Balance in the Face of Uncertainty
A look at coping in unpredictable times
Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, things did not, and many of us are again trying to find balance in the face of uncertainty.
In this chapter, we feature Lindsay Smith, who guides veterans and their families through trauma, utilizing her expertise in yoga with training by Warriors at Ease.
FGCU professors guide us through steps we can take to ignite the power of positive thinking, and designer Diane Torrisi delves into how our senses make home a sanctuary.
Uncertainty has affected many of our loved ones, too. Here we share small steps anyone experiencing anxiety can take to reemerge into society as well as how we can help those on the brink of despair.
“Fear is often our immediate response to uncertainty,” says bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein. “There’s nothing wrong with experiencing fear. The key is not to get stuck in it.”
It’s our hope that we all find balance in these changing times.
Striking the Warrior Pose
Specialized yoga instructor helps first responders, frontline workers and victims of trauma begin the healing process
by Karen Hanlon
What do you call someone who possesses the ability to lower blood pressure, provide mental clarity and improve sleep? And what if that person also has over 800 hours of yoga and trauma training? Is she a yogi or the feminine yogini?
“You can just call me Lindsay,” says Lindsay Smith, the effervescent owner of Vibe Yoga (vibeyogaswfl.com) in Fort Myers. The businesswoman and military wife is one of only two instructors in Southwest Florida trained by Warriors at Ease (WAE), a nonprofit that helps service members, veterans and their families address trauma through yoga.
Smith wasn’t always into yoga and had a mere two classes under her belt when she started her certification process. Prior to her yogi calling, she had a 23-year career in the hotel and hospitality industry until medical issues prompted her to walk away from the vocation she loved.
Then, she lost a twin in utero, and her doctor confined her to bed rest. Smith turned to yoga’s comfort and peace to help manage her grief and began reading about the methods for incorporating yoga into trauma therapy.
She thought about friends who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those lost to suicide. She thought about the active-duty spouses who are no more equipped to handle difficulty and uncertainty than civilian spouses, but simply rise to the occasion. And she empathized with family members who pretend to be strong and resilient while hiding terrified, aching hearts.
“Right then and there, all the light bulbs went off, and I knew I had to do something,” Smith says.
Now, as a WAE instructor, Smith uses evidence-based research to help returning soldiers with combat-related health conditions. Her free 75-minute class is available to first responders, firefighters, ER workers and anyone whose past trauma, anxiety or PTSD results in a heightened nervous system. In class, they focus on calming the mind while regulating breathing, physical responses and emotions.
“It’s not about achieving that Instagram model body,” Smith says. “There is an expectation with yoga therapists that we ‘heal.’ I will never say that at our studio. But, in this inclusive, safe space, we may be a part of your healing and rebuilding process.”
Each teacher in Smith’s studio, which offers more than 30 classes per week for all body types and ages, is required to provide a free class to their nonprofit of choice.
“Giving back to the community is the whole reason we opened the studio. If you are going to work here, you are going to do something for someone other than yourself,” Smith says.
And, as every yogi knows, selfless acts also benefit the instructors, who gain inner peace and joy as they connect with others.
“Mental health has always been my passion,” Smith continues.
She believes in providing young people with the skills to alleviate stress and anxiety. She has served on the board of directors for the Center for Progress and Excellence, creators of a crisis hotline for suicide prevention. In addition, her mindful yoga classes for teens incorporate journaling and meditation, which have been transformative for her own children.
The visionary mother of four (two were born Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day) has an unlimited commitment to the military population. She and her husband started a nonprofit and developed a Southwest Florida veteran app to knit together the third largest community of retired military in the country. Participants can post events and join together in healthy activities, including biking, paddleboarding, kayaking and, of course, yoga.
The Smiths have also applied for educational status from the state of Florida to accept Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits so they can open their Fort Myers beach house for yoga retreats and provide specialized training for veterans and their families.
Currently, Smith is working to become a WAE-affiliate studio to educate more teachers to reach more souls in need of the life-changing results she has witnessed firsthand. For example, a law enforcement officer assaulted on the job says the biweekly classes have restored her ability to sleep. A Coast Guard veteran with severe PTSD calls himself Smith’s “starfish,” referencing the story about a girl who tosses stranded starfish into the sea, knowing she can’t rescue them all. She perseveres because there are ones she can save.
As a result, Smith continues her mission, using yoga to make a difference: one moment, one exhale and one life at a time.
Karen Hanlon is a freelance writer who also serves on volunteer boards and fundraising committees throughout Naples, where she lives with her husband and three children.
in this issue
FYI: FOR YOUR INSPIRATION
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ~ Margaret Drabble
Your Home, Your Sanctuary
Let your senses guide you in making your home your refuge
by Diane Torrisi
No one needs to be reminded about the current chaos in our bright and brilliant world. Times are challenging. But if history has taught us anything, it is that this, too, shall pass.
One consistent need for mankind is shelter, whether it be a cave or a castle. After a long day of work, traffic and struggles, we all yearn to close the door behind us and be embraced by our own sanctuaries. As the old saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” I’ll go a bit further and say, “Home is where my sanity is.”
Whether your peace and equilibrium come from hearing the laughter of children around your kitchen island or the scent of incense burning in a dark bedroom, your home should supply you with an abundance of peace and comfort.
Now, think of our five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
When you first walk into your home, you are greeted by your chosen colors: the walls, the furniture, the flooring, etc. Ask yourself if these colors offer you visual calmness.
Do you prefer to have your favorite tunes playing throughout every speaker, or do you crave silence? (Personally, I need to the hear the background chatter of my TV.)
Ah, nothing transports us back to happier times than certain scents. Of course, over time, each home acquires its own scent, but we can, and should, control it. Consider favorite essential oils used in the bath water that waft through the home or the scent of home fresheners. (My favorites are jasmine and gardenia.)
Taste takes us straight to the kitchen. The smell of bacon is my Pied Piper. And who doesn’t feel the universe giving them a big hug on Thanksgiving morning when you stand in the kitchen and inhale?
As a designer with a passion for fabrics, this may very well be my favorite of the five senses. The richness of velvet, the cool frisson of silk drapery or the plush throw you curl up with on your sofa tie the five senses together to create your own private oasis.
Now, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Try to visualize all five senses being in perfect harmony, embracing you every time you enter your door after a long day. Imagine how much calmer and more apt to deal with your day you would be if your home sent you out into the world, giving you its best.
An interior designer can walk through this very personal process with you and assist you in cracking the code to your very own perfect harmony of senses.
Creating your personal oasis of peace and comfort will enable you to better navigate the uncertainty of the outside world.
Diane Torrisi grew up in Europe and brings that European flair to her design projects. She opened her own design studio in historic Bonita Springs in 2020. She is active in her community and has her own podcast, always dreaming up new offerings for her clients, from “Designer for a Day” to the upcoming “Studio Sessions,” a hands-on design workshop. Visit www.DianeTorrisiDesigns.com to learn more.
Take Your Time to Adjust
People with social anxiety may face challenges in returning to a “new normal”
by Carol Lazarus, LMHC
Isolation resulting from COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in an increase in the number of people experiencing social anxiety.
Even people who are fully vaccinated are, at times, reluctant to resume activities. Travel, dining out and going to a movie theater, place of worship or back to the workplace can be challenging in the face of increased anxiety.
People who had social anxiety before COVID-19 were probably relieved to have activities restricted. Working from home, being told to stay home and avoid contact with people who did not reside with them was comfortable. In the time that we have lived with restrictions, many with social anxiety lost the skills or tools with which, previously, they had managed their lives outside the home.
So here we are, a year and a half since restrictions began, with the threat of new variances growing greater. Our environment is full of misinformation, and we are being encouraged to “return to normal.” How does one go about doing that?
The key is to take small steps — practice going out into the world. Here are some practices to assist people with social anxiety create their “new normal.”
• Do the food shopping for the family. The supermarket is a familiar place, and if you shop during off hours, it won’t be so crowded.
• Get a newspaper from the vending machine. When that feels relatively comfortable, go into the pharmacy or supermarket and purchase a paper there.
• Start seeing old friends and family members for coffee or a meal. Keep the numbers limited. Start with short visits and gradually increase the time.
• Change what you tell yourself when you become anxious. Find a phrase that works and keep repeating it until you actually hear it. Some of my clients use phrases like, “It’s OK. I am OK. I don’t have to panic.” Find the phrases that work for you.
• Focus on your breathing to counteract anxiety. Taking deep breaths and slowing down your breathing actually relaxes your body.
• Remember, you have done this before, and you can do it again.
If social anxiety continues to interfere with your life, consider consulting your physician and/or a mental health provider, who can be helpful in guiding you.
Carol Lazarus is a licensed mental health counselor with over 25 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has been both a counselor and an administrator in residential and outpatient treatment programs and a therapist in psychotherapy practices in South Florida.
The Power of Positive Thinking
What thoughts will you consume today?
by Andrea Fortin and Maria F. Loffredo Roca, FGCU
The COVID-19 pandemic plunged us all into a world of fear, uncertainty and negativity. It felt like every time we turned on the television or looked at a social media site, we were faced with something frightening or desperately sad. If you are to recover from the negative impacts these messages continue to have on your mental health, it is important to consider how you nourish your spirit. If “we are what we eat,” we can also conclude, “we are what messages we consume.”
A diet of negative messages (both external and internal) has a negative effect on your well-being. One way to begin a healthy regimen of balanced thoughts is to closely examine the messages you “consume” each day.
Positive thinking can be developed at many different layers of our lives. This includes self-talk (our internal dialogue), the conversations you have in your immediate circles, your engagement with the local community, the media you watch and read, and your connections to the wider world.
To create space to heal from difficult experiences, it is important to expose yourself consciously and regularly to positive messages from friends, family and media. But it is equally (if not more) important that you send positive messages to yourself.
Researchers from diverse fields such as neurology and psychology have proven that positive messaging can change the way our brains work, leading us to happier, more productive lives.
Just like eating the occasional candy bar will not make you unhealthy, hearing negative messages at times will not make you unbalanced. Instead of complete avoidance of negative messaging, you should seek to take greater control of the thoughts, conversations and actions you expose yourself to.
You can develop internal strategies to quiet the inner critic.
You can politely excuse yourself from conversations that have turned negative.
You can change the channel when you feel negative messages impacting your mood.
You should also consider the positivity you bring to your interactions with others. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How do you make others feel? In every interaction you have with another person, you should ask yourself if there is room to add a compliment or kind observation to help nurture a better mental state for everyone involved, including yourself.
The pandemic has created an uncertain road ahead that we must navigate individually, with our families and with our communities. We each can make a difference by promoting greater positivity for ourselves and others by taking a few simple actions. Consider incorporating some of the following suggestions into your life.
Ten Suggestions for Positive Thinking
1. Perform an act of kindness for yourself. This can be something as simple as writing a positive note for yourself to find when you wake up, making a home-cooked meal or taking a warm bath.
2. Do a daily positive affirmations meditation. An affirmation can be as simple as, “I am enough.” You can use your favorite soothing music in the background or enjoy the natural sounds that surround you. There are many recordings of positive affirmation meditations available.
3. Write your own list of positive affirmations. Tape them to your bathroom mirror and read them each morning as you prepare for your day.
4. Keep a gratitude journal. End each day by making a list of at least five things you are grateful for, then review the list at the end of the week.
5. Develop a silencing mechanism when the negative voices start to enter your thinking — create a self-message like, “Go away. You are not helpful.”
6. Give others true compliments. They will often respond in kind.
7. Do an act of kindness for someone you know or even a stranger.
8. Let go of the negative or toxic behaviors others may exhibit. Avoid internalizing these thoughts. If you feel the negative creeping inward, take some advice from Ted Lasso, the fictional TV coach who is characterized by his persistent optimism and quick wit. He poses the following solution: “You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish.”
9. Volunteer in your local community. There are many formal and informal ways to give back to others.
10. Find a space where you can share your talents or positivity with the global community — on social media, offering a Zoom session to people in your field or creating a short course. These are just a few possibilities.
Rebalancing our minds, bodies and spirits after the pandemic will require patience and persistence. Remember the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Dr. Andrea Fortin is a visiting assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. She teaches for the Roots of Compassion and Kindness (ROCK) initiative at the university.
Dr. Maria F. Loffredo Roca is the chair of the Department of Integrated Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is also the director of FGCU’s Roots of Compassion and Kindness (ROCK) initiative.
Help Prevent Suicide
Offer Hope. Offer Help.
by Jessica Liria, children’s outreach specialist, David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health
With mental health concerns being both common and on the rise, it’s important to be aware of warning signs that those around us need help. As September is Suicide Prevention Month, now is a great time to become aware of important slues to someone’s suffering.
From the subtle to the obvious, warning signs are there and it’s up to us to learn how to help when those around us need it.
Recognizing changes in mood and behavior is a great place to start. Have there been changes in the person’s sleeping and eating patterns? Are they having difficulty managing emotions appropriately, seem isolative or withdrawn? Have they made statements or displayed actions conveying hopelessness and/or helplessness? These are all signs that a deeper issue is going on.
As you identify these concerns, discuss them openly — but be thoughtful of your approach. You want to be nonjudgmental and reassure the person that you care and want to help. Share what you have heard and noticed using “I” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You have been feeling sad lately,” say, “I notice you have been feeling sad.” These types of statements mitigate defensiveness and allow for more open-ended dialogue.
It is a common myth that you will place the idea of suicide in someone’s mind if you ask them about thoughts of harming themselves. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. By asking the person if they have had thoughts of killing themselves, you may be lifting an incredibly heavy burden they have been carrying around alone.
As you ask the question and prepare for the response, maintain your composure. Stay cool, calm and collected. You may be nervous and your heart may be pounding, but in order for the person to confide in you, they need to trust that you can handle it.
Gather as much information as you can. Do they have a plan? Have they thought about when this will happen? Have they spoken to anyone else about it? What do they think can help them? And most importantly, always instill hope and assure them that they are not alone. There may be times where you ask the person if they have experienced these thoughts and they say “no.” That doesn’t mean your concerns are no longer valid.
Continue to look for signs. There are several key indicators that convey thoughts of suicide. Giving away valued possessions, seeking access to lethal means and making comments such as “It won’t matter much longer” or “No one would care if I were gone” are all of high concern. You may need to revisit an earlier conversation and ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” more than once.
When a person admits they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is critical that they not be left alone. We must always take them seriously and seek professional help immediately. Safety is the ultimate goal when someone is at risk of suicide.
There are many resources available to help, including national hotlines and local behavioral health services. Community agencies like David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC) have emergency services departments open 24 hours a day to support anyone in a mental health crisis.
Call 911 when anyone is in imminent danger of hurting themselves or has already done so. Emergency medical professionals and/or law enforcement officers can arrive on site promptly. Time is of the essence, and these services should be utilized without hesitation.
Words cannot describe how compassion, empathy and kindness can be life changing to those struggling with mental health concerns. We cannot look the other way or hope the situation will get better on its own.
Every life is worth living. As a community, we must come together for our families, friends and neighbors. We cannot let suicide be a permanent solution to temporary problems.
There is hope. There is help. Suicide is preventable.
Jessica Liria has worked with David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health since 2013. Starting as a behavioral health technician on the crisis unit, she is certified in Mental Health First Aid training.
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health Emergency Services: 239-354-1438
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
The Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
The Center for Progress and Excellence Mobile Crisis Line: 844-395-4432
The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line: 800-273-8255, press 1
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Curbing the ‘She-cession’ Epidemic
Steps to attracting and retaining women in the workplace
by Janel Dyan
Since COVID-19 began, numerous studies have shown the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women and their participation in the labor force.
Coined “She-cession,” 2020 saw an alarming rate of women exiting the workforce. With more than 11 million women having lost their jobs and another 2.65 million having left the workforce, President Biden called the lack of women in the workforce a “national emergency” for the country’s economic recovery. Because they contribute nearly $8 trillion to the annual GDP, there’s clearly a case for doing more to help attract, retain and support women in the workforce.
Although we have seen progress in the gender roles of sharing household and parenting responsibilities, and made noteworthy strides for equal pay in the workforce, we need to understand why women are leaving so we can take the right steps to attract and retain them in the future.
Why are women leaving the workforce?
First and foremost, there’s a lack of child care and caregiving services, largely due to the closures of schools and day care centers. Not only do women continue to bear the brunt of domestic duties — with mothers being three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for housework and child care during the pandemic — the economic crisis resulted in the elimination of many jobs typically held by women and some not coming back, even when restrictions are lifted.
In January alone, another 275,000 women dropped out of the labor force, accounting for nearly 80% of all workers over age 20 who left the workforce. Most at risk are women in senior roles, working mothers and women of color.
Six Steps to Level the Gender Playing Field
• Offer flexible workdays, realistic workloads and work-from-home options
With 90% of companies thinking about more work being done remotely, women have a great opportunity to take advantage of this option. However, we need to be mindful about long-term effects of this shift by creating an adaptive culture that doesn’t view family obligations as a hindrance to job performance. If we fail to do so, there is the potential to create two types of employees: those who don’t have caregiving responsibilities and can spend more facetime with their managers and those who continue to shoulder the caregiving duties and may be penalized with fewer opportunities, lower wages and fewer chances for advancement.
• Implement paid parental leave
Coined the “motherhood penalty,” employers continue to see women as less capable and less committed to work. By funding and encouraging men to take as much time for parental leave as women, it actually helps women by putting them on equal footing.
• Reevaluate compensation structures
Women are at a higher risk of greater earning penalties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic because they have disproportionately taken time off from work to take on child and elder care at home. According to a report by PayScale, women often incur a pay penalty on returning to work after a prolonged absence, earning 7% less on average than men in the same position.
“The pressure is on business leaders to reassess their compensation systems to create an equitable environment for women within their companies and to keep society from taking major steps back in gender equality,” says Tanya Jansen, co-founder of beqom.com, a cloud-based compensation software firm.
• Provide benefits
Companies need to provide benefits that make life easier for working women. Consider adding policies and provisions such as a monthly house cleaner, tutoring stipend, support for finding child or elder care and colleague support groups for moms. The more you can support women with their responsibilities at home, the more we will see women headed back to work.
“Stronger engagement on gender equality is key to a sustainable global recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and building fairer, more inclusive, more prosperous societies. Women and girls are in the frontline of the pandemic and must be put in the driving seat of the recovery,” says Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships.
• Reevaluate hiring practices
Start with building a diverse recruiting team that brings unique perspectives to the table and a wider network of candidates to pull from. Deepen your candidate pipeline with a focus on gender equality and diversity. Hire candidates that may not check all the boxes of the job description today, but who show growth potential you can invest in. Identify and work to remove any unconscious biases in the hiring process with a focus on equal pay for equal work. Diversity isn’t a line item, it’s the only way to run a company.
• Design a women’s development program
Begin with creating a healthy and inclusive corporate culture, focusing on tailoring programs for growth on all levels, with advancement opportunities, networking, training and mentorship. In fact, women who are mentored are statistically more successful in the workplace than non-mentored women and rise to positions of power faster, with fewer roadblocks. And it’s not only transformative for women, but organizations can also begin to balance their leadership teams with greater diversity.
Investing in women and providing them with the opportunity to join the workforce again isn’t just good for women, it’s good for the economy. In fact, if we can close the gender gap by 2025, $28 trillion would be added to the global economy. (To put that in perspective, that is the size of the economies of the U.S. and China combined.)
It goes without saying, we need to act quickly to reverse this trend.
Janel Dyan is an executive leadership brand strategist, speaker and author. She developed the JD Methodology that is a blueprint for women in leadership to create a powerful personal brand that not only represents who she is but the company she represents. To learn more, visit www.janeldyan.com.