While we are currently being mandated to physical distance ourselves from each other, we can remain socially connected. The creative ways that people are doing this is one of the miracles. People are pulling their tables out onto their apartment balconies and sharing a meal with their neighbor who is on their balcony. Physical distancing but socially connected.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julee Hunt.
A witty, engaging speaker, and best-selling author, Julee is a source of inspiration to transform hopelessness into purpose, exhaustion into playfulness, and depression into meaning. Her vision is to create a world where everyone believes in themselves.
Julee is the author of #1 worldwide bestseller “You are WORTHY: A Guide for the Overwhelmed Perfectionist.”
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?
Ispent 25 years in the corporate world working and traveling too many hours a week. One day I was invited to leave my job and I woke-up the next day realizing that I had left my identity and self-esteem at the desk I left the previous day. Shell-shocked, disillusioned, and extremely tired, I quickly concluded that I had been waiting until retirement to live life. I knew something had to change, but never really had time to stop and figure that out. Top that with a diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue and I was a hot mess of self-loathing. This was a wake-up call to do life differently. To be a participant of life. To consciously live life and become present for each precious moment. One by one the teachers came forward and I learned how to be mindful and live life consciously relying deeply on the Inner Wisdom I was given at birth. As my life changed and I began to really like my life, I found myself wishing I had known everything I was learning, earlier in life. Right then and there I decided I wanted to share my journey with others and help them see a different way of life. One that would fill them with joy, happiness, love, and laughter. One that would move them away from rote living and into a life that made them feel alive.The culmination of all my life experiences and the motivation to share led me to write my book “You Are Worthy!”, to begin coaching others on their own journeys, and speaking at companies and events with larger groups.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I decided to write my book about worthiness so it could be a guide to help others change their lives. The thing about writing a book is that you rarely hear direct feedback. Yes, there are reviews for the book, but rarely do people reach out and give you a shoutout directly. Twice now I have received emails from people who said the book changed their life. Nothing thrills me more than to know that someone’s life has changed because you put pen to paper. I can see my coaching clients’ lives changing from month to month because I am in regular contact with them. When someone goes out of their way to send you a message about how your book changed their life, that reminds you that your work matters and is needed in our world.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Never underestimate the power of small gestures. I worked with a leader that was less than enthusiastic about the team she had inherited. There were more team members that were negative and surly than those who were positive. And the ones that were negative were constantly trying to get the positive ones to join them in their misery. I recommended bringing gratitude into their work area. At the entrance to their office space, she put a whiteboard with colorful markers and a big heading across the top that said G R A T I T U D E. Knowing that everyone was stressed when they walked in because of the excessive traffic, she asked each one of them to write something they were grateful for on the board. This required them to stop and consciously think of something to be grateful for. It also shifted their focus from their commute to gratitude. There was resistance at first, but she asked them to do it for thirty days. After one week, she noticed that the stress of their commutes was being left at the door and they were starting their workday on a more positive note. Each night she would erase the board, so it was ready for morning gratitude.
She also started each meeting going around the table asking each person to list one thing they were grateful for. This started their meetings off on a positive note.
When someone came into her office to discuss an issue or problem or even for a review, she asked them to list something they were grateful for. This started their meeting off on a positive note.
She even changed her voicemail message asking people to share one thing they were grateful for before leaving their message. People who were calling to yell at her were caught off guard and required to become conscious of what they were going to say.
These small gratitude gestures made each of her team members and co-workers mindful of how they presented themselves and how their attitude could change any situation. Her team went from negative and surly to a cohesive, positive, productive team.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Infinite Possibilities by Mike Dooley was a game-changer. After reading Mike’s book I had faith in the power of my thoughts, words, and actions and how they could make things happen in my life. I did not need to know how they were going to exactly happen, I just needed to keep taking baby steps toward the outcome and everything I needed would appear. I had been reading books by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Esther Hicks and others, but Infinite Possibilities gave me the tools to put it all together. I went to Mike’s Train the Trainer event to really dive into the material in his book with no intention of ever becoming a trainer. I came home so stoked that 3 weeks later I had a room full of people that I was teaching the principles, so they too could change their lives. I went from worrying about the future to living in the present moment. I learned how to become mindful of my thoughts and change them, so they worked for me instead of against me.
We had made some plans to sell our house, buy an RV and travel around the United States a year after our son graduated from college. The year he graduated, someone who really liked our home, approached us about buying it. We explained that we were selling it the following year and would be happy to contact them prior to going on the market. They wanted to move in within the next three months. Deciding to not look a gift horse in the mouth, we moved out of our house the things we wanted to keep and had an auctioneer come in and auction off the rest. We had been looking at motorhomes but had not really settled on one when suddenly one appeared on a lot that my husband passed on his way home from work. We could not complete the deal prior to the departure date from our home which left us homeless for about a week. Friends of ours that had an apartment above their garage invited us to come stay rent free until the deal was complete and our motorhome was ready. Prior to reading Mike’s book, I would have never seen how this could all happen in such a short period of time.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Have you ever driven to work and not remember the route you took? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why? Have you ever spoken without thinking first and wished you could take back what you said? Has your first reaction to someone’s opinion or comment been rage and anger? Have you ever multi-tasked while listening to your child tell you about their day and later realize you did not hear what they shared? These scenarios are the opposite of mindfulness. When you are mindful you are conscious of each moment in your day. You are conscious of your thoughts, words, and actions. You respond to the world around you instead of reacting. You are present with the people you are with. When you are mindful you are choosing to take responsibility for your life and if you don’t like what you are creating, you change it.
When I take my gratitude walks, I am seeing the nature around me and being grateful for the bountiful feast it is providing my mind, body, and soul. I hear the birds sing, smell the fragrant flowers, and smile at the beautiful scenery. I used to take walks with earbuds in, listening to a podcast. When I did that, I was missing out on what was around me. I was not being conscious of what the walk was offering my senses. I was not being mindful of my surroundings.
Being mindful is being present.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Research has shown that mindfulness helps reduce anxiety and depression. Where I have seen the most improvement is in my reaction to stressful situations. Before I started practicing mindfulness, I would react without paying attention to the facts, my emotions, or the moment. Since incorporating mindfulness into my daily life, I am now able to see things from a different perspective and respond more calmly. Because of this I worry less and have few negative feelings. That is quite an improvement from a former workaholic who had constant chatter in her head from her itty-bitty-shitty-committee.
Another benefit of mindful living is my focus. I used to flit from one task to another all day and at the end of the day, I was exhausted and had very little to show for my efforts. Now, I can focus on one task at a time and complete it more quickly than I used to. I’m also not distracted by worry and negative self-talk. In fact, I have learned that if I am stuck trying to figure out the solution to a problem, I can push away from my desk, close my eyes, breathe deeply for a few minutes, and the creativity flows. Or take a walk outside also helps. Living mindfully has given me huge resiliency.
In addition to the benefits listed above, I have learned self-love and acceptance. This was something I struggled with in the past. Mindfulness helps you change your perspective of yourself. I am more loving and kinder to myself and in turn am more kind and loving to others.
While my mindful practice started with a morning routine of meditation and journaling, I decided to carry it into other areas of my life. Areas like being mindful of how I eat, exercise, chat with a friend or family member, and write books or blogs. Being mindful in all areas of my life has had a positive impact on my health too!
Through the resiliency I have gained from my mindful practice, I have been able to heal adrenal fatigue, low thyroid, and leaky gut. I have turned back the hands of time and look younger than my previously stressed self. I respond instead of reacting to situations and my relationships have improved greatly. I’m living life instead of waiting for retirement and my joy meter is off the charts. I am so grateful for the gifts I have received from mindfulness.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
It is true that the past 5 years have brought heightened uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. The only reaction we can control is our own. I used to be a non-stop worrier who would think of all the things that could go wrong in any situation. What I’ve learned from my years of mindfulness practice are that there are actions I can choose to lessen the anxiety and fear.
Go on a news diet.
In 2001, I attended a metaphysical church. This was a particularly turbulent time in our history. It was after 9–11 had occurred and life as we knew it had changed. I personally remember being glued to the TV for weeks on end trying to make sense of the tragedy. I remember feeling hopeless and never really being able to resolve what had happened in my mind. One day the minister recommended we go on a news diet. His reasoning was that it was constantly filling our minds with a lack of hope, worry, fear, and keeping us in a constant state of stress. At first, I thought he was crazy to make such a suggestion but decided to give it a try for 2 weeks. At the end of the 2 weeks, I kept going with the news diet. I learned that I:
- gained an extra hour each day that I could use doing activities that brought me joy.
- worried less had less stress, and was hopeful.
- could find different outlets to get information than the nightly news and these outlets provided more positive, upbeat stories happening in the world.
- I still do not watch the nightly news and instead choose news outlets that include just the facts, no drama, opinions, or speculation; human interest stories that keep the goodness of the human spirit front and center; arts; and sports.
- You also won’t find me hopping onto social media, email, or news the first 15 and last 15 minutes of the day. According to the Happiness Researchers, this is when your brain has the least amount of resources to keep you from becoming fearful, anxious, or worried. When you start the day with a mindful practice, you are choosing to start your day on a positive note rather than filling it with comparison mode media, crises at work, or dramatized news. By doing this you are giving your mind a chance to start the day with hope, faith, and infinite possibilities.
Have an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is the tool I turn to when things feel like they are spinning out of control. When I feel hopeless or worried, gratitude turns those into hopeful and peaceful. A couple decades ago I instituted gratitude as the first topic of conversation at the dinner table. We each listed three things we were grateful for that day and I wrote them in our family gratitude journal. It started the dinner conversation off on a positive note. While it seemed like an insignificant gesture, over time we noticed that how we reacted to adversity had changed and we had less adversity in our lives. While adversity is always going to be a part of life, we can choose to let it take us down or look for the miracles and the lessons that adversity provides. We felt like we had changed our focus from what was not working to what was working. Gratitude retrained our brains to scan the world for the positive.
Be Vigilant About Self-Care
Self-care is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family. During times of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) is when it is most important to maintain or ramp up your self-care practice. Many people have been taught that self-care is selfish, but this simply is not the case.
When I was a workaholic, I had no time for self-care. In fact, I thought it was for less ambitious people. Boy was I wrong. After more than two decades of not taking care of myself, I was invited to leave my job. By not taking care of me, I had become less productive and creative in my work. I had become surly, irritable, unhappy, and just plain tired. Shortly after that invitation I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I’m grateful for losing that job because had I continued being a workaholic and not taking care of myself, I could have contracted a much more serious or life-threatening illness that I may never have recovered from.
Implement self-care into your day. My calendar is color coded and self-care activities are lavender. If there is no lavender on my calendar that is a big red flag. Self-care:
- Is rejuvenating, relaxing, and relieves stress.
- makes me a better wife/mother/friend/sister, a better version of ME.
- helps me produce creative solutions to problems or what I call thinking outside the box resolutions.
- re-energizes my mind so I can be more productive.
- helps me respond to FUD calmly.
- retrains my brain to see that I matter.
When I work with my clients, I ask them to create a list of self-care activities that bring them joy. Then I ask them to schedule it on their calendar and NOT schedule over it. I used to put it on my calendar and if anyone needed anything from me, I would drop my self-care like a hot potato. This put me on the backburner. It also teaches our children not to prioritize self-care when they are adults. When I started regular self-care, I set the family down and let them know that it was important and that I was not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency and forgetting your homework at home is not an emergency. It took practice for me to stop thinking of it as selfish. Over time I saw the benefits and so did my family.
Mind Your Mind
We’ve all heard the saying, “Garbage in, Garbage Out.” What we feed our minds is as important as our lungs remembering to breathe. What are you feeding your mind? When we take in too much negativity, we feel defeated, cynical, hopeless, and focus on everything that is going wrong keeping us in a state of FUD.
It is not just what we take in from the outside world, but also what we feed our minds personally. Do you talk to yourself with loving kindness or do you have a negative Nelly reminding you moment by moment that you are not enough? I used to have an entire committee chattering at me all day long. I called them my Itty-Bitty-Shitty-Committee and they fed my mind lies all day long. Lies that I began to believe because when we hear things enough times, we begin to believe them.
When you limit your negative self-talk, you are retraining your brain to think in the positive. When you approach life from the positive, you can handle FUD more easily.
Add A Little Zen To Your Life
Meditation and journaling are on my calendar every morning. I consider them a self-care activity and non-negotiable. I know that if I blow by my meditation for several days, FUD, and anxiety start to creep back into my mind. That is why it is a non-negotiable activity for me.
Meditation empowers me to respond instead of reacting to crisis, chaos, and difficult times. My clients who do not meditate usually resist trying it because they say they do not know how to clear their minds to meditate. It is not a requirement to clear your mind. You simply let thoughts pass through without responding to them. Over time the number of thoughts that appear during meditation diminish. If you feel like too many thoughts come into your mind, you can silently repeat a word such as “release” or “om” or “love” over and over to stop the thoughts. Or you can focus on your breathing. It takes practice to quiet your mind so give yourself grace when you first start a meditation practice. You are retraining your brain for peace, calm, and general overall well-being. The benefits of meditation are many. Here are few that have been scientifically proven:
- Improves focus
- Controls anxiety
- Promotes better sleep
- Reduces stress
- Generates kindness
- It can improve your health such as decreasing blood pressure.
Meditation creates mindfulness. If you have not tried it, I encourage you to start today. Start with just two minutes and work up from there. Try it for 30 days.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Be the calm in the storm
When others are buying into fear and spiraling out of control, you can be the calm in the storm. Don’t let people pull you into their storms. Pull them into your peace. It only takes one person to give a more positive opinion to change the dynamic of a group. I was recently on a call and many of the participants were visibly upset about the current state-of-affairs. When it came time for each of us to check-in, I shared that I was choosing faith over fear and that I was looking and finding many miracles occurring from this situation. I explained that when things became real, I decided I had to be vigilant about my daily self-care and about how much information I took in. I could choose to watch the news all day long or read what I needed and then move on. While I could be compassionate and empathetic to those who were not in the same space as me, I had set a personal boundary to listen, but not embody other’s fears. By the end of the call, several others wanted to jump into my bubble of faith and hopefulness.
Be a Good Listener
We all just want to be heard, seen, and witnessed. We don’t need someone to fix us or give us advice on how to change our feelings or tell us they are right or wrong. We just want someone to listen. When we actively listen to another person, it can help relieve their stress, feel comforted, and make them feel like they are not alone. Active listening is a skill that can be learned. When truly listening to another person, look them in the eyes and smile and nod to let them know you are listening, and you hear them. Stay focused on them. No talking, no questions, no thinking about what your response will be, and no commentary while they are talking. Just listen. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the sound of their voice. This is your chance to be present and hear them.
Be a Distraction
Distraction is different from denial. Distraction means you are choosing to give your mind a break from situations that create fear, anxiety, and doubt. Denial means you are refusing to believe you are in a situation. We have non-stop information coming at us all day long. If we do not stop it, we can find ourselves in a constant state of stress. When you are with someone who has spiraled into the stress abyss, ask them to go for a walk around the block with you or play a game. Changing the conversation can be a form of distraction. Getting out the craft supplies and starting a project together also gives your mind a break from the bad news. There are many ways to create distractions. Learning a new skill, trying a new recipe, reading an uplifting book, planning your next vacation, and organizing the photos from your last vacation. The list can be endless.
It is easy to fall prey to fear when everyone is talking about how awful things are. When you choose to be positive, you are consciously being mindful to not become a fear victim. When others are in a constant state of fear, offer some positive stories or anecdotes. Share some good news. While those around you may be irritated with your positivity, you are planting seeds of how it could be different for them. Be strong and keep sharing because you are giving their minds a rest from the negativity they are drowning in. Your positivity is helping their bodies move out of stress and into relief even if it is only for a few minutes.
Share the Miracles
The news likes to paint a glum picture of every situation. If you dig far enough into the news, you will find outlets that share many human-interest stories that give you hope about the glumness occurring. While we are currently being mandated to physical distance ourselves from each other, we can remain socially connected. The creative ways that people are doing this is one of the miracles. People are pulling their tables out onto their apartment balconies and sharing a meal with their neighbor who is on their balcony. Physical distancing but socially connected. The stories about how Mother Earth is healing while we are staying in is another miracle. The number of people that are recovering from illness daily is a miracle. The stories about how people are getting groceries for their elderly or immune-compromised neighbors is another miracle. By changing the focus from tragedies to miracles, we are helping promote hopefulness and mindfulness.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
- DeepakChopra.com — His website is loaded with blogs, articles, meditations, and classes on how to be more mindful
- CALM App — an app to help you calm your mind with meditation, sleep stories, and relaxation music
- Oprah.com — contains interviews, stories, and recommendations to help you be mindful and get through crisis
- Daily OM — contains mindfulness masterclasses, breathing exercises, meditations, restful scenes, and a section for children to learn mindfulness too
- Insight Timer — Contains courses, daily insights and meditations to help you be mindful
- Headspace — contains mindfulness training, bedtime meditations, and other types of meditation such as walking in nature
- Good Life Project
- The Happiness Lab
- Happy Place
- Happier with Gretchen Rubin
- Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr. Wayne Dyer. This quote changed my life. Up until this point in my life I thought everyone should think the same way I do and do things the same way I did. This type of thinking does not work well for relationships. After my practice marriage, I vowed to never marry again and instead chose to be married to my career. Imagine my surprise when Prince Charming came to work at the same company as me and swept me off my feet and I’m once again walking down the aisle. Our first year of marriage was so turbulent that I questioned my own decision-making skills. I was so focused on all the things he did wrong, or not my way, that I forgot to focus on all the things he did right. I kept trying to change him and get him to do things my way. Dr. Dyer’s quote changed all that. I decided to change my focus on all the things he did, even if they were not my way, and as a result, he started to be my Prince Charming once again. He did not change, I did. I changed the way I looked at him and the turbulence went away.
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 have a vision to create a world where everyone believes in themselves. Now that we have 24-hour news, advertising that emphasizes that if you are not fat free/gray free/wrinkle free, and social media platforms where people feel it is OK to be mean, it is easy to start believing you are not enough and stop believing in yourself. In fact, you can easily hear this message so many times before you get to work that you feel like it is impossible to make a difference. While it is great to be able to get information at all hours of the day and night, we are not designed to take it in 24-hours a day. We are in a constant state of stress and fear because of information overload. Our minds and bodies need a break from it. There are ways to protect yourself from the constant barrage of negativity available at your fingertips so you can keep your self-belief intact.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Instagram — julee.hunt
Facebook — Julee Crawford Hunt and JuleeHunt International
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!