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In Conversation with Desirée Pais

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Prioritizing your mental health isn’t always easy, but wellness entrepreneur Desirée Pais wants to help you discover how 

As the founder of BENSHEN.co, an integrative platform that makes personal wellbeing “inviting, accessible and practical,” Desirée uses her bottomless toolkit of spiritual teachings and practices to help people explore the various ways they can create a balanced and purpose-driven life. Whether it’s a gratitude journal or three minutes of morning meditation, the key is carving out that time for yourself to reframe, reflect, and reenergize. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, now might be the perfect space for you to start (or restart) your very own mindfulness routine.  

Even though everyone’s mental health journey is personal, you don’t have to travel alone. Last week, Desirée led an inspiring breathwork session for Girl Up’s Global Fitness Challenge and we caught up with her to discuss how we can build a strong support system to help us throughout our journey, why figuring out our “why” is the key to staying consistent, and what she’s manifesting right now for future generations of girls. 

Why were you inspired to join the Global Fitness Challenge and which part are you most excited about?   

I struggled as a young woman with depression, anxiety, and a lot of mental health challenges due to various reasons, so it’s beautiful to be able to go to this age group where it all started for me. I wish that I had someone say, ‘here are some tools to get through this’ or ‘this might help you’ or just anything because there was nothing. So, I feel really excited to be with the girls, answer questions, and share systems and practices. It feels very special. 

How do you hope participants view meditation and mindfulness after attending your session? What do you hope they’ve learned?  

I hope they can see it’s not very intimidating or something that needs to take a long time. A lot of the practices that I share are about three minutes long so I hope they see they can have this toolkit that only takes a little time, is very beneficial to use, and they can utilize these practices to develop their inner strength too because being that age is not easy. 

Where do you personally find your inner strength and how do you think others can find theirs? 

I think a lot of it is having a really strong community to be a part of. In our course, we create a space where they practice no gossip, no talking bad about each other, no complaining, but giving space to talk about what’s going on in life. We created a community of women elevating women and I think, especially at that age, to have a community that is uplifting each other is very important because it can be a very catty time where a lot of people are tearing each other down. I was made fun of a lot – it’s very painful in the moment, but know that it doesn’t matter in the long run. Don’t try to be part of the cool crowd; be part of where you feel good. 

I definitely agree it’s important to find that community and build that support system and it’s so encouraging to have more friends become comfortable with openly sharing their mental health journeys. But, in all honesty, it can also sometimes become overwhelming, especially on social media. How can people give themselves the time and space to distance themselves when they need to for their own mental health without feeling guilty?  

It’s a tough territory, because we want to be vulnerable, we want to share because, as Brené Brown says, the most powerful thing someone can say is ‘me too.’ But, at the same time, we don’t want to be reliving it every single day. When you identify with that, it’s a different story versus what you are creating from that, how you are moving forward. For me, I could sit here and say I have depression, I have anxiety, or I have fatigue. But I became really conscious of that because every time you say, ‘I have’ or ‘I am’, you’re solidifying that even more. So, I’m really excited about what I can create, where I can go, how I can give back from what I’ve learned and how I can help others. We have our stories, which are all valid and real, but at the same time, we want to make sure we’re also actively creating and co-creating the story.  

What would be a “simple” first step someone can take to begin prioritizing their mental health, especially for people who may have never done so before? 

Definitely seek support in whatever way you can. It’s very important to know that you’re not alone when you’re working with mental health, whether that be from a therapist or your community. Start with journaling. Start with gratitude, start with creation, start with what action steps you’re going to take. Then you can move into seeing where you need support or what you’re going to do about it. It’s so important to reframe your mind first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day. 

Let’s say you’ve successfully created this routine. You’re meditating every morning, you’re feeling good, but something happens and you’re thrown off your routine.  If that happens, how can we find the motivation to rededicate that time to these daily practices, refocus on ourselves, and regain that discipline? 

Discipline is such an interesting word because if you look in the dictionary, there are actually two definitions of discipline. One is to teach through punishment and that is so often how we associate discipline—that if I don’t do this, I’m a bad person. The other definition of discipline is a branch of knowledge. So, knowing your ‘why’ is really important. 

The other part when you fall off the wagon—and I do this all the time—is giving yourself a little bit more landing space. Instead of, ‘I’m going to do it tomorrow’ or ‘I’m going to do it today’, give yourself permission. Maybe you fell off because you really needed some space, or you needed to spend time with your family, or maybe you were just going too hard and you needed the sunshine for a couple days and enjoy. After, it’s about figuring out what your plan is, giving yourself a start date, and then here’s the biggest secret: once you’re back on what was supposed to be “day one” in your mind, pretend you’re on day 100. I can cultivate the feelings of being on day 100 on day one and it makes me more excited rather than the heaviness of my mind saying, ‘who do you think you are starting over again’. I know what it feels like to be successful so I just channel that feeling instead of the guilt and the shame.  

It seems like visualizing and manifesting are becoming popular concepts. Are there any hopes you’re “manifesting” for future generations of girls? 

Definitely mental health. I hope that all young women can create supportive communities instead of ones where they’re tearing each other apart. That’s the time we’re in with social media, with the kinds of TV content, but I’m really hoping there can be really good role models for them. But, I think a lot of great things are happening with the younger generation and we sometimes underestimate them.  

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In case you missed Desirée’s “Breath Work 101” session on Friday, head to a soothing space (both physical & mental!) and watch the recording here for even more daily mindfulness tips. Plus, don’t forget to check out all the other exciting sessions we have in store for your minds, bodies, and souls this month at our Global Fitness Challenge portal

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

About the 2021 Girl Up Global Fitness Challenge 

We’re calling on our global network of leaders, partners, and supporters of all ages to join us in our first virtual Global Fitness Challenge. The Global Fitness Challenge centers wellness in our communities while fundraising to expand refugee girls’ access to education in Ethiopia. Each Friday in May, Girl Up will be hosting activities, conversations, and fitness challenges led by pro athletes and trainers rooted in Girl Up’s three wellness components: mind, body, and soul. By participating in the month-long fitness challenge, you’ll help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 for Girl Up’s work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while learning how to move, think, and eat in ways that value your entire self. To find out more about the Challenge and how you can participate, click here.   

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