You need to know where you get energy and what drains you. Developing this type of self-awareness is key to self-management and, ultimately, to achieving a high-performance mindset and accomplishing more during this lifetime.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down to do More” I had the pleasure to interview Katy Kvalvik.
Katy Kvalvik is the creator of the Harmony Method® — a blueprint for work-life harmony — and the founder of Southwestern Empowerment, a company that provides personal and professional development services to transform and inspire today’s leaders. She has been inspiring women and men all over the world to be empowered, lead their best lives, and achieve optimal, lasting results since 2009. Katy is a graduate of UC Berkeley as well as a certified executive coach, board-certified health counselor, certified trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), certified yoga instructor, and business mentor. She is an expert in advanced communication skills for high-stakes conversations and presentations, influence and negotiation, and leadership development.
Katy also speaks about integrative health, including stress reduction, gut health, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue. Katy has been featured on WSMV’s Today in Nashville and NewsChannel 5’s Talk of the Town and has spoken at national conferences such as Wisdom 2.0, Hive Global Leadership Conference, NAIFA Sales Conference, and the Wanderlust Festival circuit. Katy has worked with companies such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Sony, American Express, Beach Body, Singularity University, and tech startups like VideoAmp, Pivot Bio, and MediGram, to name a few.
While she now works with executives, leaders, and creatives to help transform and inspire them to create a positive impact, achieve greater consciousness in their organizations, and maximize optimal business results, Katy previously served as a leader in the medical device industry. She is very aware of the challenges today’s executives, entrepreneurs, and innovators face, which is why she has dedicated herself to helping and inspiring leaders all over the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Over 12 years ago, my life was going exactly according to plan. I graduated from UC Berkeley, was thriving in medical device sales, and was competing in triathlons. My life was completely focused on sports, medicine, and science — and I loved it!
One afternoon, while training on my bike, I was suddenly struck from behind by a car! I had a concussion, a partially torn MCL and ACL in my left knee, my hips were thrown out of alignment, and I had two herniated discs in my spine. Beyond the pain, the doctors told me I would need to relearn how to walk properly, and that I would never be able to run again. In great pain and heavily medicated, I went back to work and began a strict regimen of physical therapy.
Three months into physical therapy, while driving to work, my car was hit from behind. Though I was wearing my seatbelt, the impact of the crash was devastating. My head smashed into the steering wheel, giving me severe whiplash. The doctors had trouble truly diagnosing my injuries this time because I had injuries on top of injuries. They recommended physical therapy several times per week and surgery on my left knee and spine.
Since I couldn’t work out like I used to, I gained a lot of weight. I was also diagnosed with PTSD and started seeing a neurologist and psychologist to deal with anxiety and the aftermath of my concussion.
Regardless of the pain, I continued working, concealing my injuries and my therapy from coworkers. The stress of this deception and the PTSD made daily life very difficult. I was medicated, caffeinated, and running on adrenaline. On the weekends I would crash, spending most of my time alone in bed.
In my weakest moments, when I couldn’t walk that well and it hurt to breathe, I began my journey inward toward self-healing and my future was born.
I quit my job, reclaimed my power, and, for the first time, took charge of my recovery. I refused to sit back and take pills that were prescribed. Instead, I turned on my curiosity and sought out sage advice from ancient healing traditions, traveled around the world, and went back to school to learn more about holistic and integrative strategies. I healed more in the next two months than I had in two years.
This journey of self-discovery took years, a significant amount of money, and tremendous energy.
What I got in return was priceless: I was healed! Not only could I start training again, I now work as an executive coach and facilitator. Most importantly, my business was spawned out of this life-altering tragedy.
The result of this journey is the Harmony Method®. It is a total lifestyle system that provides a step-by-step customized blueprint for work-life harmony. From there, I created Southwestern Empowerment, which helps executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs with integrative leadership performance strategies for themselves, their teams, and organizations. Southwestern Empowerment takes them from functional to high-performance, which creates optimal results in their business and life.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed.” Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
With advancements in technology, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. This cultural phenomenon has created more choices of where to spend your time which I believe has created added distractions and an increase in overwhelm. When I was growing up, cell phones were not as prevalent and we had very little access to computers. Just a few decades ago, people’s lives were more predictable and centered around a consistent routine. Now, the unlimited choices of where to be and how you can become distracted has created this constant sense of being rushed and trying to fit everything in.
Based on your experience or research, can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
When we are rushed we create excess, unwanted stress. If we are feeling rushed all the time, this can turn into chronic stress, which can have a direct effect on your productivity, health, and happiness.
Stress is something we deal with on a daily basis. It’s the body’s natural reaction to any type of change or adjustment that needs a response. And while some stress can be good, most of the time, it affects our life in a negative way if we don’t know how to properly manage it. Did you know that our bodies can view being late to a meeting and being chased by a tiger as the same situation? That’s the effects of stress — especially chronic stress. It’s important to understand stress. It is also important to understand when we need to take a step back or when our stress might be exacerbating an already present condition.
Everything we do is connected to our body’s 11 systems and our hormones. When stress is high, cortisol levels are high. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Research has shown that men and women react differently to high cortisol and stress levels. Men tend to react through a “fight or flight” response, which means they either become aggressive and combative toward the situation (fight), or they want to run and escape (flight). Women, however, often react through a “tend or befriend” response. If they’re able to talk through their issues and have a community and to help out, they better manage their stress.
Understanding stress is also important to maintain sustainable results, prevent burnout, and maintain happiness levels. When our stress levels are consistently high, our body suffers. It can affect our digestive process and the amount of glucose that’s being released into our blood system. It can also cause inflammation, which is the cornerstone of every disease state. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician and New York Times best-selling author, 95% of diseases are either caused by or worsened by stress.
When your cortisol levels rise, your body automatically goes into defense mode to combat the stress it’s facing, which leads to some interesting physical reactions:
- Your blood sugar rises with the release of glucose. Excess glucose turns into fat in the body.
- Excess blood used for digestion flows to the outer extremities of the body. Acid floods into the digestive system to slow down the digestion process and metabolism. When our body digests food, that takes a lot of energy, so it’s trying to divert that energy to help deal with the stress.
- Your blood thickens and collagulates so that if you were bitten, you wouldn’t bleed as much.
- Your heart rate increases and breathing becomes shallow.
- Eyesight goes from peripheral to focal.
- There is a decrease in the serotonin hormone.
- Your immune system slows down.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. In my personal experience and in my experience working with clients, I’ve found the best way to get clarity on goals, decisions, and desired results is to first have a clear vision and a step-by-step strategy for how we will reach our final destination. Instead of only focusing on the goal — or the gross — we need to first slow down and look at the subtle, those small steps and habits that are going to help you create the results you want in both your personal and professional life. We need to have scheduled time to slow down, reflect, and integrate experiences and information from our lives so we are in alignment with our truth as we take daily action.
Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more?” Can you please give a story or example for each?
1- Create Morning & Night Routines
The key to thriving and avoiding burnout is slowing down to create a method and structure that will allow you to achieve sustainable results no matter what is going on in your life. One of the strategies I always recommend is establishing morning and night routines for self-care. This can look different for everyone. Consider starting small by evaluating the first and last 10 minutes as you transition in and out of your day. In the morning, I recommend incorporating easy breathing exercises, stretching, walking, or working out. At night, you can take a hot shower or bath, read a book, journal, and turn off those distracting electronics.
A client once told me he always felt overwhelmed because he had too much to do and no time to think. When I started asking the basic questions around how his day was constructed, I learned it was all over the place and very inconsistent. We were able to start small with a morning and night routine and this structure allowed him to create the time to slow down and plan out how he wanted to spend his time most efficiently.
2- Focus on Your Breathing
When it comes to your morning and night routines, one thing I recommend most often is breathing exercises or meditation. I believe it is vitally important to build time into your schedule to slow down, connect to your breath, and be present.
Not breathing well can make us tired and quick to react. In contrast, by fully expanding your lungs and dropping your breath into your belly (what I call the “360-Degree Breath”) and focusing on elongating your exhale, you’ll not only get your body moving, you’ll also increase the amount of oxygen going into your body, which will naturally heighten your energy levels and help you stay focused for longer periods of time.
I had a client that was battling anxiety, especially whenever he had to be around hospitals, doctor’s offices, or anything to do with medical procedures, from getting this blood taken for basic blood work to his yearly physical. He became aware when he was triggered in these situations that he would have shallow breathing and racing thoughts. I taught him how to breath correctly and to use this tool along with mindfulness to get in front of his anxiety. When he went to the next doctor’s appointment and felt the anxiety coming, he was able to focus on his breath with elongating the exhale and realized that there was nothing to worry about and he was safe. By having this experience, he was able to see from a different lens and shift his belief.
3- Master Your Time Management
Make a plan, then stick to it! A great place to start is by making a to-do list and a won’t-do list. A to-do list is pretty easy, right? It’s prioritizing the things you know you need to get done. Your won’t-do list is just as important, but may not come as easily.
Include things you know will distract you from your to-do list, such as social media, Netflix binging, or online shopping. And don’t forget to include that extra event, dinner, or project you need to say “no” to this month in order to create a healthy boundary and avoid overwhelm. Sometimes, it’s the things on your won’t-do list that allow you to have time to enjoy the rest and play you want to experience in your life.
One of my CEO coaching clients was exhausted and overwhelmed because she was constantly accepting personal invitations and always saying “yes” to new professional opportunities and projects. As a lifelong high-achiever, it was hard for her to simply say “no.” After a few sessions, she was able to release the belief that, by saying no, she was letting people down. She came to understand that by saying a gracious no to one thing, she was able to say a resounding and more energetic yes to something else. This allowed her to make an extremely positive shift in her mindset and establish healthy boundaries in her life. It also gave her more time to be with her family, rest, and set up a much needed self-care routine.
4- Know Your Values to Create Clarity
Doing discovery work on a deeper level creates clarity and strategies around who you are, what you want, and how you are going to get what you want. This makes it easier to prioritize and make decisions. The first step is learning about your values, which create your beliefs. Your values are based on what is most important to you. Understanding your values and what they mean allows you to think and speak with clarity. It minimizes the mind chatter to bring you more into the present moment.
After doing a values assessment of what was most important to me in my career, I realized that my two highest values are empowerment and impact: To empower people to be their best and to create global impact by being at service and giving back. This became a guide for me along with my other values as I made decisions in my career on whom to work with.
5- Practice Deep Listening
Improving your deep listening skills is a way of slowing down that may have the most impact on those around you as well as yourself. When you’re communicating with someone, it is important that you have genuine respect for the other person’s view of the world. All people have different ways of experiencing life and the world around them (different beliefs, values, filters, etc.). By slowing down and listening deeply to understand and respect these differences instead of judging, better and more efficient communication will occur.
You can improve your listening skills by practicing Objective Active and Intuitive Listening. Objective Active Listening is completely focused on the other person; you are actively listening to what they’re saying and simply allowing it to be what it is. When used in a professional environment, Objective Active Listening is very effective for problem-solving and is key for maximizing your results since it allows the listener to see the facts clearly and arrive at a timely and accurate solution.
Intuitive Listening is listening between the lines, tuning in to underlying meaning with all five senses, and being aware of the nonverbal. One of the greatest benefits of Intuitive Listening is that you are more tuned in — better able to understand what the person you’re listening to is trying to say moment by moment and create a deeper connection. Being more in tune with the person you’re speaking with allows you to be more authentic, get to the heart of the matter, or solve the problem at hand more quickly.
I recommend improving your listening skills with low-stake situations, such as speaking to someone in line at Starbucks or at a family barbecue. See how present you can be so it can translate in high-stakes situations too.
6- Rest Hard
Most of us already know how to work hard and play hard. We must also learn how to rest hard to be in a consistent level of well-being. Know and understand how to recharge your battery, slow down, spend time reflecting on and integrating recent lessons learned into your life. Many people will find that being alone or with a loved one and doing something non-strenuous or relaxing will help them feel rejuvenated and ready for their next busy season. Extreme extroverts, by contrast, may be recharged by spending time in social settings or in the community with their friends and family. You need to know where you get energy and what drains you. Developing this type of self-awareness is key to self-management and, ultimately, to achieving a high-performance mindset and accomplishing more during this lifetime.
I also encourage my clients to evaluate how often they turn off within resting hard. It is so important to take breaks throughout the year to truly disconnect and give yourself permission to turn off your social media, text messages, and emails. This shouldn’t be something you plan spontaneously. I recommend planning a time in your calendar every year during which you take a trip (or home vacation) to create a master vision for your life. Going through this process of reflection in a quiet space allows you to access deeper areas of intuition and clarity in order to have total alignment in your life.
How do you define “mindfulness?” Can you give an example or story?
Mindfulness is established by observing one’s awareness in the present moment, and at the same time acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement. It is being unattached to the outcome.
I had a client with road rage who would react every time someone honked, cut him off or he was in traffic. I asked him to start using mindfulness to observe his thoughts before reacting and be curious about them. Instead of reacting to the situation immediately, I asked him to take a breath, observe his thoughts, and become disassociated from the reaction by asking the question, “This is interesting that I am reacting. What am I reacting to?” When he did this exercise the next time someone cut him off on the road and honked at him, he realized that the person must be having a bad day or was in a hurry and that he had a choice not to react to it. He actually had compassion toward the person in the other car.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Mindfulness starts with realizing you have a choice every moment and that you are empowered to respond versus react no matter what is happening. When you react to a situation, you are giving your power away and creating stress in your mind and body. The best way to start using mindfulness is to be aware when something frustrates or makes you angry. Observe and be aware of the anger without judgement. Realize you have a choice every moment what you think and how you feel. Get curious around what a feeling is linked to. Is it a high expectation of the situation (followed by a high disappointment)? Is it something you are blaming on others or a situation you feel victimized by? Or could it be something you need to take responsibility or ownership for?
An example here is when I was healing from my chronic pain. Instead of reacting to the pain, I would observe it without judgement. I would let go of expectations of trying to fix it or to change my current situation. I accepted where my body and mind were at any given moment. By accepting and not pushing to get a result, my body would relax the constriction and let go step by step. I would get relief by doing nothing. All I focused on was my breath, being present, and not judging the situation. This created ease so my nervous system calmed down and I was able to relax.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
Slow down your breath by focusing on elongating the exhale, which will slow down your thoughts. Observe your thoughts without judgement and detach from them. Count your breaths to focus your attention.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
Here are some of my favorite resources around mindfulness tools:
The Secrets of Healing: Meditations for Transformation and Higher Consciousness
- Guided meditations by Adam Plack and Deepak Chopra
Anatomy of Breathing
- Blandine Calais-Germain
- Richard Rosen
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Hanh, Thich Nhat
- Wolf MD PhD, Christiane, Serpa PhD, J. Greg, Kornfield PhD, Jack, Goodman PhD, Trudy
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Slow down to speed up.”
This is a quote I still use almost daily. To move quickly in life sometimes we have to first slow down and meet ourselves where we’re at in a situation and see what is happening from a holistic view. When we do this, we are able to be in tune with our emotions and thoughts, observe the environment, and recognize our current resources in order to more efficiently build a plan to take intentional action consistently.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 create an empowerment movement — one in the field of health and wellness. This movement would empower people with the foundational skills for how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and achieve sustainable results throughout their life so that we can live in a society of prevention and wellness versus a system of disease management.
The other one would be in leadership, specifically in self-leadership skills, so we can influence the next generation of leaders to have more self-awareness, ownership of their results, and to lead from a more heart-centered approach.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!