Is your adolescent stressed?

It has been widely reported in the media that adolescent stress is on the increase.  This is backed by statistics reflected by Beyond Blue who quotes figures like: one in six young Australians aged between 16 – 24 years, has experienced an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months.  This is approximately 440 000 young people.  Beyond Blue goes further by suggesting that adolescents are most concerned about coping with stress, school or study problems and body image.

We know that adolescents who experience frequent stress are morel likely to be sad or depressed, and they perform worse in school.  We also know that we don’t have to be complacent and accept this.  We as parents can be proactive, smart and hands on in addressing this scourge.

 

So what can you as a parent or caregiver do to help your adolescent feel less overwhelmed, less anxious and more in control?

 

Primarily, adolescents need to learn skills that can help them manage their stress as well as other challenges they face in their daily life, effectively.  This is about the school of life.  Teaching skills such as mindfulness, meditation, breathing techniques and more, can help your adolescent, not only today, but for the future.   We as parents and caregivers need to assure our adolescents that despite the up and down nature of life, and the challenges that are being faced, they can bounce back.    We can teach resilience and reinforce it daily.  We can instill in our adolescents that they can learn from situations that are challenging, and this can help them get stronger and wiser.   We as parents can also teach our adolescents that it is OK to fail.  It is not the end of the world to make a mistake.  What matters most is effort and persistence.  It is the story of the tortoise and the hare – one step at a time.  Enjoy the journey and not focus only on the destination.

 

 

Exam anxiety – Secrets You Wish You Knew One Year Ago

Many students in both primary and secondary school have recently sat the annual NAPLAN tests.  And whilst in theory, this testing process is of benefit academically, one wonders how the anxiety and stress associated with these tests, is impacting on students.  It seems that many parents are noticing that their children are showing overt signs of being stressed and anxious in the lead up to these exams.  Sleeplessness, headaches, vomiting and other ailments are just a few of the symptoms of anxiety being shown.

While there are debates surrounding whether or not tests are good indicators of learning, for the meantime, tests are here to stay, and will remain a central component of academic performance measurement for the foreseeable future.  In fact, there are some that argue that it is important for children to learn coping skills to deal with stressful situations.   They argue that rather than shy away from anxiety inducing situations, children need to face these situations and have adequate mechanisms for managing the stress and anxiety.   Kids need to be resilient and equipped for life beyond school.  It can be asserted that test taking and exams are an integral part of the education system well past high school into university and beyond, and thus, students ought to be taught effective solutions to sit exams in a calm, focussed state.

Today, our students are under more pressure to perform well in school exams.  Many students fear failure or are not able to remember what they have learned and how to apply it on the day of their exams.  In the lead up to exams, many students struggle to focus and pay attention, and are often crippled by their stress and lack of self –belief.  However, these students can learn to overcome their anxiety, grow in confidence and feel comfortable in exam conditions.

With my help, students can learn simple, life-long techniques to control their anxiety, remain focused and confident, and thus enhance their exam performance.  I give students the right help, teach them skills for life.  My methods give students the psychological skills and techniques specifically designed to improve exam performance, concentration and information retention whilst at the same time lower the associated anxiety and stress.

I offer students long-term, skills- building solutions to foster the development of a lifetime habit for being more relaxed and resilient to pressure.  My four session programme, suitable for students from year 9 – year 12, includes a take home support CD and guidelines sheet.  The course can be done either individually or in a small group.  So what are you waiting for?

The HSC Cycle

It is that time of the year again when one group of HSC students feel relieved that it is all over and behind them, whilst the new HSC group begins the roller coaster of stress and anxiety associated with this final year of school.  Isn’t it a shame that this pinnacle year of school can be associated with such negative emotions?

Your child is facing an ever increasing barrage of stressors emanating from school, teachers, peers, you as the parents and their own expectations about the HSC.  But what skills does your child have to bounce back and manage these stressors? And is that metaphor of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade really that reassuring and comforting?

Unfortunately schools are really good at educating and preparing kids for HSC.  They may teach them study skills and most certainly they teach them the core curriculum, but what about life skills of anxiety /stress management, of mindfulness?   These are core skills that your child will need long after their HSC, and in all walks of life.  So don’t allow stress to become the focal point of the HSC year, don’t allow stress to interfere with your child’s ability to feel happy and function effectively.  Children are like sponges, they soak up and absorb the good and the bad; however they soak up too much and this leaves very little space for learning.

I can help by providing your child with valuable skills to make him/her more resilient to the stress that modern life presents.  Using a combination of mindfulness, meditation and hypnosis I will provide your child with invaluable skills and tools that are beneficial now and forever.  All of these skills are useful for the HSC year as well as for other situations beyond school. I will cover areas such as what is stress and how this impacts on our studies, organising our studies and allowing for a good work life balance, skills to manage stress including mindfulness and self hypnosis, sleep hygiene and many more topics.

Remember, learning that is associated with happy and positive experiences is stored and available in long term memory, but learning in the context of situations that cause stress and anxiety are stored in the short term memory and not available for long term use.

IT’S TIME TO GIVE UP!

With the cost of cigarettes rising all the time, it is a good reason to stop smoking.    With one cigarette costing nearly a dollar, you do the Maths… How much money are you spending on your smoking habit?  If you gave up, what could you do with all the extra money in your wallet?   Just think…. Pay your mortgage, go on a well – earned holiday, put down a deposit on an investment property…. The mind boggles with the options you have.

 

I have helped many people to become smoke free and I am keen to get you off to a good start in developing a better lifestyle and becoming smoke free forever.

Smoking is not just a case of willpower, as many smokers have tried to quit but the cravings and associations formed, make it a constant battle.  Many ex smokers report that stopping was relatively easy, it’s the staying stopped that is difficult.  I can help you to change how you think so that is an easier battle to win  – I can teach you how to alter your perception of smoking and thus break that psychological addiction.

 

Take a few moments to write down all the reasons you want to quit smoking, and keep that list with you.  Every time you reach for a cigarette, read that list.   From today, visualize yourself as a non-smoker.  Visualize yourself as a non – smoker in different situations, feeling happy and liberated from the smoking habit.  Notice how you feel, see how good you look!

 

So come on, what are you waiting for? Today can be the first step on your journey towards a smoke free life!

FEAR OF FLYING

Recently I have had numerous enquiries by people who are afraid of flying, and are seeking help.  In light of recent events, it is understandable that a person’s fears about a plane crash or a plane disappearing are realistic.  It is estimated that around one in ten people suffers from a fear of flying, yet today, air travel is becoming more accessible and an essential part to our work and personal lives.    Statistics show that air travel is safer than crossing the road and even driving your car.

 

Interestingly, it is important to note that no one is born with a fear of flying, it is a learnt fear. This fear may arise from childhood (Eg. Flying with an anxious parent), or could have developed as a result of a frightening flight experience.  Other causes to a fear of flying can be a result of other fears or phobias, such as claustrophobia, or agoraphobia.

 

No matter what the reason for your fear of flying, hypnotherapy is a useful modality to help you overcome this fear.  There are a number of techniques that can be used to determine the underlying causes to this fear.  Once the cause is discovered hypnotically, the issue can be resolved.   Using hypnosis, I can communicate with your unconscious mind and help to change your dysfunctional or faulty thinking patterns and behaviors.  Hypnosis can also be used to help you to relax, and feel calm and in control when flying.  I will provide you not only with the tools, but also with relaxation CD’s that you can listen to whilst flying.

 

Many of my clients have used hypnosis not only to overcome their fear of flying, but have also learnt to look forward to flying and to enjoy it.

 

 

 

THE GREAT DEBATE

Whilst doing some research this weekend, I came across two interesting opinions on why the prevalence of ADD/ADHD is so high in some countries and not in others, and whether it is as a result of poor parenting and changes in our social demands or a reflection of society’s medicalization of a more social problem.

The British Psychological Society issued a position statement calling for a modification on how the medical profession and the community at large view mental health concerns. The British Psychological Society is arguing for a shift from a medical model of viewing mental health (where mental health is defined according to strict medical criteria – DSM V, and supported by pharmacological intervention), to a more embracing paradigm that includes an assessment of the intricate combination of psychological, social, and socio economic factors that influence mental health.

In this way, mental health and in particular, ADD and ADHD can be diagnosed under the umbrella of multi-factorial approach that not only takes into account the biological- neurological basis of these two mental health concerns but also the contextual elements to that diagnosis. In this two pronged approach, underlying issues that contribute to a child’s behavior are addressed; so an assessment of the child’s brain (biological – neurological basis of the disease), as well as the child’s social context.

Hopefully, in this way, much of children’s normal behavior and symptomatology will be less pathologized and there will be less reliance on pharmacological interventions. In a more holistic and psycho-social approach, the child and his/her environment will be addressed. For example, the dietary intake of children would be assessed to ascertain the influence of colourants and preservatives on a child’s behavior.

In conclusion, a message to all those parents out there: ADHD/ADD is not a result of bad parenting. Possibly, the prevalence of these two diseases is more about a change in society where the emphasis in schooling is to prepare children for a future which dictates long office hours, sitting on a chair in front of a computer with less opportunity for activity and movement and greater emphasis on wireless productivity.

THE GREAT DEBATE

Whilst doing some research this weekend, I came across two interesting opinions on why the prevalence of ADD/ADHD is so high in some countries and not in others, and whether it is as a result of poor parenting and changes in our social demands or a reflection of society’s medicalization of a more social problem.

The British Psychological Society issued a position statement calling for a modification on how the medical profession and the community at large view mental health concerns. The British Psychological Society is arguing for a shift from a medical model of viewing mental health (where mental health is defined according to strict medical criteria – DSM V, and supported by pharmacological intervention), to a more embracing paradigm that includes an assessment of the intricate combination of psychological, social, and socio economic factors that influence mental health.

In this way, mental health and in particular, ADD and ADHD can be diagnosed under the umbrella of multi-factorial approach that not only takes into account the biological- neurological basis of these two mental health concerns but also the contextual elements to that diagnosis. In this two pronged approach, underlying issues that contribute to a child’s behavior are addressed; so an assessment of the child’s brain (biological – neurological basis of the disease), as well as the child’s social context.

Hopefully, in this way, much of children’s normal behavior and symptomatology will be less pathologized and there will be less reliance on pharmacological interventions. In a more holistic and psycho-social approach, the child and his/her environment will be addressed. For example, the dietary intake of children would be assessed to ascertain the influence of colourants and preservatives on a child’s behavior.

In conclusion, a message to all those parents out there: ADHD/ADD is not a result of bad parenting. Possibly, the prevalence of these two diseases is more about a change in society where the emphasis in schooling is to prepare children for a future which dictates long office hours, sitting on a chair in front of a computer with less opportunity for activity and movement and greater emphasis on wireless productivity.

Your teen and the HSC

It is almost the end of April and for those senior students, the HSC year is well on its way. This means that the spectre of looming trials and final exams is drawing closer. With the arrival of the HSC and other exams your teen may experience varying levels of anxiety and stress, with the entire family often suffering along with your teen. This stress can affect school, study and exam performance, friendships, family life and health problems.
For some teens, academic performance is easy. They seem to be successful without any hard work at all. Other teens, whom are equally bright, motivated and talented, get discouraged and disheartened when they can’t demonstrate their skills in classes or on tests.
HSC is one of the most stressful periods in a teens life. Many of our teens are suffering anxiety, even depression, as a result of the pressure to succeed in their final years at high school. We, as parents, spend thousands of dollars on high school education and even more on tutors and teaching aides to help them have the best possible tools to tackle HSC. Yet, we fail to teach them a fundamental coping skill. And this is the idea of putting the HSC into perspective.

The HSC is just way of assessing ability according to a pre-existing set of criteria, that revolves around measuring intellectual ability. But how far does this take a teen? Today, we know that there is another important aspect to ability and that is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient, or E.Q. — being able to understand one’s own feelings and the feelings of others as well as being able to control one’s own emotions and exercise self control — is thought to be more important for success in life than I.Q., or intelligence quotient.

So, start speaking to your teens about success in terms of excelling in the things they are passionate about. Encourage them to follow their heart and tap into what they are passionate about. Have them focus on their innate gifts and work on improving their skill set in that area while enhancing their life in other ways. Help your teen to get a balance – a balance between doing their best in the HSC year, and finding their true passion. Very soon they will find that they can DO WHAT THEY LOVE for a living. Yes, when they are ready, it will be possible for them.
Help your teen move away from the belief of lack and limitation and begin to align with an abundant mindset – a sense of I can and I will. And please do not have them define success based on any school or institution’s definition of success.
The most successful and happy people in this world are those that have learned how to tune into their heart and follow their passions in life!

MINDFUL EATING – MINDFUL WEIGHTLOSS

I received a very interesting email from a potential client looking for help in losing weight.  In his email, he commented that he is extremely stressed, has a high power intense job, and is always travelling.  What struck me, was the fast pace of his life and how food and food intake was a reflection of this speedy treadmill he was on.

Like him, are you are on the go, 24/7 finding very little time to sit and enjoy the food you are eating? Are you busy multi tasking whilst eating at the same time?  Do you watch tv, talk on the phone or catch up on our emails while eating?   And do you eat too fast, so busy filling the next forkful that you don’t notice the bite in your mouth?

 

Since your brain can only really focus on one thing at a time, you’ll miss the subtle signs of fullness so you won’t stop until you feel uncomfortable or until you run out of food. Most importantly, you won’t enjoy your food as much, so you have to eat more to feel satisfied.

Eating is a natural, healthy, and pleasurable activity when it’s done to satisfy hunger; however, when done to relieve boredom, or stress, or is done to feel better then eating is no long that kind of activity.

The bottom line is that weight management is not just about what you eat and the quantity, but also about how you eat.

The last ten or so years has brought research on mindfulness and its benefits, into the foreground.  What we have learnt from experts is that eating slowly and savouring each bite could actually be the remedy for weight management and bring about a decrease in the ever- expanding problem of obesity. Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up your favorite foods. It’s about experiencing food more intensely – especially the pleasure of it. To practice mindful eating we use mindfulness, or being present, to cope with modern eating issues. Again, it’s not a diet. There are no menus or food restrictions. It is developing a new mindset around food.

Choosing to eat “mindfully,” in other words, giving food and eating your full attention, will allow you to have optimal satisfaction and enjoyment without eating to excess.

Mindful eating makes it possible for you to experience the difference between physical satisfaction and fullness. Mindful eating also allows you to feel more satisfied with smaller quantities of food. Learning to savour your food simply makes eating more pleasurable. Knowing what satisfies you and getting the most pleasure from your eating experiences are key factors for a lifetime of weight control.

Here are some simple Steps for Mindful Eating:

  1. Start by recognizing whether you’re hungry before you begin eating.
  2. Don’t wait until you’re starving.
  3. Choose food that will satisfy both your body and your mind
  4. Eat without distractions and eat when you’re sitting down.
  5.  Take a few breaths and centre yourself before you begin eating.
  6.  Appreciate the aroma and the appearance of your food.
  7. Pause in the middle of eating for at least two full minutes.
  8. Push your plate forward or get up from the table as soon as you feel satisfied.
  9. Notice how you feel when you’re finished eating.

In a nutshell, whether you are overeating or being overly restrictive, it’s likely that you have lost track of your ability to notice your hunger and  your fullness. This break between your body and mind needs to be healed. Mindful eating can generally help in three ways:

1) Mindful eating plugs you back into your body’s cues so you know when to stop and start eating.

2) Being mindful can bring about better management of your emotions.

3) Mindfulness changes the way you think. Rather than reacting to food-related thoughts that urge you to overeat, overly restrict your diet or emotionally eat, etc., you respond to them. You can hear these thoughts without obeying them.

TEEN ANXIETY AND STRESS

Like adults, teens can get stressed out without knowing it’s happening. Teenagers too, experience stress every day; however they are not learning the skills to manage this stress so as to become well rounded and well adjusted adults.  One minute all is well, and then the next minute, the wheels of the bus fall off – and with that, your teen and your home life are thrown into turmoil.  In today’s world, teens are under more pressure and experiencing more stress than ever before. Between the increasing demands of academic life, extracurricular activities, peer relationships, family relationships, and the constant growing demands of technology, teens are often left feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, and irritable.

Teen stress is an important and yet often overlooked, health issue.  As a parent, it is vital that you approach your teen and discuss the topic of anxiety and stress because the way in which your teen approaches and copes with this stress can have significant short-and long- term consequences on his physical and emotional health.

I have developed a specific series of tools and techniques that aim to provide stress reduction and life strategies for teens.  It has its foundations in the MBSR programme created by Jon Kabat –Zin, but is refined and tailored to meet the specific needs of your teen.  The aim of my work is to help your teen minimize his stress, encourage his emotional regulation and balance, and develop the skills to replace impulsive reactions with healthy, thoughtful responses that encourage the choice of appropriate behaviours.  Not only will your teen will learn to handle life situations with less emotional reactivity, but he will also strengthen his ability to pay attention and concentrate.