During the 2020 edition Women’s Heritage Walk, Jody Ballard opened the floor for anonymous questions to be asked. She has answered them below based on her extensive global experience as a clinical counselor. 

  1. How and when did the idea for the WHW come to you?

After arriving in UAE in 2010, I was acutely aware of how much I did not know about the country in which I was about to live. Started reading everything I could find. Read a lot about the migration to and from Al Ain.  LOVED visiting Al Ain. Saw the discrepancy between the lives of older Emiratis and the youth and decided to write a novel about passing legacy. Also was bothered by how little my family in Hawaii and Montana knew about this part of the world and the degree of fear they had without knowledge. Decided a book that might touch a common theme of elders needing to leave legacy would be useful. I knew to touch all my senses to assist in writing and to more fully understand the daily habit borne from the hardships of the desert I had to immerse myself in the experience.  Very quickly friends wanted to go with me and Voila!

  1. From the walk of ancestors, what is your learning?

That women all over the world are the same.  Our brains are programmed to ‘tend and men’ for self-survival and the survival of our children. I learned the women of past were strong, resilient and creative. I learned shared hardships are not burdensome.

  1. How do you recommend motivating yourself when you are so busy working, long hours, kids , husband , friends and life in general?

Taking time for oneself ensures you have better coping strategies for when things REALLY go badly and the reserves to solve problems. It is difficult and often feels selfish if you do not remind yourself that you are at the core of the family and the ambiance, health and welfare usually rests in your hands. By taking this time for self-care you are better able to react with more care and kindness and make better considered decision for self and family and not just react. In the reactive mode we slip into McDonalds (and feel relieved initially then guilty), in the planned and well considered mode we have soups and salads ready to eat at home.

  1. Have you ever been able to score all 10s on the Can’t get a better scale? How do you know when you are there?

Scoring at 10 is an impossible objective because, as human beings, we are not perfect, nor can we ever be. WE can strive to be the best WE can uniquely be. However, because   change and grow every day, this scale will shift with all of life’s challenges. Checking in with yourself and asking yourself where you sit on this scale will serve as a constant reminder of the areas in which you might want to focus or make positive alterations to your behavior. Neglect in any area affects others. ‘Know Yourself’ means paying attention to those areas less comfortable and gives us insight into where we might benefit most from enhanced behavioral changes. Discussing your wellness with a trusted friend or partner on a scheduled basis serves to applaud positive efforts and redirect others.

  1. What’s your best advice to try and “Break the cycle” for any sort of genetic predispositions (coming from a family suffering from substance/alcohol abuse) to find healthy coping?

You’ve taken the first step in recognizing and accepting that there is a cycle and knowing you must develop a healthy coping mechanism for yourself and also for dealing with a family member suffering from addiction (when those we love suffer – we suffer). Knowledge is power. Educate yourself on the disease, the same way you might try to learn all about Parkinson’s disease if a family is afflicted, for example. By doing this, you will find best practices for helping yourself and others.

  1. What steps can you take to change the way you talk to yourself from negative to positive?

First and foremost, be aware. Take the time and effort to listen to your internal voice Write them down every day for two weeks. Create a short graph noting the date, time, precipitating event, and your physical and emotional reaction as well as the thoughts, then look back at the patterns. Just take note and try not to judge. This will give you insight into how you respond to stress and challenges.

The next step is to examine the responses and determine if they are entirely accurate.

Most likely, they will be a harmful exaggeration. However, if there is some truth look at how you can change the voices. My voices are hypercritical and exaggerated……make them true. i.e., “I am so stupid,” becomes, “I didn’t handle that well, but I am learning and will now do better next time.” Write these more positive, nurturing TRUE messages in your phone and refer to them as needed. Husbands can be your greatest gift. We are not all taught to know how to have open discussions. It is a learned process. Start perhaps with issues not so emotionally loaded and work up to this

  1. My husband has a severe hereditary illness in his family. He has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it but refuses to talk about it. I want to talk about it but every time he gets defensive. How can I move him forward?

Fear is a powerful emotion and many people resist looking at their own demise directly. Also, he may not want to discuss this issue because it is not imminent. Husbands can be your greatest gift. We are not all taught to know how to have open discussions. It is a learned process. Start perhaps with issues not so emotionally loaded and work up to this However, if it is scaring you, try to let him know of your fears and ask him to help with reducing this angst for you. When in discussion, you might open other doors and points of discussion.  Be open to any and all conversation.

  1. What is your favorite place you have lived?

The place I am in right now. It is self-destructive to wish you were in the last place and put all your energy into wishing you were somewhere else. People feel this and are less likely to attach to someone who is not present.

  1. How do you think that women’s roles have changed (in society) in your lifetime in the United States and here in the UAE? How do you balance or blend work and personal life?

Societal norms for women have changed tremendously in my lifetime, and I am grateful to every woman who pushed the glass ceiling and fought for equality……we are not there yet but are inching closer. I have witnessed the NOW, Equal Right Amendment Movement, Reed vs Reed, Roe vs Wade, Fair Housing Act, Title IX, Sandra Day O’Connor, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, women in combat, Violence Against Women Act, and most recently Me Too. We’ve come a long way!  All those that came before me helped pave the way for me to have better access to programs which assisted me in being able to work and have a family life. My husband has always been supportive and sees me as an equal – this helps tremendously and begins with women recognizing their worth.

By keeping sight of my values, understanding, and working within the framework of the five components of wellness, I have continuously self-corrected to maintain balance. We know when things are out of whack. Now you have the tools to examine then self-correct.

  1. What is the best way to start / form better habits?

Take an inventory of those habits which are not serving you well. Decide on the small, incremental steps you can take to develop more adaptive habits. THEN push hard to do them every day for three months until they become inculcated into your daily routine…….until they become rote. Then when you slip – and you will – get back on the designated path.

Recently I heard that it is important to identify your strengths and weaknesses and then forget about your weaknesses (ignore it) while increasing a power of your strengths. Is it true? I always thought we should work on your weaknesses.

Knowledge is power on both ends of the spectrum. It is important not to focus on the weaknesses but to understand why we do what we do. My go-to coping style is to eat something which soothes my agitated belly. But I know this is a polyvagal Response from my primal brain and breathing calms me more efficiently and effectively than eating ice cream. So, when I go for ice cream after an eventful day, I know why and know the better pathway forward.

  1. What advice you would give to someone who suffers from mental bullying?

 I am so sorry this is happening to you. Mental bullying, whether it is verbal or emotional,is the most hurtful. I was working with a child who was being abused. He told me he would rather his mommy hit him then tell him he was worthless. “The slap marks go away,” he told me.

The scars this abuse leaves lasting scars and can cause us to feel shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear, AND affect our mental health, work performance, self-esteem, relationships, and much more.

Mental bullying takes many forms, some are more subtle (sarcasm) than others, but none have a place in the workforce. If this is happening at work, please talk to someone you trust and  someone with the power to help you with this abuse NOW. Even though you understand this is an illness on the part of the person bullying and not a personal attack on you, it is nonetheless hurtful and disruptive. You will need support and guidance. Don’t suffer this alone.

 If this is occurring at home, and if it has been a chronic pattern, you will need to seek professional help. You made the first step in asking this question. That took a lot of strength you named it and sought advice. You know you don’t deserve this treatment, please remind yourself of this often until you rectify the situation and stop the abuse.

Questions to be answered in the next post

  1. How do you empower yourself on a daily basis?
  2. When you are triggered by a past traumatic experience, what are action steps that someone can take to move past it or not dwell on the situation?
  3. After the health challenges you successfully went through, what are the bigger changes you have embraced in life? What is the most important things apart from family?
  4. What are your top 3 self care tips for optimal mental health?


Our History

The Women's Heritage Walk is a life-affirming trek inspired by the worldwide history of women who walked to feed their families, bring water to the villages, trade goods and services, and migrate to safer, more hospitable lands. Women have been on the move for centuries, often reacting to the weather, food, and resources.

The Walks was a natural corollary to the three-day Wellness Seminars established in and around the mountains of Garmisch, Germany, in 1992. This format expanded to Poland, Rome, Italy, and into schools to meet the growing need to address the social and emotional need to cope with increased stress, particularly bullying in schools. Women's Heritage Walk, established in 2015, has become an unrivaled multi-layered experience for women.

The Women's Heritage Walk is an unrivaled multi-layered experience for women. It is rooted in the belief that women empower each other, their families, communities, and themselves through growth, learning, and pushing their limits.

Preparation begins three months in advance with a curated program to prepare walkers mentally and physically for an arduous, exciting adventure. This experiential journey captivates all the senses and enhances each woman's physical strength and internal fortitude while enhancing an individual's personal health and wellness path.

This adventure allows walkers to immerse themselves authentically in the local country's cultural heritage. Daily programs stimulate a more profound understanding of our foremothers' life experiences and offer a new appreciation for the habits and customs borne from the hardships of early life.

Participants forge deeper bonds with themselves and each other through physical, mental, and emotional development. Shared hardships endured with common goals create lifelong attachments, increase mutual understanding, widen tolerance parameters, heighten mutual respect, and reinforce shared values. Once accomplished, it accentuates individual strengths and potential more fully.

This transformational endeavor impacts the Walkers and their network of friends, family, colleagues, and community members. Each person learns vicariously from the participant's persistence, perseverance, lifestyle changes, growth, reinvigoration, and heightened knowledge.

Each year brings a new adventure and opportunity to connect as we obtain the most up-to-date research to augment and improve upon the four pillars of Culture and Heritage, Health and wellness, Strength and Leadership, and Community Connection.

We employ an overarching approach encompassing all human needs. We focus on physical and mental health, joy and balance in relationships and spiritual and intellectual curiosity.

Tolerance, perseverance, self-awareness, and cultural respect are themes discussed in the Wellness Component. These become more relevant as the event brings women from multiple nationalities together. The journey provides an open forum for the women to discuss culture, values, and traditions and to learn from each other without judgment. Through it, they discover more that unites them than separates them.

Each woman takes a chance by overcoming fear and disrupting their life momentarily, hoping to find something special inside and outside themselves. Through connections to others unlike themselves, they learn and grow.

"A heart afraid never learns to dance and never takes a chance." Bette Midler

Fear isolates us and diminishes our opportunity to live our best lives by finding our best selves. We must be challenged to do this, and the Women's Heritage will challenge you. Complacency and walking through our lives on autopilot does not. When we think of adventures, we think of exploring something outside ourselves. However, in this Walk, a large part of this challenge and any arduous struggle happens inside ourselves. This Walk challenges you to go outside your comfort zone in all areas.

This program is guided by integrity and honors heritage. The Women's Heritage Walk develops personal and collective strength. Proximity and shared hardship build not only tolerance but respect. By finishing, they teach our daughters, families, and community that difficult does not mean impossible. The challenging walks teach us to persevere with compassion, humbly appreciate nature's power, and draw on inner strength to keep moving forward when weary. This gift of struggling fortifies a heightened and profound belief in oneself and gratitude for the support given.

Along with her in-country cultural experts, Jody continues to develop a modern and ever-growing tribe of a global 'sisterhood.'

26-year-old UAE national Waheeda Al Hadhrami participated in 2017 and said about the event, "Walking through our beautiful deserts and reconnecting with our past was life-changing, although it was physically and mentally challenging. The experience allowed me to meet many women from different backgrounds and walks of life, and I enjoyed the cultural exchange. I loved every step of the journey!"