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  • Michelle Toth

Creating a Foundation of Wellness: From Surviving to Thriving

Updated: Jul 3


Living in Silicon Valley, I was very focused on climbing the corporate ladder. I found the culture and competition at Bay Area technology companies to be brutal and soul-sucking. Dealing with traffic was a part-time job in itself. My diet included lots of coffee, miniature Snickers, and burritos. I left my house before sunrise and didn’t get home until after sunset.


Needless to say, I was struggling both physically and emotionally — anxiety, insomnia, headaches, infertility. I was self-medicating with Tylenol PM, alcohol, and distractions. Though everything looked great on the outside, I was dying on the inside. Something had to give.



Re-building My Foundation

What followed was an intense period of self-exploration that included therapy and working with a functional medicine doctor. I’ve created a foundation, using numerous practices over the years in my continued quest for radical well-being, which resulted in a more balanced and joyful life. The experience also inspired me to create Brilliant Muse which allows me to continue the work I love while helping others achieve their aspirations.


This deeply personal and professional experience has taught me many valuable lessons that I’ve infused into my approach to life. We are one — personally and collectively. If we make ourselves a priority we can achieve amazing things.



"Making my mess my message" ~ Sahara Rose


Feelings Don’t Have an “Off” Switch

Since the threat of COVID-19, the lines we had drawn to delineate between our work persona and home persona have been erased. Not just blurred, but ERASED. This means that we’re not only working from home, but some of us are parenting from work. We’ve taken on new roles such as teacher, IT admin, and cook.


Many people are feeling sad, isolated, fatigued, and anxious about the future. The CDC reported in June 2020, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. This number will likely climb higher as time goes on and the uncertainties of the world loom.


We cannot turn our feelings “on” or “off” during certain times such as work, so we need to learn how to balance ourselves. As humans, we’re one amazing organism that is dynamic and constantly transforming. And we automatically respond to our environment (that is also always changing) with feelings and emotions - some are positive and some are not. Sometimes we feel balanced and sometimes a little wonky.





Balancing Emotions is an Inside Job

Our bodies naturally move to a state of balance or homeostasis, thankfully. But subconsciously, we react to stress via the fight-flight-freeze” response, which is an automatic survival mechanism (think saber tooth tiger chasing you) protecting us from a perceived danger. The sudden hormonal changes and physiological response help us manage the threat, but we can overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening such as impending deadlines or toddler tantrums. This type of chronic stress response can take a toll on the body and we start having symptoms of dis-ease.


But there is hope. And it’s an inside job. We’re all overwhelmed with the busyness of life but making self-care a priority is the first step to change and creating more balance. Many need permission to do this (so they don’t feel guilty) and maybe some guidance to get started. Learning how to balance emotions is key.


Some things to try:

  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling with self-awareness (I feel…)

  • Close your eyes and feel it in your body (this is what it means to be human)

  • Do not judge or label the feeling as good or bad

  • Show self-compassion with actions (gratitude, journaling, affirmations)

  • Get support by talking with friends, or with therapy

  • Exercise to get those good endorphins pumping

  • Trigger the relaxation response (breathing, yoga, meditation)


Prioritize Mental Health

We also need to recognize that many people don’t feel comfortable talking about their feelings or asking for help. Part of this may be because of the stigma caused by associating mental health with mental illness. Our big beautiful brains are part of us and need to be cared for like we do with our other organs, parts, and pieces.


The reluctance to share can occur at home or in a work environment. But we can be the change. We are empowered to ask more questions, listen with intent, and recognize the signs of struggle.


If we’re not feeling our best, we’re not performing our best. More companies have increased their focus on mental health since the pandemic and encourage leaders to:

  • Be Vulnerable — Normalize the challenges and be open about personal struggles

  • Model Healthy Behaviors Set boundaries between work and home, block time for non-work related activities

  • Communicate Communicate Communicate Reduce uncertainty by sharing as much information as possible about updates, org changes, etc.

  • Remove Stress Define clear expectations and prioritization


Ride the Wave to Radical Well-being

As we ride the wave of this turbulent time, there is an opportunity to be seized. This is the time to create a foundation of wellness, so we’re able not only to survive but to thrive. These strategies are the building blocks — ways we can help ourselves and each other — make smart choices daily that culminate into a lifetime of health and happiness.


Our team at Brilliant Muse believes in harnessing the power of collaboration, so we prioritize partnering with awesome teams to combine superpowers and strengthen our services. If you're interested in working with us please contact us so we can explore opportunities.