By Rose Murrin, LICSW, Kesher social worker at Congregation Beth Sholom
As a psychotherapist, I find myself apologizing to people again and again. "I know this sounds weird. I too am a skeptic." Usually, I'm talking about mindfulness exercises, progressive relaxation, visualizations, you know the stuff. And I am a skeptic. The first time I was offered reiki (a form of energy healing), I reluctantly accepted, but only if I could work on my paperwork while I got it. The reiki practitioner and my ego agreed to that. My mind did not get the message- it just chilled right out and refused to focus on my notes.
And I feel silly sometimes- admitting that I, too, try to use these tools. This is the stuff of illogical, hippy-ish people and that certainly is not me! But here's the thing....it isn't illogical (there is a ton of research to support it!) AND it works for me. I spent 2 hours trying to convince myself to write an article today, but kept finding errands on the other side of the building, emails to answer, calls to make. So, I forced myself to sit quietly, imagine leaving all the things that are nagging at my mind and heart in a safe place, and now, I can write. Some people run, draw, make lists, do yoga, pet a dog, clean the house..... you name it. Furiously scrubbing a bathtub might sound like the most kooky form of centering to some, but for some people it is just what they need to focus on what is most important that day.
Some people fall naturally into these habits. For others, it is hard to do. To get going and to let the worries settle is a difficult balance to find. We struggle to be kind to ourselves, but not to the point of avoiding life. We struggle to push ourselves to be better without finding ourselves in self-punishing, burned out places. If the lines between each of these poles could intersect so our gentleness and our healthy drive could work together, I suspect we would all have slightly different looking X's. A little more gentle for one person may be just right. A little more drive for another might feel more comfortable. Wherever that point of intersection falls, it is ok to not hit the mark perfectly- this is where embracing the kooky stuff comes in. Embracing the kooky stuff almost requires a sense of humor. It reminds us that we are "playing" with ideas and skills to see what works and what doesn't. Maybe today it is scrubbing the tub to see if it helps. Maybe tomorrow it is sitting still with our eyes closed, just noticing the sounds around us for a few minutes. At some point, in the midst of feeling ridiculous, we might find ourselves calmer, more focused, where we need to be in that moment. Then we can try that again or try something new the next time. Over time, you can fill that tool bag with a variety of stuff that works. There will be tools that work for different situations, distractions, and feeling states, because you may want a variety of skills for a variety of situations.
If the idea of beginning to fill the tool box appeals to you- whether to be calmer, happier or more productive- begin to play with ideas. If you are struggling to get started, reach out to your Kesher social worker. We all have different skills to share and are happy to help get you started.
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Amy Small, LICSW, is the new Kesher social worker at the synagogue. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and currently active at Congregation Agudas Achim, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Am David, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Beth Sholom. Amy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or