Mastering the Work-Life Balance

By focusing on mental health, Shelly O’Neal is helping clients realize the things that matter most

As a wife, mother, grandmother, clinically trained psychotherapist, LCSW, entrepreneur and business owner, Shelly O’Neal, wears many hats. But it also makes her uniquely qualified to help people improve their mental health by mastering the work-life balance.

O’Neal, who divides her time between Nashville and her family farm in Paducah, Kentucky, recently opened SO Wellness to do just that.

The term “mental health” has certain stigmas attached but, for contextual purposes, that’s not what this discussion is about.

“That’s exactly right. When I work with individuals and corporate entities, one of the first things I do is help them understand the importance of emotional health. This has to do with helping people organize their thoughts and regulating their emotions so that they can function, be productive and feel fulfilled. Many of my clients are already successful professionals who want to enhance career goals, improve relationships, and take on new challenges.”

What type of people turn to you for help?

“I see a lot of professionals who have successful careers but they’re not completely healthy. Sometimes it’s because they’ve dedicated their life to their career because they’ve always thought that’s what was expected of them. It’s not until later that they find that it’s not what makes them happy.

“But it’s important for everyone to know that their life experiences are never wasted, you just add to them. Your life is like a patchwork quilt. When you put the pieces together, some are prettier than others, but the result is beautiful because it’s a personal reflection of the individual.

In your work you’ve referenced the Four Pillars of Wellness. What are they and why are they important?

“The Four Pillars are Emotional, Physical, Spiritual and Financial. When those are foundationally strong, so is the individual. I use these four pillars when I assess and design programs for companies and individuals. The good news is that most people are strong in at least one or two areas. But let’s just say that you're strong physically but not spiritually. We’re not talking so much about religion, but the importance of believing in something greater than yourself. I’ve never met a successful person who wasn’t strong spiritually.”


Why do many people find it difficult to achieve a healthy work-life balance?

“A lot of that has to do with not knowing what balance means or how it’s measured. It’s not about money or hours; it’s about satisfaction derived from work. Ultimately, it comes down to feeling like the work you do is valuable. To be sure, balance will look different to a stay-at-home mom than it will to a career professional.

“Another factor is learning how to let go. This relates to deciding what your purpose really is and managing those expectations with your other responsibilities.

We can’t do everything so we have to decide what’s important to hold onto, and what can be set aside.

You have a lot going on in your life. Do you have an example of something you’ve had to set aside?

I grew up around horses and all through college I was able to ride. But I had to give that up to devote time to my career and my family. So, I made it a goal to get back to it eventually. I was finally able to do that three years ago. I have four horses on 120 acres where I can ride them and love on them. I call it my wellness ranch; it’s where I unwind and recharge.

What are the trends these days regarding emotional wellness?

I am seeing a cultural shift as people are focusing on mindful living and selective living rather than trying to accumulate stuff. But if you ask people how they want their lives to look, they have difficulty answering. At SO Wellness, I’m helping clients find what’s meaningful to them.



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