Psychologist Therapist Counselling Hamilton
Learn from a psychologist about ways to manage stress & time pressure anxiety.
Learn an important therapy strategy to reduce anger, frustration and anxiety.
Learn about the symptoms of PTSD & psychologist informed treatment options.
Psychologist Dr. Barbera explains mindfulness and how to development mindfulness skills.
Psychologist Dr. Barbera explains how to know if you are depressed, what causes depression and what to do about it.
There are many types of anxiety. Learn more about different types of anxiety here.
Negative self-talk can have a huge impact on our mood and anxiety levels, as well as other feelings .
The stress of time pressure anxiety & how to ease this common feeling:
Feeling like there is never enough time? Finding yourself feeling increasingly stressed, anxious, and irritable? Don't like how this is impacts you or your loved ones?
People commonly experience stress associated with feeling perpetually busy and pressed for time. This often leaves people feeling stressed and irritable. We can then become excessively task-focused or overwhelmed and shut-down. To help with these concerns consider these 5 suggestions:
1) First, recognize how our culture’s focus on productivity and wealth accumulation contributes to time pressure stress. Our busy schedules contribute to this challenge. Many of us try to balance many roles and tasks and this can be very difficult. This Balancing act is common and you are not alone. Remember not to blame or criticize yourself or set unrealistic standards.
2) Take stock of what you have on your plate (daily, weekly, monthly). Review each task to determine what “must be done” and what you “ideally want done”. Prioritize the "must be done" tasks. Consider what tasks could be streamlined (e.g., making meals for the week ahead of time). And remember to delegate (e.g., getting your partner or children to help with certain tasks). Make a schedule to break down tasks.
3) Avoid multitasking where possible. Believe it or not, multitasking can contribute to mental clutter and time pressure. Instead of trying to achieve many tasks at the same time, focus on one task at a time. Notice how this feels compared to multitasking.
4) Take the above suggestion one step further. While you focus on one step at a time, also focus on doing the task mindfully, as if you have never done the task before. This mindful approach to task completion eases stress by shifting your focus. Instead of focusing on negative thoughts, your focus shifts onto your senses. This helps because your thoughts tend to be more negative when you feel stressed. Refocusing on your senses (what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste), tends to have a relaxing effect for most.
Also, when you are completing tasks, notice if you are going into "task-master mode". This means doing without full conscious awareness or doing because you feel compelled to, not because you want to. If you are in this mode, ask the "task-master" part of yourself to “ease back” or give you space. Then, attend fully to the task you are doing to stay mindful while you efficiently complete the task.
5) While completing tasks, pay attention to your breathing. Many of us will go into "stress breathing". This occurs when we rush through tasks. Stress breathing will activate our fight or flight system and stress hormones. Instead, notice your breath and mindfulness slow your breathing.
Another way to lower your stress response while completing tasks is to put on music or sing while completing the task.
Aside from the above suggestions for time pressure stress, there are many other things that can help. For instance, be aware of your automatic thoughts while you are completing tasks. Use gratitude and acceptance strategies.
Also, working in therapy on your "task-master" part can really help. This involves healing what contributes to your tendency for “doing” because you feel compelled to do, instead of “doing” because it's truly important. Working on your "perfectionistic part" of yourself can also be very helpful in regaining a sense of ease and reducing stress and pressure.
Counselling & therapy can help with all these approaches if you find them challenging to do on your own.
Counselling & therapy can help you explore greater ways to reduce time pressure, even when faced with a busy and demanding schedule. Ask us how counselling with a therapist can help you today.
Life can be difficult and frustrating. Unfortunately people often respond to frustrating situations or unpleasant emotions with resistance. Resistance means attempting to fight or struggle against what we don’t like. Resistance can look different for different people. Inside though the struggle often sounds something like: “no”, “this sucks", "I hate this”, “I cant stand this”, “I have to make this stop”, “you’re kidding me”, “why”, “oh come on” , "*#!%*!" etc...
What does resistance sound like for you? It helps to know so you can spot it.
Why is spotting resistance inside yourself important?
Because resisting difficult situations or feelings is a strategy that does not help! This common way of responding actually amplifies your frustrated or angry feelings. In turn, this will lead to even more suffering.
🌪 Suffering is increased because resistive energy leads to an amplification of negative emotion. This wastes energy that could be better spent on other things. Would you say you have energy to waste?
Remember: Suffering = Pain X resistance
Resistance = amplification of emotion
If you recognize that resistive responding may be wasting precious energy and keeping you stuck, what can you do?
In our experience, awareness is a good start but awareness alone is usually not enough to actually change how we respond. Change requires actively practicing a new way of responding.
What is this different or new way of responding? Well, the most straight forward way is what DBT therapists call “Radical Acceptance”.
Acceptance does not mean you agree, approve or are giving in to it. Acceptance is simply an acknowledgment of reality as it is in this moment.
Acceptance involves making space for what is, instead of constricting around it.
Acceptance is “letting be what already is” and making an active decision in the moment to not put energy into fighting what you can’t change, but instead focus on reminding yourself (repeatedly if needed) to “accept” that.....
“I accept that I’m tired right now”
“ I accept that this image is intrusive and painful”
“ I accept that this happened”
“I accept that it’s taking longer than I hoped”
“ I accept that I feel sad”
“ I accept that they don’t understand right now”
In other words, any time you notice starting to get more frustrated, consider that you might be resisting something. If you are resisting, remember that you are only making it feel worse and you are wasting energy. Instead, actively decide to tell yourself “I accept that”....... (you fill in the blanks) as many times as you need to until you notice the edge lifting. You may be surprised that it only takes a few repetitions.
Remember, this strategy is about taking the edge off and freeing up energy, it is not about making feelings go away entirely.
Negative feelings ‘going away’ is a process that happens over time. Usually for this to happen though you have to allow yourself to first be where you already are. We call this the “paradox of change”. Its a paradox because the more you try to ‘force’ feelings away, the more they will likely persist. In counselling or therapy, when we see people stuck in their recovery it is often for this reason.
Remember: When something happens you don’t have to like it, want it or approve of it. Let yourself “accept it”, meaning don’t waste your time or energy fighting what already is.
Instead of resisting what already is or how you feel:
*Allow it to be there
*Give it permission to be what it already is
*Let go of struggling with it
*Make peace with it
*Turn away from it
*Make room for it
*Let it be
*It is what it is
*Stop wasting energy on it
*Breathe into it
Acceptance doesn’t mean you approve or agree. Acceptance simply means you will not waste your energy struggling with what already is...
Acceptance doesn’t mean you are giving up or giving in. Acceptance is a refusal to waste more energy in the present moment.
To practice acceptance look for moments where you start to feel frustrated or irritated and say to yourself over and over: “I just need to accept that.....”
e.g., I just need to accept that I feel sad right now.
e.g., I just need to accept that I’m going to be late.
e.g., I just need to accept that it’s not going as planned.
e.g., I just need to accept that we do not agree.
This kind of acceptance strategy really can free up energy and reduce the intensity of feelings.
To help you cope with stress, it can also help to remind yourself how feelings & upsetting situations are similar to waves:
*They each come and go, rise and fall.
*They each vary in intensity.
*With both giant waves and upsetting feelings it is best not to fight or struggle!
*If a wave catches you, rather than fight against it, allow it to wash over you so you don’t exhaust your resources. Similarly, when you experience a strong emotion:
just notice it and ride it out knowing that it will pass!
Most important: Practice practice practice!
To see a video that explains how resistance functions like a "struggle switch" click here.
"Mindfulness" is a recent buzz word, but what exactly is Mindfulness?
To help explain, Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera likes to start with what mindfulness is not: mindfulness does not mean “quieting” the mind. Yes, it is true that the mind will likely grow quieter and calmer with mindfulness practice, but mindfulness does not necessarily mean a “quiet” mind- especially to start with.
Focused awareness where you notice with curiosity your experience (sensations, feelings, and thoughts) as it actually is in this very moment, and not what your verbal mind tells you it is. Being fused with our verbal mind is often what increases anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps us separate from this or "unblend" from our thinking mind.
To help you engage in mindfulness, remember that Mindfulness has 3 very important parts:
Why is Mindfulness helpful?
Practicing mindfulness as described above helps us to move towards a healthier detachment to unhelpful thoughts, and distressing feelings and sensations. Things become easier to break down so they feel less overwhelming and anxiety-provoking.
When practicing mindfulness It becomes easier to willfully direct our choices and behaviors instead of behaving according to more unconscious defenses or emotional impulses. Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera calls this "being more Self-led, instead of led by our emotions".
Mindfulness practice leads to changes within our brain in terms of activation within the amygdala or the emotional center of the brain. It helps us develop neurological connections to a more restful state that becomes easier to access with practice and this has a significant impact on lowering anxiety.
Ok I want the benefits of mindfulness, so how do I use or implement Mindfulness?
1) First, to develop mindfulness skills we have to set an intention and then practice doing things more mindfully every day. This means doing things while we purposefully pay close attention to our sensations and the experience of what we are doing now rather than focusing on the past or future. We also focus on noticing the experience as it is, rather than getting caught up in the judgements our mind makes about the experience (“good”, “bad”, “horrible” etc).
It helps to think about doing things as if you never did it before or as if its the last time you will ever do the activity and you want to savor every nuance.
What are some things you could start to do more mindfully? Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera recommends identifying what tasks you will do this week in a more mindful way. Then, build them slowly over time to develop new habits.
2) It can also help to practice mindfulness exercises or guided meditation.
For a great explanation of how to more formally practice mindfulness watch this video: How to Meditate for Beginners.
Ok, now that you know what mindfulness is, some of its benefits and how it can be done, its time to try some actual guided meditations. Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera suggests trying these short meditation exercises to get started:
In counselling your therapist can also guide you through a mindfulness practice that is specifically centered on your concerns or needs (e.g., worry, anger, perfectionism, self-confidence, self-compassion etc).
In counselling or therapy individuals are taught by their therapist how to develop and maintain mindfulness skills. Ask us how mindfulness training during counselling or therapy can help you.
The role of negative thinking and how to help separate from our unhelpful thoughts:
By clinical Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera C. Psych
Humans are unique in the extent to which their mind is organized by language or words. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a continuous stream of thoughts running through your mind. This running stream of thoughts is called "internal dialogue" or "automatic thoughts."
As humans grow, their language and thoughts are continually shaped by those around them. Over time we slowly internalize the words and beliefs of others. In particular, the way we are spoken to as a child influences the content and/or wording of our own internal dialogue.
By taking on the thoughts and ideas of those around us, we can learn quickly. However, the way we internalize the language and ideas we are exposed to can become problematic if we are exposed to negative beliefs and ideas.
For example, if our parents often tell us that we are not good enough in different ways, those ideas will influence the way we talk to ourselves internally. If our parents continually model a negative way of talking to themselves, such as referring to themselves as "stupid," then we usually take on that same language or treatment of ourselves. We will also internalize wording such as "always," "never," "can't," "should," or "shouldn't."
So why is it a concern if we adopt this kind of wording into our own internal dialogue?
As mentioned above, there is a constant flow of different thoughts running through our minds. Like a narrative in a movie, this running stream of thoughts greatly influences how we view ourselves, the world, and others. Our internal dialogue or personal narrative also greatly influences how we feel and how we behave.
Imagine having an emotionally abusive or highly reactive person following you around all day. This person continually criticizes you and berates you for all your perceived shortcomings. How do you imagine you would feel towards the end of the day?
Frequently engaging in negative self-talk is like having an emotionally abusive person follow you around all day, every day. Because your self-talk is internal, you don't have many options to escape it. Wherever you go, there it is.
You can also think of internal dialogue like the narrative and background music in a movie. Have you ever turned down the sound and realized how much this reduces the vividness of the feelings the movie invokes? Internal dialogue is similar. Our automatic thoughts can either heighten or reduce the intensity of our emotions.
This notion becomes very relevant for those who are struggling with their emotions. If you struggle with depression, anxiety and fear, anger, guilt or shame or even PTSD, it's important to learn about the role of your internal dialogue! It's also important to learn about the impact that day-to-day automatic thoughts have on our belief systems!
Over many years and hundreds of individuals, Dr. Jennifer Barbera C. Psych has consistently observed that most people who report experiencing depression or anxiety also tend to think negatively. In particular, when it comes to depression, people often report being more self-critical than average. When it comes to anxiety, people tend to report higher levels of thinking styles such as 'catastrophizing' or 'discounting the positives.
This isn't just Dr. Barbera C. Psych's observation. Countless empirical studies in the field of Psychology (e.g., Arditte et al., 2016; Gustavson et al., 2018) have objectively verified the dramatic effects of people's thinking on their mental health and well-being. For this reason, most therapeutic modalities (e.g., CBT, ACT, DBT) put at least some focus on identifying and shifting a person's internal dialogue.
In CBT, a focus on internal dialogue is referred to as "thought monitoring." Thought monitoring is when a person is trained to notice and identify their negative or unhelpful thinking. Even the act of increasing awareness of negative thoughts and beliefs can reduce the emotional impact of thoughts because awareness facilitates "externalization."
Externalization is when a person becomes aware in the moment that their mind is thinking certain thoughts. This awareness helps a person separate themselves from their thoughts. Instead of just thinking and emotionally reacting to their thoughts, the person notices and can reduce the impact of their thoughts. Seeing our thoughts allows us to more easily separate from the content of our thoughts and then we become less emotionally influenced by the thoughts.
Being aware of and/or thinking about our thinking is known as 'metacognition.' Having this ability to be aware in the moment of our thinking is similar to watching a movie while reflecting moment-to-moment on how the movie was made. The outcome is usually that there is less emotional impact. Instead of being carried away by the sights and sounds of the characters and images, the person can stay more neutral or detached. Try it, especially with a scary movie!
Being able to detach from our thinking helps a person stay more neutral and/or less anxious or distressed.
Ok, sounds nice, but how do we become more aware and detached from our thinking?
The first step is to start to notice and monitor your thinking, especially when you feel upset or unsettled. Thought Records might be used to facilitate this process more effectively. Thought records give us a concrete way to start to make a note of things such as the situation or context when we notice feeling a certain way. Thought records can also help us track the exact content of our thoughts when we experience a downshift in our feelings.
What kind of content do we look for?
Well, let's start with the standard list of Negative thinking styles, sometimes called 'thinking traps':
Jumping to conclusions:
This is when we assume that we know what someone else is thinking or going to do (also called mind-reading). This also occurs when we make predictions about what will happen in the future even though these events have not occurred yet. This style of thinking is also called 'fortune telling'. For example, someone might assume that another person will reject them or use their feelings against them or cheat on them when they can't know this for sure yet.
This is when we focus on only one aspect of a situation or certain information while ignoring other information. Most of the time, this involves people focusing only on negative information while overlooking or minimizing positive information. We can also think of this as "tunnel vision." For example, someone might think, "yeah, I got into graduate school, but I didn't get into my top choice."
This is when we assume the worst will occur and or review things out of proportion by framing the situation as absolutely awful, terrible or horrible. Some people call this "awfulizing." For example, someone might think, "if I'm late, then I'll get kicked out of class, and I'll never get a job, and my life will be awful," or "if I have to see them again, I will just die."
This is when we assume another person's behaviour is about us or when we blame ourselves for something that goes wrong when we are either not responsible or only partially responsible. For example, someone might assume that another person didn't text them back because they don't like them or that another person appeared unhappy because they didn't want to see them.
All or nothing thinking:
We see things in black or white terms, meaning we only see one extreme or the other. With this type of thinking, we leave no room for "gray." This means that we forget that most things exist along a continuum, and instead, we see it as "either" "or." For example, we might see someone as either "good" or "bad." We might think, "If I'm not perfect, then why bother."
"Should" or "must" thinking:
This is when we put unreasonable and inflexible pressure on ourselves or others. For example, someone might say to themselves, "I should be over this by now" or "I shouldn't feel this way."
This is when we take one instance and generalize it across many are all situations. For example, someone might think, "I will never get this done," or "why does she always treat me this way," or "nothing good ever happens to me."
This is one we frame our view of something based on how we are feeling. For example, if I am feeling uneasy, then I assume that something bad will happen. A person who feels embarrassed might assume that they are "an idiot" because of how they feel. This also occurs when somebody assumes they are unattractive to others because they feel unattractive themselves.
This is when we label ourselves or others negatively or make a global statement about someone based on one instance. For example, a person might label themselves as "stupid, ""a loser," "crazy," etc. Or someone might view other people as "selfish" or "manipulative."
Magnification and minimization:
Often enough, people will magnify positive attributes in other people while minimizing positive attributes in themselves. For instance, when given a compliment, someone might think or say, "well, I didn't get everything done on it that I wanted to," or "They are just saying that to be nice."
For a visual overview of the above thinking styles please see our negative thinking styles handout.
Sometimes different kinds of negative thinking styles blur into others. For example, if someone assumes that another person was quiet because they were not interested in them, this is both an assumption and personalizing.
The exact style of thinking is not important, so never get hung up deciding which thinking style a particular thought is. Instead, the important thing is noticing and labelling the thought to help separate from your thinking.
Arditte, K. A., & Shaw, A. A., & Timpano, K. R. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. (2016) 35(3). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kimberly-Hall-5/publication/283719969_Repetitive_Negative_Thinking_A_Transdiagnostic_Correlate_of_Affective_Disorders/links/5a01b507aca272e53ebb2e45/Repetitive-Negative-Thinking-A-Transdiagnostic-Correlate-of-Affective-Disorders.pdf?origin=publication_detail
Gustavson DE, du Pont A, Whisman MA, Miyake A. Evidence for Transdiagnostic Repetitive Negative Thinking and Its Association with Rumination, Worry, and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Commonality Analysis. Collabra Psychol. 2018;4(1):13. doi: 10.1525/collabra.128. Epub 2018 May 17. PMID: 30761388; PMCID: PMC6370308
If you know that you think negatively, but can’t seem to help this, consider asking how a therapist can help you to more effectively shift your internal dialogue and negative beliefs.