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Student life

You might have been raring to go before uni, but it’s natural for all of us to feel a bit homesick at times. University is a big transition for everyone, whether you’ve come from the other side of the world or half an hour down the road. If you’re suffering from homesickness then trust us, you’re not the only one. In fact research shows that 50-70% will suffer at some point. To give you a helping hand we’ve put together our collective knowledge on the best ways to fight homesickness.

Don’t blame yourself

Perhaps the most important message of all, so we’ve whacked it right at the top of the list. Feeling homesick isn’t a weakness or something you should beat yourself up about. Homesickness is something that gets to us all and you’ll only make yourself feel worse by blaming yourself.

Don’t spend all your time in your room

It might be tempting to think of your room as a safe haven, but chances are staying in all of the time will only make you feel worse. Isolating yourself will make your fears and feelings much bigger and scarier, so do try and keep yourself busy by taking part in various activities, social clubs or a part time job.

Be realistic about your university expectations

The amount of wild stories you hear about university, or even just the super amazing courses you’re friends are on, it can feel like a bit of a letdown if it’s not quite what you expected. Try and be realistic in what you expect from university and work out ways to improve your experience if it’s not quite what you wanted. After all, most things can be fixed without too much drama.

Bring items that bring you comfort

Whether it’s your favourite teddy bear or a weird vase someone gave you when you, we all have things which make us feel better. So, whatever they are, make sure to bring them with you. Honestly, pretty much everyone brings their teddy bear.

Carry a positive attitude

Of course, this is a lot harder than it sounds, but by making a concerted effort to carry a positive effort will help you to combat homesickness. Plan things into your day that you enjoy doing and can look forward too, whether that’s socialising with friends or a nice hot shower. Post-It notes are also a great way to decorate your room with things you’ve enjoyed doing or positive quotes to help give you a boost.

Tackle course problems head on

The jump from A Levels to university can be tough and there’s no shame in asking for help with issues on your course. Tutors would much rather you sought help than drown in confusion. As well as approaching your lecturers directly, you’ll find that all universities have some form of academic support too. If you’re feeling homesick, worrying about your studies will only make things worse, so fix it as soon as problems arise. Also, when you enjoy your studies, you’ll probably feel less homesick.

Explore your surroundings

One of the main reasons we feel homesick is often to do with being in unfamiliar surroundings, so set aside some time to explore your new surroundings. Do some sightseeing, take some classes or just get to grips with everything that’s available on your campus.

Keep in touch with the family

Just because you’re living in a different place doesn’t mean you have to lose touch with family and friends from back home. Whether it’s a phone call, a WhatsApp group or a letter in the post, keep in touch with your loved ones and keep them updated with what you’re doing. Don’t get sucked into a cycle of being on the phone 24/7 though – you need to be doing fun stuff in the middle to tell people about!

Keep healthy

When you’re feeling like pants it can be tempting to grab the chocolate and a massive tub of Ben and Jerry’s, but believe us, it will only make you feel worse. Keeping healthy (and fighting off that freshers’ flu) will help to keep you feeling much more positive.

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Being home alone can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if it’s your first time home alone or if you’ve recently moved out on your own. If you’re out on your own for the first time, going from being surrounded by people to living alone takes some getting used to. Take a look at 10 tips that will help you feel safer when you’re alone.

Get to know your neighbours

You’ll want to get to know your neighbours as soon as you can. Not only will you make some new friends you can invite over for dinner or go to a movie with, but you’ll know there’s someone looking out for you. Friendly neighbours will keep an eye on your home and help alert you to any potential problems.

Lock the door

You may live in a really safe neighbourhood, but as soon as you come in the house, be sure to lock the door. You can keep any strangers from walking in with the door locked. A dead bolt on all doors is best.

Have an emergency plan

Have a fire emergency plan and know the safest way to get out in case of an emergency. You’ll need to react quickly if there’s a fire, so having a plan will help take away the guess work.

Get an alarm system

Install some type of alarm or security system. A security system you can monitor from your phone or your work computer will let you monitor your home, even when you aren’t there.

Turn on exterior lights and close the blinds

When the sun sets and it starts to get dark, turn on the exterior lights and close the blinds in the house. Lights and sounds deter criminals, so outside lights will keep an intruder away.

Buy a dog

You don’t necessarily have to get a big dog, but you may want to consider a dog with a loud bark. A guard dog will not only scare away an intruder, but the dog will also keep you company.

Don’t leave a spare key outside

Give a spare key to a trusted neighbour or family member instead of hiding it under a mat or the fake rock in the front yard. The mat and near-by places are the first spots an intruder will look for a spare key.

Take a self-defense class

The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll feel about being home alone. Take a self-defense class to learn the basics of protecting yourself. These classes are practical and fun, and often are free at local community centres.

Call someone

Sometimes just talking to someone for a little while will help you to calm down if you are scared. Call a friend or a family member to talk about your day and to have some conversation.

Have a check-in plan

When you live alone, it’s important to let someone you trust know your basic schedule and plan. If you are going out of town, make sure a family member or a neighbour knows your plan. You may even want to let someone trusted nearby know when you are typically expected home from work. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be. The key to feeling safe when you’re home alone is to feel in control.

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Procrastination occurs when you put off a task that you need to finish so that you can achieve your goal. For example, you may put off writing an assignment even though you know that you need to finish it in order to pass. Everyone procrastinates from time to time. In fact, studies of university students show us that 95% of students procrastinate, that procrastination is ongoing and causes problems for around 50% of students, and that 25% of students feel that it causes stress and harms their performance!

Procrastination doesn’t just affect students. Up to 20% of adult procrastinate and it’s not only work. You can procrastinate on everyday tasks such as putting away the shopping or even replacing a box tissue in the kitchen. For some, procrastination is a habit that is ongoing and causes problems. When it becomes a clear and lasting pattern and you don’t perform as well as you want to, we need to address it.

Understanding why you procrastinate


Your personality is one factor that can affect procrastination. Specifically, your degree of self-discipline (or conscientiousness) has been found to be the most strongly related. Basically, this relates to your ability to persist with a task that you may not really want to, so that you can achieve your goal, and at the same time, resisting a more pleasant task that you want to do. The more able you are stay on track, the less likely you are to procrastinate. In reality, it is much difficult and will take a lot of practice. Bear in mind that just because of your personality can impact on procrastination, it does not mean that procrastination is part of you and cannot be changed. Remember, it is a habit that we can work to overcome.


Your expectations regarding:
1) your ability to finish the task adequately and in a reasonable time;
2) how long it takes to complete the task; and
3) how difficult it will be to complete the steps in order to finish the task; can affect your focus on the task.


You mood is another reason to procrastinating. This is often due to your expectations of the task and of your abilities. It is quite common that the sheer size of a task can generate a level of anxiety! Of course, one way to decrease this anxiety is to avoid doing the task altogether. Sometimes, the thought of doing the task leads you to feel depressed because you think that you won’t do well anyway. Procrastination can also result from feeling bored – what better way to get rid of this than to do something more exciting!


Our behaviors such as problems in time management and poor goal setting can contribute to procrastination.  You chose not starting a task because you’re unsure as to what the “right” way to do it is. You face problems continuing a task because you feel negative. For example, discouraged or frustrated. As consequence, you stop because a task is unpleasant.

Cummins, A. & Chong, J. (2006). Fight that Sinking Feeling: Overcome Procrastinaton!
Curtin University Counselling Service

Many students incorrectly believe that preparation is the only thing that counts. To them, taking a test is a simple matter of showing off what they know. This type of thinking is risky. Why? Even the most prepared student can bomb an exam due to poor test-taking skills.

The potential pitfalls during an exam are numerous, but the most common are:
1) running out of time and
2) providing answers that, although detailed don’t fully answer all parts of the question being asked.

In fact, these two dangers work together in a devilish counter balance, making them particularly hard to conquer. That is, if you try to avoid spending too much time on questions, then you are likely to provide incomplete answers. On the other hand, if you try to provide detailed answers, then you are likely to run out of time.

The situation sounds dire, but it’s not. With the right strategy, you can eliminate these fears and ensure that your grace properly reflects your level of preparation. Straight-A students recognize this point, and when asked about test-taking process with great respect and this attention is reflected in their consistently high grades.

Their advice has been culled into five keys strategies. Together, they provide a comprehensive test-taking system, finely tuned through experience to maximize performance. Follow these rules on every exam, and you’ll be able to transform yourself into a test-taking machine – cool, confident, and ruthlessly efficient as you move from question to question, providing the best possible answers.

Strategy #1: Review First, Answer Questions Later

“I always read through the entire exam first,” explains Robert from Brown. This is good advice – for an exam, your first step should always be to review all of the questions. If it’s an essay exam or a technical exam with a relatively small numbers of questions, then read each prompt carefully. If the exam is multiple choice or contains many questions, skim through quickly and get a feel for which topics are covered.

This review familiarizes you with the length and relative difficulty of what lies ahead. It also primes your brain for the topics you’ll need to address. “Always scan all the questions,” explains Anna from Dartmouth. “This allows your mind to think about all of them, even while you are focusing on one in particular.” In other words, while you toil away on an early question, another part of your brain, working in the background, will begin to retrieve information relating to the topics still to come. This actually happens, and it helps you answer the later questions more quickly.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, this first step also helps you relax. Stress proliferates in a classroom right before an exam is distributed. It’s a make-or-break situation. Months of effort have led up to this single moment, and you have only a scant hour or two to prove what you know and secure your final grade. You begin to question yourself. Did you study everything you needed to? Have you forgotten important ideas? What if the exam focuses on a subject you know nothing about? If you left it blank, what would happen then? Just thinking about this situation is enough to make most undergrads sweat.

However, by taking the first few minutes to carefully review the exam, you break this mounting tension. It gives you something productive to do that doesn’t involve actually answering questions. Once you complete this task and build a better idea of what eo expect, the exam becomes less menacing. You’ve seen the questions and (hope-fully) none seem impossible. You being to say to yourself: “Okay, maybe this isn’t all that bad” Your confidence rises, your heart rate lowers, and your stress begins to dissipate. Now you can turn your full attention to providing standout responses.

Strategy #2: Build a Time Budget

At any given point during an exam, you should know the maximum number of minutes you have to spend on the current question before moving on to the next. As Doris from Harvard puts it: “I lay down very strict time limits for myself on each question.” This strategy goes a long way toward avoiding time trouble; it keeps your attention focused and prevents you from spending too much time on any particular question.

The key to maintaining this keen awareness is to build a time budget. First, take the time allotted for the exam and subtract ten minutes. Next, divide this amount by the number of questions. The result is how long you have to spend on each prompt.

What should you do with this information? For an exam with a small number of questions, mark right on the test pages the time when you should begin and finish each one. For an exam with many questions, divide the exam into equal fourths, then jot down the time you should begin and end each section. In both cases, these recorded times will keep you updated on how close your current progress matches your predetermined schedule.

Why do we subtract ten minutes in the first step? This provides a safety buffer. You want a few extra minutes available here and there to be able to double check your answers when you are finished, or go back and add more insights to questions on which you are rushed.

Strategy #3: Proceed from Easy to Hard

Straight-A students almost never answer exam questions in the order that they are presented. Years of informal experimentation by successful students have demonstrated that the most effective way to tackle an exam is to answer the easiest questions first, and this is exactly what you should do. Start with the most approachable questions before moving on the more forbidding. Don’t worry if this has you skipping around all over the exam – in most cases the provided order is irrelevant.

The advantage of this approach is that it first focuses your energy on the questions you know the most about, ensuring that you get maximum points on these. It also give you a better chance of conquering the more difficult ones. “I always skip a questions if it does not come to me immediately.” Explain Ryan from Dartmouth. “This keeps my mind clear to answer other questions and hopefully something will jog my memory.”

When you come across something hard early on the exam, your natural instinct is to panic. You have so many more questions to finish, and you can almost feel the minutes ticking away as you stare blankly at this one particular roadblock. It can be tough to get your focus back to wring out as many points as possible from the easier questions that follow.

If, instead you tackle this same roadblock at the end of the exam, you’ll find that the situation seems less dire. You’ve answered everything else, so all that’s left to do is working out this final puzzler. More often than not, you will find the mental block diminished. Without the pressure of other questions looking in the background, you can take a more relaxed approach. You might not know the best answer, but you can spend some time to devise a reasonable answer. Because you have nothing else left to finish, you can spend the remainder of the time polishing this answer, thinking, and repolishing. The result is the strongest possible outcome given your state of preparation.

Strategy #4: Outline Essays

When facing an essay question, don’t just start writing and see what happens. This approach leads to rambling answers and missed concepts. Instead, your first step should be to jot down a quick outline. This might seem like a waste of time, but in truth it can be invaluable.

First, reread the question carefully. As Matthew from Brown explains: “Usually, you can isolate there or four mini-questions; this will help you flesh out your outline and avoid an incomplete answer, “Then, outline on paper (not in your head) the way that you will use what you know the answer there mini-question,” continues Matthew. To do so, use the margin of the exam to jot down all the points you can recall that are relevant to the question. Record only a few key words to each point to same time and space. For example, if you want to mention argument made by an author named Robert Caro dealing with Lyndon Johnson’s views on race relations, you might jot down: “Caro–race.”

Next, go back and check the question parts you underlined in the first step. Make sure each is adequately addressed by the points you just noted in the margin. When you’re sure that you have identified all the relevant information for the essay, number these points in the order that you want to present them.

Only now should you begin writing your essay. Follow your outline, and the writing will proceed smoothly. You should be able to quickly produce a solid response that draws on everything you reviewed and addressed all parts of the question asked.

Strategy #5: Check Your Work

“At the end,” explains Chris from Dartmouth, “I always check my answers.” If you have extra time at the end of the exam (may you be so lucky), then follow Chris’s advice and go back and check your work. You will be surprised by how many times this final review turns up a mistake in a technical problem or an important concept that you forgot to mention in an essay.

If, after your first round of review, you still have time left over, then go through and check again. If there is a problem you feel particularly shaky on, use this time to go over it in detail, augmenting the answer wherever appropriate. Don’t worry about using carets and arrows to add in new phrases and facts to your essays, or to point out added steps in your technical problems. Neatness doesn’t count on exams; it’s the content that matters.

It’s tempting to relax after finishing your exam, perhaps walking proudly to the front of the classroom and handling it in before anyone else. But aside from the wistful stares of your classmates, this strategy is ill conceived. Double checking your work up to the last minute can make the difference between an above-average student and an academic star.

Newport, C. (2007). How to Become a Straight-A Student. New York: Broadway Books

Those of us who are college veterans will never forget our freshman year at college. Some of us may like to forget our freshman year, but in general it is a time filled with anticipation, some anxiety, and wonderful discoveries.

College is a lot different than high school. You may decide to commute from your home to a local campus. Your freshman experience will definitely make an impression on you. Without doubt, though, the most dramatic freshman year is for those living away from home. What can you expect as you head off into the wonderful world of higher education?

The first thing you’ll notice is the workload. It will be heavier and more intense than you ever experienced before. The major challenges of college work are the large volume of reading, the short deadlines, and the writing, writing, writing. A related effect that can be brought on by the workload is doubt, frustration, and possibly loneliness. You’ll be away from the comforts and friendships your home provided for you over the previous years.

On some of those long, seemingly endless nights of studying and writing, it will be only natural for you to long for the good old days. Hang in there. These down periods will pass. Whatever you do, don’t make major decisions about your major, your courses, or even your roommate during one of these blue periods. Things always look better in the morning.

You’ll be making a lot of new friends. Continue to be yourself. Don’t strike a pose or play the role of someone you’re not. Select your friends with the same care and patience you have always used. Believe it or not, your college friendships will be among the most satisfying and long-term of your life. It’s always exciting to discover how wonderfully diverse college relationships can be.

You’ll also be on your own, your own boss (more or less) 24 hours a day. Be careful here. Don’t go flying off the end of the pier. Enjoy your newfound freedom. Stay up until dawn talking about your ideals and ambitions with your dorm’s regular bull session buddies. Sleep in until the afternoon on a light class day. Explore the local town or suburbs with one or two of your new friends. Remember, though, with freedom comes responsibility. Even though your parents won’t be around to follow up on your loose ends, you shouldn’t let things go completely. Just find your own style.

You may even start to think about your future. Be on the lookout for role models. Maybe a certain professor is especially inspiring. Perhaps your school has some ground-breaking research going on. Be sensitive to your own gravity. If some area of study attracts you, find out all you can about it. It might be the beginning of your self-definition process. Going to college is as much about finding out who you really are as it is about getting that degree.

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Developing time management skills is a journey that may begin with this guide, but needs practice and other guidance along the way. One goal is to help yourself become aware of how you use your time as one resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding in your studies in the context of competing activities of friends, work, family, etc.

Blocks of study time and breaks

As your school term begins and your course schedule is set, develop and plan for, blocks of study time in a typical week. Blocks ideally are around 50 minutes, but perhaps you become restless after only 30 minutes. Some difficult material may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary-but don’t forget to return to the task at hand! What you do during your break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. For example, place blocks of time when you are most productive: are you a morning person or a night owl?

Dedicated study spaces

Determine a place free from distraction (no cell phone or text messaging) where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that friends or hobbies can bring! You should also have a back-up space that you can escape to, like the library, departmental study center, even a coffee shop where you can be anonymous. A change of venue may also bring extra resources.

Weekly reviews

Weekly reviews and updates are also an important strategy. Each week, like a Sunday night, review your assignments, your notes, your calendar. Be mindful that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt to them!

Prioritize your assignments

When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. You’ll be fresh, and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible: for example, build in reaction time when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.

Achieve “stage one” – get something done!

The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process. Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment. Another adage is that “perfection is the enemy of good”, especially when it prevents you from starting! Given that you build in review, roughly draft your idea and get going! You will have time to edit and develop later.

Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!

Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your school work is finished! This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test, assignment, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying “no” learn to say “later”.

Identify resources to help you

Are there tutors? An expert friend? Have you tried a keyword search on the Internet to get better explanations? Are there specialists in the library that can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve problems.

Use your free time wisely

Think of times when you can study “bits” as when walking, riding the bus, etc. Perhaps you’ve got music to listen to for your course in music appreciation, or drills in language learning? If you are walking or biking to school, when best to listen? Perhaps you are in a line waiting? Perfect for routine tasks like flash cards, or if you can concentrate, to read or review a chapter. The bottom line is to put your time to good use.

Review notes and readings just before class

This may prompt a question or two about something you don’t quite understand, to ask about in class, or after. It also demonstrates to your teacher that you are interested and have prepared.

Review lecture notes just after class

Then review lecture material immediately after class. The first 24 hours are critical. Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review!

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Self-help and development

In our society the word “laziness” has negative connotations. Epithets that are associated with the word “lazy” are not too attractive: boring, uninteresting, passive, and inactive. Laziness is not even a feature of character. From the standpoint of psychology, laziness is a lack of motivation. Very often, laziness can be a sign of depression or waste of personal energy. The causes of laziness can be:

  • Fatigue of body, emotional and energy
  • Conflict of our “must” with our “want” – when we do things that are not desirable for us.
  • Intuitive feeling of uselessness of the currently executed task.

Laziness can complicate our lives. When doing even the most basic actions, such as cleaning and washing dishes, is associated with non-human effort of will, it is time to think about how to overcome laziness. So, here are five proven ways to.

Start off small

Starting with little things, you help yourself “warm up” to cheer up and gain strength for larger, more significant achievements. This may be a shopping trip to the nearest store or doing some physical exercise.

Reward yourself

The method is very effective in the struggle with laziness! Determine for yourself an amount of work, and then set a reward – coffee with candy or a 15-minute break.

Divide the goal into steps

When the target is visible, the way to it takes much less time. Any task can be broken down into smaller subtasks. To increase the efficiency of this method combine it with the previous one – do not forget to reward yourself after achieving each sub-goal.

Make up a schedule

Another effective way to combat laziness is setting a clear time frame: 5 minutes on checking the mail or 20 minutes on the social network, two hours on performing a specific task. The more your schedule, the better this method will work.

Motivate yourself

One of the ways of motivation is to clearly imagine the consequences (both positive and negative) of a done or non-done task. This will help not only defeat the laziness, but also set priorities.

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Another new year. With each new beginning, we look to ways we can reinvent ourselves. We clamor for ways to keep our resolutions.

But what if you put away the resolutions and just consider different ideas to help you live a better life. Not just this year, but throughout the year, any time. Here are eight such ideas.

Get an annual mental checkup

What? What’s that? You go for a physical checkup. You get your eyes checked. Your teeth cleaned. Your auto inspected. Well, then, why are you leaving out the most precious part of you: your mind?

No, you’re not crazy. But your mind may not be in tip-top shape. How about fine-tuning your emotional responses? Refining your decision-making skills? Upgrading your communication skills? Enriching your relationships? A checkup every January can jump-start your New Year so that you reap the benefits all the rest of the months.

“Get it!”

What’s “it?” What are you supposed to “get?” A better body? A hotshot car? A shopping spree at the mall? Yes, you can “get” all of those things. But if that’s all you “get” — a gnawing emptiness will haunt you at the most unexpected times.

So think about what it is you need to “get” this New Year that’s deeper and more meaningful. Then, take the action you need to take to make it happen.

Appreciate how good things really are

Sure, you’ve had tough times this year. But unless this is the absolute worst possible year of your life, give yourself the gift of appreciation. Zooming in on all the things that didn’t work out well means you’ve skipped right past what did work out well. Too bad. Reverse that direction!

Change your mind

About what? You decide. But make sure it’s something significant. Why should you change your mind? Because if you don’t, you stay stuck in your ways. What’s the matter with that? Aren’t there some things that should remain the same? Yes. But in most areas, social to scientific, people-oriented to tech-oriented, knowledge evolves. Don’t spin your resistance to change into a laudable trait. If there’s one thing you owe yourself, it’s honesty.


Fail??? Isn’t that something we’re all trying to avoid? Isn’t success what we should all be aiming for? Nothing wrong with success, but unless you’ve had your fair share of failure, you haven’t stepped outside your comfort zone. So, step out! This year, get involved in something that you are absolutely no good at. See what it’s like to attempt that activity. Feel humbled. Then appreciate your decision to try something difficult. That’s the way people grow.

Know when enough is enough

No matter what you’re doing, there’s a time to end it. Maybe you have trouble making an important decision. Mull it over. Obtain additional information. Consult people you respect. But don’t get stuck in the paralysis of analysis syndrome. Eventually, it’s time to make a decision. Maybe you’ve been arguing with a family member. After a certain point, does it matter who’s right, who’s wrong? Say what you have to say. Then, let go and agree to disagree. Enough is enough.

Be enthusiastic

Young kids are enthusiastic about almost everything while adults tend to let their enthusiasm wane. After awhile, it just all seems to be hard work. Don’t let that happen to you. Get enthusiastic! About what? That’s your job to discover. Once you do, fun will re-enter your life. Imagine bubbling over with excitement about something you learned, something you did, something you read. Make it happen this New Year.

Fill in the blank

I’ve provided you with seven exceptional ways to begin 2013. You create the eighth. I’d love to hear what it is!

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Although it’s no longer taboo topic, there are still many mistaken ideas about what counselling is and who it’s for. The following facts will help debunk some of the counselling myths that may be holding you back from reaching out.

Myth: Counselling is only for people with serious mental health issues.

Fact: Problems that start out as everyday concerns can build up and, if not deal with, spiral out of control. Many people make the mistake of waiting until a roadblock becomes a major issue before seeking help. Counselling offers you the chance to deal with day-to-day concerns whether stress, anxiety, work-life balance or another issues and discover tangible and effective solutions that work for you.

Myth: Only weak people who can’t cope with issues on their own should seek counselling.

Fact: There is nothing weak about seeing a counsellor. In fact, it takes inner strength to acknowledge a problem. It also requires insight to proactively and responsibly deal with the matter before it negatively impacts your physical and emotional well-being and relationships.

Myth: A stranger can’t possibly help me-they don’t even know me.

Fact: This is actually why counselling is so effective. Friends and family are our greatest support systems but these relationships are two-way streets that involve give and take. Time with a counsellor is all about you. A professional can offer you impartial, unbiased insights and support that will help you speak more openly about your situation and remove any fears or anxiety about being judged.

Myth: I’ve tried counselling before and it doesn’t work.

Fact: Although counselling may not have “worked” for you before, that doesn’t mean it won’t a second or even third time with different professional. Counsellors use varying approaches and styles to help determine the right approach for your specific situation. Also, the success or failure of a counselling relationship will depend on your openness to the process.

Myth: Counsellors never say anything they just listen and take notes.

Fact: Many people expect a counselling session to involve a couch, disapproving eyes and lots of silent analysis. Counselling is actually a very interactive process that creates a two-way discussion between you and your counsellor. It will help explore your choices and set goals, while providing you with some original ideas and new perspectives.

Myth: Everyone will know that I’m going to see a counsellor, which will only make everything worse.

Fact: The only person who will know you are visiting counsellor is you. Counsellors are bound by very strict codes of ethics and confidentiality.

Regular ups and downs are an expected part of life. But sometimes life can throw you a curve ball that can be difficult to gauge and handle on your own. You wouldn’t think twice about going to the doctor to treat a bad cough, so why not take the same approach with your emotional health? Be proactive, put yourself first and get the support you need before your situation worsens.

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Mindfulness Practice

Practice mindfulness meditation to cultivate the skill of letting go of negative self-talk and other unhealthy thought patterns. Mindfulness allows you to recognize thoughts as nothing more than mental constructs or passing brain phenomena.

Social Connections and Belonging 

Schedule a minimum of a few minutes of contact with a friend every day. If meeting in person does not always work, connect by Skype, phone, or even through email or texting.

Meaning and Purpose 

Every day, engage in some activity that adds meaning and purpose to your life – something that gives you a reason to look forward to getting up in the morning.

Your Personal Values and Values-Based Behaviours 

Learn to automatically gravitate to behaviours that add the greatest aliveness to your life. For example, if you feel most alive when you’re with friends, schedule more of those opportunities into your days. If you feel most alive when you’re alone in nature, make time for it.

Help Other People 

Look for opportunities to help other people. This can take the form of volunteer work, or even something as simple as holding open a door or carrying a package for someone. Notice how good it makes you feel.

Practice Gratitude 

Consciously practice feeling gratitude for the people in your life. Research indicates that it’s not necessary to express it to them – all you need to do is feel it. Adopt the practice of going through the day looking for reasons to feel grateful. Most of us focus on what’s going wrong; the reverse is much healthier.

Practice Curiosity and Life-Long Learning 

Cultivate new interests and learn new things. Register for an online or in-person class in a subject about which you’ve had some curiosity.

Practice Conscious Choice 

Consciously choose everything you do. Every time you find yourself using terms like have to, should, or shouldn’t, change your language to choose to or choose not to. This is a powerful mindfulness practice to build self-efficacy, self-mastery, and wellbeing.

Learn and Practice Good Body Mechanics 

Practice good body mechanics. An exceptionally effective daily practice to optimize body mechanics is Tai Chi Chuan. It will improve coordination, balance, agility, energy, psychological as well as physical flexibility, and even health.

Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness 

Learn to treat yourself with the same compassion and forgiveness that you would extend to a small child.

Food, Exercise, and Sleep 

Eat a nutrient-dense diet. Get lots of exercise everyday and keep moving throughout the day. Stay well rested through nightly sleep and a daily nap to make up for any loss of sleep.

The Need for Support 

Notice that these recommendations are all fairly straightforward. The real challenge lies in practicing them daily. To maintain your intention you need a source of support for these practices. Ideally, you can find someone who is equally committed to maintaining these same practices, and the two of you can act as each other’s cheerleaders and coaches. Other possibilities include working with a life coach or an ACT psychotherapist, or reading books and attending workshops geared toward lay people on ACT, positive psychology, and happiness.

Whatever avenue you choose to make sure you engage in these practices daily, rest assured that the rewards are great. You will see positive results, some of which you will experience almost immediately and some that will build over time. The research is conclusive, and it places your wellbeing and happiness squarely in your own hands.

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If you find it difficult to get through your day without taking a nap, you may need to make some changes to your lifestyle. Different from fatigue, sleepiness or drowsiness involves restless sleep patterns at night, which result in being tired during the day. If your doctor has ruled out sleep disorders, then altering your daytime behaviours and patterns may help you to sleep more soundly and have more energy during the day.

Step 1

Create a comfortable sleeping space. Trying to sleep in a room that is too hot or too cold, has a hectic feel to it or is noisy can greatly interfere with obtaining quality sleep at night, leaving you feeling sleepy during the day. Paint your bedroom in soothing colours, such as a soft blue, adjust the temperature and drown out any excess noise with a fan.

Step 2

Buy a comfortable mattress and pillows. The correct level of firmness is subjective to each person, but purchase bedding that is inviting and allows you to relax.

Step 3

Stick to a sleep schedule seven nights a week. Training your body to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day can help to set your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Step 4

Limit the amount of caffeine that you consume during the day. Caffeine can backfire on you by staying in your system too long and affecting your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Caffeine in the morning is usually acceptable but be aware of how drinking coffee, tea or soda in the afternoon affects your sleep patterns.

Step 5

Avoid nicotine and alcohol, both of which are stimulants and can affect your quality of sleep, leaving you to feel drowsy during the day.

Step 6

Eat a healthy diet that consists of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates, lean proteins and unsaturated fats. Sugar, white flour and saturated fats can place stress on your body, which can lead to a feeling of sleepiness.

Step 7

Exercise regularly during the day. Working out can relieve stress and help you to sleep more soundly at night. Avoid exercising close to bedtime since exercise can also give you a boost of energy.

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Breathing techniques are powerful tools in stress management. There are also known to be useful in reducing generalized anxiety disorders, panic attacks and agoraphobia, depression, irritability, muscle tension, headaches and fatigue. They are used in the treatment and prevention of breath holding, hyperventilation, shallow breathing, and cold hands and feet.

Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is the natural breathing of newborn babies and sleeping adults. Diaphragmatic breathing is deeper and slower than shallow chest breathing, as well as more rhythmic and relaxing. By increasing your awareness of your breathing patterns and shifting to more abdominal breathing, you can balance the oxygen and carbon dioxide blood levels in your body, normalize your heart rates, and reduce the muscle tension and anxiety present with stress-related symptoms or thoughts. Diaphragmatic breathing is the easiest way to elicit the relaxation response.

To answer the question, close your eyes. Put your right hand on your abdomen at the waistline and put your left hand your chest, in the centre. Without trying to change your breathing, simply notice how it feels as cool fresh air enters your nose, passes through the hairs in the your nasal passage, reaches the back of your throat, and descends into your lungs. Notice what happens as the breath of fresh air enters your lungs. What happens when you exhale? Observe your breath for a while without making any effort to make it different. Take your time. Which hand rises the most when you inhale- the hand on your chest or the hand on your abdomen? If your abdomen expands and rises the most when you inhale, you are breathing diaphragmatically. If your abdomen doesn’t move or it moves less than your chest, you are shallow chest breathing.

Diaphragmatic or Abdominal Breathing

1. Lie on your back and gently place on hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest and follow your breathing. Notice how your abdomen rises with each inhalation and falls with each inhalation. Alternatively, put a book on your abdomen, place your hands at your sides and follow your breathing.

2. If you experience difficulty breathing into your abdomen, try one of the following:

  1. Exhale forcefully to empty your lungs. This will create a vacuum that will pull a deep breath into your abdomen. If you find yourself drifting back to shallow chest breathing, you may need to repeat this.
  2. Press your hand down on your abdomen while you exhale and then let your abdomen push your hand back up as you inhale deeply.
  3. Imagine that your abdomen is a balloon and that as you in hale you are filling it with air.
  4. Lie on your stomach with your head resting on your folded hands. Inhale deeply into your abdomen so you can feel your abdomen pushing against the floor.

3. Is your chest moving in harmony with your abdomen or is it rigid? Although most of the action is in your abdomen when you breathe diaphragmatically, your chest does move a little. As you inhale, first your abdomen, then your middle chest, and then your upper chest will rise in one smooth movement. You might want to imagine filling a glass with water
from the bottom to the top as you inhale.

4. Once you know what it feels like to breathe diaphragmatically, you can use this option to deepen and slow your breath even more. Smile slightly, inhale through your nose, and exhale through your month, as though you are breathing out through a straw. Take long, slow, deep breaths that raise and lower your abdomen. Focus on the sound and feeling of your breathing as you become more and more relaxed.

5. When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, just notice them and return to your breathing.

6. Practice diaphragmatic breathing for about five or ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day. Gradually extend the time you do this to twenty minutes.

7. At the end of each diaphragmatic-breathing session, take a little time to notice (and enjoy) how you feel.

Extracted from Davis M, Eshelman ER & McKay M 2008. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger Publication, Inc.

Why young people drink

Young adolescents tend to be levitating with the peers around them. They are prone to influences in their daily activities and peer’s acknowledgment is very much vital in any decision making and problem solving. Feelings of acceptance and deep sense for approval occur in groups and cliques. Like other experimental social behavior, the consumption of alcohol may represent an unwritten testament of membership whereby one has to drink if one wants to stay or be accepted.

What studies reveal

Studies regularly show that young people are drinking alcohol earlier and heavier than ever before and university students have a tendency to drink excessively. The situation is made worse when students are to pressured to think a certain way, or act a certain way. Students relating to beliefs on what is “normal” behavior in a student community directly influences students’ likelihood to consume alcohol. Together with other stress related issues, students are vulnerable and likely to engage in drinking behaviour.


As a result, students who bow to the pressure of drinking alcohol subsequently face many down falls. Alcohol abuse is a source for poor academic performance with students missing classes, failing tests and experience disciplinary problems. Together with the effects of peer pressure, students who are not involved in alcohol abuse will also experience the ‘secondary effects’ of drinking such as study and sleep deprivation, unwanted sexual advances, physical assault, vandalism, and many more negative outcomes resulting from their peer’s drinking habit.

Students who do not abstain but choose to go along the pressure to abuse alcohol, on the whole face more negative consequences in the future. A student will experience mental effects such as anxiety, hyperactivity and further interpersonal stagnation. In addition psychiatric symptoms resembling paranoia, auditory hallucination and intense prolonged insomnia will transpire if he or she abuses alcohol on a regular basis.

What you can do to avoid peer pressure

  • Seek to build your self confidence.  For help in this area, we advise you to seek mentoring with an adult role model in your life
  • Build close network of friends who share similar values to yourself
  • Identify and befriend individuals who have ambition and goals towards improving and bettering themselves
  • Divert yourself and your friends to participate in other healthy social activities
  • Play a key role on self empowerment by standing up for students experiencing peer pressure and against those who pressure others into  drinking
  • Learn to just say “No”

Better understanding on the consequences of engaging in group drinking now will potentially save your life. Think of the consequences when lifting up your glass next time and say ‘no to drinking games’.

Nauret, R. 2009. Pysch Central: Peer pressure drives college drinking.
(accessed March 19, 2010).

US Department of Education. Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug abuse and Violence Prevention: Academic Performance.
(accessed March 19, 2010).

US Department of Education. Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug abuse and Violence Prevention: Secondary effects of alcohol abuse.
(accessed March 19, 2010).

Gold, M., S. 2006. Pysch Central:Frequently asked questions about alcoholism.
(accessed March 19, 2010). Managing pressure to drink. 2001.
(accessed March 24, 2010).

Insomnia can often be improved by changing your daytime and bedtime habits or by improving your bedroom environment. Making small changes may help you to get a good night’s sleep. Try some of the methods below for a few weeks to see if they help.

Daytime habits

  • Set a specific time for getting up each day. Try to stick to this time, seven days a week, even if you feel you haven’t had enough sleep. This should help you sleep better at night.
  • Don’t take a nap during the day.
  • Take daily exercise, such as 30 minutes walking or cycling. But don’t exercise for at least four hours before going to bed, because this may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Bedtime habits

  • Stop drinking tea and coffee for a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking, particularly shortly before going to bed.
  • Don’t eat a big meal just before bedtime.
  • Only go to bed when you’re feeling tired. If necessary, go to bed later than usual if it means you might be able to fall asleep more quickly.
  • Don’t use back-lit devices shortly before going to bed, including televisions, phones, tablets and computers.
  • Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a bath, listening to soft music, and drinking a warm, milky drink every night. These activities will be associated with sleep and will cause drowsiness.
  • Avoid regularly using over-the-counter sleeping tablets. It is not clear how effective these are, they don’t tackle the underlying problem, and have potential side effects.
  • Don’t lie in bed feeling anxious about lack of sleep. Instead, get up, go to another room for about 20 minutes and do something else, such as reading or listening to soft music, before trying again.
  • Avoid watching the clock because it will only make you anxious about how long it’s taking you to fall asleep.
  • Write a list of your worries and any ideas to solve them before going to bed. This may help you forget about them until the morning.

Bedroom environment

  • Use thick blinds or curtains or wear an eye mask if the early morning sunlight or bright street lamps affect your sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature for sleeping.
  • Wear ear plugs if noise is a problem.
  • Don’t use your bedroom for anything other than sleeping or sex. Avoid watching television, making phone calls, eating or working while you’re in bed.
  • Make sure your mattress is comfortable and that you have a pillow you like, as well as adequate bedding for the time of year.

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Rather than sim­ply liv­ing with stress, learn­ing how to effec­tively mas­ter our stress lev­els and build emo­tional resilience can not only help you feel and per­form bet­ter on a daily basis, but also pro­tect your brain from the long-term dam­ag­ing effects of stress.

Get some exer­cise

Stud­ies show that aer­o­bic exer­cise helps build new neu­rons and con­nec­tions in the brain to coun­ter­act the effects of stress. In fact, a 2012 study found that peo­ple who exer­cised very lit­tle showed greater stress-related atro­phy of the hip­pocam­pus (the part of the brain that stores mem­o­ries) com­pared to those who exer­cised more. Reg­u­lar exer­cise also pro­motes good sleep, reduces depres­sion and boosts self-confidence through the pro­duc­tion of endor­phins, the “feel-good” hormones.


Eas­ier than it sounds, right? But relax­ation – through med­i­ta­tion, tai chi, yoga, a walk on the beach, or what­ever helps to quiet your mind and make you feel more at ease – can decrease blood pres­sure, res­pi­ra­tion rate, metab­o­lism and mus­cle ten­sion. Med­i­ta­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, is tremen­dously ben­e­fi­cial for man­ag­ing stress and build­ing men­tal resilience. Stud­ies also show that get­ting out into nature can have a pos­i­tive, restora­tive effect on reduc­ing stress and improv­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion. So move your yoga mat out into the yard, or turn off that tread­mill and take a walk in the park. Your brain will thank you for it.


When your plate is run­ning over and stress takes over, it’s easy to let per­sonal con­nec­tions and social oppor­tu­ni­ties fall off the plate first. But ample evi­dence shows that main­tain­ing stim­u­lat­ing social rela­tion­ships is crit­i­cal for both men­tal and phys­i­cal health. Cre­ate a healthy envi­ron­ment, invit­ing friends, fam­ily and even pets to com­bat stress and exer­cise all your brains.

Take con­trol

Stud­ies show a direct cor­re­la­tion between feel­ings of psy­cho­log­i­cal empow­er­ment and stress resiliency. Empow­er­ing your­self with a feel­ing of con­trol over your own sit­u­a­tion can help reduce chronic stress and give you the con­fi­dence to take con­trol over your brain health. Some videogames and apps based on heart rate vari­abil­ity can be a great way to be proac­tive and take con­trol of our stress levels.

Have a laugh

We all know from per­sonal expe­ri­ence that a good laugh can make us feel bet­ter, and this is increas­ingly backed by stud­ies show­ing that laugh­ter can reduce stress and lower the accom­pa­ny­ing cor­ti­sol and adren­a­line lev­els that result. Hav­ing fun with friends is one way to prac­tice to two good brain health habits at once. Even just think­ing about some­thing funny can have a pos­i­tive effect on reduc­ing stress and the dam­age it causes to your brain.

Think pos­i­tive

How you think about what stresses you can actu­ally make a dif­fer­ence. In one study at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, stu­dents were coached into believ­ing that the stress they feel before a test could actu­ally improve per­for­mance on grad­u­ate school entrance exams. Com­pared with stu­dents who were not coached, those stu­dents earned higher scores on both the prac­tice test and the actual exam. Sim­ply chang­ing the way you look at cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, tak­ing stock of the pos­i­tive things in your life and learn­ing to live with grat­i­tude can improve your abil­ity to man­age stress and build brain resilience.

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Just like the tip of an iceberg visible in the ocean, our conscious mind only stores 10% of our total self awareness. It governs our five senses; it is logical, judgmental, analytical, reasons, looks at cause & effect and intellectual. Our conscious mind functions in the present. Self talk is an example of a conscious activity. Unlike the conscious mind where we explicitly aware of our state of mind, unconscious mind contains everything that we know, yet we are not aware or it is not accessible as of at this moment. Yet all the information and life time experiences are there in the unconscious mind. Unconscious mind controls automatic functions such as breathing, blood flows and heart rate. It also safeguards stress response, defense mechanism, intuition, memory, association, beliefs, emotions, values, habits and learning.

The unconscious mind is the ‘true self’. It is bottled potential and greatness. It is the change agent. By gaining access to the unconscious mind thoughts, emotions and behaviour modification can be accelerated. Therefore any conscious resistance that has been obstructing a person from achieving his or her personal goals is eliminated. To tap into the unconscious mind, one has to relax. When our body is relaxed, our mind awakes and we will be able to see things in their true perspective and it plays a vital role in promoting change.

Relaxation can be achieved through self-hypnosis. Self-Hypnosis is a natural state of mind where by a person gives positive suggestions to himself or herself. In self-hypnosis mind and body can be induced to function in a more positive way, beneficial for desired self-development. The unconscious mind then registers the positive suggestions; therefore positive outcome can be seen through changes in ones way of thinking, feeling or behaving.


1. Be prepared, tell yourself that you are going to do self-hypnosis and find the time and the place where you can be comfortable and undisturbed.

2. You can sit down or lie down, once you are completely comfortable close your eyes and slowly count down from ten to one in your head.

3. Focus on your breathing, you can count slowly at the same rate as you breath in and breath out.

4. Give yourself suggestions, positive suggestions only as your unconscious mind do not register suggestions with negative connotation. For example ‘I am relaxed’ instead of ‘I am not anxious’. Imagine thinking, feeling and behaving the same way too.

5. Be sure of what you want and prepare your suggestions in advance before practicing self-hypnosis. Make your suggestions simple and be clear about how you want to think, feel and behave differently.

6. After completing the practice, slowly count up from one to ten before opening your eyes at the same rate as you count down.

7. Practice at least once a day, and if you are intending to practise before you go to sleep then you don’t have count up from one to ten. You can just tell yourself that you are going to fall asleep from which you will wake up feeling well rested and rejuvenated.


  • Listing!
    • A simple presentation of three to five tasks that enables you to identify and visualize a core group of tasks in one place for easy reference
    • It grows and shortens as you work through items
    • Posted on a bulletin board, refrigerator or space readily reminds you of what you prioritize to do and when you need to do it (deadlines)
  • Organize!
    • It is an organizational tool that can be used for scheduling with electronic calendaring, strategic post-it notes, email, instant messenger, SMS and other communication services, etc.
    • It can be a not-to-do list where the time is not right, but you don’t want to forget the item
    • May help you develop timelines, sub-tasks, etc. to get the job done! (but separate from the to do list!)


  • Reduce stress – You can reduce stress by itemizing and prioritizing tasks and giving them a place in your life.
  • Remind yourself – A list displayed in a prominent place can remind you of what you consider important to do.
  • Strategize completion – When reminded, you also are thinking about the task, as well as what resources, strategies and options for completing the task!
  • It can be fun! – Playing with the list can encourage thinking outside of the box for solutions. Add images and pictures to create a more enjoyable even accurate presentation.


  • Use the simple exercise above to identify tasks
  • Go to prioritizing tasks to build an operational sequence
  • Enter items into electronic calendaring, strategic post-it notes, email, instant messenger, SMS and other communication services
  • Share with friends, family and colleagues for assistance and insights to communicate what you are working on and where you are
  • Cross off items and celebrate their completion
  • Apply the to do list to your daily life

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Stop Off Loading Responsibility

Mentally strong people know what is their responsibility and what is not. What they take responsibility for is their behavior, thoughts and feelings. They have long since let go of the idea that anyone is going to make things better for them. While they know that sometimes things happen that are out of their control, they know that they – and only they – are solely responsible for how they respond to these things. You will never see them pointing a finger, blaming anyone else for “messing up their day”, “making them feel bad” or “making them angry”. Instead they simply take responsibility and accept their responses as their own, aware that these are choices they are making – and if they don’t like them it’s no one’s fault but theirs.

Stop Taking Things Personally

Those who get through setbacks and come out stronger know that these things are not personal. Whatever those around them do, they recognize is a reflection of that person’s character, and only that. Mentally tough people do not believe that anyone “has it out for them”, or “that the world is against them”. Instead, they recognize that what happens to them is the result of other people’s actions, thoughts, and feelings – which they are not responsible for. So they spend no time wondering why others do the things they do, and a lot of time thinking about what they will do about it.

Stop Forecasting

Mentally strong people – as tough as they are – know that there is one thing they cannot do. They cannot predict the future. And they don’t waste any time thinking about, anticipating, or foretelling the future. Because they know the action is right here, right now, and the future is not now. But they also know that when their mind is in the future, it’s not in the now, and they are likely to miss critical details and make mistakes – simply because they were distracted by what could happen as instead of focusing on what is happening.

Let Go Of Illusions

While we all love to dream, mentally tough people know dreams are not reality. The chances are, it will not “all just work out”. More then likely, tough people will tell you, there will be good and bad. Thinking life is “all good”, they know, is just a fantasy that promotes denial. And denying what might not be going so well is a sure way to keep it going that way.

Stop Holding On To The Past

For many of us, holding on the past would allow us to avoid loss. Yet mentally tough people know that wishing things “could just go back to the ways they were”, is a wish, and not reality. They know the past – as great as it might have been – is gone. And they also know you can’t drive a car, and you can’t go through life, looking backwards. So they accept the losses, and instead of wishing they could go back in time, think about what they need to do in the present. Because focusing on the wonderful things happening yesterday is a sure way to miss the opportunities that might be right in front of you.

Becoming mentally tough is a hard earned battle – and one that is not won overnight. And while sometimes we have to learn how to fine tune our approach and leverage the adversity, sometimes we also have to learn how to get out of our own way.

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Controlling feelings and emotions

Things have changed a lot in the past 30 years when it comes to our ideas about depression. In the 1980s and even the 1990s, people often still saw it as a moral weakness, a sign of being “crazy,” or as something to be dismissed completely.

Today most people not only know someone who has struggled openly with depression, but they can probably also rattle off a handful of symptoms just from watching the many depression medication television commercials that dominate the airwaves. The voice-over asks, “Are you always sad and tearful? Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy? If so, ask your doctor about this medication”.

These changes have been mostly for the better, reflecting a greater openness toward mental health treatment. An increased awareness of depression and its symptoms means someone is more likely to seek help and treatment. A willingness to talk about scary symptoms like suicidal thoughts keeps people safer and is inching us away from a culture that likes to hide problems under the rug.

But how much do most people really know about depression, an incredibly complex condition that has chemical, emotional, mental, and environmental components? How sure are we that we can recognize the signs given the variability between individuals’ backgrounds and life circumstances?

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition. While most of us have a much better understanding of depression than in the past, it can still be easy to miss. While there are typical symptoms, depression can look completely different from one person to the next.

In fact, there are a lot of ways depression can show itself far beyond well-known symptoms such as crying, loss of interest, and low energy. Learning the lesser-known, more uncommon signs of depression can better equip you to recognize it in yourself or others. And that means having a higher chance of getting help sooner.

Rapid weight changes

The question “Have you lost weight?” often is considered a compliment. Generally speaking, in our culture, losing weight is a positive sign of health and fitness. However, unintentional weight loss, particularly substantial weight loss in a fairly brief period of time, can be a sneaky depressive symptom. Decreased or suppressed appetite is a chemical side effect of depression. If you find yourself going from eating three meals plus a snack daily to eating only once or twice a day for no particular reason (or the opposite, bingeing resulting in significant weight gain) it may be depression.

Being short-tempered

In our minds, depression equals severe sadness, end of story. But for many people depression can manifest in behaviours such as being short-tempered, having a short fuse, and snapping at others. Though this is most frequently seen in men and teens, it can happen to anyone. Just as people with depression can find themselves crying without knowing why, they may just as easily find themselves irritable and angry without understanding it.


One of the classic symptoms of depression is loss of interest or enjoyment. We tend to picture that going hand in hand with feelings of sadness and loss. The fact is, this can look and feel like plain old boredom. Things stop sounding fun and seem not to be worth the effort. Little by little, you drop activities until only the simplest and least demanding (watching TV, surfing the Internet, napping) remain.

Aches and pains

Until recently, somatic symptoms were not on most mental health professionals’ radar, but now pain symptoms are considered a red flag for depression. These can range from tenderness and skin sensitivity to muscle pain, stiffness or even stomach cramps and digestive problems. Start by ruling out other causes to determine whether the pain you are experiencing may be connected to depression or a medical issue. If no medical diagnosis accounts for the physical symptoms or your symptoms don’t improve with medical intervention, your aches and pains may be rooted in psychological distress.

Trouble making decisions

Everyone has a hard time making choices from time to time. In fact, feeling overwhelmed may sometimes trigger despondency. It’s much less common, however, to struggle with making mundane, everyday decisions such as what to wear to work or what to make for dinner. The mental distress and low energy that come with depression can sometimes make these choices seem paralyzing and can send the person into a tailspin of anguish. People with depression-triggered indecisiveness may be overwhelmed by choosing a movie to watch or whether to get paper or plastic bags at the grocery store.

If you are struggling with some of these problems, especially in combination with “classic” depressive symptoms, it may be time to seek help from a trained mental health professional. While depression can be frightening and debilitating, it is also a disease with a long history of successful treatment.

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Definition: Anger is a basic human emotion and pressure release that builds up in you. It influences the mask we wear, on how we view the world, what happens around us and our circumstances.

How do you cope with anger?

Calm your body

If you are aware that you’re angry, stop and ask, “What do I need to do about this?”. Take time to calm down because it gives you breathing space to process the information of your emotion. Notice what you’re feeling and thinking.

Learn to listen

Think before you act. It only takes split seconds before you do or say something you might regret. Part of processing anger is being able to listen to another person’s feelings as well as expressing your own.

Take an anger break

Burst your anger for 20 minutes in a safe environment and then take a break.

How to deal with an angry friend?

Step 1: Accept your angry friend. If your friend is willing to change, it will take time.

Step 2: Remain calm when your friend has an outburst. Comfort his or her feelings during the meltdown time by letting him or her know that you understand why they are upset.

Step 3: If it involves your safety, sit down with your friend and let your friend know you will no longer tolerate the anger anymore. This is the time for you to explain how the anger makes you feel, whether he or she makes you scared, uncomfortable, frustrated or sad. Mention how the anger is affecting your relationship.

Step 4: If you don’t see change encourage your friend to seek professional help.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret” – Ambrose Bierce

Make the decision to let it go

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go”. If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt. Making the decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below).

Express your pain – and your responsibility

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what – specifically – your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

Stop being the victim and blaming others

Being the victim feels good – it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters”. Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy. In every moment, you have that choice – to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you – in the past – have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

Focus on the present – the here and now – and joy

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist – you – is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life. When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________”.

Remember, if we crowd our brains – and lives – with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

Forgive them – and yourself

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did”. Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway”.

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.” Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?

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Denial and Isolation

The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.


As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.

Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it.

The doctor who diagnosed the illness and was unable to cure the disease might become a convenient target. Health professionals deal with death and dying every day. That does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to those who grieve for them.

Do not hesitate to ask your doctor to give you extra time or to explain just once more the details of your loved one’s illness. Arrange a special appointment or ask that he telephone you at the end of his day. Ask for clear answers to your questions regarding medical diagnosis and treatment. Understand the options available to you. Take your time.


The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control

  • If only we had sought medical attention sooner
  • If only we got a second opinion from another doctor
  • If only we had tried to be a better person toward them

Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.


Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.


Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Loved ones that are terminally ill or aging appear to go through a final period of withdrawal. This is by no means a suggestion that they are aware of their own impending death or such, only that physical decline may be sufficient to produce a similar response. Their behavior implies that it is natural to reach a stage at which social interaction is limited. The dignity and grace shown by our dying loved ones may well be their last gift to us.

Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience – nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

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Love is more than a feeling. Feelings change easily. If a relationship is based primarily on feelings, a boy (or a girl) may get bored with his girlfriend (or her boyfriend) after a few months, and may want to stop the relationship. With love, there is a relationship that is based on mutual interest and shared ideas, even though each person still retains freedom to grow as an individual.

It is probable that is a relationship between a boy and a girl; friendship, love, romantic infatuation and even exploitation are all present. The question is to what extend each component is present. A relationship based primarily on infatuation will not last. How would you know if a relationship is more friendship and love and less infatuation? You have to look honestly into your relationship.

For instance, do you really know each other well? A relationship is more likely to grow into love if you can communicate well and share your thoughts and interests. Does your relationship tend to exclude others, or do you occasionally go out separately with old friends so as to keep in touch with them? In romantic infatuation, there is strong tendency to spend a lot of time with each other only, and to be jealous of the other person’s relationship with third parties. A love relationship, on the other hand, gives each other freedom to pursue personal interest and to grow as individual person. In you want a relationship to grow; you must deepen the friendship part and reduce the infatuation component.

When couples say ‘it was love at first sight’, what they usually mean is that they felt strongly attracted to each other when they first met. This is very different from married love between spouses, where there should be a commitment to love the other person even under difficult situations. Physical attraction does often start off a relationship that is infatuation (I) and friendship (F) are both present in most romances. You can call this an ‘IF’ relationship. The couple will by their efforts and actions then decide if their romance will develop into a lasting and fulfilling relationship.

If the couple decide to work on building up their friendship (through communicating, sharing mixing with each other’s families and friends etc), the relationship is likely to move towards love. But if the couples get carried away by the exciting sexual feelings involved and begin to express their affection for each other physically; it is doubtful if their relationship will survive for long. The couple can very easily learn to use and exploit each other to get emotional and sexual satisfaction. The challenge for any couple therefore, is to develop their IF relationship into real love.

Extracted from Lee JOP. 1994. Learning to Love. Singapore: Eduvision.

Our personality is stable and constant but it does develop as we go through different experiences in life, and as our circumstances change. We mature with time, and our thinking, feelings and behaviour function cohesively in order to survive in diverse environment.

Have you been in a relationship where you think you know the person from head to toe and yet he or she still can surprise you? This is because people don’t always think, feel or behave the exact manner all the time. Our reactions are often influenced by factors such as personal preferences and environment. Although personality is often characterised as stable throughout one’s life span, an individual will still be able to adjust accordingly to meet external demands.

Moreover we all will mature with time and our thinking, feeling and behaviour do adjust accordingly to different life experiences and circumstances. However, someone with personality disorder, most likely will find this difficult. Distorted pattern of thinking, feeling and behaviours could lead to personality disorder onsets.  Their pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving are more difficult to change and often they have limited range of emotions, attitudes and behaviours.

This can lead to distress for those associated closely be it family members, spouse and working colleagues. Individuals with personality disorder may find their beliefs and attitudes different from most people and others will find their behaviour unusual, unexpected and to be under the same roof literally impossible.

For further information on Personality Disorder click here