Note: Thought leadership takes all kinds of forms. Sometimes, big ideas are expressed before thousands of fancy professionals in grand ballrooms. Other times, they’re shared with a gaggle of moms in a living room. My own, to be exact. I started The Mom Salon when I moved to Nashville in 2014, a new mom in search of parenting tips. The format is that of a classic salon: I open up my home for discussions led by different thought leaders, with topics that include parenting, relationships, wellness, safety, and life hacks that just get moms through the day. I used to think of these events as separate from my regular work with thought leaders; now, I see all of this as connected. Professional development is linked to personal development, and the thought leadership within each sphere is worthy. So from now on, I won’t hide my Mom Salon reflections as a side hobby; instead, those musings will join the rest of my perspectives right here on the preDiction blog. Enjoy.
We’re all experiencing this coronavirus crisis in different ways, some more frenetically than others. But even if you’re celebrating together aloneness while cheerfully Marie Kondo-ing every corner of your house/career/life, a pandemic will test the limits of any optimist.
I was one of those clinging to the “bright side”of this apocalypse (social isolation = more time for family bonding and closet organizing!) until my brother contracted COVID-19 in mid-March. Two hellish weeks later, helplessly hearing about his challenge getting real medical attention in overwhelmed Atlanta, I finally exhaled when his severe illness began to subside. My equilibrium is still recovering.
So I was thoroughly grateful when Julie Wald, Founder, CEO, and Chief Wellness Officer of the highly respected Namaste Wellness empire in New York, agreed to speak to The Mom Salon about how we’re supposed to keep ourselves together when everything around us is falling apart.
Julie has over 25 years experience as a clinical social worker, yoga and meditation teacher, Thai bodyworker, and Reiki Master. She also has specific experience in guiding people through global catastrophes: her wellness company was launched in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks. While moonlighting as a yoga and meditation teacher in the homes of prominent New Yorkers after 9/11, Julie noticed a profound shift in how individuals search for meaningful practices to nourish their mind, body and spirit.
Since 2003, Julie’s integrated wellness approach has served a vast and influential array of high-performing business leaders and celebrities, as well as children, families, individuals coping with chronic illness, with complementary wellness treatments delivered to a wide variety of underserved and disenfranchised New York schools, hospitals, and parks. Julie and her Namaste team help clients navigate their day-to-day lives, manage stress and pain, and cultivate lifelong well-being through extraordinary self-care planning and practices.
Julie has relayed her expertise in a just-released book, Inner Wealth: How Wellness Heals, Nurtures, and Optimizes Ultra-Successful People, which has already skyrocketed to #1 bestseller status on Amazon. Described as “the most critical conversation of our time” and “a must-read for everyone who wants to live a healthier, happier life,” the book feels as though it was written squarely to address this crisis, even though it was written long before terms like social isolation became a part of our daily vernacular. Inner Wealth provides soothing balm for the spirit that you’ll gobble up quickly and refer back to often.
Four pillars of wellness
In “virtual” person, Julie is a unique combination of enlightened and down to earth. Her online Mom Salon discussion last week felt like a guiding North Star amidst a disorienting, hurricane-whipped sea.
She acknowledged that right now, we collectively feel a sense of grief. We’re in the midst of a serious global threat and need to make a lot of space for a whole range of emotions that we feel now – perhaps grateful, blessed, annoyed, and frustrated all at the same time.
Julie’s objective for the talk was to help us see how this challenging time can open us up to opportunities for personal and familial growth, through a balanced approach of both effort and surrender.
Her powerful framework for finding strength involves four pillars of wellness, all of which are critical to maintaining a life of balance and happiness:
1. Movement: Our stress hormones can be broken down by movement, allowing us to manage the reactive “flight or fight” mode that is built into our survival instincts. Movement both calms us and lifts us up with feel-good endorphins, giving us the strength to manage difficult situations like the one we find ourselves in now. Movement includes programmed movement like exercise; integrated movement, such as adding movement to our normal routine; and yoga and stretching.
2. Stillness: Most of us are overstimulated and overworked, all the moreso now. Movement is essential, but so is the time when we can regenerate our bodies and minds with recovery and restoration. Stillness includes meditation, rest, reflection, and sleep, all of which centers and grounds us, allowing us to reconnect with ourselves and surrender to the flow of life.
3. Touch: This is about connection, relating and communicating to ourselves and others. We have a primal need to be held and supported, but we live in a way that deprives us of touch. We hold our phones instead of holding hands. Touch is a pillar of wellness because it invites a deeper, more energetic exchange between people than words alone. We want to think about plugging more into life and unplugging from everything else. At the same time, in our digital world – especially now – our virtual connections impact our offline connections, and we must be cognizant of this area.
4. Nourishment: This isn’t about a specific diet, but about mindfully feeding ourselves with gratitude and joy. It’s a process that begins with nourishing our bodies with food that feels healthy and fulfilling; continues with nourishing our minds with art, music, literature, and natural beauty; and includes nourishing our hearts through time spent with our families, friends, and community.
How do we integrate these four pillars during a time when our routines have been completely upended? After all, humans are drawn to routines – good and bad. It’s how we make sense of our world. Right now, we’ve lost all routine, and with that a sense of order.
It’s a challenge that Julie is experiencing herself, as she confessed that her exercise regime is off kilter while she deals with the disruptions surrounding her three kids, her business, and the rest of her life.
While there’s no one size fits all, Julie shared one overriding piece of advice:
Take small steps.
Every little bit counts. Give yourself tiny, achievable goals. Committing to a small goal is better than nothing, and can lead to bigger habits. Sometimes, all we need is a small push. Create healthy mini habits, small consistent behaviors that touch on all four pillars.
For Julie, this has meant telling herself that she only needs to carve out the time and will to walk to the end of her street every day. That’s it; an absurdly small goal for someone like Julie. Of course, she invariably exceeds this goal by far. The point is to just position herself to pursue this wellness pillar in some way.
Here’s what small steps might look like for you:
Stretch while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew.
Challenge your kids to sit together and take one deep breath followed by a slow exhale each day. Presto – now you have a breathing practice that to build upon.
Intentionally plug in to maintain relationships and a sense of connection. Reach out to two people every day to connect for 20 minutes.
Be mindful of what you’re putting into your bodies. Yes, we’re stressed right now and might be reaching for comfort, but sugar and alcohol are detrimental to our brains. Allow these things on the weekends and not in excess, because it just adds to what is already on your plate.
Find ways to incorporate stillness: add a timer on your phone that reminds you to take deep breaths at dedicated times; or use a guided practice for meditation.
Incorporate breathing exercises with touch; find a quiet moment to use essential oils and self massage your legs and feet.
Buy weighted blankets for yourself and family; they help to provide grounding and calm to your nervous system.
Constitutionally, we all feel stronger to approach the day when we have these strong pillars in place. So find ways to incorporate them however you can.
Child behavior challenges
How do you handle kids who are off schedule and may feel out of control?
Understand that there is no fixing the immediate issue, so you need to respond to them with empathy. Try: “I know how hard this is, I know you feel out of control right now. I know you are feeling really frustrated.”
Practice awareness of the five senses with your kids; sights such as right angles; smells such as essential oils, coffee beans, dark chocolate that land you in the moment; touch (place cool or warm hands on your own throat or tummy); sound (music); and interesting tastes. This can be a fun practice with little kids that brings them to the present moment.
Another fun diversion for you and your family – virtual dance parties; try Tasha Blank.
Things aren’t going to proceed perfectly, and that’s ok. Finding balance when you feel out of control IS the practice. All of this would be easier from the peace of a mountaintop; the point is to integrate these practices into our wildly imperfect situation.
We need to be kind with ourselves and with our children. Think about how we would we talk to our own little selves. Enter the day with compassion for ourselves and those around us.
During this very unique time, sleep may be a challenge. Try these tips:
Guided meditations at night, such as Insight Timer (Tara Brach is Julie’s personal favorite.)
Really unplug: don’t be on the phone in bed.
Have a soothing nighttime ritual, like tea, a good book, and melatonin.
Try an “adaptive” essential oil roller with a range of oils.
Try soundbaths: a relaxation technique and meditative experience whereby participants ‘bathe’ in the sound waves produced by the human voice as well as instruments such as chimes, gongs, drums and singing bowls.
Take a deep breath and understand that there is no “right” way to navigate through the chaos we find ourselves in. Find a gratitude practice so that you can be sustained by what you’re grateful for and commit to basic practices that involve all four pillars of wellness. Above all, structure your priorities around what makes sense for you and your family.
Julie would love the opportunity to support our mom tribe further with wellness coaching or private and group sessions for moms and/or children. For anyone worried about their parents, Namaste Wellness is also delivering many private virtual sessions for seniors stuck at home. Learn more and get in touch at Namaste Wellness.