Last year I met Jen Berlingo, a licensed counselor and art therapist, who introduced me to a brand new way of thinking about my self-care. It was one of those moments of ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’. The magic was that Jen hired me to help her create and launch a new course and in the end, the course ended up being exactly what I needed for my own self-care. Divine timing? Oh yes.

Here’s what I know: Women struggle with self-care.

Sure, we know better. But for a gazillion reasons (real and imagined) we don’t always do better. It can be especially difficult when healer/helper types are not walking their own talk. Not only do we feel out of integrity with what we advocate for our clients, but we’re also at risk to develop burnout, compassion fatigue, and depending on our profession, even vicarious trauma.

When it comes to self-care…

  • Maybe you come from a long line of martyrs and were taught to believe that self-care is selfish.
  • Maybe you believe that self care is essential but you don’t have the funds or the time to go on a lavish retreat.
  • Maybe you’re doing your best to eat well and move your body but you’re inconsistent at best.
  • Maybe there’s a shit ton of stuff unfolding in your life and business so self-care will just have to wait another day.

Regardless of where you might be on the self-care continuum, I’d love for you to start thinking about the concept of micro-self-care. What if instead of expensive gym memberships or lavish retreats you could learn how to infuse small, potent doses of self-care into each day?


In this interview, Jen Berlingo elaborates on the notion of ‘soul space’ and micro self-care. I hope it gives you delicious food for thought. (And don’t miss the contest at the end!)

Jac: Hi Jen! Tell us what you mean by micro-self-care?

Jen: Hi Jac! Thanks for the opportunity to share about this important topic. When I talk about self-care with my friends and colleagues who are helping and healing practitioners, it’s clear that most of us tend to think big when we think of self-care— with things like retreats, vacations, art classes, a regular exercise routine, adequate sleep, social outings, and massages topping the list. These are activities I like to call MACRO-self-care. Sure, all of them sound nourishing and important (and downright drool-worthy,) but the barrier to achieving them on the regular is that they require our time, money, and effort to plan, which are the very things therapists, coaches, and healers say they’re most lacking.

Macro-self-care is wonderful to look forward to, but falls into the #treatyoself category, so simply living a life where we’re counting down the days until they occur isn’t self-caring at all. Pushing through your workdays, giving your all to your clients only to restore when your feet hit the sand on your annual vacation, will not only take a toll on your well-being, but also directly impacts your effectiveness in helping others.

Here’s where I’m hoping to shift the self-care paradigm to help us recognize and practice micro-self-care, which I like to think of as rituals that are simple enough to slip effortlessly and realistically into your schedule, budget, and current energy level. It’s about establishing a rhythm that includes coming back home to yourself intentionally as part of your everyday activities, making it sustainable in that it isn’t a resource drain at all.

Jac: In your experience, what micro self-care techniques tend to have the most impact/value for women healers?

Jen: While the expression of each person’s self-care rituals are so unique and varied, in my experience working with other healing arts practitioners, I have noticed the essence of what’s most effective boils down to simplicity and playfulness.

For example, in the SoulSpace Series, I invite participants to sample activities that can be done in the time it takes to turn a doorknob to welcome a client or in one cycle of breath, and the feedback I get is that these are so doable that they stick and become an easy part of the daily rhythm.

While elaborate creative expression usually falls into the macro-self-care category, I’ve seen that bite-sized, fun, imaginative invitations are potent and sustainable. This sort of example includes exercises like picking an oracle card each day and reflecting upon its image or message; or after seeing a client, the practitioner intentionally choosing one art material (maybe a turquoise crayon) and making one simple, expressive mark on a dedicated paper (perhaps a faint circle) in order to exhale what you’ve inhaled during a session.

The trick is to go as deeply as possible while keeping it light.

Jac: Why do you think most of us avoid/ignore micro-self care?

Jen: My answer for this is twofold.

First, I think many of us are likely practicing a bit of micro-self-care already and are not naming it as such or doing it with regularity, thus it isn’t able to be fully received as continued nourishment that effectively prevents burnout.

Secondly (and perhaps most obviously,) we are helpers by nature, which can mean that even if our higher selves “know better,” we are conditioned to put our clients’ needs before our own. Self-care is touted as “selfish” in our culture, and when overtly practiced, is socially met with a “must be nice” attitude by others rather than celebrated. It’s easier to preach self-care to our clients than for us to practice our own; however, modeling this by walking your talk brings you more into your integrity and authenticity, with a beautiful side-effect of increasing your capacity for empathy, compassion, and inspiration in your work.

Jac: What’s your favourite micro-self care technique and why?

Jen: Ooooh, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Right now, I’m personally having a lot of fun with reconnnecting to the earth’s cycles as a way to normalize my longings (i.e.; Of course I feel like hibernating in my PJs and drinking tea all day – I’m an animal, and it’s wintertime!) and as a way to organize setting intentions (i.e.; Noticing the moon cycles and focusing on what I wish to manifest or begin on the new moon, and intentionally letting go of that which I don’t need when the moon is full.)

Along those lines, the next round of the SoulSpace Series begins on the new moon of February 8th — it’s a perfect time to start bringing awareness to our self-care practices.

Win a free spot in the next SoulSpace Series!

Because Jen & Jac care about YOUR self-care, we’re excited to offer you a chance to win a free spot in the next SoulSpace Series course!

To enter: Simply comment below and let us know what your flavour of helping/healing looks like (coach, psychologist, massage therapist, reiki master, yoga instructor etc) and share one self-care intention you have for 2016.

The winner will be chosen by random number on Wednesday, February 3th at [12pm Pacific] and notified via email, so please be sure to include your correct email address in your entry. Good luck! xo

UPDATE: The winner of the giveaway is Brenda Mailer. Congratulations Brenda!

The next SoulSpace Series begins Monday, February 8th. The course runs for six weeks, and each self-paced week contains experiential, enlightening, easy self-care rituals you can seamlessly integrate into your healing practice and your day.

Jen Berlingo is a transpersonal art psychotherapist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the creator and guide of the SoulSpace Series, an online program changing the way healing arts practitioners experience self-care. Jen is also a mom, an artist, an empath, a beachcomber, and a stargazer.

You Might Also Like


  1. I studied Reiki a few years back and worked right up to Reiki master in my learnings. I haven’t practiced that healing technique now for a over a year, and it is something I think about all the time, but seem to have a block up about practicing it again. My self care intention for 2016, would be to open this side of myself again and reconnecting.


    1. Hi Dawn! I’m also a Reiki master, and just as Reiki energy nourishes (rather than drains) the practitioner while it’s being offered to a client, my aim in SoulSpace was to elaborate on the idea that we can be nurtured throughout our day, even while (and maybe even most importantly while) we’re nurturing others.

  2. Beautiful message, thank you. I rarely take the time for macro-self care, but really taking in the opportunity for micro-self care seems doable. I’d love to learn more about this!
    I wear a few different hats…life coach, yoga instructor, and Chakradance facilitator, and this year has exploded with business. It’s fantastic, but self care is a priority. So far I have been focusing on keeping my personal yoga practice a priority and meditating on the feeling of love. I’m also trying to have fun with art or coloring on a regular basis.
    Thank you for sharing Jennifer and Jac! Making self care a priority for all of us is so welcgood med and needed. There’s no shame in taking care of your self. We have to put our mask on first, right!?

    1. Hi Brenda! Your work sounds fascinating. I’ve been studying the chakra system for years, so I’m intrigued to learn more about Chakradance!!! FUN! It sounds like SoulSpace would be a great fit for your intentions. I hope to meet you there!

    2. Hi Brenda!! I love how you’re weaving all of these interests and tools together in your work–what a unique experience for you and your clients. The chakradance sounds really cool! SO thrilled to hear how well things are going for you–keep up the brilliant work. xo

    3. CONGRATULATIONS, BRENDA! I’m thrilled to welcome you into SoulSpace! I hope others from this inspiring conversation here on Jac’s blog will join us, too!

  3. Executive coaching …and it really pushes me to the limit at times! I have an inspiring and challenging clientele because they are so driven and bright yet have the same human issues that challenge us all.

    1. Plus you’re a mama, Lisa–and we all know that adds an entirely different set of priorities! It’s a lot to manage a business and a little one and still take care of your own self-care. xox

  4. Love this – As a social worker and also a holistic nutritionist, I talk about self-care all the time… it’s nice to be reminded to “walk the talk!” In 2016, I intent to return to regular yoga practice and to travel somewhere new, even if I have to go by myself.

  5. Every single morning, I have a cup of coffee while reflecting and writing. Some mornings all I do is stare out the window, but some mornings I simply need to watch the moon dance next to the stars for awhile.

    1. Hi Donloree! I love that image of the moon dancing with the stars. Sounds dreamy and relaxing. Are you still working as a leadership coach? How are things? xo

  6. I’m a naturopathic doctor with a focus on supporting women as they transition into and journey through motherhood. Some of the challenge in consistent self care for my clients ~ they’ve become so immersed in caring for their children that they’ve lost touch with what’s truly nourishing to them. I love the micro-self care concept ~ it seems so doable ~ for me and for my clients! My intention for 2016 is to create more Flow in my everyday experience ~ so that I am allowing myself to receive as much as (or even more than!) I give.

    1. Hi Sarah! You were totally made for this work–I’m thrilled that this niche emerged for you a few years ago, followed by becoming a mama yourself. You lead with such authenticity and soul. Good luck! xox

    2. I’m so grateful for the important work you do at such a crucial transition. I also work with women during the shift into motherhood, and I know from my own experience as a mom and in working alongside other new moms, micro-self-care is sometimes all that is possible, and it makes a huge difference!

  7. I’m not in the healing/helping realm. I try to practice mindfulness in all I do. When I don’t, that’s when things get out of balance. To bring them back into balance, I plan a ‘nothingness’ day where I focus soul-ly on me……. =>¡<=

  8. I am an independent Health & wellness coach and also a live-in caregiver for my mom. Since I am almost always “working” on some level, my biggest challenge is allowing myself to simply have time to shut down. Since I work from home to prepare my power points and information for clients, and of course I work from home with everything I need to do for my mom, allowing myself to simply go to my room and flop on my couch is something I still struggle with. I am working on allowing myself time to do nothing! Sometimes doing nothing is the most restorative thing you can do… and so giving myelf space and permission for nothing time will be one of my intentions for 2016!

    1. Tracy, what a beautiful gift to give your mom. It’s clear that self-care is a must for you in order to sustain your roles as care-giver and coach and still thrive personally. Permission for “you-time” sounds incredibly loving. ox

  9. Beautiful post. I have always been curious about moon cycles and wanted to learn more, but as a solopreneur, I haven’t taken the time. Sigh. I am a leadership and life coach, corporate trainer and speaker. I do have a morning ritual that I do daily, however, it’s effects aren’t lasting like they used to. Perhaps it’s because I’m knee deep in a project or busy with biz or…My intention for 2016 is to flow – that is the word I’ve chosen for my business. I’m looking for ease and I think this course may be the gateway to it. Thank you both for the gorgeous work you share with the world!

  10. Yum! Deep tissue massages are one of my favorite monthly macro-self-care rituals. In the last week of SoulSpace, we touch on the importance of macro-self-care cycles, and how to implement weekly, monthly, seasonally, and annual touchstones.

  11. My most important self-care step isn’t so much about doing something (although truly, it does involve journalling.) Even adding tiny self-care tasks can be difficult in my experience, that need to DO one more thing, no matter how tiny, can feel daunting. What helps me is cultivating gratitude. Supporting my sense of abundance, perceiving my life experience as one that feeds me allows me to feel less depleted. The action would be that before I get out of bed, I write about what I am thankful for, even if it is briefly. My energy doubles immediately. What resources I have are more than I think.

    1. I’m so with you around the importance of cultivating gratitude, Kathi. What I loved about Jen’s course is how simple and yet potent the micro-self care practices can be. It all felt so easy to incorporate into my day, even in a single breath or in the moment it takes to turn a door knob.

      1. You’re SO right, Kathi. When self-care feels like another to-do, that defeats the purpose. I love the quote by Kelly McGonigal: “Think about how we can best support the most exhausted version of ourselves – and not count on an ideal version of ourselves to show up and save the day.”
        I really aim to honor the spirit of our realistic, everyday selves in SoulSpace, so that these simple moments can become ritual or habit, rather than new to-dos on your calendar. I hope to see you there!

    2. Sorry! Posted twice. I was confused; first time it said it was waiting moderation and I didn’t know what that meant. Ooops!

  12. You know how sometimes the Universe responds before you’ve really realized what you asked? Well lately I have been so overwhelmed with starting a business, taking care of my family, stressed about bills and relationships and XYZ that I have, as always, been getting to me later. The worst part is I feel like such a fraud… My target client group is non other than mothers of young children who experience burnout, anxiety, depression…. Funny not funny.
    I’m a holistic nutritionist by day… Worst client ever by night.

    1. Oh Alana, I SO hear you! I’ve been there, too. I really hope to see you in the SoulSpace Series, as it just might be a way you can infuse teeny restorative moments throughout your day without disrupting your schedule. Once they’re in place, you’ll actually have energy for that schedule and the important work you’re doing to help others.

  13. My “day job” is hunched behind a computer, up in my head. My flavour of helping/healing looks like bringing trauma-informed interoceptive practices (mindful movement and breathing) to women recovering from substance abuse and/or eating disorders, for which I need to be in my body 100%!

    One self-care intention I set for 2016 (it’s been ongoing for several years, and I’ve yet to “achieve” it) is sleeping on my back. My health care providers say I must do it, I’ve tried every suggestion that’s come my way (and continue to try each and every night!) and inevitably end up with the special pillows or whatever thrown off the bed, couch, floor, or whatever surface I am trying to make work and end up on my stomach and waking with severe pain in the neck and shoulders that lasts all day. Sigh.

    Thank you for the blog post. My intention is a macro-practice, for sure! I love the idea (and implementation) of micro-practices. 🙂

  14. My flavor of healing is blending various modalities together to help clients create change within themselves. I blend EFT Tapping with Hypnotherapy and various practices to facilitate my client’s releasing that which is blocking their blossoming. My intention for self-care is to be more creative. I’m working the creativity muscle (it’s atrophied ) 🙂 I’m intrigued by Jen’s course and art therapy. My favorite yoga position is Savasana. 🙂

  15. I love this concept of micro-self care!
    My flavour of healing (though I don’t usually think of it as such) as a garden designer is to create beautiful garden environments to my clients as places to relax, enjoy, look at and be in nature.

    One of my self care intentions this year is to declutter my home so that I my home will feel more peaceful and supportive.

    1. Hi Donna! One of my greatest joys is playing in the dirt in my garden, so I think you definitely do healing work! What a cool job–creative + nature. Wishing you lots of energy and focus as you work to declutter your home. ;o)

    2. Hi Donna. How grounding it is to garden and be with the earth in that way! Have you read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” yet? I’ve been in “konmari” mode over here for months because of that book!

    1. Hi Heather! I bet you’d love SoulSpace. I found that the rituals and exercises Jen shares in the course were very helpful in connecting me to my intuition and my body.

  16. What a great post – I just wrote something very similar on my blog but I called it “resilient self care” – resilient to busy schedules and competing priorities. As a busy mama of two I’m always searching for tiny little ways to fill my cup – a breath here, a really intentional sip of my (thrice-reheated) tea.
    In my non-mama life I’m a coach and doula. Both of these roles allow me to support and nurture women through transition in their lives – whether it’s becoming a mother, pursuing work they adore, or cultivating radical self-love. I’m also newly attuned to Reiki and I’m excited to share that with my self, family and clients. My tiny little act of self-care this year is to just take 15-20 minutes alone with my oracle decks and some deep breaths each afternoon when my hubby comes home from work. Flexing my intuition and quieting my mind like this helps me, my family, and my practice.

    1. Hey Jessie! I think you’d really dig Jen’s approach in Soulspace–we used oracle cards too! It was a fabulous experience. Wishing you a fabulous year ahead. xo

  17. Wellness coaching and helping high-achievers thrive through a Restorative lifestyle Instead of burn out like I did is my passion. My intention is to align with my word -of-the-year (sojourn) and live in the pause.

  18. Look I am so excited I hit the comment button thinking yeah yeah yeah I know what I have to answer and…Nope. *scrolls back up* I am using the title Wellness Consultant. My background is in sociology, psychology and social work and I pull from all of my experiences in all fields including what I learn from living when working with people. I am passionate about working with those who want take control and define their ideal future and follow through with the struggle that comes with creating positive change in their life. Right now my ideal micro self-care fix is reconnecting with nature, and being in NS, that often includes shovel dancing (I’m making it a thing). Pop on the earbuds, start to shovel and dance when the tunes demand it. May the highway drives have a chuckle at the 40 year old dancing in the snow with her shovel! Other times it is just going down to the water in our backyard, sitting and taking in the sun, air and nature. Rejuvenation is the goal.

Leave a comment.