The Impact of Working & Living with Burnout. 12 implications on you.

Are you taking a break or working through these holidays?
How have your fared through lockdown and heading back into a work life balance?

living with burnout exhausted working tired woman

Lockdown this year has proven to shake us all up in ways we didn’t know existed. Many of us found we’re working tirelessly at home, juggling work with home schooling children, juggling life’s everyday events, masks, QR coding, and being cautious about our every move to protect our health. No wonder so many of us are living with burnout!


70% of older workers are particularly struggling, living with burn out as they also battle the aging process.


The Impact of Burnout

In a recent 2021 study* of more than a thousand adults experiencing burnout, the main 12 main symptoms identified were:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Anxiety
  3. Indifference
  4. Depression
  5. Irritability
  6. Anger
  7. Sleep disturbance
  8. Lack of motivation or passion
  9. Cognitive problems (including concentration, cloudy thinking, problems making plans or decisions)
  10. Impaired performance (lower and poorer quality output, making errors, procrastinating) Becoming asocial and withdrawing from people
  11. Having physical symptoms like headaches, appetite shifts, nausea, diminished sex drive, and being more sensitive and emotional.
  12. Compromised immunity and becoming prone to more illnesses and infections

It’s become almost an epidemic with more and more people describing themselves as close to, or living with burnout, than ever before.


How do you Recognise the Signs of Burnout?

Sometimes, you may need some guidance to help you see that you’re burnt out, especially if you’re in ‘robot’ mode and just keep on going, day in and day out without taking a breath.


At Creating Change, we have clinicians who can help you recognise the signs of burnout and work together with you develop strategies that will manage stressors.  You want to be able to recognise when enough is enough, and when you need to take action to protect your mental health and well-being; whether it is quitting a toxic job; or leaving a destructive relationship.  The “best you” is just around the corner…why not start 2022 in the right way?


*Study published in Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery, by Professor Gordon Parker, Gabriela Tavella and Kerrie Eyers 

Written by Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

How Multi-Cultural Homes Perceive Mental Health Support

article blog multicultural family perceive mental health stigma

Australia as we know it has become a very diverse and multi-cultural country, and with this comes a mix of customs, certain ways people have become used to, as well as different perceptions around mental health. It’s no secret that past years have brought a stigma around mental illness, and this is even more prominent in many multi-cultural households. It’s especially an issue in some diverse racial and ethnic communities and it can be a major barrier to people from those cultures accessing mental health services. For example, in some Asian cultures, seeking professional help for mental illness may be counter to cultural values of strong family, emotional restraint and avoiding shame.


It’s estimated that one in five people will be affected with a mental health challenge at some point in their life. Mental health has never been spoken about as topic in many cultures. For some, if it isn’t physical sickness or something that could be seen with the naked eye, you are seen as “fine”.
Society and your culture can have a strong influence on the way mental health, and getting some support is perceived.


Barriers Preventing Seeking Support

Family members and friends play important roles in helping you cope with, manage and recover from illness – physical or mental. However, the stigma that still surrounds mental illness prevents many from seeking help and support, especially from those closest to them. Shame, embarrassment, lack of understanding and the fear of discrimination and rejection are just some of the barriers preventing diagnosis and effective treatment as well as family and community support. This is unfortunate because mental illness CAN be treated.

No matter what your background or ethnicity, your culture strongly influences beliefs about mental illness and shapes your attitudes towards those mentally ill.  


Some of these Cultural Factors Include:

  • Importance of social status – many cultures place a high value on social status and reputation. E.g. in many Asian countries, the concept of “Face” or public embarrassment, is extremely important. People will go to great lengths to save “Face”. A mental health issue may be viewed as a public embarrassment that could damage your reputation. As such, those suffering, and their families are less likely to see help.
  • Gender roles – most cultures discourage men from exhibiting physical or mental weakness. Extensive public health campaigns in many western countries have encouraged more men to seek medical help but many remain resistant. Especially those from more male-dominated cultures.
  • Attitudes towards mental health – not every culture accepts or trusts western medical practices and instead prefers to treat any illness with traditional approaches. Others do not consider mental illnesses to be medical issues. Instead, they believe they are caused by a lack of emotional harmony or evil spirits.
  • Age – younger people from all cultures, religions and ethnicities living in western countries are more likely to seek help. Older people, especially those who have emigrated from very different cultures, will be less likely to change their attitudes or behaviours. This generational clash of values and priorities can lead to increased stress, and the risk of anxiety or mood disorders for younger people. Many cultures require young adults to make decisions that will enable them to care for their parents rather than following their own path or prioritising their own needs.
  • Religious beliefs and spirituality – Buddhism and Taoism advocate for a spiritual understanding of disease and believe that mental concerns can be the result of bad deeds in previous lives. Non-Christians living in western countries are often hesitant to seek help from a professional as they feel there is a lack of understanding about, and respect for their religious beliefs.


There is one thing we can all do to eradicate stigma and support family members and loved ones struggling with mental illness – that is to better understand mental illness.


How to Better Understand & Express Mental Health to Loved Ones:

  • Talk openly about mental health, such as sharing it on social media.
  • Educate yourself and others – respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences.
  • Be conscious of language – remind people that words matter.
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness – draw comparisons to how they would treat someone with other illnesses such as cancer or diabetes.
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness.
  • Be honest about treatment – normalise mental health treatment just like other health care treatment.
  • Let the media know when they are using language presenting stories of mental illness in a stigmatising way.
  • Continue to live in a multicultural society by being more informed, aware, tolerant, and more open to change.


No matter what someone’s ethnicity or background, you can shatter these stereotypes and stigmas while celebrating diversity. This will only be successful by changing attitudes towards mental health and mental illness overall.


Written by Counsellor Tina Nguyen – www.creatingchange.net.au

Feeling like avoiding the challenges of Christmas with your family?

family Christmas time challenges conflict

For many people, Christmas time is a happy time of year with the opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. However, for a lot of people, Christmas can bring about other less pleasant emotions such as anger, low mood or loneliness. And with the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives over the past 2 years, some may not be able to connect with family, miss out on seeing loved ones or caring for those in need.


Family challenges and conflicts often arise, and Christmas time can heighten the frustration, anger, or tension. Bringing family together can open up old wounds and alcohol can create uninhibited behaviour. You may feel obliged to spend time with those you have little in common with and experience excessive criticism or belittling. As adults we spend weeks if not months buying gifts, planning food, and putting up decorations; hoping we’ll recreate the perfect family gathering.


Usually though, it falls short. Someone ends up doing all the work or all the cooking and feeling exhausted. Someone
drinks too much. Someone says something awful. Someone doesn’t say anything at all. Someone is just lazy and ungrateful.


On the flip side, you may find yourself feeling lonely and isolated, if your family is further away from you, or significant changes such as illness or separation have changed your family dynamics.


Many of us have enormously high expectations when it comes to the holiday season, however we need to realise that these expectations may not be a reality in 2021. This is where resentment can build from feelings of obligation and pressure.


What to Remind Yourself this Christmas –

  • Don’t try and resolve long standing tensions on Christmas Day – it’s a time to be jolly. Try leave the past where it is, and enjoy the day itself. Avoid anyone who may provoke you.
  • Include everyone in conversation – some may be mentally struggling on the inside and won’t mention anything to you. Some people feel if they don’t have any ‘big news’ or something exciting to talk about, they feel on edge or down.
  • Share memories – reminiscing about the littlest things can be a great way to lighten the mood and give everyone a laugh or a smile, even if it’s for a moment.
  • Have bon bons on the table – Christmas crackers or bon bons are a great ice breaker – with their bad hats, silly toys and corny jokes. They get everyone laughing, even at how bad the jokes are.
  • Take a moment to have some quiet time – having a quiet space for people to go is a good idea for all ages, but especially if you have little kids or if you find the day overwhelming.
  • Reduce the pressure – it’s ok to not go to every Christmas celebration, or run yourself in the ground to; be at every event; help with setting up or the food; try be the one who keeps the peace – it’s ok to take it slow and not do it all! Increased pressure means you won’t be yourself; you’ll be on edge or stressed and feel exhausted and anxious about the whole process.


If you feel you need some help or advice to get through this period of family challenges between now through to the New Year, please reach out to our team. We can assist you to work through these challenges, and prepare you so you feel calmer and in control for the holiday season.


Written by Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

Domestic Violence affects my life – how to take the next step? Know your rights.

Have you found yourself in a situation where you are a victim of emotional, mental or physical abuse?
Are you distressed, not knowing what to do, where to go, and who to talk to?

domestic violence article blog know your rights


An estimated one in six Australian women (1.6 million or 17%) aged 18 years and over have experienced partner violence since the age of 15 years old (ABS, 2020).

Experiencing acts such as gas lighting, emotional, mental, financial or physical abuse is highly stressful and distressing, especially over long time periods. Your physical and psychological well-being is disturbed, which can in turn affect your physical recovery.

The idea of being vulnerable to a professional therapist after any abuse can be quite frightening, and we recognise these fears you may have and want to ensure your safety and comfort.


Introducing Legal Literacy

Legal Literacy is a tool used by our therapists to boost your self-confidence, learn your rights, and take that next step forward. Legal literacy is essentially, more knowledge.


Knowledge is power.

Did you know the importance of Legal Literacy or knowledge when you or someone you know is experiencing DV?  In my experience as a therapist, I have found in many situations where a mental health professional could assist someone overcome mental and emotional barriers hindering their treatment – through psycho-education of self-esteem and self-confidence – however this was limited due to lack of knowledge of victim rights by the victim themselves. Therefore, adding Legal Literacy has proven to be a powerful tool and resource, as well as a booster for self-confidence.


Through my experience and findings, many clients with impacted self-esteem who worked through strengths exploration (using Motivational Interviewing and CBT), a few ceased treatment half–way because the fear of leaving their partner/perpetrator was bigger than the pain of the abuse.


I found a lot of people have been the victim of abuse for years and are fighting pain, abuse and a system altogether. For most, their quality of life has been compromised through isolation, and relationships have been impacted deeply. Hence, having counselling along with Legal Literacy hand in hand was quite effective.


We know that knowledge is power and for you as a victim, to feel that power – even in the smallest portions – is a step forward. This was an opportunity to put a system in place for those experiencing Domestic Violence and other challenges such as Immigration issues or culture shock. It enabled them to have access to an in-house counsellor to talk about their anxiety, fears, self-confidence, self-esteem, abuse, trauma, or depression, and also helped them understand and know their rights as victims, and how they can draw internal and external boundaries when they want to, and when they are ready for it.


What to do next?

At home you can take small actioned to ensure your safety:

  • Know the numbers you can call for protection
  • Know safe houses for women’s shelter
  • Start studying and understanding your rights
  • Make notes about any rights or laws that you don’t understand, and speak to your therapist about them


Many victims will put up with violence due to lack of self-trust – so try some, self-affirmation strategies. Should you need some help and guidance on these strategies, or how you can take the next step, reach out to our team.



Written by Counsellor Hitika Bhatia – www.creatingchange.net.au

Parents, feel prepared! How to help your anxious child return to school.

Are you unsure how your child will adapt going back to school and after school activities?
What does this look like for your family?

anxious child separation anxiety


It’s come to that time, where we move out of lockdown and try to get back into some sort of ‘new normal’. Our children have been at home for months and months, so to them this is their new normal. So as a parent, how can you assist them to ‘change’ what they’re comfortable with, and transition them back to school calmly and confidently?


You may yourself be feeling a little worried, or unsure how they will react or cope on the first day back. It’s normal the morning before school starts that your child may appear as feeling unhappy. There may be tears, worry, or they may make excuses to get out of going, such as they have a sore stomach/headache, etc. You may even hear “I don’t want to go to school, can I stay home?”



Some children can worry themselves so much that they do feel ill, however as a parent if you let them stay home, you’ll find this could turn into repeated school refusal in the future. The long term affect will be a decrease in their academic development as well as their social confidence. If this persisted, they will fall further behind in class and it will be harder on you to guide them to reintegrate into their social groups and return to school.


6 ways to prepare your anxious child for the return to school –

  • Talk about school – On the lead up, each day talk to your child about returning. Make sure that returning to school is not a surprise, and they are aware its coming up soon.
  • What did they enjoy the most at school? – Highlight the things that they previously enjoyed the most, and talk about the fun of doing this again with friends (e.g. playing soccer at lunch, art/crafts, seeing their friends at recess).
  • Routine is key – Remind them of the routine at school, plan it out so they know in advance (e.g. waking up at 7:30, eating breakfast and packing their bag, and leaving for school at 8:15, etc). Together with your child you could draw some steps of getting ready in the morning, and they can tick them off as they go.
  • Give them choice – Ask them what they’d like for lunch to help them feel like they have some control and can choose which they would enjoy more.
  • Open communication – If your anxious child seems worried about returning, create an open and accepting space for them to talk about their worries. It’s best not to wait until the night before school to do this. Make sure you validate what they feel, however don’t imply that they can stay home and not go to school.
  • The drop off process – if they become increasingly upset at drop off, acknowledge their emotion, give them a hug, guide them into school, and leave. The longer you stay the longer the distress will last. Teachers often report that a few minutes after the parents leave, the child settles.



Remember, the first few days will be the most challenging, however children become more and more adaptable as they grow and will see quickly what their new routine looks like. The key is to talk through things in advance, to ensure they have time to process the information, and to ensure they feel safe, calm and aware. Having an anxious child is challenging, but if you take the time to prepare them they will learn to see that change isn’t something to worry themselves about, and to look for the good in the change.


Written by Kya Porter – Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

10 Ways to Boost your Level of Self-Care at Home

Lockdown has been dragging on – have you taken the time to look after yourself over the past 3 months?

woman self-care lockdown advice tips



So the day has come where we seem to have a bit more freedom to move around, however many of us are still at home a lot, whether it’s working from home, home schooling or in quarantine.

It’s important after so long at home to look after yourself, and make sure you haven’t picked up some bad habits!

Take a moment to think about if self-care has been on your agenda…..or a past thought of late.


Here’s our best 10 pieces of advice from our expert therapists to get you on the right track to self-care:

  1. Air Pods & Headphones – using these a lot has side effects. Many of us are already compromising our head and neck by sitting at a computer all day, add in headphones or Air Pods, this can lead to sore ears or a headache.
  2. Hand Cream – keep a hand cream on your desk for dry hands, that you can grab and use quickly.
  3. Hydrate – fill up 1L bottle of water at the start of the day, and re-fill at lunchtime to help you focus.
  4. Mini Break – go outside in your breaks and stand in the sunshine for 5 minutes – take deep breaths of fresh air to help re-focus and re-set.
  5. Stretching – short stretches several times a day opens up your muscles in your neck and back. You need to ensure you move if you’re sitting a lot during the day. Just stretch for 30 seconds-1 minute at a time and this will help.
  6. Mindfulness Breathing – 1 minute of breathing and closing your eyes – choose a quiet place outside or in a room, and just breathe with your eyes closed to calm yourself.
  7. Water Your Plants – watering plants is calming, and using a watering can over a hose gives you more of a connection with nature. Take a deep breath in when you’re near the plants – it encourages blood flow.
  8. Snacks – protein balls are a great quick and healthy snack. Have them on your desk for when you feel like you need something to keep you going. Have a piece of fruit on your desk also so it’s ready when you get a break.
  9. Tidy Up – a tidy desk clears the mind.
  10. Candles – burn them. The scent and dimmed lighting creates an ambience, and has a sensory affect on your body.


Make the most of what you have and ensure self-care is a priority at home. It’s important for your own mental wellbeing.

Written by Counsellor Hitika Bhatia – www.creatingchangepsychology.net.au

Feel Calm & Comfortable. Understand what to expect at your first Telehealth session

Feeling apprehensive?
Maybe you’re wondering what happens at your first online Telehealth session with our therapists?

Teleheatlh video session therapy


Remember when you started your first day of high school or your first job. You were unsure of where to go, how to look busy, and whether the people would warm to you. You may also experience these feelings of apprehension and uncertainty when planning to have a Telehealth session with one of our therapists for the first time.

What do I have to do?
How will the session unfold?
What will they ask of me?
Will I like my therapist?

These are all valid thoughts as our brains are wired to check in and make sure our needs are met. We hope we can put your mind at ease and assist you to prepare for your first online session. Let’s make it feel less daunting!

Telehealth – the new way

With this extended lockdown, Telehealth online sessions have become the way for therapy in the current time.
Whilst we can’t wait to welcome you back to our office and therapy space, here’s what you can expect in the meantime.

Once you’ve made your appointment with one of our therapists, you would have received a confirmation email with all the details you need, and a second email to meet and obtain some more information about your therapist particular.

As part of this confirmation email, there is a link to a video which is important for you to watch. This video introduces you to Creating Change and prepares you for the session with things you need to know.

There will also be a link to our Online Consent Form and a form requiring some information about yourself – so please take a short moment to fill these in before your session start time. Whilst filling in the forms, this is a good time for you to sit, take a breath and familiarise yourself with the practice and what we’re about. The background information form is important for the therapist to receive and read through prior to your session, so they can familiarise themselves with any important details.

On the morning of your Telehealth session, a link will be emailed to you to start the video session. If you don’t have internet access, please let us know so we can call you by phone.


Feel Safe and Re-assured

All our sessions are conducted in a safe and confidential environment. Our highly skilled therapists are passionate about making you feel as relaxed as possible. In the initial appointment, our therapists will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current life situation and the factors that have influenced their development. The key focus is to identify how we will facilitate change for you to create a sense of wellbeing, contentment and connectedness.

The assessment aims to develop a personalised plan to achieve your goals. We understand that talking to someone new about your difficulties in life may provoke anxiety, and so we will aim to put you at ease in your first appointment as much as possible. If there is a difficult history like childhood trauma, we may take it slow, not going into detail of the traumas but rather focus on developing confidence in your therapist and stabilising your current symptoms.

We will provide you with an estimation of the length of treatment, frequency of sessions and what you will be required to do moving forward.  

As treatment is a collaborative process, meaning we will work together as a team, you will be highly involved in the decision making. It is ideal to book in all your future sessions required after the first appointment to ensure you have continuity of treatment.  We don’t want you to miss out on your preferred appointment day and time! Having a regular time that suits your weekly schedule will ensure your personal development remains a priority.


Ensuring you feel open to ask questions

If you have any questions during the session, it is essential you ask them. We are full of information, but we aren’t able read your mind. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, please let us know. Sometimes it takes time to develop a relationship with your therapist. We understand this and encourage you to discuss your experiences with us. If you are keen to make changes sooner rather than later, you can book your second session in within the same week to start the treatment ball rolling.


Remember that changing habits takes time and cannot be done in an hour or two. We are with you for the long haul and look forward to working together on your treatment journey.


We look forward to welcoming you back to our therapy office space later in the year!

therapy room Telehealth online psychologist therapists creating change baulkham hills
Written by Rebecca Deane – Principal Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

We are located in the Bella Vista – Hills District, Sydney, NSW. Please contact us should you require an appointment.

5 Benefits of Online Therapy During Lockdown & the Cost of Not Getting Immediate Support

man depression benefits of online therapy lockdown

Many of us are feeling the pain of lockdown. And let’s face it, we’re all a bit over it! 

However there’s never been a more important time to look after your mental health then now.

If you’ve been thinking of speaking to a therapist once lockdown ends, and waiting to “see how you go” – maybe have a re-think.

Can you really afford to wait?
Is waiting the best for your current mental health?
Are you coping?

Talking with someone now via online therapy can help you in more ways than you may probably realise. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to get started, progress, and then continue when we return to face to face therapy sessions.



THE COST OF NOT GETTING IMMEDIATE SUPPORT

  • Feelings such as anxiety and stress will have time to magnify whilst you’re waiting for lockdown to end.
  • Your current challenges won’t positively progress – instead leaving you to attempt to manage your distress on your own. Seeking support now will give you the tools and guidance to work through your circumstances straight away.  
  • Relationship or home life pressures will amplify, adding additional stress and moving you and your family in the wrong direction. This can have a harmful long-term effect.
  • Consider your mood – how is it making you feel? How is it affecting those you live with? Talking with our team now could alleviate the weight this may be having on you.



DIRECT BENEFITS OF ONLINE THERAPY DURING LOCKDOWN

  • Tackle your circumstances quickly – get on top of your challenges before they deteriorate further.
  • Feel supported – having someone to talk through your concerns with means you have the ability to get things off your chest, moving your mental health in the right direction.
  • Learn the tools you need to know now – such as mindfulness and other at home techniques – so you can begin making positive changes quickly rather than leaving your health to possibly decline.
  • Improved sleep – engaging with our therapists means you’ll feel a greater sense of control and calmness, enabling you to sleep better and look after your overall wellbeing.
  • Keep your relationships and family life on track – learn how to manage this lockdown life we’re in and feel more prepared.


If you’ve read through this and want to re-think the opportunity to speak with one of our expert therapists, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us – we are here to help you.

5 Ways to Tackle Loneliness and Lack of Connection in Lockdown

family FaceTime connection lockdown loneliness

As humans we thrive on meaningful connection, so although the pandemic is challenging us on many levels, the need to stay away from others and at home – is arguably one of the hardest things to come from COVID-19. This is particularly prominent if you live alone. We are not immune from loneliness, no matter what our circumstance or profession.


Most of us are currently either social distancing, self-isolating or self-quarantining at the moment, so it’s vital to prioritise staying connected with loved ones during this challenging time, and to stick to healthy routines.


Did you know that not having enough social connection can bring on feelings of loneliness, and seriously affect your mental health and wellbeing?


Here are 5 ways you can stay connected, healthy, and tackle feelings of loneliness during lockdown:

1. Stay connected with loved ones – use your phone, social media and apps such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp to stay in touch with family and friends. Touch base with someone every single day – this is important for connection. We have feelings that come out within us when we smile and connect with someone, even if it’s over the phone.

2. Do things you enjoy – read that pile of books and watch those TV shows you missed. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, make the most of it.

Why not try a new pastime that you can do at home or online? Painting and listening to music are both great ways of relaxing and practising Mindfulness. If you enjoy DIY, now’s a good time to knuckle down and get jobs done.

3. Stay healthy – focus on eating well and getting enough exercise and good quality sleep. Take the time to cook from fresh, do an online yoga or aerobics class, meditate and focus on maintaining good sleep habits.

Keeping up healthy routines will help both your physical and mental health.

4. Dodge the panic– try to limit your media and online exposure. Seek advice from credible sources only and don’t consume information from the news all day long.

5. Reach out– if you are finding that you are struggling, don’t hesitate. Please reach out to someone to talk to. It can be a friend, a colleague, or a professional. We are here to help should you like to talk to one of our team members.

Source: Derived from Beyond Blue

Are you overly sensitive, always taking things personally? Find out here.

Do you worry about things people say to you over and over?
Do you often find yourself easily upset, emotional, angry and sensitive to words?

overly sensitive take things personally woman sad react

When an insensitive comment is said to you by someone close, do you find yourself thinking about it over and over? Do you react?

Being overly sensitive can mean it’s possible you might make a big deal out of something small, or make a huge deal on a regular basis out of everything. Either way, this type of thinking is likely to make you feel extremely frustrated, upset, sad, or angry.

Let’s imagine you think you are taking things to heart too often. You’re being told by a friend or family member that you get upset over “every little thing”. It can be isolating and confusing not knowing why you’re picking fights with people around you, and why you just can’t ‘let it go’. If only the catchy phrase from “Disney’s Frozen II” movie was so easy, right!?


The idea that this person has said something mean, rude, or offensive, or has made a joke you didn’t think was funny, becomes stuck in your mind. You don’t know how to make it go away. At the same time, you don’t know if you should bring it up with them for fear you will get shut down or end up in an argument.

Taking things personally is an unhelpful thinking style that can lead to symptoms of anxiety, low mood and depression. It can interfere with how you interact with others and result in social withdrawal, escape, or avoiding people all together.


CHECKLIST TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE TAKING THINGS TOO PERSONALLY




IF YOU CHECKED MORE THAN HALF OF THE ABOVE, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

•   Understand that someone else’s behaviour is about them, not you
•   Be your best self, and own it. Your opinion of yourself is what matters most
•   Learn to manage negative thoughts and emotions – don’t be afraid to ask for professional support
•   Direct your energy and time towards fulfilling your own valued goals


Once you have tried these tips at home, engaging with a professional such as one of our team of therapists allows you to develop a complete understanding of what’s happening and why. You can work together to create strategies to manage and overcome the negative thoughts and feelings that continue to make you feel negative about yourself.


Taking things personally, and being ‘overly sensitive’ is likely to affect how you engage with others, and also your ability to open up and build healthy relationships. Don’t be afriad to get in touch, as sometimes a little support and direction will set you on your way to living a happier and more confident life.


How to take the first step to overcome your OCD

Too scared to touch a pen at work, or constantly washing your hands or checking things?
Aware of your OCD, and want to know how to make small changes to overcome your OCD?

steps overcome OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder advice psychology

Distress. This is how you may be feeling. Knowing your OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is dominating your day, however unsure of how to manage it.
How can you overcome your OCD?

OCD affects around 1.8% of people worldwide, and whilst males are more commonly affected in childhood, research shows females are more affected in adulthood*.


OCD can reflect either feeling overwhelming anxiety that something bad might happen if you don’t engage in a particular task, or knowing logically something bad will not happen, but you still feel the need to engage in the behaviour so that it “feels right”.


Feeling the need to engage in compulsions may be having a negative impact on friendships, relationships, work, or leisure –

  • Needing to constantly ask questions, seeking reassurance all the time from a partner.
  • Stress on your relationship – your partner may see a future with children in it, however if something spills on the floor, what happens to your anxiety?
  • Your family may become frustrated if you’re in the bathroom constantly washing your hands.
  • Effects on your work life if you’re too scared to touch a pen, making it challenging to do your job.
  • If you can’t leave a room without clicking the light on and off, what do you do at work when you leave the room?


You end up house bound, worried about people seeing your compulsions.

OBSESSIONSCOMPULSIONS
When you experience uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts or images, e.g. fear of germs.In response to these ‘obsessions’ or thoughts, you develop ritualised, repetitive behaviours or mental acts called ‘compulsions’.


You’re probably thinking, I logically know that these thoughts and compulsions are irrational, but I can’t resist engaging!
This is a result of so much anxiety surrounding them that it’s hard to bare.


Engaging in the compulsions reduces your anxiety.



What are the Implications of this?

Every time you engage in a compulsion, you strengthen the OCD tendencies. For example, if you wash your hands immediately after touching something, you are teaching your body that the reason you didn’t get sick, is because you washed your hands immediately. You’re not learning that you can actually touch objects without becoming sick, e.g. pick up a pen, shake another person’s hand.


Small Changes to Make at Home – Challenge Your Beliefs and Worries!

Slightly adjust the compulsion
e.g. If you wash your hands for 5 minutes each time you touch something, try next time to only wash them for 4 minutes. See what happens! This will help you test the validity of your thoughts or worries and show yourself that the compulsions were not necessary to keep you safe.

e.g. If you click a light five times before leaving a room because you fear that something bad will happen, try and click it only 3 times. Wait….then reflect on what happened and whether your original worry came true or not.


Change your mindset to overcome your OCD
Remember, it’s important to keep these steps small and achievable. If you don’t resist and engage in the compulsion, you risk strengthening your OCD – the opposite of what you want to achieve. It’s about small steps in the right direction, rather than trying to get rid of your OCD completely.


Not sure if you have OCD – take our checklist HERE.


Written by Kya Porter – Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au
*American Psychiatric Association, 2013

Finalists in the Sydney Hills Local Business Awards!

We are thrilled once again to be finalists in the 2021 Local Business Awards for the Sydney Hills Area. During turbulent times, we always ensure you, our clients, are at the forefront of our mind. Your care is our priority through this pandemic.


Our team really go the extra mile to ensure your experience with Creating Change is calm and smooth, so why not take a moment to read more about our amazing team, and how we can help you make that long term sustainable change you have always wanted in your life. Thank you for voting us as finalists!

finalist local business awards Sydney hills psychologist

How is Low Self Esteem Affecting You? Take our Checklist.

Having doubts about yourself and what you’re capable of?
Finding you have persistent negative thoughts and feelings about yourself?

low self esteem checklist how do you know what to do mental health depression

We can be all self-critical from time to time. When we make a mistake, we often think back on it and wonder what we could have done differently. When we say things we don’t mean, we often feel bad about what was said, and wish we hadn’t, or had said it differently.


However if you talk yourself down too much of the time, or call yourself names like ‘silly’ or ‘stupid’ your self-esteem may suffer. Low-esteem affects your quality of life, so it’s important to know the signs, and what you can do about it. If you often have negative feelings such as sadness, guilt, shame or anger about yourself, if you avoid trying something new in case you fail, or deny yourself opportunities for growth, change, or love – take our checklist below to see if low self-esteem is overly affecting you.


You have:

  • Persistent, negative and self-critical thoughts
  • Low resilience: you give up too soon
  • Fear of trying: you don’t try at all
  • Relationship problems with friends or family
  • Perfectionism or a need to “over-achieve”, and “over-compensate” in areas you perceive you’re lacking
  • Minimal self care, e.g. drink accessible amounts of alcohol, avoid exercise
  • Self-harm, e.g. drug abuse, binge eating or drinking, punishing yourself
  • You tend to reject or dismiss genuine compliments from others
  • You are afraid to give your opinion in a conversation


Find that more than half of these sound like you, and don’t know what to do?
Some additional support to better understand your low self esteem, where it’s coming from, and how you can move forward to improve your quality of life may be needed. Reach out to one of our team.

The importance of parents staying at therapy with your child

Have you booked in a therapy session for your child, or have they been seeing a psychologist or counsellor for some time?
Do you attend with them, or drop them at the door and pick them up after their session?

Child and parent in therapy session psychologist

You may already be in the process of your child seeing a therapist, or you may be coming up to attend your first therapy session. Either way, it’s really important for you as a parent to attend the therapy sessions together with your child. Depending on their age, it can vary as to whether you’re required to be in the therapy room with your child or not. Coming into the practice with your child gives the team a chance to explain what your input will be depending on your child’s age, what they are there for, what things we may talk about in therapy, and what will happen moving forward.

Even if your child is a young adult and in their late teens or early 20s, remember, a child doesn’t exist on their own. You need to work together as a team to reach their goals and wellbeing – you’re all part of a system.


Why should parents attend?

1.Young people cannot provide developmental and environmental history, ie 0-5yrs and beyond. We need YOU for this information, and this information is important for the therapist to know and understand.


2. Children exist in the here and now. They have their own perspectives that may lack context of a bigger picture. A parent’s perspective of events gives context for behaviour. You’re able to share parenting processes currently being used, which play a vital role in young person’s life.


3. Parents’ attendance and engagement shows support to your child, something they may be looking for to progress and find motivation to keep attending.


4. Coming to the sessions with your child allows opportunity for you to be informed about presenting issues, and to discuss these, and for the therapist to share management strategies. We would encourage you to learn=, understand, and implement these strategies at home between sessions, so you need to be informed. It also allows you to become aware of any possible unintentional, or unhelpful contributions to the situation.


5. If you are separated from your partner, it is valuable to include both parents when safe to do so, as a child’s identity and experience is impacted by both parents, regardless of the relationship they have with each other.



Imagine you are the captain of a ship and your children are deck hands. You’re in charge of the ship and where it needs to go when they are in their younger years (0-12 years). As they progress into adolescence then early adulthood they begin to take over the driving of the ship. We as parents then become the lighthouse (from 13+ years onward). We guide them past the rocks and cliffs, inform them of the weather, but at the end of the day, they are in control of getting that ship where it needs to go. Together, we work with you to ensure your teen is equipped with the necessary sailing skills for a safe but adventurous voyage.

4 Eating Tips to fight your Anxiety and Depression

Did you know that what you put in your mouth can dramatically affect your mood?
Are you searching for ways to help ease your anxiety or low mood?

woman eating healthy fight depression anxiety tips advice experts psychology

Your mental health and how you cope everyday is equally as important as your physical health, and eating the right types of food and nutrients can affect both. Depression & anxiety are the most common mental health issues Australians face daily, affecting daily functions, work life, relationships and family ties.


So if you aren’t sure how to try change your mood or reactions, why not consider your diet?


Here are 4 great food groups to include in your diet to improve your wellbeing – 


1. OMEGA 3 FATS

Good fats needed to build the brain’s neutral connections. Research has shown people with depression tend to have lower levels of Omega 3.

EAT MORE: Oily fish, e.g trout, salmon, sardines; flaxseeds, walnuts


2. B VITAMINS

Important for nervous system function and production of energy. These are “anti-stress” nutrients, helping to relieve anxiety and treat depression. B3, B6 & B9 all work together to produce serotonin, the ‘feel good’ chemical.

EAT MORE: Legumes, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, eggs, chicken, red meat and milk
EAT LESS: Refined grains and processed foods


3. BLOOD SUGAR

Keep blood sugar levels balanced. If they fluctuate during the day, so will your mood. A diet high in sugary, white, processed carbohydrate foods will cause sudden peaks and troughs in the glucose in your blood, affecting mood and anxiety.

EAT MORE: Wholegrains, fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish and chicken. Having smaller meals more regularly and including protein-rich foods also helps to stabilise blood-sugar levels and curb sugar cravings. 
EAT LESS: Processed or sugary foods, and cut down on caffeine and alcohol


4. TRYPTOPHAN

Serotonin is a chemical in our body that is responsible for making us feel good, and it is manufactured in the body using the amino acid “tryptophan”. This needs to be supplied through your diet. Tryptophan is also needed to produce melatonin, which is vital for getting enough sleep. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. In clinical trials that have been conducted, tryptophan growth has been shown to diminish depression.

EAT MORE: Lean chicken, turkey, beef, brown rice, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, bananas, peas, pumpkin, potato, corn and spinach.


If you’re feeling signs of low mood or anxiety, why not try shift your diet? What’s the worst that could happen? Make a change and create a healthier, happier, effortless life for yourself. It could equal a big impact.

As nutrition is not the only way to manage anxiety and depression, further professional assistance can be required depending on the severity. Please meet our team and reach out should you like to talk with a therapist about your challenges.


Written By Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au
Reference: (Nutritionist Lisa Guy – Body & Soul)

Let’s Celebrate Reconciliation Week! Enter our Hills colouring in competition

This week, 27th May – 3rd June is National Reconcilicaton Week, where we celebrate the journey for all Australians.
At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures, and futures.

We would love you and your kids to join in by entering our “Colouring for Reconciliation” colouring in competition.
Click on the colouring in sheet below, then print it off and send back to enter!


colouring for reconciliation hills colouring in competition win

relationship counselling couples therapy hills Bella vista castle hill Norwest
kids children child therapy psychologist hills castle hill parents parenting

Does your child have high expectations at school? How to manage perfectionism.


Does your son or daughter have unrealistic standards & high expectations?
Do they show signs of Perfectionism?
Do they often not feel good enough, or think they should have worked harder?

Perfectionism study high expectations student child parenting stress

Teenagers and young adults studying for their school exams or at university often want everything perfect, and want to perform at their best. They can often feel compelled to achieve or strive for perfection, and when they don’t meet those standards, they think “I should have worked harder” or “I’m such a failure”.
Perfectionistic tendencies and high standards are often seen by this age group, but why would your child want to overcome their perfectionism?


Being a perfectionist can often motivate some students, giving them the drive to do well in their assessments and exams. However sometimes perfectionism can get in the way of actually getting things done. It can lead your child to procrastinate or go over things constantly, leading them to burnout. Is it possible that they may have been succeeding in spite of their high standards, and not because of them.

Being afraid to fail is a common feeling perfectionists experience, and they often tend to base their self-worth off striving for and achieving their high standards. e.g. if I do not do well on an assessment, I’m not good enough. This is like placing all of your eggs in one basket – they’re relying on doing well every time!


How to guide your child towards realistic expectations –

  • A great activity to help with perfectionism you as a parent can guide your child towards, is have them spend some time doing activities or engaging in aspects of their life that are not achievement-related. See if they gradually gain importance in their sense of self-worth.
  • Are the high expectations that they set for themselves realistic and flexible? Remind them that learning implies imperfection and making mistakes. Making a mistake does not equate to being a failure, and it is not a case of them having no standards.
  • Spend some time with your child to set some realistic goals together – change their mindset to have realistic expectations. They are putting so much pressure on themselves, and for what?
  • Help your child focus on doing things well, as opposed to perfectly – experiment with making a mistake and see what the realistic consequences are.
  • Prompt them to be aware of self-critical talk. e.g. “I’m so stupid, I can’t do anything right!”. Practice changing the way they speak to themselves. If it’s not okay to say it to a friend, why is it okay to say to yourself?
  • Guide them to turn the self-critical talk into motivational self-talk. e.g. “I would like to have finished this assignment by now, but I will focus on taking things one step at a time to get closer to completing it”.


Has your son or daughter ever considered the cost of being a perfectionist? The countless hours spent perfecting work, the self-criticism that comes with not meeting their own standards and the enormous stress and pressure they place on themselves to achieve?

If you feel that perfectionism is beginning to interfere with your teenager or young adult’s studies, causing distress and additional pressure, speaking to one of our clinicians may help guide your child in the right direction. 
With the right support, a therapist can help your child effectively gain control over their perfectionism, so they can flourish without the pesky hindrance of perfectionism!






Understanding your Teenager’s Emotions – what’s going on in their brain?


Do you have a teenager who often lashes out, bursts into tears, yells and tells you that you don’t understand them? Have they started an argument over something, and you don’t even know what triggered it?

This is a normal part of adolescence. Watch some great advice from expert Psychologist Senali Panditaratne on how your teenagers’ brain works, and how to better understand and engage with them.


Feeling nervous or unsure about your first appointment? What to expect when you meet with our therapists.

Feeling apprehensive?
Maybe you’re wondering what happens at your first session visiting a Psychologist or one of our therapists?

Remember when you started your first day of high school or your first job. You were unsure of where to go, how to look busy, and whether the people would warm to you. You may also experience these feelings of apprehension and uncertainty when coming along to see one of our therapists for the first time.

What do I have to do?
How will the session unfold?
What will they ask of me?
Will I like my therapist?

These are all valid thoughts as our brains are wired to check in and make sure our needs are met. We hope we can put your mind at ease by opening our doors to assist you in preparing for your first session, and make it feel less daunting.


On Arrival

Once you’ve made your appointment with one of our therapists, you will be asked to come in 15 minutes early. This allows us to show you a quick iPad video about Creating Change, and complete a brief questionnaire and consent form. This is a good time for you to sit, take a breath and familiarise yourself with the practice. We provide a warm welcome and a cup of tea to ease any nerves whilst you wait. Your therapist will then meet with you and take you through to our comfortable appointment rooms. We do have two offices on the same level, so you may get to enjoy a short walk up corridor to our second office with your therapist.


Feel Safe and Re-assured

All our sessions are conducted in a safe and confidential environment. Our highly skilled therapists are passionate about making you feel as relaxed as possible. In the initial appointment, our therapists will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current life situation and the factors that have influenced their development. The key focus is to identify how we will facilitate change for you to create a sense of wellbeing, contentment and connectedness.

The assessment aims to develop a personalised plan to achieve your goals. We understand that talking to someone new about your difficulties in life may provoke anxiety, and so we will aim to put you at ease in your first appointment. If there is a difficult history like childhood trauma, we may take it slow, not going into detail of the traumas but rather focus on developing confidence in your therapist and stabilising your current symptoms.

We will provide you with an estimation of the length of treatment, frequency of sessions and what you will be required to do. 

As treatment is a collaborative process, meaning we will work together, you will be highly involved in the decision making. It is ideal to book in all your future sessions required after the first appointment to ensure you have continuity of treatment.  We don’t want you to miss out on your preferred appointment day and time! Having a regular time that suits your weekly schedule will ensure your personal development remains a priority.


Ensuring you feel open to ask questions

If you have any questions during the session, it is essential you ask them. We are full of information, but we aren’t able read your mind. If you at any time feel uncomfortable, please let us know. Sometimes it takes time to develop a relationship with your therapist. We understand this and encourage you to discuss your experiences with us. If you are keen to make changes sooner rather than later, you can book your second session in within the same week to start the treatment ball rolling.

Remember that changing habits takes time and cannot be done in an hour or two. We are with you for the long haul and look forward to working together on your treatment journey.

therapy room psychologist therapists creating change baulkham hills
Written by Rebecca Deane – Principal Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

We are located in the Bella Vista – Hills District, Sydney, NSW. Please contact us should you require an appointment.

Outbursts, Bad Attitude – The Reason School & Extracurricular Pressure Impacts your Teen

Have you seen changes in your teen’s behaviour – highly strung, lashing out or a bad attitude?
Is your teenager avoiding you, feels the pressure, stressed out – and you don’t know how to manage their reactions?

pressure teenager child sport extracurricular activities stress parenting

Parenting teens is hard work – but I’m sure you’re well aware of that already! Did you know that school work, exams, studying on top of any additional activities outside of school, can all pile up and put a lot of pressure on kids and young adults?

Stop and have a think about your child…how many activities do they do after school? Are they striving to be their best at everything they do?

Teens can often be under an immense amount of pressure, and this pressure may come from their teachers, from their family, or they may also put it on themselves. Teens often are trying to meet the needs of what they think they should be doing. 

An estimated 1.7 million (63%) children participate in at least one organised sport outside of school hours, and creative classes such as dance and music are in addition to this (ABS). That’s a lot of kids doing extracurricular activities!

Signs of Pressure

As a parent, you may see the signs of stress, but are unsure how to deal with the reactions and outbursts from your teen. Common reactions you may see are:

  • Lashing out, yelling and reacting dramatically
  • Withdrawal from family and activities
  • Bad attitude, rudeness and speaking inappropriately

It’s normal as a parent to feel confused and unsure of the reason for these reactions. If a child is under pressure, it will come out at the wrong time. You may ask them to set the table for dinner, and they lash out at you. You’re probably thinking, what’s going on? 

It’s often not that they’ve developed a bad attitude, it’s a misunderstanding of how they’re feeling, and how their brain is functioning. It’s challenging in the moment to take a step back and think about where the lash out may have come from. You may personally get upset or feel like it’s you – but it’s often not.


So, What’s Going on in their Brain?

As teenagers develop so does their brain, albeit at either a faster or slower rate. This disconnect between where the brain is at, and where the body is at (puberty!) causes distress for some teens. There is an expectation for them to start being independent, looking after themselves, and being responsible for their own activities – this put an immense amount of pressure on the teen when they are still trying to figure out their own identity, who they are and what they’re capable of.


When under frequent stress, the brain produces more cortisol than it is able to release. High amounts of cortisol in the brain can inhibit the functioning of your teen’s “thinking brain”. This is the part of the brain responsible for decision making and planning ahead. In low stress, the thinking brain is in charge. Thoughts switch ‘off’ stress. Your teens “emotional brain” kicks in when stress levels are high. 


Your teenagers thinking brain is still developing as they get older, into their 20s. For boys, this area is not fully developed until the age of 26! This is particularly important to understand when we have high expectations of our children to make sensible decisions, and become independent.


How can you help your Teen?

pressure teenager child sport extracurricular activities stress parenting
  • Show compassion and appreciation for the immense pressure that your child may be under.
  • Take some time to learn and understand the ‘attitude’ of your child towards their responsibilities – are they perfectionistic, or do they tend to avoid things?
  • Prioritise what is enjoyable for your teenager. Ask your child if they’re enjoying the activity anymore, or are they just doing it out of comfort? Ask them to name 3 things they really enjoy about it. This opens the lines of communication. Find a balance.
  • Talk to them about self-pressure. If you’re not putting pressure on them, is it coming from within? Ask them why they feel the need to perform at a high level all the time?
  • Teach your teen to study smarter, not harder. Spend less time re-reading notes, and instead use active study and revision to cut down on after hours school work.



It’s important to give your teen the space and downtime they need to unwind from their own pressures, before adding ‘home pressures’ to the long list, e.g. chores, family events. Speak to your teen about introducing a balanced lifestyle as a means to feel more calm, confident, and in control.


How to speak to your Teen

  • Ask more specific questions. Instead of “How is school going?”, ask more specific, supportive questions, e.g. What subjects did you have today, and were you given anything specific to do at home from your teachers? Is there anything you’re not sure of, or that I can help you work through?
  • Schedule once a week to check in with your teen. Speak to them about how that week has been for them. Chunk it down into smaller timeframes.


Written by Provisional Psychologist Rickii Lotsaris – www.creatingchange.net.au

rubber band metaphor for burn out stress pressure in teenagers


Do you prioritise Physical Health over your Mental Health? The Importance of Therapy


We all seem to find it quite easy to go straight to the doctor when we have an injury or feel quite unwell, so why do we not tend to do the same when we are mentally struggling? Therapy and your mental health is just as important. Take a listen to Expert Counsellor Hitika Bhatia on why you should also be prioritising your mental health and seeking therapy support if needed.

Why does one little bad thing ruin my whole day?

Have challenges in your life set you back, and you’re struggling to soldier on?
Do you find when things go wrong or don’t turn out how you’d expect, it’s hard to remain optimistic?

little things ruin my whole day

We all go through challenges in life that may be overwhelming, exhausting and demanding. Life is messy. Sometimes you need that little extra push to get what you want, or to where you want to be. Why then do we often let these small roadblocks in our day-to-day life flatten our mood, ruin our day and create that flow on effect?


Creating your Vision

To perpetually work towards what matters you must visualise, plan, adapt. “It’s not that easy!” you say. It can be a challenge to remain optimistic when things don’t go the way you envisioned, but everything great in life requires a little bit of persistence. There is often a misconception that you’ll only feel good once you have what you want. But the truth is, you can choose to feel good right now. Have a think – how realistic are your expectations? Do small things ruin your day – is it worth it?

Do you feel like you are pretending?

Sometimes believing that you are in a good mindset really isn’t enough – you feel like you’re pretending. Our emotions may be taking us on another journey. By paying direct attention to your emotions, we increase awareness, accept what we feel and can create intentions that will guide you in the direction you want to go. Alternatively, having a negative way of thinking will evidently result in dwelling, procrastination and avoidance.

Think about a time when you’ve purchased a coffee first thing in the morning. If the milk is burnt or the barista forgot your sugar (or it was simply bad coffee!), your reaction can bring a negative vibe. This may carry on and ruin the entire day. For the remainder of your day, you may fixate on why everything is going wrong. It’s probably something you don’t even realise you do, because your routine is fixated into your body as muscle memory, or unconscious behaviors. 


Take Some Time Out

When the pressure from the world gets too much, and you experience a major setback, have some time out. Evidence shows that valuing solitude (time for yourself) doesn’t really hurt your social life, in fact, it might add to it.  Solitude helps you regulate your emotions. It can have a calming effect that prepares us to think more clearly and better engage with others. Taking some time for yourself can also bring clarity, to help you to understand the origins of your emotions and why you react to certain situations. Through changing your awareness and the way you think, act and feel, you could turn around your bad day into only a temporary setback, leading to a much more fulfilling life.


Energy and effort are contagious!

Take some time for you. Surround yourself with people who have similar values and are working hard to stay focused – people who are feeling more positive than you are. When you spend more time with people who add value to your life and elevate your mood, you’ll begin to adopt encouraging thinking patterns.


Written By Tina Nguyen – Counsellor – www.creatingchange.net.au

My child fears social interaction. How to effectively manage their anxiety

Have you ever had your child dig their heels in at a party, and you feel like you’ve got to drag them in? 
Has your daughter had a meltdown the night before her class speech or the school dance?
Is your son too afraid to put their hand up and ask the teacher for help?

social anxiety children anxious parenting advice child psychologist Bella Vista hills

Many parents often describe their children as ‘shy’. Children will often go through a ‘shy or bashful’ phase as a normal part of their development, however when this shyness gets traction it can interfere with their social development. As a parent, this is the time to take notice.


Knowing when your child’s shyness is a phase or a real problem

It can be a challenge to determine whether a child is an introvert by nature or has developed fears around social interactions. Empowering you as a parent to know what to look for and how to effectively manage anxiety will bring back your family’s harmony.


Understanding Social Anxiety in children

Imagine your child telling you how their day was, and hearing they sat on their own at lunchtime, or just wandered around the playground. Enter, mum guilt.

Your child may cling to you when you arrive at a friend’s house, or hit you when you speak firmly to them in front of others. You may be thinking…..why do they react this way?

Firstly, ask your child what is it that they are worrying about? What makes them feel this way.


When socially anxious, children:

  • Will experience an intense fear of being judged negatively by others
  • Exaggerate the severity of the outcome
  • Are scared of the intense feelings of anxiety

Consequently, children will do whatever they can to avoid that anxious feeling.


A parent’s solution to a confident and calm child

  1. Acknowledge their worries – this is important and shows you’re listening
  2. Ask them to describe the physical reaction they have, e.g tummy doing somersaults
  3. Explain to your child that anxiety is a normal emotion everybody feels sometimes
  4. Reassure them of their strengths and their ability to do that task
  5. If the anxiety persists or gets worse, it is essential to intervene early. It can worsen over time, so getting in early is important


Initially, try these steps and persist for a week or two to see if your child starts to adjust. Continue you encourage them as they progress with small steps.

Should you find that your child’s social anxiety is not moving forward, or worsening, it may be time to speak with a therapist to seek some advice. We have a team of Child Psychologists who will meet with both you, the parents, and your child to determine the most effective approach to help you all feel confident and calm. It’s a team effort when it comes to children, and we believe in working together collaboratively with you as a family.


Written by Dr Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist Registrar – www.creatingchange.net.au

When will I find “the one”? Single and Ready to Mingle

Are you single, feeling lonely, and constantly trolling dating apps?
Are you wanting to find someone, but don’t seem to have any luck?

Single man on dating app looking for love

So you’re single. By now, you have already downloaded several dating apps onto your phone, spent hours composing the perfect self-description for your dating profile – be it witty, serious, or straight up. Selected and changed your pictures to ensure you promote your best self, maybe even deleted the apps at some point because they weren’t for you, only to find yourself re-installing them a week later. All whilst sitting alone in front of your TV on a Friday night. Perhaps you’ve also had a couple of texting conversations with a dating interest or been on a few initial dates.


Doubting Yourself

Do you do all of this, but eventually seem to end up back at square one?

No matter what you do or try to do differently from the last time around, you’re back to where you started. Doubt may be setting in. “Did I say something wrong? Was I too harsh?”, “Should I show more interest?”, or “Maybe I should send a follow up text or call.” You start to compare yourself to others who have been successful finding love – “They seem so happy now that they’ve met the love of their life… from another continent…what were the odds?”.

Life can often feel hard, and leave you wondering when your turn will come.


Is there Something Wrong with Me?

You may have started to identify all the things that could be wrong with you. What are you meant to do about them? What would life look like for you if you were to remain stuck in this pattern of frustration, blame and self-doubt?

Many of us seek out romantic relationships because it seems like that’s what we are meant to do, or its seen to be ‘normal’. However, interestingly enough, despite pressures to ‘find the right partner’, 72% of Tinder users have purposely chosen to be single for a time in their life, with 81% of users agreeing that being single had benefits that ran beyond being in a romantic relationship (2019).

If you’ve been using dating apps as your primary source of meeting someone, you’re not alone. Online dating is the second most preferred way to meet a potential partner behind meeting through family and friends. Being single is linked to a greater sense of independence, compared to being in a relationship.


Did you know that 50% of women and 44% of men report being worried they’d lose their independence when entering a relationship (2019)?


So what can I do, you ask?

It may have been months, or years since your search for the perfect partner began and you still haven’t found anyone who’s come close. Getting nowhere in the dating world may be making you feel restless and hopeless. But how can you give up now? You’re at an age where you ‘should’ be settling down. Your high school friends are married, some with kids. Your worst fear is being alone, forever.


Transform the Relationship you have with Yourself

  • Take some time to consider your reasons for finding love – is it what you want, or are you succumbing to the social or cultural pressures that ‘at your age, you should be settling down’?
  • Is finding love taking up a significant amount of your time and energy? Is there something equally valuable you could invest your time into, like catching up with friends, or taking up a new hobby?
  • If you’re feeling stuck, write down some of the perks of being single, and perks of being you! How can you make the most of your life today, as it stands without too much focus on trying to find ‘the one?’


Focus on You

So, rather than waiting for that special someone to magically swoop in and change your life with oodles of sunshine and love, turn the focus towards you and think about how you can make your own life more meaningful with what you already have. Note all of your ideas down.

Now the hard part, make your wonderful ideas into a reality. It will really make you re-evaluate yourself, your life, and help you see that being in a relationship is not necessarily the only answer to being happy. Spend some time on you!


Written By Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

Sticking to a routine in the holidays can make a huge difference

Some simple day to day consistency can go a long way!

keep routine school holidays children

The summer school holidays are often a time where routine and the day to day “norm” can go out the window. Whether you’re staying home for the holidays, or heading away to explore, holidays with kids are about planning for short attention spans and creating ways to keep them occupied, whilst not un-doing all your hard work that you have put in place throughout the year.

Holidays need to be fun and relaxing, however many children benefit from routine. Stick to a couple of basics to help the kids adapt through this period.


Limit computer/screen time

Watching movies, or playing on a tablet are easy ‘go-to’ options to keep the kids busy throughout the holidays. It gives the parents some down time, and the kids are generally happy. Keep in mind to limit how much time they are on a computer or tablet. Playing games, or getting outside is important to ensure they are stimulated in other ways, and to give their brains some ‘rest’ time.


Eat regular, healthy meals

Eating out goes hand in hand with going away on holiday, but try to keep the sugar to a minimum, and keep the kids eating healthy options. Fresh fruit is a great afternoon snack. This will assist when you are heading back to school with healthy lunchbox options.


Stick to consistent meal and bed times

Whether you’re at home, or away, try to stick with the regular times the kids would normally have their meals and snacks. There will of course be days where you’re out with some friends at dinner, and the kids go to bed a little later. However a mostly consistent bed time is important to ensure kids go back to their normal bed time when school returns.


Keep some of the normal day to day repetition

This could simply be getting the kids to still make their bed each morning, or having them clean up one activity before they move onto the next one. These small things are what you may expect from them throughout the year, so keep them going in the holidays, so you can also stay sane!


Whilst kids thrive on routine, it doesn’t have to be the same routine you would normally have throughout the year. However, putting in place some basics and consistency each day will save you the struggle of getting the kids back into a normal school term routine come the end of January. You may need to remind the kids about rules and routines if away on holidays. For example, only go swimming with an adult, always wear sunscreen and a hat outside, or always tell parents where you’re going. They need these reminders constantly. as their brains continue to grow.


Written by Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

Why is my loved one spacing out? They’re not there, and always forgetful.

Do you sometimes feel like your loved one isn’t ‘there’, as if they have difficulty hearing or even seeing you?
Do you witness them sitting at the kitchen table, staring into space for an hour or two? 

Helping-a-loved-one-dissociation

You might be wondering why your loved one does this, and is it normal? It’s called Dissociation.

Dissociation is an umbrella term used to describe the vast spectrum of ways our mind copes with extreme stress and trauma. It is quite common for people to experience mild forms of Dissociation after a stressful or overwhelming day, e.g. having no recollection of driving from A to B, or ‘spacing out’ when watching TV. 

Fight or Flight mode

Consequently, there is a direct relationship between the severity of the dissociation and the trauma that initially necessitated it. Our body has a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response which helps us save ourselves when we feel under physical, social, or emotional threat. However, if an individual is repeatedly forced into terrifying and traumatic situations where they cannot defend or save themselves, the brain resorts to ‘fright’ mode where the body shuts down, the brain disengages and we ‘play dead’. These occurrences typically arise to help the person cope with more severe forms of trauma, during which their capacity to cope is overloaded. Supporting research and brain scans show an absence of brain activity during dissociative episodes. 


Being Forgetful

Your loved one may report genuinely having no recollection of conversations you’ve had, or not remembering meeting certain people or completing activities. It’s can be as if they are two people. This could be signs that your loved one is dissociating, and you may be wondering what to do, and how can you help them? Let’s start by helping you understand Dissociation a little more.


Understanding Dissociation

  1. Depersonalisation – such as out of body experiences, prolonged disconnection from the present moment
  2. Derealisation – such as feeling like one’s body, life, or experience isn’t real, or ‘like a dream’
  3. Dissociative Amnesia – includes forgetting events that occurred in order to avoid memories of physical or emotional pain

The most severe form of dissociation is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously Multiple Personality Disorder). This is where the severity and frequency of the experienced trauma is so extreme, that the only survival mechanism left is to pretend the abuse is happening to someone else (i.e. by creating an alternate entity within the person). 


It is important to understand that Dissociation is an adaptive and necessary coping mechanism that continues to occur in the absence of a current threat. If anyone was placed in a similar traumatic situation, they would also experience similar dissociative symptoms. It is not an indication of weakness, it is a testament to what your loved one has been through and how they have developed an effective coping mechanism to survive.


Tips for Helping Loved Ones

  • Try letting them know you are with them, (even if you believe they cannot hear you) and they are safe, gently and calmly commentate to them about things that are happening in that moment, e.g. I can see a bird sitting on the tree out there. Can you hear it chirping? I can hear the clock ticking. It is almost 5pm, I’ll be making dinner soon. Can you feel the carpet? It feels soft and cozy, I could almost fall asleep, etc).
  • Touch their hand but be mindful this could create a reaction.
  • Bring a blanket, pillow, and a drink to your loved one, and gently let them know these things are there if they would like it.


If you suspect your loved one experiences dissociative episodes, it is important to speak with them about it once they have returned to their usual selves. Ask them how you could best help them during an episode.


If the symptoms appear to increase in severity or frequency, and you know they experienced childhood trauma or abuse, it would be helpful to gently encourage them to see a professional. Offer to attend the session with them if they would like your support. Psychological treatment will help them recognise and understand what triggers their Dissociation, provide a safe environment to emotionally process past traumas, and learn alternative coping skills when feeling distressed or overwhelmed. 


Written By Clinical Psychologist Dr Bianca Heng – www.creatingchange.net.au

Why do I stare into space and forget important things?

Have you ever found yourself sitting at the kitchen table, staring into space not for a minute or two as many do, but realise it has actually been an hour or two?
Do you often ‘lose time’ and can’t remember what you did during that time?

Dissociation Woman spaced out

Mary dropped off the kids at school and the next thing she is aware of is being across the other side of the city, with a bag of items next to her in the car. She did not recall driving or shopping for the items and isn’t really sure why she is where she is. Can you relate to this? Do you stare into space?

You might be wondering, why do I do this, and is it normal? It’s called Dissociation.

Dissociation is an umbrella term used to describe the vast spectrum of ways our mind copes with extreme stress and trauma. It is quite common for people to experience mild forms of Dissociation after a stressful or overwhelming day, e.g. having no recollection of driving from A to B, or ‘spacing out’ when watching TV.


Consequently, there is a direct relationship between the severity of the dissociation and the trauma that initially necessitated it. Our body has a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response which helps us save ourselves when we feel under physical, social, or emotional threat. However, if an individual is repeatedly forced into terrifying and traumatic situations where they cannot defend or save themselves, the brain resorts to ‘fright’ mode where the body shuts down, the brain disengages and we ‘play dead’. These occurrences typically arise to help the person cope with more severe forms of trauma, during which your capacity to cope is overloaded. Supportive research and brain scans show an absence of brain activity during dissociative episodes.


You may be wondering what to do? Let’s start by helping you understand Dissociation a little more.


Understanding Dissociation

  1. Depersonalisation – such as out of body experiences, prolonged disconnection from the present moment
  2. Derealisation – such as feeling like one’s body, life, or experience isn’t real, or ‘like a dream’
  3. Dissociative Amnesia – includes forgetting events that occurred in order to avoid memories of physical or emotional pain


The most severe form of dissociation is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously Multiple Personality Disorder). This is where the severity and frequency of the experienced trauma is so extreme, that the only survival mechanism left is to pretend the abuse is happening to someone else (i.e. by creating an alternate entity within the person).


It is important to understand that Dissociation is an adaptive and necessary learnt coping mechanism that continues to occur in the absence of a current threat until taught to manage in another way. If anyone was placed in a similar traumatic situation, they would also experience similar dissociative symptoms. It is not an indication of weakness, and in fact the presence of Dissociation is a testament to what you have been through and that you have developed an effective coping mechanism to survive.


Tips to Manage Dissociation

  • Focus on your senses, to ground yourself in the present moment, e.g. identify 5 things you can see; 4 things you can hear; 3 things you can feel; 2 things you can smell; 1 thing you can taste.
  • You may need more intense sensory experiences to help you, e.g. holding ice, sitting on your hands, listening to loud music, etc. Any other activities that help you feel relaxed, may also be helpful such as listening to music/sounds, or going to the beach to watch the waves.


If you feel that your Dissociation is increasing in severity or frequency, and you have experienced childhood trauma or abuse, it is important to see a professional. Psychological treatment will help you recognise and understand what triggers your dissociation, provide a safe environment to emotionally understand and process past traumas if required, and learn alternative coping skills when feeling distressed or overwhelmed.

Written By Dr Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

How to handle your teenager’s messy bedroom

Our very own Clinical Psychologist Dr Bianca Heng recently wrote an article published in New Idea Magazine, on ‘How to handle your teenager’s messy bedroom’ – something I’m sure many parents are battling!!

Read the full article in detail by clicking on the article image below… 


handle teenager's messy bedroom article expert advice new idea magazine

Written by Dr Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

How to reconnect with my tween or teenager

Are you a parent, feeling lost as to why you’re not as close with your child anymore?
Has your child grown more distant as they get older, and you don’t know how to reconnect?


parenting teenagers reconnect

It can be so hard as a parent, to see you little boy or girl change so much as they develop into a tween then teenager. You may be feeling frustrated, hurt and upset, and may fear or worry that the connection you once shared is broken. These feelings in turn may prompt you to yell or react without meaning to. Feelings of guilt or being upset with yourself later are normal reactions from parents, so don’t worry – you’re not alone here!


Do any of these statements or feelings sound familiar?

  • “You’ll never understand!”, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
  • Feeling disconnected from your teen like you don’t even know them anymore?
  • Miss the relationship and connection you had in the past with your child?
  • Does your teen ignore you or dismiss your attempts to speak with them?



Like you, many parents are wondering, “How can I fix this?”

Understanding the basis of connection and the steps you can take to reconnect with your child is crucial. This will then enable you to facilitate the close and respectful relationship you want to have with your child in the future.



Steps to reconnect with your child –

1. Firstly, it’s important to embody a calm, open-minded and curious approach.

2. Emotion Coaching – notice the emotion your teen is expressing; validate how they feel (even if you disagree); encourage them to speak about how they feel; and take the time to understand their perspective. Once you have an understanding, invite your child to engage in collaborative problem-solving with you (and any other carers/parents). Work together as a TEAM.

3. Collaborative Problem Solving – Choose an issue or something you disagree on. Together, write down and brainstorm all possible solutions (irrespective of their practicality). Go through the list and identify all possible options that you and your child will agree to. Together choose which option/s you wish to try first, then talk through any concerns they may have. Develop a plan to address these concerns and discuss appropriate rewards or consequences if the plan is/is not followed.

4. Help them Develop their Thinking Brain – In situations where a resolution cannot be found through collaborative problem-solving, and if you feel your child’s safety is not likely to be at risk, you are encouraged to work with your teen to talk through a pros and cons list, and to support them through developing a plan (and back-up plans). This process is more effective than saying ‘no’ or stopping your teen outright, as it assists them to develop problem-solving skills and learn how to make safe and helpful decisions on their own (with your guidance).

5. Teach your Child the skills they need (through modelling) for when they move out of home. You won’t always be there to tell them what to do. For your own piece of mind, take steps now to teach them how to understand their own emotions, learn how to problem-solve, make decisions, and think things through properly. This ensures they are best prepared for adulthood, independence, and developing empathy for others.


Be Kind to Yourself.

Be patient and give yourself time. Emotion coaching can take some getting used to, and it can take a while for trust and connection to be rebuilt. Be gentle, stay calm, and take it one step at a time. Keep persisting and be consistent; it will pay off (and your child will appreciate your commitment).


It’s important to make sure you ask your child for their opinion or ideas first, before providing your own. Remind yourself that you’re on the same team as your child. You are both equal members of the team, especially during collaborative problem-solving.


As parents, we can often easily be judgmental or critical – be aware of this. All ideas (no matter how ridiculous) are welcomed. One of the goals of collaborative problem-solving is to help your teen discover for themselves why some ideas are better than others. Remember, when it comes to emotions there are no right or wrong answers. Try to understand your teen’s perspective and be curious about their world.


Teens who feel understood, respected, and emotionally safe with a parent will seek them out for the rest of their lives.


Challenge yourself, and implement these steps with your child and family, and see where it leads you. You may be surprised. If you have any difficulties or get stuck along the way, or if you or your teen experience mental health difficulties and want to learn how to reconnect, please reach out to our team at Creating Change.


To read more about emotion coaching and collaborative problem-solving, we can recommend the following books for parents who wish to learn more:



Written By Clinical Psychologist Dr Bianca Heng – www.creatingchange.net.au

The best thing to do during COVID – Prevent burn out & take a break

women burn out exhausted working take a break holiday

COVID has had a huge impact on everyone this year. Whilst some of us are not working, others are working harder than ever, and trying to catch up or build up their business again.

Have you taken a moment to breathe, and think of your own health?

When was the last time you had a real break, or a holiday?


Ensuring you take some time off is important and is likely to benefit your productivity and also your career long term. Burnout is apparent when you see signs of exhaustion, lower job effectiveness, and generally having a negative attitude about work. This is all due to the pandemic introducing so many additional stressors in our life, making it easy to feel overwhelmed. Taking a vacation has been linked to job productivity, and in one company report, it also has shown an increased likelihood of positive reviews, bonuses, and pay raises.


You may find:

  1. Employees or those you work with are navigating a ton of change and disruption to how they work. Adapting to any new environment saps their mental energy.
  2. You’re relying on technology like never before, leaning on video conferencing to connect with colleagues and loved ones alike, which can feel less fulfilling than in-person contact.
  3. It can be easy to fall deep into work right now – we are innovating, creating new solutions for new obstacles.
  4. Work is also one of the few things in our control during the COVID pandemic, so putting energy into something that will show results is rewarding. It gives a sense of normalcy and incentivises us to show our value to the business we work for.


When comparing the two, if you’re experiencing burn out, you’re most likely to be:

  • 5 times less likely to share ideas with management
  • 3 times morelikely to feel micromanaged
  • 4 times morelikely to feel like a cog rather than a person
  • 3 times morelikely to think managers play favourites
  • 2 times lesslikely to say that their workplace is a great place to work


So, do you successfully manage workplace stress or are you experiencing burnout?

Why should you take a break from work?

  • We want you to prevent burnout. It’s important to look after your mental & physical health
  • Plan local breaks away to have a change of scenery and routine
  • Long weekends are good to get jobs done that have been lingering and bothering you
  • Take periodic days off to learn something new, try a new activity or hobby, e.g. a horse riding lesson, learn to play guitar, etc.
  • It’s a good time to establish a new health regime, e.g. attend a workshop or self-development course like meditation, or try a new form of exercise like swimming or hiking.
  • Take some time indulge yourself, e.g. you may upgrade your bedding, have a sleep in, stay overnight somewhere and get room service, set up your own in-home beauty treatment – set the scene by lighting a candle, and put on some relaxing music.


One important thing to remember, is if you’re wanting to persist working, and take a break ‘later on’, after restrictions ease, everyone in your workplace may be asking for time off all at once! You may find yourself in a queue for leave, and not be able to take some for a while. Why not take it now?  Book in your Christmas leave, it’s a great time to take advantage of those public holidays!


Burnout can really lead to a roll on effect and continue to decline your mental health and wellbeing, so really consider whether pushing yourself is worth the outcome.


Written by Rebecca Deane – Director & Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

I’ve lost my job! How to cope with Redundancy & Job Loss

We spend a lot of our lifetime at work. So, what do you do if you’ve lost your job unexpectedly? How do you cope?

coping with job loss redundancy

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for many businesses, individuals and families with COVID-19. Companies struggling to meet targets, bring in customers, with many having to close temporarily, or downsize so they can stay afloat. But I’m sure for you, the focus is on you. What do you do now? Where do you start with job loss?

Becoming unemployed suddenly can have an array of effects on your life – emotionally you may be feeling upset, sad, angry, at a loss. But there’s also the financial aspect, and stress to find another job in these uncertain times. It can leave you with many questions to answer, and you may not quite know your intended direction.


Take a moment to think –

Do you know what type of job you want to work in next?
What if you haven’t had to look for a job in such a long time, your resume isn’t up to date, and you don’t know where to start?

It is very common for you to feel a loss of confidence and identity after a job loss, particularly if it’s not something you were planning on.


How do you cope with your job loss?

– Try not to worry – it’s normal to feel loss and grief which can result in experiencing a range of feelings from disbelief, denial, anger, irritability, sadness, and fear

–  Consider the way you are thinking. What are you saying to yourself about the situation? Do you need some advice and support to challenge this and depersonalise some thoughts?

– Remember, it’s not you who has been made redundant rather the role you worked in

– Get practical help in job seeking skills such as resume development

– Think about asking for some additional support to assist you through the transition stage, to move towards managing and accepting the change in a more helpful way

– Don’t let the basics fly out of the window. Try to keep a good routine of sleep, eating regularly and exercising, even if you don’t feel like it at the time

– Talk about your feelings. Talk to those close to you whom you trust, rather than withdrawing and isolating yourself

– Take time to breathe or learn to meditate – it can make all the difference in how you feel going into interviews

– Don’t rush big decisions – there is a fine line between doing nothing and rushing into making decisions, just so you feel like you are doing something.


Once you start the new application process, you want to be at your best and feel confident and fresh to take on interviews. It’s common to feel pressure to accept the first job offer to return to work. However, ensure sustainable decisions are made where possible, to make sure you enjoy your new position, and it’s right for you and your family in the long term.


If you feel you could use some additional support and direction through this new transition in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out and speak to one of our team. Sometimes some guidance to give you new direction and meaning can make a big difference.



Written by Rebecca Deane – Principal Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

My Teenager is Lazy! How to get your Teen to do Homework & Chores

Do you have an unmotivated teenager, who won’t do anything you ask?
Are they resistant to doing their chores, and have difficulty completing tasks?

lazy teenager won't do homework chores

It’s typical for a teenager to get labelled as ‘lazy’ and unmotivated. You may feel that they fail to appreciate and care for the home environment you’ve created. But I want you to pause and think for a moment…is this fair?

In other words, is your teen intentionally resisting completing their tasks, or are their other possible factors limiting their ability or competence? This is something to really think about as a parent.


As parents, you want to bring up your children with good values. Often these values include qualities such as diligence, organisation, care for others and demonstrating a good work ethic. And though you strive to instill these values in your teen, it is rare that a teen is able to initiate the completion of household and homework tasks independently.


So what am I doing wrong, you ask?

It is only fair that you have reasonable and realistic expectations of your teenager, and to do this we need to understand how their (and our own) brain works. As humans, we all have a limbic part of our brain, which manages our impulses and emotions – let’s call this the ‘emotional brain’.


Now, we also all have a pre-frontal cortex, which helps us to problem-solve, make mature and sensible decisions, and consider the consequences of our actions – we can call this our ‘thinking brain’.


However, the difference between your teenager’s brain and your own adult brain, is that their ‘thinking brain’ is not yet fully developed. In fact, a child’s pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed until they are around 25 years old. So, as an adult, both your thinking and emotional brain are well balanced.


But for a teenager, their emotional brain is much stronger than their thinking brain, which might mean they –

  • Make more irrational, impulsive, immediate or emotional decisions (such as playing games or going on their phone instead of doing their homework)
  • Have difficulty initiating helpful, productive and thoughtful behaviours (such as helping set the table, despite being asked numerous times)


Essentially, their emotions are directing their behaviours. This means that we as the adult have to be their ‘thinking brain’ until they are 25. But how do you do this?



Be your teenager’s ‘thinking brain’ by –

  1. Talking through decisions together – ask about possible courses of action and then talk through potential consequences of each. Highlight the pros and cons of each with them, and together decide on an appropriate course of action. Overtime encourage your teen to complete these steps independently.
  2. Having set tasks or even a timetable for them – as your teens ‘thinking brain’ works less effectively, they rely heavily on routine. e.g. every day they complete their homework before dinner, and wash the dishes after. This structure means their behaviour becomes habitual, thus developing connections between the ‘emotional’ and their ‘thinking brain’.
  3. Offering clear, frequent and direct praise for desired behaviours – this helps to reinforce appropriate neural pathways in your teen’s brain, making the behaviour more likely to repeat in the future. Teens respond much better with reward (e.g. praise) rather than punishment.
  4. Explaining to them how their brain works – this will help them become more aware of when they use their ‘emotional brain’, and when using their ‘thinking brain’ is more helpful.


These steps will assist your teen to complete their tasks, in turn making your home environment a much calmer and pleasant place!


If despite your best efforts to assist your teenager, and their behaviour has still not improved, additional support and strategies from a professional would be beneficial. An adolescent psychologist can motivate your teen’s behavioural change and offer parents support and management strategies. Some teens who present with symptoms such as lacking motivation, ‘lazy’ or being lethargic, may be indicative of more significant challenges. In this case, a consultation with an adolescent psychologist such as Jennifer Hawken is appropriate. 



Written by Jennifer Hawken – Adolescent Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

What you must know about OCD and Perfectionism

Do you often refer to being fussy, or your ‘high standards’ as OCD?
Have you ever wondered if you have OCD, or is it just your expectations?


ocd perfectionism the difference cleaning obsessed

You might be the sort of person that likes everything really clean or in a particular order, or your work needs to be done to a certain standard. You may even find yourself not being able to function properly or leave the house until a chore is done the right way, and laugh about it with your friends, “Oh I’m so OCD”. It is not uncommon for people to confuse being “perfectionistic” or having high standards with having OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).



So how can you distinguish OCD from Perfectionism?


The two are often intertwined. People who are perfectionistic may have OCD. Equally so, many people with OCD have a need for perfection and certainty in situations.

Perfectionists have high standards that can often be unrealistic and inflexible. e.g. you should never make a mistake. You probably don’t even recognise and admit that your standards are too high, and you believe that you should just work harder.


Does this sound familiar?


To be able to tell the difference, take a moment to ponder – do you think anything bad would happen if you did not do something? For example, do you clean because you like your house to be spotless (a high standard), or do you clean excessively because you are plagued by thoughts that there may be germs on surfaces and either you or child may get sick and become seriously ill (more likely to be OCD)?


Do you check and recheck your work to ensure that it is done to your standard, or because you are experiencing overwhelming doubt that you accidentally wrote an offensive word in your work?


OCD actions are more of an obsession – it may be intrusive or repetitive thoughts, images or urges that are distressing, contamination concerns, unwanted sexual or religious thoughts, or images and fears of harming yourself or others. It’s overwhelming doubt whether you have done something, e.g. locked the front door or turned the oven off and then a perception of dire consequences resulting such as my house will burn down or I will hurt my children.


Those living with OCD often engage in compulsions or repetitive behaviours/rituals, e.g. over checking things, excessive washing (hands 10x in one go), ordering or aligning items precisely, tapping or touching objects, constantly counting, praying or saying a protective phrase. These repetitive actions are to reduce your anxiety as you believe they will prevent something bad from happening. You have a perceived level of control over the outcome.


Things to monitor about your behaviours:

  • Your thinking (e.g. expectations, standards or obsessions)
  • The types of situations in which such thoughts arise
  • How you feel in response to your thoughts
  • Your assessment or interpretation of your thoughts, e.g. what does this thought say about you? (you are a bad or dangerous person).


If you’re unsure as to whether you have OCD or are perfectionistic, why not complete our OCD checklist?


If you find that your OCD is causing you distress day-to-day, or your perfectionism is beginning to interfere with your life, now is the time to make a change and reach out for support. You want to ensure you are spending your time doing activities that are meaningful to you.


Written by Clinical Psychologist Chantelle Martyn – www.creatingchange.net.au

Social media makes me feel lonely. Why does it have this impact?

social media loneliness lonely isolation sadness


You are most likely finding yourself sitting on your phone most nights each week, browsing through other people’s social media news feeds, checking what your closest friends are up to, and what their friends are up to, and their friends’ friends, and so on. It’s scrolling through other people’s photos that you may see happiness, adventure, family, maybe an old love interest.

Suddenly this heavy feeling overwhelms you, your heart drops down to your stomach, and you feel a profound sense of despair. You’ve been hunched over your phone all night and realise you’re all alone. You haven’t caught up with anyone for weeks. You don’t feel happy like your friends seem in their photos. You feel totally isolated.


Real world interactions seem challenging at a time like this, where COVID-19 is really pushing us all to interact less, and rely more on connection through online avenues, especially social media. But have you really thought what will come from being online so much more, and engaging with people face to face less?


The result is less engagement, less connection, with the outcome being quite isolating.


Even before COVID-19 hit, social media use has replaced much of our real-world interactions. Being on social media gets in the way of the opportunity to fully engage with others, maintain fulfilling relationships, and feel a true sense of belonging. Research has shown that people who spend more than 2 hours each day on social media are twice as likely to feel socially isolated than those who spent 30 minutes or less per day**.


Loneliness is ever increasing in Australia*. So what are the effects on your health?

  • Low-self esteem
  • Reduced Life Satisfaction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reduced quality in relationships
  • Decline in your overall wellbeing


How to stay connected without using social media –

  • Focus on quality over quantity – try building more meaningful relationships with people you already know, e.g. acquaintances, work colleagues, members of your sporting team, or family friends. Use Facetime as a way to connect remotely.
  • Check in with someone already in your contacts list by sending a personal message. Ask how they are and what they have been up to. Aim to make a plan to catch up in person, as you can still do this with social distancing.
  • Reduce your time on social media by engaging in a recreational activity or picking up a new hobby. Not only will you potentially meet like-minded people, but this will help build your confidence in starting conversations, talking about yourself, sharing information, and finding common interests.
  • Be curious – get to know people around you by asking them questions, and discovering their interest areas. This may take the pressure off you to say all the right things, or keep the conversation going.
  • Don’t give up! If someone you’ve reached out too seems unresponsive or uninterested, try again later.
  • Once you have made a close friend or two, be persistent by continuing to give the friendship your time and attention, ensuring that you make the effort to get out and see them in person.


Reflection

Reflect on the efforts you’ve made in the past, and what might have been helpful or unhelpful. Did you give up too soon? Or were your expectations too high? Consider what qualities you are looking for in others, and try make connections based on these valued traits.


Written by Rebecca Deane – Principal Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au
*Lifeline
**Primack and colleagues

How do I stop crying? Surfing the emotional waves of grief


Are you going through a period of grief, maybe lost someone close to you? 
Are you struggling with managing your emotions and coping day to day?

emotions grief loss sadness crying can't cope

Sandra was devastated hearing the news that her brother unexpectedly passed away, leaving children behind. She initially tried to cope with the overwhelming grief by staying busy: cleaning the house multiple times, working extra hours, browsing through her phone to distract her, and avoided talking to people close to her brother. At first, she believed she was coping okay, and in fairness for the first 2 to 3 weeks, a lot of people behave this way until ‘reality’ sets in.

After a couple of weeks, Sandra suddenly would burst into tears at home or at work, seemingly out of her control. She was wondering why she was so emotional all of a sudden and really wanted the crying to stop.


If you’re grieving over someone lost, it will feel overwhelming and consuming! It can really take over your life at times. But don’t be alarmed – the way you grieve is unique to you and different to how others grieve. And that’s ok. Don’t feel like you need to grieve in a certain way.


Embrace your grief!

The intensity you feel, how long it lasts, and your core emotions involved will vary. Acceptance is a process, It’s not only learning to accept what has happened, but also accepting how grief is affecting you day to day, focusing on how you feel in that particular moment. Don’t fight or try to avoid your emotions.

You may have thought to yourself, “Is my experience of grief normal?”, or “I can’t seem to stop crying, or function at work. What do I do?”


Grief is an Emotional Rollercoaster

Sadness drives our feelings of grief, however feelings of anger (i.e. “This is unfair”) and fear or panic are also normal. Believe it or not, we actually NEED these other emotions to process change in our life.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, ride the emotional waves, and try your best to keep to your normal daily routine (e.g. eating, sleeping, and regular social contact). The natural grief process needs to be at your own pace and in your own time. Embrace the pain – it’s a reflection of how much that person, pet, or support person you lost, meant to you.


Coping at Work or in Public

If your feelings overcome you at an inappropriate time (e.g. when at work, during a meeting, when shopping, etc.), stop for a moment, and acknowledge that these feelings are present. Internally say to yourself, “I will think about that thought or feeling when I get home. I need to focus on something else right now.”


Expert Advice on Moving through Grief

  1. Practice some grounding techniques to bring you to the present moment – e.g. identify 5 things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel, to bring yourself back to the present moment and shift your thoughts.
  2. Ensure you do acknowledge those feelings of sadness later that day, teaching yourself when is a good time to listen and process those thoughts. Take a moment to write down your feelings and sit with the grief. Have a cry, it’s okay to do this.
  3. Ensure you talk about your grief with loved ones and have a cry together if you’ve lost someone close to you. It’s important for them to see you’re sad too, so they know it’s okay to cry themselves.


If you find yourself struggling with grief or loss or are feeling excessive guilt and are ‘beating yourself up’ or blaming yourself for someone’s loss, reaching out for additional support may be helpful.


Written by Dr Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

I’m in pain everyday! How to manage severe pain & keep going

Do you experience high levels of pain? Has it been persisting for months or maybe years?
Do you feel like just stopping, with the pain crippling you daily?

chronic pain severe achs manage tips advice

Chronic Pain can only be understood if you’re living it. Simple movements in your day-to-day life, such as sitting and standing, feel unbearable. Your sleep is disrupted, you feel less energetic.

Does this sound like you?

Ensuring you get on top of managing your chronic pain is really important, as it can also have a significant impact on your family too. Roll on effects such as a reduction in your earnings if you stop work, can lead to financial pressures and friction. It can also disrupt your relationships due to increased conflict or feeling poorly understood. Severe cases also experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. You don’t want this to be you…..so what can you do?


So how do you keep going when the pain tells you to stop?

You may have heard some people resorting to medical and surgical interventions. Whilst they can be effective, depending on your situation they aren’t always an option. Other options such as medication will only offer short-term relief, and can come with a list of side effects.

Expert research has consistently shown that taking an active approach to managing your chronic pain will give you the greatest gains. Professional support from an expert will teach you the techniques you need to manage the pain and its flow on effects.

It’s probably obvious to you that your chronic pain has lead to a reduction in your activity levels. Maybe you can no longer play with your kids for as long, or you can’t do all the housework in an afternoon. You might find due to the pain that you do fewer enjoyable activities and don’t try new things.


Good Days vs. Bad Days – the Vicious Cycle

You may find yourself going through cycles. You can get caught in a cycle of “good days” where you might push yourself, and bad days where the pain is too great to do anything. But as you push yourself to do too much on a good day, you put a lot of strain on your body as your fitness levels are not what they used to be. Similarly on a bad day, you feel the need to rest more, so your body becomes “deconditioned” with stiffer joints and weaker muscles present. The next time you go to do an activity, you’re more likely to exacerbate the pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.


Pacing Yourself

Pacing yourself is the best way to manage your chronic pain. By pacing your activities, you will:

  • Increase the amount of activity you can do over time
  • Spend less time needing to rest
  • Pain will not dictate your activity or control you – you will control you!


How to Pace Yourself

  • Work out what your body tolerance is. e.g. either time yourself or work out how many times you can do something before you reach your limit.
  • Each time you do that activity, gradually increase the amount you do at a steady rate.
  • Break up tasks into smaller more manageable parts.
  • As you progress, reward yourself with a little something.
  • If you’re taking medication, speak with your doctor about the frequency and effectiveness
  • Take small breaks, or change your activity regularly.

Ensure you stop and think when pacing yourself. Over-doing an activity on a “good pain day” is not good for you, and remember to not take on large tasks all at once. Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t have too high expectations of what your body can tolerate. Reach out to a professional if you need some support or guidance – sometimes you just need to be given the tools to learn to self-manage the pain in the future.


Written by Rebecca Deane – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au

Exam Stress & Anxiety battle. How to support your child


Do you have a teenager at home going through the HSC or senior exams this year? Or maybe a young adult studying at College?

exam stress studying teenager anxiety uni student child parenting

Teenagers of today are under so much pressure to ‘be the best’, and ‘work hard to get results’. Pressure from teachers, society, and sometimes parents or family members can be overwhelming, and exam stress is growing.

The adolescents of today will become part of one of the most educated generations in Australia’s history. While we hope that helpful, consistent messages are being sent to our young people, such as “Your best is good enough” and “The HSC is not the sole key to your future success,” we know that cultural, parental, educational, and individual factors can significantly influence the way a student thinks and feels about their exams.



A small amount of exam stress or anxiety is sometimes helpful, and may provide your child with the motivation and energy needed to prepare and study for their exams. It’s when this anxiety morphs into excessive worry, insomnia, poor concentration, or ongoing procrastination, then the anxiety becomes unhelpful and a concern. You may find that your child continues to have thoughts of worry, or experience high levels of stress, impacting on their ability to study.



So what are the most common forms of distress, and how do you as a parent help manage them?


1.       Physical Symptoms – Such as nausea, racing heart, sweating, shaking. These arise due to the body’s fear response, creating a ‘fight or flight’ feeling. Engaging in calming activities (e.g. walking, listening to music) and thinking helpful thoughts can help alleviate these symptoms.


2.       Worry Thoughts – Such as “What if I fail” “What if I forget everything?”. These thoughts can make study seem overwhelming or impossible, leading to procrastination. Students should revise their study plan into smaller tasks, focusing on the present moment and not listen to worry. This will turn the thinking brain back on.


3.       Negative self-beliefs – Such as “I can’t do this”, “I am stupid; my friends are smarter than me”. These thoughts often stem from past experiences or feeling down, and are incredibly unhelpful. Support from family, friends, or a professional is very important if a student finds themselves caught up in this cycle.


How to help your child through their exam stress


For most students, excessive study or exam stress can be prevented with the support of family, and implementing some simple, effective tactics:


1.       Eat healthy snacks and stay hydrated –  Our brain uses a lot of energy when studying, so it is important to have healthy snacks available to munch on and water for hydration. Research indicates that the average brain can study effectively for approximately 45 minutes at a time.

2.       Continue Social and Physical Activities – As much as possible, students social and physical activities should continue during exam periods, as this gives their brain a break from study.

3.       Create a study plan: Creating a study plan that incorporates at least a 5 minute break in between study periods is ideal. When uncertain, anxiety can take over a young adults life. Creating a comprehensive study plan can help ease worry thoughts, such as “What if I don’t have enough time to get through each subject?”


Tips for parents to assist in creating a study plan:

          Break down each unit into topics, allocating time to each one
          Make summary notes
          Read and listen to each summary, creating mind maps, writing practice questions to test yourself later, and discussing concepts with your peers or family may be included in your study plan
          Include regular breaks and meal times


4.       Helpful thoughts: It can be helpful for your child to write down a few helpful, realistic thoughts and place these on their desk as prompts to remind their brain to be supportive during this time. Whilst motivational statements work well for some teens, others benefit from thinking realistically in terms of the ‘most likely’ scenario and developing a back-up plan in the event that things don’t go well.


It’s important as parents to understand that your teenager or young adult’s brain isn’t yet fully developed, and therefore they still require assistance and guidance from you through these exam stress periods. Open communication is essential, and if you are the one ensuring they take the breaks they need, this can ease pressure for them.


If your son, daughter, or a loved one requires some help with strategies or support in managing their study or exam stress, it’s okay to reach out for professional support. An expert in this area can really help you and your child manage these feelings and learn ways to manage them so you can move forward through your exams with more ease.


3 Successful ways to keep your Teens Video Gaming Under Control


Is your teenager video gaming & playing online non-stop since being in isolation? Do you wish they would go outside, ride their bike, play a game or use their imagination?


Are they unable to explore their usual activities & interests due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Isolation due to COVID-19 equals lots of spare time! Lots of time for teens to be video gaming and play online with friends. Have a think, how much are they really playing, now that they’re home so much?

You’re probably hearing from your teen, “There’s nothing else for me to do other than play video games”, or “I’m playing games with my friends; it’s the only way for us to hang out now.” As a parent, you can probably feel that it is a bit too much, even though you know they’re happy playing and interacting with their friends. But, if you’re finding that’s ALL they’re doing, and they’re not doing their chores, home schoolwork or having conversations with family, it’s normal to feel concerned. Don’t worry, we feel your pain!

You might be thinking, what can I do?

There are ways you can guide your teen to balance their time video gaming or on technology with their responsibilities and alternative activities.

1. Validation

Sit down with your teen and validate the benefits they gain from playing online games or social media. COVID-19 is a difficult time for many, so explain that you are happy for them that they have a way to stay in touch with their friends. It’s important for your teen to realise that you wholeheartedly understand the benefits and that you want them to continue playing to have fun and communicate with their friends.


2. Have a Conversation about Balance

Calmly speak with your teen about using this time at home to think about developing a new hobby or interest, that they can do individually, with siblings, or with their friends. For example, pairing up with a ‘school buddy’ to check-in with one another’s progress with homework & schoolwork, and make sure they’re on track. It’s also helpful for teens to feel they can vent to their friends or receive support from one another around these activities.


Some ideas you can talk over with your teen:

  • Friends can challenge each other to share something new they discovered each day with their friends. E.g. a new song, book, app, TV show or game they discovered.
  • Friends who may be interested in sports could watch certain games on YouTube, then discuss it.
  • Friends who play instruments can try playing together via Facetime or discuss new music they could potentially play together.
  • Friends can set up daily challenges for one another, for example in the area of drawing, writing, film, boardgames, cards, puzzles, Lego, photography, or learning a musical instrument or a few words from a new language.


3. Encouragement

Encourage and praise your teen for any attempts they make to try something different or new. It’s important to remember, no idea is a bad idea, but some might be more plausible than others. At home, we encourage you to keep a routine, create opportunities for quality time as a family, incorporate fun or friendly competition into daily chores to add variety into the family routine. Make sure to write down any promising ideas on a piece of paper that can be kept in view of your teen as a reminder. You can even put this on the fridge! Then if your teen feels bored, challenge them to choose an activity from their list rather than resorting to gaming first.

Afterwards, ask them about their new activity and how it went for them.


Parenting teens is tough at the best of times, and now with isolation, the challenges are ten-fold. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and brainstorm ideas as a family too.


If you feel you or you or your teen would benefit from some support during this difficult time, reaching out for professional support is a step in the right direction. Our expert online gaming & technology Clinical Psychologist Dr Bianca Heng, is available to meet with you, face-to-face, over the phone or through video conferencing. She is a gamer herself, so can relate well to the video gaming world.



Written by Dr Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au