Last year I hit a particularly low period in my life. I was doing various virtual courses and trainings to up my skills as a therapist. I was putting my all into work. I was signing up to any development opportunity that would come my way. At work, I was taking on complex clients and listening to trauma story after trauma story 5 days a week, then topping it up with trauma training in the evening and weekends.
Why was I investing so much into my career? The pandemic and having some time to reflect on my life, had given me a unique new sense of purpose to train myself extensively as a trauma therapist. It was a realization that I had found my calling. Every training I did was paying off immediately with new word of mouth referrals. I didn’t need to do any marketing.
Psychological trauma cases seemed to be rising as the pandemic swept over every fabric of society. My small one person practice was full with 30 clients a week. This meant I had to equip myself with even more training and consultation to be able to handle such a heavy caseload. I felt deeply touched and honored to be able to do this kind of work and it came with a sense of meaning I had never had before.
However, I also began to feel exhausted which in the therapist community is nothing to applaud. In fact, it could be frowned upon and a sign that one should slow down! In other words, how can I help others if I’m depleted and tired?
During one of my own therapy sessions (Ha! Yes, therapists have their own therapists!), I exclaimed that I love my work and so if I had to choose between being at home and dealing with my beloved toddlers from 9 to 5 or being at work, I would choose work. Adult conversations have always been easier for me and I love what I do! Yet, I was feeling incredibly guilty about how much time I was spending away from my children.
My therapist pointed out that whether it’s being at home and caring for my children or being at work and caring for my clients, either way it is hard work. Perhaps, I needed to take some time off for myself too and do something that would be a resource to me? After all, getting paid does not seem to fill the emotional tank. I needed to also do things for myself. How about just ‘being’ for a moment and resting without any productivity check mark?
So I decided to attend a book club and learn more about conscious living. I read a book called Consciousness Medicine by Françoise Bourzat. In this book I came across the Holistic Model for a Balanced Life. The model is an integrated approach to well-being that divides life into five aspects: body, mind, spirit, community, and environment. It seems so simple when you read it at first glance, but it has many great hidden gems to think about when it comes to well-being.
As the book suggests I decided to use the inventory as a guide to my own self-enquiry to assess my current state and set intentions for healing within myself. Here’s a sample of the questions and my answers:
Q: Do you breathe easily and deeply?
A: I think so but I also hold my breath quite a lot especially when I’m stressed.
Q: Do you know what it feels like to be out of breath?
A: Oh yes! Pregnancy number 1 and 2, felt out of breath for the whole 9 months. I also feel out of breath sometimes going up and down a short flight of stairs two times in a row.
Q: Have you explored breathing practices, such as pranayama or Holotropic Breathwork?
A: Never, but I’m going to look for one.
The inventory helped me notice which areas of my life (besides my family life) needed more attention. Ever since using the inventory, I made so many small changes which have had huge impacts on my day to day. For example, I attended an evening breath workshop focusing on holotropic breathwork. It was incredible! Then I decided to take 3 days off and go to a wellness retreat. Even though it felt like a big sacrifice leaving my family behind to do this retreat, I came back with a renewed sense of energy and presence I hadn’t had in years.
I started to spend more one on one time with each of my children without feeling the pressure of entertaining them. I just did things with them I also enjoyed. I started listening to soothing music and lighting candles in the evening to wind down after a long day. I started painting. I don’t mean artistic masterpieces, I mean literally just using my kids’ watercolor and painting like a child. I felt at ease and happy mixing colors and spending some quiet time in my own company.
As I started to create more balance in my day to day, I started having more clarity about what I want in my work life too. Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, I became much more selective with my commitments and my work hours. I still work full-time and I still have a family to feed but my work began to feel effortless, because I was more well-rested and didn’t have to work so hard to stay focused.
While going through this balanced living journey which still continues, I am also realizing that I will never be in “perfect” harmony or balance. Life is in a constant state of flux, of being on and off balance. I began to lean into the ebb and flow and move with it rather than fight against it. It has been more than 6 months since the day I attended that book club. And a few weeks ago I decided to ask the author for permission to publish the inventory on Aurelia for you. She said yes!
This is my gift to you and I’m hoping it will be as life changing in small but impactful ways in your day to day life, as it has been in mine. You can download The Inventory for a Balanced Life here.
Dr. Ava Ghasemi (Holdich) is a licensed Psychologist with 11 years experience in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. She has a practice of individual and couples therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.