Self-Care for Students with Drea Pryor | the nashville self-care series

the nashville self-care series | jessica mccoy counseling

The Nashville Self-Care Series hopes to give you some insight on how different women balance life, work, and relationships while trying to take care of themselves. Everyone does it differently because what works for you may not work for your friends. 

Drea Pryor, like many of the women in the self-care series, wears multiple "hats." She is a therapist, mom, Ph.D. student, and friend. Her self-care dialogue brings a lot of truth about self-care as well as sharing that she too is still trying to navigate self-care and writing a dissertation. So much of self-care is trial and error of what works and what doesn't. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?
So I get to the office super early. Not because I’m an overachiever or anything, mostly because I drop my kiddo off at school and head STRAIGHT into the office. I know if I go home there will be a small chance I’d come back. Also, there is something about sitting in the silence of the day that settles me in the place of humility. Kind of like my come to Jesus time. Once I am in the office, I typically start with breakfast. I am the epitome of the Snickers commercial that says “You’re just not you when you are hungry.” So I’ll have breakfast in a cup which is typically a green smoothie.
I like my client load to be around 4-5 clients per day. I try not to schedule more than 3 clients in a row because I find that I am just not a present if I go further. It’s like I’m sitting with you but I don’t hear you. So to my advantage as well as my client I like to break up my schedule a bit.
Due to the location of my office, get a ton of social time. Working with people that are “my people” is so comforting to me. Not only do I get to share in your life’s events and stories but if ever there is a day that I need connection or comfort, I know a close person is near. Oh and those days come often.

What are some daily, weekly, or annual/seasonal self-care practices that are beneficial to you? 
Daily: After a long day of “leaning in” presenting myself as an attachment figure and a secure base for my clients, I really like to “lean out” when I get home. I joke about it with family and friends but sometimes it’s helpful not to read anything to heavy, or watch any deep shows. I like to find a good series that has just the right amount of funny and depth that I can become involved in the character’s lives without being committed. Something about binge-watching just makes life fun. I don’t know if it’s a millennial thing or what. But knowing I can go home, snuggle on the couch and “lean out” for a while is rewarding. I also am trying to read more. I like to get into the Fictional stuff but as a therapist, it’s hard not to read things that I think will help me become a better clinician or help me understand my clients in some way. Another daily practice is intentionally washing my hands up to my elbows. A former supervisor of mine gave me this suggestion. She told me that after a long hard day of dealing with families who have been impacted by their loved one’s disease of addiction, she would intentionally wash her hands up to her elbows. Something about it helped her to disconnect and “wash the day away.”

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Weekly: We have a therapy dog in training. His name is Doc and he is the sweetest pet. His loyalty is 100% with his owner, but when she is not in earshot, I’d like to think he follows me wherever I go. I can’t say that I’ve ever had the opportunity to own a dog myself so the love of a pet is kind of new to me. He is the perfect napping companion. Super sweet and very forgiving!

Annual practices: I will go and sleep over at my friend’s house during the break. Even though she is a year younger than me, her house has really become like a Big Momma’s House. The kind of house everyone spends time at over the summers has Sunday dinners or just random holidays or birthday parties. It’s truly like everyone’s home.

Annual/Daily/whenever he lets me: I try to snuggle with my kiddo. Even if he’s watching Netflix, or if he is reading a story. I ask for snuggle time on the couch. Which typically consists of me sleeping under my favorite blanket and him sitting on top of my legs. Even though he is 8.5 and almost 4.5 feet tall, I promise he is never big enough for me to want snuggle time with him.

How have self-care practices impacted your life and work?
I am BIG on metaphors. One of the very first times I flew with my child, the flight attendant told me that in the event of an emergency, I was to put my mask on first and then assist my child. Initially, after hearing this I was in complete shock. I thought to myself “Who hires these people?! How could they utter such a thing?” But then the flight attendant went on to explain that if something were to happen to me, there would be no one available to assist my son. So when I think of self-care, I think of putting my mask on first. Helping myself so that I can help others. I am sure we have all heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup? Well, a colleague shared another phrase comes which was “you cannot sip from an empty cup”. Often times we talk about pouring from an empty cup, but that would imply that I am giving out to others, which I gladly do, but when I go to drink, I have nothing to restore myself. My self-care practices have been re-invented if you will. Initially thought I had to have a ton of money to take a vacation, or have weekly pedicures and then I looked at my bank account and thought again. But as I understood more, I learned that it isn’t about spending money as it is about spending intentional time! So, self-care looks like me taking a nap, or me not taking a phone call while I am trying to accomplish smaller tasks. 

What are some obstacles in this season of life that make self-care a challenge?
Ugh! I am a 2 on the Enneagram. Also known as the Helper. It is SUPER hard for me to know what I need. Typically, when I do, it’s because I’ve gotten to the end of my rope and I am just plain exhausted. In addition, working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. There is a fine balance between pushing through until I am done and knowing when enough is enough. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across a book or an article that tells me how to do either so I am working on it.

It is all about getting up and moving this year, not becoming the next Ninja Warrior! Drea Pryor | nashville self-care series

Are there any practices of self-care that you are implementing in 2018?
Oh yes! Walking more! My friends and I all have fit-bits and we have weekly challenges. I haven’t won many but I am encouraged to keep going and keep trying. It is all about getting up and moving this year, not becoming the next Ninja Warrior!

How does your industry/field practice or promote self-care?
I think we are very careful about caring for one another but also teaching one another to learn to care for ourselves. Sometimes in this field, we think we’ve got to work hard, show up when we don’t feel like it and work until after we are tired. I don’t think that’s the way to live. I don’t think we can teach our clients about good boundaries and self-care if we are not learning it ourselves.

How would your industry/field look different if self-care was a core value?
OH man! We would have a float tank in every office! Or we would really begin to implement self-care as part of our job description. One of the things we learn in grad school is about self-care and we are provided with a brief overview of what it looks like. But in my opinion, you don’t know you need self-care until you need it. You don’t know that you are on the edge of a burn out unless you’ve been burnt out before. Maybe we can be more preventative in the way we talk about self-care but I think the example would start with us.

Are there any books/movies/songs that are currently life-giving for you? 
I am reading A Man Called Ove.  It has been a long time since I’ve read a fictional book because I am always reading for class or for my clients. But this one is intriguing because I feel Ove has a very peculiar way of life and I like the idea of following him through it.
Books: The Shack! See the movie, and read the book. What a book about one man’s journey to self, the world and God. It is so moving yet humbling. It makes spirituality tangible.
Attachment-Focused EMDR by Laurel Parnell. Everyone who knows me knows that this is like my therapy BIBLE. I really like the way that Parnell approaches EMDR through an attachment lens. I keep one in every office I am in.
Song: Weightless by Marconi Union. That song is so good I downloaded it on iTunes just to play for myself.
Deep Focus station on Spotify. I am getting into more of the meditative music that allows me to slow down and reconnect with myself.
Ledisi: Bravo! I play this song after each and every hard trial. She speaks of giving yourself encouragement for making it through the challenge. Bravo!
Musiq Soulchild: Seriously, something about his music gets me motivated to write and get work done.
Movies: Moana! I can sing that all day long. I can watch it all day long as well. It reminds me so much of the culture I was raised back home in San Francisco. It also speaks to bravery beyond measure.
Black Panther: This movie just came out but it gives me so much life. I don’t typically follow the Marvel stories in order but I am a fan of the work that they do to produce such films. I recently saw the movie and kept calling it Wakanda! It was such a wonderful film full of culture and color. I left inspired.
Coco! Can you see that I am on a trend with culture here? I really was moved by Coco
especially after the passing of my brother and father in less than a year. For me, this
movie was a way for my brother to reach out and let me know that he is always with me
and that he will never leave my side. I just have to do my part in remembering him and sharing his legacy with others. 

Drea Pryor's story: I am at Trevecca pursuing my Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling Teaching and Supervision. It is my desire to one day teach outside the walls of a classroom. I hope to bring healing to a broader level. I am trained in EFT and Attachment-Focused EMDR. I often integrate the two in my work with individuals and couples. I have a part-time private practice where I help clients heal their relational trauma wounds. I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA and moved to Tennessee to attend Fisk Universtiy. I really love chocolate cake. It's a strange thing, but I seriously love it. Even though I am an EXTREME extrovert, I really enjoy my quiet time to "sit and look". I don't get to do it as often as I like but when I can, I try to cherish it. I've got an 8.5-year-old son who thinks he's a 7 on the Enneagram because "he's a charmer" and since he has lived his entire life with me in school I've promised him a trip to Disney Land & Sea a graduation gift from me to him. I can say he is truly a charmer but he is really the greatest gift I could have ever received.

Thanks again to Drea for sharing her experiences on self-care. If you are looking to add counseling into your self-care routine or are wondering if counseling would be beneficial, contact Jessica by filling out this form. 

Self-Care for Teachers with Elizabeth Brewer McAnally | the nashville self-care series

the nashville self-care series | jessica mccoy counseling

A few years ago, I wrote a blog called "Self-Care for Teachers" as a part of my Self-Care Saturday series. Since then it has been consistently the most read page on my website. Teachers are seeking resources to take care of themselves so they can re-enter the classroom day after day and teach dozens of students. Personally, I want to say a quick thank you to all the teacher who read this blog. I am grateful for the work you do. You are changing the world. 

The Nashville Self-Care Series is the conversation that I wanted to have with successful Nashville women because I wanted to know how are you taking care of yourself while you balance work, relationships, and everyday stressors. Elizabeth Brewer McAnally is one of the women that I have been having these types of conversations with for over twenty years. She works hard in the classroom all day and continuously looks for new and better ways to support her students. I am excited to share her self-care stories. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?
The day starts mostly in the dark with the alarm at 4:45 and then in increments of 15 minutes until I can crawl out of bed. I’m a morning person, but even that early every day is brutal. I like to get to work (across town) around 6:15ish because doors open at 6:45 and it’s mostly a slog from there. I have taught for the past nine years in an “urban” public school that serves one of the most diverse populations in the state. I teach leadership classes and college-prep classes and this year had the great misfortune to be also saddled with the yearbook. I teach six different classes with individual curriculum for each. I have students all day, 1 to 2 meetings, and then I usually stay after school to work with kids for Student Government activities. While I have always loved my job, it’s exhausting. You prep for several different 75-minute classes and then it starts all over again the next day. Then there’s the grading, the wiping down of desks, grading, meetings, grading, and then if there is any time left in the day, more grading. Without launching into my personal philosophy of teaching, I can say that days are busy (which I like). Every day is a combination of frustrating situations, hectic transitions, laughing with the students and making jokes, consoling someone having a bad day, and trying to remember to eat something.

Every day is a combination of frustrating situations, hectic transitions, laughing with the students and making jokes, consoling someone having a bad day, and trying to remember to eat something. | the nashville self-care series

What are some daily, weekly, or annual/seasonal self-care practices that are beneficial to you? 
Daily: if I don’t have to work super late, I come home and rest for about two episodes of something calming. The trade-off with starting work so early is that we end early, and I get to come home and have a few hours to myself before my husband comes home. As anyone who “talks” for a living (all day, every day), I just want to come home and be quiet for a little while. I don’t even mind household chores as long as I can do them quietly! I need a few hours and then I’m ready to converse with Scott by the time he gets home. Also, I married someone recently who makes me laugh every day. I guess I have been missing out on the social interactions after work since I lived by myself for four years, but marrying someone as hilarious as Scott and laughing together every day has been so nice! Oh yes, and I eat the same things every day. I need the routine. So the students make fun of me because I eat the same things, every day, at the same time of day. A routine is a form a self-care that provides a lot of mental stability and control. All teachers love control!

Random self-care practices: I am a big fan of shopping (teacher budget: clearance aisle, of course) and eating. I use to come home to a glass of wine but now just limit myself to the weekends for the fruit of the vine. I have practiced yoga on and off for several years and desperately miss a regular practice (hope to find a place close to home to practice). I really enjoy cooking- especially baking while listening to a good murder podcast (eek! Only on sunny days because I get freaked out very easily). I may be just rambling on things that bring me pleasure, but these are all things I’m able to do that soothe me. And I can do most of them by myself! Am I turning into an introvert?!

Self-care is essential to being able to show up the next day and give more of yourself. There is a lot of “pouring out of yourself” and it is up to you and only you to fill yourself back up. | the nashville self-care series

How have self-care practices impacted your life and work?
My job is demanding. I encounter so many sad things on a day to day basis. Some of my students have been through more traumatic experiences in their 16 years than many will go through in a lifetime. If you can imagine a job where in a single day you might want to cry, laugh out loud, throw heavy objects across the room, hug everyone, and then sneak out the back door early, that is teaching. So I MUST have self-care practices that are healthy. Self-care is essential to being able to show up the next day and give more of yourself. There is a lot of “pouring out of yourself” and it is up to you and only you to fill yourself back up. Just this past Thursday I took a “mental health day.” I slept in, drank coffee from a mug (instead of a travel mug) and made breakfast, took my time getting ready (in the daylight) and was able to get caught up on emails and ahead on some work from the comfort of my own home. It is sad when you have to take a day off from work to get caught up on work from home.

What are some obstacles in this season of life that make self-care a challenge?
It is definitely a challenge to adjust to a new life style. Getting married and moving across town has definitely upset my old routines. And I am a definitely a routine person, and I’m in the middle of moving everything over to the west side (finding a yoga place, finding instructors you like, etc). I married an extremely social person, and he could be busy on Saturdays all day from waking up till midnight. I, on the other hand, have to take social breaks and have down time on the weekends.

Are there any practices of self-care that you are implementing in 2018?
First thing I’m trying is “saying no” to extra assignments or requests at work. I’ve said “yes” to so much and it has opened up amazing opportunities, introduced me to some wonderful people, and pushed me to grow in many ways I never would have if I had stayed in my classroom. But now I want to refocus my work time on my classroom and my students. So I am learning to say “thanks for thinking of me, but no thanks!” It’s hard because I want to please people, take leadership roles, and be “in the mix” as much as I can. Learning to say “no” more will hopefully keep me less stressed. I have also been reading books on meditation, and I want to start a practice.

***I use to be the teacher who organized group outings for teachers after-hours. Think “happy hour drinks” which occasionally turned into dinner but always morphed into a time to complain and voice our frustrations with every aspect of teaching (from minor student misbehaviors to larger scale “Why does society disrespect educators these days?” topics). While commiserating with some of my favorite people who were “in the trenches” with me use to feel cathartic and helpful, I’ve come to realize over the past year or two that the negativity infused in these conversations did nothing to help with the actual problems. It made things worse! I started to notice that younger teachers were growing so disillusioned with education they were considering leaving the profession—and my comments may have encouraged this! It is very hard not to complain and commiserate with my coworkers, but in the name of “self-care,” I have been finding myself bowing out of after-hours sessions.

How does your industry/field practice or promote self-care?
Metro Nashville Public Schools opened up a fancy gym near my school at district headquarters- unfortunately our school is one of the closest schools to the gym (very lucky!). Many teachers would have to drive 45 minutes to an hour just to attend the free gym, but I appreciate the gesture. They offer free exercise classes, yoga/Pilates, strength training and more. I’ve been several times and while it is small, it’s clean and new AND spouses can use the gym as well. At Glencliff specifically there are more initiatives to give teachers a place to de-stress, talk about issues that are troubling them, and just get out of their classroom. We have a wonderful support staff who regularly schedules after-school work out sessions in the weight room for teachers only and yoga practices as well. I have seen the administration take more seriously teacher mental health and attempt to listen more and build more of a culture of appreciation for us.

How would your industry/field look different if self-care was a core value?
People outside of education love to point out that teachers have no reason to complain since we have summers off and so much time off in the school year. Those in education know that time is so crucial to restorative self-care. I probably should not use this place to launch into my opinions on how society perceives teachers and how we are held solely accountable for student achievement while parents and students are no longer asked to share in the responsibility. But I will say that treating teachers with more respect, taking the position seriously by paying teachers a higher salary, and trusting us to do our jobs would significantly change education. In terms of “self-care as a core value,” the education field needs to invest in professional developments that encourages teachers to find healthy ways to de-stress. This could take the form of de-escalation training (teaching educators how to de-escalate a potentially volatile situation) as well as providing a time and space for teachers to de-stress in healthy, productive ways. It sounds crazy, but this past year during final exams, our FFA teacher brought baby chicks inside for teachers to visit with (cheap pet therapy). If the powers that be in education put an emphasis on teacher “self-care,” then the classrooms might be more inviting to students.

Are there any books/movies/songs that are currently life-giving for you? 
I’ve been on a mediation kick. Jon Kabat Zinn’s books and Dan Harris have currently been on my audiobook list. Also, this may not count but my girlfriends from college have all been on a Facebook message thread for over ten years where we keep up with each other. That continues to be a huge life-giving force for me through the years. You’ll never have any friendships like your girlfriends from college.

Elizabeth Brewer McAnally – born in Knoxville, TN, Lipscomb University graduate by way of Knox County Public Schools. Full-time educator, part-time and unofficial counselor, event coordinator, janitor, IT specialist, life coach, mediator, fund-raiser, and field trip coordinator. Mrs. Brewer McAnally has taught at Glencliff High school for nine years devoting the first five to History and Government and the past four to College Prep and Leadership classes. She considers it a huge honor to be able to work with some of Metro Nashville Public School’s finest young people.

If you are wanting to add counseling into your self-care routine, contact Jessica at 615-979-4168 or by filling out this form. If you want more on self-care, check out the blogs below. 

Self-Care for the Theological Community | the nashville self-care series

the nashville self-care series | women's counseling

The Nashville Self-Care Series hopes to inspire women to be open to holistic ways of caring for themselves. Each of these self-care dialogues is with incredible women who may represent one career path but are a combination of employee, sister, mother, friend, and partner. When I was working with Mallory on this piece, I asked her "what should I call you because you do so many things?" And I believe that question connects with a lot of women who wear many "hats" professionally and personally. Dr. Mallory Wyckoff is a Spiritual Director, professor, writer and mother.  I am excited to share Mallory's wisdom on both her personal self-care practices and her spiritual reflections on self-care. 

self-care and spirituality with Dr. Mallory Wyckoff | the nashville self-care series

What does a typical workday look like for you?
Having a 16-month-old and doing a significant portion of my work from home means that my days are seldom as structured as I’d like them to be, and each day varies. This has been a really difficult adjustment, so I’m continually trying to find and establish rhythms of rest and productivity that work well for me and for my family.

What are some daily, weekly, or annual/seasonal self-care practices that are beneficial to you?
One of the most important self-care practices I’m committed to is caring for my physical body, through exercise 4x a week and eating food that brings my body (and the planet) life. This practice just seems to set the tone for all the others, as it reminds me of so much: that my body is good and sacred; that I cannot live in my head but am an embodied human being; that the decisions I make towards health allow not only me but the creation around me to flourish; etc. Beyond this, my given season in life as a work-from-and-stay-at-home mom makes routine self-care practices difficult. Some days I mourn this, but most days I try to be open to any simple practice that allows me to be kind to myself and to live fully and presently. This might mean spending a few minutes in quiet meditation while I stretch after a workout, or it might mean lighting a candle from Anthropologie that smells impossibly good, or it might mean buying the freshest ingredients I can find and making a good meal for my family, or it might mean playing calming music that helps me breathe deeply and resist the urge towards anxiety.

After having my daughter I realized early on that it would be impossible to have a perfect schedule (because babies change every week and as soon as you set a schedule they manage to disrupt it), but I felt confident we could find a rhythm, a general orienting flow to the day. This is also true of my self-care practices. It is difficult (impossible perhaps?) to have a set of practices that are static and certain right now because one blowout diaper can quickly disrupt every best-laid plan. But what I can do is operate from a deeply rooted theology of human dignity, knowing that my entire person—body, mind, spirit—matters, that I am worthy of receiving kindness—even and especially kindness that I extend to myself—and that being a grateful recipient of kind acts opens me up to offer them to others in my work and service in the world. Starting from this point helps me aware to wherever, whenever, and however I am being extended that sort of kindness, that opportunity to be fully present in a moment and see the enormous sacredness of the whole thing.

Self-care speaks to and from my truest self, reminding me that I can rest, and I can receive good gifts, and I can be cared for, and I can be loved—independent of what or how much I can produce and accomplish. This is a liberating message. - dr. mallory wyckoff

How have self-care practices impacted your life and work?
I am, in some ways, a machine. I have an absurd capability to produce, to perform, to achieve, and to do it all as efficiently as possible. It is the mechanism I’ve developed to interface with the world and to survive, and in some ways it has served me well. But in other ways, I spin my wheels so hard and fast that I’m hundreds of miles down the road before realizing that I’m out of steam and breaking down. Self-care practices speak truth to me about my truest self, that beyond all that I can accomplish or achieve or produce—even and especially the “good” things—who I truly am is a child of God, and a human being made in God’s image. I do not need to push myself to the furthest limits of my abilities. I do not need to be efficient in all things. I do not have to serve everyone in every way possible. These are all parts of my false self, rearing its rather ugly head. Self-care speaks to and from my truest self, reminding me that I can rest, and I can receive good gifts, and I can be cared for, and I can be loved—independent of what or how much I can produce and accomplish. This is a liberating message. And when I choose to hear and imbibe that message, I also stop demanding that others produce and accomplish and keep my same frenzied pace. I instead allow them to be beloved image bearers of God, worthy of being seen and cared for and loved.

Are there any practices of self-care that you are implementing in 2018? Why?
I want to be more connected to other humans. I am a task-oriented person, and if I’m honest with myself, I sometimes see people as obstacles to my accomplishing those tasks. But when a friend invites me to have tea or to go out for drinks, I want to say yes and to say it fully and not see it as keeping me from my very real and demanding stack of to-do items. I want to initiate this more, and to receive others’ invitations with gratitude.

How does your industry/field practice or promote self-care?
My training and work are in the field of theology, and in many ways the Western church has adopted really bad theology about the body, speaking of it solely or mostly in pejorative terms and relegating it to a status inferior to things of the spirit. But true, good, biblical theology honors the body, honors creation, and holds all these as sacred. So, when we are at our best, we theologians not only speak of the sacredness of all of creation but we live from and into that reality in the ways we care for ourselves, for others, and for all of creation. When we are at our worst, we speak and live in ways that drive further the perceived disconnect between sacred and secular, body and spirit. Sometimes, good self-care can be part of what helps us navigate how to hold together those pieces that never were meant to be separated.

Are there any books/movies/songs that are currently life-giving for you?

Here are things that are currently bringing me life, all for various reasons which share one common thing: they orient me to the present and help me live more fully as a human being. 

Mallory Wyckoff (DMin, MTS) lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Olive, in Nashville, TN, despite her sincere dislike of country music and Southern food. Mallory is a spiritual director and seeks to create safe spaces wherein people can explore more fully the mystery of the Divine and who they are as image-bearers of God. She also teaches in the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb University, and works in the DMin department supporting students in their doctoral research.

If you are looking to add counseling into your routine and rhythm, then contact Jessica at 615-979-4168 or by filling out this form. If you want more information on self-care check out these resources.