Choosing a psychologist that you can trust and who helps you feel at ease can be a challenge. Some people may need to go through several therapists first before finally finding “the one.” But doing some research first up can really help.
To assist you in your search, here are five helpful steps to follow:
Step 1: Check out the clinical psychologists in your area.
It is important to limit your search to your city because it is important for the act of attending therapy sessions to be as convenient for you as possible. Initially, go online to conduct your search. This can lead you to a list of qualified professionals as well as ratings for their work and other useful information. Check out the “Find a Psychologist” service on the Australian Psychological Society’s website. This provides a useful general guide as a first step.
It would also help if you gather recommendations from family and friends who go to therapy as well. In addition, your local doctor may be able to recommend professional psychology services providers that you could consider. GPs are in a good position to offer you a few options.
Step 2: Narrow down your options to the therapists specializing in your particular condition.
Establish what you are dealing with. Is it anxiety? Perhaps a traumatic experience from your childhood? Maybe a relentless inner critic?
Find a psychologist in Bondi Junction who is a real expert on your case. This information is typically available in the “About” section of a therapist’s or therapy centre’s website. Alternatively, you can simply call the different clinics or centres to inquire about it.
Step 3: Consider your budget.
Do the math and set a budget for therapy sessions. Naturally, you want to be able to go to therapy over the long term for the most positive results because progress takes time. Therefore, you need to find a psychologist whose rates you can afford.
Also, include factors that could potentially lower the estimated costs. Ask your healthfund about rebates and ask your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan and your eligibility.
Step 4: Give therapy a test run.
There’s no better way to determine whether a clinical psychologist is a good match for you or not than to meet them in person and engage in a session or two. Do not overthink the experience and allow your words and expressions to flow so you can evaluate the therapist and the session.
Each therapist or psychologist will have a different style of conducting sessions. At the same time, different therapists will have different personalities. Some are friendly and empathetic, while others may have a business-like demeanor but can communicate clearly with you.
If you feel ill at ease with a therapist for any reason, you can continue to look for a therapist who can truly help you.
Essential you want to feel comfortable and at ease with your therapist and you want to feel heard and validated. These are all reasonable things to expect.
Step 5: Find out how flexible a therapist can be.
If you experience sudden spells of anxiety or debilitating symptoms, it is best to find a highly accessible therapist. It would be most beneficial for you if a therapist can be reached for assistance during the times you need them the most, including odd hours.
You need to feel that you can rely on your therapist in order to develop trust that will motivate you to keep on moving forward. Choose someone who you feel is non-judgemental and who makes a real effort to understand and appreciate your inner world.
Our Therapists at Good Mood Clinic Can Help
If you live in Sydney, Australia and you are looking for a therapist to assist you on your journey to psychological recovery, consider one of our warm and helpful psychologists.
We are a team of highly experienced and trained therapists with specialisations in a variety of psychological concerns. The Good Mood Clinic is the leading provider of Schema Therapy in Sydney, and we continuously undergo training to cater more effectively to the unique needs and goals of our clients.
We are ready to help you find the best professional to work with. Book an appointment with our psychologist in Bondi Junction today.
The Demanding, Punitive & Guilt-inducing ‘Parent’ Modes
These parent (or ‘inner critic’) modes are learned thoughts and beliefs (about yourself and others) which are negative in nature. They might sound like this: “I’m ugly, I’ll never get anywhere in life; I’m worthless, I’m not as good as others; no one could love me; I’m useless if I make mistakes; I’m boring, I’m going to stuff it up again, I’m just not good enough, If I don’t put other’s first I’m a selfish person, I’m responsible for other people’s happiness” and all sorts of other harsh and negative or unrealistic words. These are the messages from your inner critics or dysfunctional ‘parent’ modes. It is your voice speaking, your inner dialogue, the words or phrases you say to yourself in a tone and manner that is judgemental, demanding or nasty. But you weren’t born with these thoughts, they were all learned, directly or indirectly from your earlier experiences. These parent modes come from messages you received from parents and other early life events like bullying or other forms of social learning.
We all, depending on our natural temperament, internalised or introjected these ‘messages’ during our formative years and they became woven into the fabric of our evolving personality. That’s why we don’t tend to question them – because by adulthood, they are a fundamental part of our identify.
In schema therapy we divide the inner critic into three types: one is a fear-based part (we call this the “demanding parent” or critic), another is a nasty, mean part (we call this the “punitive parent”) and the third is a ‘guilt-tripping’ part – the guilt inducing parent mode or critic. This distinction is important because in therapy we target these parts in different ways and they can affect a person’s mental health to different degrees.
The Demanding Parent Voice – your inner perfectionist!
The demanding parent mode is fear-driven because it tells you that if you don’t do something or be something, then everything will fall apart. This part is unrelenting in its effort to get you to be better in some way. “Don’t stop studying because if you do you’ll fall behind and then you’ll fail and then you will be unemployable and have no money…….” “You have to look perfect all the time because if you don’t you’ll never meet anyone and you’ll be alone forever!” “Whatever you do don’t make a mistake because if you do others will see that you are an imposter and that you don’t have what it takes!” Basically, if you don’t follow the ‘advice’ of your demanding parent then you are doomed to failure or loneliness or some other sort of misery. People who are very perfectionistic have a strong demanding parent mode. They have huge amounts of anxiety which they manage by attempting to control every outcome with all sorts of coping behaviours (eg, being a ‘workaholic’; a ‘control-freak’; doing all the work and not delegating anything; checking their work excessively and countless more). If you’re a perfectionist you may have already realised that your inner critic never shuts up and you’re always listening in for its updates.
The Punitive Parent Voice – the nasty side!
The punitive parent mode is not fear-driven and it’s not trying to frighten you into doing something because it believes (albeit flawed) you need it. Punitive parent is a nasty voice that is demeaning and tells you that you are worthless, useless or defective in some way. This voice is often formed from direct and blatant verbal/psychological abuse from care-givers or others who hurt you in some way. It can also be formed because you did not receive positive messages about being valued, ‘seen’, respected & loved. It can often come about from a combination of early experiences where the child felt unseen and worthless because their emotional needs were not met. It’s important to remember that we are not born into the world with a sense of self-worth (psychologically speaking). We develop this sense of worth only if we are cared for in a way that makes us feel emotionally understood and validated. We need to be seen as a separate person with our own needs – physical, emotional and social.
Someone with a strong punitive parent mode may believe deep down that they don’t deserve good things, that they are worthless and unworthy of love. The person may feel as though they deserve punishment and they display signs of self-loathing such as self-mutilation and suicidal fantasises. Sometimes the punitive parent voice can be extremely strong and can cause people to hurt themselves or try to take their own lives.
Generally speaking, the louder this voice, the more at risk a person is of suffering from recurrent or persistent depression. It is the presence and strength of the punitive parent voice which often predicts how people cope over time and how much they struggle with persistent low mood. People with chronic or recurrent depression often have a strong punitive parent mode.
The Guilt-Inducing Parent Voice – the, if I win, then you will lose dilemma!
There is also another type of inner critic voice which we call the ‘guilt-inducing’ critic or parent mode. It sounds something like this: “If I ever put myself first, others will suffer”; “If I can’t always help others, then I’m lazy and selfish”; “If I say no to a request, then I’m just being self-centred”; “I am the one that has to help, it has to be me!”; “Disappointing others is unbearable for me, I feel so guilty” and so on, you get the picture!
Basically, this style of inner dialogue usually develops when a child grows up being somehow responsible for one or more of their care-takers or another ‘vulnerable’ person within the family unit. There is usually some type of pattern whereby the parent or parents gave the child a message that they must somehow take care of or protect the parent. These messages can be either direct in nature (eg, direct requests or directions from parents that the child must be responsible or take care of them), or indirect (eg, more subtle messages where the child learns that a parent needs to be taken care of or protected). In this regard one or more parents are very likely to be dependant on the child, either emotionally or physically. The parent does not have to directly make the child feel guilty explicitly, as the guilt is often more gradually and subtly acquired by the child. The ‘guilt-inducing’ voice can also come from experiences where a parent did try and manipulate the child’s emotions and actually make them feel guilty to a greater or lesser degree. This can be a more robust or toxic form of the guilt-inducing parent mode. For example, whenever the child or adolescent attempted to be independent of separate from the parent, the parent may have responded with messages which implied that the child would ‘hurt’ them, it they were to ‘separate’ and attend to their own needs (eg: “I don’t know what I’d do without you, I’d never survive without your help”; “go out with your friends if you like, I’ll just sit at home feeling lonely all night”; “It’s OK you have your own life to live, I’ll manage somehow I suppose”). As you can see, the development of the ‘guilt-inducing’ parent mode can be quite complex and can develop gradually over the years without any apparent parent-child conflict or trauma. If you have a strong ‘guilt-inducing’ parent mode, then you will generally have a lot of trouble setting healthy limits with others and even agonize over letting others down or saying no, even when you have to. Guilt is a very familiar emotion for you!
Your own demanding, punitive or guilt-inducing parent mode can come out and be directed towards other people, like your partner and your own children. If this is happening you need to gain insight into when it happens because ultimately it will destroy relationships. A child who grows up with a demanding or punitive parent will harbour a lot of resentment towards their parent and will have a strong angry child mode that they will have to work on.
In relationships, critic or parent modes can play out with negative consequences. For example, you may feel yourself flip into punitive parent mode if you feel the need to harshly berate your spouse if they have not done something to your standard, or you may say harsh, critical things to your child when you feel they are not listening to you. Afterwards, when you calm down, you might see that you have been excessively harsh or unreasonable and you may regret your words.
Fortunately, we can do something about all these types of inner critics! The goal of working on the demanding parents is to tame it, to dilute it down to an acceptable level where it helps you instead of hindering you. Because the punitive parent voice does not help you in any way, the goal is to override it in therapy with proven strategies. In schema therapy we can use all sorts of creative ways to destabilize the punitive parent, so that it’s ‘presence’ is either fully eradicated or reduced significantly. One of the key antidotes for all forms of inner critics is of course self-compassion. In Schema Therapy we refer to this as the ‘Healthy Adult’ mode. In schema therapy we want to heal the childhood vulnerabilities that believe the negative critical voices and also bolster the self-compassionate part of the person – their ‘Healthy Adult’ mode.
In schema therapy, the therapist can use different experiential methods including chair-work to externalise the inner critics to see how they play out in a client’s life and also how they might hinder progress in therapy. Being able to identify your inner critics and the types of message they express is an important first step towards healing in schema therapy.
Vulnerable Child Modes
Child modes are parts of self (or representations of the self) which came into being in childhood in response to the parenting you received and other experiences you encounted. Think about the concept of the ‘inner child’ that many therapists have written about. The term Vulnerable child (VC) is a general one used to described a part of the self which harbours all the emotional pain belonging to childhood. All the emotions, beliefs and behaviours which came about due to negative childhood experiences and relationships belong to the VC mode. The pain associated with physical, emotional and sexual abuse; abandonments and losses; and dismissive or neglectful parenting styles, are all stored here – within the VC mode.
There may be many different, more specific types of the VC modes, such as the ‘abused child’, the ‘abandoned child’, the ‘lonely child’, the ‘grieving child’ and so on. The VC is where all the unmet needs of the child reside. It very much depends upon your own personal childhood experiences, as to how you identify your VC part or parts. An essential part of therapy is to reconnect with and heal the VC mode, with the guidance of a skilled therapist experienced in the art of imagery re-scripting. With the help of your therapist, you will be able to meet and reconnect with these parts which you have previously cut off or disavowed in order to cope and get on with life.
It is very normal for people to want to ‘forget’ or dismiss aspects of their past in an attempt to get on with life and avoid feeling hurtful and uncomfortable emotions. However, when we do this we leave behind parts of us which continue to feel rejected and outcast and they can unconsciously influence the way we feel, the partners we choose and all manner of decisions we make.
There may be many ‘child’ representations of the self within all of us. That is, a person may have many painful or vulnerable inner children – so to speak. The thing to understand is that these ‘child parts of self’ often tend to get stuck in a time warp – as though they are stuck or trapped in the past (with only an awareness of what happen back then). Finding, reconnecting with and healing vulnerable child parts is an essential part of good schema therapy. It is only when we do this, that a person is able to truly accept and love themselves in a way that promotes long-term healing and real-life changes.
Angry Child Mode
This mode comes about as a natural response to not getting your childhood needs met or having them violated through mistreatment. It is the (child) part of self that feels the injustice of the unmet needs and gets angry because the needs were not met. During childhood, the anger was understandable. After all, if someone mistreats you, or stops you from doing something you really want to do, the normal human emotional response is anger. So the angry child mode is the part of self that develops out of wanting to defend or protect the child who was being mistreated, abandoned, invalidated or unloved. The underlying intention of the angry child is understandable, but it tends to be a disorganised and unhelpful mode when activated in the adult person.
You can usually tell if someone is in angry child mode because their anger outburst is excessive and appears to be disproportionate to the triggering event. Angry child mode often surfaces quickly after the person feels hurt, anxious or fearful. Angry responses come in to ‘over-compensate’ for an emotional need not being met.
The angry child wants to get a need met (they want understanding and connection) but they go about it in an unhelpful or primitive way (ie, it may look like a tantrum). For example, you could feel very hurt by a friend not returning your call and then flip into an angry mode. This anger usually feels very hot, intense, impulsive and out of control. In relationships, the angry child mode is triggered a lot. A person may feel abandoned by their partner and then pick a fight with them and get very angry, instead of expressing their true feelings of hurt. The angry child mode can be a destructive force in relationships and won’t win you any friends at work either. When the angry child mode is extreme and escalates into acts of impulsive (verbal or physical) aggression then a person may be in ‘enraged child’ mode. It is scary to be on the receiving end of the enraged child mode. The ‘trigger’ for the angry or enraged child modes is always some type of threat, criticism, abandonment, rejection or mistreatment – either real or imagined. The angry child mode is not an effective, healthy adult way of getting one’s needs met or resolving relationship disputes. If left unchecked it will most likely destroy relationships and leave you feeling very isolated and lonely.
Impulsive or Undisciplined Child Mode
A similar child mode is the undisciplined child mode. This part of self has developed either from a lack of discipline during childhood (ie, giving in to the child and poor limit setting) or the opposite whereby the childhood environment was very stern, rigid and strict with harsh discipline. So therefore, as a child – you either heard the word “no” too infrequently or not at all, or you heard it way too much. This is the “I want what I want, when I want it” mode and is usually quite strong in people struggling with addiction and other impulsive behaviours. Whenever we say to ourselves “I deserve this, I know I shouldn’t but I’m having it anyway” – we are usually in some degree of undisciplined child mode. Again, a person in this mode is usually trying to get some need met, but is probably going about it in an unhelpful way. One of the long-term negative consequences of having a strong undisciplined child mode is that it affects your ability to regulate yourself and your emotions in a healthy adult way. It is also linked with a sense of poor autonomy and a dependent personality style.
Happy / Contented / Authentic Child Mode
There is a mostly positive, ‘feel good’ child mode – referred to as the happy child mode. Can you think of times from your childhood when you felt free to express yourself, felt joyous and silly while also feeling safe and nurtured. Do you have times when you feel like that now? This might be your happy child mode – a part of you to be fostered and further developed. Sadly, some people don’t have any recollection of ever feeling this way in childhood because their early years were too marked by experiences of neglect, abuse or hardship. Therapy can help these people create a more positive, free, compassionate and joyful side of themselves. Intentionally, we can also help a VC part evolve into a happy or contented child mode.
Avoidant or Protecting ModesThese modes develop usually gradually during childhood or adolescence as ways to protect the self and safe-guard the vulnerable child modes against harm and emotional pain. These modes can develop quite consciously with the person making a decision to act in a certain way, but they can also develop out of conscious awareness without the person being fully aware of the mode. These modes function to protect the vulnerable child (VC) mode from feeling the pain associated with the original unmet or violated childhood needs. These modes try to avoid painful schemas being triggered and if schemas are triggered they attempt to short-circuit the pain. A common protecting mode is the ‘detached protector’ which is a part of the person that detaches from ‘real’ connection and from inner needs. This mode is a part that is very cut off from emotions and it is difficult to have any authentic connection with a person in this mode. This mode can actively block therapy because it does not want the person to feel vulnerable at all – because being vulnerable is risky and potentially dangerous. There are other typical protector modes such as the Angry Protector and the Avoidant Protector. A person in angry protector mode is not easy to be with. They typically present as cynical, irritated, annoyed, and with defensive body language (ie, it might look like a wall of anger). The function is again to protect any vulnerability from being exposed or experienced and the angry protector is often very successful at keeping people at a distance. Often a challenge to work with in therapy, this mode often makes the person terminate therapy early – feeling very disillusioned. The therapist (if unaware of the function of the angry protector mode) may actually be relieved when the client does not return. This is very unfortunate, because after all, the angry protector is just a mode and it can be addressed and modified just like any other. Unlike the angry child mode, the function of the angry protector is to keep people away so that the VC cannot be seen. Sadly, the mode is often very successful. An avoidant protector mode attempts to keep the person safe by avoiding situations where painful and vulnerable feelings might be activated. This mode is extremely risk averse and simply avoids to keep the VC safe from activation. When working with your therapist, you might be able to come up with your own names for any protector modes that you have. If another name fit, then use it. Another very common avoidant/detached mode is the ‘detached self-soother’. This mode engages in compulsive or self-stimulating behaviours to soothe and distance the person from painful and tough emotions. We all engage in a little (or a lot) detached self-soothing from time to time, but it becomes a problem when its a repetitive pattern that interfers with our life or relationships, Common examples include excessive use of food, drugs or alcohol to numb or avoid painful feelings; binging or excessive time spent on social media to the exclusion of other important areas of life; compulsive use of gambling, internet porn or gaming; excessive ‘doona therapy’; shopping; ‘adrenaline junkies’ and compulsive sex (sometimes).
Over-Compensating ModesThere are a variety of typical over-compensating modes whose function is to fight against the feeling of certain schemas. Someone in an over-compensating mode may believe and behave as though they are the (dysfunctional) opposite of their inner thoughts and feelings (the opposite of the schema). As a way of coping with the messages from the punitive or demanding parent, these modes function to create an alternate reality by turning things on their heads. A very common over-compensatory mode is the ‘self-aggrandiser’. Here the person flips into a mode that has the external displays of the narcissist. They may act in a way that is superior, self-absorbed and self-important. They may sing their own praises, be demeaning to others and need to be ‘top dog’. The function of this mode is to convince themselves that they are OK and not inferior and to keep the negative punitive messages at bay. Also, if they can see others as inferior, then it is easier to see themselves as superior. If they can be intolerant and critical of others short-comings, then it’s much easier to be oblivious to their own. The self-aggrandiser can reject their own feelings of defectiveness by seeing that defectiveness in other people (or perhaps projecting it onto them). One big down side is this mode is its inability to get core emotional needs met. This mode tends to repel other people (particularly healthy people). Another common type of over-compensating modes is the ‘over-controller’. It might come in a few varieties (such as the perfectionistic or the suspicious type), but this mode is characterised by a need to have your hands on ‘the controls’ at all times. Underneath, the person is often very anxious and/or afraid of losing control and feels that they need to gain control and certainty to feel secure and good about themselves. The underlying fear is often that bad things or harm will happen to them (or others) if they relinquish control. This part of self is preoccupied by detail and is a micro-manager of life. Routine and rigidity is common-place and it’s very hard for this part of self to relax and let go. Highly correlated with dysfunctional perfectionism and negative mood, the ‘over-controller’ is not a pleasant mode to reside in! Another mode which over-compensates is the ‘bully and attack’. This is a threatening mode whereby the person in it believes that they need to ‘attack’ to survive or defend themselves (or a belief about themselves). The person can be intimidating and nasty in this mode and is trying to make themselves believe that they are powerful and get rid of any feelings of shame. In fact, a shame inducing event or a perception of being ‘ridiculed’ can trigger this mode in many people who are prone to it. The function of the mode is usually to let the other person know to “back off and watch out!” and to make them feel small and afraid. Sometimes, it is because the person was the victim of domestic abuse as a child and/or was raised by a cruel and violent parent. In this mode the person may be attempting to prevent being abused or to defend against perceived humiliation. In its extreme form, a person in this mode is sadistic, abusive and dangerous. People who regularly flip into this mode tend to have poorer psychological insight into what is happening and can often blame others for their own actions. There are other less common over-compensating modes which have been identified, more typically within forensic populations
The Compliant Surrenderer ModeThis is a common mode, which is often (unkindly) thought of as the ‘door-mat’ of coping modes. In schema therapy terms, ‘surrendering’ is one of three coping styles or ways people can respond when a schema is triggered. Typically, surrendering means to accept without question and ‘give in’ to the meaning or basic beliefs of the schema. When you surrender, you act, think and feel as if the schema were true. For each schema, there will be different surrendering behaviours – depending upon the meaning of each schema. There is also a ‘mode’ (ie, a persona or mode of operating) referred to as the ‘compliant surrenderer‘, which is a more generalized and global behavioural response or coping style. Like other modes, this is also considered to be a moment-to-moment cognitive-emotional state (or persona) which a person can ‘live in’ and ‘operate from’. It is not uncommon for this mode to be a dominate one in people with recurrent depression who also have dependant and/or avoidant personality traits (eg, cluster C personalities). A person in this mode tends to act in a passive, subservient, self-doubting and reassurance-seeking way to avoid rejection, disapproval and anger from others. A person with strong dependent traits in a co-called dependant relationship will display the persona of the compliant surrenderer. Those in romantic relationships with Narcissists often present as having a strong compliant surrenderer mode when they present for help with their relationship. Such people find it difficult to make important decisions and find it very difficult to cope in life without a ‘strong’ or dominant partner telling them what to do. Sometimes these people are willing to sacrifice their own true wants and needs in return for having their partner making all the decisions and taking responsibility for them. The cost for being in such a relationship is usually very high and the person ends up feeling trapped, unhappy and likely depressed. The attitudinal stance of the compliant surrenderer goes something like this: “oh well, this is just how life is”; “I can’t change things, there’s nothing I can do”; and “I have to accept the situation for how it is, it is beyond my control”. This mode (and all the associated personality features and behaviours) can be very robust and difficult to shift. There are many complexities tied up with this mode and the client need a skilled schema therapist to help disentangle all the strings. Having insight into your coping modes (as behavioural responses and reactions), as well as an understanding for how they are activated and why they have evolved, can be a very helpful first step towards real change. Importantly, we need to appreciate and understand the vulnerability which is underneath or behind the coping mode in order to ultimately reduce these maladaptive ‘surface’ modes.
How do you move on with your life after losing someone precious to you?
If there is one word that perfectly encapsulates the feeling after someone close to you dies, that would be bereavement. Merriam-Webster defines the term as “the state or fact of being bereaved or deprived of something or someone.”
And although death is one of the grim realities of life, you might find it hard to accept recent events, regardless of whether the death of the person is sudden or expected (due to a lingering illness or old age).
It doesn’t help that most people do not speak about death and the issues usually associated with it. This leaves the people left behind with a vast chasm between what they know and the questions they need answered.
If you are experiencing grief after the loss of a loved one, a registered therapist offers some helpful tips that you can use at this moment of need.
Grief: A Brief Insight
People feel grief after going through a traumatic experience, the end of a relationship, a significant change in one’s life, and the loss of a loved one.
What is crucial to understand is that grieving is normal and a necessary process that you undergo to cope with the passing of a person who is dear to you. However, it is worthwhile to point out that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with your loss and grief.
People differ in the manner in which they process their grief, as well as in the length of time they experience this state. Some people can move on in a matter of weeks or months, while others may take longer. Factors like individual personality and how one copes with a loss can influence the length of the grieving process.
Five Stages of Grief
It is crucial to understand that there is no set timeline for the grieving process. There is no way to rush things, and you have to embrace the process in order for healing to take place fully.
Although there is no set timeframe for the grieving process, there are five stages of grief that you need to be aware of. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist, is credited for formulating the concept of these five stages. Initially, the idea was developed as the psychiatrist was studying terminally ill patients and their feelings.
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is normal to experience all of these feelings. However, not everyone goes through all the stages of grief. Some people even have the ability to move on with their lives without going through the five stages.
It is also worthwhile to mention that a person’s response to a loss will differ from another’s.
You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup
As much as you would want to be the bedrock for your family and friends during this time of mourning, you first have to recognize your own grief before you can help others with theirs.
Instead of putting on a straight face and pretending you are strong, embrace your feelings. Trying to bury the emotions you feel can only complicate matters over the long run. This can lead to mental and physical problems.
Find a way to express your feelings. Consider writing a letter to the person that you lost, or collect his or her photos in a new album.
Resume your routines as soon as you can. Maintaining a sense of normalcy in your life will help you better cope with your loss and your emotions.
Take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Get enough rest and sleep, and make sure that you eat right. Resist the urge to turn to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings.
Be prepared for situations or occasions that may trigger your grief. These include anniversaries, birthday and other special events. Especially when you are celebrating them for the first time after the passing of your loved one.
Processing Grief Together
After the death of a loved one, you will need to rely on the people close to you for some measure of comfort during this time of need.
As you process your grief, there are a few things that you can do to help your family members and friends as they try to cope with their loss.
The most important thing that you can offer to someone is a listening ear. Encourage your loved ones to share their feelings and talk about the grief they are currently experiencing.
However, resist the temptation to offer the promise that things will get better soon, or to rationalise the demise of the loved one that you lost.
As you and your loved ones are trying to rebuild your lives, even the simplest of things can matter and help. Little things like babysitting little children or helping with chores are invaluable to someone who is grieving.
Helping kids cope with the loss of a loved one can be particularly tricky, especially if it is a parent who passed away.
As much as possible, use simple and concrete words to explain the situation. Be direct, honest, and patient in answering their questions.
Children manifest their grief physically. As such, adults must watch out for these manifestations and provide reassurance and comfort to them.
As with adults, kids can benefit immensely from the restoration of routines. Encourage your young ones to go back to their normal activities as soon as possible.
Seeking Professional Help
Grief and clinical depression are two distinct things that may be difficult to distinguish from each other.
The easiest way to distinguish one from the other is to remember that grieving involves a mixture of emotions. There will be days when you may feel low, as well as days when you begin to experience happiness. A person who is experiencing depression does not undergo the rollercoaster of emotions. He or she sinks into the abyss of despair and emptiness.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, make an appointment with a therapist here at Good Mood Clinic. We can help you during this time of need.
We are here for such a short time. We and everything and everyone we love and hold dear is impermanent. When we can really hear the penny drop and know in our heart of hearts that our life as we know it is so transient, so temporary – we can let go and love ourselves more, without concerns of ‘who we are’, or ‘who we should be’.
Each moment passes and fades in an instant and we change with every experience that passes through us – good and bad. Having a deep appreciation of impermanence can open our hearts and pave the way for greater self-compassion, greater self-acceptance and we can allow ourselves to feel the joy in the smallest of moments.
Knowing that we are impermanent can transform the way we value ourselves and those around us. We are more than what we know, how we act, what we do, how much money we have or who we know. We are amazing creations with endless potential for change, healing, growth, connection and love.
One day in the future we will all have to leave it all behind. We will have to let go of it all, everything we have attached to, owned and possessed, everything we have held on to or used to prop ourselves up. All of it, we will need to give up and let go.
So can we do any of that any sooner? What are you holding on to that no longer serves you? What identify, value or belief are you clinging to that takes more away from you than it gives. What are you not doing that you really want to do? What risks are you not taking due to fear or pride? What are you not saying because it’s been so long since you’ve heard your own real voice that you have forgotten what it sounds like?
Maybe now is the time to make the change, to notice what you have, to be yourself!
Feeling down, unmotivated, fearful or depressed? Here is a list of evidence-based (backed by substantial research) suggestions & behaviours to reduce depression and help relieve nervous tension and anxiety:-
- Movement & physical exercise. Exercise and physical movement, whether it be intense or gentle can help us complete the stress response cycle, activate the relaxation response and is a natural anti-depressant.
- Some form of daily mindfulness practice, meditation or applied relaxation strategy is a must for good mental health. Coping with stress and reducing anxiety levels means that you can reduce their role as contributing factors in depression. If you want to deal with low mood, you have to address how you manage stress first.
- Dietary modifications can absolutely help with reducing symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. The reduction of things like sugar (basically anything that tastes sweet in your mouth), alcohol and other toxins also helps with reducing brain fog & improving mental clarity also.
- Don’t underestimate the power of adequate and good quality deep sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene and go to bed earlier. Getting more hours of sleep before the hand strikes midnight is beneficial to your health and mood. Getting up earlier and getting sunlight in the morning is a mood enhancer.
- Trying dealing with denied or avoided emotions (eg, through therapy, keeping a journal, being more authentic when relating with friends and family members for example). Chronic suppressed emotions serve to create a prolonged stress response in the body, which in turn can lower immune function and also increase the risk for depression.
- Avoid ‘avoiding’ – deal with the things you are avoiding, whether they be emotional, relational, social, medical/health or physical. Procrastination creates stress, which increases anxiety and anxious apprehension. When all you do is ‘avoid’, you never allow yourself to learn new ways to deal with situations and master difficulties.
- Make time to schedule in joyful moments, in a deliberate way (not just decluttering – although that is pretty good!) – like meeting a friend for coffee, going to the movies, having a massage, going for a swim in the ocean – whatever provides a positive mood shift, no matter how small.
- Spend more time in nature. I know we hear this one a lot, but it really works. Activate as many of your senses as possible and try to be mindful to all those sensations.
- Make the effort to connect with others in small, incidental ways (eg, chat with the person making your coffee, make eye contact and smile at a fellow shopper walking by) – especially if you’re not inclined to. Small but regular social contact is highly correlated with enhanced mood and is good for stress control.
- Asks for more hugs. Increase your level of physical contact with others if possible….even very small gestures count and have a mutually supportive effect . Physical touch is important for a sense of connection and nurturance. Perhaps get a massage or some foot reflexology. Obtaining comfort through pleasant sensory sensations is important when someone is experiencing depression. Think about getting a pet and if you have already got one make sure you give them plenty of physical contact. It’s beneficial and therapeutic.
- Take time to stop and breathe. Rest, slow down and reduce those expectations of yourself that might be just too high!
- Notice what you have; see, feel and practice the gratitude. Turn you mind towards the things and people that you have in your life that you appreciate. Take pleasure in small things and small achievements.
- Address unhealed or unresolved issues from the past. Time does not heal all wounds – no matter what the popular belief says. Sometimes we need help from a mental health professional to work with us to identify and address old unhelpful patterns of behaviour or old hurts from the past. It is never too late and you are never too old to deal with psychological injuries and unhelpful beliefs. Help is available.
If you notice a significant change and drop in your mood which you can’t seem to shift and if you notice that your ability to enjoy the things you normal enjoy is reduced, you should speak to your doctor and seek help from a mental health professional. Getting psychological therapy can be very helpful in guiding you to address the psychological factors which have contributed to you becoming depressed. There may also be a role for anti-depressant medication. Combining medication with counselling and therapy is often the best approach.
About 1 in 6 new mothers experience some degree of postnatal depression. Postnatal anxiety is just as common, and many woman experience both anxiety and depression simultaneously. Postnatal anxiety and depression can be worrying and isolating experiences for a new mum as she tries to deal with her own feelings and symptoms at the same time as trying to best care for her baby and deal with all the new changes and challenges confronting her.
Postnatal depression is very different from the “baby blues” which up to 70% of women experience after birth. This is a transient mood shift that occurs a few days after giving birth where a new mum can feel down, teary and overwhelmed with her new situation.
Postnatal depression can vary in severity like any mood disorder, and for some it can be a very serious condition that requires prompt and targeted treatment. It typically occurs within the first four weeks after childbirth (although it can come on gradually after this time) and sufferers can experience the following symptoms:
- Low mood
- Feeling overwhelmed and extremely anxious
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Sleep difficulties (not just due to a disrupted sleep cycle due to night feeds etc)
- Appetite disturbance
- Feelings of hopelessness and being unable to cope
- Loss of confidence and low self-esteem (particularly in perceived ability to be a good mother)
- Extreme indecisiveness, this may also manifest as excessive reassurance seeking from other regarding decisions about caring for baby
- Excessive guilt caused by having transient negative feelings towards the new baby. Typical emotions that women describe as distressing are anger, resentment or hostility.
- Problems with mother-baby attachment
- In more serious cases, suicidal thoughts or urges may be present (a very small percentage of woman experience ‘postnatal psychosis’ – which is a very serious condition requiring immediate medical attention and usually an inpatient stay in a mother-baby mental health unit). However recovery is usually excellent, with no ongoing serious complications.
Causal pathways or “risk factors” for Postnatal Depression
Like all mental health conditions, the causes of postnatal depression are multi-faceted. It is useful to differentiate those risk factors that pre-exist before the arrival of your baby and those that arise after your baby is born.
Risk factors that can be present before the birth of your baby might include:
- A genetic vulnerability to mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder
- A previous history of a mood disorder
- Previous history of an anxiety disorder
- Pre-existing psychological vulnerabilities such as perfectionism (having very high standards and expectations of yourself) or dependence (doubting yourself and your ability to handle things on your own).
- In schema terms, having a very high ‘unrelenting standards’ and/or a ‘incompetence/dependence’ schemas can increase your risk
- Stressful family relationships or relationship breakdown
- Social isolation or financial difficulties
- Physiological stressors such as hormonal changes, fatigue and any physical complications
- A previous history of pregnancy or birth-related difficulties such as miscarriages, terminations, stillbirths, premature birth or the death of a child
- Poor social supports
- Protracted fertility difficulties and IVF treatments
Risk factors that can arise once the baby is born can include:
- A traumatic birth experience (e.g., high intervention births, post-birth surgery)
- The new baby having a serious illness or medical condition
- Prolonged feeding difficulties and disappointments
- Ongoing and serious sleep deprivation
If you recognise any of the antenatal risk factors shown above, you can reduce your risk by intervening early. In particular you can address the psychological risk factors and also plan adaptive coping strategies to put in place after your baby has arrived.
Seeking help before your baby is due can reduce the risk of developing postnatal depression as studies have shown that mood and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy increase the risk of developing post-natal depression.
It is also important to remember that a pregnancy and childbirth can trigger a lot of worries and anxieties as well as old wounds from childhood. If you experienced a childhood which was difficult, neglectful or abusive, having a baby is a major life event which may trigger painful memories and feelings from your own childhood. You may experience difficulties with attaching to your own baby or become at greater risk of developing depression. If you are worried about this, getting help before the arrival of your baby is important.
Also, sleep deprivation alone is enough to cause significant mood disturbance in many mothers. People tend to under-rate the degree to which sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep can affect mood.
At this time you are more vulnerable emotionally due to hormonal fluctuations and therefore pre-existing worries and anxieties are likely to flare up. For example, you may find yourself worrying about all the uncertainty around the birth and your transition into motherhood. You may also be concerned about how your parenting is going to be influence by how you yourself were parented.
A frequent concern is “I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents did”. This can also fuel a lot of anxiety and worry. There is also increasing pressure for women to find motherhood and pregnancy an amazing and overwhelmingly positive experience. There are certainly many positive and joyful aspects, but there are also difficult ones as well. You may find that you judge yourself harshly e.g., “I don’t know what is wrong with me, everyone thinks I should be so excited”. By addressing any anxieties and worries before or during your pregnancy you can greatly increase your psychological resilience in preparation for the challenges of motherhood.
Things to remember to help you cope during the early months
- Get support – don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once you know who the good people are that you can rely on, make a plan for how they can best help you get through the first 12 weeks and beyond.
- Reconsider your own expectations. Lower them! and then lower them again! Woman who expect themselves to be perfect and have high standards for themselves (their partner and their baby!) are more likely to get depressed and experience high anxiety. If you are holding, nurturing, caring for and bonding with your baby – you are winning! You don’t have to be anyone’s super-mum and you don’t have to be running around pleasing other people and making afternoon tea for Aunt Martha and her friends. Stop, listen to your baby, listen to your body and follow those instructions, rather than anyone else’s. Don’t beat yourself up for staying in your PJs for most of the day and hanging out with your baby enjoying each other and watching the odd movie. When your baby sleeps, you need to sleep or at least rest. Do the absolute minimum of ‘house-work’. Your baby doesn’t care that the house is messy, they only care that their mummy is taking good care of herself!
- Have faith and believe in yourself. Sure, listen to and use advise if it comes from supportive and reliable people or sources. But it’s also good to tune into and sense what your own intuition is telling you. Also, try to put yourself in your baby’s place when thinking about what they need. For example, don’t get unnecessarily hung up on things like ‘routines’. The first 12 weeks of your baby’s life is also referred to as the ‘fourth trimester’ – and for good reason! It takes your baby that long to even figure out that they are no longer a part of you, so to speak. It is therefore normal and natural (not to mention beneficial) that you are as close physically to your baby as possible and that you get as much skin to skin contact as you can.
- Receive psychological and medical help if needed. If you are struggling to have any positive feelings or if you feel disconnected from your baby, then you probably need professional help as soon as possible. There are safe and effective anti-depressant medications that can be used during this period, so don’t delay in speaking with your doctor or a perinatal psychiatrist for expert guidance. Speaking to a psychologist with experience in postnatal depression as well as recruiting practical support from family and friends will be very helpful.
- Go for walks with your baby. It’s important to keep active and get fresh air and exercise. Plenty of sunlight is good for your mood and exercise is also excellent for managing stress and anxiety.
- Listen to uplifting or fun music and dance at home with your baby. Music helps with mood and fatigue and dancing is a great way to get incidental exercise.
- Refrain from comparing yourself to other new mums. Unfortunately, some new mums are preoccupied with wanting to appear flawless and completely sorted! Perhaps they are overly concerned with and worried about appearing like a ‘failure’. They may appear like everything is running smoothing and that they are having a hassle-free time of things. Do yourself a big favour and just accept that this is all BS! Smile politely and concentrate on your own experiences and your own baby’s development one day at a time. It might be helpful to listen to “Buddhism for Mother’s” as an audio book and remind yourself that this time of your life is both short and precious.
- Remember that any difficult time you are going through now will pass. If you are going through a rough time, know that it will get better. All you can do is get whatever help you can and speak to helpful friends or family and to health professionals when you need extra support. Let yourself receive the help that is offered, rather than expecting yourself to do everything. Everything comes and goes in phases, better times will follow. Remember that any problems you experience now will seem more intense and upsetting due to hormonal stresses, sleep deprivation and the steep learning curve you are facing. While its good to welcome helpful support, its also good to encourage yourself for everything you are dealing with and to spend time with encouraging people.
- Find and connect with like-minded new mums and dads. Make sure you go to your local mother and baby group so that you can at least make initial contact with other new mums. As your baby gets a little older it will be important for you to do more things with other mothers and babys so you can experience a sense of shared community and support. Avoid other mums and dads who you find critical, condescending and who only like to talk about themselves. Spend time with other parents who make you feel good, who want a mutually supportive relationship and who are kind and non-judgemental.
- Try not to delay getting extra help and professional or medical help if you need it. Keeping yourself well is paramount!
- Enjoy your baby!
For more information and support go to: https://www.panda.org.au/