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Posts Tagged ‘mental health counseling’

A few years ago I was at the store looking for something unique to hang on the wall in my counseling office. Scouring shelves of artwork, I finally came across a piece with a butterfly near the top and the words “Patience in the present; Faith in the future; Joy in the doing.” I thought it was perfect for the type of work I do so I bought the piece and it has since been hanging in the office.

From time to time I’ll catch myself looking at the quote in between my sessions and wondering if I myself am having patience in the present, faith in the future and joy in the doing. The answer is sometimes, “no.” In a world where expectations are high and we have technology which we allow to keep us working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, having patience can be particularly difficult. We want to get things done. We want to achieve. We want what we want when we want it.

So, how can we teach ourselves to slow down and have patience when life is whipping by at lightening fast speeds? Here are three steps that can lead us back to the present, build our patience and help us to get more accomplished.

1. Breathe deeply!

How many times have you caught yourself feeling so rushed that you get dizzy or disoriented? It’s not uncommon for those who are impatient to subsequently experience heightened levels of anxiety and shortness of breath. Being on the go continuously, we can fail to notice that we’re not breathing appropriately. The number one skill I aim to teach my clients is to breathe! Deeply! Taking the time to slow down, breathe air deep into the lungs and out again, has been shown to lower the heart rate and can decrease levels of anxiety. I usually then ask them to try the following two steps…

2. Remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason.

There are so many times when I’m driving down the highway and I get behind someone driving well below the posted speed limit. I can’t always get around the vehicle and that’s when I may notice my impatience increasing. “Oh, come on!” I might exclaim as I’m forced to slow my vehicle. However, by shifting my thinking from “they are in my way” to “I’m right where I need to be in this moment,” I can focus on driving responsibly and having patience for the other person. I’ll also sometimes tell myself that I don’t know what is going on for the person driving the car slowly and that they may have good reason (new driver, difficulty seeing, car problems, a new baby on board, etc.). Once you remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason, then…

3. Bring your attention to only what you need to do right now, in this moment.

When we have demands coming at us from all directions, we can feel as if we’ll never catch up. This can lead to increased levels of anxiety and sleepless nights. If we pull our attention back to only what we need to do in the present, we can accomplish more and reduce our feeling of being overwhelmed. Something I ask clients who have trouble sleeping due to laying in bed thinking about all of the things they need to get done, is this: “What can you truly do about it at 11 p.m.?” I follow up by encouraging them to make a To-Do List during their day, mark off the things they complete, and when they lay down in bed at night, all they have to do is sleep. The rest of the list can wait until the next day.

The next time you notice yourself rushing around, unsure which end is up, try breathing deeply while reminding yourself that you are where you need to be in this moment. Then focus only on what you need to do right now. By practicing these three steps, you’re training yourself to become mindful and in turn can lower your level of impatience.

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Today I achieved a great feat! I passed the National Counselor Exam to become a licensed professional counselor in the state of Ohio. And I truly am proud of myself.

However, it wasn’t an immediate pride. Why not, you ask? Well because on my score sheet I noticed I had scored “just” eight points above the required passing score and I thought, “I only got 99 right. I just barely passed.” I had briefly disregarded the fact that I did indeed pass and that is what is most important. After all, test taking is not one of my strengths. As I skimmed the breakdown of scores, I felt OK, but had to force the “You could have done betters” out of my head. Actually, I changed those thoughts altogether and reminded myself that I had studied hard and I knew much of the material and I PASSED!!! Period.

Stating “only” or “just” in relation to accomplishments in life will lead to higher irrational expectations, feelings of self-defeat and will add to what may already be a low self-esteem. Examples: “I only got one touchdown.” “I got a bonus, but just for writing one report really well.” “I only won one Associated Press award and it was just for my blog.”

On my drive home from my test today I remembered that when I texted my fiance about the test, I used, or at least thought of using, one of those two terms: “only” or “just.” Doing so could have caused him to see the accomplishment as minimal instead of as the big deal it was/is. And I probably would have brushed it under the rug as if it was just another day.

I think our society permits people to brag endlessly about their expensive accomplishments, while the more important accomplishments are expected to be pushed aside. “Talk to us when you have accomplished something big, like buying a brand new luxury car.” Hmmm, while it took awhile for me to realize this, I do believe a luxury car will not fit in my casket when I pass away. I would rather die knowing I worked hard to achieve goals that were priceless, rather than goals that could be measured monetarily. We are often forced to cover up the accomplishment that isn’t “the best,” doesn’t have the priciest physical reward, or that is universal, meaning achieved by many. And for what? To keep people wandering around this world with low self-esteem, shattered dreams, and a hopelessness that lands them in therapy?

I don’t care whether one million people say congratulations for my accomplishment or one million people agree that I barely passed and scoff thinking I can’t possibly be a good counselor…I achieved a milestone not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well. And for what? For the purpose of sharing my knowledge and experience with others who may need that temporary guide on life’s journey. I am proud of myself and I will allow myself to say “I passed” without tossing in the “only” or the “just.” The fact remains regardless of how many points above the minimum I received.

Do you find yourself minimizing your accomplishments either due to personal expectations or the expectations of others? Or, are you able to pat yourself on the back and be proud of that which you have been able to do well? I hope the answers to those questions are “no” and “yes” respectively.

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