CREATE Mental Health Week – Making a Greeting Card

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 Jessica Taylor, of the blog Ink It Up! with Jessica.  Welcome, Jessica!

Making your own cards does not require an entire afternoon and a room full of craft supplies.  Here’s how to make a quick and easy card that will have you feeling crafty when you’re done:
Begin by gathering your supplies.  Paper, rubber stamps, ink, punches, adhesive… whatever you have on hand.
Patterned paper gives your card a quick, fun design.  Cut a piece to fit on the front of your card and tape it into place.  (No patterned paper?  Try wrapping paper!)
Use a rubber stamp and ink to stamp a greeting.  (No stamp and ink?  Print out a greeting from your computer.)
Punch out your greeting and a piece of coordinating paper to layer behind it.
Tape the greeting to the front of your card and you’re done!
“Making cards always lifts my spirits and gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Plus, I know that sending a card to someone will make their day too!”

Glee and OCD

Did you see last night’s Glee? As you know I am a huge Gleek, so I think all episodes are awesome, but this one was particularly good. I especially liked the way they addressed Emma Pillsbury’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an easy disorder to make fun of. Furious hand washing, repeated checking of light switches, constant organizing of canned goods – the possibilities for showing the disorder in a “humorous” light are endless. Thankfully, Glee has chosen not to take the easy path of humor, but has instead chosen to seriously discuss the disorder.

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder (which was nicely pointed out on the show) that can affect people in many ways. Obsessive, constant thoughts and worries; Compulsions to engage in certain behaviors over and over; A combination of both; OCD is expressed in many ways. However one’s OCD is expressed, a common point is that it is disruptive to life in some way. OCD can make performing one’s job difficult, maintaining relationships a struggle (as in the case of Ms. Pillsbury), or simply enjoying things you used to impossible.

Luckily, there is treatment for OCD. As the psychiatrist on Glee pointed out: a combination of medication therapy and psychotherapy are typically the best bet for effective treatment. It takes work and time to enjoy a relief in symptoms, but it is possible – and in fact likely – that with consistent treatment the disorder will become less severe.

Some resources:

International OCD Foundation

American Psychological Association

Spring Cleaning for Mental Health

Many of us think about our health around the first of the year when we make resolutions: lose 10 pounds, start working out, quit smoking.  But by April, many of us have not only given up our New Year’s resolutions, but have also stopped thinking about our health altogether.  Instead of focusing your spring cleaning solely on your home, why not do some spring cleaning in the area of mental health too?  Some areas that might need tidying:

Money. Money can be a significant source of stress this time of year.  Taxes are due and summer vacation balances need to be paid.  Take an honest look at your budget.  Are you spending within your means?  Is your money being spent on things that are important to you?

Time. I like to think of time as a commodity just like money.  If your first priority is your family, does your “time budget” reflect that?  If not, you may be experiencing strain and stress.  Find yourself not being able to enjoy relationships, work, and hobbies because of lack of time?  It might be time to re-think your schedule.

Friends. Healthy relationships are essential to mental health.  I encourage folks to be mindful of who they are spending their precious time with, and how those folks affect their mood.  Feel drained after spending time with the neighbor down the street?  Might be time to re-think the friendship.

Work. Many of us spend a huge percentage of our waking hours at work.  It then becomes critical to our mental health that we do everything we can to make those hours positive.  How is work going?  Are you still happy in your position?  Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) change jobs, there are plenty of things you can do to feel more fulfilled in your current position.  Set new priorities and goals, alter how you interact with your co-workers and boss, set a “no work-talk” zone at home as a way to separate work and home life.

Good luck tidying up your mental health this spring.  With just a little extra attention and effort this might be your most psychologically healthy spring and summer yet.

This article also appears in this month’s Golden Holistic Medicine News.

No Screen Week Activity – Royal Wedding Planning

This is what a canape looks like. Yum

Are you a royal watcher? I am – and I am super excited about Prince William & Kate’s upcoming wedding next Friday.  I have vague memories of dressing up as a bagpipe for Princess Diana’s wedding 30 years ago (why did they put me in that costume?).  For next week’s event I will be wearing something a little more flattering, but I’m sure the party will be just as fun and the wedding just as sensational.

An idea for this no screen week: plan a royal wedding party.  I heard on the Today Show they will be serving canapes at the reception.  Check out some recipes here.  They also like to wear hats to weddings in England.  Try making your own!  See ideas here.  The cool thing is that your pretty hat can be used again for the Kentucky Derby the following weekend!

Hats and canapes not enough? Really want to get into the wedding spirit?  Buy your very own wedding dress.  I bought one at a second hand shop a couple of months ago, and cannot tell you how much fun it has been.  The $15 I spent on it was well worth the hours of giggles and fun it has provided.

$15 wedding dress = hours of fun

Even if you are not into the royal wedding, you can use your new-found screen free time to plan an extra fun birthday party, Memorial Day BBQ, or Father’s Day bash.  Party and activity planning are great activities for parents and kids to do together.  You can even involve neighbors and classmates.  The point is to do something different, active, and together!

Have a great celebration!

photo by: Skeezix’s Scratching Post



National Screen Free Week!

Today marks the start of one of my favorite weeks of the year – Screen Free Week.  This is a week when families are encouraged to get off the couch, turn off the TV, computer, and video games and do something different.  Engage with each other, get active outside, try something new!  Last year I pledged to remain screen free for the week and I (almost) made it.  Read about my experiences here.

This year I am going to try it again – will you make the pledge with me?

Some thoughts via National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There program:

“The tolls of an indoor childhood include:

  1. Declining creativity, concentration, and social skills
  2. Doubling of the childhood obesity rate with an incremental $100 billion annual cost to our public health system
  3. Alarming increase in prescribed antidepressants for American children over the past 10 years

Outdoor play offers physical, emotional and health benefits:

  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes of daily unstructured free play to improve children’s physical and mental health
  2. National Association for the Education of Young Children cites that play is an active form of learning that unites the mind, body, and spirit
  3. Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative, less aggressive, and show better concentration”

Want more information about the Be Out There program, or want to sign a pledge? Check them out here:And check back here throughout the week for ideas of new, fun things to do with your family while you spend the week screen free!

Photo by: Sha3teely


Tax Weekend – Are You Stressed?

3 more days and counting until Tax Day!  How is your stress level?  I contributed to an article written on LiveScience that came out today on tax day stress relief.  I thought I would write a bit more about my comments here.

I think there are a couple of main points about managing Tax Day Stress (and most kinds of stress for that matter):

Keep on Keeping on. Most of us already have at least one good coping skill on board already: walking, deep breathing, weekly book club, watching Days of Our Lives.  Whatever it is – keep doing it this weekend.  Resist the urge to try another, unhealthy way to cope (drinking too much, pick up cigarette smoking, go on a shopping spree).

Ask for help. Trouble figuring out the tax forms?  Reading your W-2?  Turning on Turbo Tax?  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.  Whether it’s your mom or your accountant, there’s no shame in getting assistance – this is tough stuff.

Want more ideas? Read the American Psychological Association’s tip sheet on managing Tax Day stress.

Photo by: RudeCactus




A Good Friendship

I spend a significant amount of time thinking about friendship and what makes it work. Perhaps it’s because I have had my heart broken by friends in the past – though I have been lucky enough to have some successful friendships too. Either way, friendships between girls/women can be tricky business. Some observations:

  • It’s OK to have short-term friendships. While we may think the “ideal” friendship is one that lasts for many years, there is something to be said for friendships that last for a shorter period of time. I’ve made friends with classmates, co-workers, neighbors who were in my life for only months or a couple of years at a time. Once that period of my life was over, so was the friendship. I have come to realize that that’s OK. It doesn’t mean the friendship was meaningless – it just served its purpose then faded.
  • Sex and the City is not real life. While most of us would love to have Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha as our friends – forever gossiping, traveling, and bonding together, the fact is, that rarely happens. More typically women have just one or two close friends (if they’re lucky) and often their close friends are not friends with each other. Expecting your life to be like Carrie Bradshaw’s just isn’t realistic for most of us (and really, would we want her life anyway?).
  • The “best friend” designation can be hurtful. If your tween and teen years were anything like mine, you spent a good deal of time negotiating who your BFF was. The thing is, I often see/hear adult women going through the same thing. And then once that BFF is found, a declaration is made to the world (or on Facebook). This might make the two in the friendship feel good, but it often hurts others. Is it necessary to claim one friend superior to all the others? What purpose does it really serve?
  • Someone who wants the best for you. One of my friends once told me that she had purged all of her friendships, and saved only those she could say this about:

“I only keep friends who I truly want to see happy and thriving, and who only want the best for me. I’m done with women who secretly want me to fail, mess up, or who harbor jealousies towards me. I’m through with “friends” who listen to my problems then blab.  The only women I want in my life are those who can be truly happy for me when I succeed and vice versa. ”

My friend’s pronouncement changed the way I think about friendships.  Watching her keep only the supportive, nurturing relationships in her life was liberating for her (and me!).

  • Breaking up is hard to do. When friendships between women or girls ends it hurts.  A lot.  We may not see this type of heartbreak in movies like we see the breakup of romances, but they still happen.  And they take time to get over.  It’s OK to feel pain, regret, guilt, etc over the breakup of a friendship.
  • Friendships take a long time to cultivate. Someone once told me it takes 3-5 years to make a good friend, or group of friends.  I didn’t believe it at the time, but I sure do now.  There might be exceptions to the rule, but in general it takes a lot longer to grow a friendship than we might think.  So go easy on yourself if you are new to a community or job and don’t have a good friend yet – be patient (and a good friend yourself) and you’ll get there.
  • It should feel good. It’s taken me many years to realize something relatively simple: friendship should feel good.  Sure there will be times when your heart aches for a friend who’s hurting, but for the most part, friends should make you feel good (and you should make them feel good, too).  Uplifted, energized, heard, accepted – these are some of the emotions you might feel after a lunch date with a friend.  If the feelings are different (jealous, frustrated, angry, low self esteem, etc) it might be time to re-think the friendship.

What have you learned about friendship over the years?  What did I miss?

photo via VitaminSea


Who Are You?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and she asked me: “Who are you?”  I was about to answer when she added a rule:

“When you answer,” she said “you can’t mention any of the roles you have.  For example, you can’t say mom, psychologist, friend, daughter.  It has to be who you are not what you do and/or who you do it for.”

Yikes.  That’s a tough one.  I have to admit, it has been a long time since I have thought of myself separate from the roles I play.  I used to think about it all the time.  Some examples:

  • When I was 8 I was someone who loved swimming and Kirk Cameron
  • When I was 15 I was someone who loved hippie clothes, crystal necklaces, and doing things on my own (read: not with my parents)
  • When I was 20 I was was someone who had a love of fitness activities and traveling
  • When I was 25 I was someone who had a passion for working with people, was committed to my studies, and was a huge University of Denver ice hockey fan

So who are we now? Now that we are not the pie-in-the-sky, anything-is-possible children we once were?  Think about it.  What makes you happy?  What makes your heart race with excitement?  What do you look forward to?  Being able to answer these questions will help you answer the question: “Who are you?” Good luck!

…and with some thought, I’m thinking I am now someone who loves watching videos new:

and old:

Psychology and Space: Is Your House Affecting 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.

photo by:


Ex-Boyfriends & Facebook

Oh, Facebook.  Who knew I had so much to say about you?  Maybe it’s because you are involved in a large percentage of the conversations I have (inside and outside of my office).  Maybe it’s because I have some deep-seated psychological issues with you stemming from childhood?  I’m not sure.  Regardless, here goes another post…

Perhaps there are a few folks out there who have re-connected with old lovers, boyfriends, and crushes on Facebook and it has turned out great.  But more often, it doesn’t.  What do we really hope to accomplish when we “Friend Request” our old prom date?  Do we want to re-kindle the flame?  Re-hash old times?  Peer into their current life?  Are any of these worth the risk?

And believe me, the risks are many.  Chatting on-line with an old lover can be a slippery slope to other types of, huh-hum, communications.  Whether or not we are currently in a relationship, it is important to be aware of the temptations these on-line interludes pose.  Posting on each others walls, to IM’ing each other during work, to meeting for coffee, to meeting for other “things” can happen more quickly than you might imagine.  The lure of romance and the memory of youth can be difficult things to turn down, particularly if your current relationship has grown predictable and less than steamy.

And what about our emotional health?  How will re-living the glory days serve us?  For some it can be fun and nostalgic.  For others it can be a sad reminder that life didn’t turn out the way we expected.  Even if we are content in our current situations, there is nothing like seeing an old boyfriend on Facebook who lives in a mansion, travels the world, and has a supermodel for a wife to make us feel as if we don’t measure up.  Do any of us really need that?  I sure don’t.

photo by: jfiddler