Hillsides Community Blog

7 Ways to Manage Stress While Wedding Planning

Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Nothing challenges your mental health more than planning a wedding.  Here, one bride-to-be offers her tips for sanity.

Canva - Wedding couple arm in arm (4)

By Lisa Gavitt

Getting engaged to someone you love is one of life’s sweetest moments. Friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers congratulate you and are delighted to share in your joy. When that day came for me a year ago, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Nonetheless, I don’t think we had been engaged even 24 hours before the first person asked, “Have you set a date?”, and the planning began. While I was on cloud nine and got butterflies every time I looked down at my left hand, I knew I had my work cut out for me. It is no secret that planning a wedding creates added stress for the bride-to-be, but it doesn’t have to be all sweat and tears. Here are seven tips I have found helpful in managing stress while wedding planning:

Get Organized

Buy a new notebook that is solely dedicated to your wedding plans and have it on hand from Day 1 through the wedding day. This will be your place to write down ideas, advice, research, to-do lists, reminders, etc. With so many decisions to make about venues, caterers, flowers, and invitations, it is easy to forget or misplace information, so let this notebook be your memory. Write it all down. You will thank yourself later.

Take Advantage of Technology

Planning a wedding in 2019 comes with endless online resources to support you in your creative process. Some of my favorites are: Pinterest and Instagram to help spark ideas and make them your own,  The Knot to manage your guest list and free wedding website, and Zola to manage your free online wedding gift registry. All of these apps are right at your fingertips to keep you on top of your wedding plans wherever you are.

Get Moving

Exercise has been my saving grace when tensions are high. It is the quickest way for me to change my internal climate when I have had a stressful day. Working out is my time to forget about wedding plans, put down my phone, work out with a friend, and listen to my favorite music.


As meditation has grown in popularity, it is something I have wanted to do but could never find the time for. A few months ago, I finally decided to commit myself to 10 minutes a day of sitting quietly and listening to my breath. Some days, these 10 minutes are simply used as 10 minutes I am not working on the wedding. Other days, I am able to really relax, ground myself, and feel the benefits of meditation such as a clearer mind and a calmer spirit.

Let Go

Although you will want to, you can’t possibly control every detail. I started out with a vision of exactly how I wanted things to look, from the flowers all the way down to what chairs people would be sitting in. However, I soon discovered the harder I clung on to that vision, the more frustrated I would become. Because the sad truth is, you can’t always get what you want. Finding out that the wooden benches I loved so much would cost twice as much as chairs or that sunflowers aren’t in bloom anywhere near our venue were tough pills to swallow. After some self-reflection and realization, I discovered that I will actually be OKAY if everything isn’t exactly how I had imagined. Letting go of that has brought me peace and helped avoid a serious case of “bridezilla.”


Let people help you. Your to-do list will feel never-ending if you try to do it all on your own. Pick a few tasks that you feel comfortable releasing the reins on, and you will be surprised at how eager people are to help. Your friends and family get a sense of ownership in your special day while you are lessening your load. It’s a win for everyone!

Put Things in Perspective

Of course, a wedding is much more than flowers and wooden benches. It is a celebration of the love, commitment, and friendship of two people who are in it forever. While the wedding day is one that we will remember forever, it is only the start to the next exciting chapter of our lives. Remembering how lucky I am that I found someone to share my life with always brings me back to what really matters.

  • Lisa Gavitt is the development coordinator for Hillsides’ Advancement Department. She graduated with a major in communications from California State University, Fullerton and studied abroad for one semester in Sydney, Australia. She has worked with children as a nanny, a tutor, and an English teacher in Vietnam, but always dreamed of becoming an event coordinator. Her wedding is coming up in June. 

7 Essential Tips to Help Youth Land a Job

resized workforce development

Workforce development specialist Joshua Mathieu (right) helps a student prepare for a job search.

By Joshua Mathieu

One of the most exciting accomplishments we can witness at the Peer Resource Center, a one-stop shop for transition-aged youth ages 16-25, is when a young adult gains employment. Whether our youth are seeking their first job ever (Wahoo!) or looking to try new things, it’s always a good idea to freshen them up on job-search techniques. Here are six helpful tips to get any youth looking for employment started:

  1. Know that the Resume is still King. Yes, you need a resume. Yes, it needs to look nice and be error-free. Yes, your contact information needs to be current; how else are potential employers going to get in touch with you? No, it doesn’t need to be five pages; one will be just fine. Yes, you should use action verbs in your descriptions, like “managed the checkout” instead of “was a cashier.” No, please don’t lie – ever. Yes, you should always have your resume in your email or cloud drive, saved for safekeeping and easy access anywhere.
  1. However, You’ll Have to Customize that Resume. Now that you just scribbled your entire life’s professional and personal experiences in under 500 words, instead of relying on a single resume, you should tailor your resume to the specific employer you are applying to.  (The main resume is the template you work off of, so it is still crucial.) You want to match the new position as closely as possible so you can highlight your previous work that emphasizes why you would be a good fit. A common question I get is, “Do I have to put that job on my resume?” The answer is no.  It is entirely up to you what job history you want to include on any resume, but be aware that excluding extended work experience may have an interviewer wondering about the gaps.
  1. Get Yourself Covered. You may be asking yourself, “Do I really need a cover letter?” or maybe even “What is a cover letter?” I’m glad you asked. A cover letter is…wait for it…a letter that covers your resume. It is a document that introduces you to the employer and lets them know why you are a great fit for the position. You don’t have to go crazy with it – it  should only be about three paragraphs long. Remember that an employer is only going to spend a precious few seconds looking over your application, so you want to get right to the point. Now as to whether or not you need one, the answer is yes. Unless otherwise directed, you should include a cover letter because it is a way to quickly summarize and showcase your talents and skills and communicates to the employer that you are willing to take the time to apply to the job correctly.
  1. Think Quality, not Quantity, When Applying for Jobs. Common thinking may suggest that you   need to complete as many applications as possible as fast as possible.  And it’s easy to see why one might think this strategy would work — “I applied to 387 jobs; I have to get at least one of them.”  In reality, you will have much better luck if you do a focused job search on positions most relevant to you and match your qualifications more fully. You won’t be wasting your time applying to jobs you are only half-interested in or may not be qualified for.
  1. Follow up After Every Job Application. In a survey of human resource managers, what percentage recommend following up an application with either an email or phone call? One hundred percent, even though they differ on how long to wait, with 43% stating one – two weeks is best. Go ahead and write that email (46% prefer this method) or make that phone call (39% prefer this method).  (By the way, only two percent of human resources say they prefer text messages, which are seen as unprofessional.)  When drafting an email or calling, keep in mind, you don’t want to seem pushy or  rude. A sample script: “Hello, My name is ____ and I applied for the position of _____  a  week ago.  I am still very interested in the position and am checking in to see if  interviews are available. Do you need any additional information from me?  Thank   you very much for your time.”  When you do get an answer, no matter the outcome – even if it’s a rejection — be respectful in your response.
  1. Once You Get an Interview, Prep for the Trip. If you do get a job interview, guess what is one of the most common mistakes a job seeker can make? Arriving late. People fail to research the logistics of getting to an interview, and wind up behind time. If possible, I suggest making a visit to your interview location in the days leading up to your interview. Map out your bus route or street directions ahead of time. (Did you know you can use Google Maps “arrive at” feature to estimate travel times for specific dates and time of day?)  Are there any special instructions to note such as a suite number, using the elevator, signing in at the front desk, or a secret knock pattern or passcode needed to get in?  (Just joking on this last part).  If you are unable to visit in person, you can do so virtually, again using Google Maps, this time their “street view” feature (I promise this tip isn’t sponsored by Google!). Recognizing the appearance of the exterior entrance will let you know you are exactly where you need to be.
  2. Follow This Number One Rule During the Interview: Have a positive outlook and willingness to work hard because these traits will go a long way toward landing you that job. I talk to managers all the time who say they are willing to train and teach all the skills. Lack of skills is not the problem. If you are willing to learn and work hard, make sure you express that. Let the employer know you will do whatever it takes, that you have passion, and that you will do the absolute best you can. That doesn’t mean you have to lie or be fake. Just be yourself and be confident.

These tips are just a start. There is a world of information out there ready to help youth become the best applicant, candidate, and employee.   (A few websites to visit:  www.cacareerzone.org/www.careeronestop.org/GetMyFuture/default.aspx or  www.apprenticeship.gov/apprenticeship-finder/listings.)  And at the Peer Resource Center, we are ready to help them explore that world. Our job is not only to help get youth jobs, but to help them realize they had the ability within them all along.

Joshua Mathieu serves as a workforce development specialist at Hillsides’ Youth Moving On (YMO) program in Pasadena, California. As a Transitional-Aged Youth (TAY) Collaborative master facilitator, Joshua facilitates a job readiness curriculum and workshops at community centers, colleges, high schools, and libraries as well as provides training.  While managing YMO’s Internship Program, Joshua matches youth to community business partners and oversees their progress and development of employment skills. Joshua began at Hillsides in 2010 and has a bachelor of science in International and Community Development from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Five Happiness Tips all Families Can Use



By Leslie Santana, LMFT

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are small and tightly knitted; others big and international.  In my experience working with families, one thing that I have learned to be true is that all have unique strengths.  Here are five qualities that stand out in strong and resilient families.

  1. Families that laugh together, stay together

Positive experiences, no matter how small or insignificant, really contribute to overall family health. Small moments of laughter and fun strengthen and reinforce the life-lasting bond between family members.

  1. Wiggle room is key

Strong families allow each other to develop individually, which may include making mistakes. This means creating boundaries between family members – not stepping in all the time to “rescue” each other. While it may sound counterintuitive, only by giving family members some space, do they feel unconditionally supported because they know you trust them enough  to let them learn through experience.  And nothing is more important than children to feel supported when they are exploring and learning about this chaotic and sometimes confusing world.

  1. Independent friendships strengthen family relationships

Whether you are a mother, grandmother, uncle, son, daughter, or father, we are all equally human and many times need a shoulder to lean on. Having friendships and hobbies outside of the family provides space and perspective to handle stressors more effectively. Families who have poor support systems tend to have difficulty self-regulating because they’re missing foundational coping skills – friends and outlets.

  1. Strong families face change together

When looking at a family and trying to understand the core impairment, it is important to look at how that family manages both tension and trauma. Each individual in the family has an important role in handling stress, and sometimes the roles can shift with changes. Families that tend to flow together through changes contributes to the strength of the family.  What can hurt a family is when family members deny or resist a change that is inevitable.

5.  Communication is king

Strong and resilient families tend to have an attuned communication styles with each other. Healthy families are able to do two things interchangeably in the home. First, they are able to communicate their needs, thoughts, and emotions in a regulated and safe way. Second, they are able to listen to a family member’s needs, thoughts, and emotions and then respond appropriately.

Leslie is a licensed marriage and family  therapist who has been working at Hillsides for a little over two years. She is an outpatient therapist at the Bienvenidos Family Resource Center, East Los Angeles, and a Brand Ambassador for Hillsides.  She enjoys her co-workers and all the wonderful children she works with.


Five Self-care Tips to Avoid Vicarious Trauma


Hillsides Senior Clinical Manager Paul Inglizian on the job with Juliet Johnson, a program manager at the Bienvenidos Family Resource Centers, East Los Angeles.

By Paul Inglizian, LCSW, Hillsides Senior Clinical Manager

At Hillsides, most of our therapists work with clients who have been exposed to trauma at some point in their life. Working with our clients always puts us in a position of exposure to trauma. Even though it is the clients’ experience, we so often absorb the traumatic elements of what they have experienced, often on a daily basis. Without a strategy for coping with this exposure, we are vulnerable to the effects of this vicarious trauma.

In addition, you don’t have to be a therapist to experience vicarious trauma.  Anyone trying to comfort and support a friend or family member through a stressful situation is also at risk.

Luckily, there are many self-care activities that can be helpful in combating this problem, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. When I am feeling very overwhelmed, I have found that the following practices help me come back to center:

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Every morning, run through three things you are grateful for. These could be gratitude for your family, for good health, for having a roof over your head, or for the sun, the clouds, and the sea, for example. When you stop to think, there is a lot for all of us to be grateful for.

If you experience fear or anxiety, take action.  Remember, your symptoms of fear or anxiety might be reflections of what the client/family member/friend is experiencing. Consciously refuse to accept fear or anxiety at face value. Remind yourself that you may be experiencing vicarious trauma and that you have a choice in how you react to it. Scale the fear or anxiety on a ten-point scale, with ten being super fearful or anxious, then decide to take action to decrease the number on the scale. For example, if you feel tension in your jaw that you scale at a seven, decide you are going to go on a short walk to decrease the tension from a seven to a five. Go on that walk. Don’t forget to breathe!

Have faith at all times. Know that you will get through this. Have faith that you will feel better when you conquer whatever negative symptoms you are experiencing. Know that you are a good and lovable person. Despite the vicarious trauma, you got this, and you know what to do.  You will take action, and succeed.

Self-affirm. Keep up the positive self-talk, such as: “Despite my fear or anxiety, I know I am doing the best I can,” “Despite these overwhelming feelings, I will persevere and conquer this thing no matter what,” or “Fear or anxiety does not define who I am, which is a capable, successful, wonderful person/clinician/helper/staff member.”

Be mindful. Stay present-centered in your thoughts by focusing on the here and now. Be aware of your negative thoughts and any tension you may be experiencing. Challenge or reframe negative thoughts by consciously relaxing and releasing any tension you may be experiencing. As a grounding exercise, look around and identify what you see around you. Pay attention to the sounds you hear. Take a few deep breaths. When you take a walk, notice the trees, the colors all around you, the temperature, sounds you hear, and scents you smell.

Paul has worked at Hillsides since 2011. As a senior clinical manager, he provides individual and group supervision to various programs at the agency, family preservation, wraparound, foster care, and school-based/outpatient clinicians.  His goal is to know every single one of the 507 employees of Hillsides.

The One Quality That Can Get You Through Any Rough Parenting Patch

Couple talking to family counselor

By Georgy Norris

Being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever love. I agree with that sentiment completely as I continue to steer my kids, 19 and 21, into adulthood. In my role as a parent partner at Hillsides Education Center, I offer support to parents who have children struggling with school and life, mostly due to mental health diagnoses and possible learning disabilities. Being the parent of children with both, I try to offer support through my lived experience and give others hope that things can improve. While both of my children struggled in different ways, it is with a sigh of relief that I can say they graduated from high school and have become pretty decent adults with whom I enjoy spending time. During our most difficult days, I was not sure that would be the case and yet here we are.

I was recently asked to think of one thing that made a real difference in getting through those tough times.  My response is, acceptance. While we had many therapists, teachers, and support services that helped immensely, the one thing that helped me remain supportive without losing my mind was this concept.

I like to illustrate this point with a story I heard about a couple who planned an awesome trip to Sweden. They researched the weather, people, food, history — everything they needed to prepare for the trip. They packed up and boarded the plane, excited for their trip. Upon landing, the pilot announced “Welcome to Italy! Enjoy your stay.”

Can you imagine? All prepared for Sweden and now to find yourself in Italy? This jarring experience can be compared to what parents feel when they find out their child has a disability or diagnosis that will make life for them more challenging. It is not what the parents planned on, but they can choose to accept this new reality and make the best of it, or spend their time being miserable because it is not what was planned. In other words, when in Italy, enjoy the pasta! I chose to accept both of my children for who they are – struggling with some difficult medical challenges — and make the best of it. This enabled me to be less anxious and more available to be the supportive advocate I needed to be in their lives.

When I talk about acceptance, here is another example. I come from a family who placed a high level of importance on education, including college or beyond. My parents and four siblings were all college-educated, no questions asked. We just knew you went to college after high school. So, imagine my feeling of loss when neither of my kids wanted anything to do with high school, much less college.

I did everything in my power to get them to finish high school. Somewhere along the way I let go of that “dream” I had, and really tried to see how hard everything had been for them and why college may not be part of their story. It made a huge difference in how I treated them and related to them, which made a big difference in the relationship I now have with them. I accepted their limitations and struggles, and focused on getting them through high school being healthy, happy people. I was elated they both survived to graduate and begin their adult lives as good, decent people. I am lucky I didn’t lose myself in the preoccupation with forcing college.

This is just one example, but truly, in every area of raising my children, I found that acceptance was the answer. Don’t give up. Ever.

Georgy is a mother of two, a 21-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, and a step-mom of a 30-year-old daughter. Georgy says that while she has a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and a multi-subject teaching credential, neither of these “qualified me to be in the best job I have ever had, that of a parent partner. Helping others through my shared experience of raising children with special needs, has been very rewarding. I hope to keep doing this for as long as I can!”  




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