132 Transcript: Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom (with Stephanie Dalfonzo)

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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 132. We'll be talking about stress and anxiety and how to lower the cortisol levels in your body so you have less stress and anxiety and so you can sleep better. Stay tuned.

Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.

J: Hey there, what's happening? Welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm Jen Riday, thank you for tuning in to another episode. How is it going? How are you doing? You know, the kids are back in school, it is October, that means maybe you're starting to feel a little more balanced. And fall is here in the US; that's kind of fun. The leaves are falling, I'm thinking about pumpkins pulling out my Halloween decorations, how about you? I just want to thank you for tuning in and making your happiness and your high vibe life a priority. Sometimes we get stuck in feelings of burnout and overwhelming, exhaustion and we don't feel like we get to choose what we're doing. But I want to remind you that we can consciously choose our life, we can consciously choose what we're going to do. Maybe that includes letting go of having too much stuff or maybe that means saying no to all those opportunities that want to fill up your calendar. Maybe it means you're not going to clean all the house anymore and you're going to let your spouse and kids figure it out. Whatever it is, I am here to support you and I want to celebrate all of the effort you're putting in; well done, you rock.

Well, we have another great episode today and I'm bringing on Stephanie Dalfonzo and we're going to talk about how to reduce stress and anxiety in your life and how there is a relationship between cell phone use, smartphone use and teenage and young college adult anxiety. It's kind of getting crazy, so we're going to talk about all those things, how you can model being less anxious for your kids and how it's going to make a difference down the line. I'm so excited to talk about that today.

I want to give a shout out to Danielle Mendoza who left our review of the week. She wrote, “I found Jen during a dark time in my life. I searched on my podcast app for happiness because that's what I needed more of, Vibrant Happy Women did not disappoint. The stories of real women overcoming struggles (sometimes similar to my own) are so empowering. In my experience with the Vibrant Happy Women club small groups has given me a way to work through the muck of life with other women who are in the thick of it too. As I strive to break free from depression anxiety and overwhelm toward higher vibrational living, I am so grateful for the tools and insights Jen has led me to throughout 2018. If someone told me last January that by August, I would be spending 16 plus hours a week on self-love and care, homeschooling my kids, spending quality time with my husband, rescuing kittens and creating a successful purpose driven business all at the same time, I would have scoffed at the insanity. But I'm here doing it, creating the life I want to live with the heart filled with gratitude and love, moving through life with a deepened inner peace. My husband has noticed it, my kids have noticed it, and it's starting to rub off on them, which is an amazing feeling to know I've given them that gift, all because Jen and Vibrant Happy Women gave it to me. From my soul to yours, thank you,” Danielle, my friend, thank you for leaving that review; thank you for those kind words. You know, my life has been the hectic and busy with my own kids this past few months, but it means a lot to be reminded that what this podcast is all about is making a difference. Danielle, want to give you a little bit of advice back, and that is this, remember, you can never be abandoned if you hold on to yourself, and all of the Vibrant Happy Women are here to lift you up. For everyone else listening, if you would like to leave a review and share your thought about how Vibrant Happy Women has changed your life, I would love to read them; I read every single review. You can leave yours by going to jenriday.com/itunes, i t u n e s.

So let's talk more about today's episode. We're talking about anxiety and stress and I wanted to share an interesting story. My husband and I started out our life like most married couples sharing a bed, and sometimes that went fine, sometimes it didn't because I found my husband struggles with insomnia. He can get very stressed, his sleep is very fitful and broken into chunks and it affected my sleep. So the more kids we had, the more I valued my sleep more than sharing a bed. So to this day at this time, we continue to sleep in separate beds because my husband continues to struggle with anxiety. Now with the stress of our kids in the past several months, his anxiety has definitely increased. He has become anxious of flying, he is stressed and anxious at home, and he is doing everything he can to fix that situation and we are trying to support him. It's been an interesting journey because we've all learned some things along the way. Number one, my husband, who never wanted to try meditation when I suggested it all of these years, went to a therapist and she suggested meditation. So when he's at his most stressed, we can find him playing a guided meditation and relaxing. And it really helps because, look, meditation is a way to breathe deeply and bring your mind back to the present, to help lower those cortisol levels in our bodies.

When you're really stressed and when you're constantly going and never taking care of yourself, that cortisol threshold, that anxiety threshold gets really high. It's kind of like pulling a rubber band really, really, really, really tight, and then if anything happens, that rubber band just snaps. And we don't want to live that way so we've got to build in these regular daily practices, these routines of bringing that stress level down. So that's why I tell you guys to meditate, to breathe, even if it's a walking meditation or yoga or that journaling, anything to slow the mind and bring it back to the present is so helpful.

The fun about him starting meditation this year is that our kids are doing more of it as well. When our kids can't sleep and my husband has put them to bed, sometimes he will take his phone and play them a guided meditation app and it knocks them out way faster, which is a bonus because more quiet time for us. Now, some people might say, “Oh, Jen you and your husband are sleeping in separate beds, oh my gosh!” Well, you know, we still enjoy that physical intimacy piece, our marriage is better than ever and a lot of that has to do with getting enough sleep because sleep is even at a time when our cortisol levels go down. Our bodies metabolize that cortisol and anxiety stress feelings when we're sleeping, so it's all related.

Well, anyway, we're going to be talking a lot about stress and anxiety in this episode and this matters to you because I know you don't want to feel overwhelmed and stressed all the time because then you're more likely to snap at your kids or your spouse, you don't feel balanced. So how do we bring it down? Well, my guest on this episode, Stephanie Dalfonzo, shares some great strategies. In fact, she wrote an entire book about all of these strategies, which you can hear about in the episode, but she also shares several of her favorite stress and anxiety reduction strategies right here in this interview.

Let me tell you a little bit more about Stephanie. Stephanie's first career was as a DJ in the 80s and early 90s, and after her last radio job, her anxiety kicked into overdrive and led her into full-blown insomnia. So she began researching and studying everything about anxiety. And now, 20 years later, she is an anxiety expert, a hypnotist, a yoga and meditation teacher, speaker, and she's written this great book, ‘Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom’. And so you're going to love this episode. Everyone can benefit, even if you don't feel like you're diagnosed with anxiety, we all have stress levels that can be lowered so we can feel more calm and peaceful in our lives. In this episode, you're going to learn some strategies to bring that stress and anxiety down, how social media and internet use is causing a huge increase in anxiety levels for teens and young College adults, an easy way to start a meditation practice without having to meditate 20 minutes every morning and night (something more doable), and why it's critical that we consciously choose our thoughts and our life right now; not being victims of our circumstances, but making an empowered choice for how we actually want to feel and much, much more. So without further ado, I would love to dive into this episode with you and we'll go ahead and jump right in.

My guest today is Stephanie Dalfonzo and she empowers women to say, “Goodbye anxiety, hello freedom.” Her first career was as Stevie Knox, a popular radio DJ during the 80s and early 90s, and after her last radio job, her anxiety kicked into overdrive and became full-blown insomnia. Stephanie began researching holistic natural and scientifically proven approaches to anxiety. And now, over 20 years later, Stephanie is an anxiety expert speaker, clinical hypnotist, and yoga and meditation teacher. Those are all really great things for dealing with anxiety so I'm really excited to talk about those. Welcome to the show, Stephanie.

S: Thank you, Jen, I'm really looking forward to having this conversation with you.

J: Thanks for being here, and let's start off with a favorite quote you want to share with us today.

S: Okay, I have to stretch it and share 2 because they go hand-in-hand. The first is, “Bloom where you're planted,” and the second one is from Abraham Lincoln, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

J: Ah.

S: And I see them as going together, you know, so hand-in-hand because, you know, “Bloom where you're planted,” we can't control what's going on around us, right, but what we can control is whether we react or respond to things. And most of us are in react mode where it's, you know, “Ugh! Ugh!” And so, okay, I choose, I live like conscious choice, so that's why I had to really get both of those quotes in there.

J: Hmm, yeah, choosing it, “Bloom where you're planted, be as happy as you want to make up your mind to be.” Well, take us back to that low point. I mean, you're on the probably flying high as Stevie Knox the DJ, super popular and then you get anxiety, oh my gosh, what happened? Tell us about it.

S: Well, and it's interesting because I didn't get the anxiety, I had this awakening, this… you know, it was definitely a low point where I didn't realize I'd been struggling with anxiety my entire life.

J: Really?

S: But my low point… yeah, my low point was my last radio job was doing the morning show. So my kids were young, my son was still in diapers, I was getting up at 3:30 in the morning. You know, this insomnia just took over my life and I found myself smashing a bag of Cheetos in my kitchen with my 2 small kids, “Mommy, please, stop!” because that, you know, junk food was like such a special treat. And it was just because I had lost control, you know, I had no sleep. And anybody who's ever dealt with insomnia like you know, oh my gosh, it's just… you can't function. And so here I am smash, smash, smash on this bag of Cheetos and we did what most people do; I went to the doctor and got a prescription, and it worked for a short time and then it stopped. And that was like, oh my gosh, it just was even worse because now, it was, “What if I… what if I take the pill and it doesn't work?” and, “Oh my gosh! What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” And so that's when I was like, “Okay, I have to find a way out of this,” and, you know, the doctor was like, “Well, yeah, insomnia is, you know, hand-in-hand with anxiety,” I didn't know that. This constant current of, “(Screeching sound)!” running in the background was all I ever knew, and so I didn't know that this wasn't quote-unquote ‘normal’. So this was in 1995 and if you think about, you know, where we were with the internet, that was like the beginning of the internet. There was no Google so, you know, my research was buying magazines and books and going to the library to try and find, you know, how can I start living life the way I wanted to because I was not living life the way I wanted to, you know, when I'm smashing a bag of Cheetos into oblivion. You know, most of us wouldn't, you know, hold that up as a badge of honor, you know? (Laughs)

J: Right, right.

S: But when you don't have that sleep, it was really like was hard to function. And then when I started realizing, oh boy, you know, I can experience peace, I can experience life without that constant, you know, current in the background, that was heaven!

J: Mm-hmm. So you were getting up super early, I suppose, were you a morning DJ?

S: The last job I did was as a morning DJ so, you know, that's why I was getting up in the middle of the night. And I can remember, we lived out in Oregon at the time and I can… you know, I had to try and go to bed early, which was very difficult. And out in Oregon, it gets light… it gets dark later than it does; I live on the East Coast now. So, you know, it wouldn't get dark till like 9:30, 10:00 o'clock during the summers and, you know, how silly, you know, neighborhood kids, how dare they, they were outside in the cul-de-sac playing and I'm yelling at them to be quiet because I'm trying to sleep, you know? And like I look back on that now, I was like, “Oh my gosh,” you know, I just was desperate for any kind of sleep that I could get.

J: Yeah. So what happened? I mean, you're not sleeping, you try this pill, it didn't work for long, what happened next?

S: So I totally believe in God incidents, not coincidence.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: That things happen, you know, for a reason. And, again, it’s the mid-nineties, you know, think about it, it was cutting edge technology to be on a teleclass, you know, on the corded telephone.

J: (Laughs)

S: And I'm on this… right! Right? Here we are doing this podcast, you know, over the Internet.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: And back then, we still had the corded phones and, you know, it was like, “Whoa, I'm on this… this teleclass.” And this Stanford trained engineer (so he's, you know, a real brainiac) is talking about this new technique that he's come up with called emotional freedom techniques; now a lot of people call it tapping. And it's like acupuncture without needles and it was absolutely a lifesaver for me because it helped me learn how to sleep again. And then Gary Craig, who was the founder, has always said, “Try it on everything,” and so I did. So, oh, you know, I started being able to calm myself down, you know, when things would start getting, “Ah!” you know, I would do this tapping and it would start calming things down. So now, I'm a stay-at-home mom, I have discovered this incredible amazing self-help technique and I'm telling people about it and their eyes are glazing over, their like, “(Gasp) Okay, Steph!” you know?

J: (Laughs)

S: And people like just thought I was absolutely crazy, but it worked. And so once I started down that path and I found something that worked, it was like, “Ooh, what else is there out there?” And so, you know, one thing has led to another and to another and to another, and the more ways that I find there are to… you know, to be able to regulate your emotions to help yourself create life the way you want it to, the more I find out, you know, they're out there. That's why in my book, I have 35 different strategies and techniques because one size doesn't fit all. So I had a hypnosis practice for 10 years and I would always teach the tapping to clients. And I had a handful of clients over the years who, you know, weren't into the tapping or felt like it didn't work for them. So if that's all I have for them, I wasn't going to be able to help them. And, you know, whether it's with my clients or even in my own life, I don't do just one thing to be able to live this vibrant happy life that I want, I'm constantly, you know, I practice yoga, you know, not every day, but, you know, I'd say average 4 or 5 times a week I'm doing a yoga practice at a studio. I'm doing meditation and gratitude and essential oils. So I'm doing all of these different things because, again, I don't believe that one size fits all and I know, for me, the tapping was… you know, it was life saving for me! And yet I started to learn there were so many other ways as well.

J: Well, for those who don't know about EFT tapping, I've heard tons about it and I've done it, just give us a quick rundown of what that is so people aren't thinking, “What is that?” (Laughs)

S: Yeah. So it is like acupuncture without needles. And acupuncture obviously works because it's been around for thousands of years, but with the acupuncture, you need to call the acupuncturist and make an appointment and then drive across town to get there. In the moment, that doesn't help you, but when you can temp on specific tapping points, and you can just do a Google search of EFT, and if you put EFT and my name in, you'll find there's videos and podcasts I've done about how to do the EFT, where the points are. And so say you're really stressed or anxious about something, then you're tapping saying, “You know, even though I have this stress or even though I have this anxiety, whatever, I completely accept myself and choose to let it go.” And then you're tapping different points as a sequence, but, you know, it's you don't… like, if you miss a point in the sequence, it doesn't mean it's not going to work, it just means you missed a point in the sequence. Each of these points is correlated to different specific emotions. And so the beauty of EFT, emotional freedom techniques or tapping, is you can tap these points, it doesn't matter what the issue is, you tap these points, you're going to get relief; it is absolutely astounding.

There's a woman I'm working with now who is in the lead in a theatre performance which is opening in a couple of nights and, you know, we took her… her, “Ah!” about, you know, opening night from like an 8 down to a 0 just through doing this tapping. And so it's something that I can do with her and then she can take it and make it her own and she can do it on her own. So there are tapping scripts, just like your hypnosis scripts, and I don't advise those because it's a, you know, one-size-fits-all approach and everybody, like with anxiety, everybody experiences it differently.

J: Mm-hmm, that's true.

S: Right?

J: Yeah.

S: So, you know, when you're doing it on your own and you're talking about, you know, the ‘in the moment’ issues, that's great. And yet, when you want to get into like the real, you know, healing levels, you really need to have somebody experienced to guide you through that, to help you through that because, you know, I go… I have gone to so many different healers and coaches and, you know, over the years because I can't work on my own stuff.

J: Right, right. So backing up, Stephanie, you said you never knew you had anxiety, so how did you not know, you know? And maybe there's others listening who don't really realize they have anxiety, so tell us more about identifying that.

S: Yeah, and I would venture to say that there are definitely people listening that are like, “Oh, maybe I do have this and I didn't know it,” because it's what you know, alright? I have seen this so many times now that, many times, anxious parents create anxious kids, right? So my mother was incredibly, incredibly anxious and, you know, she was wound tighter than, I think, anybody I've ever known. And so this is what I knew. I didn't know that you could have, you know, peace and calm and, you know, like happiness more than just like, you know, little glimpses here and there. And so when that's all you know, when you don't know another way… you know, again, this client that I just mentioned, she's spent so much time with the… you know, the what-ifs, the what-ifs, the what-ifs. Seth Godin had a great quote about anxiety saying that he defines anxiety as experiencing failure in advance. So with… you know, with this client, you know, she was experiencing failure, she was experiencing that she was going to mess up on opening night in advance. And then unfortunately, many times, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, for me as the radio DJ, you know, I always felt like it was… you know, I was never good enough. You know, I would… could listen back to what… I assumed they still do it these days, but back in those days, we would sit down with the program director and they would have a recording where they weren't recording the songs, it was just every time the mic was live. And so you'd sit down with your program director and they would say, you know, “Here, you're, you know, not doing the best job here and you could do this better.” And of course I was only hearing that, you know, how bad I was, how I messed up and all of that. And so when I started to understand that this was like my modus operandi, that was like my habituated pattern was of, you know, “Oh my gosh, what if I mess up? What if I mess up?” well, that's… you know, that's living in the future instead of coming into the present moment. And I know that you're also really into yoga, so much of what I've learned is through yoga and meditation is about coming into the present moment.

J: Mm-hmm, being mindful.

S: You know?

J: Not in the past, not in the future, right.

S: Right, and that's not always easy. It was certainly not easy for me at the beginning when, you know, I was spending so much time, “What if? What if? What if?” I could ‘what if’ with the best of them. So when I started to learn, “Okay, come into the present moment,” one of the greatest gifts that my yoga mentor ever gave me was when I said, you know, about meditation, I was like, “Oh, you know, when do you know you finally have it?” she said, “You're just looking for 8 seconds of bliss.”

J: Mm, mm-hmm.

S: I was like, “I like that! 8 seconds, I think I can do 8 seconds. I know I can't do 20 minutes, but I might be able to do 8 seconds,” and that was just… that gave me such a relief. And so, you know, for anybody who's listening who has that ‘What if? What if?’ mind or has, you know, the experience of having a rough time meditating or, you know, if you go to a yoga class and at the end, Savasana, for many people, that is the hardest pose because our physical bodies slow down and our minds, “Woo! Off to the races.” But if you imagine that mind going off to the races as a 2-year-old, the 2-year-old starts running away, you just gently say, “Oh, come on back, come on back,” and so as your mind starts, you know, “(Running sound)”, just, “Oh, okay, I notice you,” and then come back to your breath and come back into the present moment.

J: Yes. And I feel like with social media these days, we are… I don't know, maybe not increasingly, but a lot of us are not living in the present moment at all, we're living in a virtual moment that looks good from our friends house, you know? And so I just feel like anxieties on the rise. I believe with teenagers, it's up 4 times what it used to be at one time; it's significantly higher.

S: Yeah, it's absolutely we're experiencing crisis levels with our teens and young adults. There was a study a year ago of 63 thousand college students.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: 61% of them said they had felt overwhelmed anxiety in the past 12 months; that's crazy. And this is where, you know, I'm certainly going to date myself now that when my daughter, who's 29 now, when she was 4 years old, the neighbor boy down the street, the little 6-year-old boy, had one of the very first handheld video games.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: And I was like, “Ah, that's not good. I think there's something not right about that.” And then I saw the advent of, first, it was like live journal in Myspace where the kids were online and, you know, my daughter's friends called me ‘stalker mom’ because I was making sure to look at what she and her friends were putting because they're putting their lives out online.

J: Yes.

S: And I was like, “Oh, this is not good.” And now, I see you go out to a restaurant and you see a young family at the table and mom and dad are looking at their phones, they have a little tablet with a movie playing for the baby in the highchair and the toddler next to them. And, you know, I think the pendulum at some point needs to start coming back because I do see a direct correlation between all the technology and the incredible crisis levels of stress, anxiety, and depression in our kids.

J: Mm-hmm, I see it too. And I kind of get the sense the pendulum has just started to swing back this year, just my sense from things I see online and how my own clients are spending less time online and I think it's so great. I'm excited to see… (Laughs) one day, I think we're all going to say, “Wow, that was like all the people who started smoking in the 20s,” yeah.

S: Yeah.

J: We’re going to have a surgeon general's warning for the internet because I think it's been really dangerous.

S: Well, there's on a conference called Wisdom 2.0 that’s at… they held out in San Francisco every year. I haven't gotten out to the west coast for this yet, but they had this event last year in New York City and they're having it again this fall called Mindfulness in America. And they bring together leaders of the mindful movement, so Sharon Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn, you know, all these mindfulness experts, but then they also bring the technology experts too. And Tony Fadell who was the inventor of the iPod (you know, remember that first thing we it was just for the music?) and he also helped develop the first 3 generations of the iPhone.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: So this man is like the father of the iPhone and he is saying they're addictive, there's issues with them. Last year he's saying this and he's saying, you know, the platforms they need to be putting in ways to minimize it and to limit your time online, and he said, “You know, I'm worried that my grandkids are going to be, ‘Yeah, you know, my grandfather's the one who ruined our society,’”

J: (Laughs) Yes! I kind of wonder about it, you know; it’s crazy.

S: But, you know, Jen, let's talk about something that's crazy. I'm sitting in this auditorium with, I don't know how many hundreds of people, listening to them and this was not just from Tony Fadell, it came up again and again through the whole day about how addictive it is and how literally, it's intentionally addictive, right? All those, the little notifications, you know, every time you hear that sound, it's giving you a dopamine hit.

J: Right.

S: And with any addiction, the more dopamine hits you get, the more you want, the more you crave.

J: Right.

S: And I'm sitting there and I thought, “I have a very different relationship with my phone.” My phone makes one sound, it's a nice little soft Zen chime, “Jing!” if somebody's actually calling me to chat on the telephone.

J: Right.

S: Other than that, I don't have any of those notifications.

J: Right, that's awesome; that's so good. Well, there's an app for those with a smartphone that does have things. Of course we turn the notifications off, but I just found out about an app called Moment and it's a little time tracker. So you can program in how many hours you want to be on your phone today or how many minutes or whatever and it works really well for teens too. But as soon as you've gone over that time, it just starts notifying you, “You're at this many minutes, you're at…” (Laughs) and it's really cool. You'll be shocked how many… you know, mine was in the hours actually because I have this online business, but I'm bringing it down, you know, I'd like it to get it into minutes. (Laughs)

S: Well, and as online business owners, it's really… you know, like we have to straddle that because, “Okay, I have this online business so I have to be online,” and yet, I think Facebook just came out with something to where you can… it will notify you how much time you're spending on Facebook.

J: Ah!

S: You know, and there will be more and more. I think there are more of the apps that are coming out with this, but I wrote this Moment down; I like that. And I would just encourage everybody who's listening to maybe think about, “Hmm, could I turn off some of these notifications or could I get this Moment app?” I had a client once where I asked her if she could take 7 days and turn off all her notifications except for if somebody was actually calling her on the phone, and she choked like, “(Gaps)!” it was too much. I said, “Okay, well, how about 3 days, could you do 3 days?” and she was like, “I don’t know; I’ll try.” It was very interesting for her because she… the one she left on was not for the phone ringing, it was for texts.

J: Oh, interesting.

S: (Laughs). Yeah, which I did think was interesting because I see that so much with kids, with kids and young adults that, you know, they are texting so much more than they're actually having voice conversations, but to have, you know, 50 years, 60 year old woman saying, “Oh no, you know, I'm going to leave the text on and turn the phone off,” I thought was interesting.

J: That is interesting. Huh, a 50 or 60 year old, because I could see it with a high schooler, but… hmm.

S: Oh yeah!

J: Hmm. Well, so let's take a quick break for our sponsor, Stephanie, and then we're going to come back and talk about some of your favorite things, including your favorite life hack; this will be great.

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[Interview resumes] [31:33]

J: Alright, welcome back. Stephanie, let's talk about your favorite things, starting with your favorite life hack.

S: So I love that question; thank you so much, Jen. My favorite life hack I would say is conscious choice. And it ties right back into my favorite quotes at the beginning of, “Bloom where you're planted,” and, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” because it's… you know, it's come with years of experience and wisdom that when we live life with a conscious choice or at least, for me, it's like, oh it's so much better. It's not letting life happen to me, you know, which is I think how a lot of us do live where it's, you know, “Okay, you know, this is happening,” and we feel like it's out of our control. And yet when we consciously choose to respond instead of react, like that is such a huge distinction between reacting and responding. We… science now, I'm so excited that, you know, science now proves that, you know, we have these old neurons, these neuron patterns in our brains and it's our habits, our habitual behaviors. And we can start doing new neural patterns and they will become our new habits. So if the old pattern is, you know, “This happens and I freak out. This happens and I freak out,” well, we start with, “This happens and I choose to take a breath instead. This happens and I choose to do the tapping instead. This happens and I choose to use essential oils on a regular basis to help me regulate my moods.” Then we start gilding up those new neural pathways that becomes the new habit. And so like it's so exciting to me, they've done all kinds of research on this and they have fMRIs, I forget what the words stand for, but they’re scan of the brain where they can actually see, you know, when this is happening, what part of your brain is lighting up. And so simple studies like they, you know, have 2 groups of people. One simply imagines that they're using their first, you know, their index finger and pulling on a spring; and they're just imagining, they're not actually moving their finger. And then the other group is actually pulling on this spring with their index finger. And a week later, they go and measure the muscle strength, and the ones who are only imagining it, also have increased muscle strength in that finger just from imagining it.

J: Wow, that's awesome! I haven't heard that one.

S: Yeah, yes! There was another study about housekeepers at hotels and they were all, for the most part, overweight. And they split them into 2 groups and they told half, you know, the one group, half of them that, “Well, do you know that by flipping these mattresses and, you know, all this physical labor, you're already getting enough physical exercise as the government says you're supposed to?” And they check in with them, you know, sometime period later and those women had started to lose weight.

J: (Laughs)

S: And there was no diet change, it was just the mind change.

J: Wow.

S: So when we live with this conscious choice of, “Oh, I can create life as I want to,” that, you know, I know that you have to live that way, Jen, because you are that vibrant happy woman.

J: Sometimes; most of the time.


S: Okay, you've got 6 kids so most of the time, right?

J: Yeah.


J: So funny. Well, you know, you mentioned all those 35 anxiety helping tools in your book, ‘Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom’, which one is your favorite?

S: Ooh, I don't have just one favorite, but if I can… I'll share one with your listeners that they can start doing right now, and it's so easy. I literally keep a tennis ball in my top drawer of my desk (and I’ve got it now), and you can grab your water bottle or anything, probably not your phone because you don't want to risk breaking it, but something, even a water bottle where you can simply pass it back and forth through your left hand to your right hand and back and forth and back and forth. And when you do this and you're feeling any kind of stress or anxiety, you can start to slow things down, to calm things down, because what's happening is, as you're crossing the midline of the body, you're now activating both the left side and the right side of your brain. And so how simple is that? You can simply take a water bottle or a tennis ball or something else and toss it back and forth. And if you don't have… I can't imagine you wouldn't have anything near you, but if you don't, then take your 2 hands in front of you and swing one to the side and then swing the other to the side and keep coming back to that midline and it will start taking the edge off.

J: Hmm.

S: So my whole philosophy is that when we do these small things, simple shifts create lasting changes. When we do these simple things through the day on a regular basis, when they become our wonderful new habits, then that stress and anxiety doesn't have a chance to get so big; again, it's all about simple, simple, simple. Another one is to yawn, whether it's an actual yawn or, you know, a pretend yawn, if you go ahead and do it now, Jen and your listeners, if you just (Yawns), what happens when you yawn is you're stimulating the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve, the biggest nerve in your body; it goes from your brain, all the way down into your gut and encircles all of our organs. When we stimulate that vagus nerve, we're stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest system.

J: Mm.

S: So when I see clients… you know, I work exclusively online now, so when I see clients on-screen (Yawns) trying to cover up their yawn, I'm like, “Oh, no, no, no! Yawn! Let it out!” so it's very good. So like how simple are those things? Tossing a tennis ball or a water bottle back and forth and yawning, and yet I would invite… I never tell people what to do, but I would invite your listeners to play with one or both of them for the next 7 days and notice how they feel.

J: Yeah, yawning and passing the hands back and forth; so that's bilateral stimulation. But I've heard…

S: Yes.

J: … walking is bilateral stimulation. Is that to as helpful?

S: It is, and it can be. I think my experience because like, for me, the walking becomes like a walking meditation.

J: Mm-hmm.

S: But, for me, I think that for some reason and I can't explain why, the hand to hand has a better effect on my emotions than just walking, and I don't know…

J: That makes sense.

S: Well, I don't know. I don't know, like I can't say like, “Oh, science proves it.”

J: But it kind of makes sense… yeah, right, because your hands do things, it's not… walking is just second nature; I don't know, make sense though.

S: Well, and it's interesting though the walking meditation, like for some people, that's just like, “Ugh!” I did a retreat one time and had the women doing walking meditation and none of them liked it. They were all like, “Ah! I can't stand this!” which, to me, just meant they needed to do it more. (Laughs)

J: Yeah, it's true. It's funny, someone… you know, when people first start meditating, I've heard people say, “Ugh, I can't sit still that long,” and I realized, you know, I can sit in a bath for 3 straight hours because it's just a giant meditation. (Laughs)

S: Right.

J: But I realized I had to really build up to that and I never really realized I had built up to that and that that was abnormal, but yeah, that's what we're shooting for, right?

S: Right, and that's what I would share with your listeners is, you know, if you don't have a meditation practice in place now, but you're interested and think, “Well, maybe I'd like to try,” make it simple like 2 minutes. Okay, there are wonderful apps; here we are with the phone again. But there are wonderful apps for meditation. There are some that are paid, some that are free. Insight Timer is one that's for free, I have one meditation on there, and you can check from now for like, you know, “Okay, 2 minutes, I'm going to meditate for 2 minutes.” You know, it doesn't have to be 20 minutes, right? That's what I was first exposed to was, “Oh, you have to meditate 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening,” that was not going to happen, and it still doesn't happen. I don't do 20 minutes every morning at 20 minutes in the evening, but I met it on a daily basis.

J: Yeah, it's true. 10 minutes is great, I think; 5 or 10 even, any amount.

S: Yeah.

J: Breathing, hey. (Laughs)

S: And 10 is like my sweet spot; 10 is really my sweet spot. Anything more than that… I did a silent retreat once with Sharon Salzberg and I didn't realize it was going to be a silent retreat. So when I got there and found out, I was like, “Oh my gosh, that was really intense.” But on a day-to-day basis, 10 minutes is my sweet spot. But if somebody doesn't have a practice in place, even that 10 minutes might feel like it's way too much. So give yourself permission, try 2 minutes.

J: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, you're bringing down that cortisol, that fight or flight hormone that gets so high and so many of us; just bringing it down a little every day like medicine.

S: Right. And that's why, talk about, you know, whether it's talking in my book or talking on podcasts and speaking, it's about doing things on a daily basis. It's not, you know, waiting until… I always go like on a 0 to 10 scale; you know, 0 is not at all, 10 is through the roof. If you're waiting until you're experiencing stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, any of that, if you're waiting until it's up at an 8, 9 or a 10 to try and do something about it, it's going to be much harder than if you simply practice that conscious choice; daily practices that are very simple and easy to slide in here, slide in there, slide and here, slide in there. It certainly has allowed me to live the life that I really want to instead of letting it happen to me.

J: Exactly, fitting it in in the spaces we have. What's your favorite book?

S: So I have so many different books, but if I have to choose just one, it's ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert because it's that conscious choice. It's about not letting fear define and control your life. So, again, I've got tons and tons of books, but if I had to just pick one, I would say that's the go-to.

J: Cool, I love that one too. And what does it mean for you to be a vibrant happy woman?

S: Again, it comes back to that conscious choice of living by conscious choice. I choose to be that vibrant happy woman and I am. You know, there are… I'm not going to say that there's times when I'm not feeling down or feeling anxious, but I don't spend much time there anymore because I, literally… I have a friend whose husband is dying as we speak, and he says, “Life is precious, don't waste a drop,” and so I live that way, you know? There are times when life, you know, throws a curveball and it's going to, but like… alright, my husband and I have been married for 34 years now and he's been through many job losses. And, you know, for the most times, I would like freak out and, “Oh my gosh!” you know, all the what-ifs. And the last time he lost his job, he came home and instead of me freaking out, I had been meditating and, you know, essential oils and doing, you know, my self-care practices. And so instead of him coming home to a freaked out wife, he came home to a nice gentle hug and, “Okay, we'll get through this together,” you know? So it was life throwing us a curveball again and I could have freaked out like I did when I was younger or I could choose to say, “Okay, it is what it is, how do we go from here?”

J: Yes, that's great; I love that. Well, let's end with the challenge from you to our listeners and then we'll say goodbye.

S: So my challenge, my invitation would be to, whether it's the ball toss, the hand to hand bilateral stimulation or yawning or simply doing 2 minutes of meditation, but for the next 7 days, you begin to do 1, 2, 3 practices, simply committing to do that conscious choice, to consciously choose for the next 7 days to begin putting those little moments of de-stressing, those little moments of getting present and relaxation, and then notice at the end of the 7 days, notice how you feel. Another one would be gratitude. I start every morning with by writing in my journal, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” and writing at least 3 things that I'm grateful for because, again, I'm setting my day up, consciously choosing to set my day up. When I start it in gratitude, it's only got one way to go and it's just going to get better.

J: Yep, it's true; really, really helps. Well, thank you, I love this advice and I'm going try the tennis ball one; I haven't done that one before so a new one for me.

S: Oh, excellent, Jen!

J: And yawning, I've got that one down.


S: With 6 kids, I’m sure you yawn a lot, Jen.

J: Well, thanks so much for being on the show, Stephanie, this was a lot of fun.

S: It was fun, thank you so much, Jen.

J: Take care.

Hey, thank you so much for listening and for taking this time to invest in yourself. It's the right thing to do because, as you improve your life, increase your happiness and decrease your stress and cortisol, your kids will pick up on that, they will be more likely to model what they're seeing. So you're giving your kids, your loved ones, your friends one of the greatest gifts you can give; so well done. I hope many of the things you learned in this episode will stick with you that you'll begin to apply some of them, and also, I hope that you'll be back later this week when I share a happy bit. I want to share some really good news. I've been talking over the past several months, you've been hearing about the Vibrant Happy Women club, you heard about it from Danielle in the beginning of this interview, and good news. Tomorrow, the Vibrant Happy Women club opens for enrollment, that is Tuesday October 2nd; it will be open for enrollment. But it won't be open long, it will not open again until next spring as well. So join us in the Vibrant Happy Women club where we apply everything we're talking about in the podcast, everything the guests share, where we're applying it in groups of like-minded women who want to be their best selves, who are tired feeling like they're running on a treadmill (the treadmill of life) who are tired of feeling like they're in the deep end of the pool just treading water. Look, the Vibrant Happy Women movement is about choosing the life that you want; consciously choosing, just like Stephanie talked about in this episode, choosing to be that woman you want to be, to feel the way you want to feel. If you find yourself feeling stressed and exhausted and frazzled all the time, it doesn't have to be that way. I know this because I've changed my life from that. That used to be my pattern. I was tired and exhausted and stressed and impatient with my kids and yelling too much, and when I learned all the principles of living a vibrant and happy life, including some of those mentioned in this episode and all of the other things mentioned in past episodes and the things that are coming in future episodes, we talked about those things in the club in small groups where we hold each other accountable and we shift upward, raising our vibration, our energetic frequency, our baseline threshold of happiness, we raise that together. Now, if a small group isn't your thing, the Vibrant Happy Women club also has worksheets that you can fill out on your own, journal prompts about every episode, guided meditations you can do each week to lower your stress, to come back to your true authentic self and feel calm. We also have monthly activities and workshops where I teach you something new. I go deeper on something we talked about in the podcast or maybe even a completely different topic, depending on what I'm feeling like, and I guide you even further on that path of living as your most vibrant and happy self. In the end, the Vibrant Happy Women club is about having an identity, saying to yourself, “Hey, I am a vibrant and happy woman and here are the things I'm going to do in my life to make sure that is true. I'm going to meditate, I'm going to write in my journal, I'm going to brush elbows and interact with other high vibe women. I am going to be her so that I can show my kids what it looks like to be the happiest version of me. And I know that when I do that, my kids are more likely to show up and be that person when they become adults as well,” it's the greatest gift you can give. If you would like to join us in the club, tomorrow the doors open. All you have to do on October 2nd is go to vibranthappywomenclub.com and grab your spot; we would love to have you. Well, I will see you later this week with a happy bit, and I'll be back next week talking to the fantastic Carolin Hauser-Carter, all about raising your vibration, continuing with this theme of raising our energetic threshold to what we want it to be. We don't want to live in fear and anxiety or stress and overwhelm, we want to feel vibrant, happy, joyful and loving. And that is our goal here through this podcast, through the Vibrant Happy Women club, and beyond. Thank you so much for being a part of this and for listening, and I will see you later this week. Take care.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com