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Women In Wellness: “Mental Stimulation is Critical” with Dr. Cheri McDonald and Beau Henderson

Mental Stimulation. As the retiree takes a mental inventory of where they are at, they may re-evaluate their core values, in regards, to this new stage of life. Though they may not be questioning their guiding principles, the strength of these values can change with age. A good example is an individual who has the […]


Mental Stimulation. As the retiree takes a mental inventory of where they are at, they may re-evaluate their core values, in regards, to this new stage of life. Though they may not be questioning their guiding principles, the strength of these values can change with age. A good example is an individual who has the core value of a strong work ethic. And who now, with retirement has left their career. Initially, they may feel lost and empty as the one place they could express what defines them is gone. As the retiree reflects on the emptiness, the opportunity to choose to re-vamp this value opens up. The retiree my choose to embrace this work ethic from a charitable perspective now and seek a means of showing up with embracing a servant’s heart — working as a volunteer versus for status and income. Thus, by re-engaging with core values, they can stimulate their minds, remember they know more than they know they know, use discernment and bring awareness into context of where they are at and create a defining platform to launch forward in the new adventures of this later stage of life.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewingDr Cheri McDonald. Dr Cheri McDonald is the founder of the Break Free Movement: Rising from Trauma to a Healthy Vibrant Life. Dr Cheri received her Bachelor of Science at Brigham Young University in Family Sciences in 1983; her Master of Science at California Lutheran University in Marriage and Family Therapy in 1987; and her Doctorate degree in Philosophy of Clinical Hypnotherapy at Pacific University in 2007. Cheri and her husband, Patrick, have raised three sons and a daughter and enjoy their 8 grandchildren, as they reside in Thousand Oaks, California.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I am asked this question, in humor, I share my love for the Bod Newhart show as a teen. I watched it every week and was enthralled with his role and humorous wisdom and compassion in bettering others’ life.

Then it was in college when I stumbled on a marriage and family class, that it became apparent that I wanted to be a therapist and influencer. I was enamored with the professor, who was also a therapist, as he shared his love for his profession as a therapist. Since my first dream was to be happily married and have a family, his modeling the whole package gave me a vision of my dream come true. I could do what I love at home and at work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are several that come to the forefront of my mind as every case provides an interesting twist and intelligence in maneuvering towards healing and joy. Yet Phil comes to my mind, that although I only met with him a short time, his life situation had a directly impact my career course. Phil, age 65, was referred to me by his doctor. He was a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, yet was trapped in a state of despair and not evolving out of it. All organic causes and chemical imbalances were ruled out so talk therapy was the next step. Within 2–3 sessions I realized that he was not conducive to talk therapy either. It was at this moment that an impression came to me, it was a voice within my head. I feel it was speaking to me, telling me Phil needed hypnosis. This message was so concrete and resonating to the point of catching my breath. Its significance was even more curious since, I hadn’t considered hypnosis, and had no training in it. I had only had one exposure during graduate school, it being a personal one and hadn’t considered it in my own practice. Yet, I couldn’t deny this impression and the awareness that I had a client who needed me and I didn’t have the skill to do so. Unfortunately, Phil terminated therapy before I could act on this prompting in order to assist him better. Yet this experience with Phil inspired me to explore what hypnosis has to do with therapy. This became the catalyst to researching and learning all I could about hypnotherapy until I became proficient and obtained my PhD in it.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that.

Looking back, one that comes to mind is as session that also taught me the greatness of personal vulnerability and the magical outcomes of sharing our perfection within our imperfections. I was returning from maternity leave, yet still hesitant to leaving my nursing baby home. Since my son was still in the sleeping stages, I planned it all out to have him fed and settled so he’d sleep next to me while I held a session. All was good until it wasn’t, and he decided to wake up. He not only woke up yet woke in a frenzy and raging cry. He was not going to be consoled, my anxiety over the juggle of my motherly duties and my professionalism grew by the second. As my distress became quite evident, my client stepped forward. Being a mother of five children herself, she cradled my baby in a soothing embrace in her arms, the chaos ended, and we proceeded with the session. We giggled over the chaotic moment and how the embarrassing expression on my face, only added to the rapport between us. In this case, my vulnerability joined us in our likeness and allowed our strengths to shine forward.

As you can surmise, her act of kindness was a lesson in and of itself reminding me how we all need help and we all have something to give worthwhile no matter how distressed we may be in our current situation.

Looking back the chaos of the fumbling mother trying to be the therapist of the year must have looked pretty humorous, yet the lesson learned has stayed with me as a reminder of the importance of being vulnerable, authentic and forgiving as life is life.

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?

Hands down, Dr Sanchez stands out among my many mentors. He was one of my first professors in my graduate program. He taught from the heart and encouraged his students to think from the heart. He took the time to know his students and I knew he believed in me. He caused me to think about what I professed to believe and then to live it. As he reminded all of us that we are being watched, so we better be who we profess and do in kind. Yet, it was his kind outreach in a moment of crisis that taught me what my profession was all about and how to make a difference in this world. One summer day, as I was leaving campus from purchasing my books for the upcoming semester, I hit a 10-year old boy on a bicycle. He was riding on the wrong side of the road and was in my blind spot. I never saw him, and I ran over his leg. Upon on hearing of my ordeal and witnessing my traumatic reaction, Dr Sanchez invited me to see him sharing he could help me with my trauma. This was the first exposure I had with hypnotherapy and learned first-hand how to make a difference efficiently and effectively. It took years for me to recognize that I too could obtain the skills to do as he did for others. Yet his compassion and action on my behalf didn’t escape me and I immediately adopted this philosophy moving forward in serving my community.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Do it in the name of love; slaving away in the name of money, title or self-serving is a detriment to this career and those you serve. I do it because I love it and I receive love from doing it. I view love as a power — I experience it as a power, in which, love is the healing element.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

I have to say it’s all about love again. When you love what you do, you lead with the heart. This in turn, flows throughout the work environment. I liken it to essence oils infused into the air, soothing and energizing the atmosphere. The other component is to have integrity. Do you what you say and say what you do. This is essential in showing up with authenticity, which matters, when seeking to create a work culture of likeminded individuals making a positive impact with what they do.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

The number one reason a person’s health is hindered in retirement is their lack of self-awareness. That is, a failure to be conscious in mind, body and spirit. Failed health is a by-product of neglecting to have a consistent practice of self-care in all areas of life. We are impacted by unfinished business as we carry forward the stress from it. We are impaired by unresolved grief as noted with broken hearts being the number one cause of death with heart disease. The most recent research on trauma indicates that the negative ramifications of past trauma can be stored in the cells of our bodies. This trauma can manifest in depression, anxiety and disease. Curiosity and reflection can bring forward insight and new perspective to old issues that can open avenues to releasing stress, resolving grief, healing hearts and ridding the body of dis-ease.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Mental wellness encompasses life balance for the retiree. This paradigm is more imperative as we age and enter a stage, in which, statistically there is more happiness and more despair. The stakes are higher as we move through the later part of life as we reconcile our life journey and wrestle with our fulfillments and disappointments.

A successful or satisfying shift to living happily ever after is more likely as the retiree balances the five areas of life, which are: Mental Stimulation, Emotional Wellbeing

Physical Resilience, Social Transformation, and Spiritual Maturity

Mental Stimulation. As the retiree takes a mental inventory of where they are at, they may re-evaluate their core values, in regards, to this new stage of life. Though they may not be questioning their guiding principles, the strength of these values can change with age. A good example is an individual who has the core value of a strong work ethic. And who now, with retirement has left their career. Initially, they may feel lost and empty as the one place they could express what defines them is gone. As the retiree reflects on the emptiness, the opportunity to choose to re-vamp this value opens up. The retiree my choose to embrace this work ethic from a charitable perspective now and seek a means of showing up with embracing a servant’s heart — working as a volunteer versus for status and income. Thus, by re-engaging with core values, they can stimulate their minds, remember they know more than they know they know, use discernment and bring awareness into context of where they are at and create a defining platform to launch forward in the new adventures of this later stage of life.

One woman comes to my mind, who was forced to retire early due to a medical condition that impacted her brain. She was not able to focus and remember the fine details her job required. This led to entering retirement without preparation and the premature departure left her feeling useless and lost. Yet learning that he lost of focus and ability to attend to fine details did not impact her creative imagination nor her capacity to learn. She explored how her brain compensated for his loss of capacity, and learned she had an artistic side that was previously dormant due to the high demands of her analytical skills. She began writing poetry and gourmet cooking. Her understanding the vast capacity of the brain led to her seeking new ways of tapping into her mind, stimulating her gifted talents and re-inventing herself.

Emotional Wellbeing. Emotions are the number one influencer in making decisions and defining the paradigm we see life through. The retiree’s emotional state can determine the degree of hope in themselves and their journey ahead. Emotions play a key role in creating motivation and desire. The emotions attached to knowing who you are, entail the power of love and give a sense of peace. Individuals have taught me that when they experience a sense of love for who they are, they stave off depression and anxiety and experience joy. This emotional stability leads the retiree to feeling more youthful and creates a desire to make healthier choices.

It’s not uncommon to experience challenges with depression and anxiety with the transition into retirement, in which careers end, parenthood turns into empty nesting and no planned path ahead. Yet as a retiree recognizes that this stage is a new chapter versus the end of their book of life, they can direct their attention to their long-awaited bucket lists, create a new purpose and embrace time in building relationships with family and friends. As the retiree takes command to this new phase of life and puts a story to this chapter of their book, the despondency and loss can be mitigated. One gentleman who faced his retirement with dread comes to mind. His career was his identity and as one ended so did the other. Yet, after wrestling with anxiety over feeling lost and empty, he recognized that weight of despair was debilitating and sought help. As he reflected on his emotional state prior to retirement, he remembered he was a happy person by nature. Upon recognizing he is the same person, just in a different position in life, he reflected on this familiar emotional state that was natural for him. As he gave himself permission to bring to surface his happy feelings, his create imagination grew. In short, he realized that the thing that gave him the greatest purpose in his career where the relationships formed, hence, nothing was lost. He still had the ability to build relationships with people. He joined a support group for likeminded retirees. His anxiety turned to excitement as he built relationships. He found a more substantial purpose that started his day in anticipation and joy. His job ended, yet relationships are for life.

Physical Resilience. Physical health is a primary concern for retirees. If good habits for maintaining health and vitality has escaped a person during their years of acquisition, many find themselves consumed with managing their bodies. If they have had habits that have lent to good physical health, they are in a place of accepting ways to modify their choices to meet the everchanging needs of the body. Either way, learning to becoming mindful of the nutrition, exercise, sleep and special needs of the body brings an awareness and acceptance of this new stage and the physical body inhabited. Yoga is the first go to I recommend for the retiree to integrate as part of their life. It’s for those who are physically active and healthy, as well as, for those who have a need to add self-care to their routine. As a therapist I became a certified yoga teacher specifically to offer a tool for individuals releasing unresolved grief and trauma from the physical body for complete mind, body and soul healing. An example that comes to my mind was a retired couple that was found their life compromised by a surgery gone wrong. The husband had a cancerous tumor removed from his spinal cord that was predicted to be a simple procedure and recovery time short. Yet, he ended up with paralysis and bedridden. Yet the couple did not accept that this was the end of their story. Together, they introduced yoga into their daily routine. The wife needed a healthy escape for her mind, body and spirit. The husband need to work the trauma from his soul, keep his body in movement and gain a practice of mindfulness and stimulation. Their yoga routine bonded them in love to a greater degree than they ever experienced. They worked together in mind, body and spirt with consistent practice and daily effort. They discovered a resilience that gifted them a sense of peace, a depth of love and purpose they could not find prior to their yoga routine.

Social Transformation. Loneliness and isolation are a struggle for all stages of life, yet it can be exasperated as one reaches their retirement. Life evolution impacts every individual differently, as well as, choices, circumstances and how life happens. Yet, with leaving a career, family growing, moves and losses, to name a few; a new and renewed social network staves off loneliness and brings a sense of belonging. As you can see, a retiree who has a continued to desire to stimulate their mind by learning and experiencing life; who is motivated by the power of love and sense of peace and someone who has an appreciation for their body, has the energy, desire and need to reach out and converse, share and mentor others. We are naturally social and built to interact, give and take and be together as family, friends and community. The retiree can mentor, explore new adventures, build and share skills and interests, create another career or volunteer. This is where a sense of purpose is manifested. A gentleman shared that as a recovered alcoholic he had attended AA meetings for 25 years. He had remained sober, participated in the meetings, worked his steps and sponsored others. As he transitioned into his retirement years, he also transitioned in AA, shared how he now attended to give back by being an example to others so that they too could know 25 years of sobriety was possible.

Spirituality Maturity. Our spirituality is entwined within all the other four, yet, is necessary to address as a separate entity to round out becoming aware of who you really are. It is during the years of retirement that the individual enters the stage of appreciation and regret for the life they have lived so far. As leisure hours are more available, the retiree will spend time on reminiscing and remembering aspect of their life that brings forth feelings of satisfaction and pride, yet can also open unresolved grief, regret and trauma. This is the main draw for a retiree to come to my office. They recognize that they cannot evolve fully through the other areas of balance without letting go, creating closure, and moving forward. This phase of life slows down, which, opens time to address matters previously put on the shelf, pushed to the back burner or simply denied, and are now paramount and vital to address to optimize this season of life.

Addressing their unfinished business offers a person an opportunity to visit and revisit the concept of forgiveness. Many times, this may be the first time a person does the work of self-forgiveness, which I find to be the ultimate step of resolution and healing. As we revisit matters of the past with the intent to let go, move through the refiner’s fire and capture the golden nuggets learned from it, we are free. This is true freedom. Free to be who and whatever we desire. Our freedom knows no age. If you stop to ponder on a hero or heroine, no doubt they represent a power that encompasses freedom. This power is love. It is here that my father comes to my mind. He worked for 30 years in a career that stimulated him and provided a good living for his family. Upon retirement he did face the loss of identity and purpose as he moved onto retirement. Yet he did revisit his values and reflected on what created feelings of desire and joy within him. His career was a people business, building relationships is what made him happy. He funneled his love for others as he served his family in a greater capacity an became a more involved neighbor and friend. This pattern of enhanced involvement opened his heart to his own spiritual awakening that he used to address his unfinished business to clear all regrets and disappointments, so each day was met with hope and spirit of service and joy.

Spiritual maturity offers a perspective that is larger than us. As the retiree gains an eternal perspective, they become acquainted with who we are and how impactful these retirement years are for them and those they serve and love.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

The 4 things that I have had people share with me that they wish they had known prior to retirement include:

1. Prepare with enthusiasm — Part of preparing is learning to live in the moment and not focus on “fear” of the future. Many tell me they we spent too much time fearing versus looking forward in anticipation of celebrating their golden years. The individuals who learn and understand conscious living –being present in the now and drinking in life have a natural ‘knowing’ all is well and flow through transitions versus age.

2. Be joyful — Choose to wake up in good cheer every new day. This consistent practice and effort create a vibrancy that is ageless and widens perspective of how life is viewed.

3. Live a well-rounded life — Consciously attend to the five areas of balance daily. Again, this creates a balance and staves of choices that lead to excess or lack.

4. Prepare to give back — Engage in service throughout your life. This altruistic perspective brings a sense of purpose to the forefront that carries forward into the retirement years that then can be enhanced to making a difference for yourself and others.

Men are that might have joy. We are meant to be happy and studies show that the happiest time in life is 70 years and above. With retirement comes wisdom from living life; as the NOW becomes more apparent to the retiree, they recognize the gift that his time brings them resonates and the need for yesterday no longer lingers.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

The title of the book is — Do What Love and Let The Money Follow. Unfortunately, I do not remember the author. It was a little pocket size book. I read it thirty years ago as I sought how to go after my dream of becoming a therapist. This book taught me that I can become and live my dream. This book taught me that as I embrace the power love has to offer, I will be unstoppable. For being someone who had no mentor to show me how to make my vision happen, this book became my blueprint to spring into action.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It excites me to answer this question, as I have started a movement. It is the Break Free Movement: Rising from Trauma to a Healthy Vibrant Life. Its evolvement came from my exposure to the tragedies that impacted my hometown. In 2017 when the Las Vegas mass shooting occurred followed a year later by the Borderline Bar Mass shooting, clients flooded my door in trauma that pervaded and paralyzed them and the community. And simultaneously, infused them with feelings of isolation and sense of alone-ness in their state of despair. I could feel the heavy cloud hanging over them as well as the community.

This led to my recent book Heal Your Trauma, Heal Your Marriage: 7 Steps to Root, Rebound and Rise. The isolation and loneliness in these dark times are paralyzing and need not be. Not unlike a marriage, we needed to unite as a community and nation and get a grip of this trauma, refuse to be held hostage by the terror and unleash from the negative ramifications of the past.

As a specialist in trauma work, I had already become aware of the impact trauma has in our lives. I have a great interest in developmental trauma and how we are attuned to the imprinting and conditioning that occurring within our families.

As this knowledge is emerging, more and more people are calling with the specific request to heal their trauma. As we know, life happens and there are things, events and choices others make we have no control over. And today, there seems to be more challenges than ever that are life threatening and horrible. Just taking it and moving on, does not seem to be working as we seek to better our lives, live long and happy and break through the cloud cover of misery.

This movement is created to bring to awareness the hope and strength, as well as, the unquenchable love and joy at our disposal. It is my hope to re-awaken and rejuvenate people, our community and nation as they grow to realize they can renew their hearts and allow the power of love to extinguish all fears. That they can do so by reviving their voice of choice, speak up and share discerning beliefs that lead to resurrecting together from the rubble of destruction and rising to a world of hope and freedom — individually and worldwide!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7

This is the very lesson I learned from my baby sister, Lori, who taught me all about the power of love. She was born with Cerebral Palsy after my brother and I gave our pregnant mother the German Measles we contracted from preschool. Despite her crippled body and deafness, which, delayed and hampered her development, she loves life and all lives she touches. Being a part of her world taught me the power of the heart and the discerning impact thinking from it can make so that the impossible happens.

The Cerebral Palsy compromised her ability to walk, requiring multiple surgeries just to get her legs to extend straight. Yet this did not deter her will to walk. It was a summer day in the front yard with my sister when Lori, age 7, took her first steps. It was the first miracle I remember experiencing and the one that taught me how heartfelt desire is the intelligence that gets you moving forward in 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 in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Bob Proctor to share my gratitude for his gifted teaching that defined a 16-year old girl’s life. My father invited Bob Proctor to come train his top sales managers and he allowed me to sit in on the trainings. Prior to the conference, he had brought home the workbook and tapes of Bob Proctor’s teachings. I devoured them, then sat in the front row for the three-day conference. His teachings were my first exposure to leadership and the powerful agent of change an influencer can be for another. I knew then that I too wanted to help others make a difference.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

They can go to my website: aplace2turn.com FaceBook Cheri McDonald PhD LMFT

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


About the author:

Beau Henderson, editor of Rich Retirement Letter and CEO of RichLife Advisors LLC, is a best-selling author, national tv/radio resource, and retirement coach/advisor, with over 17 years’ experience. Beau is a pioneer in the strategy based new model of holistic retirement planning. He can be followed on Facebook here or on Instagram here

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