Do something that scares you. Your brain thinks you are going to die whenever you are afraid or feeling anxious. We know logically that we will not, but still this is why people freeze up public speaking, for example. You can teach your brain that fear doesn’t mean death by doing things that scare you. Go to the networking event, go on a date, make the pitch. If you are willing to face your fears, you become less afraid of them, and this is where amazing growth will take place!
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Vikki Louise. Vikki is an Anxiety Expert, Certified Life Coach and host of the F*CK Anxiety & Get Sh*t Done podcast available on iTunes. Using a blend of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, life coaching tools and tough love she teaches people to understand their brain, learn tools on how to rewire their thinking and master their anxiety to get results they want.
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 working in finance and tech for years when I decided to turn my personal development hobby into a career and become a Life Coach. A year later I found myself launching a startup and experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. Except I didn’t really know what was going on and what I could do about it since so much of the dialogue around anxiety and panic are confusing. The more I researched, the more confused I was. Instead I began applying the tools and techniques I had been coaching others with, modifying and adjusting them until I cracked the code. I was able to manage and master my anxiety, let go of the judgement around it, and achieve amazing success by leaning in to my anxiety, not avoiding it, being afraid of it or resisting it. Now I teach others the tools and techniques so they can get the results they want!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was pitching to a group of investors and as I was walking up my anxiety came on so strong that I was not able to think my way out of it (anxiety comes from our thoughts, but often our subconscious thoughts so we need to reprogram our mind around it, which I hadn’t done in preparation!). As I was walking up I remember thinking, I have no other choice but to experience it. And then I started asking myself, how can I change the way I am thinking about this? I was able to see that this anxiety was trying to protect me, it sensed potential danger and was releasing hormones to give me the power to run faster longer, and feel less pain, and I felt my superpowers. I leaned into them. It was SO powerful and the best pitch I have ever given. I blew my mind and now I teach others to do the same!
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?
When I first started as a Life Coach I would turn people down that came to me for coaching on their Anxiety! In my mind it was a serious thing that required medication, therapy and was truly so scary that I couldn’t possibly help someone through coaching. How wrong I was! I look back and think about the people I said no to, or the people that think like me and stay stuck with their anxiety. It is wild to see how wrong I was, the irony is not lost on me!
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?
So many people, truly. I will say my dad. Throughout my whole life he has always offered advice, and support. I remember him telling wise nuggets like “you can be a dustbin lady and be successful if you are the best dustbin lady in the neighborhood” and he ALWAYS taught me not to put off until tomorrow what can be done today. He is an inspiration, I love that I get to have him as my dad.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Schedule your time off first and commit to it no matter what. There is always another email, client, and opportunity. They are never ending. So you have to decide ahead of time when to stop ahead of time. This is magic as it will also motivate you to do the work in the time you set and not procrastinate if you know you have a concert that evening, or you are seeing friends you love. I would also recommend starting your day with your first hour tech free, just for you. I stretch, do yoga, self-coach and walk before switching my phone on. YOU are your biggest priority, start your day like that and it is easier to remember later when it comes to closing your computer and stepping away from work.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Everything stems from the top — people will not do as you say, they will do as you do. You have to lead by example and remember everyone is looking at you. If you want a culture of openness, creativity, hard work and fun — then be sure to behave that way. It is like an adult telling children not to swear and swearing in front of them. That child will swear! I would also say empower your employees — people show up differently when they believe they can have an impact!
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.
Yes, I love this!
1. Pen to paper — we have so many thoughts each day (over 70,000), mainly in our subconscious. This is why we can get “Angry” or “Anxiety” seemingly out of nowhere. Give yourself time to sit with your thoughts. It can be ten minutes. I recommend putting pen to paper, but if you love typing, do that. Just be sure to let them out. We need to get to know our subconscious thoughts before we can change them.
2. Switch off your tech! Start and end your day with tech free time. Our brains are not built to be around technology. Our brains are built to keep us alive in the wild. This is why waking up and scrolling Instagram, or falling asleep to Netflix, is creating more anxiety, poorer sleep and less focus.
3. Move your body — I really recommend people do light movement that our bodies were built to do. It can be walking, stretching or yoga. Our bodies do so much for us, give something back. It also allows you to practice being present with your body which benefits your mind!
4. Practice constraint. I teach this to people when it comes to setting goals but really it applies to all areas of our life. Decision anxiety — too much choice, indecision, inaction. You can make decisions ahead of time and focus. This can mean prioritizing one goal at a time (e.g. drink less, then eat less), or writing the one thing you want to get done each day as a priority. This can also show up in fashion, food, travel, and so many areas of your life — we see it with Mark Zuckerberg wearing the same clothes. It frees your mind up for more of what you want to create in the world and stops spinning out over indecision over menial things.
5. Do something that scares you. Your brain thinks you are going to die whenever you are afraid or feeling anxious. We know logically that we will not, but still this is why people freeze up public speaking, for example. You can teach your brain that fear doesn’t mean death by doing things that scare you. Go to the networking event, go on a date, make the pitch. If you are willing to face your fears, you become less afraid of them, and this is where amazing growth will take place!
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.
It is really similar to what I said with the five steps! I would add to be part of a community and be around people. If you are used to getting most of your social interactions through work, be sure to find ways to get out there and meet people. Loneliness impacts your mental health!
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?
It really comes down to trying new things, being curious, being willing to explore and build trust in yourself. Many teens are still in a stage of trying to fit in with friends so doing things they don’t really want, trying to please parents so choosing career choices they don’t really want, and really focusing on everything outside of them.
This is absolutely a time to focus on yourself — what do you want to do? And if you do something and then decide you don’t like it, move forward.
I also recommend dreaming big. Your future is your property. You set the limits to what is possible.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Eckart Tolle, The Power of Now. The concept of the watcher of the mind, literally blew my mind. We are not our mind and knowing that releases so much judgement, which saves so much time!
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. 🙂
Smile to strangers. I would always say that — smiles are contagious. Many things are contagious actually, so let’s make more smiles!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Confusion is an illusion!! I love it — I remember sitting in indecision about whether to become a therapist, life coach, counsellor… when really, I was just afraid to make that leap into pursuing my passion. For those of you reading this, if you feel confused, what is really going on?
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About the author:
Beau Henderson, editor of Rich Retirement Letter and CEO of RichLife Advisors LLC, is a best-selling author, national tv/radio resource, and retirement coach/advisor, with over 17 years’ experience. Beau is a pioneer in the strategy based new model of holistic retirement planning. He can be followed on Facebook here or on Instagram here