An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Choose empowering questions. Careful choice of questions can help to direct your attention towards more supportive thoughts, feelings and actions. For example, one client was extremely anxious before giving presentations and learnt to ask himself questions such as: What do I need to do so that I am fully prepared? What would help me feel more confident? What calming strategy is likely to be most effective? What positive feedback have I received for previous presentations?
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Kuipers.
Sarah Kuipers is a leading stress expert who has run a successful practice for over 20 years, primarily as a hypnotherapist and life coach. She completed a Masters in Research to study stress and burnout and teaches courses on stress management and personal development for medical students. Sarah is the author of the bestselling book THE THRIVING GIVER: 7 Principles for health professionals and caregivers to enhance self-care and prevent burnout.
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?
From when I was tiny, my intrinsic nature was to take care of others, and in my 20s, I was fortunate to watch John McTimoney, founder of a school of chiropractic, work with horses. He manipulated their vertebrae using high-velocity thrusts, and it was incredible to see a lame horse trotting away happily after being treated in such a subtle yet powerful way. I was so impressed I started exploring complementary medicine and soon enrolled on a four-year full-time course in osteopathy and naturopathy. After a few years, I became more interested in the mental and emotional aspects of health and trained as a homeopath, and then later as a hypnotherapist and life coach.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
For many years I had been helping my clients master stress and balance their lives, but alongside running a successful practice, I was also a single mother bringing up three boys. So, my personal life was quite demanding, and eventually, I burnt out. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I felt as if I had nothing left to give.
Fortunately, my youngest son was about to leave home, so I was free to take a three-month sabbatical and referred my clients to other practitioners. For the first time in years, I only had myself to think about, and with my love of sailing and a desire to travel, I found a job crewing on a boat in the Caribbean and then backpacked around Peru. That time away helped heal my body, mind and spirit. But on my return, I was determined to understand the deeper causes of burnout and embarked on a Masters in research to study stress and burnout.
One area of the research highlighted how, unless we develop a healthy sense of self-worth when we are young, it can hold us back from managing stress effectively. For example, I needed to overcome my childhood pattern of putting everyone else first and learn how and when to say ‘no’. Only then could I create a life in which I could thrive. Unfortunately, when our sense of self-worth is based on how hard we work or how much we do for others, we are far more susceptible to burning out.
For me, burnout acted as a catalyst for change, forcing me to learn to balance my own needs with the needs of others. So, finally, I walk my talk!
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?
I made a few lifestyle recommendations to one client who was a well-known comedian. Later that week, I discovered that he had integrated some of those ideas into a skit on his TV show. Of course, the joke was on me, and I felt such an idiot. That taught me to be particularly vigilant when working with anyone in the media!
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?
A wonderful friend, Carole Hart, was a fantastic role model for me when I was learning about the importance of self-care. She was a psychotherapist at the top of her field and worked with the socially deprived and some of society’s outcasts. Yet, in spite of the demands of her work, she was still able to thrive, and her capacity to work with skill, care and compassion seemed to be boundless.
Carole encouraged me to develop an unwavering commitment to self-care in every aspect of my life. She showed me that self-care is not selfish; when you have a balanced and nurturing life, you can give from a space of replenishment rather than depletion. In addition, when you take good care of yourself, your family, friends, and colleagues will also benefit.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
For anyone working in a health or caring profession, I recommend the following seven tips. However, for those under considerable pressure, it’s OK to focus on just one strategy and integrate that into daily life before progressing to the next.
1. Recognize the importance of prioritizing your own self-care. When you take good care of yourself, you are more able to provide optimum care to others.
2. Pay attention to the early warning signs of stress and burnout. Regular monitoring of your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing will indicate which area of your life needs attention and enable you to be proactive in avoiding burnout or a stress-related illness.
3. Develop a comprehensive range of tools to manage stress, calm anxiety, process emotional distress and access a positive mindset.
4. Give yourself permission to be assertive, set clear boundaries and say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests.
5. Allow time for family, friends, pleasurable activities and nourishing your spirit, whether it’s through creativity, music, exercise, time in nature, mindfulness, yoga, martial arts, writing poetry, or other interests that you enjoy.
6. Develop a strong support network and reach out for help when you need it, remembering that asking for help is a sign of strength.
7. Take care of your physical health through exercise, healthy eating, good sleep routines and adequate time to rest and replenish.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I would encourage leaders to invest in wellbeing initiatives and activities for their staff which encompass mental, emotional and physical health. Regular evaluation of workloads and deadlines can help ensure stress levels remain manageable. Managers need to ensure they listen to the opinions and concerns of their workforce and create a culture in which it is safe for staff to speak up when work pressures become unsustainable or when they are experiencing additional life challenges such as bereavement. Then, problems are more likely to be resolved before they escalate.
Since everybody is different, it’s helpful to be flexible in terms of, for example, work hours and working from home. Social events and ‘away days’ are invaluable in strengthening relationships within a team. A happy, healthy, motivated, and trusted workforce is more likely to work creatively and productively while also reducing absenteeism and improve staff retention.
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.
1. Expressive Writing. Releasing all your thoughts, feelings and emotions onto the page is a fantastic tool for enhancing mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing. One client sets aside 10–20 minutes every day to do this and finds that it enables her to express, process, and release distressing emotions and break free from destructive thought patterns. Afterwards, she feels calmer, lighter and can think more clearly.
2. Choose empowering questions. Careful choice of questions can help to direct your attention towards more supportive thoughts, feelings and actions. For example, one client was extremely anxious before giving presentations and learnt to ask himself questions such as: What do I need to do so that I am fully prepared? What would help me feel more confident? What calming strategy is likely to be most effective? What positive feedback have I received for previous presentations?
3. Conscious breathing. Our breathing changes when we are stressed, so consciously altering how we breathe is a powerful strategy for calming anxiety and increasing mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. There are many different breathing exercises, but a simple one that you can do almost any time anywhere is to breathe in slowly through your nose and out through pursed lips — as if you are blowing out a candle. For example, one client who was worried about being made redundant during a massive restructuring of his department found that breathing exercises acted as a positive focus for his mind, preventing his thoughts from spiralling out of control, as well as helping him relax.
4. Learn to say ‘no’. Giving yourself permission to say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests is an essential skill for building confidence and self-esteem. One client who tended to say ‘yes’ automatically whatever she was asked to do, learnt to respond with, “I’ll think about it and get back to you”. Taking the time to reflect about whether she had the time, ability or inclination to do what was asked of her, helped her find the clarity and courage to say ‘no’, or to ask for more information before agreeing.
5. Remember the magical moments. This a powerful tool when you want to generate positive emotions and shift your mind and body to a more resourceful state. For example, one client uses this strategy to help him overcome his fear of conflict when he needs to express his disagreement with crucial decisions being made by his business partners. When he tunes in to the memory of his exhilaration at scoring a critical goal in a hockey tournament, he is able to access a feeling of confidence and inner strength, which helps dissipate the fear, so he is able to express his opinions in a calm, clear and firm way.
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.
If you have had a satisfying and fulfilling career, retirement can often be associated with losing the sense of purpose in life. Finding a meaningful way to focus your skills, expertise, or attention can make the transition easier. One helpful question to ask is, “If there was a cause that is important to you, or a group of people or organization that you would like to work with or support, what would that be?” This question helped a friend who had developed multiple sclerosis at a young age discover her enthusiasm about supporting people who had recently been diagnosed with that condition. One retired doctor who enjoys sailing works with an organization that teaches sailing to disadvantaged and disabled young people, showing how retirement has the potential of being a rich and fulfilling phase of life.
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?
An element of mental wellness that is rarely addressed for teens and pre-teens is how the beliefs and behavior patterns developed when they are young can significantly influence how they live their lives. For example, if they were brought up to believe that they are stupid or not good enough, they will find it far more difficult to succeed. Likewise, if they have been told they will never get a good job, then it’s unlikely that they will bother to put effort into finding work.
It would be wonderful to create programmes for young people to help them identify and release any unhelpful beliefs that they may have adopted when they were young, and show them how to create more empowering beliefs and behaviour patterns that will support them in creating a life in which they can flourish.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
When I had a debilitating auto-immune condition, my overactive thyroid meant I was constantly in a state of high alert and emotional turmoil. The illness had a severe impact on every aspect of my life for several years, and in the depths of despair, I read Thomas Moore’s The dark nights of the soul: a guide to finding your way through life’s ordeals. This fascinating book helped me understand how life’s challenges can be a time of profound inner transformation if we choose to take time for deeper conversations, solitude, reflection and listening to our intuition. The book helped me understand the importance of exploring the hidden aspects of myself and connecting to my soul’s needs. I learnt that, with the proper guidance, suffering can be a potent teacher.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would ensure that a comprehensive range of skills are taught to young people to help them develop confidence, self-respect and belief in themselves. For example, it would be fantastic if they were taught essential life skills such as how to:
- Transform any disempowering beliefs that limit their ability to love, value and believe in themselves
- Identify, process and release emotional distress
- Use empowering questions to shift their mindset
- Calm anxiety and still the mind
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There is a poem by Goethe that means a lot me. It is probably too long to quote here, but the final and most important lines are:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.
Begin it now.
This quote has been a guiding light for me at all the turning points in my life. For example, when I burnt out, I had to give up the work I loved. Before leaving for my sabbatical, I wrote down my intentions for what my heart and soul wanted in terms of future work. Amazingly, on my return, I was offered a role as a lecturer at the University where I was studying for the Masters in Research. That job met each of the criteria that I had set for my intentions.
In my experience, when we seek out the essence of what we want, from the deeper, wiser part of our being, that is when, as Goethe says, Providence works too. Whenever I set clear intentions and been fully committed to them, all manner of doors have opened to help me manifest those intentions…often in surprising ways.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
They can connect with me via:
Linked In: Sarah Kuipers
My website sarahkuipers.com also includes plenty of free resources and articles I have written.
Or email me at email@example.com
My book, The Thriving Giver: 7 principles for health professionals and caregivers to enhance self-care and prevent burnout is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Author Sarah Kuipers: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.