Balancing Mind, Body, and Spirit: A Convo with Justine Astacio
Justine Astacio (one of the many inspiring women we met this summer at Project Beauty Expo) is a licensed therapist committed to helping others achieve inner peace. She started her company, Lotus Theory, on the premise that mental, physical and emotional wellness must be achieved relative to one another rather than on her own. Lotus Theory helps users come up with a comprehensive plan that balances mental health counseling, personal training sessions, and consultations with a nutritionist.
What were the events leading up to you starting Lotus Theory?
During the time that I was earning my advanced master's in mental health, I realized that I wanted to do something more than just have my own practice. I wanted to incorporate the different pieces of who I am and focus on the holistic aspects of wellness. I wanted to become not just a traditional licensed therapist, but a clinician who incorporated the knowledge and love that I have for fitness and nutrition.
Through my own research I noticed that there weren’t many companies who have all of these things in one and so I knew the need and demand was there. I explored and collected all the things that helped me personally to create balance in my life and combined them with my profession as a therapist.
I have been a client in every aspect: receiving counseling, having a personal trainer and hiring a nutritionist to help me feel amazing inside and out. I am a firm believer that not only do you have to receive the education requirements to do all of these things but you also have to know what it feels like to be the client in order to be successful in this field. Counseling introduced me to meditation, fitness introduced me to boxing, and nutrition introduced me to balanced eating (and that I don’t have to starve myself to reach my fitness goal and can still enjoy a burger and cocktail every once in a while!)
My own personal quest to find balance in my life, a.k.a inner peace, is what led me to develop Lotus Theory and the unique formula that defines it.
Looking back now, I realized that all of these steps were unconsciously developing in my life—but I couldn’t see them at the time. They became clear at exactly the right time....when I was ready to accept that this is my mission in my life, to not only manifest personal balance but to teach and encourage others to find and create balance in their own.
What is your mission?
My individual mission is to share my journey and knowledge of creating balance in your life. Creating a life where we know how to manage stress, identify our triggers, and develop a practice of self-scanning that consists of evaluating areas in life that are lacking and recharge them.
The Lotus Theory goal is to support individuals in creating a custom fit formula that will help them achieve holistic health and overall balance. Lotus Theory encourages clients to sustain their balance by incorporating everything they love to do while maintaining a total-body healthy lifestyle. It is important to remember that the relationship between our mind and body is constant and cyclical. Lotus Theory helps you find a common language that flows smoothly and in turn creates sustainable overall health.
I noticed that your services are multi-faceted, each addressing a different aspect of mental health and well-being. Can you speak to the importance of keeping a balance between all of these factors?
Counseling provides a safe space for people to be vulnerable to express their insecurities and frustrations within life. It allows them to discover and own who they are while receiving the necessary tools to help them change the things that they are not happy with. It has been proven that any type of movement helps alleviate stress and releases endorphins which is our natural “happy” medicine that our body produces. Outside of the known benefits of healthy eating, many of us struggle with the different pressures of the beauty industry where we have to look a certain way, and in order to do so we need to sacrifice certain things (like the type of food we eat). I don’t believe we need to sacrifice everything we enjoy just to fit into what society calls “beautiful." You can live a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying the simple pleasures in life. I am a big advocate of having everything in moderation, where you can one day have a burger and a glass of wine and enjoy it. The following day just make sure you have more protein and veggies. Everything is about balance, which is something I encourage everyone to partake in.
"As people of color, we have this false belief that counseling is for people who are diagnosed in the DSM - but the reality is, it isn’t. The majority of my clientele are not diagnosed and are just in need of a listening ear that isn’t passing judgement."
Can you talk about the "Lotus Theory Formula"?
S² + L² = BAL
Serenity + Strength + Life + Love = Balance
This is something I came up with while building Lotus Theory, speaking to my mentor, receiving personal therapy and while studying to become a psychotherapist - all at the same time.
I started to pay more attention to the things that are important to me and the different things that make my soul smile. This led me to building my own formula and then flourished to being the base line of Lotus Theory.
Each variable plays a significant role.
For instance, Serenity really focuses on the things that bring you inner peace, and mine is meditation, watching the sunset or even taking myself to the movies. I also like to call this “me” time.
I find Strength in my workouts. I love to challenge myself to see how strong I can really be. Words can’t even explain how I excited I was when I could finally do multiple sets of push-ups and pull-ups. It makes you feel like you are on top of the world and you can accomplish anything. This applies to any type of movement, cycling, yoga, etc. Challenging your body changes you physically and mentally.
Life is just simply managing all the responsibilities that we have as adults. For instance, work-life balance. Understanding that taking that short 15 minute break is a necessity. When you break, walk away from your desk, disconnect yourself for 15 mins, and allow yourself to recharge, you will be effective.
Last not but least, Love. As we mature in life, we start to realize that not only do we need human interactions to feel whole but that we also need to learn to continue to feed the ones that are fruitful to us. The idea here is to identify the relationships you need to heal and move on from as well those that are valuable to you that you need to continue to nourish. Here is where ego vs. love plays a big role—being able to identify your own shit while not allowing it to be detrimental to how you receive love. All of these variables play a big role in finding balance in our lives, which leads to happiness.
Once you identify all of the intricate details within each variable, then you can start practicing what I like to call “self-scan." These play a big role. When you are feeling overwhelmed with life as a whole, you can then engage in self-scanning and identify where you are lacking in your unique formula and what you need to recharge to alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed.
It is by now often pointed out that women of color aren't encouraged to take time and space for self-care. Do you see yourself + Lotus Theory as starting a movement to change this?
Absolutely! The first step is understanding that time is what WE make it. As women, we wear many hats and at times, we feel as if we don’t have enough time in a day to do everything and that we’d rather sacrifice ourselves for the people that we love. However, the reality is, if we just take a moment within all the chaos and sit in silence to clear our mind, we will realize that there is a better way to manage our time effectively. For example, we can say, I have time to “treat” myself today. If we schedule our “me” time like we schedule everything else that is a priority in our lives, we will be surprised on how much less stress we feel.
Where do you see LT going in the next few years?
Everywhere! [laughs] I do see us expanding our clientele to national level as well as publishing a few articles about the formula.
Do you have advice for any sisters who are unsure of how to address mental health + well-being? (i.e. self-care tips, how to talk to friends/family, etc.)
Yes! The first step is to start receiving counseling. As people of color, we have this false belief that counseling is for people who are diagnosed in the DSM—but the reality is, it isn’t. The majority of my clientele are not diagnosed and are just in need of a listening ear that isn’t passing judgement. Talking things out allows you to clear your head and get another perspective on things or permission to act on what your gut is telling you. We all have to talk to someone at one point in our lives. It’s healthy and it’s the first step to self-care—because you are taking the time out to invest in yourself.
Lastly, also understanding that we all feel—heartache, pain, happiness—because we are all imperfect. I always say the most interesting thing about the human race is that we know that we are all imperfect humans. However, we expect perfection; we have a hard time admitting our imperfections not only to one another but even to ourselves. The irony!