Happy people are spontaneously grateful. If we regularly remind ourselves of all the things we are grateful for, we have better self regulation and less time to focus on the things that are wanting.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynne Pagano.
Lynne is the Cofounder, COO and Community Manager of The Co-Co, a women focused coworking and co learning space in Summit NJ. The path to entrepreneurship for Lynne has been long and circuitous propelled along by her infectious enthusiasm for listening and hearing people’s stories. Lynne redirected careers every 10 years or so, first as banker then a lawyer, a stay at home mom, a social worker and now a business owner. The common denominator between careers has been the search for community and connection. A life long learner who is obsessed with Podcasts, which she listens to while walking enabling exercise and a learning experience all at once.
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?
My career path has been anything but linear and involves a distinct turn every few years with very little thought as to what I was actually interested in doing. With a BA in English and no marketable skills, I took the first job offered working in business development at a bank in NYC. Boredom and no potential marriageable prospects led me to law school (no seriously, that is true!) After practicing law for 6 years, I took a career break to be at home with my kids. With my husband’s job (yes I did get married but I am fairly sure the law degree had nothing to do with it) and 3 young children we moved to London. After the financial crisis in 2008, we moved back to the states and I realized I had unfairly left the entire financial burden of our household on my husband, so I decided to go back to school, learn some more skills and contribute to our finances. Another questionable educational decision was made, and I earned a Masters of Social Work. During my masters program, I accepted an internship as a counselor for at risk students in a high school and ended up staying there for 6 years. I loved that job, even though the pay was low. After 7 years of dealing with teenagers at school and teenagers at home, I was burned out and began discussing with my friends the possibility of opening a business together. At this point in my life I knew who I was and what I wanted to do. The concept of the women focused co-working and co learning space resonated with me as clearly, as my backstory has shown, I needed a place like The Co-Co at several inflections points in my life for support, advice, camaraderie and information.
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?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel had a tremendous impact on my life when I read it. The book chronicles Frankel’s experiences of surviving a Nazi concentration camp and his search for a purpose to live. In a place surrounded by so much death, how did he make meaning of his life and survive? It was so inspirational to me that after living through the atrocities of the camp, Frankel came to the US, became a psychiatrist and devoted his entire life to helping people make meaning of their own lives. I read this book while trying to help my family deal with a horrible tragedy. My nephew had a freak accident and died at the age of 19. My entire family was trying to find a way to make sense of his death but also find a way to move forward with our own lives.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have 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.
- Above everything, I would advise people to turn off the TV and get their news from print journalism. TV journalism is so tied to consumerism and the advertisers on any given station that most people do not even realize they are being manipulated. Here are the 5 reasons to be hopeful 1. People are truly helping one another: Americans come together in times of crisis: War, Floods, terrorism, and now a pandemic. The pandemic, in ways, reminds me of what was happening after 9/11. I recently volunteered to distribute non-perishable foods at a drive-through center set up by 3 aid agencies. When the call went out for volunteers, the response was so overwhelming, they had to cap the number of helpers. The agencies had 2000 boxes of food to distribute to families in need, and 6000 people showed up. The need is so great, and it was so emotional to not be able to meet people’s needs. I have already signed up for 2 more distributions.
- Family has new appreciation. I have been lucky enough to have been quarantined with my husband and 2 of my 3 children at a time when I am getting ready to be an empty nester, so I am looking at this time as a gift because I will never have it again. I greatly appreciate and value the hard work I have put in raising my kids and now I get the extra bonus of really savoring this time together.
- We appreciate the little things: Homemade food, fresh air, toilet paper, a haircut. Maybe our country needed this break to get us away from the intensity of how we were living. I personally will never take toilet paper for granted again!
- Quiet is a beautiful thing. I have been meditating daily, which is a new practice for me, and wow does it help calm and center me. I have known the power of quiet on an intellectual level for years, but now I really am living it.
- Busyness does not define our happiness. Now that we all jumped off the merry-go-round of work, kids, school, success, and realize peace and serenity do not mix with busy.
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?
First, I think it is important to understand that not all anxiety is bad as it sometimes motivates us and pushes us out of our comfort zones so the earlier you learn to deal with anxiety the better you will be. When I worked as a school social worker, my office had an open-door policy and students who were feeling anxious were allowed to come and see me whenever they needed. The simple act of talking to someone who they trusted and knew would really listen and not judge what they were feeling was hugely beneficial. So the first resource I would suggest is finding your trusted listener and start processing your feelings. I recently listened to a Podcast with Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist, researcher and professor of psychology at Yale who teaches the most popular course on happiness. She discussed her research on the 5 things everyone can do to better their mental health during Covid and beyond. These hacks are easy and readily shared with anyone:
1. Deep Belly Breaths. Even as few as three breaths can change the neurochemistry of our brains, interrupt the flight or fright response, lower our heart rates and center us.
2. Focus on the things we can control and let go of what you cannot. If the news is making you crazy, stop watching the news.
3. Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Simple but super effective. Even a five second burst of exercise after sitting for a long period has been shown to break up triglycerides in your blood. Try to stretch or move every hour of the day that you are awake
4. Gratitude. Happy people are spontaneously grateful. If we regularly remind ourselves of all the things we are grateful for, we have better self regulation and less time to focus on the things that are wanting.
5. Acts of Kindness. Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health.The oxytocin hit you get from doing simple acts of kindness, like opening a door for a stranger, or smiling at someone, can keep you at out of your own head and away from anxious thoughts. Furthermore, there are no diminishing returns, every act of kindness gives you another hit of feel good hormones.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
The first resource I suggest is acknowledging your anxiety and understanding it is okay. We are living in an unprecedented time. Secondly, I would suggest finding your trusted listener and start processing your feelings. If, however, the anxiety is starting to interfere with your happiness and daily life, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Anxiety is readily treatable, and no one needs to suffer. Start by looking online and doing some research. Have a conversation with your primary care doctor, who can refer you to a mental health specialist. Also ask a friend, as many people have already been successfully treated for anxiety. It may even be that friend that seems to have it all together during this time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I actually have two Life Lesson Quotes. The first is “Do not say yes to the invitation to give up” . This reminds me that it is always easier to give up then it is to stick it out and work towards a goal, but perseverance wins out in the end. My most used life lesson quote is, “Have fun, but be safe”. This reminds us that life is meant to be fun within reason. I have said this to my children about a thousand times pretty much every time they leave the house and it was a mantra I learned in college and still live by.
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 would start a helper app. If there was an easy way for people who need help to connect with people willing to help on a mobile platform I think a lot of good could be had in this world. I have seen this firsthand in my work as the Community Manager at The Co-Co. I spend a huge amount of my day connecting women who need something, with women who have a service or skill to give. Society likes to have us believe that women do not support one another but this is not the experience I am having on a daily basis. Women want to help, are willing to help and have the time to help, but they just do not have an easy mechanism to find the need. There is magic that happens when a group of caring, compassionate, curious women and their male allies come together to help one another. I have seen it time and time again over the last 18 months working as the Community Manager at The Co-Co and, if I could see that happen on a larger scale, it would be amazing. Think how much good could happen in the world if people spent as much time on the helper app as they do on Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.