Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Allison Peet of From Within Wellness

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Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Allison Peet Allison Peet of From Within Wellness

Allison Peet brings a wealth of real-life experience to her work as a certified mindfulness instructor and owner of From Within Wellness. This coming January, she’s excited to share that expertise with others as she offers her next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class, which is open for registration.  

Des Moines Parent connected with Allison to learn more about her and her journey.  

Give us a little background on yourself. 

Hi, I’m Allison, and I am managing and overcoming anxiety with mindfulness. I was born and raised in Iowa. I moved away for a few years, then returned to Des Moines in 2008 to settle and raise a family. I have two amazingly smart and beautiful children and a supportive, driven, and loving husband.

In 2015, I decided to follow a passion of mine and started a small business devoted to teaching mindfulness through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), private coaching, and workshops.

In 2013, I hit a point in my life where I was very stressed and experienced huge amounts of anxiety. I was working full time at a very busy job that had many distractions where constant multi-tasking was required. I quickly realized that multi-tasking is not something humans excel at; computers multi-task, and we should not! Our kids were 3 and 6 at the time, and my husband accepted a promotion at work that required him to travel a good portion of the time. I had a lot on my plate and realized I wasn’t responding to stressors with any skill at all. I would be so quick to anger and yell reflexively when the kids would act up. I knew I was not making enough time for myself to decompress or find activities that would replenish what I had lost in all the busyness. I was running on complete autopilot and I knew it, but I couldn’t figure out how to get off the proverbial treadmill. The tipping point was when I began to experience alarming physical symptoms from the never-ending busyness of life.

I would lie down for bed at night, wanting desperately to relax and fall asleep, and would feel my heart racing, beating upward of 85+ beats per minute. (My normal resting rate was about 55.) I also started having tightness and heaviness in my chest, increased sweating, trouble staying asleep, and acne flare-ups, just to name a few. I ignored the anxiety symptoms for a few months, hoping they would just go away on their own, yet I intrinsically knew I needed to intervene myself and make significant life changes.

I have always been a very active, fit, and healthy individual, and these symptoms I was having frightened and shook me to the core. Talking to my doctor, she hooked me up to an EKG to make sure I wasn’t actually having heart problems, which I wasn’t, and she told me I had anxiety. I decided to make some life changes, which led me to MBSR: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. I also took anti-anxiety medication for about six months, saw a mental health therapist (whom I still see from time to time as life and adulting can get overwhelming), and learned how to say ‘No’ to things that didn’t serve me well. The combination is what got me out of the hole. I’ve had a regular practice of mindfulness ever since.

After the first MBSR session that included an eating meditation of two tiny raisins, I was fascinated and intrigued at the fact of how “mindless” I had been in my life and how often I operated on autopilot. I learned that there is an entire untouched level of awareness that I had never discovered until that first week. The eight-week course was literally life-changing for me. After about a month of disciplined training, and carving out precious time to devote to awareness practice and self-care, my physical anxiety symptoms were significantly reduced, I was less emotionally reactive and just felt better. This practice is uniquely special in that it’s not just another thing to add to my To-do list … it’s something that can be infused into daily life. 

Could you give us an overview of your business and what inspired it?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction changed everything for me. I spent many of my adult years being disconnected from my body. Abusing it with over-exercising, overworking, alcohol to “take the edge off,” stuffing food into it out of nerves or habit, and not allowing myself time to recharge and relax for fear I would get behind or be seen as lazy or not productive. I got to a point in 2013 when my body started to revolt against my mind, bullying it all the time. The whispers turned to yelling, then screaming – acute neck and back pain, heart palpitations, chest pain, sweating, acne, overreacting to situations, insomnia. I knew an intervention was needed and decided to take the class. I couldn’t find a teacher in Des Moines at the time, so I took it online. 

I laughed at myself at how difficult and uncomfortable it was to slow down and notice things in the present moment. I was in such a hurry with the meditations and aggravated at how slow they were that I began to ask myself, “If I can’t be present and patient enough to mindfully eat ONE RAISIN, where else am I just going through the motions on autopilot in my life?” 

During the Body Scan, which literally teaches you to experience what it feels like to have a body (sounds weird, but many of us live in our heads, not in our bodies), I felt very confused and couldn’t feel much of anything when I first started. The best advice I got was that it’s totally OK to not “feel” anything  … there’s no such thing as doing this incorrectly, which was very refreshing. To quote JKZ (the creator of the MBSR method), “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” 

I kept following along, and over a couple weeks, with consistent practice and discipline, I started to feel very subtle sensations in my hands and feet first – prickling, tingling, pulsing, almost like ants crawling on my skin. Then I started to realize what the word embodiment actually meant and how useful it is, especially in times of distress and anxiety. I came to class needing stress reduction and came out realizing it was more about relating to my life more skillfully – teaching myself how to be more present with loved ones, colleagues, friends, and, most importantly, myself. It wasn’t one more thing to add to my “To Do” list – it became integrated as a way of being and living more deliberately.

What are your favorite parts of your business?

Flexibility is essential in this season of my life. My husband travels a lot for work, and my kids need a home-based person to fall back on for support, not to mention, a taxi to take them to and from school, sports, and activities. My absolute favorite moments as a business owner are having 100% control over the mission and vision of my work. I love seeing my students light up after having a huge learning experience or putting something together that allows them to come more fully into their humanness. I love watching their self-compassion and self-care grow and transform from the inside out.

How do you juggle your parenting responsibilities with your business responsibilities? 

I have to have an extremely flexible schedule. My family comes first, business second. A lot of times, that means working odd hours, teaching night classes, and on weekends. I’ve also missed out on my kids’ games and concerts, which is heartbreaking, but such is life right now. I’ve learned I can do/have it all, just not at the same time. Life is a series of saying yes to some things, which will mean having to say no to the rest, for now. It feels like Tetris trying to figure out our family’s schedule right now, but I know it will eventually change, so I’m trying my best to embrace the fast-paced life right now.

What’s your number one parenting tip?

Slow down and pay attention as often as you can remember. Even when the moment is dull, boring, irritating, infuriating or you feel like you want to pack up and run away to anywhere but where you are. Parenting is hard. Period. Then there are glimmers where it can feel effortless and you feel on top of things. 

In my opinion, if you’re really paying close, loving attention, you can always find something in the present moment that can be a buoy in the storm. Notice what captivates you about your child, what draws you in? Their freckles, eyelashes, and how they hold their mouth when they concentrate. Put down what you’re doing, make eye contact with them and, as best you can (we’re not looking for perfection), connect with them as a fellow tender-hearted human. Feel your breath as you deeply listen and take them in. Kids are way more attuned than we give them credit for. They literally feel if you’re really there with them, or if you’re checked out on autopilot. This is a skill; it will get easier and more accessible the more you engage with it. It will help you feel better, too!

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Lindsey Giardino

Lindsey Giardino

Lindsey Giardino is a freelance writer based in the Des Moines metro. She's also a new mom and learning as she goes. When she's not working on her business or watching her little guy explore this big new world, she loves to cook, read and enjoy the outdoors.

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