By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
I am often inspired personally and professionally when I have the honor of partnering with clients on their journeys. Many clients utilize tools available outside their therapy sessions and bring that insight into their work with me. I feel reinvigorated by such insights. They surprise, challenge, or reinforce ideas in a new way.
Many times, people ask me whether or not they are “the only one” who thinks, feels, or acts a certain way. While people’s experiences are unique and particular to them, there are common themes of struggle. One of those common themes relates to “health”.
As mental health professionals, we seek to guide clients on their journeys toward their self-determined goals. Again, there may be common themes, but clients decide on and ultimately own what defines their personal mental ‘health’.
Like many people, I often feel torn between the all or nothing of health. I truly believe in being body positive and finding happiness in all our forms. I fight those inner voices that try to tell me I have to look and act like this or that. My brain often balks at expectations, evoking my contrarian nature. This is useful in noticing and leaving toxic environments. It has also allowed me to engage in perspective taking with others. It has helped me fight the stereotypes which are damaging to my self-esteem.
I can easily empathize with clients struggling with that pendulum experience. Through conversations with clients, I realize that like many others struggling with the ideas of “being healthy” I have set myself up for failure. By telling myself that “healthy” was my goal rather than an outcome of setting and reaching actionable goals, I was never going to get anywhere.
Unfortunately, most of us have practiced the negative automatic thoughts that contribute to us never actually “feeling” we are “healthy”. If we don’t clearly define the goals that dictate a positive feedback loop then it is always looming, undefined and unreachable.
A re-arrangement occurred to me on my way to the office. The more helpful statements would be “I want to feel healthy. This is defined to me by lower cholesterol, an increase in muscle tone, and life activity endurance (aka go up a few flights of stairs and still be breathing). I can achieve those goals by setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed “S.M.A.R.T” goals. With an actionable plan I can outwardly measure my progress. It becomes easier to see challenges to meeting those as problems to be solved instead of failures of my character.”
How many of you notice setting outcomes instead of goals? How are you working on being your version of “healthy”?
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!