Families and the Ties That Bind (Hint: None of them are political)

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There is a lot of tension in the country right now.  And we knew it was going to be this way, right? No matter the outcome of the election, there were always going to be many, many millions of folks who’d supported the losing side.  And after a full of year of debate, nastiness and name-calling in the political arena, more rancor post-November 8th was exactly what NONE of us needed.

And now here come the holidays.  A time that’s supposed to be shiny, bright and Pinterest-worthy – but is actually often stressful, disappointing and overwhelming.

I’ve been talking to quite a few folks in the media this week about tips for how to manage holiday gatherings with family members who are on different sides of the political debate.  A few things have come to my mind in these conversations, not the least of which is:

We don’t love our families (and our families don’t love us) because of our political views

The love shared between families is made up of many (in my mind, more interesting) reasons:

  • We share the same history – the history we can remember and the history that happened generations before we arrived
  • We have lots of shared memories – of things good, bad and in between
  • We root for the same football team, laugh at the same dumb movies, like the same weird food, etc
  • We have forgiven each other for mistakes and hurts big and small – and will continue to do so many more times in the years to come
  • We accept each other for what we really are: Not what we post on our Facebook page or send in our holiday cards
  • We sit with each other when we are sick, hold each other’s hands when we grieve and celebrate together when a milestone is reached

Feelings about the election and the coming administration are intense, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.  Shared political beliefs rarely occur in families anyway, and this year is no different.  To expect agreement this holiday season will likely only result in frustration.  Instead try focusing on all the many things we do have in common and love about each other.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Post Election Stress

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Well, it’s been a couple of days and I think (I hope) the dust is starting to settle from the election and all its ugliness.  No matter who you supported, didn’t support, or tried to ignore it’s been a rough few months.  And no matter whether your candidate won or not – the election has been decided and we need to move forward as individuals and citizens.

Four years ago I wrote an article about “Post-Election Stress Disorder.”  Check out the whole thing here, or see a few of my tips for managing below:

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I also got to contribute to a few news stories on coping with post election stress this week.  Here’s one from the Denver Post:

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The main take away? Turn off the media and engage with those you love.  Try to stay positive and keep moving forward.

Fighting Hunger Around the Holidays

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Want to do something really easy to help fight hunger? All you have to do is “like” Produce for Kids on Facebook and Instagram and they will donate 1 meal to Feeding America.  Here’s more:

Join us this holiday season for our inaugural Holiday Meal Drive! Starting today and running through December 31, we’ll be donating one meal* to Feeding America® for every new Facebook and Instagram fan. With one click, you can help make a difference to the 42.2 million Americans, including 13.1 million children, who live in food-insecure households.

Check it out and Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

 

Do We Need Couples Therapy?

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“Do we need to see a therapist?”

“Could a couples counselor help?”

No couple really wants to have these sorts of thoughts or conversations.  Often, if couples have gotten to the point of thinking about seeing a psychologist, things have gotten pretty bad.  Disagreements. Yelling. Silence.  Maybe all 3.

So how do you know if seeing a couples therapist could be helpful to your relationship?

You keep having the same argument over, and over, and over.  Living with someone is tough – there are just so many things to argue about! Sometimes those arguments can go in circles – meaning they keep happening in the same old way with no resolution.  Couples therapists can help you communicate differently and hopefully get out of the old ruts.

You’ve stopped arguing and don’t know what to say. Some couples stop communicating altogether after a while – and that can be damaging too.  Learning how to re-start the conversation by communicating (and listening) effectively are great goals for therapy.

You’re not where you wish you were.  One of the biggest challenges in the life of a couple is weathering changes, transitions and different phases of life.  Just because you love each other doesn’t mean you deal with change and challenge in the same way.  Couples therapy can help folks get back on track after a transition (becoming parents, retiring, relocating, etc).

Of course I’m a little biased, but I think just about every couple could benefit from seeing a psychologist at some point in their relationship.  There are no side effects, and even a meeting or two can be helpful!

 

Money, Debt and Stress

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Remember several years ago when you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing tips about how to manage on a budget and deal with unemployment?  During the Great Recession, the media was full of articles about how to manage money stress, how to make a dollar stretch and how to plan the best stay-cation (was that even a word before the Great Recession?).

While I certainly don’t miss that period of time,  I do think all those tips and tricks can still be helpful.  I recently ran across this oldie-but-goody article I contributed to way back in 2009.  Here was one of my tips for managing lack-of-money stress:

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There are quite a few other tips in the (pretty long) article. Check out the whole thing here:

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Are there any money management tips and tricks you learned during the Great Recession that you’re still using?

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!

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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:

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

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

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

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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:

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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:

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Does that look like a tasty lunch, or what?

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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

and

#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.