Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers and to your families. We thank you for your support in 2014 and hope that life will bring you much joy and happiness.  We look forward to sharing more ideas with you in 2015!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chronic pain and how to manage it

Chronic pain can have a significant impact on both our physical and emotional well being.

My simple approach to treating chronic pain is as follows...
  1. Treat the cause if you can eg a severe bulging disc with severe nerve impingement.
  2. Treat the pain with non pharmacological methods such as heat, ice, TENS, improving core muscles, massage and physiotherapy.
  3. Treat the pain with  pharmacological methods with analgesics such as heat rub, capsicum spray, anti-inflamatory gels, panadol, anti-inflamatories and less ideally narcotics and possibly steroid injection into an inflamed tissue.
  4. Increase the threshold to pain by improving mood, treating depression and anxiety and improving coping skills.
Chronic pain is not easy to treat and often require a multidisciplinary approach.  Ask your Doctor about whether you are eligible for a Care Plan and possibly a Team Care Arrangement to access up to 5 Medicare subsidised visits to an Allied Health Professional such as a Physiotherapist.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One way to explain the relationship between Anxiety and Depression

  • Anxiety is good if you can manage it well.......Most high achiever have anxious traits.
  • If one cannot manage anxiety, one tends to alternate between avoid and blame.
  • Over time, with avoidance and blame, it leads to powerless, hopelessness and then....
  • This can then lead to depressed mood.
  • When one is very depressed, anxiety tends to lessen due to lack of care factor.
  • However, if one has lost care factor, one also loses meaning and purpose leading to more depressed mood.
  • One can argue that depression is "end stage" anxiety.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Vinny's Toolbox" to help with Depression and Anxiety

What is "Vinny's Toolbox".....

Let's face it, we all have problems and in actual fact, if one day we have no problems, then this will become our "new" problem as we will get bored and have no more meaning and purpose.  So, in order to thrive, be resilient and not get stressed and depressed, one needs to know "how to solve problems".

This is where we consider using the "Vinny's Toolbox".

First of all, stop and define WHAT the problem ACTUALLY is.  Try to see the problem for what it is, not worse than what it is. When we are stressed, we tend to catastrophize and see things worse than it actually is.  Try to perceive rather than judge.

Then consider which of the 4 following tools to use....

  1. Run and Avoid.  This is a very important tool and in actual fact, if we don't have it, we will probably die an early death.  For example, if we see a snake in our path....Avoid!  If there is a bushfire nearby....Avoid!  However, most people use this tool inappropriately.  They avoid when they shouldn't avoid.  If you have a problem with your husband or wife, probably avoidance is not going to solve your problem.  So the key is to use the right tool for the right situation or problem.  If you need to put a screw in the wall, you would not use a hammer would you?
  2. The opposite of run and avoid is to Fight, Show aggression, Blame, and Frustration.  This is a very useful tool especially if you are in danger and you cannot avoid.  Blame and anger helps to give us that burst of energy in order to get ourselves out of that danger.  It is best used for your enemies and not for your family and friends.  Aggression leads to "counter" defensiveness and escalates into more aggression.  Aggression destroys relationship so remember, this tool is not for your family, friends or people who you need a continual relationship with.
  3. Best way to understand the usefulness of the 3rd tool is to ask yourself this question.  If you made $1 Million this year, the taxman is going to send you a tax bill for $300000.  What tool would you use for this problem.  ?Run and avoid ?Show aggression with the taxman or simply Accept and glad that you have made a lot of money.  In all sincerity, I would love to have a tax bill of $300000.  Again, some of us use this tool inappropriately.  For example, if our children is failing in their school work, should we just let that go and accept?  Maybe not.....
  4. The last tool is where most of us also lack and that is Assertiveness.  The problem is that most of us don't know the subtle difference between Assertiveness and Aggression.  One of the best way  to differentiate this is to ask yourself if there is blame or anger in your emotion.  Assertiveness with blame will come across as Aggression.  Examples of assertiveness and aggression are outlined below.....
"We need to talk or else it is over" = Aggression

"We need to talk" in a demanding voice = Can still come across as aggression as it implies that we need to talk, I don't really care whether you want to talk or not but I want to talk.

"I understand that you don't really want to talk about it and at the same time, this is very important for me and us, so do you think we can put aside sometime today to talk about it in order to solve this issue together? = Assertiveness.  Assertiveness has no blame and accepts that both conflicting ideas can coexist hence the word "and".

(Be careful not to use the word "but" after a validation e.g. I understand that you don't really want to talk but I want to talk.).......  So take away the "but"!

Imagine saying things like "You are a great singer artist but you don't have the right image for it".

In essence, if one predominantly uses the "avoidance and blame" tools....High risk of depression as chronic avoidance and blame teaches us powerlessness, and powerlessness leads to hopelessness, and hopelessness leads to depression. 

If one uses acceptance and assertive skills predominantly....This is "resilience".  The great news is that these can be taught and learnt!

Please share it to those who might benefit from this.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Taking action......

"If you can do but you don't....then you can't"

Often people have the vision and the skills to do something great in their lives, but due to self doubt and inner conflict, they don't take appropriate action and hence, not achieving what they need and want.  This lack of result will lead to further self doubt and inner conflict and the cycle repeats itself.

Knowing what you really want, committing to learn the skills to get what you want, resolving your inner conflict and taking appropriate actions, are the keys to achieving what you want.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The price of connectedness......."Drama"

Have you ever felt that there is just too much drama in your life?

Human beings are social beings and hence thriving for connection is one of the keys to happiness.  However, most people can appreciate that connection inevitably comes with drama and some of us unknowingly try to avoid drama by disconnection which will then can make us feel empty and unhappy.

Hence, do not fall into that trap.  Learn how to manage that drama is the key.  You can certainly talk to your health professionals about that.

Best wishes,
Dr Vin

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A short letter to all the perfectionists of the world

To all the perfectionists of the world,

I often come across many of my patients who are perfectionistic in nature and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  In actual fact, it is a great thing!  We should all have and thrive for high standards.

However, my statement comes with a few conditions.........
  1. A perfectionist who is self critical and fear failure can be extremely self destructive.
  2. A perfectionist who is self critical, fear failure but have lots of skills will get away with it until the day when they are faced with a situation where they do not have the skills eg in parenting and relationships.
  3. A perfectionist who is self compassionate, self reflective but not self critical, and who understands that failures and mistakes are pathways to success will go a long way.
So if you are a perfectionist, please celebrate it, be kind to yourself and embrace your failures just like when you play Angry Birds.  If you are good at it, then I know that you have made at least a few mistakes along the way.

I wish you all the very best.

Kind regards,
Dr Vin

(PS Please pass this on to other perfectionists if you find the above helpful and thank you for spreading the word.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

How to connect again in your relationship?

When your relationship is becoming problematic and you are "growing apart", one of the most important ways to fix this is to learn how to "connect" again.

One of the books that I often recommend is the 5 love languages.  You can find it in your local book store, library or our Self Help Bookstore.  Essentially, it is the "language of connection".  If you want to "connect" with someone and build a good foundation for your relationship, you need to do the following....

1 Spending quality time with each other
2 Acts of service ie doing things for each other
3 Physical touch ie hugging, kissing or holding hands
4 Word of affirmation ie telling how much you appreciate each other or praising your partner
5 Gift giving ie to buy gifts for them

Now if you can reflect on when you first dated each other, how much of the above did you do.  Now reflect on "now", how much are you doing?  Knowing this, will hopefully guide you towards a positive change.

You can find out what your predominant love language is by following this link and complete a short survey.


Friday, October 19, 2012

"Thinking glass half empty can be helpful too" by Dr Vin @

1/2 full or 1/2 empty
Glass 1/2 full or 1/2 empty.....

Some of us have been lead to believe that thinking of things in the 1/2 full context is always more helpful.  But is that "True".....

Well, this is my take on it.

When you are in a situation that you can fix something or prevent something from happening without too much effort or significant problems, then it is best to think of things in the 1/2 empty context.  People who are more anxious are more geared to think of things in this way.  It is good because the mind is then geared to think about possible problems and hence, will help you develop contingency plans to fix or prevent a possible problem from arising.

However, if the situation is very difficult and that you are NOT able to fix it or prevent it from happening without having a mental breakdown, then it may be best to think about it in the 1/2 full context and accept it.  Another situation where the glass 1/2 full mindset maybe more useful is where you want to be innovative and try new things.....

Hence, the usefulness of the glass 1/2 empty or 1/2 full mindset will depend on a given situation.  The trick is to have enough mindfulness or awareness to know when to use what.........

"5 Great Tips for more Happiness on Holidays" guest blogpost by Dr Timothy Sharp

Dr Timothy Sharp
I know we still have a month or two to go (here in Australia, anyway) before the summer holiday period (a time when most of us have a longest break from work and studies) but many of you are probably already thinking about plans for breaks and holidays and accordingly, I thought you'd enjoy this very important article from Positive Psychology News Daily...
How to improve vacations? 5 new research findings by Genevieve Douglass 
It’s fall in New York City. A mostly beautiful summer has blown past, and, with it, vacation season. This means that most of us are back to our pre-vacation stress levels. Research shows that positive effects of vacations fizzle out quickly, within a month, with one study finding that they were entirely absent after just one day back at work.
As we all look ahead to holiday visits, how can we make vacations more worthwhile?
1) Plan Trips

Just anticipating your upcoming trip may be the best aspect of vacationing. Researchers Jeroen Nawijn, Miquelle Marchand, Ruut Veenhoven, and Ad Vingerhoets found that pre-trip happiness was higher in vacationers than non-vacationers. Getting excited about leaving your stresses behind before you go on an adventure (or lay like a lizard on a hot rock somewhere) increases positive emotion, so it’s worth going on a trip, even a little one, to get this boost. One idea may be planning a few vacations in a row so that when you finish your first one, you’ve got another one to look forward to. I recently tried planning a trip while on a trip and found it to be a useful way of keeping away the dread of drowning in the never-ending work-ocean.
2) Take Vacations Often
In a recent study, Dutch researchers Jessica de Bloom, Sabine Geurts, and Michiel Kompier found that health and well-being (defined as a composite of health status, fatigue, satisfaction, mood, tension, and energy level) increased at the onset of the vacation and peaked on the eighth day. This is aligned with previous research showing that it takes time to wind down from a stressful period of work into a vacation.
This implies that taking a vacation of at least eight days may be the ticket to fully enjoying the potential benefits, but the authors suggest that more frequent, short vacations throughout the work year might maintain higher well-being overall. Previous studies indicate inconsistent associations between length of trip and post-trip happiness. The theory discussed by the researchers is that depletion of resources should be followed by recharging them.
3) Relax
In the same study referred to above, respondents who rated their vacations as “very relaxed” had longer-lasting boosts in happiness than did vacationers who rated their trips as just relaxed, neutral or stressful. The positive effects lasted for two weeks (not enormous, but still useful)...
...keep reading the full and original article, along with the remaining 2 happiness tips - HERE

Dr Timothy Sharp
The Happiness Institute Sydney