Cultivate meaningful relationships. We are a social species and need connection. There are many ways to connect with others. If you can’t find “your tribe” (people with whom you resonate) locally, go online. There are many, many groups on Facebook, for instance, with whom you can connect.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Hanneman.
Abby Hanneman is a healing alchemist who employs leading edge technology and techniques to help her clients heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Abby is a warm and caring coach who, having overcome many challenges herself, brings compassion and a unique understanding of the difficulties her clients face and the traumas they have experienced. She inspires and enables her clients to take the steps and action they once feared, knowing that their greatest and most rewarding growth happens outside their comfort zone.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I grew up in Virginia the youngest of six in a volatile time — the 60’s. My family life was a microcosm of the culture at large. Our country was being pulled apart, the generations seemingly more divided than ever, the Vietnam war raging, a rapid rise in drug use and race riots ablaze. Like our culture, we were a family divided. My parents were conservative and my siblings and me, rebellious.
To complicate things, I felt I was a boy born into the wrong body. I completely identified as a boy and prayed every night for God to fix his glaring error. Every morning I woke with anticipation and, pulling away the waistband of my pj bottoms, checked to see if my prayers had been answered. Praying was my only option. I understood at a very young age that this was not something I could talk about openly. Gender issues like this simply weren’t discussed at that time.
To complicate matters more, I was a budding lesbian and didn’t know it until I was 18. When I “came out” I lost all my friends and distanced my family. I didn’t fit in anywhere it seemed and felt like a true outsider. Perhaps not surprisingly, I became self-destructive. I hated my gender and I hated myself. Where else would that lead? Where else could that lead?
It wasn’t until I started bodyboarding in my mid-to-late 20’s that I came to love life and myself as I was. I believed, from what you might call a new age or spiritual perspective, that if I was born “a girl” there was a reason for it and it was something I needed to explore and understand. Embracing my femininity took time but it was well worth the effort. By my late 20’s, I no longer felt uncomfortable with being female. I came to love that I was a different kind of feminine and I embraced what some might call the more feminine qualities: those of receptivity, flexibility and softness. I feel so lucky to this day that I get to be in close relationships with women as a woman. In fact, many of my clients are women and I can relate to their challenges because of my gender.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve spent over 30 years in fitness and wellness. At one time, I developed and launched a healthy dark chocolate drink (Mayesa) with two friends and, while none of us had industry experience, we got our drink into Whole Foods on the west coast and all Sprouts stores.
Our endeavor was one big lesson in perseverance and tenacity. We were first to market with that type of drink and made every mistake that could be made but we persevered. We had diehard fans who spanned the spectrum from very young children to the elderly. Unfortunately, we never reached the all-important “tipping point” where Mayesa would become a household name. We kept at it for a decade before selling the company.
My greatest take away from that journey was the excitement and pride I felt at seeing my product on the shelves in Whole Foods. And while we didn’t succeed financially in the way we had hoped, I knew that this was a big step for me personally and professionally. It was as if I went from the minor leagues to the majors and everything I’d do after, would be played on a different field, played at a different level. Essentially, I “leveled up” to use today’s vernacular.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am a research fanatic, hungry for knowledge and always looking for and trying new tools to transform at the deepest level. In fact, I never ask a client to do anything I haven’t already done. I create a customized approach for each client and use powerful transformation tools like EmRes and micro-frequency programs that work in the quantum field. EmRes (Emotional Resolution), is an elegant and simple method that provides much needed updates to the brain using the sensations in one’s own body.
I had a client in his early 30’s, for example, who had PTSD after finding his partner face down in the pool one morning. His partner had drowned during the night. From that point forward, my client would have panic attacks when things got tough in a relationship or when a partner was out of touch for any length of time. His PTSD was threatening every other relationship. It made him jumpy and ready to “bail” at any moment as he told me. Now he feels freer and lighter and does not panic when things get tough. He can be present for what is happening in the moment rather than tied to the past and forever experiencing relationship through that outdated, and understandably, painful lens.
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?
My wife, Liliana Riquer, who I met briefly and for the first time in 2011. Seven years later and at 57 years old, I had two vivid, compelling dreams about her. In those seven years, our paths never crossed, yet I’d dream of her from time to time. Those two back-to-back dreams, however, were so powerful that I called her the next morning to ask her out. I was a sleep-deprived, nervous wreck when I picked up my phone. I didn’t know if she was in a relationship or even in San Diego still but I felt compelled to make the call and so thankful I took the risk. We ended up married later that year! She believes in me and supports me wholeheartedly. I’ve never experienced this kind of support in my life. Ours is considered a late-life marriage and maybe that fuels my appreciation for our relationship and our appreciation for each other. I’ve always said that laughter is the hallmark of our relationship but absolute support is another. I support her and she supports me. It’s effortless and genuine. And it’s great having someone in my corner!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is that ability to “bounce back” from the inevitable disappointments, hurts and traumas in life. It’s that ability to keep going in the face of hardship and challenge. Thankfully, resilience can be cultivated.
Nurturing a life you love is foundational to resilience in my experience. Beyond that, the following help immeasurably:
- You can start building resilience by simply understanding it and accepting that life is filled with challenges. In fact, at no time will you be without some sort of challenge. The challenges simply shift and change as you age.
- Life is ever changing but you can change with it. Accepting that change is the one constant in life and approaching life with an open mind will help you navigate life more gracefully.
- Know that you can choose your reactions and reframe virtually any situation in order to see the positives. How often have you gone through some hardship in which you later found value? Remember those times when you face a new challenge.
- Take responsibility for your life and approach your role in it with curiosity. What brings you joy? What brings you down? What new things can you do to expand your role in life?
- Go on to develop good habits and prioritize self-care. Don’t confuse “self-care” with “selfish.” Self-care demonstrated daily through good habits builds strength. Without these, resilience will be fleeting at best.
- Cultivate meaningful relationships. We are a social species and need connection. There are many ways to connect with others. If you can’t find “your tribe” (people with whom you resonate) locally, go online. There are many, many groups on Facebook, for instance, with whom you can connect.
- Practice mindfulness. The ability to stay present rather than projecting what might happen in the future or regretting what may have happened in the past, strengthens our presence overall and contributes to resiliency.
It’s critical we challenge ourselves to uncover the more expansive version of ourselves; the one who can embrace challenge. The one who can learn and change throughout their life.
Explore, learn, challenge yourself and set goals that excite you. Never stop challenging yourself. Shed the limiting labels and know that you are more than the way your family, spouse or coworkers may see you.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is that ability to take action even when you’re afraid. Which, by the way, often leads to life’s biggest wins. Resilience is that ability to shake off life’s bumps and bruises and to take action again and again. These two are linked in that way. When you’ve hit a rough patch, lost something or someone meaningful, it takes courage to get back in the game. Resilience provides the launching pad to take that step.
In my experience, they are more similar than different. I have yet to meet a truly courageous person who was not also resilient nor a resilient person who was not also courageous. They go hand in hand. Develop one and you’ll find the other blossoming.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Serena Williams. Serena is a warrior. She displays grit and determination and a mental toughness that inspires people all over the world. She proved that if she kept pushing, refining and training, she could reach the greatest heights. And she did it in what could sometimes be called a hostile environment. The media went after her and her competitors always brought their best to their matches against her. Over time, the expectation that she would win every match weighed on her but didn’t stop her. She is a model in perseverance and resilience. In a world that expects some level of conformity, Serena remained fierce and true to herself. She continues to express her uniqueness on and off the court to this day.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
The first story that comes to mind happened when I was traveling by myself in the Philippines to go scuba diving (after a business trip to Hong Kong). After two flights, crossing to another island by ferry and navigating my way to an even more remote island, the sky turned the strangest color of green. I felt my anxiety rise as I watched the sky. I was alone on a remote island over 7000 miles from home and staying in a small cluster of huts with no phone or internet and serviced by one small restaurant. I felt in my bones that something was wrong. By the time I went to bed, the rain started. By morning, I discovered we were being hit by a typhoon.
The local dive master told me she had to leave the island immediately and suggested I go with her or risk being stranded for weeks. We had to take a boat to a neighboring island and one of the first things she asked was how many girls I could save if we capsized in that small, locally made boat. She told me that girls there are not taught to swim and to focus solely on them. She went on to instruct me to put my passport and money in a pocket I could zip or button and to let everything else go if we capsized. Focus on saving the children she told me again.
I was 35 years old and very strong from almost daily, year round bodyboarding. And, I had been a lifeguard at age 18 so I knew a little bit about saving lives in panic situations. There were five or six girls onboard, a handful of boys and the children’s mothers. The dive master told me she could handle three at most and I figured I could tow two of them to shore. I did as I was instructed and focused on the kids and on keeping my breath steady while the boat pitched. The tension mounted the further we got from shore but when the landing was in sight, I could feel a collective exhale. We made it! We did not capsize.
By nightfall and through some of the heaviest rain I’ve encountered in life, I made it to Bohol where the dive master told me no, we could not go diving during a typhoon. I came halfway across the world to go diving and was not going to take no for an answer. I spent the next hour convincing him that contrary to what my size (5’3” and 120 pounds) might indicate, I could handle it. I was strong enough. I was accustomed to rough surf. After all, I paddled out in all kinds of conditions in San Diego.
He listened to me and then quizzed me on a few things diving related and reluctantly agreed to take me out the next day. Yes, the surface was rough but 65’ underwater, all was tranquil and the sea life plentiful and extraordinary. It was a blast! I actually loved riding out and back in the boat more than the diving. It was like white water rafting on the ocean. I remember thinking at the time that I should participate in extreme sailing if such a thing existed. Being on the ocean during a typhoon lit me up! And by that time, I understood that doing things that lit me up was the key to my happiness.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The biggest turning point in my life came in my 20’s when I decided I no longer wanted to live. The emotional pain I was in at that moment was overwhelming and I didn’t have the tools I have now nor the perspective to know that “this too shall pass.”
I gave myself an ultimatum of sorts. Kill myself in a very specific way and, that night when I couldn’t, I gave myself six months to live. I had to give up two things and try two new things. I decided to give up drugs and alcohol and start bodyboarding and repeating the affirmations, “I love life, I love people, I love this world.” I actually chose surfing but the next day at the surf shop, realized I didn’t have enough money for a surf board and wetsuit and, since it was winter in San Diego, I got the wetsuit and a bodyboard and fins instead.
I went straight to the beach and suited up. With no clue as to what I was doing, I attempted to paddle out. Beach break in the winter can be punishing and that first day was no exception. I’d paddle out 20 feet and get dragged back 15. I got pounded over and over again. But, I was determined. I paddled out five days a week from that point forward and three months in, rode a wave the way it’s supposed to be ridden. It was like flying! In surfer lingo, it was “epic!”
In that moment, I literally felt reborn. It was as though my cells somehow realigned. I felt a joy I had never known. In fact, I didn’t even like the word “joy” until then. I was suddenly lit up from the inside. I fell in love with life, with people, with the world. My affirmations came true. I couldn’t get enough! I rode waves and then went back to school and fell in love with learning. It didn’t matter the subject nor the professor. I was riveted by all subject matter and determined to be my absolute best.
After dropping out of college at 18, I graduated “summa cum laude” in my 30’s. It was an important accomplishment for me personally. I didn’t believe I could commit to anything before that and bodyboarding proved I could. What I learned in the ocean translated to everything in my life on land. I became tenacious, disciplined, courageous and filled with light. And while I still feel I’m at my absolute best and in the zone when riding waves, I’ve come to appreciate so much more in life like being in nature, being with loved ones and friends, my creative outlets like photography and painting and the excitement I feel by the epiphanies that come with learning and maintaining an open mind. And I discovered that I love inspiring and helping others!
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Doing things that “light me up” has cultivated more resilience in me than I ever imagined possible. But it would take me a long time to discover that as I’ve mentioned. It wasn’t until I fell in love with life through bodyboarding that I became the resilient person I am today.
My childhood provided plenty of challenge from my gender identity issues to having brothers who bullied me. My parents were authoritarians, aloof and from a generation where children were to be seen and not heard. I don’t ever recall having a meaningful conversation with either parent as a child. I did later, as an adult, but in childhood, no. I came to depend on myself and one friend to get through my challenges.
My childhood certainly helped me become independent and tough. I actually had to “unlearn” the toughness and shed the armor, because really, it wasn’t me. It was a survival mechanism. I’m actually quite sensitive and now, call on the toughness only when needed.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Self-care and self-knowledge are key to resilience in my experience. With that in mind there are some important things you simply have to have in place in order to be resilient.
- Do what lights you up! Riding waves lights me up. Travel and photography light me up. Art lights me up. When you find the things in life that light you up (not drugs and alcohol) you’ll find a zest for life that will fuel you through virtually any challenge life throws your way.
- Keep learning and exploring — I find that challenging myself to learn new things and keep exploring what I like, what I enjoy, is its own reward. It keeps my mind active and my perspective fresh. There’s nothing like travel to a foreign country, for instance, to broaden one’s perspective. Looking for and exploring the beauty in life keeps you plugged into a higher vibration that will insulate you during the tough times.
- Quality food — years ago, I completed a master’s in Holistic Nutrition when I saw the impact of food on the body, mood and energy. I realized then that virtually all health challenges could be met through better nutrition. You simply cannot be resilient if you are depleted physically.
- Quality sleep — approaching the day feeling rested and refreshed has to be one of the most valuable things in life. I only truly appreciated this when my sleep became disrupted by hot flashes. I’d sometimes get out of bed in the morning and burst into tears after a particularly rough night. Not a great way to start the day!
- Exercise — preferably something you love and look forward to doing. I’ve spent decades working out, playing sports, doing yoga and bodyboarding and still to this day, I’m always surprised at how great I feel after a workout. I feel I can handle anything that comes my way and, as a bonus, I make better food choices without even thinking about it. For me, exercise and eating well, go hand in hand.
Plugging into activities you love nourishes your soul, encourages you to take care of yourself and helps you build a life you can love. Do these things and watch as your resilience grows!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. :-)
Do What Lights You Up! I can’t stress this enough. Having something in your life that is fun, exhilarating and that inspires you can help you weather any storm. And, if you can find an activity in nature that lights you up, even better. Being in nature has been proven to reduce stress and aid healing. Nature is known to soothe and to restore well-being among many other positive benefits. So think hiking, skiing, rock climbing, biking, surfing, even walking on the beach or gardening. As long as the activity is one you love and look forward to, you’ll reap the benefits.
If you’re inspired by what you’re doing, you’ll naturally feel more love and more joy which translates to better relationships, more self confidence, a more inclusive mindset and a more expanded way of being! If everyone could do something that truly lights them up, ours would be a more joyful world.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Brene Brown, a heart centered and brilliant thought leader. As a creative and introvert, I resonate deeply with her message of embracing vulnerability and courage. Dropping my own armor was, perhaps, the most life changing shift for me. One that allowed me to genuinely connect with a wide range of people and one that allows me to be both vulnerable and visible. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love and belonging, of joy, trust, empathy, creativity and innovation.” ~Brene Brown (From her talk, Dare To Be Vulnerable)
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have a private FB group, Emotional Alchemy, and folks are welcome to join. It is a “private group” but just ask to join and we’ll approve you. I also have a Facebook business page, Emotional Alchemy with Abby Hanneman and a new Instagram page, CoachAbbyH. Any of these will work as well as my own website: www.coachabby.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente helps cancer survivors overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Food Network, WW, Bloomberg, Amazon, and Facebook. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.