Hello! My name is Steven. How would you like to begin your session today? Counseling with me is not necessarily a time when you come to go over an agenda or to learn a set format of steps to fix a problem. Yes, therapy can be about that and goal setting (and we will do that in the second session and revisit it throughout the process), whether initiated by you or by me. However, to me, the process of counseling and what can happen in the therapeutic environment is so much richer.
This past year, the pandemic (COVID-19) began to impact virtually every aspect of life: from work to home to school to social life and mental health. With all of the many stresses and abrupt changes that have left many, if not most, people feeling helpless and out of control, it seems pretty rational – even instinctual – to want to seem some sense of control again.
As challenging and as paradoxical as it may be, however, perhaps – just perhaps – the control you most need right now is to stop trying to control by DOING and just BE. Just be for a moment (and hopefully you will be able to extend that moment to a longer period of time…) with yourself. Yes, there is a time to do – to take action – but too often we can become so focused on the to-do list that we become so overwhelmed on the secondary stressors created by the actions themselves.
Now, as I will always say in counseling, “This is not a magic bullet and a quick fix; that does not exist in counseling….” However, and I am not at all against lists and following them (such as agendas, for example), but I am a proponent of moderation and the belief that “If what you are doing is not working – or is leading you to be anxious [or depressed etc.], try something different.”
So, if it seems like you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, and if you feel you could use a break, before you embark on your next to-do list or perhaps even between tasks – and perhaps, in time – during those very tasks themselves, take a few moments to just BE!
Allow yourself to just become aware (whether sitting, standing, lying down, or walking…) of your body. Just gently become aware of its position in space; notice where your arms and legs are and what you are actually sensing at this very moment; try to actually feel it.
Now, ever so gently, shift your awareness (if you would like; or you can keep it focused on your body) to your breath; just become aware that you are breathing and notice the in-breath and the out-breath. Perhaps feel the air as it also comes in and goes out your nose but that’s all you need do; just be gently aware of your breathing.
Just BE in this state with yourself for however long as you wish! Perhaps try it first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and at bedtime. Ultimately, however, the goal of mindfulness is to be something that you may find yourself living throughout your day: during all activities, while you are doing all daily tasks. There are other benefits to learning mindfulness and how this skill may help alleviate anxiousness, depression, and other stresses in life. Should you choose to continue your therapeutic journey with me, we can explore those areas more in depth.