Everything You Were Afraid To Ask About Therapy

There are a lot of misconceptions about therapy out there.

  • It’s only for “crazy people”
  • Psychologists can change their patients’ personalities
  • It lasts forever
  • It costs a fortune
  • Psychologists themselves are either perfect, or total “nut-jobs”

I recently had the opportunity to weigh in on a couple of these – and many more – myths about therapy.  The article turned out awesome, informative and fun to read.  Here are a couple of my quotes:

They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. “The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world,” says Smith. “The process of therapy is not to give good give advice.”

and

“Sometimes I think people hesitate to embark on therapy because they feel like ‘If I go once I’m going to be sucked in for 10 years, three times a week,’ and it feels like this huge decision,” says Smith. But the length and frequency of therapy is very individual. It can be a one-time deal, a few months of sessions, or longer depending on what you’re going through and what you’re looking to accomplish.

To read the article in its entirety, check it out on Buzzfeed.

 

Easy, Fun Holiday Treats For Little Hands

It’s so easy to over-do it on the sweets this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sweets, but I don’t always LOVE the way they make me feel.  And I definitely don’t LOVE the effect too much sugar has on my already-hyped-up kids.

Luckily, Produce for Kids has come to the rescue again!  This year, they are again offering a free holiday cookbook – filled with lots of kid-friendly meals and snacks.  Check out the full guide here.

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I showed my kids the beautiful cookbook and they picked out these little snacks to try:

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I’ll give you one guess why they chose these:

Yep, the marshmallows.  They are all suckers for those things!

Anyway, here’s how it went down:

I got all the ingredients ready:

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The kids chose an ingredient (notice which was most popular!):

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Put them on the skewers:

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And TA-DA! our after-school snack was ready!

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It didn’t look quite like the example.  We couldn’t quite figure out why.  But, they were yummy, easy and fun.  Best of all my kids ate a lot of fruit (along with some extra marshmallows, of course).

Happy Holidays!

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For more holiday food ideas, be sure to check out Produce for Kids.

 

 

 

 

 

Squash, Comfort and the Holidays

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Dr. Bridget Engel.  Welcome, Dr. Engel!

I love Thanksgiving! There is something really special about getting together and celebrating a cozy day and all that we have to be grateful for, without the pressure and sometimes chaos that other holidays may involve. Plus, I love fall food, especially Thanksgiving food with all the fixins’. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t all so heavy and filling though. That is why I’ve started adding in a nice green salad with butternut squash that goes great with the turkey, and with the leftovers!

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Oh the sweet nuttiness and bright, cheery color of a Butternut Squash! However, one of my first feelings I experience when making Butternut Squash Salad is frustration. I find cutting squash to be difficult and tedious, even if our knives have been recently sharpened. But keep reading; its worth it. I’ve found that using a peeler sometimes works better when trimming the skin of a squash. Once I get that off, then my twin girls can help, and they love to be in the kitchen together.

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Cut up the squash in chunks and then toss lightly in extra virgin olive oil. For a whole squash, I use 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with two teaspoons rosemary. If you like a garlic flavor on your salad, you can add it a bit of that now too.

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Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 375 degrees, stirring half way through. I like my squash to be a little bit caramelized, so sometimes I flip again and put the pan back in the oven for five more minutes or so.

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By now, I am usually feeling cozy and content. I love the smell and color of squash, and I feel good that I’m providing something healthy for my family. Squash of course, has vitamin C but also lots of vitamin A and B. There is no doubt that squash has good fiber, plus potassium!

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I’ve played around with a variety of vinaigrette dressings for this salad, and the good thing is that you can do what sounds best to you. I usually cut up and puree some fresh, juicy tangerines. Remember to pull the seeds out first. Those little buggers sometimes have three or four seeds! I think the citrus flavor is what makes this salad light and refreshing, alongside your mashed potatoes or stuffing.

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Puree those in a blender, adding in one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar or a half teaspoon of lemon juice to make it more sweet or more tart.

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Before you blend, try to get as much of the skin and the white stuff (what’s that called?) out so that you can get a nice smooth texture. You may need to blend for three to four minutes.

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Gently top warm squash on a bed of spinach, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and freshly grated pepper. Sometimes I also add kale, or the fall flavors of nuts and seeds too to vary the texture a bit. I’ve always used dried cranberries, but I wonder how fresh cranberries would taste. Or add in some fresh cranberries to your tangerine vinaigrette! Butternut Squash Salad, alongside friends and family, makes me feel joyful and happy for the holidays. I am always excited for the weekend after Thanksgiving too because leftover squash makes for some delicious little salads for lunch.

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.

 

Nostalgia and Cake: A Match Made in Heaven

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest is Lisa Jensen. Welcome, Lisa!

I wanted to make a special dessert for dinner with family friends and I was feeling nostalgic for my childhood.  My grandparents immigrated from Denmark and had a bakery.  I grew-up enjoying buttery almond pastries.  I’d never had this cake but it sounded delicious and a bit indulgent.

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Makes one 9-inch cake

2 to 3 very ripe pears (I used D’Anjou)

1 cup cake flour, divided

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar

7 ounces almond paste

1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that, too. Dust the pan with flour and shake off any excess.

Peel the pears and cut them into very thin slices from stem to bottom. Starting at the outside perimeter of the pan, place the pear slices in tight concentric circles until you’ve covered the pan’s bottom.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

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In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar to form a sand-like substance.

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With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time. When the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Process until the batter is smooth and light.

Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse the machine until the dry mixture is just incorporated. The batter will be light, fluffy, and thin.

Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 50 minutes, at which point in may look like an ominous white blob. Cook it until the top is nicely browned and the center is not too jiggly.  There was enough batter to fill two round 9 inch pans (mine overflowed in the oven).

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it onto a cake rack. Invert it once more if you want the pears at the bottom and the crackly, golden-brown side facing up. Dust it with confectioners sugar and enjoy.

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Lisa Jensen (above, left) is a psychologist in Louisville, Colorado. She is married to Carl and they have 3 outrageously fun kids.

This cake is a European love child, inspired both by David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake (in turn adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere) and Mimi Thorisson’s Italian Pear Cake. (less) —Sarah Jampel   Food52.com

Feeling Good? Try a Zoodle!

This post is part of the Food and Mood blog series.  Today’s guest is Dr. Mary Tobin. Welcome, Dr. Tobin!

Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with Mango-Avocado sauce
This is one of my favorite recipes to make when I’m feeling good, and am inspired to eat fresh fruits and vegetables to help me continue feeling my best! It’s also one that I make when I notice that I haven’t touched the zucchinis that I bought earlier in the week and feel guilty about it (for some reason they’re the ones usually left over in my fridge). Making this is a great way for me to address that guilt and an easy way to use up the zucchinis, as the recipe calls for a lot of them!

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Ingredients:
3-4 zucchinis, spiralized
For the dressing:
Mangoes (I use a few handfuls of pre-cut frozen mangoes)
½ an avocado (scoop out the flesh of ½ of an avocado)
Juice of 1 lime
The original recipe calls for more zucchinis and mangoes, green onion tops and rosemary, and less avocado. I change up the recipe based on how much I want to eat at the time, my specific tastes (sometimes I add a pinch or two of salt) and what I have on hand (I don’t usually have rosemary and green onions).

Directions:
Cut off the ends of the zucchinis (sometimes I peel the skin off and sometimes I don’t)…

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Spiralize (I love this part!)…

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I like to cut the zoodles to make them shorter and easier to eat…

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and place in a bowl.

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Blend the rest of the ingredients (sometimes I have to add some water to help the blender along):
Squeezing in the lime juice…

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Pour the dressing over your zoodles and mix together…

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Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Fully Raw

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Dr. Mary E Tobin is a psychologist in Fort Collins, CO.
Check out Dr. Tobin’s internet policy here.

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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Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Is Thanksgiving really less than a week away? If the thought sends a little bit of panic through your system like it does mine, you might find these tips useful.  My favorite? “Practice Saying No.”  As in:

No, I’m not going to try to out-do all the other moms when it comes to teacher gifts.

No, I appreciate the invitations, but I won’t be attending every holiday event.

No, I’m not going to participate in the rampant consumerism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ism that often plagues the holidays

Oh and another thing: This lady’s stress would be a whole lot less if she ditched the heels. Check it out:

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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.