Changed for the Better

Changed for the Better: the power of arts in education, episode 5

Stephanie Lauredent-Diasio

Stephanie Lauredent-Diasio, owner of SLD Wellness is building her personal healing empire. In coming to terms with her own mental health struggles due to toxic work environments, she was able to elucidate a new path for herself and a new set of clientele. Today, Stephanie is a doula who incorporates her passion for practicing Reiki, yoga and meditation into her services, putting her clients’ well-being into focus as they bring new life into this world.

I saw a need to support others in their quest to have the freedom to be in charge of their lives.

I’ve known Stephanie for about 17 years. She was both my dance student and one of my Thespian stars, and I remember her as a kind, joyful, intelligent young woman who had a passion for learning and a love for being in the dance studio. She had a smile as bright as the sun and was always ready to contribute.

About a year ago, I reconnected with her after seeing her promote her new business on Facebook; she had started a wellness podcast which I proudly started listening to. She spoke about her mental health journey and how she had worked hard over the years to overcome some pretty intense anxiety, something I never really knew she dealt with while she was in school. After all, that brilliant smile went a long way in masking the pain.

During a long pandemic walk, I decided to listen to her episode on Creating Boundaries. As I heard what she had to say, I immediately connected with her sentiments, as I was dealing with some of my own boundary-related issues at the time. Her podcast inspired me to write my own blog post called Boundaries. It felt great to acknowledge how my former student, in her now-adult wisdom, was able to help me reflect on and work through some of my own struggles. I knew that she had a lot more to say, and that I’d enjoy some further conversation.

Once I had developed this podcast idea, I thought that Stephanie would be a great person to interview. Knowing how far she had come, and how much she enjoyed her dance and theater experiences in high school, I knew she would have a lot to contribute. When I reached out to her to see if she was interested, it took about five seconds for her to respond with a resounding “YES!”

Our conversation opened with Stephanie sharing how, just before we got on the Zoom, she had been thinking about the full-circle nature of her experience since high school. She explained how as a teenager, she was very much steeped in her internal world, dealing with anxiety but not really knowing how to confront it. When she was in the dance studio and in Thespian rehearsals, she quickly came to realize the things that soothed and calmed her agitated soul: movement, expressing herself physically and writing. It was because of her early exposure to these things that she was able to develop her own personal practices and eventually access the healing properties of these activities on her own. When I would move my body, I felt like I was in a better mental state…that was something that I realized if I stop doing this, my anxiety would just shoot back up.

If that is not a powerful effect from arts in education, I don’t know what is.

The healing properties of movement is not a secret; the mind-body connection is documented everywhere. I did a quick Google search and found a Harvard Health Publishing blog article that presented a ton of scientific studies laying out the different facets of research that look at how and why movement benefits mental health. In the studio, Stephanie learned and thankfully understood about these benefits in real-time. Of course, she isn’t the only one who spent her adolescence covering up her pain with a big smile. So many kids, being the people pleasers-they are, do not want (or are afraid) to let anyone see who they are or just how much they are hurting inside. When they gravitate to my classroom, I take solace in the notion that they can enjoy a little respite, even if it is just for an hour or two.

I am not a therapist, but every day I teach, I often see a marked difference in my students’ countenance, demeanor and willingness to respond once they finish a dance class or choreography session. And when we do yoga and guided meditation, it’s like they just returned from the spa. I feel it too, every time we start focusing on our breath.

Stephanie and I talked about the importance of finding your voice and trusting that people actually do want to hear what you have to say, when you have something valuable to share. The adolescent brain often screams “shut up!” when what they really need is to have an outlet to be heard. Honestly, even as we get older, that screaming voice still exists, as grownups are just “older adolescents,” to be sure. The adult version of ourselves, if we are lucky, have learned that it is okay to tamp down that voice and allow ourselves to share the wealth of our experience, but it doesn’t mean the niggling little voice isn’t there.

Of course, we touched on the importance of setting boundaries in our chat, as it is one of the biggest shifts in Stephanie’s mental health plan. She has learned that this is one of the most important strategies that can help regulate her when she doesn’t feel right. Doing regular check-ins with herself, especially when she feels off, is essential to make sure she is not pouring her energy into something or someone that does not serve her well-being.

In a past life, Stephanie had a career in marketing, which was…less than fulfilling. She took a hard look at what she really wanted and knew she needed to follow a different path. What did serve her well-being was teaching yoga classes, taking dance classes, and allowing her inner-child to play. These were the self-care activities that, from back in her high school years, she knew she could put her whole heart into. They satisfied her need to move and express herself in a way that she learned, early on, gave her solace and comfort. They were also mitigating factors of the stress of growing a business.

Leaning on her business degree, she made the shift to make a sensible business plan that is both sustainable and personally fulfilling. To that end, she’s had to “niche down” her myriad skills and interests, consolidating them to make her brand work. What she crafted was a thriving career in health and wellness that merges her passions and allows her to inspire her clients to find what best serves them. And, as a doula, she gets to help other women to bring new life into this world in a spiritually satisfying way.

Speaking of satisfying, how incredible is it to hear that someone benefitted from what you have to offer, not just in the moment, but years ago as it set the stage for a life-long love of that offering? Stephanie continues to take dance classes and teach yoga, all because in high school, she learned about all of these things. She considers each of her yoga classes as an opportunity to perform, and she looks forward to dancing in the recitals for the adult tap classes that she takes. While I can’t expect everyone to continue on in their training past graduation, it is so lovely to know that once in a while, your student is inspired to seek out dance opportunities on their own. As Stephanie puts it, I get to see all the little kids perform and I know that everyone is more excited about seeing the little kids but I don’t care; I’m going to put my whole heart into this and I’m going to have so much fun as an adult and I’m just going to live it up!

If only every adult could take a moment to embrace their inner child. We’d have a much more pleasant world.

Stephanie’s sage advice:

Aside from being yourself, realizing that you have your own special thing that you do so incredibly well, will get you so far in life. It’s not about the grades…it’s really about you as a person and the tools that you bring to the table that matters so much more than the grades you have. Yes, study. Yes, do your best. But, you don’t need to agonize over those things. If you put forth your best effort, if you learned from it, that’s what’s going to have a lasting impact.

Boom. Yes. Thank you, Stephanie.

Find Stephanie Lauredent-Diasio on…
Instagram: @sldwellness

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