Chinazom Sunny Nwabeuze: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness


Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Contrary to the belief that constant hustle leads to high performance, lasting success requires adequate rest and recovery. In my journey as a high-performance coach, I had the opportunity to work with elite-level athletes and this is actually where I first discovered the truth about high performance. All the elite-level athletes I worked with were world class in their rest, recovery and rejuvenation practice. I got to experience warm weather training with a track and field client. The meticulous detail in which they used to plan their rest, recovery and rejuvenation blew my mind. Down to what ice cream they would have and which friend to lift their spirits after intensive training blocks, no joy was too small to plan for.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chinazom Sunny Nwabueze.

Chinazom Sunny Nwabueze is the Founder of Dreamcatchers Performance and a high performance leadership coach and behavioral science consultant with BetterUp Inc. Chinazom also created a mental fitness online community, a video chat series, and delivers workshops and presentations on mental fitness. He has amassed over 2,000 hrs of coaching. For more information visit

Chinazom has recently published his new book Real Talk: A New Approach for Men’s Mental Fitness and Wellbeing. In it he shares critical insights gained from coaching and pairs it with solid data and impactful storytelling. Real Talk explores the idea that people, especially men, need to drop the facade that everything is fine, and actually talk through their issues. Chinazom argues that men need to ask better questions of those they are closest to.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I want to share some critical junctures in my journey, when I reflect on them if I hadn’t listened to my instincts or acted with courage. I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today. The first is choosing to take a friend up in an offer to join them at an event hosted by career shifters. Ironically my friend was going to be a no show for the event. They only informed me as I was on my way to the event. For some reason I still showed up, instead of deciding to go home and rest my tired mind and body. What I took from that event was that my passion and purpose lay in sports and psychology. I soon learnt there was a degree in sports psychology.

The second incident was walking on the Heathrow tarmac as I boarded a plane to the US to start my new life. My wife was six months pregnant, both of us had no jobs waiting for us in the US. Plus I didn’t know when I would get a work permit. I was one and a half years into my career transition which was not lighting up the world. Leading up to this moment conventional wisdom would have clearly pointed to doing the sensible thing and canceling the flight, staying put and grabbing stability and security. I decided that the terrified and excited feeling I had was a sign I was on the right path.

The next incident was in August 2020, nearly one and a half years into our transition. The transition had hit a huge roadblock called the pandemic, my new career in performance psychology had ground to a huge stop. No one was playing any sports. At the time the pressure was mounting with no income coming in and no opportunity to find clients. My son was about to turn one years old. My willpower was starting to falter should I go back to finance, the career I had done for more than twenty years. I met a recruiter who spent 45 minutes telling me why I should not apply for the job I had contacted him for. I was perplexed at this strange behavior. He said, “you will be miserable”. You spent so much energy and time into this career pivot you owe it to yourself to keep pushing. I left the conversation upset that the recruiter didn’t believe I could do the job. As time passed and my bruised ego settled down and I reviewed the facts, I realized the recruiter had been speaking from the heart. A month later I secured my first virtual coaching contract and the floodgates opened up.

At each of these junctures, if I had caved into my fears and dismissed my instincts and chased stability instead of pushing forward with my excited and terrified feeling, my story would have been so different. I’m eternally grateful for the guides I met on my journey who taught me how to listen to my instinct.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early on in my career I had taken a holiday with my wife to San Diego as we were exploring the US before our imminent transition. At the time, I was struggling with the question all new business owners tussle with — how do I find more clients? This question had been dominating my consciousness — I had put it in God’s hands. So, I was shocked when I opened my email that evening after getting back from dinner with my wife to receive a new client request. I was so shocked that I thought it was a hoax. I hadn’t even set up my website.

The email had come from the mother of my future client. She had received a referral. I was blown away by the faith she had in me straight out the gate, she knew that I was the right person, and I would do great things with her son. I read the email several times that night. Today, I still remember the feeling it left inside of me — “if this woman believes so much in me just from a referral, I was going to show up and do everything I could to repay her faith”.

As faith would have it I came into her son’s life at a very critical junction. He is an elite level athlete who was facing the challenges you face in high performance when competing at the top level. Shortly into our relationship he lost his father. Working with him was the best experience I ever had. I learnt so much from him and we are still in contact today, several years later. It was a magical experience, which proved to me that what I was doing works, and it works under extreme pressure.

He went on to set many PB (personal best) records in both his events over the next two seasons. One of those PB records he set two days before I embarked on my huge life transition moving from the UK to the US, with my six-month pregnant wife. Getting to watch him set that PB under immense stressful conditions was an experience I will never forget.

You could say that’s what sparked the light in me that I was on the right path. What I was doing worked and more people needed it. It was down to me to keep shining the light and spread it wherever life took me next.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

This story happened when I decided to look around my close friends to see who I could help with the new skills and tools I had. The advice I had received was don’t practice on your friends and don’t practice on your partner. But I like to test things out myself before accepting them. So I signed up with three close friends, all of which paid upfront. A valuable lesson I learnt from one of my mentors.

What transpired with two of the friends was funny and painful at the same time. Both of them for one reason or another didn’t show up fully committed to the session, one of them didn’t show at all. Being so early in my career, I had invested weeks of preparation for the session, tons of notes, tons of calls with other coaches to prep. At the time I felt shell shocked that all that work went to waste. But it was a very valuable lesson. You can only work with people when they are ready for the help. It takes a lot of effort, vulnerability, humility, and courage to face your fears and truths and make a change. When people are not ready to do the work or go below the surface and acknowledge some hard truths, it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, there is nothing you can do to change them.

I also learnt a valuable lesson about the difference between coaching and therapy. The two can work hand in hand, but there is some foundational groundwork that needs to be done first through therapy before coaching can help. Therapy for me is sorting out things in your past that are holding you back. Coaching is looking to the future and taking action to create that future.

The other big lesson I took away was “not to make hard and fast rules about life, always leave room for magic”. As I said, I worked with three friends against the advice of everyone else around me in my profession. It didn’t work out with two of the friends, but one of the friends blew my mind with the results he achieved. He proved to me what I do works and he gave me a blueprint of what good looks like. We were very close before we did the work together and working together took our relationship to another level. I honestly believe without him showing me what good looks like I wouldn’t have achieved what I have in my career. It buffered me from so-called setbacks because I knew good existed. I just moved past the setbacks, took the lesson, and carried on.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

This story refers to someone very special in my heart, I call him a kindred spirit. He was the person who gave me my first clients and showed me what is required to be a good coach. He always demonstrated a growth mindset, willing to learn and take on new ideas. He would always ask my opinion and take it onboard even in the beginning when I started my coaching career. At the time, he had 30 years of experience in coaching. I remember working with his track and field athletes. I spent countless cold rainy days and nights watching him take sessions. I got to witness first-hand how he showed up for his group, he was more than just a coach, he was their support system.

He showed me the level of care and passion required when you are dealing with people’s dreams. I remember one evening after training, I asked him if he thought I would make a good coach. I was extremely nervous, and surprised myself I had been so direct. He asked why I wanted to be a coach. I said I want to help people catch their dreams and unlock what was inside them. He said I should go for it and that the world needs it. He also added that I would make a great coach because I care deeply, and I am fearless. A comment which still shocks me today. I never ever saw myself as fearless. He explained that it’s not that I don’t feel fear and anxiety, he said you feel those things but do what is required anyway.

The other great advice he gave me was after I finished my MSc in performance psychology. I shared my reservations about embarking on the next stage which was more studying, and he turned around and said, “You have done enough studying to fill two lifetimes, now go out and start helping people. The best advice I ever got.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I would highly recommend starting with my assessment to get a report on their mental fitness score. From there they can start to understand their unique requirement for mental fitness. Firstly, define what mental fitness means for them. Uncover what brings them joy and fills up their emotional energy tank. They should have a way of pinpointing where they are in their mental fitness journey. From there they can decide what needs to be added or dropped from their mental fitness practice. Most importantly, decide if their trusted advisors and connections are serving them, or if they need to make changes. With the constant change and uncertainty we are living through, we can’t afford to ignore our mental fitness. If we do, burnout will be inevitable.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The biggest thing for me is genuine psychological safety and belonging. These words are used so frequently but it takes a huge effort to actually implement. You have to be fully invested (mind, body and soul) in it, otherwise it will exist only in theory and not reality. Any leader who really wants to create a fantastic work culture has to crack this code and be prepared to roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work and be prepared to get very uncomfortable and have their ass handed to them. Humility, vulnerability and authenticity are a basic requirement before you even contemplate undertaking this kind of endeavor.

If you are really willing to learn the soft skills (they should be called complicated skills), then you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams in what your people are capable of. I read a book called the Chief Joy Officer. It gives you a blueprint of how to create a fantastic work culture. It’s an inspirational book and I highly recommend leaders to read it.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Here are five tips to help you harness the power of mental fitness, and walk on water:

1 . Practice Mindfulness and Stress Management

High performers understand the detrimental effects of chronic stress on their well-being and productivity. Cultivating a mindfulness practice is essential for successful high performance. The key to mindfulness practice is developing your informal mindfulness practice, which allows you to incorporate mental fitness into your day-to-day life. An activity such as walking the dog every day when done mindfully and intentionally can be a game changer for your high performance.

One of my clients turned this daily routine into much-needed time for self-care, by using the time to tune into nature, reflect and create a bit of space from their own thoughts. Through breathwork, they tapped into their inner knowledge and strength. As the practice developed, it sparked creativity and wisdom. We often joked in coaching sessions that when we would hit roadblocks, we could just wait for their morning dog walk to magically bring answers. And it always did. So, if you truly want to walk on water and thrive, focus on your mindfulness practice. Next time you go for a shower or a cup of coffee, ask yourself: How can I be more intentional with this time?

2 . Foster Work-Life Integration

The traditional concept of work-life balance often creates disharmony and stress. We find ourselves jumping from one thing to another, trying to switch gears and balance commitments that are often at odds with each other. My coaching training and experience has shown me that this only leads to burnout. The new vision should be work-life integration, which involves aligning your personal and professional priorities to create a harmonious blend. When done well, this will not feel like a constant balancing act. Instead, it should feel like you effortlessly cultivate flexibility during your work day to meet your requirements in the best way.

Work-life integration allows you to manage your energy and do tasks when it is optimal for you and your family, while still honoring key work commitments. In my personal life, having the freedom to work remotely and align my passions with strategic goals for my business, has allowed me to achieve more than I ever thought imaginable. I have been able to grow my coaching business, work as a senior coaching consultant for a leading company, publish a book on mental fitness, launch a podcast, and create an online mental fitness toolkit — all while becoming a new dad for the second time. And I’m just getting started! So, hear me when I say that work-life integration, when done well, will supercharge productivity and create harmony across every aspect of your life. The level of high performance you can then achieve will blow your mind!

3 . Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability:

High performers thrive in dynamic environments by embracing flexibility and adaptability. Recognize that change is inevitable, and cultivate a mindset that welcomes challenges as opportunities for growth. My goal is to help my clients become “Agile Superheroes”, who run at change and uncertainty rather than away from it. Why? Because this is where growth happens.

Through my coaching, I help clients embrace the rapids of life, knowing they will grow and thrive as a result of these experiences. My clients have learned to accept fundamental truths: there is no such thing as constant stability, or complete control, both notions are an illusion. So you have two choices: either hang onto the illusion or dive head-first into developing your ability to adjust strategies, pivot quickly, flex and find innovative solutions. This adaptability will allow you to remain resilient and agile, even in the face of uncertainty. This is an essential skill for walking on water and maintaining high performance.

4 . Cultivate Self-Reflection and Emotional Intelligence

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for personal growth and high performance. It is the foundation for high performance and mental fitness. If you don’t know your hidden talents or potential blindspots, you are essentially walking around in the dark on autopilot waiting for disaster to strike or worse, complete burnout.

A core part of my coaching focuses on serving as a sounding board for my clients. Holding a safe space for them to learn about themselves at a deeper level and set their vision for success. And then working hand in hand with them to chart a path towards achieving their dream life. In addition to attending coaching sessions, a good habit is to regularly journal or record voice notes of your self-talk, so that you can review your stream of consciousness. Regular self-reflection will build your self-awareness muscle and enhance your decision-making abilities, interpersonal relationships, and overall effectiveness — all of which are critical to sustainable high performance.

5 . Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Contrary to the belief that constant hustle leads to high performance, lasting success requires adequate rest and recovery. In my journey as a high-performance coach, I had the opportunity to work with elite-level athletes and this is actually where I first discovered the truth about high performance. All the elite-level athletes I worked with were world class in their rest, recovery and rejuvenation practice. I got to experience warm weather training with a track and field client. The meticulous detail in which they used to plan their rest, recovery and rejuvenation blew my mind. Down to what ice cream they would have and which friend to lift their spirits after intensive training blocks, no joy was too small to plan for.

So, imagine my surprise when I returned to the corporate world as an executive leadership coach to find that success was still being defined as non-stop work. I realized that the lies we had been fed about resilience and continuous high performance were negatively impacting our sense of self-worth and wellness. You know what I’m talking about: Sleep is for the weak, keep hustling every minute, every day, don’t stop or you’ll never make it. So, I’m on a mission now to rewrite the script by exposing this type of messaging for what it is: a blatant lie. Because when it comes to rest and rejuvenation, if it’s good enough for Serena Williams, LeBron James and Roger Federer, it’s good enough for you. You have to become an expert in planning and protecting your rest, recovery and rejuvenation. Be meticulous about it. Tweak things until you are sure it will sustain you at that next level you envision for yourself.

How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

This is a tough one, I don’t have teens, but the parents I speak to say the pandemic was even tougher on this group. I feel for this group, social media can be both a blessing and potentially dangerous. It depends how they use it.

My main point for teens and pre-teens is to get exposure to different outlets and groups of people across the different generations. This is how you learn about life and about yourself. Sharing the thoughts and ideas you have so they can be challenged. Exposing your mind to new information to teach you how to make your own informed thinking and worldview. Most importantly learning how to communicate and get things off your chest is a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life. Having a conversation just in your own head all the time is not great. You need to interact with others in a safe space with people you trust. This is how you gain self-awareness.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Two books come to mind. Both played a crucial part in bringing me to this stage of my life. The first book is, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The key takeaway for me from this book is we go out into the world searching for meaning, our passion and treasure. The story tells of a shepherd who dreams of traveling the world and experiencing adventure and finding treasure. What the shepherd learns on his adventures is that the treasure he searched for was within him all the time. The lesson I took from this is wherever you find yourself, you can create your own joy and passion, because it’s already inside of you.

The book also captured my imagination for the art of storytelling. It is a timeless tale but told by a master storyteller. No matter who reads the book they will take away something from the book and uncover the wisdom and mystery of the world. The second book is Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. This book again showed me the power of great storytelling. It uses captivating stories and personal insights to share so much wisdom in such a compelling way. Anyone can read the book and feel connected to the stories, and wherever you are in your life, take away some insight from the book.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I said in my book that I want to create a mental fitness revolution. The same way over the last 15 years we have had a physical fitness revolution. I want to see the same for mental fitness. We all become engrossed in becoming mentally fit. People engaging in real talk, being vulnerable and sharing with trusted connections and advisors. Choosing jobs that support their mental fitness and feed their souls. Taking regular assessments on their mental fitness and understanding where they are in their journey. Intentionally spending time at regular intervals with family and friends to fill up their energy tanks. Engaging in inner work and mindfulness to live each day intentionally and dedicating themselves to staying mentally fit. Wow, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about living in that kind of world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My personal quote is, “there is no successful high performance without wellbeing”. This quote started to germinate in my mind from the work I did with athletes, where I witnessed first hand what was required to sustain high performance. It really started to stick in my mind when I had to practice what I preach and incorporate it into my own life. As I shared earlier, the life transitions I went through crystallized this quote into my mind. Also, after coaching through the pandemic, where I did over 2,000 hours with leaders in various works of life spread across the globe, this quote became part of my soul.

There are two other quotes which played a role in helping me navigate my life transitions and coaching practice to arrive at my quote. The first is the serenity prayer — ”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. This prayer helped me in learning how to focus on what was in my control and what was useful for me to take action/perform. Then take the action and trust in a higher power. Essentially do my part.

The second, is from Julius Caesar — “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a soldier dies but one”. This helps me to be fearless. Not that I don’t feel scared or anxious, I do, but it allows me to release my mind and stop it torturing me and showing me many thousands of deaths or misfortunes. When actually there is only one death and it’s not in my control. So, this allows me to trust my instincts and take decisions along my life journey and not be paralyzed by fear. Both of these quotes allowed me to enjoy and embrace my life transitions and learn the lesson that led me to my quote, “there is no sustainable high performance, without wellbeing”.

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!