When was the last time you stopped and took a moment to take a inventory of your life? As a psychotherapist, I consistently assess stress, coping mechanisms and self-care. Many times, clients make a decision to begin therapy because they have “a problem” or “an issue” with something in their life, or they want to live a more fulfilling, quality life overall.
A narrow view on a singular “issue” or “problem,” however, doesn’t allow us to consider how many other factors are impacting our current challenge or struggle or all the things that are going well for us. I encourage my clients to consider taking what I call a “holistic inventory.”
Take time to assess these areas in your own life: Physical health, mental health, emotional balance, social connections, relationships, occupation, family support system, nutrition, exercise, sleep quality, leisure, general wellness. Many times after reviewing each cog in the wheel, clients are able to experience a more global view, rather than a narrow one. With this global view comes insight into contributing factors that may be exacerbating stress. For example, if your quality of sleep is consistently disturbed, it makes coping with anything much more difficult. If you are experiencing an increase in occupational stress, consequently, you may perceive your relationships to be strained.
Widening our view to a more global perspective can also help us re-frame our thinking from focusing on the negative to taking an inventory for all that we have to be grateful for. For example, if we are currently experiencing a struggle or challenge in one area of our lives, taking a holistic inventory can help us be mindful of the things that are going well. If we are feeling upset about an interpersonal relationship conflict, for example, a holistic inventory approach could help us realize that we may have strong family support, our health and nutrition could be great, and perhaps our careers are going well despite the Michigan economy.
A position of gratitude can help re-frame our current struggle or conflict and help us remain in a place of peace, gratitude and balance. If you’re looking for an easy tool to keep your gratitude in check, try keeping a gratitude journal. Many people journal as a way of venting and writing down their conflict to process it or have a place to put those thoughts. However, choosing a separate journal or notebook to just hold things you are grateful for can be a wonderful reminder of our many blessings and how fortunate we really are.For years I worked with Hospice patients and with end-of-life care. Many people asked me: “How can you do it? Working with death and dying must be so depressing.” That is not how I experienced it at all. Working with the dying taught me how to live. My patients served as a continuous reminder of taking a holistic inventory of my life. Their dying process helped me face my own mortality in a way that kept me grateful for all I had to live for.
I hope you will take a more global perspective on your life and remember through a simple holistic inventory how to remain mindful and grateful of all the living you have yet to experience.