Practicing Gratitude Through Difficult Seasons
Written by Brittany P. Male LCSW, CADC
This past June, I welcomed my second child to the world. He has been the perfect addition to our family in so many ways, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be his mother. All that said, to say the last few months have been a difficult transition for my family would be an understatement. I found myself sleep deprived, struggling with mom guilt for not being as attentive to my toddler, and physically recovering from pregnancy as well as a C-Section. I was depleted. It was during this time, my mother told me something that I have continued to remind myself of regularly since. She said, “our children give us gifts”. After hearing that, I began taking time each day to finding the gift that my children may have given me. It may have been a tantrum free morning or a better night sleep. It could have been a sweet “I love you momma” or baby coos at just the right time. The gift could have been a toddler that ate all his food or a newborn who didn’t require a second outfit change that day. Maybe it was being able to enjoy a cup of coffee while it was still hot or taking a shower without interruption. This simple practice of looking for the gifts, helped me acknowledge that despite feeling as if everything was going poorly, in actuality, there were plenty of things going well. I found that when I took the time each day to recognize those things, I felt a sense of gratitude which in turn brought peace to my day. I’m not saying I still don’t find myself frustrated as I continue to find balance in my life, but I trust that they will come, and they do, at exactly the right moment. When I apply this same technique to other areas of my life it works similarly.
Although not everyone may be going through a life transition similar to my own, most can relate to feeling overwhelmed by challenging times in their lives. I would encourage you to take a moment each day to count the gifts, or the things that have gone well or that you’re grateful for. I’d even encourage you to make it part of your routine. When you make something part of your routine, you’re more likely to do it. So find a time that works best for you. Maybe it’s in the morning when you’re sipping on that cup of coffee or are in the shower. Maybe it’s at night before you close your eyes. Whenever it is, find a time and stick to it. Ask yourself, have I received a gift today? Be patient with yourself and this process, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s likely that you could quickly come up with a laundry list of things that may have gone poorly that day, but until you make it a regular practice, it may be harder to come up with the things that have gone well. Don’t be discouraged, continue to look for the gifts.
I also want to be careful to note that I am not saying that practicing gratitude alone can solve all your problems, nor am I minimizing the difficult time you may be experiencing. Noticing the gifts did not change the circumstances that I did not have control over, but instead it offered me some perspective that despite feeling like things were all bad, they weren’t. Identifying the gifts, provided me evidence that challenged this feeling and provided motivation to continue moving forward, knowing that there would continue to be gifts given to me along the way. Taking a minute each day to identify these gifts does not cost money and I’m sure even the busiest of people can find the time.
It’s not every day that us therapists can be as candid as I’ve been in sharing the struggles that I’ve had through this current season of my life, but I hope in doing so I’ve helped both validate your experience as well as inspire you to think a little differently about your current circumstances. If you’re finding that you would like more help navigating through this difficult season do not hesitate to call and schedule an appointment with one of our therapists at (630)570-0050 or email us at Contact.OH@OakHeartCenter.com. We’re not meant to do this alone.
Dear Client...I Want You To Know
Written by Dr. Katherine Harris, PhD
I want you to know how much I respect and admire you for coming to therapy. Finding a therapist, navigating insurance, attending that first appointment can be really hard. Trusting me, being vulnerable, asking for help can be really scary. Being willing and open to making changes is hard...changing any behavior is a challenge. I want you to know that my clients are some of the bravest, most caring, most determined people that I know.
I want you to know that you are not alone. Millions of people suffer from mental health disorders, many of whom suffer in silence. I know it can feel like everyone else has it together, that they are cruising through life, that they’re perfect people. But they aren’t. We simply don’t talk enough with each other about our imperfections, our struggles, our mental health issues. There are so many reasons for this, but one unfortunate consequence is that many end up thinking they are the only ones with depression, with panic attacks, with intense fear of being judged.
I want you to know that you are important and that you matter and your experience matters. I know that you may not feel like you are important. I know it may even make you anxious to hear that. I believe in you, I see you, I hear you. I know the sadness, fear, loneliness, or confusion you feel can be profoundly painful.
I want you to know that sometimes I will frustrate you. That I may not answer your questions looking for advise. That I may not have all the answers or may not give you the answers. That sometimes I’ll do the opposite of what you want because I believe strongly in giving you what you need. I want you to know that I may ask you to face your fears, or make room for strong emotions, or to stop engaging in behaviors that you feel like you want or need to do. I want you to know that I can be patient and support you in your readiness for change. That I will empathize and sit with you in your discomfort or distress. That I will set boundaries and help you to do so as well.
I want you to know that we are partners, a team. That we will work together to identify your values and your goals. I want you to know that there is hope. That there are many treatments that work! That you can enjoy life again. That you don’t have to always be afraid or sad. But that sometimes you may feel afraid and sad and that’s ok too. I want you to know that I’ve seen many clients get better! That they would never have imagined what they were capable of. You can too.
I want you to know that I am honored to be a part of this journey with you. That I am grateful for the opportunity to help you, learn from you, and grow with you.