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January 19, 2011

Hello Loyal Dr Stephanie Readers!

Thanks so much for your support of my blog.  I wanted to let you know that I have moved my blog to:

http://www.drstephaniesmith.com

Please check me out over there!  You’ll find many more postings, including my series: The Winter Blahs.

Thanks for reading!

Adios Amigo: The Importance of Unfriending

January 7, 2011

One of my Facebook “friends” started out the new year by announcing that as part of his New Year’s resolutions he was going to be cleansing his Facebook account of all unwanted friends*.  At the end of his post he announced that his unwanted “friends” would know they didn’t make the cut when they no longer saw his (frequent) posts.  At first I thought: “How rude!” Why would he proclaim such a thing for all the world to see?  But as I thought about it more, it occurred to me how important this act really is.

Do any of us really have 647 friends?  Do we really want to know what some of those old high school classmates are doing?  Do we really want to hear about the neighbors’ kids’ little league stats after every game?  Do we really want to know that our old college friend can still fit into her wedding dress 15 years later?  Um…no.

So perhaps as we start a new year, in addition to organizing our closets, and coming up with creative resolutions, we can also try to remember the definition of a true friend:  Someone we really care for, and want the best for – and someone who wants the same for us.  Someone we would rather pick up the phone and talk to, or drive across town for – and not someone whose life we watch from a computer screen miles away.

And perhaps by clearing out the non-friends from our “friends” list, we can remember who – and what – is important in our lives.  What makes us happy and what relieves our stress?  If we are honest with ourselves, reading about far away people from our distant past only makes us out of touch with the people and things we truly care about in the here and now.

*I didn’t make the cut

 

Craft Time: Good for Our Mental Health

January 4, 2011

Whether it’s at preschool, elementary school, home, girl scouts, or even in the psychologist’s office – I have found that almost all kids love crafts. Even tough 12-year-old boys can usually be talked into making a collage out of sports magazines or decorating a poster for their rooms.

But sometimes I wonder what kids really get out of arts and crafts. Is it really worth it to lug out all those craft supplies and then (ugh) put them all back? And what about the psychological effects of crafting – is it something I should be including in my professional work? And what about for us adults? Should one of our New Year’s resolutions be to spend more time at the easel (or sewing machine, or potter’s wheel, or table saw)?

Below are some thoughts about the benefits of participating in arts and crafts…and I hope to hear your thoughts on some I am sure I have missed.

It’s creative. Ok, so this is a no-brainer. But I think it is important to remember that kids (and adults too) don’t have much time to be fully creative in their everyday lives. Math problems, gym class, homework assignments, chores at home – most of these things need to be done in a certain way. But art is something different. When presented in an open-ended way, kids are free to do/create/design whatever they please.

It’s messy. An important part of learning and development includes experiencing different sensations in a tactile way. Squishy, sticky, pokey, fuzzy. Craft supplies can provide kids with opportunities to feel all these sensations. In addition, arts and crafts time allows us to get some paint on our hands and glue under our nails. Most kids enjoy creating a mess – and teaching them to help clean up afterwords is an important benefit too.

It’s not about perfection. I am an anti-perfectionist. And I encourage others around me to forego perfectionism as well. Kids and adults who hold themselves to such high standards often struggle to enjoy life, try new things, and be tolerant of others. Crafts can be a wonderful way to help kids get used to the idea of enjoying the creative process, instead of getting hung up on a perfect end result.

It’s a good way to get talking. If you’ve ever been part of a quilting bee, a sewing circle, or any kind of craft group you know that the main purpose of the group is often not the craft, but the conversations that happen in between. When our hands and eyes are busy creating, it often makes it easier for us to talk about tough things. Having trouble getting your tween to open up? Teenager not talking like she used to? Try doing a craft together and see what happens.

Need some ideas about where to start in the crafting world? Check out Family Fun Magazine, take a class at Michael’s; or for older kids and grown-ups check out Made (one of my favorite blogs), or V and Co.

Getting Organized…for Good

January 3, 2011

Guest Post: Written by Kelly Moore, owner Moore Efficiency Solutions Denver, CO.

Getting organized in the New Year is on many of our minds as we plan our resolutions.  We make ambitious plans to “stay on top of things” so that we can stress less and accomplish more.  Yet the resolution to finally “get organized” can be full of pitfalls and setbacks.  If becoming more organized is on your list of resolutions this year, check out these tips:

Begin the Battle.  One of the biggest barriers to becoming organized hits many of us right off the bat: “Where in the world to start?”  The garage?  The attic?  The kitchen?  The office?  The answer?  Start where it will have the most impact for you on a day-to-day basis.  This will keep you motivated and energized to tackle more organizing projects as you reap the benefits of your hard work.  Consider where you spend a significant amount of time.  For many of us it is likely a location such as the kitchen, your office, or a family room.

Maintain Your Focus.  Managing your time while working on an organizing project can be tricky.  Have  you ever set out to organize your home office, say, only to look up at the clock an hour later because you got distracted looking at your old high school yearbook?  Sometimes good intentions quickly evaporate as we become distracted during the organizing process. Try this trick: Set an egg timer for 10 minutes.  Begin your organizing task, and when it goes off ask yourself, “Am I still doing what I need to be doing or do I need to re-focus?”

Don’t Go it Alone. One reason organizing on your own can be overwhelming is because you can lose perspective on the things that are and aren’t important.  If you are someone who tends to hang onto things “just in case,” consider asking a friend or hiring a professional organizer to help you wade through your possessions.  Someone without an emotional attachment to your things can help you make decisions about what you really should keep and what’s just taking up space.  It might be hard to believe, but you probably won’t miss that 80’s cocktail dress in your closet that’s 2 sizes too small.

Go Easy on Yourself (and Your Kids…and Your Spouse). What can ruin your feeling of organizing accomplishments faster than anything else?  Walking into a recently organized space only to find that your kids (or spouse) have foiled your efforts!  Before you say or do something you regret, remember organization is not a going to happen overnight.  It is a lifestyle that takes time to become habit.  Communicate and reinforce your expectations to your family.  If you expect your kids to hang their coat and backpack in the entryway, be sure to do it yourself and be prepared to remind them when they forget. If you want to be organized in the long haul, be patient with yourself and your kids – good habits take lots of practice.

 

Kelly Moore, owner - Moore Efficiency Solutions

Creative Goal Setting for 2011

January 1, 2011

Today may be January 1st, but since Monday is still a couple of days away, we get a few more days to set our goals before we really have to start working on them – a little New Year’s bonus! Just as I proclaimed gratitude for 99-cent coffee, felt, and Taylor Swift on Thanksgiving, today I’m thinking of real-life, practical, creative,  and do-able goals for 2011:

Remembering roller skating (unfortunately without the skirt and leg-warmers)

Remember past passions. I’m not talking about your high school crush here, but activities we used to love and have forgotten.  Knitting, dancing, photography, roller skating, snowboarding.  What have you stopped doing because life has gotten too busy?  Because you’ve gotten too “old”?  Because money’s too tight?  When I stop and think about it, there are quite a few old passions I have let go stale.  In 2011 I will remember these old flames and give them a chance to ignite my interest once again.

Make my heart race. I have a theory: one of the keys to happiness is pushing ourselves to do things that make us nervous – and succeeding in doing them!  And not just a little nervous, but real heart-pounding, palm-sweating experiences.  These heart-racing activities need not be dangerous, but simply challenging to us.  Taking a rock climbing class, joining Toastmasters, doing a live radio interview, or signing up for a half-marathon in June – what will get your heart thumping this year?

Quit trying so hard. In looking for others’ creative resolutions, I landed on one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love.  I was particularly impressed with Resolution #4 for 2011: “Take the people pleasing thing down a notch.”  Isn’t this something with which so many of us struggle?  Trying to be everything to everyone?  Rarely saying no?  Compromising ourselves to make things easier for others?  Sound familiar?  To quote Young House Love:

“…this Bill Cosby gem is our new mantra: ‘I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.’ Here’s hoping we can trust ourselves to share our lives in a way that feels the most authentic & exciting to us.”

Keep track. I’m pretty sure I read over 100 books last year.  The bummer is, I didn’t keep track so I don’t know for sure.  This year I am committing to log everything I read (and maybe even jotting down a couple of notes) so that never again do I start reading a new library book only to discover it is something I’ve already read.

First book of 2011

 

Is there something you could keep better track of?  Recipes you’ve tried?  Movies you’ve seen?

Stay tuned later this week for more tips about how to keep track of things and get organized (once and for all!) in 2011.

 

You’re Driving Me Crazy – Surviving the Holiday Week

December 28, 2010

 

Is this you?

 

 

Oh, the post-Christmas doldrums.  The holiday preparations are over, the gifts are unwrapped, the cookies are all eaten.  And all that’s left for us are a stack of thank-you notes to write, dusty decorations to pack away, and a whole week left of family togetherness until school/work starts again.

Oh, the dreams we had earlier in the month about spending quality time with our kids, our spouses, our extended families.  We would sled out back, sip hot cocoa, and make lots of warm, happy memories to cherish. But the reality of so much togetherness can be very different from our eggnog-induced fantasies.  As our kids develop cabin fever and start climbing the walls, our stress levels can go through the roof.  Our spouses encroach on our space and it starts to feel as though every room in the house is shrinking.  It’s enough to make someone run screaming into the nearest snow drift!

So what can be done to head off this end-of-year family overload?

Keep up your normal routine. Like to take a walk every morning? Have a cup of tea at 3?  Have lunch with your mom on Wednesdays?  Just because schedules are wacky this week, it doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things that help you stay sane.

Get healthy. A sure-fire way to get myself feeling irritable is to eat crappy food and forgo exercise.  Unfortunately, it is particularly difficult during this week to eat right, drink water, and get lots of fresh air.  Those holiday leftovers just call my name so loud!  But really, why wait until January 1st to start treating your body right? Pitch the cookies and try a clementine instead.

Appreciate life. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we were looking forward to this week? No homework to prepare, no deadlines to meet, and lots of visits with family and friends to look forward to.  Instead of wishing this week away, try appreciating the change of pace – if for no other reason than to realize how nice your normal school/work schedule really is.

 

…And One More Thing About Girlfriends…

December 18, 2010

After having a little holiday celebration with one of my very best girlfriends, I realized I forgot something on the list of my last post.  And that something is: Girlfriends give you the confidence to shoot for the stars.  Aiming to run a marathon by the end of the year though you’ve never moved faster than a trot?  Planning to ask your boss for a raise?  Starting your own blog? Expanding your business? Publishing a book?  If you’re feeling less-than-confident about your dreams for 2011, check in with a girlfriend.  My hunch is that she will give you all the courage you need.

Girlfriends and the Holidays: A Match Made in Heaven

December 15, 2010

I almost started crying the other day when I was out to lunch.  There were 2 tables near mine full of women, clearly celebrating the holidays together.  I don’t know how the ladies knew each other, but I daydreamed that perhaps they were book clubs, or neighbors, or maybe had children in the same preschool years ago, or were part of a big family of sisters.  Whatever their relationships, watching them was enchanting.

While the ages of the women varied, they all had a few things in common: they all carried cute little gift bags, and they all wore something holiday-ish (a red scarf, a Christmas pin, a sparkly bag).  And they all looked happy – they smiled and laughed and hugged. It warmed by heart.  And it also got me thinking about the importance of girlfriends.  Because they are essential for women – and no matter how hard we try to make our husbands/boyfriends/partners into a girlfriend, it is never going to happen.  There are just some things that girlfriends can do, that the men in our life never will.

“Oooooooh, I love it!” I heard a lot of this at the restaurant the other day.  As each woman approached the tables, the others exclaimed loudly: “Ooooooh, I LOVE that pin – did you make it?” or “oh my gosh! I love your highlights!” or “Jane, you look amazing – so young and fresh!”  The enthusiasm and affection were overwhelming – and infectious.
I think I’ve heard that before. I can spend hours talking about the same thing.  And then I can talk about it for hours again the next day.  One of my favorite things about girlfriends is that they don’t get sick of listening.  The smallest development in the latest saga, and they listen to the whole story again – and actually seem interested! I know very few men who can hang in there for years on end as the women in their lives wax on and on about the same old thing – but girlfriends can do it with ease.
I think I’ve felt that before. In my clinical work I frequently offer group sessions because I believe in the power of shared experiences.  It is so affirming – and such a relief – to discover that someone else has gone through rough patches in their marriages, gone into debt, struggled with weight, or fantasized about the bachelor down the street too.
I think I can make it now. Spending time with a girlfriend can be energizing.  Laughter, shared experiences, and feeling understood can go a long way in helping to manage stress during this time of year (or anytime, really).  So enjoy those Christmas get-togethers, gift exchanges, holiday teas, and impromptu cookie feasts – and know that you are doing something good for your mental health!
photo by: Cafemama

Surviving the Holidays – with Flair

December 9, 2010

Here it is. My obligatory post on holiday stress. Every year reporters, clients, family, and friends ask me the same question “How can I get through the holidays without losing my mind?” And every year I try to come up with some new, interesting, and actually useful tips so we can all get to January 2nd with our bodies and minds intact. Try the tips below and I guarantee you’ll have fun – and maybe even take the stress level down a notch or two.

Bust out the bling. I was watching Oprah interview Naomi and Wynonna Judd yesterday and I couldn’t

Look closely and you can see the sparkle

take my eyes off Tammy’s bling. I mean, that girl sparkled! Her eyelids, her hands, her arms, her shoes – just about every surface blazed with jewels. As I sat mesmerized by the glow I realized that if a 64-year-old woman can pull off that kind of bling – so can I. And what better time of year to don all your jewels (real and fake) at once?!

 

Get outside. I love being outside, but even a sunshine addict like me can be stuck indoors for days during the holiday season. Baking cookies, wrapping gifts, shopping online – all inside activities. But we know fresh air, sunshine, and a quick walk can help relieve stress – so get out there and soak up the cool, crisp air.

Put the card down. Now. I try not to be negative in this blog, but I have to ask: When did Christmas become the season of bragging? I love receiving Christmas cards, reading sweet sentiments for the new year, and looking at photos of friends I haven’t seen in a while. But I dread the cards with long lists of accomplishments for each family member. “Tommy got 1st place in every swim meet this summer, is the starting quarterback as a Freshman, got the lead in the school play, and is now taking math courses at the University!” or “In addition to running my cupcake business and publishing my third novel, I am also the triplets’ Brownie troop leader, the president of the PTA (for the 4th year in a row – a record!), and completed 2 marathons.” These types of cards are enough to throw me into a fit of irritation, disgust, and feelings of inadequacy. Just what I DON’T need. Next time I think I’ll just leave the offensive Christmas cards/resumes for next year.

Keep it sexy. Yes, Christmas is a family holiday, but it can also be sexy. And who among us couldn’t use a little something to spice up the season?

Whether it’s watching a show like this:

Or looking at pictures of people like this:

Or this:

Or maybe wearing something like this:

Have fun, and don’t forget to bring your sexy back.

Study Participants Wanted

December 8, 2010

I am posting the following notice from my colleague Dr Keely Kolmes who is conducting a study on therapy, social media, and clients.  Please read on for more information:

Are you a person 18 years old or over, who has been in psychotherapy,
and has sought or found information about your therapist on the
Internet? If so, we would appreciate your taking the time to complete a survey.

Our names are Keely Kolmes and Dan Taube and we are licensed
psychologists who would like to request your participation in our
research on the effects of encountering your past or current
therapist’s information on the Internet. This study has been approved
by the Institutional Review Board of Alliant International University.

As a participant, you will be asked to complete an online survey
covering your basic demographic information and your experiences
regarding seeking or accidentally discovering information about your
therapist on the Internet. We expect the survey to take about 20 to 35
minutes to complete.

Your input may help therapists to better understand if and how this
information affects clients.

No names or personal information will be linked to the study and your
participation will be completely anonymous so long as you do not put
your name in your responses. If you should wish to contact the
researchers directly, your participation may become confidential
rather than anonymous, although your name will not be linked to any of
the data you submit.

To be eligible for the study, you must be 18 or older, currently in
psychotherapy, or have been in psychotherapy in the past, and have
encountered or sought information about your therapist on the Internet.

If you meet the above criteria and are interested in participating in
the study, you can access the survey at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/finalclient

If you do not qualify for the study but you know others who might be
interested in participating, feel free to forward this notice or URL.

Thank you for your interest and participation.

Sincerely,

Keely Kolmes, Psy.D. drkkolmes@hushmail.com

Daniel Taube, Ph.D., J.D. dtaube@alliant.edu