Welcome to Part 2 of a three-part series where I reached out to friends working “on the front lines” and asked them to share their wisdom – what they have learned in the past six months and what they have been sharing with others through their day jobs. Last week I shared several pearls of wisdom from my friend Ben King, who as founder of Armor Down and the Mindful Memorial Foundation, works with veterans and teaches school children about our service men and women who sacrificed so much for our country.

This week’s interview is with Dr. Charlynn Ruan, founder of Thrive Psychology Group in Southern California, is still a hot spot and fairly locked down, so her answers are real-time and present tense.

CAA: For the benefit of the readers, what do you do?

CR: Our group is dedicated to women’s wellness and focused on therapy for the modern woman. We provide individual therapy, couples counseling, and life coaching to empower our clients to overcome life’s toughest challenges and reach their highest potential, or who simply want to take life to the next level. We are actually expanding from our base in Southern California to the Bay Area and we have an office opening up in New York City in about a month.

I’m also a wife and mom of two kids under 5 navigating homeschooling and everyone being around all the time just like everyone else.

CAA: What advice and coaching you’ve given others that you have found yourself leaning on?

CR: The powerlessness and uncertainty of the pandemic is really getting to people. I’ve always encouraged meditation and mindfulness as a game-changer, but now with the quarantine, my clients have pretty much lost any excuses to not try it—and they have benefitted immensely!

Meditation isn’t a replacement for therapy, just as therapy isn’t a replacement for meditation. The two work in conjunction with one another. I tell clients that it is like the difference between sitting next to a raging river versus being tossed around in the river. I find that, like all really powerful concepts in mental health and wellness, meditation is sorely misunderstood. People have an inaccurate perception of what it is and then decide they are not capable of doing it. So, there is a lot of de-mystifying and debunking of what meditation is and is not at the beginning before people will try it and figure out what works for them.

I get up before sunrise every day to meditate. When I start to get cranky, I’ll tell my kids, “Mommy needs a time out!” My time out is to go meditate. My five-year old does it every night with me, now, and it gives me space between the events around me and my reactions to these events. This space is where my peace lives.

The other thing people are learning about is the power of community. Every person has their own experience of quarantine. Quarantine has challenged everyone and our relationships. I’ve seen several people get divorced or break up. But, the couples I’ve seen stay together are finding much deeper levels of happiness because they aren’t distracted by things and having their attention pulled away. Also, with non-couple relationships, the need to do most social activities online has opened up people’s willingness to connect with friends and family who used to feel far away. It has been a great equalizer of distance! Convenience relationships are fading while relationships built on deeper connections are growing stronger.

CAA: How have you had to pivot what you do in the new reality?

CR: I’ve been working and running a company all online from home while homeschooling young kids.

Several of my go-to self-care activities were instantly gone with the first lock-down like massages, weekend trips, and meditation classes. So, it was an adjustment at first. I have a household and company full of people who were also struggling. I’ve had to dig deep. This made me shift from “everyone is counting on me, I better not let anyone down” to “wow, I have a lot of influence and power in the lives of a lot of people, I better take very good care of myself, nurture myself, set healthy boundaries, ask others for help, and be relentless with working on my own mental health and wellness because if I go down it will impact a lot of people.”

This was a big shift for me. I leaned into this new reality as a growth opportunity. I continue to challenge myself to grow and heal daily, which has made me a much better mother, employer, therapist, wife, and human being. 

CAA: What lessons that you give to your clients specifically can be applied by everyone else?

CR: The pandemic has really shaken the worldview of many people. This has been a lesson in human suffering and resiliency. Many of the methods distracting or numbing the discomfort are breaking down and people are facing their own internal pain.

When a stressful situation happens, we use one of two strategies: change the situation, or change ourselves. I spend my time helping my clients hold two truths: this is incredibly hard AND you are incredibly strong.

The people who lean too heavily on the need for external control are really struggling right now because they don’t have control or certainty. They chase external control and certainty because they are afraid of their internal selves and ability to manage the unknown. People are being forced to turn inward and tend to their internal chaos or pain. Those willing to turn inward and work on themselves realize they have more control of their own emotions and daily experiences.

I’m excited to see what will happen on the other side of this pandemic when all these people who made the choice to do the internal work come back out into society. People with a grounded sense of internal resilience and the ability to look at hard truths without flinching will change the things they used to avoid even acknowledging. Which makes our society better.

So, my advice to everyone is to seize this incredible opportunity to search inward and make friends with yourself, learn about your resilience, and face the discomfort and hard realities you’ve been running from for so long. It is amazing what external chaos we can face, if we have peace inside our own souls and minds.

For anyone reading this who is interested, we offer a free 30-minute consultation. You can learn more about who we are and what we do and schedule an appointment on our website: https://mythrivepsychology.com/