Inspired by her own therapeutic life journey to break free from the hold of fear, stress, and anxiety, Molly Sommerhalder applies that experience in her work as a wellness coach and yoga teacher.
Through this effort, she helps guide people with lives ruled by materialistic needs and the social media expectations of perfection to fully heal and find balance.
Q&A with Molly Sommerhalder
Milwaukee Independent: Was there an event in your childhood that you feel influenced the trajectory of your adult life?
Molly Sommerhalder: There are a lot of events that have brought me to where I am today. I think events come and go throughout our life to guide us to where we need to go next. Every day I’m changing my thoughts, way of living, and breaking through old belief patterns. As I look back now, I connect more to events and what was the purpose of them. Right now, I look back at my connection to my grandma and mom and their courage to be women business owners. My grandma went to the first women’s business school in Oshkosh, which was unheard of at the time, and took over my grandpa’s business not too long after he passed away at a young age. My mom is also a strong and intelligent business owner in the wellness field. So I’m thrilled that I get to team up with her and be able to create my business to support her and be with her in this venture as well.
Milwaukee Independent: What is the fondest memory of your Grandmother, and how did her passing affect you?
Molly Sommerhalder: I was very young when my grandma passed away. She was a strong woman who had to take care of three children and run a business basically overnight when my grandpa passed away suddenly. I admire her courage and the fact that she had a thriving archery business which was not common for women in the 1960s or 1970s. She took it all in stride and was there for her family through it all. Her passing was the start of my anxiety, because I was afraid to lose someone close to me again. She was a big part of my youth and I had a bond with her that is still hard to explain. I still miss her every day but I feel her strength, determination, and courage lives on through me. Knowing this now helps guide me to battle against my constant stress and anxiety feelings.
Milwaukee Independent: When did you realize that stress and anxiety were having an affect on your life?
Molly Sommerhalder: I noticed stress and anxiety played a role in life when I had panic attacks in high school. I am a perfectionist to the core, so I would allow myself to get overwhelmed with my education. I never was a good test taker and the anxiety would also show when I would take tests. After that, stress and anxiety became how I lived my life both consciously and unconsciously.
Milwaukee Independent: Why do most people push themselves to perfection when their environment usually does not expect it?
Molly Sommerhalder: I think our environment now does expect it. We have taken on the world view or things that have been said to us throughout our lives that if you do x, then y will happen, and so forth. We have a level of perfection that is ruled by materials, careers, and relationship goals that are actually not realistic at all. This is from the perfectionism that we present on social media, which never shows the real truth about our lives. We internally take social media, world expectations, and such into our subconscious. It leave us wanting more or the feeling that we are not good enough. The real life is stepping out into your greatness and learning to be true to ourselves even if it is not perfect all the time. That is when a shift occurs, and changes in the world happen in the world.
Milwaukee Independent: How do you deal with the constant need to please others, and where does this habit usually come from?
Molly Sommerhalder: The constant need to please others steams from guilt. Guilt is actually a good thing to show us that we care, but not when we over consume ourselves with the need to please others. We lose what we need for ourselves in the process. I handle it by tuning into myself and where I want my life to go. Will this person or event guide me to where I want to be? Is it authentic to who I am? And mostly, is it worth my energy or time. If not, I have to let it fall away and know the choice I made was perfect for me.
Milwaukee Independent: What environmental factors particular to Milwaukee do you think impacts local resident the most?
Molly Sommerhalder: I think Milwaukee faces the same issues that the majority of our country does, such as the lack of knowledge or self-love to tune into what we need. Wisconsin has so many resources for ways to eat healthier, for example, and I think Milwaukee struggles in providing resources for everyone. There have definitely been changes to aid in this, but I think there needs to be more education on how our food effects our mood, stress, and behaviors. When we feel healthier, we have the opportunity to step into what we want in this world. Our internal and external environment definitely plays a role in our own wellness and how we overcome challenges that we personally encounter.
Milwaukee Independent: How did you discover yoga? And in what ways has it helped or healed you?
Molly Sommerhalder: I discovered yoga over 17 years ago. I had heard about it and I was interested to see how it would help me both physically and mentally. I attended my first class at the local YMCA with my mom and we both became hooked. We both had been into physical fitness for years, but yoga provided a level of awareness and stress management that no other modality had done for me. Yoga has now been a guide for me. I continue to learn something new about the practice or about myself every day. The practice has helped me expand as a person, healed my scoliosis/back issues, helped maintain my weight, released parts of my anxiety, brought awareness to what I need, and so much more.
Milwaukee Independent: What do you think would surprise people most to know about you?
Molly Sommerhalder: Besides practicing yoga, I love going for hikes and enjoy the winter months by snowshoeing. I have also downhill skied in Colorado several times and I went up north skiing as a kid. I was on the golf team in high school plus played the trumpet in concert, marching and jazz band. I play the harmonium now to keep up with my musical abilities. I am also a geek when it comes to haunted places and historical monuments/homes across the world. One of my favorite places to travel to is Louisiana.
Milwaukee Independent: What achievement are you most proud of, and what is the biggest personal goal you have yet to accomplish?
Molly Sommerhalder: I am most proud of my achievements through teaching yoga. I have had the opportunity to teach hundreds of people and be able to let them know that they can heal themselves. Being able to teach them the ancient practice of mantra and yoga is still exciting for me every time I step into my teaching space. My biggest personal goal now is to step into the wellness field and be able to guide more people in a different way. It inspires me as a coach as well, as to look at my own life and overcome my own personal challenges, to live a more balanced life.
Milwaukee Independent: Why did you want to become a Certified Wellness Coach and Certified Yoga Teacher?
Molly Sommerhalder: I first started out with my yoga teaching certification because it was a natural step. I was in a space with other teachers and with my mom opening her yoga studio. It felt right for me to be along for the journey with them. Now, over 10 years later, I want to be able to help people come in tune with themselves, and learn all aspects of yoga so they can find something that connects to them. I recently became a Certified Wellness Coach so I can guide people to fully heal themselves and be balanced beyond the practice of yoga. Wellness is finding tools and ways to live authentically by looking at your overall life including career, relationships, nutrition, spirituality, and mindset. I am honored to be able to help people in this new space.
Milwaukee Independent: What do you think is the biggest challenge or source of stress that individuals face in Milwaukee?
Molly Sommerhalder: This is personal to everyone. We each have our own stress factors in our lives and it is really up to the person to overcome their challenges. I learned as a Wellness Coach that our challenges change daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. There is no single answer because the beauty of the world is that we all are living our own life, and collectively come together to share. I think it is up to everyone to find their main challenge and start the process of breaking through it. When we live authentically, the world around us starts to shift along with our view of the world.
Milwaukee Independent: What connections do you see between personal anxiety and social trauma in Milwaukee communities?
Molly Sommerhalder: We have internalized the stress of the world around us. I once read that after 9/11, we internalized the terrorism danger alert and so now we are always in constant panic. We look at each other as enemies sometimes instead of being one and the same. Our fear and ego is creating this story in our head from our past experience to keep us protected. Through this, I think we become afraid to be ourselves or be open to other people’s beliefs and lifestyles, and forget that we are all sharing this human experience together.
Milwaukee Independent: Why do you think it is so hard for people to completely heal, or feel that they have healed after a traumatic experience?
Molly Sommerhalder: I think personally that we have been told to stay a victim. That we should let the traumatic event define who we are. That this event is one story of who we are. There are so many people who have taken these moments as learning tools and helped others that have had the same thing happen. The truth is, we are never alone in a situation and support is out there. We just have to learn that it is okay to share our story. The real suffering comes when we feel alone in our grief or situation. Also, we need to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is a tricky thing to talk about it. We always think of forgiveness as forgiving the other person. Yes, that has its place in the process, but the real forgiveness is forgiving yourself. It is both hard and rewarding at the same time.
Milwaukee Independent: What would you say to a young girl in Milwaukee with low self-esteem to help her cope with stress?
Molly Sommerhalder: Help is out there. Whether it is finding support through a trusted adult or certified professional. Look for guidance in your community and be open about your struggles. You might be surprised that you are not alone. Life is constantly changing and you have to let go of the fear that something bad will happen. Remember to look at the beauty that life brings and remember that you are more than your body. Your spirit and heart are what people need to see, so do not be afraid to be yourself. Your internal light will shine brighter than any part of your body.