personal development

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Five Life Lessons I Did Not Expect When I Started Training To Be A Counsellor

1. You know that person you don’t like? Turns out they’re a gift

From day one I had a number of reasons I didn’t like one of the women on my course: she was confrontational; she was loud; she was ‘in your face’; always interrupting and questioning things; insensitive to other people’s feelings – my list went on. I would avoid sitting next to her and even avoid her eye contact when the class had to pair up for skills practice. I even brought my gripes to personal therapy and I’m glad I did, because my therapist helped me to confront a truth that my heart already knew: it wasn’t about her; it was about me.

In my eyes, we were opposites. Where she was confrontational, I was shy. Where she interrupted, I never said my mind. I saw in her things I couldn’t do; things I was afraid to do. Recognising this has helped me to examine my behaviour and the self-doubts that it stems from. Over the following weeks, I purposely sat closer to her in class and one week she sought me out. Striding across the room she announced we would work together that evening. She had no such preconceived ideas about me and it became clear that a lot of my judgements really didn’t fit this real person. Because of this person, I have had to face facts about myself and, as a result, started to find my own assertive voice.

Read the rest of my blog at Counsellors Cafe

7 Steps To Self Care

Eighteen months ago the term ‘self care’ was alien to me. It sounded like hospital euphemism for politely sending your patients home to die.

Giving yourself a break just wasn’t the done thing in my circles, particularly in the workplace. Stress knocked at the door constantly but I resolutely refused to answer. So – in an environment where crying seemed weak and admitting to stress was more a badge of honour than an explanation accompanying a sick note – stress found its escape routes in the form of unshakable colds, irritability, sleeplessness and an impromptu breakdown in the dairy isle of Sainsbury’s (I still day-dream about going back to explain that their lack of pineapple cottage cheese really wasn’t that much of a biggie).

Back then I would have confused ‘self-care’ with the sort of dogma you hear on American TV shows that tell you to ‘look out for number one’. It would have seemed somehow selfish. And that’s certainly one thing women are not supposed to be.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that in reality looking after yourself is far from a selfish act. It’s not about spa days, big holidays or pulling a sickie from work – although there is definitely a role for all of these things. It’s about slowing down, listening to what your body is telling you and trusting it to steer you right. It might sound easy, but, when your default reaction is to shut out your body’s cries for attention, believe me it can be a challenge.

Meeting my needs – and in fact taking some time out to actually explore what they were – has helped me to be a better friend, partner, sister, daughter, colleague, student, Sainsbury’s-shopper… you get the picture. So it’s a pleasure and a mini victory to be able to share with you some of my self care saviours to mark Self Care Week.

What this isn’t is a definitive ‘top ten’ list that everyone should follow. Everybody finds solace in different things. If meditation feels more like a ‘should’ than a joy, that’s okay. You don’t have to (and can’t) win at relaxing! These are just a few things that work for me. What works for you will be different, and I’d encourage you to take some time this week to create your own go-to self care practice.

Let me know what you think and share what works for you in the blog comments underneath or at my Facebook page.

  1. Practising Yoga – Fast paced, or slow and meditative depending on my mood. Yoga challenges me, brings focus and calm, and helps my mind to make better friends with my body.
  2. Getting a massage – There’s a reason massage is often referred to as physical therapy. For me, it’s a way to express care for my whole self. It helps me to be mindful of aches and pains, and being given the space to say nothing for an hour is utter heaven.
  3. Going for a walk – Being outside, especially in nature, blows the cobwebs away and helps me to get the day’s challenges in perspective.
  4. Talking to friends and family – Talking to someone who knows me warts and all, whether it’s to have a laugh, vent or cry, never fails to comfort me and lift my spirits.
  5. Trash TV – New Girl, Great British Bake Off, The Good Wife, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Okay, I may have said too much already…
  6. Reading fiction – Now that I’ve gone back to study to retrain as a counsellor I sometimes find myself feeling guilty if I pick up a book that isn’t on the reading list, but reading for pleasure is something that both relaxes and renews me so is well worth making time for.
  7. Jogging – Slowly, badly and listening to 90s dance music.

This blog has also been published by the Huffington Post.

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