Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder? Or Do You Just Hate Winter?

I was recently interviewed for an article about myths vs. facts of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Most people who suffer from SAD experience symptoms in the winter months, and it being the dead of winter (at least here in Colorado), this can be a really tough time of year.

But how do you know if you have SAD, or if winter is just long, annoying and unpleasant?

Here are some of the symptoms of SAD:

  • Extremely low energy most days
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low mood
  • Having trouble sleeping/feeling sleepy a lot of the time
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Trouble enjoying previously enjoyable things

These symptoms come at a certain time of year with some predictability and regularity. Most people with SAD experience these symptoms in the winter months when there is less sunlight. But SAD also exists in the summer months when sunlight is plentiful.

SAD is NOT simply a dislike for winter, or a desire to drink hot chocolate and watch Friends reruns. It is a syndrome that has significant impacts on the the sufferer’s quality of life.

Check back in for SAD myths busted.

Re-Imagining Valentine’s Day

Is it a happy Valentine’s Day for you?

For some this is a day to look forward to: Chocolate, romance, roses, hearts – what’s not to love?

For others, this is a day to feel especially lonely.

Instead of a day filled with romance and lovey-dovey love, I like to think of it as a time to recognize all the different kinds of love around us:

  • Love for our parents
  • Love for our pets
  • Love for our children
  • Love for our friends
  • Love for our hometown
  • Love for the Olympians I am so enjoying watching right now
  • Love for books
  • Love for conversation hearts
  • Love for pasta
  • Love for the mountains outside my back door

You get the idea

What are the things in your life that you love?

Giving Up Social Media

How do you feel about social media?

I’m hearing a lot of people talk about it these days.

I hate Facebook!

Instagram is making me crazy!

I wish I could get off social media!

I totally get it. Social media affects almost all of us -even if we don’t have accounts of our own! The constant connection, comparing and sharing – while maybe not all bad – certainly has an impact on our mental health.

  • How we see ourselves and others
  • How we feel about our kids, our parents, and our friends
  • How we make decisions in our lives, both big and small

So what can you do if you want to make a change? Try life without social media?

Start small, but do something. Take the social media apps off your phone. Delete just one social media account. Don’t post a comment/status/photo for just one day. Pick one small thing and do it. Once you get the hang of that, try adding on another goal.

Put it in its place. Do we really need to check our social media accounts every time we have a free moment? Do we really need to take our phones into the bathroom? Probably not. Again start small, but try banning the phone from just one place: Dinner table, bathroom, kids soccer practice, doctor’s waiting room – somewhere that you usually pick up your phone and browse. Try doing something else: Read a book, bring a Sudoku puzzle – or, you could go crazy and DO NOTHING! Just sit and be. I assure you, it is possible.

Notice the changes. While ceasing to bring the phone into the toilet stall won’t radically change your life, decreasing the amount of time (or eliminating it altogether!) you spend on social media will likely make a difference in your mental health.  Try keeping a journal about how your behavior change affects you, both psychologically and physically. If you make note of the good things happening, it will help you stay motivated!

Good luck!

Power Your Lunchbox: Leftovers Edition

With 2 middle school-ers in my house, mealtime has taken on a bit of a different meaning. I can no longer expect my older kids to eat whatever I put in front of them (well, maybe I could expect that, but I would spend a lot of time being disappointed). Nowadays, the food that comes out of my kitchen has to be yummy, healthy, not embarrassing, and cool. This is made particularly difficult because what qualifies as “cool” and “not embarrassing” changes all the time – sometimes within the span of a few hours. It’s exhausting.

So, when Produce for Kids sent out their Power Your Lunchbox Promise (see more about the awesome program here) I decided to enlist my middle school-ers to help make some healthy, cool lunches they might actually eat!

For reasons I will surely never understand, leftovers are currently all the rage in the middle school lunchroom.  Perhaps it’s because they feel cool to have access to microwaves now that they’re out of elementary school? Perhaps it’s because sandwiches are too square? I honestly have no idea. But we’re going to go with it.

Here are 3 days worth of lunches made from leftovers:

We started with this sorry-looking pork chop with peach jam sauce:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sliced it up, and added it to this yummy-looking salad:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definitely looks cool to me! (Disclaimer: A few days later my daughter informed me that salads with salmon and berries on top are now the lunch of choice for the cool kids in the lunchroom. Seriously?)

Here’s another one. We started with half of a turkey sausage, and an odd turkey meatball leftover from an Italian feast the night before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found an old roll to make a sandwich:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chopped up some pineapple – and we had a delicious lunch! Perfect for cold, January days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last one is the best, because my oldest actually made the dinner all by herself.  She is currently taking what we used to call Home Ec as an elective (yes, it’s a very cool class). She had made this veggie stir fry earlier in the week and was super eager to make it for the family:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was very good. We ate it with tilapia and a veggie egg roll. Yum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She then told me that the stir fry was good hot or cold! Yea! Another great candidate for leftover lunch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was even willing to share with her younger sister! Miracles can happen, people!

For more healthy and cool ideas for your lunchbox, head over to Produce for Kids:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to take the Power Your Lunchbox Promise? Check it all out here:

 

 

 

How Are Your New Years Resolutions Coming?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been almost a month…do you remember what your New Years resolutions were?

Have you made huge changes in your life? Little changes? No changes at all?

If you haven’t thought about your resolutions since January 3rd, don’t worry – you’re not alone. That’s why I thought I would check in to see how things are coming along.

I tried something a little different this year: Instead of a list of goals/resolutions/changes I wanted to make for 2018, I thought of a word I wanted to focus on. Sort of like a theme word for the year. This felt a little more do-able and interesting than what I’ve done in the past. Stuff like:

  • Save more
  • Meditate more
  • Eat more vegetables

Those sorts of goals just get boring after a while. Instead I have picked a theme for the year – a word I can hopefully reflect on through the year. I’m hoping it provides some inspiration and guidance as the months tick quickly by. Sound interesting? It’s not too late to pick a theme word of your own! Here are some ideas:

  • Quiet
  • Present (as in engaged and aware – not people need to give me more gifts (though that might be a good one too 😉 )
  • Genuine
  • Flourish
  • Joy
  • Particular

You get the idea. Happy New Year!

 

Want to Become a Psychologist?

Did you know that psychology is one of the top 5 most popular college majors?

There’s a lot you can do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology:

  • Become a teacher
  • Go to law, medical or nursing school
  • Work in business or sales
  • Get a job in community corrections, inpatient behavioral health or substance abuse treatment programs

In short, psychology is a great foundation for lots of careers.  But what about if you want to take your education in psychology further and become a psychologist?

I recently wrote an article over at HealtheCareers about what to think about before taking the plunge and entering graduate school to become a psychologist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s one tip that might come as a bit of a surprise:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things NOT to Say to Someone Struggling With Depression

I was recently interviewed for an article over at:

…about what to say and what NOT to say to a friend/family member/co-worker who is struggling with depression. I love being a part of these kinds of articles because it really gives me a chance to air my annoyances out loud! And someone is actually listening!

Anyway, the article is actually really helpful – giving lots of ideas about how to approach someone who is feeling depressed. My favorite useless (and potentially harmful) piece of advice that’s often given to depressed folks?

ick.

and here’s why I don’t like it:

A similar piece of advice is to focus on the positives and be grateful. “These are pretty good ideas in general, but for someone struggling with mental illness, hanging a motivational poster in their room, and starting a gratitude journal isn’t going to cut it,” said Stephanie Smith, PsyD., a psychologist in private practice in Erie, Colo. “In fact, trivializing depression by assuming that a clever-sounding phrase can cure it, can do much more harm than good.”

Check out the entire article (including advice from one of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Deb Serani) here:

Practicing Kindness and Generosity

Most parents say they would like their children to be kind, thoughtful, generous adults. But it can be hard to know how to teach and model these traits. I was recently challenged to perform a “random act of kindness” with my family by Produce for Kids. They provided me with this list of 100 ideas to get our creative juices flowing.

After some compromise (another ability many of us parents prize!), my 3 kids and I decided to make “homeless bags.” There are about a million ideas online for how to put together these little care packages for people experiencing homelessness. And it’s actually something my kids had done a few times before with other organizations. But they had always wanted to host their own bag making event.

So we decided to go for it. On Thanksgiving. When we were hosting dinner for 20.

Ummmmm…

How did I get talked into that?

Anyway. What we did was text our Thanksgiving guests and asked them to bring something to contribute to the bags. We ended up assigning people various items like toothpaste, combs, water, snacks – so that we didn’t have duplicates. We provided gallon-size zip top bags, a whole bunch of travel-sized lotion, lip balm, and sunscreen.

We set everything up assembly-line style:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gave everyone instructions to fill the bags with the various foods, toiletries and socks. And then I went to baste the turkey. When I came back, this was happening:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last bag had been completed and was being zipped up! I missed the whole thing!

The good news is: this activity is easy, fast and suitable for people of all ages (we had folks from 1 to 71 participating!). The bad news is: if you blink, you’ll miss the whole darn thing!

At the end of the day, it was a fun activity that will allow us to provide just a bit of comfort to those experiencing homeless in our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody got to take home a couple of bags (along with a few slices of pie!).

Want to try your own act of kindness? Here’s an easy one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Log into Facebook and check out what Produce for Kids and Feeding America are doing to help recent disaster relief efforts!

And once you do that, take a break this holiday season and spend some time with your family – maybe snacking on these little cuties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the full recipe for these yummy Snowman Fruit Kebobs at Produce for Kids.

Happy Holidays!

Are You Worried About Your Teen’s Eating Habits?

Pinterest is pretty awesome. I love looking at the beautiful pictures of gardens and homes, crafts and cupcakes. I’ve even gotten a few useful tips and recipes for feeding my kids – particularly when they were younger.  But now that they’re getting older and they aren’t so into the cutesy butterflies made out of watermelon; and they aren’t impressed when I make smiley faces out of bananas and oranges on their morning pancakes – it’s not nearly as useful to me.

In fact, my tween and teen aren’t impressed by much that I do. And sadly, Pinterest – and society in general – has kind of left me out in the cold when it comes to helping my older kids make healthy choices when it comes to food. So, I recently offered some tips for helping older kids navigate the world of food choices over at Produce for Kids.

Check it out:

Do You Ever Freak Out At Your Kids? Then You Might Want to Read This:

Photo Credit: Fatherly

I recently had an opportunity to speak with the folks over at Fatherly. The subject? Losing our cool (meaning: raising our voice, being irritable, impatient) with our kids.  Here’s the thing: It happens to the best of us. Sometimes a lot. Here are some of my thoughts about stress, parenting and losing our temper with our kids:

“I think of it as an iceberg. The bulk of the stress is underneath the surface,” says Dr. Stephanie Smith, a clinical psychologist based in Erie, Colorado. “We’re not really paying attention, but it builds up throughout the day. It all piles up, but when we reach a certain level the tiniest little thing can tip us over the edge: we’re out of Cheerios or whatever. It’s silly little things that end up being the breaking point.”

The good news is, there can be some teachable moments when our kids see us feeling stressed out. Like this example:

“It’s ok to take a few deep breaths, or an hour, (after a breakdown), but make sure to come back to it,” says Smith. “In an age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate way say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had a really rough day, and I kind of lost it for a minute. I’ll do better moving forward to deal with those feelings before that kind of thing happens again.’”

To read the entire article, check it out on Fatherly.