World Mental Health Day is coming up on October 10, and it’s a great opportunity to consider ways that we can all reduce stress and be more joyful. None of us leads an entirely stress-free life. We wouldn’t be human if we were calm and centered all the time, but we can take small steps to prevent stress from accumulating. And improving our mental well-being has never been more important. The challenges so many faced during the pandemic fueled a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression, adding to the global mental health crisis that already existed.
I’ve been taking some small steps of my own. If I wake up a little anxious or off-kilter, I make a conscious choice to avoid looking at my phone, then I go for a short walk with my dog, Bash. And there are many, simple science-backed techniques and Microsteps that can support our mental health so we can be less stressed, more resilient, and better able to connect with the people and things that matter most.
This week, I’m honored to share a selection of six stories from courageous associates in our Thrive Challenge community who are consistently taking small steps to improve their mental health — and experiencing greater fulfillment.
1. Pahoua Xiong, Supercenter #2277; Clovis, CA
Pahoua is making herself a priority.
I loved hearing Thrive Challenge winner Pahoua's remarkable story. A refugee from Laos and the oldest of 11 children, “I was expected to help take care of the other kids,” she says. Pahoua has a challenging position as a coach at Walmart — her husband, Touso, is also an associate. The couple have nine children and four grandchildren. Last year Pahoua was feeling exhausted, stressed, and had chest pains. “I thought I was dying. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong physically, but said I was suffering from anxiety,” says Pahoua, who started attending group counseling sessions. “I’m a shy person and therapy helps me to express what I'm feeling without any fear. Also, in the morning, before anyone else is up, I meditate, I do breathing exercises and listen to motivational speakers. I can feel the stress and pressure lifting and I feel calm,” she says, adding that spending time in nature also helps her to unwind. “I look at the trees, I stretch and refocus. And at work, I do my best to support everyone. I share how I’ve suffered from mental health issues like anxiety, and explain how I’m taking time to breathe and relax.”
2. Andre Ball, Supercenter #0943; Casselberry, FL
Yoga is helping Andre de-stress and feel confident.
I’m so inspired by Andre, who says he was tired, depressed, and unmotivated when he started the Thrive Challenge and took some bold steps to improve his mental well-being, like starting yoga, which he’d never done before. “My friend, Nick, asked me to do yoga with him, and at first I was 100 percent against it. But he said: ‘Man, just try it.’ So I did,” says Andre. “The teacher was telling us to breathe and stretch and at the end of the session I said: “Dude, I actually feel better.” Now he finds that “yoga and breathing exercises help me de-stress from work.” Combining mindfulness with physical exercise — he’s taking daily walks and playing golf — a passion — and playing basketball with his godson have made a big difference. “I’m a lot more confident and I feel better about myself; I wake up in the morning with a burst of energy. I sing in the shower — and in the car. When I pull up to a stoplight, people start laughing. I’m feeling happiness and joy.”
3. Ginger Green, Walmart Home Office; Bentonville, AR
Ginger is meditating and bonding with her daughter.
Here’s an uplifting story from single mom Ginger, another Thrive Challenge winner, who was having a difficult time following her divorce and the death of her best friend from COVID. “I was very unhappy,” shares Ginger, who embarked on a mindfulness practice. “At night I close my eyes and listen to guided meditations on YouTube. They take you on a ‘journey’ down a path to the river with the sounds of nature in the background. It helps me clear my mind.” She’s also connecting in a deeper way with her daughter, Emerald. “We’re involved in Girl Scouts, which is bonding for both of us. I’m the troop leader and product manager for five cities and volunteer over 50 hours a month — more in Girl Scout Cookie season! It’s so fulfilling knowing I am making a small, positive contribution to the girls’ lives, including Emerald’s, so they know they can achieve anything. I’m doing good for myself and others and living my best life.”
4. Robin Dufault, Supercenter #2424; Ticonderoga, NY
Robin is relaxing in nature and focusing on gratitude.
Robin had a lot on her plate. “I was drowning in bills and stressed about my fiancé, Frederick, who has heart problems,” she shares. “I’m 54, I have five kids, and I take care of my 20-year-old niece, Cassandra, who has an intellectual disability.” It’s understandable that she felt overwhelmed. Robin downloaded the Thrive app and tried practical Microsteps, like making a note of how much she spends and eating well, while also making time to slow down and relax. “Frederick and I love to go for a ride and watch the sunset at Lake Champlain,” she says. “It’s our favorite thing to do — and it’s free. We remind ourselves how blessed we are to have each other.” She’s connecting with her kids and grandchildren, and is enjoying a closer bond with her niece. “Cass and I spend time coloring together and she loves to help me with yard work.” Robin also tells us: “I just got promoted to team lead. I was thrilled! I love my family, and I’m optimistic about life.” And we’re thrilled for you, Robin!
5. Adam Rizzo, Supercenter #1907; Hinsdale, NH
Adam is taking family hikes in the mountains.
I loved hearing how Adam, a Walmart store manager, has changed his life. When he started the Thrive Challenge, he described how he felt “an impending doom. My stress levels were high, and my quality of life was low.” The 41-year-old says he had extreme anxiety and decided to make some changes. He started hiking with his family. “It’s pretty cool when the six of us are out there on Rattlesnake Mountain. There are great views and it’s so peaceful. Obviously, running a busy Walmart store, there are a million things going on at once, so when I'm in nature and I can't see cars or traffic lights, it's really nice. At the end of the day, I close my eyes, breathe, and clear my mind,” he says. He’s eating home cooked meals instead of fast food, and making time to connect with his wife, Steph, who also works at Walmart. Adam tells us: “I’m much less anxious and my doctor is 100% pleased. I’m reengaged at home, enthusiastic at work, and I’m in a really good head space.”
6. Tatiana Oxendine, Neighborhood Market #7329; Saint Pauls, NC;
Tatiana is taking care of herself and feeling hopeful.
I’d like to leave you with Thrive Challenge winner Tatiana’s story of hope and courage. Tatiana was battling depression when her father passed away. “It's been so hard. One day I’d be fine and then ‘Boom!’ I felt terrible and plummeted.” She had insomnia and was eating fast food. This resilient 20-year-old began cooking — and eating with her family, “which brought us closer together.” She’s playing her favorite music — and singing. “My mom and I perform little ‘concerts’ while we’re doing laundry. We’ll sing at the top of our lungs to ‘I Want it That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys or ‘We Belong Together’ by Mariah Carey. And to keep a positive focus, I made a vision board to remind me of my goals. I’ve been having therapy and it’s been great for my mental health — I feel less anxious and I’m sleeping better. The Thrive Challenge has changed my life by helping me flip my negative habits into positive actions. And I can’t wait to see what my future holds.”
Thrive Global’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Aaliya Yaqub, says “If you feel like you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek professional help from your doctor or mental health professional. It’s always better to be proactive and seek help early whenever possible.”
And Walmart is committed to helping everyone lead better lives and offers great resources to support your mental well-being.
Finally, we’d love you all to share your stories on social media. Tell us about your favorite Microsteps and Resets, your accomplishments, and how you and your family and friends are thriving and finding joy, so we can celebrate together and motivate each other.