When I began working as a counselor, I trusted my instincts as much as my formal education. Work in the arena of trauma was emerging, but well-researched treatment programs had not been developed. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was yet to be defined. In my first job, I worked with victims of rape and spouse abuse, and men returning from combat and no longer coped well with daily life. They suffered from a similar group of symptoms. We held sessions individually and in groups.
Dealing with personal trauma is heart wrenching, it’s intensely intimate, and requires trust and the safety of person and place to bring it out into the light. The first time I suggested we ‘walk and talk’ a young twenty-three-year-old jumped out of his chair and headed to the door before I finished rationalizing my idea. He was comforted by having space to breathe in nature. He later told me how difficult it was for him to discuss emotional issues in a small, confined interview room and he didn’t like having to look directly at me.
After our first outdoor session, each follow-up turned into a walking hour. He slowly became calmer and was able to talk through both his experiences of war and his difficulty with adjustment. It didn’t take long before many of my sessions were held in the park behind the tall building which housed my office.
These courageous men and women taught me therapy can occur in multiple environments. Sitting face to face with a client and discussing intimate issues can be overwhelming. Change and adjustment are difficult. We fight against new ideas or patterns. Our minds and bodies are tied to nature. We are soothed by its familiarity and peace. Its pull is strong. We have not evolved so far away from sleeping and eating patterns synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease when surrounded by nature’s calming and soothing effects. Nature can contribute to our wellness regime, but only if we recognize our need to stay connected and fully appreciate its short and long term benefits.
As a therapist, I was learning and evolving as well. I tried not to use one template and quickly found the unique, beauty of each person. This axiom held true when in marriage counseling. This union was exponentially different from any other………and families……well you get the picture.
I also began to understand the difficulty most people had in seeking out a therapist. Make the appointment, meet a new person, find the office and afford the payments. It only took me ten years, but I started offering programs which focused on developing positive coping mechanisms to deal with everyday hardships. I appreciated the structured system of growth and human development. From personal experience and from watching and hearing clients struggle with similar issues at about the same time, I knew life held a distinct, almost predictable pattern.
We were all destined to pass through seasons of our lives with a variation of the same conflicts and scuffles. Most of which could be endured and overcome with the help of good friends, loving spouses, coaches, therapists or valid information and by acquiring new skills.
I tried out this theory by offering parenting classes during a time when I needed new techniques to best parents my three small children. As a group, we thrived, and our children benefited from our newly acquired skills. By putting women together in a classroom, we were all more open to sharing our difficulties and able to find answers in a caring, empathic atmosphere. AND no one needed to find a therapist.
Within months, I developed a Women’s Wellness Program, a unique concept in 1992. This served to educate and offered support not only from the presenters (now we all had a team of reliable practitioners) but also from each other. I was on to something. Every woman blossomed. During the relationship building segment, one woman bravely told the group, she believes the process of the three days enhanced her marriage and helped her to be a better mother. ALL this came from learning new skills and deciding how to apply them in her life. And by nurturing herself and normalizing her feelings and frustrations.
Today wellness is a concept blurred to suit multiple business functions. It is tossed around with abandon and, therefore, diminished……..in my opinion. Wellness is an integration of the many sides of ourselves. Therapists now understand and accept the effects of emotional stress on the body and in the reverse how improper nutrition affect our thinking process ……and …..and ….and ……the list goes on and on. How does a lack of hope determine our daily regime impacting our emotional capacity and our physical health? How does our psychological and relational life change our work life? (notice I made this a statement of fact). Emotions are tricky hen mislabeled or misinterpreted even while they are playing havoc with our mental health and daily decisions. We grow, learn and evolve then must repeat this system in our lives as we meet new and varied challenges. All this sounds exhausting and can for some people seem and an impossible obstacle when brought into the light. Once a wellness program is developed, it can be altered and massaged to comply with your changing needs, but must be initiated and generated in a concrete, systematic manner.
HOW DOES THIS ALL FIT TOGETHER? I ASK YOU TO:
Look at the essential elements of wellness in your life as you begin this new year.
See yourself as a ‘ whole’ person with multiple needs.
Develop your intellect by learning new ways to cope with old patterns.
Ask yourself what does spirituality mean to you in your life?
Determine if you need to move your body, move often, and more vigorously?
Are you feeding your body well?
Are your emotions running away with you?
What are your ‘go to’ coping mechanisms, are they serving your well or destroying personal connections?
Do your primary relationships need a bit more nourishment?
Are you being heard and understood by those who love you best?
FIND A WAY TO DEVELOP A WELLNESS REGIME:
Consider the benefits of nature.
Get our of the house or our office.
Breathe fresh air every day.
Walk and Talk with friends instead of having a coffee sitting inside.
Take control of your health, listen to your body and react.
Give each aspect of your wellness effort and energy. When one is neglected the ‘system’ suffers.
Be Kind to yourself, watch your thoughts carefully. If you would never say the things you say to yourself in your mind – Stop It!