Chronic Illness


I wanted to talk about the journey of living with a chronic illness and adapting to a new life. I often see when one loses his or her health, he or she often loses many other things not just health. Some of them are:  

  • Relationships 
  • Identity 
  • Job/ career/ school 
  • Aspirations / lifestyle
  • A person may have to move to a new place that allows him or her to adapt to the illness better 
  • Self-esteem 
  • Physical well-being 

That list may go on and on. I wanted to list some of the things that happen to a person, who is dealing with a chronic illness or who was just diagnosed with a new illness. I must say, I have seen people go through journeys with having to make very difficult decisions. What I have noticed, is that people often receive very little instruction if any on how to adapt to a new lifestyle that is not by their choice. On the contrary, some people receive too much advice from others and often times seem confused and overwhelmed. Everyone copes with their medical condition differently and what works for one person may not work for another. Living with chronic illness requires a person to learn a new set of health management skills. 

What I have noticed if that often times, people with chronic medical conditions are able to pull though and cope appropriately with the hardest parts in their lives. We as humans are very resilient and if we surround ourselves with people that love and care about us, we will be able to get though a lot in life. What I found matters most is self-love and self-acceptance. 

What I found to be the most helpful when working with those, who are struggling with chronic illness is helping them find self-love and self-compassion at a time when it is much needed. A person, who is going though a difficult change in his or her life may have to grieve his or her losses in order to be able to find acceptance and create a new life filled with a new level of health. 

At the end of the day I want you to remember that you are more than just an illness. You are still YOU. If you or someone you know is struggling with a medical condition, please do not hesitate to contact me, I would love to talk with you. 




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!

Listen: “You Are Meant for More”

Do you ever hear it?  That little voice inside you that sometimes whispers and other times screams: “You are meant for moooore!” It’s those work days when you feel like you’ve hit your max limit-it feels unbearable to handle another problem, annoying to talk to anyone else, and physically exhausting to keep going. 

Or maybe its those moments you find yourself laying in bed awake thinking “I am not where I should be in life…” which then spirals into mean girl thoughts like: who do I think I am to want it all? And  “It’s too late to change the path I am on”

A woman I worked with described it As…  “that overwhelming feeling  that grips me just at the very second I allow myself to day dream about what it would be like to do work that fills me.”

We all experience it differently but at it’s core, this feeling can have such a devastating affect on women. I’ve see it erode marriages, create distance between women and their kids, and perhaps most devastatingly, break a woman’s belief in herself and her strength. 

If this speaks to you, you are one of 51% of the Americans who feel no real connection to their job. It’s a serious problem, and given that in this culture, we strongly connect our value as people, to the work we do, what is this telling us about how valued women feel? 

So, what do you do?

In my 12,000+ clinical hours of experience supporting women, this is what I’ve found:

You must Get the courage to take the journey. AND, If you embark on this journey, I will be perfectly honest and say it requires a commitment; one that shows difficult for many women to make- the commitment to yourself.

I will also guarantee that it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful and transforming journeys you will ever take in a lifetime. Before you start, Here are three simple things you can do today, to begin your journey toward living the life you were meant for. 

 1. Love Yourself.  Love yourself enough to take time to rediscover who you are and what you care about. What are your like/dislikes, who inspires you?  Also, love yourself enough to quiet that inner mean girl. Would you actually talk to anyone you care about in the same way?

2. Be imperfect. When asked, most women would deny being a perfectionist. Here’s the deal: if you’ve ever felt inadequate, you’ve been a perfectionist. This is because Perfectionism does not make us feel perfect, it makes us feel like we are not enough. Do your best to hold yourself to human, AKA imperfect /flawed expectations. 

3. Walk the Walk. It’s all fun and games until our fears take over and we are frozen from taking action towards our dreams. The truth is, if change were so comfortable and easy, we would all have it all! Teach yourself to go against your gut when it comes to fear- if it scares you, you should probably do it anyway.

 Take time to do these practices daily to start transforming your life!

My wish for those of you who choose to take this amazing journey is that you surround yourselves with a crew of warriors to support you. Friends, family, other women who are on similar journeys, coaches, therapists and anyone else who can support you. Remember when women support one another, incredible things happen. If you find yourself in a place where you are needing some support, I would love to talk with you!

Schedule a time to talk with me.

Val Spiropoulos, LCPC 

Val Spiropoulos is a Psychotherapist and partner at The Centered Life; a woman-owned, women specialty counseling practice in Naperville, IL. Val partners with women who know somewhere deep down inside, they are meant for more. She helps them rediscover themselves and walk confidently towards their dreams so that they live a truly fulfilling life. 

To learn more about Val Spiropoulos:


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Your Child’s Love Language


As parents, we shower our kids with unconditional love, gifts, words of praise, time and affection. It’s pretty impossible to find a parent out there that doesn’t want their child to know just how amazing, special and loved they really are. 

Sometimes, our efforts to show our love may not be received by our kids because our love languages differ. If you have heard of Dr. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages quiz for couples, maybe you aren’t as familiar with the fact that he has also developed Love Languages for kids!

Here is the breakdown of the 5 Love Languages: 

1. Physical Touch- Feel loved when they are hugged, kissed, embraced

2. Words of Affirmation- Feel loved when they are acknowledged, and told how special they are

3. Quality Time- Feel loved when people do things with them (play a game/sport)

4. Acts of Service- Feel loved when people do nice things for them life help with chores/responsibilities

5. Gifts – Feel loved when they get a gift or a special surprise that shows them you thought about them

As a therapist, I often witness how love gets lost in translation with children. “My mom always wants to be around me! I just need some space!” This is an excellent example of how mom’s love language is probably quality time and she expresses that to her kids (assuming their primary love language is the same). To a teen whose love language is words of affirmation, this can feel like intrusion and like a barrier to their independence. This is why knowing more about how your child gives and receives love can be such a tool in connecting with them and having a strong bond!

I’ve found this to be an amazing tool for couples and families I work with. 

Check out Dr. Chapman’s Love Language Quiz here!

Be well, 

Valerie Spiropoulos,LCPC

The Centered Life

Losing Someone you love

It is inevitable that at some point in our lives we will be faced with the loss of a loved one. Coping with this loss can be a very challenging, confusing, and isolating time. Each of us has individual ways of grieving.

It is important to know that grief is not linear nor is there a formula. Although there has been much research on grief, our research continues to grow. We do know that individuals can experience many stages of grief: anger, sadness, isolation, guilt, shock, denial, bargaining, acceptance. However, many individuals may not experience all stages and there is also no particular order. Grief does not have a time frame. It is a very unique and individual process.

Working with a therapist can be helpful to process this loss, understand your thoughts and feelings surrounding the loss, navigate through the various stages, along with helping you to establish a “new normal”.


Jennifer Gawlik, LCPC

Life After College- Now What?

No more classes. No more papers. No more exams. No more finals. Amazing feeling, right? Definitely, until the anxiety creeps in.  Now what am I going to do??

Life after college can be a very, well, awkward time period. Maybe you have moved back home after being away for 4 years. Maybe some of your friends have relocated for a job.  Maybe the dynamics within your friend group has changed, things you were interested in no longer interest you, or them. Maybe you are unsure if you want to take time to just breathe, do some traveling. Or maybe you landed a job right after college and you didn’t get that time to just “breathe”. Either way you slice it, you are embarking on a different journey, separate of what you have known for the past four years.

That can be exciting and frightening at the same time. Just know that it is okay to feel lost or unsure. Probably not going to like to hear this, but it is going to take some time to adjust to this new schedule, whether that transition comes smooth or rough for you.

Allow yourself that time to reflect, identify your values, set goals, and most importantly, take time to focus on your self-care. You just accomplished something major!

All my best,

Jennifer Gawlik, LCPC ~ The Centered Life