With today’s bells and whistles, we find ourselves asking questions frequently about mental health. The challenges and struggles of overcoming this hurdle have raised quite a stir, but in the midst of this, peace can be found. Finding this said peace is a tough journey, but sometimes we have to be mindful and look forward to the next step. Take it from Chris Shea, a author, life coach, speaker, educator, and community counselor. Over 20 years of addiction counseling as a clinical and administrator, Chris has implemented treatment program models while combining evidence-based treatments to promote lifelong recovery. With his experience preceding through pastoral ministry as a hospital chaplin in D.C. and a retreat leader in the New England area, Chris uses his time between Lifesjourney, a blog and podcast, and an adjunct professor in the Family Studies and Community Development department at Towson University to bring a new perspective.
Hello, Mr. Shea. How are you doing today?
I’m doing very well. How about yourself? – Chris
Good. Well, first of all, I would like to thank you for at least taking the time out of your day to speak with me and I was reading up on Lifesjourney and just some of your accomplishments.
This guy is an author, a speaker, a life coach, an educator and I don’t know what else to say except the role of a life coach does not come easy obviously. How did you fall into that field and what really brought out Chris Shea, the man of many talents?
(jokingly) Sometimes, I think I’m just way too nice. – Chris
But what’s important to me is to help as many people understand that we can find inner peace we can live a life with less stress, less anxiety, and I know that because I’ve changed my life around. I know it’s possible and I’ve seen it in many of my clients. I just really want to get out there and spread that message and help guide as many people as possible. – Chris
As a life coach, you’ve seen met individuals who’ve suffered through addiction and depression.
How has that changed you or how you perceive things now?
Oh, it’s changed me a lot. I began being a counselor back in the early 1990s and never really had any intention of becoming a counselor who was focusing on addictions. I fell into that field. I needed a job at the time and that’s who hired me. I took it and completely fell in love with it. To witness people who were coming in to see me who had lost it all and I’m not talking material goods, you know, lost all as far as themselves and their self-esteem and self-respect and self-will and just everything gone because of the drugs and alcohol. Just seeing that transformation. You can’t NOT be changed by that.
What I began to learn for all that is, it’s possible to change your life. You can go from one extreme to another. For the better and for the worse, but it is going to take a lot of humility and a lot of patience and a lot of strength to do what you need to do to make those changes. For me, that’s what I began to incorporate is needing that patience and just really needing that humility to let other people guide me into the ways where I can find what they have. A lot of what I do today in my own life, as well as within my practice, is loosely based on a lot of the fellowship groups and the like because that’s why work. – Chris
Mental health has become a topic for many celebrities today.
Would you say that in today’s society people suffer from mental health issues more or less? Do you think now that its more publicized, its become more the norm?
I like how you put that. The more the norm. I think it is more the accepted norm to be able to say I have a mental health issue. I think that there is more of it. Mainly, because we’re living in a society where we’re almost forced into being stressed and anxious. All of society is continually telling us to produce and to move forward and don’t stop. Make sure you get on top of everybody else and make sure you find success. All of these like expectations of what I need to do.
I think it’s going beyond. When I was growing up, it was always you wanted to have like a better lawn than your neighbor had and that was almost like a healthy competition type deal. It’s going beyond that if you don’t have a certain jobs or certain income, certain status or certain whatever, it isn’t just you felt ‘Oh I lost that’. I think it’s more of being taken at heart and instead of saying ‘Well, you know maybe I lost up a long challenge’ now becomes ‘Maybe, I’m a loser. Maybe, I’m not good. Maybe I’m all these negative things. I don’t know why it changed that way, but more and more people are feeling stressed and anxious and that’s why I think my message of letting people know there are ways that you can reduce these stressors and the anxiety and live a peaceful life, but we’re going to have to think differently than what the majority of society is you know instructing us. – Chris
I love this quote where you said:
‘Life is sometimes difficult, but even so it’s always possible to find inner peace.’
I know you’ve applied some personal life moments serving as guidance to others from when you’ve gone out.
What other ways have you gone about this?
What I’m meaning in there is by saying if we’re searching for, say happiness out of life, and I’ve written a bit about this. The search for happiness in life really is a futile search. We really shouldn’t be searching for that. You’re searching for an inner peace which is something much deeper. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my daily life. I can still have that inner peace about myself. I can be feeling down and yet having a peace. I could be angry and having a peace but, we can’t be happy and sad at the same time or angry and sad or angry and happy at the same time. Again, this goes back to what you had mentioned earlier about learning from the addiction. People live their life in the recovery from the addiction regardless what’s going on in their lives.
You can be having a really bad day and yet still remain in recovery. The way that I’m translating that is saying I could really be having a bad day, yet I still have this inner peace about myself. For me, the inner peace is my thoughts and emotions and values are in line with what my teachings are and the way that I’m viewing the world. If I’m staying in line with all of that, then I’m at peace. It’s when I get out of line then I’m going to need that realignment because I’m going to get a lot more stressed and anxious because the part of me that’s not lined up with who exactly I am. – Chris
You talked about mindfulness and how it guides you to the best version of yourself.
“Mindfulness guides me to be the best version of me, not for me to hold onto, but for me to share my best version of self with the community” – Chris Shea
So do you think many younger people would need to hear this?
Oh definitely. I’m not going to bash the younger people like a lot of people do except to say I think they’ve gotten it worse from society than somebody of my generation where I grew up kind of in one societal message.
Now, I’m kind of on the outskirts of my age of the message. You’ve got to kind of keep up with everybody else, but they’ve grown up with that message that’s in their old ways.
I can see, rebel is probably by the wrong word, but I can see where a lot of the younger people are looking for ways to give back ways to help others and that’s great. I think that’s kind of their push back to what they’re hearing. They also need that other peace to begin to understand the importance of the mindfulness and looking at life from a whole different perspective. I think what they’re going to find there is the very thing they’re searching for yet, looking for in society. They’re going to find elsewhere if they change their perspective and mindfulness is one technique that can really help them to do that. – Chris
Fun question for you: if you had to be any animal in the world what animal and how does it pertain to the path that you are on?
They’re so many animals. I love animals. Honestly, off the top of my head, this going to sound weird, but that there is a story. It would probably be the Wooly Caterpillar.
The only reason it popped in my head, I had many years ago wrote about this, but I was taking a walk one day and just walking down my street and it was that time of year when the woolly caterpillars come by and there was one crossing the road. I just happened to stop and look at him. One of the things that I realize that I don’t know why but this is part of mindfulness. Things pop in your head. This caterpillar. Their world sense is so very different than my world sense. They don’t know another street over there exists. Their whole scope of how big their world is is so different than how we understand the world to be.
Yet, at the same time, I’m sure there’s things in this universe we don’t even know yet. Same with that Caterpillar. For me, it helped with that humility, things are kind of putting things into place. Who we are and where we are right now, we have the world view. I think it’s great to capitalize on your world view, but to always understand there is a larger world view out there that you may or may not be aware of, but it would be helpful if you were. – Chris Shea
Could you find support in your local everyday life? Even as an introvert?
Yes, I believe that you can. Actually, for myself, surprisingly for some people, I’m a very deep introvert. Even with all the stuff that I do, which seems extroverted, things like this (interviews) or giving talks and teaching and all that, my go-to approach in life is more introverted. One of things that I find in myself and the people that I talked to in similar situations, there is something, even within the introvert, that when there’s crisis and, define crisis however you want, whenever you feel there’s something in life that you need to fix or change or you’re in danger or whatever it may be. There seems to be some sort of like switch within us that says ‘Seek out help, seek out others’. I think that’s just a natural thing. Look at humans, we’ve tended from the beginning of our known histories to work and try.
I think we still do that to this day in very different ways and we call it different, but I don’t think it’s much different. The times I want to spend by myself or my own thoughts. Yeah, I can stretch myself. I can reach out to others and recognize that it’s necessary to do that. It’s not like out of a sense of ‘I guess I should’ or need guidance too. It’s more of that sense of ‘this will be helpful’ or ‘if I want to help solve those, I’m going to have to’. – Chris
I’ve personally found solace in just focusing on the arts through my activities and my question to you, seeing as you’re also an educator, would you regard that as a distraction or do you think it’s just a nice method a coping mechanism?
That’s very individualistic, but to answer the question, you’ll find solace in that and it helps to cope with life and it’s not harming you in any way, then I have no issue with that if it means coping. I think what happens is when people use coping mechanisms that either become obsessive or the mechanism itself is unhealthy, then we’re running into issues. I think, in in the way you described that, something that gives you solace in whatever it is that you’d be going through with, it sounds very healthy and something that would work and hopefully keep doing. – Chris
I assume also that you’ve had your students who’ve stopped you for your expertise. Especially, because some of them may have had backgrounds where addiction and depression have been involved.
Have you always been able to help them guide them in some sort of way and maybe hopefully inspire them to do better?
I do. The unfortunate thing with addiction is it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been somehow affected by addiction. I’ve had a number of students approach me with that. It’s usually about family members or spouses. I do try to guide them…I try to remind them about is that, regardless of what their education is and even if they themselves are going into counseling, when they’re dealing with a family member, they’re just a family member.
Don’t try to be counselor to the family. They themselves are also being impacted by what’s going on. It’s important for them to take care of themselves and to help guide that family member, but not to try to be the counselor or be professional and be the family member and live it and feel it as the family member. – Chris
That is such an excellent answer.
This final question is what’s something Mr. Chris Shea loves to do in his free time to unwind?
Well, to find free time. (chuckles)
What I love to do is to read but to be down by the water. We all just have nice talks with other family friends. Nothing overly exciting, but fulfilling and really does help me to relax. For me, it’s about being with nature. That’s why if I’m reading or talking to people or just sitting there is like the water of the woods or the combo of the two. Nature just helps to rejuvenate and regenerate. – Chris
That’s my type of thing, too! Thank you for taking time out of your busy day with us at BlackStarNews.
Thank you! I really appreciate the interest! – Chris
You can find Chris Shea’s Lifesjourney blog and Finding Peace podcast here: https://www.lifesjourneyblog.com/