“Calm The Storm”
A wonderful weekend allowed time for my week in survival mode to settle down- lucky me!
I worked my first 12-hour shift and was anxious in anticipation of how it would go. I started the day off feeling really lucky that I was in a better place, because today could’ve been a nightmare if I was still wrapped up in my own stuff. I co-led a group on coping skills, which wound up unearthing a lot of feelings for people. It was my job to help them navigate through as much of that as possible; I now had to be the one to calm their storms, or at the very least teach them some tools to calm their own.
The task of teaching someone else positive coping skills is both easier and harder all at once. On one hand it’s easier to explain something in a rational way than it is if you were trying to implement it on yourself. On the other, it’s harder because any one individual may have a very different way of understanding things than you, and a very different perception of what you’re saying.
Everyone’s storm is different, everyone’s perception is different, and everyone’s coping mechanisms are different. In short, figuring out different ways to communicate your ideas can be a challenge. Some people won’t necessarily take to your ideas, but the ones that do tend to have some positive things to say after all is said and done.
My lesson of the day: My own storms need to be calmed in order to best help others to calm theirs. I had to help myself before I could start helping others. Funny how much that ties into last week’s article. I guess things do come full circle.
“Doesn’t Remind Me”
Yesterday was a great day, but a long one. Today I was off until late afternoon, and I was in the mindset of “forget about everything, enjoy the break, don’t think about tomorrow.” I guess I was partly sticking with the notion of living in the moment, but more than that it felt like I was trying to shut things out that would remind me of work.
I wanted to embrace the luxury of having time off with nothing pressing to do. So, I spent several hours with my brother, laying around in sweatpants playing music trivia games. Why not? It was my day off! I couldn’t fully turn my brain off, but it was nice to have a few hours of solace, and nice for us to spend some time together. This song was part of the music trivia game we played, and although I don’t really listen to Audioslave, I really like this song and it clicked with today.
It’s nice to remove yourself from the day to day stuff once in a while. I’d recommend it if the opportunity ever presents itself. It doesn’t have to be for a whole day- it could be for an hour or a quiet morning. Turn everything off and do something that will help you recharge. Do something that doesn’t remind you of anything (but really, try it and let me know how it goes).
“Great Big Storm”
I listened through the entirety of “Ahha” by Nate Reuss on my drive to work, realizing how much I dislike it but trying really hard to figure out why. In the beginning he sounds nasty, like he’s drunk and criticizing everything. It really leaves a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the song, which actually isn’t all that bad…
Anyway, after listening through I tried to recall how his song “Great Big Storm” went to replace the first tune in my head. All I came up with was the first two lines: “Cuz we’re holding our own in a great big storm, it’s a great big storm and we’re holding our own.” For whatever reason that was resonating with me all day, and as it turns out, it wound up being a premonition for what was coming.
At the end of the day today, I found myself in a volatile situation that I didn’t know how to temper. This wasn’t a situation where I could retaliate, rationalize, or even try to say my piece. A serious matter needed to be addressed and I didn’t know what to do. I sat frozen, and was beyond lucky that help was there to step in. Two hours later I left feeling shaken and insecure.
What would I have done if I were alone? The thought kept circulating through my head.
I realize that I’m a new therapist and still have a lot to learn, but it’s still alarming to be in a confrontational situation like this. By the time I got home I realized it wasn’t my fault, and took to heart something that had been conveyed to me: “You stayed calm. In knowing you, I noticed that you were a little off from your usual self, but it wasn’t evident. You held the space. There’s something significant to be said for that.”
Okay, so maybe I didn’t handle things perfectly. But, I kept it together and maintained a safe space. I think that’s half the battle, so I’m proud of myself for that achievement.
“State of Grace”
When I’m sad, when I’m frustrated, when I’m overwhelmed or worried, my common reaction is to cry. It doesn’t happen over every little thing, but it does happen. It’s often a brief, inward, introverted cry that acts as a release for whatever emotion I’m feeling. Even when I’m mad, I’m not one to yell. My emotions usually come out in tears and feeling hurt more than angry.
Today was a big day.
I got overwhelmed this morning and I could feel something welling up in my gut. I shut down a little bit but stayed calm in an effort to keep myself in check. After a few deep breaths and a very astute awareness of my increasing frustration, I squelched the tears, did a little self-reality testing and decided to go for a run.
Guess what? IT WORKED. I substituted my usual stress reliever with healthier one, knowing the benefits of exercise and how it’s proven to improve your mood almost immediately. The serenity I felt after my workout was almost blissful.
This song comes into play today not for the lyrics or message, but for the concept. I started mulling over the idea of handling things with grace and what that might mean for me. In my moments of weakness, why not try to handle myself in a more graceful way?
I always come to the realization eventually that things are going to be okay, and often adopt the “It is what it is” philosophy, so maybe I can get there quicker, taking a different route and bypassing some of the tears. Although I don’t think crying is the worst reaction in the world, I don’t think it’s always necessary.
Today, my “state of grace” was skipping over the sadness, accepting what was going on, and taking care of myself in the moment to help me get past it.
“Want You Back”
If there isn’t already a hashtag for #feelgoodfriday then there should be. I had a really nice, productive day- not an over-the-top magical day, but an all-in-all happy, great day. This was the second day in a row that I worked only in the evenings, so I had the whole morning and afternoon free. I slept in, had a delicious sandwich for lunch and scrubbed down and vacuumed the inside of my car, a job that has been long overdue.
The Pandora station I chose for my night at work was Haim as “Want You Back” had been stuck in my head all day; this was definitely a good choice. Even the customers were singing along to some of the other songs that came on. The night as a whole was a little taxing, but it was a challenge that I knew I could accomplish with a little patience.
I realized that when I’m teaching my classes, I probably enter a state of “flow,” or what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines as the “optimal experience.” Basically, this is a balance between challenge and ability that leaves you feeling extremely fulfilled with whatever activity you're participating in. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details right now, but I will (stay tuned).
For me, I think I enter a state of flow during my painting sessions, and the challenge of the work matches my ability and I feel so rewarded by what I’m doing. I left work last night feeling just that way. I had been put to the test but I was able to navigate all 22 painters through a 3-hour piece and felt it was a great success! I’m starting to realize very concretely why I love this job so much.
One storm was subsiding while many more were brewing. While I still have a lot to learn about handling them for myself and for others, keeping my composure is a positive first step towards tackling those tornados.
Stand-Out Song: “State of Grace”
My moment of serenity on Thursday was a really profound moment for me, one that has stuck with me several days later.
What puts you in a state of serenity?
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