Everything You Need to Know About Mental Health in 11 Minutes

I came across this clip this morning.  It is amazing.  Like, really one of the best commentaries on mental health I have ever seen.  EVER.

It’s funny, and sad, and snarky, and entertaining, and enlightening – and very informative.  It pretty much sums up the mental health care system in the US in the last 100 years.

These days, 11 minutes is a long time to devote to a video, but I highly recommend watching this one from start to finish.  It’s a little uncomfortable to watch at times, but i think that’s a good thing.  We need to be challenged in the way we think and talk about mental illness and treatment.  Who knew John Oliver would be the one who would challenge us?

Who Are Your People?

We all want to belong. It’s an innate human desire.  And for most of us it’s a need – something essential to mental health.  And when we don’t feel like we belong – when we aren’t among “Our People” – it can feel pretty crappy.

When we are among Our People, we feel:

  • Like we can be ourselves
  • Understood
  • Relaxed
  • Like we don’t have to explain ourselves very often
  • Accepted
  • Known
  • Appreciated

Who doesn’t want to feel those things?  Luckily Our People can be found in lots of places.  And can include just one or two other people.  Here are some places where I have found My People, now and in the past:

  • Family
  • High school reunions
  • Dance classes
  • Church
  • Psychology organizations
  • On the streets where I live and work

Here are some places I have watched others find Their People:

  • Soccer teams
  • Running clubs
  • Choirs
  • Knitting circles
  • Moms groups
  • Jobs
  • Community service organizations
  • Art clubs
  • Brownie troops
  • School
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Book groups
  • Home Depot

So, who are Your People?  How do you know you’ve found them?







Coping With the Holiday Blues

Image: This BettyTurbo card on Etsy cracked me up!

Image: This BettyTurbo card on Etsy cracked me up!

I have been writing a short series on the Holiday Blues.  Yea, yea I know it’s still a million degrees out and the leaves have just started changing.  Believe it or not, it’s this time of year; with ever-shortening days, and ever-expanding store holiday displays, when the Holidays Blues can begin to strike.

Last time I wrote about the signs and symptoms of the Holiday Blues.  Today I’m going to offer some tips about managing the Holiday Blues, with the hope of actually enjoying the last 3 months of the year – holidays included.  Here goes:

Take it a day at a time.  Sure, the holidays take some prep and planning.  But unless you make your living on Pinterest, you probably don’t need to get into holiday mode quite yet.  It’s still a month until Halloween! Instead of stressing about how the holidays are going to plan out, try enjoying the fruits of the current season instead.  Cider, anyone?

Manage your mood now.  If the signs of the Holiday Blues hit close to home, try doing something different NOW, before your mood really goes downhill.  Socialize more; change up your exercise routine; return to hobbies or organizations that give you joy; talk about your stress.  Whatever it is: do something to mix it up.

Do something different.  Are the holidays always a difficult time of year for you?  If so, you might consider doing something totally out-of-the-box and different than what you normally do to celebrate.  Go to a creepy movie instead of handing candy to kids on Halloween. Go camping on Thanksgiving.  Volunteer at a shelter on Christmas.  You get the idea.

Seek professional help.  If none of the above tips help, consider seeking professional help.  Psychologists can help you look at your situation differently, help create new strategies for coping, or help you understand your circumstances in a different way.



Signs You Might Have the Holiday Blues

Photo: Getty Images/Fickr RF

Photo: Getty Images/Fickr RF

The other day I wrote about the holiday blues, and how they can start even when the weather’s hot and the leaves are on the trees.  Check out the full post here.

Today I’m going to talk about some of the signs and symptoms of the holiday blues.*

The thing about our moods is that we often don’t notice what’s happening with them.  Very few of us sit around pondering the state of our mental health:

“Hmmmm, am I happy or sad today?”

“What is the word that best describes my current psychological state?”

To carry on like that for too long would be annoying for all involved.  On the other hand, it’s because we don’t often pay much attention to our mood that changes can sneak up on us, and catch us by surprise.  Mood often changes slowly, with subtle signs and symptoms along the way.  If we pay close attention, we’ll notice the changes.  Check these out:

  • increased irritability (everyone is driving me nuts!!!!)
  • decreased motivation (it’s hard to get myself to do anything)
  • decreased pleasure (I don’t look forward to reading Us Weekly like I used to)
  • increased worry (I am stressed about everything!)
  • low mood (I just feel kind of down)

As with most things, the sooner we become aware of a problem, the easier it is to fix it.  Stay tuned for tips on how to manage the holiday blues before they get out of hand.

*Please note, “the holiday blues” is not a diagnosis recognized by the DSM-IV or ICD-10, but rather term used by this author to describe a non-clinically significant cluster of symptoms.



The Holiday Blues in September?

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I don’t know how the weather is in your neck of the woods (Hello, Al Roker!), but around here it’s still hot, hot, hot!  We’re still in tank tops and flip flops, just dreaming of cooler days when we can snuggle up in our hoodies.

Meanwhile, the strangest thing is happening: the “Holiday Blues” are beginning to take hold.  By holiday blues I mean the low mood and high anxiety that often accompanies the end of the year.

There are many reasons for the holiday blues:

  • family pressure/drama/stress
  • loss (of a loved one or a job, for example)
  • overwhelming pressure to live the life portrayed on Pinterest
  • decreasing amounts of sunlight
  • bad memories or trauma in holidays past
  • annoyance at the length in magnitude of the holiday season (September through January, really?)

Whatever the reason, mid-September can mark the start of a downward slide for many of us.  Stay tuned for signs and symptoms that the holiday blues may be sneaking up on you.

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Healthy Eating for Busy Nights

Has the number of healthy meals consumed by your family taken a hit since school (and soccer and football and homework and piano and Lego club) started? Produce for Kids has some ideas for you! And guess what? They’re easy too!

The PFK website has TONS of recipe ideas, and this is the one my family and I chose to try:

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It looked pretty delicious, pretty easy and most importantly: I had almost all the ingredients on hand!

Here’s how it started:

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So…I didn’t have everything the recipe called for. Namely, chicken.  But this looked like a dish that would be good vegetarian too.  Also, my kids won’t eat whole wheat pasta, so I opted for regular.

The chopping began:

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Then it all went into the pot!

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Including the broth:

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Here it is all together.  I ended up adding some chopped zucchini because I am swimming in it these days!

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As it all started cooking I wondered (as I do every time I make one of these one-pot dishes):

Is this enough liquid?

It doesn’t look like enough liquid!

Should I add more liquid?

But I trusted the recipe, and sure enough it worked out!

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And here’s the verdict:

Kid #1: “Mom, this is delicious! I mean it!”

Kid #2: “This is almost as good as the lo mein we order out! Like just an inch away!”

Kid #3: Busy playing with cars and didn’t join the meal.

2 out of 3 is success in our house. So I would definitely say it was a hit and we will be making it again.  Next time I might add some lean ground turkey or beef, and maybe a tomato or two (I know that’s not traditional for lo mein, but I’m swimming in tomatoes right now, too!).

Happy Eating!


This post sponsored by Produce for Kids


Is Food Stressing You Out?

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Food is delicious.  But it can also be stressful. Gluten-free, fat-free, South Beach, Mediterranean – how are we supposed to eat?  Foods that are seen as healthy today, aren’t necessarily seen as healthy tomorrow.  It’s very stressful!

I recently wrote an article for Produce for Kids about how to manage stress around food, diet and nutrition.  My favorite tip?

Make sure to allow yourself time to let loose and have fun with food!

See the entire article here:

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Sadness vs. Depression

Being a human necessarily means that we will experience a wide range of emotions: anger, jealousy, bliss and even sadness. Some say we need to experience sadness and melancholy in order to truly appreciate happiness when it comes.  I’m not sure I totally believe this, but I get the idea.  Regardless, feeling sad from time to time is part of the human experience.

Depression, on the other hand, is not necessarily part of the human experience.  Common? Yes. In fact, almost 10% of the US population will experience some type of depressive disorder this year (source).  But, many of us will go our entire lives without experiencing depression.

So, what’s the difference?

  • Sadness can come and go; depression may last for weeks, months, or even longer
  • Sadness may cause tears or a low mood; depression makes it difficult to do what we need to do in life (perform our job, take care of our kids, take care of our bodies/home/finances)
  • Sadness is often brought on by a life event (job loss); depression may be brought on by a life event, but not always.  Sometimes it just shows up out of the blue
  • Sadness is annoying when it lasts for a while; depression affects how we sleep, eat and interact with the world
  • Sadness makes us feel down; depression can make us feel guilty, hopeless, helpless and like things will absolutely never, ever get any better
  • Sadness makes us cry; depression can make us irritable, withdrawn and even suicidal
  • Sadness will likely resolve on its own; depression is a mental illness that requires treatment.  Individual psychotherapy, group counseling and medications are all options for treatment.



Picky Eaters and Family Stress

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Having a picky eater in the family can be super stressful for all involved: the picky eater themselves, the parents, the siblings – everyone.  No one enjoys having mealtime conversation include nothing but:

Please, just one more bite!

I worked hard making this… you better $%**@ eat it!

You’re never going to grow if you keep eating like that!

Luckily, there are lots of strategies for making mealtimes more pleasant and healthy (physically and psychologically!) for all involved.  I was recently interviewed for an article on reducing stress around mealtimes by my favorite speech pathologist and feeding specialist, Melanie Potock.  The article appeared on the ASHA Leader Blog a couple weeks ago.  Check out the full article here:

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