Posted on June 27, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek
Sometimes counseling individuals is hard work, and often, I feel pulled into the despair, anxiety, and troubles of my precious clients. But I know it’s a signal for me to slow down because after all, it is practically midsummer, a time to celebrate!
Looking back at the last six months, I am amazed at how much I have grown, even in spite of the fatigue. I have noticed that self-care practices have been particularly important for me to lean on. I thought I would share some of my favorite self-care practices, or what Barbara Brown Taylor affectionately calls the things that are “saving my life right now.”
1. In order to alleviate anxiety and practice detachment, I now practice EMDR on my phone via the Anxiety Release app. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy for anyone who has survived trauma, whether that’s big “T” trauma like sexual assault or little “t” traumas that assail all of us, at some point or another. The app provides several short sessions of tonal bilateral stimulation, which helps us get unstuck from obsessive thinking and allows our bodies to relax. I can’t recommend it enough. (Make sure to use it when you are feeling anxious in the moment, as it is not something to be done as a daily relaxation protocol.)
2. I recite the first line of the Serenity Prayer during difficult times to find stability: God, grant me the serenity. Truly, it is a remarkably healing prayer and refocuses my attention on what is good, true, and beautiful rather than my fearful thoughts.
3. Coloring with markers is a wonderful way to release stress and making affirmations using markers is even better.
4. Reminding myself that my role as counselor to educate others, not fix them. I detach from the suffering of others with compassion and remember that everyone, even those living in chaos, are dearly loved by the Divine. In fact, I believe God is with them in solidarity, in the muck doing what He or She can to honor their choices and to help.
5. I practice gratitude daily through the use of a beautiful journal. I write three things I’m most grateful for each morning before I get out of bed in the morning. There is so much evidence that a daily gratitude practice is life-changing as it is remarkable for gratitude reminds us we live in a universe that longs for us to fully inhabit our lives and show thanks for all that we have been given. For any of you (like me) who are bookworms, check out Diana Butler Bass’s latest book on Gratitude.
6. I let go of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and performative tendencies as measuring sticks for my worth.
7. In my meditation, I ask God to help me sit with the difficult feelings of overwhelm, compassion fatigue, and sorrow. My feelings are a clue for me that I need to slow down, pray, and rest, and there is nothing better than doing absolutely nothing and waiting for answers from the Divine. I often think God would talk more to us if we just stopped moving for awhile and stayed still long enough to listen.