Category: Wellness

Who Wants to Play?

April Benetollo, CEO Momentum

Jenny Golden is the founder of MyPRISM. Jenny is a Natural Health Practitioner and Behavior Analyst. She has designed MyPRISM to guide others toward a sense of flourishing, and has been doing so with the Momentum Team!  Recently Jenny took our team to the playground. I asked her to take our lesson and modify it into a blog post we could share. Enjoy! 

Play is often seen as something that is only for children or something that is frivolous and unnecessary. However, play is an essential part of our health and wellbeing, no matter what age we are. Researcher Johan Huizinga defined play as “Play is a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious,’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner.  In this blog, we will explore the importance of play in health, and how it fits into the PRISM model of health and radiance.

Most of us have not been engaging in the types and quantities of play as we did as children.  In order to get back to our play roots and benefit from this fundamental category of health, we will dig into what play looks and feels like as a reorientation to this concept.  

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, who founded the National Institute of Play, the following are the seven properties of play:

  • Apparently purposeless: Play is done for its own sake, not for any external goal or reward.
  • Voluntary nature: It is a freely chosen activity, not forced or required.
  • Inherent attraction: Play is enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding.
  • Freedom from time: It can happen for as long or as short a time as the player desires.
  • Diminished self-consciousness: During play, we are less concerned with how we appear.
  • Improvisational potential: Play can be creative and spontaneous, with the player making up or changing the rules as they go.
  • Continuation of desire: It is a pursuit of something we enjoy and desire, and we feel we do not want it to end.  
Andrea McCaskey, Statewide Director of Programs Momentum

There are many benefits to play that make it an important part of our health and wellbeing. Play increases PERMA, a model of well being that has been studied to increase human flourishing.  PERMA stands for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. It lowers stress, speeds up learning, increases social wellbeing, and heals emotional wounds.

In the PRISM model of health and radiance, play is one of five fundamental pillars. It falls under the “P” pillar, which stands for play. The other pillars are:

“R” stands for Relate:  connecting with others and ourselves in meaningful and fulfilling ways. 

“I” stands for Illuminate:  lowering and managing our everyday stress burden. 

“S” stands for sustain:  consuming foods, beverages, supplements and medicines that fuel us to live our best and brightest lives.  “M” stands for mend:  repairing our bodies physically and emotionally.


Play is intricately involved in all of these areas of health.

Playing to relate can increase emotional intelligence, refine skills such as boundaries, communication, body language, cooperation with others. 

Playing to illuminate can lower cortisol and increase norepinephrine, connect parts of the brain associated with learning and acquisition of new habits, enhance meditation and mindfulness, and increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor)in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex where decisions are made.  BDNF promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells

Playing to sustain can increase enjoyment of healthy foods, slow eating for better digestion, and increase excitement about consuming healthy foods. 

Playing to mend can increase BDNF in the amygdala where trauma, hurt, and fear reside, help us process difficult emotions, protect the brain and increase deep sleep.  

Knowing the elements of play is important in recognizing when we are in a state of play. Dr. Scott Eberle describes the elements of play to include:

  • Anticipation
  • Surprise
  • Pleasure
  • Understanding
  • Strength
  • Poise
  • Grace
  • Contentment

There are many different play personalities, and everyone may have a combination of them. They include artist/creators, jokers, collectors, kinesthetics, storytellers, explorers, competitors, and directors.

Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator Momentum

If you are looking to begin playing, there are a few tips to get started.

  1. Observe play experts, both children and adults, who embody a playful lifestyle. 
  2. Learn about the benefits of play.  Many research studies have been conducted on the importance and benefits of play.  The National Institute of Play offers many resources and education for anyone looking to learn more about play.  
  3. Set play goals.  Even small amounts of time getting into a playful mindset can have a big impact on health outcomes and flourishing.  Set strategic times and ways that you will engage in play on a daily basis.
  4. Engage others in your play.  Building a community of playing can help you have accountability as well as increased motivation and fun when you are beginning your play journey.  
  5. Have fun discovering your own play style.  Playing again can feel a bit awkward at first.  Try a variety of ways to play to discover the right one that works for you. 
  6. Remember that play gets better and better the more you do it.  The more we build these skills, the more we will enjoy the increases in feel good neurotransmitters that are increased in a state of play.  

It’s time to bring back the joy and freedom of play into our lives. Don’t let the responsibilities of adulthood make you forget the importance of play. Playing is not only fun and exciting, but it’s also essential for our health and well-being. It helps to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and boost our mood. So, let’s make time to get outside and play like we did when we were kids. Whether it’s with friends, family, or even on our own, let’s embrace the power of play and rediscover the joy of being carefree and playful. Let’s make it a priority to get moving, have fun, and improve our overall health and well-being. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get out there and play!

Contributed by Jenny Golden, Founder
February 28, 2023

Self-Care is Not Selfish

Are you taking time for self-care? If you’ve been short-changing the most important person in your life, take a moment close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths, and reflect upon what you need in the self-care department.
When you are done with your 10th breath, write down three steps you can take to rectify the situation. Cover the basics. Do you:
  • Sleep enough?
  • Eat nutritious foods?
  • Exercise regularly?
  • Keep medical appointments?
  • Relax/meditate?
  • Practice positive self-talk?
  • Draw healthy boundaries?
Remember this wisdom shared by Dr. Lisa Graham at the Momentum conference:
“Selfish is putting your own want ahead of others’ needs. Self-care is putting your own needs ahead of others’ wants.”
We’ve got more self-care strategies on our YouTube channel, including this one with Momentum alum Dr. Cheri Canon.

Perfectionism in the Workplace

Did you know that 92% of people are affected by perfectionism? Perfectionism impacts how we lead, work, and relate to one another. To learn more about this phenomenon in the workplace, Vitale Buford Hardin and her company The Hardin Group conducted research in partnership with the Social Research Lab at the University of Northern Colorado to learn more about the effects of perfectionism at work. Her research uncovered a lot of insightful information, including the following statistics:

  • 86% believed perfectionist expectations impact their work
  • 72% believe perfectionism is harmful to relationship-building
  • 68% believe perfectionism leads to burnout
  • 66% believe perfectionism leads to fear of failure and conflict avoidance
  • 66% of workplaces struggle with perfectionism
  • 1/3 of employees are considering leaving their workplace because of perfectionist expectations

Hardin’s desire to understand perfectionism comes from a deeply personal experience. Growing up, Vitale developed the idea that she was only worthy if she succeeded at everything. After years of struggling with perfectionism, as well as an Adderall addiction, Hardin sought help to overcome the disorder. Through her research and own memoir, Addicted to Perfect, she now helps others overcome perfectionism and learn how to lead with excellence, not perfection.

You can order Addicted to Perfect here from our favorite women-owned bookstore, Thank You Books, and learn more about Hardin’s perfectionism research here.

Fun Galentine’s Day Ideas

Where Did Galentine's Day Come From - When Is Galentine's Day Looking for a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with all of the special gals in your life? Here are five fun ideas to try!

1. Galentine’s Brunch

Get your girls together and have a Galentine’s Day brunch! Make cute heart-shaped pancakes and waffles, a fresh bowl of fruit with cool-whip and melted chocolate to dip, and top it off with a pink-strawberry mimosa!

2. Charcuterie Picnic

If the sun is out and shining, take a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some nice charcuterie meats and cheeses to make a little travel food board. Don’t forget dessert! Pick a picture-perfect spot outside (for cute pics, of course!) and have a nice afternoon with the girls! If you’re in the Birmingham area, try Railroad Park!

3. DIY Photoshoot

Set up a cute themed-background and take fun pictures with friends! Pick up some pink and red streamers to hang from the ceiling in front of a white-sheet background. Find some heart-shaped balloons and pose!

4. Girls Night In

Pop some popcorn, find a cheesy rom-com or sappy romance movie, and snuggle up under some blankets for a fun night in! 

5. DIY Spa Day

Want to feel refreshed and relaxed? Have a fun spa day at home! Buy some face masks at the store, or try some DIY face mask recipes and rate the results! You and your girls can give each other manicures with a fun pop of pink to fit the Galentine’s Day theme!

Mammograms Are Self-Care Too

Every October women are reminded of the risks associated with breast cancer and ways to help prevent the disease. The Mayo Clinic says the best ways to prevent breast cancer include limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, breast-feeding, and limiting postmenopausal hormone therapy.

Getting your mammogram every year is also an important way to monitor possible breast cancer early on. Stamford health suggests getting a mammogram every year because they have helped reduce breast cancer-related deaths in the U.S. by 30% since 1990.

Most women understand the benefits of getting a mammogram, but will still continue to put them off. The reason?

“I don’t have time.”

“I can’t afford the procedure.”

“It’s uncomfortable.”

“I’m afraid.”

Taking care of yourself is a vital part of being human, but why do women continuously put themselves last when it comes to scheduling self care? Self-care is not selfish, taking the time to take care of yourself and your needs can only make you a better person, mother, partner, and employee.

This breast cancer awareness month we are reminded again that women need to take care of themselves in order to continue taking care of the ones they love. So take that walk. Make that yoga class. Treat yourself to date night. And know that mammograms are self-care too!

Contributed by Carrie Davis


Co-mentoring Through the Decades

Each Executive and Upward class is split into co-mentoring groups, which consist of a diverse selection of women leaders in Birmingham. If you are interested in finding a mentor, Momentum has a free matching program.

Some of our groups have been connected for over a decade.  Tricia Kirk, Katherine Bland, Connie Pruett, Rusha Smith, all from class 6, and Katherine’s wife Peggy Vandergrift. According to Katherine, “We are family. We celebrate life’s blessings and we lift each other up through difficult times. My Momentum family has supported me and inspired me, especially when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.”

Alumnae with similar profiles will not be put together. For example, there will never be a group with 5 lawyers or accountants. What’s surprising about the group?

“You would never put this group together. We come from different walks of life, career paths, rural and urban upbringing, ideologies, and so much more. But, we respect and embrace our differences,” Katherine Bland.

Others are newer but just as engaged. Mo Shorts, Alaina Ploski, Carly Miller, Danielle Hines, Efstathia Andrikopoulou, and Felicia Pike are in a group from the Upward class. Their advice?

“Be intentional. It is worth it.”

“All members need to be equally invested for this to work.”

“These women are unbiased third parties and they can give you great perspective on the challenges you face. Even if you are nervous, you will feel better putting it out there for consideration.”

Both of these groups remained consistent throughout the pandemic. How was this possible? The Upward group stayed connected through a daily group text. They also had virtual meet ups until it was safe to meet in person. One participant shared, “I am geographically far from my family and friends, so having this group has been a true gift – knowing I have friends close by and people to reach out to if I need. Simply by existing, the women who make up my group have supported me through what has been a very strange time.”

Having a strong group of supportive women means you can call someone up for a drink or a walk at any time. “What seemed so big, with them, is now so small. They have a way of putting things in perspective.” Momentum’s mentoring program pairs mentees and mentors who share a specific goal or skill they want to work on together. Although you are only required to have a six month relationship, many pairs stayed connected beyond that time period.

The Executive group had even more ideas for connecting through COVID. “We continued our gatherings through Zoom. We even bought the same appetizer tray from the grocery store so we were still ‘sharing’ our appetizers. When it was safe, we had a gathering outdoors and recently moved to outdoor dining in restaurants,” Katherine Bland.

Despite a bizarre year, we are thrilled to hear of moments of support and encouragement. Women need true connection now more than ever. Reach out to Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator, for more information. Here’s to a better 2021!

May Showers Bring Summer Flowers

Observing this past month of May where we celebrated Mental Health Awareness, it is vital to reflect on the general state of wellness impacted by the pandemic and quarantine. We do not want to labor into another disparaging article about the statistical impacts that sudden loss, sustained periods of doubt and uncertainty, and isolation (among other effects) have had on our health outlook. Instead, we want to encourage you to remember the incredible obstacles we have overcome through the course of quarantine 2020, as we return to a semblance of what our life was before.

While some are bold to make the leap, others are understandably hesitant to re-enter an inevitably changed world. They are weary of returning to a state of blissful ignorance and remain cautious of their people interactions despite substantial progress in projected health outcomes. They still carry trauma from the suddenness of the quarantine order, shutting down our economy and livelihood many depended on. And, this fear of dire consequence drives a delayed expectation of gratification that has permanently changed how we approach mindfulness, connecting with others, and how we seek enjoyment outside of our professions.

In spite of this, we are seeing major improvements in public mental health acceptance. Undeniably, the time spent in isolation or confinement awakened space to identify and face some areas of trouble we faced prior to 2020. We had to put in the tough effort to derive comfort from ourselves and continue to build self-originated hope. Whether we carried in mental health issues from our past or were confronted by new ones, it is more visible to us how our stress, low self-worth, or low trust impede our day-to-day tasks.

Going forward, we must continue to prioritize mental health wellness and take action, not retrospectively, but because we deserve positivity and assurance about our progress. We deserve to pursue happiness in tandem with our responsibilities. We deserve to disrupt business to introduce intervals of peace, creativity, and freedom. These are all necessary pursuits.



By Nikita Udayakumar

The Kids are Alright


In July 2020, Harvard Business Researchers surveyed a group of 2,500 working parents to assess the importance of the (declining) childcare industry in supporting the reopening economy, following the Covid-19 outbreak. The study held by fellow professionals and mothers – Alicia Sasser Modestino, Jamie J. Ladge, Addie Swartz, and Alisa Lincoln – aimed to examine the impact felt by the 50 million parent U.S. workforce with children under the age of 14. The results presented that 20% of working parents across low and high-income brackets had to leave work or reduce their hours because of the lack of childcare. Of them, nearly a third claimed it was down to the “more capable parent,” while less than a quarter decided based on income bracket.

Why is this an issue?

The survey displayed a heavy lenience towards traditional gender roles, and found that 26% of women surveyed were expected to step-down from their work roles. In addition, the expectations of the role of an active mother and breadwinner have only surmounted for single mothers and women of color. The survey showed that women were more likely to reduce hours at work if they were Black, or if they were single, divorced, separated, or widowed. The report subsequently argued for businesses to assume the responsibility for arranging childcare, as opposed to individual employees. Seeing the weighted and incredibly meaningful contribution of women in the workforce – plus, the possible addition of 5% to the U.S. GDP – it is crucial for companies to address these inequities for working women parents.

Temporary Solutions

In September 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance compiled a list of resources to support parents managing their work and homeschooling pressures, including YWCA’s School Support Program, The Levite Jewish Community Center Day Camps, and YMCA and similar community center services. Wyndy offers an app to connect local nannies and sitters to parents in need of childcare services. Additionally, Childcare Resources’ is a Central Alabama agency connecting families to over 700 childcare programs that fit their needs.

Breaking Down Focus 2021 – What Comes Next?

We are still on cloud nine from last Wednesday, March 31st, presenting the Momentum Conference, Focus 2021. Our goal: to combat the physical and psychological toll from 2020 through a more positive focus in 2021. The multifaceted conference featured inspiring keynote speakers, Momentum Lessons in Leadership, and messages from our sponsor partners. We explored our strengths in innovative teamwork, work-life management, making bold career moves, and supporting inclusive cultures.  


A main highlight was the return of our fabulous keynote speakers from Vision 2020, Risha Grant and Robyn Benincasa.


Takeaways from Risha Grant (Learn about her here)

Speaking on her experience trailblazing diversity and inclusion practices at Regions Bank, she urged us to “turn our brains off auto-pilot” to identify and address our biases.  To focus on equitable change we have to understand we have to understand how our individual behaviors, actions, support for certain workplace policies, and attitude to change hinder or support our efforts to social progression. 

Click to see her additional tips for carrying this internal reflection in a mindful way and more about sustaining personal progress on the Focus 2021 Resource Page.


Takeaways from Robyn Benincasa (Learn about her here)

Robyn shared her iron approach on how leaders should carry courage and guts through their journeys “adapt, overcome, and win” against tough challenges in their environment. She related this to the motivation necessary for her to continue to ascend the 19,000 ft. summit of a volcano. 

Remember, GUTS means:

Go the distance, quietly persevering

Unwavering in patience and faith

Taking calculated risks

Shattering the norm


How Can We Keep the Fire?


#1: Continue to encourage self-exploration through journaling 

There is no feeling freeing than the flow of unprovoked thought. To meaningfully access to our subconscious beliefs and attitudes, we must first displace the filtering, perfectionist monitoring of even the things we write to ourselves. Personal journaling can help us address the start of a negative thought and pull it out from the root.


Helpful Journaling Guides:

A Journal Prompt for Every Emotion You Feel

Start a Work Diary And Leverage it for Career Growth


#2: Fuel respectful discussions with others

The key to communicating is first and foremost active listening. We do this by tuning our attentiveness, our patience, and our receptiveness of what others confide in us. This should be a mutual practice among the members of a discussion group and should reflect a bare foundation of respect and empathy. It is challenging to engage in conversations about inclusion that might have never been confronted before, but if we are patient with others and ourselves it will empower us to have brave conversations.


#3: Give yourself some grace

We must understand that we do not all innately hold the perfect solutions to the problems we confront in our 3D world. We are positive people, passionately moving forward, building on our knowledge and reflecting that personal growth outwards.



One of the greatest things about Momentum is the powerful alumnae network. Periodically we interview these amazing women about their experience in our program.

Brittney graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in Communications Management/Business Management in 2010.

Brittney began her career as a program and compliance specialist for the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity and later joined Virginia College as a Student Career Development Coach. She joined Birmingham Business Alliance in 2015 as a Program Manager, Workforce Development. And in 2019, Brittney began at Protective Life as a Corporate Recruiter and transitioned into her role as a Diversity & Inclusion specialist in January of 2021.

As a Diversity & Inclusion Specialist at Protective Life, Brittney Smith partners with HR & business leaders to develop and implement D&I strategy and programming designed to promote inclusion and increase diverse representation across the organization. She also leads Protective Life’s D&I outreach efforts, including establishing recruitment partnerships with colleges, universities, and professional organizations and leading Protective Life’s Summer Internship Program team.

Brittney is a board member of the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation Board of Directors, as well as a member of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham. She is a former board member of Better Basics Inc. as well as an inaugural member of Momentum’s first Upward cohort.

What did you gain from your Momentum experience?

Relationships. I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible women who are making an impact in Birmingham. Some of them even went on to become friends, which is something I count as my greatest gain. Another thing that contributed to my Momentum experience was the specific professional season I was in. There’s a point in every career where you have achieved quite a bit, but there’s still much more to go in terms of navigating the journey and taking ownership of your career, and Momentum helped me take more control over my career journey.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

Early on in my career, someone shared with me a piece of advice that still applies no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and that’s the need to trust that your God-given ability will always make room for you. If you give your best in whatever position you’re in, do right by people, and be authentic, the right opportunity will always come to you. When I think about people that have given me advice I think it’s especially important, that when the door of opportunity is opened you’re ready to walk through it, and also leave the door open for other people to follow. 

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?

The first thing I would say to my younger self is that success is a journey, and never compare that journey to others. The other thing I would add would be to learn at every stage and step of your career. No matter how difficult the job or the season may be, there is always something to learn.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders faces?

The first thing that came to mind would be balance. In the new normal of work, more and more companies are allowing people to work remotely, though that’s a huge plus, it increases the difficulty of drawing an important line between work and home. Both men and women have different home priorities, but it is especially true for women. 

The second thing that came to mind is connectivity. Relationships are incredibly important and it’s much harder to fully connect in a gratifying way in a virtual world. Women need to find ways to be intentional and overcome that obstacle to build and maintain relationships as we move away from traditional work experiences. 

What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?

Mckinsey & Co. produced a report in partnership with the Lean In organization back in 2019. According to the report, for every 100 men hired or promoted into a first-time manager role, only 72 women are hired into that same position. These numbers are even lower for women of color. That’s a gap. When I think about potential solutions, I immediately think of sponsorship. Companies have the opportunity to consider putting more thought into building out a framework for sponsorship specifically for women and underrepresented minorities. Most people are willing to mentor, and I think that mentoring is an incredible opportunity, but women need sponsors, advocates, people willing to invite us to the table and have our voices heard to truly experience growth. 

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

The first one is integrity. Good leaders should do what they say they’re going to do. People should be able to trust their words. A good leader will do the right thing, even when no one is looking. The second word that comes to mind is vision. I think the ability to cast a vision as well as bring others into that vision and help them see how they fit into the vision is a sign of a good leader. The last thing I associate with a good leader is empathy. Good leaders can connect with people and share the feelings of others.

How do you manage your career, home, and community life?

This is something I am in the process of restructuring how I balance all of those. One of the things I have been doing is making sure I know my priorities. For me, my priority is my family. I always want to be the person that thinks of my family and uses them as the drive for my success, not the other way around. One of the things that helps me balance my priorities, which I learned through one of the Momentum courses is taking a survey of all of my activities and responsibilities and ranking them based on what I can control. It’s also important to take the time during the day to accomplish the things that I need to accomplish so that it doesn’t carry over into my personal life. 

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

My advice would be, talent is a start but it’s not enough. Sometimes we focus so much on the base talent of intellect or creativity and that’s great. What’s equally as important is development. Invest in your development. Develop your environment, and that includes your network, your skillset, and your character.