The Years Flew By
By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com
Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults
Hello again! The last time I wrote for my blog was back in September. Over the last few months, I have been finishing my Masters Degree in Counseling and filing for my limited permit in Mental Health Counseling. While today I feel accomplished, I admittedly faced a variety of challenges along the way as I juggled work, school, and family obligations.
As a mother and wife, my main priority is always caring for my family. In addition to making sure there is always food on the table (I have growing teenagers), it is also important for me to carve out time to be with them. Even with my best efforts, however, there is always a lingering feeling of guilt that I am not doing enough.
Over the last two years, I focused on growing my business while simultaneously advancing my career through the graduate program. During this time, I experienced a wave of challenges, adjustments, and transitions. My family helped in their own ways by supporting my work and studies but it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. There were arguments, disappointments, and criticism along the way. I learned to deal with the pressure and feelings of guilt by engaging in Art Therapy, meditating, exercising, and other self-care activities. Writing for this blog provided me with an opportunity to share what I was learning with my clients and our Creative Expressions community. Art Therapy has always offered me a space to manage the heavy load of everyday obligations by creating an internal calmness.
Life is a balance of things we need to do and things we want to do. I was hired at my internship placement, but a prerequisite for that job was to obtain my limited permit. Therefore, I needed to go through the application process to get the job I wanted in mental health counseling. The New York State process for obtaining a licensure is one of submitting tons of paperwork and then waiting, waiting, and more waiting. I often wonder how much of life is spent waiting, being patient, and dealing with feelings of uncertainty. After two years, I officially graduated on December 22nd of 2022. I sat in my office that day and felt a wave of relief and pride wash over me, knowing that I completed my third masters degree.
People often ask what propelled me to go back to school; why do this now? Professionally, I wanted to expand the scope of my practice. Personally, it was to prove to myself that I can do this. I want to be an example for my clients, students, and children. To expand yourself, one needs to self-motivate and stay committed in order to accomplish goals. I feel great knowing that I can better serve those who seek my help.
At the same time, however, that familiar feeling of needing to plan the next goal has been creeping into my mind. Am I not satisfied with completing a 60-credit masters? Why am I getting this feeling of what’s next? While my ambition was on overdrive, I knew intuitively that I needed time to process this change and my body needed to rest. That is precisely what I did next; I took the following weeks to calm my mind and relax my body.
By giving ourselves time to pause, rest, and reflect, it provides us with space to be creative and mindful.
I have since incorporated a rest and rejuvenate routine into my weekends. While I still often think, 'what’s next?', choosing to be mindful and reflective opens up the opportunity to be more intentional about the next steps.
I often discuss future goal-setting with my children, as they are all in a transitory stage in their lives. I have a junior in college, and a junior and senior in highschool. Understandably, these conversations can be a source of stress and anxiety, especially for a young, developing mind. Transitions in life often bring individuals into therapy to seek ways to navigate change in a positive, healthy manner. My goal as a therapist and teacher is to encourage my clients, students, and children to engage in Art Therapy, journaling, meditation, and read a book in order to manage stress.
The days are long, and the years fly by.
Two years seemed like a long time when the program first started but looking back, it went by rather quickly. My oldest son recently realized how fast time flies when talking to his siblings about the time he learned how to drive. Four years later, his youngest sibling is now learning and that’s when it hit him, “Where did 4 years go?”. This sparked a conversation about living in the moment and making the most of the time that we have. If we set a long-term goal for ourselves, we can fill our time with activities that will help us reach that goal. During a time of reflection, we can appreciate the small accomplishments that lead up to our bigger, more complicated achievements. And while the years seem to fly by, at least they will be full of lived experiences.
Activity: 5 Minute Commitments
The last two years taught me that time is both inflexible and flexible. Inflexible due to the fact 5 minutes is 5 minutes. Flexible because we have a choice on how to use those 5 minutes.
Write down at least 5 goals you would like to accomplish today, but while doing so, pretend that time isn’t an issue. On your list, make sure you include some self-care items, like yoga, walking, or journaling.
Once you have completed that list, choose one or two items and give yourself 5 minutes to complete it. If one item is to go for a walk, quickly grab your shoes, jacket, phone and keys and take a brief walk outside. If it’s Yoga, remove your socks, grab a mat, and throw on a 5 minute yoga routine on YouTube.
Once you have accomplished a goal, head back to your list and cross it off. The reason why we want to do this in 5 minute intervals is two-fold:
You may realize that once you are walking outside (or engaging in another item on your list), you may decide that you would like to dedicate a little more time to that activity. That is completely fine, as the goal is to be productive.
You will feel a sense of accomplishment, which may motivate you to continue checking off things on your to-do list.
For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.
Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here: www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com