfect example of a story about a little fish that keeps ‘fighting the tide’ (the tide represents circumstances that the person is unable to control). Relevant for any age group, the story of “The Little Fish” can help a person to visualise the struggles experienced by a frustrated, exhausted, sad/depressed fish who is ‘fighting the tide’ in their life. As the client reads the story in their own time, even older adults can begin to relate to the struggles experienced by the little fish (themselves) and what is their particular ‘tide’ (what they cannot control).
During therapy the client may become aware that initially the fish may feel energised as it tries to ‘fight the tide’ i.e. change circumstances or another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviour. Over time, however, the little fish starts to feel more tired as it finds that no matter what the little fish tries to do, the tide will continue.
The little fish begins to realise that it cannot keep ‘fighting the tide’ as it is becoming more and more stressed and exhausted. Through the story, the client gradually comes to the realisation that it has three choices: 1. It may eventually drown (give up or suicide), 2. It can try to jump out of the stream and find another stream that is moving in a more positive direction (find another person/situation that suits) or 3. It can turn around and move with the tide (accept what it cannot change). The little fish/client may realise that they have become stressed, anxious or depressed when they have been ineffectual and cannot make a lasting impact on their environment until they truly accept ‘their tide’.
The reduction in a person’s level of stress, and resultant depression and anxiety for example, can be significant as the client comes to a number of realisations through internalisation of the story and image portrayed. The therapist facilitates the acceptance process by exposing the client to the story and image, but it is the clients themselves who learn the cause of the stress and mental health concerns, and how to ameliorate these symptoms, through the story image tools.
Toula Gordillo is a Clinical Psychologist, AIPC private assessor/tutor and regular contributor for Institute Inbrief. Toula has an extensive work history as a Clinical Psychologist, Teacher, and Guidance Officer. For more information, visit www.talktoteens.com.au.
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DSM-5 updates: Assessment instruments
When discussing happiness, one attitude/belief that deserves special mention is the art of accepting ourselves on an “as is, where is” basis. For us to be peacefully in relationship with our own humanness – our own combination of strengths, growing edges and unique quirks – means to have less stress from the source of our own critical voice. You know the voice: the one that yells at us that we are not _____ (fill in the blank: “slender”, “clever”, “good at business”, etc), or that we have not achieved enough. The more we can truly live from a genuine sense of “I am ok”, the more that we can be in compassionate, accepting relationship with helpees and others.
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