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Women In Wellness: Karen Lynn Robinson of Heal Thrive Dream on The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Lynn Robinson.

Karen Robinson is a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Virginia with 24 years of experience. Her expertise includes recovery from trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. Karen founded “Heal Thrive Dream, LLC” with her daughters, to create more impact for trauma survivors globally. Karen provides coaching and counseling services as well as runs a full-service digital agency, and ecommerce stores with inspirational products. To learn more about Karen, her company, and her services, please go to healthrivedream.com

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My family tells a story about my kidneys failing before I was one year old, and my grandmother had a priest complete the last rites ritual. There is no known record of this, and the priest is deceased. I was also told a doctor from another hospital came to get me and saved my life. When I asked more questions, I think my family transferred me which makes more sense right? Imagine doctors going to hospitals to transfer babies! Even in the 70s, I can’t imagine this happening. Getting accurate information about my youth has not been the easiest as my family has trauma, poverty, domestic violence, and child abuse. As with most misfortunes in life, I was able to overcome a great deal (I’m still healing and working on wellness) and have become a social worker as well as a Trauma Recovery Expert.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

To be effective in my work, I need to be fully present with clients as they share the most painful pieces of their lives. I need to listen to dark stories, validate their experiences, and provide seeds of hope they will overcome and can work on holistic healing while becoming better versions of themselves. I pride myself for being very good at my work.

I have found the most interesting stories in my career being the times crises have broken out in our country or in our world. My responses have been all over the place! The good news is I can see my growth and I’m able to tolerate crisis responses more effectively. On 911, the school I worked for in the Metro Capital area went on lockdown, overnight helicopters were actively buzzing overhead, and I couldn’t calm my anxiety. My flight was cancelled to attend a friend’s wedding for the following weekend. I had leave from work and knew I could not sit in my condo. Thus, I jumped in my car and drove to the wedding of a dear friend. I beat myself up for not rushing to the Pentagon to be of service. I didn’t have the inner strength then. What is interesting is I became a federal social worker a few years later. I ended up working with survivors from the Pentagon and with our troops before and after their deployments to Iraq as well as Afghanistan. The work has not been easy, but I’m proud I took a weakness/limitation and turned it into service.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the early mistakes I made in my first years as a social worker was pushing trauma survivors to get through their stories too fast. One client had a panic attack when telling me she had been buried lengthwise underground. The story is intense, and I want to protect readers by not sharing too much here as it can be quite triggering. My client got the message to not report her ongoing sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the client had never told anyone this story, and I was the first to hear. She was 53 years old. She reported to me after disclosing she couldn’t continue therapy. My mistake was not going slow. If I could turn back the clock, I would have encouraged her to take all the time she needs before telling me. I would have double down on her coping skills, support system, and making sure her health was stable (she had a heart condition and worried about therapy making it worse). I now know to start with emotion regulation, physiological monitoring, and embodiment work for deep trauma wounds. I still think of her to this day and hope God provided her with other healers on her path.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

My approach in therapy or as a trauma recovery coach is to teach, train, and guide my clients to take better care of themselves. I provided one-to-one therapy sessions and small groups utilizing many different therapy modalities over the years. Now, I want to truly make the work I do accessible to women anywhere in the world. I have launched a virtual, global membership for survivors of childhood abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, toxic work environments, or any other traumas.

Trauma can impact every single area of a survivor’s life. Survivors are often not initially concerned about their wellness; they are on autopilot trying to get through each day trying to understand why everything hurts in their body and why they feel anxious or on high alert. They often wonder why their relationships aren’t thriving and why everything seems to be overwhelming whether it is work, raising children, or both.

My program, Healing from Trauma Together, offers a community forum for survivors to connect, wherever they live in the world. They are encouraged to help each other, take bite size action steps in their healing, learn new skills, and be held accountable in their progress with coaching calls. Wellness in every aspect of their lives is the primary focus.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

I may approach this question differently than most. My recommendations are based on when people are feeling their worst. When they are grieving a loss, experiencing fierce emotional or physical pain, feeling despair due to a break-up, divorce, or rejection. These tweaks are also written with the survivor in mind. If we can focus on these five areas on our hardest days, they will likely be easier to accomplish on our lighter days.

  1. Water — If you don’t feel like you can eat, at least get your water in. Think of yourself as a withering plant that can’t spring back to life without hydration. If drinking water is even difficult, think about how to make it more enticing. Maybe a slice of lemon, lime, mint leaves, or a piece of fruit.
  2. Sleep — without sleep, everything can seem irritating. Don’t go too long without sleep. By the third night it is time to call your doctor for a temporary sleep aid. Before then, try sleep hygiene techniques by keeping your room cool and dark. Try aromatherapy and guided meditation. Shut down electronics a couple of hours before bed. Explore having a sleep study completed if insomnia is chronic as you may have sleep apnea.
  3. Nutrition — it is common to struggle to eat anything, let alone anything healthy during or after a crisis. Consider making the decision making simple when under duress. Some of us emotionally eat and again may not reach for food filled with vitamins and nutrients. Your appetite may wax and wane, this is common when we feel overwhelmed. Focus on healthy choices if you can tolerate food. When you can’t, try protein shakes or meal substitutes like Ensure for example. Not eating at all will throw your glucose levels off which will create even more havoc on your mood and lowers energy.
  4. Movement — it isn’t necessary to do hard core workouts when you are feeling emotionally and physically depleted. Just move your body. Go for small walks. Being outside and getting Vitamin D will do you good. As your strength builds up, you can walk a little further or at a brisk pace. Another idea is yoga stretches. Yoga Nidra or restorative yoga poses will help you release both physical and emotional tension. It will also help you to feel more centered and more connected spiritually.
  5. Relaxation skills — There are many ways to build relaxation skills in your life. The four main skills are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, and meditation. Having several skills to pick from can provide variety as when skill doesn’t seem to be working for you, you can try another. The best source to learn more about these techniques is YouTube. You can search until you find a trainer whose style appeals to you.

These lifestyle tweaks are helpful for those struggling right now or not. These can be considered basic skills that can be improved upon as we build a more committed action plan to invest first in our wellbeing.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The big dream would be to institute one large global wellness center to implement health care for all citizens, global awareness and prevention of trauma, ongoing research to end world hunger, disease, mental health issues, trafficking and any major problems impacting our collective global citizenship. Our country and our world are deeply divided. It is unfortunate as our collective brains working together would solve the biggest problems more quickly. It would mean more women stepping up to the table. It would mean letting go of pride and greed. It would mean investing in products and services that give back instead of lining the pockets of the rich. My part of this dream is to continue to build platforms and safe places for survivors to gather for comfort, community, education, training, healing, and inspiration. What is your part?

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Prioritize your health by scheduling your workouts, meals, and medical appointments in your calendar FIRST before work and client appointments. Your clients want you to be at your best.
  2. True work and life balance doesn’t exist. Doing the best, you can by being fully present when at one place or the other is about all you can do.
  3. Prep for your workday consistently. Clothes out including your workout clothes, meals for the day prepped beforehand, everything is ready to go. The less time to think and worry about these things during the workday, the more energy you can save and use on the things that matter.
  4. Don’t sit too much. I wish I knew back then that sitting would become the new smoking in terms of what sitting so much does to our health.
  5. Embodiment work — During my early trauma recovery training, embodiment work wasn’t discussed or as prolific as it is today. Emphasis of most treatment was on mental and emotional health. I wish I knew back then that trauma literally makes people sick with chronic pain, compromised immune symptoms, and inflammation throughout the body. Once I witnessed these problems in survivors, I started to research and learned this connection was also discovered during the ACE (adverse childhood events). Our mind is powerful and tries to help us by not remembering traumatic events. Our bodies forget nothing. Our cells, tendons, muscles, bones, and our soul never forget.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

While all these causes are of great importance, the issue closest to my heart is mental health. After working in the mental health field for 24 years, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Has this been an easy career? Absolutely not. Suicides, overdoses, sexual assaults, war, gun violence, divorce, are not easy for therapists and their clients to muddle through. The last few years with the isolation, political divide, and other struggles, our collective mental health has plummeted. Despite all of this, I can’t imagine working in any other field. I love connecting with clients and working with them towards a more hopeful future.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Karenrobinson360.com is where you can find my blogs, boutiques, and resources.

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.