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.

#girlpower

Why I Hate the Holidays (Hint: It’s the Most Stress-filled Time of the Year)

no turkey

Sorry to be a downer, but I find the holiday season to be the most stressful and unpleasant time of the year.  Each year at this time, I find myself daydreaming of far away beaches, mountains, deserts, plains – anywhere that would provide an escape from the stressors of the holidays at home.

Many folks have very good reason to find the holiday season difficult: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the loss of a job.  These painful events can make the holidays excruciating for people, and I don’t want to discount the real-ness of their pain.  But their are also other – albeit less tragic – aspects of the holidays that can make them a struggle for people as well.

Our families don’t change.  Very few of us have “perfect” families.  Awkward blended families, alcoholic uncles, inappropriate in-laws – we all have at least one family member that drives us crazy – or worse.  But for some reason, many of us expect that our families will be magically transformed after Halloween and become the happy, smiling, super-functional families we see on cookie tins and Christmas cards.  Well, hope all you want folks but the family you started the year with is the same one you’re stuck with now – maybe even worse.

There’s only one Martha Stewart.  Ms. Stewart started a wave of domestic arts that seems to be reaching a fever pitch with the growing use of Pinterest, Etsy and similar sites.  I have to admit, I do love crafts and all things Martha, but the pressure to look perfect while serving the perfect meal in the perfect house while your perfect children are doing a perfect craft is overwhelming, and quite frankly impossible to achieve.  There’s is only one Martha Stewart people – and you are not her.

A lot of traditions are dumb.  <—– OK, that wasn’t a very mature sentence, but it’s true.  Roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving because it’s “tradition?”  Ick.  I can be just as thankful (and a whole lot more gastronomically satisfied) with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  So why do I stress out about making a bird every year? Beats me.  Sure, there are a few, very meaningful traditions in my family which I love – but what I would really love is to ditch the dumb ones that drag me down and make the holidays drudgery.

They’re so darn long.  Why, oh why do we need to start celebrating one holiday after another with no break whatsoever starting on October 15th?  Seriously, two and a half months of anything will get old.  And the holidays are no different.  The retail chains and box stores may be a lost cause when it comes to shortening the holiday season, but at least I can resist celebrating Christmas until at least December.  Better yet, December 24th.

Bah humbug.

Click here for more tips for managing holiday stress.

Click here for more about why the holidays are tough.

Click here for more about surviving the holidays with flair.

 

 

 

What Glee Taught Me About Resilience

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I have to admit that I have asked that question…what is resiliency in mental health and psychology?

It’s a concept that is mentioned in mental health all the time.

Here’s what I knew before tonight:

  • It’s something we’re supposed to build
  • It’s something that can protect us from experiencing mental illness in some cases
  • Having resilience can help us cope with the ups, downs, traumas and tragedies in life

I knew these things. But I didn’t really know what resilience looked like.  Until tonight.

Gleeks will know that tonight was the season premiere of Glee; and the first episode after the death of it’s star Cory Monteith.  We all knew it was going to be a tear-jerker. But what I didn’t anticipate is that we would get to see psychological resilience personified in Lea Michele as she opens the show by singing Yesterday by The Beatles.

It must have been difficult; returning to work after her co-star and boyfriend’s death.  And it must have been a struggle to sing; let alone sing a sing so filled with meaning.  And I can’t even imagine the strength it took to do it all, in front of all of us.

But she did.  And that’s resilience.

Thank you Glee and Lea Michele for teaching me something about psychology tonight.

 

 

Who is Your Therapist Anyway?

San Fran 2009 016

I was recently interviewed in this article that came out in the Colorado Springs Gazette this weekend.  The article is long, but worth reading because it tells a fascinating story of a man who isn’t necessarily who he says he is.  Take a look.

Regardless of what is really going on with the gentleman featured in the article, the article brings up an important point:

Know who your mental health care providers are.

As a psychologist, I sometimes forget that not everyone knows the difference between types of therapists (and there are many) and the importance of understanding who might best suit your needs.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Being a licensed provider is important.  Licensure is important because it means the state where the therapist resides regulates their practice of therapy.  Backgrounds, education and other information has been checked by the state; and in most cases a comprehensive examination has been passed.  Many states also require continuing education credits to maintain one’s license.  So, how do you check to see if your therapist is licensed? Just ask and they should happily give you an answer and also provide you with their license number. Easy!
  • Education is important…or is it?  There are many paths to become a therapist.  There are marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, professional counselors, school psychologists, clinical psychologist and psychiatrists.  Here’s the deal: while the differences are extremely important to me (I am a psychologist after all), they probably aren’t to you. As long as you have established that a therapist is licensed and has at least a master’s degree in something like psychology or counseling – they are probably worth checking out.
  • Trust your gut. Therapy is a funny thing: it requires you to reveal things about your life and emotions that you typically don’t.  Because of that, safety and security are hugely important.  So is goodness of fit; meaning you need to feel comfortable with your therapist.  So if something feels “off” or “weird” or not quite genuine, perhaps it is time to ask some questions to your therapist or find someone else.

Want more information about therapy, therapists and what it takes to become a psychologist? Check out these articles:

What is a Psychologist Anyway?

What a Psychologist Really Thinks About You

Psychotherapy Is Not Dead