Saturday, July 13, 2024

Mind Your Health

It's May - Mental Health Awareness Month! Let's break the silence and shine a light on the essential aspects of our wellbeing.

Unlocking the Path Within: A Journey to Reconnect With Our Inner Self & Foster Wellbeing (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of our enlightening interview with an esteemed Emotional Resilience and Embodied Feminine Leadership Coach, Isabelle Griffith as we continue our ‘Mind Your Health’ series. In the first part of this interview, we delved into the fundamental aspects of mental and emotional wellbeing and the transformative power it holds in our lives. If you missed it, we highly recommend giving it a read to lay the foundation for the captivating insights that lie ahead. Today we continue to explore the realms of self-leadership, wellbeing, and the profound journey of reconnecting with our inner selves.

In this exclusive interview series with AlignThoughts, Isabelle dives deeper, unveiling the practical tools, techniques, and wisdom she has gained over the years to uncover the secrets to nurturing our wellbeing and cultivating a harmonious relationship with our inner selves.

Join us as she embraces the power of practicing self-regulation, sheds light on the mysteries of our inner being, and helps us learn the vital skills essential in today’s always-on and fast-paced world.

Being in a healthy state is crucial so that we can help others in need. So how to nurture our inner self and focus to better our wellbeing?

We live in a society that leads us – particularly as women – to be orienting upward and outwardly. We spend a lot of time ‘in our heads’ caught up in thinking, planning, strategizing, analyzing, etc. These are really important skills, but we have practiced them to such an extent that we tend to experience life through our thinking. We become disconnected from our bodies and lose touch with a sense of presence – which ultimately happens when we experience the moment we’re in through our senses, the sensations, emotions, and feelings alive in our body at that moment.

We also orient outwardly. As women, we are socialized to be more attuned to the needs of those around us than our own. Over years of practice, it means that we often become disconnected from ourselves. It can look like prioritizing everyone else’s needs and happiness over our own, people pleasing, overgiving, self-sacrificing and self-abandonment. We might feel empty and perhaps resentful.

Many of the women I support, share that they struggle to remember:

  • what they like,
  • what gives them joy and pleasure,
  • and what they enjoy when they aren’t focused on everyone else’s needs.

Some feel like they have lost touch with who they really are – that is how powerful this outward orientation can be. So, nurturing our inner self means re-orienting downwards (into our body) and inwards (towards our inner world).

Creating practices that help us to deliberately connect with ourselves is a great way to start. This might be meditation, mindfulness, somatic movement and practices, or anything that helps us to intentionally pay attention to what’s happening within us. An easy way to start is by setting an alarm on your phone and taking a brief pause 3 times a day and asking yourself: “How am I feeling? What do I need?”.

I often liken this to bringing our center of gravity back into the body, and to becoming the epicenter of our own life.

What is happiness according to you, and what lifestyle changes are necessary to cultivate a state of happiness?

Happiness is a felt sense, and will feel subtly different for each one of us. To me, happiness is a deep inner contentment, which comes from fully experiencing and receiving the moment I’m in, without resistance and with an appreciation of its fragility and fleeting nature.

Happiness is often in the little things: an awe-inspiring sunset, a moment spent with my loved ones, a walk with my dog, or a sip of my favorite hot drink on a cold day. All things we tend to miss in our frantic race toward this elusive moment where we can finally pause and be happy.

I love this definition, by Tara Brach: “Happiness lies not in finding what is missing, but in finding what is present.”

Cultivating happiness is practicing slowing down, being present, being in our body, and opening our senses to experience this moment more fully. It’s a willingness to let go of our expectations of what it ‘should’ look or feel like, so we are able to enjoy what’s here.

It isn’t a state we live in permanently, but rather the practice of noticing and savoring these glimmers in the midst of our busy lives.

As Beau Taplin once said: “I’m beginning to recognize that real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.”

For a long time, we have been engrained with a perception that to be successful in life we have to take a busy, stressful path with several setbacks. According to you, what is success and how can one be successful without sacrificing his/her wellbeing?

We all learn to live by society’s blueprint of what a successful life looks like. We get swept up by the current without questioning what our personal version of ‘winning’ at life would be. I followed this blueprint for many years, as have most of the women I support. I know from experience that it often leads us to sacrifice our wellbeing, our wholeness, our confidence, and sometimes even our sense of self. It keeps us in repeating cycles of chronic stress and burnout: oscillating between being all ‘ON’ and being all ‘OFF’.

So how can we be successful without compromising our wellbeing?

  • Start by redefining success. Give yourself time to reflect on what really matters, and what ‘winning’ truly looks like for you, in this particular season of your life.
  • Choose to orient towards wellbeing. Through the hundreds of micro choices you make each day, practice self-commitment by tending to your needs. Practice regulating your nervous system to stay within your capacity and draw on the resources that sustain you.
  • Make the bold and courageous decision to practice radical self-care. Schedule it in your diary so it is ring-fenced as non-negotiable. Little and often is the way.
  • Learn to practice flow rather than being always ‘ON’: create micro (or bigger) moments of rest and recovery throughout your days and weeks.
  • Set compassionate boundaries and learn to become comfortable with saying ‘no’.
  • Practice tender discipline – in yoga we talk about finding the sweet spot between effort and ease. Without adding more to your to-do list, how could you bring a little more being into your doing.

Ultimately, it’s about shifting from an outdated version of success where success is at the epicenter of our life to placing ourselves in that epicenter, recognizing that when we are grounded, rested, and well, everything and everyone is all the better for it.

How to cope with emotional and mental health issues as leaders?

I mentioned the vital need for leaders to develop their emotional resilience so that they are resourced to support others. Letting go of the polished facade, and allowing themselves to be human rather than holding themselves to inhumane standards can help relieve the pressure, and in doing so, giving others around them permission to be authentic too.

Beyond this, due to the nature of their role, leaders often lack a safe space to express how they really feel, and talk about their mental and emotional health. Working with a coach or mental health professional in a safe, confidential and supportive container can be incredibly valuable.

Amidst so much happening in the world – a war, economic crisis, etc., how do we find happiness, stability and inner peace?

The past few years have been particularly volatile and uncertain, which, for many of us, will have affected our core sense of inner safety and wellbeing. The more chaotic the world around us feels, the more anchored we need to be in our own resilience.

Creating that anchor, stability and inner peace starts with cultivating a sense of inner safety by learning to regulate our nervous system. Self-regulation helps us to return to a state of calm and balance in those moments where it all feels too much, as well as widening our capacity to cope with the ups and downs of life over time. It’s an absolutely vital skill to learn in today’s fast-paced, ‘always on’ world. This is something that I think should be taught in schools.

Restoring our inner capacity is particularly important at a time when the events of the past few years are likely to have depleted it. There are many ways to practice self-regulation: mindfulness, humming, orienting, and somatic practices are a few examples. But using our breath is one of the most accessible and effective ways to do so (if resting your awareness on your breath feels safe for you).

When you feel stressed or anxious, try breathing in slowly as if you were inhaling the fragrance of your favorite flowers, and breathing out in a long, soft exhale through pursed lips, as if you were blowing on a candle.

As an emotional resilience coach, what are the 3 most common questions you get asked by women whom you coach?

Women often come to me because they feel stressed or anxious. Perhaps they are navigating particularly challenging circumstances or are simply weighed down by years of ‘overdoing’. They may be doubting themselves and feeling like an imposter at work, they feel exhausted by years of perfectionism, people pleasing, over-achieving, and expanding all of their energy outwardly. Many feel disconnected from themselves. They feel like they have lost a sense of who they used to be, and who they really are.

They know it’s unsustainable and they want to reclaim themselves and their life. The words that I hear most often from the women I support when they reflect on what they want more of in their life are: calm, peace, presence, lightness, resilience, and confidence. I would say that the most common questions I get asked are:

  • I’m exhausted from carrying ‘all the things’ and trying so hard all the time. I feel like I’m holding so much. I’m worried about burning out. How can I find more balance, and go from feeling like a shadow of myself to feeling like the woman I know I am?
  • I’m constantly stressed and anxious and I feel like life is passing me by. I’m missing out on all these precious moments. How can I feel calmer, more present and at peace?
  • I’ve lost my confidence, I feel like an imposter, and the inner critical voice in my mind is relentless. How can I feel more confident, and live life in a bigger playing field?

What is your personal approach toward self-leadership? And what, according to you is the key essence of a leader?

I consider the term leadership or leader to be far broader than the traditional view, which confines it to a position or role within an organization. In my view, we are all leaders – whether in our families, communities, or workplaces. Our way of being is a way of leading. Which is why self-leadership is so important.

My personal approach to self-leadership is a somatic one. It starts with embodied presence: learning to be ‘in our body’, aware of the feelings, emotions and sensations we experience, and of where we are in our nervous system. We can then make choices from there, which reflect our values and what matters most.

To me, self-leadership encompasses being aware of where we are, regulating our nervous system, coping with our emotions skillfully, managing our mind, learning to source our worth and validation from within and embodying the impact we want to have in the world.

I believe that this is the key essence of a leader – leading one, before we lead many. Becoming our inner CEO first. So that what we ‘overspill’ in the world is in integrity with who we want to be and the imprint we want to leave behind – knowing that our way of being is a way of leading.

It was such an insightful discussion, Isabelle! Thank you so much for being a part of our mission to raise awareness about mental health. Take care!