How to Stop Worrying About Ebola

Even if you have tried to ignore the stories about Ebola over the past few months, the news has been impossible to avoid.  And now that the disease has hit close to home, many of us are left with worries and fears concerning our own health.  While we know that sitting in our living rooms worrying about it won’t do any good, it can be hard to know what else to do.  So, I have gathered a couple great resources on managing worries around Ebola.

My favorite tip is to take a break from news coverage.  When we are bombarded with media coverage about any event – including this one – it can cause significant anxiety.  And lots of anxiety over a long period of time is no good for our health, or the health of our families and communities.

Check out some other resources here:

How and Why You Should Ease Your Ebola Fears – Your Mind. Your Body:

It’s important to always stay alert, to be informed and take precautions if you think you may be at risk for coming into contact with any virus. But to help maintain emotional well-being, it’s critical to ease Ebola fears by reviewing the facts, maintaining perspective, and upholding hope.
Keep things in perspective. Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you and your family spend watching or listening to upsetting media coverage. Although you’ll want to keep informed — especially if you have loved ones in affected countries — remember to take a break from watching the news and focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.

Depressed? Just Get Over it!


In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, (#MIAW) I decided to write a post about depression and why, when someone is depressed, they don’t just “get over it.”  After all, why can’t people who suffer from depression just “think positive,” “be grateful” or exercise more and – just like that – feel better?

Because depression is an illness.

And just like we would NEVER say to someone with diabetes, “Just don’t think about sugar!”

or to someone with high blood pressure, “Just visualize that number down!”

or someone with a Multiple Sclerosis, “It’s all in your head!”

…we must not trivialize depression as something that can be wished or willed away.  Instead, effective treatment for depression is often multi-pronged, involving psychotherapy, healthy lifestyle management and possibly medication.  Luckily, we have lots of great options for the treatment of depression, and many of them are covered by health insurance – making gaining access to care a real possibility for most people.

For what to do after being diagnosed with depression, see my article.

To read a true story about post partum depression, read here.

For more information about effective treatments for depression, see APA’s article.

For more information about using your health insurance for mental health treatment, see APA’s article.





Raising Passionate, Engaged Teens

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It can be easy to feel as if the world is going to Hell – and quickly.  There’s so much bad news out there, and so many stories about disinterested, MineCraft-and-SnapChat-infused youth, it can be easy to lose faith in the younger generations and ourselves (the old people).

So you can understand my interest and excitement at the story developing this week in Colorado.  Basically the School Board made a decision to change the Advanced Placement History courses.  Here’s a brief description of the problem by the Denver Post:

Community members are angry about an evaluation-based system for awarding raises to educators and a proposed curriculum committee that would call for promoting “positive aspects” of the United States and its heritage and avoiding material that would encourage or condone “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

For those of us hoping to raise passionate, engaged youth – this can be a great teaching tool in our own families.  Here are some tips:

  • Read the article about the current strife in Jefferson County together, and ask your kids about their thoughts
  • Ask them if there is anything going on at their school that they would change if they could
  • Share some of the things you might change about your school or work
  • Discuss their ideas about how they might go about changing the world around them – using the Jefferson County teens as an example.  Do you agree with their tactics? Why or why not? Is there something else they could try to get their point across?
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How Many Emotions Do You Have in a Day?

I was recently contacted by this cool group – People With Emotions – check it out:

Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 10.21.21 AMHere’s what they are about:

The People with Emotions Movement is about breaking the taboo of feelings. It’s about getting people to realize that it’s normal to feel. Actually, there is a lot more to emotions than we realize.

Sounds like something that a psychologist like me would be interested in, right? Well, I am, and I think there campaign is pretty cool.  They encourage people of all walks of life to first feel, then share, their emotions. Take a look:

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And…guess who else got to participate in the campaign?

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Back to School Stress Busters

Back to school clothes.  Back to school supplies.  Back to school parties.  They’re everywhere!  This time of year, you can’t escape the fact that it’s back to school time.  For some of us it’s a time of rejoicing.  For others of us (me) it’s a time of sadness (I always hate to see summer go).  For many it’s a time of stress and worry.

Back to school stress can arise for many reasons:

  • The start of a new school
  • Struggles with friends
  • Trouble with academics
  • Difficulty with classroom behavior
  • Hatred of homework
  • Fears of a new teacher

The good news is, many back to school worries can be managed in the days and weeks before the first day.  Here are some tips:

Practice the first day.  Many of us worry about the unknown. So why not take the guess work out of the first day? Pick out an outfit, get the back pack ready, make a trial lunch and drive to school – just to see what it will be like on the big day.  Many schools even allow nervous students a sneak peak into their classrooms before the official first day of school.  I often recommend this to families, as getting a glimpse of the school, classroom and teacher can do a world of good to the stressed-out student.

Talk about it.  This is one almost seems too easy to actually work – but it does!  Many of us hold in our fears and worries, allowing them to fester and grow.  Instead, allow your student a chance to talk through their thoughts about going back to school.  You might be surprised about what they are worried and excited about!

Keep expectations in check.  While having high and clear expectations can be a wonderful thing, going over them and over them right before school begins might be a breeding ground for stress.  Instead, enjoy the last few days of summer before hammering out expectations for homework, grades and extracurriculars.

For more tips on conquering back to school stress, check out these articles:

Back to School Lunches

Back to School Blues

Back to School Worries




Boston Marathon: Managing the Memories

The comfort dogs rest in Boston, April 2013. (Courtesy Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs)

The comfort dogs rest in Boston, April 2013. (Courtesy Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs)

People around the world will turn their eyes to Boston on Monday for the first anniversary of the marathon bombing.  This will obviously be a difficult time for those who were directly affected by the attacks; and even those of us who have no connection to Boston or the running community may find ourselves feeling sad, anxious or angry next week.

If you do find yourself struggling in the days ahead, check out some of the resources below for tips and ideas about how to cope in healthy ways:

The Boston Marathon Attacks and Coping with Traumatic Events – via Dr. Stephanie

Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting – Via APA Help Center

Psychologists Prepare to Provide Support at Boston Marathon – via APA Practice Central

Comfort dogs are returning to Boston for marathon weekend – via Yahoo!

Helping People After the Unthinkable – Via APA Monitor

Are You Procrastinating Right Now?

Are you a procrastinator?

Do you wait until April 15th to file your taxes?

Pay your bills on the day they’re due?

Wait until the very last minute to hand in reports?

Then this article might be for you.

I was recently contacted by a reporter with Public News Service who was working on a story about the Affordable Care Act.  He wondered why so many of us wait until the last minute to do things like sign up for health insurance (the deadline for the ACA is April 1).  Want to know more? Check it out:

Public News Service March 26, 2013

Public News Service March 26, 2013

Andrew Solomon’s Interview with Peter Lanza

If you haven’t read Andrew Solomon’s interview with Peter Lanza (which appeared in The New Yorker on 3/17/2014), please take a look:


Andrew Solomon (who I have interviewed on this blog) is a fantastic writer, but more importantly in this case, a champion of parents and children.  Mr. Solomon’s book, Far From the Tree, provides poignant, inspiring and heart-breaking descriptions of what it is like to parent children who differ in significant ways from their parents.  It was a brilliant decision to have him interview Peter Lanza (Adam Lanza’s father).

In the interview he is caring and supportive, but doesn’t shy away from assigning some blame to Adam Lanza’s parents – after all, every child is a product of their parenting to some degree.  But he doesn’t do it in a gossipy, or a finger-pointing way.  Instead, he uses the available research on mass killings and mental health (though there is not much to be had), together with the love, pain and misunderstandings between all parents and children to help us comprehend what might have led to the tragedies of Sandy Hook.

Why Lent Is Good For You

Goodbye (for now) tasty treats!

Goodbye (for now) tasty treats!

Even if you don’t know what Lent is or how it relates to Christianity, Jesus or Easter – most folks know that some people “give things up” for the duration of the Lenten season (which is 40 days, by the way – not including Sundays).  I’m not an expert on theology or religion, but as an expert in mental health I will say that Lent is good for us.  Whether you are religious or not, Lent is the perfect time to take a look at our lives and make some adjustments.

Here’s the deal: Most of us think about how we want to live healthier, more frugally, more whatever around the 1st of the year.  We turn these vague notions about healthier living into New Year’s resolutions – even though we know they probably won’t stick.  Do you even remember yours?  New Year’s resolutions don’t typically work because:

  • They are often too vague and general – i.e., “eat healthier” or “save more”
  • There is no specific time frame – the entirety of 2014 is just too broad
  • They are made on the heels of what is often the most indulgent time of the year – “You mean I can’t eat dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner?” or “I really have to go back to work?” – The drastic change is just too much

But Lent gives us the perfect situation in which to make changes to our lives:

  • The things we “give up” are typically really specific – i.e., soda pop, Facebook or frozen yogurt (yes, these are all things I have given up over the years)
  • The 40+ day time frame is perfect for successful behavior change: It’s not so long that it drags out, but it is long enough to form new habits and routines
  • It comes at a great time of year when there isn’t much else going on – not too many distractions

What are you giving up this year?




Girl Power, Continued

Photo by Keds

Photo by Keds

Looks like Keds and Taylor Swift are on the Girl Power bandwagon along with Covergirl. I love Taylor (and Keds are pretty cute, too) and even though I’m not sure that dying one’s hair a new color counts as “brave” I still like the message. Take a look:

Everyone’s mental health, self esteem and confidence improves when we encourage each other to aim high and be who we truly are.

Missed my last post about girl power? Check it out here.