Rachel Shackleton of Green Key Health: “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”

Beau Henderson
Jul 29 · 14 min read
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Treat your mind and body like a temple. Take care of yourself with the highest intentions to maintain a healthy mind and body. Put aside “me” time to practice activities that bring inner peace and joy, such as yoga, meditation, singing and dancing. Through joy and inner peace we raise our self-awareness of how we are feeling so that we can correct our lifestyle and eating habits before damage is done to our physical and mental health.


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

Rachel Shackleton, founder of companies Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health is a business trainer, providing value through training in the spheres of leadership development, communication and customer excellence. She is also a practicing Naturopath working with executive management on creating strategies for implementation of corporate wellbeing. Her long-standing clients include JTI, Intermedia and Novardis.


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?

My career path appears to have no logic to those looking from the outside in. At each stage of my career, I have always known what I wanted to do and simply fallen into what I love doing. The passion for developing people has been a theme throughout my working life. Having the capacity to see someone’s inner potential is such a gift, and on top of that being able to help them to unlock their potential is truly magical when you see it happening. Of course, training, mentoring and coaching are obvious tools for development of individuals and teams. Treating ill-health through kinesiology, naturopathy and herbal remedies is not. However, in my understanding of ill-health there is always an underlying emotion that is causing the disbalance. Therefore, unravelling the person’s story to help them see the patterns they keep repeating and the emotion/s that they are suppressing in doing that, is all about personal development. Once you know and understand the behaviour that is locking in patterns that are detrimental to both development and mental and physical health, it is a personal choice to change those patterns, or not, thus clearing the way to maximise wellbeing.

My journey into health and wellbeing started as a young adult and as I grew older and set out on a career it become more and more important in managing daily stresses and workloads. On meeting the doctor, who at that time was running the ashram clinic connected to the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry, India he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I explained that I was interested in studying complementary therapies but had not yet found the one that sparked interest. He immediately answered, “try kinesiology”. Soon after I enrolled on a course in Leicester and have never looked back. Ten years later after intensive study I became a qualified naturopath and medical herbalist, giving me the skills to work with organisations for implementing strategy to support corporate wellbeing.

This knowledge is not obsolete in the training room. Whilst not practicing these therapies directly, I have become more aware of underlying attitudes and patterns of behaviour that do not serve the individual. Consequently, I am able to enlighten them through relevant soft skills training, often highlighting how they communicate with themselves and others and the negative messages they are conveying. Not only this, I am able to see when a participant is showing signs and symptoms of stress and mental ill health, raising the alarm in a respectful and considerate manner.

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

Working with individuals who come for treatment due to some form of dis-ease is a privilege, but not always easy. People seek treatment for many different reasons, including adrenal exhaustion, heavy metal toxicity, tired all the time, anxiety and depression as well as hyper and hypotension. The hardest learning, which sounds very strange, is that not everyone wants to heal. When both you and the client can see the route to wellbeing, but he or she does not follow the treatment protocol, it is sometimes because of an unconscious pattern which is holding a vested interest in being unwell. Letting go of the outcome that I want and dancing with the client where they are at, is huge learning, each time it happens.

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?

Making mistakes with someone’s health, is seldom humorous and something I try to avoid. However, just after the return from lockdown, to follow government recommendations I was wearing a mask. Luckily the first client I saw, was one of my regular clients. Not thinking, I took a drink of water forgetting the mask was there and poured water down myself. It was certainly a shock to both me and the client. The learning from this brief episode is to always have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself.

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?

My current mentor, is an exceptional man who was and continues to be instrumental in where I am today. He is a qualified vet, medical doctor, homeopath and kinesiologist with a background in pathology and research. He is also the author of the Therapeutic Energy Kinesiology protocol, one of the kinesiology protocols that I work with. I met him during my studies to become a kinesiologist. As part of the course I was studying you had to undergo a certain number of treatments from a qualified kinesiologist. Through a recommendation I ended up at his surgery. On arrival he asked what I had come for and feeling in perfect health, my response was to explain that this was a need for my studies. His immediate reaction was to check my stress levels, only to reveal that I had level 6 stress, the maximum level before reaching burnout! At the end of the treatment he told me about a course he was running and that I should be on it. I was and that was the beginning of our journey together into therapeutic energy kinesiology.

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

Shortly after the diagnosis of level 6 stress, I experienced adrenal burnout. Running my own training and development company in the Russian Federation, the economy took a dive and so did revenues. With approximately 15 people to support, I rose to the challenge to keep everything afloat, which later cost me dearly. Looking back at the three months of lying on the floor and looking at the ceiling, in severe pain, clearly illustrates the learning. There were two points for consideration and learning:

  1. How to manage my health and maximise energy without burning out

In answer to the first question, the main thing is to be proactive rather than reactive in implementing actions that maximise energy and minimise potential for mental and physical burnout:

  • Plan for a minimum of one day per week downtime without email or phone connection related to work.

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

There have been two main occasions in my career that stand out in terms of a fantastic work culture. Both occurred during my 21 years in Russia. The first was as a part of an international team running a 5* hotel and the second was running my own company with a team of 25 employees. The foundation to a fantastic work culture, in my opinion is as follows:

  • a clear understanding of company values, mission and goals

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.

A recent study conducted by the CIPD highlights the impact that poor mental health of employees has on businesses, and that this is something that can affect anyone of us without self-awareness and knowledge of how to ensure good mental health. The study revealed the following:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues

Mental health covers a huge spectrum from low mood through to anxiety and depression. Dementia and Parkinson’s are also classified under mental health. I am addressing this question, from a proactive and preventative perspective, rather than being reactive when things start to get out of hand. At that point it often requires some kind of medical intervention in an attempt to provide quality of life.

Mental wellness is as much our responsibility as physical wellness. Infact the two are connected. Physical wellness achieved through a nutrient rich diet, exercise, down-time and hydration are also pillars to good mental health. The binary approach of being healthy or having mental ill-health, is a reflection that we often consider mental health from a limited perspective only. Mental ill-health is not only the responsibility of the government, the company we work for or some other organisation, it firstly starts with ourselves. We all need to be proactive and treat our mental and physical wellbeing with respect.

Healthy gut — healthy brain

Research is plentiful on the microbiome-gut-brain axis. When our digestion is not working effectively we might suffer symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, indigestion or acid reflux. These are all indicators of an imbalance in the digestive system and that the gut microbiome is suffering. As the gut has a direct connection to the brain via the gut-brain axis, it means that when the gut is not well, the brain will also suffer. Knowing this, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good mental health.

Several factors need to be considered to ensure a healthy microbiome in the gut including quality and variety of foods. Eating the same thing every day does not populate the microbiome with healthy bacteria. Fresh foods provide a wider and more dense concentration of good bacteria than processed foods. The saying “You are what you eat” speaks loud and clear. Key dietary strategies for good mental health:

  • Eat a low carbohydrate diet. Limit wheat and wheat-based products which lead to a sugar high and feelings of satisfaction, but 30 minutes later result in an energy slump and brain fatigue.

Treat your mind and body with respect

In our fast-paced world we often overlook the importance of taking care of both mind and body. In fact, we often take our health for granted, working long hours in an air-conditioned environment, eating food that is nutritionally poor and missing out on exercise.

Treat your mind and body like a temple. Take care of yourself with the highest intentions to maintain a healthy mind and body. Put aside “me” time to practice activities that bring inner peace and joy, such as yoga, meditation, singing and dancing. Through joy and inner peace we raise our self-awareness of how we are feeling so that we can correct our lifestyle and eating habits before damage is done to our physical and mental health.

Your brain is a muscle — Train it!

The brain, as for the body requires exercise. Work activities that challenge our comfort zones and mental constructs are all necessary to keep the brain active, but these activities need to be varied and kept within “safe” limits. In other words, when we start to agonize over something allowing it to encroach or absorb our personal lives leading to erratic behaviour, poor quality sleep and worry, it has gone out of safe limits, and we are on the road to mental burnout. The importance of knowing when and how to switch off is vital for mental wellbeing and a relaxed demeanor that creates flow, enabling logical and calm thinking, whilst avoiding mental overload.

Stride out into nature to fill yourself up with fresh air and natural light

Research around the positive impact of nature on our psychological and physical health, is on the increase. Not all of us have the benefit of a garden or live in an area that is close to a park, forest, river, lake or beach where we can enjoy the calming influence of mother nature. In a 2019 study of 20,000 people, led by Dr. Matthew White (European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter), found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces have better health and wellbeing. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3.pdf A daily dose of nature helps to regulate inner rhythm to be more in tune with our surroundings. It helps with increasing our ability to be present rather than tied up and worried about what should be, what has still to be and what might be. What is now is what matters.

Create down-time from electronic devices

Electronic devices were created to make our lives easier, and most of us would struggle to be without them. Our “connected” lives have speeded up the transmission of information and the perceived demand to be available 24/7. Assigning specific down-time from mobile devices and the constant need to look at or respond to what has come in, gives the mind a rest, freeing up time for activities that do not rely on connectivity, such as sport, socializing and family time.

Electromagnetic radiation generated by Wifi-driven devices can be extremely damaging to mental health, especially when placed against the ear during conversation. Phone manufacturers even warn against using a mobile phone against the ear and about carrying it on the body. Therefore, to minimise the impact of EMR from mobile usage, always use headphones or put the phone on speaker mode when talking.

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.

Keeping the brain active and ourselves mentally alert and interested is very important for enjoyment in our older years. The brain can be mentally stimulated and kept agile through activities such as Sudoko, crosswords, playing Chess, Bridge and Scrabble. My father, who was fondly known as the “ready reckoner” used to monitor the petrol consumption of his car by calculating mileage and petrol usage without the aid of a calculator. It was seldom, even with a calculator, that any of us could beat him to the result!

Keep moving. Keeping the body healthy through movement whether walking, gardening or playing with the grandchildren all helps to keep joints flexible whilst oxygenating the blood and generating endorphins that create the feel-good factor. Both vital for a healthy mind and body.

Forget the excuses — try something new and do it anyway! In retirement, it is so easy to get into a comfort zone that can lead to lack of mental stimulation and isolation from others. Make a bucket list, drop the excuses and go and do the things that you have always wanted to do. Following your heart will always lighten the mental load, stimulate the brain and provide satisfaction and fulfillment.

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?

My advice for both pre-teens and teens is to socialize in person, minimizing reliance on mobile devices and social media platforms. Use platforms to enhance your life, but not rule it! Make space for social face-to-face interactions and experiences. Learn to interpret emotions through observation and self-awareness by seeing and hearing the other person’s reaction to something you did or said.

Especially for pre-teens, engage the brain whilst having fun. Play and create from what you find in the shed, garden or field rather than turning to ready-made games.

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

I remember going to a talk in Oxford that was conducted by Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, a leading neuroscientist and professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. She had just published “Mind Change” (Ebury Publishing, 2014) about how digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains. The talk was fascinating, but the book more so. In a nutshell her research was conducted with the goal of “exploring the different ways in which digital technologies might be affecting not just thinking patterns and other cognitive skills, but lifestyle, culture and personal aspirations”. Her book explores this question in fascinating and mind-blowing detail.

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. :-)

Perhaps it is not novel, but it is something in the Western world we neglect. Appreciation and love of nature is a movement that I believe would bring enormous positive mental and physical impact to people of all ages. Tuning into and being present to the sounds, the smells and to what is going on around you when outside in nature, is calming, but at the same time uplifting and energizing.

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

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” B.B King

This quote by B.B King, the blues singer, song-writer is representative of my life’s purpose. Dedicated to learning from experience, from books and from others is fundamental to who I am and what I represent. Helping others to see and reach their potential is, I believe one of the greatest gifts you can possess. Every person who tries whether he succeeds, is rewarded with learning, and this in turn helps keep our minds active and well.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

www.greenkeypersondevelopment.com/blog

www.greenkeyheath/blog

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachelshackleton/

https://www.facebook.com/GreenKeyHealth/

@Gkeydevelopment

@GreenKeyHealth

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

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Beau Henderson

Written by

Author | Radio Host | Syndicated Columnist | Retirement Planning Expert

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Beau Henderson

Written by

Author | Radio Host | Syndicated Columnist | Retirement Planning Expert

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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