By Ryan O'Connell
Arts & Features Editor
The first of four emotional wellness book discussions, led by Lorretta Holloway, Kim Dexter, and Adam Sutton for Arts & Ideas began Oct. 6 in the McCarthy Center’s Alumni Room.
Holloway, vice president of Academic Enhancement, began the discussion by sharing she hadn’t visited any other Arts & Ideas events this year, due to the extremity of the subjects and the state of the world.
“I remember saying to her [Yumi Park-Huntington] last year, I said, ‘All of your events were wonderful this year, but I just couldn’t go.’ I did not have the emotional space to be able to deal with that when we were also literally dealing with war, racism, the pandemic, loss - all at the same time,” she said.
Holloway said this lack of capacity inspired the wellness discussions, which are held every Thursday this October from 3:30 to 5 p.m. She added the discussion was supposed to be a way to practice self care, healing, and a collective recovery process.
She said the discussion of “The 7 Laws of Enough” would be a great way to acknowledge that often people are “not allowed to say we’re done,” and that setting boundaries would help people “maintain their joy.”
Sutton, a leadership coach and expert on workplace wellbeing, told the attendees the basic tenets of the book: “We have enough and we are enough, and that we forget that 4,700 times a day.”
He said most of the time, almost every negative thought people carry with them begins from the learned behavior at a young age that everything is a competition. He added the goal of the discussion was not only to explore these tenets, but also to develop some community with the other attendees.
Sutton said even while working with so many different campuses, he always sees “silos” - smaller communities or “cliques” that exist from middle schools to a university level. He added while these silos exist, people aren’t coming together, talking, and determining what works, what doesn’t, and what challenges they are facing.
“I find when that is shared, the nervous system - just speaking from a cerebral cortex mindfulness standpoint - is able to relax a little bit, because people realize they’re not alone in some of the stuff that’s freaking them out,” he said.
Sutton then introduced the first activity, involving “soul cards,” where attendees took a card with a message that felt representative of their current state.
Reema Zeineldin, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, shared which cards she chose, and reasoning behind them. “Notice what you are feeling, and notice what makes sense,” she said, explaining she chose these two because she often gets carried away, and wishes to devote more time to the things that make her happy.
Dexter, assistant vice president of Human Resource & Equal Opportunity, said she chose “keep relaxing your body,” because it was something she knew she struggled with. She shared that she performs yoga remotely every Wednesday, and it’s “the one practice” she sticks to.
She said she wants to be more attentive to it, to enjoy the best part, and that it always helps her after a stressful day.
Sutton shared his choice, too, “Just breathe.” He said breathing is important, and shared an anecdote from a The New York Times article on the importance and benefit of “taking a pause for three seconds.”
Sutton also said it was important to learn, and even attending the discussion was an example of being courageous.
“If we’re not learning, we’re dead. Just so you understand how the human brain works, if you are not constantly seeking to bring new information in, the synapses will just start to shift a little bit and eventually … shut down.”
Holloway picked “if what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else,” and “respect all your feelings.” She said she chose these cards because she doesn’t always respect her feelings, like denying when she’s upset, or attempting to feel a certain way because it’s expected of her in a given situation.
She added she has been changing things that don’t work for her in the last year, and gave the example of how she stopped writing for a Korean drama blog last April because of the emotional strain some of the episodes were putting on her.
Laura Medrano, executive assistant to the vice president of Academic Advancement, chose “just do what you can, no matter how small.” She said completing things, even small activities like cleaning the bathroom, helps her to feel good and alleviate the “guilt” of enjoying free time.
Sutton then introduced The Empathy Game, involving cards asking attendees questions of imagination and memory. He said the cards were only prompts, starting points, and encouraged attendees to share anything else they wanted.
“The idea is just that you continue to give us a little bit more of your story,” he said.
Sutton added all the work he does is to help build new skills “with the brain, head, and heart,” and to encourage people to be more courageous and open, which he said is hard given the last few years.
Attendees then shared stories of when they broke a promise, the weirdest gift they ever gave, or a situation when they wished they had a second chance.
Sutton sparked group discussion on failure - he shared a story of a tense session he gave once to a crowd of doctors, and how he arrived at the wrong venue. He said he was sick to his stomach the entire time, and it was very hard to get them talking. “They still paid me, but they never called me again.”
Groups then shared a few more individual experiences of failure before Sutton ended the first session of the wellness book discussion. He encouraged attendees to read some of the book, “The 7 Laws of Enough,” and to return next week before asking members to briefly join him in meditation.
“Just give yourself a little bit of attention, a little quiet away and apart from the world, and perhaps offer yourself a lesson. A thought of thanks - something positive you can say to yourself,” he said.