Less Anxious & More Confident: School Edition

School is officially in session! It’s been a few weeks, perhaps even a month. Classes are in full swing —but are you having a hard time adjusting or feeling motivated? Feeling overwhelmed? Still have summer on your brain?

Here are 5 tips to help you feel less anxious and more confident starting off the school year right!

  1. PLAN AHEAD: Have you heard of that saying: “fail to plan, plan to fail”? It’s true! There are simple tools that you can do to help you plan ahead. Planning ahead and setting a routine (with room for some “me-time” and flexibility) can be helpful in feeling less anxious.

  1. STAY ORGANIZED: Use tools to help you stay organized. There are so many apps (more than I can keep up with) that do the work to help you stay organized and on task. Here are a few: 

The Homework App: Easy way to view and manage your student life across all of your devices.

Pocket Schedule Planner: View all your classes at a glance, easy tracking with a calendar, personalized timetable, and manage your assignments.

Egenda: School planner and assistant all in one.

My Study Life: A free cross platform planner app for students, teachers and lecturers designed to make your study life easier to manage.

Homework Pal: Easy way to view and manage all of your upcoming assignments.

Don’t like apps? There is always the good ‘ol paper/pencil planner. Use highlighters or different colored pens to help you differentiate subjects, extra activities, work, and important events like scheduling time for self-care!

  1. PREPARE A STUDY AREA: It is so important to have a designated study area. I encourage a comfortable and quiet place with minimal to no distractions. This sets the tone for a productive environment.
  2. PRIORITIZE YOUR HEALTH: Take care of your body and mind. Take care of your health! It is so easy to put yourself at the bottom of the priority list when school, work, activities, friends, family, and your significant other all demand your time. Purposefully schedule time for yourself, whether it is 15 minutes or 3 hours, each and every day. You will thank yourself later!
  3. SUPPORT SYSTEM: Line up a support system. Starting classes again can be challenging, especially if you have been in a groove that does not involve school.
    Reachout for help. Ask your professor for that extra help on a topic you don’t quite understand. Talk to your parents. Laugh with your friends. Hug your dog! It is healthy to have an outlet that can listen and offer support and/or feedback.

To a healthy, happy, and successful school year!

If implementing these tips feel overwhelming and you feel you could use some additional support, please schedule a time to talk with me for a free consultation. I would love to help you!

Click here to schedule!

Is My Teen Okay?

Yes, and no.  That’s a complicated question, and one that most parents of teens wonder.  Parents often suddenly feel disconnected from their teen. They have no idea what is going on in their mind or their lives and it’s often hard to tell from the surface if the teen is ok.  Honestly, your teen isn’t even sure if they are ok.

Your teen is going through a lot of physical and emotional changes that can make it seem like they are completely out of control and irrational.  Their bodies and brains are growing at an incredible rate.  School demands are increasing each year with a strong and pressuring emphasis on getting into THE BEST college.  Friends are coming and going. And, I often find that teens are constantly working through competing needs that they don’t know how to share because they can’t always put words to them, and aren’t willing to be vulnerable enough to share them.  They are simultaneously trying to meet the needs for independence and nurturing. They want to feel, and be seen as, independent.  They are coming into adulthood and are very aware of that.  At the same time, they want to be nurtured, taken care of.  But they will never be caught dead telling you that they need you.  In their minds they are grown and need to show that.

Here’s where you, trusted adult, come in. ( I say trusted adult, because this really applies to all of the adults in a teens life, not just parents)  The best ways you can support your teen is to first keep these needs in mind.  Remind yourself that they are figuring a lot out, and just because they say they don’t say it, they need you.  So ask how they’re doing, set aside time for them, nurture them in those ways you always have.   I know what you are thinking – they don’t let me.  Don’t stop trying.  Don’t let it be an option.  Ignore the negative response (easier said than done), including the eye roll, complaint, and attitude.  Deep down they really need you, they just don’t know how to say that.

And give them space to fail.  I’m not talking anything monumental, like failing high school, or getting injured.  Let them miss that assignment deadline.  Let them be sleep through their alarm and miss first period.  Let them say the wrong thing, wear the wrong thing, do the wrong thing.  Because they need to learn how to fix their mistakes.  They need to learn to feel what it’s like to make a mistake.  They need to learn what it means to be grown, but in small ways.  I like to think of parents and the school system as a safety net.  Allow teens to make the mistakes they need to make in order to learn, with you and their support system as a safety net.  Then when they are actually grown, they have some tools in their belt to be able to handle what life brings them.

I want to clarify that there are some things to look for that are outside of reasonable mistakes.  If your child is demonstrating any unsafe behaviors or thoughts, intervene immediately.

Parenting teens is hard work.  I’d love to join you on that journey of supporting your teen through critical years, while maintaining your sanity, because it is possible.

-Stephanie Samudio, LCSW

Our Dedication to the Naperville Community – In response to the tragic string of teen suicides

We are so honored to have worked on this survey with KidsMatter and North Central College to help identify the biggest stress triggers for our teens. With the data of the survey, we as a community will be able to implement preventative services and resources for teens and families! 

CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE HERE!

 

“Say This…Not That,” How To Support a Loved One Going Through Emotional Distress

 

It is beyond difficult to go through mental and emotional distress. It can feel impossible to formulate what you are going through, let alone express to a loved one how they can help. So many people experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, grief, and loss due to struggling with a mental illness or enduring a period of pain. However, everyone goes through different experiences and struggles so it can feel helpless to explain your pain and it can feel helpless to be a loved one trying to help heal that pain. I understand how loved ones then can feel at a loss as to how to give their support. It is normal to not know what to say, how to say it, what to do, or know if you are being helpful in any way.

Being a family therapist at The Centered Life, I believe it is an essential piece to therapy to aid my clients to learn how to conceptualize and express what they are experiencing in order to work through it. But I think it is equally as important in therapy to bring in clients’ support systems so they can learn how to be helpful in a healthy way. It is hard to be vulnerable and ask for help. And if that help is received in a negative way, it will only set up a dynamic of little communication about emotional needs and can negatively affect the relationship as well. Which then creates more distress on both ends. Here is a list of  some ways that may help people express what kind of help they need and help support systems navigate how to be helpful.

Say This: “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help”

Not That: “We all go through times like this”

Say This: “You may not believe it now, but the way you are feeling will change”

Not That: “Just snap out of it, look on the bright side”

Say This: “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. We will get through this together”

Not That: “You’ll be fine. Stop worrying. Shouldn’t you be better right now?”

Say This: “Talk to me, I’m listening.”

Not That: “Here is my advice.”

Say This: “I know you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, what can I do to help?”

Not That: “You are freaking out, you just need to calm down.”

Say This: “You are not alone in this”

Not That: “There is always someone worse off than you.”

Say This: “You are important to me and I want to help.”

Not That: “No one said life is fair.”

Say This: “Do you need a hug?”

Not That: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

Say This: “I can not completely understand what you are struggling with, but I can offer my love and compassion.”

Not That: “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed/anxious for a few days”

Say This: “I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.”

Not This: “Your moods are bringing everyone around you down.”

Say This: “When these feelings subside, I will still be here and so will you.”

Not That: “Stop being so sensitive, cheer up.”

It can feel helpless for both the person enduring the emotional distress and the people who are trying to help, but it does NOT have to be. The above statements are some helpful outlines to enhance healthy and empowering support. If we can open up a dialogue about these topics and help each other understand from both sides, then there is so much more of a chance of coping better. It is important to offer support with an open mind, open heart, and with an open-ended approach because it only leaves room for open healthy communication and learning amongst support systems. All of us at The Centered Life are here to help people that are going through a hard time. Please call us if you are needing any kind of guidance and extra support!

All my best,

    Samantha

Am I Depressed?

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Many people ask themselves this question every day.  You notice a change in yourself, or maybe your loved ones point it out to you; could it be depression?

Our society likes throw around clinical terms such as “depression” in everyday language to describe someone or characteristics of themselves. The reality is, that this term is very real, psychiatric diagnosis.

So… how can you determine if you are suffering from depression? Here are some symptoms to consider:

  1. Depression is a word to describe your mood. Are you feeling down, sad, lonely or irritable?
  2. When our mood changes, we tend to lose interest in parts of our lives we used to find joy in.
  3. Changes in our sleep, appetite, activity levels, attention span and weight may also indicate depression.
  4. Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and worthlessness are common in people who struggle with depression.
  5. Suicidality or thoughts about self-harm or death can also be experienced by someone with depression..

 

If you read the above tips and found any one of them to be true, you would probably not be alone. As humans, we experience emotion on a continuum- and just because we experience sadness or changes in our sleep, does not mean we suffer from depression.

It is important to consider that when the above symptoms become difficult to handle and are impacting different aspects of your life, you should seek out a professional’s support.

Any licensed mental health professional can help you determine if you struggle with depression. As it is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder, there are plenty of options for treatment and support.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thinking, please contact your local emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at :  1-800-273-8255

 

Be Well,

Valerie Spiropoulos, LCPC

 

 

7 Ways to get the most “bang for your buck” in therapy

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Hopefully I don’t put myself out of a job, but I will be the first to admit- Therapy is expensive! In Naperville, Illinois (a Western suburb of Chicago), a 50 minute session can range anywhere from $150-$280.  Insurance is an option for some, but we all know the status of our healthcare system these days and who wants an insurance company telling them how many sessions they’re allowed to attend?

Although costly, there is great value in the therapeutic process. Clients often experience emotional relief, a sense of support and learn tools to cope with the issues that brought them to therapy.


A guide to get the most “bang for your buck” when you start counseling.

 

1. Before you start…STOP and commit!

Understanding the befits of counseling and working to overcome some of the stigma  associated with it, will save you tons of time and money. This can be challenging- be sure to reach out to people you trust.

2. Be an educated consumer!

With instant information at our fingertips, we have unlimited options.

  • Learn the difference of counselor credentials in your state
  • Ask people you trust for a referral (ie: your doctor, a trusted friend or family member)
  • Think about the type of therapist you would connect best with: male/female/passive/directive/younger/older

 

3. Try before you buy!

The relationship between you and your therapist is a major catalyst in helping you work towards your goals; ask if they can provide a free phone consultation. This will give you an opportunity to see if they’re  a “good fit” before the first session.

 

4. Therapy is not magic, nor is it a “quick fix”

If this was the case, I would wear a cape to work and you could get therapy at your local Starbucks Drive Thru!

  • Be patient first with yourself- you are a complex and unique individual, exploring your issues and learning to cope with them takes time, patience and understanding.
  • Secondly, be patient with your therapist- our top priority is to help you. We can’t, unless we understand you- and that also takes time and patience.
  • There is no “magic number” of how long it will take you to overcome your struggles- that is a very personal and individual process.

 

5. Just because it hurts, doesn’t mean it is bad for you.

If change were easy and pleasant, we would all be living ideal versions of ourselves! The reality is: change can be an uncomfortable process that can stir up some emotions that can be tough to handle. At the same time, having an expert in your corner, who can support you in managing these feelings and challenge your fears is very re-assuring!

 

6. Come prepared.

We love our clients and the work that we do! We put all else aside when we meet with you. For that one hour, we give our attention, focus and care 100% to you. Please come prepared to do the same for yourself. Honor the time you spend on bettering your life by being present and open to change.

 

7. If it is not helping~ please say so.

If you bought a pair of pants and they didn’t fit, would you keep trying them on every week?

  • Maybe, but you would bet it would be pretty frustrating! The same goes for therapy.
  • Treatment is an extremely individualized, unique process for everyone; it can take some time to find what works best.
  • Don’t assume that just because your therapist is an expert in counseling, they are an expert in what works specifically for you.
  • Be vocal about what you find helpful and what you do not… trust me, we appreciate the feedback!

Keep these tips in mind and you can save yourself a ton of money! But don’t forget that it’s not the dollar amount that defines the value in therapy- its you.

Best of luck,

Valerie Spiropoulos, LCPC

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www.thecenterelifetherapy.com

 

5 Things I Do To Cope Better With Daily Anxiety

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5 Things I Do to Cope Better With Daily Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response to challenging or stressful situations. In fact, having anxiety can help people to push themselves to perform tasks better. However, it is when your worry and fear become so overwhelming it gets in the way of your daily life that it may be helpful to learn how to cope better day to day with it. According to the ADAA, there are close to 4 million people in America who are struggling with anxiety disorders and it is one of the most common issues that brings people into therapy.

I specialize in working with anxiety disorders and one of the reasons I have a passion for helping those with anxiety is because I myself, have anxiety. I always thought that it was stress induced but as I got older I realized it was actually anxiety that caused me to feel overwhelmed daily. I understand that it can be hard to describe to people what anxiety feels like and it seems easier to just act like it is not there. Distraction and avoidance will only make your anxiety worse. The minute I recognized it, it empowered me to implement skills that improved my coping. Here is list of 5 things I do to decrease my daily anxiety.

1. Give yourself a worry period. Set aside 15-30 minutes at the beginning of the day to allow yourself this time to process your worries. The more you try to ignore a thought, the more likely you are to focus on it. For example, try not to think about a pink elephant. Let me guess, you just pictured a pink elephant. Anxiety has a way of making people feel overwhelmed and gives the belief that if someone could control everything then the anxiety will subside. Trying to give in to your anxiety and believing you can control everything is an impossible task. What is possible? Organizing what you can and cannot control. Work on what you can control and accept what you cannot. At the end of the worry period tell yourself that whatever it is, you can handle it.

2. Stay present. Anxiety robs people of the ability to stay in the here and now due to fear and worry about all the “what-if’s” in the future. A way to calm anxiety in the moment is to notice you are beginning to feel anxious and identify it as just a thought, neither good nor bad. Do not judge your thoughts. Next, begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your chest rising and falling, the sound and feel of the breath going in and out, and the slowing down of your heartbeat. It can be hard to just stop worrying and focus on the present. However, if you practice these skills it will get easier to bring yourself back to the here and now and you will see a significant decrease in your daily anxiety.

3. Practice deep breathing. When you become anxious your “fight or flight” is triggered in your brain which causes stress hormones to be released which is why people commonly feel physical symptoms of anxiety. During an anxious moment, take 10 deep breaths where your chest is rising and falling dramatically. Count your breath in for 5 seconds and your breath out for 5 seconds. Again, focus on your breath and your muscle relaxation while deep breathing. This useful skill will slow your anxious mind and body quickly.

4. Engage in physical activity. Anxiety can be paralyzing due to constant, intrusive thoughts of worry and fear. Due to its common physical manifestation, anxiety can make someone feel mentally and physically drained. However, if you can increase your physical activity it will not only give you a healthy coping skill, but it will also cause your brain to release more endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These are also known as your “happy chemicals.”  An anxious brain will start to release stress chemicals more frequently so if you increase the amount of “happy chemicals,” your brain’s “fight or flight” response become less triggered. Start out by taking short walks a few times a week. Once you see the benefit of your mood improving, you can work up to adding more physical activities such as biking, going to a gym, or doing an exercise or yoga class. 

5. Improve diet and sleep hygiene. A big part of managing anxiety is looking at your food and sleep regimen. If you are having too much caffeine or sugar then it will exacerbate you feeling stimulated on top of feeling anxious. Furthermore, anxiety causes the brain to be hyper vigilant and without getting proper sleep, your mind is never getting the rest it needs. The Centered Life works closely with nutritionists and will also refer clients for a sleep study because it is important to have a healthy diet and sleep in order to improve anxiety. Anxiety makes you feel out of control and these are things you can control!

Anxiety is a normal response to stress and can become a learned reaction to such situations. It can be easy for worry and fear to become constantly internalized and then all of sudden it is overwhelming your daily life. But when you start to talk about it and take action to cope better with it, you will see relief. Try for just one day to implement the above skills and empower yourself that you can take control of your anxiety. If you are having a hard time handling your anxiety, please call one of our therapists for a free phone consultation to talk about it and receive support. We can help you figure out the rest!

All My Best,

Samantha

Miscarriage Matters

Spring is officially here! Hopefully the weather cooperates soon 😉 Spring is a time of renewal, learning to form and embrace a new version of yourself.

The Centered Life recently partnered with the blog talk radio show “Miscarriage Matters” as a part of the series Renewal of Body, Mind, and Soul. I was invited to be a guest by Danielle Langford. Danielle is an Empowerment Specialist and Workshop Facilitator, who created pinkempowers.com and is also the host of Miscarriage Matters. Miscarriage Matters is a radio show educating the public about miscarriage and loss and how it truly affects a person by offering friendship and a listening ear.

Miscarriage is important to talk about as it happens to women and families everywhere. Miscarriage does not discriminate. Through my work with clients who have experienced a miscarriage, I have gathered that there seems to be this attached shame of talking about it and rushed sense of needing to grieve quickly or if at all. Miscarriage Matters radio exists to let you know that you are not alone and to offer support.

Renewal involves establishing the new normal. Specifically, it is learning to form and embrace a “new version” of yourself with the loss now being a part of you; as a part of your identity.

 

Here are 8 helpful aspects to consider as you start your journey towards a “new normal”:

  1. First and foremost, know that you are not alone. You will never get over the miscarriage, but you can get through it.
  1. Allow yourself to grieve! Allow yourself to go through the grieving process by acknowledging the loss and learning to sit with the pain and to seek support.
  2. Increase your self-care by challenging feelings of guilt, getting involved in things that promote empowerment, and embracing self-love.
  1. Find your sense of self again. Give yourself permission to go through the grieving process- no matter what that looks like.
  1. We are emotional beings: express yourself through the process. Allow yourself to cry, be sad, and be angry, etc.
  1. It is okay to laugh! Experiencing joy is okay, even when you feel sadness and pain.
  1. Renewal starts when you are ready; sometimes loss becomes more painful, before it gets better
  1. Know that your experience is unique and grief is not linear. With that being said, there is no time frame or formula for grief. Everyone grieves differently and that is okay. It all depends on the culture, background, experience, situation, and of course the individual.

 

I encourage you to seek counseling as it can be tremendously helpful to validate your experience. Additionally, I encourage you to seek support through a religious or spiritual affiliation, volunteering, joining a club or organization, and from family/friends. As Danielle said in the show, “Sometimes you need to go outside, to get renewed inside”.

Please be sure to tune in weekly on Tuesdays at 7pm CST to listen to Danielle Langford and Miscarriage Matters. You can connect with Danielle and the rest of the Miscarriage Matters team at blogtalkradio.com/miscarriagematters. You can email them mmradio@mymiscarriagematters.org. I also encourage you to check out Danielle’s website here for inspiration and a schedule of her upcoming workshops!

You can listen to this radio show segment HERE .

 

Best,

Jennifer

 

 

 

“Power Posing”

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Do you have an upcoming interview? Nervous about a presentation? Need a boost of confidence? Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows us how our body language not only affects how others view us, but how we view ourselves. In this video, Amy shows us how “power posing” for a few minutes affects testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.