Is Your Big House Hurting Your Mental Health?

 

 

I love houses. I love talking about them, thinking about them, working on them, decorating them…they provide endless amounts of entertainment and challenge.  Usually I indulge my loves of houses in my free time.  But recently I have found myself doing more talking and thinking about houses and space in my work hours as well.  Specifically, can our homes affect our mental health?  Yes.  There are many, many ways your home can affect your mental health.  Think of these situations:

People who are home-less

People who live in un-safe areas

People who live in un-clean, cluttered, and/or un-sanitary homes (think: Hoarders)

People who live in homes they cannot afford

Today I am going to talk about another group of people whose mental health is being affected by their homes: People whose homes are too darn big.  How can this be a problem?  Aren’t all of us pining to get into a house with more square footage, more rooms, more SPACE!?!?  Maybe, but I am beginning to see that too much space can be a problem as well.

Think of a how a “typical” suburban family might spend their evening: Dad in the basement watching basketball, teenager in his/her room playing video games, tween in the living room watching the Disney Channel, and mom in her bedroom reading stories on-line about Robert Pattinson.  Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

I’m afraid our homes have gotten so big (and so wired) that we often miss out on time that could be spent as a family.  Remember the old days when there was only one TV in the house and we had to take turns choosing what we wanted to watch?  Remember when we actually watched shows as a family (think: Cosby Show) and then talked about the funny parts all week?  While having our own spaces is neat and cool, I wonder if it is the best thing for our mental health, and for the health of our families?  Will we one day wake up and realize we barely know the other people living under our roof?  I hope not.

So before you buy a bigger home, or spread out to all corners of your existing house, think about what you are doing.  Share a TV, a couch, a bowl of popcorn.  Play Monopoly, or spend time just talking.  Enjoy your large spaces, but remember to spend time in close quarters with the ones you love, too.

This post originally appeared in April 2011

I’m Moving…But Not Very Far!

For the past 11 years, I have loved my little office right on Briggs Street – the main street in the heart of Old Town Erie.  But as Erie has grown, it’s gotten to be quite busy. Hardly a week goes by without a parade, block party, festival or celebration of some kind. It’s a lot of fun – but not necessarily the best environment for therapy!

So…I am moving! But just down the hall. Starting on October 13th, my office will be located in Suite D. My new office will be in the back of the same building, but as it faces the alley, it will be quieter, more peaceful and more conducive to private conversations. Luckily, I will remain in the same charming, historic building where I’ve been since 2006.

All of my contact information will remain the same. And yes, I am taking new patients! If you have questions, please give me a call at 303-828-3080 or email me stephaniesmithpsyd@gmail.com.

I am so proud to be part of the Erie community – and excited to start this new chapter!

 

Are Work, School, Activities Getting In the Way of Your Life?

Is this what dinnertime looks like at your house? Yea, me neither…

I have a million good intentions at the start of each week:

  • I’m going to exercise
  • I’m going to meditate
  • I’m going to watch less TV
  • I’m going to cook fresh foods for every meal
  • I’m going to finally weed the garden
  • I’m going to clear out my email inbox

You know the drill: We all have the best intentions to live in calm, healthy ways. But then reality sets in and all the plans get blown up. I recently wrote an article about how to carve out time – at least a couple of times a week – to slow down and eat a meal with the ones you love. Here’s my favorite tip:

Want to read the entire article? Check it out:

Psychologist, Psychiatrist: What’s the Difference?

If you’re a psychologist or a psychiatrist, you know that the difference between the two professions is HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT. If you do something else for a living, you probably don’t care at all about the difference. Fair enough.

But just in case you’re interested, here’s the short version:

Psychologists hold doctoral degrees in psychology (PhD, PsyD, EdD) and generally do therapy and psychological evaluations.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (they went to medical school) and generally do medication evaluations and management.

Can’t get enough? Want to know more? Check out this article I wrote over at Health eCareers:

 

Managing the Stress of a Job Search

Looking for a new job is rough. In fact, it’s been ranked as one of the top ten life stressors! Just a few days of looking for a new job can feel like months, and the anxiety about where to apply, how to craft your resume, and what to say in an interview can be all consuming.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to manage the rigors of the job search. My favorite tip:

Keep up your normal routine. Most of us have some good stress management strategies already. Meditation, coffee with friends, jogging, chess — the activity itself doesn’t matter as much as its ability to help you manage your stress level. The problem is, many of us abandon these strategies as soon as the going gets tough! Instead of forgoing your favorite yoga class to peruse the latest job postings, keep the yoga on your schedule and work your job search around it. Your overall level of stress will be lower as a result.

Want to read the whole article? Check it out:

 

#PowerYourLunchbox – Teen Edition

Do you remember being a teenager? A middle schooler? Let’s just say it can be a challenging time in life. Bodies, ideas and emotions are changing at lightening speed; nobody understands you; and life can feel like an endless series of demands, trials and challenges. Everything from clothes to hair to after school activities can be put to the test:

Is this cool or totally dorky?

And yes, I know those aren’t the terms today’s teens would use to describe good and bad, so I am reverting to my own adolescence (cringe.)

Anyway, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I realized that school lunches were also judged in terms of being cool, or not-so-cool.  Here are how things work out for the teens/tweens in my house:

Buying lunch = cool

Taking lunch to school = not cool

But after discovering that my now-7th grader ate fried chicken sandwiches every single day for lunch last year, I decided we needed to make some changes this year.  So when Produce for Kids issued their annual #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge, I decided to get creative. The goal? To find a cool(ish), healthy lunch that my tween and teen would actually eat for lunch. In front of their friends. And not blame me for ruining their lives. Tall order, I know.

And here’s what I came up with: Mason Jars. They’re cheap, functional and Joanna Gaines-approved (that’s a good thing in our house). You’ve probably seen mason jar salad ideas floating around online for the past couple of years. I had too, but I had yet to try them. Here’s how it went:

I pulled everything out of my frig and pantry that could go into a salad:

I read that you should start with dressing, so I put that on the bottom, then filled up the jar from there:

I put the dry ingredients (tortilla strips, croutons, etc) in a little baggy on top so they would still be nice and crunchy at lunch time:

Then I realized I could put anything I wanted into the jars and it would look cute! Leftover pasta salad, fruit salad – nothing in the frig was safe!

…you see where this is going…

One of my kids took this for lunch today, doesn’t it look delicious?

In about 20 minutes we made several lunches and snacks.

And guess what? The kids actually took these beauties to school, ate the contents and brought the jars back home to be refilled – a HUGE SUCCESS! Next time we might try peanut butter, hummus or Nutella in a jar, with some fruits or veggies in another jar for dipping. The possibilities are endless!

Want more ideas for healthy, yummy and semi-cool lunches? Check out Produce for Kids.

Want to help support Feeding America as they provide meals for kids in need just by lifting a finger? Take the #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge!

 

Is Your Stress Rubbing Off On Your Kids?

This is what I have looked like for the past few weeks. Except not that pretty.

Stress is a reality of life. A little of it can be good. A lot of it for long periods of time, not so much.

I was recently interviewed for a story about how our stress affects our kids over at WebMD. The bad news is that our kids (and our partners and pets) definitely pick up on our stress. The good news is that there’s quite a bit we can do about it. Check it out:

Here’s a tip:

Here’s the whole article:

WebMD: How Does Your Stress Affect Your Kids?

Embarrassed to go to therapy?

If we’re being completely honest about mental health care, and what prevents people from getting the care they need, we have to talk about the embarrassment factor. Even those of us who “know better” than to be ashamed and are aware of the “stigma” around mental health issues, can suffer from some embarrassment around seeking treatment for ourselves. We know therapy is OK for others, but for us? Hmmm…not so sure.

I was recently interviewed by Mainstream Mental Health Radio about the embarrassment factor when it comes to mental health care. I discussed who is susceptible to feeling some shame around starting therapy, including:

  • mental health professionals
  • health care providers
  • teachers
  • attorneys

…pretty much anyone. But those of us who know a little (or a lot) about psychology and mental health might find ourselves thinking the following:

  • I know so much about mental health, I should be able to fix this myself
  • I should be mentally stronger than this
  • I know other people struggle with mental illness, but not me
  • If I seek treatment, I’m pretty much admitting I’m a failure/fraud/weakling

In the interview I also talk about how all the public education that’s been done in the last couple of decades around mental health awareness has been fantastic. But we’re still not out of the woods in terms of understanding that mental illness has nothing to do with weakness or inferior character.

To listen to the interview – which also contains information about the mental health benefits of martial arts (who knew?!), check it out on Mainstream Mental Health Radio:

 

 

Flying of Flying: There’s An App for That?

I was recently interviewed by the online publication, Mic. The writer let me know she had some questions about flying anxieties. I answered her questions, felt a little anxiety of my own (flying is NOT my fav), and then forgot about it. I recently read her completed article, and it kind of blew me away.

In the article, the writer describes using a new app aimed at helping folks manage their flying phobias and fears – in REAL time. As in, in the air. I was intrigued for several reasons:

  • I have some flying fears of my own
  • She used the app instead of the usual medications she needs to manage her anxieties
  • I think we are glimpsing the future of technology and health care

Here’s a bit about the app:

For the most part it seemed like the app was pretty cool, and actually helpful. Other than this:

Hmmm, that part didn’t sound so great. So, I had this to say:

So, not a perfect fix for flying fear, but a start anyway. Happy flying!

Summer Vacation: Plugged or Un-plugged?

Disclaimer: This article was originally posted in June 2013. When I re-read it recently, I thought it was worth re-posting.  I was also struck but just how much MORE we are all plugged in these days – just four short years later.  Who knows where we will be four years from now – but my hope is that we all retain the ability to unplug and connect with the the people and things around us. At least once in a while.

Have you taken your summer vacation yet? If not, you may find yourself pondering this very question: Should I stay plugged in, or go all-in and un-plug the world? I was having this debate conversation just last night.  Are vacations better if they are completely un-plugged? Is it even possible?  Will my vacation be more beneficial if I don’t check my email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond?

What about when I return: Will the re-entry to my “real” life be more difficult if I have a week or two worth of messages waiting for me?

Here’s my take:

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes.  There’s the quick weekend getaway, the family reunion trip, the sightseeing/cultural trip, the boy scout camping trip, the Disney World trip and the long, lazy summer trip.  It might be no big deal to stay plugged in (meaning checking voicemail, email, etc) on short trips like weekend getaways.  In fact, staying plugged in to the “real world” might be the only thing that gets you through kid-focused trips (like to Disney) and can provide excellent excuses for escape on family reunion trips.

Camping trips and long, lazy summer trips are different in my book.  These vacations should most certainly be experienced un-plugged.  These types of trips are meant to be savored and should be a complete change of pace from your normal life. We can’t be expected to truly un-wind, re-group, and relax if we are constantly updating Facebook or responding to customer inquiries.  Sand castles and s’mores are meant to be relished – and who can do that while responding to email?