Changing The World With Wellness

Change the World with Wellness

We all want to change the world with wellness, but it helps to remember that “Resilience helps us to stay grounded no matter what happens to us”- Resmaa Menakem ‘ My Grandmother’s Hands.’

We close our expectation gaps by actually acknowledging each other, acknowledging ourselves.  We acknowledge what we do well and learn what we do not do so well.   Rather than see failure as something that is bad, we see failure as something that helps us to do even better. In fact, some people say of failure that its first attempt in learning.  Agility is using this time as experimental space to fail forward, to succeed more, and to sustain success through purpose, intention, commitment, and impact.

Integrating wellness calls for us to build these environments intentionally and mindfully. Rather than adversity breaking us down, we use painful experiences and challenges as formidable platforms to stand on and build ourselves up.  Our collective sense of connection and belonging means that I and you become we and us.  We have more of an impact because we do together more than what we would have done alone. The “Un-lonely Planet” How healthy congregations can change the world” calls us to be those people who build communities that matter, they are meaningful spaces because people get a sense of belonging and bridge the feelings of isolation.   Julianne Richardson says she never knew that the book would be such a great seller! Building back better will not mean the same thing if it’s done without “we” together in community, in our “we-ness” “we” matter to ourselves and we matter to each other.

Toni Morrison in Beloved reminds us that ” You are your best thing”.


Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and cohost Paula Okonneh. Today, we are doing a special type of recording. It’s special in that we don’t have a guest the table has been turned. I am interviewing Tesse on wellness and resilience, a personal journey. We doing this from a different point of view because Tesse started a wellness and resilience group some time back. And today was a day which she wanted to talk and educate, audience a little bit more about this. So Tesse this sounds strange, but welcome to your own show. 

00:00:42 Tesse:  Thank you, Paula. I’m one that likes distributed leadership so it’s our show. I couldn’t do it without you thank you so much. 

00:00:51 Paula:  All right. So as I said, we are going to be talking about wellness and resilience, Tesse’s personal journey. And my question for you today is, since you set off on your resilience and wellbeing, leadership initiative, what has been your experience?

00:01:11Tesse:  Well I’m going to roll back. My passion for resilience and wellbeing started about five, six years ago. And I thought it would be really good thing to look at what made people, governing bodies, executive teams and senior leadership teams. Well, you know how could they be functional? How could the relationships be healthy? And I did a lot of research, I worked with organizations and I worked with myself to explore the reality of this. And I got locked down in Lagos during the beginning of COVID. I went out there for nine days and it turned out that I was there for three months. And it was while I was there that I decided that I was going to set up a virtual network called “the wellbeing and resilience leadership initiative”. And my thoughts were that if I got interest from about 50 people or organizations, that was good enough. But then that interest went up to thousands. And then I found that I was accepting an avalanche of invitations, and these invitations through LinkedIn came mainly from coaches and mentors and psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors. All the individuals or the groupings that deal with human skill, people say soft skills, but I call them human skills because it’s about human beings. And I was invited to my first mindfulness conference, which I accepted it was virtual so I could go. And it’s taken off from there, it’s just created a whole ecosystem for me. Which showed that, that intuition that there was a need for exploring wellness and wellbeing, and also looking at resilience and their kind of scope of leadership. It became very clear that there is a need for that, and other people were doing that. So for me, I felt that I found my tribe. I didn’t realize that I have been looking for this tribe all along and there that tribe was and is. So I’m a happy camper in that tribe actually. 

00:03:42 Paula: That’s so good to know. So talking about your tribe, what have you found particularly helpful about your tribe? 

00:03:51 Tesse:  That’s a fantastic question, Paula. That’s why I admire, you asked great questions and more. I love the thing about belonging, affiliation, being part of a community. Being part of the consciousness that not only are we worth something, not only are we valuing ourselves and being valued by others, but there’s a whole network, a whole movement of people that bring us together. And more recently, I came across a lovely resource, which is called the “Unlonely Planet”. And the writer of this resource introduces the reader to the concept of congregation. Now you think that congregation is just about churches, no is not just about churches. Yes it is church, but actually she was taken into consciousness that so many people in our planet are lonely, so many people in our planet are anxious. A lot of people are suffering depression. And her thinking very much was let’s create something that is different, that people can meet each other where they’re at and form communities together. So if there’s one thing that has emerged from the wellbeing and the leadership initiative for me. It is that community matters, community helps, community is health. So it really is not going to it’s in that common sense, that people would need each other. But sometimes we ask ourselves, do we have anything to offer? And the answer is yes we do, in community we can build each other up, in community we can listen to our stories, in community we can actually ask for help or support or resource when we need it. So community matters.

00:06:03Paula:  I love that answer, community matters. And as we talk more about that, especially as we are. I don’t even know whether to say we at the end of the pandemic. Well, most of us have had our vaccines, I have had my two doses. And you mentioned to me before we got on, this, that you’ve had your two doses.

00:06:23 Tesse:  Yeah

00:06:23Paula:  And so as you talk about community mattering, I know that this also brings us back to a special topic of wellbeing and resilience. Because doing the past one year plus the lock down  started in the states in March of 2020. And it started when in your, probably about the same time in England. But wellbeing and resilience has been particularly important during this pandemic. And so how have you seen that coming to play? Can you give us a little bit more details and how it’s coming to play? Because I know there’s been loss. Loss sometimes physical, when I say physical, human beings loosing their lives, but in other ways there’s also means loss of certainty. We’ve always lived in an uncertain world, but this seemed even more pronounced. There’s been the loss of freedom in a way, because we were under lockdown for a long period of time. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it comes into play with wellbeing and resilience? 

00:07:27 Tesse:  Oh that’s really a good question. Loss, grief, loss of the pleasures that we’re used to, loss of hugs, loss of closeness to people physical closeness to people. These are things that impacted us during lockdown. Yes the UK were easing out of it with a basic set of vaccination program. But it’s going to take a long time to actually begin to feel comfortable with being physically close to other people. People are anxious and there’s a lot of fear around and actually getting the confidence to not be afraid is going to be a big thing. There’s a professor that you and I talked to called professor Binna Kandola, OBE, and he has been doing a lot of application of what he’s calling the capsule environment. Which was mainly known to space travel or places like the big brother house, where people don’t have the level of interactions that they normally would. And so that is a loss of interactions the way we know it. That being said, what took its place was virtual interactions. So. The rise of virtual networks and the whole thing about connecting through podcasts, which is what we are doing, the rise and success of Clubhouse and others. Ways of communicating with people other than being physical is one, but the other thing is the big thing that we all started working from home. And so we had the blurring of lines between professional and personal. We have working at home, and actually, where was the difference between the dining table, which at one minute was a table for food and the next minute became the place where we put our laptops and started to work. And the whole thing about virtual backgrounds and what those are, I have to say  that has been my highlight of the working from home thing. I’m always looking at other people’s virtual backgrounds I have to confess, I love when children come in and sit and demand that they want to do poo or something like that, which they have done. I love when you know, we see taps and places and we see dogs and we see people strolling in thankfully usually clothed. But that thing has to me brought a sense of humanity and that human feel, that we were those people who had these things going on before. But what we are now doing in this environment is that we’re seeing that, and that speaks to vulnerability and that speaks to authenticity. There is nothing there that wasn’t there before, it’s just that people didn’t see it. And I think that what I experienced as somebody who’s a leadership strategist, is that experience is softness in people is softness in teams, is softness in organizations and I’m hoping that we don’t lose that. I saw more empathy and more compassion coming through, and I hope that we won’t lose that either. I feel that there’s been so much positivity in that, but allied  to that have been in level of anxiety as well. And I know that in the United States, as well as in the UK we have people who are on furlough. And some people were still working virtually and stuff like that. And the impact of furlough is going to be felt for quite a long time. So the looking at things around anxiety, looking at issues of depression, which the “World Health Organization” has told us that this is going to be the next pandemic, anxiety and depression and loneliness, mental health. This is going to be the place. So what I think was that these things that were happening in the pandemic, will continue after pandemic – post pandemic. But I think that we have an opportunity to choose to work through how they can be platforms for hope to move forward to a future that we choose and we can craft, and to put in place in our environments, cultures that are anti loneliness, anti depression, anti the loss of hope. That we actually build those environments intentionally and mindfully. And that rather than be things that will break us down, we actually use them as platforms to stand on and build ourselves up. So that I and you become we and us, and we continue to have even more of an impact because we do together more than what we would have done alone. I come back to that thing about what I said before about the “Unlonely planet” that we begin to be those people who build congregations that matter but have meaning and that book, which the author have to give her a shout Julianne Richardson wrote. She never knew that it would be such a great seller, but I think it became a best seller because it led to other ways of people building communities and strengthening things that meet ups and strengthening other kind of platform that Clubhouse and so on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, whatever all these platforms became stronger because people want to be in community. 

00:13:25 Paula:  People do want to be in community and something you just said that jumped out at me was that, so we can change our communication from I and you to we and us.

00:13:43 Tesse:  You know we are together doing more than what we would have done alone. And I think if your people talk about building back better building back better. But I think that building back better will not mean the same thing if it’s done without “we” together in community, in our “we-ness,” actually creating an infrastructure where “we” matter to ourselves and we matter to each other.

00:14:13 Paula: So that’s another one. And for us, it was “community matters” and now “we matter”. We matter to ourselves and we matter to others. 

00:14:22 Tesse:  Absolutely. 

00:14:24 Paula:  I love it. So we’re going to wrap this up and I would like to hear from you any key messages that you’d like to share with our listeners. 

00:14:37 Tesse: Yeah, a number of things, you know I just don’t do one or two have to be greedy and do a few more. The first thing I would say and this is something that MIND, the organization that deals with mental health keeps reminding us. That is okay not to be okay. I mean the mental health work which has been absolutely supportive of people as individuals and collectively, encourages us to look for help, to seek help, to ask help when we need it and to reach out. But I also think that there’s something for us as individuals looking out for other people. And if people feel disconnected in some way, disengaged in some way, you know looking for meaning or purpose that people are able to notice that and reach out. There has been an increase in mental health first aid and first aiders. And I think that’s important that people know how to support others and how to encourage others to seek professional help if they need to. But I’m also looking at it on a broader theme because what the network I have founded does is look at the area of wellness and wellbeing. And that extends not just to mental health extends to things like financial wellbeing, it extends to things like emotional wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing. It just means that we need to be intentional about us as whole people taking care of ourselves and taking care of others. It means that we are empathetic, that we are compassionate, that we are hopeful and that we are embracing and inclusive of others other than ourselves. And it starts first with us, but it reaches out to others and it reaches out to the wider global society. To do that we start with ourselves first and we reach out and we embrace others. That has been one point, so I know I’ve cheated and loaded that one into that wellness and so on. So I smile Paula, I got away with that. But there’s another thing about structure, and I think that the bit about structure is that. I never really used to be one of these people that was big on structure anybody who knows me will say I was like half 1000 flowers and let them bloom as is, that was my thing. But actually I’ve changed that. I believe that structure is important in order to form a container that we put things in. And so what that means is even if we’re working at home, we actually have a structure of how we do things when we do it, we build in breaks, we build in rests, we build in times to play. We focus on our work and by doing that, we actually are able to do things that, because the structure is there, it guides us and guards us and steers us towards something that matters. And the other thing I would say is celebration acknowledgement and affirmation. By this I mean that we close our expectation gaps by actually acknowledging each other, acknowledging ourselves, acknowledging what we do well and what we do not so well, but rather than see failure as something that is bad we see failure as something that helps us to do even better. In fact some people say of failure that its first attempt in learning and we actually use this time as experimental space to fail forward, to succeed more, and to sustain success through purpose , intention, commitment, and impact. So that would be some of the things I would say that have emerged for me as I’ve thought of this journey intently about wellbeing, resilience, and leadership. 

00:18:34 Paula:  Thank you, Tesse. So we close with those four things, you stressed on purpose, intent, commitment, and impact.

00:18:45Tesse: Absolutely.

00:18:47Paula: They matter. Just as you said, community matters, instead of talking about you and me we talk about “we”. So we matter interestingly you and me becomes “us”, which is also “we”, so you can’t say us matters, but we matter. 

00:19:08 Tesse: You can always create another term, “us matters” why not dear? why not?

00:19:15 Paula:  Why not? Yeah there’s so many new words now, who would have thought. Yeah, would have thought that zoom would be an adjective. Is it a noun now, are you going to zoom with me?

00:19:27 Tesse:  zoom with me, zoom with us, “us and us”

00:19:31 Paula: We start somewhere, we start somewhere. So with that I want to tell our listeners again, thank you so much for listening to “TesseLeads”. We as you see, we matter because I have turned the table and today I spoke with none other than the main host of “TesseLeads”. We want you to know that your precious stories and your lives matter. We want you to share your stories with us. And we also want to say that not only are your stories important, but everything about you supported, encouraged and nurtured. Because we want you to know that you’re never alone. So please head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else where you may listen to a podcast and please click subscribe. If you find “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your review. And if you have any questions or topics that you would like us to cover send us a note, or more importantly, if you’d like to be a guest on our show “TesseLeads”. Please head over to to apply. Thank you again our wonderful listeners. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. 

00:20:57 Tesse: Thank you Paula, you’re a star. 

00:20:59 Paula:  Thank you Tesse, you’re the star. 

00:21:02 Tesse:  We are stars together. Us, we not I, we.

00:21:08Paula: That’s true, that’s true.