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Women In Wellness: Stephanie Bolster McCannon of BolsterUp On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Bolster McCannon.

Stephanie Bolster McCannon is an Organizational Psychologist, published Author, and CEO of BolsterUp, a well-being coaching company that supports emotional, mental, and physical mastery. Stephanie’s interest in supporting others intensified with her need for healing as a young mother and professional. Working with employees from large worldwide corporations to local private educational institutions, government agencies and private clients, Stephanie discovered a winning combination that brings true health and happiness to working professionals and parents with the BolsterUp Method.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My love of mind-body alignment began early in life, when I took advantage of high school leadership development courses, and learned the value of physical, mental, and emotional potential. As a corpsman in the Navy, I learned the significance of commitment, rituals, and productivity and continued my educational studies in science, the humanities, and management in higher education. I was among the first to be certified as a health and wellness coach. However, as a young mother and busy entrepreneur, my health failed, forcing me to examine the process and connections of our thoughts, breathing, and nourishment that allow us all to be happy humans.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I was a total go-getter in high school, exploring the virtues of living our best lives. I even ran a puppet show for elementary school children about health and happiness! For some, it was physical attainment, for others, a newfound love of themselves, and for some, the courage to express their thoughts. A teacher and I often talked about health and his addiction to smoking cigarettes, and I continued to encourage him to believe he was worthy of health and vitality. Years later, while in college, he messaged me that he had quit smoking because of our conversations. That moment was both humbling and empowering. I haven’t stopped supporting and helping since, knowing that sometimes I am just planting the seed, and may not immediately see the full flower in bloom. That lesson has stayed with me throughout my career.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This question made me laugh….there were so many! ☺ One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started out was trying to do everything myself and still be successful, happy, and healthy. Trying to raise three young children without a physical spouse present, running all aspects of a business, being responsible for all daily upkeep of a home, and maintaining social expectations. It simply does not work. No one can do it all alone. We are social creatures. Even those who are happy to work independently need input and support from others. Having a mentor, or a small group of people you can bounce ideas off of, or give and receive guidance from, sharing in the good and not-so-good days, is immeasurable to success in any endeavor. I am much happier, more connected, and able to do more of what I love since I learned to share the load instead of carrying it all alone.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

So many are living unfulfilling and unhealthy lives. As adults in society, we struggle with mental, emotional, and physical health, and we must address the whole life, not just treat a symptom.

Allowing someone to be heard is a powerful way to heal, no matter what state they currently find themselves in. We think, assume, and believe something is wrong with us when in fact, we are simply not living a life that is authentic to us or focused on our needs and wind up sick, depressed, anxious, and confused. In fact, health and healing come much faster when someone actually has a skilled professional to listen and support their decisions for wellness. I know all too well the mounting frustration of waiting hours to see a doctor who spends maybe four minutes with you, and it’s mostly looking at your labs and not at you as a human being. I believe most of the work I do allows my clients to be heard, seen, and valued. When our needs are known and met, we flourish, thrive, and feel alive. Coaching through the BolsterUp Method allows for true expression of what is most important to each person by uncovering their unique strengths and talents, providing sound scientific models for change, growth, and communication that impacts their overall well-being. The work I am doing allows for the full expression of the human experience with the guidance and tools that create lasting health and happiness.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

There are many things we can do, participate in and practice to improve our well-being. My top five starts with how we think. When I was a young mother, I took my toddler with me to an important business meeting. I was already a bit nervous but was assured he was welcomed. While engaged in the meeting, my little darling (in eyesight of us just a few feet away) was flipping a water jug valve up and down. Before we knew it, the floor was flooded, and I was mortified. My business partner didn’t miss a beat and reassured me that all was well, but that the floor needed to be cleaned up, anyway. We got some towels and mopped up the water. My thinking was focused on “disaster,” her thinking was focused on “make the most of it.” That was a huge lesson for me. My son was being curious; nobody was harmed or did anything wrong, I just needed to adjust my thinking about the situation.

Breathing is the second lifestyle tweak that supports better well-being. I am a huge promoter of Dr. Weil’s 4–7–8 breathing, as well as other diaphragmatic breathing techniques that stimulate the vagus nerve. So many report back to me that this one breathing technique has helped them quell their anxiety to pass tests, sleep better, and even heal faster. One client kept failing a test she needed for a promotion at work. After practicing the 4–7–8 breathing technique for two weeks, she sat for the test again. She passed and got promoted! She attributes her breathing to her anxiety, or lack thereof, and continues to rely on this skill to stay centered and calm. Breathing is definitely a very overlooked aspect of health and one we can easily manipulate for our good.

The third lifestyle tweak is to go on an elimination diet to find out what is most nourishing for your body’s current needs. I say “current” because what is nourishing for some or at other times in your life may not be supporting your well-being now. For instance, in my own recovery from an autoimmune disorder, I was on an elimination diet, slowly adding in one food at a time and keeping track in a journal of how I felt, and if I had any symptoms. I was stunned to find out that my body did not like bananas at the time, or tomato sauce during the healing phase I was in. I have had both since fully recovering, but trusted my body to tell me what nourishment it needed at that time. Stay connected to what your own body is saying about nourishment, it may not be the current “best for you food” being touted.

The fourth lifestyle tweak is to turn your thermostat to 65 degrees an hour before heading to bed. A cool environment allows your body to naturally release melatonin, the sleep hormone, as well as allowing cortisol levels, the stress hormone to drop, contributing to beneficial sleep. Sleep is vital to our well-being, and if a simple adjustment to our thermostat aids in a restful night, it is well worth it! Plus, you save a bit on heating costs.

My fifth lifestyle tweak is small but mighty! This tip is helpful to shift mindset, connect as couples, families, or teams, and enrich our lives. It is the BolsterUp 3 Nicest Things. Three questions that are asked of each other, daily that lift spirits and provide much needed self worth, value and contribution. The first question is what is the nicest thing you did for someone today? Second, what is the nicest thing someone did for you. And last but not least, what is the nicest thing you did for yourself? I had a busy oncologist who was increasingly feeling disconnected from her husband and kids as she worked long hours and missed dinner at least 2 nights a week. After starting the three questions before going to bed, both she and her husband found a deeper respect, understanding, and opportunity to celebrate their days. It was much better than the passive, “how was your day?” In fact, it was her husband, after a few weeks who acknowledged how much he enjoyed their 3 nicest things exchange. They eventually started including their children.

My own children and friends are now prepared to share their “nicest things” when they sit down at dinner with me. In fact, my oldest daughter took this technique to orchestra camp, where the counselors started using it all their groups.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I did! I created a breathing challenge called “7 Breaths to Peace.” My second of the four pillars of well-being is breathing. Not just our physical inhale and exhale but also letting “life breathe”. Allowing space and time to let relationships, ideas, and our physical selves to take in and time to let go of what is not needed. When we focus on our physical breath and get good at deliberate inhales, pauses, and exhales, we allow all areas of life to flourish. We know scientifically the results of calm, deep breathing on physical, mental, and emotional health. We are chemical factories, and nothing creates more stagnation or movement than breathing in all areas of life. If we can do nothing else, noticing and correcting our breathing is a game-changer for all aspects of well-being.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Create from the feeling of the end in mind. If we know how we want to feel when something is accomplished, it makes it so much easier to focus on that. We do not, as humans’ endeavor to deliberately hurt, or fail, or suffer. If we just focus on the accomplishment itself, once done, it can leave us feeling depleted, lonely, and unfulfilled. If the focus is on how we feel to have, achieve, or experience something, that becomes the prize.
  2. Set an intention before taking action, especially if it is new to you. Setting an intention causes us to focus on the outcome and allows room for the unexpected. Otherwise, we go in blazing thinking we know what to say, how to act, and what to do and miss many opportunities this way.
  3. Choose to create, not solve. This is tough for most of us since we are not used to being asked what we want to develop and feel more comfortable spending time, energy, and resources solving problems. However, if we are stuck trying to solve something instead of creating something we don’t allow for the full functioning of our brain and creativity.
  4. It’s okay to let go. I struggle with this still and my tenacity often works against me. Resistance creates more resistance. This has proven true with letting go of things I do not use or need around my house, as well relationships, old hurts, and fear. Letting go has taught me there is plenty more, even better and more fun. I remember my mother pleading with me to let go of the side of pool and come enjoy the fun. She was right, letting go invited more in.
  5. Spend more time doing what makes you happy than anyone else. This does not mean we are selfish and do not do for others. In fact, many find what creates happiness for themselves is doing for others, just in ways that feel good and honor us.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health for sure. Our mental state is directly tied to stress and to every aspect of health and humanity. If we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, we can never bring about the ideas, creations, and changes we desire in life for ourselves and the greater good. What’s more, our youth are in a high state of mental crisis, and we need to address their suffering and foster growth and stability not just for their sakes but for all humanity. Stress has been a major contributor to the decline of health across the world. In fact, the United Nations declared stress a worldwide epidemic before the pandemic, and we must all make deliberate lifestyle adjustments to foster our own mental health and that of those around us.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

My website at www.BolsterUp.com Facebook at BolsterUpNow, Twitter, IG @ BolsterUp.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.