A while back I had the pleasure of meeting Deepak Chopra at a media event. When I reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime interaction, it amazes me how far I've come personally and spiritually and how much his words of slowing down and taking time to breathe every day would become such a big part of my daily curriculum. Life truly wows me sometimes. Things really do come full circle. As a long-time magazine editor and writer for various outlets, I know I have been blessed to work in the industry that I have. So on to what happened...
Perhaps my wanting to go to this special event was two-fold: On a personal note, I had been going through my own spiritual journey since a health scare in 2013. Professionally, I wanted to learn more about his important messages on how to live happier and healthier. I've always loved yoga too so that was a no-brainer. But for some reason, as soon as I opened the invitation, I knew this wouldn't be your average media event where editors and writers mingle and talk shop or gossip about the latest cutbacks and how print is a lost art. This was going to be a life-changing experience for me so I took it as a sign I had to attend now matter what.
For those of you who don't know, Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned physician and expert in mind-body healing, and has written over 65 books including New York Times bestsellers. He has a huge following in every country, along with many celebrity clients, and is highly respected around the globe for his thought-provoking teachings about alternative medicine. I was excited.
We had to remove our shoes at the door when we got there. A tad unusual for a press event, but after all, it was the opening of the new Chopra Yoga Center in Toronto so it made perfect sense. And actually put everyone at ease.
Deepak entered from the back of the room and the applause erupted. Not surprisingly though, with hence his incredible allure. It was almost as if he had walked out on to Oprah's stage. He was wearing a nicely tailored suit and he stood in front of the table that was set out for him to sit at so he could be up close and personal with our small privileged group. He opened by asking us what we wanted to talk about, which spawned a few giggles from the crowd.
We wanted to hear his thoughts on life, love and happiness of course!
He spoke clearly and calmly and looked straight in people’s eyes as if to invoke some sort of trance. As we listened to his theories on the best lifestyle practices for brain health, and how important they are for busy parents, he said: “Every now and then, stop, and ask: ‘Am I aware? What am I aware of?” And the world will open up.” The audience was silent.
His words filled me with emotion and pride. I’ve made some changes in my life over the past 10 months that have made me a stronger, more self-aware person, too. And hearing him speak about this topic right there in front of me was the affirmation I needed that I’m on the right path.
We were also able to ask him some questions. I was up.
“What was the inspiration behind your book Super Brain?” I asked him excitedly.
What came next was not what I had expected. Deepak laughed. Laughed! (Well, maybe more of a chuckle but it was directed at my question particularly. He said simple and sweet, it was a great question because of the answer he was about to tell.
“It was inspired in the bathroom,” he chuckled.
Turns out he met his co-author Rudolph Tanzi, PhD. in the bathroom at a conference and they casually started talking about the brain and how it was the key to health, happiness and well-being. After a few hours of brainstorming (literally) they had decided to write a book together. Wow! Now, I knew people did a lot of thinking in the toilet, but this was crazy.
What else did I learn?
He said regular exercise, yoga, proper breathing techniques, sleep, meditating at least twice a day, and avoiding alcohol are all imperative to self-awareness. In other words, getting to know yourself inside and out is critical to being happy and healthy. This all made perfect sense to me.
But he also said that multi-tasking is the one skill you can’t make better with practice.
“If you’re doing everything at once you’re not doing anything at all.” This was my biggest takeaway.
I thought about this for a moment. It's so true. As women we try to do it all. We want to be superwoman 24-7. And we pride ourselves on our multi-tasking skills. In fact, it’s often our survival technique. But to my surprise, Deepak didn’t agree with this theory. He told us that women. and moms specifically, need to realize there’s more to the precious time we spend trying to get everything done.
“You need to meditate every day, and if you don’t have time, then you need to do it more,” he explained.
In other words, those of us who claim we don’t have enough time to do things for ourselves, are really the ones who need it the most. So true.
Take a few minutes from your hectic day to slow down. Find a quiet spot in your house or close your office door at lunch and do a 15-minute meditation. How does this make you feel? Are you ready to take on the rest of your day? Try to meditate once a day (preferably in the morning) as it will help clear your mind and relieve stress.
Whether you're an aspiring model, life coach, writer, designer, healer, photographer, make-up artist, nutritionist, marketer or trainer looking for clients—you're not going to further your career in this competitive landscape if you don't promote yourself or your work online.
All entrepreneurs struggle from time to time to figure out WHO THEY ARE. Don't worry, I've been there too!
More and more companies today are outsourcing creative services and have found that hiring third-party professionals is the way to go. Why? Because there's usually no overhead, lower risk, and contracts can be long or short-term.
Over the years, a lot of new business owners have asked me how they can stay fresh and top of mind when everyone it seems is selling their services too. In fact, as you read this, your favourite inspiration and business icons are tweeting, posting, blogging and uploading right now!
Perhaps it's because when I was the editor of a popular women's fitness magazine, I worked with a lot of models—and also mentored tons of aspiring writers and editors on how to get published. But since then the world has changed, and almost everyone is an "expert" in their field. I too find it difficult to keep up sometimes, but it's crucial as a business person and master of your own domain to stay curious about how you can further your knowledge to become the best at what you love to do. So if you're not already—you better get online!
Here are some quick tips that have helped me:
1. BE SEARCHABLE
The more you pop up on Google searches and social networking sites--the more exposure you'll get--the more your name will get traction in people's feeds--and the more memorable you'll remain. In fact, I just spoke to a colleague in the mainstream modelling world who now urges potential clients to check out his talent's profiles and pictures online instead of waiting to see traditional composite (comp) cards at auditions. And same goes for creative agencies that hire designers, writers, web developers, content specialists, production, art directors etc. they insist on seeing online portfolios and landing pages before they even consider you.
2. BE VISIBLE
If you don't have clear and consistent personal branding and a recognizable website, blog, and social media feed, you may also be overlooked. If you aren't a creative person and don't know the first thing about design or creating a brand that best represents you, hire a professional or offer a trade for services. It's important to create and promote a look and feel that resonates with your clients and will keep them coming back.
3. STAY ACTIVE
Post it! Don't be shy—you're trying to showcase your work people! How else are you going to get some buzz out there? Social media hotspots such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest among others are extremely important tools for individuals wanting to market themselves. If you're not on at least two or three of these sites, I'd say you're going to be out of luck. Of course, word of mouth still works in some industries, however if you want to expand your clientele and make more money today, you need to be social. Sure, it can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but trust me... posting informative, inspirational or amazing portfolio pieces once a day will keep you out there. Praise from clients is also crucial. Always ask for a testimonial or review for your product or service with each new happy client. Also make sure your official bio is up-to-date on your website and offer a "media bio" if necessary in your industry. If your business changes focus or you implement a new direction—make sure you tell your clients and fan base online.
4. FIND A MENTOR
Like anything, allowing yourself to become vulnerable at times in your personal or professional life can actually improve your situation. It may seem like taking two steps forward, and three back, but it is monumental to the bigger picture. I look back on my own business journey and all the ups and downs—even a move to a new country—and often I felt overwhelmed and overworked and like I wanted to throw the towel in. Especially when I decided to branch out and officially develop my own publishing and consulting business after sporadically freelancing for years.
I had no team, no consultants, no one to lean on at 2 a.m. when I was confused about how to do something on the back-end of my website (yes I still do all my website updates myself). I also decided to self-publish my book with no agent and no manager—and I've gotten all my press to date myself. But it's tough. I still worry every day that my lucky streak will run out or there's someone else out there who will come along and take my clients or potential clients. But don't fret, these thoughts are very normal!
Remember, it's smart to know how to manage these aspects of your own business from day one anyways. Don't just delegate (if you have the money that is, which most start-up business owners don't) because this is your brand and your passion, so you should be in control. Because learning from your mistakes is one of the best things you can do. Also, a good piece of advice is to find a mentor or someone you look up to from a business aspect or who works in the industry you are hoping to break into. Most people will be open-minded to share their experience. And if they're not, do you really want to be like them?
A good mentor will be there for you through the trials and tribulations and hopefully long after you've made your first million!
Remember, staying competitive means setting up shop where your fans are. I hope this post motivates you to stay on top of your business goals and go after your dreams. If you have any questions about how I can mentor you in these or any other area such as; what the press is looking for, writing, getting published, or marketing and communications--or if you would like me to speak at your school, conference, team-building event, meetup or on a call, please contact me. I also offer private consultation calls in the areas of personal branding, social media, content creation etc. You just have to take the first step. Good luck!
P.S. Also don't forget to Sign Up for my upcoming e-zine to get your free online inspiration and more tips like these!
Stress can lead to all sorts of diseases and take away your physical ability to do the things you love. It can also challenge your inner calmness, and take away your perception of reality. Take it from me, it's not worth it. Your family needs you more than you know, and so do your friends and colleagues etc. The good news is you can lessen your daily stressors. Here's how to start...
KERRIE'S SELF-CARE TIP #1:
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND SEE A DOCTOR
Add these words to your daily life: "Be aware, implement self-care." It's so important at any age. Whether you write them on the bathroom mirror, in a journal, or on a sticky note and post on your dashboard of the car.
I remember back in 2013 when I ignored the warning signs and what my body was telling me. I chalked it up to normal holiday stress and every day living. You too may think that those aches and pains are normal monthly or daily trivial results of life, however if you experience a massive migraine for two weeks straight, you've got to realize that's not normal.
Of course I'm not a doctor, but I can speak about what happened to me and how I ended up having a heart procedure at the age of 39. I know all too well that nagging pressure on my chest and around to my back, and my constant headaches were sure signs something was up.
Four years later, I finally understand why I should have gone to the doctor immediately.
But life got in the way. Who has time for a heart attack?
So my advice is if you feel anything unusual or long-lasting, or you're overwhelmed at work or home, see a professional. Perhaps taking a personal day from work could be the best thing you do to refresh and catch up on some "me" time.
Please know that asking for help or admitting you need some time to yourself is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength.
In fact, we have to start thinking differently. We could be young, in shape, in great spirits, or maybe even just young at heart; but this doesn't always stop our bodies from deciding to take the lead in a health trauma situation. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Ever since my book My Heart, My Self was released in October, I've received many messages from women I don't know telling me how much they appreciate the advice to seek help. Some were even inspired enough to make an appointment with their GP or talk to their teen daughters about the detrimental impact that stress can have on the body. Take it from me, listening to your body and being aware at all times is critical to your health. And health leads to lifestyle happiness.
Remember, if you do talk to a doctor and it ends up being nothing, and they give you the "all clear", those very words might at the very least alleviate some weight on your shoulders. And you might even feel better.
Three days ago I had a Cardiac Ablation or RFA (Radiofrequency Ablation) to rectify my heart’s short circuit. Basically, without getting too technical, an electrophysiologist conducted an Electrophysiology Study (EPS) to test my heart’s electrical system and how it works, and once he figured out the areas that weren't working, he destroyed (ablated) the "dead spots". It's called an "AV Node Ablation due to a Slow Pathway."
Turns out I had an unusual dual-pathway where the blood flowed and this is what was giving me problems when pumping blood to my heart. So one of the pathways was eliminated. The procedure was quite invasive. Four catheters were inserted into my blood vessels (veins) on both sides of my groin and moved along until they reached my heart. Radio frequency energy traveled through the catheters in order to “silence” the cells where the abnormal rhythm was coming from.
I remember laying on the operating table anxiously watching the numbers on the screen. The surgeon instructed the “heart pace” technician to elevate my heartbeat to 250 bpm into a state of tachycardia, and then slow it down to normal, and then up again to 300 bpm, and so on. This went on for two hours so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was.
Even though I knew I was in good hands, and in a controlled environment in the hospital, I had no control over what my heart was doing and felt very overwhelmed and constricted; not knowing if my heart would stop at any time. But the deal was that they had to emulate the irregular heart episodes I'd been having because they've been interrupting my normal way of life. And at 40, with two small kids, this wasn't ideal. So when they finally found the faulty circuits, an electrical surge was sent down the tubes -- and I felt the burning sensation (heat) as they burned the dead areas in my heart.
After it was all over, and I was back in my bed, I had a panic attack when two nurses were putting pressure on my incisions. They were pressing so hard on the four tubes to stop the bleeding that I instantly felt faint. They called two more nurses in to help and immediately dosed me with Gravol to calm me down. I remember the exact same symptoms when I had a panic attack a year ago in the cafeteria at work -- cold sweats, feeling sick, and not knowing whether to fight or flight the scene. Then I cried uncontrollably. The nurses at the Trillium Cardiac Health Centre were amazing and knew exactly how to get me through it. A half an hour later, I fell asleep.
After I woke up, the doctor came to speak to my husband and I about how the procedure was a success. Then I was allowed to get up and take a few steps. But when I did, a pool of blood gushed from the top of my right leg. The blood did not clot at one of my incisions and there was blood all over the hospital floor. The nurses rushed me back to the bed and applied more pressure in order to avoid losing too much blood. They said it could have been a result of me not going to the washroom and my full bladder was putting pressure on my groin. But finally, after more pressure, I was able to get up and go to the washroom (I couldn’t even force myself to go on the bed pan).
The next day, I was instructed to take it easy and move slowly. I had to hold my incisions every time I sat up or down or used the stairs, but I could have a shower and take the bandages off. I felt some periodic shooting pains in my chest and an aching pain in my groin where it was starting to bruise. I also felt a pressure on my left side that went through to my shoulder blade – similar to how I felt last January (2013) when I had my initial heart scare. (Read my full story in Chatelaine magazine.)
Today I am walking more, but still slowly, and feel much better. The doctor told me not to go back on my heart meds and wait to see how I feel at our next follow up appointment in 8 weeks. I am hopeful that my fast heart beat does not come back, and so far, it's looking good. I am so thankful for my family and friends who are here to help me.
I hope to (in some small way) help others who may have noticed some irregularities in their heartbeat, unusual shortness of breath, or panic attacks, and alert those who are under a lot of stress. Don't sit back and think it's nothing, because it could lead to further complications down the road. Believe me, if there's one thing I've learned from my heart journey over the past 13 months, it's to listen to my body. Please call your doctor today and be heart aware. Stay well.
Just over a year ago, after wearing a Mobile Cardiac Arrhythmia Diagnostic System (loop monitor) for two weeks, I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT). The doctors had been doing a bunch of different tests on my heart at the time because my heart was not beating regularly, and I had a frightening health scare several weeks prior.
This explained the sudden rapid heartbeats that were causing my unusual shortness in breath, and why my heart often jumped from 70 bpm to 230 bpm in a matter of seconds. My heart would literally shift into overdrive without warning, and I felt like I was running a marathon even at rest. (And anyone around me could physically see my heart pumping through my clothes. Scary!)
Although I remember these episodes in high school, they were never as frequent as they had become in my late thirties. I am told they only get worse with age and my lifestyle most likely did not have anything to do with it because I am a non-smoker, eat healthy, and not overweight. It is a mechanical "short circuit" problem.
But surprising to some, I was actually relieved when I found out that I had PSVT because to treat this, cardiologists are able to locate and remove this alternate pathway and prevent this bypass from occurring. I was getting more and more out of breath going up and down stairs and this was very unusual for me, as I was only 39 at the time. Needless to say, I had to get to the bottom of my condition and figure out next steps so I could feel normal again...
What I've learned:
PSVT means there is a short circuit in the heart that bypasses the desired pathway to make blood flow occur normally, which enables the heart to beat excessively fast. Since PSVT results in a significant increase in heart rate beyond what the heart is really designed to do, frequent and prolonged attacks can also cause damage to the heart muscle. In a typical heart attack, there isn't enough blood flow to the heart (supply) due to blockage of the arteries; but in the PSVT heart attack scenario, there is excess demand due to the rapid heart rate, and the body can't supply enough blood flow to meet it. Depending on the amount of damage, this could lead to poor functioning of the heart and eventually heart failure.
Stay tuned for more on my heart journey,
On this last day of Heart Health Month, February 2014, I wanted to share a little bit about why it means so much to me.
It all started on Christmas morning in 2012. I felt a heavy tightness across my chest that I had never felt before. It felt like someone was tightening a belt around my breasts and holding on for dear life. The feeling lasted for two weeks and was so foreign, but I just shrugged it off as normal holiday stress.
After our family returned from a trip to Florida a few weeks later, I started having scary heart-racing episodes 3 to 4 times a week. They would start and stop suddenly for no apparent reason – and it felt like I was running a marathon even at rest. I was also having more headaches than usual, aches and pains in my upper body, shortness of breath going up and down the stairs, and was tired all the time. One morning at work, I even had a panic attack standing in line at the cafeteria. These events were not usual for me because I’m not a smoker and not overweight and have always considered myself a healthy person.
But the next night, as I was putting my kids to bed, I had the most horrific feeling. I got a sharp pain in my right shoulder that shot all the way down my arm. It felt as though someone hit me hard with a baseball bat. Then pain started to trickle around my back so I ran downstairs to where my husband was standing in the kitchen. My arm started to go limp.
Panic-stricken, he asked if he should call an ambulance. But I screamed “No!” because it was my right arm. (Needless to say since then I’ve learned that women can experience different symptoms like pain in their right arms, a feeling of indigestion, or back aches during an attack – but you seldom hear of it.) Then, I had an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. It was only 8 o'clock but if I had of stood there any longer, I would have fallen to the floor.
Looking back I know I should have gone to the hospital that night, but I was in denial. After all, I was only 39 and I had to get the kids to bed, right?!
This is a typical reaction of moms, and women in general, which I've since coined "Supermom Syndrome." It's when we simply do not think about ourselves in times of need.
This was the beginning of my heart health journey and now 13 months later I am happy to report that I am feeling better than ever (except for a torn meniscus in my left knee but that was my own fault during an intense workout. Ouch!).
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my heart health is that if it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. I wasn’t leading a bad life before. I don’t smoke. I'm not obese. I have no history of heart disease in my immediate family, and I don’t have high blood pressure. But I was stressed – and I didn’t realize how much. My body was ready to shut down and I wasn’t ready to listen, until I had to.
This past month I’ve been fortunate to tell my story on various radio and television shows and I hope that my story will inspire others to think about their heart health and take note when their body is telling them to slow down. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important.
According to a recent Leger survey commissioned by Jamieson Vitamins, only 25 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 25-44 believe they are at risk of heart disease, which is so not the case! In fact, the CANHEART Health Index states that 90 percent of Canadians in this age group are actually in poor cardiovascular health. That's 1 in 5.
It's not just an older person's issue. I'm proof of that.
So there you go, my friends. This is just a snippet of my tale and the self love and healing continues. When I reflect, I truly feel my health scare was a catalyst for what I am doing now: Helping spread the word about being heart aware. After all, the universe does work in mysterious ways and perhaps this is what I was meant to do.
I hope you'll check back for more on what I’m doing to stay on track with my eating, exercise and supplement program; as well as tips on how to lessen the stressors in your life. These are the things that I took for granted before my wake-up call last January and I really want to make sure you think about them in your own lives.
Stay heart aware,
Every time I look at my children, I am truly humbled. I still can’t believe that they’re mine. Even underneath all the dirt, cheekiness, messiness, and often craziness, they are real little people trying to figure out the world around them.
For those of you who don’t know me outside of cyberspace – I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, and most importantly, a motivated (sometimes control-freakish) mom of two awesome boys. Connor is 9 and Brock is 4.
I am constantly learning and they are constantly surprising me. So as I tucked them into their beds tonight, I couldn’t help but think of the things they’ve taught me in their little lives so far. They’ve taught me that I don’t have to prove anything to them, because even on my worst days, they are still there to greet me at the door with a big smile. They’ve taught me that there really is nothing like a mother’s love for her children and the special bond that is formed from day one. They’ve also taught me more about myself than I could ever have done on my own – and that being a parent can be really tough.
Now I’m not sure if my blog will be around when they’re old enough to read and understand this (or whether they’d even want to), but my hope is that they grow into loving, street-smart, grounded people who respect life and those around them.
I'd like to thank my kids for accepting my flaws, and helping me realize that they are a reflection of me. My kids make me happy. They make me mad. They make me proud, and sometimes, they make me sad. But most of all, they make me who I am today.
So in the spirit of Mother’s Day coming up in a few months (hey, I like to prepare early), I’d like to salute all moms out there who are humbled by their children. No matter how they came into your life, they are a part of you forever. And I want you to know that you are doing an amazing job.
What do you cherish the most about your family? Take a moment to hug someone you love so much today for more than 15 seconds. It feels so good.
This past year has taught me so much about myself as a career person, mom and wife. I have realized that my health is more important than any job, connection or promotion - and that happiness can only come when your true passions are being honoured. My family being my number one priority with my health leading the way.
I have learned first and foremost that without your health you can't be there for your children. So I have changed my way of living and thinking.
TODAY I am recharged and look forward to an exciting year. I no longer think of my career as a means to an end, but rather, an end to a means. I love what I do and share my elation with friends and family, but not because I feel I need to.
TODAY I no longer feel the need to climb for the sake of climbing or impressing anyone.
TODAY I reach for new heights in my heart and soul because it inspires others.
TODAY I am more myself than ever before, and I love it. The world is now my stage and my efforts to help others achieve their goals and aspirations is the reward.
What do you reach for in your heart? Are you following your dreams? Are you fulfilled? Think about these questions on a daily basis and try to take small steps to reach your goals. Even the smallest change can make a big difference.
Kerrie Lee Brown is a sought-after health and lifestyle expert. She writes books, blogs and articles and is published all over the world. Kerrie Lee is also a heart-health survivor and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows sharing life-saving tips for women on how to listen to their bodies and slow down. Kerrie Lee is a mom and proud Canadian living in Denver, Colorado.