This Valentine's Day ...

February is the month of love.  No one can escape the commercialism that is Valentine's Day as images of pink and red hearts, bouquets of lush red roses, and delicious chocolates flood every media outlet and our social media newsfeed. But love - real, unadulterated love, has nothing to do with any of that valentine stuff.

Read More

The Scoop on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is almost 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189). This neurodevelopmental disorder typically appears in children before the age of 3. While there is no cure for Autism, children make significant gains socially, emotionally, and cognitively through early intervention programs and treatment that targets some of the core symptoms of the disease.

Read More

The Scoop on ODD

Typically first diagnosed in elementary-aged youth, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is a psychiatric condition characterized by a chronic pattern of disruptive behavior. Estimates suggest that anywhere from 6 - 10% of children have ODD. Core features include negativity, anger and hostility, verbal aggression, and behavioral outbursts. While all children periodically display developmentally appropriate oppositional behavior and test limits, those with ODD have frequent anger outbursts and repeatedly refuse to comply with rules and instructions.

Read More

The Scoop on ADHD

In an effort to educate parents and families about mental illness, I have decided to write a series called, "The Scoop."  Every week, I will feature a different psychiatric disorder and discuss 5 facts about that illness to promote awareness and improve understanding of the condition.  This post focuses on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 11% of children ages 4 - 17 years old have ever been diagnosed with ADHD. 

Read More

My 3 New Year Wishes for All Moms

A new year often ignites a desire for change, a fresh approach. For the last several years, I have had the same goals - to get my "fine on," incorporate more healthy parenting strategies, and to improve my financial position. And, every year I start off strong and then fizzle out by the spring. This year I still have those same goals, and I will continue to plow and toil to meet those goals; but, I also wanted to share my wishes for this new year in 2018 for all the moms.

Read More

Mommy Down: 5 Facts About Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a serious medical condition that affects women after childbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, PPD affects 1 in 9 women in the United States and can last up to a year after a woman gives birth. Sadly, up to 50% of women with PPD go undiagnosed, sometimes with devastating consequences like maternal suicide. Postpartum Depression disrupts a mother's ability to take care of herself, her new baby, and her family.

Read More

6 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

1) Raise endorphin levels

Endorphins are brain chemicals that create feelings of euphoria. Exercise releases endorphins as well as sex, certain foods (chocolate, chili peppers), stress, and pain.

2) Decrease stress and anxiety

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins which generate happy feelings. Physical activity also increases norepinephrine, a stress hormone that strengthens the mind and body's response to stress.

3) Improve memory and cognition

Exercise raises levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in learning and memory. Exercise also increases the production of new nerve cells (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in forming and storing memories and emotions.

4) Improve sleep

Exercising 3 to 4 hours before bedtime is a natural sleep remedy.  Exercise increases the core temperature of the body.  Following a workout, the body's core temperature returns to baseline, signaling that it is time for sleep. Disrupted sleep is often seen in many psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

5) Boost self-confidence

A svelte physique, big muscles, weight loss, improved flexibility and strength - these are obvious benefits of regular physical activity. Even outside of these well-known benefits, exercise boosts self-esteem, self-confidence, and one's general feelings of attractiveness.

6) Increase pain tolerance

Similar to strong opiate pain medication like morphine and codeine, endorphins decrease pain perception without the devastating effects of addiction.

3 Things I Learned From My Toddler

My youngest daughter, Khloe, turned 3 a few months ago, and she embodies all things "I am three" in her adorable pint-sized form. Multiple times a day she reminds me of how fiercely independent she is as she repeatedly chants, "I can do it!" She is confident. She is sassy. She is persistent. And I've learned a few things from her.

1) Remove the limits

For Khloe, the rules and societal norms do not apply. It matters not that her preschool-aged peers wear typical school attire for she dons a tutu and princess crown to school almost every day. She wants to be Wonder Woman, Rapunzel, and Princess Elsa simultaneously as she sees no need to choose just one powerful female character. If you say she "can't", she believes otherwise and makes it her business to show you that she indeed "can." The limits her daddy and I impose are suggestions at best in my 3-year-old's mind.

Khloe life lesson #1 - It always seems impossible until it's done. So dream big, do the work, and turn those dreams into reality.

2) Embrace your inner princess

First Khloe demands, "Mommy, let me see myself," moving the step stool from the closet to the bathroom. Then, she places the stool squarely in front of the mirror, gazes adoringly at her beautiful reflection, and proudly announces, "I'm a pretty princess, mommy. I look so pretty."

She is proud. She is bold. She is fierce, sure of her identity and unapologetic. And I'm enamored with her.

Khloe life lesson #2 - Confidence is beautiful. Cultivate your identity, determine your purpose, and share your gift with the world. In the immortal words of William Shakespeare from A Midsummer's Night Dream, "Though she be but little, she is fierce!"

3) Persistence pays off

Children will wear you down like no one else. Armed with repeated name calling and an endless barrage of demands, my defense strategies weaken to the point of defeat. I mean who can resist a fresh faced, chubby cheeked cutie singing, "mommy, mommy, mommy" as she asks for milk or yogurt or my assistance during a search and rescue mission for a lost toy. Khloe will not stop asking until I give in to her requests or offer a suitable alternative.

Khloe life lesson #3 - Don't give up. Don't stop striving. Keep asking, keep pushing, and keep grinding until you get what you want!