There are a lot of red and pink hearts lingering around the discount shelves of stores. The hype of Valentine’s has passed. For the single or broken hearted, perhaps there’s a sigh of relief. For the critics, perhaps the annual critique of the social construction of this national ritual has passed. I know I personally had found myself thinking about the consumerism aspects of Valentine’s Day and the economic benefit to various groups (e.g., restaurants, chocolatiers, etc) of convincing the country of the importance of this day. It’s easy enough write off or at least minimize.

Then, I thought to myself, “Self, why are you writing off or minimizing a day about love?”

I realized I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Is there a fair critique to be made of Valentine’s Day? Yes. But is there still something of value? Yes.

Despite the clear consumerism, and despite the hype that leaves mementos to love on a discount shelf, there is more to this day than chocolates and roses. There is a reminder that our lives are supposed to be about love, that love is important enough to celebrate, and that loving relationships are worth our investment. I now find myself enjoying those lingering remnants of the day: the string of heart shaped lights in my niece’s bedroom, the sweetheart poster on my neighbor’s door, the card on my table. They’re artifacts to remind me that love is all around. It is real. It lasts far longer than any of the ephemeral holiday décor. It is the thing to celebrate, to hold onto. And it is by returning to love, not just on one day but every day, that our lives become better. So here’s to the left over chocolates, the slightly wilting roses, and to anything that reminds us of the goodness to be found in love.

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ELI5: How do you leave Work at Work?

This is a question that, as a mental health professional, I often receive from my clients about their lives and about my life.  I’ll speak from my perspective and let you generalize from there.

Psychotherapy is, at the core, a study on how building relationships can change people’s lives for the better.  Of course it is a bit more complicated than that, but without empathy for someone’s experience clients won’t feel like their therapist cares and getting past the surface will become impossible.  So if my job is to hear genuinely sad stories about why the person came to see me and my job is to emotionally understand that story, then how do I not take that feeling home?  After all, if the person coming to see me could stop thinking about this problem, then they might not be in my office.

The answer lies in boxes.  The way that I envision each client is that they have their own space in my mind, but their space is contained in their own box that has its own space on the shelf.  I can hear about the best and worst of humanity and can genuinely empathize with that person’s experience.  Once I have spent enough time feeling, understanding, conceptualizing, and treatment planning for that client, I am able to place all of that energy into a box.  If needed, I can take that box off the shelf and come back to the problems that the client brought to session and even revisit my work in understanding my relationship with the client.

Viewing these relationships as boxes also allows me to pay attention to how many boxes are open at once.  I can then see if the information that I am relating between the boxes are purposeful empathetic connections or lazy overgeneralizations that can be malicious.  Anyone who has had more than one romantic relationship has had to do this in their dating life – when girlfriend #1 told you she was fine but meant she was ticked, girlfriend #2 may say she is fine because she chooses her battles;  valuing harmony over conflict.

The metaphor of the box is one that I live, but live through practice.  Compartmentalization isn’t perfect, but it provides a system that has been effective in my goal of being a present and engaged therapist, while not letting the pain my client shares dim my ability to help the next person.

Generalizing to your life, it is possible to have work box, a romantic relationship box, a difficult parent box, a financial box, and others as needed.  This way you are able to be present and effective in the places that demand your attention.  To wit, you can pay your bills and have pride in the work whilst struggling with your partner or being worried about finances.

A critique of compartmentalizing different aspects of life is that it could quickly slip into avoidance.  I believe that there is a great deal of merit to this argument, and I believe that organizing your boxes and taking time over the course of the week to open the important ones keeps lids from staying shut.  This is the difference between a labeled system where boxes can be easily reached and an episode of Hoarders about a guy who lives next door to the shipping department at Costco.  Boxes everywhere!

Take time this week to look at the boxes that are in your life and think about how you are addressing the difficult ones while keeping them from overflowing.

-Logan Williamson, LPC
University Counseling Center

*For the uninitiated, ELI5 stands for Explain Like I’m 5 and is a place online to ask questions about complicated concepts and usually receive an answer from experts.  By definition, the answers generally capture the answer in understandable, layman terms without condescending or patronizing the reader.*

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I sometimes think about the early Jesuits, missionaries scattered across the globe, encountering new cultures, learning and meeting people in their environments. What fascinating aspects of humanity they must have encountered! Though university life today is such that new faces come to our central location, students bring the richness of their worlds to Loyola. In the Counseling Center, we have the privilege of entering into these worlds by proxy – by hearing about the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and human systems that animate our clients’ experiences.  And like those early Jesuits, we have the opportunity to meet people where they are, to understand the needs of the people with whom we work and collaboratively find ways to meet those needs. In this sense, our primary purpose is to be with and for others.

Squarely aligned with this counseling process is the Jesuit concept of “cura personalis,” care of the whole person. We look at the broader context of a person’s life: we ask about their physical ailments, their financial stressors, the impact of their academic life on their social connections (or vice versa!). We understand the connectedness of these various components of an individual’s life and recognize the importance of assessing and addressing a breadth of aspects of our clients’ lives.

Counseling encourages a balance of both contemplation and action. We use the tools of reflection and introspection to increase self-understanding, to illuminate support networks, and to identify personal strengths. But we recognize that these are not ends unto themselves. Counseling is meant to create a change that ultimately enhances a client’s wellbeing, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and relationships. It is action toward positive change that gives life to the fruits of contemplation.  The concept of the “magis” resonates throughout this process. Which actions are for the better? Which pathways will better produce meaningful relationships?

In sum, many Jesuit concepts and tools dovetail with the ideals and practice of counseling. While counseling does not use overtly spiritual language or practices, it is inherently open to developing all aspects of an individual. In this way, our work, like that of the Jesuits themselves, is meant to aid people in leading lives of greater authenticity and integrity so that they too may be better able to stand as women and men with and for others.

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Substance Abuse Screenings This Week! (And every week)

You all know the statistics.  If I would write them, you’d skip ‘em.  I know how it goes.  The bottom line is that we all know that college students’ relationship with substances is tricky at best.  More important than any statistic is the question: What is your relationship with substances like?  How does it affect your life?

This week, Loyola’s University Counseling Center is advertising a service that we provide to the students year round – Substance Abuse Screenings.  We want the campus to know that if you have questions, then we can help get answers.  And then we can even help with what to do with those answers.

One life lesson that is assumed that you learn on your own is how to manage putting things in your body that are potentially harmful but can give you immediate gratification (sometimes).  Substance abuse screenings are geared towards those with problems with alcohol and other drugs, but this point also applies to calories, sugar, sunshine, adrenaline, caffeine and this wonderful website.  Sometimes we aren’t so good at learning this lesson.  See: obesity rates, incarceration trends, extreme sports and again this wonderful website.

But just because we are surrounded by McDonald’s, Wifi signals and booze ads doesn’t mean that we are doomed to a life of voracious consumption.  Talking to someone can help and that’s why we are doing this.  Because life is more than the moment and moderation is more reasonable than.  Make an appointment with a counselor at the UCC so that you can take a look at your use with someone who can be a guide rather than a parent.

 

-University Counseling Staff

**All services are confidential**
Confidentiality at the UCC is defined here.

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Being on a college campus can increase your chances of getting sick during this cold and flu season. Flu and other viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. Viruses also may spread when people touch something with viral particles on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. There are some simple tips that can help you to stay healthy for the remaining little bit of winter in NOLA.

Get your flu shot…it’s not too late!

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.  This helps to contain your secretions without contaminating your hands.
  • Use a tissue over your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and dispose of dirty tissues immediately
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since germs spread this way
  • Do not share drinks or eating utensils with anyone
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with germs like the flu, such as doorknobs, keyboards, and phones
  • Exercise daily
  • Get an adequate amount of sleep/rest
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids

Please call or visit Student Health Services for more information on this topic or for any other health related concerns.  We are located in the basement of the Danna Center.  Our phone number is (504) 865-3326.  For more information on our services, please visit our website at http://studentaffairs.loyno.edu/health.

-Amie Cardinal, RN

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Welcome back to Loyola for spring 2014 semester!  We at the University Counseling Center (UCC) hope that you had a restful and rejuvenating break.  Now it’s time to get back in gear to start the spring semester on positive footing.

Time and time again students present to the UCC feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed as a result of juggling a slew of responsibilities such as coursework, studying, co-curricular leadership positions, work, and/or social activities.  Sometimes, the easiest answer is avoidance; however, while this might be an effective short-term solution, its long term consequences can have far-reaching effects.  So, how do you know that you are procrastinating?  Here are a few clues:

  • Do you act as though if you ignore a task, it will go away?
  • Do you underestimate the work involved in the task, or overestimate your abilities and resources in relationship to the task?
  • Do you deceive yourself into believing that a mediocre performance or lesser standards are acceptable?
  • Do you believe that repeated and minor delays are harmless?

If you can see yourself in one or more of these situations, then, like most of us, you’ve engaged in procrastination.  Keep in mind that procrastination is the avoidance of anxiety and that the sooner you get to work, the better the outcome will be for you.  Here are a few ideas to ponder to assist you with making good on your procrastination resolution—

  • Make honest decisions about your work. If you wish to spend only a minimal amount of effort or time on a particular task, admit it–do not allow guilt feelings to interfere with your realization of this fact.
  • Study in small blocks instead of long time periods. For example, you will accomplish more if you study/work in 60 minute blocks and take frequent 10 minute breaks in between, than if you study/work for 2-3 hours straight, with no breaks. Reward yourself after you complete a task.
  • Modify your environment: Eliminate or minimize noise/distraction. Ensure adequate lighting. Have necessary equipment at hand. Don’t waste time going back and forth to get things. Don’t get too comfortable when studying. A desk and straight-backed chair are usually best.  Be neat! Take a few minutes to straighten your desk. This can help to reduce day-dreaming.
  • Grab an impulse to work on a project, and stay with it while it lasts.
  • Work alongside a non-procrastinator.
  • Use a wall calendar or monthly planner. Write in each deadline (exams, papers, projects, etc.) on the day it is due.
  • Break large tasks into small steps, scheduling each step into your planner. This makes those difficult tasks seem less overwhelming.

Best of success with your procrastination resolution and remember:  Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

For more information on the UCC, please visit our website at http://studentaffairs.loyno.edu/counseling.

 

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Deep breath! You’re almost to the finish line!

In a few short days, you’ll be finished with all your finals. You’ll have an opportunity for some well-earned rest and rejuvenation. Perhaps you’ll be staying in the New Orleans area. Perhaps you’ll be traveling to visit family, friends, or for vacation. Whatever your plans, be aware of what going home for the holidays brings up for you and make sure to practice some self-care.

The holidays can bring up a wide range of emotions for many people. They can bring comfort, joy, peace, hopefulness, and renewal. However, holidays can also prompt anxiety or sadness. Family can be a source of great comfort but can also push your buttons or pull you toward resuming old patterns when you return home.

You may find that as you have grown and changed, your family or friends may have changed, too. After all, this is a time of transition for your families and friends as well and will require adjusting to changes in those relationships. You might realize that you feel more like yourself at Loyola! Though they can be difficult to navigate, changes in relationships are a normal part of moving toward independence and adulthood.

So, as you journey home, consider a few tips that might help along the way:

  • If you notice yourself feeling the “holiday blues,” remember the points noted above. Consider if there are conversations you need to have to mend relationships or if there are boundaries that you might need to set.
  • Think about your hopes for the holidays and ask if there’s room for you to challenge your own expectations of self, others and the holiday season in general.
  • Make time for rest and relaxation.  You are likely to feel exhausted after final exams but still want to visit with everyone back home.  Having a loosely structured plan for your break can help you have time for all your family and friends AND time for sleep, exercise, and relaxation.
  • Continue self-care. Remember what helps you feel well and balanced, and continue to engage in those activities. Perhaps that’s journaling, baking, biking, singing, or praying.
  • Keep in contact with your friends from Loyola.  Make a few phone calls, Skype, or send email/text messages. You’ll be happy to pick up where you left off when you return to campus in January.
  • Consider recording a “home for the holidays” playlist to assist with relaxation or boost your mood.
  • Volunteer.  Remembering the Jesuit ideals of compassion and dignity this holiday season and giving of your time and energy to assist in the lives of others will leave you feeling a sense of renewal and motivation for the spring semester.

However you spend your time, know that the UCC wishes you a holiday of rest and rejuvenation. Enjoy the well-earned time off, and we’ll see you next year!

Brooks Zitzmann, LCSW

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Thanksgiving comes at a hectic time of year.  Most people have just packed away their Halloween costume when they’re suddenly startled by stores displaying Christmas lights and candy canes.  Many may ask themselves, “What happened to the holiday between Halloween and Christmas?”  You know, Thanksgiving.

Yes.  Thanksgiving can get lost in the hustle and bustle of other obligations, a mere precursor to the REAL holiday that gives us a longer break from our job and class responsibilities. Thanksgiving is also, however, the only holiday that encourages us to give gratitude for our journey and asks us to focus on universal, human commonalities.  Thanksgiving asks us to not only give thanks for people and events that have brought us happiness, but to also appreciate the challenges we’ve faced which make us stronger and more insightful.

Whether you’re in the residence hall studying for finals, in line for a store opening on Black Friday, or surrounded by loved ones this Thanksgiving, let me encourage you to take a moment and reflect on the many gifts in your life.  May we be grateful for everything in our lives and show appreciation on this day and on those to come.

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One of my top strengths on Strengths Quest is Ideation.  I love it.  I could tell you all of the reasons why, trust me.  After all, that is what ideators can do best!  The problem comes with the list afterwards.  What to do, what to do?

This is an interesting part of the year because there is enough time elapsed between the start of school and now to understand how the year is progressing.  You know what has been working and what has fallen on its face.  You probably even have a good idea of what is ahead. To be incredibly nerdy, statistically speaking, this may not be the median (mid-point) of the semester, but it is probably the mean (average).

Loyola students are great at coming up with this understanding.  They can come up with ideas about how to improve, enhance, streamline and balance their study habits, reading lists, upcoming assignments, social commitments, relationship maintenance, and on and on (please refer to previous ideator statement).  What I would challenge you to do this “mean” in the semester is to pick one thing to improve upon and change that one thing.  Do it today and not tomorrow.  Changes that are worth tomorrow are worth today just as much and you have to start somewhere.

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Today Loyola hosted the final First in The Pack seminar for the semester, for which I am a mentor and am involved in the program.  First in The Pack is a mentor program geared towards supporting first generation college students providing a space for dialogue on a variety of topics including handling the stress of college, talking to your family who has never been to college, managing registration and reflecting on what it means to be a Loyola student.  I value this program because it is a chance to recognize this silent minority – first generation college students.

I really appreciate the opportunity that Loyola has provided to students – giving ongoing organizational support to its students.  This is program is really indicative of the kind of programming that goes on here.  Passionately led and created by staff who were first generation college students, student supported, and active.

If you are interested in First in the Pack, check it out on Org Sync.  You can sign up to be a mentor or sign up to participate as a first generation student looking for support.

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