ACU (Australian Catholic University)


Issue 3, Summer 2011

On the couch

Dr Barbara Jones is a registered psychologist and lecturer at AC U. She is Director of the Melbourne Psychology Clinic, and Co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Social Science (Counselling) and the Master of Counselling programs. Barbara works one day per week in private practice with children, adolescents and adults with anxiety disorders and is here to answer readers’ life questions.

Q1: With 2012 rapidly approaching, I have been thinking about new year’s resolutions. Why do people make them and why can’t we ever keep them?

Every new year we commit to changing some aspect of our behaviour or lifestyle by making a new year’s resolution. These resolutions are usually related to losing weight, giving up smoking, not drinking so much alcohol, giving up chocolate, etc. Apparently 90 per cent of people fail to keep their resolution, with 75 per cent failing within the first week of the year. A new year provides us with a ‘fresh start’. We usually feel hopeful and positive, and these feelings motivate us to change. But how do we maintain the motivation to achieve our goals? Or to keep our new year’s resolution when along the way we will experience difficulties and setbacks as we work toward our goal? Dr Krystal Stober, a Clinical Psychologist at Jefferson University Hospital, recommends the following tips for achieving your new year’s resolution:

  • Examine what is important in your life and why you want to change
  • Set small, realistic goals and have reasonable ways of measuring those goals. Remind yourself that change is a slow process, and that setbacks are not a sign of failure, you can learn from them
  • Don’t let that voice in your head talk you into not following through with your plans - we are good at making exceptions or assuring ourselves that we will start tomorrow
  • Don’t impulsively decide to choose the old behavior – weigh up the pros and cons before acting
  • Have faith in yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly

It is important that you are willing to change, that you decide and prepare to make the change, and hardest of all, maintain the change. If you have a plan, realistic goals, and are committed and motivated to put your plan into action, then it’s likely you will keep your resolutions. Good luck for 2012!

Q2: I am an international student and live a long way from my family. As the festive season is approaching, I find I am feeling really homesick and am sad about spending this time away. Is there anything I can do to deal with the loneliness?

Moving away from close family, relatives and friends affects students to varying degrees. Feeling homesick is a natural stage that many people go through when they move to another country to begin a new life. It is reported in research literature that 35 per cent of new students experience homesickness and between five per cent and 15 per cent of new students find the experience of being in a new environment frightening and often become depressed. There are things that you can do to make you feel less homesick at these times. Be sure to make contact with your university’s International Student Services. Staff at this service will be able to put you in touch with other international students who are likely to be experiencing the same things as you in adjusting to the new environment. University Student Associations can also be a fun way of integrating yourself into your new way of life – with social functions, sporting and cultural activities scheduled throughout the year. Information about such functions and activities is usually posted on notice boards around the university campus. By becoming involved in university life and shared activities you will have the opportunity to meet local students as well as other international students and build up local social networks. You will probably find that you are not the only new person in the group. Living in shared student accommodation, working as a volunteer in the wider community, and participating in religious services – particularly during the festive season – are other ways of building up your social network. Homesickness is a common experience for many people, yet it can be overcome. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty coping, it is important that you contact the Student Counselling Services at your campus for some ongoing assistance in feeling comfortable and happy in your new environment.

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