State of Your Life – 2020

Are you a fan of New Year’s Resolutions? It seems like they have fallen out of favor in the last few years. Instead, folks seem to be making “life/relationship/parenting/etc goals.” Perhaps that’s the same thing as making a list of resolutions, but sounds better and more do-able? Who knows.

No matter what you call it, it can be useful to slow down this time of year and spend some time thinking about 2019. How did it go? What did you do? What didn’t you do? Like a State of Your Life recap. I’m thinking about things like:

  • How are you using social media?
  • How do you feel about the words and actions you engage in everyday?
  • What’s the state of the relationships in your life?
  • How’s your self confidence? Overall mental health?
  • What do you do with your free time?
  • Are you taking care of your body in the way you’d like to?
  • Is your work life where you’d like it to be?

You get the idea.

Once you think through the State of Your Life, what are you hoping for in 2020? Are there things you’d like to do differently? Try picking one area and start making some small changes. Not sure where to start? Call an expert, read a book, or listen to a podcast for help.

Happy 2020!

How to Pick a Hobby

Last week I wrote an article about why hobbies are an important part of overall mental health. Mostly because we all need a break from the “business” of life once in a while. And it’s essential to find things that we enjoy doing “just because” and not because they have to be done (like working, taking care of family, etc).

But what if you don’t have a hobby? Some ideas about where to start:

  1. Think back to your childhood. Were there things you absolutely loved to do? Gymnastics? Drawing? Singing? Playing with toy cars? Remember those days when you had lots of free time. How did you choose to spend it?
  2. Spend a few days really paying attention to the times in your day that bring you pleasure. Is it when you’re making dinner in the evening? Talking to your best friend on the way home from work? Listening to a motivational speaker on a podcast?
  3. Pay attention to the signs/notices/announcements you inevitably come in contact with everyday. Maybe they’re tacked up at the post office, posted on your neighborhood Facebook page, or in the newspaper you read. There are opportunities all around us. Once you start paying attention to them, are there some that seem more interesting than others?
  4. Once you have a few ideas in mind from the things you noticed above, spend a bit of time learning about 2 or 3 of them. What does it really take to learn the guitar? Would developing a knitting hobby be worthwhile if you are allergic to wool? Is picking up golf within your household budget of time and money?
  5. Choose one and go with it. Oftentimes folks who are new to the world of hobbies believe they need to be absolutely passionate about something before they dive into it. Not so! In fact, people often need to try out several avocations before they find one or two that stick. And of course there’s nothing wrong with switching hobbies on a regular basis. That’s the whole point – they are pleasure for pleasure’s sake. So let go of your expectations and just enjoy!

Happy hobby-ing!

The Importance of Hobbies

What do you like to do when you’re not working, taking care of your family or doing other things that have to be done?

It’s a question that I ask folks in my office all the time. Why? Because hobbies, or avocations, are an essential part of overall mental health. Really!

Much of our time and energy is taken up by things we have to do:

  • earn money
  • take care of children, pets, aging family members
  • clean the house
  • keep the yard tidy
  • pay bills
  • manage our stuff in all its forms
  • eat, sleep, take care of our bodies

Many of these things are enjoyable (hopefully work and family are – at least some of the time!) and provide us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Both very important things!

But in order to achieve and maintain good mental health, there also needs to be some room for hobbies, or avocations. These are things that don’t have to be done, but are simply pleasurable and meaningful in their own right. For some folks, hobbies are what gives our life meaning.

Hobbies can provide us with opportunities to grow and learn. They can also give us opportunities to challenge ourselves and stretch the boundaries of our comfort zones. Some of these kinds of hobbies might be things like:

  • vegetable gardening
  • bread baking
  • fiction writing
  • playing chess
  • quilting
  • playing guitar
  • running/jogging

Often, hobbies also provide us with opportunities to socialize with other people who are interested in the same quirky things we are. But the cool thing about these relationships are that they are born out of mutual interests not out of obligation.

Stay tuned for ideas about how to pick a hobby that works for you!



Is Your Big House Hurting Your Mental Health?



I love houses. I love talking about them, thinking about them, working on them, decorating them…they provide endless amounts of entertainment and challenge.  Usually I indulge my loves of houses in my free time.  But recently I have found myself doing more talking and thinking about houses and space in my work hours as well.  Specifically, can our homes affect our mental health?  Yes.  There are many, many ways your home can affect your mental health.  Think of these situations:

People who are home-less

People who live in un-safe areas

People who live in un-clean, cluttered, and/or un-sanitary homes (think: Hoarders)

People who live in homes they cannot afford

Today I am going to talk about another group of people whose mental health is being affected by their homes: People whose homes are too darn big.  How can this be a problem?  Aren’t all of us pining to get into a house with more square footage, more rooms, more SPACE!?!?  Maybe, but I am beginning to see that too much space can be a problem as well.

Think of a how a “typical” suburban family might spend their evening: Dad in the basement watching basketball, teenager in his/her room playing video games, tween in the living room watching the Disney Channel, and mom in her bedroom reading stories on-line about Robert Pattinson.  Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

I’m afraid our homes have gotten so big (and so wired) that we often miss out on time that could be spent as a family.  Remember the old days when there was only one TV in the house and we had to take turns choosing what we wanted to watch?  Remember when we actually watched shows as a family (think: Cosby Show) and then talked about the funny parts all week?  While having our own spaces is neat and cool, I wonder if it is the best thing for our mental health, and for the health of our families?  Will we one day wake up and realize we barely know the other people living under our roof?  I hope not.

So before you buy a bigger home, or spread out to all corners of your existing house, think about what you are doing.  Share a TV, a couch, a bowl of popcorn.  Play Monopoly, or spend time just talking.  Enjoy your large spaces, but remember to spend time in close quarters with the ones you love, too.

This post originally appeared in April 2011

Remembering the Little Things

Like most people, I can get caught up in the business and busy-ness of day to day life.  Paying the bills, getting to soccer practice on time, making sure homework assignments are turned in, keeping the house stocked with food – just getting from one day to the next can be overwhelming.  Life moves so quickly that it can be difficult to slow down and appreciate the small things in life.  Yet we know that being able to appreciate the small, positive things can help improve our mental health.

How does it work? Well, it’s easy for most of us to focus on things that are going wrong, shortcomings in ourselves and others or things we have yet to accomplish.  The problem is that when we focus of those sorts of things it doesn’t do much for our mood or sense of pleasure in life. When we focus on positive, joyful things however, we can get a much-needed break from the stressors of life – even if it’s just for a moment.

Some of my simple pleasures include:

The beauty of nature:


School spirit on display:

A delicious treat:


A cool photograph:

wedding feet

The funny things my kids say.

I recently discovered Campbell’s Wisest Kid in the Whole World tool.  It’s a clever widget that allows you to record the sweet and funny things your kids say and then share them throughout social media.

Check it out here:

Campbell’s widget can help us slow down and actually record all those cute, silly things our kids say.

While browsing the Campbell’s site, I also noticed all of their kid-friendly, simple recipes. Why do kids love cream of chicken soup? I have no idea.  But what I do know is that any recipe with it included is a hit in my house.

Check out this Chicken Taco Casserole. Yum:

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 3.19.44 PM

What funny things do your kids say or eat? Be sure to record them for everyone to read at Campbell’s Wisest Kid in the Whole Wide World!


Do Your Friends Add Up?

Photo by NBC

A friend of mine was recently telling me about a tough time she had been having for the last several months. She told me about her stressors with some health issues, some financial concerns she and her partner were having, and the annoyance she was feeling about her poorly-behaved dog.  After she explained all these ailments, she noted that as bad as those were, her “friends” were even worse.

“You wouldn’t believe how they drain me!” she said.  “I realized that far too many of my friends take and take from me, and I never get anything back!”  She explained that on her journey back towards mental health, she forced herself to take stock of her relationships, assigning each person a point value. Negative values were assigned to those who made her feel bad, unhappy, or poorly about herself.  Positive values were assigned to those who helped her feel more like the person she wanted to be (kind, strong, loving, intelligent).

Now, it may sound a little harsh, scoring your friends on what they add or subtract from your life, but I love her idea.  Too often we hang onto relationships we wish would be better, hope would be closer, or feel desperate to change.  And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships – more often these are friendships with old high school friends, a neighbor, or a parent of a child’s friend.

No relationship is perfect, but one that drains for a long period of time can be downright damaging.  Maybe it’s time to take stock of the people in your life and see how they add up?

CREATE Mental Health Re-Cap

From May 2 – May 13, 2011 I celebrated CREATE Mental Health Week (it actually turned into almost 2 weeks). During these weeks I invited guest bloggers to post on Dr. Stephanie. My guests posted on all sorts of creative topics, including: cake decorating, card making, sewing, photography, gardening, and jewelry making. The authors each posted a tutorial, as well as a brief description about how creativity helps them maintain mental health. I was thrilled at the breadth and depth of the posts – and appreciate each of my guests. Take a look at the posts:

A Calendar for Cognitive Orientation by Melony Bishop of Stamping with Melony

A Little Girl’s Bracelet by Tamara Miles of Beaded Essence

“Cutting the Cheese” in Photography by Jenni Lillie of Awaken Photography

A Paper Purse by Kristen Bryant of Stamping with Kristen

A Summer Tote Bag by Sarah Markos of blueSusan

Edible Sugar Flowers by Rachael Teufel of Intricate Icings

Button Clips for Big Girls’ Hair by Laurel MacDougal of Ducks in a Row

Healthy Garden, Healthy Food, Healthy People by Dr. Kaycie Rosen of Golden Naturopathic Clinic

A Greeting Card by Jessica Taylor of Ink it Up!

CREATE Mental Health Week – Making a Calendar for Orientation

This is a guest post in the series CREATE Mental Health. All week we will be exploring how different people use creativity to create and maintain mental health. Today’s post is by Melony Bishop. Melony writes the blog, Stamping with Melony.  I love this idea – it blends creativity and function beautifully!  Welcome, Melony!

When my friend Faith recently approached me about creating a special stamping project, I couldn’t help but realize the additional cognitive benefits that were involved in this sweet hand-made gift.  Faith wanted to make a daily calendar for her aging father-in-law  to help him stay oriented to the date each day….  What a simple but powerful tool for this man and his caregivers!  A daily calendar hand-made by his beloved daughter-in-law!  What a fantastic way to “CREATE MENTAL HEALTH” in this man’s life!  (Maybe it’s the Occupational Therapist in me that couldn’t resist this purposeful creative calendar coupled with a cognitve component.)

After many hours, here is the fruit of this “labor of love” for Faith’s father-in-law!  🙂

Notice the details involved!  We designed and hand-made a central month page for each of the 12 months with a seasonal theme.  We then designed coordinating mattes for the days of the week and the date of the month for either side of the month.

Faith used the GoGo Boots Die Cut letters with the Big Shot to cut and adhere the names of each of the days of the week that can be rotated daily throughout the year.
She used the Simple Numbers Die Cuts to die cut each of the dates of the month to also rotate through each of the days of the months.  Both the days and dates were cut from Early Espresso Cardstock and adhered to 4×4 Whisper White squares using 2-way glue.

We hand-made little embellishments for all of the various holidays and special days throughout the year and adhered magnets to the backsides that will magnet onto the metal clips on the clipboard to designate those special days of the year.  :)  We stamped multiple different years as well for the center clip.

We used clear box cases to organize and keep all of the pages safe and handy for his caregiver to swap each day of the year.

Check out the rest of the months of the year that we created……..

CREATE Mental Health Week – Photography

This is a guest post in the series CREATE Mental Health. All week we will be exploring how different people use creativity to create and maintain mental health. Today’s post is by Jenni Lillie. Jenni is the owner of Awaken Photography, which specializes in wedding and family photography.  Welcome, Jenni!

Cut the “CHEESE!”

Photographing kids can be very fun, unpredictable and stressful. When I photograph a family, I can tell right away how their family takes pictures. A lot of times as soon as I point the camera at them they will look at me with a cheesy, fake grin. Sometimes the kids will even yell “cheese,” a prompting born out of repetitive habits and norms.

But there’s a different option out there. If you are tired of the “cheese” smile my suggestion is to “cut the cheese.” Just don’t say it anymore. If you want more natural-looking photos of your kids, do the opposite–don’t demand they look at the camera at all. Follow them around, observe, and snap away. Photograph the details of their day or their lives. Do they have a special blanket, toy or sport? Let them play and get photos of them being themselves. Those will be the memories and moments you cherish.

Finally, it will be more enjoyable and fun for everyone involved to not force the photo to happen a certain way. Removing our expectations frees us to just capture them naturally. There’s always a place for posed photos, so I wouldn’t discard them completely. And when that time comes, get your kids laughing and snap the genuine smiles they have and not the toothy “cheese” grin you may be used to.