Flying of Flying: There’s An App for That?

I was recently interviewed by the online publication, Mic. The writer let me know she had some questions about flying anxieties. I answered her questions, felt a little anxiety of my own (flying is NOT my fav), and then forgot about it. I recently read her completed article, and it kind of blew me away.

In the article, the writer describes using a new app aimed at helping folks manage their flying phobias and fears – in REAL time. As in, in the air. I was intrigued for several reasons:

  • I have some flying fears of my own
  • She used the app instead of the usual medications she needs to manage her anxieties
  • I think we are glimpsing the future of technology and health care

Here’s a bit about the app:

For the most part it seemed like the app was pretty cool, and actually helpful. Other than this:

Hmmm, that part didn’t sound so great. So, I had this to say:

So, not a perfect fix for flying fear, but a start anyway. Happy flying!

Summer Vacation: Plugged or Un-plugged?

Disclaimer: This article was originally posted in June 2013. When I re-read it recently, I thought it was worth re-posting.  I was also struck but just how much MORE we are all plugged in these days – just four short years later.  Who knows where we will be four years from now – but my hope is that we all retain the ability to unplug and connect with the the people and things around us. At least once in a while.

Have you taken your summer vacation yet? If not, you may find yourself pondering this very question: Should I stay plugged in, or go all-in and un-plug the world? I was having this debate conversation just last night.  Are vacations better if they are completely un-plugged? Is it even possible?  Will my vacation be more beneficial if I don’t check my email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond?

What about when I return: Will the re-entry to my “real” life be more difficult if I have a week or two worth of messages waiting for me?

Here’s my take:

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes.  There’s the quick weekend getaway, the family reunion trip, the sightseeing/cultural trip, the boy scout camping trip, the Disney World trip and the long, lazy summer trip.  It might be no big deal to stay plugged in (meaning checking voicemail, email, etc) on short trips like weekend getaways.  In fact, staying plugged in to the “real world” might be the only thing that gets you through kid-focused trips (like to Disney) and can provide excellent excuses for escape on family reunion trips.

Camping trips and long, lazy summer trips are different in my book.  These vacations should most certainly be experienced un-plugged.  These types of trips are meant to be savored and should be a complete change of pace from your normal life. We can’t be expected to truly un-wind, re-group, and relax if we are constantly updating Facebook or responding to customer inquiries.  Sand castles and s’mores are meant to be relished – and who can do that while responding to email?

Food, Mood and Mental Illness

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like food and mental health would have much to do with each other. But actually, they go hand in hand. Appetite changes (eating more, or eating less) can be an important red flag, or symptom, when it comes to diagnosing mental illness.  For example:

  • Some people who suffer from depression notice that their appetite wanes as their mood becomes worse.
  • Others who suffer depression, or other mood disorders, may notice that their appetite actually increases as their psychiatric symptoms intensify
  • Still others might notice that their appetite patterns change (they’re hungry at times they never were before, etc) as their psychological health changes

Psychiatric medications can also change appetite and eating habits.  Stimulant medications, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and other psychiatric medications used to treat mental illness all come with possible side effects.  For this reason, mental health providers and patients often keep a close eye on eating habits when a new medication is started, or dosage changed.

Want more information about food and mental health? Check out my recent article at:

And for recipes, stories and other ways food and mood go together, check out my Food and Mood page.

How To Eat Dinner As a Family…Without Yelling, Screaming or Crying

Does dinnertime at your house look like this?

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell,1943 oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Or like this?

The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch

Few of us have the happy, healthy, technology-free family dinners we think we should have. In fact, many families almost never eat at the same table at the same time (let alone eat the same thing). I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about where to start when you’ve never eaten as a family. The prospect can be daunting, so I tried to offer some simple strategies for sharing meals together – and have fun doing it. Check out the full article:

Standardized Tests – How to Help Kids Cope With the Pressure

Are standardized tests in the news in your community?  It seems to be what everyone is talking about around here.  Federal and state-mandated standardized tests are given to almost all students in grades K-12 in the spring, as far as I can understand.  I am not an expert in primary education, standardized testing or curriculum development so I can’t speak about the tests from that angle.  But, I am an expert in anxiety and parenting and have a few thoughts about how testing affects those sorts of things.

I have watched standardized testing season come and go (as a psychologist and mom) for over a decade now.  And here’s the thing: they cause A LOT of anxiety, worry and nervous feelings all the way around.  In parents, in students, in teachers in administrators – probably bus drivers and custodians too – everyone’s feeling the tension.  It’s almost impossible to escape.

Here are some ideas for managing the testing season in your home:

  • Keep your routine normal.  Kids thrive on routine.  Chances are their school days will look a little different during testing season (different class schedules, dismissal times, etc) so it becomes even more important that routines remain the same at home.  Try to keep normal bedtimes, mealtimes and activities going on as usual.
  • Resist the urge to talk about testing.  Your kids – whether in 1st or 11th grade – have likely been hearing about their standardized tests for weeks as teachers prepare them for what to expect.  When they get home they might need a break from all the hype.  A simple: “How did the test go today?” is likely all you need to ask about it.  Grilling our kids, ranting about the philosophical flaws of their school system or putting extra pressure on them to perform academically is rarely helpful.  Keep it light and give them a break.
  • Teach stress management skills.  Life is full of stressors.  Mastering a couple stress management strategies in childhood can be a wonderful thing.  If your child is a little stressed on test days, consider using the opportunity to teach him some basic stress management strategies: Take deep breaths; visual a soothing, restful place; Go on a bike ride or walk.

The vast majority of kids (and parents!) make it through testing season just fine and chances are you (and I!) will, too.  If you are concerned that your child’s worry seems more intense than normal, or it doesn’t resolve after the tests are over, you might consider meeting with a psychologist.  Read more about whether therapy is needed here.

*This post first published March 2015*

More Thoughts About Stress

Photo credit: Daily Burn

For all the information out there about stress management (and on this site alone!), you would think we would all be experts at it by now. But sadly all of us (yes, even psychologists) struggle to manage stress effectively at times. Or most of the time. Or everyday.

Anyway, I recently spoke to the folks over the Daily Burn about stress, how it affects our bodies and how to manage it effectively (and not so effectively).

Here are a couple of tips:

and

To read the entire article, including how small amounts of stress affect our bodies, check out the entire article:

Tax Time Stress

Only about a week and a half remains until Tax Day.  A time of universal stress.

Will I have to pay?

Do I have all the documents I need?

Will I get enough of a refund to pay off my debts?

Will I be able to get my return filed before the deadline?

These are some of the more immediate stressors around this time of year.  But tax season can also bring up larger financial worries that plague a huge percentage of Americans.

Do I have enough saved for retirement?

Am I spending too much each year?

Are my partner and I on the same page in terms of financial goals?

A few years ago I spoke with Live Science about how to manage some of the stressors of tax time – and financial stress in general. Here’s a bit of the article:

Here’s the full article:

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?

 

Teaching Kids How To Love Their Bodies

How many of us love our bodies?

Not many.

But I think all of us would agree that we want the young people around us to love theirs.

Hmmmm….

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to model a healthy body image for our kids.  It’s actually easier than you might think to focus on all the things our bodies CAN do instead of what they CAN’T.  And it can be a fun challenge to talk about our bodies in terms of their FUNCTION (strong legs) instead of their LOOKS (flat stomach).  Check out the entire article, including all my healthy-role-model-tips here:

Do You Have News Fatigue?

Are you overwhelmed with the news?

Do you dread the constant news alerts popping up on your phone?

Are you sick of hearing about, talking about and thinking about what’s going on in Washington, DC and beyond?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from new fatigue. I know I am!  I recently got a chance to talk about why news fatigue happens – and more importantly – what to do about it! This segment aired on ScrippsTV channels across the country yesterday – including on our very own Denver Channel 7.