Recently, my partner gave me a deck of 50 affirmation cards that claim to “help you help yourself - without all the self-helpy-ness.” (If you’re interested, you can check them out here.) The cards are sarcastic and weird but for me, that approach helps me utilize them. The goofiness helps ward away the baggage that sometimes comes with “self-help.”
This morning I pulled the worthiness card. It reads: “I am worthy of the ultimate happiness. I deserve and accept it, and dammit I’m not going to feel guilty about it when I get it. Guilt is not invited to my happiness party – I won’t even tell him where it is. If he asks about it, I’ll be like, “No, I think you’re thinking of something else…” And then I’ll run away very quickly.”
More and more, we’ve been talking about wellbeing at Plenty. We’re talking about it internally, externally, and with many of the clients we work with. We recognize that for a start-up, nonprofit, or movement to be successful in creating change, those involved need to be aligned, inspired, healthy, and happy. I don’t disagree with that notion in the slightest, but I’ll admit that I’m terrible at prioritizing my own wellbeing. I’ve been known to take a step back when I feel like a conversation is getting too “fluffy” for me, and I struggle to stop guilt from creeping in when I take even a moment for myself.
Think pieces and articles are popping up left and right connecting mental illness to entrepreneurship and change-making. Some take the angle that mental illnesses are borne out of the stress of this type of work, while others suggest that those with mental health conditions are more likely to pursue these career paths. In a 2015 study, 72% of entrepreneurs polled self-reported mental health concerns.
When I first came across this connection, I immediately felt seen. I live with anxiety and depression, and I could relate in some way or another to many of the stories that very successful entrepreneurs have shared. I’ve experienced how easy it is to put your needs aside when you’re busy working to create positive social change. And, I’ve experienced the burn out and disconnection with myself that follows.
It’s imperative that we talk about this, support one another, and make self-care an important part of our jobs.
By no means am I suggesting that these things will remove mental illness as a medical concern. However, they may help in managing your wellbeing in the workplace. If you suspect you are struggling with a mental health condition, reach out to loved ones and medical professionals for help.
Many who struggle with mental health conditions and even undiagnosed high levels of stress experience shame when thinking or talking about their experiences. I am loud, proud, and unafraid to share my diagnoses, and much of that came from my support systems helping me believe that I am not weak or incapable because of them. While it should not be an expectation that people should disclose this information in the same way that I do, talking about mental health and wellbeing is essential in creating and fostering a safe, supportive, environment to.
Because I was so upfront about my experiences prior to joining the team at Plenty, on my first day here I was asked more than once “What can we do to support you in regards to your anxiety and depression?” I still don’t have the words to really explain how significant even asking that question can be. Even if no one on your team or in your life has been up front about challenges like these, find ways to support one another and prioritize wellbeing anyways. Those who struggle often do so in silence.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Black feminist poet Audre Lorde:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Without taking care of myself, I can’t do my job well, and because of my anxiety and depression, sometimes I am unable to do anything at all. The quote helps me reframe my self-care as an essential part of creating social change, rather than something I step away from my work for, and then feel guilty for taking the time to do.
Ultimately, finding a way to prioritize wellbeing in your work, and in your life will make a huge difference in your health. Take time to figure out what truly helps you decompress, focus on yourself, and re-center. For some, it’s faith. For others, it’s mindfulness. For me, it’s cooking, rock climbing, and spending time outdoors. Whatever the path to a better you is, take it.