Monica: It’s so great to chat with you, Sarah! How was your journey into entrepreneurship inspired by your own life experiences?
Sarah: In my mid-20s, I was loving life by all accounts – I had graduated from Stanford, I was building my career at Microsoft, in a relationship, and overall, doing well. Then, I made a decision to go to grad school, which was really exciting. I knew it was the right decision for me, but anxiety hit me suddenly – I was quitting this very secure job, making a huge financial decision, moving to another state, and ending my relationship. I wanted to go forward into this new phase of life, but still, all these changes were looming in the not-so-distant future. This panic set a lot of events into motion.
I remembered one day I was at work at Microsoft, in my office, and I was staring at my computer screen. I could not see. I felt like the walls were closing in and I could barely breathe, couldn’t process what was on my screen. Suddenly, I just had to leave. It was the middle of the day and I sprinted to the parking garage. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving because I just couldn’t form the words. I sped away in my car, somehow got home, and as I understood later, it was a panic attack.
I went to a naturopathic clinic and it was really fascinating, because their intake “meeting” with me was 90-minutes (whereas a doctor might be 15 minutes). They asked so many questions about what was going on and gave me some concrete things to do, which included meditation and breathing exercises. I started using those techniques and I also read a book on meditation called the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Because of this experience, I researched meditation and anxiety in grad school; as an athlete, what struck me the most was how connected our physical health is to our mental well-being. Seeing meditation as such a practical tool for both mental and physical health is what led me to starting Core.
Monica: It’s so inspiring that you were able to see how your own lived experiences could help others who are going through the same thing. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned that continued to open up that path for you?
Sarah: Sports have always been a part of my life and identity. When I was on the basketball team at NYU, we were constantly working with our coaches and athletic trainers to be at our best physically. To be in top form at the end of a grueling season was often all about preventing, managing, or recovering from injuries, big and small. Ice, stretch, strengthen, repeat. It’s part of the game.
Fast forward several years to working adult life, and I learned what it feels like to be sidelined by a different type of injury. I experienced such a sudden bout of uncertainty and doubt that for several months, this new anxiety felt paralyzing. I had never identified with that before.
I realized that my mental fitness was not unlike my physical fitness. It’s not static. It ebbs and flows and requires my intentional effort to develop, improve, recover, and strengthen. Athletes are extremely in tune to their physical bodies and know what to do when something feels off. I needed that awareness for my mind.
Realizing this is a universal challenge, and one that I’d seen affect people I care deeply about, put me on a path to understand how to develop these mental tools within ourselves and our communities.
Monica: The mind is such a nebulous yet incredibly powerful force that shapes how we live. How does yours define the way you view health and happiness?
Sarah: There’s this deep, calm confidence that I identify with health and happiness — which is why we use the name Core. It’s not your abs, but that inner core of resilience and contentment that I always want to be able to tap into.
But it’s like getting in shape, it’s not a state you achieve and then you’re done. It’s about enjoying the constant progress even more than a single outcome. So to me this doesn’t mean always feeling happy and never feeling down. It’s the feeling that I know I can lean completely into joy when it’s there, maintain humor about the challenges, and have the tools I need to keep a solid center through anything that comes up.
Monica: Couldn’t agree more – it definitely takes continual practice to ‘feel’ through life! How do you keep your own health and wellbeing in perspective when things get hectic?
Sarah: Lots of gratitude exercises to remind me of areas of stability. I process out loud to close friends which reminds me that other people can relate.
I also really try to get some enjoyment out of low points. Meaning, when the struggle is real, I focus on what a deeply human experience it is — how complex we humans and our lives are, and how meaningful it is to feel things really deeply.
I feel tremendous empathy for people striving for something — whether it’s an Olympic medal, a promotion, or getting out of bed today — and building the foundation of mental wellness for modern life supports those ambitious goals. We have these effective and practical mental skills we can train in order to be able to pursue the life we each want, we just need to deliver that in a way that really works for each individual. So I’m all about leaning in on empathy, understanding the needs and impact for different people, and trying to support that through our offerings over time.
Monica: So beautifully said, such a wonderful reminder of our common humanity. What’s one thing that you want people to always remember?
Sarah: Celebrate the personal journey. We (and I, for sure) spend so much time concerned with our path in relation to others. If we recenter the goal around that inner core of deep, settled contentment, then the surface-level comparisons don’t need to affect us as much.
Someone else’s path is just not your journey, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Learn more about Core at: hellocore.com.