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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

Less is More

Exactly one year ago, I launched my business for Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching (CTRC). As I celebrate my one-year anniversary, I am self-reflecting on what the past twelve months have taught me.

As I ponder the highs and lows of working as a trauma informed mental health professional, there are a lot of important takeaways. Today's blog post is going to explore my valuable life lessons of being an abuse survivor and CTRC who's passionate about working with all walks of life.

Before I share nuggets of wisdom that I've learned along the way, I want to share what I was taught during my formal education with the International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaching (IAOTRC). During my initial registration at IAOTRC, I was instructed to create a realistic self-care plan. It was meant to support me; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

What I loved the most about IAOTRC is that the teachers, supervisors, mentors, and students are all trauma survivors. It is one of the reasons why I chose this school for training. I felt seen, heard, understood, and validated.

At the forefront of concern for creating a self-care plan was offering myself safe space to gain insight and knowledge about abuse, trauma, and the nervous system. In addition, my teacher stated that each student needed to understand that during our training, we could potentially be triggered.

The triggers, flashbacks, or painful memories could be rooted to what we heard, read, or learned in school. Oftentimes, the homework assignments did delve into our past experiences of abuse and trauma. I discovered quickly that as a survivor, I was still dealing with lingering trauma responses, including being slammed with fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

Despite my compounded trauma from my early childhood through my adulthood, I was not exempt from feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or triggered. Immediately, I created my self-care plan. Based on the fact that we all respond and react differently to trauma, each of our healing processes can be very different.

There is no right or wrong way to recover. There are countless paths to the healing journey. Sometimes, it requires us to look outside the box and be open to trying something new. My self-care plan was meant to support myself in the manner that is best for me. After my near-death nightmare with Benzodiazepines and Cymbalta in 2010 and 2011, which spiraled my entire life out of control, I had made significant progress with holistic modalities. It literally saved my life.

The reason why the International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaching encouraged students to practice self-care was because being trained to work in the mental health field can take a toll on our bodies and minds. Many mental health care professionals suffer burnout, especially over these past three years with the pandemic. Therefore, it's even more essential that students and Certified Trauma Recovery Coaches intentionally take frequent breaks.

Some of my natural options for self-care include:

  • Gentle stretching

  • Nature walks

  • Pure essential oils

  • Herbal remedies

  • Energy healing

  • Deprivation Floating Tank

  • Writing/journaling

  • Soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath

  • Meditation & prayer

  • Mindfulness & daily affirmations

  • Receiving professional emotional support

Last September, when I began my coaching business, I knew that I needed to continue focusing on my own self-care practices. I had good intentions. Yet, real life happens. I not only successfully graduated from school, felt stressed from my coaching examination, and juggling a lot, but I also started to write my sixth book, Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma. At the same time, I was working with many new clients in my CTRC business, which was flourishing.

For those interested in my book, here is the Amazon link.

Within three months, I became very ill. For one solid month, I was down for the count. Being sick flared up my fibromyalgia, which only complicated the situation. I was forced to take a month off of work in order to fully recover. Thankfully, all of my clients were gracious and understanding.

Once I recovered in January 2022, my coaching business picked up. By March 2022, I was offering both book group coaching and Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching. Looking back, I realize that I was so focused on each of my clients, that I took a back seat for my own self-care.

Today, I give myself compassion and grace. I will not verbally beat myself up or criticize myself for not carving out specific times to take breaks from work. Sometimes, it is these experiences in our lives that become the biggest lessons we will learn.

As summer approached, I recalled what my teacher had taught me about caring for my own self as a mental health professional. By this time, I was already booked up with many clients for June, July, and August.

In addition, I was in the midst of going back to school, again at IAOTRC. This time, I was studying Spiritual Trauma, which actually goes well beyond religious abuse. This training dives deep into various spiritual practices: religion, philosophy, and non-religious approaches. Suddenly, it hit me...

I had to become more intentional about my work schedule. I needed to take a vacation from coaching. In July 2022, the only break that I could pursue was a weekend getaway. My husband and I enjoyed spending time at the beach. We went biking, on nature walks, dining at awesome restaurants, and sightseeing. It was exactly what I needed and lots of fun!

During our beach trip, we decided to go to a waterpark. It had been decades since we had done this. Unfortunately, on a waterslide, I sustained an injury. It led to a major fibromyalgia and low lumber flareup. The pain lasted over a month. It's like my body was saying, "Alert! Girl, you must rest."

When I looked at my calendar, I realized the earliest date that I could take a vacation would be September 1, 2022. Right away, I scheduled eleven days off for September to recharge my own self.

It is official. I am off of work from September 1st through September 11th. Woot Woot!

One of my new mottos is "Less is more." Less drama...more joy. Less stress...more peace. Less obligations...more boundaries. Less work...more breaks. Less pain...more awareness. Less pressure...more rest. Less chaos...more tranquility. Less judgment...more compassion.

Overall, this past year has been eye opening for me. I now have made a conscious decision to make important improvements in my personal and professional life. From this point forward, I will be taking more frequent breaks from work, especially during the holidays.

One inspiring quote that sums it up says, "You cannot serve from an empty vessel." This whole idea of "You can’t pour from an empty cup" is about self-care. If we are constantly juggling work, kids, family, finances, and more, we’ll quickly end up burnt out – and with an empty cup.

An empty cup means your ability to care for others will be non-existent when you don’t even have the time or energy to care for yourself. Thanks to our hustle culture, we’re constantly feeling the drive to do more, to be more, and to have more. We work and work and work, until we are utterly depleted and drained. Sound familiar?

If we don't take quality time for ourselves to unwind and refuel, we can become vulnerable to illnesses, increased stress, and exhaustion. The hustle culture is all about striving, but it is not always sustainable for a long time for any human being. It is pure insanity!

Stack on top of that, the repercussions of Covid, and how we’ve had to juggle even more tasks, like homeschooling, sick family members, and added stress, it’s no wonder self-care comes last. If you are like me and thinking, "There has to be another way," the good news is that we do have options. Some options consist of:

  • Being more aware of when your body needs a break.

  • Giving yourself permission to take frequent breaks.

  • Unplugging from social media and the internet.

  • Learning to say no without guilt.

  • Setting clear boundaries.

  • Understanding your limitations; physical, mental, emotional, & financial.

  • Gaining more insight about a wide range of self-care practices.

  • Honoring your personal recovery journey.

  • Making self-care your top priority.

Whether we’re talking about personal or professional self-care, a lot of us are guilty of feeling guilt if we decide to devote any time to ourselves. There is no shame in taking the best care of our bodies and minds. I seriously believe this false notion of guilt is rooted to our society and the hustle culture.

We must come to understand that self-care isn't selfish. The first thing to realize with self-care is that it’s important to show yourself some compassion. Learning to take care of yourself is essential to avoiding the “you can’t pour from an empty cup” scenario.

Lastly, none of us are Wonder Woman or Superman. It’s perfectly fine to create special time for self-care activities to help you keep your mental health and physical health in peak condition. As a survivor and Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, I am grateful that I have learned these valuable life lessons. Also, I look forward to my one-year anniversary being celebrated by having eleven days off from work. I'm so excited and counting down the days!

In essence, I'm now establishing new boundaries for my business to promote improvements in life. My boundaries are for my body, mind, and soul. Do you practice self-care and take breaks? If not, how has it impacted your health? Best wishes to you and your own self-care practices.

“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

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