“Equip yourself with coping skills” With Beau Henderson & Anne Ockene Boudreau

Mental health has been a topic of frequent discussion with the spread of COVID. Anxiety, panic, depression, substance abuse, and suicides have escalated in the past five months. Equipping yourself with coping skills and practices to mitigate stress and fear is inordinately important to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. As a part of […]

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Mental health has been a topic of frequent discussion with the spread of COVID. Anxiety, panic, depression, substance abuse, and suicides have escalated in the past five months. Equipping yourself with coping skills and practices to mitigate stress and fear is inordinately important to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

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

Anne Ockene Boudreau is an inspirational author, coach, and executive who is devoted to helping others develop healthy self-worth. In her new book, “A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew & Develop Self-Worth,” she reveals how self-worth is a critical element for sustainable personal change.

Anne’s desire to focus on the topic of self-worth is derived from her lifelong passion to address the array of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual issues that impede a person’s ability to feel fulfilled and enjoy inner peace. As she learned during her own challenging early years, low self-worth is a root cause of negativity, fear, anger, hatred, violence, bullying, and bigotry. Learn more at www.LanguageOfSelfWorth.com.

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?

After twenty-one years of serving as a marketing and communications director for several global corporations, I reached a point of self-awareness that caused me to reflect on my career and question whether I was fulfilled. Latent messages of discontent kept cycling through my brain and gnawing at me.

Throughout my life I’d yearned to do something meaningful, other than just earning a good salary. Despite years of blood, sweat, and tears, I could no longer force away what I knew in my soul to be true. I was not living any sort of “dream.”

Having lived all over the world, I’ve always had a penchant toward change. And, it was time for me to take that leap, as change is what leads to growth, and growth comes from stretching beyond what is comfortable, what you know, to delve into unchartered terrain. Rather than continue on the path of least resistance, I resigned from my job to write a non-fiction book that had been germinating within me since I was a child.

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

When I left the corporate world to embark on the journey to become an author, I learned an amazing amount about human nature. In preparation for writing a comprehensive book about self-worth, I interviewed experts all over the world to obtain their knowledge and insight into the human self, how one values themselves in their core being. I learned in a short period of time that one’s self-belief is paramount to the quality of their life.

Self-worth is the lens by which a person views their entire life. A person’s attitude, energy, ability to focus, immune system, sexuality, sleep patterns, and every relationship and interaction are affected by how one feels about themselves in their core.

One of the most gripping interviews I conducted during the course of my research was with an addict who demonstrated — -in the direst of circumstances — the extraordinary power of the human brain and the superhuman capacity to survive and even revive through resilience. From getting to know this person, I learned what the adage, mind over matter, truly meant.

As a young child, few of us are taught to believe in ourselves, to love who we are not for how we look on the outside, but who we are internally. This person I interviewed suffered relentless bullying for many years for the color of his hair. He was the only person in his small rural town with red hair. At the age of six, he shaved his entire head so he could disguise the color of his hair. The bullying didn’t stop.

Bullying shatters a person’s mental state. It is a grave assault on the human psyche. Yet, the victims of bullying don’t realize that the person propagating the attacks lacks self-worth and seeks to make others feel more miserable than they. As a society, we must put systems in place that protect children from bullies.

After several near-death experiences, this remarkable human being took responsibility for himself and saved his own life. Today he is the CEO of a Drug and Alcohol Treatment facility and is helping people throughout the world.

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?

Although this story is not humorous per se, it is a without a doubt, a mistake and an inaccurate assumption. Having been a writer all of my life, I expected to sit down and write my book in a matter of months. Little did I realize that the subject I had chosen was highly complex. Self-worth and neuroplasticity are clearly not simple topics.

I spent years interviewing experts and trauma survivors to gain the proper information from multiple sources.

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?

A brilliant psychotherapist and organizational theorist named, Dr. Richard Boyatzis, provided me with a wealth of scientific research and critical data about the brain’s capacity to achieve sustainable change. He taught me that behavioral change is not likely when focusing on a problem. Enduring change emanates from passion — -the desire to change. When one is forced to change or believes they need to in order to please others, change is unsustainable. Dr. Boyatzis shared studies with me that included fMRI research showing blood flow data and other invaluable information.

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

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. It takes tremendous discipline. A screenwriter friend advised me to press forward, no matter what else is going on. He said that I should write at least one sentence every single day. “Write, write, write, until you feel blood seeping through your pores.” Obviously, he was emphasizing that good writing requires tenacity, patience, and diligence.

Some days writing is easier than others, but never give up. If you have a wonderful concept for a book, stick with it. Gain momentum. The beginning is the hardest, but once you’ve developed an outline, it will flow more easily.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Establish a consistent time to write. I made it an appointment with myself, so that I would not be swayed to do something else. Just as you wouldn’t cancel a doctor’s appointment, do not permit yourself to cancel your commitment to writing.
  • Develop discipline. Once you have determined what hours you will dedicate to writing, be devoted to it.
  • Write about a subject you know a lot about. It makes the process more interesting and credible.
  • Be prepared to write several drafts. No great work is finished in the first, second, or even third drafts, it takes a lot of work to write a great book.
  • Be flexible, so that you can pivot subject matter if needed.
  • Research. Seek data from professionals. I learned an enormous amount from the experts I interviewed for my book.

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

The most important element to create a positive, inspiring environment or culture is to have a system in place for open communication and feedback. Team members need to believe their voice is insignificant, that they have an avenue for candid input that will be taken seriously. It is also immensely important to focus on staff morale, especially in the face of COVID. Leaders should communicate consistently with their staff and listen attentively.

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.

Mental health has been a topic of frequent discussion with the spread of COVID. Anxiety, panic, depression, substance abuse, and suicides have escalated in the past five months. Equipping yourself with coping skills and practices to mitigate stress and fear is inordinately important to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

Here are a few beneficial tips to apply:

  • Purpose — Having purpose is exceedingly important, particularly now when hours blur into days, and days blur into weeks and months. Engaging in an activity that inspires you, that is important and meaningful to you, will improve your overall health and wellbeing. Having a vision and direction serve as huge motivators. Without purpose, life becomes a chore versus a journey, which can lead to mental and physiological issues such as lethargy, loneliness, and depression. Choose to involve yourself with something that charges you up, that gives you that get-up-and-go. Challenge yourself to commit to something new, a project or job you’ve always wanted to tackle, or spend time doing something creative, such as a hobby, gardening, singing, dancing, cooking, reading or writing poetry.
  • Self-Awareness. Be aware and mindful of your thoughts. Observe your thoughts and pay attention to negative thoughts that recycle through your brain. If you ignore stress and tension, it increases. It consumes space in your head until you decide to address it. Train yourself to maintain composure and calm by being mindful of what you are thinking so that you have the ability to change your thoughts when needed.
  • Set Goals — In line with having purpose, goal setting is a great way to feel constructive and purposeful. When you establish goals, be sure to create a timeline for each one so that you have a “deadline,” or timetable that you work towards. Create a list as well. I love the feeling of crossing off a to-do item on my list!
  • Communicate and Connect with Uplifting People. Share your thoughts and emotions with people who understand and support you, those who will help you navigate through this challenging time. With the ongoing pandemic, everyone has been tasked with learning to communicate virtually. This shift has been challenging for those of you who thrive on in-person, face-to-face communication. Despite the efficiency of Zoom, Facetime, and Skype, there is no substitute for the energy transmitted when people get together. It is the hugs, handshakes, laughter, and the communion of human togetherness everyone misses. The camaraderie we used to take for granted is now a precious gem. Be proactive about communicating and connecting with those in your tribe, those people you enjoy and trust. Just as you are a sounding board for others, allow those you care about be a sounding board for you.
  • Accept the New Reality: Don’t Expend Energy by Battling with What Exists. What we resist persists. We know that corona is a reality that we cannot wish away. Instead of feeling aggravated, angry, or fearful, choose to accept it. By letting go of negativity and fear, you will have greater clarity and peace of mind. None of us enjoy being restricted and isolated. The wise option is to create an environment for yourself that is comfortable, warm, and safe. Consider viewing this period of time as a productive pause; a time to think and reflect. Think about the wonderful ways you will dive back into the rush of life when things improve. This is also a valuable time to examine yourself and what is working and not working. You have the time to design a different and more fulfilling future. Choose to fill yourself with positive thoughts and creative ways to learn more about yourself and others.

Focus on Self-Care: Self-care is not selfish; it is a necessity. Here are a few helpful self-care practices:

  • Physical Activity/Exercise: Make time to move every single day. Walk, dance, jump, move your arms and legs. Lack of activity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to unhealthy habits. Even if you march in place, any form of exercise will lift your spirits. Exercise has amazing physical, emotional, and mental benefits and, given what we are dealing with today, it is vital to focus on health and wellbeing.
  • Fuel yourself with Immunity-boosting Nutrition: This is not a time to abandon healthy eating habits. Our bodies need nutritious food more than ever to enhance our immune system. All of our cells need energy in the form of food sources to survive and regenerate. Choose your food intake based on what will provide you energy, strength, and stamina.
  • Abundant Sleep. Sleep is always exceedingly important to holistic health. If you are having trouble sleeping, choose to read a book, pray, listen to soothing music, or learn relaxing breath — -a breathing technique during which you breathe in for four seconds, hold the breadth for seven seconds, and then exhale for eight seconds. This process decreases anxiety and tension and brings about a tranquil state.
  • Meditation. There are innumerable health benefits from meditation. You can start with deep breathing relaxation meditation by simply focusing on your breaths, and progress to other forms as you become comfortable with the process. Meditating on a daily basis is an easy, no-expense way to maintain equanimity.
  • Coping Skills: Develop a set of coping practices for yourself to help you when you feel low or isolated. Thought-stopping, positive self-talk, journaling, setting boundaries, and selecting an inspirational mantra for yourself are all effective practices.
  • Seek Counseling/Therapy: There are periods when you may be unable to help yourself or solve your own issues. Please seek professional help from a licensed therapist when you feel it is necessary.

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.

The science of neuroplasticity has taught us that our brain has the amazing capacity to generate new neural pathways when we acquire knowledge and learn new skills. This is of particular import as we age. We used to believe the brain was hardwired, but now we know that anyone, at any age or stage of life, can create new neural connections and generate new neurons. Just as exercise is key to remaining healthy and strong, exercising your brain is acutely important after retirement.

Choose a new hobby or skill to incorporate into your daily life to get the circuitry in your brain charged. Select an activity that will challenge you, such as learning a new language, playing an instrument, taking up painting or pottery, playing card games, doing puzzles, training for a sport, or anything else that inspires you. Write a book!

Often when people retire, they tend to stay at home. From extensive research we know that social interaction is key to longevity and overall wellbeing. Make it a point to reach out to family members, friends, or former colleagues, and be sure to maintain an active social life, even if it has to be virtually.

If times were different, I would suggest volunteering or traveling, but for now, everyone needs to remain close to home. Optimize your stay-at-home time to use your brain in innovative ways. There are endless activities to keep one’s brain occupied.

Exercise is key to maintaining muscular strength and cardiovascular health, along with the hormones generated that are important to mental and emotional health. Find a gentle sport or activity that you enjoy. Even a walk around the house is better than sitting still. Move as frequently as you can.

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?

Teens and pre-teens are struggling with life as we know it now for obvious reasons. These include not having the freedom to socialize with their friends or participate in their favorite activities. The restrictive nature of COVID has led to frustration, sadness, depression, and, tragically, suicide. Additionally, hormones are raging in teens which contributes to their emotional highs and lows.

It is important for teens to pay attention to their thoughts and develop methods to cope with their wide-ranging emotions. Parents have a pivotal role to support their children by maintaining an open, two-way conduit of communication. This will enable them to notice any subtle changes in a child’s attitude or behavior.

Teaching children and teens practices to calm themselves and release tension and frustration is paramount to their mental health. Breathing techniques, calming practices, journaling, interfacing with friends, exercising, eating nutritiously, and engaging in a hobby will go a long way to occupying their minds and helping them release angst.

Social media has been linked with contributing to the rise of malaise in teenagers. Limiting time spent on these devices is a must. The use of social media among teenagers has risen exponentially during the pandemic and can be a detriment to their self-worth. For example, when a child is following someone they deem to be an “influencer,” someone with a huge following, they may experience a myriad of negative emotions including jealousy, loneliness, anger, resentment, FOMO, [fear of missing out] dejection, depression, and anxiety.

The most important way to help a teen manage the current reality is to engage in open, trustworthy conversations with them. Know your child. Watch for changes in their behavior. Look for subtle signs that they may not be coping well. Ask questions and show an interest in how they are doing. We all need extra care and support right now.

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

I loved “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle, which is a profoundly insightful examination of the human spirit.

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 on a mission to spread a movement about the magnitude of healthy, positive self-worth as the salve to eliminate hatred, bigotry, racism, insecurity, and violence. Those who learn to love and accept themselves do not fear or disdain others for their skin color, religion, ethnicity, political beliefs, sexual preference, or gender.

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

I love many quotes, but my two favorites relate to how I originated the concept for my book, A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew & Develop Self-Worth. Mark Twain’s poignant quote, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself,” and Goethe’s quote, “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

When you are uncomfortable with yourself, life is a constant battle. You live with discord and inner tension that may dominate your life experience. The greatest source of strength and inner peace comes from believing in yourself and knowing you are worthy and deserving of love.

Goethe’s quote takes my breath away as I lived many decades of my life with self-doubt. When I finally learned to accept myself, I also began to trust myself.

Self-trust enables you to harness the mental and emotional freedom you deserve so that you can live the life you dream.

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

Website: https://anneoboudreau.com

Facebook: https://fb.me/AnneBoudreauAuthor/

Instagram: @Anneoboudreau

Twitter: @Anneoboudreau

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

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