Posts Tagged 'self-care'

Be Present to Receive the Gift

By Karisse Callender

downloadA lot happens during the holiday season. There’s a lot of food, celebrations, family visits, travels, and time with loved ones. No matter the situation or our experiences, there is a gift we can all give to ourselves – the gift of mindful living so we can be present, in the moment, to fully experience life.


Here are some mindful tips and suggestions for the holiday season to help you remain present:

  • Practice gratitude: I use the word practice because being grateful takes intentional effort and it is a habit that needs to be cultivated. During this season, take a moment to think about at least three things you can be grateful for. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful for having a meal today,” “I’m grateful for a safe place to sleep,” “I express gratitude today for waking up.” A gratitude list can help to remind us of the simple things in life that make the biggest difference. On the days when it seems hard to find something/someone to be grateful for, think about what you would express gratitude for if you were having a good day.
  • Set intentions: Think about what you want this holiday season to represent for you. Is this a time for you to bond with distant family? Create new rituals with loved ones or for yourself? Is this a time to be contemplative and introspective? Whatever your intention, write it down and work towards it.
  • Journal: This is a great way to keep track of your thoughts and feelings over the holiday. It’s also a way to sit with what you are experiencing, in the moment. What did you learn about yourself? How did your intention(s) manifest? What were you able to do for others? How have you grown in the year? What lessons from the holiday can you take into the new year? How have you shown yourself loving-kindness over the holiday?
  • Radical acceptance: It would be ideal if things happen the way we want, all the time. However, that’s not the reality of our lives. When we feel confused and have no control over how things happen, you can remind yourself that “it is what it is, it is as it should be.” In other words, you are recognizing what is happening, as it’s happening, and acknowledging that it is out of your control.

Mindfulness is less about sitting still and more about being present in our lives – each moment, each experience, each day. When we take the time to be attuned to what is happening within and around us, we learn more about ourselves and our needs, and what we are capable of giving to others. As we think about what we can give to others, another mindful practice this holiday season is to remember and reach out to those who may also be in distress. Some may experience grief, a sense of loss, poverty, homelessness, and discord in relationships. As we think of the ways we are blessed and the simple privileges we have, let us also think about how we can be the difference for others.

May you all be happy, healthy, and at peace during this season and the new year. Be well.

New Year, New Me! Right?

By Leslie Alton

coffee cupEvery year January rolls around and people choose to push off the changes in their life that they wish to make until January 1st. Sometimes these changes stick for people, and for others once January ends so does their resolution. Personally, every year I try to add an activity or increase the amount of time that I devote to self-care. One of the self-care activities I have always left behind at the end of January is self-reflection. Why? Because who really likes to sit there and rehash how they feel about everything they have done in the past month, week, day, or even hour?

This year, the resolution of adding to my self-care regimen was pushed into high gear five months in advance. There was no waiting around until January 1st. The reason for this is because I began my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program here at Marquette. Yes, I understand that self-care is something critical to the field I am entering. Though the amount at which self-care was going to be launched upon me was far greater than I could have imagined. In every class we were assigned to look back on the activities we had done and things we had learned, many of which were placed in the context of our own lives. The first semester of graduate school is a whirlwind and every hour of my day was packed with class, work, daily living activities, repeat. Despite my packed schedule, self-care managed to wiggle itself into the agenda. This is partly because my professors integrated it into our assignments and partly because it helps me to balance the responsibilities I was juggling. In my Introduction to Counseling class Dr. Cook we compared the importance of self-care to the way flight attendants explain the order of which to put on your oxygen mask in the event of an emergency. If you do not first take care of yourself then you cannot as effectively take care of the people and responsibilities around you. This is especially applicable to the field that I am in, though I know it is applicable to any person or profession.

While I was forced to kick my New Year’s resolution off early, I am grateful that I did so. I believe that self-care is important to everyone’s wellbeing and is worth fitting it in to your busy schedule. Therefore, I am going to suggest a few ways to fit self-care into your life. Different things work better for different people, and I hope that if you find the right one you will carry it all the way into 2019 with you.

  1. There are a variety of meditation apps that take you through a guided breathing activity that is paired with peaceful music. Two specific apps are called “Breathe” and “Headspace”. With these apps you can choose from various lengths of recordings that address certain feelings you would like to pinpoint. A good time to fit this into your schedule is either a few minutes before bed or when you wake up. If you are a person who takes public transportation you could use this as a time to plug into the app and rejuvenate on your commute.
  2. Going for a walk during your lunch break is something that you can take a chunk from your break to get away from your office and have some time for yourself. The fresh air and moving of your muscles can help you to re-energize and make tackling the afternoon a bit easier.LA 2
  3. Exercise of any kind is a great form of self-care. It helps to release endorphins and contributes to physical health. Having a plan to exercise is a way to ensure that you fit it into your schedule. Whether that means scheduling a time for yourself in your agenda to go to the gym, or working out with a friend who holds you accountable. If you enjoy group workout classes, signing up for classes weekly will increase the likelihood of you staying on track since you made a monetary and vocal commitment. After creating a habit of exercise in your routine it will hopefully begin to feel necessary to ensure you engage in exercise.
  4. Healthy eating is a part of self-care that fuels your mind and your body. This is a popular resolution that people strive for, but it is hard to maintain. An easy way to keep this goal on track is to plan your meals for the week before you do your grocery shopping. This will not only help you to cook healthy meals since you are sticking to a grocery list that you have prepared, but it also can be a time saver as it can save from multiple trips to the grocery store each week.
  5. Preparing a few short mindfulness activities for yourself is a way to ensure you take a few minutes out of the day to reflect and be aware. This can be made easier by getting a book of mindfulness activities. Having the activities laid out for you makes following through with the goal more achievable. Books such as these can be found on Amazon or in local bookstores, or another option is finding some online for free.
  6. Journaling is a self-care task that to me sounded daunting for a long time. This was the case until I realized that journaling is for me and me only. There are no outside voices to critique or judge what you write. Giving yourself a prompt is helpful to spark your thoughts about what has been going on in your life lately. Personally, I am a fan of the rose and thorn technique (one positive and one negative event) that stuck out for me that day. Prompts such as these are helpful for when nothing to reflect on comes to mind.
  7. Sun salutations are a string of yoga poses that flow together and are used to get in touch with your body. They do not take more than five minutes, and getting into the routine of doing a sun salutation after waking up each morning can help to jumpstart your day with piece of mind.

Adding one or two of these activities to your schedule is a huge step in taking care of yourself. Taking the time to check in with what is going on in your life and body is key to managing your personal stress level and balancing your professional life with your personal life and wellbeing. I hope that you find a strategy that you can add to your routine in this new year, and the discipline to make this change past January 31st.


Teaching Kids to Care

16332734480_28bfe668ea_oBy Peggy Wuenstel – I spent the better part of an hour last week standing in front of a red kettle with a bell in my hand in front of our local drugstore. It wasn’t terribly cold when we started, but paradoxically, it was a lot warmer when we finished. The warmth of people who tucked bills or dropped coins in the kettle was palpable. I left there thinking that I had to find a way to make sure that the kids I teach understand the benefits of altruism.

Appeals are all around us this holiday season, in the mail, on-line and on the telephone. We collect food for the hungry; hats, mittens, and blankets for the cold and homeless; and toys for those children whose homes are short on holiday joy. These are wonderful projects, almost all worthy of our support, but they are also seasonal and often short-lived.

We need to help kids understand that caring about others, ourselves, and our world should be a year-round occupation. The building I work in has a different three-pronged approach to talking, teaching and taking on projects that demonstrate caring. Our first tine was caring about others, and we collected empty prescription bottles to be sent to a service organization that transports them overseas to Malawi where they are used to distribute medications in clinics in that country.

Coming in the new year is a backpack program to meet the needs of kids who rely on free or reduced meals during the school week. Some of these families are the working poor who are unable to access the wonderful food pantry that is open two mornings per week in our town. We are teaming with a community organization that supports literacy efforts to include books, magazines, and other literacy materials for these families as well. They can pick up a backpack filled with weekend breakfast and lunch items, as well as an activity to share, and then return it anonymously the next Monday. This prong, and effort to help those we know, and understanding that preserving dignity and respect are also key components of a giving heart, are lessons it seems our society as a whole needs to learn.

As Earth Day approaches this spring we are also hopeful to have our third initiative underway. Caring for the earth requires the efforts of everyone. We hope to improve students’ understanding of the role they can play in reducing waste and preserving resources. In a joint operation with our Parent/Teacher Organization and our local community wellness group, we are changing our waste collection procedures to include recycling, composting, and waste awareness. Kids will sort, deliver and see the benefits of reducing food waste, recycling, and composting and know they are caring for the earth.

But this holiday season, I find myself turning inward, hoping that what students might receive as a gift this year is the ability to care about themselves in a truly affirming way. I would love to wrap up the awareness that they need to get enough nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and fun in the choices they make about meals, leisure time and the people they interact with. I would love to fill their stockings with the motivation to care about the work they produce, the learning they accomplish, and the ways in which they ask for our help. I would layer the reliability of knowing that someone cares about them and their successes both at home and school on their holiday plates, and serve it up with a helping of feeling what it is like to truly care about and help someone else. I would help them to sweeten the meal with the understanding that selfishness is not the same thing as self-worth, and that you are never richer than when you can give away some of yourself to others. Teachers get this gift on a regular basis, and I am blessed to work with men and women who demonstrate this kind of caring and generosity.

We live in a society that measures value by what we have and what we produce. If we listen to the media and watch the advertisement that swirl around us, we might miss a more fundamental measure. We are only as strong, as safe, and as wealthy as the most struggling among us. We are only as smart, as accomplished, or as healthy as those who need the most assistance. We are only as happy, secure, and ready for the future as those whom we have cared the least for and about. I wish you all the gift of caring this season, and all that you care about in the new year is yours in abundance.

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.

Walk the Walk.

By Trudi Arnold — After reading the feature article about counselor wellness in the latest issue of the American Counseling Association’s Counseling Today magazine, I analyzed the environments in which I intern and work to assess the levels of counselor wellness.

I found two different environments.

The theme of the article was “counselor, if you’re going to preach wellness to clients, practice wellness for yourself.”

Foundational to counseling is the ability to form a therapeutic relationship with a client; through that relationship, work begins. If a counselor is not well, the counselor is not present, the counselor is not empathizing with the client and the client suffers through the counselor’s suffering. Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centered therapy, stressed the importance of “congruence” in counselors. I like to think of congruence as matching insides and outsides; saying what you mean and meaning what you say; living what you believe. Congruence is not only the backbone of the therapeutic relationship, but it serves as a model for clients as they struggle to attain their own congruency.

In counseling, we talk a lot about wellness and self-care, especially when counseling people who have problems with addiction or those healing from sexual trauma. It is these two environments where I did my informal assessment of counselor wellness. At one location, self-care is not only preached to clients, but it is implemented by staff on all levels. Counselors leave for massages, walks, breaks and whatever they may need when they need it. This behavior is encouraged from the moment interns start. It is our job to coach clients to take care of themselves as they heal from trauma and they would CERTAINLY not believe a word said if the counselors didn’t model that behavior for them. In the other location, self-care and counselor wellness isn’t addressed much. It certainly isn’t part of the culture  and many counselors give off an aura of being “stressed.”

Are the counselors any less effective with clients in the location where counselor wellness isn’t addressed in the organizational culture? I can’t say they are, but I would suggest they are less happy with the work they do. It gets me thinking, though, about what it means to be effective and what it means to be a good counselor. It appears one can be effective without paying attention to one’s own wellness, but what about the part about this field that brings joy when people grow and experiencing joy as a part of that journey? What about the part where our enthusiasm and belief in clients can be a model for their future relationships?

Congruence. Model healthy behaviors. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Show clients what wellness means by being well. Don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk.

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