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Alessia Citro Of Theia Collective: How Journaling Helped Me Be More Calm, Mindful And Resilient

An Interview With Heidi Sander

Journaling is a powerful tool to gain clarity and insight especially during challenging times of loss and uncertainty. Writing can cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and provide an outlet for calmness, resilience and mindfulness. When my mom passed on, I found writing to be cathartic. When I read through my journal years later, there were thoughts that I developed into poems, and others that simply provided a deeper insight into myself. In this series I’m speaking with people who use journaling to become more mindful and resilient.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Alessia Citro.

Alessia Citro is a corporate dropout, coach, author, and entrepreneur. She is Founder and CEO of Theia Collective, a learning community for budding entrepreneurs that launches March 2022, and host of The Corporate Dropout Podcast. Alessia’s mission with both Theia Collective and The Corporate Dropout is to empower and equip aspiring entrepreneurs — both energetically and tactically — to leave the corporate grind and live the life they were created for.

Alessia is a mental health advocate, openly sharing her experience with anxiety and depression. After overcoming mental health struggles and getting clear on her purpose, Alessia left a successful career in tech, most recently at Google, to pursue her dreams and help others do the same. She is also a wife, mom and a top network marketing leader.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story of healing. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?

It’s an honor and a privilege — thank you for having me! Here is the 30,000-foot view of my background and childhood:

I’m a first-generation American and grew up in a strict Italian household. While I had very loving parents, there was a great deal of pressure to succeed and make the most of myself — particularly from Dad. I was the first in my family to go to college and after struggling professionally for most of my twenties, working several jobs to make ends meet, I had a lucky break. Thanks to a friend from college, I landed a role in tech sales and was very successful in that career for nearly a decade, working for Houzz, Salesforce, and Google. I stayed on the traditional career path and loved it for a while, until it became glaringly obvious that I was doing so at the detriment of my mental, physical, and emotional health.

Like many people, the pandemic and 2020 brought me to my knees and highlighted what I truly wanted out of life. After a serendipitous meeting on a plane last summer, I decided to leave Google to start a podcast, write a book, and become a business and transformation coach. I also founded Theia Collective as a solution to the obstacles I experienced as a new business owner. Theia’s flagship course is a business foundations mastermind and community that will simplify the process of starting a business and make it accessible to everyone. My mission is to make entrepreneurship more accessible to women, as women in the United States were unable to take out a business loan without a male co-signer as recently as 1988.

I finally feeling like I’m living in alignment, true to my gifts and purpose, and I have never been happier.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about journaling. Have you been writing in your journal for a long time or was there a challenging situation that prompted you to start journal writing? If you feel comfortable sharing the situation with us, it could help other readers.

I always kept diaries as a kid (usually they were pink and had a padlock) and I continued to journal on and off through college. Then for the most part, I stopped until last year unless I was going through something of significance. The reason I largely stopped journaling was that in my early twenties, I went back and read some of my older journal entries and felt embarrassed about how I’d felt or acted in the past. This in and of itself shows me how much I’ve evolved because today, I’d feel proud of that growth and progress.

I started journaling on a regular basis again in December of 2020 to deal with grief and a depressive episode. I don’t have a ritual around journaling in terms or place or time because my mornings as a toddler mom are unpredictable. While I don’t journal daily, I do several times a week and have found that for me, that’s enough. Sometimes I only journal for a few minutes and while that sounds insignificant, I find incredible benefit from even a short amount of time. I also notice some of my biggest a-ha moments come when I’m journaling outside of my home.

How did journaling help you heal, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

Journaling in a stream of consciousness helps me unload and decompress whatever is coming up for me, and it has really helped me connect dots and make sense of things that I previously couldn’t. It helps my brain slow down and feels meditative in a lot of ways. Paired with hypnotherapy and coaching, it’s been a very effective means of processing trauma and unlocking deeper parts of my subconscious mind.

Did journaling help you find more self-compassion and gratitude? Can you share a story about that?

It really has. Going back to what I said earlier about feeling embarrassed when I’d read old journal entries, I’ve now shifted to a place where I view everything through a lens of gratitude. Knowing that even the low points or cringeworthy moments led me to where I am now, which is exactly where I’m meant to be.

Self-compassion has been a huge benefit too, because looking back on hardships and struggles after the fact is a good reminder of what I’ve overcome and that nothing is permanent. It’s made me more resilient. Now in hardship, I have a written record of past adversity and those reminders help make me more confident in my ability to overcome whatever life throws at me.

An example that first comes to mind is one of past heartbreak. I had a relationship end before I moved back to California from Chicago, and even though it was mutual and I knew it was the right thing to do, I was devastated and in a bad place about it for a while. If you’re reading this and have had a serious romantic relationship end, you know how all-consuming it is in the moment and how it feels like you’ll never recover or get over it. (Spoiler alert: you will.)

I was cleaning out my office a few years ago and I came across my journal from that time. I read the entries from when the relationship started to when it ended and the sadness that followed. I also read the entries about the support I had from friends and family as I went through it. It was one of those moments that made me stop and feel sheer awe and gratitude. Awe and gratitude for my inner knowing to end the relationship and for honoring my intuition; for my ability to manifest the wonderful partner I have now; and for the range and temporal nature of human emotions.

And looking back at that experience now, I only feel gratitude. Having the emotions and experiences cataloged in a journal was a blessing to appreciate both my past and my present. Journaling is a great way to remember the full life you’ve lived thus far.

What kind of content goes into your journal? For example, do you free-write, write poems, doodle?

I almost exclusively free-write. I ask a lot of questions that I want to ponder as well. (When you ask yourself a question, the mind must answer.)

I loved drawing as a kid but find I don’t doodle much now. Although in writing this, I think I need to start drawing for the sake and joy of it — not for the sake of creating. In other words, so long as I’m enjoying it and it allows creativity to flow, it doesn’t need to be pretty or perfect. (Recovering perfectionist over here!)

How did you gain a different perspective on life and your emotions while writing in your journal? Can you please share a story about what you mean?

My brain moves faster than my mouth, so perhaps it’s the slowing down of my thoughts, but writing in a journal helps me to observe my thoughts and feelings instead of being overwhelmed by them. It also helps me to conceptualize and make sense of things in a way that just thinking about them cannot.

For example, I was recently journaling around some past trauma I’m working through. Writing about it allowed me to make a connection between how it was making me show up today, and how the lived experience of the other person involved was now playing out in my life. I’d thought about this situation hundreds of times and wasn’t able to see this connection before. It helped me work through my own emotions and have compassion and understanding for the other person, too.

Simply put, journaling helps me take a more objective perspective because I’m able to work through more angles on paper than I can in my mind alone.

In my own journal writing, I ended up creating poems from some of the ideas and one of them won an award. Do you have plans with your journal content?

It’s an interesting question because I’m constantly thinking of how I can monetize or repurpose everything. I hadn’t thought of that with my journal! I love writing, so maybe it’ll end up in a memoir someday.

Fantastic. Here is our main question. In my journaling program, I have found that journaling can help people to become more calm, mindful and resilient. Based on your experience and research, can you please share with our readers “five ways that journaling can help you to be more calm, mindful and resilient”?

I completely agree! I’d narrow it down to these five points:

  1. To process emotions, we move through three to four steps: noticing, naming, allowing, and acting (if needed). Journaling is an excellent way to move through the first three steps and can even help you to think through the plan of action if action is needed.
  2. Writing slows your mind. We cannot be calm and restless at the same time. Perhaps we pick up the journal and begin to write in a restless state but getting it out on paper will slow things down and naturally bring calm. For me, I usually feel some relief and release too.
  3. Journaling helps you to be calm, mindful, and resilient because you have a catalog of the past which can help put the present into perspective. Been through hell and journaled about it? Go back and read those entries to see how far you’ve come and to feel confident in your ability to weather whatever is happening today.
  4. There are a myriad of reasons that mindfulness increases with journaling, but let’s use gratitude journaling as an example. If you have this practice, you will rewire your brain to become mindful of all the goodness around you and in your daily life. In the same way, journaling about your experiences helps you to sit with the thoughts and feelings associated and to see the forest through the trees. I’d compare it to zooming out on your life and being able to observe and appreciate the present instead of feeling lost in it.
  5. If you’re a type A person like me, meditating followed by a few minutes of journaling may help you to slow things down and feel calmer. My brain goes 100 miles an hour. If my thoughts are a waterfall, meditation paired with journaling helps me observe the waterfall instead of sitting underneath it, getting pummeled.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of peace to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Becoming a coach and investing in my own development, healing and growth has taught me a lot. Compassion is at the top of the list. What I’ve come to realize is that at the end of the day, we’re all just grown-up kids. And most of us are walking around with unresolved childhood trauma and unhealed wounds. My movement to bring peace would be that when we grow frustrated or angry with someone, to pause and see that person as the innocent, curious child they have inside. And to understand that perhaps the reason they’re triggering us is because of the inner child work we need to do. Spend time with “little you” each day and watch your peace and happiness grow.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

As I launch my company Theia Collective, I’d love take Sara Blakely to lunch. Her story with Spanx is one of my favorites of all time. Cutting the feet off pantyhose and getting laughed out of meetings, she persisted and turned a $5,000 investment into a company worth well over $1B. #goals

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me at alessiacitro.com and theia-collective.com. (Theia Collective launches soon! If you’re a new entrepreneur, this is the course and community you’ve been waiting for. Use code MEDIUM for $300 off your registration. You can text 949–577–8709 or get on our email list to be the first to know when we go live.)

Additionally, I release three episodes a week on The Corporate Dropout Podcast, and if you’re into business and mindset, it’ll be right up your alley. You can also find me on Instagram and TikTok at @alessiacitro__.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued fulfilment and success with your writing!

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