“Take care of yourself first.” With Beau Henderson & Whitney Yarnall

Think about it, when you are run down, overworked, tired or sick, how do you show up in your life? I would be willing to bet that you do not show up as the best version of yourself. Now, how do you show up when you return from a retreat, or an amazing vacation where […]

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Think about it, when you are run down, overworked, tired or sick, how do you show up in your life? I would be willing to bet that you do not show up as the best version of yourself. Now, how do you show up when you return from a retreat, or an amazing vacation where you received lots of rest and rejuvenation? Probably a better version of yourself!? Think about the difference you would make in your life and therefore in the lives of everyone you come into contact with if you always felt that fulfilled.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Whitney Yarnall

Whitney is an intuitive healer, spiritual mentor and founder of Sojourn Healing Collective; a sacred healing space created for people to come as they are, align with their purpose and feel supported as they grow to their greatest potential. In her 20’s, her curiosity around healing and thirst to know more led her to gather an abundance of different healers, teachers, facilitators and leaders on a mission to spread holistic healing to the world. In discovering these connections and a collective mission, Whitney uncovered her purpose as a teacher, facilitator, mentor and the creator of Sojourn — a welcoming space where no one would ever feel unsupported again.

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?

Absolutely! My personal wellness and healing journey began in high school after a personal tragedy nudged me off my tracks into several years of heavy depression and self-destruction. I entered my late teens with various health issues — diagnoses of depression, thyroid disease and severe anxiety. I rotated through many doctors, psychiatrists and specialists, but nothing seemed to be healing me emotionally or physically, but rather just masking my symptoms and welcoming them back more intensely later.

At age 19, I became determined to get off of all prescription medications and seek out deeper healing practices that would help me understand the root causes of my issues. I sought out an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Energy Healers, Yoga classes, Meditation and healing experiences. Over the course of 2 years, I had gathered a support system that proved to be more effective than anything I had previously experienced. I felt that I had healed on a soul level!

Throughout this lifestyle shift and healing process, I became recognized by those around me for my knowledge of different healing modalities. Others came to me seeking information, advice or connection to another healer. I even had a vision during a healing session with my Ayurvedic healer, of bringing together all of the healers that helped me along my journey, into one space to form a community. I had a vision for a healing and wellness community that would be approachable and accessible, rather than lonely and confusing.

In 2014, a solo vacation to California pulled me to visit San Diego. Upon arriving, I was sold on the ocean, sunshine and lifestyle. I returned to NYC where I was living, quit my (at one point) dream job at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and made arrangements to move, certain that everything would work itself out. Once in San Diego, I found my tribe of healers and began to understand further the need for collaboration, accessibility, and community. In 2017, Sojourn Healing Collective was born.

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

Oh yes! There are many, but the story that comes to mind is of how Sojourn’s team initially came together. In 2015, I had been living in San Diego for about a year and was practicing yoga at a local studio. The studio was preparing for their summer Yoga Teacher Training and after years of dreaming about taking a training, I was finally feeling that this was the perfect time and place to get certified as a yoga teacher.

The group of yoga trainees quickly bonded and I began spreading the word to my new yogi friends, my vision for Sojourn — an all-encompassing healing space offering yoga, meditation and a variety of other healing modalities. The excitement snowballed and by the time we graduated our training we had plans to come back together regularly to manifest the vision of Sojourn. Months went by as it was taking longer than I anticipated to find a suitable space to lease, so I decided to rent space from an existing yoga studio on weekends to build a foundation for our community. My teacher training friends and I took turns teaching yoga classes and workshops each weekend for 5 months until I had finally secured our current home in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood of San Diego. Looking back, although I did not plan this sequence of events, however from where I’m sitting now, it was the best move I could have made. I was able to test our market, gain a following, build excitement and community all before taking on the operating expenses of a larger space.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

A week before the grand opening of Sojourn, I visited a yoga studio that used scan cards for all of their members so that they could complete self check-in if no one was officially working at the desk. I got the idea in my head that these cards were essential to offer our clients. I spent a lot of money to design the scan cards, order a scanner and rush deliver it all to the studio so it would be ready opening weekend. I installed everything and realized that in our system, in order for anyone to scan in, someone had to be at the front desk clicking on the details before the card could be scanned, defeating the whole purpose for my initial reason for ordering scan cards.

I quickly learned that especially in the beginning, it’s best to keep things simple. As a business evolves, anything that’s necessary for its operation and success will quickly make itself known.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have so many people who have helped me to make the vision of Sojourn a reality. However, one of the most impactful people came at a time when I needed it most — Pat, who was my mentor from the organization SCORE.

I was working at my 9–5 corporate job in downtown San Diego, itching to begin creating my business but not knowing where to start. I heard about SCORE from an entrepreneur group I attended and immediately submitted a request for a mentor. I was matched with an amazing, kind, retired businessman, Pat. Although I had mentors throughout my life, this was my first formal mentorship experience and I was amazed at the impact. During our first meeting, I explained my dream business of a healing collective and I quickly drew out a space plan on the back of a SCORE brochure. He nodded his head and said, “OK, Whitney. If you’re ready… really ready…. and you really want to do this, you can.”

Pat continued to mentor me through the process of creating a business plan, securing funding and investors, searching for commercial space, budgeting for my first year and finally leaving my corporate career. Before meeting him, I had felt so alone in the process of starting my business. I am forever grateful for his mentorship and accountability.

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

Take care of yourself first and foremost so you can serve at your highest capacity. Self-care should be a non-negotiable in your life if you are seeking a life of true fulfillment. No one can pour from an empty cup!

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

Walk your talk, practice what you preach and lead by example. Your authenticity and alignment (or non-alignment) with your organization’s core messages and values can be felt by your employees and customers.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

I completely agree! We can all improve our mental wellness and overall quality of life no matter how “mentally healthy” we are. Below are my top five suggestions for maintaining optimal mental health:

Develop a daily meditation practice. This may sound daunting to some, but the good news is that meditation is not (necessarily) sitting cross-legged in stillness for an hour a day. There are a number of ways we can meditate on a daily basis that you may not think of as “meditation.” You can meditate by taking a long walk in nature, zoning out to music, playing music, journaling or freewriting, practicing moving meditation like yoga or Qi Gong, repeating mantras or affirmations, practicing visualization and so much more. Meditation brings the mind and body into a rest and digest state and quite literally rewires the brain to respond rather than react in life, which is integral to living an intentional life.

In my early 20’s, when meditation and mindfulness were gaining popularity, I decided to try it out and began seeking out meditation classes and other practices that seemed to have similar benefits. After trying a few different modalities with various communities, I realized that there are no real rules for meditation. All it is, is a retraining and reprogramming of the mind — like a workout for the brain. During my search for a meditation I could truly enjoy, I stumbled upon a Yoga Nidra class, which quickly became my favorite way to practice meditation. Yoga Nidra is a completely guided meditation that is practiced laying down in Savasana. It works with the subconscious mind and not only does it improve sleep, but over time I found it to help release some belief systems that were holding me back.

Move your body. We have all heard how beneficial an exercise routine is for our bodies and minds. If you have had one in the past, you have likely experienced the blissful, peaceful state and physical benefits that come as a result.

There are countless ways to exercise our physical bodies, and probably just as many places to practice them in. I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to exercise, so I encourage everyone to try out different environments and styles of movement. My personal preference is both restorative and Vinyasa yoga, but there are times when I crave weight lifting or hiking so I do that when I feel called to change up my routine. If you are new to a fitness routine, give yourself time to sample various classes or solo exercises that seem fun and interesting to you. Then choose whatever movement modality you feel like you can come back to with consistency and more importantly, enjoyment!

Although I believe wholeheartedly in the physical and mental benefits of a movement practice, my “why” for exercise goes beyond what we hear are the traditional benefits. I have learned and fully believe that emotions and trauma become stored in the body. If we are stagnant, we prevent those emotions from being released and can even lead to physical ailments and disease (dis-ease) in the body.

Nurture Your Relationships.Our relationships impact our lives immensely, in fact I believe that they can define our lives. The people that you surround yourself with are influencing your goals, your decisions, your emotions, and so much more. It is important to constantly take inventory of who you are spending your time with and how they are positively or negatively impacting your experience. A good measure for this is even just a quick check in after you spend time together, ask yourself, “Do I feel more motivated, supported, or energized when I’m around this person, or do I feel drained, tired and depleted?” This could sound harsh, but if you cleanse your circle and begin setting some healthy supportive boundaries with the people who do not bring out the best in you, your life will drastically shift.

My life shifted significantly when I was beginning my business and was inspired to take the action I am suggesting above. I began checking in with myself after spending time with various friends. I had some friends who I did not want to share my goals and dreams with and some who I was eager to share them with. It became apparent that if I wanted to truly succeed and feel supported, I would have to shift my friendships and the people with whom I spent my time. Not only did I begin to feel better, but this simple action allowed time and space to open up in my life. Soon after, I seemingly coincidentally, met some new friends, like-minded industry colleagues and supporters of my business!

Belief System / Spirituality.Another key to optimal wellness is clarifying your own personal belief system, and implementing it. This can be any form or degree of spirituality, religion, belief in the universe, the cosmos, energy, universal laws, or anything else really. Once you have and can depend on this belief system, life and the ever evolving journey becomes easier. You begin to understand that there are forces beyond your own control that are guiding you. There is a greater purpose for all of life’s high moments and low ones too.

I have always believed that there is a purpose for everything, even if it will not reveal itself right away. This has been absolutely essential as I have navigated my life, and more recently, my business. I believe the only control we truly have is how we respond to the unfolding of our lives. So, why not put your faith in whatever it is that might be controlling everything else?

Self-CareAs I mentioned earlier, this should be a non-negotiable in your life. It should feel good, supportive, fulfilling, and satisfying. However, since we live in a culture that has programmed us to keep doing, working, pushing ahead and not resting — this is difficult for most of us and will take practice. The self-care that I’m talking about should not be carved out in your schedule just once in a while, but rather, everyday! Some of the things I mentioned above are perfect ways to begin making a regular routine. Meditation, reading, exercising, journaling, spending time with supportive family or friends, eating a nourishing meal, etc. There are so many ways you can infuse this into your life, just begin making a list of your favorite 10 self-care activities, and DO them!

Think about it, when you are run down, overworked, tired or sick, how do you show up in your life? I would be willing to bet that you do not show up as the best version of yourself. Now, how do you show up when you return from a retreat, or an amazing vacation where you received lots of rest and rejuvenation? Probably a better version of yourself!? Think about the difference you would make in your life and therefore in the lives of everyone you come into contact with if you always felt that fulfilled.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

The most important thing I would recommend for anyone planning for retirement, is to discover or rediscover their purpose and a manner in which to carry that out. We all have seasons of life, and our purpose and our “why” will take different shapes at different times. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned Pat, my amazing mentor early on in my career. He is a prime example. After beginning and running successful businesses, Pat was at a season of his life where he wanted to (and did) retire. He gave up his responsibilities with his businesses, but still had a passion for entrepreneurship. So, he found an outlet, a manner in which to carry though his mission and purpose — to mentor — emerging entrepreneurs. This was so fulfilling for him, and I remember him telling me that he spent a lot of time thinking about my business venture and looked forward to our weekly meetings.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

There is so much I can suggest for teens and pre teens that I wish was taught to me!

Find something to belong to. At this vulnerable phase of life, I believe one of the things we want most is to belong and to feel accepted. Our wounding in life typically comes from a subconscious blockage or trauma, from at one time or another feeling rejected for being our authentic self. If we can find a supportive and safe group or cause to belong to at that age, we find purpose, meaning, inspiration and support. All of these things are essential in going forward to make positive changes in the world!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Yes! As I was developing the vision and plan for my business, I asked advice from my brother who, at the time, was in an MBA program in Baltimore. “Should I go back to school and get my MBA?” He responded “Absolutely not, it’s not for you and you don’t need that to start your business, but I’m sending you a book.” A week later “My personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman arrived at my door. This incredible book gave me so much insight on how to prepare for a business, a launch, the customer journey, budgeting, and so much more!

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. 🙂

I would like to start a movement where we reflect back to each other our greatest strengths and what we admire in one another!. This is an activity I conduct regularly with my team at work and it not only inspires and motivates all of us, but it also creates powerful connections and helps us build and nurture our relationships with one another.

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

One of my very favorite quotes is by Rumi; “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” Whenever I live my life this way, it flows because there is no resistance. No matter what it happening and how I might initially perceive it as “good” or “bad,” when I come back to this quote and way of being, I believe that it’s all happening FOR me, rather than TO me.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I can be found on Instagram at my personal account @whitneyyarn and on Sojourn’s Instagram @sojournsandiego

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

Thank you for the opportunity!

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