How to…actually reach those dreamy new-year’s resolutions

By Helena Louw, Occupational Therapist

You’ve probably heard about the importance of defining your goals with specific, measurable outcomes which are achievable and relevant to your setting and intended to be reached within a particular time frame (aka SMART goals). Useful as this practice is, it may help more with determining exactly what you want and whether you’ve reached your goals, than with the act of reaching them.

So, how do you go from knowing what you want to achieve, to actually putting in the work and getting it done? When and where do you start? What do you prioritize? How do you make time for practicing your sought-after new skills, health-promoting hobbies or life-changing habits while still being swamped with everyday emergencies and clutter, both at home and at work?

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Alzheimer’s Disease

By Lerie Nel – Clinical Psychologist

 Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. How Do People Get Alzheimer’s? The disease usually occurs after age 65 and is linked to the apolipoprotein E (apoE) gene on chromosome 19. Chromosomes are threadlike structures that package DNA and genes inside of cells. Every person has an apoE gene, which comes in three forms. One of the forms (apoE4) increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, while the other two forms appear to protect against the disease. A person may inherit the apoE4 form of the gene. While such a person is at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s, they will not necessarily develop it.

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Pets and Mental health

By: Tina Viljoen – Social Worker

According to my experience nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. And I’m not only talking about my husband 😊 but also my 2 dogs and 4 cats who count as family members as well. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Since the bond between humans and animals is very powerful the positive correlation between pets and mental health is undeniable.

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Health, Happiness and Hygiene: A look into the importance of good personal hygiene

The path towards a beautifully kept body is to ensure that you give your body sufficient love and care. There is more to hygiene than simply being clean, and as such, the importance of hygiene for the overall well-being of the individual is something that needs to be brought to the forefront. So often, people tend to overlook and ignore little hygienic necessities such as washing your hands after using the bathroom or taking a daily shower or two. There needs to be the realisation that adequate hygiene does not only benefit the individual physically, but can also have beneficial psychological effects such as increased self-confidence, thereby reducing instances of stress and anxiety.

Defining hygiene may prove to be somewhat difficult, as this definition may differ from person to person depending on factors such as race, religion, gender and culture – amongst others. A simple and broad definition for hygiene is that it includes a set of practices performed for the preservation of health.

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What is bullying?

By: Sindy Haman (Matron)

Bullying is a pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way perceived as smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullies are made, not born, at an early age, if the normal aggression of 2 year old isn’t handled with consistency.

Studies show bullies lack pro-social behaviour, are untroubled by anxiety and do not understand others’ feelings. Those who bully have strained relationships with parents and peers. Bullies are bullied themselves and often intimidating others makes them feel powerful and strong. The flip side to a bully’s rage and aggression is tender emotions of fear, sadness and shame.

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What to put in your goals – and what to take out

By: Helena Louw, Occupational Therapist

As we head into another year, each with our own hopes, dreams, expectations and aspirations, I want to share some insights on goal-setting which have drastically changed the way I want to approach my goal-setting in 2019.

I used to set popular New Year’s resolutions for myself, such as exercising more, watching less TV, being less messy. These resolutions hardly ever amounted to lasting changes and I ended up making the same ones year after year.

Then, through the course of 2018, I slowly became aware of the work done by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist who teaches about the impact of our thoughts on our brains and mental well-being (among other things). Something she said stuck with me: whenever we meditate (i.e. reflect, mull over, think about, remember) on a thought, we are strengthening the neural connections and structure for that thought (or memory) in our brain. So, whenever we meditate on a negative thought, that negative memory grows stronger in our brain, and whenever we meditate on a positive, health-supporting thought, the positive connections for that memory grow stronger in our brain.

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Unhelpful Ways of Thinking

Whenever people talk about mental illnesses, they often say that they are illnesses of the mind and of overthinking.  In fact, overthinking, also called rumination, is the very hallmark of depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders. 

A good way to deal with overthinking is to learn to recognise when our thinking is becoming a problem.  Often there are patterns in our specific ways of thinking that we can identify, which can, in turn, help us to catch these unhelpful thoughts and change them.  Techniques to help us catch our thoughts and thought patterns can include journaling, mindfulness meditation and talk therapy.  Below are some of these unhelpful thinking styles to look out for.

A mental filter is kind of like tunnel vision where we only focus on part of the information, usually the negative parts of the situation and ignoring the positive. For example, when we go for a performance appraisal at work and our boss gives us 9 positive things they like about our work, but 1 area of improvement. Likely, most of us will tend to focus on the criticism and simply blow off the positive feedback.

Jumping to conclusions happens when we make assumptions about other people’s thinking and intentions or about the future. These assumptions are called mind-reading or fortune-telling. For example, when we walk down the road and hear people laughing, and assume they are laughing at us. Thinking things apply to us, specifically, when it could be someone else, is also known as personalisation. Or we may not apply for a new job or ask someone out on a date, because we “predict” that they outcome would be failure, even if we don’t really know what the outcome may be.

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Fretting About Betting: A quick look into gambling addiction

More often than not, addiction is characterised in terms of physical dependence, however, addiction can occur in many forms. There are a number of behavioural/process addictions, one of which that is particularly common in Namibia is gambling. Gambling can change from being a seemingly innocent leisurely activity, to becoming destructive if done in excess.

The regulation of gambling in Namibia can become difficult, due to the existence of shebeens and bars, particularly amongst the underprivileged communities across the country. This process addiction can contribute to several socio-economic challenges, especially within the family structure of the addict. Excessive gambling often leads to bankruptcy and broken relationships which may place strain on the addict’s mental well-being. Financial losses due to gambling deals going bad may result in experiences of anxiety, led by depression and even suicidal thoughts.

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Anxiety as the New Year Approaches

By: Tuli Ndilokelwa Coetzee

It’s been a long a December. Christmas has come and gone. One less festive season responsibility has been ticked off your list. But now the New Year is right around the corner. And so it dawns on you, a new year – a new beginning, a fresh start heavy with the weight of expectation. Your anxiety begins to kick in. The pressure builds. Will you be able to make 2019 better than last?

As 2018 is coming to a close, we start creating our resolutions for the New Year and those struggling with mental health issues can become inundated with the pressures of deciding which goals to set for themselves.  For the anxious person, your brain keeps reminding you that the chances of transforming yourself in the new year and sticking to those dreadful new year’s resolutions is unlikely and you are bound to fail. So those awkward days between Christmas and New Year can become overwhelmed with fear. What you have to do is to remind yourself to remain in the present because these are merely projections and not your reality.

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Don’t let money make you mental this festive season

By: Tuli Coetzee and Tuna Coetzee

The air is filled with merriment, the jangle of jingles echoes throughout the streets, buildings draped in tinsel and homes are filled with the smell of freshly baked cookies. Everywhere you look, you’re enticed by gifts, toys, discounts and specials. How do you stop yourself from getting too consumed in the perks and treats that the festive season brings?

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