Women In Wellness: Gabby Ortega of ‘OM Therapy Coaching’ on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will…

Women In Wellness: Gabby Ortega of ‘OM Therapy Coaching’ on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Get on your morning routine! I know this is talked about a lot, but it’s that way for a reason. The way you set up your morning is how you will show up and feel for the rest of the day. When you roll out of bed and instantly start answering emails, or scrolling through social media, or watching the news, you rob yourself of the precious time you have to program your mind, do your grounding work, and mentally prep for what you’re stepping into. Instead, leave the phone in another room and carve out 30–60 minutes to ease into the day. I suggest incorporating a short meditation, some mindset mantras, gratitude, stretching/body movement, and some kind of nourishment to get the most out of your Me Time!

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabby Ortega.

Gabby Ortega is a trauma survivor, Psychologist and researcher, Conscious Business and Leadership Coach, and Owner and Founder of OM Therapy Coaching: an ethical, seven-figure holistic healing, soulful business, and conscious leadership community that helps women from all backgrounds learn how to master their inner world, discover their true power, and step into their purpose of helping others by creating businesses that allow them to share their gifts with the world. In just under 3 years, Gabby has amassed a following of hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans on social media and has helped countless women through her tight-knit community, her podcast (“The Conscious Leadership Podcast”), and her uniquely nurturing coaching containers. Gabby has been a featured speaker amongst some of our generations’ biggest names in wellness including, Marianne Williamson (former Presidential nominee), Shaman Durek, Lalah Deliah, and Danielle LaPorte, and is leading the wellness movement by activating light leaders and healers across the globe into conscious leadership through her coaching programs, live events, and high-value content.

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?

I’d love to! Looking back, it’s clear that my path towards becoming a trauma researcher, Psychologist, and Conscious Leadership Coach was deeply informed by my own personal life experiences — as both a witness to others’ pain, and as someone who experienced it deeply as well.

It all started as a child, when starting at a very early age I was relentlessly tormented by other children at my school. I’m hesitant to even call it “bullying”, because it felt more like peer-on-peer abuse. It was so intense and never-ending, that by the time I was twelve years old I became severely depressed and started having suicidal thoughts. At such a young age, my life already felt worthless and hopeless, and I didn’t see the point in sticking around if I was going to feel this way forever. My self-worth was non-existent, I had crippling anxiety, and was flooded with feelings of shame and self-loathing. The interesting thing is that I never hated my bullies more than I hated myself. I turned that rage within because I started to believe that something was fundamentally wrong or broken inside me, which is why these kids were punishing me — when the truth was that their behavior really had nothing to do with me at all. It was, I realized much later, the result of the pain that they were carrying around from things going on in their lives, mainly from having absent, abusive, or neglectful parents. They chose me to punish and rage on, and that was their way of coping with their own inner turmoil. When I think about it now, I’m filled with so much compassion and sadness for these children who were really suffering inside, and I hope they eventually found peace as adults.

At the same time that all of this was happening, I began witnessing members of my family struggling with their own mental illnesses. My cousin was living with bi-polar disorder and deep depression; my father also struggled with severe depression for more than a decade, which prevented him from being able to work or find much happiness; my mom was overwhelmed and anxious all the time, trying to keep everything afloat; other family members experienced hospitalizations and homelessness; and one family member actually ended their own life because they were in such a place of pain- which was a hugely shocking and traumatizing event for me. Although I did not witness it firsthand, it shook me to my entire core. The grief, the pain, the confusion of it all — why did this person have to check-out? What didn’t we do right? How could we have helped? Could we have even stopped it?

I later experienced sexual assault when I was at college, which only added to the already heavy cloud of pain that I carried with me wherever I went.

All of the residual trauma that occurred from these experiences percolated in my unconscious mind through my twenties. For a while, I did a really fantastic job of compartmentalizing, pushing away, or numbing out the feelings that I was too scared to face. I buried myself in my college coursework, partying, and keeping things superficial. The brain has a brilliant way of engaging defense mechanisms to prevent us from feeling psychological pain, and I was fully leaning into ALL of them. I just wanted to move on and be done with these memories — but unfortunately that’s not how healing works. We have to face the things we’re scared of in order to process them and integrate them into our mind, body, and spirit. We can’t simply ignore or “forget” about them, because the feelings will still be there, stored somewhere deep in our unconscious mind and making us act out in other ways that generally aren’t healthy or good for us.

When I really thought about why I was running from my feelings, I realized how much fear I had around feeling them. I thought that if I actually sat down and said, I am in tremendous pain and I don’t know what to do about it, I would just be completely annihilated — that speaking my truth would open the emotional floodgates for pain to come in, and I would never be able to close them. I was terrified of being swallowed up by my pain like a black hole swallows entire galaxies.

At this point, I was in my mid-twenties and fell into another much more severe depression. I felt lost, constantly in emotional pain, unmotivated, hopeless, and cripplingly anxious. I would go days without showering or leaving my apartment, and at times fantasized about how much easier it would be to just not wake up the next day. It was scary, and eventually I realized that feeling that way was WAY scarier than just facing what I needed to face and getting it over with.

I entered therapy for the third time in my life, but for the first time really committed to working on my mental health and healing. I had a wonderful experience, but it only took me so far and after two years I felt stuck. I had tremendous self-awareness that I didn’t have before about my trauma and why I felt the way that I felt, but no real tools to help me actually move forward. I was in a loop and still depressed, and now getting frustrated.

This is when I decided to take my healing into my own hands, and I vowed to do as much research and try as many different things as I could to truly move the needle forward and create real, lasting changes in my life.

I went back to school to earn my master’s degree in clinical psychology, primarily to learn what I needed to in order to heal myself. It was a life-changing experience. Suddenly, I had a context and framework to understand how my mind operated, and to understand my feelings and how to work with them. I also realized that I wasn’t alone — in fact, every single person in that room learning with me, expressed their own experiences with mental illness and trauma. This made me feel so normal, and just having my experience normalized in that way was a powerful healing agent too.

By the time I graduated, I realized that being a healer was my calling and my soul’s purpose. I wanted to give everyone the tools that I learned to heal themselves, because we all deserve to have the ability to create the life that we dream about, and to feel as good as we possibly can!

I tried the traditional route of becoming a clinical therapist and found it to be really archaic and limiting, because it didn’t allow me to fully step into the holistic practices that I knew also worked so well for my own healing.

So, I decided to shift over to the coaching world, dive into educating myself more around eastern medicine and neuropsychology, and create an entirely new framework for self-awakening, healing, and transforming after trauma. My signature method now incorporates aspects of traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy, mind-body medicine, neuroscience, gut health maintenance, somatic work, community creation, mindfulness, and spiritual connection (to self, a higher power, or to the universal consciousness), to achieve whole person wellness. This is what I’m currently writing my dissertation on and hoping to publish into a book in the near future!

This past March, in the wake of the COVID crisis, I was already so blessed to have a full coaching practice while my friends and colleagues were struggling to figure out how to deliver their healing services when they no longer could operate from their offices and studios. I had many conversations where they asked me, “Gabby, what the heck did you do to create OM?? Can you teach me??”…and that’s when I knew that I was being called to not only help people heal from trauma, but also could support the lightworkers who are helping so many others heal as well!

This was the beginning of the OM IGNITE Program and the OM Leadership Academy, the now central focus of my business, where I help therapists, coaches, and other lightworkers step into their power, get into full alignment, and create conscious online healing businesses that will change the world and how we think about mental wellness.

We just launched our fourth iteration of the IGNITE program with over 20 incredible women, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to life!

I like to say that by the time you’re done with me, you have all the insight, tools, and inner confidence to step into your Highest Self and actively create a life that happens FOR you, not TO you.

We are truly the architects of our own experience, and my goal is to support you in becoming yours.

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?

So, at the very beginning of OM I received an application from a potential client who was a huge Instagram influencer. She was absolutely gorgeous, had this glowing smile and seemed so happy all the time, and commanded a following of over a million dedicated fans. She was super successful with her business and quite intimidating, to say the least. When she applied, I recognized her pretty quickly and immediately felt imposter syndrome rear its ugly head. She had EVERYTHING, so what could she possibly need from me??

Well, as it turns out, a lot.

I work with all kinds of humans, but the thing that is most surprising to me is that we all have our own pain and baggage. It doesn’t matter how rich, successful, beautiful, or gifted we are — at the end of the day we’re all still human beings with the same fears, dreams, desires, insecurities, and all we want is to be accepted, loved, and fully seen.

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?

Yea, there’s definitely one huge mistake I made early on and that was not understanding how google drive works before using it with clients. I laugh about it now, but at the time I was so horrified and honestly thought my career was over.

I had this one client who was just an incredible soul. We were doing deep work around becoming their Highest Self after a childhood filled with trauma, and inadvertently I shared a template for journal exercises with this client that was already shared in Google Drive with another client. At the time, I thought I was simply copying the document and sharing it, but I didn’t understand that it was also being shared with that third outside party.

Long story short, my client saw this and immediately thought I did it on purpose. It made sense because their entire life was filled with betrayal and pain, and “of course” I would also be someone who would betray and hurt them intentionally. Even though this was the farthest thing from the truth, I completely understood this person’s anger and hurt — and I felt horrible for making such a stupid mistake.

But in that moment where my client was really telling me how they felt, they were using their voice in a way that we had been trying to get them to use since we started our work together. And right after I took full responsibility for my mistake, really listened and saw their pain, and gave them space to let it out, I said, “Did you see that? You just used your voice, set boundaries, and let me have it!! Yes!!!”

It took this person a second to realize what had just happened: they actually used their voice to advocate for themselves in a way that they’d never been able to before. They immediately burst into tears, and I recognized that through this huge mistake I made, there was deep healing that was able to happen — healing that might not have occurred had I not made this mistake.

But that’s the magic of the Universe, I think, that in these moments of rupture there is opportunity for deep repair and redirection, but only if we’re open to it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think the person who I am most deeply grateful for on this journey is my mother. She is one of the strongest, smartest, most compassionate humans I have ever known, and someone who has always encouraged me to go after my dreams with everything I have, no matter how crazy they may seem to other people.

When I was younger, whenever I wanted to learn something new or try something out of the ordinary, she was right there helping me get the things I needed to make it happen. She taught me to always ask for support, and to surround myself with mentors and inspiring people who would elevate my vision and help me make it a success. I can’t pick out any one story to exemplify the incredible lessons she’s taught me, but what I will say is that her unconditional love and belief in me helped me believe in myself.

I also can’t forget to mention my incredible fiancée, Devyn, who stood by my side during the darkest moments of my healing journey and always held the light for me to find my way home. He is my rock and I couldn’t run this business without him!

Ok perfect. Now 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’m so glad you asked! One of the non-negotiables to me is always being focused on the big picture: how are we going to spread healing across the world so that anyone, anywhere can access the tools, knowledge, and support needed to get better?

I started my work through the lens of sharing free mental health resources via social media, but that has evolved and transformed over time to include helping the helpers deliver their healing medicine through the online world.

By helping ethical, aligned, compassionate, skilled healers learn how to find the humans who need them most, I’m able to amplify my original mission of spreading healing across the world even more efficiently. On the other hand, therapists, clinical practitioners, and other holistic healers suffer regularly at the hands of an abusive healthcare system that values burnt-out helpers rather than ones who are healthy, happy, and compensated fairly for the incredibly taxing and important work they do.

I am here to lift healers out of these horrible situations so that they can step out into the world as leaders, share their unique gifts, and help as many people as possible. When our healers are doing well, then we do well too!

I want to also change the way we think about doing conscious business, especially when it comes to the wellness space. There are so many ways we can create strong communities around healing, offer free and accessible help to those who need it most, and also call-in abundance and ease at the same time. I figured out exactly how to do this over the past few years, and I’m excited to teach others how we can create a world where all of us can win.

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.

First, get on your morning routine! I know this is talked about a lot, but it’s that way for a reason. The way you set up your morning is how you will show up and feel for the rest of the day. When you roll out of bed and instantly start answering emails, or scrolling through social media, or watching the news, you rob yourself of the precious time you have to program your mind, do your grounding work, and mentally prep for what you’re stepping into. Instead, leave the phone in another room and carve out 30–60 minutes to ease into the day. I suggest incorporating a short meditation, some mindset mantras, gratitude, stretching/body movement, and some kind of nourishment to get the most out of your Me Time!

Second tweak would be to try scheduling your activities and appointments according to your personal energy blueprint. Personally, I find that Mondays through Wednesdays I have the most energy, and in the late mornings is when I like to interact with people the most, so I’ll schedule meetings and coaching calls during those times because that’s when I really feel my best for that activity. On Fridays I don’t take any calls because I’m usually exhausted, and instead will use those days for content creation, recording my podcast, and other tasks that feel less taxing for me to do. Pay attention to your energy and then adjust accordingly.

Third, practice self-compassion at all times. Remember that you’re doing the best job you can with what you have right now, and that’s more than enough. When you feel your inner critic getting loud, remind yourself that you’re human and it’s ok to be as kind, patient, and loving with yourself as you are with everyone else in your life.

Fourth, say “no” when you want to say “no”. Don’t make excuses, don’t lie, don’t say yes and then resent the fact that you didn’t say no — just say no! As one of my favorite poets, Nayyirah Waheed, once wrote: “‘No’ might make them angry, but it will make you free”. By honoring your needs, you’re building self-trust and not allowing others to control your energy. It’s ok to upset others — you can’t light yourself on fire to keep everyone else warm.

Fifth, give yourself permission to shed anyone and anything that isn’t serving your highest good. Ask yourself, “what value is this adding to my life?” and if you can’t come up with an answer, if it doesn’t bring you joy, growth, love, happiness, community, healing, or anything else to support where you’re going — leave it. It’s ok to grow into a new person with a new life, and although it’s hard, it’s also the most liberating thing you’ll ever do.

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 one I’m already creating 😉

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

  1. This won’t happen overnight. I think we see so many successful individuals and we think that they all just woke up that way one day, and that’s simply not true — at least not in most cases. Be patient and hold the vision as you’re building. It might take a little bit to find your groove, but you’ll get there!
  2. Alignment is EVERYTHING. If any part of you feels icky about the decisions you’re making, the people you’re surrounding yourself with, the plans you’re making, listen to that gut feeling. Our bodies hold incredible wisdom, and when we are falling out of alignment with our values, we feel it. Alignment means abundance, so never compromise on that.
  3. You don’t have to be perfect to make a big impact. I think many of us get hung up on the optics of things — I have to have a large following before I launch my offering, or I need to be skinny and have glossy hair to grow a following, or I can’t have human feelings or a bad day ever if I’m supposed to be a healer — and that’s going to keep you from ever starting. Focus on service, connecting with others, and adding value because those are what really matter.
  4. Your idols are humans too. They will disappoint you and make mistakes, and that’s ok!! It means that we’re all the same and there’s room for everyone at every level.
  5. You are way more special than you know, and you don’t have to do anything extra to be successful. You as you are, are more than enough.

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

I think for obvious reasons, mental health is absolutely where my passion is. As someone who has survived her own mental health struggles and helped others with theirs, it’s my life’s work to continue spreading healing across the world so we can create a more peaceful, happy, and whole human race.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I live on Instagram and we have a beautiful community there, so come join us @om_therapy_coaching and let’s keep this healing movement rolling!

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

Women In Wellness: Gabby Ortega of ‘OM Therapy Coaching’ on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.