I was overwhelmed! All the 'hats' we wear...

I will never forget a supervision session I experienced whilst in the middle of my counselling training. I sat in front of my supervisor and I must admit I was exhausted. At the time I was juggling a lot. I was a trainee counsellor, volunteer, working part-time and a mum to two young kids as well as being married and wanting to have some form of social life. I was feeling really overwhelmed and questioning why I had decided to train to become a therapist at this stage of my life while I already had so much on my plate.


I explained to my supervisor that it felt like I had so many different hats to wear - that I would switch between the mummy, employee, counsellor, and volunteer hats, sometimes all within the space of one day, and I felt like giving up, or at least figuring out how I could wear a couple at a time to make it easier, or even get rid of one entirely!

As we processed how I was feeling my supervisor challenged me. Going along with my analogy, she reminded me that it was impossible to wear two hats at the same time, or maybe you could but it wouldn’t work. We talked about how hats all serve a purpose. A baseball cap would keep the sun out of your eyes on a sunny day, a big straw hat might keep you cool on a day at the beach or by the pool, a big woolly hat keeps you warm on a cold day...you get the idea. 

The point was that each hat serves a purpose, that we can only wear one at a time and, when you are wearing it, then it’s doing its job and fulfilling its role and that’s OK.

We then went to discuss the following:

Where was my ‘self-care’ hat?

My supervisor helped me to realise that, in between all of the roles I was juggling, there was a noticeable absence of a hat for my own self-care. She challenged me to look at the ‘taking care of myself’ role and treat it as seriously as my ‘student’ or ‘mummy’ hat. I began to literally schedule in time for myself. No really, it had a colour allocated to it on my google calendar! But there was something about valuing a designated ‘hat’ to myself that made all the difference.

80% was enough

As a recovering perfectionist, I was constantly battling the urge to give 110% to everything in my life, if I wasn’t being the most amazing and incredible mum in the world or that employee at work that was going above and beyond then, in my mind, it wasn’t enough and I was failing. With time, and through my own personal counselling, I came to understand why I felt this way and began to let go of the need to be giving so much of myself to every role - no wonder I was feeling burnt out! I came to the conclusion that each time I put on that new ‘hat’, 80% was enough; that by thinking in this way it gave me that 20% breathing room, to not strive so much, to still give my best effort but practice some self-compassion in the process.         

It was temporary

I realised that the place I was in was for the short term, that I wouldn’t feel this way forever. Eventually, I would qualify as a counsellor and would be able to remove one of those ‘hats’, this gave me perspective and helped me to not feel so overwhelmed.

I wonder if you are feeling like I did? I want to encourage you to look at the hats you wear. Are any optional or temporary? Do you have a ‘self-care hat’ and if so what does that look like and where is that buffer, that 20% you need to feel like you are not drowning?

I hope that, like me, with time you will feel less overwhelmed, that the hats will start to feel a little less heavy and that you may even start to enjoy wearing them!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY
Written by Amy Fokkens, Dip.Couns. MBACP Therapeutic Counsellor
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY

Amy is a Therapeutic Counsellor and registered member of the BACP with a passion for helping those with low self esteem and anxiety. She has experience of working with the charity 'Mind' and a local refuge for women who have survived domestic abuse. Her practice is called 'Crown Counselling' and she is based in Newport Pagnell near Milton Keynes.

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