Adonica Shaw of ‘The Surrender Circle’: “Organizing has a ton of mental benefits”

Organizing has a ton of mental benefits. The biggest benefit for me is that I’m less stressed and reduce any anxiety when I take my time and organize. I see organizing my bills and my finances as a way to manage my mental wellness because it removes the burden of anxiety when something comes up […]

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Organizing has a ton of mental benefits. The biggest benefit for me is that I’m less stressed and reduce any anxiety when I take my time and organize. I see organizing my bills and my finances as a way to manage my mental wellness because it removes the burden of anxiety when something comes up that I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for if my finances weren’t organized.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally, or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Well-being?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adonica Shaw.

Named as one of the top 136 Black Innovators in STEM + Arts by Wonder Women Tech, Adonica is an app developer and intentional wellness advocate dedicated to cultivating digital spaces that inspire and motivate professional women to improve their mental health by dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to self-care.

As a mental health change-agent, Adonica is the owner of the Self-Care Everyday Bookstore, which only carries books that promote self-care and wellness, she’s the founder of the tech company Surrender Circle, as well as the founder of Self-Care Saturday Inc., which is a California-based wellness-focused media company.

She is the author of the popular self-help book, “Depressed to Daring” which serves as a resource tool for professional women guiding them to grab the reins of their battle with anxiety and depression and gain control over their life and career. In the book, Adonica discusses her battle with depression and anxiety while navigating life experiences as a Division 1 scholarship athlete, weather broadcaster, pageant contestant, candidate for city council, and a single millennial-mother of three all while sustaining success as a highly-decorated marketing professional.

Through her popular podcasts “I Surrender,” and “Self-Care Saturday,” she interviews guests like former Paralympic skier, and White House Official Bonnie St. John, and Renowned Psychotherapist and NYT Bestselling author Barry Michels, on topics about mental agility, overcoming adversity, and finding balance in high-pressure environments.

As a 3-time TEDx Speaker, Adonica has incomparable messaging and speaking experience in managing high-functional depression, stress, and anxiety, and is powerfully unique at helping others define and craft the role of self-care and mental and emotional health while achieving professional success.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As a child, I was an introvert. I spent most of my time writing, reading, drawing. I aspired to be an English teacher. I was very socially awkward, and I struggled with being very introverted. Which honestly hasn’t changed much. I have four half brothers. Three are from my father, who is now deceased, and one from my mother, who raised my younger brother and me primarily on her own.

I had a very humble upbringing. And by humble, I mean sometimes we were the recipients of the canned food-drives at my elementary school. My mom worked most of the time and usually worked a second job during the holidays to provide Christmas gifts for my younger brother and me.

We didn’t go on vacation. I didn’t wear name-brand clothes. And we didn’t drive a nice car. My typical day as a kid was to go to school during the day, take the bus home and hang out in the neighborhood until dinner time. In the summer the only difference was that I would have to complete short essays that my mother would assign to me before she went to work before I could go outside.

We bounced around a bit and we moved around from Pasadena California to Glendale Arizona and eventually to Austintown Ohio. I moved back to Southern California when I was 14, literally like 2 weeks before I started school at John Muir High School in Pasadena. We moved one more time during my sophomore year to Upland California, where I graduated from High School before pursuing my undergraduate degree at the University of California Irvine on a Track & Field scholarship.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

What inspired me was every woman who was ambitious in public, but silently suffering from anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome in private.

I’ve had a varied career in television, entrepreneurship, politics, and nonprofits, and in each of those situations I ran into women who were just like me — ambitious, career-driven, loving, and seemingly unstoppable, but behind closed doors, they were struggling to balance everything.

The reason I’m on the path that I’m on now is that I finally got so tired of losing, and so tired of repeating the same mistakes that I disciplined myself enough to take myself seriously. And after doing that, and learning how to take better care of myself, I wanted to create a safe space that allowed women to work through these issues without judgment. My companies Surrender Circle, Self-Care Saturday Inc., and the Self-Care Everyday bookstore were all born out of my desire to create wrap-around support for women who needed to explore life from a more loving lens.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person whom you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

The person in my corner who has always been there silently cheering me on is my high school track coach. I met him when I was about 5 years old. At the time I was struggling to cope with moving into a new city and adjusting to a new environment and as a result, my behavior was abhorrent. I was emotional, confused, and stubborn, and he still worked with me. He saw something in me that I hadn’t even seen in myself and his patience allowed me to blossom and see possibilities in my life that were beyond my expectations.

Over the years he continued to check-in and stay in touch. He has cheered me on in my professional pursuits. He has attended my wedding and every baby shower and has always treated me with a level of respect that I hadn’t experienced from other people. I’m grateful to have him in my corner. I tell him all of the time that he might be my good luck charm.

Can you share the most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

The most interesting mistake was not taking my health and the effects of stress as seriously as I should have in my 20’s. This eventually led to a ruptured appendix which unfortunately ended my tv career at 25. At the time I was working as a weather woman for a news station in Salinas California. I hadn’t been feeling well for a few days, and then one morning out of the blue — my appendix burst.

I remember being devastated that I had to come off of television to heal, and it nearly broke my heart that despite multiple auditions after I was ready to get back to tv that I wasn’t hired for an opportunity.

It took me several years to see the deeper meaning of that life event and truly understand the importance of divine detours. Even though things didn’t work out for me then, I was eventually able to take that experience — about the importance of health, the importance of self-love, and the silver lining of loss that ultimately catapulted me into the career and the opportunities I have now. The ultimate lesson in all of this for me, and for anyone reading this is that life has a funny way of working things out. You just have to go with the flow and allow things to unfold the way they are supposed to.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are two.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and The Secret has had a significant impact on my life.

I remember learning about the book from watching old interviews of Will Smith and Pharrell Williams, where they talked about The Alchemist and how each of us can decide what meaning we want to assign to events in our lives. The interview clip was short, but it was enough to get me to read the book and learn about the power of one’s will. I’ve read it multiple times since hearing that interview 5–6 years ago, and it has become a kind of spiritual guidebook for me. The book teaches us that we can create anything we want in life, and I agree with that. The book put into words a sentiment that I wasn’t able to articulate before reading it, but

The book “The Secret,” is a favorite to most, but I can guarantee you, no one loves or appreciates that book more than me. I saw the movie before I read the book, but once I got wind of it I was hooked. I have the full-length movie saved on my Youtube list, and I allow it to play in the background when I’m on the computer or even just cleaning the house.

Both of these books help me reorient myself to my power. And both remind me that I have the power to design the world I want to live in. If I could combine them into one master manifesto I would, but since I can’t I’ll just continue to re-read and re-listen to them.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The life lesson quote I rely most heavily on is “Creation is silent. Destruction is loud. ”

There was a time in my life and my career when I felt like I needed to run around and announce every win I had. I felt the need to constantly remind people of my worth and value by announcing my accomplishments. In time I realized that this behavior on my part was self-destructive, but also falsely led me to believe that my self-esteem was high. In time, however, I came to learn that my desire to do this was rooted in my limiting beliefs about myself. Once I gained a better sense of self-awareness I became more intentional about what I was creating and whom I was telling about my plans. There’s nothing wrong with creating opportunities and winning in private. You don’t always need an audience to prove that you can accomplish something. Noise isn’t necessary to be valued or respected. Most will find you far more mature and respectable when you’re humble about your success and you leave space for others to evolve and grow in your given industry.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The most interesting project I’m currently working on is my new app through my new company The Surrender Circle.

The Surrender Circle is a California-based health and wellness tech-company. The app allows women to connect in different “rooms,” in the app where they can discuss issues related to self-care, health, and wellness.

After seeing the impact that the pandemic had on everyone’s mental health, and how it challenged women to evaluate themselves, I wanted to create something that gave them a place to navigate the “new norm” of a life that includes a commitment to self-care and mental health. I know there are already a ton of apps on the market that help people connect with therapists, but everyone isn’t ready to do that yet, or may not be able to afford that. My goal with the app is to help women and give them space to connect and find a community of women just like them who are trying to create a more balanced life as the world moves beyond COVID 19.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk a lot about cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Three habits that lead to mental wellness are the practices of decluttering, eliminating, and organizing.

Decluttering for mental wellness is a form of domain self-care. This is as simple as decluttering your home or workspace. Clutter clouds clarity. Keeping your environment clear helps you operate at your best, and reduces the anxiety that is brought on by being in an unclean space.

Elimination is necessary for all forms of wellness. In the same way, a plant can’t grow property unless it is pruned, people can’t grow and thrive unless they eliminate things that they’ve outgrown. An easy habit I’ve developed around elimination is to remove and swap old pictures from the frames in my house as I make new memories and new friends. I believe that we unconsciously absorb energy from the things we look at, as well as the feeling it triggers when we see them. By removing the old energy from my home and exchanging it with more current relationships I create a space that is based on the life I’m manifesting as opposed to being surrounded by life events that have faded from my life.

Organizing has a ton of mental benefits. The biggest benefit for me is that I’m less stressed and reduce any anxiety when I take my time and organize. I see organizing my bills and my finances as a way to manage my mental wellness because it removes the burden of anxiety when something comes up that I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for if my finances weren’t organized.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Even though I practice meditation daily now, I have to admit that it was difficult getting started. I’m a single mother and trying to find quiet time can be difficult, especially with a toddler. The practice I’ve switched over to in the past year has been the decision to do micro-meditation sessions. So instead of trying to commit to 30 minutes to an hour of meditation, I break it down into several 10–15 minute sessions throughout the day. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to integrate into my day, and it gives me an opportunity to “catch-up” later in the day if I miss an earlier window of time.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

For me, physical wellness is more than just working out. I feel physical wellness falls into three distinct areas.

It is the way a person feels about their physical appearance. Some great habits to incorporate to maintain each of these areas is to work out or do whatever you feel is necessary to maintain the outer appearance of your body. That can include everything from working out to cosmetic surgery to skin treatments.

The way they feel most comfortable moving their body for the sake of physical fitness. In terms of body movement, this is more about artistic expression and less about physicality. A great example of this is dance.

Dance is a form of physical fitness, but it is an artistic expression of what the body can do.

And lastly, it is the way a person experiences sexual pleasure, stimulation, and intimacy through their body. I love talking about sexual pleasure as a form of physical wellness. I realize it’s taboo in most circles, but I truly believe that sex and intimacy are powerful ways to achieve peak physical wellness. This can mean sexual intercourse, but it can also mean masturbation and exploration of your body with sex toys.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits response to this question. But generally speaking, I think food and diet are mental hurdles because people are raised with a set of beliefs and experiences that have been shaped by their cultural norms. Food is a way some people preserve certain traditions and family history. Food is a way some people connect and show one another admiration and hospitality. And so while I’m sure people are aware they should eat healthier or consume more vegetables etc., that awareness isn’t strong enough to overturn decades of beliefs and traditions that have been instilled in them.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I believe the best way to optimize your emotional health is to understand your triggers, purge or vent your feelings regularly, and by developing the skill of emotional agility.

In my book “Depressed to Daring,” I discuss all three of these things in depth. But to give you a breakdown when I say “understanding your triggers” I mean having an awareness of things, situations, and people that trigger negative feelings and beliefs within you, and “why” they do. I believe triggers often reveal the areas within us that still need healing. If you understand the things that trigger you, and you actively work to get to the root of those things to heal them, you’ll find that you’ll be more emotionally balanced. For example, if someone constantly says something about your weight or the way you speak, and it triggers you into reacting to them by yelling, screaming, or crying, it could be an indicator that something within you agrees with whatever they are saying, or you might have negative memories about other people saying those things to you at a different time in your life.

Purging and venting to someone helps to release any feelings associated with a particular experience. It also creates space to invite someone in to help you process difficult emotions. You can vent to anyone, but I believe a licensed mental health professional, a pastor, priest, attorney or trusted confidant may be able to guide you to outcomes that some of your friends and family may overlook. Bottling up your feelings makes it nearly impossible to understand them and see them clearly, but if you’ll allow yourself to open up and let it out, you’ll feel lighter, and you may also get some advice from someone more versed or experienced with dealing with whatever you’re facing.

And last but not least, you need to develop the skill of emotional agility. Unlike emotional toughness and grit, emotional agility requires us to keep our feelings “on” instead of shutting them off when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We live in a society that allows us to shut off comments, block, evade, and completely ignore anything we don’t agree with. And yes, while they will bring a sense of zen into our lives, if we aren’t careful it can also lead to arrested development. The fact of the matter is that growth is uncomfortable and it’s only possible when we experience a multitude of feelings.

I believe emotional wellness is about doing the things that help us to maintain the healthiest and most truthful beliefs about ourselves. Wellness is not achieved by cutting out the pain. It is actually about who we are on the other side once we’ve allowed ourselves to experience it.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.

It activates the release of neuropeptides that alleviate stress. Neuropeptides are like tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They carry messages throughout the whole body to let us know when we’re depressed, angry, hurt, happy, and excited. Neurotransmitters, namely dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are released when you smile. This not only does relax your body, but it can lower your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure.

And lastly, the serotonin released when you smile also serves as an antidepressant. Many well-known antidepressants influence the levels of serotonin in your brain, but unlike taking the use of mediation, smiling comes with the boost without the negative side effects.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I believe the best way to operate at optimum spiritual health comes down to three actions we must allow in our lives. For me, they are cleansing, silence, and fasting.

Spiritual Cleansing, or the act of ridding oneself of belief systems that no longer suit our lives. An example of this might be to write down ideas or beliefs that your family and parents reinforced and ask yourself, whether or not you believe them at this stage of your life. And if not, it’s taking the action to release them and define what your actual belief is.

Sitting in silence. I know most people have heard of the concept of mediation and they see it as a time to reflect on things in our lives. But for me, the silence of mediation is a time for me to get in alignment with God (the universe, or however you frame this for yourself). For me, prayer is about talking to God and asking for guidance and direction, but mediation is the act of clearing my mind so I can hear God’s answer. I believe spiritual wellness is about asking as much as it is about waiting. And silence lets us hear more clearly.

Fasting to restore spiritual equilibrium. I want to be clear that fasting isn’t for everyone, and it’s not something you should do continuously if you’re lacking in vitamins or nutrients. That said, I do think it is something that can be quite beneficial for your spiritual body if you’re hydrated and healthy enough to withstand it on occasion. I think so many of us are so focused on the physical body that we forget about the emotional body, the vibrational body, and the spiritual body. We can hop on any number of apps and get just about any food in a matter of minutes. But this habit of eating excessively often fills our bodies with foods and toxins that don’t help us.

So many of us are in the habit of eating for the sake of eating, that we forget we must eat for energy. Fasting and intermittent fasting have helped me become far more aware of my relationship to food and how it clouded my ability to focus on my spiritual self. When I started fasting I learned the difference between hunger and boredom. Which in turn helped me to be more intentional about what I was ingesting. The body has its language and when we eat or refrain from food for short periods, we give ourselves the ability to hear what it’s saying.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

I believe nature has its unique language that speaks to us when we allow ourselves to be fully engulfed in it. Ancient teachings reveal that people experience the world through 5 different facets: the environment, the physical body, the mind, the intuition, and our spirit.

Our respect for our connection to nature is essential to experience all of these facets. When we learn to respect our relationship with nature by living in harmony with plants, trees, water, natural resources, and animals we cultivate balance.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement I’m inspiring is the self-care movement. We must do more to encourage people to self-prioritize from an earlier age — especially women. Our health, financial wealth, or our ability to break glass ceilings is directly influenced by how we do and do not take care of ourselves. I think most of us know subconsciously that we’re supposed to carve out time for ourselves, but knowing it and doing it are two different things. I can’t speak for other women, but the concept of self-prioritization was not instilled in me from a young age.

My mother worked two jobs and although we weren’t poor, we didn’t have money for extras. I cannot remember an instance of my mother carving time out, and as a result, I didn’t realize why I needed to do it as an adult. It took me enduring stress-related health issues to learn how to prioritize my emotional and mental health. It was through my research that I learned how important self-care is, and how it is the key to the prevention of disease within the body. I want to inspire women to intentionally seek the details of the medical history in their twenties and create a pathway to prevent health issues that may arise in their life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Hands down Tyler Perry. I remember paying 10 dollars to get copies of his Madea DVDs when it was just a stage play. I grew up in a COGIC church in Pomona California. I remember someone caught wind of his DVD’s and for one reason or another, the DVDs started to circulate the church. The Madea plays were popular because they taught Christian values but more than anything, they touched on a lot of issues in the black community.

From an early age, his work made me feel seen. I know a lot of people know who he is now, and have seen him rise to the ranks of one of the most sought after producers and entrepreneurs in entertainment, but what I see is someone from very humble beginnings who navigated his way to success without the assistance of any notable figure. The fact that he hyper-served a niche market when no one else was doing it is a business risk that most entrepreneurs don’t take on. But the fact that he did that, and stayed true to this market over the years has helped so many people. I hope that my “why,” allows me to do the same for the “self-care, and mental health movement.”

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can visit my website at They can also follow me on Instagram @adonicashaw or Facebook @adonicamshaw

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