Stepping into the mess — Self-Care ‘First Aid’ program free for women

What do you do when you’re a single mom with three kids and it feels like your life has fallen apart? Step into the mess — at least, that’s what Jen Perzow did and what she now recommends as part of her coaching program and workshop series. 

“About 15 years ago or so, my family and I entered this difficult decade of our lives, dealing with physical illness, chronic illness, deaths in the family, mental health issues … lots of really difficult things,” said Perzow. “I came out of that pretty tired and emerged into 2020, which was on its own a really interesting year.” 

2020 — the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — was a rough year for most people. But for Perzow, it was one of the best years she’d had in a decade. 

“Not to minimize the difficulty that it caused for so many people, but for me, it highlighted the skills I’d developed over the course of that decade.” 

Fast forward to today and Perzow is putting those skills to use for women in the Jewish community in a Self-Care First Aid program with the tagline “Even When. You. Just. Can't.” The Eight-week long program is flexible and fully subsidized, thanks to funding from the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation’s Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program and a Jewish Federation of Ottawa Microgrant. and. Participants will explore questions like ‘How is self-care even possible when I am so busy taking care of everyone, and everything else?;’ ‘What are the most essential components of my self-care plan? How do I put that plan into action?;’ and ‘What's the link between Jewish life/practice and self-care?’

Perzow ran a similar workshop after a multi-year medical leave from her government job. Within a few months of being back at work, her boss suggested finding someone to do resiliency training for the team — but they couldn’t find someone who ran the type of program they wanted. 

“I took a risk and said this is what I’ve spent the last two and a half years doing … living and learning and breathing resilience. It’s been messy and difficult but I figured I could put a workshop together, and it was a really big success,” said Perzow. 

“When I saw the WCPP grant application, I wondered if there would be value in bringing it to the Jewish women of Ottawa.” 

When Perzow went through her decade of struggling, she felt isolated and alone.

“But I knew I couldn’t be the only one. I knew other people were also struggling with this kind of thing,” she said. “Then the pandemic hit and we were talking about these things more openly. I started to hear more and more of my friends, colleagues, and community members, sharing similar experiences. It was all in different contexts, but the end result was still very similar — feeling alone and exhausted, overstretched and burnt out; finding themselves in a moment in their lives they didn’t expect and they didn’t feel like they had the capacity to change it.”

Perzow runs a coaching business called ‘Hineni Coaching’ – Hineni is Hebrew for “Here I am.” 

“It’s really for me, a reflection of the stages in the journey I’m on and the process of transforming traumatic experiences in my life into something that feels really empowering and beautiful,” she said about the name. “At the beginning, it was ‘Here I am, why can’t anyone see me? I need help.’ Then it was a sense of being incredulous ‘Here? This is where I’m supposed to be?’ and 
then acceptance, ‘Yes, I am here, I’m working through it'.”

The name, she adds, is a call to duty and a readiness to help others. 

“It’s a really intentional name for the business.”

The First Aid: Self-Care program, which begins on January 2, 2023, is as accessible and inclusive as Perzow could make it. 

“I’ll release recorded course content one week, then the following week there will be a Zoom conversation. Women can watch, or listen whenever it's convenient for them.”

You can also join at any point in the program. There’s no cap on the number of participants and it’s fully subsidized, thanks to the WCPP and Federation grants. 

For more information and to register, visit here: