Happy March! Do you remember what your New Year’s resolutions were? Eeek! Me neither! Don’t worry, though, now is a great time to remember, re-formulate, or totally re-vamp your ideas about how and why to make lifestyle changes.
Have you been reading the Colorado Sun? If you live in Colorado, I suggest you check it out. Here’s a a bit about them from their site:
“The Colorado Sun is a journalist-owned, ad-free news outlet based in Denver but which strives to cover all of Colorado so that our state — our community — can better understand itself.”
Recently, the folks over there published a story about a “conversion therapy” bill that had been introduced to the Colorado Legislature. I thought the reporting was great, but they missed a mental health professional’s perspective on why Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) are not only unhelpful, but also damaging. So I wrote a letter to the editor. Here it is:
I am writing to add some information to the article Colorado lawmakers for a fifth — and likely final — time will weigh whether to ban gay “conversion therapy”
While I appreciate the balanced approach you attempted to take in explaining the history and effects of “conversion therapy,” I think you missed an important voice: licensed mental health professionals who have long been opposed to the practice.
Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, also commonly known as “conversion therapy”) operate under the assumption that there is something wrong, bad, abnormal or disordered about identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the gold standard in mental health diagnoses) stopped identifying homosexuality as a mental health disorder in 1973. Since 1973, all mainstream health and mental health organizations (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, etc) have come to understand that lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning adolescents are simply a part of the normal spectrum of human sexual expression.
But not only does every health and mental health organization oppose SOCE, I, as a clinical psychologist have seen first hand the harm lack of support, understanding and evidence-based mental health treatment can do to a young person struggling to understand who they are. Shame, guilt, low mood, anxiety, self doubt, trouble concentrating – these are all potential outcomes for a young person who is told they aren’t “normal,” “healthy,” or worthy of respect and acceptance exactly as they are. Sadly, this is exactly the message SOCE sends.
Adolescents who identify with a same sex orientation or are questioning their sexual identity can face enormous challenges – during a time in life when things are already pretty hard. In addition to trying to figure out everyday things associated with adolescence: What classes to take, how to get homework done, what to do after high school, who to hang out with – they can also be met with lack of support (at best), discrimination, prejudice and violence (at worst) by family, friends, and community members. We know youth who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual have higher rates of substance abuse, emotional distress and suicide attempts. We also know that some of the reason for this is because of the lack of support and genuine acceptance these kids find in homes, schools and society as a whole. We, as adults and caregivers, need to do all we can to guarantee that these kids will have access to safe places to express themselves and receive appropriate, effective mental health care that will be accepting of all pieces and parts of the wide range of human sexual expression.
Stephanie S. Smith, PsyD
I love being interviewed for podcasts. Maybe it’s that I like to talk a lot, but they feel much more useful than short, tip-filled articles. Especially when the topic is as nuanced as body image. I also love that you can listen while doing something else like taking a walk or driving to work. Here are some other episodes of Healthy Family Project that I’ve been a part of:
Is retirement part of your New Year’s resolution? Preparing for it? Actually doing it? We hear a lot about financial planning aspect of retirement, but not so much about the psychological, emotional and social planning aspects of retirement.
I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about some strategies for planning for a smooth transition into retirement. Here’s one tip:
Talk to the important people in your lives.
It’s easy to assume that our spouses, children, grandchildren and friends have the same ideas about our retirement as we do, but that is often not the case. Your kids might have the expectation that, once retired, you will pick up your grandchildren from school more often, or your friends might assume that you can go to lunch or play golf every day. Perhaps your spouse is expecting lots of travel. Whatever the assumptions of the people closest to you, it’s possible that they’re not the same as yours. Check in well ahead of time with questions like: “How are you thinking our life might change once I retire?” and “Do you have any expectations of me once I’m no longer working?” Once you understand their ideas, you can share your own plans, and no one will be caught off guard.
I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about coping with the expected – and unexpected – emotions around returning to work after maternity leave. It’s a complicated issue that’s rarely talked about, which is strange given that women make up 47% of the American workforce. What’s more, more and more fathers are taking paternity leave, and may face the same emotional ups and downs when they return to work.
Here’s one tip:
Just as there are many ways to become a parent, birth a baby and then actually care for your newborn once she arrives, there are also many emotions that might (or might not!) come up when returning to work. Some women are sad and teary, others guilty and still others ecstatic to be back — perhaps all of these things at the same time! The point is, emotions are varied and variable. What you feel one day might not be what you feel the next. And that’s OK. Keeping your expectations flexible is a good strategy for managing the variability of emotions.
To read the entire article, head over to Health eCareers
The holiday season is upon us. For some that’s a reason for celebration:
For others, this season of the year elicits a reaction more like this:
Or if you’re like me, the impending holidays have you doing this:
Whatever your reaction, the last quarter of the year likely brings up some “stuff” for you:
- Happy memories
- Sadness over things, people and relationships you’ve lost
- Frustration over things you cannot have
- Gratitude for the people, things and relationships you do have
- Sense of anxiety over the crowds, noise and busy-ness that can accompany this time of year
- Feelings of loneliness over the lack of busy-ness this time of year
- You get the idea
It can be helpful to talk about these things with a psychologist. Friends and family are great, but sometimes we need an impartial ear to listen. To make an appointment, call 303-828-3080 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re well into the school year, so those first-day-of-school jitters and nerves have likely subsided. But in case some still remains, here are some tips I wrote about managing school anxiety over at Produce for Kids:
You can also listen to an interview with me about the topic on the podcast: Healthy Family Project:
And if you want to hear more, check out the entire line-up of interviews:
I don’t care who you are, where you stand, what you believe or who you are voting for, the political news has been overwhelming. Last week I spoke to the folks over at Self Magazine for some ideas about how to cope with the hourly onslaught of news (and talking about news, and more talking about news) that we’ve all been trying to deal with. Here’s the entire article:
Here’s one of my tips:
There are a bunch of others, too. Including some helpful links on how to do progressive muscle relaxation, where to go to find a good laugh, and where to turn if you need to talk to a professional.
It’s back to school (and tutoring and soccer and football and piano and lacrosse) time!
Even though my kids start school in mid-August, I don’t really take the school year seriously until September. Probably not great, but I just can’t get my mind around dealing with homework, bus schedules and tests when it’s 100 degrees. So now that we’re into September and the mornings are cool (at least here in Colorado!) I’m thinking about how to prepare healthy meals and snacks for my family. And (maybe more importantly) how to help them make healthy choices for themselves.
So as I made the promise this year, I again focused on snack foods rather than lunch foods. My kids all buy their lunch at school, so what we really need to focus on is a healthy, easy snack time. Here’s what we came up with this year:
I don’t have a formal recipe, but I’ve been making these yummy snacks for years. I determine what goes in them based on what’s in my pantry. Here’s what I gathered today:
Sun-Maid Raisins, almonds, oat bran, oatmeal, a few mini chocolate chips I found in the way back, and peanut butter. In the past I’ve also added dried peaches, coconut, cereal and yogurt-covered raisins. Anything goes as long as it’s small:
Once you’ve gathered all the odds and ends, simply dump everything (except the peanut butter) into a bowl:
Mix that all up, then slowly add the peanut butter:
Stir the mixture around until it is combined. Test the mixture to see if you can roll it into a ball that will stick together. Does it come apart? Add more peanut butter. Go overboard on the peanut butter? Add more dry ingredients. Here’s what mine looked like:
It’s ready to roll!
Grab a sheet pan and cover with foil. You will also need a scoop of some kind:
One down, about 100 more to go! The nice thing is, the kids can help:
I usually store these in the freezer, they stay nice and firm that way. And when the kids are ready, they can pack them up for a healthy, energy-filled snack on the go:
They’re easy to eat, and actually fill them up until dinner – which seems to be getting later and later as they get older!
Check out more recipe ideas and make the Promise: