Introduction by Annamarie Fernyak
In the following blog post, Erin talks about the stigma of mental health and common biases toward people who may be suffering from mental illness. Before Erin’s thoughtful essay, I never considered that I might have biases. After reflecting on Erin’s words, I came to realize that some biases were just below the surface.
So, what can we do once you know those subconscious inclinations exist? What do I do?
Be mindful, of course! We each have the beautiful ability to tune the dial of awareness onto our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. By paying careful attention, we gain information and uncover unwanted habits and beliefs. The pause taken to tune into awareness provides the opportunity for you to weigh what is happening at any moment against your values; then an action may be chosen. It allows purposeful actions instead of reactions.
Take time to self-reflect. Listen to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Discover if you have habitual ways of thinking or hidden prejudices, and invite yourself to think, act, and exist in a way that positively serves yourself and the world.
Sending a virtual hug!!!
“I heard you were sick the other day. How are you feeling?”
“You had surgery recently, right? How are you recovering?”
“Oh no, you have the flu?? Stay home and take care of yourself!”
All of the above statements are commonly heard among friends and co-workers on a daily basis. We are often able to discuss health issues and illnesses, checking on one another, and making sure physical health issues are addressed. Imagine if the following was overheard:
“I heard you had a manic episode last week. How are you feeling?”
“You had a psychiatric hospitalization recently, right? How are you doing?”
“Oh no, you had a panic attack? Please stay home and take care of yourself!”
If any of the above statements make you uncomfortable, you are not alone.
Except for those who work in the mental health field, the statements above do not roll off the tongue. We are completely comfortable talking about the health ailments of ourselves and our friends, family, and co-workers; however, the stigma around mental health often leaves us speechless and silent, rendering those with mental health symptoms isolated and ostracized.
So why does this occur?
There are a variety of reasons and theories. In the Middle Ages, those with mental health symptoms were thought to be punished by God or possessed by the devil, so they were often imprisoned, burned, or killed. Perhaps the discomfort around mental health stems from the colonial and industrial periods; at this time, women were commonly viewed as property of the fathers and husbands in their lives, and these men could have them “committed” to a sanitarium at any time, with very little evidence. In the days of Nazi Germany, horrible experiments were conducted on those deemed mentally ill because some believed the mentally ill were a disposable population.
In the 1960s and 1970s, deinstitutionalization resulted in the influx of those diagnosed as severely mentally ill as these individuals re-entered local communities to receive treatment. However, this also led to homelessness, and it doubled the number of people identified as mentally ill in the criminal justice system in the following years. Additionally, the media sensationalize acts of violence and attribute them to mental illness, even if there is no evidence of a connection.
In this historical context, all episodes of mental illness get lumped together. Whether the person is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, the individual is often viewed from the same lens, both internally (view of self) and externally (how others view the person). If one grows up hearing about “crazy” people, who commit acts of violence or who live on the street, and then experiences mental health symptoms, it can be alarming and unsettling. Often, people will not admit to themselves or others what symptoms they experience for fear of being hospitalized, losing their job, or not being able to see or care for their children.
What can the average person do then, to reduce this stigma for oneself and significant others?
Mental health issues are isolating, and lack of connection with others exacerbates these issues. Human connection is the balm that heals. Sometimes, just having someone who is willing to sit with you, even in silence, is the most healing thing of all. Be that connection for someone. There are several things we can do :
1. Educate yourself.
The more you know, the less scary and strange something will be. And then, you can help educate others with facts.
2. Recognize what biases you have.
Examine from where these biases stem, whether from how you were brought up or societal influences.
3. Talk about your own mental health struggles.
Each of us has ups and downs in our moods and emotions; that is very normal. Each of us also has times in our lives when we struggle with difficult situations and circumstances. Talking about these struggles openly makes room and space for others to do so as well.
4. Be aware of language.
Instead of saying words like “crazy” or “nuts” or “cuckoo”, or even saying things like “he’s bipolar” or “she’s depressed”, say things like “he has symptoms of bipolar disorder” or “those who have schizophrenic symptoms”. This begins to identify the person as separate and distinct from the condition.
5. Support people who are struggling.
Reach out to someone you know is having difficulty with anxiety, depression, or even a psychotic episode. Let them know you are there.
*May is Mental Health Month and in support of our community, Mind Body Align is offering several FREE resources! Check it out here!
Erin Schaefer, LPCC-S, IMFT-S, is the Executive Vice President/Executive Director at Catalyst Life Services. She received a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Lutheran University in 1997 and a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling in 2002 from the University of Akron. Erin has worked in community mental health for over 20 years. She was also director of Ashland Parenting Plus, a small nonprofit agency focused on teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile diversion, and parent education. She served on the board and as president of the Ohio Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and also on the board of directors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy from 2011-2013; she currently Treasurer-Elect, starting her term in Jan. 2020. She has been a member of AAMFT since 1997 and is a Clinical Fellow.
Erin has been married to Michael for over 20 years. They have two teenage children. Erin is also a certified running coach with Road Runner Clubs of America. She is an avid marathoner and loves running long distances. Erin believes in the power of exercise to help maintain good mental health!
In my quest to write a perfect blog, while procrastinating with a slight fear of failing before I even get started, I will review with you a couple of ways to look at perfectionism. And perhaps through exploring those with you, I can help you and me identify some things we can both do to address that BIGG or little piece in each of us that may tend to be a perfectionist.
The first definition of PERFECTIONIST I looked up is a person who refuses any standard short of perfection. Other definitions linked it to a personality trait or type that strives for flawlessness and setting up high standards, accompanied by being overly critical of themselves and others. There is a connection between perfectionism and a fear of failure, and a need to be accepted.
I believe one can have high standards without some of the other things that go along with being a perfectionist. Once you have the emotional intelligence to recognize that you have some of the traits or qualities of being a perfectionist, you can work on addressing them for your own good, and the good of people around you, if you choose.
Many of you know that as a trainer and coach, I am a huge advocate of Gallup’s strengths-based leadership research. I love the idea that we need to focus on what’s right with people, rather than what is going wrong. This helps me manage perfection. In looking over Gallup’s 34 top leadership strengths’ “basements,” I found one that has “perfectionism,” and that is the strength called MAXIMIZER. Things like “never good enough” and “always reworking” and “picky” are part of the basement that can happen when you overuse it. It’s a strength I have that can make me a good coach. One that focuses on mastery, success, excellence, and working with the best. One that couples with my value that everyone can do their best, and everyone’s best can be different and EVERY kind and brand of excellence can be valued and rewarded. I believe people are perfect, not imperfect, just as they are.
As a coach, how I manage to keep from falling in the basement of “perfectionism” is that I believe in people and think they know how to solve their issues and move forward in their lives. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in them to help them do it. It’s not my job to tell them what they need to do, nor fix them. I honor and applaud their excellence.
Brene Brown, a well-known research professor, social worker, and five-time #1 New York Times best selling author, would suggest that PERFECTIONISM is a function of shame. Her definition is that perfectionism is a self-destructive belief system that fuels this primary thought – that if I look perfect or do everything perfectly, I avoid or minimize the painful feeling of blame, judgment, and shame.
It’s destructive because PERFECTION is an unattainable goal.
It’s getting sucked into proving I could do something versus PAUSING and stepping back and asking if I should do this, or if I want to do this.
I LOVE PAUSING.
Since my mother’s passing, I have worked a lot on emotional courage – to lean into and feel and identify the emotions I am experiencing, not judge them, but to sit with them and understand them, and explore if other choices could better serve me at some point. What’s the emotion that is behind this feeling of perfection? Am I feeling blame, judgment, or shame? What can I choose to do with it? How can I have a conversation with those I work with or someone who has dropped the ball without blaming, but just to talk about what happened so we can fix it and move on?
MOVE ON. LET IT GO.
How can we wade into our discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about our own stories, those real stories, those that we are not making up? Some of the other things that we can do that Brene and I and others may recommend addressing those areas of perfection that don’t serve us include:
*Say NO, not with an excuse, not with an explanation, just say NO. Set boundaries.
*Talk to ourselves like we would with someone we love. You are human. I am human. We all make mistakes.
As a leader, I would recommend that you HAVE to make mistakes and be vulnerable in front of other people, especially those you supervise so that they know that they can make mistakes too.
- Connect with someone who can respond with empathy and talk to them. Brene Brown suggests that shame cannot survive being spoken. Speak.
- Ask for help. Ask for your supervisor to help you prioritize. Quit picking up more work to do because no one else is. Hold people accountable. Give clear and honest feedback to them promptly.
- Catch people doing things right- celebrate victories and little or big WINS. Focus on gratitude. THANK people more.
- Ask for FEEDBACK from others…and don’t get defensive when you get it. Listen to it. Act on it.
And my favorite:
- Be a BADASS and don’t care what people think. Start “settling” a little bit more. Clarifying expectations is important, but you may need to lower expectations and standards …just because you can…and your expectations are not always reasonable or worth it.
According to Brene Brown, Perfection is the furthest thing from badassery.
Cindy Biggs is a leadership development expert working as a certified coach, mentor, and trainer. She started her encore career in 2012, as President of C. Biggs and Associates (www.SEEBIGG.com) after making a commitment to follow her dreams to be an entrepreneur and focus her top leadership strengths. She was CEO of Planned Parenthood of NC Ohio, based in Mansfield, for 20 years and VP of Organizational Development for 5 years after architecting a 5-way merger in NE Ohio with 4 other women to create a large, regional non-profit, Planned Parenthood of NE Ohio in Akron. Her volunteer work focuses on women’s empowerment and leadership development with nonprofits, including Central America Medical Outreach in Santa Rosa de Copan and the League of Women Voters. She lives in Wooster and Howard with her husband Jeff and cat Colt.
Q: I enjoy doing yoga but I get insecure about my body differences.
When I need help with modifications, I am embarrassed to ask. What can I do to let the instructor know that I need some assistance without disrupting the class?
Amy: I’m so glad to receive this question, and I really appreciate the phrase “body differences.”
There’s a lot to care for here, so I’m going to break up the answer into two parts. (look for Part Two to post soon!)
Part One: The Culture of Body Differences: Insecurity & Positivity
Because we live together in a society, we grow up learning what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as what is and isn’t desirable or worthy of attention, comfort, or praise from a variety of industries that make up our popular culture. From entertainment and leisure to fashion and trends, to scores of news outlets, we see, hear, and internalize sets of beliefs that shape our world view and self-image. In addition to these broader influences, our belief systems are also shaped by our specific family culture, which can include ethnic and religious traditions, shared knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the outlook, attitudes, values, morals, goals, and customs shared by our own immediate and extended families. Because our cultural formation is both broad and specific, we grow into adulthood with a variety of filters unique to our own experience; and to add more complexity, these different lenses might even be in conflict with each other.
You are not alone. Our unique world view and self-image shape how we function in relation to ourselves and other people during public events and private moments. We tend to compare ourselves to an internal “ideal,” to other groups of people, and individuls to see where we fall on the spectrum of “socially acceptable.”
It’s helpful to remember that not only are we not alone in the experience of being different, but every single one of us has some kind of body difference, whether subtle or obvious, as well as invisible differences, such as auto-immune diseases, mental injury, complex learning styles, and so much more. So when we head into a body-based class like yoga, we’re all bringing with us thousands of years of ancestral DNA, our own cultural formation, and all of our “differences” both seen and unseen.
It is natural to experience insecurity around our differences. And it’s also natural to experience positive emotions around our differences. The next time you feel unsure about an instruction, posture, or practice in a yoga class, remember it’s not just you; most likely, other students are unsure about it, too. We’ll get into the details more in Part Two, but briefly, if the style of the class is not too terribly fast, and you can make eye contact with the teacher, trying asking for general suggestions. For instance, if you’d rather not ask specific questions about a particular topic, consider asking for more general modifications. Try something like, “Can you offer any other options if this isn’t working for us?” Remember this, if nothing else: Yoga, and yoga postures, are here in service to you; you are not in class to be of service to the postures.
If you’d like to take this discussion further, if you’ve ever thought, “yoga is not for me,” or if you’d like to explore the possibilities around shifting from insecurity to positivity, here are some great resources:
- Amber Karnes & Body Positive Yoga: Amber is the founder of BodyPositiveYoga.com and the creator of Body Positive Clubhouse, an online community for folks who want to make peace with their bodies and build unshakable confidence.
- Yoga for Amputees: Marsha T. Danzig
- Amputee Yoga Association
- Accessible Yoga: AccessibleYoga.org: A nonprofit organization that believes all people, regardless of ability or background, deserve equal access to the ancient teachings of yoga. By building a strong network and advocating for a diverse Yoga culture that is inclusive and welcoming, Accessible Yoga is sharing Yoga with all.
Part Two – The Yoga Classroom: Student-Teacher Relationship & Class Agreements (coming soon!)
Resident MBA Yogi, Amy Secrist, is available to answer questions, give insight and guidance, and help you feel great about your yoga practice. You can email your questions to Amy@mindbodyalign.com or message us on Facebook or Instagram #AskAYogi @MindBodyAlign
You can also join Amy for practice at the Butterfly House on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 am. Learn more here.
Amy Secrist, Mindfulness and Yoga Educator (E-RYT 300+), brings 20 years of personal yoga practice and over 16 years of yoga teaching experience to Mind Body Align. She is a trained instructor of trauma-based mindful education. In addition to teaching the MBAwareness Program, she is co-creator of social emotional learning curriculum content. Amy earned her BA in English and Writing from The Ohio State University and her MA in English and Writing from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. Amy is married to Jeremy and has four school-aged children.
Hello MBA Community,
This year at Mind Body Align we are embarking on an exploration into mindfulness and wholehearted living. We began the year by offering some tools for you to use in order to assess where you are at this moment. (see Annamarie’s wheel of wellbeing) Our intention is that each month we shed light on each area of whole living through our blog posts, podcasts, playlists, and even the resources that we curate for you in our retail shop. We kicked off the March topic with Coffee Talk guest host, Cindy Biggs. As an accomplished leadership and executive coach, we knew that she would be the ideal person to talk with us about this month’s topic, perfectionism. Be sure to keep an eye out for Cindy’s blog post called Perfectionism Rewired. It will be in your inbox next week.
So why are we talking about perfectionism if our year is focused on whole living? Why not just dive into one of the areas on the wheel of wellbeing? Sometimes we need to start with the obstacles. If we begin with them we can open up a dialog to find strategies and solutions. Perfectionism seems to keep coming up when we talk about issues facing our Mind Body Align community. The response to the LunchWISE Wednesday event last month, when we tackled the topic of Imposter Syndrome, truly struck a chord. I have never received so many emails after an event. The idea of being perfect can be a huge stumbling block when it comes to living a life that is fully engaged. For many, trying to be perfect is a way to avoid the fear of failure and, just to be clear, we are talking about perfectionism as opposed to setting standards or striving for excellence.
Back in October 2018 our guest blogger, Kym Lamb wrote, “I’ve found that Bravery Over Perfection comes when you are willing to inspect your strengths and weaknesses. It’s the willingness to question what you believe and why consistently…Bravery emerges when we embrace failure as taking that one daring step past fear and it’s when we recognize that excellence comes not in being flawless, but fearless.”
I love this! “Taking that ONE DARING STEP past the fear.
So how do we use and apply the practice of mindfulness when it comes to silencing our inner critic?
Begin with awareness.
Notice and pay attention to the words and tones that you use with yourself. The voice in our head can work to keep us safe but there are times when we need to simply recognize it and release it especially when it is telling us things that are negative or untrue. Would you speak to a friend the way that you speak to yourself?
Notice what is happening.
When we recognize that the voice in our head (our inner critic) is at work or we realize that we have set a standard that is beyond realistic, Mind Body Align founder, Annamarie Fernyak, says you should ask yourself the question, what’s happening now? What do I see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? What thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions are present? What do I “sense” or intuit is happening in the world around me?
Move into the present moment.
Once we have done a check-in with our heart, mind, and physical sensations we can begin to release judgments and embrace curiosity. Our thoughts pass by us like clouds in the sky. We observe them rolling past without becoming attached or engaging them.
Develop a practice.
Meditation is a great tool for learning to live mindfully. Like most things worth pursuing, it takes practice and training. Mediation can be done in the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth but it does require regularity. It’s a workout for your brain and the benefits of setting aside the time are so worth it. You would never expect to go running once and then sign up for a marathon expecting to complete it. Mindfulness meditation works in the same way. You’ve got to train the brain.
Surround yourself with people and things that support your commitment to living fully. It is essential to your success. Be aware of who you are spending time with, what you are reading, watching or listening to, and curate those things with intention.
As we move through the month of March and adjust our clocks internally and externally for Spring, our team at Mind Body Align invites you to join us with curiosity, self-compassion, and mindfulness as we explore perfectionism. We look forward to connecting with you at one of our classes, events or conversations on social media.
Sending you joy!
P.S. Be sure to keep an eye on your inbox for fresh new content to keep you inspired.
Mind Body Align’s Director of Operations is Jennifer Blue. No stranger to small business, Jen is a community leader, an entrepreneur and a published author who has led several successful startups. Responsible for overseeing the creation and implementation of all programs and events offered at the historic Butterfly House, home of Mind Body Align, as well as overseeing all operations for the company. Jennifer has worked alongside entrepreneurs and visionaries in various industries and positions over her 30-year management career. A Mansfield, Ohio native, Jen returned to Ohio after living and working in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as South Florida. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. Adventure, creativity and new challenges are “musts” in her life; these drives have led Jen to work as a freelance writer, chef, and abstract artist.
Have you ever considered your “quality of life” from a whole-self perspective or considered the elements which create a happy and purposeful life? Possibly you have been gauging your personal success or failure against markers established by family, friends, or social networks. How do we know if our goals and resolutions are coming from our hearts, leading us to fulfillment, growth, and purpose, or if they are coming from habits or beliefs that no longer serve us? What I intend to create with this conversation is the opportunity to explore our hearts for the truth. Let’s take time to take a journey to a new perspective.
What would you see if you could remove from your awareness the habits, beliefs and unrequited dreams that keep you stuck? I mean really, who would you be and what would you know about yourself? Perhaps there is a way to actively move forward in creating your best life by subtly shifting your focus.
Let’s begin: take an honest look at where you are now.
I have attached a Wheel of Wellbeing. Where are you right now? Mark on this wheel from 0 to 10, 0 being no satisfaction and 10 being great satisfaction, in each category. Please note, that there is no judgment that 0 is bad and 10 is good, it is simply an acknowledgment of what is happening in your life at this moment. It’s important to note that each season of our life requires sacrifice. My hope is that you will approach this exercise with self-compassion. And, please read Mary’s recent blog for an amazing perspective and understanding of the seasons and sacrifices of life.
Next: create attainable goals using things that bring us joy.
Start with colored pens, (4 sheets) paper or chalkboard and colored chalks (I use lots of colors to make it visually fun). Sit quietly in contemplation or listen to your favorite “feel good” music. Write everything you love about yourself. “I love my nose, toes, ability to relate to people, health, strong voice, etc.” Remember to focus on things you love about yourself; listing things related to your mind, body, and spirit.
On another sheet of paper or a different section of the chalkboard, note everything that you love about your life. “I love my spouse, children, time that I have to read, time and money that I have to travel, that people trust me, etc.” The key to being authentic in this list is that you feel love as you recall these people and life experiences.
On the third sheet of paper or area of the chalkboard, select one person you love – again, allow yourself to feel love as you recall this person – and list everything you love about them.
Now, you have three different lists: love of self, love of life, love of an individual. Put the elements of this list into categories that coincide with the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationships, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health. Feel free to add or change the title of a category as it suits you.
Just one thing more.
Finally, based on what already brings you love and satisfaction in each category, ask yourself this question. What is one thing I can do that will bring even more love to this area of my life? Just one thing.
Now, here is a crucial part. This “one thing,” the one action you can create to bring even more love, must come from the heart or gut-brain and not the brain in our head. Our thinking mind will look first to what it doesn’t want and where you “aren’t good enough,” and second, to provide an answer for “improvement.” Are you with me? For this exercise to be authentic, you will want to allow the answer to unfold; to arrive in your mind while being immersed in the sense of loving and being loved. You will know the best action when the contemplation of it brings you joy.
So, let’s review.
What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationship, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.
So much of who we are at this moment is a collection of habits and beliefs gathered throughout the years and decades of our life. Real growth doesn’t have to be difficult, and living your best life can be achieved by shifting your focus, and actively moving forward toward fulfillment.
Are you willing to take a journey to discover yourself anew? I look forward to hearing about your experience.
Annamarie Fernyak is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align LLC based in Mansfield, Ohio. She is a certified life coach, mindfulness meditation teacher, and serial entrepreneur. The development of the MBAwareness Education Program was conceived while Annamarie was volunteering to teach mindfulness in a local middle school and found that the teachers and students were struggling to grow calm for their guest teacher, students seemed unable to pay focused attention, and the teachers were growing frustrated.
Annamarie’s focus was to create a program that would transform the lives of the students. She focused on hiring a licensed teacher to create and instruct the mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculums to elementary and secondary school students and teachers. Due to the challenges associated with global health concerns, Annamarie’s mindfulness education program is further now evolving into online mindfulness education focusing on teaching tools that reduce stress and support a life where people can feel more at ease. We also teach as a part of corporate wellness programs.
In 2017, Annamarie launched Align Mindfulness which is a FREE app downloadable from your app store that sends prompts a few times a day, bringing attention to what’s happening in your world. Intentionally simple, these reflections help you build a well-rounded “mindfulness” muscle by offering variety in where you place your awareness.