Admittedly, this time of year always seems the hardest to me. With the approach of fall, although in south Florida fall isn’t really a reprieve from the brutal summer heat, it seems time begins to race toward the end of the calendar year. Halloween arrives, followed quickly by Thanksgiving, and then suddenly New Year’s is upon us. This time of year is also distinct in terms of the academic course load. Midterms seem to appear out of thin air while research papers and final exams loom in the horizon. Even the addition of daylight savings time does little to stop the feeling that when dark approaches as six o’clock there simply are not enough hours in the day.
It’s easy to feel exhausted around this time of year. I sometimes feel that I’ve spent all my creative and intellectual energy for the year and I will just have to wait until January 1st before it will be replenished. Realizing that it is only October doesn’t help matters much.
Reflecting on all that I’ve learned from the various professors who taught me these past few years , I seem to always return to my first professor and the numerous nuggets of wisdom he would dispense in each class. I wonder if he truly meant to leave such an impression on his group of first year graduate students or if he simply wanted to share all he had learned. As counselors, he would often say, we are our own tool and must constantly remain sharp. To remain sharp we must continuously assess and reassess our skills and keep up to date with the latest information in our field.
I hear from many people that when running a marathon, runners will often encounter “The Wall”. I understand this to be the figurative term for that moment when the runner can simply run no more. Having never run a marathon myself I can’t verify this statement but my own experiences with running have taught me that at some point you can’t continue. I assume this feeling of plateau extends beyond the running realm and into everyone’s lives at some point or another.
But what do you do when you plateau? Fitness and health magazines will tell us that if you plateau in your weight loss or exercise regime, adding new aspects will help overcome that feeling of being stuck. Aaron Sorkin, perhaps best known for his work on the TV series The West Wing, once said on a daytime talk show that taking a showering helped release his creative energy and allow him to write. When asked how many showers he takes in a day his reply was in the double digits.
These are only two of probably dozens, if not more, examples of how to rejuvenate oneself and recharge. Personally, nothing spurs me into action like a deadline. Unfortunately, I feel procrastination is hardly the answer when it comes to counseling, be it in an individual counseling session or over the course of an extended career. I had the great displeasure of experiencing this first hand in another mock counseling session I conducted. After the client had given me a considerable amount of information to process and I address I merely sat there, staring at his tie while trying to formulate my response, hoping that my delay would somehow conjure the magic words I needed to say. Silence is golden but even gold can tarnish after enough time.
I now know that a simple acknowledgement, such as “That’s quite a bit of information to process. Let’s break it down.” or some variation of would have sufficed. This lesson learned will certainly help the next time I find myself plateauing in the midst of a counseling session.
Hayley Wilson is a counselor-in-training at Florida Atlantic University. Her areas of interest include military service members and PTSD, substance abuse, and coffee.