PAUSE & BE GRATEFUL. Taking time to be present and appreciate what you have in your life right now. Too often, we think “we will be happy when…” Train yourself to be grateful for your situation right now, the loved ones and friends you have. Focus on what you have vs what you do not.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristina Shea
Kristina Shea, an emerging leader in the Canadian wellness space, is savvy, smart, and spirited. With a strong business background as a senior marketing executive, anyone who knows her will agree she is heart-centered, too… and these days she has stepped out on her own into the entrepreneur space as the founder of BlueSkys Life™, a modern, inclusive and holistic wellness brand. Kristina is particularly focused on women’s wellness and education — including an important cannabis component, in keeping with the all-natural element. Additionally, she regularly donates her time and talents to make things better for others, speaking on women’s leadership and entrepreneurship as well as wellness and health has a diverse and impressive background.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My backstory is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, a lot of ups and downs — many of my friends have told me I should have my own Netflix series. I hustled from the age of 21, in the marketing and design industry for years employed by other companies and my own business K Vision, consulting for Fortune 500 companies including banks and insurance companies. So much so that an average night of sleep was about 3 hours. I was doing this as a single mom, raising a young daughter, going to school, and teaching fitness and dance.
The additional backstory here is that I was widowed (not once but twice) I learned not to show my “cracks” or vulnerabilities, and I kept my emotions bottled up. I was then in a corporate culture of “Achieve or Leave”
I was trying to DO, ACHIEVE, raise my daughter, and have it all. To be that super mom, have a career, excel, and climb that corporate ladder. My motivation was to provide stability and financial security for my daughter and myself — and to feel that I was “successful”.
In pursuit of this I was pushing myself beyond the norm mentally and physically — one day I collapsed in the Financial District food court. I was rushed to the hospital, after cat scans, and an MRI I was diagnosed with a brain cyst that was putting pressure on my brain. I had been suffering from debilitating migraines for years. Pain had become my normal. I was then on every kind of pain killer, as I had opted to not have surgery. This was obviously not a picture of wellness, I was irritable, and although very high functioning at work, I was not always pleasant to my loved ones at home, being exhausted and in constant pain.
I was introduced to cannabis by a girlfriend who encouraged me to try medical cannabis for pain. I vehemently said NO, I do NOT use drugs…” I said. My girlfriend said you most definitely DO USE DRUGS, look at your bedside table of pharma! She had a point.
I discovered micro-dosing and using cannabis and CBD in different non-smoke formats, different chemical profiles, and they were helping me ease my pain and reduced my need for painkillers. I started seeing my health as not a state within my body — but as a state of mind and way of living holistically.
This meant living my life with clean and sustainable products. I like my products like my people — toxic-free!
I educated myself on how to read product labels and understand the products I was putting on my body and face. As a result, I became obsessed with Clean Beauty. Women on average put 515 synthetic chemicals onto their body each day — and many people do not realize these toxins can be absorbed into your bloodstream — and accumulate into your system which can lead to disease.
I also became a passionate advocate for medical cannabis and became SVP of Marketing & Communications for a life science company involved in cannabis. However, during COVID, I was laid off. It was a forced opportunity for me to reset and rebalance. I had been working again insane hours including many weekends and not having any time for myself. I realized I did not want to go back to the “old normal” I was not living the life I had envisioned. I had always recognized that the “corporate overdrive” was always a recipe for disaster, however, I was addicted to the rapid pace. Stress is the cause of most diseases and I needed to slow down. I had always said that I would “sleep when I die.” I quickly realized I was going “to die if I did not sleep”.
As a woman, I recognized there were huge gaps in addressing wellness for women. From wellness and CLEAN beauty products catering to specific women’s needs to education and interactive conversations tailored to women. I want to empower women to live and build their “Wellth” — toxic-free for their mind, body, and home.
During my health and personal journey, I always looked to the blue sky for hope, optimism, and to not give up. During covid, with the lack of cars commuting, pollution faded away — you really did SEE the blue sky! BlueSkys Life™ was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I used to be very shy when I was younger. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone, especially as a marketing consultancy firm, and owned the mantra “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I now always push myself to say hello and talk to people I do not know — and strike up a conversation. This is how I met one of the CEOs of the largest banks in the world, standing in a line-up at a Toronto food court for lunch. I said ‘Hello’ and just started a conversation — about everything and anything. The man then told me his organization could use someone like myself. I had no idea who he was until I read his business card back at my office. I ended up consulting for this top-tier bank for many years. The lesson here is to not be afraid to put yourself out there and just be yourself.
Related to this is a sense of mental wellness which is also being confident as your true self. It is also about social interactivity. The ability to meet people and have a sense of emotional intelligence will boost your sense of confidence and courage. As women, society has trained us to be quiet. I say “Raise your voice and be heard, even if it is a simple Hello. Connect with others — you never know who you will meet and where it will lead.”
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are many “missteps” or “mistakes I have made. However, I reframe these as learning opportunities. Failing is simply a journey to success if you choose to dust yourself off and get up… I will give you two examples, one business and one personal.
First, choosing a business partner. This is a partner that you will be tied to for a very long time, and possibly longer than a marriage. Like marriage, a business partnership is very easy to enter, but very difficult to leave and potentially significant financial repercussions. Do your due diligence on the individual. Ensure you are both on the same page for goals and long-term vision. What stage of life are they in, will they be active partners or silent? Do they bring complementary skill sets to yours? Do you bring the same “sweat equity” and financial commitment? If not, reconsider.
Personally, the biggest mistake I made was not making time for myself during my career journey. I was always trying to please others and neglected my health. I then became very regimented with scheduling workouts and yoga, however, during the pandemic, my established routine became up-ended. My lesson here was to schedule time for me — whether work out, meditating, sleep, or just some fun. I learned to plan everything as I did before the pandemic. Whether I was doing hot yoga by my fireplace at home or in a yoga studio, it still had to be scheduled. Planning each day and week ahead of time, it becomes easy to make time for your top priorities. Number one should be your health. It is very easy to say, ‘I will start tomorrow’ I say, ‘Start right now!’ Remember, Health is Wealth.
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 have not had a single mentor — however, I have had some amazing people in my life who I look to for inspiration. I will share a story about a close friend and mentor Martin Reid, founder of Reids Distillery who was a former CEO of one of the largest mortgage lenders in Canada. We both had corporate careers and we were both in the corporate space when we met. Shortly after he left a career in the corporate world to follow to do something very different — his passion for gin. He took a big risk and built a craft distillery in Toronto, which is thriving despite the pandemic. Martin has always encouraged me to follow my entrepreneurial spirit and always told me that I should work for myself (as I worked so many hard and long hours for other companies). Martin reinforced not to give up even when I felt like it — but to keep believing in myself.
For me, the biggest risk is regret. You have one life to live, which I have learned well by losing two husbands, and regret is hard to live with. I also follow Jeff Bezo’s ethos and his ‘Regret Minimization Framework’. His framework is a long-term game, not short-term gain. He asked his 80-year-old self, would he regret not having tried this “Internet thing”. I love this way of thinking and it is one that I have followed for many years. It forces you to think beyond the present and put all your fears and doubts that you may be having right now. Instead, you fast forward into the future and evaluate from that perspective.
So, I followed Jeff Bezos’s framework and I asked my 80-year-old self would I feel “regret” by not following my dream and passion to build a BlueSkys Life for myself and others? Well, I am here talking about BlueSkys Life, so you know my decision…
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
BlueSkys Life™ is all about “being”. Being well physically, mentally, spiritually, and environmentally. BlueSkys Life a modern sustainable lifestyle wellness brand for the mind, body and home — with a female, yet inclusive lens.
People often tell me you spelt BlueSkys incorrectly — and I respond that this was done with purposeful intent. I believe in knowing your “Y” and your purpose. Why do you live life the way you do? We all have choices in how we live — from the food we eat, how we move our bodies, where we live, how we choose to work, and how we treat others.
True wellness must also include the environment and sustainability. Considering the environmental impact is key to the future of our planet — and our children’s planet. BlueSkys Life carries natural lifestyle products that are curated and designed based on their carbon footprint such as green packaging to ethically sourced labour and ingredients.
My aim is to make an impact and empower women from all walks of life to feel BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING about their bodies, their age, and their state both mentally and physically.
My overall vision is for women to not only embrace health & wellness — but to also embrace that it is ok to not always be ok. I want to bring women’s health issues that are normally considered taboo — such as mental health, sex, hormones & menopause to the forefront. BlueSkys Life will help normalize these topics as part of a women’s life journey through open conversation — and mindful, natural products to support them.
I am also launching “Making HerStory” under BlueSkys Life, a media platform in 2021 to highlight women — their stories of trials and tribulations, their successes, and words of wisdom. Many women feel they are alone, when in fact there are so many others that have lived similar experiences. As women, we can collectively inspire and activate change within each other.
During the pandemic, many people were self-reflecting on how they want to live their lives, and many are choosing not to go back to the “old normal”. Wellness is being reset and redefined globally since covid. BlueSkys Life will aim to support a “normal of wellbeing”.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I am listing 6, as I could not leave one out!
1.ASK YOURSELF THE BIG QUESTION.
How do you want to live your life… this will help frame your life goals. How do you want to be remembered? Think about this — will my answer support a healthy, fulfilled, and happy life? If so, ingrain this thought into everything you do and how you live. Think of this as your personal compass to living your life. Sometimes, your direction may change, and you need to get back on course. It is good to keep asking yourself this question every year to ensure you are still aligned with your answer– or is there a new answer?
2.UNDERSTAND YOUR BEAUTY PRODUCT INGREDIENTS
Read your beauty labels like you would read your food labels in the organic aisle. Many women and men obsess over the organic ingredients we eat — but we then cover our faces with chemical-filled creams. Many of these chemicals can be linked to an increased risk of cancer. Look for natural brands that use simple ingredients that sound like food, such as coconut oil, lavender or cannabis & hemp. Watch for the big and scary ingredients such as phthalates, undefined fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde, and coal tar. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient, would not eat these, or even want to smell these — so why put these on your face and body?
The drawbacks to skipping sleep are seriously detrimental. Your body needs 7–9 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity up 23 percent — and this leads to other health issues. If you have trouble getting to sleep, use calming essential oils, try drinking herbal non-caffeinated teas or natural sleep-promoting products, or optimize your sleeping patterns using an app such as Rise Sleep or Calm to tuck you in with a tranquil bedtime story.
4. DRINK LOTS OF WATER.
Water is life. It is essential to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water (8, eight-ounce glasses per day) will help give you more energy, better skin, better gut health, and can even help with weight loss. Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go, in the car, at your desk, shopping, when you go for a walk, and during workouts.
5. MOVE YOUR BODY EVERY DAY
Yes, exercise is essential to your health, no easy button here. However, even vigorous exercise for an hour can’t undo the negative effects of sitting for the entire rest of the day. This is hard for a digital society where we live on our laptops at work. Invest in a tool that tracks your steps, like a fit bit or simply just put a reminder on every hour to encourage you to move enough throughout the day. Taking the stairs or taking short walks around your office or stretch on the hour. Keep moving as you age. Your body will thank you, as your body will be more nimble and fit. You will be less likely to fall and you will also be grateful into your later years you can still walk, run and dance!
6. PAUSE & BE GRATEFUL
Taking time to be present and appreciate what you have in your life right now. Too often, we think “we will be happy when…” Train yourself to be grateful for your situation right now, the loved ones and friends you have. Focus on what you have vs what you do not. This will ease anxiety and stress, help you be more content, happy, and live longer! You can still pursue goals, but with an attitude of gratitude. It does miracles for your mental well-being, building strong relationships, dealing with adversity, and helps contribute to your overall health.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like to change how people define success and wealth as a society globally. This outdated notion of what success is, makes the world very sick, on so many levels. I always say, “SICK PEOPLE, SICK PLANET”. True success is not the car you drive, your ambitious climb along the corporate ladder to your executive title, or how many millions you have in the bank. As none of this helps you when you are sick or become diagnosed with cancer. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found or replaced when it is lost –and that is your “Life”.
Success without a soul is empty. I would want to ingrain the concept of success moving from one of financial status — to being one of mindful wellness — mental, physical, and spiritual health. And there is not one societal formula for this, it is different for everyone. This should be taught and reinforced throughout schools, work, and through our media. Energy is contagious as if everyone was “well” the world would be a better place for all.
Health is your true WEALTH.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Be your authentic self
You will resonate with your audience and consumers by being true to who you are. People can see through inauthenticity. Keeping true to your core values and personality, your ideal consumers will naturally gravitate to your brand message.
2. Be clear on your mission and vision
Clarity will guide your roadmap. It is very hard to drive with a dirty windshield and arrive at your destination. Determine who and what your brand stands for, what value will your brand deliver, and how. This will keep you on course. It is ok to sometimes take a different path but not ok to veer off the road.
3. Be agile but don’t rush.
Often as business owners, we feel pressure to make rushed decisions or we may lose out on “opportunity”. It is important to be able to make informed decisions, with as much data and information you can gather in a reasonable time that is acceptable for your level of risk. If someone is pressuring you to make a rushed decision, walk away. This most likely benefits them vs your business. If you are rushing yourself with self-imposed deadlines, take a step back and analyze your roadmap to ensure your decisions are leading the direction you want to go.
4. Do not rush into a partnership — instead, think of strategic alliances
I mentioned partnerships before. I cannot emphasize to do your homework to ensure you are aligned on vision, sweat equity and capital to be invested from both parties. Instead, consider strategic alliances where you can build your business with collaborative efforts with other aligned products, business leaders through referrals, publicity, and joint promotions. This is a good way to even test out a potential partnership. On this note, however, always have a written agreement to ensure both parties both have a shared understanding of what is put into the project and what the expected reward is by both parties.
5. Expect to fail, and design these as opportunities.
Design your projects so there are small, calculated risks — and design metrics of success. Some will succeed, and some will fail. Best to test on smaller projects first. You will learn just as much, if not more, from your failures as your successes. Take your learnings and then continue to test and iterate on new projects. You never know where a finding may take your business.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health hits close to home for me, and I am a strong advocate for mental health support. I have had family members suffer from depression, anxiety, addictive diseases such as alcoholism, and even at its extreme, tragically suicide. The stress alone that comes with the social and medical stigma of mental illness is still very overwhelming and only exacerbates the issue. I also feel that women, and self-identifying women in particular — are bombarded with societal pressure of what is defined as beauty — their age, size, ethnicity — and if they are straight women or LGBTQ identifying. This can lead to SO many issues such as low self-confidence, low self & body esteem — which can lead to depression and other serious mental and health conditions. Everyone should feel beautiful in their own skin and mindset.
Mental health is one of the most neglected facets of public health. Almost 1 billion people are living and suffering from a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people around the world have been affected in some way from isolation, financial and job loss to losing loved ones which are having a further impact on people’s mental health. The key to a healthy life is having a healthy mind.
Mental health awareness is now being broadcast on social media and throughout large corporations, however, there still needs to be a congruency for companies and society to “Walk their Talk”. Supporting people suffering from mental illness is essential mental health is just as real and valid as physical ailments such as arthritis or cancer.
Mental health is a key facet of holistic health that needs nurturing more than ever by ourselves, communities, and public health more than ever. Countries on average spend just 2% of their health budgets on mental health — it is time to crush the stigma of mental illness and countries to invest in quality mental health services. If everyone was mentally well, imagine the transformative change around the world. We should all be the change — and make “Kindness the New Contagion.”
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Thank you for these fantastic insights!