The time is NOW. Do not wait. Jump in. Ask for help. Do not look back. We need you. Our planet needs you.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Heather Monroe.
Heather Monroe, LCSW, is an integrative psychotherapist and founder of Monroe Wellness where she specializes in the healing of relational trauma. Through her extensive training and work in clinical and experiential modalities Heather guides clients through a holistic and transformative process. Heather’s approach to helping people is creative, open and flexible as she understands that just as the context of trauma is individual so is the process of healing. Heather is a certified Kundalini yoga teacher as well as a student of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing training both of which have given her a deep understanding of the body and how trauma is held in and released through it.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
Monroe Wellness addresses the effects that trauma, namely relational trauma, and societal beliefs have on keeping us disconnected from ourselves, from others and from the present moment. I define relational trauma as a consistent disruption in the areas of love and safety, both physically and emotionally, in the family system. As an integrative psychotherapist, I have found that almost all of us suffer from some form of relational trauma which causes us to live our present lives through the lens of our past. This perspective keeps us trapped in a painful history and blocked from a future that is of our choosing. By discovering and working to dismantle these archaic systems, in both our minds and our bodies, we are able to clear our lens and become conscious creators of a future.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I have felt called to help people for as long as I can remember but like so many others that came before me, I had an incredible amount of pain and trauma to overcome before I could do this effectively. It was and continues to be through my own healing process and assisting others in theirs, that I am emboldened with the belief that we have the power to create the life that we desire, that there is nothing standing in our way once we unlock our minds and bodies from memories, beliefs and perceptions that no longer serve us.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
We are in a time of immense change; it can feel incredibly disorienting to be alive in this present moment. Old systems of belief, of commerce, of the way we use natural resources and of our global impact are no longer sustainable. What was our reality is beginning to crumble before our eyes and that can be traumatic. On top of this global trauma, we also carry our own, out of which we are constantly reacting to. It is more important than ever to be grounded in the present moment, to clear out our own trauma in order to create a future from a clear and focused lens rather than the lens of the past. My “aha moment” was at the beginning of 2020, when I realized that in order to contribute to the call for this shift, I needed to reach much more people than I could in private practice. That is when I began to develop online courses and in person workshops centered around neuroscience backed practices that change our minds, our bodies and our consciousness. The goal of Monroe Wellness is to guide people back to themselves in order for them to be their own healers and creators of a new world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me is that, in being a diligent student of the neuroscience based practices that I base my online courses and workshops on, I have noticed incredible changes in my own mind and in turn, my life. I started a daily gratitude practice with my family in the beginning of the pandemic and I have found through connecting in this very prescribed way for 20 minutes, I have more joy and sense of awe in everything I do. I also have found that through my daily meditation practice where I utilize a mixture of affirmations, intention setting and elevated emotions that I have more passion and creativity than I have ever felt before. These practices really work, which is why I am so passionate about educating others around optimal mental wellness and creating a future from that place.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I may not have felt as confident as I did about creating Monroe Wellness without the support of my husband Jamison, who is an incredible entrepreneur in the wellness sector. It was through his unwavering confidence in me and my abilities as an educator and therapist that I took the leap and dove into this creation. Another who keeps me going is my mentor Joan, who taught me what unconditional love looks like and its ability to heal and my select friends who have answered the call to help others through their own work which continuously inspires me and lets me know that I am not alone.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
There is a primitive instinct to create separateness as a means of survival. There’s “us” and there’s “them”, the common enemy. Anything that creates fear becomes the “other”. And what creates more fear than not being mentally well or in other words, what is more terrifying than suffering? There is a collective sentiment that if we can somehow separate ourselves from those suffering then perhaps we won’t suffer in turn. “We” become better than, like we know something they don’t, as if we have the answer that they can’t grasp. Something is wrong with “them”, not us. For what would happen if we tore down that wall between the us and the them? Wouldn’t that make us just as susceptible to illness? Or perhaps worse, it would make us no better than those who suffer.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
On the macro level, there needs to be a shift from our cause and effect culture to one of prevention. Our entire healthcare system is set up to treat the symptoms of disease and mental health disorders instead of the root cause. To become a preventative culture there has to be a radical shift in the way our society operates. For instance, we now know without a doubt that nutrition and a healthy gut play an enormous role in mental wellness as 95 percent of our serotonin is produced there https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling . And yet over 85 percent of the American population is overweight or obese because of the processed and sugar laden food that makes up the American diet. I believe that everything has its place in mental health including medication. However, if we are simply prescribing a pill in order to deal with a person’s depression (just as we prescribe blood thinners and other meds to deal with a person’s obesity) and not evaluating and working through the cause of it, we are doing that person a grave disservice and sentencing them to a life of a predictable future assisted in medication.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Gratitude Circle. I created a zoom gratitude circle with my family. Everyday during lunch we hop on zoom for 20 minutes. We pick a topic for the day and do two rounds. The first round is something we are grateful for in the present moment or in the past i.e. an “aha” moment we’ve had, a thing in nature, a person, a daily habit. Round two is about inviting something into our life for which we are grateful i.e. a promotion, a relationship, a virtue etc. At the end, we take a moment to visualize what we are bringing into our lives as we rest in gratitude.
- Daily meditation practice. Every morning I get up before the kids and do anywhere from a 10–20 minute meditation. I like to do it right when I wake up because it sets the tone for the day. Lately, I have been doing guided meditations that focus on elevated emotions like gratitude, love and compassion.
- Exercise. I exercise 4 times a week. I typically enjoy low impact workouts that focus on tone and length rather than cardio or high intensity interval training. I have found that the latter leave me feeling out of balance and depleted.
- Food. I try as much as possible to listen to my body and eat mindfully so I know what feels good and when I am full. I think our culture in general eats from a place of trauma reaction, trying to fill the void and so I try to be aware when that is happening in my own consumption. I also stay away from processed food, dairy and gluten as much as possible but I am a fan of everything in moderation.
- Sleep. I have realized that I am at my optimum mental and physical health when I have a solid 8–9 hours of sleep. Since our kids are still little and get up around 6.30am, bedtime for me is 9pm. That way I can wake up at 5.30am, meditate and then have a little time to myself before the chaos ensues.
- Connecting with my family. Being around young kids becomes a meditation practice in itself in the way that it demands our presence. I find that when I take the time to clear my mind of time and all the things I need to do, I am invited into the present moment with them and can really enjoy who they are to the fullest.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
Podcasts: Brene Brown’s Unlocking of Us, Ted Radio Hour NPR, The Goop Podcast
Books: Untamed by Glennon Doyle, The Seat of the Soul Gary Zukav, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel VanDer Kolk, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
I also love attending different trainings and courses that leaders have to offer. NICABM has wonderful trainings for therapists with the top trauma experts in the field. Daniel Siegel does a wonderful training on the concept of Mindsight and Brene Brown had a great training based on the her book Daring Greatly.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
The time is NOW. Do not wait. Jump in. Ask for help. Do not look back. We need you. Our planet needs you.
How can our readers follow you online? Visit my website and monroewellness.com and connect with me on social media via the following links:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!