“People need to feel seen, appreciated, and understood.” With Dr. William Seeds & Sarah Farris

People need to feel seen, appreciated, and understood in order for them to fully immerse themselves in their work and the culture built around it. A major component of a fantastic work culture is feeling like you’re an integral piece of the puzzle and that your work directly impacts the advancement of the company and […]

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People need to feel seen, appreciated, and understood in order for them to fully immerse themselves in their work and the culture built around it. A major component of a fantastic work culture is feeling like you’re an integral piece of the puzzle and that your work directly impacts the advancement of the company and contributes to the bottom line.

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 Sarah Farris.

Sarah is an emotional intelligence and energy expert and, as the Founder and Principal of Vibe Elevated, she is dedicated to helping people develop greater emotional awareness and resilience in the workplace and beyond. She serves a worldwide client base spanning North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.

She is a member of the Female Founder Collective, a contributor at mindbodygreen, and has engaged in professional collaborations with companies such as Free People, Lululemon, Athleta, and The Riveter.

Sarah holds a certificate in Women in Leadership from Cornell University as well as a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Additionally, she is a Certified Holistic Life Coach and has been attuned to the master level of Reiki.

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?

Ofcourse, I’m thrilled to contribute!

I was working at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was simultaneously doing a lot of soul searching. After landing what I thought was my dream job, I quickly realized it was not a good fit for me. Being in that environment and working with some of the brightest, most driven people in the workforce, I began to notice the toll stress and burnout can take on people, especially high performers. This motivated me to begin taking classes where I was taught how to better understand our energy and why it’s important that we’re aware of and know how to properly manage our emotions.

Eventually, I made the decision to launch my business, Vibe Elevated, where I currently work as an emotional intelligence and energy expert. I serve clients all over the world helping them to develop greater emotional awareness and resilience in the workplace and beyond. I’m a firm believer that we often can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we choose to respond.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

When I made the decision to leave my full time job at the Gates Foundation, I was grossly unprepared for what was on my path as a business owner; I truly had no idea how challenging it would be, especially in those first few years.

Running a business has really helped me see how resilient I am, how resourceful I can be, and how capable I am. My first year or two in business, I was barely making enough money to get by. It would have been really easy for me to throw in the towel and let fear get the best of me, but there was something internally that kept me pushing and pushing even on days where I had little hope.

The most interesting thing for me has been observing how far we can go when we really set out minds to something, even if it feels impossible. I never would have guessed that owning a business actually forces you to turn inward and take a hard look at parts of yourself you haven’t ever addressed. It really surprised me that this business has been such a tremendous tool for personal growth, far outside of the scope of the work I actually do.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Know your why. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is that one thing that you can go back to on the days where you’re drained and disappointed that will light up that spark for you. For me, my clients fuel me, and even when things in my personal life are impacting me, I’m always able to witness their achievements and growth and feel that sense of joy.

Don’t sacrifice yourself for your career. Hard work, dedication, and drive are all important factors to ongoing success, but they all come at a cost. Be aware of what that threshold looks like for you; where do you cross into the territory of neglecting your own needs and care for the sake of your job?

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

I can’t stress the importance of exploring different components of emotional intelligence and honestly looking at where you can make adjustments. As a leader, are you consistently aware of your emotional state and how that’s impacting your teams and colleagues? Do you feel like you have the tools and skills to regulate your emotional responses, especially when you’re in the middle of chaos? How are you influencing and motivating the people who are working to drive your mission and goals?

People need to feel seen, appreciated, and understood in order for them to fully immerse themselves in their work and the culture built around it. A major component of a fantastic work culture is feeling like you’re an integral piece of the puzzle and that your work directly impacts the advancement of the company and contributes to the bottom line.

I regularly hear from clients that they feel like their work culture is toxic because they aren’t able to provide constructive feedback to their managers or leadership team. Or, if they do find the courage to speak up, nothing changes. Just because someone holds a leadership role doesn’t mean their personal development work is complete; whether you’re the CEO or just started your first professional role out of college, we all have room to grow.

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?

I recently finished reading The Most Powerful Woman In the Room is You by Lydia Fenet. This book reminded me that, as women, we need to be advocating for ourselves every single day and taking the time to reflect on where we’re excelling. Women especially tend to only focus on where we’re lacking — what we could be doing better or replaying constructive feedback and neglecting to hear the positive.

In this book, Fenet talks about how it took her many years to realize it was up to her to determine her value in the workplace and fight for it. I think many women don’t feel like they have permission to clearly see their worth and advocate on behalf of themselves.

Last year I completed a Women in Leadership program at Cornell University and we really dug into this mentality many women carry that makes them feel like it’s not OK to speak up and ask for what they deserve. Moreover, there’s data that supports that an ask from a man is viewed as strong and assertive, while that same ask from a woman is viewed as demanding and emotional. We need to shift out of this mentality that asking something as simple as “is there room to negotiate?” is not an offensive question.

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 upcoming fears of an impending 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.

  1. Be mindful of your media consumption and set firm boundaries for yourself. Pay attention to how you’re feeling as you scroll through news stories or social media and consider how what you’re absorbing is making you feel. Think about ways to receive important news updates without going down the rabbit hole. Many online news sources can email you breaking news reports; set up alerts for the need to know information and then move on with your day.
  2. Set and stick to a routine. We find comfort in habits and routine and, as many of us find ourselves working remotely, our daily routines are being disrupted. Just because life shifts doesn’t mean we can’t create steady, reliable experiences for ourselves, especially as we navigate chaos. Maybe you carve out 15 minutes to walk outside each day before you sit down to work just to gather your thoughts. Or, perhaps you decide to take five minutes every day at 3:00 p.m. to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Find something that’s manageable and build it into your new schedule.
  3. Take the focus off yourself. Who can you help? Make a goal to help one person each day or week — whatever you can do. Maybe it’s calling a neighbor to check in and see if they need anything or texting a friend just to let them know you’re thinking about them. Human connection and kindness is more important now than ever, and when we take the focus off ourselves and take action to help someone else, our emotional state is positively impacted.
  4. Ask yourself what you can control. Anxiety grows when we feel like things are out of our control, so practice asking yourself what is within your realm of control and what you can take action on in the present moment. Jot down a list of everything that you’re worried about and make a note of what, if anything, you can do about it.
  5. Accept that your emotions are going to fluctuate a lot — and that’s OK. Our emotions and moods are constantly ebbing and flowing, but in times of uncertainty, this happens at a more rapid pace and can feel more jarring than usual. If you notice that one moment you feel hopeful and the next you’re emotional and need support, don’t assume you’re unstable or not managing things well. Allow yourself to feel your feelings and try to recognize what it looks like when it’s no longer productive.

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?

  1. Listen, then ask. Sometimes people just need to talk it out and when we try to problem solve, it only makes anxiety worse. Don’t hesitate to ask, “do you need time to vent or would it be helpful if I offered some solutions?”. Everyone processes emotions differently, so don’t assume your partner or colleague wants to receive the same type of support you would.
  2. Watch your reactions. When we’re anxious, we don’t always respond to things the way we’d like to, so if someone snaps at you or seems to be a little curt in their responses, don’t assume it’s about you and try to observe if you feel yourself getting defensive. We can’t control how the people around us are going to respond in crisis or chaos, but we can control our own reactions.
  3. Don’t dismiss what someone is feeling. Statements like “stop worrying about it” or “don’t let it get to you” are not helpful phrases to use with someone who’s dealing with anxiety. Helpful things to say might include “how can I help you right now?” or “it’s OK to feel this way — I’m always here to listen”.
  4. Remember that what is helpful for one person might not be for another. Someone who is experiencing anxiety might want to be left alone, so again, don’t be afraid to ask. From my experience, it can be really helpful when someone says “would you rather I stay here or would you prefer to spend some time alone?” or “would it help to sit outside for a few minutes or could I make you a cup of tea?” Giving someone two options can help them feel like they’re back in control, so even if what you offer isn’t the perfect solution, it can help them shift into a better headspace.
  5. Anxiety comes and goes, so keep checking in with others. Many people who experience anxiety feel alone and isolated when they’re in a spiral, so don’t underestimate how impactful a quick “no need to reply, just want you to know I’m here and thinking about you” text can be.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

If you are experiencing anxiety, don’t hesitate to call on a professional. Even if you don’t have insurance, there are many online services such as BetterHelp that offer video or phone therapy sessions with counselors who are ready to assist. Tip: BetterHelp even offers financial aid, so if you’re in a difficult financial situation, make a point to look into this option.

Take care of your mind when you’re not feeling anxious. I highly recommend starting a meditation or mindful practice even when things are feeling good. Check out apps like Calm or Headspace to get started if you don’t know where to begin.

Physical exercise helps combat anxiety, so don’t forget to move your body. There are plenty of online workout classes you can take from the comfort of home. Booya FitnessDoYogaWithMe, and Daily Burn are all great places to start.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Beneath the surface of all things is the true thing. In all circumstances, look for the truth of what is really happening. No matter who you are, no matter how strongly and fiercely you can stand in the spiritual path, crisis is going to come. And when crisis comes, the first thing I ask it is ‘what are you here to teach me?’” — Oprah

A few years ago, my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I lost my Mom to leukemia when I was 12 years old, so learning about my Dad’s diagnosis was absolutely devastating to say the least. I was in my late 20s when he received the news and I felt myself getting really lost in a victim mentality; it didn’t feel fair that I was in this position again at such a young age. But as time passed, I really challenged myself to view things with a “what can I learn from this” attitude. I don’t care how tough of a situation you’re in, there’s always something you can take away from it. And when we decide to take ownership of what we can learn from a situation, we take our power back.

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. 🙂

As I reflect on this question, I think about the global pandemic we’re currently experiencing. In times of chaos and instability, many of us feel a pull to go back to the basics and think about what matters most in life. From personal experience, crisis has always helped me get clear on my priorities, so my hope is that people take this crisis as an opportunity to be more deliberate with their actions and energy.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

You can visit me on the web at https://www.vibeelevated.com/ or follow me on Instagram and Facebook @VibeElevated.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you for your time and great questions!

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