Natoshia’s Journey Towards Mental Wellbeing & Connecting with Grace
Author: Shamis Pitts
04th Mar 2020
In this interview, Natoshia talks about her challenge with mental wellbeing – how she wants to “show up” each day – and how her commitment to herself impacts how she models leadership for students. Natoshia works at an institution of higher education in leadership development.
If you prefer to read, here is the transcript.
Shamis: Hello everyone, and welcome to this iteration of “Let’s Live in the AND”, a wellbeing and leadership conversation. I am Shamis Pitts, Pitts Leadership Consulting LLC, and I am here with my friend Natoshia, who is a leader in higher education specializing in leadership development. So I’m so excited to have her here. She is a proud veteran of the US army and a mom of two. So welcome Natoshia.
Natoshia: Yay. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Shamis: Fabulous. So what would you like to discuss as it relates to the wellbeing challenge that you’ve been facing?
Natoshia: Yeah, as I was reflecting on 2019 and how I felt like I was so reactive and always playing catch up or behind, not really being out front, I challenged myself to be more intentional with my time and owning my time. And that’s from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night. So what does that look like for me? And spending time every Sunday evening or afternoon mapping out what meetings do I have? What are my plans for the week? What’s my intention for the week?
Natoshia: 2019 was turbulent, to say the least, but 2020 has just really started out incredibly well, as it relates to being intentional and not letting other people or my outlook inbox drive what I’m doing every single day, taking more ownership of how I’m showing up and how I’m managing my time and my space.
Shamis: Thank you for that. Can you share a little bit about what you mean by your 2019 was turbulent?
Natoshia: Yeah. I felt like I was playing catch up a lot. One of those things where you commit to doing something and then someone says, “Hey, what’s going on with this program, or this event that you’re doing, or this flyer that you said you’d make, or this invitation?” And it was always a reactive response.
Natoshia: And I pride myself on being very proactive saying, “Hey, I’ll do this for you and I’ll get it done for you by tomorrow, by Friday, by next week.” And doing that. Whereas the last couple of months, especially, during the year, both personally and professionally, it felt very much like I was reacting to others needing things from me versus getting out at front, getting things to people before they needed them or before they were asking them for me.
Natoshia: So that created a lot of stress. For someone who likes to stay organized and managed and on top of things, feeling behind causes a lot of angst and a stress within me. And I did not want to enter into a new year with that same kind of energy.
Shamis: So if you would put that feeling of stress and angst that you were experiencing into a category, what domain of wellbeing were you challenged with? How did it show up in you?
Natoshia: Yeah, I mean definitely mental. Mental, yeah, I’d even say emotionally at some points, managing the emotion about that. And I think the second, third order effects are probably socially, physically. Because when I’m catch playing catch up, I’m unable to do the things that I want to do because I have requirements that I need to get accomplished for multiple people in various arenas of my life. But I think the majority of the impact showed up mentally.
Shamis: Thank you for that. You’ve used the word showed up a couple of times. What does that mean to you?
Natoshia: Yeah, show up is actually my words for the year. Interestingly enough, I’m wearing it my intention bracelet.
Natoshia: And to me, show up means at, very simply, being there, being present, being available, being connected. Being very conscious of, if I’m sitting in spaces, or if I’m hanging out with my children, or if I’m sitting in a meeting at work, am I actually there? All of me or just like my physical being.
Natoshia: So one picture that comes to mind is sitting on the couch and mindlessly scrolling through my phone while I have a two-year-old or a three-year-old saying my name repeatedly, trying to get my attention. That’s not showing up. I’m there, but I’m not really there. Whereas now when I go home in the evenings, my phone is upstairs on the charger, or it’s still in my backpack. And so when I show up for my children, it’s actually being there in the moment, paying attention and being present to what they’re doing, what they’re trying to communicate to and with me.
Natoshia: And that shows up in multiple places within my life. Not just with them, but at work, in meetings, sitting at my desk, if I’m trying to knock out something. Show up means, “All right, am I fully present to this task I am completing?” If the answer is no, then I go for a walk, or go chit chat with someone very quickly, or go take a break, or work on something else. That could also be getting done. So just showing up is just being present, being available in all dimensions, physically, mentally, emotionally. Not just in my body, my form sitting there.
Shamis: Thanks. Curious. Of course, that’s me. What was the a-ha moment that got you to the place of, “Wait a second, I have to shift. I want to make a shift and be more present so I can show up.”
Natoshia: Yeah, that’s a great question. Being completely honest, it was my manager. So I have a very great relationship with my manager. She gives me a lot of autonomy, a lot of decision making power and authority and control over the slice of the pie that I’m responsible for. And I pride myself on having answers to questions that she’s asking or coming to her with an answer or materials or a product that’s already complete, or at least at a minimum, an update of something going on.
Natoshia: And I found her asking me, “Hey, what’s the status on this?” Or, “Do you have an update on that?” Or, “How is this project going?” And too many times, I found myself saying, “Oh, I don’t know.” Or, “Oh, I haven’t started.” Or, “Oh shoot, I forgot about that.” And that was the turning point for me when… Part of my role is to do my work, but it’s also to make my manager’s job easier, right? That’s how I show up. That’s how I work and how I show up in spaces of professionalism.
Natoshia: And so when she was asking me questions that I personally felt that I should have been going to her with or already have the answer for her when she was asking me, that was the trigger. “Oh, wait a minute. How am I not managing or organizing my life, my time, in a way that, when a question is asked of me, I either don’t know or I haven’t given any thought or time to it?”
Natoshia: And so winter break came, we had a couple of weeks off, I mean a solid month, quite frankly, and it was just like, “All right, well let’s go back to basics. How do I organize my day? How do I want to see… What does a good day look like for me?” And jotting that down and buying a new planner. It’s, okay, I need to go back to writing things down, not just relying on my phone or technology or my Outlook calendar to tell me what to do and when to do it. But doing a long-range calendar. All these skills I developed in the army my job and my life easier, bringing those back and pretending like it’s my first six months here again.
Natoshia: What was I doing my first six months here? I was curious. I was exploring. I was long-range planning. I was giving myself benchmarks. I was doing all these things to be successful. And maybe comfort eased its way in or-
Shamis: Yeah, I was going to ask. What shifted from…
Natoshia: Yeah. I got a little older. I don’t remember everything as easily as I used to. And sometimes you got to write things down. And the days go so fast. I mean, my goodness, it’s February 21st already. I feel like I just celebrated the new year last week, and here we are about to be March. And all of that in mind, taking a self inventory of what are the things that I need to do to feel prepared to be successful, what do I need to do? And owning that and redesigning how I show up every day to be in service of that.
Shamis: Wonderful. Thank you for that. That’s really helpful. That’s really helpful, because hearing about how you were disciplined in the army, you carried that in and things. You stepped away from it and you reconnected to it. So help me, the audience, understand other than getting your planner, what practices did you implement to help move you forward?
Natoshia: Yes, I did actually quite a few things. The first is I carry my planner with me to and from work. So it goes home with me. I actually just ordered a new one, because I realized that this current one I have doesn’t give me the functionality that I need to be more effective. Excuse me. So I’ve ordered a new one. And so I take that home, and on a Sunday after the kids go to bed, I look at my Outlook calendar and I look at, okay, well what’s already on my calendar for the week? What deadlines are coming up in this week or the following week?
Natoshia: And I make a note to myself, and then I block off the first two hours Monday morning, after being able to come in and check my manager’s calendar, check the school’s calendar to see what’s happening in the building. And then I spend the first two hours on a Monday…I’ve physically blocked time off to just think, be quiet, be still, don’t do any work, research, explore what this week can look like for me, that I can show up in my best way. And it also gives me an opportunity to ease in, instead of jumping right into my inbox and Outlook and becoming overwhelmed with everyone else’s requirements and priorities that it doesn’t allow me to create my own. So I don’t look at my inbox when I come in on Monday morning, and I organize my week professionally, and then at 11:00 I’ll open the inbox. Okay, so this is what’s going on.
Natoshia: One of the things I’ve come to terms with is that, in this instant connection world, everyone has this expectation that they can access you at all times.
Shamis: On demand.
Natoshia: On demand, yeah. And I am of the opinion that… And I could be naive in this space, maybe, I don’t know. If something is really important, really important, you’re not going to send it in an email. You’ll pick up the phone and you’ll call, you’ll walk down the hall and come find me. My manager, she’ll pop in and she’ll say like, “Oh hey, we have this thing we have to do. Can you knock this out?” And I’ll say, “Sure. When you need it by?” And she’ll tell me, and I’ll jot it down, and I’ll build it into my plan.
Natoshia: But I had to come to terms with, I don’t have to be plugged into the matrix 24/7, and I was allowing other people’s questions, concerns, inquiries, requests, drive my day. And that’s where I was feeling stressed out.
Natoshia: So having that block of time in the morning on Monday to really be thoughtful about my week has helped me not be stressed out. And then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I come in, and the very first thing I do before getting into the inbox is I pull my planner out and I’m like, “All right, these are my three priorities for the day. By the end of the day, I’m going to make sure that this thing is done, because of this thing is done, then I know I’ve accomplished a task that is going to help me move the ball forward.”
Natoshia: And that’s been working since January, since I came back from break.
Shamis: High fives.
Natoshia: Yeah, I know. Yeah, which is why I had to get a new planner, because it just wasn’t… I saw one that I hope will give me the functionality that I need to be more effective. Now that I’ve gotten a rhythm, a system down that’s working for me.
Shamis: So how does it feel to be in that space?
Natoshia: Oh, it feels great. I mean there’s something about being able to say, “Oh, this thing is coming up in April. Let me reach out to these individuals that I need to support me on this event in February, so they can get it on their calendar.” So it’s there 90 days in advance. My event’s not competing with somebody else’s event. Or if there is, then because we’ve discussed it so far in advance, we’re not untangling things.
Natoshia: So I feel like I’m being more productive, but I’m also making it easier for people to be present at some of the functions and events I’m hosting, because I’m giving them enough leeway in order to plan and prepare for it.
Shamis: And when you say it feels great, in that context, what does great feel like? What does that mean?
Natoshia: Great is… Oh, it’s so interesting having to unpack a feeling. It feels like I’ve not only accomplished something for myself, but I’ve made it easier for other people to do what they want to do and what they need to do.
Shamis: So what does it feel like when you feel accomplishment, that’s what you said?
Natoshia: Yeah, a relief. I feel pride in my work again. It feels like I’m now allowing my manager to be able to go back to worrying about things that she has to worry about, and not worry about what I also have to worry about. So that feels good.
Natoshia: It feels like I’m tapping into… I was thinking of Kat Williams, the comedian. My star player. Just being like, “All right, like this is what it feels like to be in flow, to get things done, to knock things off my task list, and to make my day-to-day feel like I’m in control of it. And instead of living and dying by Outlook.”
Shamis: Yeah. Thank you for that. So I’m curious, when it comes to leadership, for you also as a practitioner of leadership development, ensuring that the students around you connect with what it means to them as leadership, how would you quantify, qualify the power of this journey for you?
Natoshia: Well yeah, that’s a great question. What it does for me is it’s modeling to them that this this isn’t something that’s going to go away. This is something that, as an individual, you have to look at yourself. I had to look at myself and say, “What are the tools, what are the patterns, what are the behaviors that help me feel like I’m showing up as my best self, my most authentic self?” And each individual has to do that for themselves.
Natoshia: So if I can be transparent with the students in demonstrating making a mistake and owning up to that or pivoting when I realized that, “Hey, this actually didn’t work out that well, let me try a different approach,” saying, “No, actually I can’t make a meeting at 5:00, because I’m responsible to picking up my children. Not hiding or pretending like I’m a perfect being. I’m not.
Natoshia: But demonstrating and modeling to them that if you know what brings you peace of mind, what brings you comfort, what brings you joy, and you know those things fill your cup, it’s okay to not do something else in service of that. So then when you go back to doing your assignment, your task, or group project, or preparing for your interview, you’re showing up as your whole, complete self and not feeling empty because you’ve dismissed or haven’t spent time watering or cultivating parts of yourself that make you feel good and make you feel whole.
Shamis: That’s nice. Nice being impactful.
Shamis: …nice is a word that doesn’t really tell me anything.
Natoshia: There’s always the hope. And it’s so interesting, because sometimes you can’t measure it. I don’t know if something that I said is going to resonate with anyone in the room, or when I’m like, “Oh, this is such a meaningful, impactful thought. I’m going to share this.” It might not be that that they take away. It might be the fact that I said, “Hey, I was kind of lost and confused. I don’t know how to do this well.” Maybe that’s what they take away from it. So me being open and honest about not succeeding in a space, maybe that’s what they’re taking away.
Natoshia: And so I just stopped trying to orchestrate what I think is creating impact, and just hope, just by purely showing up as myself, that whatever it is that they need in that moment, at that time, that I’m able to provide them with something that they can take that can be useful. If not today, then maybe tomorrow or next month or next year.
Shamis: Yeah, and I would hazard a guess that, in those moments, the fact that you feel comfortable being authentic in the space is really impactful and shows them that it’s possible.
Natoshia: Absolutely. And if you-
Shamis: And be…in what you’re up to.
Natoshia: Yeah. And if you’re unable to show up as yourself, or if you feel like you’re hiding parts of your identity, or you’re wearing the so-called mask as people walk into their workspaces, that you actually can’t come to work every day and enjoy what you’re doing. The alarm can go off on Monday morning and you not go, “Oh, it’s Monday.” I love Mondays. Oops. Sorry, excuse me.
Natoshia: I love Mondays. And part of that is because my children go to daycare, but the other part of it is because I know that the work that I’m doing has impact and is making a difference. I’m sad to know that I spent so many years living not knowing that you can actually wake up every day and enjoy what you’re doing.
Natoshia: And I try to tell the students that. I try to show them that, no, you don’t actually have to be miserable going to work every day. You can love your work. It can be hard, it can be challenging, it can push you, but you can still love what you do. It doesn’t have to be painful.
Shamis: Thank you for that. So talk to me a little bit about how this transition has supported how you show up at home. You touched on it a little bit earlier, but I’d love to hear more about that since I love to talk about the “AND” of growing with home and work.
Natoshia: Yeah, that’s continuing to develop. I fully believe that people prioritize what’s important to them and that my actions need to match my words. So when I talk about my children for example, if I say I want to be present, I want to be fully available to them when I’m with them, then if I’m sitting there scrolling social media, that’s not in service of that. And so with the exception of Black History Month, which I try to get on every day to share something either funny or interesting or educational about Black History Month, outside of this month, I’m not on social media during the week.
Natoshia: So Monday through Friday, I put a 10-minute limit on to check LinkedIn, to see if there’s any interesting articles out there, maybe somebody shared something really cool that is interesting to me that I can look at. But other than that, when the 10-minute alarm goes off, I turn it off, put my phone away. And I don’t pull my phone back out to do social media until Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday.
Natoshia: And what I have found is, by not getting on social media during the week, I’m more present to my children. We’re having much more fun in the evenings. Evenings aren’t as difficult. I’m better connected with them. And mind you, they’re two and they’re three. So they’re going through their growth spurts and their toddler years, but they know that I’m there and I’m available and I’m present. So that’s been helpful.
Natoshia: Challenging myself to go to bed earlier so I can get a full night to sleep, because I know that I feel so much better all around emotionally, psychologically, physically when I’m well rested. And so I’ve challenged myself to do that and that’s going really well.
Natoshia: But of course it’s a pie, and so another part of my pie is my physical wellbeing. And I keep challenging myself to clip into my spin bike that’s in my bedroom, 2 feet, 10 feet, 5 feet away from where I sleep. But thinking about that, and going back to this idea of we make time for and we prioritize what’s important, I’ve just accepted that working at it is not a priority for me right now. And being okay with the moment it’s just like, “You know what? This is actually what I want to do, and I’m going to do it, then I will actually do it.” So right now other things are more important.
Natoshia: But I miss my bike. I miss the feeling of after finishing like a 20, 30 minute ride. And I have friends that check in. I had a friend text me this morning asking me how my two to three workouts a week are going, and I just sent her a little a meme of Beyonce sipping some water and kind of rolling her eyes, because I haven’t done it. And there’s no one really to take responsibility for that other than myself, and I’m okay with that. Except for when my pants don’t fit. But I am in charge of that. I can change that.
Shamis: … And the priorities will change every day.
Natoshia: I think so. Yep.
Natoshia: Two months in already, things have been going really well. I’m feeling at peace, feeling balanced, feeling rested, feeling productive, feeling present. I really am leaning into my yearly mantra of showing up, showing up for friends, showing up for people.
Natoshia: One of the things I started practicing towards the middle, end of last year was actually calling my friends and reaching out to people that I think about often. But instead of allowing a thought to just flutter away, texting them or calling them, and if they don’t answer, leaving a voicemail and saying, “Hey, I just thinking about you. Just wanted to say hi.” Reconnecting with people that I haven’t spoken to in a while. I found out that one of my great classmates from undergraduate lives an hour north of me in Syracuse and this there for school. And it’s just, “You’ve been here for six months. All the things that could have been… We could’ve gone to the New York State Fair together.” And all these things that we could have done. But now that we know that we’re here together, now we can create opportunities for us to hang out and get our children together and our families together, and I’m looking forward to that.
Shamis: Wonderful. My last question is, so how do you reconnect with what’s important to you if you get off track? How do you re-center yourself?
Natoshia: So I do do it weekly. Sunday is definitely a day of laundry and reset and rest for me. I keep my goals physically in my office. They’re right here, and I also have one that sits in my bedroom by my desk that I do light work at. But I spend Sundays really being thoughtful about, “How do I want to spend the next seven days, and what do I want to do and where do I extend myself some grace when I don’t do what I said that I was going to do for myself and just accepting that intention happens daily, happens hourly, happens in the moment.”
Shamis: Yeah. But in the moment, how do you re-center yourself?
Natoshia: A deep breath or getting on Instagram and going to a page that and I know it’s going to provide me with a video or a joke or two to help re-center. Just reminding myself it’s not that serious. Everything is not an emergency. Everything is not urgent. Am I going to be upset about something that somebody did or said to me a month from now, a week from now, tomorrow? And I think giving myself that internal pep talk has helped keep me centered and grounded in what’s actually important to me and what’s not.
Shamis: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Natoshia.
Natoshia: Thanks for having me.
Shamis: I appreciate it. I know that folks will feel very supported by listening to this conversation. And with that, I thank all of you for joining this iteration of Let’s Live in the And. Thanks to Natoshia for her time, and I hope that you check out more content, engage with me, connect with me, subscribe to my newsletter at Shamis2020.com. That’s S-H-A-M-I-S-2-0-2-0.com. Thanks so much.