The Wellbeing Project
Watch the video below – The Wellbeing Project – By Performance Edge (Caroline Anderson). The Wellbeing Project aims to spread the word about the connection and importance of wellbeing and performance in all areas of life. Hear about what some of our most successful Olympians have to say about what the word wellbeing means to them and the link between wellbeing and perforamnce.
What Really Goes on in Therapy?
Over the years – there are times when I tell people I am a psychologist I get met with these responses – “Are you psychoanalysing me right now?” “What am I thinking?” and “So you just sit there and listen to people talk all day?” It makes me think there are still quite a lot of misconceptions about what psychologists actually do and how we do what we do. We do not have special powers that can measure your whole personality within moments of meeting you, we are not psychics and there is a lot more to being a therapist than just listening (although of course empathic listening is important).
So what is it we do?
Psychologists have studied the factors that influence the way that people think, feel and behave, and use evidence-based strategies and interventions to help people to overcome challenges, improve their general functioning, performance, wellbeing, relationships and health. There are many different types of psychologists – clinical, sports, educational, health, forensic, organizational, neuropsychologists and counseling psychologists.
In my private practice I cover a wide range of areas predominantly clinical psychology (dealing with mental health conditions) and performance psychology (improving performance and managing anxiety in sporting and workplace contexts). This includes seeing both adults, adolescents and children with depression, anxiety disorders and other complex mental health issues. I see people with substance abuse, relationship issues, anger management problems, self esteem, and sleep difficulties. I also work with people wishing to improve their wellbeing and performance in sport or in terms of their career.
Many people actually find it really hard to make the decision to see a psychologist. It can be a really big step to take, to acknowledge there may be a problem that you need help with. There may also be stigma attached with the idea of seeing a psychologist – “only crazy people need to see a psychologist” or a belief that seeking help is somehow a sign of weakness. I really understand how difficult that first step can be for some people and my aim to always to make people feel as comfortable as possible, reduce the stigma, noramlise the process, and be able to engage with clients who walk into my rooms on an authentic level, and in a meaningful way. Basically I want my clients to know I care about them, will support them and try to connect with them in a sincere and honest way within a safe, relaxed and confidential environment.
The very first session is really all about finding out what prompted our client to seek help, a bit about who they are as a person and their background including work, family and social life. We need to do an assessment in the first session as to what is going on and form an opinion as to the predisposing, precipitating, perpetuating and protective factors for our clients – which is basically a formulation of the factors that has lead the client to be experiencing what they are currently experiencing. We need to asses if the client is experiencing a diagnosable mental health condition and what the priorities for treatment are. It’s really important to provide feedback about the assessment, then work together to come up with a plan for treatment, goals, understand the expectations of therapy and how long it might take. I also believe its really important to give my clients as much information and education about the issues they are struggling with as knowledge is power. For example I may have a client that’s having issues with anxiety in the workplace. I need to ensure they leave my rooms with a really good understanding of how anxiety works, the vicious cycle it creates, what causes it, and what perpetuates it.
How Does Your Negativity Bias Affect You?
Did you know that we all have a negativity bias? This is the phenomenon where negative events, thoughts and feelings have a greater effect on us than positive events of equal intensity. The amygdala (our fight or flight response otherwise known as the alarm bell of your brain) uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative. Our brains are built to be more sensitive toward the negative, it stems from a protective evolutionary response to keep us out of danger. That’s great, but in today’s complex society it gets overused. Having a negativity bias is no longer necessary for our survival, but our brains are still wired to constantly be on the lookout for those saber tooth tigers coming to eat us in our caves.
We have all experienced it… you know when you hand in that report, do a presentation, or finish a competition and you may get loads of positive feedback from colleagues, managers, or team mates. But there may be one piece of advice, constructive criticism or comment in amongst all the positive that gets to you. It feels personal, it feels hurtful or it feels unfair. And that one thing goes round and round it you head and you can’t stop ruminating about it. It’s a common theme with the clients I see in my private practice.
Part of this negativity bias is that we are more likely to focus and dwell on something that’s gone wrong than on things that have gone well. For positive experiences to resonate, they have to occur much more frequently than negative ones. This of course can lead to an excessively negative and unbalanced way of thinking, and the problem is that mostly we are not even aware of it.
With no awareness of it, the negativity bias can have a serious impact on your happiness and quality of life. It might affect your sense of wellbeing, personal relationships, career prospects or even choices you make when presented with new opportunities. So, recognising this pattern of thinking in your life is the first step to change.
Simple as it sounds, gratitude is another antidote to this negativity bias. Actively practicing gratitude makes you feel better and has a positive impact on your health, wellbeing, relationships, and quality of work. How? It helps to re-wire the neural pathways in your brain to counteract the tendency to focus on the negative. I know gratitude journals are quite trendy right now, but don’t worry – if writing a journal is not for you, just try and think about 3 things you are grateful for at some point throughout the day.
And lastly, when something positive happens, try to take a moment to savor the experience. Replay it in your mind a few times so that the memory of the positive experience gets archived in your long-term memory.
Caroline Anderson is a Psychologist and Olympian, and is the founder of Performance Edge Psychology. She sees a range of clients in her private practice and her company delivers presentations to athletes, sporting organisations, businesses and school on enhancing performance and wellbeing through evidence based, psychological and innovative approaches.