I recommend that any time there is a miscommunication that you reflect on how it happened and why. Some may think this comes down to rushing, or stress, but on a very mundane level some people just use words and phrases differently. Clarifying what the other person and you mean, by using examples and alternative contexts can clear things up a lot for people.
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 Suzanne Wylde a holistic coach, stretching trainer, writer, acupuncturist and hardened tea-drinker.
She has pursued her lifelong passion for self-development through university, hospitals, Mongolia, muddy fields, shamanic ceremonies, writing two books, loitering in cafes, standing in the occasional circle of hippies and thinking about important things. Helping people to heal pain, express their gifts and live happy, full lives lights her up and her latest book The Art of Coming Home aims to help more people with this. Many of her clients experience anxiety and she has found that a holistic approach is very helpful as the person is not seen as defective in any way, but that they have something that needs to be expressed or addressed. Suzanne enjoys using eclectic methods to help her clients to not only feel good in themselves, but to also express themselves more fully across all areas of their lives. She feels anxious sometimes too, but works through it and then has a cup of tea. You can find some useful self-development tools at www.suzannewylde.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 studying Tai Chi and then Traditional Chinese medicine I became an acupuncturist but I have always had quite a wide field of interest which lead me to also study energy medicine, some shamanism, stretching and holistic coaching. Thinking in a holistic way is very natural to me and I feel that it makes the most sense for helping clients because no part of their life or their self exists in isolation. As all the parts of us are interconnected and have an effect on our whole life, we have to make sure that we are taking all of these parts with us if we want to move forward in life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
A few years ago I had been very lucky to have had a lot of media attention for the stretching work I was doing and several journalists had come in for a session. The funny thing was you could never tell if the result would be a big article or a one-line quotation. One journalist for The Times had come in but the piece did not run ( I believe the editor was away for a while) and I pretty much forgot about it. A couple of months later my mother had a stroke, which was a big shock to me and brought home the fact that life is short and if there was anything I really wanted to do I should make it happen sooner rather than later. After she had almost fully recovered I decided to do a big trip that I had wanted to do for ten years or more and I went to Mongolia to meet Shamans. It was a very interesting month in Mongolia with a lot of ups and downs. Interestingly all three shamans that I met (who did not know each other) told me that my work would go really well. A couple of days after I got home the piece came out in The Times and it was two whole pages long! I got fully booked with clients and had a month-long waiting list and shortly afterwards my now-publisher reached out and asked if I would be interested in writing a book. That was a few years ago and I have written my second book now, but I can’t help thinking that if the article had come out while I was in Mongolia and out of the loop, it would have all happened very differently.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I think it is important to make the most of your time; study, gain experience and make the most of any opportunity that comes your way, but equally it is important to be discriminating about where you put your energy. If you are intuitive or sensitive I highly recommend tuning into an opportunity in that way to see if it feels right for you — there are plenty of things I could have done that would have looked good on paper but which would not have had the best effect on me, or lead me to my long-term goals. Also, when you work with clients you will find that some people ask for more than you want to give and may even try to dictate the nature of your work together. You have to decide how and when you work, what the nature of the sessions are and what will really benefit the client. If you find a particular person or type of issue draining, look at what it is that is draining you — it may be an undertone, a dynamic in the relationship or other. People do not try to take too much on purpose, many are simply looking for reassurance and love — but even so there is no amount that you can give that will fill up that hole. They need to learn to love themselves and meet their own emotional needs and modelling good boundaries is an important part of that work. Show your clients how to maintain their energy and practice self-care by doing it for yourself.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Most successful groups are composed of people with different personalities and needs and it is important to understand that people have a different process, way of thinking and way of seeing things. To bridge these gaps excellent communication skills are essential, but this does not come naturally to everyone. I recommend that any time there is a miscommunication that you reflect on how it happened and why. Some may think this comes down to rushing, or stress, but on a very mundane level some people just use words and phrases differently. Clarifying what the other person and you mean, by using examples and alternative contexts can clear things up a lot for people.
Being compassionate and respectful is also huge. You may get frustrated with people, but mostly they are doing their best. Knowing that; is there anything else you can do to set them up for success? Have you taken their way of working into account, have you told them everything they need to know about a situation, have you explained why you want them to do a particular thing or do it a certain way? Beyond this, valuing people’s strengths and helping them to grow, while also thinking of their career progression will make them more invested in the group’s success and lead to a healthier culture. Growth and evolution are natural and healthy, while fear and stifled ambition are unhealthy. See if you can step back and see which state you are facilitating more (this could be different in different areas). If you see that there is an area where you try to suppress growth or change look at your feelings around it and if you do feel fearful or resentful, for example, work through these feelings either with a professional or by yourself. At the end of the day the leader’s job is to serve the growth and health of the group.
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?
When I was in my 20s I read Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes and it had a big impact on me. I have always been interested in people surpassing conventional limits and doing unique and exceptional things, but this book really inspired me. I ran a couple of half marathons and later ran the London marathon, but this was never about running for me. It was about stepping beyond my accepted limits and seeing who I was outside of that. I learned more about myself and what I was capable of and even though I do not run long distances any more (NYC marathon resulted in a bit of a wobbly knee) I have developed the ability to dig deep, then deeper and then even deeper because I have reserves of strength I didn’t know I had before because I had not forced myself to use them.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. 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.
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?
- Work through your feelings
In any emergency or upheaval there is a period where everything is up in the air and the best we can do is simply try to make sensible decisions and keep our heads. After that comes a longer time of continued uncertainty where we tend to settle down a bit because we cannot sustain that level of fear and because we get used to it a bit more. However, there will still be underlying feelings of fear, stress, insecurity, anger and others. These feelings will seep out and shape the environment around us if we do not address them, affecting others’ moods and behavior also. So, try to acknowledge your feelings as fully as possible, write in a journal, scream into a pillow, draw pictures — whatever you have to do to move these feelings through to the point of understanding. It is natural to feel fear, but without acknowledging it fully we can be controlled by it. If we see it fully, feel it in our bodies and express it we may be left with the thought “I am afraid because I do not know if my finances will stretch to the end of this isolation” — having named your fear for what it is, you will probably feel lighter and more in-control. Then you can take more care of the people around you and make more clear-sighted and rational decisions.
2. Try to meet people’s needs and your own
The different people around you (or if you are living solo, then those you talk to over the phone/ internet) probably have at least one or two needs that are not being fulfilled right now, and that can make people feel tense or wound-up. But with some thought you may find that they can have some version of what they are craving. People’s needs vary greatly, so I’ll just give a couple of examples. Your child misses the feeling of freedom of doing gymnastics at school — so do the bumps with them.!! Your partner misses the sense of direction of leading a team at work — ask them to do a task that will involve planning, organizing (possibly also organizing others to help in specific ways) and completing something. Your teenager misses his friends, so you show him how to do a group video chat, possibly while they all play the same video game (bandwidth allowing). If you cannot meet a need exactly, try to meet the need of the feeling underneath it, i.e. “what do I miss about work? Making a difference” — then plan to do something from home that you know will benefit someone else.
3. Support others’ emotional work
Just as in step 1. I mentioned the importance of working through your feelings, others around you may need help doing that. Repeating the news, complaining, stating the same facts over and over can all just confirm our worst fears are true. Help to lift others out of their anxiety by discussing their specific fears and the feelings around them. This can be a lot harder if the other person is a bit of an Eeyore and likes misery, in that case it might be better to focus your efforts on someone else! By acknowledging their feelings fully and naming them, the other person will probably feel more in control and able to step out of a negative cycle. Then you can focus on making the present as enjoyable and satisfying as possible.
4. Incorporate movement into your day
It would be easy to end up sitting for hours and hours, but our bodies and minds are designed for movement — in fact they need it to be happy and healthy. Whether you can go for a walk or bike, or you put on a yoga/ stretching/ pilates/ fitness video or host an impromptu dance party, get the people around you moving for at least an hour a day, even if it is spread out. This will naturally even out people’s mood and release anxious energy. Movement challenges can also be great for giving people something else to focus on, for example: standing on one leg, doing a plank or learning a dance move.
5. Bring creativity in
Self-expression is good for the soul and by bringing more creativity into the situation you can alleviate pent-up energy. This might be painting, drawing, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, writing or even movie-making and they can all be done at home. When people have made something they have put effort into, make sure that you acknowledge and applaud it — because when people are self-expressing they are putting a little piece of themselves on display, so this is not the time for criticism. You might want to hang pictures, record singing, watch the homemade movie together in a way that celebrates that person’s creativity and then see how it lifts them up.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Breathing exercises are very effective, and you can easily find a variety on the internet so I recommend trying different ones and then using the one that works best for you. Generally speaking breathing deeply is great for feeling centered and calm because when you breathe superficially and take little sips of air you are telling your body that you are in a dangerous situation. So, take deep breaths whenever you need to feel calmer and stronger. Exercise is a must, because some of the anxiety you are feeling is probably not purely anxiety but pent-up physical energy, and when it has nowhere to go it just attaches to the other pent-up energy inside you. Stretching and breathing is a great combination for feeling more present with yourself and grounded in your body.
Thinking about your future is a great way to take you out of worrying about the present. What are your long-term goals and dreams? You can make some plans of how to make them happen and you may even find ways to take action from the comfort of your home right now. Visual people may even enjoy making a vision board, using pictures from magazines to illustrate all the things you want in your future. Finally, reach out to friends and family because talking to other people will help to put things in perspective.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anais Nin
This quote is inspiring to me because I have seen people living “big” lives and people living very “narrow” lives and I have been worried in the past about accidentally doing the latter. Not in terms of having less money or success, but in terms of ending up small-minded and bitter. This quote reminds me that if I stay brave and looking at my fears and emotions, I can become more and more generous and open-hearted. I do not have a specific example but in my clients, colleagues and friends I see that the way that we live and our experience of life is largely a decision based on how we look at things and react to them. If we have a bad experience and learn from it and grow, or shrink from it and simply continue to survive, this is our choice. So, knowing this, I feel empowered to keep choosing a path of love, learning and growth.
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 always say that if you feel a desire or even a pressure within you to do, make or become something — follow it. I feel that ignoring that feeling can lead to self-dislike and resentment later in life. It does not necessarily mean giving up your security or throwing everything away to start from scratch, just doing what you can to express that thing into the world. I believe that at the very least you will learn something about yourself and it may benefit and inspire many people, leading to a positive change in the world, so go for it!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Connect to me on instagram @suzanne_wylde, facebook @Wyldesuzanne or twitter @Suzanne_Wylde, or subscribe to my youtube channel at https://bit.ly/2Tv1Bj8 for self-development tools and information.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!