Emily Vujicic, Psychologist
Sometimes it’s incredible to think about what our body can take during times of stress. We can continue to ‘soldier on’ during busy and stressful life events, while juggling work, family, friends, finances, and the list continues. Being a parent can bring about some of the most stressful times of our lives. We can find that we become exhausted, and resentful, and while juggling all of those balls, it often feels like what we are doing is just not good enough.
Most of the time, we find that we can do this OK, but ‘burning the candle at both ends’ over a prolonged period of time can have a significant and detrimental effect on our health and well-being.
There are 6 specific areas of life/work that have been identified as contributing to stress and burnout.
A feeling of a lack of control, and not having a say in what is going on can be created by the uncertainty or ambiguity of a situation.
When your core values are in conflict with someone or with an event, this can be very stressful. This may be an increase in work demands that is impacting on family time.
Feeling taken for granted or feel like you are not being appreciated can be a common feeling for all parents and can be a contributor to those feelings of resentment.
With demands of home and work, it can often feel like it is impossible to prioritise. Everything seems like it is the most important task, and it can feel endless.
Feeling on top of things can be even harder if you feel like there is something that is unfair about what is in front of you.
Finally, if you feel like there is a breakdown of in the connection between your loved ones, it can feel incredibly stressful and isolating.
As the stress continues we find that we continue to get sick. This is because our immune system is being weakened, and we are more vulnerable to illness. It also takes us longer to feel better when we are stressed. We also feel a lack of energy or fatigued. It might mean coming home from work and being unable to muster up the energy to do extra things like exercise, or hobbies that you enjoy.
To help reduce the chance of burnout, it takes practise to remind ourselves to be “good enough” and not perfect. This is not always easy, and it much easier said than done, but it helps us to remember the good and positive things that we are doing and achieving, rather than the things we are not doing, or missing. The feelings of gratitude are a major contributor to happiness, while perfectionism can be linked to depression and anxiety. Read Part 2 of this blog post to learn how to help bring your focus back to the positive.
Megan Mellington, Psychologist
As a parent, we will undoubtedly encounter moments of frustration towards our children. It could be awoken by the simplest of circumstances, such as needing to repeat ourselves like a broken record, intervening with siblings squabbling over a toy, or because we are stressed by other things and our tolerance for managing challenging behaviours is limited.
However, as many of you might already have experienced, when we respond with anger this often only escalates the situation with our child, and they too may then respond in a similar manner. While many of us have regrettably resorted to shouting, questioning or punishments out of anger, what is important to remember, first of all, is that you are human.
Anger is a normal part of the spectrum of human emotions. Anger isn’t bad, it reminds us that we are passionate about something like perhaps wishing to raise respectful, emotionally regulated and empathic little humans. So when less than desirable behaviours are observed in our children, we want to help them develop ways to self-manage, through teaching and implementing boundaries.
Sometimes though, when we have been teaching and redirecting our children all day, our waning tolerance for their tantrums or perceived “defiance” can move us to anger. This article aims to outline some tips about how to tame our own “angries” so that you can engage with your children in a mindful and empathic way.
I've previously shared Dr Dan Siegal's video explanation of what happens in the brain when we get angry and how the thinking part gets shut down. So how do we get our “thinking brain” back online so that we can respond in a more helpful way for our children? The following are several brief tips I often use in parent consultations to support this process:
We can’t always be an emotionally regulated parent, and we shouldn’t expect this of ourselves. Even if we do take our anger out on our children, there are many things we can do to minimise the likelihood of this happening in future. If we can tame our “angries” by recognising our emotional state, taking a pause before responding, and regulating ourselves before attempting to regulate our child, we are modelling adaptive and healthy ways of managing anger.
What makes us resilient? Factors that determine who succumbs and who surmounts during a major stressor
Jesse Diggins, Psychologist
About a year ago, a colleague of mine asked me if I could explain why some people triumph through adversity and others never fully recover. That question stayed with me in the back of my mind until I could attain an understanding of why adversity only makes some of us resilient.
There is an important distinction to make between acute and complex trauma. The latter describes an ongoing occurrence of major stressors each compounding the next creating a cumulative impact. Much of the difference between succumb and surmount is attributed to whether the stressor is isolated or in addition to a collection of unresolved traumas.
Many of us will know first-hand accounts of how an individual who had experienced significant hardship used that trauma as an opportunity as fuel for personal growth. Indeed, it can be a badge of honour and a formative experience that alters their life course.
However, for many professionals that work with children and young people that have experienced trauma, resilience is the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, many children are lacking the skill of resilience.
To understand what fosters resilience, we can look to a study that commenced in 1955 which followed individuals from infancy to adulthood.
The Kauai Longitudinal Study, conducted in Hawaii, identified how children that faced multiple stressors were able to display positive adaptation.
Various factors have been identified that explain how individuals who grew up in poverty living in families troubled by chronic discord, went on to finish school and become confident, successful adults.
Family and Community Factors
The study highlights the importance of healthy attachments. Children who thrived amidst adversity always had one competent, reliable, predictable and emotionally stable parent or caregiver who could meet their needs. The opposite of this position is what we see in clinical practice regularly, children and young people that are unbalanced because they do not have the most fundamental human need: unconditional support from their caregiver. Without this cornerstone, the development of resilience is compromised.
At a community level, engaging in groups including sports, school or religion was demonstrated to foster resilience. These groups became a forum for emotional support where coaches and teachers could supplement the support offered at home with mentoring and role-modelling.
Individual Protective Factors
The study found that those that became resilient were affectionate, cuddly and easy to deal with babies, agreeable, friendly and sociable toddlers. As youngsters, individuals who became resilient later in life developed self-help skills earlier on and by age 10, their problem-solving skills were superior to their peers.
The characteristics of resilience found to emerge throughout adolescence included having future aspirations and having a talent that generated pride and a sense of achievement. One characteristic that was unique to individuals who became resilient was a self-belief that the problems they confronted could be overcome by their own actions. This conviction, known by psychologists as an ‘internal locus of control’, is perhaps the most important factor and contrasts an 'external locus of control' which is the belief that events in life are caused by uncontrollable factors.
Though internal locus of control is an important factor, self-belief is not the only ingredient. Positive adaption to major stressors results from grit and a growth mindset to hold it all together (“I can change the situation, rather than assuming it’s fixed”).
How we view a stressor is a huge determinant in how we respond to it. Individuals that identify themselves as a victim of a stressor will respond differently to those that view themselves as a beneficiary of a learning experience. The latter perspective is what is needed to possess resilience.
Sources & Further Reading/Learning:
Kauai Longitudinal Study:
Works relating to resilience theory by Norman Galmezy, Developmental
By Jessica Cleary, Psychologist
"Your normal may be their magic."
It's all about perspective mamas! This video is sure to pull at your heart strings as you watch vlogger Esther Anderson's moving piece of her day from the perspective of both herself and then her young daughter.
After watching, you can't help but reflect on the way you sum up your own days. Do you hold on to the magical moments and celebrate them? Or do the frustrations leave a more lasting impression?
Let this be today's challenge: Notice and hold on to the magic. Breathe in the giggles and the sillyness, the cuddles and the kisses. Breathe out the tantrums and tears, the defiance and backchat.
See if it makes a difference on the way you feel. There's a good chance it will!
by Melissa Bailey, Psychologist
Anxiety is one of the most common childhood disorders. Most commonly a child will experience one of the following forms of anxiety:
Some of the ways anxiety may present in your anxious child:
The good news is that anxiety can be managed through therapy to learn how to decrease those worrying thoughts, but you as a parent or caregiver can also help your anxious child by teaching them to calm down and relax their bodies and minds. One technique that you can teach to your anxious child to help them relax is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).
Often when we experience worrying thoughts and events our bodies will respond with muscle tension. This tension we feel can be uncomfortable making it difficult to relax and even go to sleep at night.
PMR is the process of scrunching up different muscle groups for a few seconds and then releasing the tension. This is done in part so that we can identify the areas that we hold the most tension and also so that we can distinguish between tension and relaxation.
Here are some basics you can try to help your child using Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
What to say:
"Take some deep calming breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth...
Imagine your tummy is a big balloon and when you breathe in the big balloon is filling with air, and as you breathe out, the air is slowly escaping and the balloon becomes small again.
Now...squeeze your toes and feet into a tight ball... hold this... (five seconds)... now relax...let them go loose.
Tighten the muscles in your legs by pointing your toes...hold the muscles tight...(wait five seconds)... now let go and feel your legs go as loose as cooked spaghetti.
Let's focus on your tummy now. Tense the muscles in your tummy by squeezing it in... hold this... (wait five seconds)...now relax...notice how good your body feels.
Lift your shoulders as high as you can, bringing them up to your ears...hold this... (wait five seconds)...now relax....breathe in.... and breathe out...
Next you can tense your arms and hands, by stretching them forward and tightening your hands into a tight ball, like you are squeezing a lemon...hold this... (wait five seconds)...now let your arms go floppy like cooked spaghetti...notice how relaxed they feel...
Let's move to your face...tense your face by scrunching up your whole face...wrinkle it up as hard as you can...hold this... (wait five seconds)...now relax.
Take another deep, calming breath in through your nose and out through your mouth...
When you are ready, gently open your eyes and notice how good and calm your body feels."
The following resources can further assist your child to relax using Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
This time of year means different things for different people. It can be a time where families come together, a time when we are reminded of what might have been, a time of joy or a time of sadness. Emotions are heightened and stress levels can be high.
When our stress levels are running high it doesn’t take much to send us over the edge and get fired up about things that wouldn’t normally bother us..
To keep the rising stress at bay, here are 6 ways to reduce the Chirstmas chaos overwhelm.
The beauty about these ideas is that you can start immediately. They are simple and if you can introduce a couple of them to your days, you are sure to notice a difference in the way you feel.