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Slow Down To Do More: “Why We Should Value Mental Health And Happiness Above All” With Ashley Graber and Liz O’Carroll

When I added a few activities centered around mindfulness to my morning routine, I started to see incredible benefits right away. Most people don’t feel they have the time to set the tone for the day this way, yet they find time to watch TV, go out for cocktails or shop online for hours. I […]


When I added a few activities centered around mindfulness to my morning routine, I started to see incredible benefits right away. Most people don’t feel they have the time to set the tone for the day this way, yet they find time to watch TV, go out for cocktails or shop online for hours. I think it’s important to identify your priorities and what you value, and then spend your time in a way that reflects those things. When I started to value mental health and happiness above all, I made changes to reflect that. Instead of rushing from the moment I open my eyes, I take a slower approach to starting the day and it has dramatically improved my mental and physical health and overall happiness so much that I recommend this approach to all of my health coaching clients.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Liz O’Carroll. Liz is a health coach, speaker and founder of Misfit Wellness, a platform dedicated to making a healthier diet and lifestyle feel approachable and sustainable, especially for those who struggle with mental and physical health issues. Liz is deeply passionate about exposing people to the transformative power of the holistic and integrated approach to wellness that changed her life. Through the Misfit Wellness platform, health coaching, workshops and public speaking, Liz provides tools and resources that simplify and streamline the path to optimal health. She aims to create a shared experience around health and healing by providing the resources, support and sense of community often missing in our health journeys. Liz specializes in helping those struggling with gut and hormone imbalances, food allergies, depression, disordered eating, body image issues and chronic stress.


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

Struggling with depression, disordered eating and a variety of health issues since childhood made me painfully aware of how isolating and frustrating dealing with health issues can be. I was still utterly unprepared, however, to navigate the pain, shame and complications surrounding the PCOS, infertility, hypothyroidism, spinal osteoarthritis and lymphedema diagnosis that would plague my early 30s. Combined with chronic stress, gut issues, my marriage, and my parent’s divorce, these health issues and major life changes came together in a perfect storm that revealed how inadequate women’s health resources and support are. When the dust settled, I became determined to find a way to make health and happiness easier to achieve for other women than they have been for me.

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?

There are so many demands on us in modern society. I think many of us feel the pressure to be successful in our careers, present in our relationships and social life, physically active, giving back in some way, constantly learning, growing and evolving. It’s very easy to feel like there are never enough hours in the day to fulfill all your obligations in your career and personal life.

I don’t believe it’s always been this way; I think we have come to overcomplicate our lives by always aspiring to be and do more, more, more. Materialism, comparison fueled by the media we consume, and ego-driven mindsets have led us to a place where we have forgotten to focus on what is essential, what really matters. If you peel away all of the noise, we wouldn’t be rushing around 24/7 trying to be everything to everyone.

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

Perpetually feeling rushed and frantic is stressful, and we know that stress is damaging to our health and happiness in some really profound ways. Chronic stress, which can easily be linked with being in a constant state of rushing, is linked with increased risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive disorders, sleep problems, memory and cognitive impairment, weight gain and more.

After spending most of my 20’s rushing, I learned the hard way that constantly rushing leads to burnout. There’s nothing that impacts productivity more than hitting a wall and feeling unable to focus and perform. I also learned that rushing and overextending myself led to being far less present and in tune with my own emotional and physical needs, which prevented me from being proactive about my health when it really mattered.

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?

When I added a few activities centered around mindfulness to my morning routine, I started to see incredible benefits right away. Most people don’t feel they have the time to set the tone for the day this way, yet they find time to watch TV, go out for cocktails or shop online for hours. I think it’s important to identify your priorities and what you value, and then spend your time in a way that reflects those things. When I started to value mental health and happiness above all, I made changes to reflect that. Instead of rushing from the moment I open my eyes, I take a slower approach to starting the day and it has dramatically improved my mental and physical health and overall happiness so much that I recommend this approach to all of my health coaching clients.

Setting an intention for the day upon rising allows you to be more intentional throughout the rest of the day. Meditating for 10–15 minutes early in the day improves productivity, stress response, focus, sleep and mood. Journaling even for 5 minutes can allow you to be more self aware, recognize your emotional and physical needs, be more patient and present in relationships. All of these wonderfully simple activities are easy add-ons with big benefits reaped in a short amount of time.

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?

  1. I don’t look at my phone for at least the first 10–30 minutes of each day. Instead, I wake up, make some tea and do a few stretches while enjoying the quiet in the house while I can. In my previous career, I would look at emails the moment I opened my eyes. Doing so created this false sense of urgency that set a stressful tone for the day and inspired rushing before I had even gotten out of bed. Giving yourself 10 sacred minutes in the morning can create a big mental shift from rushing to grounded in a truly meaningful way.
  2. I maintain a mindful morning routine wherever I am in the world, regardless of what my schedule looks like for the rest of the day. This slow start is my foundation, my declaration of self love, my greatest form of self care. It includes meditation and journaling for a total of 15–20 minutes. I used to go whole days or even weeks without taking a few minutes to breathe, check in and care for myself. Over time that bred resentment in a variety of areas of my life. Reclaiming my mornings has made me more patient, kind and compassionate in my relationships, my work, everything. Once we extend these gifts to ourselves, it’s easier to do so with others.
  3. I create space for decompression and mindfulness-based-stress-reduction at least once in the middle of each day. Sometimes this will be a quiet walk around the block, a few stretches near the window, some breath work or a walking meditation using my favorite app. In my 20’s, I avoided breaks because I thought I would lose focus or momentum, especially when doing creative work. Now I know that resetting stress levels and taking a mental break has such a positive impact on productivity and focus that I end up getting more done the rest of the day, rather than tuckering out early.
  4. I move my body mindfully in some way every day. I avoid multitasking during this time and try to hold space to just focus on breath and movement, which is my most effective way to clear my head and check in with myself. Before back surgery, I loved yoga for mindful movement and now I love Pilates or dance. All 3 allow you to get present and drop into your body in a way I haven’t experienced with other forms of exercise.
  5. I hold space for a slow, mindful wind-down before bedtime. I get all my evening chores out of the way and focus on calming activities like reading, connecting with my husband and snuggling with my dog. A relaxing nighttime routine leaves time for reflecting on the day, and consideration of what I want out of the day to come. Without this, I used to feel like one day would bleed into the next and stress would build and build endlessly. Like journaling and meditation, this is another practice that supports a level of self-awareness that benefits your overall health and wellbeing in countless ways.
  6. I prioritize sufficient high-quality sleep. This is relatively new for me in the past few years, and I can’t possibly say enough about the benefits. Sleep is the ultimate form of slowing down to do more. It allows us to be more productive, efficient, effective, focused, present, patient, healthy and happy. I am simply a better person when I slow down for more sleep!

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

I define mindfulness as being present — in your body, in the moment, in your surroundings. Mindfulness is about noting the sounds, smells, sights around you, feeling the breeze on your skin and the sun on your face, smelling the grass underfoot, the flavors on your tongue, and noting how that all affects your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is observation without judgment. It is being present for the good, the bad, the ugly — and at the same time recognizing how fleeting everything is. Mindfulness is feeling sadness, pain, or anxiety and noting it’s unpleasantness, but knowing it will pass. It is also feeling laughter shake your body, crinkle your eyes and cramp your belly, and wholeheartedly experiencing the beauty of all of that in the moment.

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

I think the best ways to integrate mindfulness are meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Introducing both or either through free apps is a great way for beginners to get started. I use Headspace and recommend it to my health coaching clients because it supports near effortless integration with exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime.

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

Simple breath work, body scans, 2-minute meditations and MBSR exercises are all excellent mindfulness tools that can be used at your desk, while walking around the office or block, or in a quiet drop-in room.

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

Headspace is my absolute favorite app that I use for meditation at least 1–2 times each day. For inspiration around mindfulness, I love “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, though I will probably have to read it another 500 times over to fully understand it. Geneen Roth is an excellent resource for integrating mindfulness into eating and our relationships with our bodies.

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

“Suffering is wishing things were other than they are.” — Buddha

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. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one focused on making people feel less alone and more empowered when dealing with mental and physical health challenges. It would be a movement focused on leaving shame, judgment, competition and cruelty behind. A movement for people who suffer, by people who suffer. A movement defined by kindness, support, community and sharing — of our truths, our stories, our healing journeys, our resources, anything that can help others who are walking similar paths.

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.

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