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Interviews

Finding Peace Within: A Journey with Megan Devito – Stress & Anxiety Coach

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Meet Megan Devito, a passionate coach dedicated to helping individuals overcome anxiety and find peace within themselves. Through her coaching practice, Megan draws from her personal journey with anxiety, where she transformed her own struggles into a mission to guide others towards a more fulfilling life. Her approach blends mindfulness, body awareness, and creativity to empower her clients to release anxiety, regain a sense of calm, and embrace their true potential. In this interview, Megan shares insights into her motivations, challenges she faced, and the transformative power of coaching in healing and managing anxiety.

What initially motivated you to start Megan Devito Coaching?

I started Megan Devito Coaching to help people who struggle with anxiety feel better. It sounds like such a short answer but, in truth, when you’re anxious, that’s really all you want. I’d venture to say that all of us have felt anxious from time to time but for some of us, we take it up a notch and feel anxious more often than not. On those days when you can’t remember the last time you were able to relax and shut your brain off, sometimes the only word that comes to mind is “better”.

Could you share a bit about your personal journey with anxiety and how it led you to where you are today? I remember back when I was in elementary school feeling sick at school and wanting to go home. 

There was  part of me that knew I wasn’t really sick but my stomach was always upset and I felt like I was going to cry so I would ask to go lay down in the sick room. As I entered junior high, my anxiety went up – like it does with so many teenagers when they enter puberty – and instead of feeling sick and wanting to go home to be with my mom and dad, I was suddenly very afraid of diseases and of getting sick In particular there was a day when I remember sitting in the library and seeing a magazine with Ryan White on the cover. Ryan was a teenager from Indiana who contracted HIV/AIDS through a blood transfusion to help treat his hemophilia.  Back then, we didn’t know what we know now and it was probably my first true anxiety or panic attack. That moment set off a chain reaction of fears about contracting AIDS, then cancer, then a multitude of other diseases that followed me around through high school, college, and up until I was almost 40.

Anything I would read about, see on TV or in a movie, or if I heard someone else was sick with something, I’d inevitably think I had symptoms; my thoughts would focus on how I felt and what I feared until I was absolutely paralyzed by fear. I spent days in bed where I’d sleep so I couldn’t think, I Googled symptoms (never ever do this…) had EEG’s MRI’s, multiple doctors appointments, to prove to myself I wasn’t dying. One day I was taking a walk listening to You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero and she said something that literally made me stop in the middle of the road.

This isn’t a direct quote but she said something along the lines of “Anxiety is wishing for what you don’t want.” I was floored. First of all because I thought she had NO IDEA what it was like to feel how I had felt for so long, Secondly because I didn’t know what she was talking about when she said she hired a coach, and Third, the whole idea that my thoughts weren’t premonitions or to be taken seriously had never ever occurred to me before.  It flipped a switch and it started with that quote and me learning more about what this coaching thing was she was talking about. I was a teacher and a swim coach at the time and had confidence in both areas but wanted out of the classroom and to have more freedom in my schedule and coaching seemed like a perfect fit. I signed up for a certification course that offered both Health and Life Coaching certifications and started immediately. During my certification process, I learned more about what cortisol and adrenaline do to the body, how thinking influences how we feel, and somewhere along the line I noticed I hadn’t felt anxious in awhile. I started coaching women on healthy eating and weight loss but knew it wasn’t for me and moved into helping women with anxiety about a year later. It’s been the greatest decision of my professional life.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while dealing with generalized and health anxiety, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I faced was trying to feel normal and live like nothing was wrong when everything felt dangerous – from where I was and the stories my mind would make up about touching a surface that I thought might have blood on it and I’d get a disease that way (What if I didn’t see it and it was there and…..) to thinking that no one else on the planet felt or thought the way I did.

I grew up in the 80’s and went to high school and college in the 90’s. No one talked about anxiety or depression and medication and therapy were very taboo back then. I was high functioning most of the time but inside my head and body, I was always on 100% alert, shaing, mentally scanning my body to see if I had another twinge or spot. I was terrified and made decisions and lived my life from that place of thinking I was dying. It was very difficult, very scary, and it felt like something I’d never be able to escape.

I thought I’d feel that way everyday for the rest of my life. I’d feel pretty normal and have periods where things were fine and I wasn’t anxious and then it would come back out of the blue and I’d spiral down again for sometimes weeks and months at a time focused on one fear or one side ache – whatever it was until it would pass. I’d have  a period of time where I was okay and I’d get triggered again.

How did getting your health coaching and life coaching certifications impact your approach to helping others with anxiety?

Once I realized what was actually going on inside my body and that I had could choose what thoughts to believe, it was a lightning bolt moment. I’m not saying that I never feel anxious anymore and I’ll never tell anyone I work with that either. I’m saying that when you know how your body feels when you’re anxious and you learn to trust that you’re safe, even when your mind starts coming up with all of the “what if” thoughts and the scary stories, you handle it completely differently.

The feeling are still uncomfortable but you aren’t taken down by the thoughts anymore because you know that when you feel anxious, you can’t believe what you think. What I learned in my certification courses, along with learning more about anxiety from other processionals on my own, gave me that insight. Our thoughts are powerful and even though the feeling of anxiety is very much in your body and a bodily experience, it’s the thoughts about how you feel or the thoughts that come up with you feel that way that make the feelings last longer or go away quickly. 

What inspired you to focus specifically on coaching teens and adults with anxiety?

I was a high school teacher for years so coaching teens seemed like an easy choice because I understand what it’s like to be a very anxious teenager. And of course, as an adult who was still very anxious until I was 40, I understood what it’s like from an adult perspective too. In both cases, I’ve always said that I can teach anyone anything so I started teaching people how to breathe properly and how to feel the anxiety in their bodies and once they understood those to simple steps, we could start coaching on their thoughts and let go or those beliefs that made them feel so awful.

Can you share a pivotal moment or realization that helped you break free from anxiety and move towards a more fulfilling life?

It was that walk. I was absolutely floored when I heard that I was wishing for what I don’t want. I actually felt a little bit angry that someone would say I was wishing to feel so awful  – angry Jen Sincero for suggesting it but angry at myself for wishing for things I absolutely did not want! In that moment I learned to question my thoughts when I was worrying and that seems so basic now but it wasn’t at that point in my life. It started all of the changes to get me where I am today.

What advice do you have for women who may be struggling with anxiety or similar challenges?

Before you do anything, exhale. I mean exhale until you are empty. Breathe in and tell yourself with conviction that you will not stay anxious, confused, feeling small, stuck, whatever, it is forever. You have to decide that you’re going to choose to believe, even without evidence, that you’re changing starting now then go all in on yourself. It’s not a change that will happen in a day but it’s a change that will happen in one moment when you choose to find someone to help you – a coach, a therapist, a friend who has been there too and recovered, and you keep deciding over and over until one day you wake up and you can’t remember the last time you felt anxious. 

How do you incorporate mindfulness and body awareness into your coaching practice?

Body awareness and mindfulness go hand in hand for me and it’s a huge part of what I incorporate into my coaching. So often we think memories are stored in your brain or that anxiety is your thoughts but both come from the body.  When you know exactly how your body feels when you’re anxious, you can use that feeling as a notification to stop believing whatever it is you’re thinking. As soon as you notice that you feel anxious, you use mindfulness or a technique that works for you to calm the feeling in your body and once that feeling has eased up or gone away, then you can choose to go back and deal with the situation that started the feeling or if it just came out of nowhere, you can let go and move on. The less thinking and energy you can give to figuring out why you felt anxious or to your thoughts the better. Anxiety is a thinking problem about how you feel so you have to feel, not think your way out.

In what ways do you think sharing personal stories and experiences can help others in their healing journey?

I always felt like I was the only kid who ever had the scary thoughts I had or who felt sick and scared and wanted to go home. The more people I talk to, the more I’ve learned there were so many of us out there and I still laugh and think NO WAY when someone mention what they used to feel anxious about. Especially if it brings up that Ryan White magazine – that should be a Gen X trauma poster. 

What strategies or techniques do you find most effective in helping individuals release anxiety and regain a sense of calm?

I’m all about the exhale. It’s simple, you can do it at work, in the care, in class, wherever. People say, just breathe but you’re already breathing. Just exhale, slow inhale, pause for a few seconds, and another very long exhale. There are a lot of grounding exercises out there and each one works, just not each one for every person. Finding the technique that works best for you to calm your nervous system is a process of trial and error. For sure breath will work but if one of the things you’re fearful of when you’re anxious is your breathing, that might make it worse so we can look at finding 5 things you can see right now that are your favorite color or focusing on trying to feel your big toes in your shoes. The point of the grounding techniques is to bring you back into the current moment – it’s hard to be thinking about all the awful things you’re imagining when you’re focused on your toe or the color purple.

How do you balance your coaching work with other aspects of your life, such as family and personal time?

I coach from home over the phone which helps a lot. I leave half an hour between my calls to change over the laundry or take my dogs outside. Right now, my kids are in school and I coach while they are gone, and try to end my calls by dinner time so I can relax and be with them. That doesn’t always work out but my schedule is mine to set and I leave room for flexibility for myself and for my clients. Life happens and I want to be understanding that they will inevitably have times when they need to reschedule or make up a session and so will I. We learn that in elementary school: Flexibility is a life skill. 

Can you discuss the role of creativity in healing and managing anxiety?

It’s my favorite part. Creative people tend to be more anxious that non-creative thinkers so on one hand, we have brilliant, animated, dramatic minds … that we use to write horror movies with in our minds. What I like to do is use people’s creativity as an outlet for them to view their anxiety as a story – how else would they write it? I’ll ask them describe the feeling in their body using their imagination and picture what it looks like. I’ve asked clients to draw and talk to their anxiety like it’s a little monster that we later turn  into a friend. I’ve had them use coloring, calligraphy, crocheting, painting, and writing as outlets when the feel anxious to move their thoughts away from their fears and how they feel. Creativity can grow or shrink anxiety depending on how you use it so we might as well use it to our benefit.

What are some common misconceptions about anxiety that you often encounter in your coaching practice?

The worst one is, “I am anxious” – that is always a statement of fact and identity and neither is true. You are a human who sometimes feels anxious. Another is, “I’ll never get better.” I’m proof that that isn’t true. And of course there’s always the “just relax” – if it were that easy, the entire world would be different right now. 

How do you envision the impact of your coaching work on the larger community in terms of promoting relaxation, creativity, and healing?

My mission is to help 10,000 people learn to feel calm and confident so anxiety doesn’t make their decisions or sabotage their lives. If each of those 10,000 people helps another person, we’ve knocked out a world-wide epidemic and think about all the things that would change if we weren’t all reacting out of fear and irrational thinking. We’d stop fighting all the time, give each other grace and compassion. We’d take time for each other, to relax, to have fun, to connect again. It’s coming and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

Finally, what are your future goals and aspirations for Megan Devito Coaching?

Right now I coach people individually and speak to groups about stress and anxiety management in the workplace, school, etc. In the next year, I’m planning to start a group program for teenagers that allows me to help them connect with other teens who are going through the same or similar struggles as they might be so they can support one another and deal with the overwhelming stress that goes hand in hand with being a teenager in post-Covid, social media obsessed America. They need the support and I can help them.

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by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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