A MOVING TALE - Season 1, Episode 106 - Nidhi Tewari
Kevin Sturmer 0:09
Hello, my name is Kevin Sturmer and welcome to another episode of A Moving Tale sponsored by the Outermost Ring. Before we get to today's amazing guest, I want to answer the question I get more often than anything else - what is the Outermost Ring? It's the title of a musical I'm writing and I liked the philosophy so much that I made it the core of my company. It refers to the rings of a tree, and as a tree grows and expands, it adds one ring for each year of its life. The Outermost Ring represents the present or the current time and I like the idea that we are always learning, always growing and taking new shape, while never losing sight of where we've been and what's at our core. What I also love is that we've partnered with trees for the future, and for each podcast episode, the Outermost Ring donates 100 trees to be planted in their forests around the world. My guest today is a licensed clinical social worker, mental health therapist, and has specialized training in EMDR. I first got to know her on the social audio app called Clubhouse where she runs the Mental Health Matters club with over 85,000 members. She's a sought after keynote speaker with more than a decade of experience. She talks about diversity, mental health, trauma, leadership, and so much more. She has been featured as an expert in Forbes, Oprah Daily, The Washington Post and the New York Times. Earlier this month, she hosted a 24 hour room on Clubhouse for World Mental Health Day and we'll get to all of that coming up next. So get comfy on the couch, because you are about to hear A Moving Tale from our guest - Nidhi Tiwari. Welcome, welcome. How are you?
Nidhi Tewari 1:47
I'm doing great, thank you so much for having me, it's an honor to be here and can't wait to be able to dive right in.
Kevin Sturmer 1:54
Before we dive right in and get your mental health practice, your keynote speaking, and we're gonna talk a little bit about the fear of public speaking. But let's take our cue from the Sound of Music, as we always do on this show and start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start. Now I've heard you share this story before - you are the child of Indian immigrants. Now can you talk a little bit about the inherited social pressure or societal pressure of that, and then maybe where you thought your life was going, and how maybe that's not where it ultimately wound up going?
Nidhi Tewari 2:27
Sure, I'm happy to. So my parents immigrated here to the United States a long, long time ago, my mom was actually pregnant with me when she came here to the States. And they had a well established career in India, my dad being an engineer, and my mom having a law degree and an economics degree. And being a teacher there. Well, they left all of that behind to come here to the United States to give my sister and I a better life. And they came here with $500 to their name. The true American Dream story of coming to the United States and having to establish themselves from the foundation up all over again. So my mom who had all of these degrees and was highly accomplished in India, none of that counted here in the United States. So she went from being a highly esteemed teacher, to working at a grocery store as a cashier as her first job here in the United States. And my dad came here with a job with the local government, and we started to build our lives here. But the pressure to be able to provide for our family was paramount, right, it started to just kind of steamroll. And we had to deal with some struggles along the way. And I remember my sister and I having a lot of pressure and expectation placed on us, because our parents had sacrificed so much to be able to come here and give us a better life. And so the way that that showed up in my life is part of Indian culture is that academic achievement is absolutely the most important thing when it comes to being able to pay attention to ourselves and making our families proud as well. I had a pressure to always be perfect. I had to get all A's and if I ever didn't get an A, the question was, well, what happened with this B? Why didn't you get an A in this class, there was always an expectation that I would follow the path of my sister who became a physician. She's a psychiatrist, love her, But that wasn't the pathway that I at that time wanted to take. But I felt a pressure to have to go down that same route. And so I went to college, you know, I did all of the things that I thought I was supposed to do got a 3.94 GPA, got a full scholarship to go to George Mason University, and was one of 25 individuals in the world chosen to be a part of the University Scholars Program. But here's the thing. When I went to college, and I got to spread my wings and go out there and explore, I had never had the opportunity to develop autonomy and independence. You see, I there's a lot of expectations as to what a quote unquote good Indian girl does. So I didn't get to go out on dates. I didn't necessarily go out to hang out and party with people. So when I went to college, I swung from the good girl to exactly the opposite. And I found myself partying on a daily basis, it went beyond just social drinking and hanging out, it went to what I now reflect on as a numbing process. And it took a toll in terms of my achievement in college. And so eventually, I remember sitting in my dorm room one day, having not shown up to classes and completed assignments throughout the semester for those first two years. And I received a letter in the mail stating, you know, dear, Nidhi Tewari, if you don't pull your grades up to the minimum 3.0 GPA that's required to maintain the scholarship, you will lose the scholarship, you'll lose your housing, and you'll essentially be kicked out of the program. Now in that moment, I was absolutely devastated. Everything of mine had been tied identity-wise to achievement. And so now that I wasn't achieving, I felt completely lost, my identity was shattered, I had no idea who I was in that moment. And I had a couple of choices, I could either continue on the same trajectory, where I was ignoring what I now see as anxiety and trauma related symptoms, by numbing out using alcohol and trying to avoid the things that were causing me stress. Or I could take the suggestion of the university, which was to be able to link up with a counselor at the University Counseling Services. So I chose the latter, I decided to go and give this a try. We'd never talked about mental health in my household, so I had no idea with therapy was like, I didn't even know what anxiety felt like or trauma, I had no idea about these concepts. But when I went to therapy for the first time, I started to peel back the onion and discover that there was so much more underlying my behaviors and my struggles in college. And I did discover that I had generalized anxiety disorder, and that I was a trauma survivor. And so that therapy experience gave me tools and skills to navigate the difficulties that I was encountering. And it completely shifted my career trajectory. Because that therapist transformed my life. I mean, she really did, she opened my eyes to a whole nother world that I just had never developed an awareness of. And so after I graduated with my degree in psychology, I pursued a master's in social work, and then subsequently became a licensed clinical social worker. And now today, I'm a therapist that helps people that are struggling with anxiety and trauma. So we've come full circle now,
Kevin Sturmer 7:25
yes, you've come full circle. Also, you specialize in EMDR. What is that? And what does that mean for the people that you are helping?
Nidhi Tewari 7:35
Sure, that's a great question. So EMDR is a the most evidence based, meaning highly researched over the last 35 plus years of intervention when it comes to trauma, particularly for PTSD and complex trauma complex PTSD. And so it stands for eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing. And essentially, the way that I break this down for clients is that when traumatic experiences occur, normally, you know, experiences that we have on a day to day basis, our brain is able to process them out, no problem. And in fact, when we're asleep at night, and we're dreaming, in REM sleep, rapid eye movement, sleep, it's a stage of sleep, that's our brain's opportunity to kind of consolidate memories and make sense of the days going on. The thing that happens though, when trauma occurs, is that that memory that experience gets frozen in memory networks. And now it starts to carry a charge of, you know, emotions and images and body sensations, and negative beliefs about ourselves. Like it's my fault, or I'm not good enough. And all of those components get now stuck as part of the memory, the brain is unable to just naturally process it through the way that it would other experiences. And so EMDR utilizes the natural mechanisms in the brain that occur during rapid eye movement sleep, except you're in a fully awake fully in control and in the present moment, state, to be able to bring back those memories to the surface in a safe manner, and help the brain to make sense, process through and reconsolidate that memory. And what I've seen both personally because I go to see an EMDR therapist, but also professionally as a therapist that works with clients that are coping with trauma, the symptoms of PTSD go down or disappear as a result of this intervention. So it's quite tremendous. Becoming an EMDR certified therapist and now an approved consultant. I'm also working towards becoming a facilitator and trainer. That means that I have lots and lots of hours of advanced training, probably around 50 to 70 hours of advanced consultation with the masters of EMDR. And now I'm working with other therapists to be able to teach them how to utilize this intervention effectively with their clients. So it's been quite a journey, Kevin, and it's been really exciting to be along for the ride.
Kevin Sturmer 9:51
I'm just blown away that you relate that that dream state you bring those experiences back while patients are awake. I've mentioned on this podcast before about how I dream songs and a dream scenes, and how the entire plot of the Outermost Ring musical was actually from a dream I had was the exact same dream, two nights in a row, which is unusual, even for me. But what you're talking about is so engaging and so exciting. And yet, I've heard you tell a story about how you lost the attention of your audience when you were giving a talk or a speech. How did that even happen? And with such incredible material, how did you get them back?
Nidhi Tewari 10:28
Yeah, Kevin, I mean, this has been, I've definitely been in the weeds when it comes to storytelling with this technical information. Because I think as therapists and others that are in technical fields, like medical doctors, or scientists, researchers, we get so bogged down in the numbers and in the data. And we get so excited, actually, like, we're passionate about the numbers and the data, that we think that that's what we're supposed to lead with when it comes to storytelling. But I discovered the hard way that that actually loses people very quickly. So there was a time early in my career where I had basically been asked to talk about trauma in refugee populations. And I was so excited. This was one of my first speaking engagements, I felt confident I'd done all this preparation, looked up all of these statistics in regards to the refugee populations locally, how there is this percentage of Vietnamese people and this percentage of Afghan refugees. And, you know, this is how trauma has showed up, I just was so stoked to share all of these exciting details and data. And so I put together my slide deck, my presentation, I show up the next day to give this talk. And I'm up there and I'm jazzed, I'm just like, Okay, let's do this. And I put the slides on, I start going in, I start sharing this data and these numbers. And what I see is I look out at the audience, and people are like looking off to the side, they're kind of whispering and chit chatting amongst one another. They start looking down at their phones and scrolling. And I started to see oh, no, oh, gosh, I am losing them. But I didn't pivot just yet. Until there was a moment where somebody brought in doughnuts and coffee to the back of the room. And all of a sudden, there's a mass exodus of people to the back of the room, chit chatting and grabbing their doughnuts and coffee. Now, I love donuts and coffee. However, during the midst of somebody's talk, maybe not the best time to do that. But it was just another indicator Kevin that I just had completely lost him. There was no emotional connection there. I hadn't integrated a single story into this entire talk. Here I was just saying 32% this 52% this, and people just couldn't resonate with that. So and that decision, another Turning Point moment, I had to make another choice. I could either continue on just sharing and sticking with my slide deck and do what was comfortable for me, but clearly was not serving the audience. Or I could stop in that moment and recognize, okay, I've got to try something different. And so I changed up my talk I had to, and instead I started to share the stories of the refugees I had worked with. I shared the stories of the Afghan refugees I had worked with who had escaped the Taliban, I shared the stories of my Iranian refugees and Iraqi refugees. And that is what drew the audience right back in, when they heard the struggles of the people that I had helped along the way, when they heard my own struggles as the clinician hearing these really immensely traumatic experiences. That is where I captured the audience's attention. And they sat back down and they just were in highly engaged eye contact, the phones were put away, and I'd won them back over. So it really I think is a story that encapsulates the importance, even if you're in a technical field of finding ways to allow the story of the data to shine through, because as Brené Brown says, "What if data is just stories with a soul?" So totally a learning experience for me in that moment, Kevin.
Kevin Sturmer 13:55
Absolutely. And I spent 20 years doing creative in the market research industry. And the one thing I can say without a doubt is that data on its own is cold, it's heartless, it does not have the emotional side, the context. It's when you add that piece of it, the story to it the context, that's when it has meaning. That's when it becomes relatable. And that's when you as you said, you get that audience attention and you pull them in. And I think also sharing your own vulnerability is a good thing. This is also getting to where we wanted to talk a little bit about the fear of public speaking. Part of that drive for some people might be knowing that sharing your unique story, sharing the story that only you can tell, can help somebody else in ways that you might not even imagine. So can we talk about identifying that story, but also, what are some ways if somebody is not sure how to get up on stage or how to even talk on an app like Clubhouse? How can people get over that initial fear and share their voice?
Nidhi Tewari 15:00
I think that it's so normal, first of all, for people to have anxiety. So I just want to put that out there. If you're out there, and you're listening to this, and you're like, Oh, my gosh, I just dread speaking publicly, please know that you're not alone. Because I think that many of us when we're starting off in this career path, there's a certain amount of imposter syndrome and anxiety that comes with it. Why would people want to hear my story, who am I to be able to show up as a person of expertise to share with others, right. And so I found that when I first came on clubhouse, and when I first started my speaking career, I had to do a lot of inner work to be able to address some of the internal narratives that had formed around my worthiness and sharing my story. And I think that each of us have a story that is it's just integral to be able to share it with people for the exact reasons you mentioned, Kevin, that, you know, there's somebody out there, that they'll be able to hear your story and see themselves in it. And they may be in three steps behind you and their story, but they see where you've come and how far you've come. And they see that they can potentially do that for themselves. So don't sell yourself short, when it comes to believing that we have a story to tell. Now some practical tactical tips here. On clubhouse, here's the I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I was actually an extremely verbose person, I'm kind of doing it here on this podcast as well. But I was extremely verbose on clubhouse, and it's not a format where you can talk for 510 minutes, it just it that's just not the way that it goes on that app. You maybe have 90 seconds to capture an audience's attention and to be able to share and condense information. So as somebody who struggles with ADD as somebody who has anxiety, I had to sit down and I ended up writing down my three main takeaways in my 90 seconds. That helped me to stay focused for those first couple of months that I was getting my sea legs when it came to Clubhouse. And it kept me on track. And it made sure that there was a structure to what I was sharing with the audience that there was a purpose and an intention behind it. So if you are one of those people that gets up on stage, and you feel as though, "Oh, shoot, I lost my train of thought," or "where am I going with this?" You're also not alone there. But preparation, I think is a really key component of being an effective speaker. The stories that I share have been practiced time and time again. I mean, this is probably the 50th time I've shared that story. But it's changes a little bit every single time. And it feels a little different every time you share it. But the end result is still solid, because you will have put in the time and energy in crafting it. So be sure to spend time identifying what are those key pivotal moments in your life where you glean the lesson from your experience? And then how are you going to be able to reverse engineer your story so that it's audience focused, meaning you choose what the main takeaway is? What do you want the audience to be able to do when they leave this conversation? And then you construct your story to be able to facilitate that end result. And so I found that that was very helpful for me in those initial phases of crafting my story.
Kevin Sturmer 18:09
Yeah, yeah, couldn't agree more. And the idea of keeping your audience at the front of your mind at the front of your attention is so important. I tell a story. And I've told it here before about knowing your audience when it comes to data, and a one size fits all approach does not work, where we wanted to do global data for one study we were doing and found out that we needed to actually do 26 different sets of data for each country that we were we're doing because things varied so, you know, widely across all the countries. And then we found out that each audience was so thankful and felt like, wow, this company is really speaking directly to them. So when you know your audience, you understand what they need and then you serve that need, it's a very useful starting point. You've also got a very wonderful breathing technique that you share. And it involves counting certain number breath in, hold certain members out, I will share that I messed it up. I couldn't remember the numbers. And I was about to do a client pitch. Actually, I was about to walk this client through this proposal. And I wound up winning the proposal for you know, so happy, but I forgot the numbers. And I literally almost passed out right before this big client phone call. So what is it and how can it help you right before you get on stage?
Nidhi Tewari 19:29
Yeah, well, first of all, I'm sorry, Kevin, that that happened. I'll give you the legit technique. That way, we'll never have that situation go down again. So this is a 4-7-8 breathing technique. And this works on a biological level to trigger the relaxation response in your brain, and moments of anxiety. So let me break it down a little bit about what anxiety even is when it comes to speaking right. When we think about anxiety, we're essentially looking at how the brain perceives threat. Because anxiety from an evolutionary standpoint is intended to help us to stay on guard and to survive, right? We needed anxiety early on in our development as a human species. Because we had rival tribes, we had animals that were potentially harmful towards us. And so we had to be on guard, and we had to pay attention to be able to survive. Now, the challenge is we don't have lions any longer, at least here in the United States that are coming as a threat. And instead, it's public speaking, that has become the threat. And so we want to be able to help to mitigate that threat response by utilizing this breathing technique, which helps to kind of reregulate our nervous system, right? It kind of tells the brain, hey, it's all good things are okay, you can be calm again. So what you do with this breathing technique is you breathe in through your nose for four seconds, you hold in the breath for seven seconds, and then you do a long exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. And you do that as many times as you need to, to notice that your heart rate slows down, the racing thoughts start to be quelled, and that your nerves are decreasing. And so this is a technique that I personally use on a daily basis. I mean, very real, like I do it regularly. And my clients have found it to be extremely helpful, because it helps to not only, you know, signal to the brain, hey, everything's okay. But it also gives you something to focus on in a moment where your thoughts are all over the place. And you can feel very disoriented in that moment before you hit the stage or turn on the computer for that virtual presentation. So definitely recommend if you're going to be doing any type of public speaking, or just in general, if you struggle with anxiety or stress levels, to use this 4-7-8 breathing technique to help you to be able to manage and cope
Kevin Sturmer 21:43
That's wonderful, such such great advice. Thank you for sharing all of this and just being so helpful. What's coming up next for you in the near future, and what are the best ways for people to connect with you online?
Nidhi Tewari 21:57
Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate that. Yeah, so I've got some great keynote speaking engagements coming up. And I'm very excited to be able to participate in those this year and next year. If you do want to check out some of my workshops and keynotes, you can go to www.WellBeingSpeaker.com that's WellBeingSpeaker.com. I provide a keynote on how burnout is not a badge of honor. So I work with leadership teams, as well as organizations on you know how to be able to mitigate burnout and prevent burnout to begin with, with both individual and systemic change. I also do a talk on the intersection between diversity and mental health and how mental health is not a one size fits all. And then I also provide a talk on going from trauma to triumph. So how do we overcome adversity and grow through it to become an even better version of ourselves so you can check out well being speaker calm for that and those are some some things that are coming up. I also have some events under the Mental Health Matters club on Clubhouse, so feel free to follow me there. I have an event coming up on November 7 at 430 Eastern Standard Time. That's 130 Pacific and that topic is to be determined but I've got some great ideas in my head. And yeah, that's that's basically the big stuff that's coming up Kevin, thanks for letting me share about that.
Kevin Sturmer 23:11
I'm so excited for all you have to share that that I heard you speak. It was a room on how to tell your story without trauma dumping. And I was riveted and I was like "I'll just pop in for a few minutes" and then like four hours later I was still in that room listening and was so engaged in learning so much. So I highly recommend if you're on Clubhouse, if you're into social audio go check out the Mental Health Matters club there, follow that, follow Nidhi. She is always insightful and always helpful. That brings us to a little game we like to play at the end of every podcast called the Full Out Facts. Now this is sponsored by Full Out Creative, a small company with a big heart. They do live streaming, producing, videography, photography and so much more. For details check out FullOutCreative.com. This is a game where I scour the internet to find fun and random facts about my guests and discover if they are true. So Nidhi Tewari, it's time to get the Full Out Facts. Are you ready?
Nidhi Tewari 24:12
I am already Kevin I'm here for it.
Kevin Sturmer 24:15
Okay, here we go. True or false. You are [laughs] You are a locavore.
Nidhi Tewari 24:21
That is true. I am.
Kevin Sturmer 24:23
What is a locavore?
Nidhi Tewari 24:24
That's a great question. Meaning that I love being able to partake in local culture. I am a big foodie. I love to be able to eat delicious food locally and I'm here in Richmond, so definitely check us out in Richmond, Virginia. We got a great food scene here.
Kevin Sturmer 24:38
Best piece of food that you found locally...
Nidhi Tewari 24:42
Oh my goodness.
Kevin Sturmer 24:43
Most unique to Richmond.
Nidhi Tewari 24:44
Oh man. Oh, most unique to Richmond Hill. There's a fantastic restaurant called Heritage here in Richmond, Virginia. They are very avant garde delicious food. And I just think that they kind of push the boundaries. So they have on They have this pimento cheese bomb thing that they have that essentially is like this fried cheesy goodness that has this dipping sauce with it and it's just fantastic I mean they have they had just so many great options so highly recommend checking them out
Kevin Sturmer 25:14
Amazing. Love it. Okay next one true false. You are an avid traveler and you have hiked not only the Rocky Mountains, but also the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Nidhi Tewari 25:23
That is true I love hiking it's been awesome. The Rockies though are my favorite. You know in terms of my my favorite hikes that I've done have been in that range and man but you get really winded because of how thin the air is up there so you'll get your workout in if you do those hikes.
Kevin Sturmer 25:40
Most unexpected or surprising sensation or feeling or experience while hiking. What is it
Nidhi Tewari 25:47
It probably is that feeling of I we did a hike where we went up to I think it was 14,000 feet, it was the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. And it's literally a point five mile hike, which normally I could do that in my sleep right? But my husband and I every probably five to 10 feet we're having to stop and huffing and puffing because of how thin the oxygen is and the air is up there. And as an asthmatic, I was like, Oh my gosh, I don't know that I can do this again. So that was the most interesting sesnation I've ever had when on a hike.
Kevin Sturmer 26:21
I love it. Okay, finally, in addition to playing drums, and you have a double kick on your drum set by the way, which I think is awesome.
Nidhi Tewari 26:28
Kevin Sturmer 26:28
In addition to playing drums, you have rocked the stage as a singer.
Nidhi Tewari 26:33
So I have done karaoke as a singer but that is a false one. Actually, I've mostly rocked the stage as a drummer. For 10 years I played in a band as a drummer so but I That being said, I do love singing, and hey, if anybody out there is looking for a singer and maybe he'll join your band.
Kevin Sturmer 26:51
Okay, so would you rock the stage what what kinds of music favorite songs to play? Bands?
Nidhi Tewari 26:56
Yeah, so when I'm playing the drums, it was a lot of heavy metal. So think about In Flames, Cataclysm. Gojira, that type of music so pretty heavy. When I think though, of course, I'm not doing like guttural vocals. That's not my style. So I love Fleetwood Mac. I'm a big Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan. I'm kind of like old school at heart Florence and the Machine. I'm a huge massive fan of hers. Lana Del Rey, that type of music. I just love singing so yeah, hopefully soon I'll be on the stage singing.
Kevin Sturmer 27:27
Yes for the onstage singing, playing drums and sharing your voice during keynotes and Clubhouse. Nidhi Tewari. Thank you so much for giving all of us a moving towel.
Nidhi Tewari 27:39
Thank you so much, Kevin. It was a pleasure being here and I can't wait to listen and join in again.
Kevin Sturmer 27:44
Well, thank you. And this has been so much fun for show notes and links from today's show including WellBeingSpeaker.com and how to connect with Nidhi on socials visit a moving tale.com that's a moving t-a-l-e dot com. If you enjoyed today's episode, head over to your favorite podcast platform, leave a review subscribe, download all the good things. And finally I want to say thank you. Thank you for taking the time to listen. It is a precious gift and I appreciate that you wanted to spend a little of your time with us. This has been A Moving Tale, my name's Kevin and you are on the Outermost Ring.