Nyeesha D. Williams is a Mental Wellness Practitioner, Humanitarian, Author, Life Coach, Herbalist, Yogini & CEO at Serenity + Oasis, LLC. The ultimate supporter of women and mothers, Nyeesha dedicates her work to healing and uplifting others. We had a chance to talk to her about her holistic community for BIPOC mothers, her own motherhood journey, and how she keeps her mental health in check.
Can you start by giving us an overview of Serenity + Oasis?
I like to go by Serenity For Mothers. SFM is a virtual holistic community that was born from the trials and tribulations I’ve either experienced myself or by witnessing women around the world that connected with me over social media and mental wellness events. In the long term, Serenity For Mothers is a community and membership for BIPOC mothers. These memberships include access to qualified holistic practitioners, mental health coaching on a sliding scale, a 24-hour digital support group, and essentially all of the resources a mother could need. It’s unique in that our cause is centered around the thoughts, emotions, body, and spirit of these women.
That sounds incredibly needed and impactful. Can you first tell us a little about your personal experience with becoming a mother and how it affected you?
I delivered my oldest daughter at the age of 16. It wasn’t the best experience. I was judged by medical personnel at every prenatal visit, family members and my community. I brought my daughter into this world filled with fear, anxiety and confusion. So much for epigenetics! I get it…I’m sure my age played a major role in the treatment I received but I know if I had more of a communicative approach (personally and maternally), I wouldn’t have to endure a solo delivery in a cold basement surgical room. Like, there was no reason why I was 16 delivering my baby via c-section. But there I was a young Black girl who represented being too fast, too grown and lacked intelligence, yet being the complete opposite. Zani’yah, my oldest daughter, was my world. She never left my side. At 18, we moved into our own apartment (after house hopping) thanks to social services and I vowed to never treat her as if she was the root of my failure. I was told she would be countless times. She saved me. Her unconditional love made it clear that I was worthy of being my best. I would take her to work (please don’t tell the hospital, ha! ) and teach her about the human body. She would sneak, or I would sneak her, into classes at the community college I attended. I knew I wanted a family. I always did! And now here I am with another daughter, a son and my husband who I’ve known since I was 13 years old.
How did your experience with motherhood shape your current career path?
Becoming a mother amplified my desire to nurture, to care for, to empathize with, and to support women and young girls. My entire career has been wrapped around their healing and evolution. My first salaried job at the age of 18 was at my gynecologist office. Dr. Jacquelyn Dix trusted me enough to stand by the sides of women through preventative care, prenatal care, and/or reproductive disappointments. What I’m doing is my calling!
So is that all where the idea for Serenity + Oasis came from?
I’ve been a medical professional for over 20 years. My first job ever was in a major hospital in Newark, NJ which specialized in the health of children. It all comes full circle. I’ve dedicated 20+ years in the health and wellness of women from gynecology to infertility and reproductive medicine to emotional well-being research. It was important for me to use my experience and incorporate it in the most holistic and contemporary way. I noticed an institutional void for mothers, particularly BIPOC mothers, and it was important for me to do my best to fill it.
What inspires you the most?
Research suggests that BIPOC moms are more at risk of developing postpartum depression and related conditions. And I’m a prime example of this research. When I began incorporating mental health, meditation, yoga, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) into my patients’ lives the results were astounding. I mean even incorporating it in my life: I went from not being able to conceive for years, to miscarriages, to preterm labor to maternal fetal death, to “losing my mind.” This is a complaint for many women who look like me or understand the plight.
When you went to start the company, how did you decide on the things you chose to offer, like therapy and yoga services?
In 2012, NHIS (National Health Interview Survey) showed that yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness practices were the most popular complementary health approaches for adult women. In 2017, the use of mindfulness practices increased more than threefold from 4.1percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent due to its effectiveness in stress reduction. Along with the study and being living proof, it only made sense to provide the services I knew women craved and didn’t even know it.
What Complementary and Alternative Medicine practices have you noticed work best? Does any one hold more power?
Mental Health Coaching is my favorite but I’m also biased! If I have to choose it would probably be yoga and then meditation but I also understand the importance of having a doula by your side, healing from emotional and spiritual trauma and the benefits of EFT.
Can you explain the concept of the tiered services, and why you chose such a structure for members?
The two tiers are set up for mothers who are interested but just cannot commit to the responsibility of the membership at the moment, yet still would like some accessibility to a community, and the other provides moms with complimentary services, 1-on-1 access to practitioners, a 24/7 advocacy text line and so much more.
What stories/experiences do you work with most often?
Burnout, ideation, identity crisis post delivery, solitude, etc. Think about the female guardian figure in your life. What signs did they display when you were a child that you now know look like stress, depression, overworked, aloneness, displacement, or stuckness from not having access to more resources. Can you picture that? Or know someone that can?
Are some situations more tough than others?
Always suicidal ideation. Most times we don’t even realize what’s happening with our body as women let alone new mothers and even moms experiencing the empty nest syndrome.
That’s all tough stuff… I almost hate to ask, but how did the pandemic impact your services and what you were doing?
My services most certainly picked up during the pandemic because I was working with women who were trying to balance work and life. They were running businesses and had children running around the house. They had husbands or bosses to appease but didn’t see themselves as appealing. If I look at it as a business owner, it was one of the best times of my career. If I look at it as a woman and a mother, it was one of the most disheartening times of my career. My on-site services began after things began to open back up.
What did you have to work through in order to become the business owner you are today?
Let me say, I still work through things. We are creatures of habit and we are forever growing but when it comes to SFM in particular I had to work through my own grief and misrepresentation in the medical field. It took me to begin showing up for mothers to finally visit my deceased son at the cemetery. This was 11 years after burying him. I didn’t have a community of women to tell me it was going to be okay. I didn’t have holistic practitioners teaching me how to move trauma through my body through yoga or EFT. I wasn’t aware of the importance of mental health and the accessibility to it pre and post natal. And this is why the work is being done. I believe working through my own shit helps me more when it is time to advocate and promote the well-being of these women/mothers.
You also are an author, speaker, and work with people in other ways in addition to Serenity + Oasis- how do these aspects of yourself all work together and what is it like working on so many projects at once?
That’s a good question. If you asked me this about a year ago, I would have attempted to come up with some beautifully stated philosophical response. Nope, not today. Ha! So, I love speaking. If you were to look over my report cards in grammar school every single note would say how smart I am but I can’t seem to stop talking. I never expected to become an author and I only became one because my husband suggested that I share what I released during my sabbatical with family and friends. I listened, and here I am 8 years later still booking out workshops from those very pages. Lastly, I’m a huge fan of collaboration. So working with others who are in alignment and share similar visions with me only makes sense to tackle the vision with team players versus doing it alone. From the books to the wellness company to my collaborations, they are ALL about the importance of mental health, wellness, and self-care for mothers and their children.
How did you choose your team? What qualities did you look for?
My team is small. They are vetted, I watch how they speak about themselves, their community, their future and their past. It’s more about who they want to become and how that plays a role with our cause versus who they used to be. I also understand that I’m forever a student so I leave open forum discussions to see if I can learn from them.
In terms of getting your services out there, what do the marketing strategies look like? Do some tactics work better than others?
As a recent graduate of Harvard Business School, I would push myself to market market market but as a graduate of Flow not Force, I allow the strategies to come as organic as possible. A mother may share with her friends about our services and then our community grows. Or I may go into a seminar to speak and my story helps with awareness. I don’t even force or worry about that crap anymore. At least not right now or like I used to.
Love that. What are your plans for the future? How do you hope to see Serenity + Oasis grow?
I hope to see Serenity going into the work spaces for these mothers that are helping corporations expand. If we can begin bringing in corporate services for employees and the employers see how much their company can shift when a WOMAN is healthy and happy, the game changes. The world changes.
What do you think the future of BIPOC mental health and community building looks like? Are you seeing women becoming more open to receiving the support they need and are the necessary support systems being built out?
In one survey conducted between two and six weeks postpartum, Black and Hispanic mothers were more likely (43.9 percent and 46.8 percent, respectively) to report depressive symptoms than white mothers (at 31.1 percent). Although there’s more speaking out, I don’t think it’s really about them being open but about the system that doesn’t embrace them once they do. I have faith in change but while I’m faithful Imma keep at the work. The future looks bright either way.
What advice do you have for fellow females of color hoping to become entrepreneurs?
Use Your Story. Think about what makes you uniquely YOU. Think about the stories told by momma, daddy, grandma, or auntie, even the sad ones, and work your magic. Remember your ancestors are here with you and what was meant to be a deterrent was really here to build your resilience.
What does a day in your life as CEO of Serenity + Oasis look like? How do you manage a healthy work-life balance?
I literally stopped everything with Serenity For Mothers for about 6 months to find my balance again. I was losing so many family and friends and one of my biggest fears is being hypocritical. I noticed I was losing control over myself so everything stopped until I could breathe again. I share that because it’s a prime example of how serious I am about mental wellness and living authentically. Nowadays, I pace myself, I place everything on the calendar. If it isn’t there it ain’t real to me. I practice gratitude. I love on my children and then get inspired to love on my community versus the other way around.
We saw that you’re also filming a documentary. Can you tell us about that at all?
I’ve always been asked to document my life. Supposedly, it’s so unique to be a wife, homeschooling mother, sister, philanthropist, and community leader. Those are the words of someone else by the way. But in all seriousness, what I’ve overcome is inspirational and what I’ve healed from and am still healing from connects me to many women (no matter where you come from) and men. My work is what I like to call Universal Sisterhood. When women from all walks of life come together no matter race, creed, etc. and connect through storytelling. When the idea of recording and filming was introduced I declined for years for many reasons. Now I’m firmly working on ‘Healing Nyeesha’ which brings you into my life from beginning to now. On 1/12/2023, we are releasing Healing Nyeesha: A Pre-documentary Project where you get a bird’s eye view of the behind the scenes of my juggle. I have to be honest, it’s a struggle…I have never been vulnerable on this level before. This is next level transparency.
That sounds incredible! We’ll keep an eye out for that! Lastly, leave us with one thought on what we can all do to help our fellow women.
I will leave a Call To Action. To our allies, our friends, our community leaders, our business partners…to the WOMEN of the world this calls for a collective shift. A support like none other. This affects us ALL and when we realize that, true change will come. I thank you for this opportunity to sit down with you and even see something great in me to have this interview. I look forward to what women like you and I can do together.