Create space for non-negotiable that will fill up your cup with joy, pleasure, and fun. Of course we have to pay the bills, and for some of us especially after the health pandemic, I saw first hand how that’s affecting people. Some of us live on really tight budgets just to get by. But we NEED more fun and pleasure and laughs in our life. That doesn’t have to cost anything but our most valuable asset, our time. We have to make sure our time is filled with things that bring us the fulfillment we’re meant to have as humans. Love, joy, connection, laughter. Stress and loneliness are the number one killers if you ask me. They’re often at the root of every disease.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Joy Brynok.
Megan Brynok is a Functional Practitioner in women’s health, stress expert and Founder of her signature program SHE Code. After a decade-long career in the Western Medicine Healthcare system and her own personal health struggles, she followed soul calling into Functional Medicine to teach others how they can also heal. Megan coupled her experiences in healthcare bother personally and professionally, with her three years of experience as a fitness competitor along with multiple years of personal development that came from an identity crisis and being an army wife — to be able to help women get to the root causes of their symptoms, eliminate stress and increase natural energy while building a balanced lifestyle they love.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Absolutely! Thank you for allowing me to be here with you! To make a long and beautifully crazy story short — I found my way into becoming a Functional Practitioner in Women’s Health, a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Competitor through years of self-discovery. As a recovered people-pleaser, I never actually knew what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. I did have quite a successful career in healthcare for nearly a decade, but I was not fulfilled, and was getting sicker as years went on after I continued to be dismissed in my own health struggles by Conventional Medicine. That’s how I stumbled upon Functional Medicine and found my heart and soul calling in the career that I now love.
I’m also an Army Wife of many years, and that comes with its own set of trials and tribulations to work through regularly. In 2018 when my husband deployed to the Middle East, that’s really the year I started to “wake up” my soul and learn who I really was. That soul-searching sabbatical journey started after my identity crisis shortly after he left. It was my rock bottom, but I am so grateful for it because it changed the trajectory of my life to be able to now live a life of my dreams.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
That’s a great question! There’s so many stories I could tell you. But I would say the most interesting and impactful story would be stemming from my identify crisis that I just touched on in your previous question. I think so many of us grow up thinking we have to be a doctor, or a lawyer or a teacher in order to be successful. And we are taught to decide what we want to do with our life at such a young age, which can be extremely difficult.
But I did what I thought was right, and that was doing what society told me I “should” do. That’s exactly how I ended up in a clinical identity crisis in 2018 at such a young age. Because I did what would bring be stability and look good on a resume, without digging deep within myself to understand what I truly wanted.
I know that’s not the case for everyone, but for me I was so accustomed to listening to what people, school and society told us we “should” do, that I ended up super unhappy when I had to sit with my own thoughts. I was a people pleaser for many years of my life due to never feeling good enough when I was younger. I ended up in ultrasound working way too many hours in hospitals and teaching as well as trying to maintain what I thought was “right” outside of my career– owning a house, keeping it clean, getting animals, being a great wife, etc. I held myself to unrealistic standards of other people’s projections. But that was entirely on me. I was wearing way too many hats and constantly putting my true desires on the back burner — that when 2018 came around, and my husband deployed I hit a breaking point with trying to balance all of those hats that never revolved around true self care.
As embarrassing as it felt when it happened and I had to go on FMLA to work less hours for my mental well-being, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I finally got to sit with own thoughts. Which was when I realized I didn’t know who I was. So I quit my job, took a travel contract position across the country and finally started making decisions for myself that excited me, improved my well-being inside and out and my life is unrecognizable today. So the lesson for me was that I was good enough. I was worthy of making decisions for myself because life is about truly being fulfilled with joy and purpose. And living in my purpose didn’t happen on accident, it was intentional with a lot of personal development that I think we all deserve to give ourselves
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe my practice is helping women at the capacity they deserve to allow them to feel heard, understood and to have someone take the time needed to understand their story. I don’t offer band aid solutions to cover up bullet holes. I find the root causes of what’s keeping women sick, tired and in a position where they’re accepting symptoms as “normal”. I also teach them tactics and powerful tools to bring self-awareness to another level to also get to the root causes of thoughts and beliefs that are keeping them stuck.
One of my most recent clients who just completed her program with me said … “You actually gave me hope. Before I met you I went from Dr to Dr for so many years who made me feel there was no solution for me to ever feel good again in my health. But you changed that for me”.
That’s what Functional Medicine with holistic wellness principles can do for people. It’s what it did for me, my countless clients and thousands of people all over the world. I’ve helped clients with conditions like PCOS, Hashimoto’s, Endometriosis, PMS, Leaky Gut, and so much more into remission. But it’s not about me, it’s about giving people hope it is absolutely possible not to feel so fatigued, stressed and symptomatic all the time. There is a solution out there to help. And when we consider that over 95% of diseases are lifestyle induced, it’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s also amazing because our bodies have an innate ability to heal when we can give them what they need.
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?
Honestly, there are so many people who have helped me directly and indirectly over the last few years alone. It would be impossible for me to sit here and name them all. We are the sum of the five people we surround ourselves by, and sometimes there’s a lot of toxic people in our lives. We can’t forget that the power of technology and social media allows us to connect with whomever we want to plug into that bubble of five impactful people. So I chose audible books and podcasts when I drove to work, or got ready in my mornings or went on walks. I was constantly filling my mind and soul with positive and influential content instead of the negative and harmful stuff that can easily consume you.
But I will say the most impactful have come from investing in myself. Investing in personal trainers, health coaches, life coaches, business coaches. I cannot say enough about the importance of investing in yourself. When you can commit to exchanging that energy to show up for yourself in a new way, it’s so transformative. And ever since I hired my first coach in 2018, I’ve never not had one.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
You’re welcome, and I’m excited to dive into this with you because resilience is a word that I use a lot. To me, resilience is health inside and out. It’s the ability to face adversity and face challenges and work through them to come out a better version of you on the other side. It’s being able to bounce back from something that could have easily consumed you and kept you down. It’s failing forward and getting back up every single time you get knocked down.
I think the most important trait to being resilient is to own the mindset of being the victor of your life and not the victim. Avoid victimizing yourself and your circumstances. We all face adversity, and from exposing myself to such influential people in this world who have faced more adversity than I could imagine — and THEY have been able to overcome it and even create a life of their dreams, be fulfilled and living in joy — there is no reason we all can’t get back up again.
Everything in life comes down to our mindset, which can be the hard part. Because it involves an incredible amount of intentionality and self awareness. So I guess I would say my top 3 traits of resilient people are victor mindsets, intentional and self-aware.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Oh I love that question! I think courage and resilience have a lot similarity in that they both require us to believe in ourselves and to put our faith over our fears. As I just mentioned a resilient person is self aware, and that takes a lot of practicing. It’s not easy to dig up the skeletons in our closets, and it takes courage in order to face some of those skeletons and in order to accept who we really are. To forgive ourselves, accept ourselves and love ourselves through any pain or change is very difficult. It takes strength and courage.
I truly don’t know how I can delineate differences between resilience and courage, other than in order to become a resilient person you have to muster the strength of course. Whatever that might look like for you.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Am I allowed to say my husband? Because if so, then I’d choose him. Although he wouldn’t admit to it as many of our US military soldiers don’t give themselves enough credit. I don’t the half of what he went through when he was deployed, and I probably never will. Our veterans and soldiers who deploy or who make that level of commitment within themselves to just do what they’re told, and to be exposed to such terror, fear and uncertainty — to me, I’m not sure how you can be more resilient than that. Especially when you consider reintegrating into communities and societies who often don’t think twice about it because such a small percentage of our country makes up the military. I may be a biased Army wife and down right patriot, but my husband and the men and women who serve our country are truly the most resilient humans I can possible think of.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I feel like this is an opportunity for a really cool story, but the only thing I can think of for some reason is a flashback to my childhood. I was a total tom boy, country girl and motorhead who kept up with the boys, so to speak. You would always find me on a dirt bike, quad, go-cart, bicycle, you name it. If it had wheels and could go fast, I wanted to hop on and sometimes I was reckless, that’s for sure.
I remember jumping our go-cart with my dirt bike when I was like 12 or 13 maybe. Granted, we did have a dirt bike track in our back yard with huge jumps because my brother was such a competitive racer. The jumps were big enough to clear the go-cart in between, and I went first with my younger cousin who told me I couldn’t do it. I did, and then he did, and then we kept doing it! Fun memories!
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I’ve gotta say, I feel like I shared that earlier in this interview with my identity crisis. That was my “quarter life crisis” that changed the entire trajectory of my life and it’s the story I’ll tell forever on repeat if it can inspire someone else to prioritize their mental health and put themselves first. We can’t pour from an empty cup, and we can’t continue to put ourselves last and expect to show up for our loved one’s the way they deserve us to.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! I think even when I consider being made fun of in middle school for my extremely crooked teeth, and still smiling for pictures can be considered resilience! But of course, aside from what I shared with you today there’s other tremendous experiences in my life that have contributed to my mental and physical resilience.
One big experience was mustering up the courage to escape a toxic and abusive relationship. If you don’t personally experience it then it might not make sense on how easy it can be to stay in something so harmful. But typically, the offender is very manipulative in those circumstances and that was the case for me. I was only 18 and 19 years old when I found myself in a mentally abusive relationship that turned extremely violent. Because I was in such a vulnerable time of my life where I didn’t feel worthy and I also felt embarrassed at the same time for allowing that type of behavior into my life, it went on longer than I like to admit. There were circumstances where cops were called or he tried running my car off the road to scare me and harm me. But the final straw was getting a black eye and coming home to my parents. Then of course we got a restraining order and it got ugly for a while.
But the sad truth is, I saw the deadly consequence of what could happen when you stay in something like that from a high school classmate. I knew that would be my end result if I kept going, so I can’t describe to you how I did it, but I got away from it. I built up the courage and finally realized I was worth so much more and that this was wrong. Looking back I just want to hug that younger version of myself, but it’s a part of my story that made me who I am today, and I love who I am today.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I agree with you! And I like to keep things simple. So 5 steps to become more resilient would be:
- Practice gratitude daily. This can really help lower your stress and allow you to focus on more positive and less negative. Even in the hardest of days, there’s always something so simple we can be grateful for. That will retrain your brain to see the world from a different lens.
- A morning routine. This also can involve gratitude, but I think it involves intentionality more than anything. Carving out time first thing in the morning to reflect with yourself, spend time in solitude and even gratitude — this can all help you cultivate self-awareness. Which, as I mentioned is a trait that will 100% be found in resilient people.
- Get in 3 balanced meals a day. Like I said resilience is how I define optimal mental health and physical health. The two go hand in hand. In order to show up as the best version of you, you have to nourish your body with what it needs to function and thrive, not just survive.
- Get at least 15 minutes of sunlight daily. This alone has so many health benefits, but really it will help your body’s cortisol levels balance out a bit. And having a body that’s capable of managing stress well is like the ultimate definition of health. In order for your body to manage stress well, your cortisol levels have to be regulated and sunlight in the morning and afternoons can really help that physiological process.
- Create space for non-negotiable that will fill up your cup with joy, pleasure, and fun. Of course we have to pay the bills, and for some of us especially after the health pandemic, I saw first hand how that’s affecting people. Some of us live on really tight budgets just to get by. But we NEED more fun and pleasure and laughs in our life. That doesn’t have to cost anything but our most valuable asset, our time. We have to make sure our time is filled with things that bring us the fulfillment we’re meant to have as humans. Love, joy, connection, laughter. Stress and loneliness are the number one killers if you ask me. They’re often at the root of every disease.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
I love this question, and thank you for positioning it in such a positive way. I have a deep desire to create a movement in our education systems for young women, specifically in high schools to understand their bodies and health. As women in the reproductive age group, we have a biological clock nobody else has — our infradian rhythm. It’s important to understand the natural ebs and flows of our hormones and the different cycle phases because our bodies need different things in the different phases. This is life changing information that gives women so much empowerment and grace with themselves when they understand what’s going on with their body.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would absolutely love to have a private lunch or breakfast with Lori Harder. She’s been one of the biggest influences in my life through her podcast and social media. I love everything she stands for and her story of how she constantly overcame her trials and tribulations while finding success.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I love hanging out on Instagram @meganjoy_wellness , my Facebook page is Megan Joy Brynok, and I have a private Facebook group called Nourished and Balanced that any women who are interested in optimizing their health, getting free workshops and trainings while learning about their body can join us!
Also my podcast “The Balanced Woman” is where we dig into things as well.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!