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anxiety is your friend
Did You Know... 45% of people will experience a Mental Health condition in their lifetime In any one year – over 2 million people have anxiety – in Australia! 1 in 3 women experience anxiety 1 in 8 men experience anxiety Believe it or not, Anxiety is your friend ! It is a completely normal and natural emotional state. Anxiety is when the brain perceives some sort of danger and prepares your body and mind to either fight, flight or freeze. Anxiety is your protector. It is the reason your foot slams on the brakes before you realise what is happening and the reason you suddenly have superhuman abilities when your child is in danger. So, if anxiety is my friend, why does it feel so terrifying? Your brain is over a million years old. It often gets confused as to what is a ‘real threat’ and what is a ‘perceived threat’. What this means is, your body and brain will act the exact same if you had a live tiger in front of you VS thinking about a terrifying tiger! Your brain is designed to SURVIVE not THRIVE, so it is on the lookout 24/7 for danger. For your brain to THRIVE, you must become aware of two types of anxiety and how to manage each.   Two types of anxiety - FEELING ANXIETY and THOUGHT ANXIETY Feeling anxiety is when you get all those uncomfortable physical and physiological feelings. You know, the heart feels it is about to jump out of your chest? The sweaty or shaky hands, the shallow breathing and lets not forget the knot in your stomach. And no, it's not that creamy carbonara you had last night, although your body will be shutting down everything, including your digestive system. So needing to go to the bathroom when nervous, is a completely normal physiological reaction. Here is why each of these symptoms are your friends and nothing to be afraid of. Your heart is beating fast to pump blood around the body so you can run away from the threat. You are shaking because you have adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones running through your body to get you ready to fight. You are sweating so your body can cool itself down Finally, your body is shutting everything down, including your digestion, because it needs all the energy to fight whatever is in front of you. Often, feeling anxiety can trigger the second type of anxiety - ‘Thought Anxiety’ . This is why you hear your brain often thinking worst case scenario; I had a missed call from my boss = I am getting fired That person laughed in the meeting = I said something stupid He is late for my date = he is not interested We need to ask ourselves, are these facts or thoughts? Strategies - How do we manage our anxiety effectively? You need to control your physical anxiety first. When feeling anxiety is activated, your frontal lobe – the part of your brain involved with judgement and decision making shuts off. Have you ever asked yourself why you can’t think straight when you are in an anxious state? You are not losing the plot, your bodily responses shut off your frontal lobe to deal with the stressor, remember. Use the following to manage your physical anxiety: Diaphragmatic Breathing (deep belly breathing) Exercise Progressive Muscle Relaxation Once you are able to think clearly, manage those unhelpful thoughts that feel like facts! Try these steps once you are calm. Write down your thoughts and allow yourself to challenge them! Is this effective, how likely is it to happen? So, what if it happens? What can I think instead? Re-create those thoughts If you need to speak with an experienced and qualified psychologist, feel free to get in touch with Cyber Clinic.    Stephanie Georgiou MPSYCH, GD IPPSYCH, BAPSYCH (HONS) Registered Psychologist Board Approved Supervisor Author - Food Jail Breaking the Bars of Binge Eating Buy Food Jail on Amazon  


is there a fence between me and stress?
There is a fine balance between too much stimulation and too little, so what is the preferred optimal level of performance? Back in the 1900's...  A couple of cool guys from the 1900’s, Yerkes and Dodson (Psychologists), discovered that a little bit of stress is a good thing. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad stress, a little bit of excitement gets your 'personal best' off to a rolling start. For instance... If you are walking along the street on your way home from school and you hear a low growl... all your senses are performing very well and are completely focused on the possible threat. Your clever brain has already decided for you what is going to happen right now. You are either going to freeze, run, or fight [especially fight - if the growling thing is already attached to your leg]. Similar feeling to when you walk past that school bully each day. Ahh...the sense of release after that excellent performance, your nervous system has calmed a little because you realised a solid fence exists between you and the growling thing, so you keep walking. But what if you had to run and run and run because there was no fence? would get tired, and your performance would drop off. The same thing applies to your mental performance... you can't run at full speed mentally all day long. Now back to those cool guys from the 1900’s. Their idea was to ask yourself, what excites you? and what occurs when you get too excited? Doing even the most inspiring thing on your bucket list 24/7 is going to certainly exhaust you at some point. What if I said you could build an emotional fence in a fraction of a second whenever you needed it, enabling your focus, of physical and mental energy, on your primary goal rather than your threat? Sounds like a very handy tool to create, doesn’t it? At Cyber Clinic your therapist will help guide you towards the perfect balance of excitement and performance. The therapists at Cyber Clinic are experts at helping you see your perfect balance of excitement and performance...navigating you towards a shorter path to balance. If you want to play with this idea further and read more about those “cool guys”, Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson, Google “The Yerkes–Dodson law”. A law of empirical relationship between the feeling of pressure (no fence) and performance, (your emotional fence). The growling thing could be your best friend if you let it… By Craig Willis - Cyber Clinic Couples and Family Therapist


boots n cats n cats n boots
Life as a student... or a wild cat...   Living in the centre of town has advantages, like being within walking distance to three varieties of Tom Yum Chicken. And, also some spectacular entertainment on some nights including the conversations between members of a colony of wild cats. While I'm typing this, there are a couple of wild pussy-cats [don't think Snoop Dog and the Pussy-Cat Dolls] fighting for their territory a couple of floors below. They are howling and my interpretation is they are NOT using nice words...   When you are a full-time student and a full-time teenager - there is a lot of stuff going on that you can't control. 1. You don't have your own income [or at least enough to be independent] e.g. your own roof/territory, so you don't control all of your decisions [when looking back you may be grateful for that, or not]. 2. You have so many creative thoughts and parallel depressing ones, and panicky 'omg what is the most important thing to do right now?!? stories' that rush through your mind, that it's really really really hard to answer a question comparing French Revolutionaries or even mildly motivated Tasmanians [actually that was a pretty tough gig and still is for the Tasmanians]. And... What I'm trying to say is... there are always so many competing ideas and people for your precious time and thoughts and emotions and... sometimes a good silent scream or imagined paintball fight [or a real one], might get you through the night!   SO, what are we talking about here? It's always from my 'Yerke's Dodson' angle [will explain later] a contest between your level of stress vs what ammo have I got to manage the attack on me???   Let's get practical: My three favourite strategies when I have to do stuff I don't want to do: But firstly, some confessions - which may not be helpful... But here goes, it may be better to learn from someone else who took the long road to learning... Confession 1. I did not see the point in school. Tennis, Hockey, Basketball, Jokes [mostly at the expense of teachers, yes understood that].  Confession 2. Now I am obsessed with science [wish it had happened earlier - that is Confession 3]. So why do I bore you with my history? Good question... Answer: The learning journey is so much fun now, that I wish I had tortured my teachers even more to tap their source of knowing! What I know now is that the best teachers point you in the direction of even better teachers. They constantly tease you with what you want to know... based on your most passionate current drives and pushing you to also imagine things you have never considered.    You may be still completing exams right now, and/or you may be thinking about career options and paths to your ideal life in all sorts of ways professional and personal. And the really stressful thing is how fast everything seems, and how little control you have.    So, so, so [might be my favourite word... I digress]. So, take a second... remember... you always have time [no matter how old you are]. Ask the question "what do I want to be different?" and follow that answer.    New Age Hippy apologies up front, instead of starting with all the pros and cons list, start asking your kidneys, and your heart - what do I know? There are neurons [nerve cells] around your heart similar to those in your brain, and they independently send messages to your mind - So [again] trust your heart, it knows stuff that is hard to explain...   And, my three favourite strategies that work together: 1. Map where you are. Ask yourself how much stress do I have, positive and negative? [i.e. you may be enjoying some of the challenges, so that would be eustress, good stress, but too much of a good thing can overwhelm you and turn into distress. 2. Sense. Ask your emotions and senses to give you some feedback. Just sit with what you notice for a second. e.g. my heart is racing, I have a headache, I'm sweating, and it's not that hot... Just 'let it be' [like Paul McCartney] for a second, and see what else comes up. 3. Do. Ask yourself what skills you already have to manage the above things you have noticed, including asking another person to help you. Force yourself to do something to improve the situation even if you don't feel like it. Once you start, usually it doesn't feel as hard as while you've been stuck staring at the obstacles.   You can answer all those questions in a few seconds. And the most important bit is letting your nervous system reset a little bit at point 2, so that your logical mind can help calm your emotional mind. It'll do it automatically for you if you give it a moment. If you are struggling to do that on your own. Talk to someone personal or professional, try some of the new apps to help you with these kinds of skills like 'CBT Companion'. Do something you enjoy, then get back to work with the tough things you have been avoiding. Do a five-minute draft... once you get started, your creative juice will speed up, collecting stuff like an avalanche picking up snow along the way [it doesn't have to be perfect, you can always re-draft].  


movember | mental health in men
November 1 marks the official start for what is known as “Movember. We often acknowledge mental health in women but whether you’re a father, husband, brother, or son your mental health is just as important. With a long year that has been impacted by the pandemic, Movember is a significant event to celebrate men's mental health.                   What is Movember?  Movember is a charity that campaigns to raise awareness of serious men’s health issues through the light-hearted and inclusive manner of growing a mustache during the month of November.  By looking at the issue of mental health through a male lens, Movember encourages men to be more open about mental health issues. The charity also aims to “challenge the negative aspects of masculinity and the impact this can have on mental health.”  Common issues in men's mental health The stigma around mental health can be a barrier to seeking treatment, particularly among men who may feel pressured to conform to the ‘strong and silent’ masculine ideal. The fear that mental health problems are a sign of weakness may prevent men from addressing their issues before they reach crisis point.  One in eight men are diagnosed with a mental health problem every year and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives.  Loneliness  It can be more commonly referred to as ‘social isolation', loneliness in its severe forms is now seen as a contributor to many social ills including violence, suicide, and substance abuse. It can be a feeling of sadness about being alone, it can also happen when you’re surrounded by people. As the individual can feel a lack of connection to the environment around you, the lost sense of belonging, and the feeling that nobody understands you.  Stress, Depression & Anxiety  most commonly associated with working life, stress, depression, and anxiety can be triggered and influenced by any number of situations including at home, social situations, and on the sporting field.  Men’s mental health and suicide  According to AIHW, Over the last decade, the age-standardized suicide rate for males increased from 16.2% deaths per 100,000 population in 2011 to 18.6% in 2020. In 2020 there were 2,384 suicide deaths in males (18.6 per 100,000 population) in Australia compared to 755 suicide deaths in females (5.8 per 100,000). It is rather common for men to end their lives prematurely whereas women tend to have more suicidal thoughts.   A large number of suicidal rates in men is an issue that needs to be addressed. Of course, we should learn to acknowledge mental health for men not only during November but daily.   Factors for the decline in mental health in men Traditional male gender roles  The traditional male gender role deters emotional expression as men are told they need to ‘be tough’ and not be too reliant on others. Such rigid gender norms may make it difficult for men to reach out for support when they need it.  Depression may be underdiagnosed in men Men often do not disclose feelings of depression to their doctors. When they do, it is often described in terms of having problems at work or in relationships. Men also tend to describe their feelings as "stress" or “tired” rather than sadness  Men are less likely to seek help for emotional problems Research suggests that depression is diagnosed less frequently in men because of the tendency to deny illness, self-monitor symptoms, and self-treat  Men can lean towards substance abuse as a coping mechanism As for the traditional male gender role, men avoid asking for emotional support as a result they utilised other ways to cope with emotion. This can stem from alcohol and other substances.  How can men seek help?  Practice self-help  Practicing self-help can be the first step into having a good relationship with yourself, that is, your body and mind. Self–care and help practice can include various forms of meditation practices, exercising – to rebuild your strength, or even reading self-help books.  Supportive communities  Seeking supportive communities such as support groups can be a way of connecting with others who are going through the same things. Finding something in common with others can be a way to cope with mental illness and know that you are not alone in this. It also allows members of the group to exchange new methods, skills, and strategies to cope with current challenges. Interaction within a structured group is particularly useful for group members to learn self-care. They can become more communicative and learn how to assert themselves by knowing their rights. Most of all, a support group can help someone with a mental health issue to learn which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.   Try counseling or speak to a mental health professional   Seeking professional help is essential in the self-care process and allows a conversation between a trained mental health professional and someone who wants to talk about their worries and concerns, and/or work through their mental and social health issues.  If you would like to consult or connect with a professional feel free to download our Cyber Clinic app on the Apple Store or on Google Play. You may also head to How it Works on how to download the app. Our practitioners offer Medicare rebates.   Professional counselors, social workers or psychologists, are trained to follow a contextual counseling and problem-solving process to listen, understand, and help you find ways to feel better.  


sometimes you're a smidge confused about what you need...
“You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you get what you need” If you know Mick and Keith, this won’t be new news… But, if you are young or you missed some Rock History for whatever reason… you may not know what we are referring to [well worth a YouTube search. Type 'the Stones - Need']. It’s a bit like this when you are looking for a counsellor to work through your complex life journey. Where do you start? Well, to begin with, let’s dispel a myth that regularly floats around. That is, counsellors/therapists are going to want to know all the gory [or sweet] details… As a veteran of the iconic couch [i.e. the one you as the client is supposed to sit on while we unpack your life], I’d like to suggest that the most important thing to know as a client is whether your heart and stomach tell you it is OK to say anything at all to the professional on the other side of the room. A detailed history is of course important… though what is more important from where I’m sitting, is a sense of the big picture, human condition [aka we are all messed up in complex ways]. And, really important: Does your gut say this therapist might respect your complex history long enough for you to see yourself and discover a few potential solutions? That’s the secret - if you feel confident to process some, and I mean some of the detail… you might just work out your own solutions while someone else sits with you aka the empathic therapist, whose major goal is to help you break through to the other side of your stuckness.


toxic relationships | signs and actions to take
A toxic relationship involves behaviours on the part of the toxic partner that are mentally, emotionally and physically damaging to their partner. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control.  Signs of a toxic relationship Isolation  the toxic person attempts to isolate the partner from family and friends to limit support and to increase dependence on the relationship. This is a way to gain control over their partner's life.   Toxic communication  Communication in a relationship is essential in a relationship, however, if a partner ever feels like they are walking on eggshells when communicating this may show signs of toxicity. This often occurs when they are unstable in their moods and behaviours.  When walking on eggshells you are often afraid of your partner's response to your situation. This can be denial and gaslighting. A toxic person is unable or unwilling to see their impact on the other person. They deny the problem, attempt to gaslight, manipulate events, or attempt to recreate history to put themselves in the best light.  Jealousy & Dishonesty  A toxic relationship is often one of accusing a partner of flirting, dating, or even having a sexual relationship with someone outside of the relationship. At the same time, the controlling or toxic person may actively and openly engage in these same behaviours. Behaviours would involve a partner constantly making up lies about what they are doing, whom they are seeing and where they are to avoid spending time with their partner.  Patterns of disrespect  This includes:  Casually “forgetting” events  negative financial behaviours such as when your partner makes financial decisions, including purchasing expensive items or withdrawing large sums of money, without consulting you.  Giving in on everything  If your partner is ignoring your needs and you are going along with whatever your partner wants to do, even when it goes against your comfort level. This is a red flag of a toxic relationship Even though it is important to be willing to give and take, compromise, or even do what the other partner wants, this is expected behaviour in a toxic relationship. If you find you are giving into everything, even things you find morally, personally, or ethically objectionable just to keep the other person happy, you are in a toxic relationship.  Ongoing disagreements  This can cause ongoing stress and anxiety, it is common for people dating and in relationships to have minor disagreements, but toxic relationships are primarily based on arguments and negativity. The controlling partner is always berating, belittling, and putting down the other person or criticizing their attempts to do anything positive or independent. If disagreements result in any sort of violence or abuse please contact a helpline or 000. Lack of self-care  Everybody needs their own alone time and space, if a partner has to withdraw from their hobbies, they once loved, neglect their health, and sacrifice most of their free time for their partner it can mean that the relationship is unhealthy. This does not mean we do not spend time with our partners. There should be a balance for quality time for each other and individually.   Hoping for changes   You might stay in the relationship because you see the other person’s potential or think that if you just change yourself and your actions, they’ll change as well. Unfortunately, hoping for changes in a relationship can spiral into negative behaviours and can be threatening to your mental health. As mentioned in Psychology Today, Just Hoping for Change Might Keep You Stuck  Ways to overcome a toxic relationship  1. Admit that the relationship is toxic  It can be difficult to accept that the relationship is truly toxic. You will be in a state of denial despite all the signs given in the circumstances. At one moment, you feel revulsion; at another, you justify your partner’s intolerable behaviour. We, humans, are taught to forgive and accept others. That is a great value to hold, however, your partner should do the same for you with respect. There are certain things that a person should never ignore in a relationship. No matter what circumstances it is toxic if your partner is dishonest, humiliates, exploits you for resources, or emotionally or physically abuses you. If your partner does not hold his actions accountable and continues to hurt you, it is time for you to move on.   2. Stop believing this relationship is the best you can do.  If you are in a toxic relationship, you may feel that your toxic partner is the only person who will ever understand and love you. You may withdraw from others and avoiding face-to-face intimate interactions with your close friends and family. However, this reinforces the idea that you will never be known or cared for by anyone other than your toxic partner. It keeps you in a panic-like state of thinking you will find yourself alone. This desperation will prevent you from drawing boundaries and wholeheartedly holding your partner accountable. Before doing anything, work to build up your support system: Join a gym, participate in a hiking or book club, start a new hobby, meet friends to exercise, eat with different acquaintances. You need to start letting others get close to you so that you no longer feel as if your orbit will collapse without this toxic partner at the centre of your life.  3. Detox  You may believe that you can somehow still keep in touch or have a phone relationship with a toxic ex-partner. These people have a way of manipulating and getting others to feel sorry for them. If you keep the connection, then you enable this individual an opportunity to draw you back towards them. The only realistic way out is to stop all contact so that you can start anew. Also, time away helps positively enhance perspective.  4. Move on & pursue self-growth.  As a saying goes, “time will heal”. As a self-reflection use your energy and time to pursue self-growth. Start meditating or journaling, read self-help books or take up weekly psychotherapy. During this period, give yourself time to reflect before moving on to a new relationship. Get to know yourself such as what you want and don’t want in a relationship. List down the values and qualities you want in a future partner. A strong, immediate attraction can sometimes mean trouble ahead for a relationship. Hold back and wait for a few beats. This allows you to avoid another disappointing relationship. 


neuroplasticity for healthy minds
Your mind can repair and rewire itself. The ability of the brain to adapt to changes in your environment by forming new neural connections overtime is defined as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity explains how the human brain is able to adapt, master new skills, store memories and information and even recover after a traumatic brain injury.  Some ways to increase the plasticity in your brain Quality sleep Early to bed, early to rise will help fight fatigue, reset our bodies to keep our memory and health in top shape. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep Intermittent fasting Intermittent fasting helps stimulate your brain by calorie-restriction. Fasting increases synaptic plasticity, promotes neuron growth, decreases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and improves cognitive function according to the Society for Neuroscience. During fasting, a metabolic shift lowers the body's leptin levels, a hormone produced by fat. As a result, the brain receives a chemical signal for neurons to produce more energy. Travel Open your mind to new possibilities and experiences by getting on the road. Take a weekend road trip to a different place and give your brain the same stimulation as travelling overseas. Memory training Start with remembering names, pictures, poems and your not-so favourite movie or sports stars. This stimulates your mind to produce new neural pathways.  Meditation  Meditation 6x6x6x6 For 12 minutes a day, find a quiet place and give yourself a gift for life. Start with breathing through your nose for 6 seconds, hold your breath for another 6 seconds, exhale for 6 and pause for 6. Do this 6 times.  Revert to normal breathing.  Exercise Move faster, walk longer, jump higher, breath deeper. All these simple changes help to produce happy hormones in your body for you to function at your best at all times


awareness and access: why we need both to save men from dying too young
The health industry has made great strides in the past 15 years to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues in Australia. But awareness is only the first step – now we must focus on access. The streets are different in Australia in November. Once clean-shaven men start sporting ‘the trucker’, ‘the rock star’ or ‘the connoisseur’. The humble moustache takes on a life of its own, and, wonderfully, helps start conversations about men’s health. But, now that Movember has come to a close, we must ask the question - where do men turn during the other 11 months of the year? Since 2004 the Movember Foundation has been campaigning to raise awareness of the risks of prostate cancer and testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention among men. In Australia, 75 per cent of suicides are men, and globally, every minute, a man dies of suicide. I fully support awareness campaigns like Movember that have helped destigmatize conversations about men’s mental health and have brought those conversations to the forefront of Australian workplaces and society. Governments, businesses and individuals have all rallied around the cause. But, as with all health campaigns, the gap between awareness and behaviour change is a mighty chasm. Being aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS does not mean people always use condoms, and decades of school awareness programs have not stopped everyone from smoking. Awareness is an important and necessary first step, but what comes next? Lonely hearts die young A few weeks ago the Australian Loneliness Report made national headlines for revealing that one in four adult Australians are lonely. The report painted a bleak picture of our society, with nearly 55 per cent of the population reporting they feel a lack of companionship at least sometimes. While males reported better physical health, they did report less social interaction than females, and a 2015 study stated that there is evidence to suggest that loneliness is associated with a 26 per cent increased likelihood of mortality. Time and again in my work as a psychologist and lawyer I have witnessed men put up internal barriers to not seek help - their lack of social interaction and fear of judgement are obstacles that definitely need to be addressed. But, external barriers to accessing mental health support, such as cost, the location of services, and lack of knowledge of how to access services are just as important, and just as much a challenge, as internal barriers. Opening a door According to a 2008 Australian Bureau of Statistics report men are less likely to seek help than women, with only one in four men who experience anxiety or depression accessing treatment. Today, inevitably, men begin their journey to accessing help on the Internet. But, with so many services, websites and touch points, many quickly become overwhelmed and never follow through on getting treatment. It is incredibly important that all men in Australia have a trusted source they can easily access to receive mental health support. Telehealth has been around for some time - rural Australians and employee well-being programs for remote workers have long accessed the expertise of GPs and specialists via telephone, and more recently, the Internet. But, telehealth has rarely been used on a significant scale for mental health services or been applied to urban patients - the belief is that those in the city and suburban environments can readily access mental health professionals face-to-face. But, in my 12 years as a psychologist, rarely has the problem of access been as simple as proximity to services. Accessing a mental health professional should be about finding a trustworthy expert that is the best fit for the client and be as simple as a mouse click. Something you can do on a lunch break or on a weekend from the comfort of your own home. Many of the barriers men face in seeking mental health treatment can be overcome using an online service. Using the Internet as a platform for psychological consultations could be perceived as impersonal, but caring about patients and supporting them through their mental health journey can just as easily be done via a screen as in an office. Telehealth means whether in Mildura, Brisbane or Broken Hill, men can get the support they need in their own time, and on their terms. Men’s mental health is a tricky and complex problem, but with awareness and access, I believe we can make Australia a less lonely place.

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