Celebrating 10 Years On Briggs Street

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I am so excited to be celebrating 10 years in my office on Briggs Street in Erie.  Erie has grown a lot since I arrived here, and the little downtown (where my office is located) has really blossomed in the last year.  The local Farmer’s Market, town festivals,  and the Homecoming parade all happen right outside my front door.  There are also a bunch of local restaurants, cafes and brewpubs on my block.  I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring!

Standing With the Citizens of Orlando

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

I am joining the voices of so many others in the last few days in offering my thoughts, prayers and condolences to folks in Orlando and beyond.

If you’re looking for resources on coping with distress after the events in Florida, check out some of my past posts:

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And here are a couple of resources from the American Psychological Association:

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Lastly, check out this thoughtful and useful article over at Huff Post about How to Help Orlando Shooting Victims and Their Families.

#OrlandoUnited

Is Porn a Public Health Issue?

Pornography is a hot topic these days.

The Governor of Utah recently signed a resolution describing pornography as “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”  The resolution also reads that porn “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”  Finally, the resolutions states that there is a need for “education, prevention, research and policy change…in order to address the pornography epidemic…”

Read the resolution in its entirety here.

Time Magazine is also talking about pornography, with a recent issue dedicated to covering the topic:

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According to Wikipedia, a public health crisis is defined as follows:

A health crisis or public health crisis is a difficult situation or complex health system that affects humans in one or more geographic areas (mainly occurred in natural hazards), from a particular locality to encompass the entire planet. Health crises generally have significant impacts on community health, loss of life, and on the economy. They may result from disease, industrial processes or poor policy.

So, does porn qualify?

I’m not sure, but I think it is becoming more and more clear that the easy, free access to pornography on portable electronic devices is having a pretty big impact on kids and adults.  The fact that these titillating images (and movies) are just one click away at all times is just such a big change from the past when porn could only be viewed if you:

  • Made a trip to the gas station and asked for the magazine behind the counter
  • Went to a strip club in person
  • Found an adult store/movie theater and had the guts to go inside

In short, it was much harder to access – and took a lot more planning and nerve.  Nowadays, it’s almost hard NOT to stumble into porn at some point while browsing the web.  And that’s one thing for adults, but quite another for kids who often don’t have the resources to:

  • Make sense of what they’re viewing
  • Understand the difference between reality and fiction when it comes to sexual acts
  • Stay away from sexualized content (it’s pretty exciting, after all)

So, the question remains…is pornography is a public health crisis? Perhaps Utah is on the cutting edge of dealing with this issue – maybe they’re over-reacting.  Either way, it’s an important conversation to be having with ourselves, our kids, our partners and our communities.

 

 

 

Some Thoughts About Sex and Mental Health

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I recently participated in an event that included a talk about sex.  The speaker was a physician whose office is around the corner from mine, Dr. Gloria Oberbeck.  The audience was a group of women ranging in age from about 30 to about 75.  And boy did we have a lot of questions for the good doctor!

Sex is something that is all around us almost all the time, but paradoxically is something we almost never talk about in any kind of meaningful way.  Where are we to turn when we have questions like:

Why does sex hurt?

What can I do if I don’t have a partner, but still want to be a sexual person?

Why does my interest in sex wax and wane?

All are orgasms created equal?

These questions (and many more!) were asked during the talk and I took some notes.  Here are a few things I learned:

  • The vast majority of us like sex and chocolate.  The way they work on our brains is pretty similar.  And most of us don’t get enough of either one.
  • It’s a myth that men want sex more than women.
  • Regular sex helps us be more resilient to the stressors in our lives. As in: more sex = better able to cope with our annoying boss
  • Orgasms achieved by…um…machines might be fun, but they don’t result in the same overall health benefits as orgasms achieved through skin to skin contact.
  • Studies have shown us that most people want more sex than they are having
  • When sex isn’t possible (because of lack of partner, physical limitations, etc), skin to skin contact with another person can be the next best thing.  Holding hands, hugging, etc all have powerful effects on our bodies.

It was a fun, and very informative talk.  I’m already looking forward to Part 2!

Election Stress: When Politics Make You Want to Scream

I don’t care who you are or where you live: no American is immune to election stress.  Even when we want to escape the coverage of the candidates, the caucuses, the primaries – it’s next to impossible to do so! And the really frustrating thing? It’s not even close to being over (or reaching its peak, for that matter).

Way back in 2012 I wrote a post about Pre-Election Stress Disorder.*  Remember 2012? We thought we had it rough then! Fast forward 4 years and here we are in the midst of the nastiest presidential race in my memory (and I’m not that young).

I was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post about how to cope with election stress this time around.  The tone is a little silly and tongue-in-cheek, but I think the issue is real.  Constant election coverage, and the often negative banter of folks on ALL sides can have an impact of mental health.  In the article, I offer a bunch of ideas about how to cope when you notice your stress level rising.  My favorite? Check it out:

Remind yourself of the good.

A little compassion goes a long way. Research shows that generosity is cyclical: Kindness makes you happier, and happiness makes you kind. Try to engage in that behavior when you’re stressed about the negativity of the news. Volunteer at a local charity, like an animal shelter or a food bank.

“There are still a lot of wonderful things happening in the world and people making positive change,” Smith said. “That’s hard to remember when candidates rip each other apart, so actively remind yourself of that.”

Read the entire article over at Huffington Post Lifestyle.

 

 

 

Sexuality Through the Lifespan

Calling all local (Northern Colorado and Denver Metro) readers! On Thursday February 25th I will be participating in a FREE event aimed at helping women learn about sexuality throughout the lifespan.

A conversation about sex that goes beyond 50 Shades of Grey and bikini-ready bodies.

The event will be held at the Erie Community Center at 6pm.  Dr. Gloria Oberbeck will be our keynote speaker.  Bring your mom, sister and friends!

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When You’re Afraid to Take Your Kids to School

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…or go to the movies

…or go to the mall

…or go the the holiday parade

Sadly, many of us are questioning our time in large crowds these days.  What seems like a constant barrage of terrifying reports of shootings has all of us scared.  While we know that the vast majority of us will be safe as we go about our day-to-day routines, it can be easy to wonder:

What if my family is the next one to experience violence?

Calming our nerves (and the nerves of our kids) can be tough, but it’s possible.  Here’s how:

Keep doing what we’re already doing.  Most of us have some pretty good stress-management strategies on board already.  Knitting, praying, walking, talking with friends  – these are all examples of ways to cope with stress.  The key is to keep using them now that we need them most.

Turn off the TV already.  It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to media coverage of current events.  Normally that’s OK, but when it comes to difficult, distressing stories less is more.  Learn the basics then turn it off.

Help someone else.  We know that volunteering helps our community, but what we sometimes forget is that it’s good for our mental health, too.  There are about a million opportunities to give our time and resources this time of year, making finding volunteer options as easy way to cope with the stress of the news.

Want more ideas about how to cope with violence in the news? Check out this helpful article over at APA.

 

Coping With the Tragedy in Paris

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Even though we’re thousands of miles away from Paris, many of us still feel a sense of pain, loss and fear after the horrible violence that occurred a few days ago.  Watching coverage of the events and the people who lost their lives, some of us begin to remember other, similar tragedies:

  • 911
  • Columbine
  • Sandy Hook
  • Aurora

The memories and constant news coverage of the event can start to have a real effect on our mood – even if we weren’t personally affected or involved.

The American Psychological Association offers several tips for coping with tragedies and mass shootings.  My go to? Turn off the TV, internet, social media on a regular basis.  Information is good, but emotional overload can happen quickly.  For more tips check out APA.

This Psych Major…

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If you weren’t a psychology major in college, you may have missed the kerfuffle Jeb Bush caused last weekend when he said this:

“Universities ought to have skin in the game,” the former Florida governor said at a South Carolina town hall with Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy. “When a student shows up, they ought to say ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A.'”

Oh boy.

Normally I wouldn’t weigh in on a political issue.  Too divisive. Too unproductive.  But this time I’m going to, because:

  • I was a psych major
  • I went on to earn both master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology
  • I believe whole-heartedly in the power of psychology to change lives
  • Mr. Bush will be debating tonight at the very institution where I received my (not-so-useless) psychology degree (Go Buffs!)

So here goes:

Psychology is an interesting, useful and relevant course of study.  Why? Because all of us can relate.  We all have brains, emotions, families and friends.  We all interact in groups and communicate with other people.  We all start out as infants, develop, grow, learn and age.  We all have a state of mental health, sometimes it’s good – sometimes not – but, it’s always there.  We all deal with issues like motivation, addiction, shyness, jealousy, and creativity.  Most of us become parents, even more of us enter marriages or committed relationships.  And almost everyone – at some point in their lives – has to deal with a boss, neighbor or family member that they would rather not.

Guess what? All of these things (and more, of course) are in the field of psychology.  What could be a better course of study to prepare a student for life? I can’t think of one.

And, what’s wrong with working at Chick-Fil-A, anyway?