Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guest Post: A Journey Towards Balance & Self Care

I've been a follower of Sarah's blog since October of last year- before I had even started this little blog! I've enjoyed reading about her process of finding and starting her job, and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle amidst a lot of life changes. Make sure to check out her blog (and participate in her Wear a Dress Tuesdays)! Thank you so much for sharing Sarah!

Hello Musings of a Counselor readers!  My name is Sarah and I blog at The Strength of Faith.  I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and serve a medium-sized church in southeastern Massachusetts.  I am passionate about community development, mission and outreach and individual growth and spirituality.  Every day I seek to find balance in my life – and I encourage others to do the same.
 When Karolina asked me to put together a guest post, I knew immediately what part of the Wellness Wheel I wanted to focus on:  Self Care.
Last summer I was doing my clinical training at a Level 1 trauma hospital in Atlanta.  My first week there I had my first one-on-one supervision with my supervisor.  I walked into the room expecting to talk about being a chaplain, how to navigate the hospital and my goals for this unit. 
I was wrong.
My supervisor BLEW me away and talked about the importance of self-care.  In fact, she threw away the goals I had prepared and said, “I want you to focus on self-care”.
Up until that point, I thought self-care was a card that people pulled when they didn’t feel like doing their work.  But what I learned while I was working at the hospital was that if you do not take the time out of your work to take care of yourself, eventually you will not be capable of doing your work!  I was not an effective chaplain if I wasn’t taking care of myself – and these days I am not an effective minister if I am not taking care of myself.
I am a perfectionist.  It is hard for me to admit that I need help – and it is hard for me to admit that I am having a hard time.  But one day I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, and she said the following: 
“Good therapy helps.  Good friends help.  Pretending we are doing better than we are doesn’t.  Shame doesn’t.  Being heard does.”
I was blown away yet again – this quote basically gives us all permission to not have it all together all the time.  It shows a raw honesty that allows us to feel overwhelmed and underprepared (and to not feel badly about it!).
The first step to self-care is to intellectually understand that you are allowed to be a mess.  The second step to self-care is to emotionally understand that you are allowed to be a mess.  The third step to self-care is to actually allow yourself to be a mess.
The biggest shock to me in my journey to find balance in my life is that so many of my friends, acquaintances and colleagues are struggling to find the same things in their own lives.  Silly me – I thought they all had it together!  Trust me when I say this:  If you think that everyone else around has the perfect life, they do not.  Everyone struggles.  Everyone has moments where they do not know what they are doing.  Everyone falls apart every now and then.  The first step in finding balance is to stop comparing yourselves to others, stop expecting perfection from others (and yourself) and start opening yourself up to the support of others.
Balance is not a destination – it is a journey.  One that has been full of ups, downs, tears, smiles, whispers and screams.  Ohh, but it’s been wonderful.

Will you journey with me?

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