Today we learn more about Rhona Berens, speaker for Nacef’s 2016 conference Stress & Resiliency. You know Rhona from Parent Alliance.
Keep reading to find out how she’s going to take us beyond our current understanding of stress at the conference, and why you as a doula, midwife, childbirth educator, nurse or doctor need to this training for the families you offer services to.
1) What is your job title and what exactly do you do in your field?
I’m an Individual and Relationship Coach who helps expecting couples and parents stay sane and stay together. I also assist professionals who support families e.g., birth & postpartum workers, so they can better care for their clients and for themselves.
2) How did you get involved with this specific work – what’s the background story to why you do what you do?
I was first inspired to do this work when I sat bleary-eyed—because my then 18 month old had been going on 3 hours a night of sleep for two weeks—in the first class of my Relationship Coach training (I’d already been coaching individuals for a while). We were taught an exercise to set the tone for coaching relationships (couples, colleagues, etc), which included a set of questions like: what atmosphere do we want to create together? what can we count on from each other in our relationship? How do we want to handle disagreements? All I could think was: “Wouldn’t it be great if expecting couples did this kind of prep before having a baby so they could better handle the stress of parenting on relationships?” So I started out by offering a short 6-session program for expecting couples to prepare their relationships for a baby—a program I still love doing—and then began coaching parents with young kids. I quickly started meeting birth and postpartum professionals to let them know about my work and they began asking me if I’d provide them with trainings to enhance their professional toolboxes.
I now offer short 3-hour workshops that are approved for Continuing Education units by DONA, CAPPA and ICEA (and am looking into IBCLC accreditation too)! I love working with birth and postpartumprofessionals: I love the one to many model, since I know professionals will share their learnings with many more clients than I could reach by myself.
Plus, working with professionals is an inspiring experience. I always learn a lot as there’s tons of collective wisdom and experience in the room (or on the call) and professionals are so grateful to add tools to their toolboxes and to share tips with each other.
3) What will your presentation at the NACEF Conference be about?
While many professionals who work with expecting couples (and new parents are increasingly well-versed in the health impact and risks associated with stress, we’re often less skilled in determining and explaining the differences between normal or productive stress and stress that’s unproductive and a health risk. In this interactive presentation, I’ll provide a more nuanced introduction to stress, as well as detailed information on the impact of stress on relationships, on families, and on the dynamic between you and your clients.
I’ll also be integrating easy-to-understand information and stress-reduction tools based on neuroscientific and psychological research to help you learn a range of stress-reduction tools to help attendees better manage their own unproductive stress, as well as teach their clients how to better navigate theirs.
4) What are you hoping the conference attendees will take away from your presentation into their own work with pregnant Mommas and families?
Easy, accessible tools to help their clients manage stress better and worry less about some of the very normal stress they’re already experiencing in anticipation of (or after) the arrival of a baby. I also hope attendees will feel more capable in managing and understanding their own stress and finding ways to relieve it both in the moment (when they’re with clients) or after the fact when they have time to decompress.
5) What are YOUR strategies for coping with stress? How do you take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of others?
I happen to live in wine country in Northern California, so I have a lot of local inspiration to relieve some of my stress! 😉 I also try to walk my talk about self-care…literally. I try to walk in my neighborhood for 20 minutes a few times a week—enough to offer some benefits, short enough to not send my inner critic into a tailspin about time I should spend working or with my kids.
I do my best to play with my 4 year old, who reminds me daily that playing, really letting myself play, can relieve stress as long as I give myself permission to be present with him (it adds to my stress if I’m not present and, instead, fretting about things I’m not getting done)…so being present to whatever I’m doing is a way of managing my stress insofar as a lot of my stress comes from worrying about what I’m not doing or should be doing (or saying). Finally, as a coach who helps couples stay sane and stay together through the stresses of parenting (and life in general), I’m religious about weekly date-nights with my wife.
I have more to share, but I’ve got to hold some stuff back for my presentation, right?