Reasons why life adjustments and changes are hard

Life is not a palette of black and white. There is a lot of grey area. In fact, life is more like a rainbow: there are even colors that you can’t ever see. If you are struggling with changing yourself, even if you know what you’re doing wrong, it is okay.

What makes it hard to manage adjustments in life?

 Here are some reasons why change and coping with change is hard:

Our brains are not always plastic

Unlike what we have been taught as children, our brains are not entirely plastic. If it were, we would easily be mind-washed and we would never be able to progress collectively as humanity. As we grow older, our ability to adapt to things decreases.

 This can also change depending on how you are raised, and your culture. Some people are more prone to certain types of change as compared to others. In simpler words, as we grow older, the plasticity of our brain exponentially decreases. 

Coping with change when you’re older is considerably more difficult, which is why many people visit a stress management counsellor to get their life under control. If we could do it on our own, there would not be a need for a professional to help us cope. 

Some things are harder to change:

Like we mentioned earlier, some things are easier to change than the others. For example, changing your diet is easy. Changing the school, you go to is easy but adapting to your new school is difficult – especially if you have memories and emotions attached to the previous one. 

Changing your innate habits are difficult

Your innate habits such as anxiety and being anxious when meeting someone new is not something that you can change overnight. It’s not like there is a kill-switch that will toggle your anxiety on and off whenever you will it. 

  • Similarly, it is not like you can kill away your stress when people say, “don’t stress over the little things”. Life is not that easy.
  • You can’t just throw your stress away just like that. If you could, people would not be going bald or dying because of stress and anxiety.
  • Your Stress management counsellor will help you develop activities which will make it easier to handle change and stress.

Humans are wired to be suspicious

Humans are wired to be suspicious of anything that happens in our vicinity. We especially find it hard to adapt to a new environment because of how our bodies have adapted. Because in the olden times, humans had to constantly come from one location to another, this change in environment would often require a high level of alertness and active maintenance. 

  • This alertness is often confused with anxiety and stress.
  • The average human takes about three to four weeks to finally settle down in a new place, though it entirely depends on how they are raised and if they have done this moving before.
  • Some people even take years to properly adapt to their new environment.

If you are having problems, we recommend choosing a stress management counsellor. 

If you have any further queries about life adjustments, coping with change and why changes are so hard, please reach our to Sarah Bergman at Counselling on the Coast today. We will try our best to help you. 

Empty Nest Syndrome – What is it?

Recently my first born left home and this change stirred a wondering inside me. What will it be like to have no kids at home? A mixture of excitement and sadness arose in me and I began to think about the Empty Nest syndrome and its impact on parents.

Firstly, what is Empty nest syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical condition or diagnosis. It is a transitional period in life that highlights loneliness and loss. Parents may experience feelings of grief, sadness and a loss of purpose when their last child leaves home.  

Although you might actively encourage your children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children’s daily lives — as well as the constant companionship.

You might also worry intensely about your children’s safety and whether they’ll be able to take care of themselves on their own. You might struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected. If you have only one child or strongly identify with your role as parent, you might have a particularly difficult time adjusting to an empty nest.

What’s the impact of empty nest syndrome?

In the past, research suggested that parents dealing with empty nest syndrome experienced a profound sense of loss that might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts.

However, recent studies suggest that an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts, and can provide parents with many other benefits. When the last child leaves home, parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage (or if single begin a relationship) and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time.

Ways you can cope with empty nest syndrome.

If you’re experiencing feelings of loss due to empty nest syndrome, there are some steps you can take to ease the transition. For example:

  • Stay connected. You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart by making the effort to keep in touch through maintaining regular contact such as, visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
  • New Identity. After your child’s departure you can refocus your attention on yourself through hobbies, travel, friendships, career or education goals.
  • Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life transition.
  • Seek support. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed or overwhelmed for extended periods consult your doctor and/or reach out to a Psychotherapist or counsellor.

So, if your last child is about to leave home and you’re worried about empty nest syndrome, formulate a plan. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keep busy or tak on new challenges at work or at home, form a stronger connection with your partner, friends and yourself. Doing this can help ease the sense of loss that your child’s departure might cause. Transitions and change are a part of life, be kind and patient with yourself, with time you will adjust and begin to find your way!

Motherhood Unmasked!

Without a doubt becoming a mother is a wonderful and joyous time where you are filled with love, elation, excitement and gratitude. Your new little bundle of joy! While this is true, (especially when they are sleeping or feeding well) what about the times when your reality is not one of joy but of frustration, confusion, self doubt, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion and an overall feeling of dismay. What do mothers do with these feelings? Are they able to share them openly or do they feel like they are silenced?

Firstly, it is not ‘unnatural’ for mothers to feel confusion, frustration, self doubt and sadness etc. Virtually every mother will experience such emotions, however unfortunately most will feel like they have no right to do so, and that such feelings are shameful. For this reason unintentionally in society new mothers feel silenced and like they may not be allowed to express the challenges of being a new mum. They may feel afraid to speak too loudly or too clearly on the subject of their own experiences, for fear of being judged as a mum who is not good enough. When mothers feel like they can’t voice all their experiences of motherhood, the good and the bad, they can feel they have no choice but to mask their experience and difficult feelings from each other and the world around them. They find themselves pretending that all is going well and equate asking for help as failing at the inherent feminine qualities of being a ‘good’ mum.

So call me a whistle blower, but to all the new mums out there let me be clear. Being a new mum is a challenging time and no-one can prepare you for the demands a new born will place on you physically, emotionally or relationally. It is one of the most profound identity shifts that a person experiences in their lifetime. Yet, how this experience unfolds is totally unique to you and there are no well worn paths or universal truths along the mothering journey. It is a time of absolute newness and the learning curve is steep and daunting. And, while each new mum has to forge her own way it is important to understand that you don’t have to navigate the terrain of your emotional experience alone, or in isolation. It is ok to reach out for support, to lead with your vulnerability and share and begin to get comfortable asking for help, (which is not an easy thing to do in a culture that celebrates self-sufficiency and ambition). I invite you to share your experience with people you can trust, build yourself a village of supportive, understanding like minded people, whether they be friends, family, neighbours, community groups or health care professionals. You do not have to do it alone, unmask motherhood with tears of despair and the booming laughter of relief as you reach out and share the trials and tribulations, the joy and sorrow of being a new mum!

Can stress actually be good for you?

Stress is a perfectly normal experience in life which can be triggered by circumstances individual to each of us.

While we rarely hear anyone saying, “I’m so happy to be stressed”, there are definitely some stresses in our life that can be considered as ‘good stress’.

So, what is stress anyway?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to a perceived demand or physical threat. We often feel stress as a physical or emotional response which causes our body to enter a state of protection called “fight-or-flight”. Whether our stress is impacting physical or emotional being, any kind of threat to the body has a major influence on our mood, well-being and health.

Symptoms

Stress can be triggered from a range of things in our lives that affects us all in different ways. You might notice, sometimes feeling stressed can motivate us to accomplish goals and work productively, while other times it can leave us feeling totally overwhelmed and unable to move forward. Often, because we are from all different walks of life, our triggers and symptoms of stress vary.  This is where we need to identify both the physical and emotional symptoms of our own stress. Some these symptoms may include:

Physical responses

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Emotional responses

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others
  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

Good stress vs bad stress

While a lot of us associate stress as a negative impact in our life, often we don’t realise there is healthy stressors that that can be considered good. Stress that motivates us to move forward can be considered good, while stress that impacts our health and wellbeing is notably bad news.

How is some stress good?

In small doses, stress can work to our advantage. It has the ability to advise us how to respond to a situation based off the stressor hormones released in the body. Essentially, when we experience stress in small doses within certain situations, it can motivate and drive us to work efficiently and achieve our goals.

This is because when stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine are released, our body signals a fight-or-flight response that can actually result in positive outcomes. An example of good stress would be adrenaline based activities such as bungee jumping or on the other hand, being productive at work to complete a short term target.

Sources of bad stress

Bad stress can be categorised in two different ways, acute or chronic. We usually experience acute stress as quick spurts of energy toward a surprise trigger such as dodging harms way. Usually, acute stress subsides when a solution is found or a problem is resolve, therefore returning us to a neutral state.

On the other hand, Chronic stress is a repeated stress that feels never ending.  We may experience this type of bad stress in serious situations such as continual pressures at work or situations including recurring conflict.

Sarah Bergman provides counselling through the practice of Psychotherapy for coping with stress and anxiety at her Tweed Heads Practice. When you attend counselling with Sarah, you can expect to be treated to the highest standard in a warm and supportive environment. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au

What are you finding matters to you most in the midst of COVID-19?

Life as we know it has been suspended for a time and 2020 is not shaping up the way we had imagined because of COVID-19. As the restrictions are slowly being lifted and the curve is flattening it is understandable that we may be left wondering if the engine of our old life will begin again as it used to be or will our life be unrecognisable. This is the uncertainty we are faced with. Whichever camp you are in we are all in this together and now is the time to ask yourself what matters to you most? Now is the perfect time to explore and re-evaluate your meaning and purpose in life? What is your purpose? How do you make meaning around what is happening? Who do you want to be? What do you want to bring forth or do with your life? Are you happy in your relationships with your partner/children/family/friends?

From unexpected change and adversity new opportunities can arise. At first understandably there will be a time of Why me/ Why now? This is to be expected, life will feel unfair and you won’t want to accept reality, however ultimately the need is to respond to reality as it is and to find a way to take charge of your life in whatever way feels manageable. If you are feeling despondent and helpless taking charge doesn’t have to be some big gesture, it can be as small as asking yourself “if I were in charge of my life what would I do today?” Baby steps are still steps.

Allow yourself to contemplate, ponder and reflect where to now, what is important to me? To re-create we need creativity and creativity happens when we are still and we connect into our inner world. What is important to me and what am I going to do with this time that has been given? This is not an easy question to answer, so be kind and patient with yourself as you allow the answer to emerge.

Now is a time in which we can choose to re-create and reorganise our priorities regarding our relationships to ourselves and others, our careers, economic security, education, health, hobbies and the list goes on. Everything I have known is swept off the table and what opportunities might be there for me now? What can I create through the support of others and my own internal resources.

Together we can respond to our new reality and adapt together.

Understanding your Inner Critic

Do you have a critical inner voice? Our critical inner voice from time to time can cause us to experience nagging thoughts of self- doubt, especially when we decide to push ourselves and try something new. For example: taking on a new challenge, starting a new job, attending to a new task at work or school or asking someone out. While it is normal to have a certain amount of worry when transitioning into something new, for some this internal critical voice can work overtime and is a constant source of criticism and self-doubt. 

The inner critic as it is often known, can hold you back from fully living your life and reaching your potential. In its essence it is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward yourself and others. It is an internalised dialogue that you can become a slave to, fostering a distrust of your abilities which in turn limits your goals in life. This internal critical voice can affect every aspect of your life from your career, to your mood and psychological state of mind, to your attitudes about yourself and others, to your personal relationships and your style of relating to others.

Why do we have an inner critic?

The inner critic serves a purpose as it helps us to recognise where we go wrong and what we need to do to set things right. In a healthy sense it is a caring, discerning guide. However, for some people the inner critic can be very loud, scathing, overbearing and constantly fault finding. Some common voices include thoughts like “Your stupid,” “You’re not attractive,” “You’re not like other people.” Some people have voices about their career, like “You’ll never be successful,” No-one appreciates how hard you work.” Many people experience voices about their relationships, such as “He doesn’t really care about you,” Your better off on your own,” or “Don’t be vulnerable, you’ll just get hurt.”

How is the inner critic developed?

These inner voices usually come from early life experiences that are internalised and taken in as ways we think about ourselves. Children are completely dependent on their parents for safety and belonging and therefore will often try to please their parents. Children absorb everything they see and hear and believe everything their parents say, these messages are imprinted on the child and are used by the child to figure out who they are. Primarily our internal dialogue is shaped by our parents, however as children grow they are also influenced by siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers and other adults.

The trap of the inner critic!

Many people think if they stop listening to their inner critic they will lose touch with what is right. However, the inner critic is not a trustworthy moral guide. On the contrary, the critical inner voice is degrading and punishing and often leads us to make unhealthy decisions. These negative voices tend to increase our feelings of self-hatred without motivating us to change undesirable qualities or act in a constructive manner.

How can I overcome my inner critic?

In order to take power over this destructive thought process you must first become aware of your inner voice: what is it telling you and how does it speak to you? To identify this, it is helpful to pay attention to when you suddenly slip into a bad mood or become upset, often these negative shifts in emotion are a result of your inner critic playing in the background. Once you identify the thought process, intensity of the criticism and pinpoint the negative actions it is advocating, you can learn to make friends with your inner critic. The inner critic thinks it is guiding you from feeling vulnerable, however it is misguided and is in fact making you feel insecure and thus more vulnerable. Therefor the antidote to the inner critic is to identify when it is at play, turn the volume down and build your confidence. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ as Louise Hay coined. With time as your confidence in yourself grows and you create new messages about who you are and your capabilities your inner critic will subside. Learning to be kind to yourself and pushing through negative self- talk is not easy and it takes time. You may even find you need help. If this is the case invest in your future and take some personal growth courses, or spend some time seeing a therapist to understand the origin of your negative self- talk. Recently Neuroscience discovered that a relationship with someone who can supply support and understanding reshapes a person’s neurological possibilities. That is, with the right supportive environment, self-acceptance and change is possible!

COVID 19 is a test of our strength and resilience

Without a doubt, the year so far has been a real test of our strength and resilience, both as individuals and as a community. The world as we know it has changed, and we are forced to change with it at a speed that some of us may be feeling overwhelmed by. For this reason, please ensure that in facing this challenge together we are remaining aware of our own and others mental health and nourishing the importance of self-care.

Here I have outlined three handy tips for you to consider and perhaps to take on board in order to ensure you and your family remain resilient.

Firstly, to reduce Anxiety, follow the facts. What this means is to find a reliable source of information regarding Covid-19. Be aware of the social media rabbit hole when it comes to Covid-19, it may be having a negative impact on you. I personally check the news once daily this provides me just enough information to feel informed but not overwhelmed. Social media used wisely is a lifesaver for us in this time to keep us connected, however too much of the online trivia could be detrimental to ourselves and our family. Choose wisely.

Secondly, staying physically distant yet socially connected. Our social distancing measures appear to be working well, which is great! However, let us ensure that we stay socially connected as it is paramount to our mental health.

What does that look like?

In a nutshell, less typing and more talking, preferably via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and/or Messenger. At this time of self- isolation, it is important for us to see other faces (other than our beautiful families). Seeing others and talking to them helps us feel less alone. Putting words to our feelings helps to take the sting out of our emotions and having time with others reminds us that we are all in this together.

Thirdly, in times of uncertainty build certainty. We can build certainty in our lives by having a routine. This helps us to develop and reintroduce into our lives an element of choice and some sense of control in amongst the storm of Covid-19. Routine grounds us. Feeling out of control can really affect our mental health and wellbeing. Establish a routine where you are eating well, exercising regularly, making time for outside connection, taking breaks from work (if you are working from home) and getting enough sleep etc. Self-select a routine that suits you and your family. This will help to fill the days and decrease the tension.

Remember at this time its ok not to feel ok, it is to be expected. Reach out for support when you need. AND, its ok to feel ok, don’t feel guilty if you are feeling alright. It is a good thing to pay attention to what is not wrong and be grateful for what you have.

The Psychology behind mental confusion

Are you feeling Confused?

Lately, in my practice as a Gestalt Psychotherapist I have been hearing a word more often than usual; confusion. While it is normal to feel confused from time to time, prolonged periods of confusion can leave you feeling overwhelmed. This uncertainty of not knowing can often lead people into the quagmire of rumination, self-doubt and a feeling of powerlessness. As you dance around the in-decision you become more anxious, stressed, avoidant and a whole host of other draining and unsettling emotions.

Once you are feeling emotionally confused it is not always easy to know what to do with the emotions generated by the confusion. Often, I see people lose confidence in themselves and their ability to understand how they feel and to stand by their feelings. They become overwhelmed by their mixed feelings and begin to experience the push-pull of conflicting emotions.

What can you do when you feel overwhelmed with confusion?

Firstly, breathe deeply and slowly this will kick in your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will have a calming effect on your body and mind. More importantly it will stop you from acting rashly. Secondly, spend some time tuning into you! Sometimes confusion comes from getting too much advice from others? Allowing ourselves to be influenced by others or for others to make the decision for us can create a disconnect between our mind (thoughts) and our body (feelings). This in turn can create more turmoil. Having said that, sometimes getting some sound advice from a trusted friend can alleviate our confusion, providing we are discerning about whether it feels genuinely right for us in our whole body (i.e. our body and mind)

What do I mean by tuning into you?

Tuning into you simply means to take time to develop the skill of finding the words to describe, name and express how your feeling. It takes practice and patience to tune in and you can do it quietly by yourself. Just allow yourself to be curious and kind without pressure to understand how your feeling straight away. Emotions can arise in a cluster, all competing for attention. It takes time to practice learning to name and discern between feeling states. By staying with your emotions and learning to identify your emotions accurately you will increase your emotional intelligence. That is, you will gain greater self-knowledge and understanding of yourself, you will also be able to communicate and respond to your needs and emotions more effectively.

All emotions are signals that you should be paying attention to something. Once you begin to identify and label a feeling correctly, you can figure out what it’s trying to tell you about your life or your behaviour, then you can take steps to address those messages without feeling so confused!

Sarah Bergman provides counselling through the practice of Gestalt Psychotherapy for individuals, families and couples. Sarah is an accredited member of (PACFA) and her private practice is situated in Tweed Heads. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au

How can couples and marriage counselling work?

Given you have landed on this page, you are probably looking for a deeper understanding of couples and marriage counselling. The relationship you have with your significant other is commonly considered the most important relationship in our society. From the moment we are born, we are reliant on forming human connections and seeking love and fulfilment. However, while forming relationships is an instinctual part of humanity, making sure they are healthy and valuable is learnt.

If you are experiencing relationship problems and looking for answers, here is how seeing a relationship counsellor can help.

What is relationship and marriage counselling services?

Relationship counselling involves talking to a counsellor or psychologist about difficulties you are experiencing in your relationship. Built on the premise of open communication and trust, couple counselling is a fundamental practice that helps guide couples build strong, respectful and healthy relationships.

Couple counselling is not only for married couples. No matter the length or type of relationship issues you are experiencing – all kinds of couples can seek help.

Common types of relationship issues

A solid relationship can mean different things to different people. To build a healthy relationship it is important to learn and understand the key factors that contribute to both you and your partner’s wellbeing.

Every relationship experiences pressures and issues. Some issues can seem difficult to overcome; However, we can focus on how we respond to these barriers to provide and gain fulfilment from our relationship.

  • Clear communication
  • Healthy boundaries
  • Encouragement and support
  • Trust
  • Respect

Often if one of the listed components is not met consistently, we may feel issues beginning in our relationships. A relationship counsellor can introduce you to mindfulness practices and techniques which can help you and your partner feel understood by each other.

What are the benefits of relationship therapy?

Many couples will experience periods of conflict, anger, mistrust or unclear communication. This can be scary to notice previous ways of communicating aren’t working as well as they once did. When we don’t address these issues with communication and search for a solution, what often happens is we may lose the feeling of trust, intimacy and begin noticing repeated arguments.

Relationship counselling offers a space for you and your partner to clearly communicate, express your needs and seek professional methods of dealing with and solving the conflicts in your relationship.

Where can I see a couples therapist?

If you are looking for support to improve communication and reach a healthy point of your relationship, please feel free to call or email Counselling on the Coast to see if I am the correct counsellor to help, listen and support you through any relationship experiences including couples and marriage counselling Gold Coast.

Sarah Bergman provides counselling through the practice of Psychotherapy for individuals and couples at her Tweed Heads Practice. When you attend counselling with Sarah, you can expect to be treated to the highest standard in a warm and supportive environment. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au

Why is solitude important?

All you need to know about The Benefits of Solitude

In this busy world of achieving and striving for perfection to feel like you are enough, it is easy to forget the benefits of solitude. In fact, many of us are afraid to be alone with ourselves. In these alone times of not doing fear, boredom, restlessness, unease and discomfort may arise, giving us a sense that all is not well. It is therefore understandable that we may choose to avoid the discomfort by habitually reaching for ways to numb and shutdown, such as alcohol, drugs, tv or reaching for our phone. We do anything to distract ourselves from ourselves. It appears that as a society we have become adverse to being on our own and connecting deeply to our inner world. My feeling is that the more we run from ourselves and our inner world, the more disturbed by ourselves we become, the more we need to run. Often in my private practice people report feeling sad and exhausted and they are not sure why.

What is solitude?

Solitude is the state or situation of being alone, it differs from loneliness in that loneliness is seen as a negative state marked by a sense of isolation. Of course, too much solitude could lead to loneliness and is not good for anyone, we are social beings. However, solitude as a practice has many benefits.

What are the benefits of solitude?

Spending time on your own reflecting and connecting into your inner world helps you to build relationship with yourself. Strengthening your relationship with yourself and turning inward will help you to slow down and develop a reflective attitude. Getting to know who you are, how you feel and think about things takes time. It doesn’t happen in the rush of daily life.

Solitude allows space for a spark of insight to emerge around an issue you may be having or for a quieter voice from within to have a say (the one that is often overridden by the louder bossier voice of daily life). Solitude can help to increase empathy for yourself and others through allowing time for compassion to arise; enhance your creativity by giving your mind time to wander; increase your productivity and build your mental strength (studies have shown that the ability to tolerate alone time has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction and improved stress management). When you’re by yourself you can make choices for yourself without outside influences. You give yourself time to dream, ponder and be.

Solitude can be a beautiful resting place in your life, a place where you can connect deeply and gain some perspective. All you need do is provide the space and time to allow the mystery of yourself to unfold without forcing or overthinking, just being. For me solitude is in the early morning watching the sun rise, it allows me time to connect not only to myself but the greater mystery of life and the comforting beauty of the world around me. In these times I feel fulfilled, for peace has a presence that tells me I am enough.

Sarah Bergman provides counselling through the practice of Psychotherapy for individuals and couples at her Tweed Practice. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au