"It just calms your heart. It gives you peace, it gives you time. Once you can stop the chatter in your mind and that comes from silence then you can actually figure out what is important to you, what you want to do, what is your purpose."

Karena Dawn

Listen in as Karena Dawn, co-founder of Tone It Up and now The Big Silence Mental Health Foundation, joins us to unravel the intertwining paths of fitness, mental health, and the silent battles we face within. We dive deep into Karena's life, discussing how fitness served as a beacon of hope during her darkest times and ultimately evolved into a thriving community that supports countless women across the globe. Her story is a testament to the joy that physical activity can bring. But it's not all about the high-energy workouts; we also explore the profound impact of stillness and the necessity of confronting the often unspoken struggles that weigh on our mental health.

Follow Karena @karenadawn

Follow Chase @chase_chewning


In this episode, Karena explains...

  • Fitness can be a transformative tool for overcoming mental health struggles and finding joy

  • Silence and stillness allow self-reflection and confronting unspoken mental health issues

  • Shifting identities requires embracing change and listening to one's inner voice for personal freedom

  • Community and social connections are vital in personal growth and wellness journeys

  • Nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance are crucial for cognitive function and mental health

  • Caretaking involves complex emotions; self-care and empathy are essential for caretakers' well-being

  • Personal transformation often occurs through facing pain and loss, highlighting life's important lessons

  • Accessible mental health care through initiatives like "Therapy for All" can provide crucial support for those in need


Episode resources:

EFR 771: From Tone It Up to The Big Silence - Weaving Together Fitness and Mental Health with Karena Dawn

Listen in as Karena Dawn, co-founder of Tone It Up and now The Big Silence Mental Health Foundation, joins us to unravel the intertwining paths of fitness, mental health, and the silent battles we face within. We dive deep into Karena's life, discussing how fitness served as a beacon of hope during her darkest times and ultimately evolved into a thriving community that supports countless women across the globe. Her story is a testament to the joy that physical activity can bring. But it's not all about the high-energy workouts; we also explore the profound impact of stillness and the necessity of confronting the often unspoken struggles that weigh on our mental health.

Follow Karena @karenadawn

Follow Chase @chase_chewning


In this episode, Karena explains...

  • Fitness can be a transformative tool for overcoming mental health struggles and finding joy

  • Silence and stillness allow self-reflection and confronting unspoken mental health issues

  • Shifting identities requires embracing change and listening to one's inner voice for personal freedom

  • Community and social connections are vital in personal growth and wellness journeys

  • Nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance are crucial for cognitive function and mental health

  • Caretaking involves complex emotions; self-care and empathy are essential for caretakers' well-being

  • Personal transformation often occurs through facing pain and loss, highlighting life's important lessons

  • Accessible mental health care through initiatives like "Therapy for All" can provide crucial support for those in need


Episode resources:


0:01:37 - Speaker 2 What is it about getting quiet? Getting still, do you think, has the most universal capability for good for people, regardless of the thing they're trying to get still and quiet from.

0:01:51 - Speaker 1 I think it just calms your heart right. It gives you peace, it gives you time. Once you can stop the chatter in your mind and that comes from silence then you can actually figure out what is important to you, what you want to do, what is your purpose. I think silence is the hardest thing, and not only and I'm speaking from meditative silence versus talking to Big Silence, which is mental health and the foundation I have, which is the things you don't want to talk about, but also there was someone who I had on my podcast and I've gone to his retreats and he always said if you can't sit with yourself in silence, how do you expect anyone to sit with you? So I can't sit with you If I can't sit with my husband, if I can't sit with me in silence and just be, what is that? How can we not just be? Why do we always have to talk and have those thoughts?

0:03:02 - Speaker 2 It's like what's the old adage, If you struggle to meditate for five minutes, you probably need to do it for 20 minutes, kind of thing we could substitute meditate for if you can't sit still and be in silence with yourself for five minutes. Think about that energy, Think about that state of mind and being that you're bringing to every other person Energetically.

0:03:29 - Speaker 1 Exactly, you're feeding that to other people and they feel that I mean, as humans, that's what we do, and I'm not saying I'm perfect at it at all. I've done a lot of work with it because that's been my healing process, but it's one of the best tools and I know when I have anxiety and I wake up and my husband's like we're meditating. Getting that cold plunge You're doing that I'm like, OK, now I'm fine.

0:04:01 - Speaker 2 Before we kind of really deep dive more into the big silence and the mental health work that is so top of mind for you these days. I know that you came from a very similar background as me fitness and really creating a life and creating platforms around taking care of the physical self. Why was that so important to you? Why was it so important for your personal life that you felt compelled, and succeeded in such a great way, to create options for physical fitness for others? Why was that such an endeavor for you?

0:04:38 - Speaker 1 It was because when I was in my darkest times which you've had as well and I was in my head, I knew there was something greater, there's something better. And how can I heal myself and I think we've both had those dark times where we're like maybe don't want to be here anymore and how can I heal myself? Naturally, and remembering of when was I my happiest, when was I my most joyful? And that goes to when I was a kid. I ran a half marathon and I crossed that finish line when I was 11, 12 years old and it was this accomplishment and those endorphins. And so, after 10 years of darkness from a mother who was schizophrenic and it was a very dark youth, I started working out and so I started in triathlon. I lived in LA, here by the beach, and I would surf every morning. I switched from going to the clubs in Hollywood to the run clubs in 5 AM maybe.

Yeah, I couldn't, yeah, can't stay at the club and then go to the after party and then this and then get up and surf. So my medicine was making sure I had to be up at sunrise to go surf and then work out and train and do this. And you know, never you know, and I'm all for anyone who needs, you know, any kind of medication for mental health. But literally physical movement was what healed me. And so once I found that I wanted to share that to other people and be like and I still had fun and I'd go out with my friends and I'll have one, I'll have a martini, whatever you know, and it's a message of like wow, I just took myself out of this darkest moment through fitness and still learned how to have fun and not, you know, compete with myself, like and be too strict.

How can I share this? And so then, tone it Up, became 15 years ago 15 years 15.

0:06:51 - Speaker 2 15 years, wow. To walk us through a little bit of Tone it Up for those, for the listeners that don't know. I mean this is a huge community.

0:07:00 - Speaker 1 Yeah.

0:07:01 - Speaker 2 Huge community in the fan space.

0:07:02 - Speaker 1 Yeah, you know, it was crazy. It was like in social media before Instagram. Ok, yeah, yeah. Aging myself there, but I don't. I love being in my 40s and being in a place that I am, but yeah, tone it Up. So there's an app, there's nutrition products, but really the true yes, the true meaning of it is just community coming together.

That's my main thing, and the women that meet each other through fitness whether it's community in Tone it Up or you're going to Austin and Collective is a great community and it's really just people coming together, because the conversations always happen For me, my friends, and the conversations always happen through fitness. Do you don't you feel that?

0:07:54 - Speaker 2 way too. Yeah, absolutely. Even if I don't have anybody that I'm training with at that moment, I always I talk to myself, I just am free flowing notes and ideas, and it's just I mean I would probably be talking to your office somebody with me and said I just voice note myself, but it's so spot on.

0:08:13 - Speaker 1 Yeah, I mean anytime, whether it's you're checking in online, if you do a fitness app or you're going to the gym and you just it becomes a social hour. I think, through all the years in the ups and downs and having a company for 15 years, let me tell you.

0:08:30 - Speaker 2 That's impressive, especially these days in the fitness industry. Fitness social media, yeah.

0:08:35 - Speaker 1 Yeah, and there's been a lot of evolution and it's not easy, and so I'm just I'm pretty damn proud of what was able to be built and to sustain. But there's again been the ups and downs in my own emotional roller coaster with that. But I always go back to get out, move your body, meet people through social fitness, and it brings you back up again.

0:09:07 - Speaker 2 Kind of on the business aspect of it, to have a platform to grow a platform. Now. I think last I looked at Instagram alone was over a million something followers, and I'm sure you have a lot of other ways that people get connected and stay connected. How have you seen the fitness industry evolve over the last 15 years? Do you think the addition of social media has benefited it? Is it a hindrance? What is your personal take on the fitness industry evolution for the last decade plus?

0:09:39 - Speaker 1 Well, going back to, let's go back to Instagram. Starting, we were the first fitness people on Instagram, wow, and on YouTube. That was when YouTube was only music. The evolution it's opened up a lot of doors.

0:09:59 - Speaker 2 So I just want to kind of paint a clear picture. When you were on YouTube, do you mean like you all were, actually you were posting workout videos, you were posting fitness content.

0:10:06 - Speaker 1 Yeah.

0:10:07 - Speaker 2 Really Wow Around. What year was this?

0:10:09 - Speaker 1 2009.

0:10:10 - Speaker 2 2009. Right, wow, wow. I remember around 2013, seeing people do this. My brother was one of them, still a really big fitness YouTuber, not so much a lot of fitness anymore, but even seeing him do it then in 2013, I was like what many people were like what is this, where is this going? How is this going to turn in, anything you know, and that's and that was like four years after you were getting started.

0:10:37 - Speaker 1 Yeah. So 2009, and that was kind of where our community we started as a brand and it wasn't even a brand. Our focus was community and bringing women together, and it came through YouTube, through Instagram, through this. It was all natural and just. We just were there wanting to bring women together and in a place where women don't judge each other, and it just happened naturally. And you know, we came a business, came a large community of millions.

0:11:10 - Speaker 2 Okay, the business aspect. Yeah, how, from creating fitness content on YouTube before fitness YouTube was a thing, how did you turn it into a business? Was it just the traditional model of oh, we get a lot of views, we get AdSense. Was AdSense even a thing? How did you monetize fitness social media content, youtube content, at a time when it didn't really exist?

0:11:29 - Speaker 1 Right and we thought, like Google ads would be like we could make like $80,000 a year.

0:11:35 - Speaker 2 Great, awesome, not bad.

0:11:37 - Speaker 1 Okay, and but then our community just kept growing naturally. Then it was the community wants XYZ. They wanted a nutrition plan, so we created one. And then they wanted a protein product our recommendations. And we're like, well, there's nothing out there that goes with our nutrition plan, which is plant based oil for protein at the time, and we're like, well, there's nothing out there that we believe in, so let's make our own protein.

0:12:10 - Speaker 2 It was kind of sketch. I mean it still can be sketched now but I feel like we've come a long way. But 2009,. 10, 11, I mean it was. You were kind of rolling the dice, putting really especially any protein product into your body.

0:12:22 - Speaker 1 Yeah Well, we were plant based, still are. I'm open to. This might be the first time I say this publicly, but I'm open to way no way, no way. I used to be saying no way but I am open to it. I you know, after all the years and all you know, everyone changes their workouts, their nutrition, what they have, they're plant based or they aren't. But so we formulated our own protein and it was DTC, direct to consumer and then target and then to many other doors Wow, Wow, fascinating. Yeah, it all happened.

0:13:04 - Speaker 2 And you know years before anybody else.

0:13:06 - Speaker 1 Yeah, and you know what we got into target because there was a toned up girl in our community who went to the target buyers and said you got to have toned up protein and target.

0:13:17 - Speaker 2 So you got champions on the streets.

0:13:19 - Speaker 1 Yeah, basically. Well, those are the best.

0:13:21 - Speaker 2 Those are the best. What does it take? Because I know a lot of people, I have a lot of people in my audience and a lot of my peers in the space, just kind of with my background as well creating content, whether it's tutorial, how to whatever, especially in the health fitness space, putting it out there, then translating that to community and then monetizing that community. Whether that's you create a product, creating workouts, meal plans, coaching, things like that, there's a big disconnect and it's problematic for a lot of people. I also think there's and I've been there there's an assumption that I create this educational and informative content. I am an expert and authority to have this group of practice have the certifications, whatever that automatically it's just going to come in and that's not always the case. How did you translate from content to currency?

0:14:15 - Speaker 1 I would say content to currency is authenticity and that was always the thing, and it wasn't sell, sell, sell. It's the building, it's connecting and truly we were connecting with women as the time when I wanted new friends and community and this is what I want and we we back in the day had so much content. We said content is queen. And it was coffee chats why not Wednesdays, like really having girlfriend to girlfriend, woman to woman, conversations with the community, and then putting the products in there because the community asked, because we've connected with them through these.

0:14:57 - Speaker 2 Because they asked. I think that's a crucial point.

0:14:59 - Speaker 1 Yeah, it's like how can I everything we've done is what the community asked for? Like okay, and then surveying and everything. Like okay, she needs this. It's what does she need for her lifestyle to be the healthiest. Okay, let's create that, she's asking.

0:15:17 - Speaker 2 That's really honestly it. Yeah, yeah, that's really it. I've struggled along the way as a content creator in selecting what I feel is the quote plate type of content to put out, based on what I feel the demands of the community are in terms of what do people need for their health and wellness, compared to what I am personally going through in my health and wellness.

You did Okay. So I would love to get your input on that, because there's there's struggle, there's friction, there's, you know, especially when it's your business. You know, I feel like the worst times I had as an online coach were when I was struggling the most with what to put out there, because I was trying to meet the needs of people that weren't in alignment with where I was and where I was going, and the more I shifted to chase. This is where I am let's create and let's create offers and then let's grow that the audience and customers and clients along the way with me. Would you agree?

0:16:19 - Speaker 1 Yeah, and, as you can imagine, over 15 years, that tone it up, but then pre that track on this, that, that and creating what is authentic to me and what I feel comfortable. I struggle with creating content.

0:16:36 - Speaker 2 Really doesn't look like it's a big.

0:16:38 - Speaker 1 I know I do.

0:16:39 - Speaker 2 I'm a new follower.

0:16:42 - Speaker 1 Right, I want to because I want to provide. Over the years, and what I provide, it has changed from hip workouts to weightlifting, to then I became very into yoga and meditation and right. And there is some like, oh my gosh, you've changed so much and I'm like I'm allowed to change.

I have gone from yes, you are thank you, yes, you are, yes, you are everybody's allowed to change and go through their seasons, and I think it's so important, especially in social media, to allow that. I went through a very another dark time when my mother passed away and I was very sad and gained weight, and that's I was allowed to. I was having my season of you know, but everyone's like, oh, karina, she doesn't look like she did when you know in 2012. I'm like I'm that's 10 years ago, but anyways it sounds like you were getting.

0:17:43 - Speaker 2 It could have been just a one-off or, you know, maybe a group of people yeah, holding you up to the standard of hey, I discovered you as this particular type of person, I interpreted you as this type of person, and when I think they say you've changed, you don't look this way. You're not creating the same content, you know, putting out the same offers. What I'm really hearing more and I wonder if you agree is it's it's when they say you've changed, it's them really saying how much they are still stuck in their old ways. If you're the same person, holding on to the same things, for what you look for in content, what provides meaning and value to you to some degree, certain things, I think will always be there, but what I'm really hearing is that they're still stuck in the past right and change is something that you should welcome.

0:18:33 - Speaker 1 And do people complain about you?

0:18:36 - Speaker 2 I'm sure you know I get a little bit here and there. The biggest thing for me, you know kind of still talking through the lens of content creation, yeah. So I really got my start on social media on YouTube, yeah, I created a like men's lifestyle fitness, mostly kind of vlog stuff, but I would sit down and do some talk to the camera stuff about health and fitness. You know I do q&a's and talk about military and things like that, and this was 2013-14 and it grew and I loved it. I honestly I still missed that kind of YouTube, that form of creativity but once.

I fell in. I found podcasting. I started ever forward radio like two, three years later, maybe about two years later, I started putting podcast content on my youtube channel and it killed the channel. People were like no, what is it like?

no, like more blogs yeah, exactly, and I was like guys, if I make uh, if it's your macros full day of eating one more time video, I'm gonna blow my brains out. But you can't. There's no way like and that was a struggle that I had personally, I'm like I want to be creative, I want to create content, I also want to run a business, but I have to act to your point out of authenticity yeah and so then I shifted, then I, you know I got off that, and just you know, now here we are.

0:19:53 - Speaker 1 There's a lot of stuff in between, but but you get the point no, that's great though, and I know I'm trying, and as we talk about shifts, I'm also trying.

0:20:02 - Speaker 2 I am making a shift as well, can you, uh, peel back the curtain for us a little bit. What's, what's the biggest shift you're going through right now, or describe it for us you know um um, I have been a fitness expert, superstar.

0:20:16 - Speaker 1 This that for so long yeah, absolutely and I love working out and I do it for me but I feel like, um, there's been a lot of changes in our company and we've taken private equity on back in 2018 and so many changes and I've just like, stuck with it and been there and wanted to be there because I love the community and I'm a passionate person to be able to help people in their lives to live their best life, and I've learned those tools and I've been through it all in the ups and the downs, and I want to have more of a voice where I which is a shift from you know tone it up 2012 and have deeper conversations about life. I've been through a lot.

I've been through marriage and this and death, and discussions of divorce and, yes, five dogs, and you know just everything in mental health, you know, is a big passion of mine, because I think that conversation needs to be talked about more. So that's when I started the big silence and the podcast, and so that's a shift even within tone it up.

0:21:31 - Speaker 2 And and the january challenge I'm not teaching workouts, I'm wow having what does that feel like for you to step away from kind of the teaching role that you know yourself to be?

0:21:45 - Speaker 1 yeah, so many other people know you for scary because I know there will be backlash, but we have trainers that I believe in and I just actually want to have conversations with the trainers and doing this, and I'm not saying, I'm not saying that I am not going to you get people fight the mic all the time.

0:22:07 - Speaker 2 It's okay, they're resilient.

0:22:10 - Speaker 1 I'm not saying I won't teach workouts again on video. I still do private retreats and all and such but I just felt like at this time there was some kind of shift going where I'm figuring out what I'm doing in the mental health space and my own podcasting and sharing a voice more than a movement. But I don't know. I'm very open to this you said something right there.

0:22:37 - Speaker 2 I think is very important to acknowledge figuring out what I'm doing yeah how many of us, if we want to get very real, if we admit that out loud, how scary but probably how freeing that is, especially when we feel ourselves or we feel in some kind of maybe public figure, community, social media way.

We are known as this thing you're identified there's so much identity wrapped up in that yeah walk us through how you are giving yourself permission, how you are making space for not my words, not yours, not knowing what you're doing, but allowing the space and container to figure that out.

0:23:27 - Speaker 1 I would say it's listening to my time, my time in silence, that voice, that inner voice really giving myself and thinking at this point in my life like I've already accomplished so much and I've and I'm probably my own worst enemy are we all yeah, you all are, we all are usually usually even if it's like a little minuscule part or big.

And you know I constantly have to remind myself of everything that little Karina would have dreamed of has already surpassed some hearing acknowledgement yeah and probably appreciation, gratitude appreciation, gratitude and taking a risk and not being afraid of having a shift in your life say that again, please for the audience not being afraid of having a shift in your life because we're taught. We I mean I was. I grew up in Indiana. I was supposed to graduate high school, go to college, didn't do either, get married and have children got married. But that was the plan, and so I think there's someone else's plan?

yes, right, and so I think even at you know, 42 there's. Am I doing the plan? Should I be having children? Should I not? You know, and I think I've gotten to a point where I'm just allowing freedom.

0:25:02 - Speaker 2 Hmm, well allowing freedom. It's interesting you said freedom there. I kind of was almost expecting to hear surrender. What's the difference in your mind between freedom and surrender? Is there?

0:25:20 - Speaker 1 I actually think they are very aligned together. It could be the same thing. I think I've always. For the past two years, my mantra has been peace and freedom. I think. Freedom from a lot of my past, from my work and the stress of things. I'm not having control, just all this stuff my mother passing away and being a caretaker and other stuff in the stressors of life like let it go. Let it go.

0:25:54 - Speaker 2 So letting go. Maybe the surrender part comes first and then freedom because of surrender.

0:26:02 - Speaker 1 Have you gone through that?

0:26:04 - Speaker 2 Absolutely yes, and personally on the other side of it. If you had met me three years ago, I would not be the same person. In most ways I would not be the same person that I'm here today, and on the other side of it it's so kind of just like duh. Of course, it's the simple little things that we all hear about. It's about taking care of your body and your mind.

It's community to your point it's getting maybe professional mental help. It's little practices. To let these things out, these little whispers, I say that we probably experience a lot and then eventually they turn into a scream.

And it's only until they're screaming at us through poor mental health, anxiety, illness, poor physical health, that we finally most of us finally start paying attention, not to say that it's too late, but it's only until we have to go through some major event that we finally realize, oh, I could have been doing these other things all along the way Little mini surrender, little mini other practices that would have given me this freedom that I'm so grateful for now.

0:27:20 - Speaker 1 Yeah, and I think that's also that freedom that you're grateful for now is that trust in yourself.

0:27:27 - Speaker 2 And that worthiness, yes, yeah.

0:27:31 - Speaker 1 That you are worthy because raised a certain way, and being able to find that worthiness is so important.

0:27:39 - Speaker 2 One big thing for me that has made monumental shifts in my life as a whole, but especially my mental health. Kind of shifting into the mental health part of the conversation. Now, I realized that a lot of what I was after in my physical health in terms of the type of exercise that I would do, the type of body in terms of body weight, body composition that I would strive for and strive to maintain this kind of like physical identity that I was seeking, the more that I prioritize my mental health and the more that I uncovered big T and little T, traumatic events and work through them. I won't say that my physical health took a back seat. I still am an active person. I believe in and condone regular physical activity and exercise, but why I do it has changed tremendously. Oh yeah, the style of training has changed tremendously. Literally like a switch goes off in my head of like well, chase, why are you really working towards a 500 pound deadlift? Why are you really here? That's a lot, can you do that? I was this past year and a half I got up to 455 and it was during that pull I actually had an injury tour bicep tendon and forearm tendon like a partial tear but enough to really kind of take me out of the deadlift game. I haven't deadlifted in probably six to eight months now, but it took that injury to really wake me up and go Chase why and I was kind of unpacking this with a few friends again community and I was reminded of this kind of event that I had with my late father of.

I was, I think, 18 years old and I had just come home one time on leave from the army and this was kind of right towards the tail end of my dad's illness, right before he passed away, and I was over at a friend's house and I got a call from my stepmom and she was like hey, can you come home? Your dad fell out of his chair, fell out of bed or something and with ALS he can't move his own body and she couldn't get him off the floor. Can you come home and help me get your father up? Of course, so I come home. I couldn't pick him up.

I myself could not pick up my father and this was a big army man himself at his prime, a little over 200 pounds, big, stocky guy. Of course he had withered away significantly, but I think it was probably at about 160 pounds, 170 pounds, and I could not pick him up off the floor. I struggled and it took my stepmom and I quite a bit of time to do it together. And I remember just completely breaking down and I had this crying conversation on the phone with my best friend at the time of just like I'm useless, I can't even help, I can't help my family can't help my dad, I can't pick him up, and I realized how much I carried that literally up to the bottom.

0:30:36 - Speaker 1 I would walk up to the Delft bar. It gives me goosebumps.

0:30:39 - Speaker 2 Like that's why. But the last couple of years I had worked through all that with my dad, leaps and bounds beyond what it used to be. I don't care anymore. I would like to. I'm still gonna go Delft here and there, but like I'm not chasing 500 pounds anymore, like I worked through that.

0:30:55 - Speaker 1 Yeah, no, that's so interesting how that was ingrained in your brain, like I need to be able to do my job as a human for another human, or you know whether that's so. I've been very into mobility now. And the importance of that, even if some days I don't lift weights or go do cardio. Mobility and yoga and all of that is just so important and you learn that cause. I see that even in my dad.

0:31:27 - Speaker 2 He's mobility is freedom. Sorry to interrupt you, but to our freedom point mobility is freedom, Right.

0:31:32 - Speaker 1 We need to be able to move, we need to be able to not have the aches and pains, and I'm just, yeah, and I even see my dad and when he was here for Thanksgiving was teaching him like mobility moves and my job and like you gotta do this, dad, like this is so important, cause the day that you can't get out of bed, that's gonna suck Mm-hmm.

0:31:59 - Speaker 2 Yeah, I'll wrap all that up. Wrap all that up just by saying you know, this is kind of my challenge, maybe for the listener. You know we've heard this for how long. Know your why and whatever you do, but really bring that into your physical fitness, your whatever training modality you have yoga, powerlifting, bodybuilding, whatever it is why is it so important? Why the that training style, that frequency, that intensity? Why is that so important to you? Sometimes it might just be for the physical aspect, but the more I understand the physical and the mental self, I've come to realize that a lot of why and how I show up to the gym has a lot more to do with my mental health and the emotional aspect than really anything I'm trying to overcome physically.

0:32:48 - Speaker 1 Yeah, I agree with that. It used to be well. It was very healing in my early 20s the triathlon, the this, that was my therapy and then it became very much aesthetic to me and I think that goes back to some childhood things with my mom, when I was a very lean little girl and she put me on a diet, you know.

0:33:10 - Speaker 2 There we go, there we go.

0:33:12 - Speaker 1 Then I was like wait a second, and then I was like rebelled against fitness for a while and secretly Rebelled against mom a salicylate.

0:33:19 - Speaker 2 Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh my gosh, yeah Little farina.

0:33:23 - Speaker 1 And, yeah, definitely rebelled against mom. Mom always wanted me to be in shape, so now I feel like I've gotten a very healthy relationship with food and such. But at the Y workout now it's all mental and I definitely have. You know, I was going off rebelling for a few years and then now getting back into it. It's hard, but once you're back into it, it's that. But that is the thing like. If you can wake up in the morning and put it in your calendar that you are going to move your body, whatever it may be, go to the gym, do an app, do go for a walk, go for a hike, do push-ups, lift weights at home. If you accomplish that in the morning, you already, mentally, are feeling more powerful for the day.

So, true and accomplishing that. And even for me, my husband like we're like okay, this is non-negotiable, this is. And when one of us says I don't want to this morning, we say this is a non-negotiable, we're doing it.

0:34:26 - Speaker 2 You might have kind of already just said it, but I wanted to ask you directly what is one thing you do that you prioritize for your physical self and for your mental? For physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing daily. What are non-negotiables for you? One for each.

0:34:43 - Speaker 1 Moving your body and meditation.

0:34:45 - Speaker 2 Okay.

0:34:46 - Speaker 1 And staying hydrated.

0:34:49 - Speaker 2 Team water, team water.

0:34:52 - Speaker 1 That's a lot of people don't talk about is the importance of hydration for your mental health and for your body and everything.

0:34:57 - Speaker 2 Team water, team electrolytes, team sodium, potassium, magnesium. I mean go down a rabbit hole on that but especially for mental health. I mean how many of us are walking around with poor connectivity due to lack of minerals and electrolytes, beyond just the dehydration aspect, like our brains literally cannot function without it.

0:35:17 - Speaker 1 And I think there's a misconception of less sodium high blood pressure.

0:35:23 - Speaker 2 Team salt all day long. Team salt all day long.

0:35:26 - Speaker 1 Yeah, the high blood pressure is. This is my own personal experience.

0:35:30 - Speaker 2 This is the same space. It's okay, I'm good.

0:35:33 - Speaker 1 It's not from the salt you're consuming, it's from your stress, it's from not working out, it's from other, like environmental conditions. And I am team solgents as well.

0:35:44 - Speaker 2 Yeah, I down, though you familiar with the brand Element. Yes, yeah, yeah, I brought it here through about, usually like two a day. Two packets a day, yeah, and then I'm also like Salt Bay. It seems to be salt on my food. It's just you know, of course, get your blood work, know all your baseline stuff. But yeah, people really underestimate salt from a hydration electrolyte aspect. But I'm dead serious brain health, mental health as well.

0:36:05 - Speaker 1 Yeah, now I went through a period where I've always had like perfect blood pressure and then there came a time where pandemic mom dying stopped working out, stopped meditating and I had high blood pressure. I'm like what the fuck is this? And I'm like let me take a look here.

0:36:23 - Speaker 2 Yeah, let me take inventory of life right now.

0:36:25 - Speaker 1 My friend was like you just got to reduce salt.

0:36:27 - Speaker 2 I'm like I don't think that's it. We don't need friends like that. We don't need friends like that. So you've kind of talked, you have mentioned it a few times, you've talked about your mom, your mom's passing, and, if you're comfortable with it, I'd like to kind of invite Linda, right? Yes, I would like to invite Linda into the conversation because I feel like this was probably the reason for a heavy influence, when you really went for more physical fitness, personally and professionally, into this mental health shift. What was it like being a caretaker for someone that was mentally unstable? What was it like setting boundaries with her, with you, with your family, and navigating that loss?

0:37:12 - Speaker 1 Linda has been a wonderful teacher. To me it's still getting emotional.

So I was with her the past, the last three days when she was in hospice and finally day two I call it. She said I love you. She confessed to you know, not confessed. But she said it's not her physical health, it's her mental health, because she was afraid of the stigma of her diagnosis of schizophrenia and her depression and she got upset at me about the work I do around mental health. And finally she said I'm glad about, I'm happy for what you're doing and sorry You're fine. No apology needed. What was?

0:38:18 - Speaker 2 it like being a caretaker. It's very hard and it happened really well.

0:38:24 - Speaker 1 What was it like being a caretaker? It's very hard and it happened right after I got married, so my husband was brought into that. We had to do classes together through NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness, and a family to family course that was 13 weeks where he could educate himself on mental illness and how to have empathy and learn about medications in 5150s and all of this and. But he really stepped up and was beautiful and it affected our marriage quite a bit.

0:39:04 - Speaker 2 I'm sure.

0:39:06 - Speaker 1 He was like, yay, honeymoon and come home and mom's in the hospital and then we're taking care of her for you know, five years. But here's another thing when we talk about fitness and nutrition. She was in the hospital for three months for a blood disorder and she was also homeless for many years and didn't take care of herself. But the doctors said, you know, let's put her in hospice. She has two weeks tops. And I said, no, I'm not doing that Like I was. I was little. Karina was craving a relationship with her mother and I said my mom's back in my life, nope, not doing hospice. I actually switched her diet because I cleaned out her house and there was all fast food trash and empty vodka bottles and this and that, and changed her diet, started having her drink green juice, started having her lift water bottles. She looked five years.

Wow, with a previous estimated diagnosis or two, two weeks I guess, of two years. Two weeks no, two weeks Two weeks, two weeks Wow. Changed her diet salads, protein, green juice, this and getting her walk. She couldn't walk from here to where you're sitting and she started walking again. And five years that was just nutrition and also, you know, moving her out into nature and getting the right doctors, but that just there's that environment aspect full circle from our beginning.

0:40:41 - Speaker 2 Yeah, talk about an energy shift, lowering stress, low in cortisol, just you know, getting reconnected with you, establishing community. Yeah, wow, yeah.

0:40:51 - Speaker 1 She was very isolated before which isolation is. I had a podcast with a doctor and he was saying that isolation is just as it's worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

0:41:07 - Speaker 2 It's the most cruel form of punishment. Yeah, yeah, jeez.

0:41:10 - Speaker 1 Anyways, being a caretaker is not easy and there are a lot of people out there that are caretakers and we all will quite possibly be at some point in our life, and it's a hard thing. You have to take care of yourself, because I do believe there was a time where I did not take care of myself because it was all about her taking care of her. You know, and talking to doctors doing this, you know, and I am still working through that trauma.

0:41:59 - Speaker 2 In some ways, I've been in very similar shoes with you. I wasn't able to be around my family and my father as much as I wanted to then I had just left for the military, and so the caretaker was really my stepmom and my grandmother for a little bit, but mostly my stepmom. What I'm witnessing now, as we're recording and we're coming up on January 2024 will be 19 years since my dad passed and in many, many ways I feel like now, as far as I have come, working through his death and mourning that relationship and even grieving my own identity, loss of, you know, having father, having hero to you know, son that's alone in the world I'm realizing there's this whole other part of that grief journey that I'm now unpacking, and that's the other caretaker, the other people in my family that I'm realizing like we all went through the same experience, but we had a different experience and caretakers. I think that's something that I wasn't able to be and it's a whole other thing I'm trying to process.

0:43:17 - Speaker 1 Yeah, and even let's talk about grief too, because even 19 years later, you still have that grief. And I get a lot of questions about grief and how to work through it. I'm like, well, it's okay, it can last your entire life, you can miss that person, you can have your whatever relationship issues. But then now, with you going back, like what's caretaking, what are you afraid of or concerned?

0:43:49 - Speaker 2 I'm realizing that. How good question. I think I'm realizing how it is still showing up, how that grief is still showing up in the relationships I have with family members that were more of the caretaker role, if that makes sense. Because I feel like, okay, I've navigated more of the grief of that loss and they have two to some degree, but now there's like this whole other dynamic of okay, now I need to work around the loss that you and I had a little bit because you were this whole other role. I knew you as this one person but really you were this one person and caretaker.

And so now I'm having to navigate this other kind of loss really.

0:44:35 - Speaker 1 Do you like guilt?

0:44:38 - Speaker 2 Confusion, frustration, and the biggest thing I'm struggling with is not letting that confusion and frustration drive a wedge in that relationship and just acknowledging that they are grieving.

most likely they're grieving kind of again or there's this other quadrant, like I said, as the caretaker role, versus whatever that familial role was that I'm having to remind myself to. Okay, is this me? Maybe there's a little bit of ego here. Is this me getting frustrated with this person, this relationship, or do I just need to recognize that they still have things to go through? Because I can't relate to caretaker, I can only relate to the loss part.

0:45:29 - Speaker 1 Yeah, no expert here, but I think for me personally what has helped me heal, because my sister lover, she's the executive director of the foundation and we talk every day now and actually after mom passed, linda passed, we talk. We have a better relationship but she had stepped away different relationship with Linda versus me. I have come to a point where I just I don't want to sound just be grateful that people are in your life, grateful for life to be able to wake up and grateful for every experience and allowing people to and family members and friends to have their own experience.

And you yourself, just be a good person and stop putting too much pressure on ourselves, because, when you look around, like we should be enjoying this and there's a lot of trauma in the world, but how can we focus less on trauma and focus more on the joys of life? And that's one of the things. Even in the morning, when I'm still laying in bed with my husband, I'll turn over and be like all right, what are three things you're grateful for this morning? And he's like I hate it when you do this.

0:47:04 - Speaker 2 And I was like switch as well. If I did that for my wife, she'd like shut up, leave me alone.

0:47:08 - Speaker 1 He hates it. He hates it. And so he's like I don't wanna be coached this morning, like I'm not coaching you. But I was like maybe I need this and I was like, how about the five Pomeranians in bed or the roof over?

our head, or this beautiful sunrise, just simple things, because I think we focus so much on this person and this and what their thoughts are and our thoughts. In our head we have 80,000 to 100,000 thoughts per day and I think that's for 2024, positivity and gratitude, and I know there's clearly so much going on in this world.

0:47:53 - Speaker 2 There always is and always Always is.

0:47:56 - Speaker 1 But how can we be that light and not contribute to that energy?

0:48:09 - Speaker 2 Before I get to my final question yes, you have this passage from your book, or there is this passage from your book that I love, how, through all of life and all of your professional career and all of the loss and Linda, you would come back to this reminder for yourself and for the reader and for the listener now to keep note of lessons learned along the way. Quote this is healing comma find the love. Why do you think we usually fail to pay attention to lessons learned along the way and only after we endure pain, loss and suffering?

0:49:00 - Speaker 1 Because we're not staying present, we aren't realizing. You know. I'll go back to Linda passing away. She spoke of regret, regret, regret.

0:49:14 - Speaker 2 At the end.

0:49:14 - Speaker 1 At the end, she's speaking of that and Hoss this last three days, and I said, mom, let's not talk about regret. And she I told her. I said I am so proud of the woman I am today because you were my mother, so there is no regret. Let's talk about the good things in life. And she had a very hard life. But I don't know if I'm answering your question appropriately, but I'm just thinking of how we bypass all of the beautiful things and I think we need to pay more attention to that and just love more than other.

0:50:03 - Speaker 2 I answered your question, but that was just talking about To be more present and you know, literally your quote in this section was this is healing Find the love to love more. Find the love in the pain. Yeah, absolutely.

0:50:16 - Speaker 1 There is. There's always and I know we always hear this, this isn't happening to me, it's happening for me and such, but it is true Like how I wouldn't have been able to get where I am today, again, you know, through my youth and all the destruction, unless I found in this one moment where I said life is not meant to be this terrible way, it's meant to be something great. And that was in Hollywood, after a three day bender in a park, and I was like Karina, you are meant to be. Life is meant to be lived Like we are. You know all the odds to be here.

0:50:56 - Speaker 2 We are here, Just the fact that we're here, I forget the statistic I hear keeps changing but we are a 400 billion or something, 400 trillion, I don't know. The odds of you being you and me being here is like a one in a some trillion chance, you know. So lean into that, own that, surrender to it.

0:51:14 - Speaker 1 And I think that's a great way to wake up in the morning too. And I'm talking about husband and wife. What are you grateful for? I'm like you are one in 500 trillion. You're welcome. First of all, you're next to me.

0:51:26 - Speaker 2 Well, karina, thank you so much for being here, being so present, being so open and honest and vulnerable and all the things and sharing your life story. You've been through so much, you've done so much. A great testament to a phrase that I remind myself of often and say on the show a lot and that's where the mind goes, the body will follow.

0:51:45 - Speaker 1 Yes.

0:51:46 - Speaker 2 And so, with that, I want to ask my final question Moving forward in life, living a life ever forward how do you do it? What are those two words mean to you here today?

0:51:57 - Speaker 1 In the present moment this is really important to me, especially moving into 2024, only say yes to what feels right in my gut and my heart and knowing because I'm the type of person that I'll just keep giving, giving, giving, giving, try, try, try, work do it till the end until I burn out. Ever forward for me is listening to my staying true to myself and, like Karina, your gut knows what you're supposed to be doing.

0:52:35 - Speaker 2 There's no right or wrong answer. I always appreciate everyone and I'm curious to you know, coming up on seven years now of the show, I've had a few repeat guests, several repeat guests and. I'm always even more excited to kind of hear the next one. So next time I'm excited to see what hear, what yours is as well. I feel like there's a lot on the horizon and I know you're going to make it happen. So I'm excited for you. That's right, all right, and I'll see you soon.

0:53:05 - Speaker 1 Yes in Austin.

0:53:07 - Speaker 2 We're going to hang out and do the big silence.

0:53:09 - Speaker 1 Yeah.

0:53:10 - Speaker 2 Do you do the big silence?

0:53:12 - Speaker 1 Do you sit in the big thing?

0:53:13 - Speaker 2 What's the right word there? We're going to, we're going to be silent.

0:53:16 - Speaker 1 Big silence podcast. Austin, we'll see you next week.

0:53:20 - Speaker 2 We're going to have all of the information down on the show notes and video notes for everybody, but where can my audience go to get plugged into your world? What are you doing most of these?

0:53:28 - Speaker 1 days. Yeah, the big silencecom Karina Doncom Karina Don on Instagram. Big silence on Instagram.

0:53:34 - Speaker 2 We didn't really kind of unpack a look, Can you kind of share with us what is the big silence you know besides? The podcast and your mental health focus and all like what is the thing?

0:53:41 - Speaker 1 Yeah, so the big silence was founded in 2021, or a mental health foundation. So we have a program called therapy for all, which our donors provide therapy for someone who can't afford therapy. Oh, wow.

As a lot of therapists don't take health insurance and a lot of health insurance doesn't cover therapy. So we have therapists in our network. You can go to this bigsilencecom, get sign up for therapy, and that was really. That's the main program. We have other programs too. You know other resources, but that was really important to me because, realizing when I was a kid I needed therapy, didn't know where to go, my mom needed therapy. It's a very expensive, and so it's important to be able to share the share, the therapy.