YS Week-in-Review

40 Wisdom Bites

Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

This past week I celebrated my 40th birthday. Part of my celebration included writing up a list of 40 things I’ve learned over the years. Here’s the list:

  1. Gratitude will save you from bitterness
  2. .Physical activity is key to physical + mental health
  3. Never neglect self-care
  4. Playfulness eases the mind
  5. Move mindfully
  6. Direct, clear, and necessary speech prevents misunderstanding
  7. Know yourself
  8. Curiosity > Judgment
  9. Keep growing
  10. Rest is productive
  11. All have innate value
  12. Build strong friendships
  13. Recognize the lessons of strangers
  14. Listen to your body
  15. There’s freedom in restraint
  16. The mind is capable of great change
  17. Share your story
  18. Ask for help
  19. Reducing stress is the key to longevity
  20. Take chances
  21. Failure is just a placeholder
  22. Stay open and know your boundaries
  23. Mindset + Gratitude + Mindfulness = Resilience
  24. Serendipity = Right Mindset + Right Place + Right Time
  25. Pay attention
  26. Question your beliefs + assumptions
  27. Let people see your goofy side
  28. Pause | Practice | Play
  29. Patience enlightens
  30. Listen to listen
  31. Extend grace to yourself and others
  32. Drink water
  33. Hug people
  34. Embrace discomfort
  35. Develop an adventure mindset
  36. Keep opening the door
  37. Calm energy heals
  38. Dream to idea to goal to action steps = success
  39. Look up
  40. Get involved in community

What would you add, subtract, or challenge?

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Elevate + Celebrate | April 2nd 2023

New MDWA (Mid-day Women's Alliance) Board Members

Photo Credit: Justine Lamers
New MDWA (Mid-day Women's Alliance) Board Members Photo Credit: Justine Lamers

"We were here together. I forget the rest."
-- Walt Whitman


Though I’ve taken off from teaching my regular classes last week and this upcoming week, my days continue to be full of meaningful activity. What is meaningful activity? My definition is activity that elevates (lifts, prioritizes, strengthens) mind, body, and spirit, inspires others, and keeps us motivated to keep going and keep growing. Engaging in meaningful activity takes work, an effort on our part to

  • Check in with how we’re doing physically, mentally, emotionally.
  • Accept ourselves where we’re at and determine what we need in the moment.
  • Find what inspires and motivates us.
  • Start taking steps toward activities that make us feel good about ourselves.
  • Empower others using our time, talent, energy, and desire to do good (i.e., help others feel good about themselves).

Monday morning, I was feeling a little moody and experiencing some self-doubt. What I notice is that just when I’m about to step into what feels like a big role, I begin questioning my ability to fulfill the responsibility. I begin to fear, to some degree, failure, and to some degree, success. If I fail, I might lose credibility. If I succeed, I might be asked to take on even greater responsibilities, and do I want that?

With these thoughts clouding my mind, I knew I needed to do something to shift my mindset. With the schedule I keep, there is always something to do. I left my house, went into my New London office, where I manage payroll for a commercial flooring company, and focused my attention on that work. Sometimes to flip the script in our brain, or stop the cycle of negative thought, we need a change of scenery and a mundane task. Walks work, too, and often journaling can help shift perspective.


Dudes and T.A.C.O.S
Bro-ga Event
Dudes and T.A.C.O.S Bro-ga Event

By the afternoon, I was feeling better and much more excited about 2 big events: Women & Wine, an event put on my Mid-day Women’s Alliance to help raise funds for their annual Woman Entrepreneur Grant, and Bro-ga, a Dudes and T.A.C.O.S event where I would be guiding men through a yoga practice tailored to them, including movement for strength + flexibility, and meditation to help manage stress.

Monday evening’s Women & Wine event was truly magical (a word I don’t use loosely). I had the opportunity to connect with women who want to make a difference for their clients and in their communities, powerful women with brilliant ideas, and who are taking steps to make those ideas reality.

Tuesday evening’s Bro-ga event was equally magical. Most of the men were trying yoga for the first time, and afterward I got to sit down with them, enjoy tacos, and continue the conversation around mind/body strength + resilience.

Moods shift, doubt happens, our minds and bodies will not always be at their best. But when we begin to engage in meaningful activity, whatever that looks like for us, individually, we begin to elevate ourselves and, often, others. Our presence in a room becomes lighter, and we may even find it easier and easier to celebrate, not just our big accomplishments, but all the little steps along the way.

How do you elevate your mind + body?
How do you elevate the people in your life?

What is one thing you can celebrate today?

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Caring for Community | March 26th 2023


“Why else are we here if we’re not here to help each other.”

-- Kirk Harvell, from Episode 12 of That’s Deep w/ Eden & Jess

This past week has been a whirlwind of both connecting with my community and promoting exciting community events, including an upcoming Bro-ga event hosted by Foundations Health & Wholeness Dudes and T.A.C.O.S.

Friday, my podcast partner, a member of the Dudes and T.A.C.O.S task force, and I helped promote the event with Ryan Good, CEO of the non-profit organization, on WFRV-TV 5.

Afterwards, we drove to Madison to meet my dad, Kirk Harvell of Kirk Fitness Systems, to record episode 12 of That’s Deep w/ Eden and Jess. The conversation was deep, with many moments of humor and levity, and inspiring. He shared his fitness journey, passion for learning and teaching, and the deep care and sense of responsibility he holds for his respective communities: his home, his work as a security professional, his work as a personal trainer, self-defense instructor, and CPR and First Aid instructor. In the episode, he talks about growing up in an apartment in the Bronx. He recalls his mom picking up garbage in and around the apartment building and questioning her on this. She explained that this is our home, our environment, and we have a responsibility to care for it. This message and lesson stuck with him and instilled within him a sense of care and responsibility for his community and environment.

Since the Fall of 2022, I have been volunteering with Pillars, Inc., a non-profit organization providing shelter and resources to those in need. About once per month I provide guided mindful movement, meditation, and mindset tools, and every other month I provide dinner. The experience has been deeply rewarding and humbling, but there are times I lack confidence. Am I really providing value? Am I making an impact? Is this helping? Am I enough? The answer is yes. I don’t have the resources to provide the people here with a home or a job or regular mental, emotional, and physical health care, but I am enough. I have a little bit of time, a skill of guiding physical and meditative practices, and a passion for helping my community.

How can we show care in our communities?

  • Volunteer
  • Share what local business and non-profits are doing to create positive change in the community.
  • Find out what your community needs, find people with a passion for helping, and build something together!

What can you do this week to show care for your community?

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Your story starts now!

Connection | March 19th 2023

Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski
Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

"From psychological theories to recent research, there is significant evidence that social support and feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health."

Martino J, Pegg J, Frates EP. The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2015 Oct 7;11(6):466-475. doi: 10.1177/1559827615608788. PMID: 30202372; PMCID: PMC6125010.
Social connection is one of the most important things we can do for our whole body health. Though we all have different capacities for how much social interaction we need to feel good in body and mind, all benefit from some level of connection with others.
Since the beginning of 2023, I have significantly increased my engagement with the people in my community. I, along with my friend, Eden, launched a podcast where a majority of the episodes include a conversation with a guest. These conversations and this collaborative project, have broadened my perspective, and significantly increased my level of empathy.
I also joined the women's networking group, Mid-Day Women's Alliance. This group of female professionals and entrepreneurs have been welcoming, authentic, and have already bolstered Yoga Story's presence in the community.
I have not always been in a head space to connect at this level. When I first started my business in 2016, I jumped into networking events without really knowing who I was. I met some great people, but I also learned that I needed to define and refine my business and personal identity. So, after burning out on events that were more energy-draining than energy-giving, I slowed down, tightened my circle, and looked within. I took time to figure out what I was truly interested in and how my interests aligned with who I was both as a yoga teacher and as Jess.
I learned that I had a strong interest in the brain. How movement, breathing, meditation, self-inquiry, and gratitude affect how we think, and the various mechanisms, chemicals, internal and external environments that play a role in mindset (what we believe about ourselves, others, and our relationship the world around us).
Learning about the brain and body is a life-long journey, and a path that excites me! I have a variety of interests and rather than make sacrifices, I am learning and exploring, through trial and error, how to incorporate the many things that bring me joy.
Expanding my circle this year has given me the confidence to continue to step outside of my comfort zone. It's very comfortable for me to teach a yoga class-- it took time for this to become comfortable. In my most recent undertaking, guiding Empowered Mindset Workshops, I am still learning what I'm teaching, and teaching helps hone my practice and knowledge in the area of science-based habits for healthy and empowered living.
This week I guided a virtual 45-minute long Empowered Mindset Mini Workshop for an Atlanta-based company. The workshop focused on self-inquiry, gratitude, mindfulness, mindful movement, and introduced 7 healthy habits. During the workshop, I noticed a deep camaraderie among the participants. They supported each other. They listened to one another. They shared with authenticity and vulnerability. They displayed a level of trust that made my job as a coach easy. And it showed me that though I've been viewing hydration and sleep as the most important of the 7, social connection is right up there with them.
Something I've been practicing this week is asking back to those in customer service, "How are you?" It's simple, and something many people naturally do. I had not always had the energy or foresight or care to ask this question of people I don't know. Do I really want to know how people are doing should they choose to be real with me? I can confidently say that now the answer is an emphatic YES!
People need people, but more than that, people need people to care. It sounds strange to say it, but I've never wanted to care more in my life than right now. Do I have the capacity, knowledge, energy, or resources to help everyone? No. But I have ways to express interest and care, I have ears to listen, and I have a much better sense of my ever-evolving place in this community, my own realm of influence, and the world.
I encourage you this week to ask yourself what you need to feel more connected to yourself and to others?
Pause | Practice | Play
Your story starts now!