VSU Counseling Center

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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

Believe in Yourself

by Rebecca Smith on August 18, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

As you start the semester, you can be so overwhelmed that it can be hard to focus on the positive side of life.  It’s the first day of classes, so here are some inspirations to get you through the first week!  (all images via weheartit)

Welcome Class of 2018!!!

by Rebecca Smith on August 7, 2014 in Anxiety, Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

Another school year is about to begin!  August rolls around so fast every year.  VSU is excited to welcome their incoming freshman, the class of 2018!!

Move in day is coming up fast!  The first weekend away from your parents can bring mixed feelings.  For some it will be exciting to have freedom at last.  For others it will be somewhat anxiety provoking to be so far away from home.  Others will feel dread at classes starting and feel overwhelmed already looking at their syllabus online.  Other new freshman may feel a little lost, a little lonely and wish they had gone to the school where all their friends went.  Others will feel like they’ve walked into their high school class reunion.

There are so many different experiences while starting college.  You’re figuring out a whole new living situation and trying to find your way around campus.  You can’t believe how many new people you’ve met in just a few days.  So many new Twitter followers, yet so little time to actually Tweet.  You realize that 2am is early to get to bed, yet somehow you still signed up for all 8am classes.  You may make a mental note to change that for the spring semester.  It is a crazy time full of adjustment.

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Some adjustments will be easy.  Others will be hard.  Some people are born to party and make new friends easily, yet will find they struggle to make it to class and finish the semester.  Other people will thrive in their classes, but feel anxious every time they have to find someone to eat lunch and dinner with every day.  Just know that everyone goes through some hard times their first semester.  College is a lot of fun, full of great new experiences.  However, it is also stressful and full of moments of doubt.  Each experience is going to shape you and help you become someone you won’t even recognize at the end of your four (or five) years of school.

It is okay to take risks and try new things.  If you make a mistake, do your best to learn from it and move on.  Don’t be too hard on yourself or have too high of expectations.  Especially watch the expectations.  So many new college students have this image of being the perfect student, or getting into the best sorority or fraternity, or finding the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, or going to the best parties every weekend.  You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to be involved in all the right clubs or organizations or be in a relationship to have a great college experience.

Just take this opportunity to explore the opportunities before you and make changes as necessary.  Ask for help when you need it and take responsibility for yourself when you don’t.  Have fun, but not too much fun.  Study hard, but not too hard.  Don’t go to any extremes.  My advice for new college students is to find balance.  All work and no play isn’t good for you, but all play and no work won’t get you very far either.   Make sure you find time to eat, sleep, and exercise.  This will help reduce stress and keep you focused when those really hard weeks during midterms and finals come around.

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One of the top things I talk about in my counseling office, besides relationships, is stress.  Time management is key.  In college you really have to know how to manage your time.  Take the next few weeks and try to find a good routine and schedule for studying, hanging out with friends, and getting involved with other activities on campus.  If you take on too much, try to back off on a few commitments.  If you find you are bored and spending too much time in your room, look for ways to get involved with things that may interest you.  Tweak your schedule as you go through the semester until you find the right balance with your time.  This will be key as you go through your time in college.

Good luck out there!!  I hope you have a great first year!!

Being A Supportive Friend

by Rebecca Smith on July 1, 2014 in Being Positive, Break Ups, Friendship, Grief

When a friend is going through a break up or a hard time it can be hard to know what to say or do.  Most people mean well when they say certain things, but it can end up sounding more hurtful than helpful.  Here are a few statements that can really miss the mark:

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1.  “It’s for the best”

2.  “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else”

3.  “Just try not to think about it”

4.  “He/she wasn’t good enough for you anyway”

5.  “Why would you want to stay with someone who did this to you?”

I know these sound good in theory, and most of them are probably true statements.  However, they don’t work because our emotions are stronger than our intellect during a breakup.  We know something in our head, but don’t feel it in our heart.  For example after watching a scary movie I KNOW there isn’t a serial killer in my shower, but I FEEL like there is because now I’m scared.  So, I pull back the shower curtain to double check.  My emotions win, not my mind.

The same thing happens during a break up.  Even if your friend KNOWS the breakup is for the best, they aren’t going to FEEL like it yet.  They still feel extremely hurt and upset.  It is hard for friends and family to watch someone they love be so sad.  Most people want to cheer someone up or just make them feel better.  The intentions are good, but only time will help your friend’s heart get on the same page with their brain.  Trust me, no one wants to get over this break up faster than your friend, but you can’t fast forward through time unfortunately.

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So what can you do when your friend is still in love with someone and has been hurt?  Sometimes you just have to let your friend feel sad.  Things don’t always have to be “alright”.  They mostly need you to listen and give them a hug.   Yes, they will need to talk about it, and most of the time they will feel guilty about needing to talk about it so much.  Processing their feelings will help them.  They also need to cry.  It can be hard to watch someone cry, but being there during that time to offer emotional support without giving any suggestions will be valuable to them beyond belief.   Your friend can’t be rational at this point.  Let them know it is okay for them to be sad and again, give them a hug.

It may be helpful to remind them that it is healthy to balance a break up by feeling sad for awhile and then trying to find a distraction to give the brain and heart a little break.   Encourage your friend to vent, and then try to distract them by going out and doing something fun.  People going through a hard time need both time to feel the reality of the situation and time to pretend they’re fine and that everything is okay.

Remember, your friend didn’t choose to go through this break up.  Most likely it was forced upon them.  They still see good qualities in this person, and for an undefined widow of time they will jump to take this person back.  It is easier for you to see how this person has hurt your friend and to hold on to that anger.  Your friend will be irrational about the negative and want to cling to the positive things they miss about their ex.  It is hard to listen to, but realize they will start to get better with time.  Like I said earlier, break ups take time to get over.  Try to be patient.  If you feel they need to talk to a counselor because they are having trouble moving on, then encourage them to go.  It does help a lot of people to talk to someone who is a neutral to the situation and a counselor will keep what is said confidential.

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The reality is that emotions can take a long time to heal and that is okay.  Also know that your friend can move forward and still feel sad at the same time.  They may start to move on and still feel “love” for their ex.  It is normal to go back and forth for awhile, like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back.  Eventually their pain will lessen and finally their brain will kick into gear all those things you’ve been thinking from the beginning.  And if you say those phrases above months after the break up, they may finally hit the mark.

Saying Goodbye

by Rebecca Smith on May 8, 2014 in Anxiety, Being Positive, Friendship, Loss

May brings about mixed feelings in a lot of people.  Most students are happy to be done with classes and finals or even happy to be finally graduating.  However, being done means you’ve completed one thing and you are moving onto the next.  Moving on means saying good-bye.  Some students are only saying good-bye for the summer.  Others may be saying good-bye forever.  Saying good-bye also makes this a very sad time of year.

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Transitions are hard.  College is constant transition.  It is hard to maintain relationships and friendships throughout the four years of college and beyond.  Sharing space, classes and experiences bring people together.  What happens when those things no longer exist?  Some relationships and friendships move on together but some pull apart.  The unknown can be scary.  Even with technology making it easier to stay in touch, it still can be hard to keep up with your friends once you are scattered again across the country.  Even if it is just for the summer.

Most of  us have a hard time saying good-bye.  A lot of people will start pulling away a few weeks or months earlier to make the actual separation time easier.  When that day comes they like to either sneak away or leave with a very quick good-bye.  They don’t like the emotions of good-byes and try to avoid them at all possible.  If you used to watch the Office you know that Steve Carell left the show before the last season.  His character, Michael Scott, was leaving his job to move to Colorado with his fiancee.  He told everyone in the office that he was leaving on a certain day, so everyone planned to say good-bye to him on that day.  However, he started to say good bye the day before he said he was leaving.  No one really knew this was their last chance to talk to him, so they didn’t make it a big deal.  Michael left the office at 4pm that day knowing he wasn’t coming back on his “final” day.  He sneaks away instead of letting everyone really say good-bye because it was just too hard to deal with all those sad emotions.

This may seem like a good way to handle things, but it doesn’t allow the other people to express their emotions.  Some people may feel like they don’t have any closure.  It may be easier on the one leaving, but it doesn’t make it easier on the person or people who are being left.

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Some people will cause a fight before they have to say good-bye.  They purposefully try to push the other person away believing it will make the separation easier.  This person may believe their friend or friends won’t stay in touch.  Rather than risk that rejection, they reject them first by causing a conflict.  This may cause the relationship or friendship to really end.  While maintaining a relationship or friendship long distance isn’t easy, it is possible.  It isn’t always necessary to end a relationship in order to deal with a separation.  If it is what both people want, that is fine.  However, if it is just one person making the decision, they risk losing great friendships to avoid possible future pain.

Some people become more clingy in the months or weeks leading up to a separation.  They want to spend every waking moment with the person or people before they leave.  They want to relive a lot of memories by talking about or doing things that they’ve done with their friends in the past.  When they do say good-bye they become very emotional and end up saying good-bye several times before they actually leave.  This is a lot of pressure to put on a relationship or friendship before a separation.  Everyone has a lot going on before school ends.  It can be hard to balance your friends with having to study or get work done before you leave.  The added pressure of making too much time for your friends can cause conflict.

There is no best way to say good-bye.  We all tend to handle it awkwardly.  As this time of mixed emotions is looming before you, just do your best to be yourself.  Let your friends know in your own way that you will miss them.  Then remember that time has a way of working things out.  You will either be able to maintain the relationship or friendship across the miles or other things will fill up your time and you won’t miss that person as much anymore.  Some people are meant to be in our lives just a short time.  Other people tend to be life long friends that no distance seems to be able to change.  The end of the school year is a bittersweet time for everyone.  Cherish your memories and be thankful to Facebook for keeping you somewhat connected either through the summer or through your lifetime.

Ways To Share Some Sunshine

by Rebecca Smith on April 30, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Respect, Stress

We all have those days when we feel down or negative.  The crazy thing is, one of best ways to feel better is to do something nice for yourself or someone else.  If you scatter some sunshine, you can’t help but get some on yourself!!

“It took us so long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” — Kurt Vonnegut.

1. Send a hand-written thank you card to someone.

2. Give a compliment about your waiter/waitress to his or her manager.

3. Hold open a door for someone.

4. Have a conversation with a homeless person.

5. Compliment someone.

6. Pay for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru.

7. Clean out your clothes and donate to a local non-profit.

8. Send flowers to someone anonymously.

9. Leave an encouraging note in a library book.

10. Ask an elderly person about their childhood.

11. Be a courteous driver.

12. Mentor an at-risk child.

13. Mow a neighbor’s lawn.

14. Donate blood.

15. Introduce yourself to a new coworker/classmate/church member.

16. Share inspirational quotes.

17. Write letters of appreciation to organizations that serve your community.

18. Leave happy post-its for strangers to find.

19. Smile.

20. Appreciate the people who support you.

21. Treat everyone the same– from your best friend to your mom to postal worker.

22. Release your expectations of other people. Allow them to be who they are.

23. Be genuine.

24. Forget yourself.

25. Delight in every day.

26. Flatter people.

27. Tell people how much you like them.

28. Share your lunch.

29. Fill a parking meter.

30. Volunteer somewhere. Anywhere.

31. Seek forgiveness.

32. Do your best.

33. Love yourself.

34. Dream big.

35. Tell someone why you love them.

36. Check in on someone who is lonely.

37. Stay curious.

38. Adopt a pet from the humane society.

39. Tell your boss that he/she does a great job.

40. Renew an old friendship.

41. Donate toys/books to a hospital.

42. Give someone a sheet of brightly colored stickers.

43. Make eye contact.

44. Take someone’s picture and send it to them.

45. Don’t think about other people’s definitions of success, beauty or happiness.

46. Create spaces for others to enjoy.

47. Make beautiful art.

48. Send unexpected gifts.

49. Be enthusiastic.

50. Love your life and everyone in it.

How Do Athletes Get “In the Zone” of Peak Performance?

by Rebecca Smith on April 17, 2014 in Athletics, Being Positive, Stress

After a great performance, athletes have described a feeling of being “in the zone.” In this state, they feel invincible, as if the game slowed down, the crowd noise fell silent and they achieved an incredible focus on their mission. What is this Superman-like state and how can players enter it when they most need it?football

Like the feeling of being moved down a river by the current, this positive groove has been described as a “flow.” In fact, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, psychology professor at Claremont Graduate University in California, coined the term in his 1990 book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (Harper & Row, 1990).

From his years of research, Csíkszentmihályi developed an entire theory around the concept and applied it not only to sports, but also to work life, education, music and spirituality.

Csíkszentmihályi identified nine components of the state of flow. The more of these you can achieve, the stronger your feeling of total control will be.

1.  Challenge-skills balance is achieved when you have confidence that your skills can meet the challenge in front of you.

2.  Action-awareness merging is the state of being completely absorbed in an activity, with tunnel vision that shuts out everything else.

3.  Clear goals come into focus when you know exactly what is required of you and what you want to accomplish.

4.  Unambiguous feedback is constant, real-time feedback that allows you to adjust your tactics. For example, fans and coaches will let you know how you’re doing.basketball

5.  Concentration on the task at hand, with laser-beam focus, is essential.

6.  Sense of control is heightened when you feel that your actions can affect the outcome of the game.

7.  Loss of self-consciousness occurs when you are not constantly aware of your success.

8.  Transformation of time takes place when you lose track of time due to your total focus on the moment.

9.  Autotelic experience is achieved when you feel internally driven to succeed even without outside rewards. You do something because you love to do it.baseball

Flow doesn’t only happen to athletes. In any activity, when you’re completely focused, incredibly productive and have lost track of time, you may be in the flow. You may not be shooting for three, but you can still say you are “in the zone.”

This article originally appeared on livescience.com and was written by Dan Peterson

Fear of Rejection

by Rebecca Smith on April 9, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Healthy Relationships, Single LIfe

It’s not easy to put yourself out there.  Some people live to meet new people and have no fear going up and starting a conversation with a perfect stranger.  Other people struggle with their fear of rejection.  They are interested in new people around them, but it can be scary to start something with someone new.  Especially if you’ve recently gone through a bad break up or you’ve been single for awhile.

If you have fear, the only way to get over it is to face it.  Outgoing people will tell you they are less worried about how they feel and more concerned with making others feel good.  If your goal is go out and meet new people, try to take your focus off your fear and focus on making just one person you meet smile.  Realize that not everyone you meet is going to be interested in talking to you.  That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or with something you said.  Some people just won’t be in a good mood or be interested in any type of conversation.  Don’t let those people set you back.

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Look for people who seem more open or friendly.  Dare yourself to give them a compliment.  Try to learn something from what they are wearing or how they are interacting with others.  Use your observation skills to give you something to start a conversation with.  If you’ve ever noticed, shoes will tell you a lot about a person.  Shoes can give you clues into hobbies someone has or what type of job they do.  Their shoes can tell you if they are more laid back or more stylish with fashion.  Their clothes will also give you other clues as well.  Finally, look at their face and their body language.  Do they gesture or show a lot of expression?  Or do they seem more closed off because their arms or crossed and their face seems blank?

Also, realize that you are giving off vibes as well.  What does your appearance say about you?  Non-verbal cues give off a lot of information to others to let them know if you are more open or closed to being approached.  Are you smiling and interacting with others?  Or are you sitting alone hunched over your drink at the bar?  You don’t have to be super fit and all GQ to get attention.  Your appearance does matter, but how you are projecting yourself to others matters even more.  You want to seem approachable instead of giving off a vibe that says, “Please leave me alone”.

It is okay to be nervous, but try to be aware if you are sending off desperation signals.  Sometimes you can try TOO hard and make the initial approach very awkward.  Remember to think positive and tell yourself positive things to keep your anxiety at bay.  Every person has great qualities, but not all people are aware or acknowledge their positive traits.  Try to focus on those qualities and realize you have a lot to offer other people.  When people get nervous they can focus too much on the negative and think of everything that can go wrong.  Instead, try to stop yourself from going down that path and try to be more positive about yourself and others around you.  Confidence will carry you a long way.

Even if you don’t feel all that confident, you can fake it a little until you get more comfortable initiating conversations.  Practicing will make it easier.  I often tell some of my shyer students to start conversations in less intimidating places.  For example, smile and ask how the gas station attendant’s day is going.  Talk to the cashier at Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  Go to places where you don’t know anyone and take a few risks without too much pressure.  The more you risk facing rejection, the easier it will become.  You will become used to the fact that not everyone responds positively, but that a lot of people will.

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The key to remember is that you aren’t trying to make yourself feel better, you are trying to make someone else feel better that day.  Not every person you interact with has soul mate potential or even one night stand potential, but you never know when you may interact with the right person who ends up becoming someone significant in your life.  Just don’t give up and remember that nothing in life worth having is ever easy.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t- you are right”  Henry Ford

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“This time, like all times is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fall seven times, stand up eight”  Japanese Proverb

Love Yourself. I Know…Crazy, Right?

by Rebecca Smith on March 31, 2014 in Being Positive, Healthy Relationships, Respect, Single LIfe

Why is it that everyone in the world seems so obsessed with love, but no one seems to know how to love themselves?  I know some people think they are the center of the universe.  However, that sounds more to me like self-absorbed, not self-love.  I’m talking about enjoying being in your own company.love

I hear a lot of people say they don’t like to be alone.  Is this because they are extroverted and feel energized around people?  Sometimes.  A lot of the times I notice people are trying to distract themselves from their negative thoughts.  Even introverted people who like to be alone will distract themselves in their alone time.   These distractions come in the form of friends, the internet, food, alcohol, marijuana, shopping, tv and even homework.  Anything, instead of having to deal with their emotions.  Why is that?  I think it is because if people stay busy they don’t have to admit they don’t really like themselves.

When I ask students in my office to tell me what they like about themselves, I usually get a long pause.  Those words don’t come easy for most.  However, if I ask the same students what they don’t like, I better have a pen and paper ready because I’m going to have a list of many things in a few seconds.

Some people have never had a positive role model in their life.  They’ve never had someone say positive things about them or even seen anyone have a positive attitude in general.  This person will not only have to learn how to create positive thoughts, they will most likely have to work hard at erasing all the negative voices in their head.  Some people are lucky and have had people around to support and love them.  However, they are still their own worst enemy.  They still have to learn to find their own positive voice inside.

Let me tell ya, a little kindness can go a long way.  It has to start small.  You aren’t going to wake up one day and find that you are suddenly full of love for yourself.  The first way to start is to think of little things you enjoy or like about yourself.  They can be about the way you look, feel, or things you do.  You can even appreciate things that no one else does.  Not everyone sees things the same way.  For example, my dad believes to be successful you have to make a lot of money.  I realized I started to feel successful when I saw how I could help people.  Even though I don’t make a lot of money doing it.   Others don’t have to agree or believe the same way for you to believe it about yourself.

Another example is this:  A girl walks into a grocery store to buy ice cream.  As she grabs the Ben & Jerry’s off the shelf, a girl on her left thinks, “I wish I could be that skinny and eat ice cream.”  Another girl on her right thinks, “No wonder she is so fat.  She eats ice cream.”  So what should this girl believe about herself?  That she is fat or skinny?  It all depends on who she asks I guess.  That is why it is important to develop your own beliefs because not everyone is going to have the same perspective.   And that is okay.  Beliefs aren’t wrong or right.  However, they can be more positive or more negative.  Many people tend to believe more negative things about themselves.  In order to change, you have to sometimes shove out what you’ve heard from others and develop your own ideas.

This isn’t easy, but it is also not impossible.  Beliefs are very powerful and you can change them.  I’ve also found that no one can reassure you but yourself.  Some people think they need to be in a relationship to feel good about themselves.  They feel if someone else loves them then it will be easier to love themselves.  However, I’ve found your significant other can tell you all day long that you’re smart and fun, but if you believe you’re stupid and boring you will bounce those compliments right off your negative shield.  It is good if there are positive people around you, but it doesn’t always make a difference unless you choose to embrace those positive beliefs yourself.

This means you can be single and still learn to love yourself for who you are.  It is actually better to learn to love yourself before you get into a relationship.  Then you won’t be as vulnerable to people who tell you what you want to hear just to get something from you.  You will be confident enough to see through other people’s manipulation and strong enough to stand up for yourself.  You will also be more willing to wait for a truly great person to come along.

P.S.  Just because you love yourself doesn’t mean you can’t set goals and improve things about yourself.  But it does mean that you shouldn’t try to improve only because you are comparing yourself to others.  Once you can let go of the comparing game, you can spend that time focusing on your own beliefs to reach the goals that make you happy, not someone else.

P.S.S.  Just because you love yourself also doesn’t mean you can’t spend just as much time and energy to love others.  You don’t have to stop doing one to improve upon the other.  There is room for yourself and others in your heart.

Believe In Yourself

by Rebecca Smith on March 19, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

As you reach the middle of the semester, you can be so stressed that it can be hard to focus on the positive side of life.  If you’ve had a crazy semester, you’re not alone.  Here are some inspirational quotes to get you through the end of the semester!  (all images via weheartit)