A Thought for Fellow Travelers

For me, even when I can’t travel far, I still need to stay curious, to be inspired, and for my life to stay fresh and feel new.

Like many of you out there, I love to travel.  Strolling down a winding street in a strange new city feels like magic to me.  The thrill of new adventures fuels my soul.  I revel in the healing that comes from a change of pace and am inspired by the beauty I find along the way.  At times, travel is my respite from stress and busyness while other times it is the spark that frees me from the monotony of the day-to-day.   Whether it is the beach, mountains, big city, or wilderness, each has a special place in my travel universe.

Unfortunately though, I am not always able to explore the world as much as I would like.  Life circumstances don’t always allow it.  Currently, I am a student, teacher, and counselor, juggling several jobs with little extra time or money.  It is hard to fit travel into this complicated equation of responsibilities and commitments. 

I know, however, that I’m not alone in this.  You too might be somebody who feels the way I do…. or has in the recent past.  Some of you, like me, have probably also wondered what it is you can do about this feeling?  How might it be possible to fulfill this craving for a change of scenery while you wait for the next opportunity to sail the seven seas?

Well, what sometimes helps me is applying two basic principles that are often used in counseling practice: mindfulness and gratitude.  The following is an example of how I sometimes use these concepts to bring myself the relief, inspiration, and healing that would normally come from a great trip (but without the travel) .  You don’t need to do exactly this, but maybe this will trigger some ideas for what would work best for you.

Although I won’t be flying to New Zealand anytime soon, I still try to take time out of my schedule to live like I’m on vacation.  I try to regularly take a morning, afternoon, or evening to explore a part of my community, city, or even my own home like I was visiting it for the first time.  This is no easy task and requires a change in mindset.

For example, I sometimes wake up in the morning and take a walk where I live.  I pay attention to the details that surround me much like I would if I was exploring the mysterious streets of a beautiful Spanish village.  I might stop and smell the flowers, notice the intricacies of a home’s architecture, or the color of the sky at dawn.  The more I am able to be curious and am able to slow down, the more gratifying the experience.  Sometimes inviting others to join me on these little local outings or adding a new restaurant, cafe, meal, park, vista, or museum enhances the journey.

A key to this practice actually feeling restorative is to use keen and attentive mindfulness.  I try to be intentional and specific about what I experience with my five senses.  What do I smell, hear, feel, see, and taste?  With this approach, a cup of coffee or a wonderful meal with friends can be transformed into something more like a trip to an uncharted territory.  Keeping a journal right afterwards or at the end of the day helps too.  I find that listing 3 to 5 things that I was grateful for on my short safari makes it richer and more fulfilling.   

Again, these are just short suggestions that I use to make these experiences come to life.  For me, even when I can’t travel far, I still need to stay curious, to be inspired, and for my life to stay fresh and feel new.  I hope some of you out there might be able to take some of these ideas and transform them in such a way that makes them work for you.

For anyone out there who is searching for additional ways to find balance, rest, inspiration, or support and would like to have somebody walk alongside them on this journey, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Refuge Center at 615-591-5262.           

Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Paul Jenkins.

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Self-Care Practices to Engage Body, Mind, Emotions

When you hear the phrase “self care”, what comes to mind for you?  Is it a demand of all the trends magazines and social media promote?  Is it a “should” that feels hard to live up to?  Is it a bubble bath with an expensive bath bomb that requires 2 hours of alone time that feels difficult to find in the chaos of life?

Self-care has always had health at the core, first being applied to our physical bodies, like showering, eating properly, and exercising.  As human beings, we are more than physical bodies.  We are also comprised of physical (body), psychological (mind), emotional (emotions) and needs.  How do we care for those areas of self?  

In our world of constant demand, it can be hard to “check off” our self-care box, where there is always a higher demand on the to-do list, or an additional email to answer.  When we neglect self-care, we begin to revert to automatic (and perhaps less helpful) behaviors to soothe ourselves in difficult times.  By engaging in self-care proactively, we can endure the challenges and stresses of life by decreasing the negative emotional states- like stress, anxiety, and tension- that have an impact on our overall being.  Implementing rituals of self-care can help create patterns and lifestyle habits that can help us in difficult times.

So what are ways we can implement tiny rituals of self-care in our lives?  

  1. Listening to our body and writing down the needs as we enter the day (like water, an extra hour of sleep, a hug)
  2. Taking a pause in the day to practice deep breathing
  3. Drinking enough water
  4. Making a gratitude list
  5. Identifying your emotions without judgment
  6. Creating a list of what makes you laugh

While these ideas may differ from person to person, these are beginning ways to help engage in self-care in every part of our self.  

If you would like to explore the ways in which you can start making self-care a priority in your everyday life, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Refuge Center at 615-591-5262.

Written by Hannah Harriman, Master’s Level Counseling Intern at The Refuge Center.

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November Newsletter

Keep up with what is happening at The Refuge Center for Counseling in our November Newsletter.

The 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Exercise

The 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Exercise: An anchor for when anxiety or worry takes over.

Anxiety. It’s the worst right? It keeps us up at night, prohibits us from enjoying the things we love most, from being present in the here and now, and it takes away our ability to enjoy being around the people we love. I know anxiety and worrying manifests itself differently among everyone, but I think everyone can agree it’s one of the most frustrating and uncontrollable feelings to experience.

So how can work to controlling our anxiety?

Conscious breathing is an effective mindful technique that could help diminish those awful anxious feelings in the present moment and put you in a relaxed state and it often comes in many forms. One exercise that is simple and that can be done anywhere at any time with no equipment or preparation necessary is the 4-7-8 Breathing technique.

Breathing is the most powerful and important natural function that our bodies perform. So how do we do the 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath exercise? It’s easy. All it takes is four easy steps that are not difficult to recall:

  1. First, close your eyes and take a quiet and deep inhale for 4 slow seconds through your nose.
  1. Hold that breath you just took for 7 slow comfortable seconds.
  1. Exhale all the air that has been built up for a controlled 8 slow seconds and make a whooshing sound (like a long verbal sigh).
  1. Inhale again and complete the cycle again four times through.

Sounds self-explanatory right? With practice, the 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath can begin to feel more natural and helpful in controlling those worry and anxious provoking thoughts as you practice it consistently anytime, anywhere.

For more information and a demonstration, visit:


Written by Refuge Center Master’s Level Counseling Intern Skye Clark

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The Power of Play

When in the journey to adulthood do we lose our ability to play? When does all the creativity, passion and adventure of our right brains succumb to our logical, responsible and analytical left brains? 

Why does this happen? 

Why do we as adults sometimes have difficulty permitting ourselves to play? 

In a recent Play Therapy workshop, I was confronted with my insecurity and questions surrounding play. I realized with regret that my former child-like wonder and creative expression were buried under the myriad of roles and responsibilities of my adult self. 

Recognizing this regret, my wise therapist brought out a sand tray, filled with toys. “Show me what your life is like right now,” she said. I nervously began to move figurines around the sand, clueless as to the meaning. “I’m an adult,” I thought. “Play Therapy is for children.” 

Boy, was I wrong. As I began to move toys haphazardly around the sand – searching, begging for meaning – trying to construct a logical pattern in my left brain, analytical mind, a transformation took place. 

A story emerged on that sand tray and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The creativity of my youth began to reveal itself and my right brain took over. I marveled at the toy figures and their positions, their placement on the try – each playing a profound role in my present world, each symbolizing a significant other or longing in my heart. 

Some figures were safe, others daunting, revealing my attachment injuries and my desire for safety and security in a world that seemed fraught with worry. The revelation was profound. 

My therapist gently guided me, reflecting my words to me encouraging me to push through my resistance to play. 

Astonishingly, the sand tray, the characters, the toys, they all began to make sense. Tears flowed as what seemed so child-like to me just moments before became a profound and sacred moment. Something very deep took root in my heart and a question that I was so afraid to ask was answered simply and truthfully through play.

Play is often called the language of children, and so Play Therapy is widely used in therapeutic settings with children. 

As we emerge out of childhood and adolescence, we often leave behind the child-like play. Play begins to look different. 

We run to video games, social media, Netflix, shopping, sports, eating out and socializing with friends. 

We have hobbies and distractions and selfish pleasures and self-care activities but we rarely refer to these things as play. We have dates but not play dates, we have downtime but not playtime. 

I wonder if, in all of our activities, we lose our sense of wonder, our imagination, our reckless abandonment to simply play. 

Play has a language. Play has a meaning. Play has the power to transform and dive deep into our hearts. Play is transformational. Play is therapy. Play is sacred.

Although there are several well-established
theoretical approaches to play therapy, among those in current use,
child-centered play therapy has the longest history of use, the strongest
research support, and according to recent surveys of practicing play
therapists, is most used by play therapy practitioners.
” – Garry Landreth

Written by Refuge Center Master’s Level Counseling Intern Kimberly Kooy