Shondrea Turnbull: “Connection to a Higher Power”

Connection to a Higher Power: Most people are born into the religion or spiritual practice they ascribe, but sometimes people transition to another approach along the way. Connecting to a Higher Power, no matter what name you call him, her, is another powerful habit that leads to spiritual wellbeing. We find this connection in prayer, […]

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Connection to a Higher Power: Most people are born into the religion or spiritual practice they ascribe, but sometimes people transition to another approach along the way. Connecting to a Higher Power, no matter what name you call him, her, is another powerful habit that leads to spiritual wellbeing. We find this connection in prayer, meditation, attending a worship service, religious celebration, and nature. This connection keeps us grounded, humble, guided, resilient, and loving (hopefully).

Many ancient traditions around the world believe ‘wellbeing’ or ‘bienestar’ is a state of harmony within ourselves and our world, where we are in balance mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shondrea N. Turnbull. She has been empowering individuals, teams, and organizations to be the best version of themselves for over 18 years. The combination of life experiences and her formal education from American University, Howard University, and John Hopkins University led her to explore the concept of holistic wellness. Through her debut book, The Power of 30: Transforming the Mind, Body, and Soul 30 Minutes at a Time, Turnbull takes readers on a journey of self-discovery. On a mission to bring wellness to the world, the reigning Mrs. BVI Globe 2020 developed a system to help others unlock there purpose through spirituality and fitness.

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?

I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, with a humble lifestyle. Although we did not have the luxuries of which other families might boast, my mom and dad made sure that I had a mindset beyond my reality. As the only child to both of my parents, from a young age, I began searching for the bright side of things that are supposed to be challenging. For example, my parents divorced when I was very young, but on the bright side, they made the best of it with alternating visitations, which means holidays times two! Two Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays, etc… In hindsight, maybe I was chubby as a child partly due to all that good soul food from both sides of the family…ha!

I got my spiritual foundation from my mom and our church. At home, my mom practiced meditation even when I was young. Around the same time, my mom was starting to branch away from the 9–5 and toward entrepreneurship. I also remember the stories from my aunt about the Black Power movement and uplifting the black community. So, in my childhood, I saw powerful representations of strong, black women in leadership roles as church leaders, matriarchs, community leaders, and activists.

At the age of thirteen, I moved to Indiana to attend high school, the Culver Girls Academy, a prestigious college prep school (surrounded by cornfields and Lake Maxinkuckee). Initially, I was reluctant to go because I would miss my small friend circle. But after taking a visit to the school, I fell in love with the beauty and peace that the campus offered and the new opportunities that would be available. Here, I gained world-class education, friendships, leadership experience, exposure to students from around the world, and my participation in track & field and performing arts (dance, acting, choir, and speech team) was cultivated.

So when I look back at my childhood, I am thankful for the sacrifices that my family made to make sure that finances didn’t limit my exposure to living life. This childhood highlight reel represents the strong foundation that has to help me overcome some traumatic and painful moments that I also experienced as I grew up. Now more than ever, it makes sense that I am the person I am today, focused on empowering people to live their best lives by using holistic health and wellness practices. The journey continues, but it’s all coming together nicely, ha!

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in helping others? We’d love to hear the story.

Well, as far back as I can remember, my grandmother and mother have always helped others. My inspiration started with my late grandmother, Marian Ray, who had Multiple Sclerosis, yet she always offered a helping hand to people in her community. As a child, I never understood why my mom allowed friends and family to say with us, but I knew that we must help each other out whenever there is a need. To this day, I thrive on helping people and empowering them to think beyond their current situations and dream for the better.

There are so many influences in my upbringing that helped develop my desire to give. My mom was a youth motivational speaker with our church, so I saw her giving back to the community by sharing her story of overcoming. I attended programs where organizations gave back to the community through the performing arts, such as ETA Creative Arts Foundation in Chicago. It’s interesting that now as a Minister in our church, I teach dance to an intergenerational dance group. Things always come full circle.

In college at American University, I ran track, so I was in great shape, and I wanted to be a spokesmodel or ambassador to help advance a cause. I also dreamed of using my business degree to be a philanthropist or angel investor, and I took classes in non-profit management. Later while enrolled in the Leadership Development Program (LDP 19) cohort at Johns Hopkins University, we helped a faith-based organization with leadership consulting, which was so rewarding, so I thought consulting might be in my future career. My first corporate internship was in the Human Resources department at the headquarters of an automotive manufacturing company, and the nature of HR is to help people. I also had a congressional internship with Congressman Danny K. Davis, where I saw firsthand how policy and grassroots activism impact communities. Currently, I am the head of HR for a global trust company in the British Virgin Islands. My portfolio involves our charitable giving initiatives, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. These memories undoubtedly shaped who I am today and who I strive to be in the future.

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

In addition to my family, many others have encouraged me along the way. I call them angels. They were sent when I was going through periodic challenges in each stage of my life. For example, Culver was very expensive to attend, so my mom got help from our church to pay for tuition, and Mr. Walter Robinson, a mentor, instilled in me the power of knowing who I am and whose I am. Damani and Idris Shakoor of the Illinois Stealth Bombers track club encouraged me to train hard on and off-season, focusing on training for my specific goals despite the competition. If I did, then I would be able to surpass my personal records (PR). Bishop Eugene Logan, my God-father from American University, schooled me on so much and encouraged me to continuously take my ministry to the new levels. Dr. Sharron Credle was my former HR Director, turned mentor, turned executive coach, and a significant encouragement regarding my professional development. I would be remiss without mentioning my husband, Dr. Michael A. Turnbull, aka Dr. Mike, who has had my back since day one. We have been married for almost 14 years and have grown up together, supporting each other’s dreams and aspirations. He has a gift of providing encouraging words (backed with action) in the most desperate of times. We love and know each other, so he understands when help is needed and when I got it all under control. For this, I am grateful.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of pursuing your passion? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was coronated as Mrs. British Virgin Islands Globe in March 2019. Under my title, I became the Ambassador for the Women In Need (WIN) global foundation and I represented the BVI in Shenzhen, China, in early December 2019. I had absolutely no pageant experience, so I had to learn everything I needed to be prepared for the international pageant, viewed by millions worldwide in eight months. We got a schedule in advance, so thanks to my gown designer, I had tips for packing all my outfits by day based on the provided schedule. On day 1 of rehearsals, I was super excited, and we are supposed to grab some food in the restaurant prior. I didn’t see what my roommate had on that morning because I left out before her. Still, I was so excited about my super cute athletic wear, a leopard zipper sports bra and matching super tight leggings, with platform sneakers — the perfect outfit to learn the choreography, placements, and dances!! Then, I stepped into the restaurant for breakfast and saw the other delegates/queens/contestants dressed up-in formal gowns-and stilettos, my heart dropped. I thought to myself, how could I mess up the schedule for the very first day. Woman after woman, dressed to impress in actual dresses, meanwhile I was ready for a music video shoot! I asked one of the organizers if we had an event this morning instead of rehearsals with panic and glossy eyes. She said, “no, there’s no event.” I asked, “well are we going to learn the dances today?” she said, “yes” (with a straight face). I said, “won’t we be moving around and practicing all day?”; she replied, “yes.” So then, in the last effort to get some answers, I said, “then why are all these ladies dressed up like they are going to a black-tie event?” She looked into my eyes, smiled, and said, “Welcome to the pageant world, Mrs. BVI.”

I was in awe as I walked into the rehearsal room. There was only one other woman dressed in super fabulous athletic attire. So, of course, we took a picture together. I had a choice…beat myself up for not knowing, cursing the fact that no-one told me in advance, switch up my outfit, or rock it. Seeing as I had each rehearsal outfit pre-selected, I decided to be true to myself, and stick with the plan. I am so happy that I did because, by the end of the day, those women kicked off the stilettos, some changed their clothes, and by the end of the week, most of us had on super cute dance attire. The takeaway: be authentic, stick with the plan, and rock what you got — nothing else is needed! By the way, I was awarded the Woman of Excellence award, Top Five in the Virtual voting, and I placed in the Top 6, overall, which is not bad for my first pageant :).

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

“To thy own self be true…therefore you can be false to no other.” This quote is one of my mom’s favorite sayings. It is paraphrased from Shakespeare. It resonates with me quite simply because authenticity is a crucial component of healthy wellbeing. Most of the pain and suffering we feel is because we don’t know or we forgot who and whose we are. So when we lose that connection to self, then that’s when discord happens. If I look over my life, I had the most struggles with depressive episodes, sadness, or loneliness when I lost that connection to my true self and was distracted by things outside of my control.

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

I am excited to shar my debut book, The Power of 30: Transforming the Mind, Body, and Soul 30 Minutes at a Time, with the world. Unlike traditional self-help books, it provides a holistic approach to a journey of self-discovery over the course of thirty days to help reveal your purpose. Utilizing The Power of 30 system outlined in my book, I am planning a Fitness Fete, a Caribbean inspired day of wellness. There will be music, good vibes, and empowering sessions to stimulate the mind, supercharge the body, and inspire the soul. Hopefully, I can take the Fitness Fete global!

With the shock of the pandemic and growing health concerns, I am doing my part to ensure that the holistic wellness movement gains some momentum. I believe that The Power of 30 addresses several of the emotional, physical, and spiritual disconnect and dis-ease that people are facing. The book helps people embrace their purpose even in the darkest of times, and I think that in 2021 people are searching to be free from the stress and strain of 2020. The Power of 30 is the jumpstart for one’s wellness journey. It is not a replacement for a medical doctor, therapist, or personal trainer. Still, it is a real-life book with practical principles written to the reader like it’s you and your best friend having a conversation.

I am excited to see how the book transforms lives because it has changed mine.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In my writing, I talk about cultivating wellbeing habits in our lives to be strong, vibrant, and powerful co-creators of a better society. What we create is a reflection of how we think and feel. When we get back to a state of wellbeing and begin to create from that place, the outside world will reflect this state of wellbeing. Let’s dive deeper into this together. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.

Three good habits that lead to optimum mental wellbeing:

  1. Dance Through Life: The mind, body, and soul are connected, so move your body to the rhythm of your soul, which is fed by encouraging words into your mind. The Power 30 system is comprised of three elements: Motivation, Motion, and Meditation. The unique factor about Power 30 is that we do motion, movement, and workouts by using affirmations to guide our reps rather than numbers. This triple loop learning teaches your body to push through resistance, become flexible in strained situations, or relax when enough is enough. If we can learn this practice in a simple 30-minute circuit, we will become conditioned to overcome challenges in life, thereby becoming stronger, better, and wiser. And because we too often are not compassionate, forgiving, or loving with ourselves, the practice of speaking life, optimism, and empowering words to oneself heals us in ways that we never even imagined.
  2. Be Present: 2020 has certainly been one for the history books. People spend a lot of time recounting all the year’s woes, and sometimes it feels like anxiety is on repeat in our minds. So fear creeps in about what could happen in the future based on the past’s seemingly negative occurrences. Being present provides comfort, safety, and a return to self, and the mind is nourished by this time. It only takes 10 minutes of non-reaction to reclaim the power of our minds.
  3. Reframe: Too often, we tell ourselves lies about what we perceive. We say things like, “this is too much,” “I’ll never have enough time,” “people are mad at me,” “I will never lose weight,” “I am not pretty like her, so I don’t get what I want” etc. But if we get into the practice of reframing the situations that we face, we will realize that there is more than one side of the story, and what meets the eye does not have to be a stamp of catastrophe in one’s life. If we shift our perspective, we will find an alternate way to handle the situation, and maybe even some peace. Instead, let’s reframe the statements by saying, “wow, there are a lot of assignments at work, I better prioritize two or three for now,” “I have some competing responsibilities, but everything will get done in due time,” “I haven’t seen my friends in a while, I miss them and will reach out to them later to see if everything is okay with them,” “I am ready to start transforming my life, starting with my health,” and “It’s time for me to start finding what makes me unique and beautiful.”

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

I practice mindfulness meditation, as well as mindful eating and working out. Mindful working out is a major inspiration behind my book. When we are intentional, present, yet letting go of external factors, that’s when the magic “power” happens. I usually use an affirmation to begin and end my meditation. Then I get in a comfortable position, usually seated or lying down. It’s optimal for me to be in silence or listening to instrumental music. But during the pandemic, most of the Power 30 Live group sessions have been outdoors in public areas. Hence, total quiet is not an option, but rather a lesson on how to disconnect from the external world and reconnect within. Then I end each meditation with the Power 30 Affirmation (with hand movements), which says:

“I am connected within.

I am connected to others.

I am connected to the Highest Power.

The Highest Power is connected to me.

Today I am Empowered!”

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

  1. Movement: Start with 10 minutes of activity per day. It can be as simple as jumping jacks and crunches or more challenging like ten all-out sprints. You can dance, clean to movement, play rigorously with the kids, stretch, get your body into gear.
  2. Momentum: After you develop a habit of movement, look within, and decide if you want to take your physical fitness to the next level. Perhaps you want to enroll in a gym, hire a personal trainer, or train for a half marathon!
  3. Commit: But commit to a lifestyle of movement, and then your steps will start to go in the direction of motion. You won’t mind parking farther away so that you can get in more steps. I have a great example of a girls’ trip to Miami. My girls and I all had titbits, so instead of taking a taxi or renting a car, we walked most places so that we could “get in our steps.” we clocked at least 20K steps per day, which for most of us was a personal record. We had fun. We were connected and supporting each other on our goals effortlessly. Fitness is fun, and it becomes a lifestyle when it’s not seen as a chore or another responsibility or task for the day.

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 some great ways to begin to integrate it into our lives?

I venture to say that we all generally know what to do to eat healthily, but the problem is that we go about it the wrong way. I have struggled with my weight, so I am familiar with the trendy diets and plans. In my life and reinforced in my integrative health coach training, adding healthy options rather than denying yourself is an excellent way to start. For example, rather than saying, I will not drink any juice this month, reframe it and say, I will incorporate drinking a half-gallon of water each day; I will add 8 ounces each week until I can drink a full gallon. Thereby you focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.

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

  1. Self-Compassion: We must be kind to ourselves, which starts with creating a no-judgment zone in the mirror. No matter what you go through, be your bestie first. Be loving, kind, empathetic, and friendly, rather than criticizing yourself for a mistake, poor decision, or another chaotic entanglement.
  2. Therapy: Therapy can come in many forms, and I would suggest incorporating as many types as possible, as each situation may dictate a different approach. Get some good girlfriends with who you can be real and let it all out. Please speak with a romantic partner about what’s going on in your life. It’s an opportunity for you and the other person to learn and grow. Finally, find a licensed therapist or psychologist. Having a neutral third-party is also needed to remove the biases that your family and friends might bring.
  3. Holistic Health Practices: Get some positive affirmations in your life to boost your mood; get moving and do some exercises or anything fun to get the blood flowing and the endorphins triggered, and meditate to ground yourself and sharpen your thoughts.

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

I have not researched the power of smiling. When the time is right, smiles can project the inner emotion that one feels, like joy, humor, love, excitement, anticipation, and pleasure. And, I have heard that putting on a smile can improve or change someone’s mood. It does for me at times. But in other times, a smile is not warranted and to generically smile can seem a bit false to one’s sense of self. Sometimes the tears need to flow. It would be a shame to hide an opportunity to be vulnerable because society feels that a smile is a more appropriate response to the situation.

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

  1. Connect Within: Too often, we focus on what’s going on around us. We rely on the pastor, priest, or IG guru to answer questions best answered from introspection or turning within. Sometimes people get fanatical with it, and others get so turned off that they try not to think of anything and numb their ways through life. Then there are all gradients in between. When I am not connected, it’s like torture, pain, and I suffer. I need to be reminded that even if no one is around, or the person(s) who I want around, I am always connected within myself to a Higher Power. I am connected to others, too, even when distant. This reconnection, or as I call it, plugging in, is critical to spiritual wellbeing.
  2. Connect with Others: This connection to others is also essential for spiritual wellbeing. I graduated from the Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD). I enrolled because I wanted to learn how to research the ancient biblical text on my own, translate it from the original language, and have a discourse about Christianity and other religions with other people. There is something powerful when you can be open, share, learn, and grow from others. Countless stories depict our reliance on each other and our need for companionship. So when this connection feels severed, especially with a loved one, we get spiritually sick, which could transfer to emotional and physical dis-ease as well. But we always have the power to reconnect with we start to get the warning signals that we are feeling alone or lonely.
  3. Connection to a Higher Power: Most people are born into the religion or spiritual practice they ascribe, but sometimes people transition to another approach along the way. Connecting to a Higher Power, no matter what name you call him, her, is another powerful habit that leads to spiritual wellbeing. We find this connection in prayer, meditation, attending a worship service, religious celebration, and nature. This connection keeps us grounded, humble, guided, resilient, and loving (hopefully).

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us cultivate overall wellbeing?

I have lived in the suburbs of Chicago, Indiana cornfields and country roads, and the heart of Washington, DC. I have traveled to Africa, Japan, and China, and now I live in the Caribbean. Nature is the foundation of peace. I am convinced. When we can stop, look at the sky and see clouds move, stars shine, trees sway, tiny bugs crawl, schools of fish, gorgeous botanic gardens, and dunes, we remember that the world is so much bigger than our problems. We are reminded that we are connected as humans, but we are connected to the earth, and nature reminds us of this critical fact; we are one of many, but we perfectly fit in the world, and it wouldn’t be the same without us.

I was in the BVI when Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the islands blowing above Cat 5 winds and rain. The wind gusts decimated the landscape; not a tree was in sight, and the once verdant green hills were brown with just roots ad stems. But over time, several months, green spots started appearing. The vine on my porch, in particular, started to grow longer and longer, higher and higher. I have witnessed “nature” begin again. And if the grass, trees, flowers, wildlife, etc., can do it, seemingly without effort, then so can I.

All in all, nature reminds me that maybe too much focus is placed on pursuing a unique purpose when instead, being your purpose is perfectly good enough.

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.

Well, my dream is to inspire a holistic health movement that leads to more people, especially BIPOC women, to be fearless with living their dreams, embracing their inner power and beauty, and supporting others along the way.

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 in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Yes, several men and women are my distant mentors; we don’t know each other, but their stories have inspired me in many ways. This list includes Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Sir Richard Branson, and Mel Robbins, to name a few. But, I live in the British Virgin Islands, affectionally called Nature’s Little Secret, so it would be amazing to have breakfast with Sir Richard Branson, who lives a short boat ride away :).

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can visit my website,, to learn a little more about the Power 30 system and to check out my blog. They may also keep up with me on Instagram, @Power30mins.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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