Last week, I spent six days in Alamosa, CO at Adams State University. The week was first two intensives that I have to complete in order to graduate from the Counselor Education Program with my Master’s in Counseling. The week was called an “intensive” and with very good reason.
Our day started with breakfast at 7am and most days didn’t end until 6pm. I spent two and a half hours every morning in group therapy and three and a half hours every afternoon in class practicing counseling skills as both the counselor and the client. After this class I spent one to two hours in meetings with the faculty and staff going over other aspects of the program. Every day was exhausting. We spent a lot of time talking about self care, which was paramount during this week.
In addition to simply having quite a lot to do each day, we were all worried about being graded, judged, and accepted into the program, while trying to show up in authentic ways in the counseling environment. We were stressed and emotional on an almost constant basis.
At home I occasionally remember to focus on my breathing in order to manage stress and anxiety. But while in Alamosa, it became not just helpful, but necessary to remember to consciously breathe. Sitting in my therapy group trying to manage my tears as I tell a story, taking my turn as a counselor in practical class and getting triggered by my ‘clients’ story, trying to stay present and attentive during our after-class meetings.
I never would have made it calmly through the week if I hadn’t spent a significant portion of the week just breathing. This was great practice for every day life and had been incredibly helpful for reintegrating into my regular life. Every time I start to feel anxious or stressed, angry or frustrated, I’m remembering to go back to my breath.
Breathe in, Breathe out, Hold it. Breathe in, Breathe out, Hold it. The holding it is key, because it helps our body move from the fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) to the rest and digest response (parasympathetic nervous system).
Emotion isn’t just cognitive, it’s physical too. So remember to breathe. Just breathe!