Posted authored by Corene Summers
Health is wealth! As a former wealth manager turned wellness entrepreneur, this has become my core mantra.
Before my life today as a health and wellness coach, I spent a decade in Wealth Management working for large financial services companies. The corporate professional lifestyle was ingrained from quite a young age. My finance career unofficially began when I was about 12 years old as I helped my Dad in the office of his Financial Planning firm in Pittsburgh.
I went on to forge my own path in the financial services industry, exceling in a variety of sales and leadership positions in Washington DC, Seattle, WA and Chicago, IL. My consistency was delivered in the form of long hours, pressure to succeed and high-stress decision-making, regardless of the role. Yet despite (or in-spite-of) the busyness of my demanding career, I was determined to keep-up with my workout routines, which primarily included long-distance running, cross-fit and hit classes. I was also a vegetarian, used primarily all-natural products, shopped at whole foods, etc., and truly believed I was doing everything I should be doing to stay “healthy” at the time. As time would tell, it wasn’t enough. A combination of the symptoms caused by my chronic autoimmune issues and my workplace stress – which were often connected – continued to escalate as the years progressed.
I remember looking around one day, as if for the first time, and noticing the anxiety plaguing the faces of my hard-working and beloved colleagues. It hit me that they all felt miserable, drained and isolated. They were struggling. The inherent stress of the modern corporate world had taken its toll, and I knew I had to make a change before I succumbed to it too.
I’ve always been “healthy” and physically active, but my true path to wellness began when I decided to take a risk and travel to Nepal, India, Tibet and Sri Lanka on an incredibly freeing four-month solo adventure. India especially stole my heart, and launched my path towards becoming a teacher and coach. I was captivated by the wholesome, practical, real-life approaches to wellness I encountered in my studies. I immersed myself in learning about yoga, meditation, nutrition, Ayurveda (India’s holistic healing system) and other modalities throughout my travels overall. I loved that this lifestyle recognized me for the depth of my humanity, and as a unique individual whose physical and emotional needs may change from day to day, one that couldn’t possibly be forced into a one-size-fits-all program. I felt healthier and happier than I had at any other point in my life; my body strong, my mind clear and steady. It was empowering to discover there were other options for living, and even thriving, and it quickly became my passion.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, down the road I would heavily rely on many of these lessons to navigate 8 years of a chronic autoimmune illness, high-pressure jobs, plus the stress and anxiety that came with the total package. These experiences permanently shifted the way I think about food, stress and health. The tools I discovered throughout my travels and subsequent studies became the rituals and routines that have helped me not only function, but thrive.
One experience in particular vividly stands out as having thrown me onto my path of Yoga, Ayurveda and Wellness Coaching. I only wanted to spend 24 hours in Agra, so I could quickly check the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri off my list – and then scamper off to see something remote before meeting friends in Udaipur for a week. It was winter, and I had already been traveling for a couple months, so was starting to feel worn. Unfortunately, I came down with a terrible cold and fever the day before I was supposed head to Agra, but I decided to go anyway and braved my way to the train station. When I arrived at the guest house, this tiny old man greeted me at the door and gave me a big smiling hug. He took my shoulders in his hands as he looked me in the face and said “Hmm. You are not well.” No, I was not, “but I would be just fine”, I remember saying. He quickly rushed me inside to the kitchen, where we sat on cushions scattered on the floor. I watched with growing curiosity as he cooked 3 or maybe 4 whole garlic cloves over an open fire, along with some ghee. To my surprise he scooped them directly out of the pan and into my hands to eat, and then handed me a cup of tea made of fresh cut ginger, honey, turmeric and lemon. He told me to drink-up and go to bed, I would feel better in the morning.
Though not fully recovered, my fever broke and I was energized and well enough to wander and explore Agra before continuing my travels. That moment permanently shifted my ideas about how everything we put into our bodies along with other habits could be used to support overall well-being and maintain good health. The great news is that you don’t have to travel all the way to India to learn how to take better care of yourself or improve your health and happiness. These are all things you can do easily in your own home, with limited space. I now have a weekly routine that incorporates yoga, meditation and healing nutrition, in addition to other self-care rituals such as detox baths, dry brushing, essential oils, tongue scraping, etc. I have a core routine, yet it is adaptable based on any changes in my mind & body needs from day-to-day and time available.
The majority are unaware of how to sufficiently manage stress, because these tools are not commonly taught in American households. Instead, we often “relax” through binge-watching Netflix or drinking alcohol, and “de-stress” through intense physical exercise, complaining to our peers, gorging on rich foods or some indulgent activity. When done in excess consistently, these habits can be very damaging to the mind and body.
High-impact fitness routines, likely the most surprising activity on the list, are important to note. The majority of the population seek exercise because they love the sweat and exhaustion produced by over-exertion. Physically pushing to the point of collapse is the only way they know how to achieve those feelings of calm (caused by extreme fatigue). The fight or flight response triggered by stress and anxiety releases adrenaline and cortisol, which are primarily necessary for emergencies – firing the muscles into action, impacting your breathing, appetite and more. This consistent tension and tightness in both mind and body build over time, causing unseen damage. The scary part is that in modern society we’ve formed a bad habit of abusing this natural emergency-response system as a result of our high-stress desk-ridden careers, technology-based triggers, intense workout routines and other lifestyle habits. With consistent practice, much of this resulting tension and tightness can be released through yoga, meditation, breathing and relaxation techniques.
These conditions of our fast-paced modern world also challenge our sense of connection, grounding, and ability to flow with ease through the day-to-day demands. And unfortunately, no part of the body is immune to the damaging effects of stress. Stress wreaks internal havoc and attacks us where we are most vulnerable, leaving us feeling tight, tense, anxious, exhausted, influencing the immune response and even putting us at risk for chronic illness.
Fortunately, a growing body of research supports that practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises have a calming affect on the mind and body, and can help re-balance the nervous system. These time-tested techniques help you let go of outside stressors and find balance in moments of high-stress and anxiety, making them the ideal solution to the physical and emotional burdens that come with a fast-paced and high-performing life and career. This allows you to not only improve your physical and mental strength overall, but to truly thrive at your fullest as you harmonize mind, body, and spirit.
The more I learn, the more passionate I become about spreading this knowledge and ancient tools for managing stress and improving overall wellness. I knew as soon as I returned from my trip in early 2012 that I wanted to share the valuable techniques that had helped me find so much relief, and improve my health and state of calm. I started my first yoga instructor training later that year, and began teaching here and there, making slow but steady progress towards my goal. I continued to train and complete certifications in yoga, meditation, reiki, corporate wellness and nutrition. I eventually went down to part-time in my finance career as my wellness business continued to grow.
Finally, in 2016, I launched Artisan Farmacy full-time to help busy and stressed professionals find more balance and peace in all areas of their lives through my wellness coaching and education programs. It was a long process that required a lot of intense dedication of both time and energy, as well as sacrifices. Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. It was also a huge risk and leap of faith to leave the stability of a high paying, corporate career to do something I believe in and am passionate about as an entrepreneur. The path has been full of challenges along the way, as life goes, but it has been immensely rewarding and healing for my soul. And now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else in life.
I’m looking forward to sharing some of the referenced wellness tips and techniques with you over the coming months on @theBar!
About the Author:
Corene Summers is a guest health and wellness blogger for the CBA’s @theBar Blog. She is an international yoga and meditation instructor, Reiki II practitioner, wellness coach and entrepreneur – and grateful for every minute of it! Over the last seven years, she has studied and practiced many ancient holistic tools for healing and self-care with some incredible teachers in India, Tibet, Nepal and Spain, as well as around the U.S. She continues to learn from her colleagues and students every day. Her true passion is combining her knowledge of different tools and transformation techniques within the yoga lifestyle (yoga, nutrition/Ayurveda, meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness etc.) to help others reach greater levels of energy, confidence, balance and state of flow in their daily lives. Corene is the owner of Artisan Farmacy, which she launched to help busy and stressed professionals find more balance and peace in all areas of their lives.