Alexis Parnell is passionate about empowering women in mind, body and spirit. A registered nurse and former family nurse practitioner, she first turned to holistic health solutions for herself and her family when her youngest child was born with Down Syndrome. But her real wake-up call came when her husband was diagnosed with cancer six years ago.
“That turned the light on really bright for me,” she says. “It scared me to death. Was I going to lose my best friend, was I going to lose this person who had been my rock? I knew we had to make some changes.”
Alexis didn’t waste any time. Within a year, she had started a supplement business that enabled her husband to take better care of himself by filling nutritional gaps, plus changed her family’s eating habits.
For instance, at the time Alexis was having severe gut issues. “I thought I was eating healthy, but I was lying to myself,” she says. “We’d come home from a trip and run for some fast-food diet lemonade and chicken nuggets. And that was really bad for my body.”
Six years later, her husband is in remission, and Alexis has not only recovered her own good health but is helping others to discover a path to balanced nutrition, healthy movement, and habit-change through inspirational wellness speaking, corporate retreats and workshops, and online self-paced programs.
Having recently started the Transcendental Meditation technique, Alexis talks about why showing up for yourself is so necessary for a woman’s health and happiness.
Linda Egenes: You’re an incredibly active person, working out daily, raising your family and coaching others. How do you find time to meditate?
Alexis Parnell: I had tried other forms of meditation, but you couldn’t sit me still. With multitasking five or ten things that I constantly have going on, I thought meditating was never going to work for me. So I was hesitant when I heard about TM. I thought, “Twice a day for twenty minutes? How am I going to do that?”
But when I went through the training, it was profoundly evident from the very first day that that this was something my body craved. So it wasn’t something that I had to be reminded to do.
Now, do I occasionally have to force myself to sit down and do it? Yes, but only because I’m constantly going, going, going. But once I do sit down to meditate, it’s profound for me. I feel calm and in a deeper space. It’s very hard to explain. Unless you experience it, you can’t understand it. And what is fantastic for me is that you don’t have to stop thinking when you do TM, you still get to that peaceful place.
Do you feel that women, in general, don’t take enough time for themselves because they put the needs of others first?
Alexis Parnell: Yeah, I do. I think as women we are natural empaths. We’re so busy, helping our kids with homework and multiple sports and jobs and trying to pay the bills. We often put ourselves on the back-burner. We almost feel guilty for taking time out for ourselves.
And we’re not even aware of how this habit affects us as women. Not taking time for ourselves can manifest as emotional eating, snapping at our kids or spouse or others we love, or letting ourselves go, so to speak. It could show up as poor mental health, depression, or auto-immune disease. As women there are so many things that we don’t even realize we are doing to ourselves because we’re not paying attention to ourselves.
Doing TM is where I show up for myself, and as women I don’t think we do that enough. And if we don’t take care of ourselves first, how in the world are we going to take care of everyone around us?
TM helps me to prioritize my day, to put what’s important first. And TM helps me show up for my clients and my family for sure. It helps me to be more clean-slate when I start a session with a client, for instance. So it’s vitally important.
As a former nurse and nurse practitioner, do you feel TM has a special place in the nursing profession?
Alexis Parnell: Not caring for yourself is even more of a problem if you’re a parent or a caregiver in any capacity, or a healthcare provider or doctor or nurse—anyone in that industry who is caring for others who are hurting physically or mentally.
I haven’t practiced in quite a few years now, but in the past I’ve done twelve-hour shifts in hospitals, I’ve worked night shifts and while in graduate school I worked in an ICU and a pediatric unit.
It’s hard, and it’s stressful. You’re working crazy hours, you’re responsible for many patients. You don’t even have time to use the bathroom while at work, or if you do, it’s two hours later before you can take a break.
Nurses are notorious for neglecting themselves because they have such servant hearts, are such givers. You want to talk about empaths! They can show it or not show it. But I’ll guarantee I’ve never met one nurse that doesn’t have the biggest heart around.
There was recently a post on the TM for Nurses Facebook page that was mind-jogging for me. It made me remember that space when you lose a patient. It sends your stress levels through the roof and really throws your hormones out of balance.
So I think that nurses go home and they sleep and they eat, and typically not a great diet. I think there’s a lot of emotional eating going on, or emotional non-eating, which was what I did. So you’re throwing your body out of balance. I’m talking chemically—acidity and hormones can wreak havoc on the body.
And I believe that TM can help, if nurses can take that time—which I admit is really hard if you’re working a 12-hour-shift. But just that extra rest 20 minutes in the morning and in the evening when you get off your shift—I really believe TM helps to bring the person back into balance.
You had already transformed your life to become more healthy through nutrition, even before starting TM. What has changed for you and your coaching since starting TM?
Alexis Parnell: I am not a dietician, and I’m not a nutritionist. I’m working with people to “feel” what they’re eating and to make different choices.
I firmly believe that nutrition is not just about what you put in your mouth, it’s what you put in your head and your heart, it’s how you live your life. And I call that “whole health,” meaning the person is the whole mind, body and spirit.
And honestly, before TM, I didn’t have a real reference point from experience to share a spirit piece with someone. And I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about spirituality, working with yourself, your energy—to take some time for yourself. And that spirit and mind—they go together.
As for the body, I was already working with the microbiome and the gut, which I believe is where good health starts. And that’s my passion and my expertise. So I had already dealt with my physical health.
But for my mental and spiritual health, TM is that last missing piece of the puzzle. And now I can share that information with my clients, so they can do this too.
You come from a family of veterans—your son, your husband and yourself. Do you see a need for TM in overcoming PTSD?
Alexis Parnell: I’m actually in talks right now with a veteran’s group to donate my services, once a week, to provide veterans and their spouses with nutritional support and education. Many of these young families have very little money, so they couldn’t afford my services otherwise. And you better believe that I’ll be recommending TM as much as possible because I really think it will be something profound for them.
I know from my son’s experience that these young veterans have seen things that the rest of us could never even imagine in our worst nightmares. It makes me so sad and emotional.
Yet I believe that the pain is going to be there, but suffering is a choice. I believe that with TM and getting chemically balanced with nutritional healing and supplementation, it can help these vets to deal with their demons.
As a coach who empowers women, what are some simple things every woman can do to improve her health?
Alexis Parnell: I tell my clients that there are four action steps, three “S’s” and an “M”: 1. Sleep (and we need a full eight hours), 2. Supplementation and knowing your body around nutrition, 3. Some time for yourself with TM, and 4. Movement.
For that third “S,” (Some time for yourself), I used to say, “Read a good book, take a bubble bath, find a quiet place in the other room, go to the spa, or do something nice for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.”
Now I say, “Some time for yourself with TM.” And that opens dialogue. People ask me “What’s TM?”
And then I tell them. I’ve been so blessed with TM, so blessed that I finally said yes.
- Find out more about Alexis Parnell at her website.
- Find out more about Transcendental Meditation for Nurses here.
- Read “A Nurses Story: Four Months of TM”
Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.