Focus on the bigger picture stress rather than the micro stressors in your life. Deeper stresses and reactions to our environment, such as the pressures we put on ourselves trying to please everyone, cause the main challenges in our lives.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy B. Scher.
Amy B. Scher is the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can (on-sale February 23rd from Sounds True) and three other books about “human-ing and healing.” As an energy therapist, she helps people release emotional baggage to become their happiest, healthiest selves. Amy lives in New York City with her beautiful wife and bad cat; she can be found online at amybscher.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was led to my career path the way I think a lot of people end up with theirs: via a long, windy road! I never intended to go into healing and writing self-help books. I was a marketing director for Harley-Davidson and my passion was writing for marketing and advertising purposes. But at 25 years old, I became debilitatingly ill with Lyme disease and it changed the trajectory for my life. I was on disability for several years as I scoured for a cure. I did go back to marketing for a while after my miraculous recovery, but it turned out that my calling was slightly different than what I was doing. I kept writing but instead of creating copy to sell Harleys, I began to write about my healing journey in the hopes of helping others discover all the ways in which we come to true health, both physically and emotionally. It turns out there were a lot of people looking for that information and I was off and running from there!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I first started my career, doctors and practitioners were hesitant to embrace practices that were considered “alternative” like energy therapies. They often shrugged their shoulders when patients asked about how important emotions were in terms of physical health. But in the last decade, there’s been a huge shift toward mind-body healing. I’m now asked to speak at major medical organizations and hospitals about how our emotions affect our physical health; and what we can do about it. They are getting it. Patients, seeking more holistic approaches to wellbeing, have been courageous in seeking out healing modalities. What I’ve seen is that they are coming back to their doctors showing improved symptoms and greater wellbeing because of them. There’s been such an interesting (and wonderful!) shift where mainstream medical physicians, who were largely once hesitant to embrace these approaches, have become open to them. These are not new modalities. Energy therapy, acupuncture, and so on come from ancient medical systems. But thanks to progressive patients, these age-old practices have gotten more attention and even more research focus. Integrative medicine is making its way into cancer care, psychiatric hospitals, and many other places. Now I get calls and emails from physicians everywhere seeking training in my modalities as they are seeing such big differences in their patients. It’s been so rewarding for my clients (and for me) to see!
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
The most humorous mistake I’ve made was thinking that I could figure everything out about my business at once! Ha. I thought I could put systems in place in terms of how I worked with clients and helped people and then just rinse and repeat for maximum efficiency. But I learned over time that as our businesses evolve, so should we. For me, every day is new. After my first year in business, I gave up on trying to create any order. Now I am much more intuitive about how I run my business, create offerings for my clients, and more. It’s so much better and even less stressful!
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’m so grateful to the authors along the way who answered questions or said “Yes!” to a request or question from me. When you are writing your first book or trying to figure out how to achieve your dreams, the people who say “yes” are everything. I had support from many kind people along the way. One of the most important examples of that for me is Susan Shapiro, writing professor and author of The Forgiveness Tour and several other books. She is the best role model for elevating others. Her generosity in offering contacts, support, and advice is unparalleled. Since I took my first class with her years ago — and after I’d already achieved success in publishing — I have made a commitment to saying “yes” as much as I possibly can to those who ask for my support.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
It’s so simple but my best advice is to pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re feeling it. When we stuff or suppress our emotions over time, we end up burned out and stressed out. But if we can deal with things little by little along the way, it can prevent the crash and burn feeling many of us get after ignoring our needs for a long period of time.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
A fantastic work culture comes from employees who work in an environment that supports self-care. The companies I’ve worked with who truly have great cultures offer resources and trainings so that employees can gain tools to use for their wellbeing. These may be offerings like training on how to deal with stress, simple meditation, and group support for emotional challenges. It makes a difference to employees when they feel cared about on a personal level.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
Here are five steps I suggest for improving wellbeing:
- Feel how you feel. Simply allowing your emotions, even if they don’t seem logical or make sense, is so easy and goes a long way toward overall wellbeing. If you feel angry at someone, even though they didn’t mean to hurt you, allow yourself to feel angry.
- Don’t talk yourself out of your feelings. This underscores my first point and it is crucial.
- Seek support in a way that feels good to you. Not everyone resonates with the same kind of supportive approaches. If you feel most comfortable with traditional talk therapy, find someone to work with. If you feel like massage or another modality is better for you, find someone to support you in that way. Each person benefits most when they find support that resonates with them.
- Look at your reaction to stress instead of just focusing on day-to-day stress. With most of my clients, improvement comes when they look inward. Day-to-day stressors like chores, work duties, and more don’t typically cause the greatest challenges in our lives.
- Focus on the bigger picture stress rather than the micro stressors in your life. Deeper stresses and reactions to our environment, such as the pressures we put on ourselves trying to please everyone, cause the main challenges in our lives.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
Again, it’s about paying attention to what’s causing “stress” and then addressing it. The more we pay attention, the healthier we become because we are empowered. After retirement, people typically have more time than ever, but their time often gets filled with helping everyone else; or sometimes, feeling lost. This is the time to really lean into self-care and understanding what one needs as an individual to be happy and content. It might mean letting certain ways of being and doing fall away as a new phase in life is embraced.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
Teens and pre-teens are particularly prone to anxiety. What I typically do is teach teens some simple tools for releasing anxiety before it takes over. Things tend to be really intense for teens, who don’t always have the life experience to shift their perspective easily when they feel afraid, anxious, or upset. A simple tip that anyone can use:
Tap the Thymus Gland: Tapping the thymus gland, the master gland of the body’s immune system, using your fingertips is a powerful calming, strengthening, and balancing technique. It’s especially useful when you’re feeling anxious. The thymus is responsible for making T-cells, which are vital to the healthy functioning of the immune system, providing protection against allergies, autoimmune diseases, and immunodeficiency. The thymus gland is connected to the entire energy system and is so powerful that it can work as a stress modulator when stimulated.
To find your thymus gland, go about an inch down on your breastbone below the notch of the neck where a bowtie would sit.
Simply tap with medium pressure while you breathe deeply and tune into the anxiety. Don’t try to push the anxiety away; allow it to be. Tapping will help usher it out of your body if you allow it to come up.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I read Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning, when I was a teen. It made me aware just how much our mind plays a part in our lives. Although it wasn’t always easy, especially at that age, it changed the way I thought about life. I started to play around with the idea of trying to shift my thoughts about life vs reacting to the reality of it all the time. It made a difference for me and I still practice it today.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start teaching emotional healing to kids at a school-age. Learning healthy ways to address emotions can be hugely life-changing. I think the world would be a better place if we had more tools for this from the start.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
When I was in my 20s, I dealt with a debilitating illness. My motto was always “When life kicks your ass, kick back.” Thankfully, I overcame that illness and have lived to tell about it! And I’ve changed the quote slightly to “When life kicks your ass, kick-back” (with a hyphen in ‘kick-back’) because I’ve really learned in life, so much is about letting go, relaxing, and flowering rather than fighting your way through.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!