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5 Years Ago Today, I Suffered A Brain Injury

July 18, 2017
5 years ago today I suffered a brain injury after a freak accident at a medical clinic – of all places! This day is hanging heavy on me today. I think of all the time I spent in the dark room – weeks – after the injury. In pain, not able to talk to anyone or read or listen to anything…just lie there in the dark and try not to stress or do anything to stimulate my brain. I think about everything I have lost – all this time with my girls, years spent eating dinner in my darkened bedroom. I think of everything that was just dumped onto my husband starting that day. The stress of this situation and everything it has cost him, me and our family.
Then I shift to the pain. The physical pain and all of the symptoms and the emotional sadness. The feeling of being stupid because I couldn’t use my brain to make simple decisions about even what I wanted to eat. So much heartache.
But, then I think of the gifts. That I was forced to slow down my busy Type A life. I learned how to be present. I have learned more about patience and myself than I would have ever learned without the brain injury. I have learned so many amazing tools around mindfulness and pacing, gratitude and compassion (to name just a small few) that I now use in my own life and ironically I now use with my coaching clients all the time.
Today, I reflect on everything I have lost and everything I have gained. And, I feel proud of myself and my family that we have made it to where we are – to where so many doctors told me I would never get to. I continue to recover. I still experience symptoms, but I am living proof of neuroplasticity. So for those out there with brain injuries, my advice to you is to accept where you are today, but never give up hope for continued healing.

Cracking the Weight Loss Challenge of My Life – A Client’s Story

June 9, 2017

Today, I am pleased to have a special feature within my blog series. One of my clients, Leigh, is a successful executive who has been struggling with a personal issue for 20 years. She has agreed to share her story with you here! Thanks, Leigh.

Leigh’s story:

I have struggled with being overweight most of my adult life. So much precious time and energy has gone into thinking, worrying, (arguably obsessing) about the number on the scale. Also, I have realized my obesity is compound by emotions, such as shame – the kind I feel when I can’t fit on a ride with my daughter. So I watch the roller coaster take off with her sitting alone, feeling a little scared and I’m not beside her to comfort her while at the same time she’s excited and I’m not there to enjoy it with her.

Missing out on important life experiences, coupled with my milestone birthday of turning 40 last year, brought me to a breaking point on the weight issue. I committed to not spending the next 40 years in the same way, which led Carey-Ann and I to work together to help me tackle this once and for all.

When I started working with Carey-Ann, I was forced to consider what would define success in this area of my life. Will it be weight loss? Having more energy? Sleeping better? Fitting into the size ‘X’ jeans you’ve been hanging onto since high school? Running for 20 minutes without effort or simply making it up the stairs without feeling winded. These are the questions you’ll find in almost any opening chapters of ‘diet’ or ‘weight loss’ books, articles, websites or apps.  And certainly the questions any personal trainer will ask you.  I’ve gone through these questions a hundred times throughout the years.  And if you’re as familiar with them as I am, then you know the answer is always “yes, yes, yes, how about, all of the above.”  But the real answer is, “I want this to be the LAST time, I ever have to answer those questions again.”

To fully understand my journey, I want to take you back to where it all started. When I was in my 20’s, I started working full-time, making money, seriously dating my now-husband. I gained and lost the same 15 pounds over and over and began the real struggle with weight. I remember ending my 20’s fairly unsatisfied with my body. Although, now I’d do anything to be even 10 pounds heavier than I was back then. But, I had success in many other ways. A good marriage, lots of friends, healthy parents and a great career. And, we were a couple of European trips away from wanting to start a family.

And so at the age of 31, I had my daughter and gained 70 pounds in pregnancy and only lost 40. But, other priorities took hold.  I refused to believe I couldn’t have it all. ‘All’ for me was work and family. It was not about health or wellness. A few years later, ‘all’ was having another baby and we were fortunate to have our second. Another 70 gained and only 30 lost this time. I don’t have to do the math for you for you to figure out what’s going on.  But, I had it ‘all’.  I rewarded myself with food and wine and the good things that I worked hard for.  I commuted far and put myself fully into work and spending time with my young family. Life became busy and the last thing I was going to do was deprive myself of some wine, cheese or a baguette.

So that brings me to one year ago when Carey-Ann and I turned our professional relationship (she was my executive coach) into something more personal when I signed on with her with one goal – to lose weight. And since then, it’s been quite a journey.  For the first time, I’m digging deep, emotionally invested.  But it’s hard.  Really hard. There have been weeks I have dreaded my check in with Carey-Ann. Knowing I had not done what I was supposed to do – what I had committed to her, to myself.  We’ve spent hours talking.  We’ve talked about my resistance to let anyone know how I really feel about myself, and this massive gap in my life. The one goal that I cannot conquer.  We’ve talked about playing it safe and taking the easy road – when I can only stick with something for so long before I need to reward myself and start that downward spiral again.  And we talk about grit, and how sometimes, growing up protected, in a loving and safe environment, facing very little adversity or tragedy means you have to work harder to develop those deeper layers of ourselves that helps us deal with challenges in life.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering – what’s the progress? Well, I guess that depends on how I define success.  A year ago, success was to lose 70 pounds.  And against that goal, I’m at 25 pounds down.  But my definition of success has expanded. Sure, I still plan on losing those 70 pounds and I celebrate I have made a good dent in that weight loss goal. But, there is also a deeper personal understanding I am gaining about myself through this journey that is invaluable. I haven’t given up.  Thankfully neither has my coach.  We take it week by week and month by month. And every few months, there’s a breakthrough.  Another layer peeled back, another look into the real essence of who I am in that moment. I am really learning to live in a way that embraces the saying, “life is about the journey and not the destination.” I plan to continue to enjoy every day of my beautiful life as I work towards being the healthiest I can be – for my husband and children, my employer and most of all, myself!


Attention All Leaders: Dare to Fail

May 16, 2017

I would like to share with you my Forbes article, just released, on the topic of failure. Failure can sting, but it is a necessary part of living and leading. Please, read on.


Failing is a natural part of life. The more you put yourself out there, the bigger the rewards but also the greater the risk of failure. By trying to be our best, we likely will fall many times before we reach our goals. That is the way learning goes.

I have had many great successes in my life, but I have also come face-to-face with failure more times than I can count. I think it is impossible to be a parent or leader and not get to know failure on a first-name basis.

In my experience with failure, both personally and professionally as an executive coach, I see that the more we are scared of failure, the more power it has over us and stops us from trying new things. And trying new things and making bold moves is what can lead to the greatest successes.

So, we have a choice to make. Do we live life small, fearing that failure could be around the corner waiting for us? Or do we take chances, risk failure and dare to live a life beyond our wildest dreams?

Four Ways To Overcome The Fear Of Failure

Here are tips to help take some power away from your fears of failure:

1. Think of failure as a normal part of life. The saying “What you resist, persists” applies to many areas in life, including failure. Not getting things right the first time is a necessary part of learning. Think of failing as the “playing” part of anything new you try. The quicker you become comfortable with failure, the less stress and more success you will likely experience.

2. Realize you’re probably worrying for nothing. A lot of times, people worry about all the potential failures before then deciding not to proceed with the action. The cost of something not going as planned would be too much to bear. Keep in mind that most of the things we worry about actually never happen. So, acknowledge your fears, put them aside and don’t let them stop you from what you want to do.

Go direct to the Forbes site to read the entire article!

Why Mindfulness is a Game-Changer for You as a Leader!

April 11, 2017

I would like to share my latest Forbes article on a topic that I hold very near and dear since my brain injury almost five years ago. Please read on.


Leaders seem to be under more pressure than ever before, and technology has us plugged in at all times. We want to do our best to add value to the companies we work for, but at this pace, life can feel like a never-ending work day!

So how do we stop the crazy train? The answer is Mindfulness. Go direct to the Forbes site to read the story.

Find out more about my Mindfulness Programs for Leaders and High Potentials!

What Is Your Top Ten?

April 11, 2017

David Letterman had a top ten. I have a top ten. Do you?

To me, the top ten is the list of activities you need to incorporate into your life on a regular basis that lead to a feeling of greater fulfillment and overall well being.

My Top Ten includes:

1. Have a massage or spa treatment at least once a month.
2. Go on a date night with my hubby every two weeks
3. Plan a few moments every day to do something enjoyable by myself. This could be reading or going to a Starbucks and indulging in a latte while people watching.
4. Exercise every day for at least 45 minutes
5. Eat nutritious food, but have one night a week (usually Saturday nights!) that is my cheat night.
6. Spend time with others I love.
7. Do something kind for someone else every day. That could be sending a note to someone or taking the time to hold the door for a stranger while smiling.
8.Plan a fun vacation several times a year.
9. Meditate 5 times a week or more.
10. Listen to uplifting music. I have quite an eclectic taste in music. I am a country girl by birth so I like country music. I also like AC/DC and my kids keep me up-to-date on all the latest pop music that I must admit, I really like too!

Think about what activities make you feel alive. Many of them may even feel like a luxury. But when you stop to think about it, you really should be pampering yourself. We invest in our education, our homes, but we tend to overlook investing in our most valuable asset. Take care of your well-being and happiness. Trust me, the payoff will be worth it! Now, go ahead, and create your own Top 10!

My Partnership With Forbes!

February 15, 2017
I am excited to share with you that I have recently become a part of the invite-only Forbes Coaches Council as a representative from Canada to this global group.  As part of this, I have signed on as a regular contributor to the Forbes publication in the area of leadership and entrepreneurial development. I would like to share my first Forbes article with you now!

How To Master Strategic Thinking

One of the top skills that the leaders we work with want to develop is their ability to think strategically. The world we live in has become so fast-paced that there is a lot of pressure on leaders to think more holistically about how they can streamline processes and leverage opportunities in order to be the very best in their sector.

An executive coach’s role is to be a sounding board for his or her clients. To ask the powerful questions that lead the client to the best solutions. Through the one-on-one coaching process, I have learned that a lot of really smart people doubt their ability to be strategic thinkers. Some clients have even asked me, “What does the word ‘strategy’ really mean anyway?”

Where I find people struggle with strategy is mostly on two fronts. First, the term “strategic thinking” has become a business buzz phrase, so it can mean different things to different people. The concept of strategy is vague. The second challenge around being strategic is that once you really understand what it means, it can be difficult to understand how to apply it practically to what you do in your job.

So let’s start with defining it. Continue reading the article on the Forbes Web site.

What It Was Like To Participate in a Brain Injury Clinical Trial

February 14, 2017

For those of you who have been following my story for a while, you know I suffered a brain injury almost five years ago when I went into a medical clinic to get an x-ray of my neck and ended up fainting and hitting my head on the concrete floor. Life has not been the same for me since.

Although my brain has done a tremendous amount of healing since my accident, I still get headaches each day and I am sensitive to light and also to noise. I was told three years ago by neurologists that my healing has plateaued and I would need to get use to all of these symptoms.

I was willing to accept where I was in that moment, but I refused to give up on my continued healing. I kept moving ahead, treating myself with kindness, and I am happy to say that I have proven the experts wrong. I continued to heal greatly past the two-year post-injury mark. But, I still have further to go.

When I heard about the medical clinical trial to test the PoNS device, I was all in. It was a big sacrifice for my family to have me spend so much time away, but if it could help me, I wanted to try it. My supportive husband was completely on board to do whatever it took to help me continue to heal. So, I applied to the program.

At the start of December, I received word that I was accepted into the trial. This meant I had to pack my bags at a moment’s notice and was gone from mid December until the end of January, only returning home for a few days a week in January.

This intensive program tested an amazing gadget called the PoNS device that was featured in the bestselling book The Brain’s Way of Healing by Dr. Norman Doidge. The company that holds the patent for this device is owned by the talk show host, Montel Williams. After Montel experienced life-changing improvements from his MS symptoms when using the PoNS, he set up a company to get this device to market. The clinical trials held on it are a big part of this process. The inventors of this device claim it will have a profound impact on helping those with Parkinson’s, brain injuries, MS, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. I knew I wanted to be a part of trying out this piece of equipment and helping bring it to market as soon as possible for those in need.

When I first arrived at Concordia University, the Montreal testing site for this trial, I felt a real mix of emotions. The butterflies in my stomach came alive as I began to think about the possibility of being ‘normal’ again and also a bit of fear about the symptoms I could face through participating in this intensive trial. I had no doubt it was going to be exhausting. Could I actually stay the course and be able to physically do this?

My physiotherapist, Laura, a woman in her late twenties with brown, long hair who was born in Columbia and had made her way to Canada as a child, put my fears at ease. She told me that everything we did would be within my symptom range and she continually checked in with me throughout our time together.

The goal of the study was to see if using the PoNS device while having physiotherapy for the brain several times a day for an hour and a half each segment plus a meditation session each evening for six days a week, for a period of at least 5 weeks could improve the brain’s ability to heal over just doing the physio itself. This meant there was a real PoNS device used by some participants and a placebo PoNS device used by others. No one, not even the physiotherapists, know who has which device and we don’t find out until the study is fully wrapped up later this year.

I spent 5 weeks standing on foam pads with my eyes closed for twenty minutes, twice a day. As well as walking on a treadmill while looking different directions and then walking forwards and backwards along hallways with my eyes closed. I also trained my core like I never have before in my life. This was part of helping create greater stability and balance. I swear I must have a six-pack in there somewhere that seems to be not quite popping out thanks to all of those great French pastries!

I also found the experience of being away from my family for that long was really eye-opening for me. I was previously such an independent woman, but since the brain injury I have come to rely on my husband A LOT!

When I sat in the empty hotel room, looking out the window and seeing the Christmas lights and people walking by laughing, I realized I had lost more than just my healthy brain in the accident. I had lost a big piece of myself. In this hotel room by myself, I felt felt bored. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I actually felt helpless without my husband. I was scared to venture outside in case I fell on the ice and got hurt and no one I knew would be around to help me.

After an hour of this fretting, I pulled myself together and suited up to head out into the cold Montreal night. I walked around, looking into the store windows and ended up going to a movie. I must admit, I felt a great sense of pride sitting in that movie theatre by myself and really enjoying the show. Being okay to be with me again.

I still don’t know if I got the ‘real’ PoNS device. I did make some improvements in terms of my vestibular functioning and my vision issues have improved slightly, but I still have a way to go in terms of my healing. This trial was an important piece of the puzzle that led me to meet some amazing people I would have never had the chance to otherwise.

Would I do it again, knowing that I wouldn’t be completely healed after sacrificing this much time away from my family and business? Foresure. Not only did I walk away a little stronger due to better balance, I walked away with a piece of myself that could only come from being forced to stand on my own two feet again in the world. I may not be completely healed. But, I am very proud of myself and I know that I am a survivor.

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion/traumatic brain injury, there is still time to participate in the study. Reasonable expenses are covered as part of this study by the U.S. Department of Defense-funded trial. Clinical trial information.  Please check with your doctor before participating.

This blog is based on an individual experience and Potential Unlimited or Carey-Ann Oestreicher will not be held liable for others experiences.