About two years ago, I experienced my highest stress levels as I attempted to juggle everything I had to squeeze into my day-to-day life. I was finishing my Master’s degree in Counseling, working three unpaid internships, teaching 10 fitness classes a week, all the while finding time to fit in household chores, to exercise, and to be a caring wife, daughter, and friend to those around me. Talk about being overwhelmed! At the end of the day, my head was spinning, my body was aching, and I was completely depleted. Not only was I not giving my body enough rest for it to recover from the physical demands of the day, I wasn’t giving my mind enough rest either. Cue my discovery and immediate love of Headspace, a meditation app that allows users to find 10 mindful minutes at a time. After hearing about Headspace from a classmate, I decided to give it a try, although I wasn’t very optimistic that it would help me. I was desperate to find anything that would give me a little peace of mind, so I downloaded the app and pressed play before going to sleep that night. Typically at this juncture in my life, it would take me hours to fall asleep because my mind was constantly racing with my to-do list for the next day. The first night I used Headspace, I was asleep before the 10 minute meditation was finished. I was shocked that I was able to escape my unceasing tilt-a-whirl of thoughts so easily. How was that even possible? In his 2013 TED talk, Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe answered that question when he said, “We can't change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it…You don't have to burn any incense, and you definitely don't have to sit on the floor. All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm, and clarity in your life.” From a mental health perspective, I couldn’t agree more with his idea of reframing the mind in order to decrease stressful, anxiety-provoking thoughts in order to increase happiness. Self care is so important, especially for those of us in helping professions or caretaker roles. Having a plan to cope with stress, whether it involves taking a Spin class, getting your nails done, or finding 10 minutes to clear your mind, can make a significant difference in overall mood and will likely prevent burnout. It took plenty of stressful days, strong coffee, and overwhelming moments to figure that out for myself, but I’m so glad I finally did. I only use Headspace occasionally now, but it was a great tool to teach me how to mindfully let my thoughts float by instead of consume me. Most importantly, it served as a reminder to add self care practices back into my life. Below you can find a link to a wellness plan I made for myself – something I often do in session with clients. I hope you can use this to recommit to yourself during the times you feel most depleted and stressed out. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself, and your body and mind will thank you for it.
Laura Smestad, M.A., NCC, PLPC, (creator of www.theschoolcounselorlife.com), is a National Certified Counselor currently working as an elementary and middle school counselor in New Orleans, LA. Mental health professional during the week and barre3 instructor on the weekends, Laura is thankful to be able to pursue her love of guiding others toward wellness every single day.
All selections and opinions in this post are from guest blogger, Laura Smestad, M.A., NCC, PLPC.