Providence Business News: Self-care is key part of coach’s playbook

Article written by Susan Shalhoub, Contributing Writer for Providence Business News

Katie McDonald’s executive clients span numerous industries, states and countries, but they have something in common: they are addicts.

“They’re struggling with their addiction to busyness,” said McDonald, a North Kingstown-based holistic health coach, self-care strategist and public speaker. “They say ‘no’ to themselves but ‘yes’ to everyone else.”

She founded her holistic coaching business, bnourished LLC, a decade ago, but its relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic is amplified, according to McDonald. Themes such as scheduling time for oneself, improving nutrition, setting boundaries and establishing goals are more resonant in these days of telecommuting and disconnection from colleagues, she said.

“We derive pleasure from our work and are afraid of the quiet” normally, McDonald explained. “But we’re now forced to face it. It’s like that Pink song [‘Sober’] where she says, ‘The quiet scares me ’cause it screams the truth.’ I teach clients how to leverage that. I teach them to show up for themselves as they do for everyone else.”

The lack of boundaries and self-care during the pandemic often means breaking promises to oneself, such as plans to exercise, McDonald said. Instead, we let other people’s issues or work tasks take over that space and the workout never happens.

Rather than caring for themselves, people tend to turn to distractions, such as too much technology, alcohol or shopping.

It can all be too much. McDonald teaches that businesspeople can’t effectively give any more to their companies, clients and colleagues after they’ve depleted their own reserves.

And she should know. She’s lived it.

McDonald grew up in Rhode Island and attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a philosophy degree.

Not wanting a career where she had to sit behind a desk, the high-pressure world of sales became her area of expertise. McDonald served as a senior advertising executive for Time Inc., representing 40 magazines. She also worked for E&J Gallo Wines in Germany. She got married and had a son, who is now 18.

But juggling her career and motherhood left her depleted and ragged a decade ago. Then health issues struck, such as irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, anxiety, asthma, ulcerative colitis and lung infections.

“I took six months to heal myself,” she said, ample time to undo some bad habits and introduce some good ones. That’s why she now works with bnourished clients for six-month spans. Having researched alternative health and plant-based nutrition, McDonald incorporated all of that and other methods of self-care into her new way of living.

In 2010, McDonald became a certified holistic health coach. She is a raw-food chef and teaches about this area of food through bnourished. A member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, she touts natural healing.

Bnourished is a blending of her self-healing experience, holistic know-how and business knowledge, customized to serve each individual client.

But applying these resources in ways that help clients didn’t happen overnight.

“It took time to take those skills and translate them into tools in my career,” McDonald said, “which is helping people change their lives one mindful habit at a time.”

In the past 10 years, McDonald’s clientele, her reputation and her mission have all strengthened. The COVID-19 crisis and quarantine requirements have aligned with her theme of reflecting, reassessing and resetting.

Not every prospective client who seeks her guidance is accepted, but they must be willing to put in the work, McDonald said.

Bnourished only takes 10 clients at a time, all on rolling, six-month, custom-designed programs. Participants come from all fields, though women are more likely to seek bnourished services.

“I am there with information and access until [their efforts for better self-care] are a well-oiled machine,” she said.

The program includes individual virtual coaching sessions every two weeks in which clients are also given homework aimed at reaching goals. McDonald is also accessible if issues arise between meetings, and other content is distributed daily.

She now offers public speaking too.

Corporations such as Alex and Ani LLC and Eileen Fisher Inc. have invited McDonald to present her perspectives. The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce recently launched a weekly webinar series with McDonald on self-care and well-being.

Public speaking still makes her a bit nervous. But her faith in helping busyness-addicted executives drives her to do it anyway. “I am so focused and fierce about this work. I get butterflies [when I have to speak], but I greet them and try and get them to fly in formation,” she said.

And the same pandemic that’s requiring so many of her speaking engagements to be virtual these days also holds great opportunity, with forced disruption and reflection.

“This crisis has the chance to make us, not just break us,” McDonald said. “We’re being called home to ourselves.” n
A DIFFERENT PATH: Katie McDonald, a self-care strategist who founded and owns bnourished LLC, says her clients are so busy, they don’t take time for self-care and improvement.

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