In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about making this moment count during the Coronavirus outbreak.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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This is the Faith in Practice podcast with your host Whitney Owens. Today’s a special edition as we seek to find answers and understanding with the recent outbreak of the coronavirus. I found myself in a lot of ups and downs, not only in my practice and in my personal life, as well as I’m trying to sort through, how do I feel about this and what’s going on. But even beyond my emotions and even beyond the logistics of a private practice, the logistics of managing my family, I find myself in a deeper reality, as I’m saying, “God, what is going on?” Things are very different than what I ever would have thought. And it’s scary. It’s very unsettling and I need some answers. So, I’m recording this, trying to get it out as quick as possible to help you as you navigate your emotions and feelings too.
And we’re going to have clients that we’re helping, that also have so much that they’re dealing with and we want to be there for them. And then we want to be there for our families and it is so hard to be so strong for so many people. So, we’re going to stop for a moment here. As you’re listening to this podcast, you’re taking a break from it all to be introspective, to gain some clarity and understanding. And I’m going to walk you through some things that I feel like I’ve starting to understand for myself and things that I’m starting to see patterns in as other people are beginning to gain more understanding. At the beginning of this outbreak, this craziness, which is really only like a week ago when things really got amped up, we were all kind of scrambling, right? I mean, I found myself having lots of questions about how do I do online counseling? What kind of platforms do I use and how do I get this information to my employees? And how do I take care of my clients?
I was really wrapped up into all those types of questions. And that’s starting to settle a little bit. I think people are settling in the sense of this is how life is going to function? My new norm? And now they’re asking deeper questions just like I am now. So, I want to first ask you, where are you right now? Now, maybe physically you’re at your house, right? Maybe you’re out on a walk or a run, you could be in the car, maybe you’re sitting outside, but physically, where are you? But most importantly, where are you emotionally? Where are you spiritually? Because who we are is going to impact our clients but even beyond that, who we are impacts the world. Really take time to listen to yourself, listen to the people that love you and let this be a moment in time that is different than any other moment you’ve ever had.
What kind of questions are you asking yourself? I know for me, I’ll share with you some of the questions that I’ve been asking. My main one is, “God, where are you? What is going on? How do I adjust to all this? How do I stay strong for my family when I feel like a mess on the inside?” I want clarity. I’m asking for wisdom, for analogies, for Bible verses, for stories that can speak to this situation. Where has this happened before? Like, what’s the world like before? Have we ever come through something like this? We have had very similar things by the way, if we look back. So, but it is overwhelming because people alive now have never seen anything like this. I’m also asking myself, “How can I handle being inside for however long this is going to be. And how long is this going to be?”
I want you to quiet yourself and think about some of the questions that you’ve been asking. And a lot of our questions come from that place of fear, that place of the unknown. We do not know how to live in the unknown. So, in the midst of all this, we find ourselves in lots of different places, emotionally. I know that I will feel really great one minute and really crappy the next. I found myself getting real snippy with my kids when they need something or are asking for something because I am stressed. I’m wondering is my business going to make it? Did I save enough for this? Are they eventually going to say we can’t go out of the house and take a walk? Am I going to be told what I can and can’t do by the government?
And then I’m also in fear of people getting sick. I have parents, I have in-laws, they don’t live near me. I can’t control what they have chosen to do when they go and do things. All I can control is what I’m doing, but I’m scared for them and scared for people getting sick and scared for what that might mean for them. I’m worried about my kids and their process of this. Can they handle this emotionally? And what is it going to be like for them, if they can’t go back to school, if they can’t do the things they’ve wanted to do and what they’re missing in their lives? It’s heartbreaking. I worry about my clients, those that have anxiety, those that have depression. Even my own anxiety rears its ugly head, especially now, but for clients that also have PTSD, complex trauma, this stuff really can mess with them as it’s bringing up old wounds and old memories.
Or, those that have depression and they’re isolated in their homes when all we’ve been doing on in therapy is just trying to get them out the door. Now they’re stuck. How do I help them? How do we keep people from getting into further depression? And my biggest fear of suicide with some, just in general in our nation that people are sad, they’re scared. And so how is, how do we as therapists offer hope and understanding. Well, I think at first starts with us being changed and us understanding it ourselves. We take our clients as far as we have gone. I even find myself wishing that this would all end, you know, not obviously in a suicidal way that we just talked about, but just this concept of when will this be over? I just want to wish it all away. I wish I had never heard of this virus. I wish it had never come here. This is the worst thing I can imagine right now for our nation of anything I’ve ever seen. I wish it had never happened.
I’m sure that you have a lot of these same questions, fears. I could sit here all day long and wish it away, but it’s not going anywhere. In fact, very likely it’s going to get worse before it gets better. So where does this leave us? I don’t want this moment in time, the past, without something changing within me. I don’t know how long this moment will be. It could be weeks, it could be months, but I don’t want to look back and have life go right back to where it was. I’ve heard before that our nation is a 10-day nation, in the sense that within 10 days, usually we go back. You know, if a famous person dies, we talk about it for about 10 days and then we’re back to where we were. I was thinking just even this morning, how utterly worried I am, that this is going to pass and we are going to go right back to where we were.
I was just talking to my husband about an article he read. He was comparing or kind of talking about the flu epidemic. I think the year was 1918, if I’m not mistaken. And finally, when it improved as the summer came and the hotter weather, it decreased. But then when the fall came, it came back with vengeance. So instead of us getting through this virus, getting into the summer and forgetting it ever happened, because that’s how we are. We are forgetful people. Well I really hope that we don’t do that and that we prepare for that or anything else that might come our way. So, in the same way, as a person and as an emotional person, as a person of physical, spiritual, my soul, I want to be changed. I don’t want to look back and be the same person that I was.
Because of this moment of stillness and quietness, the anxiety within me comes out and within all of us, our vulnerabilities and the things that we’ve hidden ourselves from are coming out. So, we want this to be a time that we pay attention and we don’t ignore it. And I say the same for our clients as we challenge them. And I am challenging you the same way. We often, before this all happened, it was pretty easy to ignore our inner man or inner person, right? I could fill it up with lots of things, especially my job. As business owners and as therapist taking care of everybody else’s needs, we often ignore our own, not only our basic needs like physical needs or really those spiritual, emotional needs. We think we’re okay. We think we can get past this and when something painful comes up within us, it’s easier to push it down when you’ve got friends to go hang out with or, you know, social activities, parties, work, different things that you’re doing.
It’s easy to ignore that within us, but I believe that this is a moment for brokenness. The moment to pay attention and a moment for transformation. It’s the time to think about the things that are really important in our lives, like our families and spending time with them. In this place of stillness, our fears are made known. Don’t ignore your fears. Face them. We want to have a new freedom in our lives, just the way that we ask our clients do the same. I think about the craziness that this is lent. So, it’s just something weird about that for me, right? I don’t think that God ever wants bad things to happen necessarily to good people. I mean, I don’t have this impression that He wanted this to happen to do something, you know, to kill people off or anything like that. I don’t think that way, but I do think He can use this for something good.
And I was reminded that the whole reason people celebrate lent is because of the Bible story of Jesus being in the wilderness for 40 days. It was after his baptism, but before his ministry started and that was when he fasted and was alone. And that has really hit me all of a sudden. He was alone, the way that we feel alone and our place of being alone is when our vulnerable, our fear, all those things come out just as it did in the biblical story where He, Jesus was tested on things that man wants. I mean food, power, pride, and it was in that place where He stood His ground in, honestly, I believe it was in that place He understood in a greater way His identity and purpose. And then He went and did ministry. And so, in the same way, I’m hoping that this is going to be a season where we face those fears as well and become stronger as business owners, stronger as parents, stronger as clinicians and as friends and just as changing agents in the world.
So, I’m here to challenge you. I want you to make this moment in time count. This would be different than any other moment. Don’t wish it away, but accept it, embrace it. You want to change the negative into a positive instead of focusing on the, “I can’t, I don’t get,” stuff. Focus on what you do get. It’s amazing how before all this happened, what’s the thing that everyone always asked for. Or at least me, I would always say, “Oh, I wish I could sleep more. I wish I had more quiet. I wish I could rest. I wish I could read.” Always thinking about what I don’t have and now we have that stuff. We have that stuff and we’re just wanting something else. This is the very thing we’ve kind of been asking for in a sense, not the virus of course, but moments to step away and be quiet.
I hope that this is a changing point for all of us and that we wouldn’t go back to who we were. That this would be a time where we are broken because in our brokenness is when beauty comes. So, we challenge this on our clients all the time. At least I find myself challenging them to embrace their vulnerabilities, accept who they are and be kind to themselves. And what I hear back from them and what I ask myself often is, “How do I do that?” That is scary. And let me tell you, it’s scary. When you have to actually notice yourself, it’s scary, but that’s where you become fully who you are. Even the idea of recording this podcast was scary to me because it’s very personal, it’s vulnerable, as I share with you how worried I am and how anxious I’ve been. As I get really raw about my spirituality and my faith, some people may not like what I have to say, or they might judge me for that. And that’s okay.
I am taking this moment in time to be broken and vulnerable and to make a change, to change the way I’ve been living, to stop trying to please so many and trying to do what I think is the right thing to do. So how do we get to that place? Well, one of it, the step is just doing what we know we need to do. I think as you quiet yourself, you’re going to hear your inner voice. Pay attention. I found myself on a run this morning, which I need to run every day during the stinking coronavirus because when I run, I get so focused and I feel so much better. So, I can start a run, feeling terrible, anxious, worried, my head’s running in a hundred directions and when I come out of it, I feel a sense of clarity and purpose. It’s kind of like my mindful place. And that was when I came up with this podcast idea, because I want to share these things with you.
So one of the big steps in making some changes is just listening to yourself and if you feel like you’ve got a direction, you feel like you have something to say, you feel like maybe you’re reminded of an old relationship that’s been wounded and you want to call somebody, then do it. And in the same way, we want to give this to our clients. Like clients who have things they’ve been going through and they’ve been trying to ignore those, let this be a time for them to get some books and really delve into their stuff. Just like we encourage clients to journal. I think journaling is another important step in all this, and write about what this experience has been like for you personally and as you’re going through your business.
We have been stripped away of all these things that brought us security, right? I mean, people are losing their jobs, you’re probably worried about your practice and the loss of clients, but let it be a time where you figure out, “What have I really been focusing on? Myself? Am I focusing on other people?” So, as you start to hear this within you, write it down, explore that idea. Share your thoughts, emotions, feelings with people you love, maybe your spouse or get on the phone, call your friends. And even though we’re socially distancing ourselves, we can actually have a depth of relationship when we’re all going through this together and we’re talking to one another. FaceTime old friends you haven’t seen in a while.
We’re always saying, “I don’t have time to call anybody.” Well, they got lots of time, but let your conversations go beyond a superficial level, go to this deep place of where you’re at, what you’re really scared about, what are you putting your focus on? I also want to encourage you steps to take, to understand our vulnerability and our brokenness and defense strength. More steps would be prayer or meditation, being still and quiet. I have been going out on walks or runs every day because I need to get out of the house. Sometimes I go on more than one walk a day, and that can be a time for quietness. You don’t have to listen to a podcast, listen to music or talk to somebody. Just be still. That is really hard, isn’t it? Really hard.
In the Bible, maybe even not biblical. It’s probably in a lot of other places too. There used to be what’s called a year of Jubilee. It was every seven years and people would stop what they were doing and rest. I think a lot of churches even still do that for ministers, where they don’t work for a certain amount of time, every seven years. It was a moment to reset. And even the concept of Sabbath is a weekly reset, but it’s really hard for us to abide by that anymore. As a nation, like we are so busy and we pride ourselves on it. So, I’m hoping that this would be our moment to be changed and reset personally, as business, as a nation, that we would be renewed. Maybe this be the rest that we’ve all been asking for.
I’m hoping that we will come together and quiet ourselves and help one another as we become stronger, as we face the tough questions that are within us that we have ignored for a very long time. We are now facing life and death in a real way. Our questions about life and death are questions about way the world works. Don’t ignore those within you. I hope and pray that this would be a moment that you will always remember the moment between finding out about the virus and the virus being gone and that you would see it as a season of brokenness and growth and change in your life. Take the time to make this moment count.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the practice, the practice website. Also, there, you can learn more about me options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email me at email@example.com. Would love to hear from you.
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