Self-inquiry- Don’t be afraid to question your beliefs, especially the ones that you hold dear. Ask yourself: How do I know this to be true? Is this belief moving me towards healing and wholeness or away from it? What am I willing to commit to in order to gain more self-knowledge?
Asa part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracee Stanley.
Tracee Stanley is the co-founder of Empowered Wisdom Yoga Nidra School, Author of Radiant Rest and Empowered Life Self-Inquiry Oracle Deck. As a radiance advocate, Tracee is on a mission to help people explore their birthright to deep rest and awakened clarity that comes from the spiritual practice of Yoga Nidra.
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?
I was lucky enough to discover yoga at the same time that I started a career in the film industry over 20 years ago. I quickly realized that I was able to stay calm in the midst of chaos and remain energized and focused even during long days of filming. The more I studied yoga, the more I recognized its healing potential and decided to become a yoga teacher.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’ve never really looked at yoga as a career, but more of a path. The most interesting thing that I have realized along the way is that no matter who we are- A list movie star or a grocery clerk, we all have the same fears and desires for happiness, safety, and the ability to thrive.
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?
True Story: I was working in the film business and we were all a buzz because we were going to go a movie with the great Marlon Brando. I was standing in the reception area talking to a co-worker and the phone was ringing and ringing. The receptionists weren’t at the desk. I was busy and feeling rushed but I couldn’t’ let the phone just keep ringing so I answered it. A man was on the other end, and I couldn’t really hear him, so very annoyed I was saying hello, hello? Finally, he spoke up and asked my name. I said” Tracee. He said: Patience? Me: No, Tracee Him: Patience? Then he paused. “it’s Marlon Brando’. My take away — cultivate more patience!
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?
The greatest mentor in my life has been my father. It was by his example of hard work and creativity as an entrepreneur that I have always been inspired. He always told me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. When he first opened his own insurance agency in the late early 80’s it was unheard of for a Black insurance salesman to open his own agency. Many people at the company he worked for told him he would fail. He believed in his capacity for success and was not willing to let others limiting beliefs dictate what was possible for him. He envisioned his success and he created a path towards it. This is the lesson I carry with me and share it with others in my coaching and teaching.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Rest. Rest. Rest! This applies to everyone. We have to reclaim our birthright to deeply rest. Not just on vacation, but on a daily basis. Whether it is 15 minutes or longer, giving ourselves permission to get still, letting the full weight of our body be supported and close our eyes for a period of time is important. During the time of lockdown many people realized just how exhausted they were when they were forced to be still. Hopefully, we have all realized the power of rest and that we can actually be more efficient when we are rested. Practicing yogi techniques like Deep Relaxation or yoga nidra are very effective at providing deep rest in 15–20-minute sessions.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
To have a mission statement that includes diversity, inclusivity, and a safe work environment for all. Leaders should hold themselves accountable to live up to the goals and intentions that they have set and encourage others to speak up when they see things slipping without fear of being punished. To create a workplace that fosters collaboration as opposed to competition. Acknowledging those who work with you and letting them know that you see their value and potential. Being honest and kind.
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.
- Improve your sleep hygiene. Set a consistent time to go to bed each night and stick to it.
- Daily Mini-Reset Practice. Set three alarms morning, afternoon and evening. When the alarm goes off take 3 minutes to focus on your breath. Watch the navel rise and fall. Feel the breath becoming smooth and even. Do this 3 times per day to reset the nervous system and clear the mind.
- Morning Gratitude. Remembering what you have to be grateful for is a powerful way to begin your day. Upon waking, spend 3 minutes writing list of what you have to be grateful for.
- Compassion- Developing a practice of compassion first for yourself and then for others will help you to heal and to become a source of healing for others.
- Self-inquiry- Don’t be afraid to question your beliefs, especially the ones that you hold dear. Ask yourself: How do I know this to be true? Is this belief moving me towards healing and wholeness or away from it? What am I willing to commit to in order to gain more self-knowledge?
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.
Many people that I have worked with who are in retirement either know exactly what they want to do with their time and are excited or they are fearful of the unknown. The most important part of retirement is planning. Not just for finances but how you will use your energy and time which are our most valuable resources. What I have noticed most is when people feel rudderless ( at any age) they seem to be more prone to anxiety and depression. As we get older there may be a sense of running out of time to do all the things that we want to do. If we have been overly identified with our job it may be hard to let go because we feel that we have lost a part of ourselves. I believe that we all have a life’s purpose that is most times different from your career. If we can gain clarity around our purpose then that will inform how we can spend our time and energy in retirement with things and people that are nurturing, bring us joy, and allow us to be of service in some way. When live a life of purpose it doesn’t matter if we are a CEO or retired, we are fulfilled, and that allows us to thrive.
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?
Teens have such busy schedules and social lives. There is a lot of busyness and not a lot of time for self-reflection. I feel that this pace of life with social media and constant distraction sets a pace for our nervous system that is unhealthy. Teens need time and space for stillness and quiet, to be able to process difficult emotions and experiences. Time in nature is important. Having a way to release built-up energy through yoga, exercise, dancing or hiking is great. Keeping a journal has also been an invaluable resource for many teens I have worked with. Learning to meditate or practice deep relaxation techniques is very helpful as it can teach kids how to self-regulate and bring themselves into a place of balance when they are feeling anxious and stressed.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman was a life-changing book for me in my early twenties. It shifted my perspective on how I saw life and my birthright to be joyful independent of circumstances. Shortly after reading the book, I found myself in a foreign country where I had been living for months. Everything that I owned had been stolen including everything that I had been tirelessly working on for months. But instead of being devastated, I knew that the loss of everything had no bearing on my intrinsic value. I had an inner wealth that no one could steal. And in fact the experience was a gift that changed the course of my life and lead me to yoga and a career in Hollywood as a filmmaker.
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 feel like I am already part of the movement of Rest as a practice. I teach these practices of Deep Relaxation and yoga nidra to people all over the world and they share them with their friends and family. There are many others out there teaching about the need for Rest and doing less. That is the movement, it’s happening now.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorites are not quotes but questions, because inquiry into our own truth is powerful.
What three lessons are you tires of learning?
Once I answered that question I created a plan to remind how not to keep learning them and dug deep to figure out why I had to keep learning them.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Follow me at @tracee_stanley on instagram or traceeyoga.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!