“Embrace your creativity.” With Beau Henderson & Stephanie Catalano

As humans, we are hardwired for connection biologically, physically, and spiritually, so I suggest getting involved in some type of community and/or service work, like volunteering. The connection is key, feeling like you are still a part of something and that each day there is meaning and purpose for you. Also, maintain a positive mindset […]

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As humans, we are hardwired for connection biologically, physically, and spiritually, so I suggest getting involved in some type of community and/or service work, like volunteering. The connection is key, feeling like you are still a part of something and that each day there is meaning and purpose for you. Also, maintain a positive mindset and know that your identity is much more than what your career was. I would also recommend doing all the things that perhaps you were unable to do when working full-time, such as traveling. Find joy in every moment. Take time to be still and embrace each experience simply by being present and staying focused on the “here and now.”

As a part of my series about the “5 Things, Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Catalano.

Stephanie Catalano is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Personal Development Author, Life Coach, and the founder of Mindful Living, a community she created to empower individuals on their individual journey to living a happy, fulfilled life of their dreams. Stephanie has over eight years of experience in the fields of Child Welfare, Mental Health, and Substance Use Disorders with three published books to date: Mindful Makeover, Painted Soul, and Bonafide Spirit. Stephanie’s mission is to help individuals transform their lives from the inside out, which she accomplishes through her books, coaching, counseling, workshops, and public speaking.

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 have always had a passion to help others and ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to give back and help, but I wasn’t sure in what way or capacity. As I sit here today, it’s interesting to reflect on my life experiences. All the career work I’ve done has always been parallel to what was occurring in my personal life.

I graduated from Florida State University in 2009 and obtained my first job as a Dependency Case Manager where I was working with children and families in the foster care system. Interesting enough, at that time, my half brother and sister were in foster care. During that career experience, I was promoted to Dependency Case Manager Supervisor, where I oversaw a Unit of 150 children in the foster care system. As much as I loved this beautiful, challenging, yet rewarding work, I knew there was more for me. I then earned my master’s degree and went on to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). In order to achieve a License in Florida, it was required to have 2,000 direct clinical client hours. With that said, I accepted a position as a Primary Therapist for a Mental Health / Addiction treatment center. During this time, I was struggling in my personal life and experiencing my own struggles and battles with mental health.

As I was helping others, I was helping myself. As I learned about others, I was learning about myself. It was quite interesting how it was all unfolding. The more I learned, the more I became interested in it. After three years of working as a Primary Therapist, I was offered a job as the Clinical Director for another Mental Health / Addiction treatment center. I actually still serve as the Clinical Director for this center in addition to running my own business. Thankfully, the center allows me to only physically be on-site one day a week, so I am able to build and create my business,

Through the years of working with those struggling with mental health, addiction, and, trauma, to say I was fascinated by human behavior is an understatement. I became so interested in how we are conditioned and wired. I noticed a pattern that people, of all ages, live on auto-pilot, stuck in the weight of the past and held back by the worry of the future. I realized this was once me, too. I wanted to help people break free from auto-pilot and overcome barriers, blocks, and beliefs that were holding them back. This led me to open Mindful Living, a community I created to help people reach their highest potential and experience happier, fulfilled lives. This is accomplished through my books, coaching, counseling, workshops, and public speaking.

I believe everyone has a transformational story inside of them and I am incredibly passionate about helping people own their stories, step into their power, and live their life with purpose, on purpose.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My most recent book, Mindful Makeover Workbook, was published and released January 2019. Come April 2019, I was at the Palm Beach Art Show in Palm Beach, Florida as an exhibitor sharing my book, along with my dad, who is the artist and the man behind the creative concept and design of Mindful Makeover. We were there selling the Workbook and the art from within the book — it was a super cool experience where we had the opportunity to meet hundreds of people.

Fast forward, here it was August 2019, and I was in the Bahamas with my fiancé as he had a work event. He is in the marine industry and the event we were attending was a “yacht hop.” As we were touring one yacht, lost in the beauty and size of it, the owners wife said to me, “You look so familiar. I think we’ve met.” I had no memory of meeting this woman, until she said, “You wrote a book and I met you and your parents, your dad was the artist and your mom, she was quite the salesgirl.” We both laughed and then connected that dots, that she and her husband attended the Palm Beach Art Show and they had stopped by our booth to learn more about Mindful Makeover. We became friendly and spent time with them and their loved ones that weekend.

During that trip, it felt like we had all known each other for years. They asked several questions about me, the Workbook, my company (Mindful Living), and their daughter-in-law shared about her involvement in Pilate studios and expressed how she felt Mindful Makeover would be a great addition to the studios she is a part of. We discussed ways and ideas to have Mindful Makeover be sold in these studios and we even discussed her bringing me on to host Workshops and Retreats, which are all a part of the work I am doing in the world, only to never hear from them again. My fiancé’s work event had turned into a network and what had seemed to be a potential business opportunity for me, only for it to not go anywhere. I made several follow up efforts, until I no longer did, and saw it as an interesting experience to say the least.

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?

One moment comes to mind — a time when I accidentally sent a “venting” text message for a friend to a potential new client. The text could have easily been mistaken as a rant, complaining, possibly crazy (haha). I remember feeling so embarrassed! I was able to recover quickly (phew) and didn’t lose the client. The take-away was realizing people are more alike than different, I’m allowed to make mistakes, and it’s important to laugh, even at yourself. Also, to always double-check who you are texting before hitting send. Truly a lesson from elementary school, always check your work.

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 have had many positive role models in my life who have absolutely helped me along the way, but to answer this question, I would say an amazing woman by the name of Candice Rasa. She was the Clinical Director at the first mental health / addiction treatment center I worked at. She was a bright light, an inspiration, and exuded confidence. She showed up vulnerable and authentic in everything she did, and this really stood out to me. She spoke her truth, led by example, and it was apparent that everything she did was done in love. I can remember every morning in our clinical meetings, I felt inspired and she planted many seeds within me that I knew if I watered would manifest into wonderful things. And I watered them daily and still do, and because of that, I’m not only living my life’s purpose, but also, incredibly grateful for her.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make time for daily self-care, even if it’s 15 minutes at a time. Putting yourself first is important, it matters, and it’s a part of self-love, it’s not selfish. I also encourage others to be as Mindful as possible, meaning there is only one moment at a time: pace yourself, prioritize, and eliminate overly-multitasking. Do your best to let go when needed and as needed. Focus on what’s in your control.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Be authentic in all you do. Let people be who they are, cultivate connection among the team, and use positive reinforcement. I believe authenticity always wins and naturally when you show up authentic and lead by example, people follow, and it creates an overflow of positivity.

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.

  • Deep Breathing — breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 3 seconds, breathe out for 7 seconds. This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax — sometimes without even realizing it.
  • Mental Reframing — this involves taking an emotion, stressor, or trigger and thinking of it in a different way.
  • The 5 Senses — this involves focusing on your senses as a way to help keep you grounded. For example, if you begin to experience high anxiety rather than focusing on your anxiety, use your senses to be guided to the present moment — what do you hear, see, taste, smell, feel — this is one way to help you return to center and a place of calmness.
  • Opposite-To-Emotion Thinking — this requires you to do the opposite action of whatever your emotion in the moment is telling you to do. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you want to give up or quit, do the opposite. Allow yourself to start over, to take a break, to try again.
  • Practice Mindfulness — this allows you to focus on what’s happening in the “here and now” and to stop, think, choose your response, then respond.

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.

As humans, we are hardwired for connection biologically, physically, and spiritually, so I suggest getting involved in some type of community and/or service work, like volunteering. The connection is key, feeling like you are still a part of something and that each day there is meaning and purpose for you. Also, maintain a positive mindset and know that your identity is much more than what your career was. I would also recommend doing all the things that perhaps you were unable to do when working full-time, such as traveling. Find joy in every moment. Take time to be still and embrace each experience simply by being present and staying focused on the “here and now.”

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?

  • Embrace your creativity — maybe you enjoy painting, drawing, or writing. Do more of that.
  • Keep active — spend more time outdoors. Explore. Physical fitness will help you stay healthy, have more energy, feel confident, manage stress and sleep well.
  • Be authentic — always speak your truth, share about your feelings, and remember it’s not always what you do, but how you do it, and not what you say, but how you say it.
  • Digital Detox — limit the amount of time spent plugged into the phone, iPad, video games, and other electronics.
  • Meditate — if you start meditating as a pre-teen or teen, even for 10 minutes a day, you will set yourself up for success mentally, physically, and spiritually. This is an excellent practice to begin turning into a habit.
  • Practice Gratitude — start and end your day with naming who and what you’re grateful for. Research shows how focusing on what you’re grateful for is a natural anti-depressant.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. This book truly changed my life. I was 24 years young when this book was recommended by a friend. At that time in my life, I felt lost, confused, broken, insecure, and lacked meaning and purpose. I had just left the relationship I mentioned earlier. It was this book that helped normalize the reality that it’s okay to not be okay and it’s normal to have feelings and even negative thoughts. This book helped me not only gain awareness but also taught me how to become the observer of my life and how not to allow my perception to keep me stuck or to keep me from experiencing all that is for what it is. This book was the first time I learned of Mindfulness and I’ve practicing it ever since and teaching it.

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 a Mindful Movement, specifically changing curriculum in schools, as early as elementary, to include courses on life events and experiences where students are not only taught Mindfulness but more importantly, offered a safe space to share and process current life experiences and be offered and taught coping skills. I feel this would prevent and/or eliminate the presenting problems we see in adults such as addiction, mental illness, codependency, limiting beliefs, insecurities, low self-esteem, and even suicide. All of which typically are symptoms of unresolved trauma. The Mindful Movement would be trauma-informed, and it would be delivered with empowerment to assist in breaking societal norms, conditions, and automatic responses that keep individuals held back and from reaching their highest potential.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin

This quote has had so much relevance and meaning in my life. When I first learned about this quote, I was in an unhealthy relationship. I had been struggling for years, felt stuck, and unable to move forward in my life. When I randomly or not so randomly came across this quote, it was exactly what I needed to hear to begin to choose courage, faith, and love. I would read this quote every day and it’s what helped me take brave steps and begin my journey of healing and transformation.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

The best way to connect and follow me is through Instagram

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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