Tag Archives: Mental Health

Hard at work

By Bethany Bray August 30, 2021

No employee clocks in to work each day entirely free from personal issues and struggles. However, individuals with mental illness face an extra layer of adversity in the workplace. Simply showing up and fulfilling job responsibilities can be an uphill battle for employees who are bombarded by intrusive, obsessive or critical thoughts; trauma flashbacks; depressive episodes; anxiety triggers; and other challenges.

Adding to the issue is the friction that can arise in a workplace when a mental illness — either disclosed or not — causes an employee to struggle to keep up with their workload or to take time off frequently to go to counseling appointments or tend to their mental health. Co-workers and supervisors can be unsupportive of a teammate who falls behind, sometimes regardless of whether they’re aware of the mental illness underlying their colleague’s work performance, making the situation worse.

Professional counselors can be key allies for clients whose mental health struggles are affecting — or even derailing — their work life. Being an ally includes providing support at an individual level, such as by equipping clients with coping mechanisms and talking through career-related decisions, and at a systemic level, such as by helping clients seek accommodations from an employer or otherwise advocate for themselves.

In these situations, a supportive counselor can normalize the client’s experience, help with perspective-setting and serve as a sounding board as the client talks through decisions and emotions related to work and career, says Meredith Montgomery, a supervising professional clinical counselor in Ohio and an assistant professor of counselor education at the University of Dayton. “It’s also a counselor’s role to know what different [mental health] diagnoses might bring up in a work setting. If a clinician is working with a client who meets the criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you need to really do the research to know what that can potentially mean in the workplace. But at the same time, don’t buy into clichéd old ideas; look for the newest, updated information and laws that can help support them in a work environment,” says Montgomery, a member of the American Counseling Association. “Ultimately, a counselor’s job is one of support and illumination: to illuminate [a client’s] path, not to create the path, or determine the path, or push or pull them on the path, or shove them off of it, but to equip them with all the information you can to help them make their own decisions.”

A daily struggle

Behaviors that can indicate a client’s mental health is leading to problems in the workplace include frequent absences, tardiness, difficulty motivating themselves to perform their job, or job performance issues such as struggling to meet deadlines or other work expectations, says Amanda Hembree, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and certified employee assistance professional with a private practice in New Orleans.

Perfectionism can also be a factor, she adds. For example, a client with OCD may miss deadlines or have trouble contributing to team projects because they need extra time to prepare and complete compulsive rituals or steps until an assignment is just right. This can especially be the case in job roles that involve safety, Hembree points out. Employees with OCD may feel they need to check and recheck their equipment, tools and other safety protocols repeatedly, causing them to be late or struggle to complete other tasks.

At the same time, Hembree acknowledges that many people with mental health challenges find “workarounds” to push through the workday and keep themselves from being noticed by co-workers or supervisors.

A client’s workplace challenges may also fly under the radar in counseling sessions unless the clinician fully explores how the person’s mental illness is manifesting across their life, Hembree stresses. Clients may seek counseling for a different presenting issue, such as parenting struggles or communication problems within a marriage, and fail to recognize or acknowledge that work problems can be a contributing factor to difficulties in their personal life.

“Don’t discount work,” Hembree urges her fellow counselors. “Clients are spending 40-plus hours there each week, and it will affect what they’re bringing into the counseling office. Work plays a big role in our lives, and you [the counselor] have to figure out the intersection of why they’re in your office and what is going on at work and what can be helped in both realms. None of us lives in a vacuum. Mental illness will affect every part of a whole person’s wellness — and especially work.”

Seth Hayden, an associate professor of counseling at Wake Forest University and president of the National Career Development Association, a division of ACA, also emphasizes the importance of listening for and asking clients about job-related challenges, regardless of whether their presenting concern involves work. A comprehensive client assessment should include questions about how their presenting concern manifests throughout their life, including their physical health, relationships, ability to engage in hobbies that interest them, and views on work.

If a client identifies work as a source of stress or discomfort, a counselor should explore that further in session, says Hayden, an ACA member who specializes in career transitions with military and veteran clients. This involves uncovering the thoughts and feelings the client associates with their job and how those things tie into the person’s self-concept and align with their core beliefs.

“If work continually comes up in their conversation, let’s stop there and dive deeper, talking more about the work that they do and how they feel about it,” says Hayden, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in North Carolina and an LPC in Virginia. “Have their feelings [about work] changed over time? Do an extensive examination of aspects of career and work and how [they’re] connected to other areas of life. … If you try to artificially separate them [mental health and career], it could potentially be to the detriment of the client … because they are interconnected.”

Asking the right questions

Avoidance behaviors and other signs of distress and unhappiness at work can result from any number or combination of sources, says Montgomery, who co-presented the session “Enhance Counseling Services by Integrating Clinical and Career Counseling Strategies” at ACA’s Virtual Conference Experience in April. She emphasizes the need for clinicians to fully unpack clients’ feelings and emotions about their work situation during counseling sessions.

Montgomery urges clinicians to draw on two foundational counseling skills: asking probing questions and using empathic reflection.

“We [counselors] need to make sure we are asking the right questions. We don’t necessarily want to jump on the ‘you hate your job, let’s get you out of there’ bandwagon. When you pull it apart, it could be a toxic environment, or … a bad fit, or they could make changes to make it a better fit, but often the only option clients see is to leave,” Montgomery says. “We need to explore, explore, explore, explore [the client’s situation] before we jump to any kind of solution formulation.”

When clients talk about how hard work is for them, counselors should use empathic reflection, repeating clients’ statements back to them, to allow them to think through these thoughts, Montgomery says. It may be a knee-jerk response to agree or sympathize with client statements such as “I hate my job” or “Work has been terrible since the COVID-19 pandemic,” but counselors must be careful not to inadvertently reinforce a client’s statement with their reactions, she advises.

Instead, clinicians can probe for details and ask clients to describe the feelings underneath the statements they are making. Montgomery finds that an emotion wheel can be helpful for prompting these conversations, so she suggests counselors keep copies handy in their offices or readily available for screen-sharing during telebehavioral health sessions.

Often, individuals do not fully express their experiences because they do not have the language to do so, Montgomery says. Using tools such as an emotion wheel is a way to increase a person’s ability to better understand and communicate their experience. For example, a client may initially say, “I feel angry at work.” But after looking at the emotions listed on the wheel, they may be able to better articulate their feelings by saying, “I feel underappreciated, exhausted and disrespected at work.” That deeper and clearer understanding is far more beneficial to both the client and the clinician because the solutions to feeling underappreciated are different than the solutions to feeling angry, Montgomery says.

This exploration stage of counseling should also include a focus on identifying clients’ needs and which needs are not being met through work or are being marginalized or curtailed in the workplace, Montgomery adds. For example, a client who is social and benefits from talking through challenges with others may feel isolated and struggle to process things or complete assignments if they’re in a setting where they work alone or are physically separated from colleagues by the office layout. Identifying these needs often provides clarity and helps clients move toward either making changes in their current job situation — such as asking to be moved to a shared workspace or scheduling regular check-ins with their boss — or considering a different position or career, Montgomery explains.

Montgomery first worked in the corporate and nonprofit spheres before switching to a career in counseling. She recalls her own process of adapting to a new role as a counselor educator. After some self-reflection, she realized she craved structure to navigate the varying demands of work as a university professor, and there were some ways she could ask for help and support in this realm from her employer.

Montgomery looked for tools to create structure, such as a whiteboard to make lists and keep notes in her workspace. She also suggested her department streamline processes by creating a master calendar with due dates for evaluations and other important benchmarks. Not only did this modification keep Montgomery from feeling like she was always behind, but several colleagues mentioned that they found it helpful too, she says.

Coping mechanisms

The interconnected nature of career and mental health may cause work-related discomfort to affect clients when they are off the clock. This can manifest in many ways, including sabotaging their ability to get to work on time in the mornings or channeling feelings of frustration or unhappiness toward family members after a frustrating workday.

Amanda Barnett, an LPC who specializes in mental health and work issues with clients at her private practice in Gainesville, Georgia, helps clients who struggle to separate work stressors from their personal lives to build intentionality into their routines. She suggests clients visualize changing “hats” as they transition to and from work. For example, a client may take off their accountant hat and put on their dad hat as they leave the office. For some professions, this transition is literal because employees change into work uniforms or wear a tool belt or other work equipment, notes Barnett, an ACA member. Regardless, she urges clients to take time to center themselves, give themselves a pep talk and be mindful about setting themselves up for the workday or for their return home.

Hembree notes that offering psychoeducation regarding how anxiety manifests in the body and providing tools to lower stress and anxiety in the moment can be particularly helpful with this client population. Breathing techniques can be a useful go-to tool in the workplace, especially because some of these techniques can be used without other people noticing, she says. Hembree, who has extensive experience working with clients through employee assistance programs, often teaches clients “box breathing,” which involves inhaling for four counts, holding for four counts and exhaling for four counts. This technique can be done discretely even when an employee is sitting in a work meeting or preparing for a presentation, she points out.

Another powerful yet simple tool is helping clients realize that they can take a break — even if just for a moment — when things begin to escalate at work. Many clients get so wrapped up in the emotions they feel when they are stressed that their instinct is to dive further into the situation rather than pull back for a moment.

“Unless you’re on a heart-transplant team, you can take five minutes to have a snack, take a break, meditate or do a grounding technique,” Hembree advises. “Even if your boss is breathing down your neck and saying, ‘I need this yesterday,’ you will do a lot better if you take a couple of minutes to ground … and center yourself — and your work will be better because of it.”

Hembree also finds techniques that counter negative self-talk to be helpful with this population. Clients who struggle in the workplace can easily fall into the “comparison trap,” she says. But as is the case when people compare themselves with others based only on what they see on social media, workers see only a portion of others’ lives at work. When a client is bombarded by negative self-talk, a co-worker’s success can send them further down that spiral. It’s easy to compare themselves and catastrophize, thinking that they’ll never be as good as their co-worker, that they are a failure, or that they are about to be fired, Hembree notes.

“Perhaps a co-worker gets praise from the boss. But what [the client] didn’t see is that [the co-worker] stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish [the work assignment], missed their kid’s soccer game, got in a fight with their partner and gave themselves an ulcer to get this modicum of praise from the boss,” she says. “A counselor can offer psychoeducation that others have good and bad days, and you will have a day when you’re the superstar.”

fizkes/Shutterstock.com

Disclosure

The decision to disclose one’s mental illness in a work setting can lead to the good, the bad or the ugly. In a best-case scenario, an employer will respond to disclosure in a supportive and understanding way. Employees whose mental health challenges are affecting their work life can find support in an understanding ally — whether it’s a supervisor or a trusted co-worker — who knows the reason behind their work struggles. However, disclosure in a worst-case scenario can leave an employee open to direct or indirect hostility, misunderstanding, awkwardness, retribution or discrimination from an employer.

“There should be an element of dignity in work and being able to say things without any fear. But [counselors should] recognize that there are precarious elements of work that don’t make it easy for people to do that,” says Hayden, who presented “Career Development and Mental Health in the Context of COVID” at ACA’s Virtual Conference Experience. Hayden and the other counselors interviewed agree that disclosing one’s mental illness at work is a complicated issue that must be considered carefully depending on several factors, including how supportive the overall climate is at the client’s job.

Marina Williams, an LPC in Lexington, Virginia, who specializes in helping clients with work issues, stresses that clients should think carefully about what they have to gain by disclosing a mental illness in the workplace. This issue is even more complicated for clients whose work settings can involve direct or indirect repercussions if a worker is deemed unfit. Those in law enforcement, the military or jobs with a security clearance often feel particularly vulnerable about disclosing any type of mental health issue.

“Discrimination for mental health is very common,” says Williams, who presented on workplace bullying at ACA’s 2018 conference. “I recommend that clients not tell anyone [at work], but the exception to this is if they’re having such difficulty that they need to ask for accommodation in the workplace. But even then, I would limit [disclosure] to human resources.”

Hembree has also worked with clients who were treated differently after disclosing their mental illness in the workplace. She has heard clients talk about being treated like “fragile glass,” being denied job advancement or becoming the target of bullying behaviors such as being called a “snowflake.”

“It would be amazing if we lived in a post-stigma mental health world, but we are not there yet,” Hembree says. “I generally do not suggest that people disclose unless they are in a very supportive or progressive workplace.”

When the question of disclosing comes up in counseling sessions, Barnett encourages clients to think their situation through carefully. She cautions clients about oversharing and making the assumption that co-workers are friends. And she reminds her clients that the human resources department works for their employer, not for the employees. “Everything you say to human resources could go on your permanent record,” she tells clients. “Be aware that they have a duty to the company, not to you.”

Barnett once worked with a client who had mixed results after their boss learned about their mental health struggles. The client was having frequent panic attacks at work. Because the workplace was a closed, secure environment, the client couldn’t step outside easily or bring in personal items to help them cope.

The client’s boss became aware of the situation after a workplace incident triggered a panic attack and the client became visibly upset in front of him during the workday. After that, the client received what they termed “reluctant” support from their boss. The boss wasn’t cruel, but he wasn’t overly understanding either, Barnett recalls. The client’s stress also increased when the supervisor revealed that he was leaving and cautioned the employee that the next boss might not be as understanding to their situation as he had been.

What did help, however, were the coping mechanisms that the client learned and honed in counseling with Barnett, as well as a focus on quelling negative self-talk. Barnett and the client also found small ways that the client could stay mindful and calm during the workday, such as by chewing gum.

Clients who work on-site at a job may need to seek permission to leave for therapy appointments. They may also face questions or comments from co-workers about their frequent absences. If a client feels they need to explain their mental health struggles at work, a counselor can help them figure out a way to ask for leave without fully disclosing. For example, Williams says, the person could tell their boss, “I’m going through something right now, and these appointments are helping me.” It’s also OK to simply say, “I have an appointment” and leave it at that, she asserts.

Hembree agrees that disclosure can involve a range of information and doesn’t necessarily have to include details about a client’s diagnosis. She once counseled a client with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder who had trouble maintaining focus when he had to sit still for long periods of time such as in trainings or meetings. His solution was to stand and move periodically or ask for breaks with the simple explanation that he was feeling “fidgety.”

Counselors can ask clients how they feel about disclosing and how receptive their workplace might be to their mental health issues and to providing potential accommodations. Most of all, clients should disclose at a level that feels safe and comfortable to them, Hembree says.

“Everyone has to advocate for themselves, individually. That’s going to be different for every person,” she says. “For some, they are desperate to remove the stigma of mental health issues and wave that flag for everyone in their office and create a better environment for [all employees]. But that’s not for everyone. You don’t have to pick up that battle. You don’t have to be the spokesperson for depression [or another diagnosis]. You just have to do the best you can on any given day, and that may be disclosing and it might not be, or [it may be] disclosing in different ways.”

Accommodations

Employees may need to disclose a mental illness in the workplace if they are seeking accommodations that would help their situation. Possible work accommodations include being able to leave work regularly for therapy appointments, reducing an employee’s hours or responsibilities, or relocating from a cubicle to an enclosed office for increased privacy and decreased distraction, Williams notes.

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) affords protections for workers, the language in the law guarantees “reasonable accommodation,” Williams points out. Counselors and clients should keep in mind that employers can make a counteroffer or refuse an employee’s request based on how reasonable they perceive it to be.

Hembree urges counselors who are unfamiliar with ADA or the protections it affords to seek continuing education on the topic, do research or consult with colleagues (including professionals in related fields such as human resources) to better support their clients. ADA also has an information hotline (ada.gov/infoline.htm) that counselors or clients can call to ask questions, she adds.

Hayden and Montgomery both suggest that counselors whose clients plan to disclose a mental illness or seek accommodations at work role-play in sessions to help clients gather their thoughts and prepare for the conversation. Hayden advises that it can be helpful for counselors and clients to explore the following questions:

What is the client hoping to gain from the conversation?

How might the conversation go? What do they anticipate happening?

What reaction might they receive? How will they respond to it?

Montgomery encourages clinicians not to make assumptions about a client’s comfort level regarding asking for things they need. Just because a client works in management or a position of authority doesn’t mean that they will easily be able to advocate for themselves, she says. Counselors should also never make assumptions based on the client’s level of education, socialization, cultural background or other factors, she adds.

“Assume everyone is terrified about asking for what they need and go from there,” Montgomery advises. “If we assume that no one is comfortable, then we don’t have to worry about offending someone or leaving someone unprepared because they’re uncomfortable asking you [their counselor] for help with learning how to ask.”

Hembree believes accommodations can be helpful for clients whose mental health struggles at work go beyond being a “nuisance” and truly interfere with their daily ability to do their job. As with disclosure, workplace accommodations — and the process to seek them — fall on a spectrum and will vary from client to client. Hembree says the documentation she has written for accommodation requests has ranged from in-depth reports for clients in government positions to a brief letter confirming that a client left work to see her for an appointment on a certain date and time. No matter the circumstance, she always has clients review the document to ensure they are comfortable with it before she submits it to their employer. She tries to focus her documentation on the client’s needs rather than the client’s problems, Hembree says.

Counselors can also work with clients to explore coping strategies that they can use on their own without having to seek an employer’s permission. In Hembree’s experience, clients have found it helpful to have fidget devices, noise-canceling headphones or calm strips (textured stickers a person can touch to soothe or ground themselves) at their desk. Customizing a workspace by adding plants or using a lamp rather than overhead florescent lighting can also be calming, she notes.

In other cases, employees can ask for measures that would help their situation without framing it as a mental health accommodation, Hembree says. For example, a client may notice that a different workspace is available in their office and ask to be moved without giving a reason.

Making work work

What is the tipping point between struggling at a job because of an underlying mental health challenge and foundering in a position that simply is not a good fit for someone with a client’s diagnosis? There’s no easy answer to that question, Williams says, but “keep soldiering through” is not a solution.

The counselors interviewed for this article agree that finding answers to this question should involve exploration of a client’s identity and how the client feels their job aligns with their identity and personal values. It can also be helpful to talk through the timeline of when a client started to struggle at work and whether that coincided with other events in their life, Williams notes.

Barnett suggests that counselors prompt clients to think about how long they’ve pictured themselves in their current role. For example, they could ask, “Have you always wanted to be in this career? Is it your life’s passion? Or is it simply a way to get dollars in your bank account?”

“You have to get to whether [the job] fits with the core of their identity,” Barnett says. Ask the client, “Is this what you really want to do? Is it your passion? Is it meeting your needs? If not, give yourself that freedom to make a choice.”

Counselors can also offer the perspective that clients don’t have to stay in a career simply because it’s what they studied in school or have been doing for years, Barnett notes. Clients can try out other careers by taking on a side job or working part time and slowly transitioning into another position if it is a good fit for them.

Above all, the client should guide the conversation, Montgomery adds. “Work, like relationships, can be a great source of purpose and meaning and can be a place where we can grow and do really exciting things and fulfill our brain’s desire for stimulation. It also can be a place where we get a paycheck, and we go home and we get all those things in other places [outside of work],” Montgomery says. “If getting purpose from work is really important to you and you want to do that, then make the decision that supports that result. But it’s also OK to just get paid and use that money to do fantastic things in other places. … We get all kinds of messaging that you should be saving the world through work. But the reality is that it’s not true for everyone. Everyone has different needs, and we just need to explore how to get those met.”

 

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Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

What discomfort can teach you

By Shari Gootter and Tejpal June 16, 2021

Comfort is something we all seek. The notion of “being comfortable” is highly prized (and promoted) in our society. It is considered a major selling point if you are in the market to buy a bed, clothes, a car, a pair of shoes — almost anything. But the overvaluing of comfort in our lives can come at great cost.

Fizkes/Shutterstock.com

Our relationship with comfort and discomfort is influenced by our culture, our personal history and our personality. If we are born in a tradition in which failure is not an option and social success is the norm, we may challenge ourselves with long hours of work or study to avoid the discomfort of failure. If we are born into a family where depression or anger was part of the daily landscape, we may want to avoid these emotions at any price and dissociate when these feelings arise. Taking a deeper look at our relationship with comfort and discomfort provides us insight on our path toward acceptance and happiness.

Discomfort exists at many levels:

  • At the physical level, it may manifest as a headache, a digestive issue or a skin irritation.
  • At the emotional level, it may manifest as anxiety, worry or depression.
  • At the mental level, it may manifest as constant agitation, an inability to focus or ambivalence in decision-making.
  • At the heart level, it may manifest while experiencing loss, change or separation.
  • At the spiritual level, it may manifest as existential angst, lack of purpose or a feeling of disconnection.

Certain life events can be challenging and unfamiliar. If we are clinging to any form of comfort, we will limit our ability to adapt and grow. Through the years, the overpromotion of comfort, happiness and pleasure has created tremendous distortions. There is no tolerance for any amount of discomfort and tremendous impatience for any kind of pain. When comfort is the only choice, resilience and the ability to overcome adversity are lost.

Running from discomfort

If you want to stay centered and at peace, you need to stop running away from discomfort (or always running toward pleasure). Running from discomfort prevents us from being able to see and feel what is present. It holds us in a false state of reality and never allows us to know our true selves. On the other hand, being uncomfortable teaches us to transcend pain and pleasure, thus allowing us to be true to ourselves. It also allows us to see clearly when challenges occur.

The constant promotion of pleasure and comfort has contributed to the emergence of addictive behaviors. For example, many individuals use food, medication or gaming as a way to soothe their pain or “escape” their stress. This starts with a tremendous obsession of the mind that makes us believe there is only one way. When our mind gets frantic about one thing, there is no room for anything else and our behavior becomes extremely reactive. As soon as we grasp for more comfort, we become intoxicated. Intoxication does not necessarily have to involve a substance such as alcohol. We can be intoxicated with power or greed. As soon as we are intoxicated, we lose our intelligence and our ability to be present.

When you experience discomfort, we suggest that you stay away from labeling it, contracting and wondering when the pain will go away. None of us came to Earth to suffer, but none of us came to earth to run away from suffering either. Every time that you hit your limitations, you have the opportunity to unfold and open.

Mara, one of our clients, was struggling with tremendous discomfort. She was never satisfied with herself and experienced ongoing anxiety about her future. She dealt with her pain by consuming alcohol. After several years of doing this, Mara was no longer able to follow through with much of anything, and she ended up getting fired from her job. This was a much-needed wake-up call for Mara to realize that she needed help. When she first came to see us, she had a strong motivation to rid herself of her discomfort. But as she learned to develop a sense of compassion for herself, she grew more able to embrace her discomfort. Mara came to understand that when she was trying to cover up her discomfort, she was actually opening the door to self-destruction.

Accepting discomfort

Accepting our discomfort is led not only by bravery but by our heart center. At that moment, we choose to accept who we are. Our will does not help to heal our pain; our heart does. For Mara, getting fired was the saving grace. Others may go deeper into negative coping mechanisms that further enhance patterns of self-sabotage before determining to change their relationship with discomfort.

Often, when we experience discomfort, we perceive it as a threat. We want to separate from our discomfort to protect ourselves. When we do this, we create the opposite of what we are looking for. The more we separate from our discomfort, the more we separate from ourselves, and the more pain we experience as a result.

Underneath any discomfort, there is a fear. For some it could be the fear of missing out. For others it may be the fear of not being in control, or the fear of being overwhelmed and losing sense of self.

The longer we numb our discomfort, the more stuck we may feel. The longer we reject our discomfort, the louder our ego becomes. The practice of allowing discomfort is the practice of integration. Integration occurs when we allow our behavioral patterns, traits, emotional states and experiences to come together in a more unified and organized state. Without integration there is separation, and with separation there is distortion.

The purpose of pain is to awaken the heart, not trigger the mind. It is not about overcoming pain; it is about recognizing and being willing to learn from it.

Some spiritual traditions will bring discomfort to the core of their practice. The intent is to teach the practitioner to stay whole while in pain and to prevent the mind, led by the ego, from directing the experience. The focus is not on overcoming pain but rather on surrendering and allowing the experience of pain to expand where it wants to be. It teaches the mind not to separate but to allow. It teaches the mind to go beyond subject-object relationship. At that moment, there is an alchemy happening in the body, and one may shift from pain to bliss because the mind is not locked into form.

The practice of being uncomfortable

Regardless of your spiritual tradition and belief system, meditation is a great way to learn to be still with discomfort. Many people express difficulties when trying to learn to meditate and often give up, believing they are not good at it. The purpose of meditation is not to add pleasure or pain but rather to develop a neutral mind that allows whatever arises. Consistency in a meditation practice paves the way for acceptance and humility, which are two beautiful qualities of the heart.

If you are able to stay still during pain, without hoping for pleasure to come, you are free. If instead of fighting against the pain, you welcome it fully, you will shift and heal. When this happens, you will realize that pain and pleasure are not opposites, but simply sensations; you are now living beyond polarities.

Being uncomfortable does not always relate to pain or pleasure; our own fears and limitations can create great discomfort. To avoid discomfort, we may prevent ourselves from taking risks and put our self-development on hold. Some may feel stuck and have pushed the pause button, whereas others might operate on autopilot by staying with their to-do list. For example, some people may stay in a relationship or job even though they know it is no longer serving them. Both are forms of avoidance.

As we learn to allow pain to be part of our experience, we need to notice other possible scenarios that prevent us from learning about our discomfort. The first scenario is to be attached to our pain, allowing it to become our identity. At that moment, our life revolves around our pain, and this limits our ability to heal and make positive changes. The second scenario is to be uncomfortable with others’ discomfort. This steers us toward being “people pleasers,” constantly focusing on others’ well-being and avoiding being in touch with ourselves. Related to this second scenario, it can also be challenging to be around someone we deeply care for who is experiencing a great deal of discomfort. We may want to “fix it” or change it as a sign of love.

The practice of being uncomfortable teaches us to stay connected with ourselves, to be curious and open. It teaches us to be relaxed and surrender into the discomfort. The more we want to control our discomfort, the more stuck we become.

Allow discomfort to be part of your experience. Welcome it fully from the heart center. At the core of your pain or fear, you will grow and you will learn.

Practices

To become comfortable with the uncomfortable, we invite you to try the following practices. As with every practice, consistency and repetition are key to gaining insights and creating change.

Practicing in itself can create discomfort. It is when you are the least inclined to practice that it may be the most beneficial. Practice teaches you to go beyond your emotional reactivity. As you keep showing up for yourself, it will get easier.

Meditation Tonglen

Tonglen is a meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism and used to awaken compassion. Through acknowledging our own and others’ suffering, we open our hearts.

  • Sit in a comfortable position. Lengthen your spine and draw your shoulders down your back. Soften your face and jaw. Close your eyes.
  • Connect to one part of you that is in pain at a physical, emotional, mental, heart or spiritual level.
  • Notice the quality of your pain.
  • Imagine all of the people with a similar experience and inhale their pain. Do not be afraid to “inhale” others’ pain. You will not get more pain. In fact, you may feel some relief.
  • Exhale; send relief.
  • Repeat the process for at least three minutes.

Journaling

Some of you may be really reluctant to start this practice and others may simply love it. The benefits of journaling are priceless. It helps you process emotions or situations with more awareness and clarity. It is a safe container to express your voice. Research on journal writing therapy indicates positive outcomes related to identifying emotions and feelings and reducing stress. It can be a catalyst for change and healing.

  • Think of something that makes you uncomfortable. Is this new or old? What are the main emotions you are experiencing? What behaviors or strategies have you implemented? What did you learn about yourself?

Take action

Taking action is where the true learning takes place. You get an opportunity to truly assess your relationship with discomfort and stretch yourself.

  • Do something outside of your comfort zone.

 

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This article is based on a chapter from our book WAY TO BE – 40 Insights and Transformative Practices in The Heart of Being. For more information, go to www.40waystobe.com.

 

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Shari Gootter is a licensed professional counselor and certified rehabilitation counselor with decades of experience in designing and leading workshops for diverse populations. Her focus has been on helping people shift while going through losses or adjustments. She has also created programs for counselors that assist them in developing a framework that supports lasting transformation. Shari is a therapist in private practice and has taught yoga for decades. Contact her at sharigootter@comcast.net.

Tejpal has over 30 years of experience supporting individuals on their journey toward healing, life purpose and real joy. Tejpal blends her intuition, energy healing, creative processes, life coaching and yoga into her work. Tejpal was born in France and moved to the U.S. 25 years ago. She has worked with people from many cultures and traditions.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Turning your emotions into positive actions: A psychological approach to COVID-19 challenges

By Esther Scott December 8, 2020

It has been almost a year since it started. These past few months have been challenging times for everyone. We are witnessing frustration on many different levels, and we have all experienced a number of emotions: anger, fear, isolation, anguish, love, anxiety, solidarity, grief — with anger and anxiety being the most powerful ones over the summer.

Now, as we begin the transition from autumn to winter, depression is positioning itself to become the frontline emotion. With dissatisfaction from a lack of activities and face-to-face encounters, negative current events and a generalized sense of loss, we may face an increased risk for situational depression. The opportunity for situational depression to creep in becomes even greater as the days get shorter and we spend more time inside and in the dark as winter approaches.

In light of our current situation and these potential threats, understanding our emotions and recognizing the symptomatic behaviors of depression will be key to avoiding the creation of habits that could have long-term negative consequences. Instead, let’s focus on turning our emotions into positive actions that can build our resiliency skills.

Understanding your emotions

Everyone reacts in their own way to the events we are experiencing, but the emotions of anger and anxiety are common to almost everyone. We may be angry because progress in the area of race relations seems painfully slow, because of the rioting and looting we have witnessed, or because the government response to all of these things was not what we wanted or expected. Many people are experiencing anxiety and emotional fatigue due to all of the restrictions that COVID-19 brought to us this past summer, which limited our ability for recreation and recharging. Many are also experiencing exhaustion from all of the cultural changes that have taken place in just a few months but that have seemed to drag on for decades. Let’s take a closer look at these emotions.

Anger

Anger is often called a secondary emotion because we tend to resort to it to protect ourselves from or to cover up other vulnerable feelings. We almost always feel something else first before we get angry. We might first feel afraid, attacked, trapped, offended or disrespected. If any of these feelings are intense enough, we think of the emotion as anger.

What to Do

First, answer the following questions: What types of situations set you off? Are there people, situations or events that you simply need to avoid?

Second, check your thoughts. Be sure to take a step back and identify how you might need to change in your prejudices and in your interactions with others. Anger is a feeling, and it tells us there has been an injustice; that we are being denied something we should have. It provides its own justification. But it is an emotion that impairs critical thinking. There may be other elements that need to be considered before we act in anger.

Finally, focus on what matters most: love. After witnessing so many recent and ongoing tragic events, it is important to identify how we can respond to what is happening in our world in a positive way. It is most effective to connect through empathy and positive actions.

Fear and anxiety

Fear has a purpose: to keep us alive. When being chased by a lion, it is a natural and healthy reaction to feel afraid. Fear triggers the release of adrenaline and gives us the push to keep running. However, when we fear irrationally, we unnecessarily trigger cortisol, and this can have a negative effect on our physical health.

Almost everything about the coronavirus pandemic is uncertain: how many more people will become infected and possibly die, how much more the economy and job market will be impacted, how soon things will return to “normal.” Uncertainty can cause feelings of extreme discomfort and activate irrational fears that hold us back from fully experiencing life. It might also interfere with our ability to solve problems or prevent us from being objective in finding solutions. Even worse, elevated levels of anxiety can actually compromise our immune system, making us even more vulnerable to the virus.

 What to do

First, replace fear with strength. The presence of the coronavirus does not have to become a traumatic and overwhelming experience that marks us for life. On the contrary, it can be an excellent opportunity to exercise our resilience. The ability to handle adversity will be a critical component to our success moving beyond COVID-19. Maintaining an optimistic attitude is essential to supporting recovery. Being optimistic helps make your thoughts and emotions much more positive, which in turn gives your immune system a boost.

Second, have an action plan. Having a plan of action allows your brain to feel in charge. The next time you experience an attack of anxiety, write down your worries and identify your options. Examine your worries, aiming to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concerns and your ability to cope. Identifying what worries you and then focusing on what you can control will calm the nervous system and provide a feeling of inner strength.

Third, focus on the future. This will move you from paralyzing anxiety to action. Remember, anxiety comes from not knowing what will happen, and depression comes from believing that there is nothing we can do to change it.

Imagine yourself coping and adapting. Studies have shown that religious individuals involved in tragic circumstances often reported finding hope, peace and even increased joy in the midst of the experience. This consequently led them to report high satisfaction in their lives. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed … struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We can all benefit from this kind of optimism.

 

What’s next? Grief and situational depression

The coronavirus pandemic is causing people to struggle with multiple types of mental health issues, including grief and situational depression. It is important to recognize the signs of grief and situational depression so that you can get the help you need.

Grief

Our new reality since the onset of the global pandemic has been marked by increased grief and a sense of loss. School, vacations, weddings, concerts, meetings, travels plans, social events and many other things have been canceled this year in the wake of the virus. It has forced on us an uncertain future and a collective grief.

We are mourning the loss of thousands of lives, and we are also mourning the loss of our “normalcy.” From going to work, to participating in community and religious gatherings, to engaging in the everyday routines that we previously took for granted, such as shopping or visiting with friends — everything has been impacted.

What to do

First, remember that your feelings are valid. There is no right or wrong way to feel after a loss. The shock and disbelief that have followed after all we have lost can trigger feelings of anger, regret, sadness and depression. All are common reactions. You may even be struggling with anticipatory grief, or the feeling that greater loss is still to come, because you may fear losing another family member or loved one.

Second, reach out. Although you might be tempted to shut everyone out in the midst of your grief, it is important to reach out. Talking about your feelings with someone when you are stressed or upset may not bring back what you have lost, but it can help you to feel better and less alone. Find ways to memorialize what you have lost. If you have lost someone, write a letter about your loved one’s life and their impact on you. If you lost a job that was important to you, write about all you learned during your tenure in that position. 

Depression

For many, the rapid changes brought about by the pandemic have been as scary as the virus itself. Business closures, income reduction and the uncertainty of what might be ahead have increased symptoms of situational depression in a large number of people.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people worldwide experience different types depression: major depressive disorder, bipolar depression, perinatal and postpartum depression, and situational depression. Situational depression differs from other types of depression in that it is a short-term, stress-related type of depression. It is also known as reactive depression. It can develop after experiencing a traumatic event or series of events.

Symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person, but in most cases, they include sadness, hopelessness, constant worrying, feelings of anxiety or stress, difficulties sleeping, trouble carrying out daily activities, feelings of being overwhelmed, thoughts of or attempts at suicide, lack of enjoyment in normal activities, and regular crying.

What to do

First, accept the new reality. There is something “unreal” in the world of masks and physical distancing in which we now live. It is a world that sometimes keeps us from recognizing a friend who passes by or that makes greeting your relatives with kisses and hugs seem like an outdated custom from another era. However, it is important to remember that every storm passes. “This too shall pass.”

Looking at crises as opportunities to rethink and reorganize our priorities can prove beneficial. The analogy of a diamond may be helpful here. The beauty of the diamond comes about from the extreme experience of pressure and heat. The same can be true for you. By accepting your new reality and recognizing the opportunities it has brought you, you can emerge stronger from your situation and the complex challenges you have faced.

Second, focus on progress. In the mental health community, we have observed that when it comes to overcoming depression, even small changes in our clients’ daily lives can produce positive results. When people who were extremely depressed were asked to simply write down three good things that happened to them each day, 94% of the people in the study reported that they experienced some relief from their depression symptoms. Focusing on progress increases positive feelings. If you are suffering from depression, keep a gratitude journal with three good things that happen each day. This exercise will likely help you too.

Third, be kind to yourself; you are doing the best you can. The COVID-19 crisis has generated enormous distress for us as a society. It has served as a reminder that our emotions affect our physical and mental health — a reminder that our emotions are an expression of what happens to us and what matters to us. However, it is also important to remember that the feelings of hopelessness we may be experiencing are symptoms of depression, not the reality of our situation. You are not hopeless. There is hope.

 

Conclusion

Our current global crisis has brought an opportunity for us to influence one another for positive change. The solution for change starts with us, through our words and actions. So, as you think about the realities and uncertainties of our world during the crisis we are all facing, be mindful of the different ways that you can change your emotions into positive actions, starting with being kind to others and being kind to yourself.

 

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Esther Scott is a licensed professional counselor in Arlington, Texas. She is a solution-focused therapist. Her specialties include grief, depression, teaching coping skills and couples counseling. Contact her through her website at positiveactionsinternational.com.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

A climbable mountain: Quitting smoking and managing mental health

By Bethany Bray August 10, 2020

For people with a preexisting mental health condition, quitting smoking can seem like climbing two mountains at once.

Managing a mental health condition is a daily — sometimes moment-by-moment — challenge, and smoking is often used as a coping mechanism. Understandably, people with mental health conditions who smoke often fear that taking away that source of comfort could send them into a tailspin.

“That was the way I always seemed to manage my stress: Sit down, light a cigarette, and it would make my brain think, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ But in reality, it’s not,” says Rebecca M.* a Florida resident and participant in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign who lives with depression.

Rebecca smoked her last cigarette in 2010. She quit smoking for good — and found balance in her life — with the support of a professional counselor. In hindsight, smoking only made her depression worse, Rebecca acknowledges.

For many people, mental health and smoking go hand-in-hand — you can’t fix one without addressing the other, she asserts.

“Wanting to be healthy, mentally, while smoking is impossible. After I quit, I was able to look at the world with a completely different mindset,” Rebecca says. “Smoking affects every aspect of your life — family relationships, work life, home life. It’s just a cloud. … When I see people who are struggling with mental health [while smoking], I have deep compassion for them. You want so desperately to get better, but with smoking, it’s like taking two steps forward and two steps back.”

In the family

Rebecca says she was “born into a family of smokers.” Growing up, all of her friends and family smoked, so it seemed natural for her to start smoking as a teenager.

She quit smoking for the first time in 2002. However, she started smoking again seven months later as she was going through a divorce and struggling with intense emotions and stress, she recalls.

Throughout this period, she met with several different counselors to help her manage her depression. She had an “aha!” moment in 2009 when her first grandchild was born; she knew then she wanted to quit smoking for good.

“When my oldest grandson was born, it made me stop and think about life in a different perspective. At that time, I reached out to find another counselor, to learn from past mistakes and learn a new way of life,” says Rebecca.

After smoking for more than three decades, she quit fully in 2010, roughly one year after setting the intention, seeking counseling, and going through “some intense self-reflection,” she says. “I was thinking about how I’m a grandmother now, and where do I want to be [in life]? I had a desperate desire to live a healthy lifestyle, and what can I do to get there?”

“Counseling gave me a sounding board, someone I could trust who could give me trusted answers,” Rebecca says.

Since quitting, she says, she has had to examine some friendships with close friends and even family members who continue to smoke. “If they’re not healthy for you, supportive of your healthy lifestyle, it’s important to make those changes as well,” she says. “It was a perspective shift: It’s the difference between being born into a life that you don’t get to choose and choosing the life that you want to live.”

The climb

Professional counselors can help clients meet life’s challenges with an approach based on leveraging the client’s existing strengths. For Rebecca, this included her intention to be a healthy example to her grandson. Practitioners have an arsenal of tools that can help clients make life changes and reach their goals, including smoking cessation.

Rebecca’s counselor helped her establish a self-care routine that includes exercise (she now runs regularly) and meditation. She has come to realize that she needed to exchange one unhealthy behavior, smoking, with a healthy behavior, exercise.

“Nothing will go well unless you take care of yourself first. Counseling taught me how to take care of myself first,” she says.

“[Quitting successfully] is about teaching people about the tools they need. When they are faced with a situation that may make them uncomfortable, or trigger a panic attack or need for a cigarette, they have to have [coping] tools ready and available. For me, it’s been exercise, staying grounded, and focusing on what I can control. I’m [continuing to] educate myself and learn as much as I can so that I can give myself the best self-care I can,” she says.

Most importantly, Rebecca’s counselor helped her accept that her depression, her tobacco dependency, and “all of this was not my fault,” she says.

“I don’t think I could have quit without counseling. I didn’t have the knowledge to do it on my own,” says Rebecca, who turned 63 this summer. “It’s essential to get someone [a mental health professional] who can help you walk this path to healthy living. It’s a path, a journey. It’s one step at a time, one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time, but it’s empowering. It’s doable, and it feels amazing.”

Rebecca M. has exchanged one unhealthy behavior, smoking, with a healthy behavior, exercise. After smoking for more than three decades, she quit fully in 2010. Photo courtesy of the CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign.

Ten years after quitting smoking, Rebecca’s mental health is good, but she acknowledges that she has to work at it every day. In addition to exercising regularly, she meditates often and tries to approach each day with an attitude of gratefulness, especially for things like a walk on the beach or video chats with her grandsons.

“I’m grateful for every one of those little moments I get,” she says. “It feels wonderful to climb that mountain. … It’s so empowering to be able to overcome tobacco use. There is a lot of life left [after cigarettes], even if you think there’s not.”

Counselors as allies

Professional counselors are particularly suited to help clients quit smoking because the profession has an array of tools focused on behavior modification. Instead of focusing on the health consequences of smoking — as a medical professional might — counselors can instead help clients focus on why they want to quit and how they can leverage their own strength to achieve that goal.

Practitioners also use a holistic perspective to help clients. For example, if a client turns to smoking in social situations because of anxiety, a counselor would help the client address the root cause, finding ways to cope with social anxiety. Similarly, if a client smokes to escape the negative thoughts that can be a constant companion of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental health conditions, a counselor can equip the individual with techniques to quiet their inner critic.

Read more about the many ways that professional counselor clinicians can support clients on their journeys in the Counseling Today article “What counselors can do to help clients stop smoking.”

In addition to counseling, Rebecca encourages people to use the plethora of tobacco cessation resources offered by the CDC.

“It’s OK to seek help,” she urges. “[Counselors and other professionals] want to see you succeed. You have it in you to succeed. That success is within you; you just have to learn to be kind to yourself and be loving to yourself. That, more than anything, was what I had to learn: to give myself the love that I give others.”

 

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For support to quit smoking, including free coaching, a free quit plan, educational materials and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

 

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*Rebecca M.’s last name has been omitted for privacy reasons.

 

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Resources

From Counseling Today: “What counselors can do to help clients stop smoking

Find a professional counselor in your local area through the link here: counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling/find-a-counselor

CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign: cdc.gov/ tips

Rebecca M’s page: cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/stories/rebecca.html

CDC page on quitting smoking: cdc.gov/quit

Additional CDC resources on addressing tobacco use in individuals with behavioral health conditions:

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Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Overcoming free-time boredom during COVID-19: Combining a home-based optimal leisure lifestyle with behavioral activation

By Rodney B. Dieser July 7, 2020

As a licensed mental health counselor, I am hearing many of my clients tell me that they are ready to go stir-crazy because of an abundance of free time combined with greater stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many states are reopening their leisure industries, many of my clients feel the safer route — and more thoughtful route toward health care workers and preventing the spread of COVID-19 — is to follow epidemiological and scientific advice by staying home.

Some of my clients are experiencing depression because they have lost their jobs, spend most of their days bored and ruminate on fear-based thoughts. The purpose of this short article is to suggest two interrelated ideas about how to create a psychological breather of positive emotion during your day that can also distract you from worry and stress.

First, develop a home-based optimal leisure lifestyle (OLL), which consists of one serious leisure activity, supplemented by casual and project-based leisure. Serious leisure is centered on acquiring and expressing special skills, knowledge and experience that take months, and sometimes years, to develop. Often, in everyday life, this is known as developing a hobby and is based on mastery gained through hard work and much effort.

My youngest son has taken the extra free time he now has and developed a serious skill-based hobby: He has purchased a watch repair kit and is tinkering away at repairing old watches. I am learning how to play the harmonica to Bruce Springsteen songs.

The Wikipedia page on hobbies identifies hundreds of skill-based hobbies to pursue, many of which are home-based. The internet can help with education and skill development. Often, there are online communities full of people who will welcome and mentor you toward your new serious leisure pursuits.

Casual leisure involves short-lived activities that require little or no specialized training. This type of leisure is based in hedonistic pleasure that requires little effort. For instance, my wife and I are currently watching comedies and documentaries on Netflix and enjoying it.

Project-based leisure is a short-term, one-shot or occasional creative undertaking. My wife is serving her community through her sewing projects and is serving a local nonprofit agency. When our kids were young, they picked a project of leisure learning each week (often it was insects), and we all had fun as we learned together. Just like with serious leisure, you can use the internet to find projects in your community. Often, nonprofit organizations are more than ready to link your personal strengths, passions and skills to a project they are working on.

Developing an OLL will provide transient moments in your day for positive emotion — a psychological breather from going stir-crazy and experiencing brain-numbing boredom. To learn more about OLL and the three forms of leisure I have just described, visit the Serious Leisure Perspective website. There you can learn about Robert Stebbins, who pioneered the academic work over a span of 40-plus years that led to development of the serious leisure perspective and the OLL framework. In addition, this website lists hundreds of studies that provide evidence of how individuals’ positive emotion is increased when involved in serious, casual and project-based leisure.

Research demonstrates that people can remedy stress if they laugh more (casual leisure), find a hobby (serious leisure) and engage in meaning-making activities such as volunteering in their communities or toward social causes (project-based leisure).

Behavioral activation involves having people/clients become more active and involved in life by scheduling activities with the potential to improve their mood. Counselors can help those clients who have an abundance of free time on their hands, whether due to unemployment or wanting to continue self-quarantining, by working with them to create a daily schedule based on developing an OLL. This involves using free time to engage in one serious leisure activity (e.g., starting a new hobby such as digital art, nail painting, cartoon drawing or bird watching), one casual leisure activity (e.g., reading, exploring new musical genres, watching comedies, hanging out with friends virtually) and one project-based leisure activity (e.g., sewing high-grade face masks for health care workers, volunteering at the Humane Society or with a political party, helping a nonprofit with fundraising efforts, creating a family history book by interviewing uncles, aunts and cousins) every day.

Behavioral activation is an evidence-based treatment for depression that has been found to be very effective. In everyday language, it is simply getting people more active and involved in life by scheduling activities that can improve mood. Cultivating an OLL and getting involved in serious, casual and project-based leisure when homebound is one way to create a psychological breather of positive emotion during your day that can also distract you from worry and stress.

 

Self-disclosure of my OLL

The following is a self-disclosure of my OLL during a three-month-plus self-imposed lockdown at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is provided so that readers can gain a gestalt of how an OLL can be inserted into everyday life that now may feature much more free time.

Serious leisure: Developing and expressing special skills, knowledge and experience; acquires much effort and is linked to enjoyment.

My daily activities

  • Learning to play harmonica to Bruce Springsteen songs
  • Studying creative writing and attempting to write short stories

Casual leisure: Low skills set focused on distracting; linked to pleasure.

My daily activities

  • Watching more documentaries and comedies on Netflix
  • Reconnecting with “forgotten musicians” of my past (what I used to listen to as a young man). Includes learning about and appreciating musical narrations and sonic arrangements of different genres of music. Examples: Chris de Burgh, James Taylor, Al Stewart, April Wine, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Thin Lizzy, Supertramp, Triumph and Neil Young. I extended this to the music that my father and mother (both deceased) liked. This included Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Hank Snow and Freddy Fender.
  • Reading the “classics” in literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Project leisure: Short-term activity focused on completing a project

My daily activities

  • Cleaning out parts of the house that have not been cleaned out for years and donating much to Goodwill Industries
  • Gardening
  • Weekly project of exercise for health: Taking a 5- to 15-mile bike ride three days a week; running sprints at an outdoor track one day a week; working out on a Bowflex twice a week

Note: I used my stimulus check to purchase a Bowflex online and set it up in the garage. That piece of exercise equipment, gardening plants/seeds and used books (also bought online) are the only leisure resources I have purchased during the pandemic. Many of my leisure activities, such as playing the harmonica, engaging in creative writing and developing my appreciation of past musicians, have been learned or enhanced through resources on the internet.

 

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Related reading, from the Counseling Today archives (co-written by Rodney B. Dieser): “The serious leisure perspective in mental health counseling

A USA Today opinion piece written by Dieser: “Coronavirus pause: People need people, but it’s risky to resume social activities so soon

 

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Rodney B. Dieser is the author of five textbooks and more than 100 articles on the topic of leisure. His writing about leisure has appeared in USA Today and the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal. He is a professor of recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership and an affiliate faculty member in professional counseling at the University of Northern Iowa. He works 10 hours a week as a licensed mental health counselor for Covenant Family Solutions in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Contact him at rodney.dieser@uni.edu.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.