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Real Stories on World Mental Health Day

To be human means to be challenged by the relationship we have with our own thoughts; one of the most difficult relationships, but also the most meaningful. In honor of World Mental Health Day, we asked five inspiring people to share their experiences and some lessons learned, in the process of befriending the mind.  

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Noah Berman

NOAH BERMAN is a natural product formulator and entrepreneur whose interest in health and wellness was sparked by his own health journey and transformation. @noahberman

What does mental health mean to you?

To me, mental health means loving, embracing, and inculcating the parts of ourselves we feel are scary, unworthy, and undeserving of love and prosperity. Mental health means freedom, because I’m not bogged down by worry, self-doubt, insecurities, or activities of daily living. Mental health, more than anything, means knowing that I’m not alone, and that there others like me out there that care about the world, are purpose driven, and choose to be the change that they want to see in the world. 

 

How have you overcome challenges to take care of your own mental health?

I was bullied a lot when I was in elementary and middle school, and struggled with a lot of depression, anxiety, and lack of focus during high school and, to a lesser extent, in my early 20s. A lot of these emotions were related to my self-image and how others perceived me — after losing 100 lbs I looked different on the outside, but required time to adjust to feeling good on the inside and letting go of where I felt shame from how I was treated as a kid. Patience in my own process and stillness of mind through meditation (along with a lot of therapy!) helped me to soften the language of my own self-dialogue. 

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Chloe Cai

CHLOE CAI has twelve years of experience in the IVF industry in the U.S, China, and Japan, as COO of New Hope Fertility Center, and CEO for US Kitazato. Chloe is now the Founder of the newly launched SOYO Women’s Wellness, a company that strives to empower women by improving today's fertility choices and awareness. @chloecai_nyc 

What does mental health mean to you?

Mental health is about finding balance in all aspects of life, such as your body, mind, stress, career, relationships, family, friends, etc. Depression, anxiety, and fears are insecurities that disturb this balance. For the most part, many people doubt themselves, and I think that’s why our own worst enemy is ourselves. 

How have you overcome challenges to take care of your own mental health? 

I too, have insecurities; it’s natural. But rather than ignoring insecurities, we should embrace them. 

At 17, moving alone to the US with limited English, I felt extremely shy and vulnerable - it was such a culture shock and I felt I was shrinking. I didn’t even recognize myself. I called my father crying, absolutely overwhelmed, and he reminded me that I could always come home, that that comfort zone would always be there for me, but I chose this dream, so only I could choose to stay or go. He’d support either decision. 

That was when I first really felt the powerful impact of CHOICE and owning a situation over being a victim or consequence of it. 

I asked myself: why am I feeling so desperately alone and afraid? I concluded that if I could improve my language skills, I would feel less intimidated and helpless, and make fewer assumptions about what was happening around me. I forced myself into clumsy conversations with my roommates, less afraid of mistakes and just determined to try. I also applied for a part-time position as a receptionist, to jump into the deep end. It was a slow and uncomfortable beginning, but it got better, and I evolved. 

"No matter how small the progress, if you are moving forward you are making it. 

I promise you that."

 It was after some time that I started to recognize the powerful impact an external environment had had on my inner wellbeing, and how spiraling in my own insecurities had created a chain reaction of emotion > reaction > action > and a habitual way of being -- an entire cycle I managed to break. I think it all starts with self-awareness. Notice your patterns and fears and face them from a “choice mindset,” instead of a cause-and-effect one.  

My advice is don’t walk away from your fears. Face them. Get really quiet, slow down, and get self-aware. Ask yourself what solutions you can start to put in place to start moving through it. And then do just that, one task, one small maneuverer, one boundary at a time. You will get there, you really will. 

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Natalia Vaduva

NATALIA VADUVA is an Integrative Psychotherapist passionate about The Language Of The Universe and how the Universe speaks to each and everyone of us in order for us to live a life beyond our wildest dreams. @je.m.appelle.natalie

What does mental health mean to you?

I see the mind as the system that decodes and interprets (based on pre-programming and patterns) the activity of the Soul in relation to the world. Our brain is a super computer with millions of apps installed consciously or unconsciously that are going to generate a verdict of good or bad on every experience in our life. So mental health to me is this: knowing your mental programming so well that you can hack it to your advantage any time. And when I say "your advantage", I mean freeing your Soul to live the journey it came into this life to live/experience.  Or in other words, keep your system clean and updated. Keep it healthy!

How have you overcome challenges to take care of your own mental health? 

The thing that always helps me in my own challenges is this: shifting my perception from “this is happening to me” to “this is happening for me”. Changing the “to” with the “for” makes all the difference in the world. This little trick helps me change my frequency from blame, guilt, hate and being closed and upset and powerless to love, joy, courage and being open and happy that the Universe hasn’t forgotten me, but instead sees me as ready for another lesson, ready for my next journey. 

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Savanna Stevens Y3 Yoga

SAVANNA STEVENS is a Sports & Entertainment Producer, Model, and Yoga Instructor. She is the Founder of S3 Yoga; her mission is to make yoga simple, fun, and accessible for athletes and professionals alike to align their minds, bodies, and spirits. @dolceandsavanna

What does mental health mean to you?

Mental health is just as significant, if not more, than physical health. I am a strong believer in putting your mental, physical, and spiritual health above all. When we say “mind, body, spirit,” I don’t think it is by happenstance that “mind” is listed first. Taking care of your mind (whether through meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, therapy, etc) is a necessity. You have to be in a healthy, balanced, and strong mental state in order to achieve anything in life. 

How have you overcome challenges to take care of your own mental health? 

Through Yoga! While the Western world has known Yoga as just a form of physical exercise, the true essence and science of Yoga is to calm the mind. If you can have control over the thought forms of the mind, there is nothing in this world that can bind you. As I began my professional career, I instantly saw a need for my priorities to shift. I had done everything I was “supposed” to do -- graduated university, landed my “dream” job, yet was still unhappy, unfulfilled, and in an unhealthy mental state. I believe the ROI of life is happiness, not money. So I immediately made it my full-time job to become the absolute best version of myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Being mindful, getting active, and being present were pivotal in overcoming the challenges I faced in life. Yoga has been the essential tool that allows me to live, excel, and achieve at a high level, and I am forever grateful. 

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Nana Meriwether

NANA MERIWETHER is a Former Miss USA, 2 time NCAA All American Volleyball player, founder of an international non-profit now in 5 countries and former right hand to the Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar.  She currently works at ConsenSys helping to build blockchain startups, but writes a wellness column called, Well, There's This where she dives into what makes for great health and happiness. @nanameriwether

What does mental health mean to you? 

Religions and eastern philosophies speak to it and even when you partake in as simple a task as going to afternoon yoga or meditating in the morning, all of these are practices in trying to overcome and be at ease with your mind.

How have you overcome challenges to take care of your own mental health? 

The greatest thing for my mental health has been to truly understand the concept of ego. Not in the sense that ego means arrogance, but that it means we self create and hold on to identities of ourselves that can be a cause for stress, anxiety, depression and so on. Kundalini yoga, meditation and a plethora of books and podcasts have helped me to become aware of the thoughts in my head - not necessarily holding on to them so steadfastly, but realizing their constant flow, the ups and the downs, it's all just a part of being human.  It is best to just enjoy the ride, we are blessed and here but for a short time - we may as well dwell in pleasure and find lessons in the challenges that arise. It is truly shifting and stepping into a state of being and it comes from being aware of your thoughts and mastering your mind.

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Interviews curated by Elizabeth Grojean and Eileen Nardoza