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-growth. Divine wisdom? Of course it was.
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.
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