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Rising Through Resilience: April Likins of ‘Wellness With April’ On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Resilience to me is the ability to quickly navigate or bounce back from life’s curveballs and challenges — and let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of them these days. None of us are immune to facing significant heartaches, losses, and challenges in life. We can allow them to overtake us or learn to rise above them and grow through them.

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 April Likins.

April Likins is a board-certified health coach dual-trained at Duke Integrative Medicine and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She lives with her family in Virginia surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. When April is not working with coaching clients, she enjoys writing and speaking on wellness topics, traveling, photography, and finding the perfect matcha latte.

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 am a former design and project manager turned board-certified health coach, who helps ambitious women beat burnout, and experience more energy and joy — without sacrificing their careers.

I became passionate about health and wellness nearly 20 years ago when my father was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive prostate cancer at the age of 49. It was a diagnosis that appeared to come out of nowhere. Barely out of college, I was devastated because our relationship had only begun to repair and flourish a few years prior. He was a brilliant thinker, entrepreneur, musician, and athlete. However, while I was growing up, he was often consumed with work and rarely present.

When he was diagnosed, I was motivated to help prolong his life. I wanted to understand what was driving the rise in the diseases we have been seeing aside from genetics. I dove into epigenetics and slowly began making healthier lifestyle choices with him — which I believe helped prolong his life.

It wasn’t until years later, after I experienced my own health crisis, that I decided to go back to school and pivot careers to become a health coach. I wanted to help others avoid the same costly mistakes I had made so they could thrive inside and out.

This life is precious and fleeting, and if we are not careful, it will pass us by in a blink of an eye.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I recently worked with a health coaching client, Elaine, who came to me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and nearing the end of her rope. She struggled with chronic pain, insomnia, fatigue, IBS symptoms, and had just experienced a massive health flare.⁠ Her inflammation was frequently so high that she often struggled to get out of bed and had little energy for her kids or her husband.⁠ She also felt discouraged that her health no longer allowed her to work “and contribute to her family,” something she enjoyed doing. ⁠

Through working together with one-on-one health coaching, we focused on:⁠

⁠• Improving her sleep routine and hygiene.⁠

• Setting healthy boundaries around her commitments (as well as screen time.)⁠

• Getting in daily gentle movement. (She enjoyed walks, stretching, Yoga, and body weight exercises.)⁠

• Journalling, meditation, and renewing her mindset. ⁠

• Reducing her caffeine and sugar intake.⁠

• Eating more whole foods/avoiding her trigger foods.

• Scheduling in self-care activities that relaxed her.⁠

During our time together, I watched Elaine transform! ⁠

As her stress levels drastically lowered, it had a positive ripple effect on the rest of her health. It reduced her inflammation, improved her sleep⁠, and her daily IBS symptoms subsided.⁠

She experienced much more energy, which allowed her to spend more quality time with her family, and even found a new flexible job working from home. Elaine was thrilled and told me she felt like she’d gotten her life back.

Through her story, I learned the power of the mind-body connection and how interconnected stress is to GI issues, autoimmune diseases, fatigue, and chronic pain. I learned that given the right ingredients and environment, the body is innately and intelligently designed to course correct, and even heal itself. I think her story should give a lot of people hope. I know it has for me.

It is such a gift to be a part of stories of transformation like these, and why I truly love what I get to do as a coach!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What lights me up about what I get to do as a health coach is being able to empower others to make small shifts in their daily habits and lives that lead to life-changing results for them. (Partnering with them and seeing them thrive has been equally life-changing for me. It’s such an honor and privilege!)

I worked with a client recently, Rachel, who was struggling with energy that was affecting her cognition and work performance. Through discussing areas that might be contributing, we landed on sleep. She had been increasingly staying up later and later in the evenings, decreasing her sleep quality. She would wake up (naturally) feeling more exhausted and found herself reaching for more caffeine later in the day and experiencing cravings for processed (sugary and salty) snacks.

Frustrated by her “lack of willpower” with snacking, she pushed harder with her workouts, worsening her fatigue. We slowly started working on micro habits by increasing her sleep duration and lowering her caffeine intake. (Treating these changes like an experiment.)

Gradually she started lowering her caffeine intake and reducing her daily cut-off time to mid-morning. She switched her high-intensity workouts to during the day and began alternating them with lower-impact recovery days. Those changes profoundly affected her energy levels, clarity of thought, and work performance.

This is a perfect example of how one stressor can create a domino effect if we are not careful. Her caffeine intake drove her to work out later and go to bed at midnight, diminishing her sleep quality. The following day, her exhaustion drove her to consume more caffeine and revved up her cravings. This further worsened her sleep, creating a vicious chronic stress cycle.

It’s also an incredible example of how developing a few micro resilience habits can create a positive ripple effect on your entire health and mental well-being.

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?

I completely agree, and two people come to mind — my husband and my dear friend Gail Eatmon. Both have the uncanny ability to see the potential in people. My husband, who is a successful doctor and entrepreneur, pushes me to go farther than I believe I can.

Years ago, Gail said to me “I think you would be a great health coach!” I remember thinking that was a compliment at the time, but crazy. I wasn’t interested in it at the time, but it planted a seed.

Looking back, I realized she was able to see something and believed in me before I was able to recognize it in myself. I’m truly grateful for her support and encouragement over the years.

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 to me is the ability to quickly navigate or bounce back from life’s curveballs and challenges — and let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of them these days. None of us are immune to facing significant heartaches, losses, and challenges in life. We can allow them to overtake us or learn to rise above them and grow through them.

Some people are naturally more resilient than others. The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed through practice and repetition.

I believe resilient people are:

· Flexible and creative in their thinking.

· Forward-thinking and action-oriented.

· Persistent. They don’t give up, recognizing the only way to truly “fail” is to give up or not try at all.

· Proactive instead of reactive.

· Able to find humor and silver linings in challenging situations.

· Self-aware and able to regulate their energy and emotions.

· Able to leverage their strengths and the strengths of others to find creative solutions.

· Optimistic, seeing challenges as temporary and solvable.

· Able to ask for help.

· Life-long learners who embrace life with curiosity.

· Are able to foster positive and supportive relationships with others.

· Surrounded with wise counsel and open to hearing feedback, constructive criticism, and new ideas.

· Diligent with self-care. They understand that you cannot continually pour from an empty cup and thrive.

· Able to find joy in the journey.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different from resilience?

Both courage and resilience are equally important and go hand in hand.

Courage is an essential component of resiliency. It is the strength to face the unknown, make different decisions, and move forward in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Resiliency requires elasticity and the ability to learn, adapt and quickly recover. It’s accepting that things will go wrong, but you can learn to evolve, grow through challenges, and find solutions.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

The most resilient person I have personally known was my father. I watched him walk through a lengthy and difficult battle with cancer with grace, humility, and humor, never complaining. Though he could have easily made what he was facing about him, it blew me away to watch him continually focus on and serve others.

Even while lying in bed dying, he wrote uplifting and inspiring posts on social media and constantly asked others about them. I will never forget the lines of people daily waiting to say goodbye to him at the end and how nervous they were to talk to him. “What can I possibly say to comfort him?” They would tell me through tears as I would reassure them “it’s ok, just be yourself. You mean a lot to him; he’ll be thrilled to see you!”

And every single time, they would walk out in complete awe of how he had encouraged them.

I’ll never forget it. He left a massive imprint on my heart and the hearts of so many people. He also left big shoes to fill, ultimately inspiring me to live a life of impact.

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?

I think for me (and most of us), the most difficult voice we hear is not of those around us but the one inside us. We all have naysayers in our life (and inner critics in our heads.) The key is not to give them a front-row seat or a megaphone in our lives.

Growing up, I was a shy, introverted, and sensitive kid. The “impossible” for me was always public speaking or performing in public. Growing up, I was pushed to do things I didn’t want to do and wasn’t good at. Like playing the piano when I couldn’t read music, so I learned to please others by playing by ear. This technique worked well when I was practicing at home or working one-on-one with my music teacher.

However, the music recital was a different story. I was so overtaken by the terror of hundreds of people watching me, that my mind completely blanked and I could not remember how to play. The notes were right in front of me, but because I could not read them, I was unable to perform.

I will never forget the awkward silence of what felt like an eternity and the overwhelming shame and failure I felt as I had to quietly walk off stage.

I had a similar experience in my (required) public speaking course in college. I chose a topic for a speech that was profoundly moving to me and caused me to tear up a bit. To my surprise (and horror) the professor stopped me mid-speech, berated me in front of the class for “becoming emotional,” told me I was receiving an F, and to return to my seat. Again, I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame and of failure.

Those traumatic experiences followed me well into adulthood, where I believed the lie that I was incapable of speaking in public. I allowed it to stifle my voice.

However, at 42, I final realized enough was enough. My “why” of using my story and voice to help others was finally bigger than my fear of public speaking. This year, I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone to guest speak on dozens of podcasts globally. It has been gratifying to be able to help others on a much larger scale.

I want to encourage readers that you have a powerful story and a voice. Don’t be afraid to use it for good to inspire others. The world needs your transparency, humility, passion, and greatness.

We’re all on this journey of life together, and all of us are a beautiful work in progress.

Did you have a time in your life when you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I hit burnout in 2013 after my father died. I had burned the candle at both ends for a few years until it ultimately led to a complete health collapse.

It has been my experience that when there are difficult emotions and experiences we don’t want to fully feel, it can be tempting to turn to unhealthy things to cope. We can turn to anything from eating or drinking more, shopping or Netflix binge watching, to the toxic hustle mentality of working 24/7.

I fell back into my old bad habit of workaholism. Ultimately it created the chronic stress cycle that led to my health collapse.

When I say health collapse, I mean I suddenly could barely get out of bed for a year and a half due to various chronic and debilitating symptoms. I was shuffled from dozens of doctors and specialists who struggled to find answers. Ultimately, I could not function, so I had to let go of the design firm I had at the time and focus solely on my recovery. It was a dark, isolating, and devastating time for me that took me years of determined work to pick up the pieces.

It also taught me invaluable life lessons, like it is far easier to prevent burnout than it is to recover from it, and how crucial it is to develop your own daily resilience habits.

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?

Sports was my outlet growing up, where I first learned resiliency. There are times you miss key shots or plays, and no matter your effort, you still lose the game. It takes courage to show up and play in a packed stadium, (especially during an away game) with an opposing crowd shouting negativity the whole time in your face.

It takes resiliency and flexibility to hear constructive criticism to improve and do it all over again. You go back, practice more to develop your skills, and become a better teammate.

In sports and life, sometimes you get benched, injured, or sidelined. You learn quickly to let go of the spotlight and check your ego at the door to help others shine. True resiliency in leadership is not only learning how to bounce back and move forward but helping others become more resilient.

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.

Physical Resilience / Prioritizing Your Wellness. This includes consuming nourishing foods, drinking adequate water, getting regular movement, and being mindful of your emotional and physical needs. It also includes scheduling in activities or hobbies you find enjoyable or relaxing.

I worked with a client recently, Mary, who manages a multi-billion dollar account for her company. She has a very fast-paced and demanding job that she does from home while juggling being a mom to two young children. These last few years had taken a toll on her physical and mental health, joy, peace, and ability to be present with her family.

Prior to working together, she had been under so much stress that she had even temporarily lost her eyesight (which as you can imagine,) was a terrifying experience for her. She recognized her work-life balance was taking a major toll on her health and her family, and she feared that she would have to quit her job, in order to recover.

We worked together on setting healthy boundaries on what was within her control. Things like not checking and responding to emails in the evenings (unless it was absolutely urgent), not taking her laptop with her on vacation (the first time she’d ever done this), scheduling in regular self-care activities (like a monthly massage), taking walking Zoom meetings during the day, delegating more responsibilities, and saying no.

Focusing on her mental and physical well-being was a radical shift for her — one that improved and transformed all areas of her life. For the first time in quite some time she feels like she has finally taken control of her health and her life by finding a healthy work-life balance, and she was able to do this without letting go of her career.

Rest and Recovery. Rest is the antidote to burnout.

One of the most essential resilience tools is making high-quality sleep a priority. If you want to feel your best inside and out and navigate life’s challenges, the secret is it starts with sleep.

Studies have shown that sleep is crucial for resilience because it is necessary to regulate our emotions, improve our mental health, lower our stress levels, concentrate better, and navigate critical decisions. Sleep enhances the brain’s neuroplasticity, which helps us learn, change, and adapt in the face of adversity.

“A good night’s rest can also help build your resilience.” — CDC

I have worked with many high-achieving coaching clients who prior to working together, felt like sleep was “a waste of time” or “luxury.” Yet, when we started tracking their sleep and gradually increasing the quality, they could see firsthand the connection between how they slept and how they felt.

Getting better sleep not only improved their energy levels, mood, performance, and resilience but also regulated things physiologically like their appetite and blood sugar.

One of my clients, Perry, found that on the nights he slept poorly, his blood pressure was higher the next day, and when he slept better, it was lower. Seeing that in real time was really eye opening for him!

Aim for 7–9 hours of high-quality sleep a night. The key is knowing where your “sleep sweet spot” is in that number. At what number do you feel your best the next day? If you are not sure, start experimenting and tracking it.

Develop Mental Resilience. This requires developing flexibility in understanding that stress and obstacles are a part of life, and change is inevitable. When life hits, it is easy to get trapped in a victim mentality and the “why” spiral. Instead ask yourself “what is one positive thing that can come about from this?” “How can I grow through this?” “What can I do differently next time?”

Focus on what you can control, and then take action.

This is probably the most interesting case of reframing I’ve experienced. I had a coaching client who developed a “GPS system” for his workday that included “thinking like Tom Brady.” The problem had been that his corporate strategy meetings with his team were causing him significant distress. He often felt “run over” by stronger personalities and felt like he was disappointing his boss.

Through working together, we worked on stress management techniques before the meeting like deep breathing, having time to prepare, and reframing his thoughts. (IE: Being proactive instead of reactive, “like Tom Brady.”) Putting those into practice helped him feel better prepared for meetings and far less stressed afterward.

Relational Resilience. This includes fostering healthy relationships that encourage and support you as you encounter challenges. Building relational resilience also requires setting boundaries around toxic people or environments that drain you.

I recently worked with a client who is incredibly kind and enjoys helping others, but she often struggled to say no. This was adding more to her workload, which elevated her stress levels, causing her IBS to flare.

We looked at her support system at work and who could help keep her accountable for staying in balance. Monica enlisted the help of a close colleague who said something life-changing to her. She said to her “you need to stop snow shoveling the driveways of people who are perfectly capable of doing it themselves.” It was a powerful phrase that helped her slowly build her confidence in saying no to projects that were not her responsibility or did not need to be on her plate.

Once we lowered her stress levels, her digestive issues and migraines subsided, and her energy levels increased.

Practice Self-Compassion. We all experience inner critics and negative feelings at times like “imposter syndrome,” feelings of doubt, failure, worry, etc. Self-compassion involves talking to ourselves like we would speak to a child or a cherished friend. It consists in reframing our self-talk to a more realistic and supportive dialogue.

Here’s an example of reframing:

Original thought:

“I’m an idiot! I blew it on the meeting today and forgot to mention an important progress update on XYZ!”

A more compassionate thought:

“I’m human. It slipped my mind to bring up XYZ. I will circle back to the team about it today and better prepare for the next meeting.”

Do you see the difference?

What we focus on gets magnified. Our thoughts are not just abstract things. They directly affect us on a mental and physical level.

Self-compassion is the antidote to your inner critic.

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. :-)

I would love to see resiliency and courage taught widely in schools, homes, and workplaces. With burnout rates continuing to climb higher and higher, we need these skill sets now more than ever.

To counter the burnout epidemic, we need to develop our own set of personal resilience tools and support others in developing their own.

I believe part of the problem and rise in the burnout epidemic is that we have become disconnected with ourselves, learning to push through the warning signs until we have gone too far.

I talk to coaching clients often about this, that one of the most important things you can do daily is check in with yourself asking “what do I need today to thrive?” And then really listening to your body. You might find that today you need to hydrate more, you are craving fresh air and sunshine, you need to let go of something, or you need to slow down and not work through your lunch break… again.

By taking a few moments daily to listen to your needs (and your body), you will be able to develop resilience tools that will enable you to thrive. The key is practicing some of them daily and using others on an “as needed” basis.

I believe wholeheartedly that you are meant to thrive, and that requires tuning into yourself daily.

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 :-)

I admire Lewis Howes and how he has handled and overcome adversity in his life. He trained his whole life to be a professional athlete, got injured, and it ended his career. Lewis has talked often on his podcast “The School of Greatness” about how it was a difficult season for him and how he had to pivot, start all over and reinvent himself.

Lewis embodies resilience and what it means to thrive from a mind, body and spirt perspective and is using his story to help others. He has courageously talked openly about his struggles, about mental health and his past trauma and abuse, bridging the door globally for people, (especially men,) to feel comfortable discussing.

“Most of life is not about our circumstances. It’s about how we perceive and react to them.” — Lewis Howes

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If you are struggling with stress, sleep, or burnout, know that you are not alone. You can connect with me online at www.AprilLikins.com, on Medium, or LinkedIn. Don’t hesitate to drop me a line and say hello, or to schedule a discovery call with me.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to 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 cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head, heart, and gut— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.

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Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente

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Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor