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

by Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D.

Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

Online and Office Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

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

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Can You Escape in Time?

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)


Picture this: You are locked in a room with no windows and can't get out until you solve a series of challenging clues, riddles, or simple math problems. If you are starting to get very anxious by this imagery, then going to an escape room might be a good exposure for you.



When we are anxious, our natural fight or flight reaction kicks in gear. As we have learned before, this response changes our physiological experience. We may experience shallow breathing, faster heart rate, sweaty palms, or tingling in our arms or legs. Because these sensations are uncomfortable or just plain scary, we tend to avoid situations that trigger our anxiety. While this seems like a great idea since the feelings seems to go away or dissipate and we feel better. However, this is only a short-term temporary fix. The next time we are faced with the situation or something similar, we are likely to feel the same level or even increased anxiety. Then we avoid, feel better, then worse again. The cycle continues.



Once we assess the true danger of a situation, we can work towards no longer avoiding situations that trigger anxiety when they are in fact safe.



Recently, I was locked in that room I described earlier as part of an escape room game. We had 1 hour to complete a series of puzzles, challenges, and questions in order to get the keys to be let out of the room. The puzzles were harder than I expected. We didn’t get out in time! Does that mean I am writing this now in the corner of that very room since I have been trapped there for several weeks? No. We were not truly trapped. Once the hour was up, an employee came in and explained the remaining answers to us and let us go.



This experience, while anxiety provoking, is a fun way of exposing us to a fear and worry. There are many types and levels of rooms and challenges. The themes vary too- from light and fun (we did one where you are stuck in a bakery) to scary (themes from horror movies).



If you worry about being in closed spaces, consider an escape room exposure. Grab some friends, challenge yourself, and have some fun! I suspect that you will grow and you will be able to cope with being "trapped." Remember, we are rarely every truly trapped in any situation. Anxiety can make us feel that way. Let's test anxiety and see if it is telling the truth or not. Good luck!

Everything is Fine

Posted on March 20, 2018 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

"Everything is fine." How many of us hope for everything to be fine?


The TV series The Good Place invites us in with this phrase right away. We find ourselves yearning for things to be fine, to have everything going well, and to not deal with sickness, anxiety, depression, or anger.


If you haven't watched The Good Place yet, consider catching up before reading this post I am sharing below, as there are significant spoilers. I have really enjoyed this series- it will get you thinking, feeling, and laughing.


If you're like me and find yourself curious about the science behind "everything is fine" and the struggles of life, then read on. This link shares a very interesting peek at the world of goodness and evil.



Enjoy!


https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_the_good_place_says_about_good_evil?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=b3401ffd33-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_Jan+31+2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-b3401ffd33-50850427" target="_blank">What "The Good Place" Says About Good and Evil

Healthy Nutrition: Focus on Eating Disorders

Posted on February 19, 2018 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Caring for ourselves is very important. When we struggle with self-care, it not only hurts ourselves, but the people we care for as well. Have you ever felt like you were trying to do so much that you were actually ineffective?


There are many different aspects of self-care. This month, I am focusing on one aspect-nutrition and healthy eating.

I am sharing this blog post, republished with permission from my sister who is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Please share this information with your loved ones and seek help if there is a concern. I hope for a healthy lifestyle for all.


https://www.stateofbalancementalhealthcounseling.com/blog/snapshot-of-the-different-eating-disorders" target="_blank">Snapshot of the Different Eating Disorders

Unfortunately, society and the school systems typically fail to properly educate on the topic of Eating Disorders. As a society, we are terribly misinformed and under-informed. Health classes typically breeze over the topic in a 40-minute period, if that, or in 5 textbook pages that are glanced over. Furthermore, most health classes explain different Eating Disorders in language that is very misleading. I hear so many of my clients complain about the frustrations they’ve felt when their health teacher teaches that people who have Anorexia simply starve themselves and don’t eat anything at all. This is, in fact, untrue. If a person doesn’t eat for any significant period of time, they will die. If people with Anorexia never eat, how is it possible that they may be struggling with this disorder for years, and still be alive? Now, why does this matter? It matters because our adolescents and young adults are so susceptible to eating and body issues, and if our teachers are explaining these disorders without giving due diligence to the topic, our young people then come to believe that they don’t have a problem, when they do. The consequences then become them continuing to struggle, not reaching out, and getting to a place much further along in their Eating Disorder, simply because they thought they didn’t have a problem, because they were educated in such a way to believe they did not. Now, I want to make it clear that I am not blaming the school systems or our teachers for the misinformation or not spending enough time on this. I simply would like to put this information out there in a simplified, yet straight-forward way. I’ll give a small snapshot of each disorder so that it can begin to correct the misconceptions we have been taught in our society:

-Anorexia Nervosa: This is marked by the intense fear of gaining weight. A person will severely restrict their food intake to a caloric intake that is below what really is necessary for the body to function optimally. Many times, this will lead to a significant drop in weight in a small window of time. However, it is important to note that you do not need to be underweight to have Anorexia. This is one of the biggest barriers to seeking treatment that many people have since they feel they are not classified as being underweight, therefore they must not have a problem.

-Bulimia Nervosa: In Bulimia, there may be periods of time where the person restricts their intake. The difference from Anorexia is that there will also be episodes of binging and purging. Purging may be done through various methods including inducing vomiting, using laxatives or over-exercising. The person with Bulimia also struggles with body image issues and fear gaining weight.

-Binge-Eating Disorder (BED): BED has 2 clear differences from the other disorders;

1: There are episodes of binge-eating, however the person does not purge and;

2: There is not a body image component. However, this does not mean that the person may not feel shame about their body, it means that they are not engaging in an act to ruthlessly avoid gaining weight such as restricting or purging.

Typically, Binge-Eaters will have episodes of binging that they will describe as mechanistic, numbing or out-of-control.

-Orthorexia: Although this one has yet to make its way into the DSM-5 as an official diagnosis, it is something that still is problematic that is hiding under the disguise of “healthy eating.” We are living in a society that is all about eating better, eating “cleaner,” and some people take this to an extreme. How does one know if it’s just a person trying to pursue a healthier lifestyle versus Orthorexia? The answer lies within their flexibility, or lack thereof. If they are never, or very rarely, willing to have a food item that may not be considered “healthy” or “clean,” they may have Orthorexia. When there is such a rigidity around healthy eating, it begins to become unhealthy. If you can never allow yourself to have regular ice cream or a meal at a normal restaurant, the quest for healthy eating may have gone too far. There’s nothing wrong with trying to pursue a healthier lifestyle, but healthy also requires flexibility. In this disorder, body image issues tend not to be the focus.

-Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): This feeding disorder looks a bit different than the rest. It is sort of the catch-all for Eating/Feeding issues that don’t have it’s own diagnoses. Some examples of how it may present itself in a person are as follows;

1: Someone can’t eat anything green because they have an aversion to the color. The aversion may have developed from a time they got sick from having a food that was green in the past. Or;

2: Someone undereats out of fear that if they eat too much, they will get sick.

While these examples are not all-inclusive, the important piece to take away is that there is some reason that the person is unable to eat all foods in a normal, healthy way, for a reason that is unrelated to body image.

-Body Dsymorphic Disorder: This one can be very tricky to understand, even for the person experiencing it. The textbook definition is a “preoccupation with a defect or a part of your body that is either slight or imagined.” For example, someone may be convinced that they have one eye that is smaller than the other, however, no one else is able to see this. The “defect” is either very slight or even imagined. As an outsider looking in, it can be difficult and frustrating to understand. What is important to remember is that that preoccupation is that person’s truth. In the example given, this person’s truth is that one eye is smaller than the other, and trying to convince them otherwise is going to be about as difficult a task as convincing me that the sky is green.

It is important to note that while these are listed as distinct disorders or issues, they typically do not look as clear cut in actuality. People may and typically will range in their problematic eating behaviors throughout their lives, if not dealt with. It is rare that you find someone who is so close to the textbook definition of solely one disorder.

One note I want to make perfectly clear is that not falling into one of these categories does NOT mean that you aren’t struggling enough to get help. You do not have to feel you have a diagnosis to need treatment. You do not have to be underweight to need treatment. You do not have to feel out-of-control to need treatment. You may feel that you struggle with eating or body image issues and find that it is interfering with your quality of life. If you feel you are struggling, treatment could be beneficial for you.

Thank you for reading, I hope this post offers some clarity and understanding! Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments either by leaving a comment or messaging me privately!

I wish you wellness on your journey to finding your State of Balance!

Hate and Love

Posted on January 16, 2018 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Any Doctor Who fans out there? My husband is a huge fan, so I've been witness to a few episodes and lots of memorabilia. I watched part of the most recent episode, which included (spoiler alert) an amazing monologue/last speech by the Doctor as he was regenerating. One of the remarkable and most memorable statements during this speech included an important concept.

"Hate is always foolish- love is always kind." 

This statement is actually paraphrased from British philosopher, mathematician, and Nobel prize winner Bertrand Russell.

Hate and love are both strong words. Some may view them as opposing feelings on each extreme of the continuum of feelings about people or things.

This got me thinking. Always is also a strong word. As a psychologist trained in cognitive-behavior therapy, we are taught and teach to avoid using such definitive and absolute words such as "always" and "never" since they can be inaccurate, irrational, and unhelpful. Rarely is something always or never anything.

And yet, I find myself agreeing with the Doctor's speech.

Holding hatred is unhelpful and hurtful. Are there times when it is good to hate? We might think there are, but probably not. Forgiveness if a gift to ourselves just as much or even more-so than it is for the person we are forgiving. Sometimes, we can forgive someone without ever telling them that we have. Letting go of hate doesn't mean resuming a relationship again in the same way or continuing to get hurt. We can still change our behaviors. We just let go of the hatred. Why hold on to hate? Perhaps it really is "always foolish."

Now we get to love. Love is another powerful emotion that we experience towards our friends, family, pets, jobs, activities, and foods. We can show love to others in a variety of ways. Kindness is good. When we treat others with kindness and show them love, we usually feel good. Sometimes we feel yucky after showing love, especially when the love is not returned, but it is still kind. If we remember to keep ourselves safe and in healthy relationships, we will be able to enjoy showing love.

Let's be wise- show more love and let go of hatred...

Inner Peace

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever experienced some days where you couldn't access a moment of peace? Days of craziness, hustle and bustle, or stress?

This busy holiday season can really bring up the stress levels. While we can’t control the number of holiday event invitations we receive, the expectations of those around us, the traffic jams, the flight delays, getting sick, the change in schedules, or the weather, there is a lot that we can control.

This season (and maybe moving forward, always), we can find that inner peace during all of the phone calls, drop offs, doctor visits, gift wrapping, and traveling. The peace that hides inside while we endure stress. The peace that wants to spread outward to others.

I am going to challenge myself to experience peace throughout my day. Bringing it out, feeling it, enjoying it, and savoring it are all under my control. When we are able to feel peace, we can actually change the way we respond to situations. When we change the way we respond to situations, we influence the reactions of others and the outcome.

Looks like we have more control than we thought. I hope you find your inner peace today.

What Not To Do

Posted on November 13, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

“Don’t put that in your mouth!”

“Stop doing that!”

"No!"

When I was in graduate training, one of the most helpful and useful tools I learned was the dead person rule. No, I am not about to launch into some morbid explanation about behavior.

The dead person rule refers to a parenting behavior management principle. Avoid using language that a dead person could do. Instead, use language that specifically describes what someone should be doing rather than what they should not be doing.

Instead of "Don't touch that," say "Put your hands on the table."

Instead of "Stop pulling your sister's hair," say "Please move your seat over there."

This helps the child to understand what is expected of them and helps to redirect unwanted behavior in a non-punitive way.

Try it and see if it helps to create a calmer and clearer environment for your family

Parenting: New Perspectives

Posted on October 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

As a parent of a preschooler and an infant, I have developed a different perspective of many elements from my professional training. I didn't really truly know how challenging parenting can be until I lived it.


Here are just a few concepts that I have gained a new and different appreciation for after becoming a parent:


How challenging managing typical toddler behavior can be.

How stimulus control, when children respond a certain way to one stimulus, (I.e., one parent) and a different way to another, affects behavior.

How easy it is to take non-compliance personally.

How easy it is to resort to yelling.

The pressure to do more.

The pressure to do less.

Increasing awareness of possible judgment.

Increasing awareness of parenting expectations.

How intense sleep deprivation really is.

The challenges faced when planning child care.

How every second of your life must be accounted for.

How exciting a child- free 30 min trip to Target can be.

How exciting witnessing childhood milestones can be.

How often we check and make sure our children are breathing.

How easy it is to say "stop" and "no" instead of "keep the plate on the table" and "yes, you can have some after dinner."

What rushing truly is like.

How spit up and a poop explosion can dramatically affect your schedule.

How precious sleep is.

The importance of family time.

The importance of prioritizing your marriage.

The desire to have multiple roles.

How much anxiety can be present when making parenting decisions.

How scary ER visits are.

The challenges of caring for a sick child.

The challenges of caring for a healthy child.

How deep love can go.


Our appreciation of life events and circumstances change as we have more experiences throughout our life span. I am eager to see how my perspective changes in these areas as my children grow.


How has your perspective changed?

Making a Change

Posted on September 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It's the start of a new season. School is back in session. We are going from summer to fall. And yet many of us are stuck doing the same old habits.


What if there were a way to effectively and safely change a behavior? There is! It is important to make sure any method used is backed by science and research before setting off on a new lifestyle.


First, if you want to change a habit, you need to define it. While "living a healthier lifestyle" is an admirable goal and sounds great on the surface, what does this really mean? Does it involve changes in exercise, diet, relationships, work, friendships, or social media use? Let's say we target the domain of exercise for example. This is still not specific enough. Does this mean exercise running on a treadmill, kayaking down a river, going to the gym, or swimming? It is important to specifically define a target behavior before starting anything else with changing a behavior. You have to know what you are changing before you change it. An example of a well-defined target behavior for change would be "exercise as defined by walking, running, jogging, stretching, or doing yoga either at the gym or at home."


Next, you will need to track how often you are currently engaging in the target behavior and then modify the goal as needed. There are a variety of ways to track behavior, also known as collecting data. It is important to choose a method that is easy to use and not overwhelming. It can be as simple as writing down the amount of time you spend and type of exercise each day for a period of 2 weeks or more involved such as tracking the duration to spend at each time of exercise. This is to be done before any intervention is created and used, so you can get an accurate idea of how often you are currently engaging in the behavior and a baseline for measuring progress.


Next, you will use this information to revise your goal and develop an intervention plan targeting your specific goal. An example of a specific and measurable goal is "exercise 3 days a week at the gym for 30 minutes and 1 day a week at home for 30 minutes." This is also when the use of reinforcement comes in. This means using a reinforcer, or something pleasurable and rewarding, to reinforcing meeting goals. The intervention may involve redirection, problem solving, or the help of a professional.


If you want to dig deeper into these concepts and more, you can access my very affordable Behavior Change Ahead online course. You will have unlimited 24/7 access to 4 hours of content walking you through how to make a behavior change effectively and with science on your side. Here is the link.


Making the Most of College

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It's that time of year again- returning and first-time students are transitioning into the college semester. Depending on the academic calendar, some of you have already attended classes and others may be preparing for a start in a few weeks. Whichever your status, I hope to share with you some tips to help make the college experience successful, fun, meaningful, and smooth.


First, get involved in the experience. If you just go to class and then go home or back to your dorm room or apartment, you are not getting the total package. College is what you make it. I challenge you to attend a club fair, make a new friend, join a club, start a study group, or volunteer on campus. If you feel very anxious in these social situations, these are great ways of exposing yourself to the anxiety and helping you overcome it. When students are involved on campus, it can greatly enhance the experience for them.


Don't freak out when you read a syllabus for the first time. Remember that a syllabus is a summary of an entire semester, which will cover 14-15 weeks worth of work. It is important to read and re-read each syllabus again outside of the classroom to see if you have questions and to organize deadlines and due dates. The syllabus is a very useful tool and should not be ignored. You can plan out in advance when you will compete work and know before the night before something is due if there is a conflict, question, problem, or misunderstanding.


Attend class. Even if attendance is not taken or counted towards your grade. As tempting as it is to sleep in, take a last minute trip, or study on your own, there is no good-enough make-up for missing class other than going to class or another section (as long as the professor allows). If you must miss class, and this is likely to happen because you may get sick or have an emergency, let your professor know as soon as you can. Get contact information from peers in class and find out what you missed. Ask to attend a different section of the class is available to make up the lecture.


Listen to these brief audio workshops about how to have a successful and great college experience. I share about how to deal with test anxiety, being mindful, how to utilize resources on campus, managing your time, choosing colleges, and being financially prepared. You will have unlimited 24/7 access to the recordings for review at any time. You can access them here.

Now, go and have an awesome semester!

Changing Your Parenting Perspective

Posted on July 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The way we think about our world, experiences, past, present, and future matters. For this reason, I am sharing this interesting article I came across about the way we think about parenting. I hope that you find it as inspiring and helpful as I do.



Being the parent of a toddler is not an easy task. For those parents out there, I am sure you can relate. Days can be long. Nights can be short. Sleep can be lacking. Energy can be completely sapped. During these challenges, however, are tiny little eyes and ears soaking up how you approach stress, your experiences, and how you model coping skills. This includes how you parent. Little ones are paying attention to so much more than we think.


 

This article highlights a pivotal change in thinking as a parent- the true privileges we experience in the day-to-day moments as a parent. I hope that it challenges you to change your perspective and embrace the fun and difficult moments in the day.


https://www.parent.co/two-words-can-transform-parenting/" target="_blank">The Two Words That Can Transform Your Parenting


Can You See Things Differently?

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

You think you have the right and best way of doing (insert activity). In fact, you insist that you know you're right and your (insert person-partner/friend/co-worker/boss/child/parent) is wrong. Where does this lead you? Usually to a disagreement, disappointment, or a feeling of being disgruntled. In reality, there is no right or wrong way. So, why do we get so hung up on seeing things from our own perspective?


The way we view the world matters. In fact, this interpretation has a direct impact on how we feel, which influences how we behave. It can feel very natural and easy to concentrate on our own perspective and not consider the perspectives of others.


In my practice, we often work on a mental stretching exercise in which we try to develop alternative explanations for the behavior of other people as well as understand a situation from another perspective. Trying to see the situation differently has a lot of benefits, including the development of cognitive restructuring skills.


Being able to see a situation from another perspective does not mean that you agree, disagree, accept or reject someone else's viewpoint. It just means that you value multiple perspectives on an issue and can expand your thinking. You may ultimately decide that your original opinion is still best for you, but you may be more compassionate towards the other person. Sometimes you will amend or change your viewpoint by incorporating other perspectives.


To illustrate this, consider the following situation. You are standing in line at the supermarket and perceive that the cashier is moving too slowly scanning your items for you. Your first thoughts attribute this slowness for lack of skill or caring for the job. This results in frustration, negative judgment, and a potentially not so nice interaction. When you consider alternatives from the cashier's perspective, you can develop the following options that the cashier 1- cares very much about their job that they don’t want to make a mistake; 2-love their work and enjoy going slowly; 3- just got yelled at by their supervisor for making a mistake; 4- dealt with an aggravated customer earlier who said the cashier bagged too quickly and broke their glass jar of sauce; 5- they don't feel well; 6- they do not in fact care about their job; 7- they have a physical disability. You may be able to come up with even more possibilities. In doing this, you are expanding your viewpoints and cognitive abilities and may even be kinder both to yourself as well as the other person.


Challenge yourself today. Try to see things differently. Try for even a moment to be in someone else's position. You may learn a lot about yourself and your world.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted on May 15, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

May is Mental Health Awareness month. My goal for this month is to bring attention to the importance of our mental health.


Our well-being is important to monitor, develop, and take care of. Have you ever noticed when you feel irritable that you may be negatively impacting your friends, family, or co-workers around you? Our well-being affects the well-being of others.


Self-care is not selfish, but rather a necessary and important aspect of caring for and loving ourselves and others. We can only care for others when we have cared for ourselves. This may seem counterintuitive to many of you, but think about how much better you are able to help your children complete their morning routines, rock that work presentation, or spend meaningful time with your significant other when you are well-rested compared to when you are sleep deprived.


In my practice, I often reference the emergency instructions providedwhen flying. If the oxygen masks are released, parents should put the mask on themselves before their child. As a parent, this seems very counterintuitive and unnatural. Take care of myself before my child? The important point to remember is that by taking care of the grown-up first, we can better care for the child. If we pass out or get injured, how can we help our child then?


Practice some self-care this month. Read up on well-being and having a healthy mindset. Our mental health matters.

Permanent Decisions and Temporary Feelings

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever said something and then almost immediately regretted it? Most, if not all, of us have been there are at one point or another in our lives. When we get down to the basics of this experience, we learn that we let our feelings dictate our actions. In other words, we let a temporary state make a permanent decision for us.


Our emotions can be experienced so intensely at times. We feel so angry at our spouse for forgetting to take out the garbage again. We feel scared that the darkness while driving will be too much to handle. We feel sad that our friend cancelled plans on us. And so we yell at our spouse, or avoid driving at night, or mope around the house the entire weekend.


These actions are hard to undo or take back, and often leave a permanent mark on ourselves or someone else. Handled a different way, the feeling would have passed and our choices would have been much less detrimental to those around us.


We have more power than we think. Our feelings are temporary. They will go away. Why make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling?


This month, I am challenging you to respond with grace, respect, love, hope, and self-care. Use your problem solving skills and think of an alternate solution. Remember, all feelings are ok. What you do with them is what matters.

This is Us

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

*Spoiler alert* This month's post is about a TV show, This is Us, on NBC that premiered this fall. If you have not seen the show, consider watching the first episode and see if you connect. The remainder of this post may spoil some of the plot for you (I tried not to be very specific), so proceed at your own risk...


Ok, so I am hooked. This is Us has successfully tapped into multiple elements of the meaningful life. The real meaningful life, not a fairy tale. We explore interesting family dynamics, we dig deep into the backgrounds of secondary characters, we cry with grief, we suffer with anxiety, we are surprised practically every episode as the story unfolds, we laugh with appreciation, and we journey together in the complications that make us, well, us.


Some of the recent episodes have highlighted the role of anxiety and panic on both the individual and family. We learn about a drive for perfection, competition, pain with loss, and stress-induced panic. We learn that we may feel differently on the inside from what we portray on the outside. We see the impact of anxiety on family and the impact of family on anxiety.


This is Us shines a bright light on themes of adoption, of disease, of second chances, and of diving into life with a zest that is unshakable. We learn about anger, frustration, fear, and forgiveness.


We learn about loss. We really learn about loss. But we also learn about resilience. In one of my favorite lines so far, taken from the first episode, we learn how this family took "the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade." Excuse me while I retrieve my box of tissues...


This is Us explores so many psychological concepts. We dig into resilience, adoption, stress, illness, grief, pain, panic, anxiety, joy, relationships, divorce, re-connecting, and addiction. I am eagerly awaiting what other themes we will explore. After all, this is us too.

THINK Before You Speak

Posted on February 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

We've all been there. Someone has said something without really thinking about what they said. The words used could have been hurtful, embarrassing, careless, lies, impulsive, or revealing. We likely have experience being the speaker as well as the receiver. We likely have witnessed an emotion such as anger or anxiety speaking through a person rather than the rational mind. We wish we could take back what we said. We wish we could have not heard what was shared. Yes, we have all been there.


How many times have we heard or told people to think before we/they speak? Probably many. This is easier said than done. While expanding on my learning recently, I came across a very helpful acronym that breaks down exactly what we can do to think before we speak. As soon as I learned of it, I immediately knew this was to be the topic this month. It is so important for us to know. I do not know of the original source, but whoever it is- thank you!


Here is how we can T.H.I.N.K. before we speak:

T - is it True?

H - is it Helpful?

I - is it Inspiring?

N - is it Necessary?

K - is it Kind?


Before we use our words, we can ask ourselves these 5 questions. My hope is for you to be an effective communicator, maintain and repair relationships, and use your words to build others up rather than tear them down. Try it and see how you feel.

Kindness

Posted on January 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The idea for this month's post was inspired by my toddler. Yes, my 2 year old told me what to write about. Over breakfast the other day, I asked my son what Mama should write about for her monthly newsletter. His response of "How 'bout Count and Big Bird?" inspired me.


My son is a big Sesame Street fan, which means I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of Sesame Street over the past few months. As a child, I loved the show. As an adult and psychologist, I have a renewed appreciation of the program and the lessons it teaches. The current season premiered recently and the theme is kindness, a simple fact that I was reminded of with my son's suggestion.

Kindness- what a wonderful concept to focus on this month. Kindness is often confused with being nice, but there are differences. Telling someone they look great before a job interview when they obviously have food stuck in their teeth may be nice but not very kind. The dictionary distinguishes between the helpful nature of being kind and the pleasant nature of being nice.


There are lots of ways to be kind. If you want to get some ideas, take a look at the first episode of Sesame Street this season. You will see people and monsters being considerate, helpful, and loving to one another. All ways of being kind.


Kindness is good for you, others, and the world. It can even boost happiness. If you are interested in learning more about the research on kindness, take a look at this Greater Good article: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind


Here are some ideas to generate kindness:

Pay it forward- pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive-thru

Take a friend out for coffee

Help someone carry a bag at the grocery store

Offer to help a family member or friend with a household project

Give a loved one a hug

Provide free babysitting for a parent in need

Tell someone the truth in a gentle manner



How can you show kindness?


Kindly, 

Dr. Laura

Are You Growing?

Posted on December 13, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on the year. What went well? What didn't go so well? What was my biggest challenge? What obstacle did I overcome? Which goals did I achieve? Which changes are a work in progress? When and how did I use mindfulness skills?

 

As 2017 approaches, I also reflect on the future. What would I like to do differently? Which habits would be healthy for me to change? Which habits would be best to maintain? How do I want to spend my day? How do I want to engage the people around me? What is the healthiest way to interact with my work? What do I want to accomplish this year?

 

I challenge you to ask yourself these or similar questions. You can use these as a guide. Pay attention and even write down your answers. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

 

Now ask yourself this: how can I grow this year?

 

My hope for you is to develop a growth mindset. This means to approach challenges, embrace criticism, and continue growing through the lifespan. Interested? You can read more about growth mindset and Dr. Carol Dweck's work https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Impact" target="_blank">here.

 

One way that you can challenge yourself this year is to take the Behavior Change Ahead Course. On sale for $10 now, you will learn the ins and outs of changing our behavior. Choose a habit and make a change with this course.

 

I wish you health, change, growth, and love in 2017.

 

Warmly,

 

Dr. Laura

Showing Thankfulness

Posted on November 14, 2016 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It's November, which means families are starting to get ready for the holidays. With the fun, family, decorations, friends, parties, and food comes the busyness and stress of the season. Whether it is deciding plans for travel, meals, and gatherings, it can be helpful to share and show thankfulness.

When was the last time that you felt or expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to make these plans? For the amazing problem solving power of our brain to even make plans? For our planning ability to think of "first we can do this and then we can do that"? For the ability to drive and pick up a holiday decoration? Or the freedom to select some online?

All around us- even during the difficulty, the struggles, the hurts, and the fears- there is good. Some days it may be hard to find it, but it is there. We can look for the joy, the good, the humor, the "what's going well" experiences. When you find it, be thankful for it.

It is also healthy to show that you are thankful for the good. It feels so warm and cozy when people express gratitude to us or for something we did. It supports relationships, workplaces, self-care, and parenting.

There are many ways to show your thankfulness. You can keep write down the experiences, people, and things you are thankful for. You can write and send a gratitude letter to someone you are thankful for. You can find hope and express this feeling in your faith. You can tell your children, your spouse, your family, and your friends that you appreciate them and what they do. You can say thank you for taking out the garbage, moving the cars, going food shopping, following directions, or just being there.

While November can be a month to remind us of the importance of being thankful, you can feel, share, and show your appreciation, love, gratitude and hope all year long. I hope that you do.

Through A Toddler's Eyes

Posted on October 10, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

For those of you following this blog for a while, you may remember a few years back when I wrote a piece about taking day-trips for families. While hopefully helpful and interesting, that post was written from a different perspective- the outside observer.

This month, I returned to these same two locations I initially visited, but this time as a mother. How wonderful it is to see the same exact thing from a different perspective. In my case, through the eyes of a toddler.

Being able to see the world around us in a new way is truly amazing. I never noticed how colorful certain fish were or how big a pig could be. My toddler was able to point out different details and offer amusement, saying "wow" at some cool things that we as adults may take for granted.

Of course, traveling with a toddler also presents a reminder about how important self-care is. As adults, we may be on the go all the time and constantly push ourselves to complete our tasks or make the next appointment on-time. With a toddler, however, we can slow down. We can linger here and stare there. We can and should take breaks for potty and food and shade.

We are also reminded that we can see different sides to things. There are many perspectives to each experience in our life. Going to the same place we have been to before but with different people can change the experience. Hearing someone else's viewpoint on their role in a scenario can help us understand the experience better.

We can see the whole world differently. We can care for ourselves, our families, and friends. We can see the moon, the clouds, the trees, the fish, the animals, the grass- everything- in a whole new way. Try seeing the world through a young child's eyes for a while. I bet it will be amazing!

Why I Love My Role

Posted on September 12, 2016 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I love my job. I love that I get to learn from others. I love that I get to share the happy moments and the sad moments. I love that I get to help someone work through a hurt or anger. I love seeing the world through multiple perspectives.

 

Being a psychologist is such an awesome job. It isn’t an easy one, of course.

 

I love that I can feel what others feel. I love that I can share knowledge imparted on to me to give to you. I love that you’re reading this right now. How amazing is it that we can share information together? How wonderful that we can work together to change a family system, a classroom, a marriage, a workplace, or a relationship.

 

I love that when a client makes a decision to seek therapy and put in intense effort and energy, they are not only feeling better, but getting better. They are not only helping themselves but helping others. They are not only improving one situation but others.

 

Have you heard about the 6 degrees of separation theory? You can read a little about it here- https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/six-degrees-separation

 

The world is small. Our connections are strong. We may be more connected than you think. If you choose to make a healthy change in yourself, you may be inspiring a healthy change in someone across the country. Amazing.

 

I love psychology. I love our brains. I love that people work to make healthy choices. I love being a psychologist.

 

I am in awe when I think about someone somewhere at this moment is experiencing the worst moment of their life and that moment will lead them to contact a psychologist for help. I am in awe that my role can help that person (and others) through that moment. What a wonderful role to have- because of you.

 

And for that, I thank you.


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