Avoid telling anyone to “just stop worrying.” No one wants to worry, so if they are worrying, simply telling them to stop isn’t going to help.
As a part of my series about the the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darcie Brown.
Darcie Brown, JD, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and holistic wellness coach. Darcie is passionate about living an authentic and purposeful life and supporting others in understanding themselves on a deeper level and creating a life that makes them feel content and fulfilled. Darcie has been quoted as a wellness expert in Women’s Health, Bustle, Better by Today, and Best Life and has contributed articles to media outlets including Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. She has a YouTube channel where she posts a new wellness and self-care video every Sunday. She lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and their rescue dog, Piper.
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?
Since I was young, I knew I wanted to be a business owner. That’s what I saw growing up from my parents who own a financial lifestyle planning company. I loved the freedom and autonomy that I saw from their ability to direct their own path.
I started my career as an attorney but could never envision myself owning a law firm. It just didn’t feel like me. As I continued to practice law, I felt increasingly disconnected from myself and the future that I felt was meant for me.
After years of searching (my career change didn’t come easy), I returned to Psychology, which was my undergraduate degree, and enrolled in a graduate program for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Now, years later, as a licensed therapist, I feel more content than ever. I know I’m in the right industry for me and truly love the freedom to be autonomous and in charge of my career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’d say the most interesting part of my career so far has been all of the twists and turns it’s taken. When I started my career as an attorney at 25 years old, I never would have imagined that a decade later, this is where I would be in my life.
Along the way, I’ve learned so much about understanding my values and really exploring how my values intersect with my career. Two of my top values are authenticity and freedom, and I’ve seen how this has played out in my career. Whenever I’ve felt inauthentic or a lack of freedom, I itch to make a change. I am continually checking in with myself to ensure that the direction I’m going in is aligned with the person I am today.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
First, understand that you have to rest. I’ve heard this saying more and more recently and I love it: Rest is productive. In our “do more” society, we have to shift the paradigm away from fusing our worth with being productive and start recognizing that rest is necessary if we want to show up as our best self.
Second, identify the things that fill you up and qualify as self-care for you. This is different for everyone, so it’s important that you sit down and really consider what self-care looks like for you.
Third, consistently create the space for self-care. This sounds obvious, but so many of my clients struggle to make time for it. Self-care often seems to come last, and the message that I give clients is that you won’t be able to avoid burnout if you’re not caring for yourself. It’s really essential to being able to show up fully in your life both for yourself and the people you care about. And remember, it doesn’t have to be huge chunks of time. Don’t underestimate the power of a midday break for 10 minutes to get some sun and fresh air. It can do wonders for mood, energy, and mental clarity.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Prioritize your employee’s mental health and wellness. Where there’s a culture of work-life balance, there will be motivated employees. Compared to Europe, the US has an extremely low rate of time-off each year. I believe this needs to change. We, as a society, need to recognize the power of time away to spark new ideas, keep morale up, and generally make the workplace a positive and satisfying one.
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?
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
This book shares science-backed information on how stress impacts the mind and body and gives practical ways to manage it. Stress is pretty much ingrained in our modern society, and we all need more tools to be able to understand the toll it’s taking on us and what to do about it. While this book is geared towards women, I think the information in there is very relevant to men as well and would recommend it to anyone who feels the effects of stress in their life and wants to do something about it.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Get grounded in the present. Where there is uncertainty, we are often thinking about the future. The mind is wired to create thoughts and keep us safe. But when we don’t realize this, we often let catastrophic thoughts take over. The mind will always be there to create more fearful scenarios, and if we don’t curb those thoughts, they will become overwhelming. Doing things to become more present is key. Spend time outside in nature. Listen to music. Mindfully consume your coffee in the morning. Have conversations without phones around. Dance. Be playful.
- Connect with gratitude. Tough times often make it hard for us to acknowledge what’s right in front of us. Struggle doesn’t negate the good in our lives, and it can be powerful fuel for us to get through hard times when we can recognize that life isn’t just a series of struggles. No matter how small, tuning into what’s working right now can give an instant mood boost that we all desperately need right now.
- Create future plans. We need things to look forward to, and while that can be pretty difficult right now if you think about planning a vacation, you can also get excited for sushi takeout on Friday or a call with a friend from college. Why is this helpful? Dopamine is released in the brain when we do pleasurable things, but it’s also released when we think about doing that upcoming pleasurable thing. So start putting little things on the calendar where you can regularly check it out and tap into the power of future enjoyment.
- Identify what’s in your control, and what’s not. Fear and uncertainty often stem from feeling out of control. A key strategy in these moments is to identify what’s in your control to change. That awareness will help you to take action where you can. For example, if you are afraid of getting coronavirus, you can determine your comfort level with possible points of exposure and then act accordingly. Aside from those moments, you can say to yourself, “I’m doing what I can to limit exposure. That’s all I can do.” The rest of it is acceptance of what’s out of your control, and it can be helpful to remind yourself that you can handle hard things and are capable of getting through it.
- Self-care, self-care, self-care. Self-care often falls away during hard times, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep doing even just some of your normal self-care. This is literally the fuel you need to get through difficult times. Neglecting self-care is a fast track to decreasing your overall well-being and making hard times even more difficult to endure.
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?
- Avoid telling anyone to “just stop worrying.” No one wants to worry, so if they are worrying, simply telling them to stop isn’t going to help.
- Remind them that they are doing the best they can, and that feeling some anxiety right now is normal. This is an example of validation, and it can be really helpful in that it is allowing them to feel seen, heard, and understood in their experience. This is the opposite of telling someone to just stop worrying.
- Ask them specifically: how can I best support you? Not everyone likes to be supported in the same way. It’s important not only for the person who is anxious to take ownership of how they feel and identify the kind of support that would be helpful, but also for the person wanting to give support to have clear guidance on what is needed. Sometimes we think we are being helpful because the help we are offering is what we would like if we were anxious, but it’s not always what another person needs.
- Help them engage in healthy habits like exercise and spending time outside. These activities often increase present-living and clarity of mind. Ask if you can be a support buddy, whether that means checking in with them for accountability or doing some of these activities together.
- Encourage them to get support from a mental health professional if needed. Sometimes we just need a gentle push to reach out to a therapist. Oftentimes we convince ourselves that we can manage alone, but if a friend shows loving concern and thinks that seeing a therapist might be helpful, that might be the permission we need to reach out for extra support. Remember — there’s no shame in needing support.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
First, understand that it is normal to feel some anxiety right now. The mind is wired to keep us safe and we are sensing threats all around us right now. The thing is, anxiety can get out of control if we let our thoughts get out of control. If you struggle with reigning in your thoughts, I’d suggest several things.
One — Don’t underestimate the power of normalizing how you feel, something like “It makes sense that I would feel anxious right now. There are a lot of unknowns, and it’s scary to feel so out of control.”
Two — Remind yourself that anxiety is something you experience, not who you are. Because anxiety is an experience, remind yourself that it will pass. You won’t stay anxious forever.
Three — Get present as much as possible. Anxiety pushes us into the future, considering the worst case scenario. Grounding and mindfulness exercises can help. I have meditations on my YouTube channel if you’d like a place to start. Getting outside, changing scenery, and having things to look forward to can help as well.
Four — Consider connecting with a therapist. A therapist can support you in identifying triggers for your anxiety and finding coping strategies that work for you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“On the days when you don’t think you have time to rest are the days when you need to rest the most.”
There are various versions of this quote out there, so I can’t attribute it to anyone specifically.
This quote is so relevant for the topic of anxiety and uncertainty as well as when we get caught up in life’s busyness. We think we don’t have time for self-care sometimes, but it’s actually self-care that fuels us to show up in our days and do what we need to do. It’s not about the number of minutes, but the consistency in carving out time for ourselves. I often hear people saying, “I’ll rest when…” which often leaves them feeling burnt out by the time they finally rest. The key to avoiding burnout is having regular practices to care for yourself.
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. 🙂
Get mental health and wellness tools to kids. We need to be educating our children on mental health and how to care for our whole self — mind, body, spirit, and relationships. So many of us didn’t have parents who modeled the kind of behavior that we want to engage in. We need to do more to educate kids on what it means to care for ourselves as well as teach them the skills to have healthy relationships and manage the difficult situations that life will inevitably throw at them.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!