Anxiety disorders are common, chronic mental disorders, with one in seven adults suffering from an anxiety disorder in any year. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the most prevalent anxiety disorder, followed by Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) then Panic/Agoraphobia. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists […]
We generally don’t wake up, one day to the next, feeling burnt out. Burn out is a gradual, insidious process. We often miss the somewhat vague warning signs, putting these down to feeling tired or just having “one of those weeks”. It’s often not until we’ve fully hit burn out station, or we have it pointed out to us by partners, family, friends or colleagues, that we recognise how depleted we are.
At a societal level, there is increasing pressure to do more and work harder, both at work and at home. We work harder and do more, and in the end lose touch with what happening for us, how we are feeling and our capacity.
I’ve heard of burn out, but what is it?
Burn out is the cumulative reaction to ongoing life stressors. It tends to occur when the resources we have (such as time and energy) are lost or not enough to meet all the demands we have at hand, or when our inputs don’t result in the output we had hoped for. Some factors that lead to a higher risk of burn out are uncertainty, stressful events, heavy workload and pressure.
Signs or indicators of burn out are:
- feeling overwhelmed or unappreciated
- cynicism or frustration
- emotional exhaustion
- avoiding or withdrawing
- less commitment to activities, i.e. doing the bare minimum
- feeling less satisfied
- taking more time off
- sense of ineffectiveness or failure
- changes in attention or concentration
- increased use of alcohol, drugs or TV/social media
- changes in sleep or appetite
Many of us will experience some of these signs at one point in time or another, which may be completely unrelated to burn out. However if you are finding that these symptoms are ongoing or you are experiencing several of these, you may be burning out.
What can I do to manage burn out?
If you’ve gotten this far and you’re thinking, “help, I’m burnt out!!”, here are some things you can do to not only address burn out, but also take steps towards preventing it.
- Good eating, sleeping and exercise routine. If you can, try to aim for 3 to 5 meals per day, about 8 hours sleep a night and a 10 to 20 minute walk per day
- Saying “no” if you do not have capacity. If it’s hard to say “no”, try saying “maybe” and give yourself the time to think about whether you have capacity or not
- Give yourself breaks between demands or activities, and have some “quarantined time off “ each week, even if just for an hour
- Try to find a balance across the different areas of your life, you are not going to be able to give 100% to each area and that is totally ok
- Write out the things that are stressing you out. Make a note of the ones that are urgent or important (i.e. will this matter when I’m 85?) and which ones can be postponed or delegated to others
- Reconnect with your passions, the enjoyable activities that fulfil you
- Socialise with friends
- Use mindfulness based apps (such as Smiling Mind or Headspace) to focus more on the present, the right here and now, rather than the future or the past
If you are finding that your symptoms are significantly impacting on your relationships, work or other life areas, or you would like some support with managing burn out, check in with your GP and you may discuss whether seeing a psychologist could be worthwhile. You might also be able to access a psychologist through your workplace under an Employee Assistance Program.
Something’s not quite right
James was like any other 9-year-old, but at the first mention of school his whole body would shrink and he would stare at the floor. Even though he had some good friends and wasn’t being bullied, he really didn’t like school. He didn’t have any ‘obvious’ issues, but he just couldn’t seem to keep up with the schoolwork and even started to call himself ‘the dumb kid’.
Chloe needed constant help to do her homework and was embarrassed to read in front of others. She was losing her confidence and every day became a battle to make it through the afternoon. Her parents were worried because they could see that if they didn’t do something she would be left behind, and their cheerful little girl would slowly withdraw away.
Parents are the experts on their children. They know their children better than anyone else, and they know when things aren't quite right.
Ryan has always seemed a little different from his brother. He didn’t play the same games and would spend hours alone, lost in “Ryan’s World”. He seemed to be a bright kid, but he never quite got it when it came to friends. One moment he would be smiling up at his parents and the next he would be on the ground. His parents were lost for how to help him.
The myth of watch and wait
These stories are ones we hear every day. Unfortunately, parents concerned about their child’s development are all too often told to ‘watch and wait’. They’re told that they are just ‘anxious’ parents and that their child’s problems are ‘just a phase’. These messages are not only invalidating for parents – they leave children behind and leave families and educators lost.
The path to helping children develop begins with understanding.
Parents are the experts on their children. They are number one. They know their children better than anyone else, and they know when things aren't quite right. Trusting this intuition as a parent and getting support as soon as possible, can help children reach their potential and be the best they can be before a small problem becomes a big one.
Finding a path for your child
Sometimes parents feel like they’ve tried everything to help their child and nothing seems to make much difference. They feel like they are sailing in the dark – not knowing which direction to turn. The real issue is that often we don’t have a clear understanding of the child’s thinking style or view of the world.
The path to helping children who are experiencing challenges in their social, emotional, behavioural, or academic development begins with understanding. A developmental assessment can provide this key and open up the pathway to change.Assessments for children can include a range of developmental areas. For example, cognitive assessments help parents to understand their child’s way of looking at the world.
Assessments for children can include a range of developmental areas. For example, cognitive assessments help parents to understand their child’s way of looking at the world, and can detect if a child is struggling to keep up, if they need more help, or if they have difficulty with a particular area of learning (such as problems with reading or paying attention). Assessments can also target specific developmental challenges, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders or Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and clinical anxiety.
At Benchmark Psychology, we have a team of clinicians experienced in a range of developmental assessments for children and young people. Assessments are conducted directly by registered a clinical psychologist or clinical neuropsychologist with experience in assessments and postgraduate university qualifications.
We only use the gold-standard measures for assessment, such as the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), Weschler Individual Attainment Scale (WIAT), and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2).
Every family is engaged in their child’s assessment process from start to finish. Parents receive a written report, outlining the assessment steps, the findings, and detailed recommendations to help parents decide where to from here. Parents also attend a feedback session with the clinician to go through the report together, discuss the results, and ask any questions.
Benchmark Psychology also offer families full assessment packages at a low cost (compared to other psychological practices in South-East Queensland).
To find out more or book an assessment today, call (07) 3349 5511 or visit benchmarkpsychology.com.au/services/cognitive-assessment/ for information about cognitive assessments or
benchmarkpsychology.com.au/autism-spectrum-disorders-assessment/ for autism spectrum disorders assessment.
This post was written for us by Dr Grace Sweeney and Dr Richard Wellauer from Benchmark Psychology.
Do you find yourself constantly tethered to your devices? Compared to one or two decades ago, you’ve probably noticed that a large portion of your waking life is now spent connected to technology and the Internet. Whether you’re sifting tirelessly through work emails, Googling energetically for an assignment, slaying giant dragons in an online game, or endlessly scrolling through social media on the commute home, you feel continually connected.
The digital revolution has been incredibly beneficial for us; there is more entertainment, more ways to connect, more information and more ways to share it. However, for a growing number of people, use of this technology is becoming difficult to control - and you might be one of them. You might have told yourself “I can stop anytime I want”, or “it’s just something for me to do when I’m bored – at least I’m not drinking or taking drugs”, but then time after time find yourself absorbed in online activities for far longer than you intended.
Having said that, the amount of time you spend online, in and of itself, does not always indicate whether you have a problem or not. In fact, it can be quite difficult to determine whether your Internet use is problematic, given that so much of your daily life is likely dependent on the Internet; most of your work activities probably require email and Internet access; you might regularly do banking, insurance and other errands online; and social media and instant messaging are often the quickest ways to communicate with your family and friends. For most of us, ‘switching off’ completely would be simply impossible. With so much Internet use being ‘necessary’, how do you know when it’s time to make a focused effort to cut back? When is it time for a ‘digital detox’?
The most important warning sign that something needs to change is when your internet, technology or gaming use starts to interfere with your relationships, work or daily life; in short, when you start to experience negative consequences. Below are 10 signs that indicate that your use might be turning into a problem you can no longer control:
1. You often find yourself thinking about going online.
Whether you’re waking up in the morning, commuting home, watching TV, or at dinner with friends, you find your mind constantly switches to what you could be doing online. ‘What’s happening on Facebook?’ ‘Has that blog been updated yet?’ ‘What could I post next?’ ‘I wonder if any of my friends will be online to run that dungeon when I get home.’ Online activities start to take up all of your head space.
2. You find yourself spending longer and longer periods of time online.
A few years ago, you might have sat online or games for 30 minutes to 1 hour before you felt satisfied enough to do something else. Now, 3 hours seem to go by without you even noticing, and you still crave more. You might also notice impatience with Internet speed – anything even slightly slower than what you’re used to causes you the utmost frustration. Think of it in a similar way to the rewarding feeling of substances – if you were a smoker dependent on that instant ‘hit’ from your cigarette, you’d get pretty frustrated if it occasionally took ten times as long to kick in.
3. You go online to lift your mood or escape your problems.
You probably have a range of ‘coping strategies’ for when you’re feeling low or going through a tough time. However, if you find that you’re constantly turning to the Internet as your primary source of comfort, this may be a sign that you’re becoming reliant on it. Again, think of it in a similar way to substance use – you might pour yourself a stiff drink if you’ve had a pretty trying day, but if you find yourself having a drink every time you feel low, this might be a sign of dependence.
4. You feel cranky, sad, annoyed or irritable when you’re not online.
Try resisting the urge to go online or game for a day (or even a few hours!) and see how you feel. If you find yourself struggling with any of the emotions above, AND if going back online gets rid of those feelings, it might be a sign that your use is becoming a problem.
5. You’ve lost interest in activities and hobbies that you used to like.
What things did you used to do before you spent so much time on the Internet or gaming? How much do they feature in your life now? Has the Internet become your sole focus? If you were a bookworm who hasn’t read a book in a year, an avid guitar-player whose guitar is gathering dust, or a budding cook who now relies on microwave meals, this might mean that the Internet has slowly begun to take over.
6. You neglect your health and sleep because of your Internet or gaming use.
Unlike alcohol or other substance use, Internet and gaming use frequently involve extended sedentary sessions sitting down, often with poor posture. If you find yourself continuing to go online despite being sleep deprived, skipping meals, or suffering back, neck or other physical problems, this strongly suggests it’s time for you to cut back.
7. You’ve lost or jeopardised your relationship, job or studies because of your Internet or gaming use.
Whether you were given an ultimatum by your partner, you were fired or given a warning at work, or your university or school marks have dropped significantly, putting any of these important domains in your life at risk is a strong sign that it’s time to make some changes to your use.
8. You’ve covered up or lied about your Internet or gaming use.
You can’t bear the thought of disappointing your friends or family yet again, so you find yourself ‘minimising’ or flat-out deceiving them about how much you’re actually online. For example, you might come home and complain wretchedly about your busy day at work, when you know you spent most of the time browsing websites and YouTube clips. Or, you might say you only stayed up till 1am gaming the previous night, when you know full well you only finally crawled to bed at 4am.
9. You continue going online or gaming despite it causing problems in your relationships.
Your husband might have complained that he hardly sees you in the evenings anymore; your kids might constantly nag you for attention; or your friends might be fed up that you always turn down their social invitations; yet you still find yourself choosing to go online time and time again. You might find yourself constantly making excuses for your behaviour, e.g. “I’ll be down soon!”, “Everyone should be allowed time to themselves”, or “I’ll say yes next time”.
10. You desperately want to cut back your use, or you’ve already tried (and failed).
If you’re already at the point where you’ve tried (or frequently thought about) cutting back, this can be a pretty clear sign that your use is becoming difficult for you to control.
Similar to gambling and alcohol use, overuse of Internet, technology and gaming starts to become a serious issue when it interferes with other areas of your life. Whilst Internet use is simply a ‘hobby’ or 'interest' for many of us, a prominent researcher in the field once put it very succinctly saying:
"Hobbies add to your life, and addictions take away."
If you feel that your Internet, technology or gaming use is becoming (or already is) the latter, it’s important to seek help. Behaviour change can be difficult on your own, and a qualified psychologist can help you to build your motivation and give you practical strategies to change.
The MY NAP Study
“Is your child on medication for a diagnosis of ADHD and having trouble sleeping?”
What is the MY NAP study about?
An international research team is undertaking a study to look at the effectiveness of Melatonin in helping children who have a diagnosis of ADHD, are currently treated with stimulant medication, and are experiencing sleep difficulties, particularly in getting to sleep.
This study is designed in a way that it can help provide information for individuals, and also group information. This information could be useful in determining if melatonin has a significant effect on sleep for your child.
Results from this study can be given to your doctor to help in treatment planning for your child.
This study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a complex disorder involving difficulties with hyperactivity, concentration and attention.
Children with ADHD often have difficulty sleeping with problems trying to settle down in the evening. This can be complicated by the medications used to treat ADHD (such as with stimulants like Ritalin, Dexamphetamine).
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by a part of the brain, called the pineal gland. It is often described as the hormone of sleep and it helps to regulate other hormones and maintain the body’s circadian rhythm. The body produces melatonin each night as it gets dark to promote sleep and “re-set” the body clock. In some health conditions, insufficient melatonin is produced, and melatonin supplements can help.
Melatonin has been used in children to help with their sleep from time to time, however the scientific research has not decided whether there is a true effect seen in children with ADHD.
One of the best ways is to see whether your child sleeps better with melatonin, or a placebo (inactive medication).
Who is eligible to
take part in this study?
- Children between the ages of 6 – 17 years;
- Who have a diagnosis of ADHD;
- Who are treated for their ADHD with Stimulants such as Ritalin,
- Who have trouble sleeping, i.e. take at least 45 mins to get to sleep at least three nights a week.
- Children who are already on Melatonin can participate in the study, but they will have to stop their melatonin use at the start of the first phase, as described below.
- Children with some other conditions that also affect sleep, eg. Autism, brain injury, seizure disorder or sleep apnea, may be unsuitable for the study.
What would be involved?
If you are interested in taking part in the study, please contact Dr. Jane Nikles via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (mobile): 0408 599 033 for further information and to confirm your child’s eligibility.
A referral from your doctor – your G.P or Paediatrician - is required for the study. If you are interested in participating, you will be asked to make an appointment with your doctor, and the study team will contact them to ensure they are fully informed about the study.
In the first phase, you would be asked to initially complete some questionnaires and be given information about healthy sleeping habits. Your child’s sleeping activity would be monitored for two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks, your child would be given the medication (either melatonin or a placebo) for 1 week blocks, for six weeks. All participating children will receive both melatonin and the placebo. During the six weeks, you would be asked to keep a sleep diary and complete more questionnaires. Your child will wear an activity watch to help us measure their sleep activity.
A report will be generated and sent to your referring doctor detailing your child’s individual responsiveness to melatonin. This can be used to guide ongoing treatment decisions.
There will be follow-up contacts three and twelve months after this.
Who are we?
The research team is part of an international group of researchers from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane; The University of Queensland, Brisbane; and The University of Alberta, Canada. It is led by Dr Jane Nikles (UQ), Prof Geoff Mitchell (UQ), A/Prof Honey Heussler (Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital) and Dr Hugh Senior (UQ).
The project has been granted the following ethics approvals:
UQ HREC – 2012000999
For further information,
Dr. Jane Nikles
Mob: 0408 599 033
Prof Geoff Mitchell
A/Prof Honey Heussler
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