Brenda Shankey: How I slowed down to have it all
A successful businesswoman, married to a well-known entrepreneur, Derry native Brenda Shankey thought she had it all until she ended up in hospital suffering from exhaustion. She tells Leona O'Neill how she came back from rock bottom to lead a truly happy, healthy life
BRENDA Shankey had a healthy bank balance, drove a Porsche and lived in a £1 million house with her husband and two children.
She was a multi-award-winning, multi-million-pound businesswoman, hair stylist to the stars and one half of Jason Shankey Grooming.
To the casual observer, she looked like she had it all. But three years ago, her world collapsed around her when she suffered a nervous breakdown after burning out.
But from rock bottom, the Derry-born entrepreneur built solid foundations for a healthy, happy life and is now sharing her secret to peace and inner happiness with others.
“The old me would have got out of bed at 6.30am or 7am and hit the ground running with kids and work, the gym and social events,” she admits.
“I was working 14-hour days every day running four businesses. One day I could have been styling Eamonn Holmes, the next on a movie set with One Direction, the next at a glamorous fashion show or on a hot beach somewhere at a photo shoot. I was managing staff and working online.
"I was constantly plugged in and on my email and dealing with stress in work. I was utterly exhausted. One day I woke up in the morning and just collapsed on the floor. I was taken to hospital and they said I was suffering from exhaustion.
“I remember lying on the hospital bed thinking what is the point in all of this? How did I let this happen? I really felt the pressures of modern life had crushed me.”
Brenda was prescribed Prozac and told to rest. But she says the medication didn’t suit her and she decided instead to look into self-help books to deal with stress.
And that’s when she came across the mindfulness and meditation practices which led her on a completely different path in life, a million miles away from the bright lights, parties, glitz, glam and celebrities life of break-neck speed she had been used to.
She says her breakdown was the worst of times, but also the best of times and admits it was utterly life changing.
Brenda began to educate herself on meditation and mindfulness, taking a diploma in meditation.
She began teaching meditation classes to help people learn to cope with stress and she has this week launched her new audio book Be Fabulous – Have It All, whose publicity describes it as "the ultimate survival guide for today's modern woman".
“My breakdown made me really look at myself,” she says. “My husband couldn’t fix me, my father couldn’t fix me, my children couldn't fix me. No-one could fix me, except me,” she says.
“When I think on it I wouldn’t be as calm and together today if I hadn’t worked myself into oblivion. I completely changed by lifestyle.
"I work less, spend more time with my kids, I exercise, I keep my mental state happy with yoga and meditation, I never watch TV, I read, I practice mindfulness every single day. I have taken back 100 per cent control of my life.”
“I have cut back on work commitments. I still manage the salons on the Lisburn Road and House of Fraser, but I've cut back my days.
"I’ve learned to stop work at 5pm and make time for the things which are important to me.
"I wake in the morning and spend a really good happy hour with my kids Lauren (15) and Will (13), and my husband. I start the day with the smile. I walk, meet friends and I read books. I do all the things I never had time for when I was going a hundred miles an hour.
“What I’ve learned is that there is more to life than running on the hamster wheel. There is so much more than trying to achieve the impossible, be someone you’re not. I was always wanting more and more. I couldn’t sit still.
"I had the million-pound house, I wanted more. I was going to parties packed with celebrities in London, I had a very successful business, I had the Porsche. But it still didn’t feel like it was enough, like I was good enough. I couldn’t sleep. To people looking in I had everything. But I wasn’t truly happy. But I am now.
“The great thing about life is that you just have to try; you don’t have to be perfect. Take a minute out, take a deep breath, put a smile on your face. It works immediately. Don’t make life crazy if it doesn’t need to be. Have a great day instead. Make the very best of every day. Be fabulous.”
:: Brenda's audio book Be Fabulous – Have It All has 14 chapters dealing with meditation, positive voices, coping with hardships and stopping stress. It is available for download on CDbaby.com and mindcool.com.