‘How to set new year goals, and accomplish them!’
A few days into the start of this new year I asked a friend if she had made any new year resolutions.
Her response was to laugh and say that she had given up with that nonsense as she never stuck by them and usually forgot about the goals after just a few weeks.
If this is sounding familiar to you, then you’re definitely not alone in finding it almost impossible to stick by the well-intentioned goals you set yourself for the year. So, does that mean we should give up making goals for the year completely? Despite the many failed new year’s resolutions people make, I still believe that the new year is a great time to reflect on our past progress and set ourselves goals and direction for our future.
By following a few easy steps we can give ourselves the best change of setting goals that we can be successful in achieving.
When setting goals for yourself think about these factors:
1. What is important to you right now. Think about your interests and make sure that your goal is something that you are going to be passionate about and want to work towards. Many people think about goals relating to their fitness, work, or study (things which we usually find boring or challenging), but new year goals can be about anything including our leisure activities, friendships, or mental health. Think about things that are going to steer your life towards your values, such as spending time in nature, catching up with old friends, practicing mindfulness, or learning a new skill you’ve wanted to try.
2. Be realistic. Setting myself a goal of running a marathon if I’m not a runner at all is going to be asking for disappointment and failure. If the goals we set ourselves our too far of reach we quickly get fed up when it becomes apparent that we aren’t making any progress at all towards the finish line. Start with small and realistic goals – you can always make new ones as you tick goals off or if they become too easy!
3. Break down a large goal into smaller measurable steps. This one can be trickier than it seems initially – for example, if my goal is to learn a new language, how can I break this down? Think about the steps you may require (e.g. signing up for a language class, finding someone who speaks the language to practice talking to, reading some books or watching movies in the language) and set these individual steps as goals for yourself.
Ensuring that these steps are measurable will help you to know when you’ve accomplished them.
After you’ve set yourself some realistic goals that you’re excited to start working towards, here are some tips to help you get there:
1. Write your goals down somewhere you can see them. This one doesn’t take a genius to figure out, keeping our goals in sight will help to keep them in mind. If you’re someone who uses a wall calendar this can be a great place to write your goals. Otherwise get creative and leave yourself little post-it notes in places you look often.
2. Get a friend, partner, or colleague involved. Finding someone to work on your goal with you will make it much easier to stay motivated and gives you a buddy to help keep yourself accountable. Not to mention it makes it much more fun when we have good company!
3. Create a habit out of your new goal. Working things into our daily routine is the best way to make sure we do them. Start slowly and work to weave your new goal into the things you already do. For example, if your goal is to spend more quality time with your partner then arrange to have a date night once a week with no phones allowed, if your goal is to begin meditating then dedicate a regular time in the day that fits in with your current routine.
4. Check in and review your goals. Set a date that you will check back in with the goals you made and review how you’re going in your progress. If you haven’t come as far as you’d like(or you’ve completely forgotten about some!) that’s okay and remember to be aware of any self-criticism that may come up.
Use this is as an opportunity to check in with how realistic and achievable your goals were and make adjustments if need be.
So good luck with setting your goals and achieving them successfully.
All the best for 2021.
5 Signs It’s Time to Try Therapy
Keeping things bottled up is a metaphor that applies to millions of people around the world. Nearly everyone prefers to stay quiet when they are dealing with stress at work, difficulties in school, or problems in the family. Talking to others and getting help is not an option for many due to the fear of being ostracized and being seen as weak.
A trusted registered psychologist says that the simple act of talking to your family and friends about your problems and worries will take a load off your chest. You will start feeling better, be more optimistic, and be productive as usual.
However, there will be times when having heart-to-heart talks with a friend or loved one won’t help. It won’t be enough to help you deal with or overcome your anxieties, fears, or emotional upheavals. Most of the time, you won’t even be aware of this. You’ll just choose to go on with your daily life keeping your worries and other feelings inside.
When to See a Therapist
Whether you feel better after talking things out with another person or not, it is still vital that you know when to seek professional help. By seeing a therapist at the right time, you will regain control over your life faster and experience better mental and emotional health.
If you are experiencing one or more of the signs below, you need to give therapy a try as soon as possible:
1. You are constantly feeling intense emotions
Anger and sadness are emotions that everyone feels from time to time. However, if you think that these two are always front and centre and they are affecting your work, daily activities, and even your relationships, you have to do something about them.
Intense feelings of anger and sadness often indicate a deeper issue. Additionally, they can cause a side effect that can lead to more problems: catastrophising.
Catastrophising is believing that something or everything is or will be the worst-case scenario. For instance, even if you are having a good day, you will start thinking that something will go wrong and bad things will happen along the way.
This severe form of anxiety can be debilitating. Because you always imagine that you are or will be in a bad situation, you will end up avoiding things. It can even lead to panic attacks.
If you are always feeling intense forms of anger, sadness, and anxiety, you should see a professional registered psychologist as soon as possible.
2. You are abusing alcohol, drugs, or food
If you are eating and drinking liquor more than usual and using drugs you don’t need or in higher quantities, it is highly likely you are doing this to numb your pain and worries.
Although these are easier and more enjoyable things to do than facing your issues, they are unhealthy. Alcohol and substance abuse, in particular, are life-threatening, too.
If you think overeating is a safer option, think again. Gorging on too much food is often a sign that a person is overstressed or struggling with the need to take care of oneself.
Gambling, spending countless hours on Facebook or Instagram, and watching porn all night are also abusive and addictive behaviours that are temporary, poor attempts at blocking out your other problems.
In such instances, consulting a registered psychologist is the action to take to avoid more problems, including health and medical-related ones.
3. You suffered or witnessed something traumatic
Everyone deals with a breakup, loss of a job, or death in the family in different ways. Again, most people merely keep their emotions to themselves and wait for these feelings to go away
However, these emotions rarely go away quickly. When they don’t, they can consume you. Grief, anger, and feelings of regret or guilt can impair your daily functioning. They can cause you to withdraw from your loved ones and friends as well.
If you suddenly find yourself socializing less with your friends, co-workers, and even family members, and they notice and tell you this, find a professional you can talk to. By doing so, you will have someone you can speak with about the traumatic experience you had and how it continues to affect you.
More importantly, you will get help in learning healthy ways to deal with and overcome your debilitating emotions.
4. You no longer feel happy doing previously beloved or satisfying activities
Becoming disinterested in meeting your friends for coffee, visiting your favourite niece, or taking long walks are common signs that you need professional help.
This loss of interest or even dislike for activities that you used to love doing can cause a downward spiral. You will start to feel disillusioned and that you have no purpose in life. These emotions will cloud your judgement and cause you to make bad, unhealthy life decisions.
These feelings of disillusionment can also affect your work performance. If you used to love going early to the office and doing your job well, and suddenly things take a 360-degree turn, your productivity will be affected.
Because of this, you might get negative comments from your boss or co-employees. These remarks can cause you to feel even more disheartened and dejected.
Before you lose hope and the will to live, talk to a licensed provider of counselling and psychological services straightaway.
5. You feel nothing you have done has helped
Finally, kudos to you for doing something about what you’re feeling. Whether you are getting more exercise, doing volunteer work, or talking to your loved ones and friends more, pat yourself on the back for your hard work.
But what if all these activities do nothing to calm your worries and alleviate your feelings of sadness or hopelessness? You need to add seeing a therapist to your to-do list.
By going to therapy, you will see your thoughts and feelings from a different point of view. Because of this, you will understand them better. Additionally, you will have another person share the burden of your emotions which will help you feel less hopeless.
More importantly, you will have someone to support you as you turn things around for the better.
When you start noticing these signs in yourself, don’t hesitate to get professional help immediately. You can set an appointment with one of our trustworthy and qualified therapists, all registered psychologist, on our Contact page.
HSC AND EXAM STRESS: Tips for Surviving and Thriving through the exams.
The last year of high school can be a very tough time, no one can deny that. This year so far (2020) has been particularly challenging and stressful for those students preparing for the HSC and other exams. COVID-19, time off school, disruptions to life, work and study, social distancing, having to stay home for long periods of time, worrying about what the future holds, and much more. All these things posed a uniquely stressful and uncertain time for students this year. It’s been a real challenge and you have done well to get through it so far.
Do you need to set helpful boundaries for yourself around social media or other technology?
Today there are so many more distractions (some good, many stressful) and more information thrown at young people than ever before. With social comparisons and peer-pressure intensified by 24-hour access to ‘life’ as it unfolds on every device imaginable – life can be stressful. But that is how it is today and it is up to you to judge whether these things give you any pleasure or positive feelings or whether they just add to your stress levels. One of the biggest downsides of social media is comparisons. Which can lead to concerns about “am I good enough?” “am I missing out?” etc etc. During this challenging time of life (year 12 and preparing for the Exams), it’s important to think about reducing your exposure to external stressors. There are some things you can control and there are things over which you have limited or little control. You’re probably smart enough to recognise the difference between these and you might choose to limit unhelpful distractions for yourself where you can.
It’s really time to watch your thinking
Are you a perfectionist? Are you putting excessive demands on yourself to reach very high standards? Maybe think about these questions and ask yourself if you have unrealistic or unfair expectations of yourself. It’s very normal to want to do well or to perhaps want to excel at something. Just watch your tendency to worry and watch where your mind leads you? Remember, anxiety and worry are future-focused or future orientated mood states fuelled by fear-based thoughts. If you notice that you are worrying a lot and focusing on the worst case scenario, be mindful and remind yourself that these are only worry thoughts, these are anxious thoughts and they are not necessarily real!
Also remember that your feelings and emotions are normal. It is an anxious time and it’s very normal to have feelings of stress and anxiety – everyone does whether it appears that way or not.
But, when we are stressed and anxious, our minds tend to generate more unhelpful worry thoughts. Our minds can run away and go down all sorts of rabbit holes. This is your mind, it is not necessarily a reflection of reality. There is a saying that the mind is a great servant but a terrible master. We cannot always trust our thoughts, our mind tends to fill in the gaps, look for the negatives and can cause all sorts of fears and distress. You can really scare yourself with your own thoughts. So, watch your thoughts.
Try to get some distance from them by noticing if you are worrying and label what your mind is doing. “This is an anxious thought” or “this is a worry, fearful thought”. When we label what our mind is doing it helps us get perspective and helps bring us back to the moment we are in right now. Remember, you are not your thoughts.
During the exam period
So, you’ve done all the preparation, you’ve even sat your first exam. Well done. Don’t forget, you deserve to do well and you can do well, just give it your best on the day and remember to slow down. Your mind is probably racing a hundred miles an hour. Your thoughts, hopes, fear, worries, and those unhelpful comparisons – you can hardly keep up with them all. Now is the time to slow it all down! Just remember, whatever you hear, think, read and see on whatever device you are looking at, is NOT necessarily true. You don’t know and will never really know how someone else is coping, how well they did and how easy or tough they found the exam. This is all peripheral stuff that’s most likely only going to fuel your worry.
You need to stay connected with people sure, but try not to buy into any of the ‘hype’ of comparing yourself to others – this never really goes well. For now, stay focused on you: your strengths, your health, your diet, your exercise, your exams, your study, your LIFE!
Here’s a few tips that can help you navigate the road ahead. But also remember, this is a part of your life (yes an important part of your life), it’s not your whole life and no matter what the outcome is for you it will not dictate your future happiness or success. There are multiple opportunities and paths you can take to get where you want to go. So slow down, breathe, give it your best, but stay well and with an open mind.
When preparing, reviewing or studying:
- Optimize your environment and get a little organised. Have your desk sorted and clear with just what you need. Make your study space a place you want to spend time.
- Chunk it up. Set yourself chunks of time to work on certain things. Have small set tasks or goals. You need to have a plan for your study otherwise you’ll get too distracted and try to do too much and just get anxious and overwhelmed.
- Factor in those breaks. After you have finished a chunk, have a short break where you move your body or have a refreshment. A short intense walk can send much needed oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
- Eat brain food. Give the sugary breakfast cereal a big miss and go for a high protein breakfast. Make sure you eat as much ‘mind food’ as possible. Things like nuts, berries, cheese, eggs, salmon, chicken, green veges, avocados are going to help get you through. Decrease the sugar, especially on exam days – it’s not that good for your brain!
- Imagine you are there. Relax, close your eyes and imagine calmly being in the exam room and completing the paper. Above all, imagine that you are relaxed, breathing calmly, reading and thinking clearly.
- Get good sleep (8 -10 hours). Call it a day, when you need to. At some point you need to stop for the day. Don’t work in bed! Keep your bed for rest and leave your phone (and whatever other device you have) charging in another room. I know this is hard, but really, your mental health needs a boundary. You need to close off for the night. Try stretches, hot shower or bath, yoga, a relaxation or mindfulness app, essential oils (eg, lavender and orange really work for sleep) and a cup of warm milk (it’s not just an oldwives tale) to relax your body and mind before bed. If you are sleep-deprived, you are much more prone to worry, anxiety and low mood. You really need to prioritize sleep over this time.
- Don’t listen to your inner critic. Don’t worry if you can’t or don’t do the things recommended here. Give yourself a break and watch your inner critic. There’s no need to judge yourself harshly for doing all the so-called right things! Just do what you can and you’ll be okay.
In an exam:
- Remember to breathe. Just take a few minutes to watch your breath. If you need to take a few slow deep breaths to start with then do that. Once they are done, come back to your breath and breathe gently and normally through your nose.
- Be kind to yourself. When things are getting started, notice how you feel. Name your feelings quietly to yourself (eg, I’m feeling a little anxious, I can feel it in my chest”). Even the act of doing this actually sends messages back to the emotion centre of your brain to calm things down. After that, try saying something soothing to yourself by letting your compassionate mind speak (eg, I know I’m feeling anxious, this is pretty normal and it’s okay. I know this feeling will pass soon. I know I can do this).
- When you see the questions, take it slowly and read all the instructions carefully. This is when a lot of students notice a marked elevation in their anxiety. I like the ‘read question – read the piece/or text – read the question again’ approach (eg, like in an English exam or where there is a reading for you to complete before you answer set questions). If you have a worksheet, write key words as you read the piece for example and always highlight key parts of the question as you read through it. Take your time to really understand what is being expected of you with each question. “What exactly is being asked of me here?” Planning a little upfront is usually very predictive of success.
- Multiple choice questions are there to ‘trick’ you. So try this method. A great tip is to always cover the choices first. Read the question before you let yourself see any of the answer choices. When you read the question, try and generate the most accurate answer in your mind first, then allow yourself to see the answer options. This is called the ‘answer generation’ technique which has been proven in educational psychology to get the best results.
After an exam:
- Do something nice for yourself. Have a break and maybe a nice little reward. Take some time to savour it.
- Debrief but don’t ruminate. Sure, get things off your chest but don’t spend a long time talking to your fellow students about the exam. Move on, focus on how you can best prepare for the next exam – think of things you can control rather than worrying about the things you can’t. Talk to your parents and other helpful adults to get things off your chest.
- Take a break before starting on preparing for the next exam. Congratulate yourself for your efforts and getting through the exam. Get some physical exercise – this is really important to manage stress levels. Get some sunshine and do something different, even if it’s just for an hour.
Self-Care is Important
Try and remember to take good care of yourself across all domains of life. Check in with your parents or other people you can talk to and try not to spend all your time in your room. Remember that there are people who care about you and how you are coping, so always seek out helpful, useful people to speak with and share your concerns.
Remember that a certain amount of anxiety and worry is very normal and usually passes once the exam period is over. If you feel that you are so anxious that you can’t focus at all or you are starting to feel down or sad for any longer than a couple of days, talk to your parents about getting some extra help. It might be that a professional can help you with strategies and skills to deal with anxiety or low mood. It’s never too early or late to ask for help.
Finally, Yes, your exams are important. But – they are not your whole life and there will be so many other opportunities and avenues you can take later on. Remember to balance work and study with self-care. Self-care that focuses on both the mind and the body.
Good luck and believe in yourself!
Due to current circumstances with COVID-19, we are faced having to fill plenty more hours in the day due to the restrictions placed on us.
For many people this has been an anxiety-provoking experience.
Because a key element that serves as a source of satisfaction, abundance, distraction, or perhaps a time-filler for many of us, has been taken away – the external world (such as going to the office, to the gym, socialising or travel).
You may find yourself feeling pressured to continue to DO and achieve, yet feeling like you’re not making progress. If you find that these feelings are leading you to be self-critical…then this article is for you.
I recently listened to a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert “It’s OK to feel overwhelmed” which really struck a chord with myself and led me into a reflective process.
During this unprecedented time with COVID-19, a general message that seems to be circulating social media, blogs, articles, and so forth is to view this as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. To follow your passion and get creative, or to find your true purpose in life.
Typically, reframing one’s mindset from something more negative (i.e. a limitation) to something more open and positive (i.e. an opportunity) is helpful and proactive. However, where it might become more problematic for some people is when we start to think about what the counter-message to ‘finding your purpose’ might be for some people.
We may be feeling that:
- we’re not doing enough,
- that we’re not doing life right
- that we’re supposed to be uncovering some particular talent that we have but aren’t yet aware of.
What these string of thoughts do is firstly place significant pressure on ourselves to keep doing and achieving. Then, by default, we turn to our external world with the hope to experience feelings of happiness, value, and wholeness.
However, the focus on the external world can often lead to an increase in self-critical and self-defeating thoughts, which in turn exacerbates anxiety, low mood, and a sense of general dissatisfaction.
Stop and be curious
Whilst this is a fantastic time to work towards achieving goals or ticking off those tasks that one has been procrastinating, this is also a beautiful moment in time to stop and be curious.
To find some distance from our default mode which is to do do do, and instead, connect with our being.
When your internal voice next perks up and instructs you to continue with that work project, exercise goal, or whatever else it may be, I wonder if you can try and put those thoughts to the side. Instead, become curious about what it is that’s in front of you and that you have access to in that present moment…which is you.
See this as an opportunity to connect with your internal world. How are you feeling? What are you needing?
It’s likely that what you’re needing in that very moment, is not to go back to your busy schedule and goal list. Rather it’s a basic human fundamental need such as:
- a nourishing meal; or
- some form of exercise or movement.
You might even find that turning inwards rather than choosing to do and achieve leaves you feeling more nourished, satisfied, and calm.
Avoid unrealistic expectations
However, for those of you who are working towards specific goals or picking up on some of those tasks that have been put to the side, often it’s the mindset we have and our underlying beliefs that can be unhelpful.
We tend to place high and at times unrealistic expectations on ourselves and can dip into an all-or-nothing mindset.
A more helpful way to achieve goals during this time and all-round is to set a goal and slowly work towards achieving it.
Unpack the goal into small, realistic and achievable steps.
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.