7:07PM Feb 28, 2022
Hello and welcome to this edition of the thoughtful counselor Podcast. I'm Dr. Raisa Miller talking today with Dr. Michelle Poulos. Dr. coulis is an associate professor with the Family Institute at Northwestern University and is certified through the Association for Applied sport psychology. As a certified mental performance consultant and a member of the United States Olympic Committee, sports psychology registry. She has written and spoken widely on topics related to exercise psychology, athlete, mental health and general wellness. Dr. karula, thanks for joining me.
Thank you so much. I'm excited to have this discussion today.
Yes, me too. It's been a long time coming. We're ready to hear all about what you have to share. Maybe it would be best to start out just talking a little bit about your personal and professional background that led you to specializing in sports exercise psychology.
Definitely. I started as a group fitness instructor at Loyola University Chicago, at spout that the halus Sports Center. And I taught all different classes, string classes, cardio kickboxing, aquatics step classes, and I really, really loved it. And I was studying psychology at the time. And what really drove me into the field of Sport and Exercise psychology was my inspiration from everybody's favorite at Loyola sister Jean, who is now famous. And at the time, she was probably I want to say maybe in her 70s, and she was just a staple at Loyola and took a lot of my classes. So I specifically remember her taking my step classes with so much enthusiasm. And she just talked to us about really appreciating everything that life has to offer. And she came to that with a holistic perspective. And I remember, you know, I would choreograph these really awesome step classes. And she sometimes would follow along, sometimes do her own thing. And it was just extremely inspirational. And so that really led to my belief about being healthy and mind, body, and spirit. And being healthy in that way really allows us to contribute to the outside world. So my way to contributing to the world at that time was through fitness and the group fitness world. Fast forward a little bit. So I'm a counselor specializing in the field of Sport and Exercise psychology. And when I left Loyola, I knew that there was something that I wanted to do that combined my love of fitness with my curiosity about how the mind works. And I was lucky enough to find a master's degree that specialized in this field. And so my master's degree is Sport and Exercise psychology. And I just really enjoyed working with athletes. That was done in Arizona. And I should mention, I'm from Chicago. So when I moved back to Illinois, from Arizona, I looked around to see what kind of jobs were open in my field that I really wanted to excel at. And at the time, there really weren't a whole lot of jobs for an entry level individual working with athletes. So what I did wind up doing was working as a trauma and crisis counselor with adolescent girls who were Ward's of the state. So it was really interesting because I developed specialties in crisis and trauma on one side of the spectrum on the other side, health and wellness. So it was really an interesting balance for me to have experience working with both of those worlds. And, you know, I really thought about the mentorship and supervision I received in both of those fields. And it continued to shape my holistic ideas about how we can just be healthy in our minds and our bodies. And then there was a lot change in Illinois. So I'm working with these young girls and really helping them through some really horrific issues, building my own skills as a young clinician, and eventually became a supervisor when I was fully licensed. And there was a lot change in Illinois. That said, in order to maintain our licensure, we had to have coursework or continuing education hours in how to be a clinical supervisor. So me being you know, the kind of person I am, I want to learn about everything I can, I thought, instead of taking a workshop, I would like to enroll in a class. So I looked up the individuals who were teaching the supervision workshops in Illinois, and it kept coming back to one specific person who was a professor at Northern Illinois University, Tony taller, rude. So I called her and I said Dr. Tala rude, here's my experience, I'm experienced supervisor, I see you're teaching these workshops, but I really would prefer to take a semester long course and supervision. So with some conversation, I was able to enroll in that course, which was a doctoral level course in counselor education supervision. And I really wasn't aware of that field at all. And I fell in love with it, and applied for the program got into the program. So I earned my Edd, my doctorate in counselor ed in supervision at Northern Illinois, and through that process, fell in love with teaching. So I'm like, Alright, how do I combine all of these things. And I developed a career as a professional and a professor, in both counseling and within sport and exercise psychology.
That is such a fascinating story. And I think also kind of funny and amazing that you decided to get a doctorate based on your curiosity around a single supervision course. And then you were hooked. I love that. It's amazing.
Yeah. And now, you know, I'm a professor at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, specializing in our counseling ethics, and I'm their director of community engagement. So it really takes all of these different aspects of what I love, in my career path into one place.
Mm hmm. And you and you are able to kind of span the exercise psychology world, from everything from from being a trainer to then studying exercise psychology, in your master's program. And then over into the clinical counseling world in which you worked, as you mentioned, with individuals who had trauma backgrounds, and everything in between, I'm sure, as trauma presents itself in many different ways in individuals lives. Well, we're lucky then that you get to share with us based on all these diverse experiences, I think one of the things that you're writing about at that I've read at least, is around just the connection between the mind and the body, or the brain and the body, and really be able to make sense of that connection. But to talk about that, it's helpful to know how you might define it. So could you like when you're talking about people to people about the mind body connection? How do you define it and describe it? Oh, definitely.
And I really believe that the mind, body and spirit are so closely connected. And there's such a strong relationship between exercise and mental health. And it's important, I think, to be aware of how our entire systems work together. So we know that through engaging our bodies through exercise, we also impact our physical and mental health. We also know that mental health is tied to brain chemistry. So exercise is a natural way that we are able to impact our brain energy to try to enhance our mental health as well.
Yeah, so Is there specific ways that exercise? And I'm sure it's different for different exercises? So I'm asking a very broad question. But what are some of the findings related to exercise and brain chemicals or brain Hill?
Well, we know that our neurotransmitters are impacted through exercise and physical movement. We know that there's an increase in endorphins and serotonin, which sometimes these are called the feel good chemicals or feel good neurotransmitters, and these help us just feel better. Now I also definitely tell people that exercise as much as I love it, as much as I encourage it. It's not going to be the end all be all when people are experiencing mental health concerns, although it's definitely one piece of the puzzle. And I encourage people to talk with counselors to explore how exercise might be able to enhance their current treatment plans or for people who might not Be in counseling to just really understand that there's so many dynamics that impact us in life, that we really should control what we can. And movement is one of those things. Of course, thinking about how we move, thinking about our thoughts and cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a big part of our field can help people understand how they react to different circumstances. So if they are engaging in a situation where they're feeling down or upset, and then they take some physical activity, just to take a break from that experience, they can see how their minds might clear up and give them a new perspective or a new space to be able to analyze situations in a different way.
Yeah, absolutely, it does. Does it matter what kind of movement a person engages them? Like, is there one that's better than others?
I think that's really in individual choice. And so when we look at cardiovascular activity, running, cycling, moving our arms, that can be impacted to accelerate our bodies. So we might consider that maybe psyching up your body. And if somebody is experiencing a panic attack, for example, I might not recommend those activities right away. But something like yoga, or tai chi, which in its sometimes it can be activating, but it can also be extremely grounding, to decelerate the body and to slow down our symptoms, and really engage some parasympathetic types of reactions in our bodies. So that's why it's important to understand how your body reacts to movement and moves in exercise,
though, that's also helpful to think about, okay, what some what may be mental symptoms my experiencing, and what, what do I need from exercise and that sensor movement. So if I'm experiencing symptoms may be associated with depression, like I'm just kind of down, I'm, I've low motivation, sadness, brain fog, then maybe doing something like taking a brisk walk outside or swimming, I don't know something that's a little more exhilarating in that sense, could could help those symptoms. But if I'm really anxious, and I just have a lot of energy, I could see how the same exercises could be useful to expend some of that excess energy. But I could also see where you're seeing the benefit of something that's kind of, I don't know the word you use D celebrating yet to diesel, yeah, to decelerate to kind of calm the system through something that might be a little more grounding, like body based work around yoga, or tai chi. So that's actually pretty helpful to think about the symptoms, and then what exercise how exercise might interface with those symptoms, what you want from it.
Exactly. And for example, I mentioned panic attacks a moment ago. So I initially would not encourage somebody who's experiencing panic attacks to go for a run, because that can feel scary, I would definitely want them to experience grounding. But there is evidence also to show that the physiological responses of a panic attack are the same physiological experiences we have when we exercise when we're doing cardio. So when we're talking about helping people understand their bodies, we can talk to people about cognitive anxiety, which could trigger panic attacks, and help them understand when you're experiencing a panic attack, you might experience increased heart rate, increased respiration, sweating, maybe a little dizziness, and then we can say, Okay, now at the same time, once you engage in some cardiovascular exercise, you're going to experience those things, too. So to become familiar and conscious with how your body feels, during those two things, can actually have a calming effect when someone is about to experience a panic attack. Because when they feel an acceleration of their heart rate of their breathing, they might automatically jump to, oh, no, I'm feeling tense, I'm going to have a panic attack. Whereas if they understand the physiological impact of exercise, they can feel that and say, You know what, just because my heart rates increase does not automatically mean I'm going to have a panic attack. I'm going to practice my yoga and deep breathing and call my body down. So there there are really different ways that we can utilize exercise to help teach people things about their minds and bodies.
Right. Well, it makes sense from the perspective of health Seeing with awareness of bodily sensations. And as you mentioned, with a panic attack example, I just think about changing the relationship that a person has with those body based experiences from Oh, no, this is bad automatically to, oh, this is something my body does when it's kind of revving up, you know, and it doesn't have to be bad. Exactly, that that can be useful I can see. And I in a minute, we'll talk about athletes specifically, because I know you've worked extensively with that population. And obviously, those are people who, by virtue of their kind of calling in life, or physically active, but if we could just stay with maybe a non athlete client for a moment, and, and talk a bit more about how you might work with them, especially someone who has had very limited to no movement in their daily life. Maybe they want they know it's good for them. But their motivation to do it or their confidence doing is just really low. So how, how do you help someone integrate movement into their lives when that has not been part of their life?
That's a great question. And I like to talk to people about the very strong link between physical health, longevity and mental health, and really linking physical health and physical movement exercise to things that people enjoy. So if they're not are motivated right now to do physical activity, which lack of motivation, I see that in individuals who have not exercised, and I see it in professional athletes. So it hits everybody, it hits everybody. And if we link physical movement to things like maybe playing with your grandkids, or gardening, or some kind of functional movements, that can help people think about Exercise and Movement in a different way. So the first thing I do is really explore what brings them joy in life, what do they enjoy doing? What do they want to be able to do more of, and then suggest starting slowly, trying to incorporate increased movement related to those specific things. So for example, if somebody really loves gardening, they might be on the ground kneeling, or sitting or bending or moving just in certain ways. So to talk to them about, alright, let's strengthen your your core, let's strengthen your legs to help you be able to easily get up, up and down when you are on the ground, to be able to you know, maybe manipulate your arm and your movement in a certain way to get at flowers or branches or other things that you're trying to attend to in your garden. So by linking those two and showing the direct connection, we can help people understand the value in exercising and movement.
Okay, that makes sense. So what does the person value? And how would increasing movement kind of help them move towards what they value most perhaps Right? Or brings them joy? As you said? Are there other ways that you found help increase motivation with with clients? Yeah, I
think that having movement with friends engaging in group fitness exercises, so you're working out with a whole lot of people. For some people, it's motivating. For other people, it's scary. Working out with a trainer, there are digital options. And I think that a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of exercise and working out, because many people think of some extreme types of exercises, or my favorite marathon running. And these really, really big challenges and they think I could never do that. Well, we have so many options right now for people to engage in movement, things that are that can be pretty expensive. But there are also so many free options. So you can go on YouTube, and search anything and find anything movement wise, and find some free tutorial videos to help you just even learn about what these activities might be for beginners. And I also really encourage people to work out with a certified personal trainer. So again, they can set their goals that are specific to their bodies, the movements they want to engage in and to learn how to safely engage in these movements.
Okay, that makes sense for from a safety perspective, especially for someone who's not used to it. So in addition to to what brings you joy and connecting to that, are there ways that you can engage in movement with others and that that can help probably from an accountability, safety and just social connection piece because social connection is generally rewarding to us as well as humans. So kind of pairing the rewarding of social connection with movement, especially when maybe movement isn't isn't yet part of their life would be helpful.
Right. And you know, something else that can be so helpful. And I think it's so important, especially given people working from home and sitting for very long periods of time, is to look at different kinds of wearable technology. So you have Garmin, for example, Apple Watch Fitbits, there are all these different types of products that we can use to remind us to just get up and move if we're sitting for too long. track our steps, track our heart rate, track some of our other health statistics. And then that gives you a picture if especially if you're a data driven, or numbers driven person that can give you a picture of where you are, and give you a roadmap of how to get to where you want to be. And also, some of them give really cool fun emails that I personally like, when I was in a Fitbit challenge. For example, I would get kind of cartoony like emails that would tell me how far I've walked. So you know, you've walked across the United States, or you've taken so many steps that you could be from here and there. So you know, I'm motivated by fun little surprises like that. So it's, again, what drives you what motivates you, and looking at some wearable technology that can help you enhance some of those things?
Yeah, there are so many ways to now that didn't used to be to help track and I agree I, I like Fitbit. That's one I've worn and when I get the little fireworks at the end of the day, when I've hit 2000 steps, I'm genuinely happy, like I like fireworks. So it can be encouraging. It's obviously not the only motivation to movement. But I get what you're saying there's like all these different small ways to track what you're doing to gain awareness about maybe how much you are or aren't moving. And and then absolutely some of those alerts that when you've been sitting too long, can kind of just cue you or prime you to get up and move around. Like I can see how it would be very, very helpful.
Yeah, no small things really can add up to long term changes.
Yes, and that's an important point, I think more talking about the brain and about the mind is how how we change perhaps, or circuits around initiating movement or motivation. And it isn't done by one big grand to like marathon and then you're done. Right? It's it's more than a little bit every day over a long period of time, that would expect to change neural circuits that are kind of underlie some of or benefit from movement. So that makes a lot of sense to start small. And think about it a little bit every, you know, a little bit over time. And maybe or maybe not have the big marathon in your, in your future or picture. Well, let's switch themes from from just kind of general movement and the benefits in counseling and working with all clients to working specifically with athletes. What what are some major themes that you have found that come up in working with athletes in a psychology or counseling setting? Well, I
work with athletes in a couple of different capacities. So one thing that I do is helping people understand how to get in the zone on demand. So it's looking at leaving your issues off the field, and being able to concentrate when you are in the middle of an important competition, a game, a match, so that you are fully present. It's a lot of mindfulness and dealing with some of these life circumstances and issues off of the court. So some of these things. Well, of course, because athletes are just like us people who move through different stages of life and experience different challenges. So developmental transitions, relationship issues, potential early retirement, and things that are unique to athletes include the pressure to perform public scrutiny, the need to be very disciplined, the need to excel it teamwork, again, early retirement issues, psychological recovery from injury, anxiety, depression, grief, substance use
a long list in other words of the interfacing both unique to just being human as well as being an athlete. So Well, I mean, I think one athlete that has been in the news and there's actually I would say, not having my pulse on athlete mental health like you do that. It seems like there's been more headlines in the last say six months around athlete mental health or the mental health of athletes than it was prior like Simone Biles during the Olympics, and then there other stars, tennis stars, I believe that left kind of their field for at least a time being in order to tend to mental health. What do you think as a professional in this area, when you're seeing these headlines in the media, what comes to your mind?
I have a few different thoughts. The one thing is, I really think it is so courageous for athletes to speak up publicly. And we hear a lot about how athletes use their social platforms to share messages. And they have audiences of millions of people on a worldwide stage. So I really commend them for sharing their personal stories. Because not a lot of people want to do that and share their stories publicly, because of stigma related to mental health. So that's one thing that I think of the next thing I think of is I am like, I hear all these stories. And I think I really, really hope they have an outstanding counselor to help them through whatever it is that they're experiencing. I think that there's this assumption that athletes are perfect in every areas of their life. And media shows us that that's not always the case. And media can be really, really wicked to people who are in the limelight. I would love to see more ethics and media, and more fair treatment when people talk about whatever concerns they have in life. I think that it's difficult for some athletes to speak out because of contractual obligations. So Naomi Osaka, who is a tennis player, and Simone Biles, who is obviously one of the most amazing gymnasts in the world have contractual obligations. And they had the courage to say no, and to say, what was on their minds and what what was best for them as young women and not necessarily putting their athletic careers. In front of that. People will say all different things, and people have all different opinions about whether or not that's the right thing to do. But they are the only ones in their minds, bodies and hearts. And they're the only ones who can determine what the right thing is to do. I think it's an inspiration for some people, because as we know, our suicide rates are too high. Our rates of seeking mental health we'd like to see higher. And when people hear these messages, especially young people, they realize and they believe, okay, maybe I'm not alone. And maybe there is somebody who can help me maybe there is somebody who will listen to me. On the other hand, some people might say, Wow, if she can't deal with that, how am I ever going to deal with and I'm just a normal person. But I think there are enough stories out there, where people are becoming encouraged. And it's sometimes becoming a little trendy, to say that you have a counselor and that you're going to therapy. So I think that that's, that's inspirational and helpful. I also think the players Tribune, which is an online out outlet does a really great job of helping athletes share their stories. So that's another place people can look to learn more about the triumphs, some athletes have had when working through their mental health concerns.
Oh, go ahead. Yeah, I wasn't aware of that. And we can put that website perhaps, in the show notes so that individuals can locate it really quickly. But so all in all, it's sounds like a pretty good thing that athlete mental health is becoming part of more popular discourse. And that although there may be some negative implications, or some ways that people see it and get discouraged that most people see it and feel encouraged and inspired to be able to talk about mental health needs. And as you say, maybe even speak out about seeing or having a counselor, which would be a long way from the traditional place of stigma that counseling has kind of been in so it would be a good turn of events to have it be trendy to go to counseling, certainly. Okay, talk us through, if you could just kind of like a an average type athlete client of yours, like what what could you what would you be doing? What would they be doing? Like what, what's kind of the inside of a session with an athlete? Well,
there are definite themes that I see within work with athletes. And like I said, Many will come talk to me based on performance issues. So they're not necessarily calling for counseling per se, but for performance enhancement, learning how to again, get in the zone on demand. And so a lot of that is career exploration, and really examining their athlete identity, what that means to them and their current life situations. And I talked to a lot of athletes who want to stop engaging in their sport for one reason or another. And so they think well, if I'm not an athlete, who am I? And what do I do next. So some some of the younger athletes are afraid that they might disappoint their parents or their coaches. And they're very aware of the amount of time and money that individuals have committed to help them get to the place where they are. So I think that's one thing, also overcoming the psychological impact of injury or surgeries, learning to trust their bodies again, and trust their strength. There's sometimes anxiety related to pressure to perform, and what if situations, what if I'm not good enough? What happens if I get cut from the team confidence related to their perceived failures, so I'll talk to people a lot about reconceptualizing, their idea of failure and think about it instead, as less ideal results in a in a situation. And to think about, we'll talk about what needs improvement and what they did well, this is paired with communication with coaches. So being really honest with your coaches, when you want to improve in certain skills, when you want more playing time, that can be difficult to have. And I think something else that pops up a lot is depression, related to the need to have public excellence. But then there's private anguish, which sometimes people feel like they, they others don't understand them. Sometimes financial concerns come up to
see seems like a lot of responsibility that athletes put on themselves for performance and for achievement, even as you mentioned at the beginning of that kind of list of themes, that idea that even when they meet you want to stop this the sense of, but so many people have contributed so much time and money to me being here, it would almost be a betrayal to them to people I love. If I stopped.
Yes, yeah. So I try to talk to them about, again, developmental transitions that we all experience, and talk to them about some of the successful transitions, current people in the limelight have made. So one of my favorite examples is Laila Ali. And she has created this amazing wellness empire, she had five fights in the ring, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, and she decided that she was done. And now she uses her platform to talk about healthy cooking and fitness. And it's just amazing. And then we look at other athletes who have turned their careers into broadcast careers, or they've developed other kinds of companies. They're invested in giving back to their communities. So regardless of the age of individuals who I'm talking with, I try to understand what they love in addition to their sports life. So you know, we we use the Magic Wand question if you had a magic wand and everything transitioned beautifully tomorrow, what can you see yourself doing?
Yes, yes. And also in that story, I hear you saying that there are things that they have learned through their sport, that can be tracked those skills can be translated to other careers that may or may not have anything to do with their sport, but that it's not wasted time or money that individuals put into them that they now have capabilities and both maybe soft and practical, practical skills that can be applied to something new. I can imagine that's really helpful to explicitly say that and identify that
exactly and identify the skills that they use. So their teamwork skills, as we all know, working with individuals in our work lives, it's so important to be able to understand how to get along with people. Your ship skills, commitment to goals, they have these beautiful transferable skills. And so it's it's also helping athletes realize that there there is life that can be enjoyed post sports.
Yes, yeah. Well, and I mean, I wasn't, I wasn't like a extreme athlete or anything, but I was a competitive gymnast in my early career and I can I was a very shy child, very, very shy and had some I like strabismus eye concerns and so the eye doctor surgeon recommended My mom put me in gymnastics when I was about three. And we were down in Texas where Karoly was. So we that was the gym closest to us was a gym there and so I happen to enter into not just any gym, but the gym of someone who was involved, you know, at an Olympic training level. So like Dominique Luciano was training there and I had no idea you know, as a young child, but long story short, I also reached that point that I decided I didn't want to do gymnastics anymore but I in those years I had done it had transformed from this very shy child that could hardly even say hi to a stranger to someone who was willing to perform in front of hundreds of people at really high stakes, competent, competitive events. And I never quite made the connection to that learning until I became, you know, started getting into teaching. And because I that shy part of me still there, right? I mean, it's kind of a temperament thing. So I would get very nervous about thinking about speaking and teaching in front, you know, to students, but then I could call upon that part of me that was scared and did it anyway, in my athletic life, and was successful in my athletic life and could call on that part of me then to get walk into a classroom of, you know, 75 students and, and facilitate a learning experience. So yeah, apps. I mean, that's, it's, I don't know that I had quite made that connection before until you share that example. But it really resonates that ability to learn certain skills that can then transfer to a whole different career, but really build internal resources, I think in a way that very few other experiences can you know, as you're developing athletics can be a really concrete way to develop some of those internal resources of ability and confidence.
Yeah, and now look at you hosting this amazing.
Yeah, and I think it's fair to say it was all because of gymnastics.
You know, that helps young children develop fine and gross motor skills, and then again, all this confidence that you're years later able to tune into?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so it's kind of neat to hear that and to know that that's a universal experience that transitioning from leaving an identity behind to another goal in life. Can it doesn't, it's not that you're completely leaving it behind, which I think is probably something that your clients like to hear for sure.
Yes, yes. And so just talking about going back to again, childhood and think about times when you really enjoyed your sport. So if you're, if I'm talking with a professional athlete, or college athlete or elite child athlete who's trying to decide if they want to end that competitive part of their sports career, we talk about the fact that just because you're not competing at that level anymore, doesn't mean that you have to abandon the world of sports, you can still engage recreationally and then by engaging recreationally, there's a different kind of enjoyment that comes with that with a decreased pressure.
Yeah, you might actually end up liking physical activity more when you're not on a rigorous training schedule or something in the like. Well, I know a lot of counselors do not have a master's degree in sports psychology and have as much expertise as you do. But just in their working in different settings. Part of the reason they might be seeing someone is that they're an athlete or are working around identity and athlete issues. What should an average counselor seek to know or the kind of basic competencies they should have to successfully work with athletes?
That's a great question. And just like any specialized population, working with athletes or exercises definitely requires to have cultural competence. So it's also important to note there are definitely subgroups within athlete groups. And our field of sports psychology is so fascinating because it's a multidisciplinary field. So we have colleagues who work in mental health, kinesiology, biomechanics, coaching, and the Association for Applied sport psychology has a certificate called certified mental performance consultants CNPC. And that includes coursework in mental health, like skills development, and group work, sports psychology, which could include the cultural and historical aspects of sports, kinesiology, so understanding how your body works, and supervised or mentored experience working with athletes or exercisers, and additionally, a certification exam. So if someone's not good able to do all of that, you definitely want to seek supervision from somebody who does have those expertise. And then maybe look at conferences or workshops or webinars that are specifically created to help people develop that competency to understand what it's like to work with athletes and with athletes concerns are. One thing, for example, includes ethical interactions as somebody working with athletes. So if an athlete asks you to come to a competition or to talk to their coaches or engage in some kind of a public event, it's important to know the boundaries and and what it could be in terms of risks and benefits of accepting some of those things that the athlete might want you to do. So they might want you to be on the field or in in the bleachers watching their engagement so that you can help them analyze what their psychological response might have been. I've had athletes asked me not to watch their, their competitions and not to watch their games on TV. So I definitely respect that. And so I think the ethical interactions is really, really an important aspect of working with athletes, understanding the development of the body and how we function in terms of kinesthetics. I think that's important too.
Yeah, you kind of have to know the language that they're going to be bringing in, I would guess, and definitely, and I get, I get what you're saying to thinking about it as, as a culture that has a lot of subcultures and not making assumptions, maybe based on your own experience or awareness. And then the importance of consulting when necessary with someone who has specific special credentials in specifically working with athletes that that would seem important. Um, okay, let's kind of switch gears again. And we're, you know, this podcast primarily goes out to counselors, and so counselors are listening. I know you do a lot of work around general wellness, not just athlete wellness, when counselors are thinking about their own wellness, what do you have to save there? Where do you want to contribute to that discussion? What was what should we be thinking? And why is it important to think about? So one of my
favorite workshops that I do is around counselor wellness, and developing our own wellness philosophy. And I think it's important for us to focus on this because it is an ethical obligation for us to be well, we cannot practice if we're impaired, we cannot practice if we're not to the best of our abilities, because it just couldn't really do damage to our clients. So I think it's important for us to understand, number one, what does wellness mean to us as individuals? How do we define wellness? What are our barriers to wellness? And how do we get over those barriers? So in some of my workshops, I talk about my specific recipe for wellness, and encouraging people to understand their ingredients. And the ingredients include work life balance, physical health, psychological calm, social connectedness, and spiritual awareness. And I developed this what I call recipe based on my work with mixed martial artists and really understanding and analyzing some of their responses to questionnaires about how they maintain wellness and how they maintain such a strong sense of community. So by understanding that, we will have different times where our workload is higher than other times. So for example, for us as professors, I know when I'm going to have a higher amount of grading papers or specific responsibilities that are more intense at certain times during my quarter. So I know that I have to take an extra special effort to be able to enhance wellness at that time. So I might wake up extra early to go to the gym, if I know I'm going to spend the whole day sitting and grading papers. And I am not an early bird, I actually wrote something called what I love and hate about early morning workouts. But I know that I can be more energetic if I do my workout in the morning and then relax, to have all those papers to grade. We talk about eating healthy and getting enough nutrients making good choices. We also have to be aware of individual differences and physical health. So some people have chronic medical issues that get in the way of living their lives the way that they want to. So it's really working maybe with your team of physicians and a counselor to understand how to engage in some kind of activity and wellness despite that chronic situation. I think when it comes to overcoming barriers to wellness, so a lot of people might identify time and money and other obligations as barriers, which are legit barriers. But if we can make a plan and say, here's where my ingredients are now, here's where I want them to be. Here are three things that I know interfere with that create a plan to say, Okay, if time is an issue, I am going to enroll in a group fitness class that I have to pay for and then I might force myself to go to it. So one of the gyms that I have attended before If you sign up for a class, again, you have to pay for that. And then if you don't show up, you could lose your privileges of going to that gym again. And you could also be charged for not showing up. So that's a financial incentive.
Yeah, that's pretty hardcore. Yeah,
yeah, something else I recommend is, again, just to be social with it. So I have two of my very dear counselor friends. And we would have once a month, a yoga date, and then do a nighttime yoga class, and have a healthy dinner. So that's just one way to encourage each other and hold each other accountable. But I really, really am passionate, definitely about the teaching people about the wellness of counselors.
Yes, I mean, it does seem so important beyond I mean, as you noted, from the very beginning, like it's an ethical mandate. So I mean, this is something that is interwoven in, in our fate, very basic, but inflexible, in that sense kind of standards as a counselor. But then, when I hear you talking about barriers, and overcoming barriers, and planning, it makes me just think about how intentional you do have to be in order to be successful, because most people's lives, especially when they're a counselor, and in a career and have have other life obligations. Wellness might not just happen, you know, in fact, not being well is probably what happens when you're not intentional about wellness. So it takes intention to think about, anticipate, plan. And really, meaningfully create a life that is interwoven with wellness.
Absolutely. And think about, you know, we make time to write up our clinical notes, we make time to write up treatment plans, we plan for that. So I encourage people to do the same thing for their wellness. And it's hard, it's difficult to stay on a schedule with your wellness and to encourage and motivate yourself to maintain a sense of physical fitness that's right for you. But it's also so important for us, especially I think about our students who are sitting studying for hours at a time, our colleagues in private practice who might see back to back clients throughout, you know, eight 910 hours a day, and how it's important for them to get up and just move their circulatory system get their blood flowing. Make sure they're breathing. Yeah, but basically, yeah, it takes a concentrated effort to be able to live a life of wellness.
Well, alright, we're kind of coming up on the end of the hour, I just want to ask you, if there's other things that you came to our time together that you were hoping to share that the conversation has made you think about that you would want to share around any or all of the topics we've covered today.
One thing I definitely want to leave listeners with is the idea that wellness can be a part of anybody's life, despite what barriers they face, may they be physical, psychological or something else. Our field is we are experts in helping people engage in wellness lifestyles. So I just really want people to know that there are resources out there. We want everybody obviously, in my fantasy world, everybody as well. Everybody is happy. Unfortunately, we know that's not the reality. So just to be kind to yourself Be kind to each other. And to be able to engage in some kind of activity that just helps you feel better each day.
Okay, so it doesn't have to be big and grandiose, it can be small but meaningful, intentional ways of going about our daily life. Yes. Well, if if someone was wanting to get in touch with you, or look you up, you know, what else do you have going on? And where where can people find you to get more information?
Definitely. I think one of the most exciting things that I've had going on the past couple of years is developing a cycling team for the Bank of America, Chicago marathon, and Bank of America shamrock shuffle. So that's just really encouraging people to learn about how they can train their mind just like they train their bodies. And I really like providing free resources to the public. So I developed a free workbook called Mind Over marathon. And that's available on my website, I have a free workbook called demystify mental health to help people understand the beginnings of their mental health journey. I blog for Psychology Today for counseling at Northwestern. And I also have a great for purchase workbook that's called competence. Five tips to build and maintain confidence for athletes.
Lots of resources then and the best place it sounds like to go to kind of learn about those is probably your personal professional website.
Yes, it's Dr. Michelle karula.com.
Okay. Well thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing so much about physical health, athlete mental health and then just generalized wellness for counselors. That was all really great information. And I appreciate you sharing it.
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me and be well.
The thoughtful counselor is Deza. Daniel, Raisa Miller, Aaron Smith, Jessica Taylor, Daisy, Diane Ananias. Really tough and me Megan's speciality. Find us online at the thoughtful counselor.com. Our funding is provided by Palo Alto University's Division of Continuing and Professional Studies. Learn more about them at Palo Alto u.edu forward slash concept. The views and opinions expressed on the thoughtful counselor are those of the individual authors and contributors and don't necessarily represent the views of other authors and contributors, nor of our sponsor, Palo Alto University. So if you have an idea for an episode, general feedback about the podcast, or just want to reach out to us, please drop us a line at the thoughtful firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for tuning in and we hope to hear from you soon.