Rising Through Resilience: Megan Swan On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Develop an Abundant Mindset. Your ability to shift your perspective or mindset around the situation to see the lesson and move forward or find new motivation is so important in terms of resilience. Here I suggest three ‘F’ words you can practice embracing and reframing: fear, failure and forgiveness.
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 Megan Swan.
Megan Swan is a mindset and wellness coach that designs custom, approachable wellness lifestyles for the ambitious woman.
She helps women optimize their wellness through nutrition, mindfulness, mindset and movement so that they can feel magnetic energy + confidence in their own skin so that ultimately they can accomplish their dreams and stop playing small.
She is a certified IIN Health Coach, Plant-Based Chef, Detox Expert, Yoga Teacher with over 10 years of integrative wellness experience.
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?
Sure, thanks so much for the opportunity to share my thoughts!
I discovered my passion for coaching through my own experience working with a Health Coach. I used to constantly feel exhausted, overwhelmed and impatient as a first-time mom. My sleep schedule never seemed to recover from when my children were babies. I drank a lot of coffee and ate “healthy” sweets to increase my energy during the day. I was taking care of myself, or so I thought, until I began meeting with a Health Coach and later studied to become one. After much research and experimenting with my diet, I have come to understand the short- and long-term negative effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD) on our overall health and well-being. Since I have eliminated processed foods, refined sugar and gluten from my diet, I have found new levels of energy. In fact, now, at 42, I have another level of energy, clarity and tranquility than ever before. I am convinced that by making small but important lifestyle adjustments, we can discover a new sense of well-being and prevent many chronic diseases through intuitive eating, exercise, mindful practices and the understanding of our own unique biorhythms and digestive cycles.
Today I love helping women optimize their wellness through plant-based nutrition, mindfulness, movement and mindset practices so that they feel more aligned and confident in their own skin. In turn they develop more magnetic energy and expand their vision of what is possible for themselves in this world, they start showing up for themselves in profound new ways and going after their dreams just like I did.
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?
Well I can share the story about the only negative review I have received from a client. It was from one of the dozen clients I had in my first year of coaching. The review was that I should not be recommending anything that is not proven by science. I have been over this client’s records and honestly I am not even sure what specific thing this client is referring to, as everything I do has a scientific backing, even the spiritual wellness aspects. At first, I was taken aback, although very appreciative. Kind, constructive feedback is always helpful!
This lesson taught me many things:
- Not to let a bad review dim my passion for helping others.
- To pay more attention to how each individual is best going to ‘hear’ and feel safe to ‘integrate’ the same information.
- Get better at explaining the deep relationship between modern sciences and ancient sciences.
- As always, learn more, read more, know more!
- Criticism is an invitation, an opportunity for growth. In terms of how you react and potentially integrate it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Megan Swan Wellness stand out is the approach that we use called The Sustainable Integrated Wellness Approach. This methodology uses six pillars of wellness as markers to optimize physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness so that it becomes a part of who you are, an entire lifestyle and not just another series of things on your to do list.
This is because there is no one-size-fits-all wellness. Every single client is different, every single session is tailored to what they need at that moment in their journey. No two bodies are alike, no two lifestyles are alike, and certainly no two wellness lifestyles are alike. That is why a sustainable and customized approach is at the forefront of our methodology.
We are interested in the long-game, not a quick fix that doesn’t stick. Oftentimes clients are in disbelief when we start because they thought it would be hard to change their habits, but because we couple the small shifts in habits with small shifts in mindset it makes it seem very doable. Clients see results in a couple weeks and get excited about all the new possibilities they can now envision for themselves.
This is why I love this work so much, it is very rewarding to help people change their lives forever.
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?
Well there are so many really! I have had the privilege to work with incredible teachers and coaches over the years. It’s funny sometimes the teachers that stick with you, isn’t it? I’ll never forget my high school English teacher Mr. Lianzi. He pushed me to be better in ways no teacher had done so. He also treated me like an adult and an equal. It was the first time I felt like my opinion really mattered. He would always say, “don’t tell what you think I want to hear, tell me what you actually think!” His encouragement, wit, and humour helped me grow and build intellectual confidence in so many ways. He was so himself, and didn’t try to be something he wasn’t. He had one leg shorter than the other, so he always wore the same shoes that had a really thick sole on one shoe so that he could walk without a cane. He still walked funny, but with such a can-do attitude and confident strut no one was ever going to doubt his competence. He was the one that introduced me to Shakespeare and the deep life lessons that story can provide us.
As a coach I am constantly using my client’s own stories to help them see that there are multiple narratives that they can write, embody and accept about their own lives, that we are in control of the narrative and the narrative holds a lot of power over us. Mindset work is all about rewriting the stories we tell ourselves about life, what is possible, and how we want to be defined.
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?
- I would define resilience as the ability to bounce back from adversity, tragedy, traumatic events or circumstances. This can be in terms of the ability to withstand the trauma in the moment, and then also the ability to find a way to process it and work through it so it doesn’t come to define you.
- It is the ability to turn pain into power or the fire that motivates you to go on and take action.
- Resilient people are clear on what their purpose in life is.
- Resilient people feel connected to a greater good, to their loved ones, nature, and to themselves.
- Resilient people know the importance of taking care of themselves to maintain their ability to go on; eating well, sleeping well, staying active, and staying social.
- Resilient people have a sense of humor, and know the importance of laughter.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is the ability to do what you feel is the ‘right’ thing, even when it is not easy. By definition, “cor” is Latin for heart, it is taking heart-aligned action.
Whereas, resilience is the ability to keep going even in the face of difficult circumstances, adversity or even tragedy.
Therefore we could say that it takes courage to be resilient, to take those first steps towards bouncing back from adversity, but not all courageous people can keep up this courageous action. Resilience is consistently showing up for yourself and others with courage to overcome your pain.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Good question. I think I would say my Mom. It wasn’t until I was a mother too that I really appreciated what a strong and resilient woman she is. My Mom hasn’t had an extremely difficult life or anything that has capital T trauma, but she faced many challenges and always came out strong, not looking like she was even struggling. She was adopted, she always had an underlying sense of not knowing where she came from, she overcame the divorce from my father, who didn’t make it easy for her financially. All the while, never throwing him under the bus, or blaming anyone. As children, we had no idea they were fighting in the courts. In order to feel more financially stable, she went back to school, working full time, and studying at night while being a single parent. She had a dream of living in Europe, from when she backpacked across it with a girlfriend at 16 years of age. Eventually when she was 48, she found an opportunity via the Canadian military to teach at a Canadian school on a NATO base in Belgium.
Although I am very aware there are millions of people who have overcome much more dramatic adversities, I think for the purpose of this interview it is important to point out that it doesn’t have to the most tragic thing in history, it is this cumulative action and attitude that the show must go on, and life is too short to live it focusing on what is not working. My Mom and I didn’t always get along, and that was mostly because I didn’t appreciate how hard it is to be resilient. To maintain a sense of stability while emotionally feeling unstable. It requires a constant reframe to focus on what is important to you and what your purpose is in this world and to not let a shift in your foundation destabilize the whole plan.
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?
After I got sober I turned this new time and energy towards running. I had several friends that ran half and full marathons and they made it seem not so impossible. So at 39 I started running with the goal to run my first half marathon before I turned 40. This was going for something that for 38 years of my life I filed in the ‘not possible for me’ box in my head. This was mostly due to the fact I had a gym teacher in junior high school that flat out said one day when I was complaining about the laps we had to run that I was “not a runner”. For whatever reason, probably in part due to laziness I took this to heart. Fast forward to when I was getting certified as a yoga instructor when I was 28, our yoga school taught us that “running is for horses.’ That is to say that running is high-impact and we are not built for it, so this fit perfectly into my vision for myself that I wasn’t missing out on anything not running.
Fast forward to when I had run 3 half marathons already and I was training for my first marathon at 41 I was listening to the books and podcasts and stories of people who had run ultramarathons. One book discussed the fact that the human body is designed to run marathons because our ancient ancestors ran approximately 4 hours a day in search of food or hunting.
In February 2020 I completed the first and to this date only marathon of my life, a feat for decades I thought impossible for myself. It is my best example of how changing the stories you listen to and in turn tell yourself about what is possible is the most powerful tool we have as humans to be resilient.
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?
Leaving my first marriage is the first story that comes to mind. I never thought I would marry young, or follow a man’s career over my own, or put up with verbal abuse and manipulation, but when you do, this powerful physiological mechanism called cognitive dissonance kicks in. Cognitive dissonance is the phenomenon that when you do something that is out of alignment with your beliefs or values you need to have a very strong rationalization as to why. This is what keeps us in abusive relationships, we tend to hold onto and glorify the good in the relationship so that it makes up for the bad. My Ex and I were both alcoholics and we spent much of our relationship fighting. The relationship highs were like a dream, the travel, the lifestyle, the fun and the relationship lows were verbal abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, and intimidation. His strategy was to keep me feeling like all my self-worth was tied up in our relationship, that without it I was not going to amount to much. I’ll never forget the night we were fighting and he spit in my face — that was something that really took me aback, but it would be another year before I would leave.
I stayed with it for so long, which was only two years, because I didn’t want to break up with the narrative. I didn’t want to let go of the whole story we had created around us meeting, the meant to be, the knight in shining armour, the living the dream, the lifestyle, the supposed fairy tale. Plus I felt like everyone was going to say ‘I told you so’ because I rushed into it.
Finally, it was on one of our trips to Paris where a stranger in the street asked if I was ok, that I realized I was meant for more, and my life was just beginning. It was one of those conversations you have with a stranger that seems like a message from the universe, they are there to reflect back to you what you are not able to see for yourself.
It is a long story, but I energetically decided I was out, crafted a way to do it, moved, and started over. Little by little I got a job, started studying for my master’s degree, and went on with my life. I still didn’t have a clear picture of what the future held, but I knew there were limitless possibilities, and that hopeful energy, relying on my social support systems, and my ability to face my fears helped me through the uncertainty.
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?
I think I had a lot of common setbacks as a kid, and my survival instincts were strong. However I think part of being resilient is not being able to face facts that your current strategy is no longer serving you, and change course.
My parents divorce at 7 years old. I handled it like a pro, but it really shifted my life from one world into another. I quickly became an expert at reading between the ‘adult talk’ lines and body language. Often as a child, I was told that I seemed older than I was, and I took that as a compliment, but I’m not sure it was. Like many kids in the 80s we adapted to living between two parent’s homes and lifestyles. The next dramatic change was when I was 17 my father committed suicide. I also handled this like a pro rationalizing that his alcoholism was self-destructive behavior we had been witnessing for years. Needless to say my survival mechanism was intellectualizing the problem, adapting and moving on. I embraced a victim mentality, but with a lot of wit and sarcasm for the next several decades.
It wasn’t until I had my own children that I became aware of how negative my thought patterns were, and I knew I didn’t want to pass them on. Part of being able to move on from your past patterns is seeing them for what they were, a survival mechanism that helped you through a hard time. It helps to have an attitude of gratitude over self-judgement to appreciate that you do better when you know better, no need to define yourself by your past or sit and ruminate about lost time or opportunities.
Since getting sober myself almost 3 and a half years ago now have I been able to break free from the limiting beliefs I relied on to get me through those stressful situations and reframe my childhood for what it really was — full of gardens, road trips, skiing, adventures, camping, boating, puzzles, singing, dancing and deep friendships.
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.
- Strong positive relationship(s). I think it is really important in this post-pandemic era that we give ourselves permission to really seek out that intimate connection and company we have been missing over the last few years. It will take some practice but we need to stop bringing a layer of fear to social interactions and trust that we have done everything we can to strengthen our immunity. Resilient people have strong personal connections with at least one other person, and usually multiple positive relationships that keep them fighting for survival or to go on. This could be a parent or a child or a lifelong friend. When we feel like someone is really going to need or miss us we are able to muster up the extra energy and motivation to keep trying. I know since having children, my drive for being successful on a whole other level has completely shifted. It is newly important and visceral for me to not only be their role model but also to have the ability to open doors for them or support them while they figure out what their dreams are.
This is why so many of us will be looking for new ways to cultivate intimate settings to connect with like-minded people. It gets harder when we are adults to make new platonic friends, we are just so overwhelmed with commitments that we come to think of connecting with friends as just another thing on the to-do-list. Developing strong positive relationships, and maintaining them is the number one thing you can do to build your resilience.
- Develop an Abundant Mindset. Your ability to shift your perspective or mindset around the situation to see the lesson and move forward or find new motivation is so important in terms of resilience. Here I suggest three ‘F’ words you can practice embracing and reframing: fear, failure and forgiveness. We all have fear, it is what we do with it that makes all the difference. We can practice by facing our little fears, like starting a new project or hobby we are not sure we will excel at, and reframe the fear as excitement. Then when we are faced with even bigger fears we know there is a way to reframe this fear into excitement or motivation to take action. We need to embrace failure and not be afraid to take messy action. So often we are stuck in analysis paralysis, perfectionism or imposter syndrome instead of just starting somewhere and being willing to look silly and learn as we go.
We are more resilient when we are willing to forgive. Just ask yourself next time you are angry at someone or the situation, “Do I want to be ‘right’ or do I want to be happy?”. Happiness is a choice. You always have a choice as to how you are going to show up and react. We build resilience when we are able to see humanity in every situation and let go of past drama so we can focus on the present moment at hand.
- Laughter. A sense of humor is something else that really helps you get through hard times. You have to be able to laugh with someone about the situation, which doesn’t need to make the situation ok or less painful, but it allows our body to release endorphins and in turn create new hope for the future. Laughter eases the central nervous system and communicates to our body that everything is going to be ok. It provides a healthy pause and reset so we can recuperate to get back to the situation at hand.
- Overall Optimal Wellness. Taking care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness is also key. We often underestimate the mind-body connection but those of us who made our health and wellness a priority over the pandemic have come out with new purpose, alignment and optimism for what is to come. When we eat well, move our bodies, have a mindful practice, connect with nature, prioritize sleep, take time off, maintain healthy boundaries and happy relationships we are in the best state we can be in when times get tough. It serves as a buffer and allows us to face adversity with more strength, optimism and motivation to make it through to the end.
- Clear purpose. Gaining clarity of your purpose is so important to building resilience. We function best physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually when there is a clear mission. It is debilitating to us as humans to deal with the unknown. Therefore in the face of the unknown the more clarity we can hold on to and focus on the better. Being very clear why you are here, why you want to wake up each morning, and what you are working towards is so helpful. It can be a short-term or a long-term goal we seek clarity around. One great way to help you clarify your purpose is a mindfulness practice, such as meditation or prayer where you are connecting with your higher power or your highest self to gain awareness so you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What exactly is the current situation?
- How am I reacting to it?
- How do I want to react?
- How do I want to feel?
- How does this play into my purpose in life or what is my purpose in this situation?
- How can I be of service?
When it comes down to it, the more clarity you have on the situation the better you will react, the more wisely you will utilize the resources at hand, and the more self-awareness you will have on your limits so you know when you need to take a moment to regroup.
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. :-)
Well thank you, I am working towards being a person of great influence! My mission is to help powerful people optimize their wellness so that it becomes a way of life, not a checkmark on their to do list. By implementing small approachable shifts to their existing routine, my approach strives to empower you with your own sustainable energy and confidence. So I want to inspire a movement so that more women prioritize their optimal wellness and adopt an abundant and resilient mindset so that they can accomplish their dreams, sustainably without the burnout.
I truly believe we are in the midst of a wellness revolution. When people start looking outside the status quo box and redefining success and happiness on their own terms their possibilities are limitless. In my opinion when we adopt an internal locus of control for our health, wellness, happiness and success while removing the layers of limiting beliefs we all grew up with, we become very powerful.
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 :-)
Well I have said it before, but I will say it again, it is on my bucket list to do The Plant Powered Way: Italia retreat with Julie Piatt and Rich Roll so that I have multiple opportunities to share a meal with them and all the incredible people that attend these events! They have both been a huge inspiration to me, Rich in terms of running and a plant-based diet and Julie in terms of my spiritual growth and practices. They are wellness celebrities I look forward to spending time with some day. They both have incredible resilience in their own personal stories. I was thrilled when Julie agreed to be on my podcast this year! It was a personal high that reminded me to never limit myself in what I think is possible.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
One really great opportunity for a new intimate experience to make strong positive relationships is by doing a retreat! I am so excited to collaborate with my friend and fellow resilient wellness supermom Britt Gustafson to host our first of many energy-focused transformational events: Be Well Tulum Retreat, in Mexico, April 2022.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Always a pleasure, thank you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts on resilience.