The Microbiome Connection of Mind

The Microbiome Connection of Mind

After a life time of work, Hippocrates concluded…

”all disease begins in the gut.”

What do we mean by Microbiome?

Microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria ie microorganisms or microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract, hair and skin. These bacteria (100 trillion living in our body) impact on our overall health and are pivotal to enjoying good health. The gut microbiome is a vast ecosystem of organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans that live in our digestive pipes, which collectively weigh up to 2kg (heavier than the average brain). The genetic material they contain is just as important as the DNA we inherit and may influence our predisposition and susceptibility to certain diseases. The imbalance that occurs can be found in patients who suffer from ‘stomach complaints.’ Consider celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and other manifestations in the wider system such as Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Our microbial ‘residents’ train our immune systems to distinguish between friend and foe. They also weed out pathogens, help our bodies absorb nutrients, and neutralise cancer causing compounds etc.

What else has come to light about our Microbiome and good mental  health? 

OK, so we get it that the microbes affect our stomach, bowel, weight and diabetes.  What is now coming to light is the important connection that the gut microbiome  interacts with the central nervous system and immune system, influencing weight  regulation and psychopathology, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have  shown a connection of gut health (or lack thereof) and the role of neurotransmitters in sending messages to the brain. Early studies have shown that the introduction of  probiotics has been found to assist in countering Anorexia nervosa, Obsessive compulsive disorder, Obesity (Type 2 diabetes), controlling blood sugar, leaking gut  and the outcome in gut composition and even alcohol dependency. The other  important studies have shown the impact of microbiome on cognitive functioning  and the central nervous system and major depressive disorders. The studies have a  major part to play in understanding the high co-morbidity rate between psychiatric  disorders and gut health. Gut wellbeing also influences mood and anxiety. Other  studies also concur that the timely introduction of probiotics may well produce a  positive outcome in combating mood disorders. 

In the case of patients with celiac disease, by optimizing and balancing the  microbiome through changes in diet ie gluten-free, the use of targeted probiotics  and in severe cases possibly the process of faecal transplants is proving beneficial.  The future is looking more optimistic. 

By balancing and optimizing the microbiome, it may also decrease the risk of other  autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, that occur more commonly in people  with celiac disease.

Optimizing microbiome by diet…. 

Effective treatments to modulate the microbiome are in development, but until then  there are things we can do to optimize it on our own…

  1. Diet: Plant based, free of processed foods, reduced meat consumption.  Including cultured or fermented foods to improve intestinal health by  providing natural forms of probiotics. Go nuts! Nuts help mood. Include  herbs and spices particularly turmeric and saffron. Fats are your friend – healthy fats that is. Think Omega-3s, fish and lean meat. Avoid sweeteners  and additivies. Sugar is now referred to as ‘sweet poison’ because of its  addictiveness, the effects it has on promoting hunger and increasing fat to  the internal organs particularly the liver, and influences overall body mass.
  2. Exercise: Works to our advantage improving microbiome. A goal of 30-45  minutes daily. If that seems unachievable…then look at shorter workouts to  boost the metabolism. Maybe several high intensity bursts of 20 seconds with  short rest intervals. Do warm ups before and cool down after each set of  exercises. Walking is a great way to improve physical and emotional  wellbeing. Don’t forget social interaction for good mental health.
  3. Sleep: No distractions in the bedroom, and if possible, no alcohol  consumption in the evening, and consider relaxation exercises before closing  your eyes for the night
  4. Stress management: Introduce stress reduction techniques to boost good  microbiome diversity.
  5. Weight management: Try to maintain a healthy weight to promote healthy  microbiome. The evidence supports this in fostering good mental and  physical health.
  6. Probiotics and prebiotics: These can be used to manipulate the composition  of the microbiome. By using targeted or specific formulations for specific disease states this will support the importance of good health. Seek a  medical practitioner or dietician’s advice on this.So, what’s the difference  between the two ie Probiotics and prebiotics and how do I introduce these  into my diet? Probiotics are ‘living’ friendly bacteria found in cultured,  fermented foods. Eg. yoghurt, aged cheese, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso, tempeh, kembucha, also available in supplement form. Prebiotics are  ‘non-living’ foods eg. legumes, whole wheat products, garlic, onions and  cabbage/kale. 


    It’s still early days in the research on Mind-Gut connections, but three books that  may motivate you to start the journey to understanding the importance of good gut  health and good mental health could include…. 

  • The Mind-Gut Connection….Emeran Mayer, MD 
  • A Fat Lot of Good…. Dr. Peter Brukner 
  • The Complete Gut Health Cookbook ….Peter Evans  

“Let food be your medicine” ….Hippocrates

    How to Handle Toxic People/Family Members?

    How to Handle Toxic People/Family Members?

    Atticus: “You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.”
    …To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee).

    Toxic friends? Time to break away. Toxic co-workers? Steer clear. What about when it’s a toxic family member? Well, they bring a whole new meaning to the term  ‘nuclear family.’ 

    They say (bad) apples don’t fall far from the (family) tree, but that doesn’t mean you  have to let their toxins spread from one branch to another. 
    It’s never easy when dealing with difficult people, family or not. 
    Strategies for dealing with toxic people/family members may include….

    1. Get Clarity

    Time for a reality check particularly when we’re blinded by optimism. We  may overlook their latest shenanigans because we want to keep the peace  and smooth things over. We find ourselves making excuses for unacceptable  behaviour under the guise of hope. “Things will get better when…” We are  loyal because they’re blood.  

    We are often blinded to the reality of long harboured resentments, or possibly  because we, or they are holding a grudge which holds no bearing on the  present and is an issue of the past. 

    They are broke and you can’t fix them. 
    You can only operate from your own moral compass. 

    Start to see things as they really are. A helpful way to do this is to make a  list. On one side, write down the good times – where there was support, they  came through for you, and you felt loved. On the other side, write down the  bad times – the times they hurt you, ignored you when you needed help,  actively undermined you, or tried to control you. Look at the frequency and  magnitude.  

    Seeing your interactions in black and white can help you determine whether  your relationship deserves to be thrown a life line, or is essentially a dead  duck in the water.

    2. Rewrite your part in the family script/drama… 

    Decide what your role was/is to be in the relationship. If you’re in a family  melodrama, maybe it’s time to play another part. Rewrite your  role/responses in the family drama. For example “cut” the action scene,  change your assigned role from victim to survivor/thriver. Set limits on  negative, inappropriate behaviours. This is your life’s story…rewrite the script  and ensure ‘the players’ understand boundaries. 

    Never allow someone to be your priority
    while allowing yourself to be their option. 
    …Mark Twain 

    3. Set and stick to boundaries.

    Test out the new rules of engagement… Toxic families/people are like a bush fire – they need to be contained by  drawing some lines. There are many ways to contain how you interact with  them; we can set limits on the size of the group, duration of contact, location  and more. For instance, with families…visit but stay at a motel, participate in  big events rather than intimate gatherings. Emails/texts, if it’s a ‘rant’ ..delete  the text; long drawn out phone calls – make them short and if it’s abusive or  accusatorial in nature…hang up. Yes, hang up! Nothing delivers a stronger  message! Rather, attend to relationships that you value, foster the positives  in your life.  

    Do your best to see your toxic family member’s children or spouse without  having them present if need be. Remember it’s not the innocent parties that  are at fault for an adult/parent behaving badly. Ensure you have backup  support and don’t go it alone. Often a strategy applied by a toxic person is to  ‘divide and conquer.’ Choose a neutral setting.  

    The first thing you need to learn is that  
    the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is  
    the one with the problem . 
    …H. Cloud and Townsend 

    4. Surfing the wave. It’s OK to take time out… 

    Family dramas usually come in predicable waves – holidays, special family  events. Once you know the pattern, you can plan. Take extra care of  yourself during the height of the storm. You may seek out calmer waters,  find a support through the storm or seek shelter and ‘batten down the  hatches.’ If your sanctuary is under threat, evict the trouble maker.

    5. Cutting ties – short term or long term… 

    Estrangement is not uncommon, but strangely most people keep it hidden.  It’s drastic, but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. It can be triggered by  true injustices, or sometimes for petty reasons that no one can remember. 

    In a study of 900 estranged families the most common reasons for animosity  and separation were… 

    1) A sense of entitlement by sons/daughters, most often demanding money.
    2) ‘Objectionable relationships’ like opposing a child’s partner, or ‘bad  influences’ etc. 
    3) Toxic behaviour ie continual situations of cruelty, anger, or perpetual  disrespect. 
    4) Adult kids may cut ties when they feel unaccepted or rejected using the  old standby ‘irreconcilable differences.’ 

    Regardless of how or why it is initiated, estrangement drives mixed  emotions.. 
    – Feelings of being conflicted 
    – Possible sense of relief, but then there may be the feeling of sadness or  grief. 

    If someone is mistreating you and tells you 
    that they haven’t done anything ‘wrong’  
    listen to them. They are telling you 
    they are going to continue. 
    … Jennifer Deisher 

    Some people won’t change, refuse to listen, or just twist your words and throw them  back at you. When this happens, distance is the way to go. After all, when a toxic  person/family member overwhelms your life with their issues, it’s OK to cancel your  subscription. 

    Not my circus, not my monkeys 
    … Polish saying 

    Understand that the person or family member’s drama is theirs alone, their behaviors likewise. Stepping away from the drama doesn’t make you a bad  person. It’s great to be a support system for your family, colleague etc, but it’s  equally important that you are taking care of your own needs in the process, and  being treated with dignity and respect. We are all entitled to that in life.

    Additional article for reading… How to Spot and Stop Manipulators Psychology Today 

    Books:
    Taming Toxic People … David Gillespie
    Disarming the narcissist … Wendy T. Behary

     

    Positive Strategies To Boost Confidence and Self Esteem

    Positive Strategies To Boost Confidence and Self Esteem

    self confidence relationships and lifeskills

    “Nothing builds self esteem and self confidence like accomplishment.”

    -Thomas Carlyle

    Low self esteem (and lack of confidence) can be deeply rooted in.. traumatic life experiences, ill health and negative life events.  All can lead to a lack of self control.

    Additionally, where discrimination in all it forms is experienced, this too can lead to a crash in self confidence and self esteem.

    “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”

    -Peggy O’Mara

    The link or relationship between low self esteem, mental health and dis-ease is a complex matter, often exhibited in forms of depression and may manifest in other disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder.  

    People who experience low self esteem/confidence often view the world as a hostile place, and in turn view themselves as victims of this hostility.  For some individuals this may lead to a withdraw from social interaction, feelings of powerlessness to change their circumstances, and at worst a spiral further into ‘the abyss,’ of despondency,  feeling lost and broken.

    Fortunately, there are strategies that can be implemented quite easily, and help ie good counselling is also readily available.  

    For the moment, let’s look at some strategies to address these challenges to a positive life.  Gradually introduce some of these into your daily life and try to practice them regularly until they become ‘second nature.’  By remaining objective will help with the transition process.

    F.L.Y.    First Love Yourself.  Others will come next.

    20 Strategies to boost self esteem and self confidence:

    1. Think positively about yourself and the world.  Everyone has positive qualities.  You have the right to be accepted, respected and valued.
    2. Draw up two lists
      • 1) Personal Strengths    
      • 2) Personal Achievements
        Use your circle of friends (or people you admire) to contribute, provide support and feedback in carrying out of this task.
    3. Challenge the distorted views/opinions you or others have of you.  Where’s the evidence to support such distorted views/opinions?  Quite often individuals repeat patterns of negative thought. Halt the ruminations and call it for what it is.  For example, “The Old Hag” of putdowns has appeared. Visualize and plan 100 ways (..OK maybe 10) to deal with this intrusive “Old Hag.”  Visualize running her down in a car, pushing her out of a plane (no parachute), flushing her down the toilet…. You get my drift!
    4. Eat healthily – Strive for a balanced diet.  Eat slowly and mindfully, in peace and with no distractions.  Recognise that alcohol must be controlled. Alcohol may dull the pain initially but the outcome is that it acts as a depressant leaving you feeling flat and despondent.
    5. Occupy your mind with creative/artistic endeavours – follow your passions, learn new skills.  Do the things you enjoy. It’s time to bring some joy to your life.
    6. Exercise regularly eg. walking, cycling and some vigorous exercise (to make you sweat).  Not only will you feel better for it (after the initial aches and pains) but you’ll find your clothes just look better on you somehow.
    7. Take pride in your personal appearance and practice good hygiene.  A bath or shower gives one a chance to wash away the concerns of the day.  Water therapy has many beneficial properties to it. Clean clothes (ironed skirt/shirt) help you to be more prepared to meet the day.  It says “I care about myself.”
    8. Ensure you get enough sleep.  Avoid caffeine and alcohol at night.  No TV in the bedroom. Maintain a strict bedtime routine.  End your thoughts on a positive note. Still the ruminating mind with “Time to sleep and I’m going to dream happy dreams.”
    9. Manage your stress levels.  Walk, meet friends, see an uplifting movie, or simply get a massage.  It’s time to nurture and be kind to yourself.

      “Inhale Confidence…Exhale Doubt.”

    10. Give your home/apartment a makeover.  Declutter, tend to the garden or buy some new pieces for your home.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, just little things.
    11. Count your blessings.  Yes, there are some! Go out and meet or observe people in the shopping arcade or café.  You will see mothers with their children, seniors laughing, smiling and enjoying the company of friends.  Life may have its challenges, but the beauty of life is in the small details. Strike up a conversation. Talk to the person sitting on the bench with their dog.
    12. Do some volunteer work.  So many would welcome your assistance and company.  It’s a great way to make new friends and form special bonds.
    13. Make an effort to stay in touch with loved ones.  We have a history, we have a present and a future.  Keeping in touch with friends/loved ones is one of the great joys in life.  
    14. Avoid people that treat you badly and places that make you feel uncomfortable or those that make you question your value.  Life is too short.  You choose what you want/don’t want in your newly defined life;  it’s direction and destination.

      “Feelings are much like waves, we cannot stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” –Jonatan Martensson

    15. Surround yourself with positive people.  Have you ever noticed how people gravitate towards positive, optimistic and happy people?  It is contagious. We learn to model ourselves on others, make yours constructive rather than destructive.  
    16. Practice positive self talk.  Encourage and train your brain to focus on positive ideas, images and beliefs.  When negativity creeps in, reframe your thoughts, create another ‘lens’ to view the situation using strengths, capabilities and positivity.  
    17. You control the power to change your brain.  Neuroplasticity ie the brain changing throughout life through reorganisation of structure, function and connections.  Through this process new pathways are created in the brain which affect behaviour. When negative or invasive thoughts begin…consider using:
      • Actions :   Stomping, shaking your hands
      • Symbols: Write a mistake on a piece of paper and burn it.
        Stop thinking about failure and your brain stops treating you as a failure.
    18. Create achievable goals that guarantee personal/relationship success.
    19. Practice, practice, practice.  Ensure you are prepared and try again.  Repetition of good habits, effective communication and self validating self talk must be practiced.  Don’t give up.
    20. Fear stops us from taking Action.  Fear can be complicated.  There’s the defence mechanisms ..Fight, Flight or Freeze.  Recognise that these feelings are not real, they are a reaction.  Familiarize yourself with your fear triggers. Talk about it (self talk) and seek guidance from someone you admire and respect.  Ask yourself “Where’s the evidence?” Seek counsel about your concerns. Set yourself up for success rather than the negative action of thinking about mistakes.  Become solution focused and future directed. It’s time to go from Victim -> Survivor –> to…Thriver!

    “Health is the greatest possession.  Contentment is the greatest treasure.  Confidence is the greatest friend.”
    -Lao Tzu

    Positive Strategies For Repairing The Void In Your Relationship

    Positive Strategies For Repairing The Void In Your Relationship

    “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.”

    -Socrates

    When going through a rough patch in a relationship (often occasioned by a health scare), a dry spell may occur or become the prevailing climate.  The desert may begin to seem too vast to cross. What can be done to end the drought?

    Rejection may be the overall concern in the relationship.  Suspending sex may not be all that uncommon for a couple.  Addressing the fears or grudges that are keeping intimacy at bay are essential.  Slowly introducing physical contact will be one of the strategies.

    Step by step methods …

    1. Make contact – hold hands when having discussions.  You’ll find physical connection calming.  It forges a bond that mere words cannot. Eye contact is essential.  Eyes are the window to the soul.
    2. Take it easy – Start the conversation with kind and loving language.  Say how much you love your partner, how attractive she or he is, how much you’re looking forward to touching (and being touched by) him or her.  Explain that you would like to start with cuddling and then progress gradually (once cuddling has been established comfortably) to massage. A little snuggling should make an easy first step for both parties.
    3. Try nonsexual massage – Experiment with ‘sensate focus’ – A Masters and Johnson technique in which one partner gently strokes the other’s naked body, back and front, each person learning how to touch and be touched in return.  Obtain feedback on what feels good. However, there is to be no attempt to arouse the other person with genital touching. Instead, the goal is a sensual experience that builds trust (and comfort with physical interaction).  Do as many sessions as you need to feel comfortable – and find yourself craving more.

      “Trust is the glue of life.
      It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication.
      It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
      -Stephen Covey

    4. Courting –  Flirt with each other during the day or at dinner out.  Say nice, positive things about the sensate-focus exercises.  Put on music. Dress up. Drink a glass of something festive. Set a positive mood.
    5. HEAL – Loving relationships are one of the greatest sources of happiness and meaning for couples, and for human beings generally.  It takes two to keep love and caring alive for the long distance. Melanie Greenberg developed the HEAL technique to repair damaged relationships by replacing defensive self-protection with compassionate presence and loving connection
      • Hear – Make an effort to stay mentally present and to listen to your partner.Open your heart and take down your defenses.  It’s about understanding your partner and learning to fulfil each other’s needs.  Listening is beyond words, it is also about nonverbal signs of emotions. The best way to soothe an angry partner is to let him/her know that you hear and accept their unmet needs and are willing to make changes to help meet them.
      • Empathize – Allow your partner’s experience to deeply affect you.  Check in on your and his/her emotions. Search beneath the surface for the softer, tender feelings.  For example, expressed anger often has an underlying level of feeling stuck, sad, or lonely. Staying emotionally engaged rather than ‘trying to fix it’ and expressing compassion can provide healing comfort and connection.  So often this is what we all need.
      • Act – Take action to address concerns and show willingness to change.Commit to intentional action to address your partner’s needs and concerns.  These actions may be hands on like washing dishes, calling your partner during the day to let him/her know you are thinking of them, spending less money because it makes the other anxious.  Create a positive cycle in which appreciation, being valued and respected are reinforced. It’s not about being perfect, but more the fact that you care and are trying to change so that validation of the person/relationship occurs.
      • Love – Feel and express unconditional love.  Make space in your life to deliberately reconnect with the loving feelings you have for your partner.  Think of what brought you two together, the feelings that the other aroused in you on all levels, ie psychologically, emotionally, physically.  Perhaps look at old photos or visualize special times in your relationship and the hopes and dreams you had together. Can you find a way to forgive yourself and your partner for the mistakes you have both made that got you off track?  What do these feelings of love motivate you to do? Maybe you want to reach out and express your love and affection with action, and this may not initially be sexually, but rather doing something generous like preparing a meal or writing a note.  Love is defined as a concern for another’s wellbeing and a warm feeling you have towards another. Do not make your expressions of love contingent on what your partner does/should do. Rather, reach out and express unconditional caring, support, understanding and forgiveness. 
    6. Reinvigorate your relationship connection – Boredom or endless routine plays an important role in declining marital satisfaction, as it is often a precursor to dissatisfaction.  It’s not just conflict that you need to pay attention to but levels of engagement. Remember how you felt when you first met your partner, the joy of discovering what he/she was like.  Day to day distractions, and stresses often stop us from enjoying the simple pleasures of conversation that bring us closer. Personal disclosure is the basis for connecting in the first place, so don’t abandon or forget that there are still so many dimensions to your partner that you are not aware of.  
    7. Stop relational patterns in their tracks.  “The same old same old” is what one man brought up dismissively of the concerns his partner raised in conversation.  This interaction is often referred to as “demand/withdrawal” and is a relationship killer of the highest order, and often leads to the end of a relationship.  It is time to recognize the pattern and work at stopping it, ideally in a moment of calm, not agitation.
      3 part process for reducing the spiral downwards and reducing hostility:

      • Stop the spiral before it starts.  Recognise the predictable triggers… stop and take a break, remain calm, aim for a compromise.
      • Work on expressing yourself in ways that won’t lead to escalation.  Substitute less inflammatory words and do not launch into personal attacks.  Address the behaviour instead. For example “I’m bothered by this decision, can we discuss it, and why you feel that it is the only solution?  Maybe together, if needed, we could explore other possibilities?”
      • It is important for both partners to ‘get a handle’ on negative emotions, distortions in automatic thoughts, and how to regain self control so that conflict can be reduced.  Use the ‘sandwich method’ of communication. The two layers of bread are the positives and the filling the major concern. Always end on a positive note. “It’s been a difficult road for you over the past few months, and being able to talk about it has been too painful.  I just want you to know that I’m here for you, and I love you. Together we can share the pain and work at finding a better path.”

        “Do what you did in the beginning of the relationship, and there won’t be an end.” – Nelson Mandela

    8. Acknowledge your differences –  Talk about your differences in a spirit of reconciliation.  Find ‘the glory’ in your relationship, derive strength and meaning in your differences.
    9. Increase commitment –  Try and consciously cut down on the behaviours that diminish your sense of commitment to the relationship.  Touch, forgiveness, tolerance, trust, enjoyment, laughter and love must be practiced to ensure that the quality of the relationship is maintained.  
    10. Gratitude – Expressing gratitude enhances not only relationships, but also expands the person’s concept of what makes for a nurturing, and positive relationship.  The expression of gratitude is both a communication with the other and the self; it reduces dissonance and cements our feelings about the good parts of our connection.
    11. Home is where the heart is – Home is to be your sanctuary.  It is a place where the worries and dramas of the day are left at the door.  Enter into a world of love, peace and harmony. This may seem a tall order, but by being focused on calmness it is achievable.  Children also benefit from this understanding. Practice tolerance, mindfulness and feeling at ease. Relationships have enough pressures from daily life without coming home to a battle ground.  All will benefit from this resolution, to make life less demanding and complicated and where home remains ‘off limits’ to the ceaseless demands of daily life and perceived expectations.

    “In the end we always run back to the ones that feel like home.
    The ones who provide our hearts with sanctuary, the ones that make us feel.”

    -Billy Chapata

    Resilient Children Through Positive Parenting

    Resilient Children Through Positive Parenting

    Parenting is as crazy as circumnavigating the world without a map…but, oh, what a journey!

    Parenting has never been more challenging than now.  Living in a fast-paced, hectic world with combined challenges of such things as new technology, rapidly changing family dynamics, a 24/7 news cycle and an overwhelming educational system – all these in combination raise unrealistic expectations in individuals and parents. 

    What are some of the challenges faced by parents?

    • Balancing parenthood and career and finding time to do justice to both.
    • Disciplining children effectively.
    • Promoting and guarding independence in children – a fine line in an often dangerous world.
    • The costs of raising children in an uncertain economic climate.
    • Being a single/sole parent and having enough support/help.
    • Ensuring that children receive a good, quality education.
    • Reigning in unreasonable expectations of parents and children themselves.
    • Dealing with bedtime routines and the ensuing hassles.
    • Managing consumerism in today’s consumer-centric society.
    • Fostering and also guarding against technological influences.

    “Kids are like a mirror, what they see and hear they do. Be a good reflection for them.”

    -K. Heath

    Sharing some of the insights on parenting…

    1. Even though there is a parents’ knowledge, often as a parent there is the  letting go of personal judgement ie. the forgetting that “parenting is a role, not a race to the finish line.”
    2. Children need to be respected for being the individuals that they are with differing abilities and interests.
    3. Our social relationships/connections are the biggest predictors of life satisfaction.  This is achieved through ‘empathy’ –a parent’s ability to raise children in tribes and settings where playtime is fostered to enhance social learning, creativity and understanding.
    4. Questioning whether ‘scheduling’ children so that they are kept busy and thereby becoming the best at their endeavours, is acting in their best interests. Whose expectations are being met?
    5. Are the decisions on ‘inclusion’ being made out of a sense of anxiety and guilt?
    6. In this arena of competitive parenting are parents’ expectations and the ‘bars’ of what constitutes ‘success’ being set too high?
    7. Children need to have the freedom to be just that, children.  In the parent’s efforts to hyper-parent, studies indicate that it can lead to depression and has destructive consequences in adolescents.
    8. Happiness for your children has no curriculum and is reliant on so many things which are different for each child/individual.
    9. As a parent the very best that can be done is to protect, support and love your children, unconditionally.
    10. Whilst technology shouldn’t be discouraged, it does require vigilance and children being taught responsibility to use these tools wisely.  The goal in doing so is to increase education and skills acquisition.  Checking text histories and setting parental controls should be enforced, as does age restrictions to access certain networks.
    11. Older generations will argue technology is destroying conversation; younger generations will argue technology is enhancing it.  It really shouldn’t be an either, or, debate.  Both have a place in a fast changing world.  Creating safe opportunities where both come into play is the desired outcome, while respect of the person is maintained.
    12. Technology can be used for consumption and creative, or destructive endeavours.  Helping children to know the difference is a parent’s responsibility in raising healthy, well adjusted and resilient children.
    13. Self worth should never be calculated by ‘likes, shares and retweets.’  Self worth is to be found elsewhere in how individuals/or a child treats others in their family, social network and the community generally.
    14. Children should not believe everything that they see or read on the internet.  There is the façade of happiness and success with the compulsion towards consumerism being the ultimate goals in life or measure of personal self worth.

    Recently an article was brought to my attention and it was disturbing reading to say the very least.  In ‘The silent tragedy affecting today’s children’ written by Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist, May 24, 2017, Victoria highlights that there is a steady increase in children’s mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions.

    Researchers (over a 15 year period of studies) concluded that children continue to live and exist in a devastating state emotionally.

    • 1 in 5 children has mental health problems
    • 43% increase in ADHD
    • 37% increase in teen depression
    • 200% increase in the suicide rate in children 10-14 years old

    The good news is that it has been scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment.  ‘Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.’

    What is wrong?

    Basically, what has been stated above is reinforced in Victoria’s article.  There were some points that are worth noting as being fundamental to raising healthy children…

    • Emotionally available parents
    • Responsibilities
    • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
    • Movement outdoors
    • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

    Victoria adds…

    Instead, children are being served with:

    • Digitally distracted parents
    • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
    • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
    • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
    • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
    • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments

    Are you feeling the heat yet?

    Relax.  You know, parents who are emotionally available is the primary consideration in good parenting.  The other issues on the checklist as mentioned above could be introduced fairly quickly.  There is nothing that can’t be addressed without some thought and preparation.

    Suggestions include…

    • Spend one hour a day in the outdoors: walking, biking, playing in the park, watching the birds/insects, dogs at play.  It’s all about communicating enthusiastically with the children.
    • Play a board game daily if possible.  Reading is a winner as it fosters enquiry, imagination,  and promotes reading skills – particularly if each takes turns in reading out loud.  
    • Enjoy a daily technology-free family dinner.  This is family time to talk about what’s happened – check-in-time for family wellbeing.
    • Involve children in family chores – they need to be responsible for some aspect of the running of a household.  Examples could be… folding laundry, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, packing away toys, drying of dishes. An important chore is feeding the pets….it’s so important to raise children appreciating the role of the family pet, the need for kindness and love.
    • Implement a consistent night time/sleep routine with no technology access available in the room.
    • In a bid to foster responsibility and independence, children need to learn skills so that they can overcome the challenges that life brings – the small ones leading to the greater ones.
      • Children to pack and carry their own backpack
      • If a child hasn’t packed in their lunch, don’t rush to school with it (your child won’t die of starvation or malnutrition).
        You could have a contingency plan is case this occurs where your child approaches the teacher or tuckshop attendant. Peeling a banana for a 5 year old isn’t teaching them skills.
    • Boredom is the time when creativity is awakened.  It’s OK for children to experience this…delayed gratification isn’t a crime.
    • Avoid technology during meals, in the car, restaurants and shopping malls.  It’s time to foster the senses, take in the sights, sounds, smells, the steady movement of the people.    This sharpens observation skills.
    • Parent’s are not their child’s entertainment crew.  Nurture creativity, imagination, planning through to the execution stage of projects.
    • Being a child’s emotional coach is what is needed desperately today.  Teaching children to recognise and deal with frustration and anger properly, learning social etiquette – greetings, sharing, table manners, and conversation skills.  Learning how to connect emotionally – hugs, kisses, smiles, tickles, dancing, jumping – physical hands-on connections.

    “Treat a child as though he already is the person he’s capable of becoming.”

    -Haim Ginott

    The final word on developing resilience in children –

    Out of home activities which include volunteering, playing sport, doing paid and unpaid work encourages resilience in children.  Groundbreaking research in the US (Yale University) has shown that families can reduce the impact of adverse events such as divorce, family violence, and death by developing children’s skills and experiences outside the home.  

    The survey author, Dr. Tammie Kwong, who drew on a survey of 63,000 boys and girls, found that one in three children aged 12-17 were flourishing, despite facing three or more adverse events.  The difference was the time they spent on activities outside home.  

    According to Dr. Kwong, “Positive social connections appear to help youths define individual identities, provide them with a sense of belonging and attachment, and offer important opportunities to learn healthy adaptive responses to adverse experiences.”

    Leading Australian psychologist, Jodie Benveniste would most likely concur with these findings and states “..introducing children to new people and situations, helps them develop new skills and capabilities.”

    “Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do.”

    -Benjamin Spock

    Parents are the sun, moon and stars to their children.  The planets, comets and stars beyond the galaxy are their social connections.  The journey has many challenges.. and the future awaits with new beginnings.

     

    Internet Addiction – Controlling The Habit

    Internet Addiction – Controlling The Habit

    Internet-Addiction-Iamge

    “Addiction begins with the hope that something ‘out there’ can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.”

    -Jean Kilbourne

    It is very easy to take internet usage at face value.  However, Internet Addiction has been diagnosed as a new clinical disorder that causes relational, occupational, and social problems.  This compulsion is a global issue that begins in the early formative years and continues through to adulthood, middle age and beyond . Given the popularity of the Internet, detecting and diagnosing Internet addiction is often difficult as its legitimate business and personal use mask addictive behaviour (Young, 2010). A study in the US estimated that nearly one in eight Americans exhibits one possible sign of problematic Internet usage.  It is most likely that this is a global trend.

    The change in technology brings with it new challenges and problems.  As the Internet rapidly moved into homes, schools and businesses, early studies estimated that nearly 6% of users suffered from Internet addiction and this may very well be the tip of the iceberg as reliance on computers and mobile phones continues to increase.  We work, find love, friends, and entertainment via the internet as well.  All of which is very appealing.   

    What are some of the symptoms of Internet Addiction?

    • Preoccupation with the internet
    • An inability to control usage
    • Hiding or lying about the behaviour to family, friends and employers
    • Psychological withdrawal – switching off from what’s going on around you
    • Continued use despite consequences of the behaviour
    • Feeling restless, irritable, depressed or moody when not using the internet
    • Jeopardizing relationships, employment/work, and education opportunities because of internet use
    • Using the internet as a way of escaping reality and problems, relieving negative feelings or depressed mood
    • Losing track of time
    • A sense of euphoria when online and panic when offline
    • Feelings of guilt at the amount of time spend on line
    • Physical discomfort – back pain, dry eyes, weight gain, sleep disturbances
    • Reduction in time communicating with family members and cessation of social activities with loved ones – all of which need nurturing for relationships to thrive
    • Denial of internet habit with the rationalizing that it is part of the job or study requirement

      Addiction is a family disease… one person may use,
      but the whole 
      family suffers.

    Tips for tackling Internet Addiction:

    • Set a time for your internet usage.  Use a clock with an alarm if you need to
    • Set goals as to what you wish to achieve on the internet – be specific in these goals and the time allocated.  Stick to it.
    • Ask yourself “Is what I am doing on the internet eroding that time my family and I get to spend together?”  
    • There is life beyond the internet.  Instead of going online, take a walk, read a book, call a friend or visit someone you haven’t seen for a time.
    • Lead by example when it comes to teaching your children about responsible internet usage.   Ask yourself…”What is that I want my children to learn about the internet and mobile phones?”  
    • Learn to develop coping skills – to deal with stress, frustration, anger and other emotions.
    • See a therapist who uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and can help you through this challenging time of dealing with internet addiction.  
    • Call a hotline or seek out a support group.  You are not alone.
    • If family voice their concern about the time you spend on the internet, it is because they care.  They deserve the time to be heard.
    • Internet settings/strategies:
      • Turn off unnecessary notifications
      • Keep your screen simple and clean
      • Only have one program open at a time
      • Use a news aggregator which allows you to look at your favourite websites in one place.
         eg. Feedly and Digg Reader
    • Delete unused or useless accounts
    • Download or buy an internet-blocking app which will restrict internet time.
    • Develop new hobbies – there’s a whole world of activities for you to enjoy.
    • Test out whether you are deluding yourself about your degree of reliance on the internet.  
      • Check out  … Internet Addiction Test (IAT) – Dr Kimberly Young Partner’s Internet Addiction Test (counselling resource)

    “A habit cannot be tossed out the window, It must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”
    -Mark Twain

     

     

    Positive People work at Communication in Relationships

    Positive People work at Communication in Relationships

    “Some people change their ways when they see the light, others when they feel the heat.”

    -Caroline Schoeder

    Communication is at the heart of healthy relationships.  Good communication is the life blood of enduring love and intimacy. For so many what starts off as ‘We just clicked and I knew we had a connection on so many levels’ eventually becomes, frighteningly, like ‘Entering a war zone.’  

    The last thing that any one of us wants is to have a relationship become ‘A dead duck in the water.’  Before the relationship is ‘beyond resuscitation’ there are some tips and suggestions worthy of consideration and implementation…..

    What’s at the heart of a positive relationship?

    1. Respect
    2. Honesty
    3. Trust
    4. Encouragement
    5. Spontaniety
    6. Variety
    7. Setting clear boundaries
    8. To be loved
    9. To be wanted
    10. To be seen
    11. To be listened to
    12. To be safe
    13. To be remembered for your strengths rather than misdemeanours (minor wrongdoing)

    Positive and smart conversations start with…

    • Thought
    • Clarity of intention
    • Consideration of the other person’s/recipient’s position
    • Applying philosophical filters – Consider Socrates…
      • Is what you are about to say… true?
      • Is what you are going to say… something good?
      • Is what you are going to say… useful?
    • Focus on solutions

    “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”           

    -Eleanor Roosevelt

    Listening is a commitment and compliment.

    By giving your partner your full attention, acknowledgement, appreciation and acceptance instead of blame, there will be a major shift in how they listen and respond to your show of care and concern.

    All people have specific and simple needs..

    Consider what can be said and done which will make them feel immediately loved. Why not ask…”Is there a couple of times when you felt really loved by me? I would genuinely appreciate knowing.”

    None of us are mind readers!

    We all like to think that we are obvious in our intentions, thoughts and feelings.  Not so!  If you aren’t saying it clearly, your partner remains in the dark.  

    6 Ways to better communication with your partner….

    1. Small talk is OK.  It’s those insignificant details that are likely to improve close emotional ties with your partner.
    2. Talk about things that you have in common.  Working together on solutions often comes from sharing those incidental discussions.
    3. Listening cements our connection with each other.  It’s about understanding.  If you’re uncertain seek clarification.  For example…”Sorry, could I just ask you about that?”  …   ‘Joe, is what you’re saying….”
    4. Don’t assume you know the answers.  Ask the question, seek clarification!
    5. It’s fine to talk about yourself, but don’t take over.  It’s a balancing act – talk and listen, with the emphasis on being a good listener.
    6. Search for and nurture those hidden shared moments.

    Love is a verb.  It’s an action word!

    Love has to be kindled and built on every day; it has to be invited in, nurtured and cultivated.  Love is not passive, it’s an active process – the continual expression of what’s in your heart, mind and soul.

    “Communication must be HOT.
    That’s Honest, Open, and Two-Way.”

    -Dan Oswald

    10 Commandments of Clean Communication
    (Couple Skills, McKay et al)

    “Clean communication is taking responsibility for the impact of what you say.”

      1. Avoid ‘you’ messages of accusation and blame.  Eg.  ‘You caused me to….’
      2. Avoid loaded terms and words of judgement… ‘You’re so….’ ‘I’m tired of your……’ ‘If you were more reasonable….’
      3. Avoid ‘Global labels’.  Global labels are a blanket attack on a person’s character or behaviour.  It makes a person feel helpless, particularly if it is anchored to a partner’s sense of identification or personality.
        For example… ‘You’re always so self centred’    ‘You’re such a …..’
      4. Endeavour to use “I feel statements’ rather than verbally attack your partner.
      5. Avoid negative comparisons… ‘You’re so petty, just like….’
        This response can be likened to a slap in the face because most people like to think that they have evolved to those of previous generations.  Making negative comparisons makes the other feel that they can never measure up.

    “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived,
    But if it is faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
    -Maya Angelou

    1. Forget old history. Leave the past in the past rather than raking it up time after time.  Resurrecting old issues isn’t going to resolve the current concern.
    2. Threats are about punishment.
      Eg.  ‘If you don’t get your act together…’  ‘If you continue being like this….’ The upshot of threats is that it is an ultimatum, the last resort.  It drives a deeper wedge into relationships and may lead to the end of your relationship.
    3. Focus on your feelings rather than using them in attack.  By being withdrawn, using sarcasm, or employing cold hostility – it all leads to feelings in your partner of being overwhelmed or psychologically bludgeoned to the heart.  This is where the ‘I feel’ statements are so powerful.  Together with a calm and level voice, it acts as a balm to a challenging situation.  Open body language and being receptive creates an atmosphere of sincerity, and a willingness to communicate more effectively.
    4. Choose your battles carefully as well as the battle ground.  Aim for a truce; a treaty of respect for differences.

      “Feelings are much like waves, we cannot stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” –Jonatan Martensson

    5. Use clear, whole messages which consist of 4 parts…
      Observations   – keep them neutral not focused on the person
      Thoughts – My idea/thought   ‘I worried because’
      Feelings – ‘I’m afraid that…’  ‘I feel ….’
      Needs/wants – No one is a mind reader…talk to your partner!It’s where you tell your partner something that may be difficult to hear, but you sandwich it in between two positive statements.  For example,
      ‘Harry, I love you so much and you make me so happy, but I’m having a hard time with you working such long hours.  Do you think it would be possible to make an effort to spend more time with me? Our time together is precious, and special.  I love it when we can spend more time together.”

    Be mindful of the filtering block in communication.

    Filtering is where you fit and process information so that it fits your views and beliefs.  It’s where you listen to some things and not to others, or hear what you want to hear (even if it wasn’t said).  Sometimes it is referred to as ‘half listening.’  Check in!  Be mindful and clarify by asking questions.  Be committed to understanding.

    By listening carefully and effectively, we can change communication in a way that is rewarding mentally, socially and even financially (networks/work).  The flow-on effect is improved confidence as people respond to your new skills and behaviour.  This reinforcement encourages you and others to continue with effective listening skills and enhanced communication through clarification and engagement.  This can be a turning point in your relationships both personally and professionally.  After all, we all want that win, win result.  

    Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    -Dr. Seuss

     

    Positive People Manage Their Anger

    Positive People Manage Their Anger

    Anger is one letter short of danger.”
    Eleanor Roosevelt

    Feeling angry is a normal and healthy emotion and is not a problem in itself. Anger is an emotion that can range from mild annoyance to intense rage.  How we cope with and express uncontrolled anger can either spur us into addressing our responses (personally) and it’s impact/consequences on our relationships (family). Anger can be viewed as: a) event b) mood c) resentment d) verbal abuse e) physical abuse f) retaliation g) communication breakdown.  Even this is an over simplification of a complex chain of events that can lead to the ‘death of a relationship.’

    What causes anger…

    Think of anger as a cycle… it’s a reaction to a feeling… but it’s more than that too.

    Using a framework used by Cognitive Behaviour Therapists, the process or Framework of Cognitive Distortions – Automatic Thoughts  may be viewed as follows:

    When we break it down there are sequences/questions to be asked…

    1. What is it  (event ) that gets to you and pushes your buttons?  
    2. What are your resulting thoughts?  
    3. What do your thoughts bring out in your feelings? (Embarrassment, Hurt, Sadness, Frustration, Stress, Jealousy, Fear)
    4. What does anger do to you behaviourally ?.. maybe it’s  the ‘fight/flight’ response…
    5. What do you do about anger?  Do you retaliate, scream/yell, get physical, threaten, throw objects, seek solace in alcohol/drugs?   Important question….how would or does your partner respond to your actions?  Play that video in your mind…How would you sum up the scene?   Most likely it’s not a pleasant one.
    6. OK, what could you do differently and constructively?

    Anger is a sign that something needs to change.”

    -Mark Epstein

    When is anger a challenge?

    When anger creates challenges/difficulties in your dealings with other people at some level i.e. personally, socially or at work. It can lead to poor communication or misunderstandings which can result in anger.

    What are the signs that anger may be a problem?

    • Feeling angry a lot or most of the time
    • Anger involves some or all of the following…verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse
    • Anger is leading to difficulties in relationships ie personal or professional/work
    • Anger lingers after the trigger event has passed
    • Anger has that flow on effect into situations other than the original event
    • Feeling anxious or depressed about your anger
    • Using alcohol or drugs to manage anger
    • Using anger as a way of getting what you want
    • Using anger as a ‘power trip’ to ensure you have the upper hand

    What are the symptoms of anger?

    • Tightness in the chest
    • Pounding heart
    • Sweating
    • Shaking
    • Gritting your teeth
    • Raising of your voice
    • Pacing
    • Clenching of hands
    • Breathing becoming more rapid
    • Being defensive or snappy
    • Bouts of losing your sense of humour
    • Being over critical of loved ones or other people
    • Feeling argumentative

    Using anger management, and what is it?

    ‘Anger management’ isn’t about ignoring your feelings or waiting for the moment to pass.

    It is about how to deal with anger more effectively and reducing the degree (of anger) that is being experienced – ‘not letting the pot get too full and its contents spilling over or where it reaches boiling point.’

    Tips for managing your anger…

    • Count to 30 (or more) – It’s about diverting your thinking for a short time so that you can avoid getting caught up in the moment and venting your anger.
    • Time out! – When anger starts building is the perfect time to walk away from the situation.  Change the scenery, deep breaths, calming your mind and body.  If possible both parties should create a little space.
    • Think before you speak.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment.  This is the dangerous time when words are spoken that cannot be taken back and regret can come into its own.  
    • Get physical – by that I mean get some exercise!  Physical exercise helps to reduce stress.  If you feel the anger rising, it’s time to start walking, fast, or running.  That pent up anger needs an outlet to burn itself out!  If going to the gym is an option, then keep it enjoyable.  Meeting gym buddies certainly couldn’t hurt.
    • Download an app to help you unwind.  You could try the Reachout Breathe app or you may be able to find others through research and enquiry.  Meditation is excellent if you are able to relax.
    • What was the event all about?  What led to the feelings of anger?  Remember the Framework Distortions – Automatic Thoughts as highlighted above.  Practice it religiously when it all gets a little too much.  This method could help you with future problem solving in various aspects of your life.  Persevere.
    • When you are calm is the time to address what made you angry.   This is the time to introduce “I feel” statements rather than attack the other person (verbally).
    • Address the behaviour rather than focusing on the person.  Address the situation – distance yourself emotionally and look at the issue as a challenge that has been written down and placed on the table in front of you both for discussion.
    • Problem solving should be a collaborative process where strategies leading to the resolution of an issue is the objective.
    • Communication is everything!  A good way of productive/positive communication is to introduce the ‘sandwich method’ of good communication.  By this you look at the two layers of (bread) which are positive statements.  In between is the filling where a concern or issue in brought into the discussion.  So, you have a positive layer, the matter that’s an issue (negative layer), followed by another positive layer.  There is more about this aspect of communication in my blog articles.
    • Home is your sanctuary.  If the problems arose from outside influences, the rule is, where possible, to leave frustrations at the door.  Home is for calmness, respect and safety.
    • If there is still an ongoing problem and your anger is escalating, seek counselling from a reputable and qualified therapist.  Together you and your therapist can find a way to create a more positive relationship by exploring some of the culprits that may have led to your anger ie depression, anxiety, stress, history of violence. You are entitled to a better life and so are those close to you.

    “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

    -Yoda

    Hoarding – From Clutter To Simplicity

    Hoarding – From Clutter To Simplicity

    Hoarding clutter to simplicity

    “It’s not about deciding what I do or don’t need.
    It’s not even about knowing what I should or shouldn’t keep.
    It’s about understanding what I can handle.”
    -Dana White

    Hoarding is as old as time. In ancient times if you got tired of the clutter, you simply buried it. Archaeologists would probably agree with the adage “ One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” On a serious note, people have very different ideas about what it means to have a cluttered home. For some, it may be a small pile of belongings in a corner of an otherwise well-ordered room. For others, when there is only a small narrow pathway between one room or another may still be considered OK, and in extreme cases, this attachment with access issues continues throughout the house. This is when hoarding ‘extremism’ comes into its own. In a r percentage of situations the attachment to ‘things’ goes beyond the house to swallowing up space in the backyard and/or front yard.

    What is the diagnostic criteria for Hoarding Disorder?

    1. Persistent difficulty parting with or discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value.
    2. The difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to avoid the stress associated with discarding them.
    3. The difficulty of discarding possessions results in further accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas.  In so doing the clutter compromises the intended use of those areas.  Often it is only through the intervention of a third party (family members, cleaners, or authorities) that the matter is addressed.
    4. The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including keeping a safe environment for self and others).
    5. That the hoarding is not caused by another medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi syndrome).
    6. The hoarding cannot be explained by symptoms of another underlying mental disorder (e.g., Obsessive-compulsive disorder, lowered energy in major depressive disorders, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in major neurocognitive disorder, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder).

    The most frequent form of acquisition is excessive buying, followed by attainment of free items (e.g., leaflets, papers, items left on the curbside for collection).  

    When does hoarding begin?

    Hoarding appears to begin early in life and continues well into the late stages.  The symptoms may first emerge around ages 11-15 years, and start interfering with the person’s everyday functioning by the mid 20’s, and causes significant impairment / problems by the mid 30’s.  In a nutshell, hoarding continues increasing with each decade of life.  

    What are the other risk factors?

    Temperament:  indecisiveness is a prominent feature of individuals who hoard.  Anxiety may also be another contributing factor.
    Environment:  individuals with hoarding disorder often retrospectively report stressful and traumatic life events prior to the onset of the disorder or which caused the hoarding to become worse.
    Genetic and physiological:  Hoarding is familial (starts in families), with about 50% of individuals who hoard reporting having a relative who also hoards (or hoarded).
    Cultural:  Data suggests that hoarding is a universal phenomenon with consistent clinical features.
    Gender related Diagnostic Issues:  both sexes are represented, but females tend to display more excessive acquisition, particularly excessive buying, than do males.
    Trauma:  Traumatic events exacerbate hoarding as a coping mechanism.
    Social isolation:  Hoarders are often socially withdrawn and isolated with hoarding seen as a type of comfort.

    Research continues.  In a world awash in anxiety, fear, worry and accumulation of things as a type of coping mechanism, the need to manage feelings by accumulating items continues to grow.  Hoarding doesn’t just include inanimate objects, but can include animals.  E.g., dogs, cats, birds, the list is endless.

    “A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.”

    – Mark Twain

    What can be done to address hoarding disorder?

    Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is an effective treatment.  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in particular has been shown to be very successful.  Seek out a qualified and reputable therapist with experience in treating hoarding disorder.

    As part of cognitive behavioural therapy, you may:

    • Learn to identify and challenge thoughts and core beliefs related to the acquiring and saving of items.  What are the thinking errors.
    • Learn to question and resist the urge/need to acquire more things.
    • Learn to organise and categorize possessions to help you decide which ones to keep and which to discard.  “The decluttering process.”
    • Work on and improve your coping and decision-making skills.
    • Use in-home visits by a therapist or professional organizer to help you declutter your home.
    • Reduce the isolation and increase social involvement with more meaningful activities.
    • Learn strategies to enhance motivation for change.
    • Use periodic visits/ongoing treatment to keep you on track and reinforce healthy habits.
    • Treatment may involve assistance from family, friends and agencies to help with the removal of clutter.  This is particularly the case for the elderly who may be struggling with medical conditions that make it difficult to maintain momentum or motivation.

    What are some self help strategies for Hoarding Disorder to place in the toolbox?

    1. Get the facts about stress and anxiety.  Both are a matter of managing rather than elimination in your life.  The resources you rely on are both internal (thoughts and feelings) and external (friends, family, environment) and how we interact with these.
      Once you can identify the triggers (event), and name the problem (thoughts, feelings, behaviours), you can begin to deal with it (interventions).
    2. Learn about hoarding.  It’s about acquiring stuff, getting rid of existing items, both of which lead to feelings of anxiety and extreme distress.  It may reduce contact with the outside world, impact on employment, and general functioning for the person.
    3. Build a toolbox of strategies.  Understand the factors that add to your hoarding problem.  What are the reasons?  Is there the sentimentality aspect, the guilt in not giving away ‘family heirlooms’, the related beliefs attached to personal items.  Perhaps your family had strong views about waste versus use.  Many people struggle with decision making, categorization, and poor problem solving.
      With this struggle in play certain behaviour patterns occur and are reinforced.  Consider the following:

      Get motivated – it needs to be cultivated.  Identify your thoughts and beliefs.  Look at the reasons to change your behaviour.  What will you gain?Look to the future.  What will your life be like?  If you don’t change what will happen? Get Organised:  Baby steps, measurable goals, avoid distractions, be flexible. Be systematic – use the OHIO principle.  “Only Handle It Once”.
      a. Handle
      b. Determine its outcome
      c. Place into a category/location.

      The locations/categories may consist of :
      Area 1 – Keep
      Area 2 – Sell
      Area 3 – Charity

      Garage sales using the help of good friends can earn you some cash to put towards a well deserved holiday, or boost your funds for creative endeavours.
      The money could go towards relieving the stress of unexpected bills and then there are the gifts to charity; volunteers will welcome donations.  There are some wonderful books and tips by the declutter expert, Peter Walsh.  Peter’s hints are easily accessible on the internet.  He is an empathetic man who understands the milestones – the highs, lows and the passing down of family memories/memorabilia.  A good book of his is…Let it Go. Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life.  Peter Wash…2017 

    4. Continue to practise your successes.  Managing Hoarding Disorder take hard work and commitment.  Take some time to give yourself credit for a job well done.  Be kind to yourself as you take those small steps to change.  Practice your new-found skills, and remember, there are people out there in your community who can help you in the journey to change and wellbeing.

    “Simplicity.  Identify the essential. 

    Eliminate the rest.”

    – Leo Babauta

    The Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights

    The Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights

    THE RIGHT TO INDIVIDUALITY

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to be the same person I was
    before we began dating. I should not have to adjust any inherent part of myself to
    make you happy.

    THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to my own private space. I
    do not have to do anything I feel violates the boundaries I surrounded said space
    with, which may include, but is not limited to, giving up my passwords to my email,
    social media accounts, or phone and sharing secrets I am not ready to share. If I
    choose to do any of these things it should be when I feel comfortable and when you
    have earned my trust, not when you decide I have to.

    THE RIGHT TO GROW AND CHANGE

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to as many personal
    metamorphoses as I deem necessary to become the person I most want to be. This
    may include: becoming healthier, being more outspoken, going out less, going out
    more, going back to study, and so on. So long as my right to grow and change does
    not infringe on your personal freedoms, you should not attempt to decelerate the
    rate at which I develop.

    THE RIGHT TO MAINTAIN OTHER RELATIONSHIPS

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to care for relationships
    outside of our own; with friends, with family, with my career, etc. Although my
    relationship with you is important and you are an important person in my life, I also
    have other people and things in my life that hold value.

    I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY ‘NO’; TO DISAGREE

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to say ‘no’ and hold opinions
    contrary to yours. I am allowed to say ‘no’ when you want my answer to be ‘yes’. I
    am allowed to disagree with you on certain issues. I am allowed to stand firm on
    these declarations.

    THE RIGHT TO PUT MYSELF FIRST

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to, when necessary, place
    my own needs before yours. There will be times throughout the course of this

    relationship in which I may have to be selfish. Sometimes I will have to step away
    from an argument even though you want to talk because I need a mental break
    from the fight. I will confide in you of my need to do so. Other times I will have to
    sit out a social gathering even though you want us both to go because I am just not
    feeling up to it. Whatever the case may be, there will be times I will – for the sake
    of my sanity – need to be selfish.

    THE RIGHT TO LIVE FREE FROM ABUSE

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to live free from abuse of
    any kind; be it emotional, physical, verbal, sexual, psychological, social or financial
    deprivation.

    THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED AS AN EQUAL

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to be treated the way that
    you want to be treated. I am your partner, not your child or subordinate.

    THE RIGHT TO LOVE AND BE LOVED

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to express my love for you
    with every fibre of my being, albeit in a normal, non-toxic way. I have the right and
    expectation that love is a reciprocal process. Love that is respectful, patient and
    tolerant of the other’s differences.

    THE RIGHT TO BE HAPPY

    As a member of a healthy relationship, I have the right to live a life that is full of joy,
    laughter and warmth.

    With thanks to theodysseyonline.com/healthy-relationship- bill-rights for their valued
    insight into healthy relationships.