Use humor. I love my sense of humor and people who suffer from anxiety don’t need a serious conversation about their feelings every time you talk. So be willing to keep the conversation light and fun and even throw in some humor because laughter is a great remedy to depression and anxiety.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Pirozzoli. Kathryn thrives on holding space for humans to discover who they truly are and to fall madly in love with that person! She coaches men and women through divorce and breakups; using that time to re-write their story so when they are ready, they will create romantic relationships beyond their wildest imagination.
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?
Myentire life I chased romance. I honestly believed that the perfect relationship would bring me the joy I was continually seeking. I chased this ghost until I was thirty when I met a man and got engaged after two months so I would feel okay about cashing in on my career and following him to England for a year. I knew after six months that our relationship was tough, but I refused to back out of the wedding for fear that everyone would think something was wrong with me (I had cancelled another wedding two years before this!). Suffice it to say that after nine years of marriage, I was at rock bottom. I had never known desperation like the one I felt in January 2014. A friend offered me the number of a life coach. I called her. On that call, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. I saw a way out. I saw a way forward life. We worked together for a year. I left my marriage with a friendship to my ex-husband that is still intact. I discovered who I am authentic; I quit pretending and started getting real with myself and everyone else; I lost weight; I started a meditation practice; I stopped people-pleasing, and I went back to school to become a life coach. Now I get to help people find what I found: themselves!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Most interesting to me is that when I finished school I was frozen with fear about how to start my business. I had no business acumen and was stalling to figure out the how and what of launching a coaching practice. One day, two months after graduation, a man I knew vaguely sent me a text and said, “I heard you were a life coach? Are you taking new clients?” I laughed out loud, because as with most things in my life, when the universe wants me to get a message, it gets VERY loud! So, my first paying client happened accidentally! Since then, I actually launched my business in a professional way and would probably still be stuck in “how to” if he had not asked me!
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
For me, I have to remind myself not to take myself so seriously. It is easy, when working alone and for yourself, to get trapped in the “what if’s” and to allow fear to stand in the way of action. I prioritize self-care which means I give myself one day a week to do nothing except what I want to do. I choose two priorities each year for that year; and I only say yes to commitments that will align with those priorities. This keeps me from being burdened or weighed down by unnecessary projects or responsibilities. I only allow myself five minutes a day for anything other than positive, forwarding thoughts and actions; I can be a victim, hate my life, hate you, anything but after that, I choose to put my big girl britches on and keep my positive momentum moving forward!
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?
The first book that was suggested reading for me in my own coaching was, “The Dark Side of The Light Chasers,” by Debbie Ford. This book literally changed my life. My ex-husband and I decided to separate in mid-January but kept our commitment to go on our family trip to Jamaica over President’s Day week with our three boys. I was sitting on the beach when I opened the book. The ‘ah-ha” moments just kept coming. I remember thinking that it wasn’t my ex-husband I had issues with, it was ME. He was just reflecting back to me all the things about myself that I didn’t like and even worse, hated. I literally couldn’t stop the reel from rolling once I acknowledged this; I saw where I was angry, asexual, disconnected, abusive, lazy, uninterested, depressed, etc. Once I could see my own reflection and where these things were parts of me that I wanted to disown or keep on the down low, I was able to release my ex-husband and stop holding him hostage in my mind. I became responsible for myself and how I had created the exact marriage that I knew how at the 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?
Being mindful to me means being centered, being in my heart and my true self, being aware of my breath and being able to stop the 12-person committee that sometimes takes over my brain! My favorite reminder and something I say multiple times a day to bring my awareness back to my heart is, “Where are your feet?” or “Be where your feet are.” It’s the ability to stop all the noise outside and inside of myself and to have awareness of right here, right now.
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?
The benefits are endless; creating a mindfulness practice has helped me and all of my clients to reduce their stress (when stressed, cortisol levels rise and create “fight or flight” in the body which wreaks havoc on the central nervous system); lose weight (when we are centered and connected, it is much easier to make healthy choices for ourselves); a sense of calm will be experienced at times when we normally might feel anxiety or panic; you will replace old tapes that ran automatically that were filled with ‘doom and gloom’ with reminders that nothing is wrong NOW. Because your stress levels are diminished, your immunity will improve and you will find yourself not getting sick like everyone around you, and certainly less than you ever have before! Mindfulness doesn’t mean the storms stop, it means you have access to the parts of yourself that remain calm through the storm.
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 about 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.
- Create a meditation practice. This used to scare me because I thought it meant I had to sit for hours and stop my thoughts. Then I learned that it can literally be as simple as waking up, setting a timer for 7 minutes and breathing deeply. I started doing this every morning. Then I fell asleep late one night and when the alarm went off I decided to sleep for those 7 minutes. By the time my morning was half over, I felt out of control with my thoughts, my heart seemed to be racing faster, I was screaming at my kids, and my general good mood was in the toilet. I stopped for a minute to think about what was really going on and I couldn’t believe that it was because I didn’t sit for those 7 minutes. So, I went to my room and set my timer. By the time the 7 minutes was up, I was focused, calm, and ready to kick butt for the day!
- I must pause when agitated and breathe. Whenever a feeling arises in my body that is out of alignment with me being the healthiest person I can be, I make myself pause and breathe. My mom called me when the Coronavirus was just starting to hit the U.S. She said, “This virus was man made and pointed directly at killing the elderly and your brother talked to a high ranking official in the government to tell him so!” She continued to go on and on and I was finding myself frustrated and stressed so I asked her if I could call her back. I pulled my car over on the side of the road and I took four deep breaths. I breathe in for four, hold for four, and breathe out for four. Instantly my ‘fight or flight’ response was paused, my thoughts slowed down, and I got control of my emotions. Pausing and breathing at the beginning of any sort of emotional downturn will ensure a more even-keeled approach and experience of life.
- I exercise at least five times a week. I don’t care if it’s yoga, HIT, running, walking, paddle boarding, or Zumba, moving our bodies is imperative to help counterbalance our stress. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins; these are the ‘feel good’ hormones in your brain that make you feel happy. In addition, while exercising, your brain gets rid of chemicals that make you feel stressed and anxious. This is a MUST for us especially during times of high stress. I have a middle child who seems prone to overstressing, drama, and sometimes, depression. In the middle of one of his notorious melt downs, my favorite thing to tell him to do is to go outside and take a walk, or I will offer up a bike ride. Inevitably within minutes, he will look at me and say, “I love you, mom!” Same kid, 10 minutes before, was ready to sell me on Ebay!
- Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude! Make a list each morning of 10 things you are grateful for. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and more importantly, the ones that make us feel good. Beginning each day with this list will ensure that you get the feel good chemicals going in your brain which help with feeling satisfied and diminish the feeling of stress. I’ve been sober for over 20 years and the number one thing that people in recovery talk about in reference to combatting stress, angst and worry; GRATITUDE! It works! A friend of mine who teaches yoga, says that when she started a gratitude practice with her teenage son, he literally changed before her very eyes. She said that before, he was angsty, angry, and unusually hard to engage. Once he started a gratitude journal, he began showing up for family dinners and engaged with all of the family which hadn’t happened in over 2 years!
- Helping someone else. This is a practice I started when I joined Alcoholics Anonymous but one that has literally saved me from ever staying too long in self-pity, depression or anxiety. When I focus on how I can help someone else (anyone, even your own children or significant other) it is next to impossible to focus on your own problems. The more I focus out, the less I will be inclined to stay in my head and worry about me and my fear. A few weeks ago when we found out we were going to be quarantined for a month, I started to panic. Literally, I felt my chest tighten, my heart rate increase, and I had to sit and catch my breath. I asked myself if there was anything I could do about being quarantined? The answer was no. So, my next question was, “Is there anyone else I can help?” So, I just started checking in on people and asking how they were; really. Each text I got back, my own panic stopped. I asked if anyone needed anything while I was at the store. People kept responding and I kept staying out of my mucky little head!
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 a space of listening. The last thing an anxious person needs is for you to “fix” it or tell them it’s going to be ok. Just listen. Reflect back what you hear them say without judgement.
- Ask them if they want your input or if they just want to vent? Sometimes anxiety can be released just by talking it through and being heard. Sometimes, we need intervention. Knowing which a person is looking for is vital to helping them feel heard and not shut down.
- Invite them to a zoom meditation or restorative yoga class that you are attending. It will help you AND the person you are trying to support!
- Ask them what they need. Don’t assume. Sometimes we think people are looking for a certain thing but not asking increases your risk of having someone feel even more stressed. Just clarify when they reach out to you that you want to support them in the most powerful way, and what would that be? If they don’t know, then follow 1–3!
- Use humor. I love my sense of humor and people who suffer from anxiety don’t need a serious conversation about their feelings every time you talk. So be willing to keep the conversation light and fun and even throw in some humor because laughter is a great remedy to depression and anxiety.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
I think starting with something very simple is best. Deepak Chopra and Oprah do a free 21 Day Meditation every few months. It is an awesome way to plug in, get an amazing lesson, meditation, and establish a new habit. Any of your local yoga studios will be a good bet. They do a zillion versions of yoga that include mindful practices in each session. Yoga and meditation can be found on You Tube, Instagram, or any number of apps designed with finding peace in mind. My favorite app for meditation is Head Space. You can literally choose any type of meditation for any time of day or night!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” Brene Brown
Six years ago, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of pretending everything was ok, tired of being so unhappy in my marriage, tired of holding it all together for everyone else. I asked for help. I started to discover who I really am. I began to own my story. I began to feel a power and a strength inside that literally came from accepting all of my weaknesses and all of my greatness. It was looking in the mirror and loving the woman that stared back at me. It was walking in a room and suddenly not caring if anyone liked me but whether I liked them. I felt an inner strength and belief in me. I knew, for the first time in my life, that I was enough because I breathe. The courage it took to dig down so many layers and flesh all this out was profound. Sometimes I look back and don’t know how I did it! I watch clients willing to do this same digging and I know I’m witness to something holy. This is the kind of bravery it takes to be authentic. I can’t get enough of it or watching other people through their process!
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 am enough. Just as I am. Because I breathe. Not because I do, or accomplish or succeed, just because I breathe. I am enough. This would change the world. Literally. Try it. Put signs everywhere you can see them in your house and a daily reminder on your phone. When you feel frightened or insecure, repeat the words until the feeling passes. I am enough.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
IG @kathrynpirozzolicoaching FB Kathryn Pirozzoli Coaching or www.kathrynpirozzolicoaching.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!