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!

 

Preparing for a New Sibling

Several years ago – 6 to be exact – I got a call from a writer from Parenting Magazine.  She was working on a story about how to prepare older siblings for a new baby, and wondered if she might ask me some questions.  It was a fun interview – made even better because I had just found out I was expecting my third child. This meant I was trying to take my own advice at the same time I was giving it!

Anyway, this article has a special place in my heart because of the timing.  Check it out:

My favorite tip:

Who couldn’t use a gift?

 

Power Your Lunchbox

Yea (or, boo! – depending on your perspective) it’s back to school! Regardless of how you and your family feel about this time of year, one thing never changes: everyone has to eat lunch.  I feel quite lucky that all 3 of my kids have become sandwich lovers over the past couple of years, making packing lunches pretty simple.  But all of us need to mix it up from time to time, so today I am teaming up with Produce for Kids to help spread the word about their Power Your Lunchbox campaign:

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Look at all those clever, yummy and healthy lunches!

Please consider taking the pledge! It’s super simple and also helps the organization Feeding America.  Additionally you can be entered to win a bento box from Bentology, and also get some free printable lunch box notes (super cute).

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Ok, let’s get started.  I was lucky enough to get one of these fun bento boxes.  My kids have been itching to get their hands on it for weeks!

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There’s just something about all those cute little boxes that fit so perfectly inside each other.  I think it makes us all believe when can eat smarter and more creatively!

So when my kids and I discussed what to put in our bento box, they decided they wanted something with their new fave – Greek yogurt.  I thought about making granola to go with it, but decided instead to use up some of the delicious peaches that are in season right now.  I had just seen this Peach Oatmeal Muffin recipe over at Six Sisters Stuff, so we gave it a try:

4 cups of juicy peaches - delicious!

4 cups of juicy peaches – delicious!

We used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour:

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I was concerned that full-sized muffins wouldn’t fit in the bento box, so I made a couple dozen mini-muffins:

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My little one decided to make some full-sized, Christmas-themed muffins:

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We may or may not have popped a few in our mouths straight from the oven:

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Next it was time to fill the box! I put in the vanilla Greek yogurt, then the little guy added some muffins.  I said 2 was plenty, he thought 3 sounded better:

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We agreed on some strawberries and sliced almonds, but had a difference of opinion on how to fill the last little box.  I thought carrots, he thought cheese sticks.  We compromised and added both:

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Does that look like a tasty lunch, or what?

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Hold the Judgment: An Easy Way To Improve Mental Health

Judging others: So easy, so entertaining, so widespread.  But sadly, also completely contradictory to good mental health.

The other day I did my own little experiment and noticed how many times in an hour I made a judgmental comment (in my head – I was on the treadmill) about either myself or others.  I lost count at 25. Yikes.  Now, I didn’t speak these judgments out loud, but they were there just the same.  Things like:

“Why did she choose that shirt, ick”

and

“She totally looks better than me!”

and

“Who chose this awful music on the loud speaker?”

Oh boy.

All those judgments flying every which way got me thinking: How does a judgmental attitude affect mental health?  Here are some thoughts:

Passing judgment (on ourselves and others) keeps us from being fully present in our lives.  Life is full of things to notice and be a part of.  If we spend the bulk of our time formulating judgments, what might we be missing? A quiet, peaceful hour on the treadmill? The joy of watching our kids play sports or act on stage? A entertaining conversation with a friend?

No one ever wins. Judging ourselves, judging others; comparing ourselves to others. All these things lead to the same end: a downward spiral to misery and disappointment.  When it comes to judgment – no one ever ends up feeling good.

Judging others can make us paranoid that others are judging us, too.  Judging others has the nasty side effect of making us feel that we, ourselves are being judged – even when we’re not.  As in: “What are the neighbors going to think when they see me driving this old, dented car?”  See? Not so good.

We all want to spend time with non-judgmental people.  Think about some of your favorite people to spend time with.  I’d be willing to bet that most of them steer clear of judging, or gossiping about others.  Sure, it’s fun for a minute, but this behind-the-back judgmental attitude has a pretty nasty aftertaste.  Supportive, interesting (and interested), funny friends are the ones that give us longer-lasting feelings of warmth and closeness.

 

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Equals Comfort

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Amanda Keefer. Welcome, Amanda!

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Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic, kid-friendly comfort food that many of us, including myself, relate back to cold winter days with family and friends. Even after moving away from the cold weather as an adult, the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese still stir up a feeling of comfort for me. Now, I serve my own version of the duo to my family.

In this recipe I skip the sodium-packed canned soup and go for an easy, homemade version that’s packed with veggies! You can stir in 1 Tbsp. plain yogurt to each bowl for extra creaminess.

The mini grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect for little mouths and for dipping.

Now, As I share this recipe with my family, I feel a new sense of comfort knowing that I am passing along not only a taste, but a feeling for them to carry on to adulthood.

Want the full recipe? Check it out over at Produce for Kids.

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Taking Your Child To A Funeral

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Should we take our kids to the funeral?

That’s a sad question that most every parent will have to ask themselves at one time or another.  We recently lost a dear family friend and my husband and I found ourselves asking this very question.  Now that a few weeks have gone by and I’ve reflected a bit, I have come up with a few thoughts on the topic.  Here goes:

Funerals are important for many reasons: they provide structure to our grief, they answer questions about the meaning of death and what happens after life, they give us the opportunity to grieve with (and support) others; and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to participate in a tradition that humans have been participating in for many, many years.  And just doing something that our ancestors did can be comforting.

The other part about funerals, though is that they are sad, and often quiet, and can bring up lots of questions too.  So, should we bring our kids along? A few things to consider:

  • Kids can be a wonderful distraction from grief.  Lively, healthy, happy children can be a lovely contrast to the pain of losing a loved one.  But not always.  Sometimes they are too much of a distraction, though – like my 3 year old would have been at the funeral – he didn’t join us.  In this case, they might be best left at home.
  • Funerals are part of life.  We are all going to die.  As hard as that is to write down, of course it is true.  Shielding our children from that reality isn’t doing them any favors.  Allowing them to witness others grieving, consoling, supporting, remembering and loving each other is.
  • Life isn’t just about us.  At the recent funeral I attended, I experienced the importance of tradition, history, culture, language, music and food in times of grief.  Just like in times of celebration (weddings, births, baptisms), grieving families benefit from the familiarity of shared family and community traditions.  Life isn’t all about us.  It’s also about the many people who came before us, and all those who will come after us.   And important lesson for all kids (and adults) to learn.
  • Sometimes things are boring, long and uncomfortable.  The funeral we attended was all in Greek (literally), was quite long, and we pretty much had no idea what was going on.  But that wasn’t the point.  The point was to sit quietly and respectfully as we remembered our deceased friend and showed his family our love and support.  Just like life isn’t all about us, it also isn’t always instantly-gratifying.  The sooner and better we learn that, the easier life will be.

 

 

Cyber Monday: Good for Mental Health?

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Shopping is one of those tricky things that can be both good and bad for mental health.  On the one hand, shopping can be a fun distraction and excursion with friends.  It can also be relaxing when done alone, when you can spend 20 minutes perusing purple necklaces if that’s what you want to do – and with no one bugging you to move on to Cinnabon.

The downside, of course can be that when done to excess, shopping can quickly become out of control and wreak havoc on finances.  This time of year can be particularly treacherous when there are so many SALES and DEALS and SAVINGS!  It’s tough to resist all these “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities to save (and spend) money.

With all the pros and cons of shopping in mind, I have decided to do something new this year: make all of my holiday purchases on-line.  I have decided to test the theory that on-line shopping will be better for my mental health than mall shopping.  Here are the few of the reasons I think this hypothesis is true:

  • As I get older I have less patience for crowds and loud noises – both of which are abundant in malls and shopping centers
  • When I shop in a brick and mortar store I am super-susceptible to buying things a) I don’t need b) the people I’m buying gifts for don’t want (how many Bath and Body Works products do any of us really need, anyway? ugh)
  • I love seeing packages waiting at my front door – silly, but true
  • Shopping on-line allows me to be a lot more clever and creative than I am in real life.  Google “great gifts for 10 year old boys” and you have more cool, educational AND fun gift ideas than you will ever need

I was recently contacted by Pearl & Clasp about taking a look at some of their earrings.  It was meant to be.  My online shopping experiment ready to go, together with my LOVE LOVE LOVE for jewelry – we made a perfect pair!

Here’s what arrived on my doorstep (it’s looking good already!):

9mm Button Pink Freshwater earrings Pearl & Clasp

9mm Button Pink Freshwater earrings
Pearl & Clasp

Darling little (but not-too-little), pink pearl earrings.  They are very sweet and would work for an adult or a young girl – not that I will be giving mine away.  This online shopping stuff is definitely improving my mental health so far!

Want to do a little shopping of your own? Check out Pearl & Clasp’s holiday deals.

 

Mental Illness and the Holidays

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As soon as Halloween rolls around, psychologists around the country know to expect their phones to start ringing.  The combination of shorter days (and less sunlight), the time change and the impending holidays proves to be a tough mix for a lot of us.  As a result mood can go down, anxiety can go up and mental health can fly right out the window.

There are about a million reasons why the holidays can be hard on our mental health.  But contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just those who have lost a loved one who might struggle during this season.  It’s also those who have strained family relationships, those who struggle financially, those who aren’t where they thought they’d be at this point in life, and those who don’t feel they measure up at any point in the year – let alone this one.

The holidays are also tough on mental health because so much is expected of us.  We’re expected (often by ourselves AND others) to have perfect homes, perfect clothes, and perfect appetizers set on a perfectly-decorated table.  We’re also expected to have smiles on our faces, thanks in our hearts and plenty of joy and Christmas cheer to spread to everyone (even when we don’t feel it ourselves).  Some of us don’t get invited to any holiday gatherings and feel dejected about that.  Others get invited to so many parties that the entire month of December is spent in the car scurrying from one festivity to another.  Some have no one to celebrate with, others have plenty of people around – but not the one they wish were there.

No matter how you cut it, the holidays are tough on mental health.  For that reason, it’s important to be aware of the resources around us to help us get through until January 1st.  Here are a couple useful links:

Surviving the Holidays – With Flair

Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress – Produce for Kids

Tips for Parents on Managing Holiday Stress – APA

If times get really tough and you’re finding it hard to cope alone, consider reaching out to a psychologist.  Here’s how to find one close to you:

APA Psychologist Locator

Psychology Today

If you need to talk to someone right away, try:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide Hotlines by state

 

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.

Ipads in the Classroom: Good for Mental Health?

I was recently interviewed for a story about using ipads in the classroom.  It’s a hot topic around these parts (Northern Colorado) as the school districts are – for the first time ever! – distributing ipads to all students.  I think most people agree that this is pretty cool, and a sign that our schools are keeping up with the time.  Sure, there will some glitches to work out and some naughtiness that will most definitely occur, but most folks agree that schools need to embrace technology.

But, here’s the angle I didn’t think about until the reporter asked me: “Does ipad use in the classroom count toward a child’s daily allotment of screen time?”

Hmmm…excellent question.

My first thought was “no” because kids are using ipads, presumably, as a learning tool when they are in school.  But the more I thought about it I wondered if a screen-heavy classroom necessitates a screen-lite home life?  After all, it’s more physical activity and in person interaction that we are aiming for when we set screen limits, right?  It’s a tough question, and one that will likely answer itself as the school year wears on.

Here are some of my thoughts that appeared in the article in the Johnstown Breeze:

But is using an iPad all day healthy for children?

“It can definitely be part of a psychologically healthy classroom,” said Smith, who has more than 10 years of experience in the field. “… It can be a wonderful complement.”

Smith said moderation is the key. She said parents should work closely with teachers to be sure about how the iPads are to be used at home. She also said that parents should put strict limits on entertainment screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of entertainment screen time a day for children and teens.

“We need to be careful of not having kids on screen, TV, iPad too much,” she said. “Technology in the classroom can be useful when it’s part of the instruction, not a babysitter.”