Self-care for helpers, healers, and caregivers

Helpers, healers, and caregivers: I want to support you so you can continue doing what you do so well. Being a helper/healer/caregiver might be your passion or calling. It could be so fulfilling in so many ways AND still be hard. Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that it has to be either/or. The truth is that it’s often both. We don’t want to de-sensitize ourselves from feeling stress or becoming emotional about our clients/children and their issues. That wouldn’t make us human. There’s no shame in being affected by the people we support. Many helpers, healers, and caregivers are highly sensitive and intuitive people who by the nature of their gifts in working with people are also taxed by them as well.

In order to do our life’s work, we need to take care of ourselves. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way. I used to gloat about my high tolerance for pain (both physical and emotional) and it wasn’t until I said this to a functional medicine doctor that I realized this wasn’t a good thing. A lot of the time, I don’t respond to stress in obvious ways like getting a cold, having headaches, racing thoughts, rapid heart-rate, etc. By the time I picked up on the fact that I was indeed very stressed, I was diagnosed with stage 3 adrenal fatigue. Ouch. Over the years, I’ve made my health a priority and re-sensitized myself in listening to my body’s stress cues so I can take care of myself before it becomes taxing on my body and psyche. It’s like what they say about dehydration: by the time you actually feel thirsty, you’re probably very dehydrated already.

I’ve created this open studio group for you in mind helpers, healers, and caregivers. Think of it as self-care, and outlet to process, and a gift to yourself in letting someone else hold space for you. Before you get to the point of feeling like you need to throw in the towel or make a career change, consider making your well-being a priority by tapping into your creative and intuitive self. As with all things art therapy related, you do not need to be an artist or have made art in the past 10 years to benefit from making art. All that’s required is a sense of wonder and curiosity at what might show up.

Self-care ritual for travel

In July 2012 I spent three weeks in India taking a social and cultural diversity course as part of my grad school program. Aka, a real-life, in the weeds learning about what it means to do this work, what my role is as a healer, and being in a space of learning and asking rather than telling and knowing.  The trip was obviously very eye-opening as I looked at the immense privilege in my life, growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with my weekly tennis and piano lessons. In addition to the profound emotional and philosophical response to the trip, my senses were on overload! Anyone who has been to India knows how rich (and awful, and amazing) the sensory experience is. Luckily for me, it was on this trip that I learned an art therapy ritual that I use every time I travel, especially internationally.

The prompt is to make a piece of artwork to express how you’re feeling and/or what you experienced during the day. Then, either before or after making artwork, you journal about the same thing. I recommend using watercolors for the art, as the fluidity of the medium has a quality of letting go of structure and control, which are very important reminders while traveling. Watercolors are also more accessible for expressing emotions, versus something like pens or markers. Logistically, I recommend either watercolor postcards or a watercolor book and a travel watercolor set like this or like this.

March 10, 2015 – I wrote about feeling the conflict between religions at this historic and beautiful sight in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.
Over the years, I have found that doing this art therapy ritual helps me process my experiences of being in a new culture and out of my comfort zone. It has helped me cope with home sickness and traveling woes. In the midst of feeling like an outsider and out of regularity, having something consistent to come back to every day is both grounding and comforting. And, these art pieces are the most precious souvenirs that money could never buy.

I’m back!

After 7 months at home with my daughter, I am so excited to open my private practice back up! Since last fall, I’ve been on extended maternity leave to spend my days in the up and down world of being a new parent. For those of you who’ve been there, you know how life-changing (and hard) this is. From the sleep deprivation to breastfeeding woes to the constant need to be ON, it’s just hard. At this point, I am happy to say I have crossed the threshold that experienced parents told me about: that it gets easier. And since things have gotten easier, I have been able to spend my time nourishing myself, and brainstorming and dreaming up how I want my practice to grow and evolve.

One of those ways is a group art therapy series on Healing from birth trauma (you can read more about it below). Working with parents in the perinatal and postpartum sphere is something I feel committed and called to do, especially after going through my own experience. I’ll be taking a certificate course in July to increase my awareness of the issues that come up during pregnancy and beyond. Asheville is a wonderful place to raise a family and I am excited to be among the many offerings to support families.

Happy art-making and hope to see you soon!

Using art to bypass our blocks

One of the many benefits of art therapy is that it serves as a bypass for the thoughts that keep us stuck in our patterns. Have you ever talked your way into convincing yourself you’re right? Or analyzed a situation to death and still feel unsure what to do? The mind is very powerful and especially in our culture many of us tend to think our way through life instead of feeling.

When I say art bypasses thoughts I’m referring to the emotional and unconscious material that comes up when we create. So many times I’ve made art and been so surprised at what I’ve created as it’s not something I would have consciously made. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been so sure about something and then processed more deeply in art only to find a deeper truth. Art is known for using the right side of the brain where intuition, creativity, and emotion live. While it’s more complicated than that, art uses a different part of the brain than we normally function with in our daily lives. If you’ve ever lost yourself in art, where your thoughts fade and you lose a sense of time then you’ve experienced that magical shift.

If your’e curious about how you can access these deeper parts of yourself in art all you have to do is be open to possibilities and try on an attitude of curiosity. It may take some time to learn to trust the process, and like anything practice helps strengthen your intuition and feelings.