Stress – Friend not Foe

Stress

By Ami Mane (Student Intern)

Stress is a common part of life, and fully understanding how your body responds in stress and thoughts relating to it can be helpful. Kelly McGonigal’s (Health Psychologist) TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend”

https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend#t-806317

introduces how thoughts relate to stress and their impact on the body. Stress can result in sweaty palms, a pounding heart, racing mind, however excess stress can have other symptoms such as detrimental effects to the nervous system, damage to the organs, accelerated ageing and more. Individuals that experience ongoing stress regularly, may find that they worry about the health repercussions. High blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes and obesity are all conditions that have been linked to high stress. Indeed, approximately 110 million people die worldwide every year due to stress related effects, that is seven people every two seconds. This statistic is something that has been extensively researched in conjunction with how this number can be reduced with various stress-reducing activities.

 
McGonigal discusses a survey of 30,000 adults in the US about their stress levels, asking the question “do you believe stress is harmful to your health?” For the next 8 years, these adults were tracked and public health records were checked to see who had died from stress related causes. They found that 43% of individuals that had experienced a high degree of stress in the previous years, had an increased chance of dying. However, this only happened to the people that believed stress was having a negative impact on their health. In other words, people that experienced a lot of stress but did not believe it was harmful to their health were no more likely to die from stress related deaths than individuals that experienced very little stress. In fact, these individuals had the lowest risk of dying out of everyone in the study, including low-stress individuals.

 
This leads us to the question: Is changing the way you think about stress better for your health? McGonigal says “Yes!!!” If you change your attitude to stress, your body, in turn, it is likely to change its response to stress. For example, if you are in a stressful exam situation, many will typically view this pressure and anxiety as a stressful and negative experience. However, instead of viewing these responses as bad, you can view them in a different way. You change your attitude to believing this stress is preparing you for something, energising your body and getting you prepared for a challenge. If you view stress as courage, confidence, not fear, your body will too. When your body goes into a stress response to a situation, the heart rate increases and blood vessels will constrict. This is part of the reason stress is often associated with cardiovascular disease. When an individual views a stress response as a helpful form of courage, the blood vessels stay relaxed. This demonstrates that the way you think about stress matters!!!! For some, it may be the difference between having a stress-induced heart attack in your 50s or living well until your older age.

 
Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the cuddle or love hormone, can prime you to strengthen your social relationships. It makes you crave physical contact. Oxytocin increases empathy, care and compassion. Many do not know that oxytocin is also a stress hormone. Oxytocin is pumped out of the pituitary gland when you are stressed, and when released it pushes you in the direction of seeking support from people around you. Telling others how you feel rather than keeping it to yourself helps you surround yourself with people that can support you, ultimately decreasing stress. Social and physical contact releases oxytocin, and oxytocin acts as a natural anti-inflammatory protecting your cardiovascular system from the negative effects of stress. It helps your heart cells heal from stress induced damage, essentially. This effect was supported by another study that assessed a group of around 1000 adults asking how much stress they have experienced in the past year, as well as, how much time they had spent helping neighbours, family and friends. They found that for major life stressors (such as family crises or financial issues) this increased the chance of death by 30%. However, individuals that spent time caring for others had no stress-related increase in chance of dying. Therefore, spending time caring for others and viewing your stress response as helpful can assist with well-being. Being compassionate to your body responses in stress can also be helpful and coping statements can assist this. For example, “It is ok that my body is responding this way” and McGonigal says “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge!”

Mindfulness in the kitchen with Dr Sturrock Instagram mindful_kitchen

Joy comes from connection. Making bread using your senses is about noticing the smells, textures, colours, tastes, and sounds around you. Start by sifting 0.5 kg plain flour with a dash of salt into a large bowl. Notice the flour and salt combine, the flour moving is way through the sieve. Mix in a packet of yeast and add about 1 tsp of lemon rind. Observe the colour of the lemon, the shine, the burst of smell as you produce the rind. Intentionally and slowly put your hands into the mixture and make a well in the middle of the flour. Add 0.25 cup of olive oil. Rub it with your fingers and palms until the oil is taken up by the flour. Notice what it feels like in your fingers. Add 0.5 cup of lukewarm milk and 0.5 cup of water. Kneed the mixture observing the feeling of the dough in your hands. Smell the dough – does this bring any particular thoughts to mind? Let the dough rest under a tea towel for about 1 hr until it doubles in size. While the dough is growing, mix 0.5 kg of halloumi cut into cubes, 4 tbsps finely chopped mint leaves (hold this up to your nose and breath deeply and also notice what it feels like when you gently hold a stalk and move it up and down your forearm), 4 tbsps dried mint, 1 caramelised onion chopped into strips with a pinch of sugar, and a handful of chopped black olives. When the dough is ready, spread it into a pan while pressing the mixed ingredients to combine. Notice all of the different textures and smells arising. Beat an egg and paint on top of the dough. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Cover with the tea towel and let stand for another 45 mins. Preheat your oven to 180°C and cook for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown. Notice the smell of the bread as it cooks and as you finally break it open. Slowly place some in your mouth taking in all the tastes and chew gently and intentionally. Enjoy!!! #mindful_kitchen #mindfulness #healthymind #mykitchen

mindful_kitchen

mindful_kitchen

“Radically accept” – Am I ready for this?

The term “radical acceptance” is a concept that can be easily understood by clients, but more difficult to put into practice. The concept is not new; however, has risen in popularity as a result of the development of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in the early 1990s. Marsha Linehan, theorist and clinician, describes radical acceptance as something that is necessary to solve life problems. To radically accept is to accept the universe as it is, with radical indicating total (not partial) acceptance. To practice radical acceptance is to move past one’s own suffering. It is a means to modify extreme misery into normalised grief/sadness to improve adaptation to reality.

DBT radical acceptance

DBT radical acceptance

I recently attended a workshop, run by the Byron Clinic, facilitated by Marsha Linehan who encouraged the use of metaphors to describe the idea of radical acceptance. She talked about personal experiences where the concept could have been applied to her own life, which she shares in session with her own clients and therapists training in DBT. Other metaphors described were on a spectrum of challenges from day-to-day problems to extreme hardship in life. Some examples to which the concept could be applied to are: losing your dream job due to redundancy, living next-door to constantly disruptive neighbours, and discovering your long-term romantic partner has been “hooking up” with your closest friend.

When people first hear about the idea of radical acceptance they sometimes ask: Am I ready for this? How do I apply this to my life? Am I accepting defeat?

Marsh Linehan describes four options when people are faced with life challenges:

(1) problem solving – you could identify options for changing your current situation;

(2) altering your feelings – by adjusting negatives into positives;

(3) accepting the problem – coming to terms with reality and moving on; and

(4) holding on to suffering – sticking with the anguish.

Importantly, by radically accepting, you are not: letting others get away with what they have done to you or agreeing with the ethics around what has happened to you.  Instead, you are giving up the internal battle in relation to the problem/s you have faced.

For more information on radical acceptance please visit: http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html

Sources:

Linehan (1993). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. The Guilford Press.

 

Girl Stuff – Kaz Cooke

“The Rough Guide to Girl Stuff” is packed with everything a girl needs to know to get her through the teen years. From friends, body changes, clothes school stress, exercise and sex to smoking, embarrassment, dieting, guys, drinking, drugs and heartbreak. Not to mention how to beat bullies and mean girls, earn money, find new friends and get on with your family. Written by award winning author Kaz Cooke, in extensive consultation with medical, psychological and practical experts; “The Rough Guide to Girl Stuff” provides a wealth of practical tips and non-judgemental advice for teens (and their parents).”Girl Stuff” is split in to four key themes: Body, Head, Heart and On the Go and each chapter includes facts, hints, inspiring lists, hundreds of quotes from real girls, and details of websites and books for useful tips if you want to find out more. Designed to be a friend through the teenage years, “The Rough Guide to Girl Stuff” will be your best friend through every change and challenge. ‘”Girl Stuff” is the book I wanted when I was a teenager; a ‘best friend’ that will honestly answer every question about everything’ – Kaz Cooke.

Purchase this book here:

Girl Stuff – Kaz Cooke

Real Gorgeous – Kaz Cooke

A hilarious and empowering book for girls and women who are insecure about their body image.

Take it from Kaz Cooke: “There are millions of gorgeous body shapes. Yours is one of them. Dieting doesn’t work. Your thighs are pretty cute. Exercise should be fun not duty. Cheap cosmetics can be as good as expensive ones. Advertising lies. Plastic surgery sucks. Modeling can be miserable. You can recover from an eating disorder. You can read magazines and watch television critically. You can fight the Body Police.”

At last, here is a book that tells you how to be friends with your body. Real Gorgeous is a big, funny, reassuring read about fashion fibs and diet myths—and the truth about, among other things, push-ups, push-up bras, and the great cellulite scam. It is meticulously researched and sensible, but it avoids impenetrable theory and instead embraces the fun of clothes, makeup, and life in general.

Packed with jokes, Cooke’s own cartoons, and practical ways to find real self-esteem and avoid freak-outs and rip-offs, Real Gorgeous is easy to read, relevant, and an indispensable boost for women aged 11 to 111.

Purchase the book here:

Real Gorgeous – Kaz Cooke

Dr Bonnie Sturrock

The Artwork – Abstracts by figurative artist Madeleine Casey

From March 8th 2014, Dr Sturrock’s new office at 113 Bridge Rd, Richmond will be home to two pieces of abstract art by Perth based figurative artist Madeleine Casey.

Madeleine indicates that the artwork was originally inspired by the famous Rorschach ink blot psychological tests and the butterfly paintings we all created as children in primary school. She said the starting point for the 2013 “Year of the Dragon” (pictured above) and “Mind Map” (featured below) was splattering the oil, acrylic and enamel paint on the canvas and folding the paper in half. She then painted portions of other detail to allow for open interpretation of either half or the picture as a whole.

Madeleine said the titles of the artwork were “quite literal to what I initially saw in the pictures, but the viewer always brings their own experience and perceptions to a piece of art and can see something completely different in them.”

The Artwork - Madeleine Casey

Mind Map – Madeleine Casey

I (Dr Sturrock) met the artist after visiting Blu Peter (www.blupeter.com.au) a North Fremantle lifestyle concept store owned by interior designer Adri-Ann Brown in an attempt to find some furniture for the new office. When I entered the store, I felt instantly inspired; it was filled with unique pieces imported for South Africa and of course the artwork which will soon take a place on my office walls.

Madeleine, who’s endearing smile I will never forget, and I chatted over many subjects including my interpretation of the artwork. I could see animals predominantly – a bull in the lower right corner of “Year of the Dragon” and a sea horse on the right in “Mind Map.” What these interpretations say about my unconscious, I’m not quite sure…

Clinical psychological training in Australia at the present doesn’t weigh heavily on the teaching and use of projective tests, such as the Rorschach ink blot. Tests of this nature were most widely used in the 1960s; however, still appear to be popular around the world (especially Japan) and in forensic settings.

I’m sure that the artwork will inspire many interesting conversations in the office…

What can you see?

Madeleine’s art has mainly focussed on figurative pieces and her abstract work represents a shift from this focus. Her work is generally reported to “deal with the negotiation of identity on both a personal and global level.” She has exhibited in both the UK and NZ, and her work has been featured in Marie Claire, Lucire, and House and Garden magazines. You can see other pieces of artwork by Madeleine Casey at www.madeleinecasey.com

The Culture of “Selfies” – Good or Bad?

Dr BA Sturrock,
MAPS Clinical Psychologist 

“Selfies” are what urban folk refer to as taking photos of the self that are often sent to known others or posted in online social networking pages. Documenting one’s life through virtual images appears to be overwhelmingly accepted in today’s society and is an important part of many people’s identity. But is this harmful behaviour?

As “Selfies” are an emerging trend linked to the ever increasing use of internet for social purposes, little is known about the potential positive and/or detrimental impact on the self-esteem of those presenting the virtual images other than from personal reports. The scientific evidence is currently lacking, however, we do know that there is a link between low self-esteem and greater frequency of social network postings (Schwartz, 2010). It is also understood that ones self-esteem could suffer from uploading photos of themselves because they are open to scrutiny from others. So why is it that a person would feel compelled to post a picture of themselves to their social network?

self2

The rationale and decision-making with regard to these postings typically involves one’s desire to gain instantaneous attention and feedback from their social networking friends. This feedback may serve to strengthen or weaken one’s approval or disapproval of the self. In this case, a continuous need for peer acceptance and validation may indicate a lack of self-worth, feelings of inferiority, or a need to belong.

Posting excessive virtual pictures of oneself could also be indicative of internet addiction, poor decision making skills, impulsivity, and/or a grandiose sense-of-self, of which any may negatively impact on one’s functioning in relationships and society.

Alternatively, posting photos of one’s self could be seen as a form of expression or artwork analogous to the famous work of Francesca Woodman. The pictures may tell a story, entice individual interpretation, help to maintain relationships by connecting in the visual sense, reinforce one’s sense of achievement, or benefit others via modelling of positive behaviour. !

Are men and women equally open to the same potential deleterious psychological and social outcomes that result from posting virtual pictures?

Again, to my knowledge this is relatively unknown from a scientific standpoint. Nevertheless, some research has indicated that females spend more time on social networking sites (Thompson & Lougheed, 2012) and, therefore, have more time to upload these images when compared to men. Despite gender, posting virtual pictures may seem appealing, but it is important for those posting these to determine whether this outweighs the potential cons. Posting excessive virtual pictures of oneself without weighing up the pros and cons of this behaviour could result in feelings of regret in the long term.

References.

Madeline Schwartz, “The usage of Facebook as it relates to narcissism, self-esteem and loneliness” (January 1, 2010). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3415681. 
 http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3415681

Thompson, S. H., & Lougheed, E. (2012). Frazzled by Facebook? An exploratory study of gender differences in social network communication among undergraduate men and women. College Student Journal, 46(1), 88–98.

The Family Guide to Mental Health Care - Lloyd I Sederer

The Family Guide to Mental Health Care – Lloyd I Sederer

Expert advice from the medical director of the country’s largest state mental health system and the mental health editor ofThe Huffington Post.

More than fifty million people a year are diagnosed with some form of mental illness. It spares no sex, race, age, ethnicity, or income level. And left untreated, mental disorders can devastate our families and communities. Family members and friends are often the first to realize when someone has a problem, but it is hard to know how to help or where to turn. Our mental health “system” can feel like a bewildering and frustrating maze. How can you tell that someone has a mental illness? What are the first and best steps for you to take? Where do you go to find the right care?

The Family Guide to Mental Health Care is the first comprehensive print resource for the millions of people who have loved ones suffering from some kind of mental illness. In this book, families can find the answers to their most urgent questions. What medications are helpful and are some as dangerous as I think? Is there a way to navigate privacy laws so I can discuss my adult daughter’s treatment with her doctor? Is my teenager experiencing typical adolescent distress or an illness? From understanding depression, bipolar illness and anxiety to eating and traumatic disorders, schizophrenia, and much more, readers will learn what to do and how to help.

Real-life scenarios and authoritative information are written in a compassionate, reader-friendly way, including checklists to bring to a doctor’s appointment so you can ask the right questions. For readers who fear they will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, this book gives hope and a path forward.

As one of the nation’s leading voices on quality care in mental health, Dr. Lloyd Sederer has played a singular role in advancing services for those with mental illness. Now, the wealth of his expertise and clear guidance is at your disposal. From the first signs of a problem to sorting through the variety of treatment options, you and your family will be able to walk into a doctor’s office know what to do and what to ask.

Buy book online here ->

The Family Guide to Mental Health Care – Lloyd I Sederer

Mental Illness: A Handbook for Carers - George Szmukler

Mental Illness: A Handbook for Carers – George Szmukler

This is an essential resource for all people caring for family members or friends with mental illness. Written by experts, Mental Illness: A Handbook for Carers provides basic information on: * forms of mental illness * treatment plans * what to do in an emergency * the role of mental health professionals and other agencies * legal issues and confidentiality * housing, work and benefits. Mental Illness examines the provision made for people with mental illness and their carers, and the support that is available to them. It includes information on housing, employment, social services and the law. The writers avoid jargon, and the book includes a glossary of terms with which carers may be unfamiliar. Accessible, practical and comprehensive, this handbook acts as a one-stop shop for anyone caring for a person with a mental illness.

Buy book online here ->

Mental Illness: A Handbook for Carers – George Szmukler

Present Perfect - Pavel G Somov

Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control – Pavel G Somov

While there’s no doubt that setting high standards for yourself is a good thing, you’ve probably already noticed that perfectionism can come at a high price. And when you take steps to try to change, it’s easy to beat yourself up and fall into the same traps that keep you feeling stressed and disappointed. This book presents a revolutionary approach to overcoming perfectionism-a way to transform your need for precision into self-acceptance, compassion, and love for each perfectly imperfect passing moment in our lives. In Present Perfect, you’ll use the Buddhist psychology of mindfulness to learn to accept the present moment in all of its ordinary perfection. This book is filled with over 150 exercises and meditations that you can practice to become more flexible toward yourself and others without losing your love of a job well done. With this compassionate approach, you’ll soon be able not only to accept life as it is, but also become more accepting and forgiving of yourself and others.

This brilliant and practical new book is designed to help alleviate the excess stress and dissatisfaction of perfectionism, one of the main practices of the extremely popular, if unheralded, religion I lovingly call Control Freakism. Pavel Somov gives us numerous helpful awareness exercises, conscious inquiries, insights, mindfulness practices, original perspectives, and penetrating ideas, all conducive to helping us free ourselves from this tyrannical inner demon and experience the radiant reality of things just as they are. Acceptance has its own transformative magic, and I heartily recommend this work to all who want to transform, awaken, and edify.

Lama Surya Das, founder of Dzogchen Meditation Centers and author of Awakening the Buddha Within

Even those of us with a lot of self-help reading under our belts will experience many a-ha moments while immersed in Present Perfect. Somov s approach is highly logical, creative, resourceful, and compassionate. Never once will you feel judged; instead, you ll feel understood. I highly recommend this valuable resource to therapists and anyone with perfectionist tendencies.

Dina Cheney, author of Tasting Club and Williams-Sonoma’sNew Flavors for Salads

Rarely does a work of art like Present Perfect fall upon one’s desk. This book allows us to transform existential pain caused by our need to be perfect. This book is abundant with tools and ideas that equip the reader to resolve guilt, shame, and perfectionism. Once you accept and surrender your perfectionism, the magical paradox of mindfulness as a healer will unfold.

Ronald A. Alexander, Ph.D., executive director of the Open Mind Training Institute and author of Wise Mind, Open Mind

Pavel Somov offers an intelligent, witty, and compassionate critique of perfectionism and makes a compelling case that life is already perfect. I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and personally and professionally useful from the first page. I feel as comfortable recommending this book to my colleagues as I do to my patients and am confident that both will find it of tremendous value in their lives. Since perfectionism is often the other side of compulsive and addictive behavior, this book will be relevant to all who seek more moderation and balance in their lives.

Andrew Tatarsky, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in New York City specializing in treating addictive behavior and author of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy.

Buy book online here ->

Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control – Pavel G Somov