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Ossining Woman Gets Down To Business With Stress Reduction Programs

Wendy Wollner of Ossining owns a business, Balancing Life's Issues, that help people cope with stresses of everyday living.
Wendy Wollner of Ossining owns a business, Balancing Life's Issues, that help people cope with stresses of everyday living. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wendy Wollner

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Long before employment behavioral consultants coined the phrase “stress management,” Ossining’s Wendy Wollner tackled the issue.

She identified it, developed programs to combat it and even experienced it in her own life. She founded a business in 1999, Balancing Life’s Issues, that provides a global network of trainers to help employers with issues in health, wellness and productivity. The business offers 15,000 training sessions a year with more than 1,200 trainers, and her clients include Fortune 500 companies, healthcare facilities, women’s groups, not-for-profit organizations and more.

Lessons taught by Wollner, and her trainers, are extension of more than three decades of her experience in navigating events and changes in a person’s environment.

“This is the world I’m educated for,’’ Wollner said. “I did my masters on work-life balance. Today it’s a $15 million industry. It’s something I was very passionate about, and I was lucky to get into the field before it was gutted.”

Wollner’s roots were in teaching. And it was in front of a history class in 1981 that she sowed the first seed for what would later become her career. “I was teaching a class on Presidential politics the day (Ronald) Reagan was shot,’’ Wollner said. “I stopped the class and taught about the impact of Reagan being shot. I got scolded by my superintendent. He said you have to teach for the test. It was devastating. But I was reacting to a real time experience, and that’s where my company has found a niche.”

Wollner taught at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester for 19 years before starting BLI, and even that was a response to stress management. Newly divorced and the single mother of three children, she needed to go in a new direction. She started the business with a low budget and a skeleton staff. “My first big expense was when I took out a loan for a Blackberry,’’ Wollner said. “I had an idea I might need it. I had a few mother’s helpers and the kids stuffed envelopes. I mailed out 1,000 letters and I got three clients. It was three years before I hired a part-time school kid. I stayed in the world of hiring part-time workers for five years.”

Wollner’s work started eventually gaining traction. She was among the first to offer programs for gay, lesbian and transgender support groups. Even during the recession, Wollner’s business flourished as more people and businesses sought to manage stresses that impacted their daily routine and affected productivity.

“The original plan was showing people that you can handle adversity,’’ Wollner said. “I’m a research geek, and I spent the first 10 years figuring things out. Now I’m like a kid in a candy store. Genetics is not as important as we thought it once was. We’re not going to change your stressors. But we’re going to teach you how to respond. It’s the best job in the world.”

Wollner’s topics include Emotional Intelligence, Managing Stress with Humor and Health and Wellness. Her programs encourage people to think differently and empower them with new tools to cope with stress and face the challenges ahead.

“It’s so empowering to know that people are receptive to your message,’’ Wollner said. “People are so thirsty for information and help.”

Wollner’s even quick to respond to developing events. When Donald Trump won the Presidential election, she was working on creating strategies to help people. “We don’t know what life will look like under Trump,’’ Wollner said. “We can control some things, such as living on a tighter budget. If you give people a specific thing to do, it makes them feel better.”

Even in her early lean years, Wollner felt her vision was on the right path. She worked four jobs simultaneously to keep it going. Now she’s a highly coveted speaker, and she works with trainers in 30 states. She was honored by the Business Council of Westchester with a Hall of Fame award earlier this year.

Perhaps more importantly, Wollner finds validation in her work from people who have changed their lives for the better through her expertise.

“This is my calling,’’ Wollner said. “I’m committed to the idea that you pay it forward. Me and my trainers are so vested in this, in helping people cope with stresses that affect everybody. I can’t tell you how rewarding that is.”

For more information on Balancing Life’s Issues, click here to visit its website.

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