Category: Wellness

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.

 

ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: BRITTNEY SMITH

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. 

Momentum February Webinar – “Ignite Your Spark”

On February 23, 2021, Momentum hosted a Webinar with Jeannine Bailey, the Talent and Employee Management Manager at Alabama Power. Along with Momentum’s Katherine Thrower, Manager of Logistics and Events, she guided a conversation with Birmingham women about finding purpose and passion outside the office.

 

About Jeannine Bailey, MBA, SHRM-SCP

We are happy to highlight Jeannine who was part of our Executive Class 15 (from 2015). Jeannine is a seasoned Human Resources, Public Relations, and Communications professional. She began her career with a rich 10 year background in Broadcasting, working for stations across cities such as: Salisbury (MD), Colorado Springs, Boston, Hartford (CT), and recently for iHeart Radio in Birmingham. She carried this experience into positions involving PR and Fundraising. Then, joined Alabama Power (Southern Nuclear) in 2013 as Communications Director. She moved up to a Human Resources Director (in 2017) and to her current position in March 2020. In this role, she leads the talent management team to grow internal and external resources,  employee engagement strategies, and employee development opportunities.

 

To view the recording video, please visit this link:

http://https://youtu.be/elcsWIMEIWw

3 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. What began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California has grown into a nationwide acknowledgment of women’s accomplishments throughout history. This month-long celebration seeks to highlight women’s groundbreaking contributions as well as uplift women to help get them through issues still lingering today.

We’re already planning how we’re going to celebrate here at Momentum. Looking to find ways to celebrate Women’s History Month too? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Read up on the history of women’s rights – What is Women’s History Month? Why is March Women’s History Month? This resource gives you all the answers you need
  2. Write a letter to a woman that inspires and motivates you to be the best woman you can be. A simple thank you to a family member, coworker, or friend to remind them of how awesome they are this month and every other month. Don’t forget to write one to yourself! Because you’re pretty awesome too!
  3. Whether you’re looking to educate yourself more on the women’s movement, or simply take stock in the amazing accomplishments made by women, be sure to read and share works by female authors this month. Momentum’s current pick is the historical fiction novel, The Vanishing Half, by American author Brit Bennett. You can pick up a copy of this book at a female-owned bookstore, Thank You Books, in Crestwood!

 

Staying Active During COVID-19

Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of stimulating your brain and keeping track of your mental health during the pandemic. Not only is your mental health a vital part in staying successful in your personal and professional lives, but maintaining your physical well-being is too. Here are a few tips on how to stay active during COVID-19 while still staying socially distant. 

1. Get Outside

One of the easiest ways to stay active during COVID-19 that everyone has access to is simply going outside. Explore your neighborhood by going on a run, taking a walk, or riding your bike. If you want to get out of the neighborhood, Birmingham has plenty of parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities. Oak Mountain and Red Mountain state parks have great hiking and mountain biking trails that are suitable for all ages. You could even take a walk around the Birmingham Botanical Gardens which has 67.5 acres of over 25 thematic gardens with various sculptures and quiet paths. The Birmingham Zoo is also back open again with limited hours of operation. Before visiting any public outdoor space, be sure to check their websites for their COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. 

2. Workout from Home 

Another way to stay active is to workout from the comfort of your own home. COVID-19 has forced the world to become more connected than ever which includes opportunities to try out new workouts online. Many gyms that normally operate on an in-person basis now have guided workouts available through their apps for members. One free way to attend a workout class from home is by using YouTube. YouTube has thousands of videos on different workout options ranging from a 5 minute cardio session to an hour of a full body workout. My favorite kind of workout is one that makes you feel like you aren’t working out at all. There are plenty of videos that accomplish this through dance party workouts that allow you to have fun while still working up a sweat. 

3. Look into Gyms Again

As life tries to go back to “normal”, many gyms have reopened but with new guidelines and restrictions. If you do decide to get back into the gym again stay cautious and practice good hygiene. A few ways you can do this are by washing your hands frequently, wiping down the equipment before and after you use it, wearing your mask, and spacing out away from others. It is also advised that you bring your own water as opposed to using the water fountains, and avoiding using the locker room by planning on using the bathroom at home and skipping your post-gym locker room shower. Before you go, it is important to look on the gym’s website for their specific guidelines so you can assess if you will feel comfortable or not.

How to Manage Your Mental Health

Not only have businesses taken a hit from the challenges 2020 has brought us, but for many people their mental health has as well. The best thing you can do in order to stay successful in your career, especially in times like this, is to first take care of yourself and focus on the importance of your mental health because the most important asset to your career is you. Here are three tips on how to manage your mental health:

1. Promote Mental Stimulation

Just like your body, your brain needs exercise too! Now is the time to try new things in your spare time like learning a new language or playing an instrument. You can also increase your brainpower with puzzles, books, or playing card games with family. You should always strive to practice lifelong learning in your personal and professional life. The more you challenge your brain and keep it active throughout the day, the healthier it will be.

2. Listen to Yourself

The only person that knows you better than anyone is yourself. While it might be easy to focus on other people, or the tasks you have yet to complete, you need to first listen to yourself to best assess your needs which will help you stay productive. It’s okay to take breaks and step away for a moment when life gets too overwhelming. Remember to take a deep breath. One way you can decompress is by practicing meditation which you can learn more about here.

3. Stay Connected

Our world has never been more connected than it has been in 2020. With mandatory social distancing guidelines, people across the globe have had to place importance on staying connected virtually in order to work or maintain relationships with family members and friends. However, it’s also important to know when you need to unplug. Taking breaks from watching the news or scrolling through countless posts on social media can prevent you from having a mental burnout and allow you to have time to reflect or spend time with your loved ones. Above all else, remember that you are not alone and we will get through these times together.

Want access to more wellness tips? Join us for Wellness Wednesdays every Wednesday at 10 am where we have local experts discuss spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. You can register for Wellness Wednesdays here.

 

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.

Planning During a Pandemic

In mid-March, Momentum hosted its biennial conference at the BJCC. As reports of COVID-19 were being heard around the world, Momentum’s 2020 Vision Conference ended up being the last major event held at the BJCC before they closed due to health concerns. It could not have been pulled off without GoPro Solutions, which was founded by Jennifer Gowers in 2007. She and her team, who work conveniently around the corner from Momentum’s office, worked for months to make sure our vision was carried out successfully. I Zoomed with Gowers to learn how their business is adapting in light of COVID-19.

Believe it or not, event planners are really good at planning for everything. When I called Gowers, I imagined that she would talk about all the events she would have had to cancel and frantically reschedule. Although she said some events and weddings have been postponed, she calmly explained how many of their events have gone virtual. Furthermore, because they plan so far in advance, they have more flexibility in restructuring.

GoPro was also ahead of the curve in working online. Gowers explained that her staff knew how to work remotely before quarantine, so she already had strategies to effectively get things done. She recommends that people designate a space for work in their home, not try to do chores during work hours, and focus on mind management. As an avid podcast listener, she explained that women like life coach Brooke Castillo encourage her to stay positive and mindful.

Looking toward the future, Gowers thinks that people will be more excited to come to events and overall attendance rates will rise. However, she thinks networking won’t be the same, and online platforms will expand. While online events are the most safe, she explained that “online is not the answer for everything”, so some gatherings will have to wait.

As a small business owner in Birmingham, she wants people to try to support local businesses instead of ordering straight from large corporations like Amazon. Gowers is optimistic about Birmingham’s future, citing the city’s unique resilience and genuineness. Although we may not be able to greet each other in person, she says Birmingham residents “know how to hug each other from afar”.