“For years I didn’t watch TV, check social media, found ways to multitask like creating a treadmill desk at home to fit exercise in, didn’t schedule social time, accepted the fact that my office and house would be disorganized, and learned to delegate whatever I could. I had to drop some perfectionism in terms of parenting and work and only focus in the moment on what I could accomplish.”
Internationally renowned clinical neuropsychologist, inventor, and author, Dr. Amy Serin applies her expertise to heal a multitude of mental health problems both in and out of her integrative care clinics. In the last decade, Dr. Serin’s clinics have healed thousands of people and after consulting with militaries and international global crises responders, she set out to prevent and end post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a global scale. This led to the breakthrough discovery that a component of PTSD treatment could actually be used outside of doctor’s offices and embedded in non-invasive wearable technology to relieve stress at any time and calm brain wave activity. She then co-founded The TouchPoint Solution in late 2015 to give access to this technology to everyone needing stress relief. Dr. Serin’s first book, The Stress Switch, will launch in February of 2019 and highlights the truth about stress, her journey, and her efforts to solve the stress epidemic. Dr. Serin lives in Arizona with her two sons and goldendoodle, Scout.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
At the age of 27, after 6 stressful years in international business development, I left to pursue a PhD in neuropsychology so I could spend more of my time focused on healing people vs. corporate living. I then started an integrative care clinic- Serin Center- in Arizona and expanded it to three locations. During my 11 years as a practicing neuropsychologist healing people through therapy, neuromodulation, and other treatments, I was tasked with preventing PTSD in elite military and in helping re-stabilize traumatized villagers in 3rd world countries post crisis. I discovered that a successful component of PTSD treatment could be digitized in non-invasive wearable devices and this might be the answer to treating trauma and stress on a global scale. I then started The TouchPoint Solution in December of 2015 with my co-founder, Vicki Mayo, to make this dream of large-scale impact a reality.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My business partner runs on all cylinders and very, very fast. We run the company on lean principles and Six Sigma- which often means putting the cart before the horse and running one process before others are complete. One day I was about to sneeze and before I knew it or anyone else knew I was about to- she said “Bless You!” I sneezed after and she said “Ha! How’s that for Six Sigma!”
We received a video of someone with Parkinson’s disease holding our devices and their tremors stopped. They removed them and the tremors started again. I had no idea at the time there would be a positive impact on these kinds of problems- I originally (and short-sightedly) thought the technology would only be used for stress.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was going through a divorce and acting as a single parent while I built the company and continued to heal families in my clinics. I overcame it with radical acceptance, therapy, extreme self-care, reliance on my wonderful family and friends, and by using my tech product, TouchPoints, daily. When I developed TouchPoints I never knew that I would personally rely on them so heavily to help me get through one of the most difficult periods of my life. My children also benefitted and with a combination of approaches I was able to keep them stable through the ordeal as well.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership means living by example and being humble enough to know you aren’t always right. It also means being able to see the potential in each person and understand what brings them energy so I can encourage growth in areas where they can shine. I like to inspire people with a combination of head and heart. Because I approach everything with others’ well-being in mind that we won’t lose focus and we can balance productivity with respecting each other and ultimately that means we can do what’s right for our customers.
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?
I’m grateful to Scott Leuthold- a true creative genius- for inspiring me to see the potential in what I was trying to accomplish. After working on patents and development for years I wasn’t able to see the forest from the trees in terms of what I was really doing and was becoming discouraged. He created a digital image, told me “this is how you need to see yourself” and I had my “a-ha” moment in terms of truly understanding that I was doing and why it was critical to keep going despite setbacks and challenges.
I’m also thankful to Vicki Mayo who convinced me that working with large institutions on my intellectual property was moving too slow and that I should partner with her to bring my dream into reality.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
Yes! People ask me how I fit it all in and in hindsight I can list all the things I didn’t do on a daily basis that most people do. For years I didn’t watch TV, check social media, found ways to multitask like creating a treadmill desk at home to fit exercise in, didn’t schedule social time, accepted the fact that my office and house would be disorganized, and learned to delegate whatever I could. I had to drop some perfectionism in terms of parenting and work and only focus in the moment on what I could accomplish. Combining the start-up phase of a company with single parenthood and divorce forced me to grow in ways I could never have imagined and I’m truly grateful for the lessons learned.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
At times I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole and the moles kept multiplying and popping up faster. I simply couldn’t get to everything so I chose to cut back on social time and relaxation but managed to still fit in exercise and enough sleep as the bare bones basics of self-care. I often said no to things that weren’t immediately pressing, and was admittedly out of balance for a while. I think the hardest thing was feeling the mom guilt of what I wasn’t doing. Logically I knew I couldn’t do all the things a stay-at-home mom could while I was working, but it did take a while to de-program myself from feeling guilty. One day my friend asked me “would you feel guilty about this if you were a dad?” That question really helped. I think women face added internal and external pressures. I once had a babysitter complain that I didn’t cook food for her or have my house clean before she came over! If I were a man I don’t think the thought would have occurred to her. Part of balance became taming my inner critic and letting go of certain societal expectations.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Build a base of health habits. Start with 7–9 hours of sleep each night and a healthy breakfast each morning. Try to create habits around daily tasks so daily decisions don’t require contemplation. The more habitual something is- the less it weighs on your frontal lobes to decide. Automate what can be automated in your day to free you up otherwise.
- Stop obsessively checking your phone and turn off notifications. Part of balance is uninterrupted time. Even if you don’t have a lot of free time- distractions or disruptions during can lead to burn-out.
- Remember that down-time creates the space where creativity can flourish. Just like you can’t over plant in soil without depleting nutrients and ruining crops- you can’t stay so busy and expect to also be creative. Create breaks and ways to recharge yourself and know that it’s necessary for insights to happen. Sometimes the highest and best use of your time is to do nothing or enjoy yourself
- Stop deluding yourself about what you “have to do.” I coached a CEO recently who scheduled 4 hours per day of self-optimization tasks including meditation, reading, planning, exercise, and other processes dictated by a life coach. This left little time for family or relating. He felt guilty if he didn’t accomplish everything on his list and was getting pressure from his family who felt like they had to compete for what little attention and time he had left. When we examined his list of “to-dos” it became apparent that he wasn’t doing many of them anyway- just feeling guilty about not achieving them. We restructured his basic processes and combined some of his tasks to take the pressure off. Remember that when it comes to diets, exercise, and life advice, most people are selling more to dos, not fewer. Don’t feel pressure that you’re missing out if you aren’t doing the latest and greatest advice. Get the basics started and build from there. Remember there’s an opportunity cost to everything whether that be changing your diet or structuring your day. Sometimes the best thing to do is not get caught up in the hype.
- Be present. The important people in your life will appreciate if you turn your phone off when you are with them. Turn off notifications on your phone whenever possible. I don’t need to glance at my phone every time someone wants to connect with me on Linked In or every time I get an email. You’ll have more satisfying experiences when you aren’t working and will learn that you don’t have to be in reactive mode 24/7. As important as you are, things can run for a time without you and you owe it to yourself and others to live a balanced life.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?
The greatest sense of accomplishment comes from hearing stories of how my work has profoundly changed lives. From curing phobias to preventing PTSD, I have been blessed with the opportunity to heal others and now am impacting people I’ll never even get to meet in my clinics with TouchPoints. Autistic children are now able to pay better attention in school, children with ADHD and anxiety are now having an easier time focusing, the once phobic are now flying on airplanes without fear…the list goes on. When you lower the stress response in people you uncover who they truly are and they can reach their full potential.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
This is my dream and why I invented TouchPoints. If you lower someone’s stress response in real time they are less irritable, more rational, less fearful, better performing…And if you do that on a global scale you can change the world. Imagine a world where traumatized kids can regulate themselves and don’t grow into reactive, aggressive, impulsive adults? Imagine what your life would be like if every time you felt stress and wanted to avoid something that feeling could diminish and you wouldn’t be afraid? Imagine if you could be calm instead of heated and didn’t say those terrible things you say in the heat of the moment when stressed? Imagine if after a mass shooting or war we could use technology and prevent PTSD or treat it immediately after? I want you to imagine those things and understand that with our current neuroscience we can accomplish just that. We just need to get relief in people’s hands.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Medium magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live