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Slow Down To Do More: “How Serious Illness Helped Me To Truly Slow Down” With Ashley Graber and Krista Nerestant

I learnt the hard way. Literally. Multiple times. I was 22 years old when I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Four years later, I had to remove my fallopian tube due to my second ectopic pregnancy and at 30 years old, removed the remaining tube from a third ectopic. I believed that this was due […]


I learnt the hard way. Literally. Multiple times. I was 22 years old when I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Four years later, I had to remove my fallopian tube due to my second ectopic pregnancy and at 30 years old, removed the remaining tube from a third ectopic. I believed that this was due to me ignoring my physical health for years, since I was roughly 17 years old. I was focused on survival — money and work. I missed many important holidays, family engagements, and doctor visits. In 2015 I had another wake up call, my body from the neck up locked up in excruciating pain. Eight years of going nonstop, opened a salon, got married, opened another business, bought a house, had a baby, and putting everyone else’s needs before mine had finally caught up to me. A regimen of epidural shots to my neck was the remedy that western medicine offered me. I entertained it just to get back to work but after doing it once, I knew never to do it again. So I decided to take the slower route towards physical and emotional healing through coaching and holistic therapies.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Krista Nerestant is the owner of Self-ish Lifestyle where she serves as a certified Neuro Linguistic Life Coach and Hypnotist while demystifying the world of spirit as a Spiritual Medium and teacher. She hosts a podcast called Self Care Tuesdays and her book, “The Hidden Gifts of Trauma,” is set to publish in 2020. As a serial entrepreneur, she owns Salon Crimson whose doors, for the past 12 years, remains open and has since expanded her entrepreneurial ventures into investing in restaurants — Ani Ramen NJ, along with involvement in non-profit organizations (FSL SAVES) a NJ state funded center dedicated to children and women survivors of sexual/domestic violence and Latina Surge whose mission is to support women of color.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was 11 years old when me and four of my siblings migrated to the US in 1993 to join our mother who left us and her home, the Philippines, 4 years prior to escape her abusive husband. But just three years after being reunited with her, she succumbed to terminal stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I was 14 years old. On her deathbed, she pleaded with me to take responsibility for my 4 siblings, especially my two baby brothers who were only 8 and 9 years old at the time. I took that promise to heart and since then had worked nonstop to fulfill such a promise. I took on multiple under the table jobs, paid school programs, but it wasn’t until an accidental opportunity in my sophomore year of high school that I saw a definitive path to executing such a promise. I thought the class elective was “Cosmology” instead of “Cosmetology”. I was willing to forgo the promising future as a registered nurse — the career that seemed inevitable for every Filipino immigrant — which was also hammered into my psyche from my aunties who took me and my siblings in. The one thing I never thought of giving up however, was a college education that society conditioned in my brain — college degree equates to success. I figured, might as well choose a career that would interest me. So the cosmos it is! The study of the planets, space, and stars. But when I arrived enthusiastically for the first of many 2 hour experience in a planetarium, I was instead, assaulted by an entire wall of floating mannequin heads. I panicked along with sobbing hysterically, (I thought my aunties were going to kill me for not choosing an academic elective) and begged my guidance counselor to transfer me out immediately. She told me, “It’s too late. You have to stay for the semester until another elective opens up.” I submitted with the intention of leaving but my upbringing of an overachieving mindset kept me in. Whether I liked it or not, I had to operate and execute at 150%. I excelled and was highly recommended by my teachers to work in salons and I began making great money. I realized that this would be how I would fulfill my promise to my mama and never looked back. At 17 years old I made a decision to take full custody of my brothers at 22 years old and open my salon at 25 years old. I accomplished both and 17 years, after bulldozing through life, I decided it was time to slow down and take care of all of me. My mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies needed a tune up. I came out of the spiritual closet as a Spiritual Medium and became certified as an NLP life coach and hypnotist, advocating a mission to help people to commit to living a fulfilling and rewarding life.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I do not believe that it was always this way. I grew up from a family of entrepreneurs but it was never implied that we had to work hard and fast. I was taught work ethics, connection and execution as young as eight years old. Back then, slow and steady did win the race.

However, fast forward to the social current of today, in the digital era of social media, emails and high speed internet, the theme is now “instant gratification.” It seems as if no one values or honors the act of taking the time to process an idea to its full maturity. Anyone can write an entire book in a month, be an overnight success, or become a leader without any cemented credentials. We live in a society that thrives on instant rather than nurtured and curated ideologies. Quantity over quality is praised and the “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” mentality is left behind.

As a modern woman of 2019, I have subjected myself to take on many roles — mother, wife, friend, sister, entrepreneur, confidant, and so much more. There isn’t any enough time in a day it seems to possibly fulfill all responsibilities.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

I learnt the hard way. Literally. Multiple times. I was 22 years old when I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Four years later, I had to remove my fallopian tube due to my second ectopic pregnancy and at 30 years old, removed the remaining tube from a third ectopic. I believed that this was due to me ignoring my physical health for years, since I was roughly 17 years old. I was focused on survival — money and work. I missed many important holidays, family engagements, and doctor visits. In 2015 I had another wake up call, my body from the neck up locked up in excruciating pain. Eight years of going nonstop, opened a salon, got married, opened another business, bought a house, had a baby, and putting everyone else’s needs before mine had finally caught up to me. A regimen of epidural shots to my neck was the remedy that western medicine offered me. I entertained it just to get back to work but after doing it once, I knew never to do it again. So I decided to take the slower route towards physical and emotional healing through coaching and holistic therapies.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Slowing down allows you to have a focused mind. A focused mind creates productivity. So in the result of slowing down, you have actually gained the ability to do more through the quality of execution and production of your work. Through many studies, taking breaks, retreats, renewals, rejuvenations, etc. results in generating positive energy to re-invigorate the desire to finish a project. I wear many hats; entrepreneur, boss, wife, mother, healer, friend, speaker, etc. It is imperative for me to slow down to achieve all that is on my plate.

I equate the act of slowing down to appreciating the present moment (awareness). The ability to slow down long enough to give my four bodies — mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual body — it’s due time to re-align so that I may function at its optimal best. Just the act of taking a deep breath in and a long exhale out (at least 3 seconds each) allows my mind to focus. Stop whatever you are doing and give yourself a minute or two. Take a deep inhale counting to 3 hold then exhale for 3 seconds. Do this three times and notice, within this mini practice of awareness, how your breath reinvigorates, relaxes and energizes your entire being. This action of deep inhales and exhales slows the heart rate serving not only your mental body but also your physical form.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

TAKE A DEEP BREATH. . .Immediately focus on your breath. This gives your mind something to do rather than react to the emotional calamity you are currently experiencing. Focusing on your breath also allows your parasympathetic system to drive. This is the part of your amazing vessel, the physical form, that conserves energy. This action of deep inhales and exhales slows the heart rate. It even relaxes your sphincter muscles that has the ability to open and close certain areas of the body. This technique brings you out of the fight or flight mode and may also activate your prefrontal cortex allowing you to ask the right question — what is do i need right now to regain control?

When I was bombarded with all aspects of life; work, home, social, and taking care of myself — it all can be overwhelming — but the one thing I can control is my breath. Coming back to my breath allows me to feel safe, be in my body, and access my mind towards clarity.

Move!. . . Physically working out is a great way to decompress and re-invigorate your entire body. Most people will tell me, “I’ve never meditated.” My response is asking, “Have you ever taken a leisure walk, jogged, run, etc. anything that requires you to move your body? Then you’ve meditated.” The answer is always, “You’re right.” My best ideas were gained through my practice of hot yoga, OTF classes and spin classes. I realize, for me, I am motivated by a coach and group energy whereas my husband would rather be alone with his headphones and weights.

The 5 second rule…This rule has been made popular by Mel Robbins. Basically, you count to five and immediately will shut down and take a break. I use this many times especially when I become obsessive of a project and cannot see the forest beyond the trees. This is when I know, I am no longer having fun and enjoying my work. Tedious work results in a dull outcome. So yes, implementing the 5 second rule is one I live by.

Visualize. . . Bring upin your mind whatever you need at this moment. Is it the privacy of an empty room? So imagine walls around you. Or is it a person or memory that you need? What would Jesus do? Boom, the power of your mind can do that for you. One visualization technique I use is to imagine a light switch. I see it right in front of me and when my timer dings for me to take a break, I mentally turn off the light switch and I drift away in my mind to wherever I can rejuvenate until it’s time to get back to the priorities i’ve set.

Have fun and enjoy being a human!. . . Reach out to a trusted person — to me this is my husband — the coach of a life coach. As a sounding board, he listens from an objective state and calms me out of my emotional state. I value his view whether I like it or not and respect is the one criteria we exercise with each other. To most it’ll be a coach, best friend or therapist but the reasons behind it are all the same — respect, value, and crystal clear communication.

Recite an affirmations — I am grateful, I am powerful, I am abundant. This is my go to affirmation and mantra to re-align and become aware of my present moment. Along with deep inhales and exhales, this technique is an invaluable one to practice. Everything is energy, it’s a matter or what vibrational frequency you are functioning from. Being grateful instantly takes me away from resentment, being powerful holds me accountable, and being in a state of abundance allows me to appreciate life and the opportunities that are presented to me.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness to me is being in constant awareness of the present moment. Most of us humans function from the what’s next mentality or overthinking the past and so are never truly happy or satisfied. I had a meeting at Bryant Park in New York City on one of the most gorgeous day in the spring. I was there to meet the President of a woman’s organization that I was interested in proposing my workshop to. There were so many people all around us with all their electronic gadgets on and here I was with my paper deck proposal, introducing how to attain happiness through the practice of Qi Therapy — mind, body, emotion, and spirit. She turned to me and asked, “Are you really happy though?” My answer was, “Look at the trees, do you notice the many shades of green there are on one tree? Can you appreciate, at this very moment the gloriousness that is the earth that you are living in? Look around you, do you think that anyone is aware of how beautiful and great their life can be, just by stopping for a moment and be in a state of gratitude. Yes, I am truly happy because I know life is a gift, and if I take the time to notice it, life will notice me.” She smiled and we are now the closest of friends.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

I start my day with an intention — My perception becomes my reality. Maybe you can start by taking a quote and abide by the knowledge of that quote. Condition yourself to remember to breathe, be present in your body, especially the heart area and feel grateful for the ability to let go of the past, honor the present and be optimistic for the future.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

Short guided meditations through an app like calm or youtube are great tools to have. Music is another tool that serves me energetically. Having a stress ball, basketball, football, etc. to play with to get your right brain to work alongside your left is another simple way to activate the present moment.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices.

My favorite book of all time is Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson. It has inspired me to write my stories from a powerful perspective rather than victimhood which most memoirs seemed to be derived from. It’s about a blind man and his seeing eye dog and kept everyone calm enough to exit the world trade center during the 9/11 attack. It tells his story of being the real life daredevil (he rode around the neighborhood in his bike when he was 13 and had a car while in college). He had overcame so much yet his perspective of the world and of himself was healthy and went on to be a success. Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenenza is another book recommendation. It is a practical book on understanding the science, studies, and research of the mind when in meditation. My favorite podcasts other than my own are the Tim Ferriss Show and Quote of the Day by Sean Croxton. I also highly recommend watching documentaries to expand your perception beyond your current reality. Heal is one that I highly recommend.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.” — Mary Halloway

This quote on resilience holds me accountable to how I respond to the traumatic life I had to endure and overcome. I survived a robbery at gunpoint, child endangerment, abandonment, kidnapped, orphaned, economic poverty, and death all under the age of 14 years old. My ability to accept, change, and execute whatever needs to be done to achieve the desired outcome was what kept going towards success, not just financially, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

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. 🙂

My philosophy and what I would love people to adhere to is, ”Never settle for anything less than your perception of perfection.” You are an impact, no matter how insignificant you may think you are to the rest of society. You impact the lives of the people you encounter — from the barista that made your coffee, or to the child that you passed in the street. The energy you operate and give from isn’t just serving you, but is also affecting everything and everyone around you. I would love to see more people taking ownership of their life. To take their power back rather than allow society to dictate how they should be. Self awareness leads to accountability, accountability leads to stability, and stability leads to sustainable inner happiness.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.

If you’d like to book Ashley for an inspiring speaking engagement, please click here.

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