Monday, July 3, 2017

Musing on emotional literacy and self care

In Acceptance Commitment Therapy, we talk about receiving information through two ways. In the here and now through our five senses.

The other way of getting information is inside our head. The memory of the past and projecting this into the future.  Through our brain's ability to "fuse" with the stories and thoughts" inside our head, we can react to these as if it is in the "here and now".

Both are important of course, but if we spend too much time in our head, it can be overwhelming and tiring.  There may be information overload, too much memories of past losses and worries of the future.

Hence, it is important to get outside of our head.  Some might call this "mindful practices" to get our focus out to the "here and now" through our five senses.

Some people do this through comfort eating, coffee, coke, alcohol, drugs etc.  It gets ourselves out of our head. One can say that mindful eating is a meditative practice although watch out if you doing it too much!  When we get ourselves out of our monkey brain, it's relaxing!

Other "comforting activities" are bush walking, sight seeing, TV, massage, craft, music, painting, exercise, camping in nature. Having a hot shower. Floating in the pool etc.  But camping and "still living in your head" may not be so relaxing!

The point is, we must do some healthy mindful practices to balance out our "inner sensing, thinking and feeling" to find that balance.

I interpret these as "mindful practices".... Just have to choose the healthier ones!

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to let something go..... Emotionally speaking.

One way to accept or "to let go" is to explore the belief/value that is stopping you from letting something go because you hold that as "TRUE".

It can be for example...

1 We shouldn't be wasteful.
2 Things should be fair.
3 If I remarry, then I will dishonour him (In a scenario when someone have lost their husband for example).

Once aware, we can "challenge that" (CBT Cognitive Behaviour Therapy style) or defuse from it (ACT Acceptance Commitment Therapy style).  You cannot "TRY to let go" in my opinion because letting go is in essence "not trying".  So "letting go" in my mind is more about "unlocking" or through deep understanding and validation rather then "doing" which many are trying to do.  I often find that people are constantly saying, "Yes, I am trying to let it go but I can't!"

Mindfulness practice will help one to be less judging and more "perceiving" and from this "state of mind", letting go is easier in my opinion.

If your want to read more on ACT Acceptance Commitment Therapy, I would recommend a book written by Dr Russ Harris The Happiness Trap.  You can search for it in our Self Help Bookstore tab above on our page.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Emotional literacy and emotional processing

Emotional literacy and emotional processing: 

Do you know the difference between avoidance, putting up with it and acceptance?
Do you know the difference between being assertive vs aggressive?

Emotional literacy is important for emotional processing.  Poor emotional processing, "blocking it out" or suppressing your emotions can lead to a lot of frustration

So how does one process one's emotion?  This is my take on it.....

1 Name the emotion
2 Step back and "detach" or "defuse" from the emotion and ask "Why do I have this emotion?"
"What is it trying to tell me?"  
"What external factors are there that made me feel this way and can I change that?"  and if not....
"What values and beliefs do I have that made me react this way and can I change that?"
3 Then try the "tame" the emotion with fact checking and reasoning (more of a CBT strategy) or "defuse from it" and focus on actions that are congruent with one's values (more of an ACT strategy).

Not easy of course but this certainly can be learnt and cultivated in everyday life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A reminder on Self Care

A simple reminder re self care....

Life can be stressful. It is somewhat inevitable.  Self care is important.
If one looks at the BioPsychoSocial model of "wellness", one will realise that to be well, one has to be physically well(bio), emotionally well(psycho) and well in your relationships and financially well(social).
From experience, the "relationship" component is often forgotten or it is simply "too hard". Take time to reflect on your relationships, learn more about it and most importantly, look after it!
The 75yr Harvard longitudinal study on relationships say it all.... Good relationships are good for you! (In health and wealth imo)

Take care of it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Climate, Seasons and the Weather of Relationships

I sometimes think relationships in terms of climate, seasons and the weather of the day. 
We might have a storm but that comes and goes. 
Even a cold winter will warm up eventually. 
I think we can get into a lot of trouble when we are so focused on the weather and forget to step back and remind ourselves of the bigger picture, why are we together in the first place, that we care for each other no matter what, our vows etc (The climate.. the fundamentals so to speak).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wanting to achieve a goal but feeling a bit stuck?

Have you ever want to achieve something but feeling a bit "stuck"?

In order to achieve anything, there are 3 things to consider.

1  Have clear goals that resonate with one's values. This is important for "direction and motivation".  It's the "why" in the equation. Why are you doing what you are doing?
2  Get the appropriate skills, resources including mentorship to make it happen.  This gives one "confidence" to carry it through.  It's the "how and what" in the equation. 
3  Change "limiting beliefs" that is holding one back from achieving those goals.  Limiting beliefs like "I am not good enough" or "If I fail, I am insignificant", or "If I fail, I will let people down" etc are common limiting beliefs. 

Coaching or counseling can help one to define number 1,2 and 3 with 1 being first in my opinion.
It's important to note that number 3 can hold one back from achieving one's goals despite having clear goals, motivation and skills.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

From Stress to Resilience

Join Dr Vin for a half day workshop on Saturday 18/03/17 titled "From stress to resilience".

Venue: Priority Health Medical Centre
            Springfield Central
            Seminar Room

Time: Saturday 18/3 from 930am-1pm

Click here to find out more...
From stress to resilience

Monday, March 28, 2016

Free Writing - Therapy by yourself for yourself by Clinical Psychologist Dr Wee Hong Tan

I first came to know about free writing as an undergraduate psychology student. Having read the fascinating works of Professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues about how free writing worked to alleviate emotional distress even amongst those who have been traumatized. However, it was only recently, after having attended an Art Therapy 101 course that I started to experience the impact of free writing for myself in my life.

We were introduced in the art therapy course to an Artist and creativity trainer called Julia Cameron and in her book, one of the fundamental exercises to liberate our minds and get out of the way of our own innate creativity was something she called “morning pages” – essentially free writing about everything and anything that pops up in our mindscape.

The instructions are stunningly simple:

1. Write about whatever comes to mind, or if there is an issue that is bugging you, write about that. Write freely without censoring yourself, without care for grammar, spelling or punctuation. The aim is to capture verbatim whatever is happening in your mind as it occurs moment-to-moment.

2. It is important to have a limit to prevent the emotions that come from writing to overwhelm you. Write for either a fixed time (e.g., 20 mins) or a fixed number of pages (e.g., 3 pages). This also helps to train our minds to become disciplined and express emotions and thoughts in a paradoxically structured-yet-free manner.

And so I committed to trying free writing every morning a week after the end of the art therapy class. The writing was at first difficult, because I felt a strong reluctance to write and my mind appeared to be blank whenever I turned my attention to it. So I wrote freely about the reluctance and the blankness. Then issues that had been bugging me for some years started to surface and I wrote about them freely, allowing my mind to remember whatever it remembered, allowing my body to feel what it felt as I wrote.

Initially it just felt cathartic and liberating to write freely without censoring myself, but as I wrote, I started to experience emotional shifts. New insights about old issues arose, new memories or neglected memories arose and changes in perspective occurred. Sometimes the issues started to loop and I felt that there was no way out and as I pressed on with the writing, new ideas about what to do came forth. Some days the writing was energetic and invigorating and my fingers felt that they could not type fast enough to capture my experiences. Other days, writing was wrought with lethargy and nothing of note came up. Still I persisted in writing freely.

After a few months, I started to notice significant transformations in my personality – I was more relaxed with others and with myself. I was a lot more open with others and with myself. My emotions no longer summoned a knee-jerk reaction and the initially unclear emotional senses that I sometimes got became clearer quicker. Most importantly for me, the old emotional baggages and issues started to resolve and the nagging feeling in the middle of my chest dissolved and there was a sense of freedom. Occasionally, as I wrote on, there was a sense of mindful detachment and a sense of spiritual transcendence away from the self (Now, I’m not saying that I’m enlightened in anyway!). In short, many new experiences and many new transformations occurred for me from the persistent free writing.

For me, ultimately, free writing became (and still is) therapy for myself by myself and it is also an act of self compassion because I am making space and time deliberate for me to be me. Give this a try but not the caveat! If you have been traumatized before or if you are easily overwhelmed by your emotions, DO NOT try this exercise without support from a psychologist.

Dr Wee Hong Tan
Clinical Psychologist
Psychology Consultants Pty Ltd @ Newmarket
Phone: 3356 8255

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Living life authentically

Sharing Mental Health Ideas: Authenticity

A big part of counselling is to help people to accept them for who they are and to live life true to who they are. Live life authentically so to speak.

The problem is, many don't really know who they are and their core values. They may take on their parents' values or their peer's values or influenced my Hollywood and media. A big part of counseling in my opinion is to define that for people.

In counselling, we help people to define their values about work, about family, kids, parents, siblings, friends, and community.  Then we help them to use it as their "inner compass" and live life authentically.
This is partly a principle of ACT... Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Anxiety, Parenting and Acceptance Commitment Therapy by Dr Nga Tran Consultant Psychiatrist and ACT Therapist

Being a parent is probably the most important role your life. It is frequently a time of great joy, love, wonder and gratitude. From the images you would have seen and books you may have read, it certainly seems like these emotions are the ones that will be most prominent.

However it is also common to feel other emotions that perhaps you may think you are not supposed to feel.

Feeling down, sad, depressed, guilty, overwhelmed or anxious are also very common for parents.

Anxiety is a normal emotion that is vital in protecting us from danger. When we perceive a threat our body reacts with physiological changes including the release of large amounts of adrenaline and an increased heart and breathing rate. These changes prepare the body to fight or take flight from the threat. If you think about how fragile and defenceless a child is, then it makes perfect survival sense for the mother to be constantly on the alert for threats to its wellbeing.

Our brains are still wired like this to detect bears and tigers that may harm our children, or poisons in the environment that may make them ill. You may feel restless, fidgety and constantly on edge. Your sleep and appetite may be affected. You may find yourself constantly thinking ahead to plan and organise to shield off any potential problems. You may constantly look for the perfect response to every situation. So many “what if” and potentially catastrophic scenarios run through your mind that you may not be able to make any decisions at all. You may feel guilty and your mind may tell you that you are not a good mum, that you should know what to do, that everyone else except you can handle the situation.

You may respond to these emotions in a way that makes the problem get bigger rather than smaller, such as withdrawing from your family and friends, stop doing the things that normally give you pleasure, work harder in setting rules and schedules in order to get a sense that you can control the danger.

These strategies work well when there is a tiger outside about to eat your child. But when the source of danger is diffuse and cannot be eliminated, such as worrying thoughts, these strategies actually teach you that you need to worry harder and exert more routine and control. And the potential sources of worry are endless, so a vicious cycle is set up. Reading multiple parenting books and websites can often increase the doubts that perhaps you are not doing things right and that you need to work harder.

This is not because you are in any way abnormal. This is just how your brain, and most of our brains, work. For a combination of reasons that may include your usual thinking style, the ways of coping you have observed around you, past experiences, your current situation, responses of others, and the temperament of your child, you have inadvertently found yourself in this vicious cycle.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is a modern form of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) that is very effective for anxiety.

ACT helps you to become aware of your anxious thoughts and emotions, not as automatic cues of danger but as events occurring in your mind and body. In that way you don’t have to automatically react to your thoughts and emotions, but be able to step back from them and see them for what they are. This frees you up to act in a way that is more in keeping with how you want to be as a parent and as a person. It allows you to experience your unique child as he or she really is from moment to moment, a concept known as mindfulness. In this way you can notice all the subtle cues that your child uses to communicate. This more than any set rules or routine, forms the basis of the sort of interaction and care that will allow you and your child to thrive together.

An added benefit is that you can apply this to all other areas of your life on an ongoing basis. So ACT is so much more than a treatment for depression or anxiety. You gain a whole set of skills that help you to live a richer and more vital life, and can dip into this tool box time and time again throughout your life.

Dr Nga Tran
Consultant Psychiatrist/ACT Therapist
Brisbane ACT Centre
7 Marie Street, Milton 4064
Ph 3193 1072, Fax 3193 1073