12 Weeks to Calm – Week Eleven

Picture - Hermann Hesse

Welcome to 12 Weeks to Calm – Week Eleven

We’ve covered many ways to help anxiety over the past 11 weeks – diet, exercise, meditation and yoga. One of the most ways to treat anxiety and depression is through sessions with a psychologist who is trained to administer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This week I decided to ask a guest to write the post and explain the ways in which a psychologist can help you improve your mental health.  Please welcome my guest poster for this week, Chris Cooper, an educational and developmental psychologist.

Approximately 3 million Australians are currently living with anxiety or depression. With Australia’s suicide rate so high, it is important to do everything we can to address mental health issues. We all get anxious or sad from time to time, but did you know 1 in 4 Australians suffer from anxiety, and approximately 1 in 6 Australians suffer from depression?

Anxiety has an evolutionary basis and is a very helpful emotion if it is experienced in small doses at appropriate times. You may have heard of the fight/flight/freeze response. This is your body’s natural way of responding whenever you become anxious. By changing your physiological arousal, your body is motivated to do something to increase your chance of survival- stay and fight, run away, or be very still and hope whatever the threat is won’t see you and move on. This response can be very helpful if, for example, you were under attack. However, sometimes our brain interprets problems to be life threatening when they are not. This can be very debilitating and get in the way of our capacity to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life. Some worrying is normal and can also be helpful as it lets us know what is important to us. However, excessive worrying or worrying to the point of not engaging in everyday activities can be a big problem for many people.

We all get sad on occasion, feeling depressed however, is more than being sad. It is a persistent way of feeling and is often not in response to any particular trigger. The hallmark characteristics of depression are feeling a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. People who are depressed often feel insecure within themselves, unmotivated, irritable and flat in their emotions. Life may not feel as pleasurable as it did before and there is often a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. Sleeping patterns have often changed. Sometimes these symptoms may be triggered by an event in our lives, such as losing a loved one or change of job. Other times they have a more organic basis and occur not in response to anything in particular.

Self help programs such as Style Unearthed’s 12 Weeks to Calm provide great tips for us to better manage our emotions and serve as a good reminder that it is important to pause, reflect and experiment with new coping skills. Being mindful of how we are feeling and acting helps us feel in control. But sometimes we experience issues that are difficult for us to overcome on our own.

How can you tell if anxiety or depression is a problem for you?

If you find that fear, worrying, sadness or feeling unmotivated is getting in the way of your ability to live your life fully- if it is causing you issues at home, at work or study, in relationships or stopping you from doing things you want to do – you may benefit from seeking help.

How can seeing a psychologist help you?

Seeing a psychologist who can provide Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to you will help you to challenge the thoughts that underlie your anxiety or depression and provide you with support. They will provide you with an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and make the changes you need to begin feeling better.

Currently the most commonly used therapeutic intervention to treat most mental health issues is CBT. CBT is well supported through research to be an effective therapeutic technique that can be applied short term and have lasting results, as skills learned can be generalised and reapplied in new situations. CBT programs can be tailored to the individual needs of each client. CBT rests on the premise that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are linked, and by changing the way we think or the things we do we impact on the way we feel.

CBT involves an educational component where you learn about automatic thoughts and core beliefs, and then begin to explore your own thoughts and core beliefs. You will develop an understanding of the way you look at the world, the filter you are using and interpreting your life through. Sometimes we have thoughts that are unhelpful. CBT aims to identify core beliefs and challenge those that don’t serve us well. Often these thoughts are so ingrained in us and are our automatic response we don’t recognise the patterns of thinking we get into until we engage in therapy. Seeing a psychologist provides you with a safe space to explore your core beliefs. Once you are aware of the core beliefs that contribute to your anxiety or depression you can work together to challenge these thoughts and develop new and more helpful ways of thinking which in turn will have a positive impact on the way you feel.

The Behavioural component of CBT involves making changes to the things you do. You will work together with a psychologist to set goals and challenge yourself, going out of your comfort zone. By engaging in new activities you will begin to feel better within yourself, face your fears and develop new coping skills.

Seeing a Psychologist can be beneficial as it provides you with a reflective space where you are able to learn about how to monitor and challenge your thoughts and feelings. In addition, Psychologists are non-judgemental and provide a confidential service. People often report that speaking to someone who is outside their immediate situation helps them gain clarity.

If you are interested in seeing a psychologist you can use the Australian Psychological Society (APS) search tool to find someone near you who is able to help. By answering a few short questions you will be directed to psychologists who are closest to you and best trained to meet your needs. You can do that here. Medicare provides rebates for up to 10 sessions per calendar year if you have a referral from your GP. The gap or fee you pay will vary depending on who you see, however, some psychologists do bulk bill. Alternatively, many health funds also offer rebates for psychological services.

If you wish to read more about anxiety or depression please check out the following links: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/anxiety/

http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/depression/

To speak to someone over the phone please call Lifeline: 13 11 14

You are never alone, there is always help available and when is a better time to become a stronger, happier, healthier more fulfilled version of yourself than now?

I hope this information can help you make an informed decision about the treatment of your anxiety or depression. I thank Chris very much for the time she took to write this post, and the wonderful information she has provided.

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2 thoughts on “12 Weeks to Calm – Week Eleven

  1. Great post Sarah! Thanks for having Chris share some of his wisdom with us. I can’t recommend enough for one to visit a psychologist if the need arises and yes, I did and it did help me with my depression.

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