Encourage those around you to tell you when they feel anxious. I cannot tell you how useful I found this during my state of severe anxiety. Just being open and honest with someone who you trust and acknowledging that you feel anxious is one of the quickest ways to bring the level of anxiety down.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Belinda Kelly from Belle Esprit.
Belle Esprit is a Women’s Transformational and Spiritual Coach. She holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, is a Reiki Practitioner, Yogini, Qualified Nutritionist and all-round health, wellness and Spiritual Guru. Belle uses a Holistic, mind, body, spirit approach in her work with her clients, who come to her for a range of emotional, health, spiritual and personal reasons. Belle lives by the motto, Balanced, Nourished and Free and coaches women to heal themselves through her unique method, teaching the importance of intuition and inquiry in all aspects of life to restore balance, gain energy and manifest the life they desire. Lifestyle
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 would love to. I guess you could say my career started for me as an overweight pre-teen, who decided to lose weight and exercise. This decision was the turning point for me that led to an obsession with food and exercise. Subsequently, when I graduated from high school, I went on to study a BSC in Exercise Science and Nutrition and after graduating, I spent the next few years working in a women’s only gym, as a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.
Unfortunately, this job didn’t quite fulfill me in the way I was expecting and so I returned to University just a few years later and completed a Doctorate in Physiotherapy. At the time it just seemed like the right choice to make and I loved to exercise, so if I could learn more about the body and help people overcome injuries and ailments, then I would surely feel more fulfilled.
Whilst to some degree this was true, I helped 100’s and 1000’s of people recover, I was still seeking more. My professor had introduced me to this idea of the body being an art and a science and that each of us responded differently. He explained we each had our own unique recipe for healing and whilst some people would follow the textbook guidelines and recover the way they “should” others wouldn’t. It wasn’t until years later that I really understood that the main reasons people wouldn’t recover or heal was because of the emotional blockages, beliefs and stories that they told themselves. Understanding this was one thing, but it wasn’t until I went through my own struggles myself, that all of this really came together for me and I truly began to understand that people’s struggles went much more deeply than the food they ate and exercise they did.
This deeper search for myself commenced with my saturn return at age 27. A year that rattled me to my core, resulting in me questioning my entire life, breaking up with the man I’d been with for 10 years and 1 year later saw me quitting my full time job and taking off overseas to travel the world working on Luxury yachts for the rich and famous as a Personal Trainer, Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor. In the year leading up to me leaving I started working on myself more deeply, I was introduced to EFT, NLP and hypnosis, I saw a Gestalt therapist and for the first time in my life I started to uncover what was going on inside my mind, the stories and limitations I had put on myself. This was the catalyst for the next 9 years of my life and my journey into mindfulness, spirituality, serenity and surrender.
Whilst working on yachts I was fortunate to get paid holidays which included an air ticket to anywhere I wanted in the world and for those first few years all I was focused on was going to different parts of the world and learning more and more about the interconnectedness of the body and the mind. In the first two years, I became a Reiki Practitioner and I learnt how to use the universal life force of energy to heal and rebalance energy chakras. Learning about the energy body was crucial, as I learnt that when our chakras become blocked from chronic stress, anxiety, toxins, trauma, grief, self doubt, fear ect that this leads to imbalance, illness and disease. I was starting to see how it’s possible to have the best diet and exercise program in the world, but if you are stressed, or holding onto heavy emotions and negative experience then you will be imbalanced. To add insult to injury, I also saw a lot of very unhappy and very wealthy people, people who seemingly appeared to have it all but still were not internally happy. WHY??? Simple they were not balanced in mind, body and spirit.
During this time I also participated in not one but two fasting retreats, this really led me to the awareness of my thoughts and my attachment to food. Observing how incessantly I thought about it and then watching those thoughts leave. I studied more NLP, which combines cognitive behaviour with mindfulness to rewire the brain. I also learnt self hypnosis and participated in daily yoga and meditation. I felt the clearest I’d ever felt at the end of this retreat and had unexpected energy and zest that I didn’t know were possible. I became more mindful and aware of my thoughts and destroyed so many of my beliefs and attachments around food. But, most importantly, I discovered an even deeper connection with myself and again.
Following on from this I was hooked and for the next 6 years I stripped back layer after layer, attending various retreats and doing more courses. Spirituality had opened a whole new door and I had a thirst to connect and know myself at a deeper level than ever before. It was very raw and real at times as I connected to the deeper parts of me that I had been so afraid to touch.
At one point I took almost an entire year off work and travelled to South and Central America, by myself. I hiked the inca trail, volcanoes, the Colca Canyon and the Cordillera Blancas, I did a Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in Guatemala, participated in silent retreats, spent 5 weeks in the Amazon in Peru working with the powerful plant medicines and most importantly I learnt how to sit with me, I learnt what it meant to be mindful and I fell in love with me.
Loving myself was perhaps the hardest part of my journey, but the most rewarding too. Because through loving myself, I learnt what it meant to experience life for me and how to show up for me. I also learnt that even though I love myself, darkness scared me, the unknown scared me and so shortly after this time, I found myself on one more quest and did the craziest thing I’ve ever done.
I signed up to do a darkness retreat and spent 10 days ALONE in a man made cave of pitch black darkness. A cave where for the entire time I never saw my own hand in front of my face. A place where I couldn’t escape the dark, I couldn’t escape my thoughts, because there was nothing to do to distract me. I meditated and practised yoga a lot and I learnt that the darkness I had been so afraid of, was actually really beautiful. It was in the depth of this darkness that I truly began to see.
It was in this cave and working with plant medicines that I really deeply connected to my soul, that I faced my fears and ultimately understood two things. Number 1 is that we all have everything we need inside of us and number 2 is that we are all connected through this beautiful thread of life and even in the loneliest of times we have the power to access this energy and feel supported by something so much bigger than us.
In addition to all I’ve shared above, I have also taken courses with Melissa Ambrosini, Gabby Bernstein, Christie Marie Sheldon and studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
It is through all of this that, I have now created my own unique method of healing and coaching women to return to their truth and release their fears and stories through an infusion of spiritual and holistic transformation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
That meditation and mindfulness quite literally saved my life.
Two years ago, after going through all of what I shared above, I found myself an absolute mess, I was working in a job that had become very stressful (16–18 hour days with 1–2 days off per month if we were lucky), my grandfather who I was close to my entire life had died and I couldn’t return to Australia for his funeral, my fiance’s nephew was diagnosed with cancer and I wasn’t speaking to my father.
Thankfully, I had an amazing partner by my side and a plethora of tools to turn to, or quite honestly I don’t know if I would still be here to tell the story.
I had developed such a severe state of Adrenal Fatigue that I had destroyed my digestive system and I now had Leaky Gut in addition to the Adrenal Fatigue. It was so bad that I was having allergic reactions to various foods that resulted in 5 hospitalizations despite never being allergic to anything in my life.
Here I was, having studied health, nutrition exercise, and done all this spiritual work and I was having the biggest health crisis of my life. Ironically it was at this time that I was studying to be a health coach through IIN.
Yet here I was struggling to get out of bed each day, because of not only extreme fatigue but how badly my joints ached. I developed apathy towards life and had such severe anxiety some days, that I contemplated if I could even go on.
My body would shake, my heart regularly pounded through my chest, and most nights I couldn’t sleep for fear I may not wake up in the morning. To add to this, I gained almost 12kilos, experienced daily headaches and brain fog that just would not lift, and replying to messages on my phone was too big a task to handle.
I didn’t drink, nor smoked, I exercised regularly, after all it was my job and I ate really well, yet here I was in the worst health of my life.
It was honestly the darkest moment of my life, but like I said the one thing that saved me was my meditation practice and this deep knowing that this was a spiritual assignment handed to me for a reason that although I didn’t understand at the time, would be revealed to me in time.
I hit my knees every single day and I meditated and meditated, some days I would do 3–4 hours a day, just to try and calm my nervous system down and stop my body from shaking. I even did shower meditations, as the sound of the water over my ears was like some sort of sensory deprivation, that helped me on the days that were harder than others. Slowly over the course of about 9 months I began to heal, some days were worse than others and there were even times I went backwards, but having a mindfulness practice and an understanding of energy is what got me through.
The cause of this Adrenal Fatigue this burnt-out was STRESS, yet the funny thing is I actually didn’t feel that stressed, but the culmination of the emotional events and long work hours somehow all amounted and I crashed and burned. I had been neglecting my spiritual self, shoving down all the emotions, not allowing myself the time to process what was going on and this was for me the biggest lesson of my entire life.
Ironically it was such an incredible thing to go through and I’m so grateful I did, as this is a very real and prevalent problem in todays switched on, over stimulated fast paced world. People are so disconnected from themselves, their emotions and what they need and now more than ever is there a need for us to all stop and reconnect with the true essence of who we are, mind, body and spirit.
And the easiest way to do this, meditate and become mindful of your thoughts. Whilst I saw doctors and healed my gut with a strict elimination protocol, I can honestly say that the one thing that saved me and gave me the strength to carry on each day, was the simple act of meditation and mindfulness, it brought me back to the present moment, it brought me back into my body and breath and gave me relief from the anxious frazzled state that I would otherwise spend most of my day in.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I think the key to great work culture is to create mindfulness and encourage mental well-being for their employees.
A dedicated mediation room and running workshops on mental health and wellbeing would be a great place to start. Because when we are calmer, centered, and focused, this leads to better performance, happier and more motivated employees.
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?
Oooo tough question, I have had so many books impact me, but one that sticks out for me in recent years is a book by Dr Caroline Myss called Anatomy of the Spirit.
As someone who is Health practitioner and a Reiki practitioner, I have a deep understanding of energy and its effect on the body. This book tied in so much for me in the realm of energy medicine and the interconnectedness of the mind, body and spirit. It gave me the courage and strength to commence my work with people on a more spiritual, energetic and holistic platform that is truly transformational.
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 is about being present in everything you do, whether that be washing the dishes or sitting down to do an intentional meditation. It is a practice, that requires a conscious commitment to the present moment. If you are continually thinking about the past or the future, you cannot pay attention to what is and when we are reflecting on the past or thinking about the future this oftentimes leads us into a state of anxiety, fear and guilt, all negative emotions that only lower our vibration and energy in the world.
As Humans, we desire inner peace and the best way to find that is by becoming still, aware and fully present in the moment.
In essence, mindfulness is an extreme sense of awareness. When we are mindful, we have the ability to simply observe our thoughts and actions and the emotions and feelings of others without being attached to them
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?
Becoming more mindful, allows you to connect to your true self, our inner being. When you are able to be in the present moment and truly connect, there can be no fear, nor worry, because the only moment that matters is that very moment. As such we create inner peace and connection to ourselves, our environment and whatever or whoever we are with in that time.
As Thich Nhat Hahn says
“Mindfulness is the energy of your true presence.”
When we keep conscious attention on our automatic and unconscious reactions we get to know our true selves. We see how often we default to anger, jealousy, rage or guilt. We see our triggers.
By focusing on remaining mindful, and seeing our triggers, we can move towards a state of awareness and from this state, we can forgive ourselves in the moment and move towards infinite love, patience and respect that these dark feelings and emotions will not be able to survive in.
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.
- Breathe — this is one of the simplest ways to become more mindful and to create calm. By bringing attention and focus on your breath, you naturally come into the present moment. A nice way to do this is to count in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and then breathe out for a count of 4 and repeat 10 times.
- Create a Routine — Morning routines are so often talked about these days and for very good reason, also setting a morning routine is probably the easiest place to start. As humans, we are habitual beings, waking up at or around the same time each day and doing some sort of a routine, creates a stable anchor that helps ground you and takes away some of the unsettledness and fear that uncertainty brings in. Also try not to look at your phone and check in on the world until you have taken the time to check in with yourself for the day.
Example of a Morning Routine
- Wake up at the same time each day
- Make the bed
- Get dressed
- Commit to 10–15 minutes of movement
- Journal (gratitude) or read a book
- Eat breakfast
- Have a set time to start work
3. Meditate — One of my favorite methods for creating calm and reconnecting to myself is through meditation. It is also my number one tool for creating mindfulness. Having a regular meditation practice, allows us to improve how we respond to change and uncertainty. When you meditate you connect to the place inside of you that is connected to the present, there is no place to be and nothing to do, except sit and be.
4. Surrender and let go — in a world of chaos and uncertainty, many of us are accustomed to having some level of control and are unsure about what all these means and the changes that are coming. However, if we could just simply surrender to what is going, we might even find, that all the worry and fear was for nothing and that life on the other side is actually better than the one we have come to know.
5. Gratitude — This is such an incredibly powerful and simple practice that also brings us into the present moment and shifts our vibration and energy into a better feeling vibe. It allows us to connect with all the things in life we have to be grateful for and takes us out of our future worry mind.
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?
- Encourage those around you to tell you when they feel anxious. I cannot tell you how useful I found this during my state of severe anxiety. Just being open and honest with someone who you trust and acknowledging that you feel anxious is one of the quickest ways to bring the level of anxiety down.
- Be compassionate towards them and hold space, when they are feeling anxious, there is nothing worse than being rushed through your process and feeling judged by someone when experiencing anxiety.
- Breathing with them, Inhale for 4, hold for 4 exhale and repeat x 10
- Ask them some questions, to help get some perspective on where they are at. Quite often when someone is feeling anxious they are thinking negatively, getting them to express these thoughts and then switch to a positive is a good tool to help lessen the anxiety.
- What is the worst case scenario?
- What is the best case scenario?
- What is most likely or realistically going to happen?
- Get them moving, go for a 20 minute walk together or do some yoga
5. Let them know that anxiety is a part of our human experience and not a flaw. We all experience anxiety from time to time and it is a useful emotion that we need not be embarrassed by.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
- Practice meditation every day, there are so many great apps out there these days, which make them so accessible to all. All you need is your iphone and 5 minutes. Some apps I would recommend include “Waking up” by Sam Harris, which is particularly focused on mindfulness, or “Simple Habit” and “Headspace.” Also Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey regularly run meditation challenges, which could be a good introduction as well.
- Look up courses, udemy offers some great courses on mindfulness that you can do right now and they normally have great deals.
- Search podcasts on mindfulness, there is a plethora of information out there.
- Get a coach or someone who can work with you 1:1 and guide you on this journey.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
This is a quote I have come back to time and time again and was something that was very relevant for me as I faced my own darkness and realized that what I thought was darkness was actually light, the parts of me I was so afraid of were actually my most beautiful and shiny bits. I came to realize how much depth and truth there was to this quote.
The last few lines of this quote are most pertinent and I think everyone can learn from what it says, that as each of our steps into the light and shines, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
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. 🙂
The Feelgood Movement centered around one idea that “Everyone loves everyone”, I believe that if we can all look to one another and treat one another from a space of love then we would heal the world. Love has been one of my biggest teachers and I infuse it into absolutely everything I do.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can find me on Instagram @belleesprit.health
On Facebook at Belle Esprit
And my website www.belleesprit.com.au
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!