Shae Leonard of Shae Leonard Wellness: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness
Eat whole, nutrient rich foods and clean water, avoid processed refined carbs, sugars and inflammatory fats. Example: Eat 25 different plants per week, eat the rainbow, 5 servings of non-starchy veggies per day. Consume 3 servings of healthy fats daily. Consume 35g protein in the morning and up to 90g per day. Focus on adequate hydration with filtered water.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shae Leonard.
Meet Shae Leonard, a certified Physician Assistant, practicing functional medicine health coaching as a mental health, hormone and gut expert! Shae began practicing Integrative Psychiatry where she learned how to optimize one’s genetics, improve mental health resilience through nutrition, hormone balancing, gut healing, meditation, sleep hygiene, amino acid therapy and movement. Shae Leonard Wellness.
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 have wanted to practice medicine for as long as I can remember! But it was not until my teen years where I began struggling with a variety of health concerns that I truly become passionate about healthcare and patient advocation. Around the age of 16 years old, I developed multiple food allergies, acne, hormonal disruptions, gastrointestinal complications, and severe neurological manifestations leading to seizures during my menstrual cycles. I was unable to drive to school, became very sickly, anxious, depressed. I began to see countless specialists and tried a myriad of prescription medications that led to side effects and worsening symptoms. I did not feel seen or heard.
At the age of 17, I began to advocate and research for myself, which ultimately led me to pursue medicine as a career to help those with a similar story. This cycle went on for years with more drugs, continued symptoms, and little to no answers. Until the day I met my now friend and mentor, a functional medicine pharmacist who ran specialized testing and found various root causes of the symptoms I was experiencing. I finally, after a decade, felt seen and heard. I had hope. Using personalized protocols for hormone and gut reset and feeling educated and empowered, I quickly became free of brain fog, exercising daily, sleeping through the night, experiencing zero gastrointestinal complaints, a resilient mood, with energy for days. I truly was changed by this experience and knew I needed and yearned to use this knowledge to help others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I am truly a better version of myself because of functional medicine. Not only physically better off, but mentally and spiritually. I for one, was not taught nor practiced holistic or whole body medicine as a conventional medicine PA. I was simply ignorant to the power of the mind, epigenetics, and the importance of root cause healing. A “pill for an ill” is how I learned and how I previously practiced. This was obviously not working for me and my own health crisis and glaringly obvious it was not working for the patients I spent years in school trying to learn to help. This is when I realized things had to change.
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?
I had no idea how to start a business. I did not even know what an LLC was or how to get one. I had never envisioned myself doing this. I had literally told myself and my husband for years that I was just not an “entrepreneur”, I did not like to be in that position. I would say things like, “I would never start my own thing, it’s just not my personality” or “I like to be second in charge, I do not want to have the overhead”. This was FEAR talking, my own limiting beliefs creeping in trying to “protect me” from failure.
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 was so blessed to have women in my corner who saw something in me that I had never seen and chose to ignore due to fear. The mentor, friend and functional medicine pharmacist, Dr. Jenna Clack, who I had seen during my own health crisis, was the first person to introduce me to the idea of online health coaching and functional medicine. She challenged me to confront the deep-rooted beliefs that had been holding me back for so many years, she encouraged me to step out in faith and trust, helping me see my true desires and potential. She planted the seed.
Shortly after, Maggie Berghoff, entered. Maggie caught my attention because she shared a similar story as myself. A healthcare provider practicing conventional medicine feeling burned out, seeing a lack of holistic healing in her conventional medicine job and experiencing her own debilitating health crisis. She was a practicing NP being told my specialists and doctors she had all of these diseases that she would never heal from, would be on prescriptive medications her entire life, and may not be able to have children. She did not accept this, advocated for herself, and ultimately healed herself through functional medicine practices. She then left conventional medicine to pursue online health coaching. She became so successful she began to teach other healthcare providers how to do the same. I began working with her and within the first month, I had made back my investment, had a legitimate business, created my own website, and had the confidence and tools to scale it! She watered the seed, and it grew.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Ask yourself, are you passionate about your work? Do you have a deeper WHY?
Find your identity and purpose, let that passion fuel you. I experienced burnout as a conventional medicine PA in the first 6 months of practicing. I was not well myself; I was sick and stressed. I pushed through and had to come to the realization that I was struggling to help others because I, myself needed help. Once I healed, I was able to truly help others. I have obviously loved science and medicine, but it was not until I connected my own experience to those that I was trying to help that magic happened. The passion was found in the vulnerability.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Find people who have a deeper WHY with a common goal to serve others.
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.
- Tools to navigate the natural ebbs and flows of life (meditation, gratitude journaling, grounding, prayer, affirmations)
- Eat whole, nutrient rich foods and clean water, avoid processed refined carbs, sugars and inflammatory fats. Example: Eat 25 different plants per week, eat the rainbow, 5 servings of non-starchy veggies per day. Consume 3 servings of healthy fats daily. Consume 35g protein in the morning and up to 90g per day. Focus on adequate hydration with filtered water.
- Sympathetic and Parasympathetic balance. Example: stress reduction, aromatherapy, epsom salt baths, massage, cold water therapy, alternate nasal breathing, apoptogenic herbs, avoid caffeine and stimulants, mindful eating, prioritize sleep and sleep hygiene
- Diverse, healthy microbiome. Example: ensure healthy gut lining: avoid processed foods, avoid gluten, consume diverse plants, prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, minimize toxins and stress such as food sensitivities. Consume bone broth or mucilaginous herbs.
- Get moving and breathe deeply. Example: Light to moderate daily movement, stretching and walking. Moderate to high intensity movement 2–3x per week depending on stress levels. Deep, belly breathing. Avoid shallow breathing or breath holding.
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.
- Remember to find your passion and purpose. Have a WHY that transcends your previous career, a deeper pursuit of service and growth.
- Focus on optimizing cellular metabolism. Our mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell and they produce energy in the form of ATP. Mitochondrial dysfunction worsens due to age related dis-ease and causes premature aging.
- Avoid toxins and maximize toxin clearance. Example: ensure adequate hydration, consume whole food diet, switch to non-toxic home and hygiene products.
- Ensure proper blood sugar management. Example: avoid processed and refined flours, grains, sugars, and inflammatory oils. Increase protein and healthy fats, consume a variety of non-starchy veggies in unlimited amounts, daily low-glycemic fruits 1 cup per day.
- Optimize nutrient levels. Often depletions in magnesium or B vitamins is a common culprit to mitochondrial dysfunction. Example: Increase antioxidants, correct nutritional deficiencies.
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?
- Focus on being a teen, enjoy and play. Make laughter a priority. Remember that there are only three things you can control: Who you trust, your actions, and your attitude or perspective.
- Decrease broken foods. Example: minimize fast food and packaged foods
- Increase plants and fruits, protein and healthy fats. Example: consume a protein smoothie before school, add coconut oil, fruit, a nut butter, and a handful of non-starchy veggie such as spinach.
- Decrease screen time and increase sunshine. Example: get outdoors and avoid blue light 2 hours prior to bedtime to ensure adequate sleep.
- Minimize caffeinated, processed coffee drinks and sodas. Example: choose organic herbal teas or green tea
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The first book that helped guide my path into functional medicine was, Inflammation Spectrum by Dr. Will Cole. This book contained a quiz at the beginning to assess your overall inflammation score. I took the quiz and was experiencing nearly every single symptom; my inflammation score was through the roof. I was only 25 years old. I learned about functional medicine and the power of nutrition and an anti-inflammatory diet for healing. I implemented the needed dietary changes and was feeling nearly 80% improvement in daily symptoms within the first 1–2 weeks. Not a single specialist I had seen in the decade prior had ever asked me about my diet, not one. I had more symptom relief in a week, from a $12 book on amazon than I had in years. This was just the beginning of my healing journey and the introduction into functional medicine health coaching.
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. :-)
Why mindset is the great healer. How our thoughts, belief patterns dictate our reality and how to use this to our benefit instead of our detriment. How thoughts alone can impact your genetic expression and physical biochemistry. Mindset and mood resilience is critical for mental, spiritual and physical healing.
Educate, inspire and empower people to take charge of their health, rewire their brains, and choose wellness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”- Tony Robbins
This is a quote I have on my website, in my workbook I use with clients, and a memorized life lesson engrained in my mind. I was unwell because I was simply not doing anything that promoted wellness, therefore, I continued to experience illness. In my career I continued to work the same job, with the same hours, and same routine and continued to feel burnt out, stressed and without passion. In my mental health, I gave into my limiting beliefs, fears and continued to experience anxiety and fear. I was not changing anything I did and yet still hoping for a different result.
When I decided I had to change what I’ve always done in order to change my outcome, I built new habits and patterns, rewired my brain and healed my body to finally yield positive results and true healing.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram @shaeleonard https://www.instagram.com/shaeleonard/
Facebook Shae Leonard https://www.facebook.com/Shae-Leonard-108389014290330
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!