Going through a total body and mind transformation during a pandemic might be seen as impossible to some.
But this is exactly what Hope hairstylist and resident Shayla Ross has been doing, even as public health orders shut down her salon and she was mainly confined to her home with her family during the height of the pandemic.
After a few years of family tragedy upon tragedy, Ross knew she needed to stop living life in survival mode. She joined the Total Makeover Challenge, a Fraser Valley-based 18 week challenge for body, mind and spirit. From 30 competitors to start off, Ross is now in the top 6 competitors in the Chilliwack group – the ‘only girl from Hope’- and is asking the community to cast their vote for her in the final round of the challenge May 15.
The challenge is about fitness and Ross has been working out two times a day, setting her intention and her Apple watch to make it happen. “It’s this new drive within, I feel like I’m in beast mode,” she laughed.
But it’s also about a lot more than this, she added. It’s about working out your mind and getting out of your comfort zone. For Ross, the challenge has included all-day weekend seminars, mentorship sessions, taking part in podcasts, organizing a charity event which raised close to $3,000, and parttaking in an ‘amazing race’ in Chilliwack.
Recently Ross had to write and present a speech, judged by an elite Toastmaster. Before the pandemic, she was working and driving to Chilliwack for weekly meetings. And her hard work is paying off, getting kudos from organizers of the challenge and advancing to the top six.
‘I was just surviving’
Before she started the challenge, Shayla said she was in survival mode. She experienced a string of deaths of very close family members, four deaths within a year and two months, after which her teenaged son got into a very serious quad accident which left him on life support with a severe brain injury. She stayed in the hospital with him for three months, during which he had to learn how to walk, talk and get back to a normal life again.
“It was just ongoing and I could never heal from it,” she said of the tragedies and crises.
After this she was back at work, but the family was ‘walking on glass’ waiting for four years for her partner to get a liver transplant for an autoimmune condition. She kept going, overworking at times and feeling things were falling apart and had to change.
“I think before this I was just surviving like I was just living I was just going from point A to point B, I was constantly busy,” Ross said. It was around January when she told herself things had to change, and she came across a Facebook post about the challenge.
“Now there’s this fire that’s within…it’s this whole new drive in life, it’s like looking at life differently. I just can’t get over it.”
And Ross said the ripples of her new perspective on life are expanding out and inspiring others. People have been reading the blogs she writes every evening and following her journey on Facebook. “I see a lot of people doing self-work, self care and…it is making a difference in other people’s lives. Spreading that happiness, especially at a time like this,” she said.
“I am trying to build a platform for myself so I never fall into a rut,” she said. “I really feel thankful that I had that time of a rut in my life because I wouldn’t be feeling the way I feel now and that time to heal from it, with the help of this challenge that I’m in.”
Her new outlook on life, facilitated by the challenge, is about deciding to choose a life of happiness over sadness, and love over fear. Life should never be boring, she added, and life should be a challenge whether it’s waking up earlier than usual, gardening or making a new meal. “It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be extreme,” she said.
Ross is developing this new approach to life during the pandemic, where she is out of work and home with her five children. Rather than stress about what is going wrong, she said she’s embracing the time with her family.
“Before, I was really, really busy,” she said. “Now I’m able to actually be with them more – we’re able to enjoy meals together, sit there and talk. We have paint nights, we’ve never had paint nights, ever.”
The last portion of the challenge involves the final six participants gathering votes from supporters. Anyone who wants to support Shayla with a vote or 10 (the maximum allowed per device per day) can do so on Friday, May 15.