How She Does It: Laurie A. Watkins Author of "Go from Stressed to Strong: Health & Fitness Advice from High Achievers"

Laurie A. Watkins is an accomplished writer, public speaker, entrepreneur, communications specialist, and seasoned political strategist. She is the author of Go from Stressed to Strong: Health & Fitness Advice from High Achievers (Skyhorse Publishing, April 2017). She has worked on two presidential campaigns, served in positions from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon, and more recently guest lectured at West Point, the United States Military Academy.

Laurie was recently a guest on Women Entrepreneurs Radio. Listen to her interview here:

Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Laurie. Excited to hear about your new book. What prompted you to write "Go From Stressed to Strong?"

Laurie A Watkins: Great to be here, Deb. I wrote Go from Stressed to Strong to help motivate people to get started in achieving a healthier life, even in the most adverse situations. After I got myself on the right path to health and better self-care, healing my own body after decades of abuse, I wanted to share my discovery and tools with others.

For those who keep putting themselves off, neglecting your health and well-being with the excuse that you just don't have time, energy, resources, etc., you do have the opportunity to change your current status. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be healthy. But, you have to put in the hard work if you want to see and feel real results.

Deb: Isn't it difficult for high achievers to admit that they're pushing too hard?

Laurie: Yes, absolutely! Most people won't see burnout coming, because it usually happens when they are doing something that they're passionate about, and quite good at.

Burnout is not some made-up thing lazy people pretend to have (like a cold) so they can stay home, avoiding the office. It's a force stronger than a hurricane that can knock you out completely, making even the simplest of tasks like getting dressed and showered, cooking a meal, or answering email seem impossible. People don't get burned out because they're weak. They get burned out because they've tried to stay strong for far too long.

Most high achievers have a hard time admitting that they're pushing too hard because in order to alleviate some of their stressors, they have to admit they need help.

There are many possible reasons that might be influencing their reluctance to seek help from others. One is their concern about how others view them, or that they don't want to inconvenience someone.

Are you someone who battles with fear of rejection or has a tendency toward perfectionism? All of these motivations can cause a person to avoid accepting help, for fear of failing or being seen as a failure.
If you're a professional or business owner, you may be worried that needing help can demonstrate a lack of professionalism or even be seen as a sign of weakness. Consequently, you might feel that someone not handling their own affairs is inferior or incompetent. Well, the same goes for managing your exercise schedule, health, and wellness. 

No one should settle for less than feeling healthy, strong, and capable of doing whatever their heart desires. I'll be honest with you: this will not happen overnight. But, I do promise that you'll feel a difference almost immediately.

Deb: Most entrepreneurs I know don't get enough sleep. Why is it so important to get a good night's rest? 

Laurie: Everything changed after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, giving us the ability to stay awake at any time of day. With the use of artificial lights and stimulants such as caffeine, we are able to fight off the physiological need to sleep. The danger is that we need sleep to feel refreshed, for hormonal balance, for physical and mental repair, and for memory consolidation.

When we don't get enough sleep, we take away our ability to undergo a very important process that allows our bodies to heal and feel refreshed, increasing the chance for long-term consequences.

Most individuals suffer the occasional sleepless night or periods of poor sleep during stressful life events such as a job or home struggle, an illness, the birth of a child, a marriage, or a death. For many people, the occasional sleep problems can evolve into chronic insomnia.

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep, and it is biologically determined for each individual so that different people need different amounts of sleep within that range. However, people who say they can get by on less sleep are often masking a physiologic tendency towards sleep, often by staying very active.

Let's face it, each of us is more likely to be a professional powerhouse if we aren't asleep at the wheel. Just as I do with all of the Strength Seekers in my program, I challenge your readers to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than their usual bedtime tomorrow night. That's right, this will require readers to better manage their time, getting all of those To Do's checked off their list before bedtime.

I guarantee they will feel more rested, have increased energy levels, and will be less likely to hit the snooze button the following morning. 

Deb: Do you have a few time management tips you can share?

Laurie: To help your readers get started on making positive changes, I have included the following tips that will help them gain an hour back each day, allowing them the time to exercise, eat a healthy meal, and be more present in their relationships.

Here are a few to help get them started:
1.    Do the most important thing first
2.    Make a list and actually use it
3.    Favor trusting relationships
4.    Be on time
5.    Be authentic
6.    Get good at saying "No" to people
7.    Maintain a lifestyle that will give you maximum energy
8.    Set 3-5 priorities and stick to them
9.    Stop over-scheduling yourself
10.    Always look for ways of doing things better, faster, and cancel out repetitive tasks

Deb: Those are terrific tips, Laurie. What inspires you to do the work you do? 

Laurie: Every time I meet someone who shares their story of struggle, stress, and the challenges they frequently come up against for balancing work and life, I am inspired to share my knowledge of how to help them gain the motivation towards better self-care.

Just the other day I gave a talk to a group of young leaders, and afterwards a gentleman came up to me and told me that my words cut through him like a knife. He had been struggling for quite some time to find balance, freedom from his job, and the grueling schedule he kept. My tough-talk about respecting oneself by keeping the promises we make to ourselves about exercise, better time-management, and eating a healthier diet affected him in a way he wasn't expecting. With tears in his eyes, he told me I inspired him to start making th necessary changes needed to take back control of his life and the priorities he had made for himself - not the following day, but right then and there… TODAY.

Deb: What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out? 

Laurie: Find your passion.
You are going to spend many long hours working in and on your business, so pick an industry that you don't just like, but are passionate about. When you are passionate, it shows, and your enthusiasm and belief in what you are doing translates to your customers, sparking their enthusiasm about what you are offering.

Start a business that works for you and fits with your personal life.
There are no rules as to what a "real" business looks like. For some business people, success might mean an international operation with hundreds of employees and annual revenues in the tens of millions. For others, a small consulting firm that pays a healthy salary and allows generous personal freedom might be considered the pinnacle of success. The key is to take the time early in the planning process to consider this question and decide for yourself what your ideal vision is for your business and your personal life.

Taking Risks is Important.
When I started my company, I was unemployed and writing my book full-time. Instead of going back to working for someone else once my book was finished, I decided to go out on my own. Sometimes, a little risk has to be involved if you want to see the big payoff in the end. While women may face additional challenges along their journey, there are countless women who have proven that with the right idea, a little confidence and a strong work ethic, any aspiring female entrepreneur can find the success that she deserves.

Foster relationships with contacts before you need help from them.
For example, if you need the support of a local politician on an upcoming city zoning decision, you'll have a better chance of getting the politician's vote if he or she already knows you and thinks favorably of your business than if you place a call to his or her office out of the blue.

Deb: Wonderful advice. Since you're a busy high-achiever, what's your favorite activity to relax and unwind?

Laurie: My favorite thing to do to relax and unwind is to be amongst nature. For me, there's something magical about being inside a forest. Whenever I get to witness the sun peek through the pine branches of a beautiful landscape, my heart soars - it literally skips a beat. There's a peaceful calm, along with the silence of the forest that allows me to be still, taking in everything around me. I am quickly reminded just how small I am compared to the immensity of the universe, and that new perspective enables me to have a different perception of myself and my life.

Exposure to nature has been shown repeatedly to reduce stress and boost well-being. There are a number of suggestions for enjoying nature: watch the sunset alone or with someone special on a blanket, enjoy a roaring outdoor fire, go out at night and see the stars, go on a guided nature hike, visit a National or State park for a quick day trip, do a power-walk in your neighborhood, go fishing, paddle boarding, or my personal favorite; take your dog on a long walk somewhere that you have never yet explored.

With prior planning, and the right gear, anyone can enjoy a day with Mother Nature. Choose your adventure, and have fun!

Deb: What do you think are the top 3 traits an entrepreneur must have?

Laurie: Ambition, Focus and Drive.

Deb: Thanks so much for sharing! Please let everyone know where they can find out more about you and your book.

Laurie: I enjoyed it, Deb. Here's where you can find me:

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