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Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

Online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, CBIT, ERP, CBT-I, Behavior Consultation, and Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia

Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH

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Blog

Meaningful Psychological Services: Really Useful Thoughts from a Psychologist 

Helpful interests, ideas, and resources about psychology, therapy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavior therapy, anxiety, living meaningfully and online therapy.

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Languishing During a Pandemic

Posted on April 27, 2021 at 3:05 PM

Checking in on you this month. How are you doing? We have been in this collective trauma for over a year, and this is going to impact all of us. There was a recent article shared about the “blah” feeling many people have been experiencing during these later stages of the pandemic. I am sharing this with you https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html?smid=url-share" target="_blank">here.

 

I encourage you to fully experience your emotions and express them in an appropriate way. This does not mean don’t cry but rather communicate, cope, and collaborate. If that involves letting tears flow, let them flow. It is ok and normal-no need to apologize for this.

 

Practice good self-care with behaviors that rejuvenate and refresh you. Get a healthy amount of sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise, spend time with family and friends, and get outside. Challenge yourself with new activities, learning something new, or facing a fear.

 

You can stay healthy and have fun too!

Embracing Spring With Mindfulness

Posted on March 30, 2021 at 12:00 AM

Happy Spring!

 

 

The days are longer and the weather is nicer. I want to encourage you to embrace the environment and enjoy outdoor activities as much as possible.


Here are some ways to be mindful and optimize your day:

 

 

Feel the warmth of the sun on your body- pay attention to the sensation on your skin.

 

Appreciate the weeds- they are a sign of life and warm weather.

 

Tend to the weeds- choose the stuff that needs to go in your life and don’t let this takeover.

 

Smell flowers- embrace different scents.

 

Take a mindful walk- notice details around you.

 

Spend time with others- connect with friends, family, and neighbors outside.


 

 

 

Enjoy some time outside!

Exposure is Important

Posted on February 23, 2021 at 2:05 PM

There are many opportunities for challenging your anxiety in everyday life. Many of you who have suffered with anxiety or OCD already know this because you see how often you encounter a trigger either at work, at school, in the store, on your phone, or on your TV screen. When anxiety rises in response, your first reaction may be to avoid the trigger. You look away from a scene, change the channel, turn the other direction, leave a store, avoid going to school, or leave work early. When you avoid, you may feel immediate relief and thus interpret that situation as something you needed to escape or avoid for your own safety. While you may feel better in the moment, you will still feel anxiety when faced with the trigger in the future. Avoidance reinforces anxiety in this way. The best way to manage anxiety when it takes hold is to work through it and not avoid it. This means saying: “I am scared, but I am going to do it anyway. I can do something that is hard and scary.” When you challenge anxiety, you will grow and learn to respond to anxiety provoking situations in a healthier way. You will learn to delay getting that relief that comes from immediate escape to get the healthier, enduring relief of healthy management of anxiety that comes from exposing yourself to challenging situations.

 

It is important to remember that anxiety is a valuable and a much-needed biological response. Before you decide to practice exposure, decide if your anxiety is giving you important information about getting to safety because you are actually in or about to be in danger (e.g., getting in the car with a drunk driver) or if you are dealing with excessive anxiety that is trying to prevent you from living in a meaningful way (e.g., calling a friend on the phone). Listen to your anxiety to keep you safe when in danger and stand up to it when it is sending you false alarms.

 

 

 

Remember that a psychologist can help you in this journey. Reaching out for help is a form of exposure too!

 

 

 

I hope you grow and do something that is scary!

 

 

 

 

Inspiration From Movies

Posted on January 19, 2021 at 12:05 AM

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

Do you feel in need of some inspiration? I have compiled some fun and inspiring ideas based on several family friendly movies. I hope that you may change your perspective, set a new goal, learn to appreciate your strengths and weaknesses, and enjoy a movie with someone you care about. I have tried to avoid any spoilers!

 

Jingle Jangle: Believe in yourself. Be patient. Embrace science, math, and technology skills. Learn from others. Teach others. Use your imagination. Forgive.

 

 

Soul: Explore your purpose. Find your passion. Pay attention to the simple things in life. Discover your neighborhood. Experience flow. Resolve conflict with family and friends. See the world differently. Smell a flower. Forgive.

 

 

Meet the Robinsons: Know that families are made differently. Be kind to others. Appreciate those who support your goals. Keep trying. Embrace failure- it's a good thing! Help others. Forgive.

 

 

Ratatouille: Try something new. Accept help. Learn to do something you never thought you could. Step outside of your comfort zone. Expand your network. Embrace community. Forgive.

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time: Love hard and deep. Test out the limits of possibility. Wait. Modify your plans and ideas. Know your faults and see them as gifts. Change your perspective. Remember that you don’t always know how others are struggling. Find your friends and family who you can stay together with. Forgive.

 

May you have a year that is filled with joy, love, good health, safety and forgiveness.

Meaningful Holidays During COVID

Posted on December 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM

It’s December- many months into the pandemic and in the middle of the holiday season. For some, the season is not very merry. You may be feeling depressed, discouraged, and defeated. My hope is to provide some encouragement, inspiration, and helpful information to navigate the difficulty during this challenging time.

 

Together, we can cope with and grow from our experiences during this very unusual holiday season. See these articles for recommendations, strategies, and helpful information. Perhaps you will begin a new tradition that you love!

 

 

 

 

How to Navigate Holidays During Pandemic 2020:

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/202011/how-navigate-holidays-during-pandemic-2020

 

 

 

 

Holidays During the Pandemic:

 

https://childmind.org/article/holiday-during-the-pandemic/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Holidays%20During%20the%20Pandemic&utm_campaign=Public-Ed-Newsletter

 

 

 

 

How to Accept That Holiday Gatherings Are Canceled:

 

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_accept_that_holiday_gatherings_are_canceled?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=8d7c520fbf-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_December_8&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-8d7c520fbf-50850427

 

 

 

Let's make the season meaningful!

Breathing As a Skill

Posted on November 24, 2020 at 12:10 AM

Deep breathing is an essential skill for relaxation and calming down anxiety. While we are breathing all the time, we often take shallow breaths or hold our breath for brief periods of time. Breathing this way can lead to higher anxiety. We are living during a stressful time and many people are reporting increased levels of anxiety. Changing the way we breathe can make a big difference. Take a look at this article with some ideas to help breathe better:


https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_the_way_you_breathe_making_you_anxious?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=34a2024502-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_November_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-34a2024502-50850427

Election Related Stress

Posted on October 30, 2020 at 12:15 AM

Many people have expressed an increase in anxiety and stress related to the upcoming election.

 

 

This month, I am sharing some resources to help manage anxiety during this unique time.

 

 

Fear: A powerful motivator in elections

 

https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/10/fear-motivator-elections


 

 

Presidential Election Anxiety and the Role of Psychiatry

 

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/presidential-election-anxiety-role-psychiatry


 

 

2020 Presidential Election a Source of Significant Stress for More Americans than 2016 Presidential Race

 

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/10/election-stress


 

 

If you feel you need additional support, seek the help of a mental health professional.

Information Overload

Posted on September 30, 2020 at 4:30 PM

 

With social media, TV, apps, e-mail, news articles, and mail, we can easily become overloaded with information. If left unchecked, we could have the news running all day in the background or fall into a rabbit hole of social media “doomscrolling.” For a more detailed look at this new phrase, read the Merriam Webster definition and origin (http://https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/doomsurfing-doomscrolling-words-were-watching).

 

Headlines are designed to grab our attention and ignite an emotional reaction. They are written to try and convince us that we need to know more and read on or watch longer. When we keep engaging with the information, we may experience a reaction because we strongly agree or disagree. We may feel a strong sense of needing to know. We may start applying what we read or see to our own life. Before we know it, we are scrolling and scrolling or watching and watching and time for more meaningful activities is passing by.

 

Information overload can lead to increased anxiety and stress. Here are some strategies to help manage this.

 

Limit Exposure

 

Allow yourself a designated amount of time per day or week for consumption of current events.

 

 

Access Trusted Resources

 

Find a reputable resource for unbiased and accurate information.

 

 

Find the Primary Source

 

This one is difficult but helpful and important. As best you can, trace back reported information to the original source.

 

 

Read Alternative Viewpoints

 

Learn about different perspectives to help more fully understand a situation.

 

 

Focus on Information Seeking Not on Reassurance Seeking

 

There is a difference between learning new information to advance knowledge and compulsively seeking confirmation or disconfirmation for reassurance.

Beginning School During Challenging Times

Posted on August 26, 2020 at 3:20 PM

As we are preparing for a new school year and are making decisions for our families, ourselves, and careers, we may feel anxious, stressed, or tired. This is to be expected given the unique stressors we are facing right now. Together, we can manage this.

 

My hope for this school year is that we can:

 

-practice resilience, patience, and kindness

 

-be thoughtful, considerate, and informed

 

-be reasonable, logical, and rational

 

-appreciate hard-work, dedication, and energy

 

-be flexible, fluid, and adjustable

 

-make decisions that are the best for our individual needs and family circumstances

 

-have fun, learn, and grow

 

 

Whether it is in-person learning, remote instruction, online schooling, or homeschooling, we can be better and stronger together. Let’s show kindness to each other, ask questions, follow guidelines, offer help, accept help, and be reasonable with expectations and demands. Have a great school year!

Managing Anxiety with Relaxation and Mindfulness

Posted on July 29, 2020 at 1:05 PM

In this time of uncertainty, there is understandably heightened anxiety and stress. One healthy way of managing anxiety is with relaxation exercises and mindfulness practices. Here are some of my favorites:

 

Lake Meditation https://palousemindfulness.com/meditations/lake.html

 

Loving Kindness Meditation https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation

 

Soften, Soothe, Allow https://palousemindfulness.com/meditations/soften-soothe-allow.html

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation https://stme.in/uTFO1pExkk

 

Deep Breathing https://stme.in/4p5E3q0mFn


 

 

I encourage you to give some a try. Take care of yourself.

 

Be well,

Dr. Laura

Healthy Communication

Posted on June 29, 2020 at 4:55 PM

There is a time for listening and a time for speaking. Both communication methods are integral to successful relationships. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a lot of speaking and hopefully more listening. Understanding the perspective of someone who has a different viewpoint than you can make a big difference. We may not agree with someone’s choices, actions, feelings, thoughts, or statements. We may feel like ending a friendship, blocking them on social media, writing them off as falling into a demographic group or category different than our own, or dismissing them. While this may seem like it solves the problem, this behavior divides us and prevents the development and practice of skills in conflict resolution, relationship reconciliation, problem solving, communication, and tolerance. It is expected and acceptable to disagree with others. In fact, let’s welcome discourse and conflict and work through it. We don’t need to run away (except in dangerous situations of course). We don’t need to come to an agreement on everything. We can be a bridge builder, peacemaker, and good listener.

 

When we change our perspective to see someone else’s, we may learn some actions are motivated by fear, loss, love, anger, personal experiences, discrimination, financial struggles, or some other aspect of life that has deeply impacted them. And sometimes our behavior changes because we didn’t have a good night’s sleep or breakfast that day. It is my hope that we work to understand each other more, listen often, and keep communication open.

 

 

Speaking of communication...

 

I have a new e-mail address: [email protected]

 

Please save this for your records to replace: [email protected]

 

 

Coming soon! I will have a new website in addition to www.meaningfulpsychservices.com

Resilience During the Pandemic

Posted on May 26, 2020 at 2:30 PM

We are living history in the making right now more than ever. Our day-to-day challenges, activities, sources of happiness, health concerns, interactions, learning environments, and work experiences have been impacted. We can choose to let these factors wound us and diminish our well-being, or we can choose to practice optimism, resilience and grit and embrace life with a sense of meaning and purpose.


 Here are some suggestions to accomplish this:


 Connect with others safely. Replace the phrase “social distancing” with “physical distancing” and remember that we can see people online via video or in-person following the local health department guidelines. It is very important to stay connected with our community, friends, and family.


 Practice healthy behaviors during the pandemic. Demonstrate concern for the well-being of others by wearing a face covering and following guidance from health professionals.


 Limit the news viewing. Stick to 1 or 2 reputable resources for information grounded in science and local information as needed. When possible, review primary/original sources of information or consolidated information from a trusted health professional rather than news media summaries.


 Remember that we are all involved in this pandemic in some way and show kindness and healthy attributions towards others. We don’t know why a teacher doesn’t respond to a student’s email. We don’t know why a student doesn’t submit work. We don’t know why someone is venting on social media. We don’t know why our neighbor has guests over. We don’t know why a business who is permitted to be open is closed. We don’t know why someone is not wearing a mask. We don’t know who is struggling and how. We have a tendency to blame others. Let’s pause and challenge ourselves to come up with 2-3 alternative explanations for someone else’s behavior. This shows kindness to others and also exercises your cognitive skills. 


Remember that challenges can bring us together and we can learn, grow, and make healthy changes for the future.

Resource for COVID-19 Coping

Posted on April 27, 2020 at 10:30 AM

How are you doing and coping? I hope you are prioritizing self-care, having some fun, and staying healthy. This month I am sharing an excellent and detailed resource for coping with a variety of mental health challenges related to COVID-19, social distancing guidelines and recent changes in our daily schedules. I am hopeful that this resource will be helpful and supportive.

 

http://psychrescue-covid19.com/

COPE

Posted on March 26, 2020 at 11:25 AM

COPE

 

I am writing to you during a very interesting, unique, and unprecedented time in our history. In my role, I have seen the increase in anxiety that has developed regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. My goal is to help all of us COPE in a healthy way so that our lives can continue to be meaningful.

 

 

Connect with others

 

Social distancing can be difficult, but this practice does not need to keep you from connecting with others. Consider chatting via video or text with friends and family. Take a walk together (keeping at least 6 feet apart). Drive to a local beach or park that is open, meet others and listen to music while everyone stays in their own car. Share pictures. Connect with others on social media. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while on the phone (yes, I said to call, not just text). Forgive people who have hurt you. Join an online class.

 

Offer help and assistance

 

Your skills, compassion, and talent are needed. How can you help someone else? This may be delivering groceries to an elderly neighbor or sick friend (drop at the door). You may call someone who is feeling lonely. You can donate a gift card, food, or money to a local food bank or mission. You can read with your children. You can make a rainbow and hang it on your front door or windows. You can send a loving e-card to a friend or family member. Send a loving thank you note to our healthcare workers. Contact your local nursing home for opportunities to share messages of hope and love for the residents via video.

 

Practice good hygiene, healthy eating, exercise and handwashing

 

I know you’ve been hearing this a lot lately, but it is important. Take care of yourself. You will be healthier and a better husband/wife, son/daughter, girlfriend/boyfriend, employee, parent, partner, co-worker and leader if you do. Eat a well-balanced nutritious diet. Go outside. Exercise. Wash those hands!

 

Enjoy life and make the most of it

 

These are weird and challenging times. We are all in this together. We can enjoy unstructured time. We can find the odd balance between working at home and parenting. We can adjust to different schedules. We can still be connected socially. We can bake and try new recipes. We can learn from great authors (check out lunch doddles with Mo Willems https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/). We can take a virtual museum tour. We can watch movies. We can read. We can learn a new skill. We can spend time with our families. We can be less distracted with the usual business of life and embrace some simplicity. We can and would benefit greatly from limiting our news intake.

 

 

Thank you to every single health care worker and essential workforce member- you are working so hard to keep people healthy and the world running as normal and safely as possible. I am forever grateful.

"Little and Often Makes Much"

Posted on February 26, 2020 at 12:10 AM

Setting goals can be overwhelming at times. We set ahead to lose weight, watch less TV, exercise more, meet more people, apply for a new job, ask someone out, quit smoking, take a vacation, and spend less money. We set high expectations. Lose 50 lbs without gaining anything back. Watch Netflix only on weekends for 20min. Apply for 15 jobs in a day. Stop buying coffee. While it is possible to attain goals with high expectations, we are more likely to give up completely if there aren’t certain characteristics that are met.

 

Goals work best when they are specific and measurable. This means we have a budget for spending or a specific amount and type of positions to apply for within a designated amount of time.

 

Goals work best when they are reasonable and achievable. This means we understand that changing from smoking 20 cigarettes in a day or from watching 6 hours of TV every day to none at all the next day will be very hard and almost unrealistic.

 

Goals work best when we are kind to ourselves. Punishing ourselves for setbacks, failures, lack of motivation, or setting unrealistic goals will not help us to grow. Forgiving ourselves and understanding that true growth takes time, energy, and nurturing will.

 

Goals work best when we remember that “little and often makes much.” Taking small, healthy, and realistic steps towards a larger goal can build habits and positively contribute to our success.

 

Start by doing a little of something often and see how you grow.

Mindsets Matter

Posted on January 28, 2020 at 12:10 AM

Happy New Year!

 

Flexibility in our world is so important. Being flexible in our thinking, attitude, and relationships can make a positive impact in your life. One of the key areas regarding our well-being and mental health is mindset. This month, I am sharing some of Dr. Dweck’s research on fixed and growth mindsets. Why does this matter? Check out her work here: https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/Impact


Let’s start off the new year with hope for the future, flexibility in our thinking, and love in our relationships!

Holiday Coping Resources

Posted on December 23, 2019 at 11:50 AM

The holiday season can be merry, fun, and joyful for some people and depressing, anxiety provoking, and stressful for others. There are so many dynamics with family, friends, and activities at work. Here are some interesting articles about coping with some common cause of holiday stress.

 

 

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/managing-holiday-stress-stressed" target="_blank">Managing Holiday Stress for the Stressed


 

https://positiveprescription.com/improve-your-business-negotiation-skills-or-just-get-along-better-with-your-family/" target="_blank">Feasting Together Can Help You Succeed in Business and Life


 

https://positiveprescription.com/the-paradox-of-the-perfectly-wrapped-present/" target="_blank">The Paradox of the Perfectly Wrapped Present


 

 

https://meaningfulpsychservices.blogspot.com/2018/12/let-your-heart-be-light.html" target="_blank">Let Your Heart Be Light


 

https://meaningfulpsychservices.blogspot.com/2015/" target="_blank">Just Be

 


 

 

https://meaningfulpsychservices.blogspot.com/2013/" target="_blank">Helpful Strategies for Celebrating with Special Needs

 


Wait it Out

Posted on November 25, 2019 at 2:35 PM

Have you suffered from an anxiety disorder? Have you experienced a panic attack before? Have you felt like anxiety would never end?

 

Feeling anxious is incredibly uncomfortable. You may feel sweaty. You may feel that you are not getting enough air in. You may feel sick. You may feel like your heart is racing. You may feel a tight chest, tingly hands, or sweaty palms. You may think this will never end. You may think you’re dying. You may think that something has gone terribly wrong with your body.

 

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. We all experience anxious feelings during our lives. Anxiety is supposed to show up when we are in danger, such as being chased by a mountain lion or driving during a white-out blizzard. Anxiety is also supposed to show up when we need to be motivated to prepare for something, such as a test, job interview, or meeting someone new.

 

Anxiety becomes problematic when it shows up and we are not in danger or needing to be prepared. Anxiety is problematic when it shows up in a very loud and excessive, noisy way disproportionate to the situation (for example, having your mind “go blank” when taking a test).

 

One of the best things you can do to cope with anxiety is to just let it be.

 

Wait it out.

 

Anxiety will not last forever. It is temporary.

 

One of the best ways I have seen this described was on a recent episode of This is Us. Real anxiety symptoms and panic attacks have been depicted on this show. One of the characters disclosed how he suffered from anxiety and how his mom helped him. His mother would pour seltzer into a cup and say that this represents anxiety. All he had to do was wait for the bubbles to settle.

 

Wait for the bubble to settle. Wait for the anxiety to pass. It will- that is how your body was designed.

 

Of course, anxiety can pass quicker if you use other coping skills such as deep breathing or telling yourself you’re not in danger. The key here- it passes even if you do nothing.

 

So, just wait.

Building Bridges with The Good Place

Posted on October 23, 2019 at 4:30 PM

I love it when our mainstream entertainment teaches good lessons. Check out this interesting https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_lessons_in_bridge_building_from_the_good_place?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=241d4682e5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_Oct_9_2019&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-241d4682e5-50850427" target="_blank">article about building bridges between people based on what we learn from the TV show The Good Place.

After you read the article, challenge yourself to answer these questions:

Who can you can get to know better?

How can you connect with that person?

What prevents you from interacting with people you perceive as different?

How can suffering help you grow?

Starting School For Parents and Kids

Posted on September 24, 2019 at 11:50 AM

My oldest started Kindergarten earlier this month. While I have seen many families make this transition professionally, going through it yourself is so powerful and can be very different.


There is so much for families to cope with during this time. There are grown-up anxiety, worries, planning, scheduling, and emotions. There are child-size worries about making friends, who to sit with at lunch, how much work there will be, and when will they be able to go back home again.


Letting go of your child is good, healthy, and important. We can prepare them to be strong. We can teach them to be a hard-worker. We can show them how to work through conflict. We can model how to cope with big feelings. We can show them how to accept other children. We can demonstrate compassion. We can help them solve problems.


We will grow right along with them. As parents, we can grow stronger, more hard-working, and a better conflict resolver. We can cope with our big feelings more effectively. We can accept others, even when they are different. We can show compassion. We can be better problem solvers.


Thank you to all of the teachers and school staff who are working so hard to develop resilience and academic strengths in our children and who are keeping them safe.


Have a great school year!


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