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The Mood & Mind Centre

Psychology Clinic

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Posted on 9 March, 2021 at 3:30

Written by Colette Dekker (February 2021)

With our busy lifestyles, maintaining a work-life balance during a relationship, could be challenging. All too many find it difficult to put their partner first. Then how do one balance the increasing demands of a career with the real-life responsibilities involved in maintaining a happy long-term romantic relationship?

Here is some practical (some obvious) advice:

1. Be completely present.

Think about it. How many times have you been with someone you care about, but at the same time you're:

  • Scrolling endlessly through your Facebook newsfeed
  • Thinking about what you have to do tomorrow
  • Half listening to them
  • Talking nonstop about your projects, and neglecting to ask them about their day

2. Keep things black and white.

When you're at work, work. When you're not at work, stop working. Make your home an asylum where you can escape the day-to-day madness.

It's okay for the two of you to get some extra work done in the evening, as long as you have set aside designated time for your partner. When you get home from a long day, your first instinct shouldn't be to open your laptop and continue working. Take some time to reconnect and recharge with your partner.

If there are kids, schedule “us” time after they went to bed. Unwind together.

Your bedroom is your sanctuary, and therefore a no work zone. Make the rule of no phones and no laptops in bed.

3. Stop glorifying 'busy.'

When people ask how you are, do you automatically reply with, "So busy!" as if it that were the highest-value state you could be in?

If it is, stop filling your calendar with low-leverage work and start adding your partner into it more often. Create non-negotiable dates with your partner and make a physical or digital reminder for yourself, this way you are more likely to take those dates seriously. You'll start treating date night as a priority and be less likely to forget about it.

4. Create more time.

Open up your schedule for your relationship by outsourcing mundane tasks. Hire a cleaning service, have healthy meals delivered to your doorstep or hire a personal trainer to get you up earlier in the day for your workout.

All of these things add up to more hours available to spend with your partner. And, if and when something does come up with work, your partner will be more supportive of your taking time off to deal with it.

5. Be proud of your relationship.

Consider your relationship goals as important as those for your career, and celebrate your successes when you reach significant milestones.

A successful relationship comes with hard work, so don't be afraid to show off a little.

Undoubtedly, you know several entrepreneurs who have divorced several times. And almost always the reason is a drop in communication. So, don't suffer the same fate. Ultimately, what good is a life full of business success when you have no one to share it with?

In the end, putting effort into your relationship will result in your emotional and physical health as well as a thriving career.




The Benefits of Playing Video Games

Posted on 24 November, 2020 at 21:30

Written by Jessica Parker (October 2020) 

Picture this scenario, you have just called your child down for dinner and you are met with a reply somewhere along the lines of ‘Ah mum I’m in the middle of a game, 10 more minutes please!’ Sound familiar? Most parents worry that their children and teens are playing too many games and are going to be negatively affected by them. It’s completely common to worry as video games have been under fire by critics ever since they first appeared. If you had to Google "harmful effects of video games," you will find all sorts of scary articles. So, the question is are these negative claims true or are there actually benefits to playing video games?


Looking into the actual research that has been done on the impact of video games, you find a very limited amount of evidence of any negative impact and in fact, considerable evidence against those claims. There are several well-controlled research studies that document positive effects of video games on mental development. In fact, video games are highly stimulating utilizing nearly all parts of the human brain and leads to high level thinking as well as the development of fine motor skills. With the intensity and complexity of each game comes quick analysis, thinking, strategizing, learning to deal with stress and inductive reasoning followed by hypothesis testing (Tumbokon, 2018). Research has also shown the cognitive benefits of video games such as, improvements in basic visual processes, improvements in attention and vigilance and improvements in executive functioning. We also see a number of findings which show that video games can help those who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder (APD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Excitingly, there is also a lot of research currently being done of the therapeutic use of video games.


Of course, however, not all screen time is created equal. We know for example the damaging effects social media can have on a child’s self esteem and sense of worth. My suggestion would be to consider quality over quantity. Get to know what your child or teen enjoys doing with their screen time, are they playing stimulating, engaging games or are they mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. This can be a wonderful opportunity for bonding time with your child or teen as well. Ask them questions and get to understand their games with genuine interest and curiosity rather than negativity and scepticism and you will be amazed at what you learn.


Am I an Introvert or Could It be Social Anxiety?

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 7:00

Written by Jessica Parker (August 2020)

Have you ever wondered if your Shyness or Introversion is a little out of the ordinary, perhaps a friend or family member has expressed some concern about your avoidance of certain social situations? Well you are not alone. Working in private practice I often see people, particularly young adults who are trying to find their place in the world, come in feeling distressed that being ‘introverted’ is affecting their work, family, and/or social lives.

So, what is the difference between being an Introvert and having social anxiety?


Well Introversion is a trait, meaning it is part of your inborn personality. Introverts simply prefer to unwind with more solo, often quiet activities. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to recharge by spending time alone. There are lots of strengths and benefits to being an introvert.

However, if you feel that your choice to avoid certain social activities is more fear driven, then it could be social anxiety.

What is Social anxiety?

While many of us feel some anxiety from time to time, whether it be giving a big presentation or going for a job interview. Social anxiety involves intense fear and avoidance of certain social situations that interferes with daily routine, work, school, or other activities. These situations are often so distressing that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them. Situations that are commonly feared by people with social anxiety include: Talking in front of others, attending parties, talking to strangers, eating in front of others, waiting in line, talking on the phone and speaking to people in authority.

The feared situation usually creates an immediate anxiety response. The symptoms of social anxiety include: Blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, trouble catching your breath, dizziness and feeling that your mind has gone blank.


Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Intense fear of talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing or sweating
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
  • Spending time after a social situation analysing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation


The good news is that psychotherapy has been shown to effectively treat social anxiety disorder. While the above is not to be a substitute for a professional psychological diagnosis, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be useful to see a mental health professional who will create an individualised treatment plan to help you effectively cope with your anxiety.

Anxiety and Stimming

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 6:50

Written by Colette Dekker (August 2020)

We have all seen people tapping feet or moving legs or even tapping fingers when thinking or being stressed. What about shouting and clapping hands, jumping up and down when they are happy? These are all know as stimming or “self-stimulatory behaviour”. Everyone of us stims from time to time, however stimming is most commonly associated with autism.


One of my young ASD clients explained to me that when he realises that he cannot deal with the situation he is in; he uses his stimming to let the people around him know that he is not ok.


Stimming can be healthy. These healthy stimming helps ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) people to deal with sensory overload and anxiety in a positive way. The repetitive behaviours feel good and may counteract an overwhelming sensory environment or may alleviate high levels of internal anxiety even in people without ASD. Next time look around when watching a game of football – you will see people pacing, standing, moving legs, slapping hands on legs ect. just before the match-winning kick.


On the other side, there are the uncontrollable stims. These stims occur overly in inappropriate settings, and may prevent a person from socially acceptable interaction and needs intervention.


Far more serious are unhealthy stims like self-injurious behaviours such as hair pulling, biting, hitting oneself, hitting the head against something in a harmful way, or picking/nail biting to the point of injury. People whom engage in self-injurious stimulation probably do so because their overload or source of anxiety is so overwhelming, it requires a much more serious stimulation to block it out.


There are ways to help people whom engage in harmful stims, these include:


1. Removing the cause: remove the stimulus that is causing the overload. The ideal is to recognise the triggers/stressors and remove them BEFORE the overload happens and harmful stimming starts. This comes back to where my client explained that his stimming is to inform others that he is not dealing with the situation. It can remain as just rocking backwards and forwards, however, should the stressor not be removed, this could escalate into unhealthy or harmful stimming such as hair pulling or hitting self.


2. Redirect to something less harmful: should it be impossible to remove the overload stressor or if you cannot figure out what it is, then redirecting the behaviour whilst still addressing the need for stimulation is key. These can be as simple as rocking on a chair or jumping. If the stimming is harmful behaviour, then choosing other painful but safe coping stims like holding an ice cube or listening to loud music, even drawing on a piece of paper until it is totally black, might be good options. The key here is knowing the person in order to find something that works which isn’t harmful.

Depression in Men

Posted on 1 July, 2020 at 19:30

Written by Jessica Parker (June 2020)

Mental illness is extremely common. According to the Black Dog Institute one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. However, studies have shown that a large proportion of men do not seek treatment for mental health issues.

Although men and women both experience depression, their symptoms can sometimes be different. Men who are depressed often appear to be angry, irritable, or aggressive rather than sad and therefore those around them including doctors may not recognise the anger as depression. Men have also been found to be less likely than woman to recognise and talk about the depression symptoms in themselves.

So how can we recognise symptoms of depression in men? Of course, as we know everyone is different and different men may experience depression symptoms differently, but some common symptoms of depression in men include:

• Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

• Feeling anxious, restless or ‘on edge’

• Loss of interest in work, family, or leisure activities

• Feeling down, flat, empty, or hopeless

• Difficulty concentrating or being forgetful

• Feeling tired, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much

• Overeating or not wanting to eat

• Thoughts of suicide

• Physical aches, headaches, or digestive problems

• A need for alcohol or drugs

• Engaging in high risk activities

• Failing to meet deadlines at work or inability to meet family responsibilities

• Withdrawing from family or friends or becoming isolated

It’s important to remember that not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. Experiencing a few of the above symptoms may be an indicator that you could benefit from seeking treatment.

If you think your loved one may have depression, you can support him by helping him find a Doctor, talking to a primary care provider is often a good first step in learning about and treating depression. You can also offer him your support and patience.

Self-care for Frontline Workers during COVID-19

Posted on 1 June, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Melissa Copeman (June 2020)

While a lot of us are starting to (hopefully!) see the light at the end of this COVID tunnel, our frontline workers continue to face the ongoing demands and challenges of working in the coalface of a worldwide pandemic. These are our Doctors, Nurses, Police and Emergency Service personnel who routinely risk their own health and safety to reduce the risk to ours. You know how the saying goes... Not all Superheroes wear capes!!!!!! Given the role they play, it is vital our frontline workers prioritise their own wellbeing. In order to achieve this, here are a few simple tips:



  • Recognise your own stress markers and acknowledge if you need to get some support
  • Educate yourself on the support options available to you
  • Attend your GP for advice and referral to a Psychologist if needed
  • Exercise regularly, eat well and get adequate rest and sleep
  • Take regular breaks, even if it is for 10 minutes during your work day
  • Leave work at work, avoid taking calls and checking emails after you have finished your shift
  • Avoid the use of alcohol at the end of your work day
  • Schedule plenty of enjoyable activities outside of work, such as going on a beach walk, whale watching, hiking, socialising with a small group of friends
  • Spend quality time with those you love
  • Engage in some mindfulness practice

Thank you for your service, Frontline workers! Take good care of yourselves!











Couples: A Healthy Relationship in Isolation

Posted on 14 May, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Colette Dekker (May 2020) Going from simply living together to spending every waking moment together can be demanding on a relationship. But this isolation is not meant to cause distance between you and your partner, but rather strengthen the bond

Wishing to avoid the drama that comes with constant cohabitation as a result of COVID-19? Try these tips to keep both yourself and your relationship healthy while in isolation.

1. Create routines - individual and shared:

Maintaining some structure to your days can help with sustaining your own mental health, as well as that of your partner’s.

Whether you are working from home or just living together, try to go to bed at a reasonable time and get up the same time every morning.

Having a “together” schedule as well as some personal day-to-day routines is important under isolation.

Create a no-go zone (in the house or in the garden) where you are explicitly allowed an hour of uninterrupted me time per day.

Schedule some joint activities into your day-to-day routine such as a coffee or lunch break together as a couple and/or family. This will give you something to focus on and create the experience of re-grouping after spending time on separate tasks specially if working from home.

2. Spend time alone:

In addition of having separate routines, is the importance of setting aside time to be completely by yourself – connecting with friends and family online and participate in activities separated from your partner as much as possible.

These times spend doing things on your own makes coming together for meals/coffee/relaxation more rewarding as you had time apart engaging in something outside your isolation bubble.

3. Maintain open communication:

Being physically together, doesn’t mean you're spending that time talking and listening.

Uncertain times bring anxiety and sometimes frustration over the situation that you have no control over. To avoid the risk of projecting anxiety onto your partner, talk openly with each other about your own anxieties and be open to feedback.

For serious conversation – find a time and space where you are both relaxed and comfortable and able to talk uninterrupted.

For daily communication - In your schedule set aside a time each day to sit and talk. Write down different topics and put them in a box. Pic a topic from the box each day.

Play board or card games. Playing games encourage communication.

Do a daily gratitude diary at dinner time.

4. Keep date night:

All the times before, with work, home and social distractions, intimacy has taken a backseat, but now could be a great time to rediscover the passion you have for each other.

Have some make-believe fun by getting dressed up. Set the table for two for a romantic dinner with candles and music. Whether you are cooking or ordering a take-out, enjoy some special quiet time together.

Make a bed in front of the TV, pop some popcorn and watch a movie or just snuggle up and have an evening of chatting.


Children and Corona Virus

Posted on 6 May, 2020 at 21:25

Written by Jessica Parker (May 2020) Covid19 or Corona Virus have become common words that can be heard in all households over the last few months. Our worlds have been turned upside down by this global pandemic. And this can be particularly scary for children! It’s important to know that children experience complex feelings just like adults, however, young children usually don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they are feeling. Imagine for a moment how worried or anxious you may have been feeling lately, now try and describe it without using any feeling words like scared, anxious or worried. Yup, this may be how your child is feeling, all mixed up and overwhelmed and this often leads to behaviour that we see as ‘playing up’ or ‘acting out’.

Here are 5 ways that you can help your child deal with these big emotions:


1. Bibliotherapy: Bibliotherapy which is also sometimes called “book therapy" is a fancy way of saying that we use storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. This is such a wonderful tool as it gives children the opportunity to step back from her/his problem which allows them a safe avenue to investigate their feelings. There are so many wonderful books available for children and of course heaps of free books available online, all you need to do is google free stories for kids about x (feelings, anger, sadness or whatever you would like to focus on). Or my personal favourite is to look up ‘kids stories read aloud’ on youtube. You could even help your child come up with their own story, which can be a lot of fun drawing and putting together.

2. Get Active: Research shows that keeping physically active is critical to boosting mood. Boredom and pent up physical energy can quickly turn to frustration and meltdowns. Avoid this by making sure that regular physical activity is a part of your family's routine. 'Activity' can include anything from games of Simon Says to kids yoga. Again, YouTube has some fun follow along videos and websites such as Go Noodle which have plenty of exercises and activities to keep your little ones busy for ages.

3. Breathing: Breathing is one of the most useful tools we can teach our child. Teaching children to breathe provides them with a simple but effective strategy for slowing down, both mentally and physically, helping them to take notice of how they’re feeling and to relax or calm down in the face of overwhelming emotions. Deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, soothing the amygdala, a small area in the middle that acts as the brain’s alarm system. There are so many fun ways to teach relaxed breathing. Here is one called Elephant Breathing: Stand with your feet wide apart and your arms dangling in front of your body like an elephant’s trunk. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, raise your arms up high above your head. Then slowly swing your arms down again as you breathe out through your mouth.

4. Routine: Routine gives children a sense of security and helps them to feel like they have some control over their world. Maintaining this routine doesn't need to be super strict and should allow for flexibility, aim to keep things like bedtimes and bath times similar each day.

5. Play: Not only is play an important part of development, but it is also a natural stress reliever for children. You can help facilitate your child’s play by arranging safe places for play, providing some playthings that allow for creativity and imagination such as building blocks or play dough and join in when invited, following the child’s lead and resisting the urge to direct, criticise or turn play into a lesson. It is important to remember that while your child may be allowed some ‘screen time’ to play video games, this does not replace the active, creative and imaginative ‘playtime’.


The power of Forgiveness

Posted on 14 March, 2020 at 22:45

Written by Dirk Vermooten (March 2020)  In October 2006, after a long shift at the fire department, 20-year-old Matt Swatzell fell asleep while driving and crashed into June Fitzgerald, who was pregnant and had her 19-month old daughter, Faith with her in the car. Faith survived the crash, but June and her unborn child did not. It is hard to imagine how devastating this must have been for her husband. Still, we could probably put ourselves in his shoes and find it in your heart to forgive Matt – it was an accident after all. And, that is exactly how it played out. June’s husband did indeed forgive the person who killed his wife and child and continues to have contact with him many years later.

But, what if it if the wrong-doing was not an accident? According to the book:”Why Forgive?”, Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralysed. “I forgave him because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,” McDonald wrote.

If these people can forgive in the most horrific of circumstances, surely, we too can forgive those that have wronged us. But, let’s face it, it is not an easy process, and, in most cases, we have to forgive many times before it truly sets us free. You see, forgiveness (or unforgiveness if we choose it), has everything to do with the forgiver, and very little with the person that is being forgiven (or not).

In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, forgiveness can have powerful health benefits. Research shows that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction – all this to the benefit of the forgiver. In stark contrast, unforgiveness leads to high blood pressure, digestive problems, poor quality sleep, increased stress, chronic back pain, anxiety and depression.

So, forgiving is good for us. Yet, most of us find it to be quite a difficult process and we need lots of practice to get it right. According to Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one of the best ways is to practice forgiveness is with the REACH method. REACH stands for Recall, Emphasize, Altruistic gift, Commit, and Hold.

Recall - The first step is to recall the wrongdoing in an objective way. The goal is not to think of the person in a negative light nor to wallow in self-pity, but to come to a clear understanding of the wrong that was done. Visualize the person and situation and all the feelings that come with it. Don't push aside anything, especially if it makes you feel angry or upset.

Empathise - Next, try to understand the other person's point of view regarding why he or she hurt you, but without minimizing or downplaying the wrong that was done. Sometimes the wrongdoing was not personal, but due to something the other person was dealing with.

Altruistic gift - This step is about addressing your own shortcomings. Recall a time when you treated someone harshly and were forgiven. How did it make you feel? Recognizing this helps you realize that forgiveness is an altruistic gift that you can give to others.

Commit - Commit yourself to forgive. For instance, write about your forgiveness in a journal or a letter that you don't send or tell a friend.

Hold - Finally, hold on to your forgiveness. This step is tough because memories of the event will often recur. "Forgiveness is not erasure," says Dr. VanderWeele. "Rather, it's about changing your reaction to those memories." When the bad feelings arise, remind yourself that you have forgiven and that ultimately you are the one that suffers in body and spirit if unforgiveness creeps back.

It is like Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”


Youth Relationships

Posted on 4 March, 2020 at 23:05
Written by Colette Dekker (March 2020) Being young is not easy. Relationships with parents change and relationships with peers are getting more involved and we start feeling butterflies when a certain someone is close by or just looking at you. Knowing the characteristics of a healthy relationship can keep us safe from unhealthy relationships and help us build healthy relationships inside and outside of the family circle. So keep the following in mind: Mutual respect. each person values who the other is and understands the other persons boundaries. Trust. Both should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Honesty. Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship. Compromise. Each person does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take. Individuality. No one should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on someone elses. Communication. Speaking honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. Remember that others cannot read your mind. Anger control. We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, walking away until calm or talking it out. Understanding. Taking time to understand what the other might be feeling. Being a role model. By exemplifying what respect means, we can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way. Healthy sexual relationship. When you engage in a sexual relationship, both parties need to be comfortable with it and neither should feel pressured or forced to engage in any sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone and NEVER without consent. NO ONE IS PERFECT. If you love someone, you should not expect her or him to be perfect. You need to accept his or her mistakes and if something needs working on, do it with love and patience.