Stacy Conlon: “Stop and breathe”

Stop and breathe. Oftentimes, our minds have a mind of their own. We identify so much with our thoughts that we think we are our thoughts. When that happens, we become what we’re thinking about — our pain, fear or anxiety. It can feel all-consuming and overwhelming. The truth is, you are so much more than your […]

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Stop and breathe. Oftentimes, our minds have a mind of their own. We identify so much with our thoughts that we think we are our thoughts. When that happens, we become what we’re thinking about — our pain, fear or anxiety. It can feel all-consuming and overwhelming. The truth is, you are so much more than your thoughts. So the next time your mind is running rampant, stop and notice what’s happening in the present moment. Observe your thoughts without judgement, like watching clouds pass above you in the sky. And breathe. This break in the constant thinking pattern helps give your mind a much-needed break. You will feel refreshed with a new perspective.

Many ancient traditions around the world believe ‘wellbeing’ or ‘bienestar’ is a state of harmony within ourselves and our world, where we are in balance mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Conlon.

Stacy Conlon is the founder of and a certified wellness coach and mindfulness meditation facilitator. Many years ago, Stacy suffered from anxiety and insomnia due to workplace stress. She overcame it by exercising the same strategies and techniques she teaches today. With over 20 years of mindfulness and meditation experience, her mission is to help people find ever-present peace and happiness by tapping into the shimmering oasis within.

Stacy facilitates keynotes, workshops and guided meditations for organizations worldwide. She has also been a keynote speaker at several large conferences and events. For instance, she led over 1,500 people in a guided meditation to help jumpstart creativity and refresh overworked minds. Stacy educates with a clear, evidence-based and inspiring approach. Her welcoming style and methodology makes it easy to understand how meditation works and experience the benefits instantly.

She also has two meditation programs on Grokker, a video wellbeing platform that supports a happier, healthier workforce. These programs have over 30,000 views from individuals at companies including Disney, CVS, GE and Pfizer. She has also written and been featured in Thrive Global, American Spa and Travel to Wellness magazines, among other wellness publications. She also provides self-care programs for individuals.

Before devoting her work full time to her practice, Stacy served as the Director of Business Development for The Lean Startup Company, co-founded by Eric Ries. Her clients included the federal government and Fortune 500 companies.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was raised in a woodsy, outdoorsy mountain town called Los Gatos in Northern California. As the .com world burgeoned in the Silicon Valley, my Dad worked for a high tech company. My Mom stayed home to raise my brother and me. Our playground was the nearby redwood forest and the treehouse my Dad built. In the summertime, we loved going over the hill to the beach town of Santa Cruz to picnic and frolic in the waves. In the winter, we played lots of games and always had a wood-burning stove going to keep warm.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in helping others? We’d love to hear the story.

My own suffering from anxiety and depression inspired me to help others. I felt helpless and alone. These experiences were some of the darkest periods of my life.

As I took steps to turn things around, I received incredible support. From friends and family, as well doctors, therapists and coaches, I learned tools and techniques that helped me heal. Over time, I became happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. Millions of people suffer from mental health issues. It breaks my heart because I know there’s another way. I feel passionate about helping others find ways to heal themselves from the inside out.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My Dad has been a rock for me. Here’s an example.

Several years ago, one of my client contracts was up for negotiation. The new offer they put forth was terrible. It made me feel frustrated and not valued.

Because for many years, I chose to go above and beyond for the company. I put in much more time and effort than what my contract called for. And this set a precedent. My boundaries weren’t strong enough. I created a relationship where I was working myself crazy and wasn’t being compensated or valued accordingly.

I didn’t have clarity on how to respond because my emotions were running high. Enter my Dad, who was a humongous help. He patiently guided me, step-by-step, along each point in the contract and suggested responses based on my desires. With his support, I was able to objectively make a case for my value that was clear and compelling. After many painful hours of snailing through the details, in the end I felt 100% comfortable walking away if my counteroffer wasn’t accepted.

They refused it. So, I matter-of-factly gave my notice. Immediately, the tables turned. All of their “non-negotiables” suddenly became negotiable. To make a long story short, in the end I signed a new contract that reflected a win-win.

As challenging as this process was, I learned a lot. My Dad taught me what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. By getting clear with myself about my needs and my boundaries, and asking for what I wanted, in the end I was content with either outcome. I now know my worth. And won’t settle for less.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of pursuing your passion? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Underpricing my services. I did this for years! What I learned is that I had issues underneath that needed to be addressed. I was holding on to some old limiting beliefs that stemmed from childhood that I wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t worth it. And didn’t deserve it. As soon as I realized and addressed these issues head-on, I was able to let go of my fear. Eventually, I felt confident enough to charge fair market value for my services. Remember — all mistakes are learning experiences in disguise. They are just a mis-take. A do over.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“When you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at will change.”

– Max Planck, Physicist

I love this quote because it reminds me of the importance of perception. When something happens, every person who sees or experiences it has a different interpretation. This perception creates our reality. The glass is either half empty or half full. We get to choose how we see it. If we don’t like something, or we’re unhappy, it’s not about changing things “out there.” It’s about changing what’s on the inside. Our perception. How we see things. This gives us our power back. And ultimately leads to peace and contentment.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m thrilled to be working on a brand new self-care program called. After speaking with dozens of customers, I learned what people struggle with most as it relates to self-care is prioritization and accountability. I envision creating a platform with fun and simple tools, plus access to a community of like-minds so members can easily access support and generate more happiness and peace in their lives.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In my writing, I talk about cultivating wellbeing habits in our lives, in order to be strong, vibrant and powerful co-creators of a better society. What we create is a reflection of how we think and feel. When we get back to a state of wellbeing and begin to create from that place, the outside world will reflect this state of wellbeing. Let’s dive deeper into this together. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.

Sure. Here are 3 good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellbeing:

  1. Stop and breathe. Oftentimes, our minds have a mind of their own. We identify so much with our thoughts that we think we are our thoughts. When that happens, we become what we’re thinking about — our pain, fear or anxiety. It can feel all-consuming and overwhelming. The truth is, you are so much more than your thoughts. So the next time your mind is running rampant, stop and notice what’s happening in the present moment. Observe your thoughts without judgement, like watching clouds pass above you in the sky. And breathe. This break in the constant thinking pattern helps give your mind a much-needed break. You will feel refreshed with a new perspective.
  2. Practice gratitude. Expressions of gratitude lead to increased contentment and happiness. Every morning, I write down in my journal three things I’m grateful for. You can also do this before you fall asleep at night. It helps your mind to focus on what’s positive in your life. No matter what you have going on, there is always something to be grateful for. You can take it a step further by sending a note to a special someone, expressing why you appreciate them. It will make their day!
  3. Go for a walk in nature. Whenever I feel stressed, I take a break and go for a walk with my dog in the redwoods. There’s something so refreshing about the clean air. It seems to clear my mind so I gain more equanimity. In fact, studies show being in nature can boost energy, reduce depression and improve overall well being. Try it and see.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Yes! My daily meditation practice first thing in the morning is my anchor. It helps me get grounded and centered in myself before taking on whatever life throws at me that day.

When I wake up, I get dressed then have a glass of warm lemon water with apple cider vinegar to hydrate. I choose not to look at my phone because I don’t want my energy to disperse.

First, I roll out my yoga mat and start with some light stretching to get my blood flowing. Next, I sit down comfortably on a pillow in front of my altar. Light a beeswax candle. Then I practice some breathing exercises, including kapalabhati. Next, I put on some relaxing music and journal, including writing what I’m grateful for, as well as my prayers. From there, I listen to a guided meditation. At the end, I sit in silence. I send out blessings and healing energy to loved ones, my community and the world. I finish my daily ritual by sending light ahead and set my intention for the day.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Drink lots of water. Our bodies are about 60% water. We lose it continually throughout the day. If we don’t stay hydrated, our energy levels and brain function decline. We can get headaches and muscle fatigue. Drinking enough water boosts metabolism, helps your kidneys and maintains healthy bowel function. It’s good for your skin. When in doubt, drink water. Be sure to drink filtered water whenever possible so it removes heavy metals and toxins.
  2. Exercise regularly. Sometimes I don’t feel like exercising. I’m tired and would rather just collapse on the couch. But like someone once told me, “motion before emotion.” It doesn’t have to be much. Start small, even with just 5 minutes per day. The hardest part is getting started. Once you start, it gets easier. So, just start with something. And be consistent. Among many other benefits, exercise helps keep weight under control, reduces the risk of heart disease and helps your body regulate insulin levels. You’ll feel better, too.
  3. Get enough sleep. As a society, we are sleep-deprived. I’m reminded of Ariana Huffington’s story. For many years, she subscribed to the collective delusion of working hard until she burned out. She had a life-changing wake-up call. One day, she fainted from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. She hit her head on her desk and broke her cheekbone. Sleep is essential to wellbeing, at least 7 hours of sleep per night. You’ll keep your immune system strong and give your body a much-needed rest so you can be your best self the next day. It also helps you live longer. Sleep is medicine.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are some great ways to begin to integrate it into our lives?

Yes, so true. Here are some helpful ways to begin to integrate healthy eating:

  1. Pick foods that are organic, high in protein and vegetables and low on carbs. Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function optimally. Healthy animal protein, like eggs, chicken and meat, are important building blocks for our bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. It also helps our body build and repair tissue and oxygenate our blood. It also helps keep you full longer so you’ll snack less. Aim for 30% protein, 40% vegetables and 30% carbs each meal. Skip anything that’s in a package or processed, even if it’s labeled organic. It’s full of unhealthy oils and trans fats.
  2. Plan your meals a week in advance. Pull out some of your favorite healthy recipes and determine when you will eat each meal. I like to use a weekly calendar and write down what I will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. This helps reduce the common “what do you want for dinner tonight?” decision-making fatigue. From there, make a list of everything you need to buy at the store to make your meals.
  3. Grocery shop for the week. With your list in hand, purchase everything to make your meals that week. This saves time running to the grocery store multiple times. Also, make sure you shop when your stomach is full. That way, you will be less inclined to pick up unhealthy pre-packaged snacks, like cookies or chips. Finally, make sure you read the labels so you’re buying foods with the USDA organic label. Added sugars can also be lurking in the ingredients and are hiding in words like “natural flavor” or “corn syrup” so watch out for those.
  4. Batch cook. Pick a day of the week and cook a few meals ahead of time. Sundays tend to work well in my family. That way, you save time throughout the week. Consider doubling or even tripling a recipe that freezes well, like a soup or casserole. It often takes just as much time to make a single recipe than it does to double it, and you’ve saved hours of time prepping in the future.
  5. Minimize snacking. If you get enough protein during each meal, you won’t be hungry in between meals. If you absolutely need to have something to eat, be sure to snack on healthy options, like roasted seeds, nuts, carrots or hummus.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Express your feelings. There are 27 human emotions that represent a feeling. This ranges from uncomfortable emotions, like fear, horror and sadness, to comfortable ones like joy, awe and amusement. Emotions are meant to be expressed. They are like water, they are always flowing, always changing. At most, each one lasts 30 minutes. So no matter what you’re feeling, express it. Talk with a friend. Write it out in your journal. Dance in your living room. Scream into your pillow. Stomp your feet. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you let it out and express it. Otherwise it gets stuck and weighs you down.
  2. Spend time doing what you love. Whether it’s collecting vinyl records, gardening or knitting, take time to indulge in your hobbies. It may feel counterintuitive to do things just for fun. And the truth is, by doing things that bring you joy just for the sake of it allows you to show up in other areas of your life more fulfilled. It helps you feel good about yourself and boosts self-esteem.
  3. Say “no” to the non-essential. One of my favorite books is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It helps us discern what is essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can spend time doing things that matter most to us. By saying “no” we say “yes” to what’s most important in our lives. And that feels good.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellbeing? We’d love to hear it.

It works! Although it can feel hard to smile when you don’t feel like it. The cool thing is, even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you do it you receive the benefits. Research shows that smiling reduces stress and lowers heart rate. It also lifts your mood, boosts your immune system and even helps you live a longer life.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.

Yes! Here are 3 good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellbeing:

  1. Meditate. The practice of meditation has a profound calming effect on the mind and body. When I began meditating regularly 15 years ago, it completely changed my life. I was less reactive. More grounded. And overall a happier person. Anyone can meditate and you don’t need anything besides a few minutes to do it. The best part is, there are dozens of health benefits, including reduced pain, anxiety and stress and increased focus, calm and happiness.
  2. Pray. No matter what your belief system, prayer can be a powerful tool. For example, I am not a religious person. And I believe in a higher power — the Universe. Something greater than myself that is orchestrating the unfolding of life. When I write down my prayers, in essence I am asking for help with whatever it is I want support with. This helps me feel like I don’t have to do everything on my own. That can feel really heavy. Prayer allows me to trust and surrender, and give it up to a higher power so I can let go.
  3. Forgive. Forgiveness helps us let go of the past and embrace the present. When we hold on to resentment, hurt or pain, it stops us from growing and moving forward. It’s negative energy stuck in our space. When we forgive, it doesn’t condone the activity of others. Rather, it frees you to move on. And don’t forget to forgive yourself. Your heart will open and make more room for love.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate overall wellbeing?

The Japanese practice something called shinrin-yoku, otherwise known as “forest bathing.” This isn’t the same as hiking or backpacking. It’s more about being in nature and experiencing it through our senses. Evidence shows it’s been proven to reduce stress and increase creativity and happiness. No matter how I am feeling when I enter nature, when I am there and when I leave I always feel better.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Mindfulness and meditation as a regular wellbeing practice in school, so we raise generations of people who have practical tools to reduce omnipresent stress and anxiety.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to connect with @TaraBrach. Her teachings are authentic and inspiring. She’s an incredible storyteller and has had a profound impact on me and my mindfulness journey.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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