I do believe that the more leaders can play an active role in really getting to know their staff, who they really are as human beings not just the work they do, the better they can relate to them, understand them, empathize with them, and build trust with them. If you are a leader and you haven’t taken the time to do this before, take this time now to really connect with your employees, your colleagues, and your management. After all, we’re all human and humans have a primal need for connection, so use this time to really connect with those that you have not made the time to connect with before.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jothi Dugar.
Jothi Dugar is a Cyber Executive, Holistic Mental Health & Wellness Coach, Author, Dance Director, and a mom of three kids. She knows all too well about managing chaos in her life, and is known as The Chaos Guru. She helps corporate professionals harness the power of chaos to become authentic and powerful leaders of their lives, and lead others they serve.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, 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?
Ihave had the blessing of always following my intuition in life. It has gotten me out of many dire situations and traumas that were life threatening. I have used my ability to set my intentions, always dream big (even if it seems impossible in the moment), following and taking actions on my intuition pretty much my whole life. When I look back at every decision and choice I had made in my life, and every situation that happened for me in hindsight, I can now see how they all were connected and had to happen in order for me to be where I am today.
Now, if you ask me how in the world, I merged Cybersecurity with Wellness together, that makes a very interesting story.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I have been speaking on the importance of mental health and wellness in the corporate workplace, especially in the Technology and Cyber fields for a while now. However, everyone thought it was an “interesting” topic and sounded very “different” than the normal topics that all the Technology Leaders spoke about. They did not relate to how big of a need there is for wellness in the workplace, until the era of Covid-19 hit the market. I even initiated a Health & Wellness program for all staff in my organization in hopes of driving the importance of helping people to recover from all the burnout, stress, chaos, and confusion from working in high pressure environments. I’m so glad I started and led these efforts, as now everyone understands just how important the health and wellness of people are. In fact, I would argue that by viewing people as the biggest assets to an organization, we need to ensure that they are taken care of, not just by the normal HR and Employee Engagement programs, but more so by prioritizing their overall wellness.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Sometimes when you do not find an existing structure or mechanism to do what you’re passionate about, especially when it comes to serving others, you have to create it yourself! I could not find any workforce wellness programs out there that employees were taking full advantage of (or encouraged to do so by their leadership) that really focused on bringing transformational wellness to the workplace setting in easily digestible techniques and modalities. I also found that most employees were not really taking advantage of any wellness programs that may exist as most focus on physical health and exercise, or they seem too “woo woo” which deterred many from even trying. I have made it my purpose to develop transformational wellness programs that I can bring to the workplace setting for individuals and for teams that focus on enhancing their success, performance, happiness, wellness, and overall lifespan using simple yet effective techniques in a quick timeframe that really resonate with corporate professionals. By putting things in a language that others can relate to and making things fun and easy to implement, it really opens the doors for employees, managers, and corporate leaders to really lead from within and become their best and authentic selves.
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?
This is such an important point. I am thankful for those that provided the support and inspiration I needed in a positive way, and those that were a lesson for me. Sometimes we tend to thank the people and the situations that seem positive to us, however I believe that everything in life happens for you, therefore even the so called “negative” people and events are there for you to learn from and understand the gifts from them.
For example, I had a couple employees that worked for me in a previous job that chose to act in a very difficult to manage manner and had hoped that I would not be able to manage them and decide to leave. I had come to find out that they had applied for my position and did not get it, so now they were choosing to cause enough trouble for me thinking that I would fail. However, what it did enable me to do was to learn how to enhance my conflict management skills, strengthen my own self worth and self-acceptance, and really increased my resilience. Eventually, they decided to give up and left the organization. The funny thing is a little while later both of them reached out to me and apologized for how they had treated me, and told me how they learned a lot from me in being resilient and not allowing others to affect their mindset.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Outside of the normal chaos of having my children and spouse around while I work on my many endeavors, my biggest challenge has been seeing how fast I have been growing myself from a mental, emotional, and spiritual mindset through this pandemic. So, why is this a challenge you ask?
Well, let’s think of it this way. When one person in a relationship is constantly growing and elevating himself/herself, and the other chooses to remain at the same conscious level, either of two things may happen. Either the person growing faster will reach out and try to pull the person that’s not growing so fast up in hopes that they can at least meet halfway. Or, they will grow apart quickly as there is no common front anymore. Honestly for me, this is a tremendous challenge that I see happening everywhere. Everyone is changing in some way, shape, or form through this pandemic. However, some choose to look at life using a “victim” and scarcity mindset, and some choose to use this pandemic and all the chaos surrounding it as a catalyst for growth, innovation, creativity, and expansion using a growth mindset.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I try my best to put on my growth mindset goggles and harness the power of all the chaos around me to become more resilient, stronger, and really grow myself. I am using the power of technology to reach people across the world to help them transform their mental health and wellness, bring Chaos transformation programs to corporate workplaces virtually so that people can manage their chaos and their wellness right from the comfort of their homes and even have their children join them. I have also empowered my own children with the easy and effective mind-body-energy techniques that I teach so that they can manage their own chaos so that their need to bring all their issues and problems to me or to my spouse is minimized.
In addition, I have expanded the wellness programs that I had initiated and lead in my own organization to be more frequent so that I can help my fellow colleagues from burnout, stress, and overwhelm.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Being a woman leader in business and corporate has its share of challenges, especially during a global pandemic. My biggest challenges are allowing myself to show up to my teams as my authentic feminine core in a male dominated environment. I feel that women tend to put on a masculine mask and need to act like men or be like men in order to fit in sometimes. This really causes a lot of stress and overwhelm as being masculine is a protective mechanism that really takes a lot out of women, and by having to do this day in and day out, it adds to the stress levels that they’re already facing from work, kids, family, household tasks, etc.
Also, women are generally expected to do a disproportionate amount of work when it comes to how many tasks, they are able to manage, especially when combining home and work tasks. If they do not have a supportive partner or if they are a single parent, there is even more stress and pressure to make everything work smoothly. From my own experiences, if we as women do not speak up for ourselves and ask for what we need in any situation, we tend to take on too much and then feel burned out and exhausted, and we tend to put our own self care as our last priority.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
On the work front, I believe that good leaders should lead by example and show true vulnerability and authenticity even if it may seem scary at first. So, I have started to take down my masculine mask among the all-male teams that I lead and come to them from a place of compassion, empathy, and softness using my feminine core. At first, I was a bit fearful that I may come across as weak or fragile, especially if I showed emotion in the workplace, but much to my surprise all my staff were appreciating that change in me. In fact, when I started bringing my authentic self to the workplace being an Executive leader, my teams started doing the same as well and really started connecting at a much deeper level with everyone. It was such a beautiful thing to see.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
What I find that works well is to have grace and empathy for yourself and others. By trying to do it all and be perfect at everything, we are only adding to the chaos. We need to allow ourselves to take several pauses in the day to regroup and rejuvenate ourselves especially if you are a parent. Think about race car drivers that are driving at a super-fast speed. They must come to an abrupt stop every few laps to change their tires, check either oil tanks, in order to mentally reset. There is a reason for that. We often fail to take time to recharge ourselves through out the day thinking that we need to be on the go, go, go, all the time. My biggest tip is to take five minutes out of every hour to reset, take a breather, step outside on the grass, get up and walk around or move, do something to reset and rejuvenate yourself. By doing this every hour through out your waking hours, you will automatically feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
How do I do this while I have kids around? Well, get your kids involved in the process too! Depending on the age of your kids, teach him some quick and easy breathing techniques. Better yet, teach him how to physically shake things off. Tell them to pretend like they’re a puppy shaking off all the excess water from their fur after a bath. Really go at it and shake your whole body, your legs, arms, and everything you possibly can for a good 3–5 minutes. How do you feel? This is a great way to release the stress and low-vibe energy that tends to get stuck within us, and a great tool to teach your kids!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
If you have kids that are four or older and always asking you to spend time with them just because all of you are home, set up quick time periods through out the day that you can spend with them doing whatever they want to do within that time. Call it Quality Time and make sure you go over when these times are and have them plan out what they want to do during that time. Explain how much time they would have so they learn not to plan an activity that takes two hours if your allotted time is only ten minutes. Try your best not to schedule any meetings or any other task during those times. However, life happens and if you need to miss a time, just calmly explain to your child the situation and explain that you will spend double the time for the next session or they can get a makeup session later that day or even on a weekend.
Bring the fun to wherever you are
Just because you can’t go to amusement parks, or water slides, or vacations does not mean you can’t have any fun! Take a weekend to go all out. Set up a camping tent right outside on your yard and have a picnic there, or even spend the night to pretend like you’re camping. Get some water balloons and a pump-up water slide and spend the day outside just having fun throwing water balloons at each other or running through the sprinkler. If you have children that are competitive in nature, have some dance offs, cook offs, or obstacle course games. For older kids or teens, have them build things physically to keep their mind off gadgets and boredom. Bring in some wood supplies or cloths and have them watch YouTube tutorials on building things out of wood or designing clothes, etc.
In The Moment Power Technique
Sometimes you just need an in the moment technique to break out of the chaos and get back to your sanity. When you sense that you’re being sabotaged by negative thoughts or emotions, simply acknowledge it as your Dark Vader. Tell yourself in the moment oh that’s not me — that’s my Dark Vader acting up. Just by labeling it will decrease its power. Then do a quick “mindless” exercise such as rubbing two fingers together (e.g. pointer and thumb) and focus all your attention and energy on the feeling in the fingers for 15 seconds. Then, reset and respond to the situation from your new sanity.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The Time You Wished You Had Before
Before the Corona Crisis, most working parents wished that they had more time to spend with their families and they were too busy working, running errands, takings kids to activities, etc. As hard as it may seem in the moment to have your family around while you work from home, think of it as a blessing in disguise. You now have a choice as to how much time you want to spend with your family and your kids. You also have an opportunity engage your kids in everything you do that you could not do previously. Have them sit next to you as you work and teach them what you do. Think of it as “Bring your child to work day” every day and take time out to engage them or run things by them if they’re old enough to make them feel needed. Sometimes, getting their opinion may be an idea that you haven’t thought of!
I know I was always on the go being a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and a mom of three before the Corona Crisis and always felt guilty that I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I wanted with my kids. Well, I cannot complain now! I try really hard to explain to my kids everything I do to pique their interest in Cyber or Wellness and even teach them a few things every now and then. It’s really made a difference as they feel valued and listened to, especially when I run some challenges, I have through them in simple terms and see how they would solve them.
Your chance to bring out the creativity
How many times in our lives are we going to be given an opportunity to really bring out and pursue our creative, innovative side? This might be your time to really pursue those passions that you were putting off for your senior years or when the kids go to college. You may even try to bring out your kids’ creative side and have them pursue some passions that they were putting off.
I had really been putting off doing dance classes remotely as I thought in person classes felt better. However, once I got through my initial fears of being on video and recording some videos, I pulled my nerves together and started doing virtual dance classes as well as videos to send out to students and it was a big hit! My daughter then followed suit and started her own dancing chef cooking videos where she combined her dancing skills and her cooking skills together to do something fun and educational for others.
Slowing down to speed up
If Corona were to teach us anything, it is that going at express speed in our lives where we feel like we don’t even remember what we did yesterday to some goal that we set for ourselves without taking any time to pause, reflect, and become more conscious of ourselves, is NOT going to lead to sanity. We must take some time out of every day, every week, every month, and every year to pause and slow down a bit. Why now effectively use this time that nature is giving us through this pandemic strategically to figure out what our life purpose is, what we find purpose in doing in our lives that really fulfill us? Are we in the right professions that are really meant for us and keep us charged up, or are we just doing a job to fill a paycheck? If you’re not in a job right now, were let go, or actually have a job but you’re constantly feeling stressed or burned out, this is your time. This is your time to pause and reflect on things. This is your time to look at your strengths, skills, interests, passions, and experience to determine what you really want to do in your life. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Give yourself permission to take imperfect action. If you wait for the perfect moment to do something, it will most likely be too late.
For me, this has honestly been a momentous period to take massive, imperfect steps towards my purpose in life which is to help empower people with the tools they need to live a life of purpose, manage the chaos within them and around them, and advocate for their holistic wellness. I had been taking baby steps before and using lack of time as an excuse for not pushing forward. Now, I can clearly see that direction I want to go in life, what my true purpose is, and what I’m committing myself to achieve. Did this come easily to me? No. I had to work on myself and do the inner work to start moving in the direction of my purpose, but it is so worth it.
Taking Life for Granted
How often do we wake up every morning feeling so excited to be alive, thanking the Universe (or whatever higher power you believe in) for giving you another day to make a difference in the world? Why not start now, when there are thousands, maybe even millions of people every day that won’t be able to do this, and wish they did? Often, we tend to take things for granted until we lose them. We think the sun is meant to do its job to come out every day and provide us with sunshine. Yet, when it’s a dull, rainy day outside especially when you’re on vacation, we blame the weather and wish that the sun would come out. Have we considered saying thank you to the sun for coming out each day when you wake up? What about your appliances at home? We yell at them when they don’t meet your expectations. We hit them and slam them, yet when they malfunction, we get mad at them or dump them. How about actually showing your appliances some love and thanking them for the job they do? Give it a try the next time you feel like cursing at your toaster or printer, or computer.
I keep a gratefulness journal next to my bed and I write ten things that I’m grateful for every night before I sleep. I include small things, big things, living things, and objects that I’m grateful for. I am finding that the more I allow myself to feel grateful for everything I have, the more I feel happier and hopeful for the future, and the better life gets.
Flexible Workplace Environments
How many of you had asked your boss if you could telework more frequently or dared to even mention the thought of working remotely fulltime before Corona? How many of you were told that you are really needed physically in the workplace (even though you aren’t working in an Intelligence agency or considered an essential or emergency employee? Look at what has changed with the mindset, culture, and environments thanks to Corona? Some workplaces have gone virtual 100% forever! Some organizations are forever increasing the leniency of their telework policies past Corona. Almost every organization is realizing that the majority of their employees can perform all of their duties remotely at the same quality and pace, if not even better from home. So for those looking for more flexibility in the workplace, especially working moms, I believe the time is here for us even after Corona.
Furthermore, how often have we felt comfortable having our kids next to us or even on our lap as we get on video meetings with our colleagues or bosses in previous times, or had dogs/kids/spouses in the background and felt the need to run and hide or be really embarrassed? How has that changed for you now? Let’s take it one step further. How many people have bosses that may not have even known you had kids or the names of them before? Do you feel more comfortable in talking about them with your colleagues or boss now?
I do believe that the more leaders can play an active role in really getting to know their staff, who they really are as human beings not just the work they do, the better they can relate to them, understand them, empathize with them, and build trust with them. If you are a leader and you haven’t taken the time to do this before, take this time now to really connect with your employees, your colleagues, and your management. Afterall, we’re all human and humans have a primal need for connection, so use this time to really connect with those that you have not made the time to connect with before.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Anxiety is just a form of worrying about the unknown in the future. One way to offer some support to loved ones if they are feeling anxious is to sit down with them and use what I call the parachute plan technique. There is no point in continue to worry about the future or having the “what if” syndrome. The best way to combat fear and anxiety is through facts. So, ask them what they’re scared of. What do they feel is going to happen? Then, ask what if that “thing” happens, then what? Keep going four more times. What if this thing happens, then what? Finally, get to the root fear. This is usually a deep-rooted fear for most people that is not usually something materialistic. It’s usually some type of subconscious block that’s been running their life that they haven’t resolved for themselves, like fear of abandonment, or fear of not being loved, or needed, or unworthiness. So, come up with a “parachute plan” to face this fear. Ask them to tell you or write out what it will take for them to come up with a plan of action to take if this worse fear comes true. Usually, by doing so, one they’ll realize that what they were fearing may not be as scary as it appears to be, or they can take comfort by knowing that they at least have a plan (even if they really don’t want to invoke it if they can help it) in case this fear comes true.
Another way of helping those that feel anxious is by bringing to their awareness that feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, and any other emotions that make them feel negative or down is actually lowering their immunity, which of course increases their chances of attracting Corona or any other dis-eases or infections significantly. So, by showing them easy ways to help them stay at a higher vibrational energy level by feeling grateful for everything they have now, or taking a walk outside in nature, or grounding themselves in the grass often, they can raise their immunity level and their happiness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Too often people preach or advise others, yet do not follow their own advice. As a leader in the workplace and leading my household and kids, I truly believe in embodying what you stand for and the changes you would like to see in others.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!