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  • Paul Matthew

Finding balance in our lives and work - A therapist's perspective




It’s June. The university students are entering academic hibernation. In the UK people seem to be returning to gigs, going on holidays, trying to figure out what this new world means to them.


Harmony has been evolving and it’s been a little while since I’ve had the opportunity to write a post.


I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few months about balance. Harmony has grown in the few years since I started it from one client to many. From one counsellor to a company dedicated to supporting not just clients but the foundation for supporting some other independent counsellors in their careers.


It’s probably fair for me to explain why It’s taken me a little while (OK over six months) to blog again. My client books and those of my associates have been bursting at the seams. I have been focussing on my professional development too applying for accreditation, working closely with my clinical supervisor to do that. I moved house and had all the stress associated with that and I’ve been looking at the next steps for Harmony including possibly the provision of clinical supervision in the years to come.





In the midst of professional growth and being so busy, it has been a challenge to keep my balance, but it is what I have been bashing on about for anyone to hear. The guiding principles in my life {among other things}: Boundaries, Balance and Perspective.


So, here’s a brief guide from my perspective on how to maintain those as a therapist, a human being or in any world:


Boundaries

You don’t owe anyone anything in the world of boundaries and personal time. No-one is worth more than you. Nothing is worth sacrificing our health and balance for.

Those sentences might sound harsh but think about them seriously. I’m not asking you not to care. I’m not asking you not to consider the benefits to every party involved of undertaking a particular task.





Maybe it’s easier to give an example. I have fixed private practice days. I have fixed days in which I do work outside that and I have days fixed for other tasks. It’s late on a Wednesday night and I often work until 9pm on a Wednesday but in discussion with clients, in considering my wellbeing my working hours vary through the week.


It’s important in counselling to have boundaries and it’s important to live by them ourselves. If I started seeing one client on a Monday, three on a Tuesday, 2 on a Saturday and so on then there would be no boundaries. For me (and this is the important part) that’s what keeps me balanced.


But here’s some other tips…

- Keep those emails off when you’re not working

You can’t achieve balance by checking your emails on your days off!


- Create space for what brings you joy

When you look back at your life, what will you remember? The hours you spent working for a job or the time you spent with loved ones or doing things you enjoy?


- Be kind and empathic but remember you can’t truly help others if you don’t first help yourself.



Balance

Balance is similar to boundaries but not quite the same. We can have those boundaries in place and go a long way to achieving balance but we also need to go beyond that. It’s important for balance to learn how to value ourselves and our free time. It’s also important for balance to consider your values are you using your spare time to relax and recover or are you pouring over things you can’t control? Are you thinking a million steps ahead instead of focussing on what’s in front of you?





More tips:

- Slow things down

Take one step at a time, try not to think about step 40 when you are at step one.


- Control only what you can control

If it’s something you can’t control then consider why it is taking up your time and worry.


- Consider what works for you

You don’t owe an employer anything. Consider what works best for you, there is a great debate right now and many people found a hybrid or home working approach worked better for them. Some companies have honoured that, some have forced people back. Valuing yourself and your future over a company that will not value you and seeks to validate their world outlook. Consider if it’s yours.


Perspective

Take time to take a step back. Look at the big picture and consider what is real. What would you say to yourself if you were your best friend, what would the picture look like if you were looking down from a helicopter or a fly on the wall?





Some final tips:

- Consider what drains your battery and what fills it

Getting perspective on this could be the key to what helps you find balance. For example: my battery is filled with laughter with friends, good food, music, documentaries. My battery is drained by overworking, red tape and traffic jams.


- Take time for mindfulness.

Taking a deep breath and practicing some basic mindfulness (see the Harmony Mindfulness blog post below). Being in the present and being mindful can give you the perspective to seek balance.


- Remember that you are the expert

Only you know what balance looks like, when your battery is full and what works for you.


Paul

Director

Harmony Counselling and Psychotherapy

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