5 Things NOT to Say to Someone Struggling With Depression

I was recently interviewed for an article over at:

…about what to say and what NOT to say to a friend/family member/co-worker who is struggling with depression. I love being a part of these kinds of articles because it really gives me a chance to air my annoyances out loud! And someone is actually listening!

Anyway, the article is actually really helpful – giving lots of ideas about how to approach someone who is feeling depressed. My favorite useless (and potentially harmful) piece of advice that’s often given to depressed folks?

ick.

and here’s why I don’t like it:

A similar piece of advice is to focus on the positives and be grateful. “These are pretty good ideas in general, but for someone struggling with mental illness, hanging a motivational poster in their room, and starting a gratitude journal isn’t going to cut it,” said Stephanie Smith, PsyD., a psychologist in private practice in Erie, Colo. “In fact, trivializing depression by assuming that a clever-sounding phrase can cure it, can do much more harm than good.”

Check out the entire article (including advice from one of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Deb Serani) here:

Practicing Kindness and Generosity

Most parents say they would like their children to be kind, thoughtful, generous adults. But it can be hard to know how to teach and model these traits. I was recently challenged to perform a “random act of kindness” with my family by Produce for Kids. They provided me with this list of 100 ideas to get our creative juices flowing.

After some compromise (another ability many of us parents prize!), my 3 kids and I decided to make “homeless bags.” There are about a million ideas online for how to put together these little care packages for people experiencing homelessness. And it’s actually something my kids had done a few times before with other organizations. But they had always wanted to host their own bag making event.

So we decided to go for it. On Thanksgiving. When we were hosting dinner for 20.

Ummmmm…

How did I get talked into that?

Anyway. What we did was text our Thanksgiving guests and asked them to bring something to contribute to the bags. We ended up assigning people various items like toothpaste, combs, water, snacks – so that we didn’t have duplicates. We provided gallon-size zip top bags, a whole bunch of travel-sized lotion, lip balm, and sunscreen.

We set everything up assembly-line style:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gave everyone instructions to fill the bags with the various foods, toiletries and socks. And then I went to baste the turkey. When I came back, this was happening:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last bag had been completed and was being zipped up! I missed the whole thing!

The good news is: this activity is easy, fast and suitable for people of all ages (we had folks from 1 to 71 participating!). The bad news is: if you blink, you’ll miss the whole darn thing!

At the end of the day, it was a fun activity that will allow us to provide just a bit of comfort to those experiencing homeless in our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody got to take home a couple of bags (along with a few slices of pie!).

Want to try your own act of kindness? Here’s an easy one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Log into Facebook and check out what Produce for Kids and Feeding America are doing to help recent disaster relief efforts!

And once you do that, take a break this holiday season and spend some time with your family – maybe snacking on these little cuties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the full recipe for these yummy Snowman Fruit Kebobs at Produce for Kids.

Happy Holidays!

What To Know Before You Start Therapy

I recently had the opportunity to add some ideas to an article about important things to know before starting therapy. The story recently appeared in Self Magazine

 

 

I love working on articles like this, because I find it so helpful to hear the worries, stereotypes and fears about working with a psychologist. This article was no exception. You can check out the entire article here:

@ 2017 Peanuts Worldwide LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But here are some of my favorite tips:

 

 

 

 

 

and

Happy Thanksgiving and Tips for Surviving!

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Turkey and all the trimmings can be great fun, but this season comes with its share of stressors for many of us. Whether it’s dealing with family members we’d rather not, coping with memories of better times, or something else – Thanksgiving doesn’t always look like Pinterest tells us it should.

So here are just a few quick-and-dirty tips for making it through to Monday.

Keep up with your normal routine. As much as you can, try to keep up with your normal routine this week. Whether that means taking a walk each morning, saying a prayer each evening or watching Ellen every afternoon – keep it up! These are the routines and behaviors that keep your stress at bay all year long – don’t abandon them now!

Take a break from social media. Nothing can ruin the holiday more than comparing yours to everyone else’s on your Facebook feed. You might be having a perfectly good Thanksgiving, but there’s always going to be someone who seems to be having more fun, in a prettier home, with better behaved children in a more stylish outfit. Best to not even go there.

Go outside. This one might seem a little weird, but I am a firm believer in getting outside and DOING something – particularly when things inside are going south. Uncle Jim driving you crazy? Take a walk. Grandma Penelope drinking too much? Grab the cousins and throw a football. You get the idea. A little fresh air and activity is a effective, healthy stress management strategy – and its fun, too.

Helping Kids Manage School Stress

I recently wrote an article for the National PTA’s magazine, Our Children:

Pretty fun opportunity! The topic was how to manage stress in families with school age children. There are so many things to consider when dealing with kids: Academics, activities, social pressures, safety – not to mention all the stuff that we as parents try to manage: work, finances, relationships, etc.

Photo Credit: National PTA

Here’s a bit about stress and teens in particular:

In fact, a 2013 American Psychological Association poll revealed that 31% of teens surveyed feel their stress increased in the past year. Concerningly, 42% said they either are not doing enough to manage their stress or they are not sure if they are doing enough to manage it.

So what can we do to help? Here’s one tip:

Ask your kids what they think

It may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask my kids what’s important to them. Questions like: “How do you feel about your piano lessons these days?” and “Is the swim team still something you enjoy?” are crucial to helping your kids maintain good mental health.

As our children develop their own interests and passions, we should be mindful of keeping them in the loop when it comes to setting up schedules.

To read the entire article – with more info about stress, kids and strategies – check it out:

 

Are You Worried About Your Teen’s Eating Habits?

Pinterest is pretty awesome. I love looking at the beautiful pictures of gardens and homes, crafts and cupcakes. I’ve even gotten a few useful tips and recipes for feeding my kids – particularly when they were younger.  But now that they’re getting older and they aren’t so into the cutesy butterflies made out of watermelon; and they aren’t impressed when I make smiley faces out of bananas and oranges on their morning pancakes – it’s not nearly as useful to me.

In fact, my tween and teen aren’t impressed by much that I do. And sadly, Pinterest – and society in general – has kind of left me out in the cold when it comes to helping my older kids make healthy choices when it comes to food. So, I recently offered some tips for helping older kids navigate the world of food choices over at Produce for Kids.

Check it out:

Do You Ever Freak Out At Your Kids? Then You Might Want to Read This:

Photo Credit: Fatherly

I recently had an opportunity to speak with the folks over at Fatherly. The subject? Losing our cool (meaning: raising our voice, being irritable, impatient) with our kids.  Here’s the thing: It happens to the best of us. Sometimes a lot. Here are some of my thoughts about stress, parenting and losing our temper with our kids:

“I think of it as an iceberg. The bulk of the stress is underneath the surface,” says Dr. Stephanie Smith, a clinical psychologist based in Erie, Colorado. “We’re not really paying attention, but it builds up throughout the day. It all piles up, but when we reach a certain level the tiniest little thing can tip us over the edge: we’re out of Cheerios or whatever. It’s silly little things that end up being the breaking point.”

The good news is, there can be some teachable moments when our kids see us feeling stressed out. Like this example:

“It’s ok to take a few deep breaths, or an hour, (after a breakdown), but make sure to come back to it,” says Smith. “In an age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate way say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had a really rough day, and I kind of lost it for a minute. I’ll do better moving forward to deal with those feelings before that kind of thing happens again.’”

To read the entire article, check it out on Fatherly.

When No One In Your Family Eats the Same Thing…

Eating together as a family is a powerful force for psychological health. It’s a seemingly easy thing to do to encourage:

  • Good communication
  • Improved mood
  • Healthy habits
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Better performance and school/work

But actually eating (happily) together is easier said than done…especially when no one in your family eats the same thing.

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids offering some tips for getting your family around the table at once.  One of may favorite tips?

Don’t give up. I’ve known a lot of families who have tried to change their cooking and eating habits, only to quickly become discouraged by the enormity of the task. Habits (especially eating habits) take a long time to form, and take a long time to change. By setting small, realistic goals and giving your family lots of grace, you will notice positive changes over time.

Check out the entire article – including some reasons why my family has fallen into some not-so-great eating habits over the years – here.

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!