An Awe-Inspiring Chain Reaction

It all starts with ONE.

Something incredible happened last week.

Tuesday morning I went to a local high school to present NAMI’s in-school mental health awareness program, “Ending the Silence.” You can read about that presentation here. When I got home that afternoon, my husband asked if I’d heard the big news about NBA All-Star Kevin Love having panic attacks.

I hadn’t, so I googled his name and was amazed at what I found. Kevin, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, wrote a captivating, raw, and honest personal essay for The Players’ Tribune. It’s titled “Everyone Is Going Through Something.” He talked about something he admittedly doesn’t find easy to talk about — his feelings. And the panic symptoms that terrified him.

Kevin said he had a panic attack during a game on Nov. 5, 2017. His heart raced, he couldn’t catch his breath, and everything was spinning. He went to the locker room and ended up lying on his back, trying to breathe. He thought he might die.

Kevin was afraid people would find out. He didn’t want to talk about it.

He went to a therapist, something he never thought he’d do. Kevin said the biggest lesson for him was confronting the fact that he needed help.

In the NBA, you have

Kevin said one of the reasons he decided to write his story is because he was inspired by another NBA All-Star player, DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors. In February, DeMar talked about his struggles with depression.

In the middle of the night on Feb. 17, 2018 DeMar tweeted: This depression gets the best of me… DeMar, who says he’s a quiet and private person, received an outpouring of support on social media.

We all got feelings...all of that. Sometimes...

DeMar was proud to have opened up so others could do the same. He said that the ripple effect of his interview about his depression has been one of the most incredible things he’s ever witnessed.

It’s a chain reaction. When one person speaks out, thousands of others are touched by it. There’s power in realizing you’re not the only one.

On Wednesday, the day after I found out about DeMar’s and Kevin’s issues with mental health, I watched the Today Show. There was a piece on Kevin and after it ran, the anchors praised him, saying how brave he was to tell his story.

Then something awesome happened.

Carson Daly, a Today Show anchor and host of The Voice, was sitting at that table with the other anchors. He said he could relate to Kevin, as he himself has had anxiety since childhood. He had his first panic attack years ago when he was a host at MTV.

I was surprised to hear this, as I’d never heard about Carson’s anxiety. I wondered if that was the first time he talked about it publicly. It was.

At times I feel like there's a saber-tooth tiger

The chain reaction was gaining strength. Each man inspired the next.

These three highly successful men are used to challenges. But this was something new. They aren’t used to talking about something so personal as their mental and emotional well-being. It takes courage and bravery to open up about an issue that can be very difficult to discuss.

That Wednesday afternoon, I presented three more “Ending the Silence” programs at the high school. There’s a part where I discuss celebrities and famous people with mental illness.

This time I added DeMar, Kevin, and Carson to my speech. I noticed the students’ faces light up. When I told the teens about Kevin’s panic attack during a basketball game, something changed with those kids — especially the boys. They leaned forward, wanting to know more. I knew I had captured their complete attention.

Those students sitting in my presentations that day learned that if their role models could have a mental health issue, anyone can. And they shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to talk about it.

Maybe some of those high school kids are going through a difficult time and now have been inspired to tell someone and get help. I’ll never know — but that’s the thing. You don’t know who you’re going to reach. That’s why it’s important to keep the conversation going. We can’t stop.

End the silence.

Thank you DeMar, Kevin, and Carson. Because of your inspiring stories and courageous words, you’re helping countless others. The stigma barriers are beginning to break down. But there’s still a long way to go.

The chain reaction can’t stop here.

We all have something.

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Why I Love Talking to Teens About Mental Health


This week I was so excited to do my favorite type of volunteer work with NAMI — presenting their in-school program, “Ending the Silence.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) developed the presentation to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness, and to help end the stigma.

My co-presenter and I gave six one-hour presentations to high school freshmen. We were in a huge classroom with about 90 students in each presentation. That’s nearly 500 kids in two days, who learned about the warning signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, and what to do if they notice those signs in themselves or a friend.

I’m passionate about starting the conversation with teens. To let them know it’s okay to talk about mental health issues. Just like a physical disease, mental illness is a real medical illness that needs treatment.

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As presenters, we speak candidly about our own challenges with mental illness. We talk about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. We let the teens know that suicide can be prevented. We stress the importance of taking immediate action if they see signs of suicide in themselves or a friend. Talk to a trusted adult; call the National Suicide Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text them at 741741; don’t keep warning signs a secret.

We emphasize the fact that millions of people throughout the world are affected by mental illness and that:

  • There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Having a mental illness does not mean a person is weak.
  • Developing a mental illness is not anyone’s fault.
  • There is medical help available.
  • There is hope to get better and to have a productive, happy life.
  • You are not alone.

During the presentations this week, I looked at the students’ faces and could see how engaged they were. This is a serious subject that normally isn’t talked about so openly. It’s something they might be concerned or curious about, but aren’t comfortable with.

I wondered how many students in that room struggled with a mental health issue. Or maybe it’s their brother, sister, or parent who does. Mental illness affects the entire family. I never know who I’m going to reach, or who the message is going to resonate with.

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Sometimes the kids totally surprise me. Actually, they blow me away with what they say.

One girl came up to my co-presenter and me, looked us straight in the eyes and said, “You two are SO brave. You’re so brave to stand up there and tell your stories and talk about this to all of us. Thank you.” Then she asked if she could give us a hug. Of course.

Following another presentation, a 15-year-old boy wanted to talk. He seemed nervous, almost jittery. He told us he has so much mental illness in his family and doesn’t know how to handle it. We listened to him, offered our input, and gave him resources to look into. By the end of our conversation, he seemed more at ease and grateful to be able to talk about his problems, and not worry about being judged. He smiled, shook our hands, and thanked us for the talk.

What another student said melted my heart. I’m not sure why, but I noticed her while I was speaking. She was in the back of the room and looked timid and was pretty, with short light blond hair. It was busy after the presentation, quite a few kids came up to ask us questions, including the timid-looking girl. I looked at her and said hi.

She nervously smiled and said in a sweet, quiet voice, “I just want to let you know that you two are like angels.” Wow. This is a ninth grader telling us we’re angels. 

That was powerful. In just a few words, she said so much.

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We thanked her for the wonderful compliment. She went on to say that she has a really hard time around people (social anxiety) and depression. She thanked us for talking about mental illness. It was almost as if she couldn’t believe we were there, speaking about something that greatly affects her life.

We opened the conversation. Maybe now she’ll be able to talk to her close friends about her struggles.

These teens want to know they’re not alone. They want to know their problems are real and that they matter. They want to be heard, understood, and not judged. Even though they might keep their feelings a secret because of stigma, they want to be honest and talk about it. They’re tired of pretending.

That’s why I love talking to teens about mental health and mental illness. I want them to know it’s okay. That they’re okay.

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TEDx Video: Thriving Under Pressure

Here’s an amazing, inspiring TEDx Talk from a fellow blogger that I just had to share! Dr. Andrea Dinardo is a college professor and school psychologist. She helps students thrive under pressure, which is an important lesson for all of us!

Thriving Under Pressure

Good news to share!

I have been working on a TEDx project with the University of Windsor TEDx team since December. And just an hour ago, I received the good news that the finished video was uploaded to the official TEDx site today! So pumped!


In my TEDx Talk I discuss how to THRIVE under pressure using 3 stress resilience tools: challenge, control and commitment.

The purpose of this talk (and my blog) is to help students develop positive coping techniques in fun, interactive, and uplifting ways.

By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their stressors, hardships, and adversities.

If you like, please share this TEDx video with friends and family on social media. The wider its reach, the more people I can help thrive under pressure!

May Your North Star Light Your Way…

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Let’s Get Personal: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

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It seems like a lifetime ago when I was in my late teens and my mom was in her late 40s. Those years are a distant memory, like a dream. Years I once tried to forget. It’s when my mom struggled with anorexia and major depression.

I was a self-absorbed 19-year-old, trying to navigate my way through my freshman year of college. At first, I didn’t notice that Mom wasn’t eating much. Until one day I watched her change her clothes. I was shocked to see how bony her arms, legs, and back were.

When I asked about her weight loss, she told me that it felt good not to eat. She felt in control. This made no sense to me. Why doesn’t she just eat?

I remember wondering why and how my mom could develop anorexia. I thought that only happened to teenagers.

In my late teens and early 20s, I’d never talked about mental illness. That was a taboo subject. I had no idea that my mom’s eating disorder and depression were considered mental illnesses.

Mom had once been a professional dancer. She still took ballet lessons in her 40s and 50s. She said that one evening at ballet class, her instructor told her she looked too skinny and that she needed to gain weight. Mom laughed, thinking that was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. When she looked at her reflection in the mirror and saw her body in tights and a leotard, she thought she looked fat.

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What??? FAT? I absolutely could not understand that. It perplexed me how she didn’t see how thin she was.

It was obvious she needed help.

Mom was hospitalized for anorexia and depression. Her recovery was long and difficult. She tried many medications and all had terrible side effects. Nothing worked. Until one day Mom’s doctor told her about a new antidepressant that was available, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It was called Prozac.

Within days, she felt better. She could function without being in a daze. She was even happy, like there was a reason to live.

That medication was Mom’s miracle.

I don’t often think about that painful time in my family’s life. But the memories remind me how far my mom has come, and how healthy she is now, at 81.

Eating disorders are serious. My mom is a testament to the fact that there’s help available and there is hope.

You are not alone.

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Most People Are Good

I believe that if you just go by the nightly news

I can’t get the recent high school shooting in Parkland, FL out of my head. Or the ones at Sandy Hook and Columbine. And Las Vegas. An old college friend of mine was killed in that massacre while watching a country music concert with her daughter.

Today on TV, I watched students and parents whose children were killed in school shootings speak to politicians and President Trump. The emotions are raw. So much anger and unbelievable grief.

I have friends who are teachers. It’s unfathomable to them that they have to discuss being armed in the classroom or think about saving their students from a bullet.

The issue is amazingly complex. Gun control, mental health, the age someone can  purchase a weapon. But this post isn’t political and I won’t go into my beliefs on the Second Amendment.

I just can’t get it out of my mind… How someone can be so evil.

We’re all touched by these tragedies. We pray for the beautiful souls who were killed. We grieve that their lives were cut short by a senseless act of violence.

And what about their parents? Brothers, sisters, and family members? And the people who were there that day and experienced the sheer terror firsthand? They witnessed horrific scenes, heard gunshots, ran for their lives, and knew people around them were dead. Many of these were children. 

I saw a teen interviewed after the Parkland shooting. She said she can’t possibly walk back onto campus. Several of her friends died there.

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Lives are changed forever. My heart breaks for them. Thousands of people who somehow have to deal with what happened and try to move on. That seems impossible.

I think about those affected by these mass shootings, and can’t imagine what they have to endure: severe trauma, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress.

This morning I watched The Today Show while I ate my breakfast, and saw stories on the Parkland shooting and gun control laws. A father held up a photo of his beautiful teenage daughter. With tears and a shaky voice filled with anger, he said he doesn’t get to see his precious girl anymore. He has to visit her at the grave instead.

How can people be so evil?

My heart was heavy and I couldn’t wrap my head around the senseless violence. It was time to drive to my friend’s house to go for our weekly walk, so I got in the car and turned on the radio.

The timing was perfect. Really — It couldn’t have been better.

One of my favorite songs was on. “Most People Are Good” by Luke Bryan.

I believe most people are good

And most mamas oughta qualify for sainthood

I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights

I believe you love who you love

Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of

I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks

I believe most people are good

YES. They are. Most people are good.

And that’s what I’m going to focus on.


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What My Millennial Daughters Teach Me About Self-Care

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I don’t consider myself high maintenance. Sure, I like to get my hair and nails done, and  love to browse in the mall and buy a new shirt or pair of shoes. I adore facials. But my beauty routine is simple. I’m most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, my hair swept up in a ponytail, with just a hint of makeup.

Even though I don’t spend a ton of money on myself, I’m pretty good at doing things that make me happy. Like taking time to go for a walk or do yoga, sip a cup of coffee and read a magazine, or spend the afternoon gardening.

However, there are times I don’t allow myself to indulge so easily. Why is it that I only get a manicure and pedicure when my daughters encourage me to go with them? Why don’t I get my eyebrows threaded more often like my girls do? Why don’t I buy something on a whim, like a candle, that totally brightens my day? I do that when I’m shopping with my daughters but typically not when I’m alone.

Do I feel as if I don’t deserve those things? Feel guilty for enjoying luxuries? “I can’t get/do that, I don’t really need it.” Why not?

Sometimes I envy Mackenzie and Talee because attention to self-care seems to come naturally to them. It doesn’t mean they buy everything they want. They’re careful with their hard-earned dollars. But they know what makes them feel good, both physically and mentally, and they take action to make sure those things happen.I was recently chatting with a friend who’d been feeling really stressed out. She was feeling overwhelmed, tired and generally unhappy. We talked through everything and one of the contributing factors was, she’d been putting everything and everyone before herself and neglecting her needs. My advice was to start to… View PostMy daughters and I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. We’re aware of the importance of incorporating positive coping strategies into our daily lives, like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Practicing those good habits is crucial for us to keep stress levels to a minimum.

But 25-year-old Mackenzie and 23-year-old Talee have shown me that self-care is more than munching on carrots and quinoa, sleeping eight hours, and walking 10,000 steps each day.

Their generation — millennials — are often defined as being obsessive about self-care. I read one study that says millennials make more personal improvement commitments than any other previous generation.

I think that’s awesome.

Maybe a reason for this fascination with self-care is the Internet. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers, cell phones, and social media.

I searched for self-care on Pinterest and thousands of links popped up. “25 Self-Care Ideas for Bad Days,” “How to Make a Self-Care Basket,” “My Nightly Self-Care Routine,” and “The Best Podcasts for Self-Care.” And mantras and quotes, like “Do beautiful things with your beautiful life” or “It’s not selfish to do what is best for you.”

Hm. I kind of like the sound of what makesLast weekend Mackenzie and Talee were home and I asked them what they do to nourish their bodies and souls.

Here’s their list:

  • Go to the gym, 3-6 times per week
  • Get nails done or do them yourself, it makes you feel more put-together and confident
  • Use an essential oil diffuser to help you relax
  • Use lavender pillow spray at night
  • Experiment with makeup and face creams
  • Exercise/do something physical outside
  • Listen to self-improvement podcasts like “Stuff You Should Know,” and TED Talks, such as clinical psychologist Meg Jay
  • Read books like “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero or “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How To Make the Most of Them Now,” by Meg Jay, PhD
  • Clean your room or apartment
  • Put fresh flowers in your room or apartment
  • Use a meditation app like Headspace
  • Try a breathing class like Breathwork
  • Eat less processed foods
  • Plan activities with friends, even if it’s something simple like staying in, ordering pizza, and watching Netflix
  • Family time
  • Me-time
  • Decrease social media time
  • Sometimes you just need a glass of wine
  • Remember that everyone is in the same boat; you’re not alone

I’m inspired by my confident, happy daughters. They’ve taught me how special it is to embrace self-awareness and self-love.Image result for image of fingers in heart shapeI need to remember this: Practicing self-care does not mean I’m self-absorbed. Paying attention to my wants and needs should not equal guilt.

I’m going to take the initiative and stop procrastinating my self-care routine. This afternoon I’ll make a dentist appointment, schedule my mammogram, and go to the nail salon. Maybe I’ll stop at the farmer’s market and get some flowers for my kitchen. I’ll meditate for ten minutes with my Headspace app tonight, after eating a healthy dinner of grilled chicken and veggies, and a square of dark chocolate.

I think I could get used to this.I am worth it.

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The Most Important College Course Ever: Happiness 101

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Last night I was making dinner and half listening to the NBC Nightly News. I rushed around the kitchen, browning the chicken, dicing the red rose potatoes, and making a salad, when I heard a story that literally stopped me in my tracks.

The reporter was talking about the increasing mental health problems on college campuses. More than ever before, students are anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed.

There’s a course at Yale that teaches kids how to be happy. Ingenious.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos developed the class. She teaches students how to live a more satisfying life.

“Psychology and the Good Life” is the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history. Nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates students are enrolled.

That statistic speaks volumes.

Millennials, also known as “the anxious generation,” desperately want to know how to be happier, less stressed, and more fulfilled.

“Psychology and the Good Life” focuses on:

  1. Positive Psychology — the characteristics that allow humans to flourish
  2. Behavioral Change — how to live by those lessons in real life

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It’s not an easy A. There are quizzes, a midterm, and a final self-improvement project.

Each night, students have Happiness Homework, that looks something like this:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Get 8 hours of sleep
  • Do something kind
  • Write 5 things you’re grateful for
  • Decrease social media time

Dr. Santos said, “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

What an awesome lesson. Maybe it should be a course requirement at all college campuses.

I’m sure I could learn something from it. Maybe I’ll start to assign my own Happiness Homework.

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