How many balls are you juggling?

Whether you have been away from study for a couple of months or 20 years returning to study adds another ball into the mix. Life, in my opinion, is a juggling act sometimes and you need to keep an eye on all the balls otherwise you will be out of sync and drop the lot. Whilst you may want to focus entirely on your studies, life doesn’t exist in a vacuum and the other areas of your life, relationships, physical and mental health, employment, and leisure are just as important. Imagine all the areas of your life as making up parts of a circle. Now draw a Dartboard over those parts. You are aiming for the bulls-eye of course and you need to be able to bring all the areas of your life together and get a balance to be able to hit the bulls-eye. Understanding your values and goals in each of these areas of life will help you start working towards that bulls-eye. If you are interested in reading a little more about this concept and completing a few exercises to help you with this task you can do so at Russel Harris website for The Happiness Trap. He also has a worksheet that you can download and work through.

Once you have looked at your values and understand the importance of balancing them all to achieve success in any of them you can set your goals guided by these. Most people set goals at the beginning of each year, usually after a big night out the last day of the previous year. Some of us keep them and others don’t. There are some basic principles that you really need to follow when setting goals that make them more achievable. These are the SMART goals.

  • Specify the actions you will take (where, what, when, who is involved)
  • Make them Meaningful to you not just to please someone else
  • It needs to be Adaptive and move you forward in some aspect of your life and improve it.
  • be Realistic about the goal and making sure it’s within your reach and you have the skills, time, finances and health to achieve it
  • Give yourself a Time-frame for completion

In setting goals it’s often easiest to break them down into different categories. Start with the long term goal, one that may take years to complete, like completing your degree. Now break it down into medium (the next few months) short term (the next few weeks) and immediate goals (the next 24 hrs). Breaking it down like this makes it easier to make progress and not get caught up in the large looming goal you have set for yourself.

Inevitably when setting goals and juggling the competing demands of those things important in your life time you will encounter problems and setbacks. It’s easy to get caught in the negative thoughts of failure and doom that come with these challenges. What you need first is a practical approach to solving the problem. I have included below a few links that might be useful in tackling this task.

After tackling the practical solutions to these setbacks you will still be left with some of the negative self evaluations and thoughts you have about your ability to achieve. Now is a great time to mention a few of the cognitive skills we can work on to tackle these. There are so many ways to do this and to be honest it’s a skill that takes time and hard work to succeed at. I’ve included here a short list of questions challenging negative thoughts that you ask yourself about these thoughts to try and distance yourself from them and make rational sense of them. You could also make a list of more rational and positive thoughts about yourself or print up some positive affirmation cards. There are a lot of these floating around on the internet and rather than post links here I think it’ best if you find the ones that are the most meaningful to you.  In the recent workshop I ran at the Back to Study Program we also talked a little about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the use of humour and distancing tools to help. These are a little too in depth for discussion here but if you are interested in finding out more about them and how they may help you relieve the burden of negative self talk and focus on the positives I’d be happy to offer you a few sessions on these skills either via Skype or you could make an appointment with here.

It’s a good idea to have a number of tools available to you to help you balance the demands of your life. Letting the stress build can be dangerous to our mental health. Take time out to have fun, relax and think about the bigger picture of life being more than one mark on an essay, or more than one failed chemistry test. Remember to reward yourself for the small steps you make toward your goals not just wait till the end of the path.


New Beginnings

As week one comes to an end and you are looking back at how quickly it’s all gone and you start to add up all the lectures, tutorials, labs, essays, reports and various other requirements of your courses you may find yourself a little overwhelmed. If you don’t fantastic! You are exactly where you are meant to be. If you do, don’t panic, you are also exactly where you should be. Its easy when we start something new to feel overwhelmed and to lose track of the reasons why we started the journey in the first place. I have to say every adventure I’ve ever taken, every dream I’ve started living and every goal I’ve ever strived towards has started this way. So how do we keep focused on the here and now but keep the end goal in sight? I have three tips to share which might help.

1. Think about the smaller steps rather than the giant leaps. So you have a goal to be an electrical engineer, a doctor, a teacher, an artist, whatever the dream was that lead you to UoN it’s a big one. Within the degree there are years, semesters, courses, assessments, lectures and individual readings. Try to focus on one of the smaller steps. For me I would make a list so I could check off the smaller goals and feel like I was progressing on the bigger picture. I’d cross off downloading the lecture notes, attending the lecture, each reading of the any article, typing the cover page of a lab report. I felt like progress was being made.

2. Ask for help along the way. You have come to university to learn, no one expects that you will know anything. If you knew it all then you would be living the dream already. Now is the time to ask the questions. Now is the time you are paying to learn new things. No question is stupid. Also remember that help with knowledge is only one area of help. You might understand all the material but you are struggling with a personal issue which is impacting on the time you have available for your study. Asking for help with this and leaning on your support networks will help you strive toward that dream you started with.

3. Believe in yourself. Of course there will be setbacks and challenges on the road to success, after all it’s the way we learn. I’m pretty sure that Einstein didn’t get it right the first time and he definitely had his share of non believers but in the end he got there. Don’t get bogged down in those negatives and setbacks, they are after all how we recognise success when we have it and what makes it taste even sweeter. You have to believe that you can achieve your goal.

So there you have it my three tips for staying focused and true to your goal. Think about the day-to-day, don’t get hung up on what has passed, and while doing that never stop dreaming about the end goal.

Want some advice?

Today the Online Counsellor will be on Skype available to answer questions to students of UoN. You can use your Skype account to instant message with the Online Counsellor between 2:30-3:30pm and again from 8-9pm tonight.  You might want to get some information about services that could help you on campus, or some within the community. You might have a question about settling into academic study for the semester, or maybe about a relationship issue you are having. If the issue is related to your health, physical or emotional wellbeing then the Online Counsellor is happy to answer some of your questions and direct you to the right people and services that can help meet your need.

So jump online and find the Online Counsellor on Skype. The Skype name is UoNonlinecounsellor.

Relaxation App for the smart phone

We can all use a little relaxation in our life right? Well I definitely could anyway. I hear myself saying “I don’t have time to relax” all the time. Giving myself permission for 30-60 minutes to relax is a luxury apparently I don’t think myself worthy of. What I will give myself permission for is 10 minutes to relax at a time. So I started looking around for 10 minute relaxation scripts online. I found quite a few on Youtube and other various blogs but nothing that would give me any feedback on how I was going in developing my new found skills of peace and serenity.

Enter BellyBio. BellyBio is a smartphone application that is free to download. It uses sound and music to help calm your breathing and has you set your phone on your stomach whilst you are listening. By placing the phone on your belly it delivers feedback to the phone that looks a little like a heart monitor. The different colours on the graph reflect the different types of breathing and how settled you are during the session. Sounds great right? Well don’t get too excited about it all. Whilst it records your breathing and you can look at it after the session you can’t see how calm you are during the session. You can turn on the audio cues that will tell you in one of the types of music but these felt like an interruption to me. Talking of interruptions I found it quite difficult to relax initially despite lying out on a comfy area and shutting out the sounds of the everyday world. Why you ask? The sounds of the waves that Bellybio claim to have sounded more like I was on the set of Pearl Harbour or Top Gun and fighter pilots were taking off from every direction. This was muted a little with the use of headphones but overall every time a “wave” would crash my anxiety levels would rise a little expecting to see a jet fly over my head.

Once I got used to the “waves” my breathing settled enough for the music to start. Cue relaxation. It is the same music that plays in the beautician’s room every time I get a massage (ok so the 3 times in my life when I’ve treated myself to a massage). Well then I was able to reach a level of calm and maintain that for another 5 minutes. Overall I think it could use some improvements but I’m willing to try it again. I’m curious to see if I can reach a very calm level of breathing. Right now I’m at a 4 so I’ve got something to work towards.

What’s good about it: The music is relaxing (when you get to it) and it does give you log books and feedback after the session.

What’s not so good: The sound of jets taking off never really relaxed me!

Drop-in Online for a chat

Tonight the Online Counsellor will be on Skype available to answer questions to students of UoN. You can use your Skype account to instant message with the Online Counsellor between 7-8pm tonight. You might want to get some information about services that could help you on campus, or some within the community. You might have a question about settling into academic study for the semester, or maybe about a relationship issue you are having. If the issue is related to your health, physical or emotional wellbeing then the Online Counsellor is happy to answer some of your questions and direct you to the right people and services that can help meet your need.

So jump online and find the Online Counsellor on Skype. The Skype name is UoNonlinecounsellor. I’ll be waiting for your messages.

Back to Study

Great teacher resized_1What a way to start O Week for those students returning to study after a break. On Saturday, yes that’s right Saturday a few of the staff and new students of UoN got together in the Great Hall for a welcome back to study program. Kicking off the day with Academic Registrar Gail Whites welcome address the students then had an opportunity to explore their concerns about returning to study and their resources and supports available to help with faculty facilitators and mentors. There were a number of mentors from across all the faculties who had volunteered their time to share their experiences with the new students.

mentor tips_resizedStaff were on hand as well to share their knowledge and provide students with information about support and resources on campus. Just in case you didn’t get an opportunity to get there or missed some of Dianne Kirby’s presentation on expectations here is the link to the video she shared about first time experiences from previous students. This link had such valuable tips for new students as did the mentors on the day. Who better to talk with students about tips and experiences than previous students themselves.

During the breaks in the program we were lucky enough to have some of the student’s share their dreams with us and those are the photos you can see in this post of students with the whiteboards. I missed one student photo on the day for a young man I met who had great dreams of finishing his degree in IT and heading off to Japan for work – I don’t doubt for a minute that he will reach that dream. There were so many different dreams on the day, teacher, architect and electrical engineer to name a few. I don’t doubt that you will all achieve these dreams and you are off to a great start for choosing UoN to help you on this journey.

The afternoon finished off with a series of workshops on Essay writing, getting re-acquainted with numbers, planning for success and stress management. Don’t worry if you missed out on any because there services are available to students all year around on campus if you contact Learning and Development or Counselling. Don’t forget that you can also ask for additional help from the other services that were there on the day like the library, careers, NUSA (don’t forget those yummy fruit boxes they have at great prices) and chaplaincy.

So thank you to the students, mentors and staff for kicking off O-week in a great way.

multiple students

Online mood and drinking research project

iTread-120x90WebBannerThe way in which people access help for issues which arise in their life is changing. New technology enables people to come together in different mediums for help and support. The iTreAD Project is a clinical research trial that offers online resources for people aged between 18-30 years of age who are experiencing low moods and binge drink. It is run by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) staff and is a joint project between the University of New South Wales and University of Newcastle. Being a Randomised Control Trial (RTC) it has three different treatment avenues but provides support through monthly assessments of your mood and drinking, a 4 week online Cognitive Berhavioural Therapy program aimed at decreasing drinking behaviour and depressed moods. In addition to this there is also a group of participants who also has access to a closed online community for support from their peers whilst making these changes.

Whats good about it? It is the first project that offers the closed online community of peers. It runs similarly to Facebook but you can hide your identity from other participants in the trial. You can post status updates and blogs and ask for help from the peers on the site or from the hosts. The hosts post regular tips on the page around a wide range of mental health issues and there are also some wider communities you can join around other issues which arise for you.  The other great news is that you get reimbursed for participating – that’s right you get a $20 JB HiFi gift card for every major assessment you completed across the project. You also go in the draw to win an iPad for completing the screener.

Whats no so good about it? Because its an RTC you have no control over what treatment pathway you get allocated to. So you may or may not get access to all three of the options discussed above or only one or two of them.

How can you be part of the research? If you are interested you first complete an online screening questionnaire to determine whether iTreAD is right for you. By completing the screening questionnaire you will be entered in a draw to win an iPad, regardless of your eligibility for the study. For additional information about the study you can visit


The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to
Skip to toolbar