Hannah Rash, a 2015 School Counseling Master’s Candidate in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development in the UNCG School of Education, is our featured blogger this semester for Adventures in Education.
What is wellness? Wellness is more than just not being sick. Wellness incorporates health and well-being of the mind, body, and spirit for optimal functioning. It goes beyond the absence of disease towards a higher quality of life. For example, instead of being only tolerant of your job, you feel fulfilled in your position and excited to go to work. So... “Why are you talking about this?” you ask. Good question! But first, let me introduce myself.
Hello, folks! My name is Hannah Rash, and I am a second year Master’s student studying school counseling in the Counseling and Educational Development (CED) program. I entered graduate school straight from Gardner-Webb University, where I majored in psychology and minored in American Sign Language and communication studies. I ended up at UNCG thanks to my undergraduate advisor, who highly recommended the program. When I showed up on interview day, little did I know about CED being nationally ranked or about all the unique opportunities the program had to offer. Luckily, I found that out after the interviews and not before when it would have made me extra nervous. Even though it has only been a little over a year since that interview day, I feel like I have come so far in my development as a counselor. This year, I have the pleasure of interning at Northwest Guilford High School for the full school year and being able to put into practice much of the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired in class.
With public schools recently starting back, there is a lot of hustle and bustle trying to get students in the right classes, helping parents understand what their child needs, working with new teachers and administrators, finding and storing a variety forms, and just the general chaos that comes before settling into a routine. Students, parents, teachers, admins, counselors, and especially the new counseling intern are in a whirlwind of transitions from new rules and policies, new concerns and problems, to new goals and aspirations for the school year. It’s easy to get caught up in all your responsibilities and demands that you forget about yourself. This is where wellness comes in.
CED’s chapter of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), the internal counseling honors society, has chosen wellness as this year’s theme. In my opinion, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Most of my cohort-mates are also starting internship this semester, accompanied by classes, assignments, jobs, relationships, and a variety of other activities that require our attention and energy. Speaking from personal experience, when I have a lot of work to do, setting aside time to recharge or even taking a moment to assess my stress level and how I’m feeling quickly gets pushed aside. How often have you cancelled plans with a friend because you had work to finish? How regularly do you eat lunch at your work desk because there are emails still needing responses? I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of both much more frequently than I would like to be.
Of course, we all have obligations that can’t be ignored. Wellness isn’t about completely ridding your life of all stressors; that just isn’t possible. Wellness is being able to recognize what those stressors are and making choices that will make your situation and environment more fulfilling and positive, which will help prevent sickness and ill-being. Each environment may look differently, too. What you need to have a more positive work environment may not be the same as what you need at home, in class, with family or friends, in your romantic relationship, or with your spiritual beliefs. Even seemly small steps can make a huge difference—eating your lunch outside, taking a 10 minute walk every day, journaling during an emotional difficult time, looking back on old pictures with a friend, committing to daily meditation or prayer. Perhaps it’s overwhelming to change several little things. Try picking one aspect to focus on for a month and see where it takes you!
I leave you with this encouragement… regardless of your job(s), what program you’re in, or what your schedule looks like, pick one aspect of wellness (social, physical, occupational, etc.) and incorporate one—just one!—activity that promotes your personal wellness this month. I know this will be challenging for me, personally, but I am committed to not ignoring my well-being as I take on one more role as a school counseling intern.
P.S.: Thanks to Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer for their research on wellness! If you’d like to learn more about wellness or the wellness wheel, you can search their names online.