As a therapist I am constantly reminded of our society’s high demands and what impact it has on my clients in today’s world. Technology plays a big role in our every day lives and although it offers many perks, it also decreases our privacy and increases our accessibility. We are constantly available to others through email, cell phones, social media…resulting in busy lives with little time to shut off and re-fuel. Raising children and making ends meat in a difficult economy with one or both parents working is no easy task. It is not surprising that many couples and families are experiencing more stress and exhaustion than ever.
In therapy I like to inquire about what my clients do outside of their busy work and family schedule to find balance in their lives. Clients come to therapy to find relief from whatever pain they are experiencing, and often through therapy gain a deeper understanding of their problems, develop insight into how they want to or can change, access practical tools to tackle their challenges, or simply find relief in their anxiety by talking to an objective third party. There are many different ways people find therapy helpful or not helpful. Either way, I find it important as a therapist to ask about the things my clients do or can do outside of therapy that they find helpful for dealing with life’s challenges to remain centered and balanced. My hope is for therapy to be a temporary resting point for my clients, a place they always feel comfortable revisiting from time to time again if need be. I want to provide a place where we can discover and listen to ways my clients quiet their minds and find hope, joy, peace, excitement, and energy outside of their daily responsibilities; such activities are essential to keeping a healthy, balanced mind and body. Further, it shows self-awareness and resourcefulness in my clients. They know what helpful tools they can access when life gets sticky and maintain a balanced self.
I often encourage my clients to give themselves permission to take a break and value some “me” time. I’ve had clients who started simply by adding 5-10 minutes to their day where they would just lay on their bed with closed eyes, or simply focus on their breathing. Knowing and realizing how important those little breaks can be towards re-energizing themselves was a starting point that allowed them to build and expand on those moments. One of my clients started running again once she began therapy. She realized how essential running was to her well-being, and something she used to do a lot but had lost track as her schedule became more demanding. Finding that piece that helps balance out the “chaos” of our daily lives is important not only for our physical health but also for our mind, assuming we can separate the one from the other. For some it may be listening to music, gardening, writing, cooking, socializing - whatever it may be - the important part is knowing what it is and making the time and space for it in life.
Recently during one these conversations, a client shared with me his hope to quit smoking. After having lost his own mother to lung cancer from smoking, and now being a parent to three children, he knew he needed to take better care of himself. We talked about his need to smoke and how it serves him in his life today. He is not ready to quit yet, and that’s OK. I asked him how he would know when he’s ready to quit smoking…what would a first sign look like? He pondered that question for a while and we eventually left it at that. His smoking is only a problem if it becomes a problem for my client. We then moved on to a different conversation that gave light to other ways my client is finding balance in his life.
I always enjoy hearing about my clients’ stories relating to how they access their strengths and resources to center themselves; becoming a better self in their life as an individual, couple, family, or in their work environment. We all have many different roles and responsibilities in life, but we are always still our own person. Taking care of oneself to be the best person one can be is invaluable to how we connect with others and the universe.