Like many of us, more than one would think, Amanda Huggins once suffered from crippling anxiety. Though outwardly happy, her anxiety always bubbled below the surface. With a fast-paced career in tech, she travelled the world and has a packed social calendar, though her inner battle constantly raged. Then, in 2018, Amanda embarked on her journey as a life coach, helping people worldwide deal with anxiety and promote mindfulness through podcasts, retreats, writing projects and more. The award-winning coach is set to make her debut at Soneva‘s new SOUL Festival on 29 September, where she’ll share her wisdom and help harried and often burnt-out visitors to the island with supportive tips. Ahead of the pioneering new festival, we sat down with Amanda Huggins to get her travel tips, memories, hacks and a sneak peek of what widsom Soneva SOUL attendees can expect to learn…
What’s your road most travelled?
In all senses, the road most travelled is the simplest of all: the road to ‘home’. I spent years of my life in conflict with, and in disconnection from, myself. The act of ‘coming home’ to me has become both a daily practice and a lifelong journey; one of self-discovery, alignment with my values, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships. It’s a road I happily walk, and it has played a pivotal role in shaping all aspects of my life, and the joy I derive from it.
Where are you based now?
I’m currently based in Astoria, New York City, after nearly a decade on the West Coast as a Californian.
If someone were to spend 24 hours in New York City, where would you send them?
To all of the parks! Central Park, Astoria Park, Prospect Park… NYC is truly a concrete jungle, and in a way, it makes visiting a sprawling park all that more special. Not to mention, you’ll almost always stumble upon something quintessentially New York while park-hopping: live music, free art shows and performances, and local farmer’s markets.
What can you not travel without?
My journal. I find I get wonderful bursts of inspiration when I’m in a new city or country, and I love being able to capture my thoughts, reflect on my travels, or do a little written gratitude practice.
Tell me about Soneva’s SOUL Festival – what can guests look forward to?
As a Holistic Anxiety Coach, my mission is to help people identify the root cause of their anxiety and address it in mind, body, and SOUL, so that they create live a free, joyful, and fulfilling life for themselves. I’ll be teaching about on my approach to holistic anxiety management, and within those workshops and panels, I’ll be addressing other key components of healing as well.
What are some main takeaways from your events/talks at SOUL Festival?
Anxiety is a call from your SOUL to heal. It’s the physical manifestation of emotional unrest, and when you’re able to identify and heal that deep unrest, you’ll open up the space to embody the most empowered version of yourself.
Another central message is that anxiety is not a sign of weakness but rather an opportunity for growth. It’s a signal that something within us needs attention and care. Often, folks tend to judge or shame themselves for feeling overwhelmed or anxious; and I hope to impart a deeper awareness of the importance of self-compassion and forgiveness throughout the healing process.
Additionally, my approach underscores the significance of embracing emotional vulnerability as a superpower. In a world that often encourages us to suppress our feelings, recognizing and honouring the full spectrum of our emotions becomes a profound act of self-love. By ‘feeling it to heal it,’ we open ourselves up to authentic healing and personal growth.
What are you most looking forward to about visiting Soneva? Do you think the resort aligns with your teachings?
Soneva Fushi is in absolute dream alignment! Aside from the resort being stunning, Soneva Fushi has a wonderful, impact-driven mission of environmental accountability and sustainability. Aside from teaching and meeting all of the wonderful people in attendance at SOUL, I’m so looking forward to exploring the resort, finding places to tuck away with a good book, and engage in some deep restoration.
Travelling can often cause anxiety, especially with long journeys and different time zones. What are some easy tips for mindfulness during travel?
Certainly! Here are some of my favourite tips.
– Breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises to stay grounded during your journey. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold for four, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for another count of four. This simple technique can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
– Practice mindful observation: Whether you’re in an airport, on a plane, or at your destination, take moments to engage in mindful observation. Pay close attention to your surroundings – the colours, shapes, and sounds. This practice can help you stay present and reduce anxiety.
– Journalling: Carry a travel journal and jot down your thoughts and feelings during your journey. Writing can be a therapeutic way to process your experiences and reduce anxiety. You can also use it to set intentions for your trip.
– Stay hydrated: Dehydration can worsen feelings of anxiety and fatigue. Drink plenty of water throughout your journey to stay refreshed and alert.
– Stretch and move: While seated for long periods during flights or road trips, take breaks to stretch and move around. Simple stretches and walking can alleviate physical tension and improve circulation, which can positively affect your mood.
How do you stay calm when travelling?
Gentle preparedness, and flexibility. By ‘gentle preparedness’, I mean that I’ll review and organize my travel must-haves: I know where my passport and itinerary are, my alarms are set, and I’ve checked my bags. After that, I try not to overthink or stress too much about what I packed or the travel itself – as long as I’m set to ‘get there’, I’m set enough. Flexibility is key, too: I’ve learned not to be too attached to arrival and departure times.
Do you have an in-flight ritual?
Absolutely! I always meditate during takeoff, and once we’re in the air, I’ll grab my journal and write down some intentions for my trip. For long flights, I also like to go in with a clean, ‘naked’ face, and bring with me a sheet face mask and some serums (flying dries my skin out like crazy!). And, of course, lots and lots of water.
As a frequent traveller, have you had a recent travel discovery?
This may not be much of a new discovery, but I’ve realised how much I enjoy waking up to watch the sunrise at least once, wherever I’m travelling. It’s such a nice, peaceful way to take in a new city or country. It’s become one of my favourite rituals.
Where’s on your travel list this year? Where do you think are some destinations you’ve visited to promote mindfulness and calm/soothe anxiety? Do you think travel can actually help ease anxiety?
This year, I’d really love to go back to Italy. I taught a retreat in Tuscany before the pandemic, and I’ve been dreaming of returning ever since.
I absolutely believe that travel can help ease anxiety. It’s a fantastic way to get out of your comfort zone… and out of your head. That said, for anxious folks, I think it’s important to build in a day or two to mentally adjust to a new locale – sometimes, our mind and body need a bit of time to catch up & actually drop into relaxation.