Astrid – a beautiful young woman taken from this life far too soon.
16/11/76 – 11/12/19
We will miss our dear friend and colleague Astrid, who passed away on December 11th 2019. Not only was Astrid an amazing and vibrant person whose energy was contagious, she was a therapist and clinical psychologist with deep compassion, interest and curiosity.
Astrid worked with us until shortly after her cancer diagnosis at the end of 2016. We so enjoyed working with Astrid and she was a valued member of our team and a real asset to us at the Good Mood Clinic. She was a very popular therapist during her time with us. She always showed heart-felt warmth and care for her clients and had genuine interest and emotional investment in people doing well.
Astrid loved her work and she was fabulous at what she did. She helped so many clients regain their sense of self and empowered them to make important and life changing decisions. Astrid was deeply empathic and compassionate. She cared for the people she worked with and always thought very considerately and thoroughly on how best to help her clients.
Astrid leaves an important legacy and she will be remembered with great love and fondness.
On a personal note, I knew Astrid very well, both personally and professionally. I first met Astrid in 2005 while working in a hospital in Sydney and got to know her well gradually over the years. We went on to share some important life experiences together and she was a dear and much loved friend of mine. Astrid worked unbelievably hard to get well over the course of her three-year illness. Her courage, commitment and discipline shown over the course of her illness often astounded me and she is nothing less than a complete inspiration to me.
I feel privileged and blessed for having known Astrid and having her in my life as both a colleague and dear friend. I am a better person for having known her.
Astrid, you are loved, you are deeply missed and you will always be remembered.
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!
It has become a norm in our current society to be a high performer, a perfectionist, to be expected to excel at everyday tasks and to meet high standards in our work and life.
Whilst this can be a positive influence on us it can also be detrimental to our overall mental health, especially when these high standards are difficult to “switch” off from.
So, when do you know if your personal standards of achievement are becoming a problem for you? In a general sense, perfectionist people can often be very hard on themselves, have unrelenting standards that may cover all domains of functioning (work, home, social) and when they are unable to meet their own personal expectations in these areas, there is a deep sense of failure, shame and sadness. You may experience an inability to make simple decisions, you may find yourself procrastinating or struggling with concentration and memory. Further, you may experience physiological signs of distress and panic and experience a low mood or anxious ruminating thoughts. Overall, if you feel a sense that your “normal” functioning or “sense of self” has changed or shifted negatively in recent times, this might be your first sign that you are putting too much pressure on yourself and its time for change.
Some practical guidelines that might help include:
- Stop and pay attention to your triggers. Are there specific situations (at work, home or socially) that are causing you stress and anxiety? What might be happening for you at these moments that make you to feel this way? Become aware of “triggering” situations and mentally prepare yourself on how you might cope in such moments, for example, if you know a certain meeting at work will be difficult,
prepare in advance for how you might manage and cope with it (E.g. practice what you might say in the meeting, take a walk afterwards)
- Identify some of your thoughts around your personal standards or expectations. Could these be leading to you feeling anxious or overwhelmed? Write them down and understand them, highlighting the positive and negatives of such thoughts, with the focus on how to minimize the negative aspects.
- Plan for alternatives. Could your thinking be too self-critical and is there another way you could be looking at things?
- Make a note of your strengths and achievements and take time to celebrate your wins.
- Make a well-being plan. Reach out for support from others, reconnect with your family and friends, plan an exercise regime, and schedule some “down time”. Essentially, allow some mental switch off time and practice being mindful and present in your current life moments rather than worrying about “what’s next”.
- Focus on “what you can control” in difficult, stressful and high-pressure situations and take the time to re-prioritize your areas of worry based on this.
Having high standards in terms of life performance and achievement can be a positive attribute to have, but if these standards become perfectionistic and self-critical, the impact upon your personal well-being and happiness can have a negative consequence and lead to psychological burnout.
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/
We all want a thriving, high functioning and happy relationship. We want a relationship that makes us feel nourished, supported and loved. Easier said than done right? In real life when there are so many individual demands to manage, such as family dynamics, career development, financial growth and mental health, making time for our relationship and our partner can often get left behind or put on the bottom of the list.
What we know about relationships is that when they are positive and fulfilling our individual mental health is better and personal resilience is high. So how do we ensure our relationships are thriving? The simple answer is by making them a priority and nurturing them through regular positive habits. Habits are about practice and repeat, making something so frequent in our lives that it becomes a part of the everyday. So with that in mind, its time to set some new healthy and regular habits for your relationships, ensuring that you continue to thrive as a couple and individually.
Below are five habits that you should practice to keep your relationship healthy:
- Get to know your partner again and build a friendship: Life experiences change us as individuals and therefore it is likely that our needs and wants have changed over the years. Its time to start ‘re-learning’ about each other, from the simple interests to the more intimate thoughts/ideas. This activity can strengthen your friendship as a couple and allow you to explore shared interests.
- Celebrate your mutual wins: In the busy nature of life we often forget to celebrate our wins as a couple or to remind each other what we mutually set out to achieve together. For example, did you eventually buy that dream house that you were both working for? Did your eldest child achieve academic success? Did you survive that first family road trip? Recognizing the achievements you have had as a team can create a sense of satisfaction and reassurance for your relationship.
- Understand each other’s values and create mutual respect: Core values drive our decisions and direction in life. In a partnership it is important to understand if our values are shared or different, as a misunderstanding of your partner’s values can often cause relationship conflict. Take time to explore each other’s ‘set of values’, gaining an understanding of what you each expect in family life, career goals, marriage, spirituality etc., so that this knowledge can shape your future decisions in life.
- Book a date night: It’s a cliché but dedicated date nights (or days) actually work! Date nights give significance to making time for each other so that you can engage in deeper conversations, share interests and can encourage an element of fun in your relationship.
- Have the “tough” conversations and don’t leave ‘elephants’ in the room: Communication is vital to relationship well-being so when we stop talking, we stop investing in our relationship development. Leaving important issues ‘unsaid’ can lead to resentment, anxiety and mistrust. If you find it hard to start a conversation about a tough issue, use other ways of communicating such as emails, letters or creative approaches to open up to each other. Make sure you approach these conversations calmly and with honesty, knowing that you may not solve the issue immediately but that small steps towards resolution is a positive win for your relationship.
Self Soothing to reduce stress and anxiety AND improve physical health
Are you experiencing physical symptoms of stress or anxiety such as pain, fatigue, restlessness, unintentional weight loss or weight gain, digestion issues, nausea, ammenorrhea, sweating or insomnia?
Understanding the nervous system (and how to calm it) can help you manage these effects of stress on the body.
The autonomic nervous system is divided into 2 opposing systems – the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the emergency system, also called the fight or flight response. It prepares the body for danger by shutting down the digestive system, speeding up the heart, increasing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Unfortunately our bodies cannot differentiate between real and imagined stress, and this system which was designed to save our lives, can instead be activated in everyday situations such as a busy day at work. If this response is activated too regularly our health suffers. Our bodies are flooded with the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and our pain threshold goes down.
The other side of the coin is the parasympathetic, or the rest and digest system. This system works to recover from normal daily activities by activating digestion, decreasing blood pressure and slowing the heart rate and breathing. When this system is activated the body is relaxing, the muscles can repair and build strength, food can be digested, and we can sleep and reproduce.
So how can we calm our fight or flight response and activate our rest and digest system?
- Identify and work to eliminate triggers in your life. This is always an important step for long-term recovery and health.
- Slow your breathing. This tells your body that you are safe and signals it to relax. Incorporate breathing exercises and meditation into your daily routine. Try the 4, 2, 6 breathing technique – inhale in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Slowly release tension in your body by tensing and then releasing the muscles. Start with the toes and slowly work your way up to the face. Yoga is also a helpful and mindful practice for this.
- Light exercise. Don’t overdo the exercise. Cardio can have the same effect on the body as stress – the heart rate is up and the sympathetic system is activated. Try a nature walk instead. Being in nature has been shown to actively control the sympathetic nervous system and decrease blood pressure.
- Physical touch. We are hard-wired to be soothed by physical touch, just like a baby being rocked. Massage is a great option for relaxation, and make sure you get lots of hugs from your loved ones. You can even self-soothe by hugging yourself!
- Self care. Everyone finds different things soothing. Discover what it is that works for you, and schedule time for this regularly. It might be music, crafts, surfing or spending time with friends. It is important to have fun too!
What goes in
- Consume warm liquids and foods. This soothes the digestive system, which works to maintain body temperature. Ice cold drinks or foods make your gut work harder to regulate its temperature.
- Reduce caffeine. Limit your coffee to one a day, or cut it out completely. Coffee stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.
- Get enough sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene, and think about how you can priortise a good nights sleep. This might mean revisiting number 1 and considering lifestyle changes.
- Self compassion. Last but not least, self-soothing is all about being kind to yourself. Notice whether an internal critical voice is getting in the way of any of these steps, and think about what you would say to a friend who was struggling with stress or anxiety. Chances are, you are much harder on yourself than anyone else. Create some positive affirmations, or a mantra that reminds you you are doing your best, and remind yourself of this everyday.
Parental Overwhelm – 4 helpful ways to keep your head above water:
It’s book week on Monday, the forms for Nippers are due, you need a babysitter this Saturday night and your daughter has broken her glasses…again!! If you’re a parent, you’ll be familiar with the seemingly never ending list of “To do’s”, the constant checking of the calendar for what you need to do next and all the “stuff” that needs to get done for and around our kids.
Whether it’s making a costume for the school play, helping out with homework or a project, birthday parties, play dates, weekend sport and after school activities, not to mention all the washing, food preparation and general life organising that has to get done, just to keep up with everything. This can all be very overwhelming!
So, how can you cope with all of this? How can you keep your head above water and manage it all so that the stress and anxiety doesn’t rub off on your lovely offspring, or effect your relationship, work and general wellbeing? The following are 4 helpful ways to deal with parental overwhelm and hopefully make the job of parenting a little less stressful:
- Make time to attend to yourself
- Get organised
- Your relationship
- Doesn’t have to be perfect
- Make time to attend to yourself and your own needs. It’s like when, on an aeroplane, they say “secure your own oxygen mask before you secure your childs”. If you can’t breathe, you can’t possibly be any help to them. So, take the time to breathe and check in with yourself. What do you need to do so that you are better able to cope with all the tasks that have to get done? It might be that you need to get some regular exercise, which will help you to better manage the stress or anxiety you may be experiencing. You might need to go and have a massage to help ease some of the tension you’ve been holding in your body. Make time to re-connect with yourself as a person (whatever that means for you), not only as a parent, so that you can fill your “cup” which will then mean that you have enough reserves to attend to your children and their needs, wants and associated admin.
- Work on getting organised. Make lists, prioritise them, diarise everything so that you don’t forget about it. Create a family calendar that you can share with your partner or whoever might also care for your child. Remember to get organised in your own life as well. Set aside time to do your own personal admin and where possible, outsource, delegate and share the load with your partner or other significant person in your childs life. You don’t have to be Superwoman/man and do it all by yourself.
- Make your relationship a priority. If you have a partner, make sure you make time for the two of you as a couple. People can quite easily fall into being “co-parents” and end up feeling like “flat mates” who just work together to manage all the child related work that needs to be done. So, make sure you have a regular “date night”, however often you can manage it, but ideally weekly or fortnightly, where the two of you can get together and remember who you are as a couple. Even if you don’t go out because babysitting is scarce, do something special at home, where you can re-connect and switch off from the daily pressures that can sometimes get in the way of spending quality time together. Think of it as an investment into your relationship, with the bonus of knowing that if you are happy as a couple, your kids will benefit too.
- Finally, give up the idea that you have to do everything or need to do it perfectly. It is so common for people to put unrealistically high standards onto themselves and sometimes onto their children too. This is not helpful and only adds to the sense of overwhelm you can feel when you are a parent. So, if you have to buy, or throw together a simple costume rather than painstakingly making an amazing creation by hand, thats okay!! If you need to order pizza or make eggs because you’ve had a crazily busy day and can’t fathom cooking a perfectly nutritious, delicious dinner, that’s okay too! Your kids will thank you for that as well.
If you have trouble with doing any of the above because you have a tendency not to look after your own needs and seem to always put others first, or can’t seem to let go of putting those very high expectations onto yourself, it may be that there are schemas and modes that are getting in the way of being able to do this (for more information on this talk to your therapist at the Good Mood Clinic). This is where therapy can be very useful, by helping to address the barriers to putting some of these coping practices into place.
What does “good communication” in couples look like?
Top 5 tips:
When couples come to therapy, one of the most commonly expressed hopes is that they want to improve their communication.
This can mean a few things, for instance, some people will try and communicate with each other but just end up fighting, other people don’t fight at all, but are distant and avoid communicating because they are trying to avoid potential conflict.
Still others, will try and express their needs, views and feelings, but do not feel that their partner has really heard them or responded in a way they would’ve hoped for.
So, how can we communicate with our partners and not experience these negative, upsetting and potentially damaging interactions in our relationships?
How can we strive for good communication?
The ideas that follow come from the work of Dr John Gottman, who has done extensive research into couples and what makes them “succeed”, or otherwise
(see www.gottman.com and his concept of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).
Begin Gently – Gottman’s research has indicated that the first three minutes of a conversation can predict (with 96% accuracy), how it ends. If you start in a harsh way, by being critical or using a harsh tone, then your conversation will likely not end well. So, start gently and approach your partner with kindness and caring.
Reframe a criticism you might have into a complaint – If you have an issue you’d like to address with your partner, instead of attacking them as a person, talk about the issue, how it has impacted on you and try not to blame your partner.
Listen – if your partner voices some of their own concerns, do your best to listen and resist the urge to plan your counter attack. If you give into this urge, you won’t really hear them and then communication stalls. If your partner voices a complaint, try to be open. Take a deep breath to calm yourself and instead of becoming immediately defensive, try and take some responsibility for (at least part of) the issue, hear them out and respond with love and generosity of spirit.
Be kind – sometimes when conversations turn into conflicts, emotions can run high, people feel wounded and react by going on the attack. They might call each other names, become mocking or
sarcastic and even get quite nasty. This is NOT doing your relationship any good. So if you feel like the situation is escalating, take some deep breaths, remember that you have a choice in how you respond and choose to foster your connection, not damage it. Describe your feelings and refrain from describing your partner’s negative attributes. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and losing control, let your partner know that you need a break so that you can calm down and that you will come back and finish the conversation when you are in a better frame of mind (use that time to calm yourself).
Repair – if things do get out of control and you or your partner have become critical, defensive or nasty, attempt to repair, by saying something like “I’m sorry, that came out wrong, can we start again?”, or you could try to repair by physically reaching out to your partner for a hug. It is important to know what works for your partner here, for some, words might be best and hugs might not be the best option, so talk to each other about this, because just as important as making a repair attempt, is that the other person receives it. This can open the way for connection, understanding and good communication.
Some problems in a relationship may never be resolved and will play out over and over in your relationship like a loop. This is where your or your partners schemas may be involved and could be getting triggered. Over time these patterns of interaction can become like vicious cycles and lead to hurt and distance in your relationship. More on this and how our schemas might play into our couple relationships in my next post…
GradDipPsych, M.RehabCnslg, M.Couple & Family Therapy
To make an appointment to speak with Leona, call us now – 0427 088 176