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Time for You

It’s not about being self-centered, it’s all about self-care

Summer’s ending, kids are back to school, a sense of normalcy sets in. Now what?

Not everyone has a contemplative clearing space this time of year, but this is a good time to reassess how we’ve been living and loving our lives.

We feature Cotrenia Hood, an accomplished businesswoman who, faced with a life-threatening condition, made significant lifestyle and self-care changes that positively affected not only her, but the loved ones around her. 

Celebrated speaker, author and three-time Navy SEAL platoon commander Alden Mills presents “controllables” — mindsets we can harness as we seek greater peace in this shifting world.

Dr. Kiran Gill offers a lesson in dermal anatomy, aging skin and repair to help you look your best, and alchemist Adora Winquist sheds light on feng shui and things to avoid as you plan harmonious living spaces.

“When I loved myself enough,” says author Kim McMillen, “I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits — anything that kept me small. 

“My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.”

 

CHAPTER 97

 
 
 

FEATURE

Soft Crash

Cotrenia Hood’s successful life underwent a full reset — for the better

by Kathy Grey

A business and economic development careerist, Cotrenia Hood founded Steel Bleu, a consulting firm that focuses on the entrepreneurial journey.

“I decided to live on purpose,” she says, “waking up loving what I do for the rest of my life.”

She learned the ins and outs of raising capital for non- and for-profit businesses, sharing methods for launching other people’s dreams and how her purpose-driven work can provide opportunities to diversify businesses in Southwest Florida, drawing from the area’s existing infrastructure to bring about equity.

But with the “good stress” of Hood’s achievements came the bad — and the emergence of an underlying condition that could have killed her last year.

Today, at age 47, Hood — mother of two, wife and entrepreneur — reflects on the whole-life reset made necessary by a surgical procedure that saved her life.

Reset Onset

For years, Hood had been living with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), an irregularly fast heartbeat. Two years ago, she says, SVT episodes started happening every day and, eventually, she couldn’t get them to stop.

Hood shared her story on social media, which has been edited for truncation.


“A year ago I had heart surgery, a cardiac ablation. I suffered periodically with a racing heart. It was over 200 beats per minute, nonstop, sometimes for hours. It would take my breath away. It would make me feel faint.

“It was crippling, but I pressed through. I pressed through for my children, for my family, for my friends and my clients. I ignored the signs to slow down. I ignored the times that loved ones said I was overcommitted. I thought with the help of medicine, I will just keep going. But eventually, the medicine stopped working. I could barely walk down my driveway without losing my breath. I had ignored the signs so long that when I tried to employ the strategies the doctor gave, it was too late.

“It all came to a head when I blacked out in a hotel in December 2020 and had to be rushed to the ER, where there were a dozen or more healthcare workers and a defibrillator standing between me and seeing my children have children.”

“I was at the point of no return,” she tells us. “I scheduled the operation to get it fixed.”

And then, she thought to herself, “I’ve got to make some changes. I have to set boundaries. People who love you and want the best for you will stay within the boundaries you draw. So, I had to redraw my boundaries.”

The Life You Deserve

She started turning down extra errands and spontaneous calls for meetings so she could take care of herself, saying, “You want to help, but you’ve already overextended yourself.”

Calling it faith over fear, Hood says, “God loves you and it’s all going to be OK. Fear can suffocate and paralyze you, keeping you from living and having the life you deserve. I’m shifting because my life is important, and I have to treasure it as much as God does.

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“Prioritizing and self-preservation are the greatest gifts to give anyone connected to you. That way, I can be a gift to them, and they can get the best version of me so I can give them 100% of myself.”

Hood’s Tactics

• I bought an elliptical machine, and I walk the greenway twice a week. Baker Park is the most amazing place to get in exercise.

• I cut protein choices to chicken and fish.

• I cut down on caffeine, something I used when I was overworked. I had to shift because I was not resting well.

• I moved my phone from the nightstand. And there’s less urgency answering the phone.
• I assigned cooking days to others in my household. (They’re quite capable!)

• I’m committed to the work hours I’ve set.

• I started a garden and decided I was going to slow the pace of my life. There’s peace in putting seeds in the ground and producing food to feed my family. Knowing patience through gardening has slowed me down so I can focus on the things that really matter.

Lessons Learned

• Self-care is not selfish. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself — and others.

• Self-care is not expensive. I don’t need a massage, spa treatments or international travel to care for myself. All I need is my book, my music and 15 minutes of transition time to decompress and set my boundaries.

• The journey started with my heart and my life. I knew it was time to reset and make changes.

• I don’t want vacation or the weekend to be an escape. I want it to be an extension of the life God has given me.

Legacy

Hood chooses to live day by day.

“I’m as present as I can be in my life. Grace is what I walk in right now. I’m present in every single moment I’m on this Earth. I want to be present and tell my story. My story matters and, hopefully, it will help someone in the future.”

 
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MIND MATTERS

Owning Your Mindset

Three things you can control and use to your advantage

by Kathy Grey

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There are so many things in this world we can’t control, including the economy, job security and our futures in the workplace. And that’s only one aspect of our lives.

We can’t control the weather, traffic, the past or future, how others think or how happy they are.

But one thing we can control is our mindset, says Alden Mills, acclaimed entrepreneur, author and keynote speaker. Mills is also an Inc. 500 CEO and three-time Navy SEAL platoon commander.

Below are Mills’ “three controllables” to your mindset that can be used to your advantage.

Own Your Thoughts

Your mind is constantly creating, organizing and storing thoughts. There are automatic thoughts, which pop into your head without you even realizing it, and there are deliberate thoughts, which you create on purpose.

Over time, thoughts become part of your belief system, which is a set of rules or guidelines you use to filter information and make decisions. The quality of your thoughts has a direct impact on the quality of your life.

Owning your thoughts means being aware of them and taking responsibility for them. It means being mindful of the stories you tell yourself about who you are, what you can do and what’s possible for you. It means choosing thoughts that empower you, rather than disempower you. When you own your thoughts, you take control of your life.

Own Your Feelings

Feelings are a byproduct of our thoughts. They are also hard-wired into our nervous system and serve an important purpose. They tell us when something is wrong, when we need to take action and when we are in danger.

However, feelings can also be misleading. Just because we feel something doesn’t mean it’s true. A feeling is just a feeling. It’s not a fact.

Therefore, we need to be careful not to let our feelings control us. We can do this by owning our feelings. When we own our feelings, we take responsibility for them. We acknowledge them, understand them and use them to pay attention and take action.

Feelings can also reinforce positive changes and achievements. When we feel good about ourselves, it’s easier to stay motivated.

Own Your Choices

Choices are the building blocks of our lives. Every choice we make leads us down a different path. Some choices are small and insignificant, while others are life-changing.

But every choice we make matters. It’s important to be aware of the choices we make and the consequences that result from them. When we own and take responsibility for our choices, we empower ourselves to create the life we want.

There is a nautical saying that goes, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” We cannot always control external events and people, but we can choose how we think about them, choose how we respond, and change the consequences as a result. We can also choose to change course and practice new behaviors and actions that help us move forward.

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Alden Mills is a three-time Navy SEAL platoon commander and was the CEO of Perfect Fitness, one of the fastest-growing companies in America. He is also a longtime entrepreneur with over 40 patents. Mills has more than 25 years of experience working on high-performance leadership, sales and team building.

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BEAUTIFUL YOU

Spotlight on Skin Self-Care

A lesson in dermal anatomy, aging and repair

by Dr. Kiran Gill

Like you, I spend a lot of time taking care of others, both at home and at work.

And as the saying goes, to effectively care for others, you’ve also got to care for yourself. As a plastic surgeon, my patients come to me for advice, treatments, and solutions, all in the name of self-care. If there’s one tip I have for prioritizing yourself, it has to do with your skin, specifically, preventing and repairing signs of aging.

 

From a medical perspective, the skin is complex. It has multiple layers, cells and structures. For our purposes here, there are just a few simple concepts you need to know to effectively care for yours, which I’ll sum up in this lesson on skin anatomy, aging and repair.

Skin Anatomy and Aging

The signs of aging generally become apparent in your 40s and 50s and are a result of changes in skin tissue and underlying components (fat, muscle and bone). Some changes are a natural result of simply getting older: We naturally lose fat and bone density in the face as we age. Signs of aging also result from sun exposure: Stress, poor diet and lack of sleep. Even gravity itself plays a role over time.

The signs of aging include wrinkles and facial laxity (drooping); dull, dry, and rough skin texture; and age spots/skin discolorations.

Of the three layers of the skin, the epidermis is the topmost (where you see these tell-tale signs of aging). With age, our skin’s natural exfoliation process slows down, which means dead skin cells collect on the surface of the skin, emphasizing wrinkles and creating a dull appearance.

The dermis is the middle layer (where collagen matters). As you age, your body produces less of this structural support protein, which affects the skin’s elasticity and hydration. The result is drier, less elastic and thinner skin.

The hypodermis is the bottom layer, which contains fat and gives the face volume. With age, it dissipates, which contributes to visible aging.

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Repair and Protect

So, what can we do to improve the skin’s appearance?

First, protect your skin no matter it’s condition. Aging may be a natural process, but it is accelerated by sun exposure, smoking and pollution. Wear a good sunscreen 365 days a year. Anti-pollute your skin with a good cleansing routine.

Second, exfoliate. Dead skin cells collect on the top layer of the skin and in the crevices. Exfoliating clears it off, keeping the skin clean, bright and more youthful looking. Use an exfoliating product or chemical pads. Exfoliation alone can make a noticeable difference in the brightness and quality of the skin.

 

Finally, if you want to take your skin to the next level, ask a skin expert about specific active ingredients and treatments to boost collagen levels for plumper skin. Topical vitamin C (ascorbic acid), retinol, chemical peels and laser treatments can all help to stimulate collagen in different ways. To improve the deepest layer, book a consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon to evaluate and recommend dermal filler injections or fat transfer to restore the volume lost naturally with age.

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EMPOWERED LIVING

Learning to be Uncomfortable

Tools that empower your journey to your real self

by Stacia Sims

I grew up in a narcissistic family and a world surrounded by masculine dogma. These things weren’t new or unique to my family. They were passed down through generations.

My parents and teachers were from a generation in which women weren’t equals. Banks could refuse to issue accounts to unmarried women. In some states, women couldn’t serve on a jury. When I was born, female students weren’t part of the Yale and Harvard campuses. And today, women still struggle with equality in the workplace.

I was raised with sayings such as “charity begins at home,” and “formal education is most important.”

Being Uncomfortable

Through the help of great therapy, I learned to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable meant that I was learning and growing.

I learned that the best education in life didn’t come from a college degree but came from making myself uncomfortable. I learned how to break the cycles.

I grew by exposing myself to a diversity of experiences, people, places, foods and cultures. I got my authentic education from getting out of the environment in which I had been raised. I started thinking for myself instead of regurgitating what I had been force fed.

My slow accumulation of an alternative vocabulary, etiquette and way of life started making others very uncomfortable. The trick was for me to know that I didn’t have to own it if someone else was uncomfortable. I had to learn to be me, no matter what.

I took on a fulfilling yet very uncomfortable journey to become the person that I am today. I’m still learning and growing. But I have accumulated a stack of tools to help me continue to grow. Tools such as self-care as a way of life.

Self-Care

Learning the difference between selfish and self-care was extremely foreign to me and still is, sometimes, today. But I know that to be the whole and caring person I was meant to be, I must care for myself first.

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I exercise and eat foods that are fuel for my body. I establish appropriate boundaries with people, things and places.

 

The word “should” does not belong in my vocabulary. It is a word used in obligation and it is not my truth. I don’t lie about my age, weight or shoe size. I have hobbies and some of those hobbies truly challenge me. 

Forgiveness

Another tool I have is forgiveness: a pillar of life. It doesn’t mean that someone is off the hook for what they have done; it means that I choose not to let someone else’s decisions, choices and words rot in an echoing canyon inside of me. I choose to save that echoing canyon for love. I have forgiven myself for carrying my parents’ shame about me.

I have forgiven myself for hiding my true self. I have forgiven myself for thinking that I am not worthy. I have forgiven myself for judging those who didn’t think the way I did.

Perspective

My past doesn’t define my present or my future. It is my perspective, my choices and my actions that define here and now.

If you find your life revolving around others’ expectations or desires, it is time to allow your journey to be about you for a change.

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PEACEFUL LIVING

Six Ways to Maximize the Benefits of Fung Shui

Spatial arrangement and orientation can aid or impede the flow of energy in your surroundings

by Adora Winquist

Feng shui is a practice that involves placing objects in living spaces in a way that creates harmony with the natural world. The objective is to channel energy forces and create harmony between a person and their surroundings. 

As a modern alchemist and expert in the field of aromatherapy, I recommend avoiding these six mistakes in Feng Shui in order to ensure greater harmony, wellbeing and abundance in your home, health and everyday life.

1. Clutter. Which rooms or spaces tend to accumulate clutter the fastest in your home or office? Clutter around you is a representation of an accumulation of thoughts, emotions and experiences of the past. Even those pesky “catch all” drawers and the pantry need order. Make it a point to pick one area a week and clean, clear and organize. 

2. Neglect. Sometimes it’s OK to sweat the small stuff. What areas of your living space have you overlooked? Everyone who comes into your home leaves an energy imprint where they touch, so make sure to clean all your doorknobs weekly. Also, a monthly practice of cleaning door and garage windows and sweeping and weeding walkways is a good way to keep the energy clear. Lubricate squeaky doors to avoid energy leaks. 

3. Stagnation. Nooks and crannies collect stagnant energy, even when they do not contain the clutter of papers, knickknacks and other items. Be sure to dust, sweep and polish these areas to refresh your space. Tend to your plants by checking for water levels, removing dead leaves and dusting healthy ones so they can more easily photosynthesize. Remove synthetic plants altogether, as they accumulate dust and old energy. 

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4. Disrepair. Deferred maintenance from the simplest to the most significant repairs takes a toll on more than your property value. It weighs heavily on both the conscious and subconscious psyche. Make an action plan on paper and project timelines and budget. Start with easy items first to give a sense of ease and accomplishment. 

5. Not Making Your Bed. Sometimes the simplest steps to greater harmony are the easiest. Making your bed every morning sets the stage for order and harmony. It is a symbolic way to start the day anew and leave the challenges or discord of yesterday where it belongs: in the past. 

6. Toxicity. Infusing your home with essential oil-based cleaning products offers a natural way to keep your home clean and the energy clear. One of the biggest mistakes we make is using toxic chemicals inside and outside the home. Evaluating these primary products is the first step to creating greater wellbeing for yourself, loved ones and the Earth for all future generations. 

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