October 15?!?!

Already?!?! How time is flying by! Two months from today will wrap up a major phase of life… grad school. Graduation is December 15! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I can hardly stand it! Although I’ll still have 3 major exams to take for licensure, they will be spread out over the next couple of years and homework as a whole will disappear. I can read simply because I want to again!

Here are the things I’ve learned about myself over the past 2.5 years:

  • I am crazier about organizing, planning, tabbing and color coding than I ever imagined possible.
  • I really am a good student when I see the long-term benefit and feel the weight of the responsibility of how I learn and choose to value remembering information. It paid to take those 10 years between undergrad and grad school to better know myself, my interests, my abilities and my goals. I haven’t wasted thousands (and thousands and thousands) of dollars on something that I might or might not do something with… I know that I know that I know my calling and how I can best help people through ministry and counseling.
  • I can be disciplined working from home… but it can also be a slippery slope with Pinterest so easily available… I also really enjoy being home with Tony during the day. We may be in separate rooms, on separate floors, but it’s nice to so easily stop for lunch and hang out for a bit during the day.
  • As much as I’ve despised gas prices and the extra early mornings or late nights due to having to drive an hour or so to classes, meetings, internship sites, etc., it’s allowed me some much needed quiet time during the days for prayer, podcasts, reflection of thoughts and processing of clients or the day’s events. Especially now, I’m loving all the fall landscape during my drives!
  • I’m very blessed with a supportive husband and parents/family who have set me up to succeed during such a phase as this. I am thankful beyond words for their help during these past years.
  • As long as 2.5 years / 61 hours of classes and internships have felt… looking back, it has flown by. I feel as though I still have great things to learn and years of experience to gain before I feel fully comfortable and competent. I guess that’s why they require 3000 hours of supervised practice before the state will grant you a license for independent counseling, haha… there IS more to learn!
  • Balancing part time jobs, classes, internships, family and friend time is difficult. I’m not perfect at it. Prioritizing and learning to say “no” and when to take time for rest has become an art. Marriage will look different in a couple of months (due to scheduling, primarily), free-time will look different, availability to friends and family will look different… it’s exciting and a bit intimidating all at the same time…

So I can’t help but wonder what this next phase will look like… what I will look like? But for now… I guess I’ll get back to studying… 🙂

Reduce Worry and Stress

Tony is always sending me helpful articles about health and wellness. Part of his motivation is to get me on board with some new thing he’s wanting to try (like the slow-carb eating) and another motive is to help me learn new things as a future counselor, church staff member, etc. The article he sent today was confirming why he gets so upset with the infamous Tennessee heat… the past week or so has been in the triple digits with pretty high humidity. This morning was cloudy and rainy, and whereas most people might be sad about that, he was in pure joy. Oh, my wonderfully odd man… how I love him. Anyway… when I opened the link to the article he sent me, I found a link to this article about 11 Tips to Lower Stress. I thought they were good enough to pass along:

  1. Take a yoga class
  2. Get more sleep
  3. Try talk therapy
  4. Increase activity/exercise
  5. Meditate
  6. Laugh
  7. Get a massage
  8. Try journaling
  9. Get some hugs… there’s healing power in touch
  10. Plan “worry time”
  11. Don’t vent

For the most part, I wasn’t too surprised by the tips, but the two I listed last made me stop and read a little more. Planning “worry time” is a way to limit yourself, or place personal boundaries, on the amount of time you allow yourself to think about overwhelming, worrisome things. It’s almost impossible to completely eliminate worry, but you can plan some time (the article suggests 30 minutes) to allow yourself to think about what is currently bothering you. I would add that it would be important to end that time with some intentional thought and prayer on what you are thankful for, what’s positive in your life and even see if you can make a plan for those things that are upsetting. Make a plan for the things you know you can tackle, and then release everything else to God’s control – He can handle it. And remember, sometimes the “release” part is an ongoing thing. Maybe you won’t solve all the world’s problems in 30 minutes, but practicing how to take more control over your thoughts might be a helpful habit to build.

“Don’t vent” is also a good reminder. Social support is important when making a difficult journey through stressful, worrisome or overwhelming situations. However, too much can actually increase rather than decrease your stress. The more you talk about it, the more you’re thinking about it, the more you’re allowing that issue to be in control and live rent-free in your life. Find a few close friends who will offer support but will also be willing to be honest and hold you accountable to not focusing on the negative. Maybe they can be a part of your 30 minutes of worry and at the end work with you to formulate a positive plan of action. And, pray together. Lean on people you know will pray for you and with you – that helps you know that they will encourage you to seek God’s wisdom and perspective.

Lastly, keep a list of helpful tools like this handy. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with stress, we magically forget that there are things that we can do to help. Maybe they won’t solve, but they can help. I can probably use some form all of these tips in decreasing my current levels of stress.

Organs…

This semester one of my classes if Grief and Crisis Counseling. It’s an elective, but I thought it would be beneficial for me to take. I’m hoping it’s a time for me to learn appropriate and beneficial responses to clients in times of deep suffering and sadness and also a time for me to work through my own fears and issues. It’s been interesting so far… last week we took a field trip to a local funeral home to learn about how different cultures mourn and/or celebrate the life of a loved one who is gone. I know it may not seem like a “fun” class to take, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And, something I feel like I need.

One of our assignments is to research some form of grief in order to write a paper and give a presentation. I decided to do mine on the sorrow associated with organ transplants. It may not be something that everyone might think of, but it is on the forefront of my mind since it’s a journey my family has walked for the past three plus years. In a short version, here’s the basics of our story…

I’ve grown up with an extremely healthy, overachieving, motivated, passionate mother. She never took “no” for an answer and there never seemed to be anything she couldn’t do. She was an algebra/geometry teacher for middle and high school students from August to May, and our summers were filled with yard work, house cleaning, waxing cabinets, field trips, and so much more. She has always had a busy, fast-paced life filled with joy and purpose. When she finally reached her time for retirement, she already had a list of things she wanted to do and pursue. Only a few months into her new/retired life, she found herself growing tired with each new day and she was beginning to experience difficulty with minor things, like climbing the stairs in her home. A doctor’s visit (to get tips on how to get in better shape) revealed a rare, fast-acting heart disease. It wasn’t long before her only option for improving her quality of life was a heart transplant. Many patients spend their time waiting for a heart in the hospital; but not her… she was determined to stay home and fight to continue life as normal. That still included stays in the hospital every couple of months and lots and lots and even a little bit more of medication. Her wait time was almost two years exactly. Two years of ups and downs, hope and discouragement… all the while battling the idea that a transplant was actually going to happen. Valentine’s weekend 2011, she got a call that they had found a match… in the middle of a huge snow and ice storm. The next 24 hours leading up to the actual surgery is a story within itself – at one point thinking that it was merely going to be a “dry run.” It’s been a year and a half since her transplant, and doctors have said that the transplant isn’t a cure, but an opportunity for a better life. She will always operate at about 80 percent of what she used to be/feel, and that’s on her good days. But we are thankful… I am thankful… She is an amazing woman with a miracle story. Ups and downs may continue, but she will always be a fighter… always a hoper… always a believer in joy… always living each day to serve someone other than herself.

I asked my mom to visit my class this week and take some time to share her story… it’s not one you hear every day. It was raw and true with several tears, she too remains a work in progress. The things that have helped her get through each day and press on into the unknown: a strong support system of friends and family, a strong team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrist, social worker, pharmacist, insurance rep, etc., tasks/activities/responsibilities that continue to help her feel valuable and purposeful, and admirable faith. She will always be one of my heroes… as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a Christian leader, a friend, and Godly woman.

So no matter your grief/loss/sadness story and/or journey… I’ve learned that it is difficult to face and overcome. It is deeply personal, and it impacts more than just you. We can’t ignore it or run away. But, it can be better when someone is walking the journey with you… make a courageous decision

%d bloggers like this: