World Mental Health Day

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Today, October 10, is World Mental Health Day.  There’s a lot going on on social media today about reducing the stigma around mental illness,  the importance of funding mental health treatment, and what it’s really like to suffer from a mental illness.  Check it out on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you get your news #WorldMentalHealthDay.  Here are a few things I found:

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Coping With Election Stress

We’re getting close, folks. Just a month left until the election – and I think all of us are feeling the uptick of anxiety.  Sure, every election year carries its own stress and worries, but for many of us, this year’s presidential election feels particularly contentious/nasty/overwhelming.  Even those of us who try to stay out of the political fray are feeling it.

So what can we do to manage over the next few weeks? How do we stop ourselves from succumbing to political hype, leaving ulcers, tears and panic attacks in their wake?

Keep it in perspective.  Remember when people threatened to leave the country if Bush, Jr won? Remember the “No-Bama” stickers? The anti-Catholic/Kennedy sentiments? Presidential elections are often nasty, doom-and-gloom affairs.  There are ALWAYS people predicting the end of our country if so-and-so wins.  Thankfully, the U.S. has withstood all those prophesies.  No matter which side of the divide you’re on, chances are very high that we will survive no matter who our next president is.

Keep it local.  Many political and government experts tell us that it is our local elections that actually have the most impact on our day-to-day lives.  School bonds, town councils and other super-local issues can shape our lives in very tangible ways.  Keeping this in mind can help keep the importance (and non-stop coverage) of the national elections in perspective.  I.e., “My favorite presidential candidate may not win, but I feel great about the direction my city is taking.”

Keep in contained.  Mud-slinging and name-calling may have always been a part of presidential politics, but 24 hour coverage on TV, radio, print media and social media is new.  When I go online, sometimes I just want to hear about the most recent celebrity gossip.  Unfortunately for my mental health, I am often confronted with the newest, nastiest election news as well.  In other words: It’s hard to escape the coverage! In our hyper-connected world, keeping election news to a minimum may just mean turning off all media. Gulp.

Check out my other article about election stress”

Pre-Election Stress Disorder: Do You Have It?

Pre-Election Stress Disorder: Tips For Coping

…and because this too shall pass:

Post-Election Stress Disorder


Power Your Lunchbox

Yea (or, boo! – depending on your perspective) it’s back to school! Regardless of how you and your family feel about this time of year, one thing never changes: everyone has to eat lunch.  I feel quite lucky that all 3 of my kids have become sandwich lovers over the past couple of years, making packing lunches pretty simple.  But all of us need to mix it up from time to time, so today I am teaming up with Produce for Kids to help spread the word about their Power Your Lunchbox campaign:

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Look at all those clever, yummy and healthy lunches!

Please consider taking the pledge! It’s super simple and also helps the organization Feeding America.  Additionally you can be entered to win a bento box from Bentology, and also get some free printable lunch box notes (super cute).

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Ok, let’s get started.  I was lucky enough to get one of these fun bento boxes.  My kids have been itching to get their hands on it for weeks!


There’s just something about all those cute little boxes that fit so perfectly inside each other.  I think it makes us all believe when can eat smarter and more creatively!

So when my kids and I discussed what to put in our bento box, they decided they wanted something with their new fave – Greek yogurt.  I thought about making granola to go with it, but decided instead to use up some of the delicious peaches that are in season right now.  I had just seen this Peach Oatmeal Muffin recipe over at Six Sisters Stuff, so we gave it a try:

4 cups of juicy peaches - delicious!

4 cups of juicy peaches – delicious!

We used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour:


I was concerned that full-sized muffins wouldn’t fit in the bento box, so I made a couple dozen mini-muffins:


My little one decided to make some full-sized, Christmas-themed muffins:


We may or may not have popped a few in our mouths straight from the oven:


Next it was time to fill the box! I put in the vanilla Greek yogurt, then the little guy added some muffins.  I said 2 was plenty, he thought 3 sounded better:


We agreed on some strawberries and sliced almonds, but had a difference of opinion on how to fill the last little box.  I thought carrots, he thought cheese sticks.  We compromised and added both:


Does that look like a tasty lunch, or what?


Am I Depressed? Just Tired? Something More Serious? Diagnosing Mental Illness

Diagnosing mental illness is difficult.  There are no blood tests for depression; no urine tests for panic attacks; no cheek swabs for schizophrenia.  And sadly, online questionnaires aren’t accurate diagnostic tools either.

I recently got to be a part of an article over at Psych Central about conditions and illnesses that mimic mental health disorders.  It’s an interesting topic because at its core, it means that we – as health care providers – need to be extremely careful and thorough when making diagnoses.  Here’s a quote from the article:

Having the correct diagnosis is vital.  It leads to a more precise, effective treatment plan…If we don’t know what we’re dealing with at the beginning of treatment, our interventions can be like shooting arrows in the dark; not very accurate and possibly dangerous.

Another point is:

Depression is a condition almost everyone is familiar with, so it can easily become a catch-all phrase or diagnosis.  But there are literally hundreds of other mental health disorders, one of which may better capture the symptoms you are experiencing.

To read the full article, check it out over all Psych Central:

Psych Central: The Many Conditions That Mimic Depression

Psych Central: The Many Conditions That Mimic Depression

Secrets From The Couch

I recently ran across this article on BuzzFeed: 29 Things No One Ever Tells You About Being In Therapy.  I pretty much love the articles BuzzFeed writes on mental health because they’re clever, helpful and fun.  And let’s face it: most of us mental health professionals wouldn’t be described as “fun.”  Sad, but true.

Anyway, this article was particularly great because the 29 Things were provided by readers.  Here are a couple of my faves:

#3: It might take a sec to find the right therapist


#4: Even when you do, it might take some time to connect

I also liked:

#13: Sometimes your therapist will piss you off

…I might add that if your therapist doesn’t piss you off (or bug you, or something something that doesn’t sit right with you) then you probably aren’t getting as much out of therapy as you could.  Change is uncomfortable.

I also really liked the last one:

#29: Needing to go back to therapy – or stay in it for a while – isn’t failing

This is so true.  Not many people know that going back to therapy after taking a break can be hugely beneficial.  I have lots of folks in my practice who come for a while; take a break for a while; come back for a while to work on something else, and so on.

To see all 29, check out the full article here.


How To Make Changes That Last

Ugh…changing our behavior is so hard.  Honestly I think it’s made even harder by all the voices telling us what to change and how to change.

Eat kale!

Turn off electronics!


Save your money!

Tidy your house!

Drive less!

All great tips, but how can we actually make changes to our lifestyles that last more than a couple of days?

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids that discusses this very thing! My favorite tip?

Make personally-meaningful goals. We can’t all care about everything. It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to be: never-cheater eaters, marathon runners, ultra-savers, perfect parents, top-notch employees, garden club honorees, award-winning volunteers, Pinterest stars…you get the picture. Instead of trying to be everything everyone else tells you that you should be, focus on being what you want to be. Not only will your goals be more meaningful, you will be more likely to meet them.

Here’s the full article with all the life-changing tips included:

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How To Become A Morning Person

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I’m not a real Coloradoan.  I don’t like to ski (too expensive and cold) and I don’t like to camp (too uncomfortable).  So imagine my surprise when I got a call from Backpacker Magazine a few months ago to offer some tips for an article they were working on.  Here’s how the interview started out:

Writer: “What tips do you have for folks who struggle to get going in the morning while camping?”

Me: “Ummmm…stay home?”

Yes, that was my expert tip: Don’t go camping.

Luckily, I was able to pull myself together and offer some (I think) useful advice on how to make mornings a little easier after waking up on a mountain top.  And actually, I think these tips can be used in the comfort of your own (warm, clean, not scary) home as well.  Check it out:

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Here’s my favorite tip:

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I don’t know what a “bear bag” is, but other than that I think the tip is useful no matter where you are.  Happy trails, campers!

How To Have A Conversation With Your Family That’s Actually Interesting

OK, here’s what conversations often sound like in my house:

“Did you write a check for the mortgage”

“No! I forgot, can you do it!?”


“Did you practice piano yet?”

“Kind of.”


“Do we really have to go to your cousin’s sister’s daughter’s birthday party this weekend?”

“Yes, because she came to our party last year.”

and my favorite:

“How was your day, honey?”


None of these “conversations” are particularly interesting or stimulating – and they certainly don’t do anything to help the participants feel closer to each other.  Instead, they simply allow us to continue the business of running our household and nothing else.  We are all guilty of this – surface, business-like conversations with those in our family (whether that family has two members or ten) – instead of meaningful, engaging exchanges.

When we first got to know our partners, we talked for hours about all kinds of interesting things.  I would bet none of our first date conversations included topics like bills, carpools and trash day.  And when our kids are young, they ask about a million questions everyday on all kinds of unique topics.  But, by the time our relationships have seasoned and our kids are into things like friends and electronics, conversation can easily fall to the wayside.

I recently wrote an article over on Produce for Kids about how to jump start dinner conversation.  The article was mostly focused on families with children at home, but I think the ideas can be used in any kind of family.  Check it out:

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What If You Knew Depression As A Doctor And A Patient?

One of my favorite psychologists is Dr. Deborah Serani.  She is quite the mover and shaker in the field of psychology.  She’s a professor, a clinician, an author – and she has also struggled with depression since childhood.  Dr. Serani recently gave a TedX Talk at Adelphi University.  Check it out:

Dr. Serani’s talk is incredibly moving. She gives a touching description of what it’s like to be depressed as a child. And also a very detailed account of her suicide attempt as a very young woman. Dr. Serani offers expertise on how to best manage mental illness, including “consistency, consistency, consistency” when it comes to psychotherapy and medication. I also appreciated the way she describes how self-care plays a part in managing her mental illness, including vigorously guarding her sleep, and being selective in who and what she lets into her life.

Dr. Serani concludes her powerful talk by offering words of encouragement to those suffering (and treating) mental illness:
“There is hope, there is healing.”