Are you loving and thriving in your work at the moment, feeling invincible? Or are you struggling and feel like you're moving through quicksand? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Wherever you are, that's OK.
I know that prioritising yourself, making hard decisions around self-care, saying NO is still hard as a psychologist, particularly in a time where we are seeing a continuing increase in demand for mental health services as we struggle with the impact of COVID19. You want to be of service, and of course you need clients and you need to work.
However, you also need a sustainable business. Squeezing in an occasional extra client or going without a lunch break once in a blue moon happens for many reasons. However, doing this on a regular basis starts to add up.
Without appropriate counterbalances, work overload often catches up with people in the end. And in the end, there is burnout.. The overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and poor productivity impacts on you, your clients and the profession.
You can come back from this, people do, but recovery time is not measured in days or week, it is sometimes measured in years. Depending on the source of burnout, it can be exhibited in leaving employment, career change, early retirement, retraining, and/or withdrawal from direct client services.
But I don’t have time for self-care
Ever gave an excuse for not doing something as "I ran out of time", or variations. "I didn't have enough time"?
Stop for a moment and Imagine that the thing you didn’t have time for was your most favourite thing to do in the whole wide world. Would you have had time to do it?
I’m guessing that most of the time you are going to say ‘yes’ or ‘probably’.
So, it's not the time involved in self-care.
Okay, so what is it?
Here are four real reasons why you say you don’t have enough time.
1. Your current values and priorities don’t allow this task to fit. Life can become full of anything you choose. Work, study, children, children’s activities, gym, coffee dates, meetings, etc etc. There is no shortage of things you can do.
Hard question alert.
Q: Is what you are currently doing congruent with what is most important to you?
2. Distorted thinking. What about if I do this thing and it doesn’t work out? What if I spend my limited time and resources on …… and it still doesn't make a difference. I’m not sure what I’m doing and I don’t want to look stupid. I should already know how to look after myself.
3. The words have become an easy way out.
In a world where being busy is seen to be a badge of honour, “I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough time” has become a default. It’s easier than saying ”I know I should do that, but I actually don’t want to/it’s too hard for me at the moment/I don’t like it/I’m ignoring all things people at the moment/etc”
How about trying to be super honest (at least with yourself) about what you really want to say.
Here are some alternatives
4. You don’t love yourself enough.
This can be hard to hear.
Whether it is because you are putting your needs last out of habit, or, you genuinely believe you are not as deserving as others.
If you find yourself saying, Oh, I don't have time to sit and meditate for five minutes, I'll just take 10 minutes for lunch time because I have a report to write, I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal. I don't have time to go for a walk. I don't have time to journal. I don't have time to X, whatever it is. If these are common responses to decisions you are making, firstly look at the three points above, but then look at what you are saying about your relationship with yourself.
You are worth it. Okay. You need it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your clients.
What you can do about reducing your busyness.
You ARE a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Shifting your boundary fences to extend your clinic hours, adding on a new extra- curricular activity for your child, taking on extra clients, volunteering, pushing through…..can be a slippery slope to burnout.
I've been there, I've said yes to doing more and more because my clients needed it. When what I needed was to say NO and spend more time with my young family.
Another hard question alert
Q: What do you need to say NO to?
I know it's not quite that simple, many factors go into why you say 'Yes' instead of 'No', including
(In the Essential Self-Care for Psychologists course, the module on boundaries is definitely my favourite one - wish I'd understood all this when I first graduated).
When you check what is behind the statement of “I don't have enough time”, you get to restart your life. It's a really good trigger to set off in your brain that things just aren't the way you want them to be.
You HAVE to look at your priorities and values.
And if you don't, if you just keep saying it and not change anything, nothing's going to change.
You might find that you start to feel resentful and neglected. As the demands pile on and you are not taking care of yourself, you may start to hate your life, crave for things that just aren't there. Burnout may start to creep up on you.
So, take “I don't have enough time” as your cue to dig deeper, examine your beliefs, your priorities, to engage in honest communication, and to work on removing those barriers that stand between you and your self-care.
Be kind, and go gently.
What to know if you are experiencing burnout? Go here.
Interested in finding out more about Imposter Syndrome? You can access a paid webinar here.
If you have ever wanted to improve your mental health you are not alone.
But how? Today, I focus on busting one unhelpful myth.
THE MOTIVATION MYTH
If I could just feel more motivated I would be able to achieve more/look after myself better / (insert your own saying).
Motivation can be defined as an internal process that directs and maintains behaviour.
It is thought to be what causes you to move towards your goals.
How many times have you said “I’m unmotivated”? Which translated means – I don’t feel like doing it.
I’ll let you in on a secret, you may not know -
Your brain sees change as scarey.
Anything that disturbs your environment and is different, your brain processes as a potential threat. It then takes mental energy to work out whether it is a threat or not.
So let’s say you start with a great idea that you would love to change your life so that you were braver, calmer, fitter, healthier. You can see yourself and all that you’d be doing when you achieve that goal. And that involves change. Changing your mindset, changing your schedule, changing up your habits.
So, is your brain going to take all this change lying down?
As much as you stand there encouraging your brain – we can do this, we’ve got this, let’s go – it ain’t going to come easily. (imagine a toddler, in the supermarket aisle, not wanting to move).
So, what do you do?
You need a bridge.
A well constructed bridge to take you from here (frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted) to there (in control, calmer, confident).
I can tell you one thing – that bridge is not going to be motivation.
It may have some motivation in there – but to work it’s going to need structure, processes, knowing how to create habits that stick, knowing what obstacles are going to pop up and what to do about them, support from friends, family and/or an accountability buddy, a clear understanding of why this change is important to YOU, an understanding of the change process and self-compassion.
This is why when I teach people how to improve their mental health – to get from here to there – it’s not just one session on motivation, dust my hands and say ‘you’ve got this’, and walk away.
I provide education, understanding, structure and fierce support.
Improving your mental health requires a considered structured approach. It takes your time, your open mindedness and your commitment.
So ask yourself.
What is important to you?
What really matters?
Give yourself permission to invest in yourself and get support to create the bridge.
Until next time, take care of yourself,
Of course, if you are experiencing significant distress please contact your GP, therapist or 000.
For resources that can help see - https://positiveyoungminds.vipmembervault.com
Yesterday the roadmap was delivered to Victorians. As a Victorian living in Metro Melbourne, the roadmap was worse than I had anticipated.
Worse both personally, and for the larger community.
I am looking for strong forward sustainable leadership in regards to future town planning which maximises the resources available in each person’s 5 km bubble. Maybe that’s coming, but it wasn’t there yesterday.
I am looking for leadership that supports family connection, and that wasn’t there yesterday. There are at least 7 weeks before I can see my parents, or any member of my family again. And at least 11 before we can come together as a whole family. None of my family are within my 5km radius.
There are at least 7 weeks before my children can look at resuming a proper education – ranging from High School to University.
So, yep it sucks.
So yesterday I wallowed, a little bit. Something clicked in my brain and I slipped into self-sabotage mode. To me this is often a combination of not doing anything and over eating – not a healthy combination – and getting angry.
If I am to name my anger, it would be disappointment, fear (the above will only happen if certain parameters are met), some envy and resentment.
There will be no grand final meet up with family.
If I’m going to be stuck in a 5km bubble, I want a better 5km bubble! I want a beach, or a forest, or a river walk, and/or some family! I have a lake .2 km out of my bubble. Do I risk it?
In crisis it becomes the gap between the haves and the have nots - geographically, financially, emotionally, and socially becomes so apparent.
In a crisis, this gap becomes a chasm.
There are many of us who don't have friends who check in on us and who take the effort to make our iso birthdays something special.
There are many people stuck in worse 5km radius than me. Those who don't have the money to indulge in Netflix, Foxtel, online purchasing, take away meals, or other distracting behaviours.
There are many who don't have the resources or energy to get dressed each day, let alone create and finish any sort of project.
And of course there are those stuck in a loveless or abuse relationship, unemployed, detoxing, the list goes on.
The above, and more contribute to the anger I feel.
So what, if anything, is the antidote to this anger?
Do we just wait it out the best we can?
Well, yes there is that but, here are a couple of things that may help
You know those thoughts and feelings going around and around in your head, perhaps sabotaging you the way mine do? Get them out. Write them down, talk them aloud, acknowledge them, show them in the light and own them as yours.
Now this is not denying that other people may have it worse. This sort of comparison does not help.
This is acknowledging your hurt and your loss and all the reasons you may be feeling anger.
From here there are a few options.
If you have uncovered a sense of loss, hurt or suffering you may like to look at the Three Steps of Self-Compassion.
You may like to channel the energy of that anger into something you can control, that fits with what is important to you. It might be writing a letter to your MP, starting a home construction/demolition project, going for a run, dancing to loud music, actively contacting (or recontacting) everyone you know in isolation to see how they are doing.
Or you may wish to reconnect with a passion, a person, a therapist, a positive habit.
I’m taking stock (again) today. Looking at doubling down on exercise, doing something in the garden, taking pressure off myself to complete work projects and slowing down a little bit, spring cleaning the house. I’m also going to keep connecting with the people I care about and…find a new Netflix series. Vampire Diaries you’ve served me well, but you’re almost over.
And, I’ve had one week off since March and am about to go and schedule in a couple more weeks when I finish this. Because, yes you can still burn out in isolation, in fact it can be even easier to do so.
Where ever you find yourself day, take time to reflect on how you are really feeling, what you are really thinking and then act upon this feelings. If you would like some support with that I’m here for you. Whether that’s through self-care coaching, supervision, mentoring…simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about your next steps.
Until next time, take care of yourself
Kim Dunn xx
There is no doubt that the presence of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 is causing emotional distress in the community and amongst individuals. In this article I outline why this happens, how you can manage your anxiety, and why it is important that you prioritise your self-care now.
Some initial research into the first month of COVID-19 found mental health difficulties were at least twice as prevalent as in non-pandemic circumstances. For some people the restrictions around COVID-19 are a blip in their lives, for others the impact is significant and ongoing. And, as to be expected, the people most impacted are the most vulnerable in society.
The need for practical, positive, flexible self-care to manage this ongoing anxiety and stress is clear.
WHY DOES THE PRESENCE OF COVID-19 TRIGGER FEAR?
In many people the presence of COVID-19 and being in the midst of a panademic triggers fear (as well as anger and sadness). At its most basic a pandemic represents a threat to life. You are given daily updated global totals of how many people have died. Additionally, the presence of COVID-19 threatens your health, your liberty, your place in society, and exposes the divide between the haves and the have nots, both locally and globally.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FLIGHT, FIGHT AND FREEZE RESPONSE?
When fear is triggered your body responds on instinct. It sends you into an acute stress response. Without you thinking about it, physiological changes in the body happen that are designed to keep you safe. These instinctive and primitive reactions cannot tell the difference between threats – that happens next. So your body responds as if the threat is right there – like having a ferocious tiger appear in front of you.
Once your brain identifies something as a threat to your safety, it sends a message to your adrenal glands requesting energy to take action.
When your body responds a cocktail of biochemical survival hormones are released such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, norepinpephrine and ephinephrine. These hormones influence everything you do, from eating and running to feeling, thinking and behaving. Your heart will start beating quicker as it pumps blood to the areas that your brain believes are needed right now, like your muscles. A rush of adrenaline causes your lungs to take in more oxygen which the heart pushes to the rest of the body. Your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
Examples of how the fight, flight and freeze responses are appearing in the community follow:
Includes arguing with the government and authorities, defiance (eg breaking the law and community standards – think house parties, extended family gatherings, toilet paper hoarding, refusing to be tested), blame, deflect, disbelief (eg conspiracy theories) increase of domestic violence, ostracization, and abuse.
Includes people fleeing to their holiday homes. Other people may avoid all societal contact, not even going out for daily walks.
Think stuck brain. Inability to change routines or do anything proactive. For example – binge watching Netflix, losing track of the day, not being able to adjust to current reality.
THEN WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FEAR RESPONSE?
Usually when the situation that triggers the fear response disappears, your body starts to return to normal. The fear response is an emergency response and is designed for short term work. However, when a threatening situation is ongoing, like the threat of COVID-19, you can start to experience chronic stress.
Without engaging in intervention, like good self-care, your feelings can start to overwhelm you.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I EXPERIENCE CHRONIC STRESS?
Some of the common effects of chronic stress can include:
You want to look after yourself more, but seriously, who has the time (or energy) for that.
And really, what difference would it make anyway?
I get it.
When my children were young and didn't sleep very much self-care seemed like a luxury that I would get to , one day. I so wish I'd realised then, how incorporating little things that fitted what I was going through (no time, money or energy!) could make a difference.
Did you know that every time you make a choice you lose something? It’s called opportunity cost. It’s unavoidable because you can’t be in two places at once, you can’t browse Facebook and get the dishes done, you can’t eat pizza and fish and chips and Chinese for dinner – you have to make a choice.
And choosing to engage in self-care, or not…..
…is no different.
But first let’s take a brief detour and let me dispel a myth for you. Self-care is not all about pedicures, massages and pampering. Sure, whilst there’s no doubt that some people love this and it helps them rejuvenate themselves; it’s only one, small, aspect of self-care.
Self-care is all about YOU looking after your physical and mental health. The action you take can be positive, practical and personalised. That’s the best type of self-care – finding out what you need and doing what works for you.
Back to the opportunity cost of NOT prioritising self-care.
Not being mindful (one of the key self-care tools) can lead to forgetfulness, missing non-verbal cues in conversations and harming connection, not being present for the best moments in the day, missing the everyday beauty around you.
Not doing something that brings you joy can lead to resentment and sadness.
Not practicing gratitude can lead to envy and jealousy.
Not exercising can lead to depressed mood.
Not reaching out to others when you are feeling lonely can lead to increased isolation and lack of connection..
Not practicing self-acceptance can lead to a feeling of not being worthy and not speaking up for yourself.
Not going to the doctor can lead to undiagnosed and untreated physical illness.
Not enforcing boundaries can lead to burnout and a deep sense of being taken for granted.
So, in answer to the question that was posed at the start – what difference does engaging in self-care make anyway?
Incorporating positive, practical, self-care strategies that reflect YOUR needs can make a world of difference to your health, your mood, your life.
Now, just because it’s self-care, I really, really want to stress one thing.
You don’t have to do it all by yourself. I am here to help you work out what you need, what strategies will work best for you and your circumstances, and to teach you positive, practical strategies that take very little time.
Just to show you that these strategies don’t have to take long, here’s a simple one for you to try.
Look up from reading this and find something that catches your eye and makes you smile. Allow yourself to focus on this feeling and the thoughts that go with it. Maybe it’s something your chid made, maybe you bought it for a special reason, or at a special place. Maybe it is just beautiful or was given to you by a special person. Then, if this thing is cluttered by other things, make space for it to shine by itself.
That’s it. You have just practiced self-care. You have touched on emotional self-care, connection and meaning. You have also practiced using you Awe and appreciation of beauty muscle.
If you feel inclined to send me a quick email, I would love to know how you went with this exercise.
Ever shut up instead of standing up? Ever allowed others to shine whist dimming our own light. The world needs you to be at your best.
I talk about this and what may be stopping you in the latest podcast. How to stand up instead of shutting up. What it takes to express your authentic self.
And remember, if you want to be a part of the exclusive subscribers podcast group – all you need to do is subscribe to Creating Connections that Matter, leave a review, and email me a screen shot at email@example.com.
For an update list on different ways I can help you click here. And of course, I am currently available for Telehealth Counselling or Telehealth self-care coaching - email for more details.
Until next time, take care xx
As you may already know, podcasts are my go to at the moment. Whether it be catching up with the latest in psychology, business or self-development, I have a range I can choose from according to the move. Some are great for listening to in the car, some when I’m lying down resting, some for when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, and others when I’m really in the mood to learn something new.
In fact, they are a perfect way for mums to learn. Some podcasts are short, some are longer, so you can pick and choose.
Below is a list of my top 6 favourites at the moment, although they do change from time to time.
Private Practice with Soul by Dr Brooklyn Storme.
The Content 10x – Amy Woods
Brand You Personal Branding – Mike Kim
Marketing that Converts by Teresa Heath-Wareing
Potential Psychology – Ellen Jackson
Parental as Anything ABC radio.
And a special shout out to two really new podcasts
Phoenix Rising with Gallagher Psychology by Patricia Gallagher, and
Course Creation Bites by Sam Winch
And of course I love my own (because it would pretty terrible if I didn’t!)
Creating Connections that Matter by Kim Dunn.
Do you listen to podcasts? If you've listened to mine I would love to know what you think, and I am always interested in what you would like to hear more of, simply drop me a quick email.
Have you ever been taken advantage of, had your trust betrayed, or got stuck in an unequal power relationship?
Trust – it’s a slippery little sucker.
What causes us to trust someone?
Do you trust people implicitly or does it take a long time to build up and develop trust that is quickly destroyed?
What do you trust people with – your secrets, your money, your heart, your life?
Trust and vulnerability are a cornerstone of connection.
It starts at birth.
Babies trust their mothers to feed them, pick them up when they cry, cuddle them. Responsiveness and predictability are key to attachment and connection.
As a psychologist, the relationship between myself and my client is inherently trust based.
My clients trust that I will do the right thing by them. That I will listen and seek to understand without judgement. That I will value and respect their experiences, their goals, their vulnerabilities. Within the clinic space they can let down their guards and don’t need to be strong. They trust that I will guide them using proven methods and honour their journey. That I will work within my expertise and the ethical and legal boundaries of the profession.
Did you realise that 50% of ‘success’ in therapy is due to the relationship between therapist and client. And when you think about how important trust is, this totally makes sense.
Many years ago I sought out counselling through the services provided by my then work, and began seeing a therapist. This person crossed boundary lines. They crossed boundary lines in a number of ways. I followed their behaviour up with a complaint, but that too was unsatisfactory.
This incident totally derailed the therapeutic process for me. It destroyed the connection. It created a mistrust of the counselling profession which I maintained for many years, and, a mistrust of my own experiences.
Why am I telling you this?
I have described an unequal power relationship which was abused by one party. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this and it wasn’t the last. It’s also not uncommon.
You may have experienced something similar.
Here is what may help:
If you are specifically looking for a mental health professional and want more information on professional and ethical conduct.:
I hope this helps. If you want to find out more about my story go to the latest podcast episode https://anchor.fm/kim-dunn/episodes/How-a-therapist-broke-my-trust---and-how-you-can-protect-yourself-against-something-similar-happening-to-you-ear293.
As always you are welcome to email me or book an appointment on 0408533515.
Until next time, take care of yourself
There's one thing that's guaranteed to happen at Christmas...
And what can happen when you wait?
Frustration, impatience. There's so much to do, why can't everyone just hurry up or move quicker.
Well no matter how much you want that to happen, it's probably not going to.
So what can you do?
Believe it or not, this is a great time to practice tapping into your inner calm. Here's one way to practice self-care on the go.
Simply roll your shoulders up and back and take a deep breath, then repeat the breathing. Focus your attention inward to your breath instead of outwards towards what is going on around you.
Yep, that's it - simple, on the go self-care that works.
Until next time, keep it simple and...
Take care of yourself.
Creating connection involves stepping out of our comfort zone, making changes to how we think and what we do. But it is crucial if we are to combat this scourge of loneliness that surrounds us, that contributes to isolation, mental health difficulties and suicide.
So I'm stepping into this mission I have to help you create connections with yourself, others and the greater world. I can't sit by and just accept what is impacting on all of us.
It is through strengthening these connections that we raise the positive energy around us that we all need.
I welcome you to come along on this journey with me.
Today I'm sharing a little video that shows how we can all make a difference, straight away, today with not adding any extra time chores to our list...because we all have way too many as it is.
I asked someone what gift they wanted to give themselves, they said gratitude sounded boring.
So what would you give yourself?
They didn’t hesitate – self-confidence.
So that is today’s gift we give to you.
The gift of believing in yourself and allowing yourself to do what is important to you.
Christmas can be a huge time of self-doubt and events that seem to conspire to delete our self-confidence. Personally when I see people go out to fun work events, or doing wonderful things with their family I can hear this nagging voice that says “see that, why aren’t you doing that? Why don’t you have the ability to make things that like that happen”.
Maybe you are estranged from your family, too ill to create anything special at Christmas, don’t have work and struggle to find money to pay for gifts, are single and despair of finding a partner, or even more simply can’t make a gingerbread house to save your life.
Maybe you are lacking the confidence to have the Christmas you want to have, not what is expected from you.
Or it can be that when we catch up with certain family members of old 'friends' memories of our past mistakes and failures are brought up.
Christmas can magnify the areas in our life where we lack confidence.
Maybe you are lacking the confidence to have the Christmas you want to have, not what is expected from you.
Self-confidence and comparison
Most young children believe the world revolves around them and of course whatever they do is wonderful – just think kindergarten drawings, first steps, made up stories.
Then you hit school and the comparisons of your abilities, your achievements, your looks, your background, your clothes, begin – and they never stop. And at Christmas we are never short of comparisons with what other people are doing (even if we know that what we see on social media is not the total picture).
When you practice a new skill, when you build up the knowledge over time that there are some things you actually do well, your confidence grows. When you receive feedback on your abilities, your looks, your achievements, or on other things that are important to you, your confidence grows.
But what if it doesn’t, or how do you build self-confidence?
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.