LET GO OF THE GUILT AND EMPOWER YOUR BEST SELF
With increasingly busy schedules and a finite amount of time, it can be challenging to excel at work, maintain healthy relationships with loved ones, be the best parent for your kids and keep your sanity. When life around you doesn’t slow down, do you often place yourself last on the list of priorities?
For years, that was true of Brigette Serfaty, founder and president of Aligned Engagement Strategies Group and the creator of Minding Your Minutes ™ mindfulness training and coaching for corporate and 1:1 coaching clients. Among her many accomplishments, she has since transformed her life and developed tools to mentor overwhelmed people seeking balance in their lives.
We got to catch up with Brigette Serfaty ahead of her mindfulness workshop at The Nest on Saturday, Jan. 21, to discuss her journey, restorative tips for quieting your inner critic and ways to shift your narrative that reframe the guilt which often accompanies prioritizing your well-being.
Q: What led you down the path toward mindfulness and inspired you to create the Aligned Engagement Strategies Group and Minding Your Minutes?
A: My journey toward mindfulness began by looking for optimal ways to balance my life that had me feeling like an overwhelmed, overscheduled ball of stress. My long career in pharmacy leadership involved a lot of high-stakes conversations and travel – which kept me from spending time with my then-young daughter – and sparked a fascination with the physiology and psychology of the stress response. I dove into yoga teacher training and mindfulness from a therapeutic lens to impact my performance at work and balance my stress and sense of missing out on what was most important to me.
I sought better strategies and practices that were portable to improve the stress response I modeled for my daughter and started paying closer attention to what I was teaching HER about the importance of taking care of your own health and well-being in the midst of a busy life. My team at work also noticed that I was helping them to prioritize their own well-being at the same time as I was focused on their performance at work. Coaching, collaboration and mentoring was really the hallmark of my leadership style.
After a messy, company merger that ultimately left me downsized, I started Aligned Engagement Strategies because I was tired of seeing really good people burn out and lose their sense of meaning at work – including me. I continued to grow my own mindfulness practice that carried me through a difficult season of life, gave me a sense of purpose and aligned my values. This changed everything about my approach to time, my inner critical chatter and how I communicate with others, which led me to create a way for more people to benefit from what I had learned.
Minding Your Minutes is the culmination of my years as a corporate leader, well-being coach and productivity geek. It’s founded on the value that our wellness is the most precious resource that we use to care for the people we love. I continually add more mindfulness tools to help clients quickly shift their limiting beliefs about time, money, health, relationships and worthiness. We all aim to do our best work in the world so we can create the meaning and impact that’s most important to us.
Q: When you only see the best parts of others’ lives on social media, it can be easy to play the comparison game. How can you retrain your brain to give yourself grace when you’re struggling, but doing your best?
A: To combat “compare and despair” as I describe that phenomenon, I pay attention to my inner chatter and physiology when I’m on social media and am intentional about its use – particularly the amount of time that I spend there and the content in which I choose to engage. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally scroll, but I limit it by using a timer or going to a specific site for a specific reason. When I notice that I’m doom scrolling, I deliberately take a walk, call a friend or otherwise do a pattern interrupt before I move on to the next task that requires my full and present attention.
Retraining your brain to give yourself grace is the very heart of mindfulness, which is paying attention to the present moment without judgment.
Most of us get the “paying attention” part and may struggle with the “without judgment” part since our brains are wired for judgment as the default. Consistently practice bringing an attitude of curiosity, self-compassion and kindness to your own experience – as you would a good friend – to begin the process of rewiring the harsh inner critic voices that keep you stuck, frustrated and stressed.
Q: When so many of us deal with pressures at work, high internal standards and family commitments, it’s challenging to make our personal well-being a priority without feeling guilty about the rest of our to-do lists. How do you begin to balance meeting external demands with self-care practices while maintaining a decent quality of life?
A: I love this question so much and it’s the essence of my business. It is challenging to make well-being a priority with a full and busy life because we’re often conditioned to think that self-care takes a lot of time, it has to be done “after work,” and taking care of others is what we’re “supposed” to do before we can take care of ourselves. What made the biggest difference for me was:
- anchoring on my values at work and in life,
- redefining what self-care really was,
- getting crystal clear on my commitments and projects,
- blocking time for planning and executing commitments on my calendar, and
- changing my language about time.
Guilt isn’t helpful unless it results in a different behavior pattern, so if I’m feeling guilty, I look at what action I need to take that’s different. If the guilt is warranted, I have an opportunity to back up, apologize and choose a different behavior, but so often the guilt stems from unrealistic expectations or perfectionist standards. Incorporating “value over volume” into your life will help you to identify the impact that’s most important to you and balance your life rather than accomplishing actions that are low value and low return.
I put time on my calendar every single day to prioritize my mind, body, spirit and surroundings (community) including time for intentional connection with my husband, kids and family as well as friends, clients, collaborators and students. I also take short well-being breaks during the workday to stretch, breathe, walk and read. We simply can’t continue to ignore our own health and expect to live the kind of full and meaningful lives we long for. Sometimes that means saying “no” to a shiny thing so we can take care of a more important thing – like the person in front of us or our own bodies.
Q: In the midst of chaos or even as you’re falling asleep, it can be exceptionally difficult to quiet your mind and focus. What advice would you give to someone who leads a demanding life and struggles to stay present in the moment?
A: As someone who leads a demanding life, the most important piece of advice is to create capacity by learning to moderate your stress response during a busy day and to hardwire time to nourish your body, mind and spirit. Anxiety is often the body’s way of demanding that we pay attention because we’re probably spending too much time in task mode rather than in strategic mode. It also may be a signal that we’re out of alignment with our values and where we’re spending our time.
The ability to focus and quiet our minds is often the result of having strategic systems in place to track our priorities and projects beyond just the never-ending to-do list. Balancing the action and activity with rest and renewal is key.
I’ve compiled some of my clients’ favorite ways to reduce anxiety for game-changing results.
- Listen to guided meditations
- Practice Yoga Nidra or progressive muscle relaxation
- Adopt breathing practices for a quick way to change your physiology
I also recommend taking care of basic lifestyle habits such as:
- Restful sleep
- Consuming nourishing, healthy food
- Daily movement
- Intentional connection
- Stress resilience
- Avoiding unhealthy substances and toxic relationships.
Having a strong network of mentors, trusted advisors and coaches continually helps me to learn new strategies and ways of being that grow my performance at work and in my business without sacrificing my health or the relationships that matter.
Unlock the key to improving your productivity and happiness with my simple yet powerful practices and strategies that easily fit into a busy life. We can all learn how to be better keepers of our own well-being every day and grow into our full potential. We just have to put our minds to it.
To learn additional mindfulness strategies and ask wellness expert Brigette Serfaty your own questions about achieving a healthy work-life balance, join us on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. for her guided workshop, Mindfulness in 2023. This workshop is open to members and non-members and RSVP is required, so click here to reserve your spot today!