Being Assertive- Part 1

On the last day of 2013, it may be useful to understand how you interact with the world- whether you are Passive, Aggressive or Assertive? Which out of these three ways of communication do you think is the most healthy way? Yes, you are right, it is none other than being assertive. By being assertive, one is able to put their needs across confidently, without feeling guilty and without offending the other person. So let’s see what these terms mean and what are the characteristics of each?

Click on the table to see what style is predominant for you.

You can also take a self- screening inventory to help you decide where you stand.

Over the next 2 days, we’ll discuss how to become more assertive using some techniques of CBT and Systematic Behaviour Therapy.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

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Improving Mental Fitness- Resilience Building Part 2

So we talked about Acceptance, Responsibility, Emotional Awareness, Tackling Fear and Being Tigger yesterday. Continuing from where we left, here are 5 more principles to help build resilience.

6. Exercise

It would very difficult to argue against the fact that physical health is related to mental health. So improving physical fitness helps in improving mental health. Any form of exercise- be it a sport, be it hitting the gym, cycling, running or any other form of regular exercise helps in releasing endorphins and other neurochemicals that improve mental health.

7. Attitude

Much of the time or rather most of the time, our attitude in life defines how we approach adversities and challenging situations. In a book titled Attitude is Everything I particularly liked two fundamental aspects of a positive attitude- Forgiveness and Gratitude. If one learns to forgive easily and expresses gratitude about whatever one has, and the crucial point here in my view is- if one reminds themselves often about working to change to a positive attitude, that helps in dealing with stresses and challenges more easily.

8. Humour

A good laugh and maintaining a sense of humour is always healthy. It lightens up the environment around you and helps in bringing a different perspective. So make it a point to smile and indulge in humour- share a joke, see the lighter side of life, express problems with a humorous tinge, think of some fun with friends, relatives or close ones.

9. Network

Having a positively supporting network around you is important to keep focussed and positive. This network needs to be one where one can discuss issues freely and be able to trust their opinion. So be around people who are full of energy, positive, carry a spirit of enthusiasm with them, are always there to support others. Not only does their company help in resolving issues but their attitude may rub against yours as well.

10. Mindfulness

Practicing moment- to- moment awareness by mindfulness meditation helps keep one grounded. People often ask what and how to be mindful and learn meditation. Both these can be achieved by understanding the simple principle that in these one is trying to be aware of all that is happening around them in the present moment without worrying about the future or the past. There are many books, smartphone applications available online now but going to a local group for a few sessions can be helpful if the online sources are less than the individual’s requirement. In the beginning when one starts mindfulness practice and meditation, the mind may wander a lot and that is actually a sign that the mind is working- so don’t struggle to quieten it, just be aware of it and bring your focus back. With practice and regularity, you will get better with being mindful.

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Improving Mental Fitness- Resilience Building Part 1

Physical fitness is something that everyone is familiar with and this time of the year, many of us make plans for improving our physical fitness- joining the gym, running, picking up a sport and so on. But how about our Mental Fitness? How can we become more resilient to changes in life and stay grounded without succumbing to pressures or stress? Well, the good news is that by using certain principles and putting these into practice one can improve the way one tackles and adapts to change positively, thus being more resilient.

1. Acceptance

There are times, situations and people in life that do not conform to ones personal expectations. Instead of getting upset with these, learn to accept these as they are without blaming, shaming or getting angry. Don’t blame even yourself and learn to ‘let go’.

2. Responsibility

Once you have ‘let go’ and accepted things, situations and people as they are, you can begin being ‘responsible’. I picked up from a book recently that the word ‘responsibility’ literally means our ability to respond creatively. Our mental fitness depends on our ability to respond rather than ‘react’ because reaction is emotionally charged whereas ‘response’ is something you do after contextualising the event in question.

3. Emotional Awareness

Being in touch with your emotions can often help in regulating emotional impulses and help in ‘responding’ rather than ‘reacting’. So ask yourself a simple question throughout the day- ‘What am I feeling’ and express that or record it in a journal. Keeping a record of your emotions and your behaviours associated with situations, times and people can be a good way to know about yourself. It then helps in working towards developing more healthy ways to express, respond and develop positive behaviours.

4. Tackling Fear

Lots of things that are left undone are as a result of our past conditioning- how we were brought up, how we perceived things, situations and people as we grew up, who our role models were and what did we learn about ‘fear’ during developmental years. Fortunately, being humans, we never stop developing and we can learn to tackle ‘fear’ as well. If ‘fear’ is a normal response to a valid threat, then that is a different issue but if it is a perceived fear due to past conditioning and is stopping you from progressing in your life, careers or decisions, then elaboration of the word may help. You have to decide whether you go with ‘FEAR- Face Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. Part of self- development and mental resilience lies in our ability to do the latter and tackle our fears.

5. Being Tigger

Winnie the Pooh cartoon series is lovely to watch. One of my favourite characters is ‘Tigger’- he is full of energy, always optimistic, bouncing with positive attitude and remains unfettered in his ways no matter what happens. But one can learn a lot from that character- change will always be constant, there will be times when things don’t go our way, we may meet failures but what matters is whether we have a ‘Tigger’ within us or not i.e. can we bounce back from these times? Thinking of ‘being tigger’ can be a helpful way to remain positive and optimistic.

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Drinking too much? Do’s & Don’ts

For many people Christmas is a time when alcohol consumption goes up and they can then bring the consumption back to Non- Hazardous levels. But for others it could be a time that makes them aware that there may be a problem with their drinking- difficulties in controlling, drinking more than what is considered as sensible drinking. Many may decide that they want to come off and that can happen with no ill consequences if they are not physically dependent. If they are physically dependent, medical supervision is important.

If this is the time that you have been thinking of reducing the harm caused by alcohol or want to stop, then the starting point may be to look at the quantities you are drinking in units.

Once you have calculated the units, take a self screening questionnaire- CAGE-

C- Has anyone- a friend, relative or carer ever asked you to cut down your drinking?

A- Do you ever get annoyed if someone asks you to cut down or stop drinking?

G- Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?

E- Have you ever used alcohol as an eye opener ie used it first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to function normally?

If you have answered YES to 2 or more questions above, you may be having a problem with the drink and it would be advisable to see your doctor or a specialist- Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Addictions.

There are many new interventions available to tackle the problem with Alcohol- from reducing the amount of drinking to medically supervised detoxification, abstinence maintenance medications, anti- craving medications and relapse prevention strategies.

So think healthy, screen yourself and seek appropriate professional help.

And if using alcohol has become necessary to avoid withdrawals such as headaches, shaky hands, sweats, calming your nerves in the morning etc, then DON’T STOP AT ONCE as that can be dangerous. That would require a specialist assessment and a gradual reduction or a medically supervised detoxification which the specialist can help with.

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Stop Smoking!

After the festivities of Christmas, many people think of improving their fitness, exercising more, detoxing from effects of alcohol, giving up smoking and contemplate other resolutions of the New Year. That is a good and a positive first step towards improvement of physical and mental health.

And in case you are in the process of deciding to give up smoking, then this video may help.

Once decided, you can take action by visiting your local GP, Stop Smoking Wales or an Addiction specialist to help and support you. There are various medications that can be used to help along with psychosocial support. The support is crucial to maintain the changed healthy behaviour. This support is particularly helpful in times when cravings or temptation to smoke in different situations are troublesome.

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