My articles provide you with a collection of interesting and relevant insights into a number of life-related topics, aimed at developing your YOU-Q and helping you find your Inner Winner. Browse the articles for the information you need to regain control of your life.
Over the course of my career, I have often been asked by print and radio journalists to give my expert opinion on a variety of topics. You can read these articles on the magazine page and listen to the interviews I have given on the radio page of Claire in the Media. They make for interesting reading and listening.
When it comes to psychotherapy, there is a common misunderstanding that the psychologist is there to tell you what to do. In other words, to give you advice. It’s a misunderstanding because giving advice is not what psychologists actually do. A psychologist’s role is far more complex than that.
2020, a year that will never be forgotten due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has been a challenging year for everyone. It was certainly not the year that any of us expected and it is for this very reason – that it was so unexpected - that many of us have struggled.
When there are discrepancies between our expectations and reality, all sorts of distress signals go off in our brains. It doesn’t matter if it’s an annual holiday ritual or a more mundane daily habit like how you clean your teeth; if you can’t do it the way you normally do it, you’re biologically engineered to get upset. We really are creatures of habit.
Icebergs are deceiving because what you see on the surface is usually only a small fraction of what lies below.
Anger is exactly like an iceberg – it is easy to observe on the surface, but it has so many other hidden emotions below the surface.
"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us.
Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.”
~ Epictetus ~
(Greek Stoic philosopher - 55 – 135 AD)
The Wellbeing Wheel is based on Systems Theory and is a useful tool to help us think about life in a circular way rather than a linear way.
The Wellbeing Wheel breaks our lives into eight different aspects, elements or categories and helps us to see that all the parts of our lives are linked to each other. When we plot our wellbeing on the wheel we can see at a glance which aspects we are paying attention to and which aspects we are not paying attention to, or neglecting in our lives.
We so often complain about how busy we are and that there is not enough time for everything. But what is it that you are actually focusing on? Are you including all the things that are important and necessary for your health and wellbeing? If you are, then you will be living a life that is meaningful and leads to optimal health and wellbeing. If you are not, you will merely be filling your days with frantic busy-ness on a path to physical and mental illness.
This well-known story will inspire you to think about what you are spending your time doing.
Most people think that the word “extravert” describes a party person and the word “introvert” describes a shy person. For psychologists, however, the terms have a more accurate and complex meaning.
Most parents want their children to be happy and carefree. That’s understandable. The problem comes when a parent thinks that to be happy and carefree a child must have lots of friends and be doing lots of different activities.
It’s a problem because for the introverted child, being constantly active and socialising is stressful and exhausting.
Whether people celebrate Christmas in the true Christian sense or not, the end of year holiday season is traditionally a time when families and friends get together. The emphasis is very much on reunions – people travel from far and wide, spare rooms are made up and more people are squashed around the dining room table.
Hollywood plays its part, portraying Christmas as the harmonious coming together of friends and family, the giving and receiving of wonderful gifts and the sharing of fabulous meals around the table. But the reality of Christmas for so many people is not like the movies at all. Christmas is fraught with tension, stress and depression for many.
This article was written by Guest Blogger: Tracy Ruff
Bipolar disorder is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses that can severely impact one’s life. In terms of causes of disability, bipolar disorder is ranked in the top 10 in developed countries. At any one time, up to 51 million people worldwide have the disorder and its prevalence rate is approximately 1.1% of the global population.
While this figure may not seem like much when compared to other chronic illnesses (40% of the world’s population has hypertension, for example); it is imperative for the general public to understand just how serious the condition is. This is why on the 30 March various global initiatives will be celebrating World Bipolar Day to increase awareness and challenge the terrible stigma associated with the disorder.
Studies show that between 10% and 40% of women will be afflicted by postpartum depression. If one takes the lowest figure of 10%, there are at least 50 000 new cases of postpartum depression per year in South Africa alone. The real tragedy is that for many of these women, it is never even picked up, because despite the considerable number of cases, the condition generally remains undiagnosed and untreated.
Postpartum depression does not only affect the mother – it can affect the entire family – so it is time we all understood more about the illness to play our part in recognising and defeating this highly treatable and avoidable condition.
Bad vibes in the workplace are not only detrimental to staff morale and productivity they can also have a negative effect on your health and wellbeing, not to mention your career prospects. Every way you look at it, it is a good idea to learn to control your anger at work.
Do you believe that people are successful because they work hard and earn their success? Or is it just about being in the right place at the right time? In other words, do you control your life or does something else (like a god, luck or destiny) control it? Your answer depends on your “Locus of Control”.
Most of us think we know how to have a conversation and so do it without thinking, but there is actually an art to conversation and it’s a skill well worth developing. If we want to do it correctly we must avoid the following common errors...
“Men feel disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”
Epictetus (First century stoic philosopher)
“As people think, so shall they be.”
Bible (Proverbs 23:7)
“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, lines 249–250)
If you ask someone to list their values, the chances are they will mention ‘integrity’, but ask them to define integrity, or how it affects their lives, and they can’t.
We are taught from an early age that integrity is a good value to uphold, but we don’t really know what it is!
So what is integrity all about and what does it mean?
In our hectic, modern lifestyles, most of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped playing. Even when we do make time for leisure, we're more likely to sit in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But the reality is that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously just because we’re adults. By giving ourselves permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, we will reap a variety of health benefits throughout life.
At the beginning of every year, most people make plans and set goals for the year ahead. It’s a great idea, because knowing where you want to go is important – How can you get there, if you don’t know where you are going?
With my sailing background, one of my favourite quotes is “If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” ~ Seneca ~
But a sailor does not just allow himself to be blown about the ocean. It doesn’t matter what the wind, he just resets his sails to take him in the direction he wants to go. In the same way, when you know what you want out of life, you can set your course to get there, no matter what the circumstances.
But, you need to know where you want to go… you need to have a vision!
To help you clarify your vision, it may help to create a vision board (also called a Dream Board).
Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s is the topic of many jokes about forgetfulness and memory loss, most people don’t even know the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. And they certainly don’t know what to expect when it comes to how the disease progresses.
This article is one of a three-part series on Transactional Analysis. It follows on from the articles “Transactional Analysis – Part I (The Masks we Wear)” and “Transactional Analysis – Part II (The Games we Play)”. This article (Part III), is an outline of two more of the key concepts in Transactional Analysis – Life Positions and Life Scripts.
Most people believe that the biggest constraint on their productivity, is the amount of time that they have. In most cases, this is not true.
Of course, you probably have had days when you went from one thing to the next without even stopping to eat, and felt like you had accomplished so much by the end of it. But you will also have noticed that you felt like you were spinning and that this was followed by a slump – a drop in energy. We cannot keep going in this mode for too long without it leading to loss of energy and burnout.
We live in a world of uncertainty. We are constantly trying to overcome this by making sense of things. The problem is that however good our sense-making is, it can never match the complexity of the world. As a result, the meaning that we create is always tinged with doubt. Some uncertainty always remains. Said another way, the assumptions we make and the things we do in the world all attract an element of risk.
This article is one of a three-part series on Transactional Analysis. This article follows on from the article "Transactional Analysis – Part I (The Masks we Wear)" and comes before Transactional Analysis - Part III (The Scripts we Follow). What follows in this article (Part II) is an outline of two more key concepts in Transactional Analysis – Strokes and Games.
If you look up the word ‘freedom’ in a dictionary you will see that it is a noun and has two definitions:
This article is one of a three-part series on Transactional Analysis. It is followed by the articles “Transactional Analysis – Part II (The Games we Play)” and Transactional Analysis - Part III (The Scripts we Follow).
Transactional Analysis (or TA as it is often called) is an interpersonal relations approach developed during the 1960s by Dr Eric Berne. It is underpinned by the philosophy that:
Transactional Analysis is based on two notions: That we have three sides or 'ego-states' to our 'personality (Parent, Adult and Child), and that these ego states converse with one another in 'transactions' both internally and externally with other people (hence the name).
The Pareto (pronounced pah reh taw) Principle states that most of the time 20 percent of invested input is responsible for 80 percent of the results obtained. Put another way, 80 percent of effects or consequences come from 20 percent of the causes.
The Pareto Principle is an unscientific phenomenon that is also known as the Pareto Rule, the Pareto Law, the 80/20 Rule, the Law of the Vital Few and the Principle of Factor Sparsity.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide. This is a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100 000, or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate will increase to one death every 20 seconds.
In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among men and women aged 15-44.
It is time we took this issue seriously and learnt more about the causes, the signs and signals to look out for and what can be done to prevent such tragedies.
The concept of ‘living in the now’ or ‘being in the present’ has its roots in Eastern philosophies, but has gained popularity in mainstream western thinking in recent years because of the writings of people such as Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-zinn and many others.
The increasing popularity of the concept – also referred to as ‘mindfulness’ – has quickly promoted its status from an esoteric concept to an abundantly used ‘power-phrase’ in the area of ‘self-help’. Many people are still confused by the concept and don’t fully understand it. So what does ‘living in the now’ actually mean and why and how should introduce it into our lives?
Depression is the most common complaint of individuals seeking mental health care. By 2020 depression will be the 2nd most disabling health condition in the world (Lopez et al., 2006).
Alarming statistics perhaps and yet what is more alarming is that many people are not even aware that they are suffering from depression. They are not able to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression in themselves or others. This lack of knowledge is causing unnecessary suffering and it’s important that we change this state of ignorance and educate ourselves so that we can:
The term ‘resilience’ was brought to our attention in the ‘70s and ‘80s when the first research findings on resilience were published in the health fields.
Recently, however, resilience has become a fashionable buzz word. It is often bandied about without any real thought to its impact or meaning. We are all supposed to be striving to be more resilient. But what exactly does this mean, what do we do with it and how do we get it?
Bipolar disorder (which used to be known as bipolar affective disorder, manic-depressive disorder or manic depression) is a type of mental illness (specifically a mood disorder) characterized by episodes of an elevated or agitated mood known as mania that often alternates with episodes of depression.
The symptoms can be subtle and confusing. Many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed – resulting in unnecessary suffering. With proper treatment and support, however, an individual with bipolar disorder can lead a rich and fulfilling life. So what is bipolar disorder and what can we do about it?
Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of the most important presidents in American history. He was well known for his energy and productivity. Abe Lincoln's productivity secret was to use sharper tools to get the job done more efficiently.
He said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Many people think of anger as a purely ‘negative’ emotion – an emotion that we should not actually allow ourselves to feel. But anger is, in fact, just an emotion - one of a whole range of emotions that we must allow ourselves to feel if we want to experience a rich mental and emotional life.
Kleptomania (Klep-toe-MAY-knee-uh) is a well-known impulse-control disorder characterised by the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal items even though the items are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value. The individual experiences a rising sense of tension before the theft and feels pleasure, gratification, or relief when committing the theft. The stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance. It is also not done in response to a delusion (false belief) or hallucination (false sensory experience).
A surprisingly large number of people do not know how to accept a compliment. They have a mind-set that says something like, “I cannot possibly deserve positive feedback - anyone who pays me a compliment must be misguided, lying or feeling sorry for me”. But, is this really true? Of course not! You not only have the right to accept compliments and feel good about yourself, but also the responsibility to accept a compliment that someone is giving you, graciously.
Are you concerned about some aspect of your appearance, so much so that it negatively affects your lifestyle? For instance, do you spend many hours a day checking your 'defect' in the mirror or do you, perhaps, spend hours attempting to hide what you regard as a flaw. Maybe you actually remain at home, avoiding dating and other social interactions. If this is you or someone you know, you might perhaps have Body Dysmorphic Disorder – a little-known mental disorder.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” and “No hiding equals no discipline” are familiar adages that offer advice with biblical roots - but are no longer treated as gospel. Indeed, there is no hiding from the fact that research proves corporal punishment is not the most effective method of instilling discipline in children. There are two highly effective alternatives to punishment – positive and negative reinforcement.
It seems that there really is more than a little truth in the old adage 'laughter is the best medicine'. Scientific studies around the world are continuing to prove that, apart from making us feel good, laughing actually does us good as well – and can actually significantly increase our life span. Pre-school children laugh or smile between 300 and 400 times a day. By the age of 35, this drops to about 18 times. Why have we lost our sense of humour, and what can we do to put more laughter into our lives?
In recent years, many famous actors and sports stars – Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas, David Duchovny and Charlie Sheen, among others – have cited sex addiction as the reason for their marital infidelity. Outwardly, this may seem to be the ideal excuse for “bad boy” behaviour – medically justifiable cheating! But is this an unfair assessment? Is sex addiction just an excuse, or is it a real disorder?
ADHD is one of the most common, yet incurable, childhood disorders. However, many other problems – some of which are as simple and common as an ear infection – can produce similar symptoms. How can we ensure our children receive the correct diagnosis, and what can we do to help them – and ourselves – effectively manage the disorder?
Criticism is often seen as a negative thing – look it up in any Thesaurus and you'll find it right there alongside such choice words as condemnation, disapproval, nit-picking and fault-finding. This is solely down to the fact that most people only ever criticise in a negative way. And we only ever refer to criticism as criticism when it's negative – positive criticism becomes 'approval' or 'praise'.
The truth is, criticism, when given in an appropriate way at an appropriate time, can have many positive effects – both for the giver and the recipient. The trick is to learn how to criticise in a positive and constructive manner, and to watch out for the pitfalls of negative criticism.
The adage, “You’ll worry yourself sick,” is not just an old wives’ tale. Prolonged stress can have an impact on our health. But it’s not only negative pressures that cause stress. Change – even positive change – can affect our wellbeing. How can we identify which events in our lives have the biggest impact, and how at risk are we of falling ill because of them?
There are probably as many misconceptions, myths and stereotypes about mental disorders as there are mental disorders. Popular fiction and film often perpetuate these misconceptions, reinforcing the belief that those suffering from a mental disorder are 'crazy' and should be institutionalised. Gaining a deeper understanding of mental disorders and their causes can help us deal more effectively with affected loved ones or colleagues.
Everyone procrastinates from time to time. It’s human nature to want to delay tackling an essential, but unpleasant task. Sometimes all we are actually doing is prioritising effectively. But how can we tell whether putting off an important task is becoming our behavioural norm, and not the exception – and what can we do to reverse this unproductive and unhealthy trend?
We can always rely on change – good and bad - to happen to us throughout our lives. And while we cannot always control the changes in our lives, we can decide how we are going to react to those changes. But, what skills can we learn to help us embrace change, so that we emerge as victors and not victims?
We often joke about 'going senile' or 'getting Alzheimer’s' when we forget things. However, most people don’t understand what dementia really is, what the symptoms of the disease are, or how it progresses. It’s important to know the difference between simply being forgetful and suffering from dementia, in order to have a greater undertstanding of this debilitating and frightening illness.
We often feel we have to be everything to everybody – putting our own needs and wants at the bottom of our list of priorities. Yet the psychological, physical and emotional benefits of finding time for ourselves are numerous and well documented. So how can we lose these feelings of unnecessary guilt we experience when we spend time 'just for us'?
Even with the ever-growing dominance of computers and social networking sites, and the popularity of e-mail and text messaging, the telephone continues to be the tool of choice for most business communication. It is very important, therefore, to establish good telephone manners in order to convey a polished professional image. Poor telephone technique, sloppy cell phone savvy and missing mobile manners all detract from the impression you make when you make a call.
Here are some practical guidelines to help you foster fabulous phone finesse, ensuring you are heard even when you’re not seen!
Learning to identify the different communication styles - and recognising which one we use most often in our daily interactions with friends, family and colleagues - is essential if we want to develop effective, assertive communication skills. But how can we tell the difference between the styles, and is there a time and place for each one in certain situations?
Conflict occurs when the goals, needs or opinions of one person clash with those of another. Unchecked, this conflict can escalate into full-blown hostility and even violence. When viewed constructively, however, conflict can actually become a valuable and productive growth experience. What skills can we develop to help us handle conflict situations correctly, ensuring a positive outcome for both parties?
While many people take falling asleep every night for granted, many others suffer from insomnia. This can be temporary - brought on by travel; or change in a job or relationship. Sometimes, however, it is a chronic condition which can have medical or psychological causes. How can we tell the difference between the two, and what treatment options are available?
Grief and bereavement are possibly two of the most difficult and challenging certainties we will ever have to face. Unfortunately, they are also possibly the ones we know the least about. In our western culture, we often feel awkward around death and dying and just don't know what to do, or to say to a person who is bereaved and grieving.
Understanding that you have the right to ask for what you want is the key to becoming a more assertive person. Assertiveness helps you feel better about yourself and your self-control in everyday situations, and increases your chances of having honest relationships. But, how can we be assertive without being selfish – and what is the difference between the two?
We all make plans we don't stick to and make resolutions we don't keep. It's easy to think big - but even easier to act small. Why do we do this? Why do we sabotage our dreams and fail to reach our goals? And what can we do to ensure we end up living the life of our dreams?
At social events where we may not know many people, it is easy to feel out of our depth. We may struggle to start a conversation with strangers, and end up feeling uncomfortable instead of confident. How can we change this scenario? What skills can we learn to ensure we enjoy ourselves - and leave a good impression on others?
It is normal to feel anxious in certain situations. It keeps us on our toes and stops us from ignoring danger. Abnormal anxiety causes much greater disturbance, and professional help is usually needed in order to cope. But how can we recognise whether our anxiousness is just a normal response to a situation, or the beginnings of a serious disorder?
Trauma is our emotional reaction to a shocking, unexpected event that is way beyond the range of usual human experience. It's an unfortunate fact that most of us have either experienced a traumatic event ourselves, or we know someone who has. But what can we do to cope with the after-effects of trauma? How can we help ourselves – and others?
Research shows we perform more productively at optimal levels of stress. Unfortunately, these days many of us of see this as permission to take on too much and work too hard. This can push our stress levels too high and damage our health. But, how much stress is too much? And what can you do to manage your stress effectively?
In the 21st century, being stressed is regarded as a status symbol - if we are not stressed then something is wrong!
We seem to have lost the plot - it's not OK to be stressed! Excess stress is detrimental to our well-being and causes decreased productivity. Both individuals and organisations suffer.
Burnout is characterised by physical and emotional exhaustion - usually as a result of too much work. Many people experience burnout without even realising it, and only know something’s wrong when their symptoms become severe enough to significantly interfere with their work and family life. How at risk of burnout are you, and what can you do to help yourself?