Tracy Nathanson of ‘Pace of Mind’: “Create routines”

Create routines. This is something I wish I knew years ago, but thankfully I know now and am doing it. When you create a routine, you create predictability which can now be particularly helpful. These last several months, my family and I have gathered together to watch the evening news. While the news hasn’t always […]

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Create routines. This is something I wish I knew years ago, but thankfully I know now and am doing it. When you create a routine, you create predictability which can now be particularly helpful. These last several months, my family and I have gathered together to watch the evening news. While the news hasn’t always been good, it is a time for us to stop what we are doing and gather together.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Nathanson of Pace of Mind.

An avid runner, Tracy founded her practice Pace of Mind in 2019 when she sought to combine her love of being active and the outdoors with traditional counseling. In each 50-minute session, Tracy literally walks forward with her clients to manage stress, address challenges, and overcome obstacles, while learning a more positive way to move through life.

Tracy started her career in television production and got a Masters degree in broadcast journalism at NYU. In her work as an assignment editor and booking producer, she interviewed people from diverse backgrounds and was always drawn to their unique personal narratives. Soon thereafter, Tracy got her MSW from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service and a Post-Master’s Certification in Advanced Clinical Practice from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work.

Tracy is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, relationship issues, life transitions, low self-esteem, career challenges and stress management. Her goal is to provide a fresh way to engage in talk therapy by taking patients off the couch or out of the office and into the fresh air.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

The idea for the company first came to me during a run with friends in Central Park several years ago, but it took me a while to act on it! I have been running my whole life — since my teens — and one of my favorite things has been doing group runs with friends. I have noticed throughout the years that the group runs turn into therapy sessions where we run and talk about our problems. Of course, we take breaks from chatting when we are running up hills! I always feel good after these runs — we are getting good cardio and an endorphin rush combined with unloading to each other and feeling supported. I remember thinking, hey, maybe there is a business here where I can meld my professional life — being a therapist — with my passion — running and walking outside.

I started researching run and talk and walk and talk therapy. I found a few therapists doing it in California, Florida and warmer weather areas but not many doing it in New York. So, I thought, let’s give it a try!

Finding a name for the business was really important. I wanted something that spoke to the mind-body connection. When my brother-in-law Steven came up with the name Pace of Mind, that was it! Having a name really acted as a catalyst and got me moving to launch the business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story.

I always think — how many psychotherapists are working with their clients as the sun is rising? Probably very few, if any! My first walk and talk client was a working mom with two children. This was pre-Covid and she was commuting to her office every day. She had a very busy schedule and asked if we could do our walk and talk sessions before the kids got up and she got her day going. Naturally, I obliged. So I got up while it was still dark and met her when the sun was coming up.

Since we started working together, we have seen some beautiful sunrises walking side by side. I know my client really appreciates getting a mind and body “tune up” in one fell swoop. It feels very efficient. I have other clients with very busy lives who respond really well to this model and most have never had traditional therapy per se. That is really one of the main takeaways. Walk and talk therapy provides a gentle way to try out the waters. It feels less threatening than traditional face to face therapy and moving can be very liberating and help you open up more.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I launched the business offering individual and group walk and talk sessions. The individual sessions were one on one and the group sessions had four to six people maximum. For the groups, I had two types: groups that I co-facilitated with experts (for instance, a nutritionist, a career counselor or a gynecologist) and groups that I led myself. The expert-facilitated groups were popular and well-attended. What I struggled with were groups that I was going to lead individually. These groups focused on more personally-driven topics such as separation and divorce or parenting children with emotional and behavioral challenges.

I had clinical training in both of these areas and thought these groups would take off but they didn’t. In retrospect, I can now see that strangers may have felt uncomfortable sharing such personal information with each other in this type of environment. I have facilitated group therapy sessions in an office setting before and individuals with these issues may feel more comfortable in this setting. I will say though, that one of the groups I lead alone is a big hit. The topic is empty nesting. I will continue to explore new topics and themes for both types of groups.

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?

My amazing, amazing mom who recently passed away helped me in so many ways. She made me do therapy in my early 20s. I was so reluctant but she deeply believed it would help me. I was a child of divorce and had a lot of unresolved and misplaced anger that was turning inward. Therapy felt so validating. Here was someone really listening to me and helping me better understand myself and my actions. Never before had I slowed down to think and understand why I did things and how they affected me and my relationships. It was so eye opening and empowering and really changed my life. This is why I became a therapist years later. I really saw the transformative power of therapy and wanted to share it with others. I have my mom to thank for this.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

During the past nine months, we have seen the Covid pandemic take a huge toll on the psychological and emotional well-being of millions of people around the world. Anxiety and stress levels are at record numbers and many individuals are experiencing isolation and loneliness like never before. It is really hard. It feels very overwhelming and many people I know complain of feeling stuck — literally and figuratively. If you live in a cold weather climate, you are looking at being indoors for the next few months and feeling trapped. Walk and talk therapy gets you outside. It gets you moving. It gets you talking to a trained therapist. It helps you feel less isolated and alone.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

I have six!

Reframe. This is learning how to think about something differently and in a more expansive way. It can be particularly helpful if you have negative thoughts about a situation or event in your life and it is causing you to feel anxious or sad, for instance. If you “reframe” this thought and think about it differently, perhaps you can feel better. Our thoughts are very powerful and can influence the way we feel and the way we act. Don’t you notice if you have positive and hopeful thoughts about something, you feel better?

Be active. Since the pandemic began, I have never seen so many people walking outside and also doing indoor zoom workouts or Peloton for instance. There is a recognition that getting cardio not only is good for your heart and your health, but also good for the mind.

Get outside. Fresh air and vitamin D goes a long way and we know vitamin D helps boost your immunity. Particularly in the winter months with shorter daylight hours, it is important to experience daylight and sunshine to help combat possible Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is a concern that this may be heightened this winter with many already experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness. Hit the pause button every day — at least for a few minutes, and engage in a mindful activity where you can slow down your brain, enhance your focus and be present. This can be as easy as doing a few minutes of deep breathing.

Build or Join a Community. To help address feelings of isolation and loneliness that may feel particularly acute right now, be a part of something. I know for me, being part of a yoga community through Instagram and Zoom classes, has been really helpful during this time.

Create routines. This is something I wish I knew years ago, but thankfully I know now and am doing it. When you create a routine, you create predictability which can now be particularly helpful. These last several months, my family and I have gathered together to watch the evening news. While the news hasn’t always been good, it is a time for us to stop what we are doing and gather together.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Walk and talk therapy. We have seen this greater appreciation of nature and the outdoor culture as indoor spaces and experiences have become more limited and restrictive. People are walking, running, hiking and spending a lot more time outdoors. There are several mental health benefits associated with outdoor exercise such as walking. It can help manage stress, boost your mood, reduce symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and improve your sleep, among other things.

Clients I work with say they find walk and talk therapy easier than they thought it would be in terms of being able to open up and feel comfortable/less intimidated. This may be particularly helpful to men who may tend to avoid therapy because of the negative stigma attached.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

That’s a good question! Here are some of the things I wish someone had told me before I became a therapist.

  1. You can’t fix someone so stop trying and resist the need. There were times early in my career, when it was hard to tolerate my client’s distress so I just wanted to “fix” the problem. I would get into this problem solving mode where I would offer up solutions. I wanted my client to get immediate relief, but of course, I learned that you cannot “fix” someone. You can help someone feel validated, heard, supported and empowered to help themselves and work in tandem with them.
  2. You don’t always have to talk. Listening and listening actively is an integral part of therapy. For someone who likes to talk, this would have been difficult advice to stomach but as a therapist, it is so important to listen. It helps clients to talk aloud and be heard. As a therapist, we help our client clarify their issues and feel less overwhelmed.
  3. Be mindful of your profession when dealing with friends and family. Sometimes my son wants me to be his mother and not put on my “therapist” hat. It is important to know when and where to be a therapist and offer advice, especially if it is unsolicited.
  4. Being a therapist can be emotionally draining and difficult. It has been especially challenging these last several months when I have been working with clients who are in a lot of distress and are feeling lonely and isolated. Walk and talk therapy has definitely been very helpful for them.
  5. You are always going to wonder how your patients are doing after you terminate with them. I wish someone had told me this. I mean, you develop a trusting therapeutic relationship with your client. You have become invested in their journey and share their joys and sorrows through different stages of their lives. You learn to let go.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

I am so glad to hear mental health in that list because it truly is so important, now more than ever. We need to do a better job of destigmatizing treatment and removing some of the taboos that are associated with seeking and getting treatment. In recent years, we have seen celebrities like Michael Phelps and Oprah work hard to bring awareness around mental wellness to all communities. We really need to provide mental health services that are more affordable and accessible to all. I really see walk and talk therapy gaining traction in the coming years as we continue to embrace outdoor culture and see the many benefits gained from this fresh air alternative. I see walk and talk therapy as this active reframe where we are working and walking together on the go to address problems. Thinking on your feet can be freeing and help you see things in a more positive light.

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

You can follow me on Instagram @paceofmindtherapy and on

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