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

“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

The Healing Power of Dogs

I am a dog-mom. Yes, that’s right; I am the one that overshares about my dog. Countless pictures/videos and cute stories about “OMG, you’ll never believe what Cutler did yesterday…” – followed by a ridiculously detailed account of our daily walk.  My friends lovingly joke that I try to incorporate a story about my Frenchie into most conversations.

Naturally then, it’s no surprise that I incorporate my Frenchie into my work as a psychotherapist!

If you are a pet parent, I am certain you’ve been lucky enough to experience the amazing benefits animals can have.

I’d like to share with you some of the benefits animals have on our psychological well-being as well as how I incorporate this into my practice as a therapist.

  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is currently a widely used complimentary model to traditional medical and psychological interventions.
  • Research shows that dogs and cats have the ability to lower heart rate and decrease stress and anxiety.
  • Caring for a pet helps create a sense of purpose, teaches responsibility and helps us express emotion such as love and compassion.
  • Research shows that pets help children develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and increased participation in social and physical activities.
  • Having a dog can promote and motivate you to lead a healthier lifestyle

As a psychotherapist, I recognize the importance of complimentary approaches to traditional psychological interventions. This has been the foundation of our approach at The Centered Life and we hold great value in being able to treat our clients from multiple dimensions. Working with my dog Cutler, has shown me how animals can elevate the therapeutic experience for both the therapist and the client.

Here is what I have learned:

  • Kids may refuse to talk to you… but they will seldom refuse a Frenchie with a big tongue and warm smile. Using animals in therapy helps build rapport and make clients feel more at ease in the therapeutic setting
  • As a therapist, I often (psychologically) “hold” my client’s pain in session. Having an animal to help with physical touch and comfort is a profound way to help my clients feel momentary relief.
  • Sometimes, clients aren’t ready to verbalize their trauma or grief to another person. Animals allow open communication without fear of judgement or rejection.
  • Dogs are extremely instinctual and perceptive creatures. As a therapist, those are very important skills to have. I often depend on Cutler to help me see things about my clients I normally would need more cues to pick up on.

I feel privileged to be able to help others health through the power of the human (and animal) connection.

PS: Don’t think I wouldn’t end without sharing a snapshot of my co-author and co-therapist, Cutler

cutler

 

Stay 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

 

First session?

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What to Expect:

There are many barriers that can stand in the way of making a decision to start psychotherapy; time, resources, motivation, support, shame, anxiety… Which is why the simple action of making that first call or searching for a provider online, is so much to be celebrated! If you’re at this stage, STOP. Take a moment to give yourself credit for overcoming these major obstacles!

Feeling nervous… Just as with anything we do for the first time, it’s expected to have a little anxiety about the first session. Try seeking support from a family member of friend who has had experince with counseling. Also, feel free to contact your provider and ask any questions you may have about the process. Remind yourself why you sought counseling in the first place…. do you seek relief, healing or support? These are important things to remember if you feel nervous about your first session.

When you arrive… As with other medical professional offices, you can expect a little paperwork your first session, The Centered Life has our forms available on the website to save you some time, if you want to come prepared! Do not expect a long wait… Our professionals are very diligent in managing time schedules and will greet you promptly!

A comfortable environment…. Unlike a medical office, our private spaces are designed like a home living environment, offering warm and cold beverages and light snacks are also some of our ways to show hospitality and help our clients feel more at “at home.”

The Theraputic relationship… It’s important to know, that just like all of your other relationships (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors), the therapeutic relationship is the same, in that it will take time to develop, grow and strengthen. Therapists understand this very well and encourage clients to go at their own pace in sharing intimate details about their inner emotional experiences. It is likely that your first session wI’ll focus on building rapport with your therapist, understanding the therapeutic process and helping your therapist to understand some of the reasons you sought their services.

Before you go… Take an opportunity to ask your therapist any questions that came up for you. The end of your session will be the time when you discuss frequency of your sessions and scheduling. Don’t forget to get the contact information of your therapist and The Centered Life, in case any questions come up after you leave the office!

Take a deep breath… Give yourself recognition for doing something brave… You took a step towards healing and wellness!

 ~The Centered Life Staff