Webinar: radical self-care for leaders

On Oct. 22, three leading experts offered their thoughts on what wellness looks like, exploring why self-care is essential, particularly in a time when those working for social change are facing unprecedented need in their communities.  

In alphabetical order
Ivelyse Andino, Roddenberry Fellow 2019/ Founder & CEO, Radical Health, said that radical self-care was “taking a moment to feel, and trying to identify how you feel”.

“We are incredibly disconnected. We are using technology in a way that I don’t know that our souls and our hearts were designed for,” she said.  

“For me, my healing and my self-care has been in not just showing up for my community but allowing my community to show up for me. Check-in with your team, check-in with your family. A lot of the work I do is around meaningful conversations. And we do that around health, but often that doesn't happen with my closest friends or family.”

Ivelyse said it was important to measure work in terms of how much pleasure it gave you, as well as the other more traditional metrics. She also advised the participants to reconnect with their culture, even if it meant resorting to apps providing a familiar environment that reminded you of home or the country you came from. “Connect with your culture and use that as the balm for your soul,” she said.

Mia Birdsong, pathfinder, activist and storyteller, said too often people in the USA felt that asking for help was regarded as some kind of weakness. We are all familiar with the generosity of giving, she said but I want to talk about the generosity of receiving.

“When we're struggling and we do not reach for relief or ask for help. We are withholding a gift. We're denying our humanity. We are rejecting the stake we have in each other as human beings and we are repudiating our place in beloved community.

“It's not about getting as much out of it as we put in, it’s that our input and what we receive is transformed into a wholly different material that's not possible to create on our own. It's like we're spinning gold from straw or transforming paper cups into nebula. This generative circle of giving and receiving creates collective ease.”

Ian Robertson – Professor, Trinity College Dublin/ Co-director, Global Brain Health Institute, explained that “anger against a specific person with a specific request is an energizing challenge which will bring us near the sweet spot and allow us to be more effective in what we're aiming to do”.

He said: “If we have too much of the stuff, that also makes it difficult to think clearly. So, there's a sweet spot in the middle, a certain degree of arousal.”

Professor Robertson provided techniques for slowing breathing to reduce the noradrenaline in the brain with the aim of finding the “sweet spot”. He said: “The effects are more rapid, more precise and more side-effect-free than any pharmaceutical you could take.”

He said by intentionally changing the context of how we felt could also reduce anxiety and make us more effective. Professor Robertson advised using the power of the mind to change nonspecific arousal systems. “Next time, say I feel excited,” he said, to make the change “from fear, to another one – exhilaration. Being up for the challenge.”  

The webinar was the latest in the series, A (K)new World Reimagined. Participants include the staff, scholars and Fellows of the hosting and partner organizations: the Atlantic community, Rhodes Scholars, Obama Fellows and the Roddenberry Fellowship. The hosting and partner organizations have a common mission: to work with and for scholars, activists and practitioners in their efforts to bring about a better world for all.

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