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Woman of the Week: Jennifer Febel

“You are not broken.”

That is Jennifer Febel’s personal, and professional, mantra. When she was 19, Febel was diagnosed with a multitude of mental disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm. “In other words: broken,” she says. In fact, one of the many doctors Febel saw on her road to recovery actually used that term to describe her condition.

Those words had a deep impact. For years, Febel thought she had to live with “being broken”. She was given medications and coping options — but nothing helped. Eventually, her anxiety grew until she couldn’t leave the house.

That’s when she took a chance on a wellness coach, who was able to convince her to look past her scepticism and try some alternative mind-body tools. “The most powerful moment from me was when my coach told me “You are not broken”. To have someone say that was profound.”

“After 13 years of struggling and medication and therapy, I was able to come off meds and I never looked back. I was able to feel how I wanted to feel.”

Febel has an incredibly bubbly personality and a genuine smile. Invite her to your party and she may bring her hula hoop and perform an impressive dance routine. Her fast wit and positive outlook on life is contagious — and if she didn’t open up about her past, no one would know how much she struggled.

Her decision to see a wellness coach shaped the rest of her life and inspired her to go into the field herself. Febel is now a certified wellness coach and master hypnotherapist operating out of Bradford, Ont., with clients across Simcoe, York, and the GTHA. Her business, whose name Live Life Unbroken is inspired by her own personal experiences, helps those with phobias, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, and general wellness goals. She emphasizes that she is not a medical doctor and cannot treat these disorders, but she can help relieve the symptoms.

“Basically, my job is to help people figure out what they actually want and then chart a path to get to it,” she said. “We often know what we don’t want –  I don’t want to be anxious or stressed all the time – my role is to help them find out what they actually want and how to go about getting that.”

How does she do that? Febel likes to think of the mind like a computer, and her job is cognitive tech support.

“Nothing needs to be fixed. Sometimes, over the course of your life, you download a virus. You call in the geek squad — that’s me! Someone who can manoeuvre the system.”

The current medical model sees mental health as a hardware program, Febel says. Instead, she thinks of things like anxiety and depression as software programs that need to be uninstalled. To do that, she uses advanced mind-body tools that are practiced in 38 countries around the world to find out what’s happening at the subconscious level.

“The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. The problems are at the unconscious level,” she says. While most cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the “why”, Febel focuses more on the “how” in order to relieve the symptoms of the “virus”. “In my mind, who cares about the why. It just satisfies curiosity. We focus on how the problem is created– then we can change it.”

Febel respects and encourages the skepticism associated with hypnosis and personal coaching. “That was me,” she said. “When I saw my coach I thought it was a hoax.”

“If you want to freak people out at a party, tell them you are a hypnotherapist. You get two reactions –‘ cool, can you hypnotize’ me or ‘I can’t be hypnotized. ‘I see it as my job to educate. Skepticism is the doorway to the wonder of change – just avoid letting it get in your way.”

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Febel runs a number of workshops through Live Life Unbroken, the most popular being a one-day workshop called “Reboot Your Inner Spark.” This course allows participants to tap into their own intuition and learn how to start healing naturally.

Last year, Febel began a new program called “Leadership Alchemy,” which touches upon communication and connections in personal and professional situations, or how Febel describes it, “how to be a true leader in your life.” She is also co-running a women’s wellness weekend where she will be leading some classes on revitalizing your chakras. During that weekend, women will be taught to find balance and centering in their daily lives, as well as participate in other wellness activities like yoga and magnified healing.

In addition to her workshops, Febel is also a regular presenter at a number of conferences and events. She is currently working on a presentation that will encourage women to stop being so nice. “When I’m “nice”, I have no boundaries. I’m doing what everyone else wants,” she says. “It creates “angry nice girls” who on the surface doing well, but on the inside they are angry and sad. Banish [the word nice] from your vocabulary. Be compassionate. Be kind. Nice doesn’t help anyone.”

When Febel isn’t working, she sings with York Harmony Chorus, an award-winning acappella group of over 40 women that sing in four-part harmony. The chorus competes regionally once a year and Febel helps with choreography and PR, as well as performs. “Every week I get to spend a few hours with these wonderful women and that nourishes my life in so many ways.”

Febel is someone who constantly loves to learn and try new things. She works with her own coaches and uses her own mind-body tools on a regular basis, starting each day with a grounding or energy-balancing exercise like tai chi. She loves to curl and is constantly reading or ordering books online. The one book she returns to on a regular basis is Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra.

 

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Meditation: the best way to relax with your kids

Children are often overstimulated with too much screen use, too many weekly recreational activities, and too much interaction with the busy urban world that surrounds them. Teaching children how to meditate gives them a stress coping strategy that will be last the duration of their lives. Using the power of breath in any given moment has limitless positive effects on a person’s ability to focus, calm down, and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

Every night before going to sleep, my five-year daughter and I meditate together. She is often overtired when it gets close to bedtime and is also hyper from the many activities and social interactions of her school day. Meditating for 15 minutes helps both of us to relax and transition into the quieter part of our evening together. When I tell people I meditate regularly with a five-year-old, people often respond with disbelief. “How is it possible to meditate with a young child who constantly has the case of the wiggles,” they ask.

First off, don’t expect a young child to meditate for longer than 10-15 minutes. It is difficult for the little people to stay still and asking a child to remain in a meditative state any longer than a quarter of an hour is unreasonable. Children won’t stay completely still when meditating either, but it will be a positive experience as long as their eyes are closed and they are engaged.  My daughter and I use various online videos that are made specifically for children. They are free and a wide variety is offered. There are also a variety of free apps to download on your phone if preferred.

The main difference I’ve noticed between regular meditation recordings and alternatives made for kids is the way the information is presented. Kids’ meditations often include a storyline relating to a candy mountain or a princess castle that gives them something to imagine while they lie still.

At age five, children have spectacular imaginations and it is ingenious to use their ability to create fantasy worlds in order to get them to meditate. My daughter is so enthralled with the recordings and visiting these imaginative places in her head that she will actually ‘shush’ me if I ask her a question or interrupt. She takes meditating very seriously and it must be silent for the whole 15 minutes (very shocking and hilarious to hear my child asking me to be quiet).

Within the visualizations at candy mountain or the princess castle, the fundamentals of meditation are embedded into the storyline. When you get to cinnamon bun square, you must ‘breathe in deeply’ and ‘stretch your toes’ after you wake up in your princess bed. It works like a charm and is very relaxing. I recommend finding a children’s meditation that also includes motivational messaging alongside the breathing exercises. Our favourites also include messages that say ‘you are a great person’, ‘you are very smart’ and ‘think of all the people who you love and love you’. Motivational messaging and self-love meditations are incredibly healing and help give kids a sense of confidence and security.

Another important element when meditating with kids is a space to do it in. My daughter and I use specific pillows and lay down in our living room. If you have the extra room, create a permanent space meant specifically for meditating. It helps young children connect that space with relaxing and quiet time. I also allow my daughter to have her stuffed animals meditate with us too. Making meditation too serious will make it unenjoyable, and that isn’t very relaxing. Laying down in your meditative space and dimming the lights will also set the mood and helps kids to calm down faster.

Meditation has helped my daughter to fall asleep more easily and is fantastic bonding time for both of us. It also forces busy moms like myself to lay down and set a good example by relaxing for 15 minutes of the crazy day! I have noticed it also helps when coping with tantrums and emotional moments. My daughter will take deep breaths if asked and is slowly developing a life-long coping strategy for stress. In the midst of baseball, swimming, girl guides and work, it is important to slow down and enjoy your kids. Meditation allows for this time and space, and is an invaluable experience.

How do you meditate with your kids? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

How do you choose to heal from a break-up?

I want to start by saying each woman has their own way of handling a break-up. Many will sink into despair, keep their sweats on while digging into the baked goodies. Others deny themselves their sadness, move on quickly and efficiently, only to come tumbling down a week or a month later from the pressure of avoiding those terrible feelings. Some have mastered the art of letting go, and to those woman I commend you — and am admittedly also terribly jealous.

I recently went through a break-up and the amount of advice I’ve received has ranged from downright entertaining to adorably helpful. The amount of times I was told to go and purchase desserts immediately and load up on romantic flicks became funny, albeit a bit alarming.

wallow

Why is it that we must feed ourselves sugar and lament our lost loves so pathetically? Is there not a healthier way to be sad, where you still confront the deep dark blues with grace instead of tears and chocolate stains?

This confession is undoubtedly for other women who are going through a break-up or a loss on how to proceed. I feel I have stumbled onto a method of healing that could be helpful, though I still maintain the path to healing is subjective.

I’ve valiantly decided to not succumb to the bad habits and when I told my friends, they laughed at me because it is apparently an approach many take and fail at the break-up routine. Yes, there may be piles of Kleenexes, but they will not be accompanied by pounds of chocolate. I will probably experience painful realizations, but I choose the comforts of Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas rather than a romantic comedy that makes me wish I could return to a relationship that meant to end.

rumi-the self

Clean comforts are key. Tools of healing that will help usher in a new phase of beauty in your life could range from a new creative hobby to a run through a new hidden path in nature. Only you know the mechanisms that will make you feel alive again.  I want to feel the pains and sorrows, dig into it deeply and understand it. But at the same, it is important to support myself by providing healthy comforts to supplement this pain. A good start could be healthy fresh foods and outdoor exercise in a natural area for the body and meditation, books, music, photography and writing for the mind.

A common thread between these activities is they are all solitary activities. This is purposeful. There is an absolute empowerment in being alone if only we are courageous enough to face it. Loneliness is real and terrifying, but it is also a matter of perspective. It can easily turn from a broken feeling into one that empowers you to truly be on your own with yourself. Being alone helps you to move on from your pain fully because you have left yourself with no other choice and avoidance becomes impossible.

Finding a replacement man or woman to try to fill your heart will only leave you spinning further downwards because you cannot truly share yourself when you are in pieces. The demons from your last relationship will haunt the new one if they are not dealt with and that is not fair to your new and unsuspecting lover. Instead, being your own source of support and self-love is the first step to being ready to move on with someone else in the future.

In the end, it isn’t about distractions or isolation. It is about looking in the mirror and loving the person looking back at you no matter how hard that may seem. I ask, how will you love yourself today? What can you do that will make you feel grateful that you have your insightful mind, your beautiful body and your resilient heart? How do you choose to heal?

patti smith quote