Everyday, I strive to be mindful of my choices. It’s easiest, of course, when I turn off the devices and don’t over-schedule. As a mom, if I am grounded and centered, the day goes better. As a occupational therapist, it’s the same deal. I can work with my clients more efficiently when I am calm, centered and focused.
I started to wondered if other moms and therapists alike use spirituality in their daily lives. IF they do, how do they do it? In an age where religion and spiritual practice is markedly less evident than the generation of our parents, how were we making it through the day as grounded as our parents? Were we really doing the work as occupational therapists from a grounded place?
I was looking for answers to some of these very questions when I saw that the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association was hosting an upcoming workshop titled “Spirituality in Occupational Therapy.”
As it turns out, I am not the only mom, or for that matter, therapist, that thinks spirituality is an important part of the daily grind. In fact, many of us use it as a coping mechanism, a regular component of our dealings with family and clients alike, and as a buffer to the outside world. When surveyed at the Duquesne University Annual Celebration 2017, during the presentation by clinical scholars studying “cultural responsiveness in current occupational therapy practice”, greater than 80% of therapists reported that they used some form of religion or spirituality during their daily therapy sessions.
As a mother, I often see and hear moms talking about being calm and having the ability to deal with difficult parenting situations. One of the biggest topics on mom blogs and during play-date water cooler talk is how to motivate their kids without yelling! Moms want to know how to live with intention, be more efficient, and be more helpful for their families. They want to feel grounded instead of scattered in a thousand directions. Moms want answers – even moms who feel they are doing a good job. They want to know how to be most efficient, creative and calm.
Moms want to enjoy the bonds they have with their kids. Sometimes, parents are so over-scheduled that they barely remember the amazing connection they once had with their children when they were smaller. There is just so little time and so many more distractions than ever before. Parents want to make life simple. They want to hug their kids, before their kids are grown.
So where can we find answers to all of these questions?
The workshop “Spirituality and Occupational Therapy” strongly affirmed the basic need for spirituality in the lives of both therapist and client. Occupational science is based on the mind-body-spirit paradigm with whole theoretical models based on this paradigm. The presenter, Rebecca Austill-Clausen, drew attention to this basic premise in occupational therapy, much to my delight. It’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.
Ms. Austill-Clausen further reviewed AOTA’s definition of spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way an individual seeks and expressed meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connection to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Additionally, the 2005 AOTA Position Paper states that “occupational therapy can use complementary modalities in preparation for an occupational therapy treatment session.” In terms of Occupational Therapy, we are literally swimming in a sea of possibility in how we engage with spirit as therapists.
BUT do we engage with Spirit?
Do we allow ourselves this simple gift or do we see it as a luxury?
Are we addicted to stress and feel strange if we are centered?
Do we force our patients to do exercises and programs simply because they are billable?
Do we ask our patients what gives their day meaning?
In all of these questions I have a hunch that we do the right thing. We are quite smart when it comes to all things spiritual as a profession in general. However, it’s always good to get a reminder to engage with our own spirituality on a daily basis. This type of self-care is an ever-present need for us to attend to, so we don’t burn out.
What results is joy. More joy with family and friends. More joy at work. More joy in our heart! And choices that result in even more joy!
And that is what Rebecca Austill-Clausen exemplified in her presentation. She showed us complementary techniques that brought her joy each day in her own life, that also spilled over into her work as an occupational therapist. Seeing someone be open about what brought them joy was inspirational in itself.
To tell you a little about what I do for a mindful practice, each morning I start my day with meditation. Honestly, without it, I don’t have very productive or calm days. I have noticed a true quantifiable difference. I have also recently cut down on my Facebook and web-surfing time so I can be less distracted from the moment that exists in the physical world around me. My thoughts are more present and not in cyber-mind space. I have time to give hugs and kisses to my kids.
I have also tried to be responsible in decreasing chaos and clutter in my home and in my head. Less stuff, less shopping, less violent movies, less news feed. This has allowed me to observe life around me for the gifts it brings and not all the distractions and things to accomplish. Finally, I have worked to reconnect with nature. To take a walk, stop near a stream or enjoy a sunset. Less distraction overall has allowed me to experience nature in a more vibrant way.
The results have been wonderful. I feel like I have regained my sense of direction, with more time in each day, more hope that things will be good, and more self care.
Now, taking you back to the Duquesne University Celebration, with the >80% of therapists acknowledging that they had used spirituality in their daily therapy sessions, I want to challenge you to turn your own spiritual practice and mindfulness up a notch in your own personal life. Why? This will undoubtedly trickle down into your therapy practice and family life, with not only you benefiting, but everyone around you benefiting as well.
You will find that spark of childhood wonder again. I promise.
It’s quite simply a “feel good” challenge.
13 Minute “Feel Good” Mindfulness Challenge:
Try these simple mindfulness activities for 7 days. Stop. Enjoy. Repeat.
If you try these simple activities for just one week, you will notice a difference.
The “Feel Good” Challenge will run through the Spring of 2017. We are looking for feedback and your own personal stories. Please comment and let us know how this challenge worked for you!
- Stop 3 times each day and focus on your breath for 1 minute. Breakfast, on the train, in a meeting, anytime.
- Take a walk for 10 minutes. To get a healthy snack, to buy a magazine, to observe a garden or get fresh air and sunshine.
- Limit device use. Reduce your engagement on social media by half.
These three activities will take a total of 13 minutes of your day. You may find that by reducing social media engagement you will actually have more time in your day to relax. Try it. See how you feel.
If you miss a day or a few days just add more days until you get to 7. Be easy on yourself, but try to do it for as many days in a row that you can.
There’s no need to journal. You’ll feel the difference and it won’t be easy to forget. You might even decide that you want to continue your 13 Minute “Feel Good” practice well into the future. I hope it will help you as much as it did me.