2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Counselling – My Journey

The purpose of this article is to promote the value and use of counselling.

Counselling provides your mind with balance to combat stress that leads to anxiety in the first place. Counselling is a personal experience and once you engage in its relevance there are many associated benefits.

Unfortunately, people often mistake counselling as a strategy that is not for them and become stubborn and resistant to its approach. People would rather take medication, that is prescribed after a ten minute appointment with their GP. Medication normally initiates some short term effect but possibly leads to long-term addiction.

It may be argued that counselling does not provide benefits that are initially craved. However, counselling is a process that one should not only be patient with but accept its flexibility and time frame.

Counselling should be sought when problems arise in the first instance. For example, somebody seeking counselling a year or two after their initial problem(s) will not achieve the desired effect immediately.

My journey started in August 2013 when I lost my beloved mother. Although I initially felt mentally tough, internally my bodily symptoms had began a negative spiral of certainty. The body and mind started to employ tricks. For example, whilst I thought I was coping there were forces within my body contriving to hinder my ability to cope. Although not scientifically proven, I believe that our body is very resistant to stresses both mentally and physiologically that it tricks you into thinking you are coping.

Despite continuing as normal I realised I was suffering from chronic anxiety around March. This led me to a dark journey from which I was up and down for the next 6 to 7 months. I suffered numerous anxiety attacks culminating in 3 to 4 very powerful panic attacks.

Despite attempting to continue as normal there were dark forces within my body which were not allowing me to live normally. Initially the problems were in crowded spaces and with people I did not know. My body would shake and I would feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately this issue became worse and continued when I was with family and friends and it was at that stage I knew I had to take action.

I sought counselling and it was the best thing I ever did. Counselling allowed me to discuss my powerful relationship that I had with my mother. It was from here that I started to recover as the anxiety subsided and all of a sudden I was not feeling shaky, I was not feeling nervous and I was able to carryout my duties feeling perfectly normal.

The counsellor provided me with an array of strategies to alleviate my anxiety.

For example, I employed a strategy identified as positive cognitive reframing. This strategy allows you to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. I also utilised an ability to play mind games with my own mind. For example, instead of allowing the anxiety to take over I actually welcomed it and started talking to it and become its friend. Further, I started to use deep breathing as a method to allow me to relax my muscles and my mind. Other strategies that I utilised emanated towards listening to music, going for walks and of course exercise.

I would like to strap line counselling as a medication without taking any medicine. I was perhaps fortunate because I sought the early intervention of a therapy, which I believe works better than taking any form of medication. I also sought counselling 18 years earlier when my father died. This does not suggest medication should not be taken and I am sure people do require some form of medication. However, it confirms to me that an early intervention of seeking support and advice from counselling professionals is far better and more efficient. In addition, to combatting this anxiety I went through a process of reevaluating positive aspects of my life from family to work and education.

Taken together, the package of counselling and implementing somatic and cognitive interventions allowed me to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks. In summary, the use of counselling allowed me to see the world in a different way to the one that I encountered from March to September.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and that furthermore it has raised your awareness of counselling. In future, if you or somebody you know are seeking support then I fully advocate the use of counselling.

I miss my mother and I will always miss her. I appreciate this pain will never go away but is a pain that I can treat and will deal with it better. Some people advocate that time is a great healer, I actually dispute this because as time goes on it actually gets harder. Instead, I believe that you learn to live with the pain. Rest in peace, mother.

Emotional Intelligence: Women and Success

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I start this article by offering my congratulations to women on their successes within various domains. The media has done well to showcase these successes within business, education, health and sport, although there is still plenty of work to be done. There is now more accumulated evidence of how Women have realised their own ambition and developed personal career paths than ever before. The increased advances in multi-media sources (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook) enables us to provide greater exposure to these successes, which should be celebrated and further collaborated.

A deeper exploration suggests that one should look no further than the concept of emotional intelligence. Evidence available from academic research clearly highlights that women outperform men in many aspects of emotional intelligence. One study that I carried out recently highlighted that women outperformed men in four of the five key areas of emotional intelligence of self-awareness, self-management, motivation and empathy. These results were based on a study of work-based performance.

Therefore, one may wish to better understand these aspects of emotional intelligence.

1)   Self-Awareness – amounts to understanding your own emotions and their impact

2)   Self-Management – relates to your handling your own emotions and that of others

3)   Motivation – having the hunger and desire to meet targets

4)   Empathy – understanding emotions of others and putting yourself in their shoes

5)   Relationship Management – having the skills and techniques to work with others to maintain team cohesion

Tips to increase levels of emotional intelligence.

1)   Self-Awareness – Write down how you feel and deal with situations. How do you deal with positive outcomes and how does this differ to negative situations?

2)   Self-Management – Identify your own emotions and how do you deal with these? What strategies do you implement? Conversely, how do you deal with others emotions and do you understand how to deal with these emotions?

3)   Motivation – What goals do you set? Are these outcome related or performance related? Do you consider process goals?

4)   Empathy – Help each other to deal with emotions and attempt to understand why certain people act in the way that they do

5)   Relationship Management – collaborate with each other and identify best practice methods to increase effectiveness at work.

In summary, evidence is clear in suggesting that emotional intelligence leads to effective work performance. Taken together, emotional intelligence evidence has demonstrated that females can outperform males.

 

Models of Building: The German Way

Models of Building: The German Way

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Originally posted on December 31, 2010 by The Psychology Network under Interventions

Many teams and individuals will have experienced a period of dominance. This dominance can be through a period of years or decades and is normally measured through success. Examples of dominance include Manchester United and Liverpool in football, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer in Tennis and the West Indies and Australia have demonstrated periods of absolute dominance in cricket. However, Liverpool, Sampras, Federer, the West Indies and now arguably Australia has seen their dominance erode. In the case of the West Indies one could even argue that mediocrity has settled in.

Whilst many factors can contribute to teams and individuals not being as dominant, I would elude to the German model. The Germans are renowned craftsmen with trade (e.g. cars). However, my example of re-building relates to the German football national team. Following the European Championship Final 2008, in which the Germans lost to Spain a board meeting, was convened. Not content on being runners up with an average team, the Germans decided to start again. The next few years witnessed a new younger generation of players being introduced, with some experienced players maintained to help with this progression. The German model was to develop a team capable of winning the World Cup in 2014. Following their displays in South Africa (e.g. 4-1 V an experienced ‘Golden Generation’ England) there are few to doubt that this German team could scale the heights of previous successful German sides.

To conclude, rebuilding is a process that if successfully undertaken can provide a platform that may not see the team or individual completely disappear off the radar. However, there seems to be a distinct worry in change. Arguably, this could be the result of certain individuals being too powerful. In the interest of supporters Governing Boards must be seen to be strong to make big decisions.

 

Psychological Edge

Many teams and individuals will have experienced a period of dominance. This dominance can be through a period of years or decades and is normally measured through success. Examples of dominance include Manchester United and Liverpool in football. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer in Tennis. In cricket, the West Indies and Australia have demonstrated periods of absolute dominance. However, Liverpool, Sampras, Federer, the West Indies and now arguably Australia have seen their dominance erode. In the case of Liverpool and the West Indies one could even argue that mediocracy has settled in.

Whilst many factors can contribute to teams and individuals not being as dominate, i would elude to the German model. The Germans are reknowned craftsmen with their trades (e.g. cars). However, my example of re-building relates to the German football national team. Following the European Championship Final 2008, in which the Germans lost to Spain a board meeting…

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Tournament Football: Why is it Different?

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The greatest show on earth, namely the FIFA World Cup 2014 is upon us all. The 2014 tournament will be the most watched because of the multitude of media availability. One aspect that interests me is the psychological preparation of performers. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to outline how tournament football should be understood from a psychological and mental preparation perspective. Although the article will centre on the FIFA World Cup 2014, its intention is to make people aware of how they could prepare their own teams for tournaments. The psychological variables discussed here could be transferred to other sports.

Tournament football is different from normal qualification games as there are many different variables attributed to its actions. Tournament football requires three group games that are then followed by a knockout phase. Progression is only possible through winning your group or coming second. With this in mind, it would be useful to outline the psychological variables and mind-set that teams should employ. 

1)   Pressure

Performers can suffer from negative pressure because they fail to deal with competition demands. Those performers who are able to cope with competitive demands are more likely to express themselves with freedom and expression. In order to cope with competitive demands it would be useful for performers to understand certain aspects. Examples include, understanding the environment, appreciating your opponents and accepting your own strengths.

Understanding the environment – For example, the environment in Brazil will be different from the one most performers are used to in their natural habitat. Brazil is a bigger country than most in Europe and therefore contains a range of differences related to climate, language, food, and playing surfaces.

Appreciating your opponents – ‘Never underestimate your opponent’ this is a key phrase because underestimating could lead to defeat. Opponents should be analysed and profiled by identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Many elite teams employ scientists who have this information readily available and one could argue that it provides an advantage.

Accepting your strengths – Coaches should support their performers by allowing them to acknowledge strengths by applying these to game situations. It is through mental strength building that performers can realise their own levels of self-confidence. Coaches should adopt this approach as it enables performers to know how they are appreciated.

2)   Confidence

Self-belief is critical for a performer as without it performance levels will be poor. Confidence levels are built through inner self-belief and further enhanced if performers believe that they can succeed, believe in their own ability levels and also have belief that their teammates can deliver.

An array of methods can be used to enhance self-confidence levels. One simple method relates to using phrases that evoke positive outcomes and feelings. For example, ‘I can do this,’ should be replaced with, ‘I will do this.’ This evokes a more powerful message than the first message.

3)   Motivation

Motivation is a crucial aspect for teams playing in tournament football. Whilst one may argue that you require limited motivation to participate in tournaments there are some exceptions to the rule. Performers should seek intrinsic and extrinsic value of motivation when participating in tournaments. It is proposed that performers should set process goals to meet both intrinsic and extrinsic levels of motivation.

Process goals are a necessity as too often coaches and performers are concerned with outcome goals. Outcomes goals alone are not good because if they are not achieved then motivation levels alongside other psychological variables become redundant. In addition, outcome goals lead to increased pressure being placed on performers that could induce greater levels of anxiety. Popular evidence suggests that negative anxiety is not good both mentally and physiologically.

4)   Psychological Skills

To foster coping, increase self-confidence and engineer a motivational response employing psychological skills would enhance performance levels. Three popular psychological skills are imagery, relaxation and positive self-talk. Psychological skills need to be practised on a regular basis for them to become effective.

Coaches should implement psychological skills into their own training and advocate time towards practise. Indeed, psychological skills can be implemented through training practices where instructive use of psychological skills allows performers to focus on mind-set.

5)   Mental toughness

Performers who have attributes of mental toughness are unique because they pay attention to small and subtle details. Throughout successful outcomes mentally tough performers will always consider how they can improve further.

It is imperative that performers concentrate on all factors that are essential to performance. Therefore, mentally tough performers will pay attention to technical, physical, nutritional and psychological aspects to engineer success.

Many characteristics of mentally tough performers resonate towards having the ability to focus on task(s), concentrate on important technical cues, bounce back from adversity, resilience and irrespective of the situation (e.g. winning or losing) maintain a sense of psychological balance.

To summarise, tournament football requires performers to be in a position of psychological readiness.

The World Cup 2014: Home Advantage – Does it count?

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World Cup 2014 is upon us and all eyes will be on the host nation Brazil. The purpose of this article is to outline the concept of ‘home advantage.’ In providing this outline, there will be an opportunity to address the expectancy levels of Brazil. To supplement this, the psychological factors associated to helping or hindering the chances of Brazil will be discussed.

Research evidence indicates that the home advantage constitutes a unique opportunity over opponents. This advantage can be determined by a multitude of factors that include ability, fans and environment amongst others. Relative to these factors one could assume that the home advantage could be determined by: 

  • Ability to win with a high percentage success rate
  • Intimidation of the opposition
  • Increased self-confidence with the mental toughness to win all games
  • High levels of performance outcomes in relation to mental, technical, physical attributes

The case of home advantage and Brazil is an interesting one. Historically, Brazil is a successful nation that has won the World Cup more times than any other country. In addition, Brazil has also be labelled the ‘People’s Champions.’ In assessing chances of champion nations one could assume that Brazil have the best possibility to win another World Cup.

It would therefore be prudent to assess the psychological attributes that could contribute to success or hinder the predictive success. There are examples of success, most notably the 1966 World Cup win for England. It should be noted that not all host nations go onto to win the World Cup. Therefore, a consideration of the most important aspects that relate to Brazil will be provided.

1) Brazil as a nation requires an understanding of its culture and heritage. The nation follows its football intensely and one common attribute relates to the ‘rags to riches story’ of football. There are many (although there are notable exceptions) Brazilian players who have had a poor upbringing but made it rich through football. This provides many aspiring footballers the same dream and ambition. Players are seen as role models and people align closely with them and their upbringing.

2) Brazilian culture – Football in Brazil is like a carnival. The nation rejoices and dances to music. The players love music and dance to it throughout their journey from hotel to stadium. Research clearly outlines the psychological benefits of music.

3) Brazilian fans – The fans will also contribute to success within stadiums during match days. The atmosphere of happiness and joy can lead to belief, which would evolve into success. A stadium full of home support with a patriotic following can intimidate many opponents. The fact that the Brazilian fans will allow their players to express themselves without fear could also work in the home nations favour.

4) Performance outcomes including mental, technical and physical aspects can lead to success. These aspects could support the Brazilian players because they will believe in themselves, technically have good skill sets and physically they are a blend of a strong but creative force.

5) Environment and conditions – in a World Cup the environment could work in the favour of the home nation. The Brazilian players will be most likely to acclimatise better (although many of their top performers now play in Europe) to conditions than European teams.

One must be cautious in their interpretation of the home advantage. This is because other factors could contribute to limit success. These factors could be increased pressure as the tournament progresses. Getting closer to the finishing line could be more difficult as the expectancy levels go through the roof. In addition, one mistake or referee decision could also contribute to failure.

In conclusion, the home advantage is an interesting concept. Teams have succeeded as a result of the home advantage but there is also evidence of non-success. Of the 19 World Cup Finals only 6 have resulted in the home nation winning.