A doctoral researcher of Psychology, Claudia Buntrock, at Leuphana University in Lueneburg, Germany found in her examination the effectiveness of online psychotherapy or Web-based Counselling Services in treating depressive episodes.
The analyst considered both male and female participants who were suffering from depressive symptomatology. They were provided with online treatment by a web-based mentor. Another category of participants was just given access to self-help manuals and guidelines about how to deal with depression. The second group of participants had no access to an online mentor. All of the participants who were part of this experiment were interviewed after one year. Interesting findings were obtained through the research. The group of individuals having no access to online counselling showed a significant increase in depressive symptomatology despite having access to written material on self-improvement while those receiving online help were less likely to develop depressive episode. This experiment has opened new boulevards for internet-based treatment services.
The creator of this study has recommended that an online self-help program is only effective when guided by an online counsellor. This kind of treatment not only helps to deal with depression effectively but also prevents the onset of the depressive episode.
The implications of findings suggested that individuals who simply encounter even minor depressive manifestations, for example, low mood, lack of interest in activities, fatigue, appetite disturbance, lethargy, absence of hope, absence of enthusiasm, self-blaming, suicidal ideation and so forth can approach an online specialist and therefore keep an outbreak of depressive episode.
Hence, it is an alarming sign for the individuals who are at the edge of mental illness while here is uplifting news for the individuals who have lost any trust in online treatment. You can now certainly profit from online psychological services to turn away your depressive manifestations. The sooner you look for online help, the better results you will get.
Senior Psychologist/ Online Psychotherapist/ Chief Editor
A way to boost your self-esteem
Optimism is a term which means being positive about the outcomes going to happen in our future. Many theorists in psychology consider optimism as a personality trait. Research in psychology relates optimism with positive mental and physical health outcomes. Researchers show that optimistic people are less likely to have depression and other mental health problems. They have low chances of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other medical diseases. They use effective coping strategies to deal with stressful life circumstances. They have better adaptability and high quality of life. They adopt a healthy lifestyle and protect themselves from engaging in harmful behaviours such as smoking and other risky outcomes (Conversano et. al. 2010).
If optimism is supposed to be such a useful factor in life, then the question arises here is: How to develop optimism in your personality. Here I’m giving you some tips which you will use and enjoy the positive outcomes in life.
- Think Positive: This is something easy to say than do it. How can you make it easy to do? You just need to get over your past (particularly those negative memories which could have been hurtful for you). Focus on your present life circumstances and you will find a way to make your future better than today.
- Every day, take some time for yourself when you do something creative or helpful. It can be listening to music, doing a relaxation exercise, helping someone, enjoying cycling/exercise or anything which you consider pleasurable.
- Keep eye on what’s going on in your life. There might be stressful times in your life but the effective tool here is, you understand your life stressors and find ways to come out of them. Don’t make you stuck on one point. Always push yourself to move ahead and work out problems.
- Take some time to show gratitude. Think of the blessings you have in life, the positive qualities you possess, and achievements you got in career/family/professional/social/community life.
- Take care of your self-talk: We all communicate to ourselves in the form of thoughts, images, or words. If your thoughts are positive, you will experience positive emotions, and then your behaviours and life outcomes will be positive because there is a link between thoughts-emotions-behaviours. An easy way to do this is: write down positive affirmations for yourself and refer them every day.
- Keep yourself in a company of positive people because you are a reflection of the people with whom you spend most of the time. You always have a choice to include and exclude people in your life. Positive people will leave a positive impact and the negative ones will affect you adversely. Therefore, plan ahead of the time what consequences do you want in your life. Make friends who are likeable, easy to get along, and match with your positive self.
- Develop problem-solving skills: problems and stress is a part of everyone’s life. What optimistic people do is plan ahead of the time before the problems take over them. There are always ups and downs in life. If you understand this fact, you will be able to take responsibility for your life and hence own your problems. You will find yourself in a better position to deal with problems and find solutions.
- Set your goals and priorities in life: this is the secret of how optimistic people get more success in life. How they look positively towards their future is through goal planning. They have a very clear idea where they want to go in life. They give themselves easy steps toward success. Such as, they make to-do-list of every day so, every day they spend becomes useful in some way. They also have long-term planning for their career, family, social, and professional life and “to-do-list” helps them every day to cover one step of stairs to success.
If you start developing above mentioned skills and practice each in real life circumstances, definitely you are making your way easy to optimism. And, now you know how optimism is going to make your life outcomes so positive and healthy just as you want.
Conversano, C., Rotondo, A., Lensi, E., Vista, O.D., Arpone, F., & Reda, M.A. (2010). Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health, 6, pp: 25–29.
Mehwish Mursaleen (PhD, Clinical Psychology)
To set your sleep timings, you need to understand the process working behind it. Your internal biological clock sets your sleep timing. Once the sleep cycle is regularized at a particular timing, it takes some time to change the already set sleep pattern. Initially, when you try to change this natural sleep cycle, you may face difficulty but once your biological clock gets harmonized and it is adjusted to your daily routine, you can re-schedule your sleep time.
A client with difficulty to set a routine sleep timing approached me who was unable to initiate sleep at night. At morning timing, he felt sleepy and hence needed to complete his sleep. This pattern was so disturbing for him because he couldn’t perform daily life activities. His schedule became so upset that his educational, family and social life was at stake. All day he remained worried about his sleep problem, his life going nowhere, and what will happen in the future if the same pattern continues. He was observing himself being tense, anxious and depressed.
Mr X was psycho-educated about the sleep cycle and how the biological clock sets a person’s sleep schedule. He applied this fact to his condition. For instance, he started waking up before 10 am (or whatever timing he felt suitable for him) by setting the alarm or telling someone to wake him up. He was committed to waking himself up whatever it takes him to do. Gradually he started feeling sleepy before 2 am to complete his sleeping hours. Initially, he felt difficulty, but with regular practice, it became his routine.
The case mentioned above was initially a simple sleep-wake cycle problem which then was about to convert into more severe problems like depression and anxiety. Generally, people who work at night shifts, face difficulty to initiate sleep at night when they are at vacations. Sleep-wake cycle issue is commonly seen among adolescents who prefer late night stays among friends’ gatherings and among those students who consistently prefer working or studying late night. When such a pattern is followed over a longer period, then it becomes automated in a person’s internal biological clock. Those who work in alternate shifts or those who have developed sleep-wake cycle issues may try some additional strategies to cater their difficulty to initiate sleep before it converts into depression/anxiety.
Here I’m advising you a few techniques to help you initiate sleep at a suitable time.
1. As you have trouble in initiating sleep, do relaxation exercise/ deep breathing to calm you down and initiate sleep. Do it in a sitting position just before you go to bed or you can do it while you are lying on the bed.
- Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on the air going in and out.
- Correct breathing pattern: inhale through your nose, fill the air in your stomach just as you fill in a balloon, hold it for 5 sec in the belly, and then exhale the air slowly from your mouth
- Focus on your head muscles and relax them, focus on facial muscles and relax, similarly relax every group of muscles in neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, legs, and foot. From the hairs of your head to the tip of your foot fingers you are relaxed now.
- While focusing on your breathing and air going in and out, imagine something positive.
- Do this exercise daily. You can also do it during the day time because it will help you relax and reduce your tension, so you can improve your focus/concentration over your work/daily tasks.
2. Everyone has positive experiences in life. Try to imagine those moments when you are having disturbing thoughts. (Don’t ruminate upon your negative past experiences or ponder on unseen future happening. It will do nothing positive to you but increase your anxiety/tension/depress feelings for sure which may be the reason behind your sleep problem).
3. When you are stressed, instead of overthinking, just do problem-solving to overcome life problems. Sit calmly and think about how you can solve the problem at hand. Find as many solutions as possible no matter small or big. Then pick up the best solution and start working on it to solve your problem gradually. If you can’t focus, take a piece of paper to write down problems and solutions.
4. Learn time management skills. Make a schedule and strictly follow it. Set your daily goals and set your priorities by focusing on what’s most urgent and what can you delay without bad consequences happening. Make a daily to-do-list and mark the tasks you have completed so that you stay focused on those tasks you are planning to do further.
5. Include some pleasurable activities in your daily schedule. It can be anything you enjoy. For example, listen to music, walk/exercise, read books, eat a favourite food, wear a favourite dress or aromas, go out with friends, etc.
Do seek professional help when things are not working on your own. It’s never too late. Getting help from a psychologist is no more stigma in an educated and sober society.
Dr Mehwish Mursaleen
PhD in Clinical Psychology
The term “psychological problem” is defined as any kind of mental state in which a person feels distressed or disturbed. The psychosocial functioning of the person gets affected such as academics and job performance is not up to the mark, the friendships, social contacts, and family relationships become troublesome and person’s daily life is messed up. This upsetting condition last for longer durations let’s say more than a week or a month. There are different kinds of psychological problems for example depressive state is associated with mood, anxiety relates with worries, adjustment issues are related with long-lasting stress and psychotic disorders are a kind of perceptual disturbance in which person has extrasensory experiences e.g. hearing unusual voices or seeing weird things which others can’t experience.
A variety of psychological treatments is now available for the management of psychological disorders. Behavioural therapy, psychodynamic approach, client-centered treatment, and cognitive behavioural therapy are some of the treatment options one can avail from a psychologist. Among this variety of treatments, cognitive behavioural therapy is proved to be the best treatment for most of the psychological disorders.
Recent researches by clinical psychologists suggest the effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy in the long run. Cognitive behavioural treatment in some cases is supposed to be more effective than pharmacological treatments. For example, a study conducted by clinical psychologist Mehwish Mursaleen along with Dr Uzma Ali associate professor at Institute of Clinical Psychology, University of Karachi shows the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural treatment for quick recovery of Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. They had a client with severe symptoms of anxiety and panic. The client was unable to move out of home due to the fear of sudden anxiety attacks. Her life was limited to the bedroom and she even feared to drive or travel a car. She had not travelled through a plane for a long time. The client had three to five panic attacks per day. She had constant nausea and anxiety. With increasing severity of the panic disorder, she also developed symptoms of depression. All these symptoms started after an event of an emergency situation raised during her travelling through an aeroplane. She also had one of her uncles died of heart attack during plane travel. Before the development of psychological problems, she had a very social and active life but after such incidents, she had confined herself inside her room and she couldn’t run her home due to which all of her family life was disturbed.
She had all her medical test reports showing normal results while she was suspecting to have any heart disease. As recommended by medical professionals, she approached to a psychological clinic where psychologists treated her with cognitive behavioural therapy. She was provided with therapeutic interventions including cognitive restructuring in which thought processes were altered to create healthy thoughts/beliefs. De-catastrophizing continuum offered normal perceptions regarding travelling, minor bodily symptoms, and her ability to control the symptoms. Systematic desensitization was useful in regulating her anxiety through graded exposure, imagination, and relaxation.
With the completion of treatment within four months, she became perfectly all right and started managing her daily tasks effectively. She had two to three plane travels from Pakistan to abroad and within Pakistan without any single moment of anxiety. She was even able to handle her life situations in a more efficient manner than it was prior to the development of her anxiety symptoms.
With this case study, the researchers showed the effectiveness of CBT in a clinical setting. There are many other instances of treating mental disorders with the help of cognitive behavioural techniques. Psychological management is becoming first-line treatment nowadays, whether it is a hospital, rehabilitation, private clinic or community setting. Therefore, our mental health professionals are acclaimed to include psychological strategies and be committed providing the best services to our people.