+852 2575 7707 drmelanie@mindmatters.hk

COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY – A Suggestion

Uncertainty

Much has been written about the discomfort of uncertainty accompanied by its worry, stress and anxiety and it’s effects on so many areas of our lives.

For most of us worldwide our lives feel like we are stuck on pause, waiting to return to the illusion of the predictable and the freedom to move about and make plans.

It can feel like we are in quarantine, even if not officially, with challenges at every turn personally and relation-ally. Being alone together is stressful. Navigating the bumpy terrain of closeness and distance, needs and expectations, can be a strain. All the more so with children at home demanding engagement plus space constraints. Add the demands of working at home, social isolation and the ever present fear of a viral infection can exhaust our personal strengths.

Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, tempers are likely to flare easily, it’s consequences lingering, often painfully. Focusing on fearful thoughts can interfere with our ability to relax into the present moment and enjoy even the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee.

With so much uncertainty coping effectively can plummet, with little sense of control and no end in sight.

Although it may have felt that way, your future, through today, was never as predictable as you may have assumed. Instead it is the product of complex causes and conditions, and the often unrecognized power of serendipity – “the potential for random and unexpected events to wreck even the best laid plans.”

The one place uncertainty does not exist is in the present moment. Step into it. Scan your body for sources of stress and pain. Breath slowly into each such area and simply recognize and allow each experience of discomfort to communicate its needs to you. The body keeps the score. Maintain a curious, open mind as you do this exercise, “that’s interesting”. Lying on your back while propping your feet up against the wall for 5 min. as you do this is particularly calming.

Flexibility is a key here. Flexibility can aid in cushioning the impact of the unexpected by expecting the unexpected as much as possible, controlling what you can while appreciating all can continue to change rapidly. That is the value of having plans B, C & D. Just in case plan A gets sideswiped by the unexpected.

Reflect back on this time when so many of your cherished freedoms were curtailed by the virus. Reflect back on how you used your time during the lockup?

Do you feel a sense of satisfaction that you used your free time well, or did you while away the hours watching Netflix and reading far too much news?

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. A sense of accomplishment accompanies being productive, and it pays dividends going forward.

If you felt some regret when you looked back, then consider how to focus some of your current time now in ways that honor your interests and abilities and give you a sense of accomplishment when you reflect back from your future now to today.

In the midst of so many physical, financial and psychological threats, give yourself the gift of presents of mind, focus on what you can change, and deeply enjoy your coffee.

Dr Melanie Bryan
13 April 2020

It’s Not About You

Its-not-about-you - Taking things Personally

Taking Things Personally: The Downside

Your partner is late – again. You begin to fume, assuming s/he didn’t consider you enough to call or text.

Your work colleague didn’t inform you about an important meeting – again. S/he is trying to sabotage you, it’s obvious.

Taking things personally: rapidly interpreting another person’s words or actions as negative comments about you without considering other potential explanations. This damages your self-esteem, pummels self-confidence and too often renders us feeling angry, guilty or defensive.

It’s not about you.

Once you accept your vulnerability to over-personalize and consider other explanations for another’s words or actions, you step out of your victim mentality and create choice for yourself. Really, taking ownership of these rapid reactions, appreciating they are not about you, is truly freeing. Now you have choice in how to address the issue.

What are your triggers, what presses your buttons?

Triggers are reactivation’s of old emotional wounds or frustrations that still sting. A host of similarities to the original experiences such as a comment, body language, voice tone or look can trigger an over-reaction similar to the source experiences. These reactions are unique to each individual but are invariably disproportionate to a current given comment or behavior.

Other triggers develop via repeated frustrations with someone such as their being chronically late.

Becoming attuned to your triggers: “The body keeps the score”

An emotional red flag may be a sudden, rapid heartbeat or quickened breath, your chest or stomach may tighten, or your jaws may clench. Any of these reactions are important signals. Noticing them rather than reacting out of them gives you the opportunity to grasp the messages fueling these feelings.

To quickly step back from the trigger and step into the present moment, take a few deep, slow breaths, hold each a few seconds, then exhale slowly and name the feeling. This brief exercise allows you to step into the present moment, consider possible alternative explanations and take proactive or protective action.

Expressing your needs calmly and assertively will have you feeling more empowered and comfortable within yourself than taking things personally ever can.

Solution-Oriented Therapy*

Shifting the focus, improving self-esteem

 

Solution Oriented Therapy

 

One approach (among many) to both therapy and coaching I tend to employ, engages the client (or clients, in the case of a couple or family), in searching for exceptions to the presenting complaints and out of this investigation, constructing solutions, rather than honing in on the problem itself.  This means expanding the clients framework to include descriptions of when things are already happening satisfactorily in the area of distress that the clients want to continue to have happen.

Within this framework, I search for something worthwhile that is happening, explore these worthwhile  interactions, be they attitude shifts, behaviours etc. and encourage the client to continue doing more of these in lieu of their problematic reactions.

Promoting awareness of exceptions to these problematic behaviours or interactions and encouraging consideration of the differences between the situations when the problem occurs and the situations in which exceptions to the problem occurs, helps to shift the client’s attention towards their current abilities, towards potential solutions and towards amplifying more of what works.  A greater sense of self-appreciation of one’s capabilities for change and growth naturally follows from such a line of thinking.

Solution-talk can be present-focused:  “What are you doing now that is effective in dealing with or over-coming ‘x’? (Anxiety, fears, relationship conflicts, compulsions, etc.).  “How do you do that? When?”  “What do you think this tells me about you?”  “This ability to do something different, is this new or have you always had it?”

Solution-talk can also be future-focused:  How will you know when this problem is solved?  What will you be doing differently?  “Are  you doing any of that now?”  “How will other people you are close to know things are different without your having to tell them?”.  Such questions shift the client’s attention toward generating and sustaining differences that make a difference in resolving their presenting complaints.

Solution-talk can elicit resources from the past that can be incorporated in the present to improve a client’s self-image or functioning:  “At what time in your life would you have been most confident that you could have accomplished this?”  “What experience was most important in supporting that belief in yourself?”  “What does that time in your life tell you about yourself and your potential now?”

Solution-talk leads to a picture of life after successful (and often brief) therapy which can guide both therapist and client toward positive change patterns in the client’s life.

*Developed by Steve de Shazer, Brief Family Therapy Centre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

 

 

 

Couples Conflict & Poaching

Conflict-Poaching

Couples often get stuck in repetitive patterns of interaction, doing the same thing and expecting different results.

There is frequently an attachment to each person’s point of view, ‘being right’ (referred to as a ‘losing strategy’), informed by a need to ‘win’ with an aversion to being ‘wrong’ which often solidifys such a stance.

A recent Royal Geographical Society (RGS) lecture on The Maasai Fight Against Poaching in Africa got me thinking about the need for couples in conflict to think outside the bounds of their conflicts to resolve their habitual struggles.

Maasai Daniel Ole Sambu and his Big Life Foundation is fighting against the epidemic of wildlife poaching with a variety of creative approaches in the Amboselli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania.

His foundation’s unusual approaches reminded me of how important it is for couples to think counter-intuitively as Maasai Sambu has been doing, especially in dealing with repetitive conflicts.

For example:

In Maasai land, the only wild animal tribes kill is the lion. This is a coming of age ritual.

In an effort to change this long-standing tradition, the Foundation has created the Maasai Olympics where their young men ‘Hunt for Medals, not Lions’. And it’s working!

Another example:

Retribution killing based on tribal beliefs that when a wild animal kills a child or adult, or does destructive harm to their land, that animal must be killed in return.

To counter this belief, the Foundation’s conservation program compensates the tribesman for NOT killing. And it’s working!

A final example:

Poachers that are caught and punished with imprisonment are invited to become rangers once they have completed their sentences.

Maasai Sambu noted that these people make the best, most committed rangers!

Dr Melanie Bryan
www.mindmatters.hk

Overcoming Your Fear of Dogs

Overcoming Your Fear of Dogs

Long ago, in NYC, I had a beautiful, gentle Great Dane. Now and then I would encounter a mother and her 3 or 4 year old daughter in the lift when Calypso and I were going out for one of our daily walks.

The first few encounters the little girl would reach out to pet Calypso, her mother would quickly pull her back. In due course the little girl would recoil in fear when she encountered us in the lift.

She had learned to share her mother’s fear of my lovely dog.

The good news is that what can be learned can be unlearned.

 
The first step to unlearning a fear of dogs (or any fear for that matter) is an increased awareness of out habitual assumptions and images in the presence if the feared dog. Working with these responses on a multi-sensory, imaginary level, followed by controlled exposure can successfully resolve such fear and allow you the deep pleasure a dog can offer.

Some people need to begin by looking at picture or videos of people playing with the type of dog they fear. When these bo longer elicit a fearful response, controlled exposure can then be done.

 
In the presence initially of a small dog (or dogs, as in a shelter or on an Adoption Day) progressing to larger breeds. Such an approach can go a long way to resolving the fear, even with people who have been bitten as children and retain an automatic sense of fear in the presence of a similar sized dog, or all dogs.
 
Some puppies have been mistreated by their owners or foster ‘parents’ and have learned to cautious or fearful of people,
 
So it is quite possible that in overcoming your fear you may be helping a dog overcome their fear of humans.
 
Treat a dog kindly and you will be rewarded with the unconditional devotion and loyalty a dog is capable of giving and receiving,

Your comments are most welcome,

Dr Melanie Bryan
www.mindmatters.hk

Building Confidence

Building confidence

Many clients think if they were more confident their career potential would improve greatly and their personal and social life would be far more satisfying and fun.

This may well be true as they would feel far better about themselves and therefore extend themselves more across a variety of situations.

My solution for building confidence is not difficult but also not comfortable; be willing to make mistakes.

Think about it. Whatever you do well now, there was a time when you didn’t. But you persisted until you became confident at it.

If it is something you learned as a child, you were free of exactly the self-conscious concepts that are undoubtably holding you back now.
•Perhaps you are holding some of these commonly held beliefs about making mistakes:
•Mistakes means failing and must be avoided.
•Making mistakes means I am stupid; others will think I am stupid; they will laugh at me
•Making mistakes means I am really a closet idiot, no matter what my position
•I will feel bad about it and must beat myself up for a long time
•I had a bad experience in the past and must protect myself

Actually, a mistake is merely an opportunity to do (whatever) differently next time. Mistakes grow you, shaping your character as you meet challenges with persistence.

When the fearful voice in your head starts playing old tapes about your ‘limitations’, hindering you from focusing away from yourself and onto the present moments activity, change the voice to Donald Duck and get on with the task at hand.

Really, the more mistakes you, the more you will learn, and the more confident you will become.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

Your comments or questions are most welcome.

What is the difference between positive stress and negative stress?

Answer: Interpretation

Really, the ‘stressful’ situation, interaction or occurrence does not come with evaluation or judgment written on it; we supply that.

How we view or evaluate a circumstance triggers a cascade of mental, emotional and physiological responses that influence how we react on multiple levels in the short and medium term.

When we take our rapid interpretations as truth in the universe, we forfeit choices in how we could react if we didn’t respond so quickly. It would be helpful to consider our initial thoughts and feeling responses as a ‘speed bump’, reminding us to slow down and reconsider how else we could react. This does take practice, but is so worth the effort.

We are more likely to accept ‘positive’ stress when it is associated with an outcome we value, such as landing a new job, studying for a difficult exam, planning a wedding, having a baby, or relocating out of choice. Such stress is more likely to be viewed as normal and managed flexibly.

Conversely, we tend to evaluate undesirable outcomes, such as an unexpected job loss, illness, infidelity or divorce as highly undesirable ‘negative’ stress. In such circumstances if we focus only on the fearful, painful or depressing aspects of the situation, our negative beliefs are compounded.

Such types of interpretations leading to emotional stress lasting weeks or more can weaken the immune system, increase blood pressure, generate anxiety, depression and contribute to heart problems. Attributing such undesirable situations or outcomes to deficiencies in ourselves that are relatively fixed will intensify our negative beliefs and sense of powerlessness. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Many situations are indeed difficult and call for thoughtful consideration, emotional balance and creative responses. Accepting our knee-jerk interpretations can severely hamper such adaptive responses.

If you are having difficulty managing trying situations, do consider contacting me on +852 2575 7707 or via this link.

Melt Away Everyday Stress with Rainbow Mediation by Dr Melanie

Rainbow-Meditation

Meditation has significant mental and physical health benefits for both adults and kids.

Both in the corporate world and at schools, short meditations bring a more relaxed and focused state, with improved concentration and ability to cope throughout the day.

Research at Harvard has shown meditation can also increase levels of a key neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, as well as growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue.

It has also been shown to lower the heart rate, boost immune function, lower blood pressure and inflammation, increase blood circulation to the body’s tissues, promote emotional balance, and induce a state of calmness.

This link is for PC only it will not work on a Mac.
To download the meditation for a PC click the following link in blue: rainbow_meditation_mindmatters
Then UNZIP the file, and follow the instructions given.

Mac video coming soon!

Beyond Blue – Depression in Teens

Teen Depression​Suicide is often a convergence of factors leading to a sudden, tragic event. What puts children, as well as adults, at risk and what are the warning signs to watch for?

Dr. Melanie was featured in the June 2016 edition of In Focus from AroundDB Magazine. In this article she discusses issues related to depression and suicide in teenagers, a must read for every parent.

To read the article please click the following link: ADB-Infocus-Jun-2016-previews

If your child is showing the signs outlined in this article or you have concerns contact Dr. Melanie on 2575 7707 in complete confidence for an initial discussion.

Recognising and Addressing Stress in the Workplace

Stress-in-the-Workplace

 

​Today stress is increasingly chronic and unremitting, eroding our health, productivity and coping strategies.

Hong Kong, being one of the world’s most stressful cities can make work environments a virtual pressure cooker.

Recognising the signs and causes of stress as they interrelate in our personal, professional and corporate lives is essential.

The toll on businesses runs from reduced productivity, absenteeism, and spiraling replacement and medical costs to the impact on the bottom line from erroneous executive decisions.

Dr. Melanie Bryan’s workshop ‘Addressing Stress in the Workplace’ will equip you to identify and resolve many of the sources of stress and offer essential guidelines to becoming healthier, happier, & more effective human beings.

Dr. Melanie Bryan consults to corporations in Asia equipping HR and department managers to tackle this rising trend which impacts increasingly on wellbeing, productivity and the corporate bottom line.

A preview of her workshop presentation may be viewed upon request.

For a no obligation on the benefits and cost of delivering this workshop please contact Dr Melanie.