As I write you this letter, I am on a flight from San Francisco back to my home in Boulder, CO. I am returning from a three-day immersion for graduates of The Hoffman Process in Petaluma, CA. I went to the original seven-day Process back in December 2018. At that time, I was experiencing burnout, overwhelm and worry about our planet, raising adolescent daughters and balancing my family relationships with professional demands and aspirations. I had founded Wellfit Girls three and a half years prior when I first went to Hoffman. The comprehensive curriculum I created was in full execution with a great staff, board of directors and thriving enrollment between Lee and Collier Counties. I had been holding so much emotional and mental space for our participants, our leadership team and the women who attended my wellness adventure retreats for many years and while I was fulfilled and proud, I was also depleted, anxious and lonely.
I had heard about this Hoffman Process for years, but secretly thought to myself, yea, yea, “I’ve done that personal growth work”, “I wrote a 300-page manual on this for Wellfit Girls, I don’t need that”. Until, I clearly did. Something nagged at me, I wanted to release the reigns of leading, holding on to doing it all and to be led, to be held by others, in community.
Small group, experiential learning is what inspired me to create Wellit Girls in the first place. While I still loved leading it, I was also craving being in it. I was surprised and delighted how much lifted in those seven days and how much I actually enjoyed and needed a complete digital detox. Yes, they take your phones as adults in the seven-day Process. Full deep dive immersion into the wilds within.
Returning to the Institute for the graduate three-day Q2 course this past weekend on the eve of Mental Health Awareness Month was poignantly timed for this message I write to you. We are all in need of space from our devices, from our constant connectivity to images, media, AI-generated content, professional and academic stressors, interpersonal challenges and wounds, as well as our global epidemic of loneliness. We are the most globally connected human cohort in the history of the world and (google it), the loneliest. I would also argue the most disconnected to ourSelves. We are disconnected from our natural biorhythms (teens, especially, not enough time in nature and staying up too late on glowing screens),
authentic voices (are you there self, it’s me, Self?) and living in swinging states of nervous system dysregulation causing aforementioned depletion, burnout and/or panic. Oh, and I’ve been referring to how adults are (not) crushing life.
Can you imagine the impact this is happening on our youth in the world?
I have been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor for decades, written a manual on how to stay well-balanced, interpersonally connected and communicative, and I needed support and a re-charge. How do you think our young people, with brains that haven’t fully developed, nervous systems on edge and bodies coursing with hormonal changes are handling it all? Yes, eeeks.
Many of my peers in the program this past weekend have children that align with our Wellfit Girls’ ages. Most of us, having made the choice to relinquish our phones for the weekend (it’s not mandatory for the graduate programs), discussed the ever-present worrisome and heavy impact of devices on our children’s – and our own – mental health and wellness.
A brilliant woman in my group expressed how she had never known “so many beautiful women existed” in the world, constantly flooding her social media feeds (she owns a cosmetics company, and in her words, social media is a necessary “evil”). Plot-twist, she realized and shared, these are not “natural beauties”, they are AI-generated, filtered versions of people and manufactured standards of perceived beauty. Many adults cannot tell the difference and most of our children are suffering from these impossible standards. We further discussed the impact of 24-7 connectivity on increased bullying, hate crimes and suicides. When youth were bullied pre-social media, they could at least go home and recover in the privacy of their families, a safe neighbor or close friend. Now, the torture can persist 24-7 through social media apps and stalking. Most kids don’t have the nervous system regulation and interpersonal communication skills to manage, modify or simply just say no. Don’t get me started on addiction. I’ll save that for another letter.
At Wellfit Girls, we are providing that place of safe community, to disengage from the pervasive chatter and influence, to be present in real time; unfiltered and authentic. We value slowing down and attending to the basics, how to listen to personal needs, how to develop and grow a strong self-identity and create healthy boundaries with the humans and devices in their lives.
Time in nature and embodied (somatic) practices have always been the foundation of our offerings and we continue to see how powerfully our methodologies increase our participants’ self-esteem and willingness to try new things, and transform obstacles and adversities in their lives into opportunities. Being able to sit in a circle, make eye contact, offer and receive feedback for our personal growth not only builds confidence, it reduces stress and anxiety, strengthening resilience. As we create meaningful connections and a supportive community, we see our girls’ anxieties reduce. We see breathing slow down and bodies relax, postures perk up. Belonging is a powerful antidote to loneliness. Service is an antidote to despair. As our Wellfit Girls learn the importance of their place in the group, they begin to realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This awareness offers hope, perspective and that real-life feeling of I matter to someone, someone right in front of me. For this, I will always be a proponent of the experiential and group learning model. I have lived it, seen it, led it and still, I am putting myself in the circle. I hope you will continue to support our mission to inspire, challenge and empower teen girls to climb high in all areas of life through transformational leadership programs.
Upward and onward, we rise.