I am going to adopt a very Texan word to start off with...Y'ALL. I have started this essay at least 10 times. And then deleted it and started over. Truthfully, this is the most challenging post for me to get out of my head and onto the digital paper. Today I want to talk about actual wellness, from the viewpoint of a therapist. To be very vulnerable with you, I feel a bit like an imposter writing this. Because the truth is, I haven’t been practicing what I encourage my clients and readers to do, which is why this is hard. However, I have never been one to shy away from working through hard things so we’re going to dive in.
First, let’s talk about our bodies and trauma for a minute. You know I’ve written about the collective trauma we’ve all experienced living through a pandemic. I’ve literally listened to and helped clients process through hundreds of hours at this point about just this topic alone. New research is showing that 1 in 3 adults in the USA alone are experiencing clinical levels of anxiety and depression originating from the pandemic. Statistically speaking, 33% of a population is something to pay attention to -- imagine that. Now, imagine the therapists and counselors and doctors who have walked through the last 18-20 months alongside people who are hurting in one way or another...trying to hold space for, support clients, and also trying to keep up with their own wellbeing. Secondary trauma is a real thing and it’s more than just something I had to study in grad school back in the day. We’re seeing a mass exodus in the education and medical sectors, primarily due to secondary trauma because they are so exhausted and burned out from the day to day of their jobs. It’s a lot. Most of the therapists who I network with and collaborate with are completely full and have at least a 2-3 month waiting list.
What does this all have to do with me and wellness? For the last 24 months, I have been so focused on starting my business, navigating my family through a pandemic, and helping support others, I haven’t been taking great care of myself. Yes, I’ve been drinking my water, trying to exercise more, and eat better. All good things. But what I’m talking about is setting down my “hustle, hustle, hustle” mentality and taking time to practice the boring self care that I work with clients about on a daily basis! And my body has kept the score and WOW. Two weeks ago, my body threw on the brakes and said, “Nope. No more. You cannot continue on this trajectory. You are teetering on burnout. You are at critical mass. No more, ma’am, no more.” The thing was, it wasn’t anything major or dramatic because that is not who I am. I literally sat down for dinner with my precious family and couldn’t get up afterwards as all of this hit me. I. Was. Done.
My husband and I had a long talk that evening. We talked about what systems and processes we had as a family that we could change, but truthfully, I have the most supportive family in the world, starting with my husband. He is my biggest supporter, encourager, thought partner and I am truly the luckiest. I can say the same about my extended family and the circle of friends we have. They are the literal best. When people comment “How do you do it all?!” I am so quick to answer that I, in fact, do not do it all! I have a team of people! Those systems are on lock.
What needs to change is my internal motor that feels safer and better going, hustling, and moving. Because if I’m doing that, then I’m not having to sit with and process the last 20 months. If I’m hustling, I’m not working through my own PTSD that can get triggered when I see a headline about another run on bottled water and toilet paper, shortages of food (even though we were NEVER without food during 2020 - trauma and the brain, it is a TRIP), or worrying when a client is late for a session that something tragic has happened. Yah, all of that - decidedly not fun to sit with, right? Yet that is what my clients trust me to do with them every day. So I have to figure out healthier systems to support my wellness. Because there is so much that I am grateful for and am determined to show up for, most of all my family.
When I was thinking about what the biggest barrier is to truly practicing whole person wellness myself, I realized it was time (always, right?). Most days I manage my time very efficiently and then there are some days where decision fatigue is hitting hard and behind the scenes business tasks become challenging. Those days were becoming more often, also a clue that all was indeed not well.
Here’s how I’ve decided to make some space for figuring out wellness for myself:
May you truly be well this holiday season and every season!
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I'm JoEllen and I'm so glad you're here. Thanks for visiting and let me know how I can best serve you!