Women In Wellness: Karen J Helfrich On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Women In Wellness: Karen J Helfrich On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

I wish someone had told me not to be “generous” with money, but to be wise; that mistakes are gold — there is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn and grow; that my value and worth is intangible and inherent — it cannot be proven; to gather experiences rather than accolades; and that perfectionism is the enemy of progress and joy.

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Karen J. Helfrich.

Karen is a Psychotherapist in private practice and Financial Wellness Educator who helps women+ heal their relationship with themselves and their money to create lives they love. Karen is the creator of Financially Free™ an online course for creating a healed relationship with personal finance and abundant living. Karen lives with her family and dogs outside Baltimore, Maryland. You can find Karen at www.avalonhealers.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?

Ingraduate school, they asked how many of us were Social Workers long before we were Social Workers. Everyone’s hand went up. Empathic to a fault, I always wanted to help, to talk about the uncomfortable, secret things. I wanted others to not feel alone. I also felt aware of injustice and I didn’t understand why others weren’t as affected as I was by the mistreatment of others. When I began my graduate classes in this field dedicated to empathy and social justice, I knew there was nothing else I was ever going to be, so yes, I’ve always been a Social Worker.

Over the past 21 years, I’ve gathered so many experiences that inform my work with women+ today. I have come to see that our biggest mental health and community health challenges are self-aggression (our inner critic) and shame narratives. We don’t see ourselves as existing within systems that not only set us up to feel like we are failing, but to also blame ourselves for it because we do not recognize that it is the socio-political environment and not “us.” When we heal our inner worlds and see the truth of our environment, we are empowered to focus our energy where we truly have influence and create beautiful lives we love in healing community.

As a trauma therapist, I began to realize that my clients were bringing money stress into session. I enjoyed these explorations and began to look at money psychology and saw intersections within my somatic trauma work and personal finance. It’s extraordinary to me that we our cultural narratives about money include a rather large blind-spot: money is the foundation of everything else in our lives. Yet, we have little formal education about personal finance, and we seem to feel that “not caring about money,” especially if you are a woman, is a moral “flex.” When we really look at it, this frame makes no sense, yet we live our lives like our finances are an annoying “thing we need to get to.”

I created my course, Financially Free, to increase women+’s access to healing their relationship with money and to create a financial wellness practice that is based in healthy relationship with self, flexible, and compassionate. We need to take the fear out of personal finance, make it human, and create narrative and pathways to financial wellness that is accessible and not shame based.

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?

In my line of work, every day is fascinating. Each person I encounter is a world to discover. The most interesting moments to me are what I learn from the people I serve and the courage they demonstrate. Healing is vulnerable. Trusting another with your wounded places is vulnerable. When a woman who has always tried to motivate herself with self-criticism chooses self-compassion instead. Or when she reaches for a new, self-affirming way of being, instead of an old self-abandoning strategy for coping with the stressors of life. These moments fascinate me because they show me over and over again that the integrity of self, our in-tact human spirit is always there waiting to emerge from the pain. Given the right invitation, the mind will heal itself.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh, I think most mistakes are the gift of invitation to grow beyond what we are today. I receive these invitations daily! I’m not sure that this is a mistake, but it is a lesson that many of us in the helping professions learn. When I started out, they wanted us to create a five-year plan for our careers. I had no idea what I wanted my career to be (there’s so much we can do with Social Work). I decided to apply for jobs and bloom where I was planted. I tried to leave each place a little better than I found it. I did not understand that other people I worked with would not be trying to leave me a little better than they found me, in turn. I have had to learn, and I say this without cynicism, that I have to be a helper for myself first. I have to be sure that I am aligned with my goals and values and that my emotional and professional labor each day is supporting the direction in which I want to go. This is not selfish. It is healthy boundaries.

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?

I believe that when women+ do better, society and the world do better. There is so much working against us, especially economically, yet we know that when women+ are financially secure, families and communities have better outcomes. My work focuses on healing women+ of internalized beliefs about money, self-worth, and personal value so that we gain control of our time and circumstances. Empowered women+ heal the next generation and live better, more fulfilling lives because we express and share our love, joy, and passions with the world.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

Before I respond, I want to be sure to iterate that we live in a very economically oppressive time. The distribution of wealth has not been this egregiously out of balance since the lead up to the Great Depression. We are navigating personal finances under great systemic pressures. Five dollar lattes and avocado toast are not the problem. My work acknowledges the deep problems within these systems while helping women+ figure out ways to live well now. We need to advocate for policy changes that truly protect women+’s ability to access financial security and independence. Again, when women+ do better, everyone does better.

1 . Stop saying, “I don’t care about money.” We are taught to believe that this is a values flex. However, our personal finances are the foundation of everything else in our lives: our access to healthcare, education, healthy food, relationship stability, and resources for our children (if we have them). Not only caring about money, but prioritizing our financial wellness is a healthy, loving thing to do, especially for our children and other loved ones.

2 . Get to know your Money Story. Our Money Story is the set of beliefs we develop about money during childhood. Here, we learn about how money works, what it means to have money or not have money, if it’s ok to talk about money, and how money impacts our group belonging, Our Money Story is usually unconscious, embodied, and driven by emotion rather than cognition and rationality. When we uncover our Money Story, we become empowered to make choices about money with intention rather than beliefs that may not serve us or our goals.

3 . Reframe how you relate to money. For women+ especially, we are influenced to fear that caring about money makes us selfish, gold-diggers, or shallow and materialistic. We can talk about the misogyny and patriarchal reasons for these negative images, but materialism is not the only way to prioritize financial abundance. When we focus on money as enabling our access to time and choices, we can shift from materialism to how money facilitates living in our core values. Financial abundance means the ability to support causes we care about, to share our abundance with loved ones, to leave jobs or relationships that are toxic, abusive, or simply not serving us, and to engage in relationships and activities that enhance our own and others’ quality of life. Financial abundance and morality, contrary to some Money Stories, are not in opposition to each other.

4 . Treat personal finance like a wellness behavior instead of “math and spreadsheets.” Good financial management is a practice, and a deeply emotional one. It is something we engage with every day, like movement, eating, hydration, mental health, and relationships. Therefore, we need wellness solutions to support healthy financial wellness behavior. Talking about personal finances in therapy, engaging peer and accountability partners, and creating routines that support sustained, long-term financial wellness are important for making financial wellness sustainable.

5 . Financial wellness is for everyone. No matter who we are or what our financial circumstances are, we can learn about financial wellness and practice financial wellness. It does not matter if we have little or much. If we are unhealthy with $100, we will be unhealthy with $100,000. We can heal at all socioeconomic levels. Likely, by healing at any level, we can improve our circumstances: our access to time and choices. By healing ourselves, we make life better for those around us.

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

I would love to see a movement of women+ supporting women+ in treating financial wellness as a wellness behavior, as valuable and morally “good” as movement, nourishment, hydration, sleep, and meditation. By shifting the cultural narrative about women+ and money, we can help women achieve financial wellness.

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

I wish someone had told me not to be “generous” with money, but to be wise; that mistakes are gold — there is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn and grow; that my value and worth is intangible and inherent — it cannot be proven; to gather experiences rather than accolades; and that perfectionism is the enemy of progress and joy.

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

Mental health! I have come to understand that our collective and individual mental health is a reflection of goodness-of-fit between community and environment and the person. When we have relational health, support, encouragement, and compassion, we belong. When we belong, we thrive. When we heal ourselves, we heal those around us. Mental health is collective.

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

Sure! I can be found at our website, avalonhealers.com, on Facebook @avalonhealers, and on IG @avalon_healers. Readers can also check out my free class, The 3 Principles of Intuitive Budgeting, at avalonhealers.com/freeclassregistration/.

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

Thank you so much!

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com .

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