It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily living, and it’s even easier to lose site of the important self-care practices that keep us motivated to tackle our next time-crunched day. The thought of adding one more daily routine to what seems like an unending stream of to-dos often seems like asking for the impossible.
On average, I work about 40–45 hours per week. My job is rewarding but also stressful, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I often find myself getting stuck in my head as I think about everything that I know is waiting for me on my to-do list when I go back to work the next day. I encourage my clients to take one day at a time as I am swiftly glancing over my planner and jotting down notes for everything I have to get accomplished that day, week, or month.
I have two dogs and two cats that crave a lot of attention. Up until this past December, I was a full-time student working on my second master’s degree, and now I’m putting the energy that I had been putting into my coursework into an application process for getting my counseling license. Being the forward-thinking person that I am, I have already started thinking about all of the continuing-educating credits that I’ll need to maintain my licensure once it’s been approved.
Looking at everything that I need and want to accomplish every week, it’s hard to imagine adding in that one more thing. My mind tries to trick me into feeling overly burdened. I’m exhausted by the end of the day, physically and mentally, and sometimes it’s hard to leave all of that stress at the door when I go into work or come home after a long day.
I discovered my love for writing in middle school. In our language arts class, we were tasked with writing a story, and we were told we would revisit our story for the duration of the school year, adding to and editing the piece to incorporate what we were learning in the classroom. At first, it seemed like a daunting task, and I remember the dread of imagining a homework assignment that was going to last an entire year. It was a middle-school student’s worst nightmare.
As the assignment progressed, however, I found myself getting wrapped up in the story that I was writing. I longed for Fridays in language arts, because those were writing lab days. Friday was the best day of the week — not only because it was the end of the school week, but it was also the day when I could incorporate all of the fresh ideas into my story that had been taking up space in my head all week. What at first seemed like just another piece of homework — one that would last an eternity — became an escape from reality and something that I looked forward to in my schoolwork.
I was reminded of that writing assignment by my childhood best friend one morning as I was venting to her about how stressed I was at work, at home, and in trying to finish everything I needed to get pieced together for my license application. She said:
“Remember when we were kids in school, and the hardest thing we had to worry about was that writing assignment in language arts class?”
It was like the world’s brightest light bulb had gone off in my head. I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of it sooner. Writing. It was a form of escape for me that I fell in love with at an early age and slowly started to neglect as I got older and began getting wrapped up in responsibilities. Something that I pushed to the side as I made my way through three college degrees, because I told myself that I didn’t have time to write for me when I had all of the writing assignments for classes to worry about — none of which were as exciting as the story I had written in sixth grade language arts class.
After pouring myself out to my friend and her timely reminder of the passion that I had overlooked, I rushed out to Barnes and Noble and looked until I found the perfect journal. I rediscovered my love for writing, committing to writing something every day without allowing myself to be tricked by my brain telling me that I didn’t have time or that I was too tired to write that day.
What I lost when I started writing was a fair amount of the stress and all feelings of being overwhelmed by the responsibilities that life throws at me. It’s a simple self-care practice that I have rediscovered for myself, and I now encourage my clients to partake in as well. Writing in my journal gives me a place to talk through my day-to-day with myself, plan for the upcoming work week, and toy with all of the creative ideas that come flooding through my mind now that I have opened myself up to them again.