WHO DOESN'T LOVE FREE RESOURCES?

Psychologytools.com is a great website that is packed (and I mean packed) with information and resources, both for self-help and professionals. From educational material on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the function of emotions, to forms that can help you monitor intrusive thoughts or your mood, to cognitive restructuring exercises, to downloadable audio files on relaxation techniques... The list goes on. Most of the resources are free, too (bonus!). I use the site to find user-friendly material for clients (i.e., to normalise all the weird and wonderful physical sensations that are associated with anxiety), and I encourage you all to take a look to see if  there can be any information or tools on there that can be of use to you!


PSYCHOLOGICAL TOOLS FOR CHRONIC PAIN

Chronic pain is a condition that can be debilitating, distressing and (yes) painful, both physically and psychologically. This wonderful, user-friendly website set up by a chronic pain researcher (and sufferer) offers psychological tools and education for coping with some of the parts of chronic pain that may be amenable to change. Complete this short questionnaire to assess your thoughts and feelings when in pain. For example, catastrophising about pain is a common, but unhelpful internal process that can create a vicious cycle, whereby the pain catastrophising causes stress in the body and amplifies pain. Check out Lisa’s pick and Annelie’s blog post for more information and insight about coping with chronic pain.


MENTAL HEALTH FOR MEN - RECOGNIZING AND MANAGING DEPRESSION

Depression is the most common psychological disorder, affecting 121 million people worldwide. Despite this, many people have difficulty in recognizing depressive symptoms, and in seeking treatment. This especially true for men, who may feel the stigma of a mental health diagnosis more than women (we still have a way to go with mental advocacy, but we’re on the right track!). https://headsupguys.org/ is a wonderful website set up by clinicians, researchers, and mental health advocates and based at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver. It provides a “self-check” assessment of depression, and tips and tools for managing depressive symptoms (e.g., sleep, social life, relationships), information about professional services, and stories of success – specifically targeted to men, but helpful for women too!


THE HAPPINESS TRAP

“Popular ideas about happiness will make you miserable if you hold on to them too tightly”. Dr. Russ Harris, a well-known proponent of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, has written a wonderful, relatable, easy-to-read book called The Happiness Trap, where he puts forward the argument that our expectations about what our lives “should” be like can be harmful for our psychological health.

He presents three “happiness myths” (also available in this this short YouTube video), namely:

  1. Happiness is the natural state for human beings.
  2. Happiness means feeling good.
  3. If you’re not happy, you’re defective.

Dr. Harris suggests that a rich, full and meaningful life involves making space for, and expecting, a range of emotions, and that “the reality is, if you’re not happy, you’re normal”. Life is often difficult, and even our most positive experiences (e.g., meaningful relationships), are associated with tension, anxiety, frustration, anger (etc, etc), in addition to the warm and joyful moments.


LET’S GIVE OUR YOUTH PERMISSION TO FAIL

“Am I good enough?” “Smart enough”?” “Attractive enough?” “Do people like me?” Pressure to achieve and to be valued starts young, and youth often report striving for success and recognition at school, with peers and in other activities. Achieving success (however it is measured) can be a way of building our self-esteem. However, striving for perfection can become a goal unto itself, where we can lose track of what is important and become consumed with the pressure to excel, to be valued, to be perfect. This pressure can lead to anxiety, and interfere with our ability to engage in the present moment, to be spontaneous, to play, to just beThis thought-provoking article encourages parents to reflect on the pressures experienced by youth to excel, and suggests that we re-engage with what’s most meaningful to us, rather than mindlessly (and sometimes frantically) striving to achieve, to thrive, to excel. I would argue that this article is just as relevant for adults!


“ACT IN CONTEXT” PODCAST

Many of us at Connecte are big fans of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT” (for more information on ACT, see Brent’s blog post, as well as a TED talk by the founder of ACT, Steven Hayes, previously posted by Lisa).

One of the most interesting and useful podcasts that I listened to this year was “ACT in Context”, which brings you through the main components of ACT in an informal and user-friendly approach. The podcast is appropriate both for professionals using ACT and individuals interested in ACT for their own personal purposes (I used it for both!). The hosts are clinical psychology PhD students, and they invite in different ACT specialists for each episode to present a different facet of the ACT approach.

Access the podcast through the iTunes store, or by streaming it from the Contextual Psychology website, where many ACT resources can be found. 


Reshma Saujani’s wonderful TED talk explores the societal pressures that can be endured by girls to perform well, and argues instead that we should teach girls to be brave. She argues that being afraid to take risks or to fail inhibits girls’ willingness to learn or to seek opportunities, be they social (e.g., asking someone out on a date) or professional (e.g., asking a question when they don’t understand, applying for a job even though they might not have all the qualifications listed). Although this TED talk focuses on young women, I feel that the issue of being insecure about one’s own abilities or worth, and being afraid to take risks (that may ultimately lead to opportunities!) is relevant to a much wider audience.