Throughout my growing up years, I rarely remember having quiet moments. My memories were guarded by loud TV’s, talking with others, and the constant chatter in my head about my goals for the days and or worries. I don’t remember having anyone around that taught me about quiet. It wasn’t until I was in college, with the hopes (at the time) of becoming a dentist and feeling sort of lost by that, did I learn from my own life coach about the importance of making space for quiet.
Now working in private practice as a therapist I notice that this is the struggle with many clients and many of them have never even realized it, like myself prior. The idea of them making space to allow themselves to become quiet and relaxed is often very scary and I take pride in helping my clients down this journey of peace.
It was through my experience with working with my coach that I learned I didn’t have to go through life wishing I was on vacation and that my thoughts and feelings could be quieted down, but this is a daily practice.
The truth is self-care and the coping skills I have developed let me be in charge of my reaction to not only to our 2-year-old having a tantrum, but also with being more in control of my thoughts and feelings in the world. Each day I have at least one ritual for self-care such as: meditation, yoga, taking deep breaths, walking at least a half hour a day, dancing with my kids and husband daily or as much as they allow, cooking, painting and doing progressive muscle relaxation. If I am more stressed, I do more. I think of stress and anxiety like a ball of energy inside of us that we need to work to lessen.
I realized since my daily practice of self-care, I feel just as great as I would after laying on a beach of Hawaii (Mahalo) as I do with a 30-minute workout and a 10-minute massage. My ability to control my thoughts, feelings and behaviors literally changed my life and will hopefully will change my children and families lives by example. A type of therapy I often use in practice called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works specifically on this for people as well.
It is normal to feel anxious in our fast-paced world, another word I use often in practice interchangeably with anxiety is to feel like you have an extreme amount of stress. If we continue to feel stressed daily, it is imperative that we analyze our daily life to see how reactive we are daily. For example, when I wake up daily to a buzzing alarm clock, am running late or am being bombarded by others needs throughout email or text and then am cut off on the way to work, my stress level is extreme. At that level of stress, I know that I am operating in my amygdala, which is the back part of my brain, also known as my “fire alarm” which tells me I need to do self-care to get back to my normal calm self. Many people can go for years operating in their “fire alarm” and have no idea until they come into therapy. They often show signs of this through panic attacks, irritability, weakened relationships with others, etc.
Recently, I’ve become a trainer through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) around Trauma-Informed Care, and I came to realize how impacted therapist and other people in helping fields are especially by stress. Even people that are around others often feel the stress from the people they care most about. The presenter, Erica Smith, MA, talked about if we are in bath water and continue to turn up the heat how do we know when it’s so hot that we should get out? That is how she described stress and anxiety. If we get so used to it when do, we get to the place of acknowledging something needs to be done to calm yourself down.
I encourage you, seek help before you need it. I won’t ask my clients to something I haven’t already done for myself. Our physical health and mental health are very connected and now researchers agree! Don’t let your stomach be in knots another day and feel the calm of Hawaii in those quiet moments.