Practice doing hard things. If you practice doing hard things, they will be easier and you will have less resistance. This is a good practice to make your life easier. Will Smith’s father made him and his brother build a wall when he was young and when they were finished he said, never doubt that you can do what you set your mind to. It’s a powerful lesson. (You can find him telling this story on YouTube.)
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jodi Aman, LCSW.
As a family therapist for over 20 years, Jodi shows people how to create Practical Miracles even in the most difficult times. As an inspirational speaker, she helps Generation Z and their parents find their Diamond Confidence, teaching usable tools to push past fear, connect with their personal agency, and expand their consciousness. As an anxiety-survivor, she totally gets it. As a mom of teens, she double-dog gets it. Through her TEDxWilmington talk, “Calm Anxious Kids,” and her bestselling book, You 1, Anxiety 0, Jodi is changing the way we understand the current mental health crisis. Look for her newest book, Anxiety…I’m So Done With You: A Teen’s Guide to Ditching Toxic Stress and Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness, coming out in July 2020.
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?
As most healers, I came to be a social worker because of my own emotional turmoil in high school. I understood suffering from the inside. I felt so alone in it and didn’t want other people to feel the same way. I healed myself and then, decided to go back into the trenches to help others out of it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Because I have been doing this so long that my teenage clients grow up and get married and much later bring their own kids to see me! Teens don’t trust easily! It is the biggest compliment even to be remembered by a teenager, let alone to have that much faith in me.
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?
One time I was driving a teen who lived in a group home to her parents’ house. I was driving in a bad neighborhood and locked my doors. She laid into me for that sign of my white privilege. This was 23 years ago, before we knew this as a thing. I knew that was so offensive to her, and it taught me to have more awareness of my privilege. I continue to educate myself to be an ally today. I would never want to alienate someone like that again.
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?
The volunteer leader at my high school, her name was Maureen, taught me how to notice and care for other people. I found it so fulfilling, and important thing to do in my life. When I was helping, I felt connected. My anxiety went down because I felt like I was a part of a solution rather than being a powerless, passive recipient of life.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
There are two ways to overcome burnout. Take breaks and get acknowledgement. Taking breaks is obvious, we need time to recharge. But the second is done less often. If you are a helper, have one or more peers that you share stories with so that they can witness and appreciate you. Do the same for them!
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Give support and uplift each other. When you run a business, there are so many things to do and many of those no one even sees! Morale improves when people are seen and appreciated for even the little things they are doing. Regularly have people celebrate what they have accomplished. it will feed everyone with energy to use for the next tasks.
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.
Make people important
Choose people over tasks and material objects and you will ever be sorry. Humans are social beings; we need connection and a sense of belonging. Prioritizing connection and generosity of spirit and you feel part of something without waiting for someone else to include you. You are included in this. You are a person and so making yourself important is crucial. Bring that self-care and self-compassion online!
Practice doing hard things
If you practice doing hard things, they will be easier and you will have less resistance. This is a good practice to make your life easier. Will Smith’s father made him and his brother build a wall when he was young and when they were finished he said, never doubt that you can do what you set your mind to. It’s a powerful lesson. (You can find him telling this story on YouTube.)
Take a step back
When you take a step back in your mind you can gain a different perspective on a situation outside the chaos of the emotions. It’s like you are above the battlefield. From this emotionally safe vantage point, you can figure out the situation from the big picture view. Why everyone did what they did and then you can decide what to do about it. This is crucial to healing.
Celebrate what you accomplish
I take time to review my daily accomplishments, so I stay connected to my skills. This is the biggest problem to our mental health. Our culture is so focused on deficits, that we have to actively retrain ourselves to focus on what we do so that we build trust and confidence in ourselves.
This activates the prefrontal cortex and helps overall robust mental health. It gives your life a purpose which again gives you a sense of belonging and meaning, crucial to lasting happiness.
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.
A sense of purpose, physical exercise and social connections are as important after retirement as they are in every other age. But in those other times in life, there is more structure for those things. So in retirement you need to do it yourself. My aunt was telling me about a 97-year-old woman who is still gardening, she is even in charge of a garden plot at her church. People in isolation don’t live as long as people who talk to friends.
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?
We need to teach our teen that they have more power that they think they have. And more skills than they think they have. This is why I did my TedxWilmington talk “Calm Anxious Kids” for teenagers and why I wrote the book Anxiety…I’m So Done with You: A Teen’s Guide to Ditch Toxic Stress and Hard-wiring Your Brain for Happiness. I think they are going to change the way we think about the mental health crisis.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Love by Leo Buscslgia made me understand that people just need my presence. That I just have to “walk with someone and hold their hand.” This has helped me be with people in even their darkest hour. I remember talking to a widower once and he couldn’t see being okay again when he saw me a few days after his wife died. He was still in shock. It was too early to work on getting better. It was time to just be present with the grief, so he was not alone.
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 want to bring self-compassion to people. I wish we learned this in middle school because we can save so much suffering this way. It means that whatever you feel, just say that you understand because I think negative self-judgment is our biggest problem.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi and
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ― Anne Frank
I always want to remember that I have the sovereign power to make a difference and it is my responsibility to do that. When I feel empowered to act, I act. When I feel powerless, I don’t act. It helps me as much as it helps the people that I am helping.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
IG and FB @jodiamalove
Youtube and twitter @JodiAman
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!