The Art of Caring for Yourself

By Sabrina Bong — Every month, we counseling students attend a colloquium. All of us – Master’s and Doctorate students, as well as many of the faculty – sit in a room together and listen to a presentation that exposes us to various research work in counseling or how we can integrate ourselves into our counseling profession. These colloquia are great because we get to learn about the work involved in counseling and also learn tips for when we become counselors.

Our last colloquium session was from Melinda Hughes, who talked about The Healing Center and trauma issues.

One interesting thing I remember was that she talked about the difference between forgiveness and letting go. Her example was something like this: sometimes, when a person is hurt, they can forgive the person who hurt them. They can find empathy somewhere for the person who wronged them. And then there is letting go, realizing that something has happened to you and not obsessing about it.

I had never known there was such a difference, and it made me think about my own life. Were there things that I needed to forgive? Or if I couldn’t forgive, should I let them go?

As counseling students, we often talk about self-care.

Graduate school is a stressful experience, and it is easy to give yourself over to books, exams, and flashcards. However, we are often told that unless we take care of ourselves first –mentally and physically – we won’t be able to help others. How will we be able to help others when we are exhausted and stressed? If we have unresolved issues that are hanging over our heads, can we really help the people we work with resolve their own problems?

So I decided to do a little self-care this week. Following a midterm I had been stressing over, I used that night to sit in my room, turn on my music, eat a little chocolate (my biggest weakness) and ignore my homework. To be fair, I woke up early the next morning to finish my assignments and readings, but I figured that one night wouldn’t hurt it. And it felt amazing to just sit in my room and reflect and not have to worry about Piaget or Freud.

And while I sat there, I thought about forgiveness and letting go.

We have all had problems with our pasts. There are things we wish we could’ve done, things we would like to forget, things that we would like to replay over and over in our heads until we have analyzed every second. But those moments are done. What is left for us are the lessons we learned and the hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes.

So that night, I forgave. I let go.
And I slept for more than six hours – which is quite an accomplishment during midterm week!

I enter this next week able to breathe a little easier and a little less stressed. Now that I have learned to self-care both physically and mentally, I believe I’m more equipped to help others.

I’m ready. Let the counseling begin.

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