Fifty Shades: As Bad As We Think?

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I recently posted about my experience seeing Fifty Shades of Grey in the theaters.  In short: Not so great for men or women.  But is the book a different story?

In case you missed all the hype a couple years ago, the Fifty Shades of Grey saga started as a series of books by E.L. James.  Its super-racy content was the stuff of which guilty pleasures are made.  Some people loved its star characters – Ana and Christian – and others slammed the book for shoddy writing.  Still others wondered if writing quality really matters if people are actually spending their time reading!

I recently came across this fun graphic which measures Fifty Shades’ grammar with other, popular love stories.  Check it out:

Grammarly: Fifty Shades of Grammar

I have to admit that I am squirming in my seat as I write this, wondering how many grammatical errors I’m making.  Eeek.

Mistake-ridden or not, both writing and reading can be wonderful stress management strategies and avenues to mental health.  Happy reading!

Thanks to Grammarly Grammar Check for this cool infographic

A Guy’s Perspective on Fifty Shades of Grey

OK, yes, I saw the movie. And read the book. All of them.  And yes, the 50 Shades of Grey series is:

  • a guilty pleasure
  • potentially harmful to women’s self esteem, sense of power, and psycho-sexual health
  • not fine literature or cinema
  • not a great representation of the BDSM lifestyle

But that’s not what I am going to write about today.  Instead, I am going to summarize the conversation I had after seeing the film.  I was so glad I went with a man because he gave me a completely different perspective on the story line.

The first part of the conversation centered around the fact that the Fifty Shades story has been told (and will continue to be told) a zillion times.  Pure, sweet, young girl meets wordly, wealthy, and super-hot guy.  He woos her, they fall in love, have a couple problems, then live happily ever after in a big house with a bunch of kids.  Interestingly , my male companion had no idea that pretty much all romance novels have this same story line (think: Twilight, Nora Roberts, etc).  “I guess this is a fantasy for most women” I said.  “What is the male version of this fantasy?” I asked.  After some thoughtful consideration he guessed, “big boobs?” Hmmm.

After that insightful comment about the male psyche, he offered a few of his own observations about the Fifty Shades movie:

  • How, at 27 years old, has Christian Grey had enough time to create a multi-billion dollar company?
  • How does he have time for all these sexual shenanigans and stay at the helm of his empire?
  • How would he have time to work all day, have dinner with a friend until at least 9pm, fly from Seattle to Georgia, make reservations to take a glider tour, rent a car just like his ride at home, and arrive fresh as a daisy to romance Ana early the next day?
  • Why is Ana still using a flip phone?

All kidding aside, these observations really made me think about women’s expectations of the men in our lives.  Just as it isn’t so healthy to expect all women to have big boobs, no wrinkles, and long blond hair – it also isn’t so great to expect men to be wealthy, endlessly romantic, and apparently have no need for sleep.  Perhaps we need to be a little more fair when considering stereotypes of sexiness.  And just as women can be damaged by unhealthy, unattainable expectations – so can men.

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Why Should I Care About Diversity in Media?

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Does it matter what you watch on TV?

Does it matter if your kids have role models in media?

Does watching movies with diverse casts, with diverse groups of directors, with diverse messages make a difference?

Yes, yes and yes.

Even for those of us who aren’t huge movie buffs, or TV fanatics – we are all influenced by media in one way or another.  Maybe it’s traditional print media, billboards, YouTube, Netflix – whatever – it’s hard to escape media’s influence.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  What IS bad is when the media you are consuming isn’t reflective of who you really are.  Instead it’s full of stereotypes or unhealthy (physically and psychologically) portrayals of people you identify with.  Here are a few examples:

  • TV and print commercials focusing solely on female’s looks (or cleaning abilities) as a way to identify them
  • TV sitcoms portraying a large proportion of men as lazy, selfish, and intellectually inferior to their wives
  • Movies including women in only supporting roles to more powerful men
  • TV, movies and print media encouraging cultural/racial/ethnic stereotypes by type-casting actors

The list could go on and on.

Why should you care?  Because media matters.  And when we see stereotypes reinforced over and over again, they become more ingrained in all of our brains  – even if we don’t want them to! And in our increasingly diverse world, it’s important for us to get past stereotypes and see each other (and ourselves) for the unique individuals we are.  Nobody’s mental health is improved by narrowly defining ourselves and others.  Understanding and accepting diversity (again, in ourselves and others) is a key piece of overall psychological health.

So, now what?

I am excited to announce that I have joined with Public Radio International (PRI) and SheKnows Media in their partnership to shed light on global news stories highlighting women.  Follow along and be a part of the news coverage that will change the lives of women.  You can also follow the stories #womenslives

Want to know more about diversity, psychology and why any of it matters?  Check out this FANTASTIC video made by psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu:


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