Helping Kids Manage School Stress

I recently wrote an article for the National PTA’s magazine, Our Children:

Pretty fun opportunity! The topic was how to manage stress in families with school age children. There are so many things to consider when dealing with kids: Academics, activities, social pressures, safety – not to mention all the stuff that we as parents try to manage: work, finances, relationships, etc.

Photo Credit: National PTA

Here’s a bit about stress and teens in particular:

In fact, a 2013 American Psychological Association poll revealed that 31% of teens surveyed feel their stress increased in the past year. Concerningly, 42% said they either are not doing enough to manage their stress or they are not sure if they are doing enough to manage it.

So what can we do to help? Here’s one tip:

Ask your kids what they think

It may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask my kids what’s important to them. Questions like: “How do you feel about your piano lessons these days?” and “Is the swim team still something you enjoy?” are crucial to helping your kids maintain good mental health.

As our children develop their own interests and passions, we should be mindful of keeping them in the loop when it comes to setting up schedules.

To read the entire article – with more info about stress, kids and strategies – check it out:


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.

We Should All Be Talking About Ashley Madison

Photo via

Photo via

The Ashley Madison website leak is more than just fun to gossip about.  It’s providing all of us an opportunity to talk about some tough – but important – stuff.  I recently wrote an article for the American Psychological Association blog, Your Mind. Your Body. in which I outlined a bunch of conversation starters stemming from the Ashley Madison leak.

Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out and simply make fun of Ashley Madison’s clientele.  Use the episode to have meaningful conversations with:

  • Your partner
  • Your kids
  • Yourself

Check out the full article here:

Your Mind. Your Body.

Your Mind. Your Body.

Mental Health Is More Than Mental Illness

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Today I am joining many other bloggers around the world in support of the American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day #MHBlogDay.   Here’s a bit about why recognizing and talking about mental health in May (and every month, really) is so crucial:

Congress designated May as Mental Health Month in 1949 to illustrate the importance of mental health issues to the overall health and well-being of American citizens. Each year, bloggers will join APA  for a Mental Health Month Blog Day to educate the public about mental health, decrease stigma about mental illness, and discuss strategies for making lasting lifestyle and behavior changes that promote overall health and wellness.
“Mental health” does not mean “mental illness.”  While understanding mental illness is important, a well-rounded understanding of mental health also includes things like parenting, dating, friendships, aging, healthy eating and exercise, financial planning, spirituality, work-life balance and happiness – among many, many other parts of life.  In this way, everyone should be participating in Mental Health Blog Day, because it’s something we can all relate to.
Add your voice to the event or check out what other people are talking about over at APA.

Why “Reparative Therapy” Is Wrong

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President Obama recently announced that he will work to ban the use of “reparative therapy.”  In case you’re not sure what that is, it’s a sort of therapy that claims to change someone’s sexual or gender identity.  Sometimes it’s also called “gay conversion” therapy.

Why don’t these sorts of therapies work?

Check out this statement of support of President Obama from the American Psychological Association:

“So-called reparative therapies are aimed at ‘fixing’ something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy. There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client,” said APA 2015 President Barry S. Anton, PhD. “APA has and will continue to call on mental health professionals to work to reduce misunderstanding about and prejudice toward gay and transgender people.”

I love this statement because it sums up the problem with “reparative therapies” perfectly – they are trying to change something that isn’t broken, wrong or a mental illness.  In fact there is nothing at all that needs to be changed, except perhaps a society that isn’t as supportive as it could be to all of its population.

Want to read more about the topic? Check out this informative story in the Washington Post.  Or check out all of APA’s statement of support.


Stress, Age and Money: Younger Americans Most Stressed About Finances

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The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey was released today.

The good news: Overall, Americans report experiencing less stress

The bad news: Younger Americans and parents tend to report more stress – particularly about money – than other Americans

Now, this is no great surprise.  Young adulthood is a super-expensive time in life.  First cars, first homes, student loans, babies: all these things combined with relatively low, early-career salaries combine to make money tight in a lot of young households.  What is surprising is that the APA survey found that younger, stressed out Americans tend to manage their stress in unhealthy ways when compared to other groups.  This might mean drinking too much alcohol or engaging in sedentary activities for too much time (surfing the internet or watching TV).

The real bummer is that we know chronic, high levels of stress are no good for our health in the long term.  In fact, high levels of stress can lead to depression, cardiovascular disease, and all sorts of other things.

Check out the complete results to learn more about APA’s Stress in America survey.


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.





Happiness: Easier to Find Than We Think?

I am writing this post as part of The American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. #MHBlogDay

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Sometimes it can feel as if true happiness is elusive.  Between the stresses of work, relationships, parenting, money and all the other goings on in the world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, sad, angry and just plain fed up.  I’m not questioning the reality of the stressors listed above, and I’m certainly not doubting the very real effects of mental illness on mood.  However, I do think we – at least sometimes – tend to make happiness more complicated than it has to be.

I have dedicated the month of May as The Picture of Happiness Month on this blog.  I have invited women from all parts of my life to share a picture of what makes them happy.  The catch? The pictures can’t include family, pets or lovers.  What I’ve discovered (about halfway through the month) is that just as we all look different and choose different paths for our lives, the things that bring us happiness are different too.

True, lasting happiness and contentment might be elusive for many of us; but momentary joy and pleasure are within almost everyone’s reach.

Take a look at some Pictures of Happiness:

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Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 6.01.04 PMScreen shot 2014-05-14 at 8.44.35 AMWant to see more Pictures of Happiness? Follow along on Dr Stephanie this month, or check it out on Facebook or Twitter.


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