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Kerri Richardson: “Worrying isn’t always a bad thing”

If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worry, stop to consider if your worrying is productive or unproductive. While it can be difficult to have no control over many areas of your life, what you can manage is your mind. Worrying isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it prompts us to take important […]

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If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worry, stop to consider if your worrying is productive or unproductive. While it can be difficult to have no control over many areas of your life, what you can manage is your mind.

Worrying isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it prompts us to take important and necessary action. For example, if you’re worried about that weird pain in your back, you might make an appointment with a specialist to have it checked out. If you’re worried about a friend, you can pick up the phone and call to check on her. This is “productive worry,” meaning there is an action you can take in response to it and those action will likely decrease your anxiety.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “What We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerri Richardson.

Kerri Richardson is a trained life coach and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You and her new book From Clutter to Clarity. She has helped thousands of people use their clutter and blocks as steppingstones to living their best lives. You can learn more at KerriRichardson.com.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am the youngest of seven children in a tight-knit family. While one might think that means I was the spoiled “baby” of the family, I am much more like a traditional first-born in part due to the five-year age gap between myself and my next oldest sibling. I’ve been pretty strong and independent my whole life.

Also, thanks to a couple of my sisters wanting to play school and me having no choice but to be their student, I entered each school year far ahead of the other students. Until, that is, I began middle school. Their teaching had grown tired by then, so I was exposed to new information for the first time in a classroom and I struggled quite a bit with figuring out how to learn in a group setting.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

As the youngest of seven children in a family of accountants and CPAs, it would have made sense to move into my family business, however, an angel named Dr. Devine guided me in a new direction. As my eighth-grade English teacher, Dr. Devine took such pleasure in the power of words which, in turn, made us all excited about them as well. Students in class would plead to be the one to conjugate the sentence on the blackboard and we’d tap our pencils during a test as we silently sung his Parts of Speech jingle.

That was when I, too, fell in love with language and became a certified “word nerd.” I went to college for journalism and writing, eventually landing a position as the managing editor of a nursing magazine where the majority of the writers submitted articles were novices. As a result, they were missing their deadlines quite a bit which means I was left with blank pages in this bi-weekly publication. In following up with these writers, they began telling me all the reasons they couldn’t make time to write even though it was something they really wanted to do. I began advising them on how to carve out time for writing (selfishly driven at first!) so they could fulfill their dream of being a published writer.

I fell in love with this part of my job. Helping others redesign their lives so they could have time to focus on the things that really mattered to them and not waste it on thoughts, things, and people who were cluttering up their lives.

As I was out for a walk with my oldest sister, Cheryl, she asked how the job was going and I shared all about this aspect of it. “Oh, you’re coaching people,” she said.

“No,” I said. “That’s what you do.” My sister, Cheryl Richardson has been a life coach for many years and has written many books.

“And it’s what you’re doing as well,” she said. “Maybe look into some training for it.”

I did and enrolled. Began my practice part-time at night, while still working at the magazine, until I grew it enough to go out on my own. That was 16 years ago now!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Two of the main people are the aforementioned Dr. Devine and my sister, Cheryl. Dr. Devine made learning fun and taught me to see how deeply one can feel words when arranged in various ways. And Cheryl has always been one of my biggest champions and supporters as I navigate my life and career.

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?

Untamed by Glennon Doyle has had an incredible impact on my mindset around owning my power, making no apologies for who I am, and no longer packaging myself in a way that is more comfortable for others. I found it to be a battle cry of sorts to break free from self-imposed and society-imposed limitations and be fully me.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Two favorites that have been guiding forces for me are both by Dr. Maya Angelou:

  1. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
    It’s tempting to be enamored by someone’s potential or who they might become in the future because then we don’t have to set boundaries with them today or make the difficult decision to declutter them from our lives completely. What this quote helps me to remember is to not waste time trying to change someone. After all, the only time we can change someone is when they’re in diapers!
  2. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
    I love this quote because it does a couple things: It reminds me to be patient and loving with myself as I learn and grow, and to step up my game when I’m able. No resting on my laurels or being content with underperforming just because that level of play worked for me in the past.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I launched an online membership community called Clutter Clear Your Life a little more than a year ago with the intention to help people declutter the thoughts, things, beliefs, people, pounds, etc. that no longer support the vision they have for their life. What’s so exciting about this community of spiritual pioneers is it gives big dreamers someplace to go where there is no shame, no judgment, and full permission to live out loud. They get to be with people who have their own trails to blaze and are not only looking for support in making it happen, but also ready and eager to support others doing the same.

Connection and community are things that have always been important to me and ClutterClearYourLife.com with the forums, private Facebook group, regular member Q&As, live coaching sessions, and a rich and varied resource library gives this community tangible things to connect on and partner up about.

I can see the possible future iterations of this project and it makes me giddy with excitement!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

1.) It’s hard to be present or focus when you feel overwhelmed and pulled in a million different directions. My go-to tool for that is the mind dump.

When I’m struggling to make a decision, access my creativity or resourcefulness, or just feel emotional, I pull out a pad of paper and a pen and I empty my brain. I write down anything and everything that’s on my mind without worrying about spelling or grammar or even if it’s legible. Just write, write, write and get it all out.

We often use our brain as a container when it is a computer. Like any other hard drive, if you load it down with too many files, the processing speed will drag. Dump that mind to get it revving again!

2.) Another thing I like to practice is the power of the pause.

For example, I saw a Facebook post that got me reacting BIG time. I was so annoyed and found my fingers on the keyboard ready to type out some nastiness. But then I paused. And I took a breath. And I asked myself, “What good will my comment serve?” Then I stepped away from the keyboard.

Had I posted my comment, I would have been revved up all day awaiting a response and ready to fire back. That’s really not the best use of my mental capacity, let along my time and energy. Besides, has anyone ever had a truly productive exchange on social media?

Knee-jerk reactions are a big cause of emotional and mental clutter. You don’t want to be that friend who accepts invitations and then cancels at the last minute (full disclosure: this used to be me), or someone who wants to be the hero so says yes to every request only to later get resentful.

No matter the situation, a few seconds can be a lifesaver. And often a few seconds is all that’s needed.

3.) If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worry, stop to consider if your worrying is productive or unproductive. While it can be difficult to have no control over many areas of your life, what you can manage is your mind.

Worrying isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it prompts us to take important and necessary action. For example, if you’re worried about that weird pain in your back, you might make an appointment with a specialist to have it checked out. If you’re worried about a friend, you can pick up the phone and call to check on her. This is “productive worry,” meaning there is an action you can take in response to it and those action will likely decrease your anxiety.

But if there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation you’re worrying about, then it’s unproductive and only serves to make you more anxious.

For example, after going to the doctor’s, you might be anxious as you await test results. You might start hyper focusing on scary scenarios: “What if it’s bad news?” “What if I waited too long to get checked out?”

There’s nothing you can do about those concerns. You have taken every action you can (see a doctor and have the test done) so this unproductive worrying does me no good. All I can do is wait the results and determine my next steps if any are necessary.

Unproductive worrying gives you a chance to practice surrendering. If you’re someone who likes to be in control, then this will feel pretty uncomfortable at first. But here’s what’s cool: realizing your worry is unproductive almost gives you permission to take your hands off the wheel, and when you get over the initial hump of discomfort, it’s quite a peaceful place.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

My meditation practice is a combination of journaling and guided meditation. An important aspect of my practice is that I give myself permission to do it in a way that honors me and not get caught up in how I “should be doing it.” I journal when I need to process something, versus journaling every day. I meditate at least three days a week and I don’t beat myself up for not doing it every day.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Stretching is so underrated! When we think of “physical wellness” in terms of exercise, we often picture heart-pumping cardio classes or lifting weights. While those are certainly beneficial, it’s equally important to wake up our body and muscles and tend to them throughout the day. I have a prompt set on my fitness tracker that reminds me to get up each hour to stretch. Because most of my day is spent sat at a computer, this practice is vital in being less sedentary and staying connected to my body. I stretch when I wake in the morning, some while still in bed, some after I’ve gotten up. Any time I rise to get some water or use the restroom, I use that opportunity to stretch my legs, back, fingers and toes. When I’m relaxing at night, I might stretch on the floor as I watch a favorite show. My body always feels so much better after giving it some love in this way!
  2. We are fully aware of the importance of proper hydration, but how do you ensure you drink enough water each day? One thing I do is I put a number of rubber bands on my water bottle that correspond to how many bottles I want to drink in a day. For example, let’s say I want to drink three full bottles of my canteen. I start my day with three rubber bands. Then, each time I refill the bottle, I remove one band. When the final band comes off, that full bottle is my last for the day. It’s fun because it kind of “gamifies” the process and I respond really well to that.
  3. I love good, quality sleep. Like stretching, I think proper sleep is underrated as well. While you might physically be in your bed for seven or eight hours, are you sleeping soundly during that time?While sleeping in a pitch-dark room is not a requirement for me to sleep, I do wear an eye mask every night. I have conditioned my body to respond to the sensation of the eye mask with sleep. Once I slide it over my eyes, it’s a matter of minutes and I’m asleep. If I wake during the night at all whether due to restlessness or a need to go to the bathroom, I put my eye mask back on and I’m once again counting sheep before I know it.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

If there are things in life you know would benefit you and you’re not doing them, then you are actually benefiting from not doing them.

How might your unhealthy habits be serving you? I know, it sounds bananas, but investigating this question is key to discovering why you struggle to put them into practice. Although you may desperately want to incorporate more healthy eating, that would mean doing something different than you currently are and anytime we make a change, our resistance will fight us.

She doesn’t fight us because she wants us to fail. She fights us because she’s scared. She’s scared of stepping out of her comfort zone.

We know how to be the person who strives for change. But who will you be once you’ve made that change? That unknown, alone could stop you from taking action.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “If I don’t complete a task or project, then I don’t have to do the next thing. And that’s a good thing because that next move is scary/intimidating/overwhelming!”
  • “I’m much more comfortable living in pursuit; chasing the dream. It’s exciting. What if the finish line isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?”
  • “Striving to make a change gives me a sense of purpose. Who would I be having made the change? What purpose would I have then?”
  • “I know who I am when I am trying. I don’t know who I am when I’ve succeeded.”

These reasons are examples of what I call “the message in the mess.” They’re core clutter underneath the surface pointing you to the stuff that really needs your attention.

Investigating the “why” behind not doing something can be very telling about what you’re really scared of, where your old beliefs are playing out, or where you’re operating from outdated instructions (limiting beliefs).

This is when super-small steps are critical. With each small action you take, your resistance (your fear, your younger self, etc) learns to trust you more and more. Consider choosing one healthy snack today instead of committing to only healthy snacks moving forward. While that is the goal, by focusing on the permanent change, you’ll likely struggle to make any change at all.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Grounding exercise
  2. Boundaries
  3. Deep breaths

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

As Buddy the Elf says, “Smiling’s my favorite!”

And it’s no wonder since the act of smiling in and of itself reduces stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol and adrenalin while increasing mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins. It’s really hard to be in a bad mood and smile at the same time.

Babies are born with the ability to smile and in fact, it’s usually their very first facial expression. How cool is that?

And smiling can lower your blood pressure! So, yes, I love how such a simple act can have such far-reaching, positive effects. Not to mention it’s contagious and this is something you want to catch.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Forgiveness. Practicing the art (because it really is an art) of forgiveness unloads an incredible amount of clutter from your soul. Not only are these loose ends taking up precious energy that could be put to much better use elsewhere, but the people you hold anger toward are crowding the relationship seat in your life, getting in the way of deeper friendships, more loving romantic relationships, and healthier family dynamics. Rarely an easy task, forgiveness requires an open heart and an open mind. And a willingness to hang out with some uncomfortable feelings. Something I read many years ago has helped me forgive much more easily. It said forgiveness is not about saying what that person did is acceptable. Instead, it’s letting go of the desire for the past to have happened differently. Something about that really shifted things for me, and has helped me not only forgive others, but even more importantly, forgive myself as needed.
  2. Random Acts of Kindness. My father was an incredibly generous man. I remember, as a child, seeing him run to the end of the driveway to tip the guys who collected our trash for the town or sliding some money into the hand of the gas station attendant. As a tax accountant for more than 50 years, he never raised his prices for his elderly clients (even when he himself was elderly). These clients were paying about 35 dollars to have their taxes prepared each year! 
    He rarely shared his acts, but when we found out and talked to him about it, he’d get choked up and he shyly shrug his shoulders and say, “It feels good to help out.” I’m fortunate to have had such a powerful role model of kindness and I do my best to carry on his legacy in my own life and through inspiring my online community to do the same through Random Acts of Kindness challenges.
    Generosity is a powerful way to boost your spirit. On those days when you feel like you can’t catch a break, do something for someone else and watch your mood change. And when your mood changes, so does your situation.
  3. Community and connection. It’s no secret that feeling disconnected from people and/or the world takes quite a toll on our spirit. It’s as if it shrivels up out of community dehydration. While there are many ways to communicate virtually these days, nothing replaces personal connections. Even if you aren’t able to gather with friends or families, consider the following to quench that spiritual thirst: 
    Mail a letter or greeting card to someone you care about (yes, like the old days). 
    Ask others to write to you. (Yes, you get to ask for things you want, too).
    Practice spending quality time alone. Instead of numbing out to television, grab a journal and write a letter to yourself, interview yourself, or daydream. There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. When you practice being present in your own company, you might be surprised how fulfilled you can feel.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Oh yes! This is one of my favorite ways to tend to my spirit. The smells and sounds of nature are intoxicating. I prefer to get into the woods whenever possible instead of, say, walking along a main road. Feeling the crunch of leaves under my feet, smell the pine trees, and listen to the various birds and critters make my soul sing.

Sometimes I simply step outside of my front door and take a few deep breaths, particularly in the colder months when I’m holed up inside with windows closed and the heat on. Fresh air is magical!

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to inspire everyone to perform one random act of kindness each day. Tiny, huge, or anything in between, the ripple effects are limitless. Not only would it feel good to both give and receive these acts, but it would also help us see each other again. Looking for an opportunity to do something like this makes you much more present in your day and interrupts any tendency to look past people.

If you’re feeling inspired to give this a go, here are some ideas I’ve given to my community in the past:

  • Pay someone a compliment
  • Write positive messages on small sticky notes and leave them around town
  • Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Leave a great server the biggest tip you can afford

Imagine if we as a world focused on being kind — that energy flying around could have such a powerful impact!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love a private breakfast or lunch with Glennon Doyle as she is a fierce and strong woman whose heart is massive. I am incredibly moved by the work she does with Together Rising — a boots-on-the-ground organization who helps those in need who otherwise would likely be forgotten. Talk about acts of kindness! And it’s funded primarily through “love flash mobs” — time-limited fundraising challenges that raises millions in minutes without allowing anyone to donate more than 25 dollars.

Glennon has made such a significant impact on the world and primarily in the lives of women and children. I’d love to put our heads together and see how much farther we can bring it!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find my website at KerriRichardson.com, my Facebook page at Facebook.com/KerriCoach, and my Instagram at Instagram.com/kerrioke.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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