In this continuation of the Shrinkcast Summer Series, Heather discusses rest and recovery in the face of exhaustion and burnout.
We are going to be embarking on a special Shrinkcast series for the summer. Join us in this first episode to talk about "first drafts," clinician thriving, self-care, and burnout, and the vulnerability of sharing during the learning process.
When I talk to others about what stress management looks like, there’s one word that is usually brought up in the conversation: self-care. This buzzword that people mention seems to be thrown around without anyone truly understanding what it means or looks like practically. I want to challenge myself and you to think of self-care as more than the temporary relief of a bubble bath, video game, movie or whatever else pop-culture defines it as. Rather than talking about self-care and stress management, let’s talk about what it might look like to pursue wellness which requires a deeper look into how we are doing holistically.
When looking at wellbeing, we can gauge how we’re doing by looking at five different parts of ourselves: social, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. As we look into what each of these mean, let’s think about how we’re doing in each of them right now.
Social - the relational aspect: do we have meaningful connection with others throughout the day? Are we isolating ourselves or over exerting ourselves in our social commitments? How are we engaging with others?
Emotional – our emotional state: are we in tune with both our positive and negative emotions? Are we denying ourselves from experiencing both the highs and lows of our life? Or are we being consumed and overwhelmed by either one of them?
Physical – our bodies: are our bodies telling us we need more or less of something? Perhaps we are a little tired and hungry so we grab extra caffeine and easy-to-reach snacks that fuel us temporarily. Are we noticing that our bodies need stretches and movements after sitting all day? Or maybe our bodies needing rest because we haven’t stopped moving.
Mental – our thoughts: are our thoughts racing and preoccupied with something? Are we avoiding making a decision or not wanting to think about a particular event?
Spiritual – our core self: are we honoring who we are? Regardless of faith or spiritual practices, we are valuable individuals. So, are we connecting and being kind to ourselves?
So, how do we move towards our well self? Think about what it looks like when we’re doing well in each of these areas. For example, are we feeling connected to others when we eat meals with co-workers or are we needing a one-on-one coffee run with a close friend? Are we melancholic and need to practice gratitude or do we need to let our emotions run free for 10 minutes to be able to refocus on our responsibilities? Do we need to get 6 hours or 8 hours of sleep to feel restful? Do we need to write a to-do list to organize our thoughts or do we need to practice containment to not bring our work stress home? Do we need to rediscover what our preferences are or do we need to spend time reconnecting with our faith beliefs?
There are more questions we can ask ourselves to prompt how we’re doing in each of these areas. Regardless of what the questions are, are we pausing regularly to assess how we’re doing? The more frequently we’re able to gauge how we’re doing, the more sensitive we become when we stray from our well self. As we incorporate these steps into our lives and practice them regularly, we’ll be able to advocate for our needs and be kind to ourselves.
About the Author:
Alex Song, RP, Apprentice, is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. Alex is passionate about helping people become their most authentic and true selves. She loves helping people navigate their life pursuits, identity formation, and career aspirations. She feels honored to walk alongside clients as they share their story with her, inviting her into that sacred space. She desires her clients to live life purposefully and well through evaluating their physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional health. As clients navigate meaning making, she works with clients to equip them with the tools to live their best life. Alex desires to connect with the Asian population to help them advocate for their voices as they pursue what wellness looks like. Alex is a Colorado native and enjoys exploring new coffee spots, watching movies, and catching up with friends.
In the first of this two-part series of the Shrinkcast, we are joined by Khesed’s Program Manager Phil Stockton for a discussion about the true meaning of thriving and why scarcity is actually exceptional.
Today, we are going to take a new, exciting, and experiential approach to Shrinkcast Episode 5. We started this podcast because we want to create these kinds of positive or healing experiences through these audio waves that you can access anywhere, anytime, for free.
So, this fifth episode is, in a way, a starting place for The Shrinkcast in this new year. Isn’t that often how it goes in the New Year as we create resolutions, intentions, theme, goals, words, phrases to guide us as we end 2018 and begin 2019. We start and then we find ourselves rewriting a second, third, or fifth draft, starting anew... [listen to this 20-minute episode hear and experience more]
Welcome to Khesed’s first published episode of the Shrinkcast!
We are thrilled to offer this new resource to the community.
As the new year approaches many are thinking about their health and fitness goals for 2018. Our guest blogger Deb Ruka who is a personal trainer in Lone Tree writes about the link between physical wellness and mental wellness. We hope this helps to kick off your new year in a holistically healthy way.
Exercise...everyone knows they should be doing it, but most people don’t realize just how beneficial it is. Here are just a few of the advantages to regular exercise: weight control, improved body image, reduced stress, and decreased risk of disease. These benefits are just tip of the iceberg. Hopefully this article will convince and motivate you to prioritize physical fitness.
Exercise is a great way to manage your weight. Think of calories as a savings account: you always want to have some in reserve. Calories in moderation are not a bad thing, just the opposite, calories are in essence heat energy, which means calories increase your energy levels. And burning calories will boost your metabolism, increasing your body's overall efficiency. Exercise and good nutrition are a great recipe for increased energy and weight control.
While weight loss is usually the prime motivator to get people started on a workout regime, don't underestimate the added benefit of improved body image that will result. This can be challenging and frustrating because it usually takes time to notice changes. You will probably notice physical changes, like your clothes fitting differently, before changes on the scale. Don’t be alarmed, this is a good thing because it means you are losing body fat and gaining muscle. Focus on exercising consistently and good nutrition, then the weight loss will come. With the confidence you'll feel from from your improved self-image, you'll notice that feeling will trickle into other aspects of your everyday life improving your mood and your overall mental health!
If that doesn’t inspire you how about the effect exercise has on your stress levels? Exercising prompts your body to excrete endorphins. In layman's terms, these are feel good hormones, so exercise results in the reduction of stress and mood improvements. Exercise: it's the most underutilized antidepressant!
Still not convinced to exercise? Does a decreased risk of disease peak your interest? Regular exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and lessen the possibility of type 2 Diabetes. It can also reduce your prospects of getting some cancers, strengthens your bones, and mitigates your chances of having osteoporosis. When you aren't worried about your physical health, you'll have more time to focus on your mental well-being.
Is it work? Of course, that’s why it’s called working out, but anything worth having is worth working for. Your physical health is directly correlated to your mental health; so go out there and do something, anything, to stay active! There are so many options out there: play a sport, hire a trainer, download workouts on line, go for a brisk walk, jog, bike, join a group fitness class, join a gym, buddy up with a friend, or rent free workout DVDs from a library. So who’s motivated?!
Context first and then we will talk principle.
First, I intentionally chose one of the most guttural-and-difficult-to-pronounce-in-English words for the name of this organization for a reason. The word is that important. In fact, it was that important to the Ancient Hebrews where this word originated.
Khesed means loving kindness. To better capture the translation, it can mean reciprocating kindness. Khesed isn’t just a good feeling of loving kindness, it’s a lifestyle. Kindness is a generous quality, and when we get it, we want more. We also seem to want to produce more.
Growing up in Southern California I spent my childhood along shorelines. I love laying on my stomach just where the water last licks the sand and rushes back into the deep. If you lay still enough, long enough, with your belly on the sand and your chin laying on your hands, you start to see a whole world unfold. It’s amazing how that happens when we slow down.
Then, if you let your eyes dance a bit in-and-out of focus, like we do in those rare moments of rest, you start to see glimmers. The sand suddenly has layers of color and texture. Then, you see the gold flecks dancing among the rest of the bland-colored bits of sand.
Reciprocating kindness is like the specks of gold in the sand of our lives.
My love for watching the ocean quickly grew toward my love for watching people, and soon, talking with people as they wade through their depths. The therapy room felt as sacred as the layers of sand beneath my bare feet, watching the water dancing back-and-forth with the deep blue.
Kindness is what allows the gold of therapy to shine. The kindness of safe space to process. Space where the only motivation for the therapist is the client’s well-being. Space to be fully human.
At it’s best, the therapy room is one of the kindest places on Earth. I don’t mean kindness that always feels good. I mean kindness that calls forth the client’s well-being; holding space for the twists and turns of the process.
Which is why it felt like such a whiplash every time I stepped out of the therapy room, and entered the chaotic nature of the mental health industry. It took about a week after grad school, immersing myself in this profession, to realize:
Most people can’t afford counseling.
Most people don’t get help for weeks because clinicians are overloaded and underpaid.
Most people don’t have sufficient insurance coverage for treatment.
Most people don’t know where to access help.
Most people can’t find a counselor that stays in the industry for long.
Most people aren’t able to find much help at all.
That feels drab doesn’t it? It frustrating, ridiculous, even unkind.
Kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate,” according to Google. The mental health industry doesn’t feel very friendly, generous, or considerate. Which makes me sad, because I think this industry is filled with generous therapists ready to help.
So I began asking myself, “How does kindness start?”
It starts with believing in generosity. There is an abundance of kindness waiting to pour from us and sprout across our world. Abundance is an oasis that feels like a mirage to most people.
Imagine that time you needed help and someone said call this person they can help. And then you called that person and they said, “I can see you tomorrow.” And you found a way to make it work with your schedule, maybe reached between your seats to find cash for payment, if it was involved, because you were that thirsty for help.
Then you met that person and there was something about their presence that drew you in. Help didn’t turn out to be what you thought, you didn’t feel fixed, but you felt drawn in. They were present with you, believed in you beyond your performance, they saw you. They drew you in and they made you want to spread what you got in that space. You felt as if you found treasure.
The ocean, the therapy room, this kind of story and many more like it, led me to dream:
What if everyone has an abundance of kindness waiting to be tapped, wanting to help those who feel tapped out?
What if a mental health and wellness center’s mission was to provide affordable and accessible care, because the lack of affordable and accessible care feels most unkind when in the depths of life?
What if mental health and wellness practitioners were given a place to thrive in an environment that felt kind in-and-out of the therapy room?
What if businesses, temples, churches, and organizations (who have plenty of unused space) had a way to use space as a mental health and wellness center, making a tangible social impact in their community?
Basically, I kept layering kindness until it was a sustainable business model.
As I considered the different parts of a business model—how to keep the lights on, how to create a healthy work culture, how to engage our clientele, how to be a life-giving addition to a burnout industry—all of it, I knew it needed to be kind from beginning to end.
It’s amazing how an abstract word from an ancient tribe can transcend into a Colorado nonprofit believing that reciprocating kindness can transform mental health and wellness in our nation. And I believe we will.
A couple of weeks ago our team took a one day retreat. I talked with our counselors about creating an ethos of kindness in our organization. I think most assume their workplace will be kind but few experience it. Choosing a business model of kindness is actually terrifying and the hardest kind of work. Why?
It requires our whole selves to show up and believe in kindness, everyday.
In a world that leans on frameworks, forecasts, and fears, we choose kindness. In the unknown, we choose kindness. In the hurt, we choose to respond in a way that creates more authentic kindness.
In an industry that doesn’t feel kind, we believe kindness will change its’ trajectory. Above all, kindness is what brings us together when we feel divided in our relationships, in our world, and even within ourselves.
Everything Khesed does has the goal of manifesting more kindness in our world. It gives light to fractures. Or as my dear friend Kristin, who also happens to be on our board, quoted to me this week from the great Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Kindness reminds us of light in our darkness.
Khesed Wellness exists because we believe in a lifestyle of spreading kindness. It’s the only way I know how to see light in such a dark world. I believe people are always drawn to light, even when they’re running from it.
Khesed exists because we believe that experiencing kindness can transform how we see the world, and even ourselves, especially as we ebb-and-flow with life.
Heather Nelson, MA, LPC, NCC