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Author Sophia Nelson shares self-care lessons for pandemic times


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: During the pandemic, we've heard a lot about the idea of self-care, the practice of protecting your own well-being and happiness. It's become a mental health buzzword, but it's arguably more important now than ever. Stress levels shot up in the spring of 2020. And for lots of people, they never came back down. Best Selling Author Sophia Nelson is out with a new book aimed at offering some help. It's called, "Be the One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned While Taking Care of Everyone But Me." It's great to have you here. It's good to talk with you.

Sophia Nelson, Author, "Be The One You Need": It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Geoff Bennett: So let's start with the title of the book. What did you learn by taking care of everybody but yourself? And what was the tipping point in changing your approach?

Sophia Nelson: Well, as I talked about in the book, I got COVID twice, I got it in February of 2020, which was before we knew what it was right and I was deathly ill with it. Then of course after the vaccines and all, I got a breakthrough case in August of 2021. And when you're sick like that, and you're thinking about your life and your mortality, I had a sick parent that couldn't take care of herself. She couldn't even drive a car anymore. You talk about a whole lot converging at once. And I started to ask myself questions like, what are you doing with your life? And do you have a life? And are you taking care of you? Or are you doing too much for everybody else? So for me, the tipping point was getting COVID that first time and being very sick, and then getting that breakthrough a year later, and really having to stop and say, what am I doing for me? Am I looking out for me while I take care of everyone else? So that's kind of how this book came about.

Geoff Bennett: And you are the oldest child?

Sophia Nelson: Yes, I am.

Geoff Bennett: The only daughter.

Sophia Nelson: I am. And because of all of that the expectation was always that Sophia was the one you go to.

I think a lot of people live that way. And I think the pandemic changed that for people because people began to say, well, wait a minute, what about me? And you know, in our culture, we're not allowed to do that, particularly in the black culture. African American women always strong always on, the savior of the family, the strength, the backbone. So we don't know how to say, well, I need help, or I'm not doing OK. But this applies to everybody, not just African American women, women are the most guilty, but men are feeling this too. And men love this book, which is really exciting to me, because I have a lot of men saying, I feel this too. Something's amiss.

Geoff Bennett: As I mentioned, you break the book up into 21 lessons, and I just want to call out a couple of them. One, you say trust your intuition. It's rarely wrong. Successful people trust their own voices.

Sophia Nelson: Anybody that's done something that's out of the box that does things that goes against the grain runs for office, those people listen to a voice inside, you may have a lot of people and you're going I don't think that's wise or maybe you want to think twice about that. Ask Neil Armstrong, you know what I mean, when you walk on the moon when you're the first one it does that, you had to listen to a lot of naysayers but something inside you tells you, you can do it. Successful people take care of themselves, they rest, they have a good group of people around them. But they know how to hear their own voice. That voice, it says you got this, you can do it. That's important.

Geoff Bennett: Lesson three is there is no shame in not reaching your goals in life. And the reason I wanted to call that one out is because I speak to so many young people, aspiring journalists, and I get the sense that for them, they feel like if they haven't achieved their goals by the age of 25, something is fundamentally wrong with them. If they're not an entry level CEO that their life hasn't amounted too much.

Sophia Nelson: Yeah, what a generational shift, right?

Geoff Bennett: Yeah, yeah. It's tough.

Sophia Nelson: To young people now, let me just say, it's all good. You got a long runway. If you don't reach your goals immediately, it's OK. Sometimes they shift. The key is to be flexible. We check a box, I'm going to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a teacher. And that's what we go do. And this new generation, like you said, expects to be running the place in three years. That's not real. It doesn't happen. So we've got to do a better job as mentoring and mentors, I think of teaching them to be patient, and that this is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

Geoff Bennett: You also talk about what you call radical gratitude. Is that one of the biggest lessons you've learned?

Sophia Nelson: I've always been an optimist. You've read the book I opened with the family, I had a tough childhood, I grew up in an alcoholic home, there was violence in the home. And, you know, someone like me was supposed to turn out the way I did. But one of the things that I think we had a really good mother, who was churchgoing, and very positive. And I think that gratitude is something that she stressed a lot to be thankful for what we have.

Geoff Bennett: Why were you ready to write this book now?

Sophia Nelson: I'm 55. And when you get into your 50s, it's true life changes, you know that you are not young anymore, you're not old, you're stuck in the middle. There are things I know now to be true, I don't have to guess. And I think that one of the problems that our younger people are having with the depression, the isolation, the suicide, all the stuff that we're seeing in spades now, is that they don't have a sense of somebody saying to them and guiding them. There's really a way to do some things. And you don't have to do what I didn't make the mistakes I made.

Let me give you a little guidance. Let me give you a little inspiration. And so I hope that by these 21 life lessons, I'm saying to people, these are the things I've learned. But I know you're going to resonate with these things. Because all of us feel it right now. There's something amiss, there's this malaise, there's this disconnect, and we crave a kindness, a connection, a community that's been missing. And I think our devices have really separated us and divided us and so when I think about how to teach young people that, it's wisdom, I've just lived long enough now. I know some stuff. So it's that simple.

Geoff Bennett: Sophia Nelson, the book is, "Be The One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned While Taking Care of Everyone but Me."

Sophia Nelson: Thank you.

Geoff Bennett: Great to speak with you.

Sophia Nelson: Thank you.

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