This month signals an important time in our community… back to school time! All around, students are transitioning into a new life chapter. During this time, I find myself thinking about my past educational experience and comparing it to my current role. I graduated with my Master of Social Work on May 13th, 2012. Less than one month later I started as a therapist in a community mental health setting. It was a big step and I am fully aware now that I had no clue then what I was embarking on.
From my first day as a therapist to today, I have learned so much about the world around me. Countless people have trusted me with their most personal thoughts, emotions, and experiences. My awareness of the impact of relationships, both with others and ourselves has grown immensely. This time of new chapters has spurred me to reflect on the big picture of humanity in my community. Many share the same wants in life. Many express the same struggles. Overall, we are more alike than we think.
Through my time working with others, I have found a handful of common themes that seem to be on the minds of many. I would like to review some of these thoughts that have been shared with me over the years and offer insights into how to address these ways of thinking.
1. “I want to feel better” – Knowing that you do not feel the way you want to feel, but not knowing how to improve your experience can be so draining! Step one on your journey to feeling better should include self-exploration. Talking to trusted others such as friends or family can help you start thinking deeper about how you are currently feeling. No ready to talk to others about how you are feeling? Journaling can also be an incredibly effective way to reflect on how are you are feeling in the moment. Try this prompt: “I will know that I feel better when…”
2. “Am I normal?” – And the answer is, what is normal? I know, answering a question with
a question… so therapist-like of me. But, really, what is normal? No, really. Ask yourself, what do you think is normal? Many of us believe that people around us are more well-adjusted, happier, and confident than we are. Would you believe me if I told you that it is nearly impossible to evaluate normalcy by what we see from those around us? Checking your expectations and experiences by evaluating your thinking can help you start to dissolve the belief that you are on the outside looking in.
3. “Will it be like this forever?” – I love this one because I can honestly assure others that, no, it will not always be like this. Don’t believe me? Create a life timeline! Look back on your life from childhood to now. What do you see? You might notice downs, but if you look fairly, you likely also see positives. If you struggle with seeing the positives, starting a daily gratitude list can be a great first step toward changing that. Research has shown us that when we are struggling with mental health symptoms, it can be incredibly hard to acknowledge both negatives and positives in our lives.
4. “I want to be the old me again.” – When this comes up in session, I usually encourage people to take time to reflect on what this means. Who was the old you and how are they different from the new you? Many times people come back to the next session reporting that they do not do the things they used to do. Making time to do the things that we like to do is just as important as making time to do the things that we need to do. When we make time to engage in our hobbies we increase the likelihood that we will have time to engage in our hobbies. See what I did there? If you are finding that your time is sparse, try to create a daily or weekly schedule. When you map out your days it is much easier to find time for yourself.
5. “I want to better understand who I am.” – This is completely achievable and it could be a very fun process. Try to start by taking stock of your values. Our values represent the core of who we are as people. Values are the beliefs that define what is most important to you and they guide the choices we make in life. When you understand your values, you will learn more about the aspects of your life that are more important to you.
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Chances are, you have thought one or more of these things in the past. If you have, how are things going now? How could you incorporate one or more of these approaches into your plan for wellness? To learn more about healthy approaches for mental wellbeing, check out mezzosolutions.com or visit us on Facebook at Mezzo Solutions!