The Self-Esteem Shout Out

During a time when my self-esteem was in the crapper my therapist suggested I start a list of things I liked about myself. It sounded so cheesy, like advice I'd find in an Oprah magazine (no offense, Oprah). But he persisted. Write a list of things I liked about myself, put the list on my bedside table and look at it first thing every morning.

The list was very short to start. I liked my hair. That was it. He gave me a few suggestions. Really, he thought I was smart? Yes, he said, put it on the list. So my list grew a bit.

It was a sign of how badly I was feeling that I couldn't come up with much more than platitudes. I was kind. I was honest. Big deal. The breakthrough came when Dr. Greenbaum asked, "What would your friends say about you?" Oh, that was easy! And my list grew some more.

Therese J. Borchard, takes the self-esteem list a step further. On her recent post on the PsychCentral blog she suggests starting a Self-Esteem File by shouting out to friends, family, mentors, co-workers, for their input. Instead of imagining what friends would say about you, you actually ask them to write what they think of you in their own words. Very powerful stuff.

This technique of having a written witness of your positive attributes really does work. Before long instead of dreading the morning, I looked forward to waking up to read my list. It sustained me through the day until I was able to do it on my own. Slowly the attributes weren't what others thought of me, I believed it myself, as if I had swallowed the list and it became a part of me.

So get over the cheesy factor and give it a try. Your self-esteem will grow bit by bit, day by day. 

For more on Therese J. Borchard go to blog Beyond Blue. She also moderates Group Beyond Blue, the Beliefnet Community online support group for depression. Her memoir “Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” will be released in May of 2009.

More good news! Coffee May Be Good For You!

DSC01229My brother, a physician who practices in Michigan, sent me this link this morning. I
read it as I was sipping my first cup of the day.

Coffee Linked to Lower Dementia Risk

Red wine, dark chocolate, Mozart, and now coffee. God in her wisdom has given us these gifts. Life is good.

Do You Have Free Money Waiting for You?


 Check it out!

A few weeks ago I received an email from my sister-in-law. She saw an item on the nightly news that said qualified New York residents were owed billions of dollars from the state government. She went to the website to see if it was for real.

It totally was!

She found my name listed as being eligible for a remittance from New York. It didn't say how much or why, but what the heck?

The steps for getting the money back were easy. The very next day I downloaded the form, filled it out, went to the bank to get it notarized, popped it in the mail, and completely forgot about it.

Only a few weeks later, this check was in my mailbox. OK, it wasn't for a whole lot but I will not sniff at legitimately found money of any amount. Would you?

Here's what I think happened. Ages ago I returned a skirt I bought at Talbots. They gave me a store credit that I never used. I know! Who forgets store credit? It must have been a crazy time for me or else everything in Talbots was dreck. Anyhoo…Talbots turned it over to the State Comptroller's office and there it sat, patiently waiting for me to claim it.

So if you are, or ever were, a New York resident, why not see if the State Comptroller is holding any money for you? Here's what he says,

"I am very committed to returning account owners with their unclaimed funds, so feel free to encourage others to check my Internet website [he's got to be an old fart to say 'Internet website' but we love him anyway] at: or have them call my Hotline…"  ~Thomas P. DiNapoli, State Comptroller

Inside NYS call 800-221-9311 & Outside NYS 518-270-2200.

Good luck!

The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

The Fierce Urgency of Now

“But we refuse to believe that the bank
of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds
in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this
check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and
the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind
America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury
of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time
to make real the promises of democracy”

~Dr. Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

Dr. King, in the excerpt above, was referring to racial segregation in America. Today his words are as relevant in light of the beating every citizen’s Constitutional rights has taken over the last eight years. And his use of financial metaphor!  Wow! How apt is that?

Let’s enjoy and celebrate this day, the Inauguration Day of our new president. Let this day feed our self-esteem, individually and as a nation. Let’s be proud because, as much as today is about President Barack Obama, it is equally about us, the citizens of the United States of America, all of us, no matter who we voted for. We did it!

Self-Esteem for Kids

I love Dr. Brazelton, the child rearing guru.  When my kids were small I read his stuff all the time. We can always learn a thing or two from our kids. Take a look at this article about Brazelton's approach.

On Self-Esteem Building for Kids

Thoughts on the Hudson Emergency Landing

2773344200_8fc6b9bfeaYesterday morning I was eating breakfast at the Anchor Bar Restaurant at the 
Buffalo Niagara International Airport. My flight was due to leave in 1 hour. No fewer than four TV screens were on at once, all of them showing their angle of the emergency landing on the Hudson. What was going through my head:

1) How cool is Captain Shullenberger, the pilot? By all accounts a humble man, he already has not one, but two fan pages on facebook with hundreds of people from around the world thanking and praising him, his heroism and his "It's just my job, Ma'am," attitude.

2) That birds probably brought the plane down is at once awesome and scary. Nature has a way of reminding us we're not as in control of things as we think we are.

3) CNN actually addressed the psychological needs of the survivors As a psychologist I have radar attuned to psych-stigma in the media. When the media surprises me with sophisticated, helpful information concerning mental health I sit up like a Beagle scenting bacon.

4) What a day to be flying! Once upon a time I had a terrible fear of flying. It wasn't awful enough to keep me from traveling but it was bad. Days before my flight I'd have nightmares of disasters. A prescription of Valium helped me get on the plane. Cognitive Behavioral treatment and practice, made it possible for me to fly yesterday without medication and in relative peace of mind.

5) Every one loves a happy ending. Just look at those passengers faces. "It's good to be alive."

Five Tips for Less Bridal War, More Bridal Peace

2237421166_342cc7c91dAt some point in the movie Bride Wars the focus turns away from the
battling bffs and toward the couples about to be married. The wedding planner, played by Candace Bergen, explains the dynamics underlying how the engaged couples weather the wedding preparation. 

She says something like: In wedding planning there are an infinite number of decisions to make, compromises to reach, priorities to establish. How the couple deals with the time leading up to the wedding is a good predictor of how they will confront controversy in their marriage: together on the same team, like two horses pulling the same cart, or on opposite sides, like boxers.

In other words the quality of your relationship is tried (as in being on trial) during the engagement period.

She has a great point.

It doesn't matter how long you've been together, there's something unique about the time between agreeing that marriage is your mutual goal and actually getting married. It's magical, you wish everyone could be as happy as you are. And it can be scary, does your sudden aversion to how he scratches himself indicate you aren't meant to be?

So here are some tips to make this time a healthy reflection on your future together.

1) Forget the "Perfect Day" edict. Take the pressure off. One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes was when Charlotte got married to the bald lawyer (sorry, can't remember his name) everything was going wrong. Miranda saved the day by re-framing the situation. She said,"The more disastrous the wedding the better the marriage." What a great save!

2) Lighten up. Take the big view. Laugh at yourselves and anyone else trying to stress you out. Get away from the plans and play.

3) Put your listening ears on. Even though the focus is on you, your guy might be feeling the stress as well. 

4) Don't confuse being mad at your in-laws (or the florist) with being mad at him. This is such a huge issue it needs its own post. More to come.

5) Disagreement is not dis-engagement. Use the inevitable differences of opinion to learn how to negotiate with each other and compromise. If you have to take a stand, pick your battles wisely. A little strategic giving-in can go a long way to win the war achieve peace. More on this later, too.

Photo courtesy LCPhotog

Counting Calories at Restaurants or…

I Ate All That!!?

There is this big deal going on right now about laws requiring restaurants to make nutritional information easily available to customers. Do we really want to know? And if we did know, would that help us make good choices?

Today, for example, I made the mistake of going out to eat without thinking about what I was doing. The opposite of mindful eating, I impulsively ordered the Smokehouse Turkey Panini.  Turkey's lean, right? My friend is my witness, I took one bite and I said,"This is NOT lean. This is too good (munch, munch). I'll bet this is a gazillion calories (munch, munch)."  At least I chose the apple side dish as opposed to chips or bread (we were at Panera). I was full by the time I demolished half the panini. Another sign this innocent looking sandwich was a calorie bomb because I do not get full easily. So I piled a wadded up napkin on the rest before I was tempted to mindlessly gobble it up. It was a lovely lunch.

On my way home what was on the radio? A talk show (Talk of the Nation, NPR) about the new food law and other similar laws. For or against? Discuss. There were many sides to the argument, all having good points. The person with diabetes would like to go out to eat knowing the food won't send him into a coma. The restaurant owner pulls her hair out because she has to pay laboratories to determine the calorie count of the thirty-six items on her menu. This costs her over ten thousand dollars. Who pays for that?

Back home, just out of morbid curiosity I looked up the Panera web site. Panera provides the nutritional information on many of their menu items. Sure enough my little turkey panini had 860 calories (36 whopping grams of fat)! Only I ate half of it, OK, OK, probably more like two-thirds. Rats.

If I planned better, if my brain were better engaged, I could have checked the Panera menu on-line before setting foot in the restaurant. What would I have chosen? The Grilled Chicken Caesar? 510 calories/28 g. fat. Or maybe the Greek Salad? 440 cal/39 g. fat. How about The Classic Cafe Salad? 170 cal/11g. fat. Geeesh!

Would I have decided differently if the calorie count were listed directly on the menu in the restaurant? Very likely. But then the burden of my health is placed on Panera which doesn't seem right.

Not being one to spend much time beating myself up, I focused on the positive. I did get the apple, not the chips. And I had a diet soda.

But wait! Don't diet sodas make you fat?

The Real Deal: Advice 4 Tweens & Their Moms

Dear Real Deal,133170277_0af6de8a34

My daughter is reaching the age in which most girls grow a strong disliking of past things that they once loved.  For example, the color pink has now been thrown out the window, ABC family has been replaced with the Simpsons, pictures of hearts and rainbows have changed to posters of boy bands  and Hollywood stars.  Now, yes, I knew these changes like so many others were bound to happen, but I didn't realize that I would be suddenly shut out.  My daughter has completely broken any form of communication with me. I'm lucky to even have dinner with her and her father at the same time because she is usually out at a friend's house.  When she does eat with us it's a pretty quiet meal. The part that I think really gets to me is that whenever I try to be with her for just some 'us' time she runs off, slams a door or simply screams the word, "No!" right in my face.  It hurts to be neglected, especially by a daughter so please I'm asking for help, I want to be able to connect with my child again.

Lost In Translation

Dr. A's POV~  Your situation is the classic 'rock and hard place' that Moms of tween-age girls often experience. I went through it myself.


Post-traumatic Stress & the Purple Heart

An article in yesterday's New York Times inspired me to write this article for PsychCentral.  Here's an excerpt:

Yesterday the New York Times wrote
that the Pentagon “decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the
hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed be enemy action, to war
veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because it is
not a physical wound.”

This is an interesting action on many
levels. My first reaction was: How typical. Go ahead and ignore all the
research and data collected by psychologists, neuro-psychologists and
psychiatrists the world over to define and develop diagnostic and
treatment protocols for this horrible condition.

On the other
hand it is impressive that the Pentagon advisory group even considered
the issue. Apparently they did leave the door open to future changes,
which sounds like Bush administration code for, “I’m out of here. Let
Obama deal with it.” But it leaves room for hope.

Click here to read more…

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