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

Why Does Fighting Have To Be a Negative Thing?

Let’s be honest, relationships of any kind can be difficult and expressing emotions is not easy. Now add an array of life stressors and it can make sense why fighting amongst people can become explosive, full of miscommunications, filled with mis-directed emotions, and can be a difficult cycle to break. A big difference in relationships that prosper and those that stay stuck is the WAY in which they handle disagreements.

As a therapist whether I’m working with an individual, a couple, or a family, a common goal people want is to have healthier and happier relationships. Life puts a strain on relationships so it is normal that with additional stress comes an increase in arguments, disagreements, and feeling like you are not being valued nor heard in your relationship. So the question I get asked all the time is, how? How do I/we stop having this distress in relationships? I will never encourage clients to set a goal of never fighting in their relationships. I help clients reframe their exceptions that the function of fighting is to express your emotional and relationship opinions and needs. I teach clients how to “fight fair” and learn how to express themselves in a healthy way. Everyone is valid to feel how they feel, but what improves relationships is effective emotional expression, healthy boundaries, and learning how to identify your responsibility and ability to do both.

Rules for Fighting Fair

1. Ask yourself what are the real reasons you feel upset. It is never really about the dirty dishes left in the sink or the dirty clothes left on the ground. It can be about gathering evidence as to why you feel you are not valued nor being heard about what you need from your partner. So take a step back and ask yourself, what am I really upset about? Without self awareness of your true emotions, you will not know how to work towards a resolution.

2.Only discuss ONE issue at a time. It can be easy for fights to morph into other issues, especially unresolved ones from the past. This can be tough but keep each other focused on the issue at hand. Keep this boundary, it is the only way to keep control of the disagreement.

3. Take responsibility for the way you feel. Express your feelings using “I statements.” Do NOT play the blame game when discussing important issues in your relationship. Instead of saying “you make me angry because you always do…,” reframe it to say, “I feel angry when…” Pointing fingers will only put up defenses and cause a barrier for any healthy communication to happen.

4. No degrading language. Discussing sensitive topics is hard and can trigger a variety of deep emotions. This can lead to impulsive outbursts such as using words or statements that you do not truly mean but will not be able to take back once said.

5. Take turns. We often listen to respond and not to understand. Try to set a timer so each person gets their turn to express themselves. Then whoever is listening does not have to worry about getting their turn, they only need to focus on truly listening.

6. No stonewalling. It can be easy during an emotionally charged conversation to want to go into a shell and not speak. However, doing this will only make it impossible to resolve the issue.

7. No yelling. Being the loudest does not mean anything you are saying is actually being heard. If you feel yourself starting to get heated and your tone of voice begins to escalate, take 5 deeps breaths to slow your mind and body down.

8. Be prepared to take a time out if things begin to escalate. If the conversation continues to get too heated and taking deep breaths just is not working, then take a time out. BUT, set a time to continue the conversation. Too often when people take a time out they never go back and the issues will only keep coming up in the future.

Set a goal of coming to some kind of understanding or compromise. Relationships are give and take and resolving conflict is the same. This does not necessarily mean you come to the exact agreement or that it will be a perfect resolution where each person gets exactly what they wanted. But sometimes even coming to understand how the other person is feeling and validating that is a solution.

During an argument many people want to either win the argument or want to be heard. Fighting fair requires that either person in the relationship work to communicate effectively so they will not further damage each other or their relationship during difficult times. Use the above rules during your next disagreement and see how you can replace destructive ways of arguing with more constructive ones.

All my support,

     Samantha 🙂

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.