Colleen Gallagher: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
I always suggest for anyone who feels stressed, anxious or overwhelmed is to slow down. In the moment of anxiety, worry or stress, simply begin to focus on your breath. Often times, during a moment of stress, we breathe shorter breaths. I suggest inhaling for three seconds, holding the breath for two and breathing out for five. Do this for three to ten rounds. As you count in your head while it puts you in control and gives you power to begin self-regulating your breath and nervous system. A long exhale releases whatever emotions that caused your body and nervous system to react, and you begin to self-regulate your body with your breathing.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Gallagher.
Colleen Gallagher is an intuitive business and personal development consultant, author of several books including her latest release An Uncompromised Life, survivor of childhood cancer and currently pursuing her Ph.D is Psychology with a focus on Global Leadership and Change. Her greatest success is seeing her clients fall in love with life by overcoming trauma and life challenges to create a lifestyle career that impacts the world. Colleen empowers leaders and businesses to come to a newfound clarity of their mission, so that they can better understand their gifts while taking calculated action to grow their businesses.
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?
At age 14, I was running down the basketball court for a layup, and suddenly, I fell and could not breathe. I went to the hospital, and learned that I had a significantly enlarged right thyroid and would need surgery to determine if it was cancer. Once I had the surgery, I would be on medication, one pill a day, for the rest of my life, and if I ever wanted to become pregnant, I would need to readjust my medication. It did turn out to be cancer, and while I was fortunate enough to beat it, there was a lot of trauma in the process.
Spending so much time in hospitals, I saw the financial issues placed on families with sick children. This inspired me to start a career in sales because I knew I would be able to make enough money so it would never be an issue if I faced similar circumstances later in life. I found myself in a successful corporate sales career which I quickly realized was not allowing me to live my true purpose. I had everything I ever wanted material-wise, but on the inside I was empty. Because I saw so many children die of cancer but I survived, I always felt like I was responsible for doing more with my life. I have always loved helping others to shift their mindset and step into their purpose, and I realized I wasn’t doing that for myself. So I left my corporate sales job and moved across the world to New Zealand, where I began my journey to receive clarity on my purpose by doing yoga and meditation four hours a day, for six months. This is how I birthed my online education company Colleen Gallagher International where I empower business leaders and everyday people to offer and create lifestyles people love. I take a holistic approach to coaching people on how to live a sustainably happy, healthy and wealthy life. And I’ve never looked back- now I have a global online brand, over 20 online courses, my Podcast, three books, a crystal line, my oracle deck, my masters degree and receiving my PhD — all while impacting thousands of people every day.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are two: one moment was when I finished hosting a live video on Facebook and offered people to enroll in my signature six-week program that goes with my first book, Live Your Truth. I did the Live, created a webpage then went to the pool, and I remember people were enrolling in my sales page, and I was making money while at the pool. I thought this was a dream come true; I never knew that I could be off enjoying my life making uncapped money from one video. This was a pretty insane realization that I could work hard to build something, and it could go on to help people and allow me to simultaneously be out enjoying my life, too.
I was at a business mastermind event in Arizona and one of the leaders who was teaching shared that he was really striving to hit his first million dollar month. I remember I started to ask him what his intention was — what was he going to use the money for, what was his reason — really going deep with him on being specific for this manifestation to occur. He messaged me on Facebook three days later saying, “I DID IT, I hit my million dollar month, if you ever need anything just let me know.” In that moment, I realized how special this work is for healing our relationship with our purpose and growth.
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?
When I look back at my most humorous mistake, it was that I would do anything to close a customer. I would talk to them for hours, give them free advice and bend over backwards trying to convince them my services were worth the price. Ultimately, I would end up so frustrated and it would take so much energy. It’s funny looking back because I would change automated emails and specific word verbiage to match the person I just talked to on the phone to close the sale, as if that would really make a difference. I would redo COMPLETE sales pages to provide a solution based on a phone call I had with a potential client to fit their needs, and when I did this, none of those potential clients ever bought. Finally, I realized that people who need serious convincing to buy your educational services are not ready to do the internal work and likely just want to make quick money without making a significant, lasting impact on this world. It is like someone going to school to get their degree, yet they don’t want to do the homework. So I learned that if you always offer what you feel called to provide, based on what problems you have solved in your own life, the right people will come.
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?
I completely agree with this, and I’ve easily spent a significant amount of money on private mentorships and coaching in the last three years. I’m grateful for each of the mentors I’ve hired for different reasons and stages of my business and soul evolution. I think one of my favorite stories is with my third book, An Uncompromised Life. A mentor of mine Ivonne Delaflor did an exercise called “Futuring.” This process was a huge part of understanding how to create miracles out of trauma and designing a heart-centered business for others to see it as a requirement for your lifestyle to include your career to thrive in life truly. It’s what led to me building an eight-step process to help guide people in designing a heart-centered business.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Burnout happens when you feel like your work or job is separate from your personal life. I believe to thrive in your career that your work must be integrated as part of your lifestyle. When you gain clarity on what you’re passionate about, slowly integrate this into your career and you never feel like you work a day in your life. You can begin to see your passions by simply reflecting on the conversations you usually have with friends. Mine usually center around purpose, business, traveling, digital marketing, etc.
Second, you can go to YouTube or your television and evaluate the content you consume; this will help to guide you in defining your passions. Then ask yourself, “what solutions can I offer based on what I am passionate about?” and “what problems have I overcome in life where my learnings could help others?” Once you identify these things you can begin to create a brand around this. Before you know it, you will be thriving because you will be teaching on what you want to teach people about every day. Naturally, you will attract a community of people who are passionate about learning about what you love. Sales is simply having a conversation about something you are passionate about to educate others. They will eventually buy whatever you’re talking about because they see the joy it brings you and want to experience that joy within their life as well.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
The best advice I can give leaders on creating a fantastic work culture is that you first need to know who your employees are, understand their day-to-day work and what they value. For example, a team of people who see each other all day every day in their work may value time connecting with upper management and feeling heard, seen and appreciated for their work, instead of having a “team” outing with people they see every day. They would likely also value time off with their families, so you might take that into consideration and offer them an extra day off after a busy season. For a company or team that is more siloed in nature, like perhaps a sales team, they would probably appreciate a connection with their team members to learn what is going well to gain insight from each other. People who work in positions that can be done completely remotely, like the tech industry for example, will value complete freedom of their schedule- having deadlines and work meetings, while still allowing for plenty of time to be creative. Of course, remote work has to be a consideration for most companies now due to the pandemic and is becoming more and more common. As in any business, knowing your customer is critical, but I would argue that knowing your team is even more vital to understanding what will motivate them and help you retain top talent.
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.
The first exercise I always suggest for anyone who feels stressed, anxious or overwhelmed is to slow down. In the moment of anxiety, worry or stress, simply begin to focus on your breath. Often times, during a moment of stress, we breathe shorter breaths. I suggest inhaling for three seconds, holding the breath for two and breathing out for five. Do this for three to ten rounds. As you count in your head while it puts you in control and gives you power to begin self-regulating your breath and nervous system. A long exhale releases whatever emotions that caused your body and nervous system to react, and you begin to self-regulate your body with your breathing. I use this exercise when I feel like whatever is about to happen in my life feels uncomfortable or like something I cannot handle. I breathe out the unhealthy emotions to allow myself to come back into my body and realize I am safe. This is part of the process.
The second step to optimize our mental health is an exercise called Voo, created by trauma specialist, Dr. Peter Levine. While your emotions are spinning out of control, sit down and simply say or sing the word Vooooooooo. You release the Voo for as long as you can hold it. I recommend doing this ten times to allow yourself to come back into a state of peace and calm. This, again, releases whatever emotions that activated your nervous system and allows for you to take control of self-regulating your body instead of the body regulating you. There is a science behind this word and how it vibrates within your body to actually harmonize your organs. A great example of this is when I wrote my third book, An Uncompromised Life. I was reliving old traumas when I was writing about them. I often would need to pause, and “Voo out” whatever life story or flashback was occurring while I was writing how I healed my life from a very traumatic event. It always allowed me to come back into my body to release the true emotion I was feeling instead of being disguised as anger, pain or blaming someone outside of me.
Third, I recommend listening to meditations on YouTube or Apple Podcasts in the morning or thought-out the day. Carving that twenty to forty minutes out of the day is powerful because you are declaring to your mind and body that this is a space and time where you will begin to be in contro, instead of your subconscious mind running the show which runs 80% of your thoughts. Your thoughts dictate your words, which create your actions. During this time, you can evaluate if these are thoughts you want to be having or if you’re going to change them. I recommend Episode 55 on my podcast as a starting place.
The fourth step is to create affirmations and put them around your home, bathroom mirror, office, on your phone, etc. Create affirmations on who you want to become. If you have a lot of anxiety or worry, create an affirmation saying “I am calm and peaceful in all my thoughts and interactions.” If you suffer from depression, create an affirmation like “I chose to be happy and joyful.” The power of affirmations comes from when we use our language to send a sound vibration out into the world. Whatever you put out of your mouth is what you are going to end up attracting back to you. Our vibrations are like a boom-a-rang in a confined room, where everything we put out into the world ends up coming back to us whether we like it or not. The power of affirmations allows you to begin getting into the habit of stating, expecting, and become the best version of yourself.
The last exercise is buying a journal and writing things down. Journaling is one of the most powerful tools to get what is going on inside your head out of your head and onto paper. Whatever we think about becomes our reality. But if we buy a journal and write our thoughts down, we break the cycle. Ask yourself questions like:
- What do I want to create, achieve, and be in this life?
- What are the limiting beliefs I carry that are holding me back?
- What are some habits I can create to love myself more?
Write down whatever comes to you, and you will begin to write your reality. This is very powerful and profound work because when you do this, you can rewrite how the neurons are automatically firing in your brain, so instead of running on default, which you have learned from childhood, you begin to run on making decisions that empower you instead of ones that you have been told.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
The biggest thing to do after retirement is if you didn’t live your career in your purpose work, is to make sure you get into a community of people or online that align with your hobbies and passions. I have many clients who have retired and want to find their purpose and live it after their career. It always begins by answering the questions, “Well, what is your passion? If you had no limitations on what could still happen for you in this life, what would your days be filled with?” And from this place, they search online to enter into communities that will empower them to be in their passion, happiness, and joy every day. One example is a post-career client of mine who emailed after retirement about feeling stuck. They shared with me that they have a passion for reading, editing and reviewing books, but it’s not something they ever did before. I knew this potential client needed to start a book review business, and through our time working together, they did just that. It begins with speaking your passions out loud, and then allowing your community to help you reflect on how to bring your passions to life.
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?
I suggest anything creative for teens and pre-teens, from writing, painting, sports, music, etc. Teens and pre-teens are still developing their ability to learn how to best express themselves. Because many times they have already learned the habit of how to shut themselves off or communicate in a way that will allow their parents to give them what they want or to feel love from their parents at the cost of being who they really are. Because children learn very early if they act a certain way, even if it’s who they truly are, their parents may not love them for this, so the child adapts to betray themselves to receive love. Instead, they need to be taught how to express what is happening inside of them. By using creative forms of music, art, painting and writing kids can begin to express how they are feeling on the inside without expecting a negative reaction from a parent or teacher. As a parent and teacher, it is always more critical to offer a pre-teen or teen the opportunity to express their thoughts instead of demanding a certain behavior, expression, or result. This allows the child to feel like they can be heard, loved and accepted no matter what is occurring inside of them.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
My first book, Live Your Truth, significantly impacted me because I realized how much of what has happened to us in our past stays with us to impact and influence our present and future decisions. And from this book, I realized that even the most minor thing that happened years ago can leave a significant imprint in our memory of feeling violated, isolated, rejected, unheard and unloved. It still influences us today to avoid a certain action to not say something we need to say in order to avoid feeling that way. For example, when a boy called me ugly because of the scar on my neck from cancer as a child, and this impacted my life for many years because I thought people always stared at my neck and would think I was ugly. So, in many ways, in the corporate setting or even in my life, I didn’t want to show up to in-person events. I wanted to be behind a screen so that my neck wasn’t as visible. A large reason I’ve subconsciously built my business through the digital world is because of this. I don’t think this anymore when I am at in-person events, but this comment haunted my decision-making for nearly 12 years.
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. :-)
The movement I would start in the world is The Intoxicator Movement focused on intoxicating the world with love. An Intoxicator is someone who takes the time to look within — remove the toxicity — and becomes what is left. I believe we will continue to allow fear to guide our lives until we understand how to remove the fear of being rejected, made fun of, kicked out of a community, etc. By letting go of the toxic habits we’ve created, we can begin to accept who we are and intoxicate the world with that instead of the things that were hindering us from loving ourselves, loving others, and making this world a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Follow your heart so you can live every moment like it was your last moment.” This became one of my favorite life lessons quotes when I had cancer because I was inspired to go out and live my life to the fullest. But I saw so many adults killing themselves in their careers and relationships, and they were never happy. To me, this was the worst thing to witness — to know that you lived a life that was untrue to you. I never want anyone to get to the end of their life and feel as though they truly never gave this life everything they had. We never know when that day will come, but we know that it will. And I want everyone to know that they lived how they wanted to live, with who you wanted to experience life with, and impacted this world the way they believed they could.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!