Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
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
|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.
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!
|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
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.
|Posted on March 26, 2020 at 11:25 AM|
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.
|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
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?
Do You Have Weeds in Your Life?
|Posted on July 22, 2019 at 3:40 PM|
We have weeds. Big, thick, and tall weeds. I have tried mulch, landscape fabric, and sprays, and it helps a good amount. This year, I thought I finally did it. No weeds! Yay!
I was wrong. After a few weeks, I saw the evidence. A few weeds either survived or new ones navigated their way through a tiny opening in the mulch and fabric. Untamed and free, they grow and grow to be thick and full and push out our pretty sunflowers attempting to grow.
Back to the drawing board...I think I will try to de-root the surviving weeds next and see if that helps.
Do you have any weeds in your life? Are you suppressing negative feelings? Are you avoiding taking risks to grow? Are you letting weeds grow wild? Are you forgetting to nurture your flowers?
Is anxiety, depression, anger, or jealousy taking over your life?
If your life feels full of weeds, look for the flowers trying to grow. Get at the root of the weeds and challenge yourself to face the scary and negative feelings. You may need to try different strategies to see what works best for you.
If needed, seek the support of a psychologist. We can help!
The Importance of Play
|Posted on May 22, 2019 at 4:35 PM|
Play is so vital and important for both children and adults. For several years in my practice, I have observed many families rushing from school to multiple after school structured activities for multiple children with multiple conflicts. Kids express feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Our high achieving students struggle with balancing clubs, sports, and HW and when to turn down additional responsibilities. Parents struggle with which opportunities to take and pass on.
This Ted Talk illustrates the importance of play from a biological perspective and the relationship between play and mental health.
Whole Child Learning
|Posted on April 22, 2019 at 1:40 PM|
Yes, just yes! This month, I am sharing a presentation by Dr. Hynes, Superintendent of Schools in Patchogue-Medford. This talk provides some insight into whole child learning, mental health, physical health, social emotional growth, and raising children to be successful and healthy adults.
|Posted on February 21, 2019 at 12:25 AM|
Have you been swept up by the KonMari method and reorganizing your entire house yet? About 6 weeks ago, my husband and I decided to try this new show on Netflix that follows a professional organizing consultant author who helps people get their possessions in order. This was purely for entertainment, but my personality loves to learn and pay attention to the method behind the madness.
I don’t want to spoil the series or the books or your interest in learning more, so I will try to focus on KonMari elements that spoke to me personally and professionally.
I was hooked after the first few minutes of the first episode. What followed was interesting. I learned new ways of folding, storing, organizing, and choosing what to save. I was most struck by the idea of simplifying life. For many people, living a more simplified life seems out of reach. Marie Kondo provided me some very practical, simple, easy to implement strategies that have helped simplify so much. As a psychologist, this idea makes so much sense and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Specifically, KonMari advocates for a “one look” strategy. This means that when we open a drawer or cabinet, we can see everything in an organized way, access items easily, and know what we have and what we don’t. This helps prevent us from purchasing items we already own (which many of us have done!).
I am really interested in seeing how this method may help parents and children. So many families report feeling overwhelmed by toys. Have you ever said or thought something like this: “but you have so many things to do choose from, why are you bored/upset/mad?” to your kids? Kids can learn to organize and fold using these strategies as well. My 4-year-old can happily help with laundry and my 18-month-old can clean up some toys according to categories. It is important for children to be a part of the day-to-day household tasks, have responsibility for their belongings, and not be entertained all day (I.e., be bored and use their imagination).
Let’s look at the importance of simplifying our bedrooms and playrooms, our schedules and agendas, and ultimately, our choices.
Personally, I have re-discovered some possessions that still bring me joy. I have felt good about donating items to organizations that help people who may be in need of just the item that no longer brings me joy. I emptied multiple storage tubs that were holding items that I don’t need, would be better as a blessing for someone else, or were not doing me much good being hidden in a tub. My oldest son helped me to label a lot of items, which helps us to identify what is what and also teaches word recognition.
Consider trying out an episode or read Marie Kondo’s book. Maybe you will discover something very helpful!
|Posted on January 17, 2019 at 12:35 AM|
Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. Gosh, I really like Sesame Street. Maybe it’s the Nostalgia of familiar songs (“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10..11, 12” and characters. Maybe it’s the high-quality programming that provides information useful and helpful to young children. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have to worry about inappropriate ads or content when my children watch or read a Sesame Street story. Whatever it is, Sesame Street is an approved and celebrated aspect of childhood in my book.
Sesame Workshop has a meaningful way of tackling difficult and serious topics and can really make a difference with the population who views it. There are many families and children struggling with hunger and homelessness right now all over the world, including our own neighborhoods. Take a look at the https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/12/health/sesame-street-homeless-muppet-bn/index.html?utm_source=CNN+Five+Things&utm_campaign=3fa1cedc8e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_12_12_12_56&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da287d761-3fa1cedc8e-86111485" target="_blank">link to learn how Sesame Street helps kids to understand and cope with this part of life.
May you always find yourself with shelter, not be hungry, and be able to make this world a bit kinder.
Let Your Heart Be Light
|Posted on December 17, 2018 at 11:00 AM|
Let your heart be light. What do you think of when you hear this?
If you didn’t recognize this phrase, this is a song lyric in a popular holiday song. I got to thinking about the deeper meaning of this phrase within the context of well-being.
Is your heart light? What does that mean? What does a light heart look like? How can we describe, measure, or even observe a light heart?
For me, my heart feels light when I am tucking my children in bed at night and when I check on them when they are sleeping. There is a special and wholesome feeling watching children sleep brings us.
When do you feel that your heart is light?
Notice that the lyric says “let” rather than “feel.” This word choice suggests that we have more influence over our feelings than we think. We sometimes get caught up in a problem and we forget our internal capacity to cope and make healthy choices. We choose not to experience peace and joy. We choose unhealthy thinking patterns or to let our worry thoughts define us.
When you feel a light heart, are your troubles indeed out of sight?
Perhaps we can have a light heart even when we have troubles and struggles. Our mindset can make a big difference in our day-to-day mood. Allow yourself to breath and manage stressors. Your heart may be lighter and fuller.
Pay attention to those warm feelings. Look for the good. Focus on your ability to handle difficult situations.
|Posted on November 15, 2018 at 12:55 AM|
Happy fall to all! I hope you have taken the time to notice the beautiful and varying colors around you during this harvest season. As we approach thanksgiving and the holiday season, let us take time to experience and show gratitude for aspects of our lives we are thankful for. Maybe it’s a friend we speak to every day, or a cousin we rarely see but often think about. Perhaps we are thankful for the ability to bring our children to school, purchase a cup of coffee, or stay home from work when we are ill.
I encourage you to look for the good in the bad, the happy in the sad, and the meaning in stress.
Have a happy, healthy, and meaningful holiday season.
What Would Someone You Admire Do?
|Posted on October 15, 2018 at 1:30 PM|
This month, I am sharing a podcast with Dr. Samantha Boardman, a psychiatrist who specializes in the use of positive psychology and has an excellent-worth-following blog.
This episode talks about the powerful thought-feeling-behavior connection- how our doing, thinking, and feeling matters. Dr. Boardman also discusses coping strategies for anxiety and how to apply meditation strategies.
I challenge you to consider these ideas:
In this moment, what would someone you admire do?
Have you been handling this situation differently?
How are your behaviors related to your thoughts?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Lessons from Winnie the Pooh
|Posted on August 19, 2018 at 1:35 PM|
If you’re ever in need of a pick-me-up, you may find one in the stories of Christopher Robin and the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We recently enjoyed a movie trip to see the new feature film (I will do my best to avoid spoilers) and loved it!
The movie depicts the busy, stressed out, anxious, and worried life many adults experience day to day. We easily get caught up in work responsibilities, financial worries, parenting tasks, and chores. We lose touch with our imagination, forget to rest, and overschedule our families.
In this movie, we learn a few valuable lessons. First, work is important, but how important is it? Pooh wonders if work is more important than a balloon (see the movie for context). Second, relaxation and self-care matters. As Pooh says, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” And third, spend time with your family and tell them you love them unconditionally.
Do something fun and meaningful today! Just a tip-that may include doing nothing at all.
The Days are Long
|Posted on July 17, 2018 at 1:35 PM|
Happy July! This post totally snuck up on me. I can’t believe how quickly time can pass, especially as a parent.
I remember reading “the days are long but the years are short” (Gretchen Rubin) a few years ago and feeling impacted by this message. The days can feel so long, especially when we have so many activities to do, tasks to accomplish, people to see, and places to go.
As parents, we may struggle with maintaining the master schedule. We try to make sure our kids take every opportunity that comes their way and feel bad if they miss something. We arrange minute-to-minute schedules to accomplish the daily tasks of food shopping, laundry, and cooking. We say yes to extra work responsibilities. We try to find time to have our own fun, shower, and, yes, even time to use the bathroom.
In all of the busyness, are we savoring the moments of traveling, shopping, cleaning dirty little hands, making lists, or going to birthday parties? Are we slowing down from all of the doing and focusing on just being? Are we able to exchange one extra-curricular activity for a family game night?
Spend time together.
Right now, I am savoring this moment when my 3-year-old (as he is watching me write this) said this post was a “nice list” and when I send it to somebody they will say “wow and put it on their refrigerator.” I don’t know if you will post this on your fridge, but hopefully you will go out and enjoy the day!
Pay attention to those little ones.
Our Struggles Can Be Beautiful
|Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:45 AM|
On most of our walks as the season changed from winter to spring, my oldest son pointed out that the leaves are "trying to grow" in the sweetest most optimistic voice. At 3 years old, our perspective may not yet be influenced by negativity from the world around us. This observation has prompted me to watch how the leaves on one of my favorite trees along our route grow. For months, the tree was barren and devoid of liveliness , as were the neighboring trees. At first, we noticed tiny yellow buds on the edges of the branches. We were surprised by all of the details they displayed and how these buds did not seem to resemble the beginning of a leaf. As the weather grew warmer and the days longer, these buds grew more and finally peaked into a large green leaf. With this, the tree became alive again.
On some days, our life may feel barren and empty. These feelings may even last a whole season. With our weather adjusting between cold and warm days, the leaves were struggling to grow- or as my 3-year-old sees it, "trying" to grow. Our struggles teach us how to harness resilience, be patient, overcome obstacles, and transform something empty into joy.
Pay attention to the details and challenges in your life. With time, resilience, self-care, and hope, they may develop into something beautiful.