Q – Thanks for chatting with us. Our very own UNICORN, Harry, gave you a glowing recommendation so we’re super excited to get to chat with you. Can you start with a quick intro for our readers who might not have come across your work yet?
My name is Alayna Joy and I’m an online content creator. I make videos, mostly about the LGBTQ community and wellness and I also try stuff. Ya know in case you’re into something more lighthearted. I have a series on my channel called ‘I Tried’.
My focus is mostly the LGBTQ community because I’m bi myself.
I focus on mental health which includes compassion and mindfulness.
Q – How did you decide to start doing all of your content creation journey?
Journey. I have a 2020 drinking game. Drink every time someone says journey.
U – We can but it’s kinda early for you with the time difference?
That’s the word of 2020, journey.
I have always loved video. Recording video, editing video, making stuff through the medium of video. I discovered it when I was in elementary school all through my education, every chance that I would get, I would be making videos. I’d do school projects as a video. I just fell in love with it straight away.
When YouTube became a thing – back when I was in high school. I found it, this platform where people were sharing their own videos but they were like this little community.
People would post a video, then somebody else would respond. Then make their own video. There were collab channels and
I just wanted to be a part of it
I thought it was so exciting and yeah I just wanted in.
I started posting videos when I was in high school aged 18. I started posting weekly and haven’t stopped. It’s been almost a decade.
Wow that’s dedication?!
Yeah I just love it.
So now it’s your main job?
It’s my full time job now. Definitely has evolved over the years.
Q – You also teach in schools and clinics across North America. Do you want to tell us a bit more about that?
I say North America but it’s basically in the US and Canada.
I trained in a program called MSC – Mindful Self Compassion back in 2016.
I’ve been teaching that program ever since. It’s an 8 week workshop based program. It’s all around mindfulness and self compassion and it’s a big focus on self compassion.
I then travelled around doing talks and workshops in schools and at YouTube conventions and other online conventions.
Q – The theme of our 3rd issue is ‘Wellness’. Now it goes without saying that you’re a big fan of this too, but what’s your top tips for taking care of your own wellness during these strange and uncertain times?
Yeah BIG question.
I, if I wanna focus on my two loves. Mindfulness and compassion. There’s a lot to unpack within each of those concepts.
Let me give you a run down. I’m passionate about mindfulness and compassion,
these are practises that have absolutely changed my life.
I discovered them back in university.
I struggled with anxiety my entire life. But in university my anxiety attacks started to get out of control. I was completely overwhelmed, drowning and I discovered mindfulness and compassion and they changed everything.
I think that these are practises that are especially relevant right now. The entire world is overwhelming. The whole world is drowning.
Mindfulness essentially asks us to check in and see what we’re experiencing right now in this moment; and not just the good stuff. This is where people sometimes misunderstand mindfulness.
It’s not about paying attention to the present moment when we’re sitting in a field, on a cliff watching a sunset and life is like YOLO, live in the moment, mindfulness.
Or even #journey?
It’s about experiencing and accepting. Observing and validating your experience right here, right now in this moment no matter what that is. You can be mindful in the middle of a panic attack and it’s just as important and it’s just as helpful.
The 1st step, for me, in terms of self care is about that continuous checking in. That continuous
‘what am I experiencing right now?’
When you start getting caught up in the fears of ‘What’s going to happen tomorrow?’ and ‘What’s going to happen a week from now?’ ‘What’s going to happen to the world in a month?’. That cycle of panic and catastrophizing.
Being able to notice that and then to go ‘ok, that’s all fine and good but we don’t know those things, we don’t have those answers’. We come back to right now, what am I experiencing?
- My heart rate is elevated
- My thoughts are full of fear
That’s ok, that’s my experience. Being able to pull yourself back into right now, into the present moment.
If you want a more grounding practise – because it can be difficult at first. Check in with your feet.
Yeah. You can focus anywhere but specifically your feet as they’re the furthest from your brain. You can do it right now!
- What temperature are your feet?
- Are they cold, are they hot, are they neutral?
- Can you feel your toes?
- Can you feel each one of your toes? Can you wiggle them one by one?
- Can you put pressure on different parts of your feet?
We need mindfulness in order to then move to self compassion. Self compassion basically asks us to treat ourselves with the same kindness we would use for someone we love. Because why don’t we get to be included?
Mindfulness asks: “What are we experiencing right now?”
Self Compassion asks: “What do I need right now?”
Then, it’s about offering yourself whatever that thing is. Maybe it’s that you need to turn the news off. Maybe you need to call a loved one
Maybe you need a nap or to binge a netflix show.
It’s about asking yourself what you need and then giving yourself that thing to the best of your ability.
Then taking it a step further. Sometimes we can’t always give ourselves what we need and we need to be kind to ourselves. That’s ok too. It’s about holding our experience with warmth and not judgement or condemnation.
The 3rd and final piece, I’m almost done I swear. Would be compassion for other people, which often we jump to and then we leave ourselves out. We think it’s about everybody else and that ourselves are not important right now.
Incorrect! You can’t give from an empty cup right? But, a great tip for pulling yourself out of an anxiety spiral, you shift your focus from ‘What’s going to happen in my life? What’s going to happen in the world?’ to ‘what’s something kind I can do for somebody today?’ ‘What’s a compassionate act I could do?’.
Maybe it’s calling your grandma, maybe it’s writing a letter to a friend. Or donating money- if you’ve got it. Any little act of compassion are great ways to shift an anxiety brain.
That’s it! Pheww. That’s the base level of practises I use to look after myself.
We suppose it’s different for everybody right?
Yeah totally. There’s no one size fits all. There’s no single band-aid I can say ‘This is what you need, this is what’s gonna make you feel better’. You can only answer that for yourself.
The 1st step is stopping, turning off stimulation, turning inward and asking yourself that question.
Most of us don’t even ask ourselves what we need because we’re caught up in doing, what’s the next thing to do, where do I need to be?
We don’t stop and say ‘ooo what do I need?’ How am I feeling?’.
So to sum it up it’s:
Be mindful about what’s going on.
Think about what you need.
Think about what other people need.
Yeah you’ve just defined self compassion. It’s:
- Mindfulness – stop and notice
- Self kindness – non judgement, treating ourselves with care
- Common humanity – recognising that we’re all connected
This is a global pandemic. We are so much more connected, we have so much in common. We always have been but this makes us realise it more.
Q – We love your goodbye party for being bi. We noticed there’s a theme with your videos and that you’ve also been sucked into the bi realm of TikTok?
There’s no way you’re bringing up TikTok right now!? *laughs*
U – Yeah for sure. It’s a must have in isolation times right?
Just in the past couple days I’ve fallen deep because hey?! I’ve got time. I’ve got nowhere else to be It’s a lot of fun. People can judge me if they want.
I’m gonna be 28 this month. I’m gonna be 28 and making TikToks. I’m all for it, but I’m not trying to convince you to download it (I completely am).
Maybe you could for our readers? It’s a great way to get creative and active during isolation.
Yeah and it’s a great way to stay connected!
Q – Since Covid19 have you found yourself receiving more DM’s and having more people reaching out to you?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had more people reach out, but I have seen a stronger response to wellness content.
And I’m included in that, as a viewer and reader.
I appreciate seeing creators putting out content that expresses their experience.
Then you feel like you’re not alone.
You start to think ‘Oh so other people are also on a rollercoaster of emotions?’ ‘Other people are also surprised by their lack of productivity, it’s not just me!’. ‘It’s not just me that feels afraid and uncertain.’
I think there’s an importance in sharing not just the things that you’re doing and the things that make you feel better, but also sharing when you’re not feeling so hot. It’s a dangerous line sometimes when it comes to posting.
Like you could post all the things you’re doing to help your mental health and all the things that I’m doing great. But just posting that piece? It can look like it’s not the full story. It can be a bit like ‘look at me over here, I’m thriving’.
Your audience might see that and think ‘I’m not doing those things’, ‘I’m not doing yoga every single day’.
I see the common humanity in my DMs and the people commenting on my posts and reaching out.
Q – You film a lot of your videos at home and with your partner. How do you both separate your online life and work to your personal one in order to give yourselves the space to breathe and chill?
That’s a bit tough. Whilst he’s in a lot of my videos and content, we don’t share a lot about our personal life online.
People are often surprised to know that I’m actually quite a private person. Which you wouldn’t think necessarily when looking at my content.
His and my life and our relationship? We keep that pretty close to our chests.
In terms of separating work and home? That took years! Years of trying to figure out where those boundaries lie. You could always be doing something more, you could always be working or doing some project.
So for me setting business hours, I tend to shut everything off around 4pm. No more emails, no more work. Doing my best to stick to those.
I try to set different spaces.
I have my desk which I sit at during my work day and only do work at. Like if I wanna journal, I go do that on the couch. It’s good for me to exit the work space and go into my home space.
With Dallas, he hates being on camera. He doesn’t like being in any of my videos. It’s not his world but I pay him with food. So if you see a video with him either in it or behind the camera? You know he has sushi that day!
Q – Looking back over your life, what would be the one bit of advice you wish you could have given your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to
be who you are unapologetically.
I spent a lot of years trying to emulate people. Which is fair, I don’t judge myself for that, because we all have role models as we try to figure out who we are.
I spent a lot of time trying to model myself off different people, rather than just being who I am. If you go through my channel, my progressions, my ‘journey’
There was a humour phase that I went through. Different types of humour. Then I found mindfulness and compassion and I wanted to talk about it, but then I thought I had to be serious if I did. I thought I had to box away the humorous, sarcastic side of me because they don’t mix.
Coming out. I had so much fear of how I was going to be perceived. It took me years to come out. I don’t wanna say I wish I had done it earlier, but
that fear was me being afraid of being myself.
Now, learning how to make stuff that I like and be my full self. It’s a win win. If someone doesn’t like me? Ok. At least I’ve been my authentic self. If they do like me great.
When you put on a persona, they’re not even liking, or disliking, the real you. My advice is, you can’t lose being yourself.
Q – Final question before we let you go. If you had some advice for yourself pre Covid19 times what would it be and why?
Gratitude and savouring.
But that goes for current isolation as well. Pre, current and post too. Being actively grateful for the people in my life and all the good things in my life. There are so many things to be grateful for, even on my worst day.
Then savouring those good experiences. Hugging a loved one.
Now that many of these things we don’t have access to,
I now look forward to savouring them deeply once this is all over.
She / Her | Canada | Mindfulness teacher and content creator
Alayna Joy is a cat-loving LGBT+ YouTube content creator from Canada. She’s been making videos in various bedrooms, wearing various cat shirts, for her channel since 2012. When she’s not creating videos, Alayna is speaking about Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, and sexuality in schools and clinics across North America, as she is a trained Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher.
Alayna was interviewed by Lucy Everett