How I Learned to Leave Work at Work [A Life Shaping Conversation]

Welcome to our series: “Conversations that shape our lives” – by Heidi Behr, LCSW, MSW, MPH, CAP.In this series, Heidi will be sharing stories that shape our lives in often surprising ways.  

These stories will be from her own life – and others.

If you want to apply to share a conversation which shaped your life, please contact us by clicking here. We will review your conversation and contact you within 2 weeks if you’re eligible for this series.

This is a story about how I learned to leave work at work – thanks to a life changing conversation with a stranger.

When I was 23 years old I blazed through a stop sign, crying.

I had just come back from my job counseling troubled teens who were held at the juvenile detention center (JDC). With this in mind, I was very worried about a boy there who was on suicide watch. I was sobbing, while driving, lost in my thoughts.  Basically, I was thinking about how “suicide watch” meant the teen was placed alone in a room, being checked on every 15 minutes…. which gave him plenty of time to harm himself if he wished.

I was so consumed with worry and fear that I didn’t see the stop sign.

The cop’s siren and lights snapped me out of my nightmarish thoughts.

The next thing I knew the cop was standing by my car motioning me to roll down my window.

I was nervous about being pulled over.

I was already feeling over-wrought with fear and sorrow, thinking this kid was gonna die.

Now this too?

I worried the cop thought I was oblivious and careless since I missed the stop sign.

But in truth I was highly aware and thoughtful – but not on the road ahead of me – but the boy I left behind.

Now the sound of knuckles rapping loudly on the window added to my overwhelming distress.

The cop looked at me sternly, and motioned me to roll down my window. Winter Park police were not known for their friendliness or kindness.

“What is going on young lady?” he asked.

Although I was crying uncontrollably, I managed to follow his directions.

Tearfully I told him about my worries.

Quite simply, I could not leave my work at work.

I blubbered about how I had just left a teen at the JDC who was on suicide watch.

And I tried to convey my fears about the teen potentially killing himself.

Plus I explained how there had been another teen who had committed suicide in a neighboring town-  just weeks before – while on suicide watch at a different lockdown facility.

I had no idea what the officer would say next.

Would he yell at me further?  Prohibit me from driving under the influence of tears? Give me a ticket and call my boss or my parents to say I was a wreck?

Instead the officer shared some sage wisdom.

How I learned to leave work at work…

The officer said, “Young lady, you and I are in professions where we cannot take our work home with us. You must find a way to leave work at work. You have to find a practice, a way to separate yourself from what happens at work, so you can be safe and OK when you go home.”

My crying slowed. I was able to regain control of my breathing.

I replied, “Yes sir.”

The officer then told me he was not going to give me a ticket. He wished me well and drove off.

That conversation was just a few minutes long and happened 30 years ago – yet I remember it clearly – as well as the exact stop sign I sped through.

That conversation was an instrumental teaching tool.

Learning to Leave Work at WorkThat officer helped me to wake up. I began to learn to cultivate spiritual practices which would enable me to make peace with whatever challenges and worries (or worse) might befall my clients, my loved ones or me.

I started to develop self-care practices that became instrumental to my well-being – so I could also still be of benefit to others.

In fact maintaining inner peace is the number one most important aspect of my practice. I named my business FeelPeaceNOW because I became passionate about teaching others how to FeelPeaceNow with themselves, with others and with the world.

Now when I have a client I am worried about, I don’t sob and speed through stops signs.

Instead, I practice a mindful breathing ritual which helps me to stay calm and centered.

I also practice this conscious breathing throughout the day  – which helps me stay aware of how to be of best service to clients.  

I’m also able to better serve my clients because I mentally and spiritually prepare myself each morning to be in vibrational alignment with my Higher Power so I am not doing this work alone.

I am grateful to that police officer who pulled me over that day. He saw me as more than a blubbering young newbie-counselor. He saw my heart and knew I wanted to be my best, not only at work, but in my life.

His brief, succinct, heart-felt conversation with me truly helped to shape my life.

heidi behrABOUT THE AUTHOR: HeidiBehr is a Psychological and Spiritual Well-Being Expert, Self-empowerment Author, Licensed Therapist, Speaker, Workshop & Retreat leader, EFT-Tapping Expert, Yoga and Happiness Practitioner (and she also makes killer guacamole!).

Heidi is also an artist who makes her own inspirational share-graphics each day. You can find her online at FeelPeaceNow.com,

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