Health and Wellness

Workplace Culture: It's a Reflection of Who You Are

By Kristen Harris 

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (or lunch). 

This relatively common quote is often attributed to management guru, Peter Drucker, although it’s not really clear who actually said it. Really, it doesn’t matter who said it first, now people say it all the time. 

But what does it really mean?
What IS culture? 
And why is it so important?

While there are plenty, here is my definition of workplace culture: the set of norms your company and employees live by, otherwise known as “what happens when no one is looking”.

Culture is the standard of how things are done, how people treat customers and each other, the flow and pace of work. It’s all of the tiny (maybe seemingly insignificant) details that all add up to “this is how we do it here”. Culture is not what you do, it’s how you do it.

Every company and workplace has a culture, whether it’s been created intentionally or just happened over time. Cultures can be good, feel good, do good. Or they can be bad, feel bad, turn out bad. And, of course, there’s a lot of grey area in-between. 

In most cases, “good” or “bad” may be a judgment call of whether it feels right to you. If you like a laid-back vibe then a hard-charging, competitive culture won’t feel good. And, vice versa. Each culture may be right for that business, but rest assured that they are all different. Culture is a big part of what differentiates one business from another in the same industry.

Think about your favorite coffee shop. Is it a single location, down a side street, where only locals go? Or is it ultra-hip, in a trendy area, a place to network and be seen? Or is it a ubiquitous chain, found on every corner, consistent and easy to find? Each of these shops has its own culture–from the decor and how you’re greeted to what is offered, how it’s made and delivered to you. The way you feel receiving that coffee shop’s product and service is a reflection of their culture. And you probably feel more at home in one over the other. 

Culture reflects company values–what’s important to the people working there–and influences every part of your interaction. Which makes us feel more at home in one place over another.

At Portfolio Creative our culture has always been very important. Catherine and I set out to create the type of company where we’d want to work; we figured if it’s the kind of place we want to be, then our clients, talent and team members would too.

Here’s a taste of our culture:

  •  Fun – If we’re not having fun then we’re not doing it right! There’s a lot of laughter throughout the workday, even in meetings (yes, we’ve proven even meetings can be fun).
  • Friendly – We smile, say “Hi”, ask how you’re doing and actually listen to your answer. We act nice because we are nice.
  • Caring – We genuinely like each other, our clients, our talent, and all the other people we get to work with. When you really care, it shows.
  • Helpful – It’s our job to help people; we’re problem-solvers for our clients, talent and each other. If we can’t solve the problem, we try to share ideas or provide resources; no one walks away empty-handed. 

Culture isn’t about what you do–it’s how you do it and who you are. How everyone in the company behaves every day, even when no one’s looking. Especially when no one’s looking. 

Our Portfolio Creative culture reflects the values we live by every day. Want to see how it feels to work with people who are fun, friendly and caring? Reach out to let us know how we can help; you won’t leave empty-handed.

Working with Mental Illness

By Annie Doherty

Working with mental illness is not always easy. Some days it’s all I can do to get out of bed, let alone look presentable and make it into the office where I have to interact with other people. Other times, my anxiety is so high I’m just waiting for some little thing to tip me over the edge into full-fledged panic. What I’ve learned, however, is that I need the structure of a job, going to a workplace, and the forced interaction with people. I recently got a new job and took two weeks off to work on some personal projects and relax before stepping into a new work environment. During those two weeks, the lack of structure was awful. It was incredibly difficult to get motivated to do anything and I began to be afraid to leave the house. 


    Having a job helps keep me strong in my fight against my brain. In one sense, it’s like I’m exercising those mental muscles that I need to help keep me functioning on a normal scale. If I don’t use them, they get weak and don’t always work the way I need them to. I need my brain to be actively diligent, aware of triggers and mood changes so that I can be prepared to react the best way possible. 


    I do have safeguards for when and if I feel the winds shifting in my brain. I have an arsenal of essential oils at my desk and in my purse for when my anxiety starts to spike. Whether or not the oils are really doing anything (because I know people love to argue both sides), the simple act of stopping what I’m doing and pausing to smell and apply them helps shift my brain’s focus. 


I’ve also been lucky to create friendships everywhere I’ve worked with people I’ve felt comfortable enough to share my story. Because of this, I’ve been able to have a support system at work. Simply telling a coworker that I’m high anxiety or struggling with a strong wave of depression can help keep things at bay. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more honest with my bosses.  I’ve been fortunate to work on teams and have bosses that are understanding. I’m also a firm believer in mental health days - because just like when you have a cold, sometimes you need to stay home when you don’t have any strength to get out of bed. 

Recovery

By Annie Doherty

My experience with mental health has been full of ups and downs. It took years to come to terms with the fact that there is something wrong with my brain chemistry, and not something inherently wrong with me. It also took a lot of work for me to be able to talk about these things openly without embarrassment or shame, but not without hitting rock bottom first. Because I felt like I couldn’t talk about what was going on in my brain, I reached a severe breaking point that landed me in the psychiatric ward after attempting to end my life. Because of this, I had no choice but to face my illness head-on.


I spent a considerable amount of time in therapy the year following my hospital stay. At first, it was two or three times a week, until I felt stable enough to move to once a week. I played with different dosages and types of medications for months, seeking something that could help me catch a breath from the crushing weight of emptiness living inside of me. My parents welcomed me back into their home, which provided a safety net and support system. A lot of my days were spent quietly watching our dogs play in the backyard as I sat wondering what life was going to be like now that the secret was out about what was going on in my brain. 
It’s been almost five years since I hit that lowest point of my life. I’ve come away from that experience realizing that recovery is a lifelong process that looks different for everyone who goes through it. Living with mental illness is a constant battle. Some days are great and require little effort, but other days still take every amount of strength I can muster up to remind myself that I will get through it, this isn’t how it will be forever, and there is something wrong with my brain chemistry causing me to feel this way. It hasn’t been easy, but the more I learn about myself, the better equipped I am to face those bad days.


One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that everyone has a different experience and there is no shame if something works for you that doesn’t work for someone else. Medication, therapy, diet changes, exercise, natural remedies, meditation, having a support system - I’ve seen all of these be helpful to different people at different times. Medication was something I only needed for a short period of time to help me get back on my feet with regard to my depression, but I still have medication for acute anxiety attacks. Therapy has proven to be my greatest aid, but my frequency changes as the ups and downs of my mental health change. It can get expensive, but it has been the investment in myself is worth every penny.  Being open with those around you and creating a support system is a huge help as well. Some people could not handle knowing all the things going on in my brain, but I have been lucky to have a handful of friends and family that are capable of providing love, support, and kindness when I have needed it most. 
 

What Does it Look Like

By Kristen Taylor 

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She asks. A stranger, at this point, since I was initially skeptical about therapy. It is a question dipped in concise innocence that cut so deeply into my vision of anxiety that I felt foolish that I hadn’t thought of such a simple phrase years ago. I spent so much time defining my anxiety, naming it, feeding it and letting it grow into a viable character in my life. I give it a space in my home and it sits next to me while I try to manage a cluster of tasks. It is the monster that lives inside of me. It sticks me into two corners of past and future distracting me from the present moment. The monster creates “to-do” lists and completion checks. Then it slides me into depression like the ocean waves hitting the sand it curls around me as I distantly get caught up in my own thoughts and worries. Everything becomes a reminder of the future – the things I should be doing- the mother, woman, and human that I should be. It reminds me, with past failure to shape my perspective on the future. It is downright exhausting to be in my head some days, making it impossible to visualize a life where the character called anxiety was not the constant antagonist. 


It seems easy enough, right. Create an altered narrative to this story. That phrase will echo over and over, what does it look like? What does a life of minimized anxiety feel like? My answer lately has been this: balanced. I was too afraid to admit what the unbalance looked like until I was laying on my kitchen floor gasping for my breath. I was unhappy in a job that was as equally demanding as figuring out how to be the mother of four. My phone chimed a meeting as I was putting away the dinner dishes and starting the bedtime process. I was going through motions of motherhood, as most of me was still sitting at my desk waiting for management to notice how much I had been slipping lately. I knew that meeting wasn’t exactly the promotion my stack of bills from another childbirth and partially unpaid maternity leave needed, for or the reduction of workload I had indicated in my secret meeting with HR. My work life was like the game of Jenga we played as an exercise in team building. I was the tower, and little by little pieces were being removed. I was toppling and they kept pushing pieces out. Some days it was the workload, or the declining relationships with management and almost always the craving to be present in that photo my husband sent of my children running around the zoo. Everything led up to this, the unbalance in my home life and the stress in my workload. I simply couldn’t handle it anymore; I lost my balance and fell. 

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It is a year and a half later. I am still picking myself off my kitchen floor. I always thought a breakthrough in managing my anxiety would be a sudden burst of clarity; as if the monster would just disappear the way they do in fairy tales. But balance, as I learned by practicing yoga, is built slowly and with focus. I am sitting outside on my patio surrounded by all the sounds of early summer – the soundtrack of birds with a baseline of a distant train and the vocals of neighborhood children. I am appreciative of this moment, it is one of the moments that I craved when sitting in a windowless cubicle. I get my work done in the morning. I tend to my favorite hobby, writing. I am hopeful for a sunset run. I focus on the good things of getting two toddlers to sleep, like tiny kisses and little hands holding my arm for comfort. Then, I can enjoy a glass of wine and finally start season 2 of the Handmaid’s tale. This is what a good tonight looks like. 


The day after I lost my job, I made my mental health a priority. I would never be useful in any job or relationship if was charged by the electricity of anxiety. I started a running routine. My brain is a full bottle of champagne just waiting to be corked and running allows me to pop the cork, no one else. I need an appointment with my own thoughts, but they were so busy they couldn’t fit me in. So it got clogged. I made mistakes, first little ones then much larger ones. Or was it a lot of little ones that made me look like one big failure? Either way, I didn’t have time to organize my (many) thoughts. And the cork blew on me. With running, I am alone in my head, letting it all go. All those analyses, those worries, the funny musings and the downright cliché; it all piled on top of each other, like the laundry I don’t have time to sort. This wasn’t just about something that happened last year or recently; this is a lifetime of bubbling anxiety. I need to get healthy and create my balance. What does that balance look like? A goal of four runs a week that resets every Sunday but understands when things get just so chaotic that routines are broken. It gave me bonus friendship for added accountability that rewards me with mini therapy sessions and sweaty hugs. It gave me legs that could stand an eight-hour bartending shift so that I wouldn’t have to feel financially guilty if I didn’t work a full-time office job any longer. 

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I am starting to accept my anxiety in all its various forms. It can be a burst of negative thoughts that isolate me to my home. It can be a fight with my husband that scares me into words I would rather not say. It is a pouring out of frustration over two toddlers that never seem to listen. It is a bad tip on a large check or a spreadsheet that doesn’t quite tie. It is a deadline that I didn’t plan adequately to meet or a phone call I dread making. It is finally getting the courage to open my credit card statement or asking my mom for help. I have come to know what anxiety looks like. With each of these toxic moments, I am trying to learn and find something pull me off of the floor, the balance I need to stand tall.  It can be a run or a yoga class. It is a long phone call with a good friend. It is actually getting time to hang out with my sister. It is a road trip, with my husband driving and Band of Horses playing. It is how happy my children get when we visit their grandparents. It is Friday night wine and watching true crime stories with my neighbor. It is listening to my favorite podcast “Beautiful Anonymous”, loudly and verbally agreeing with the caller as I clean an empty bar. It is the beautiful shade of dark blue that I painted my bedroom walls. It is the proud little smile I get when someone tells me I am actually a good accountant, or bartender, or Mom. It is an unexpected gift. It is reading a book that I can’t put down. It is writing a verbally eloquent essay. It is random and adolescent conversations with my teenage daughters. It is quoting every line of Spaceballs and still thinking it is the funniest movie ever made. It is realizing the little moments that make me happy, embracing them and using their light to keep the dark monsters quiet. At least that is what balance is starting to look like for me. 
 

To read more of Kristen's writing, check out her blog cassidymarierose.com

Stigma

By Annie Doherty

I’ve sought acceptance my entire life - acceptance from my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers, husband, myself. I’ve sought acceptance to such a degree that I allowed myself to become whatever anyone wanted. I shut down every true part of my being to morph into what was desired by those around me. I’ve gone from praying that I would be bipolar to fit in with all the men in my family, to turning off every true feeling and emotion because it was what someone wanted. I never liked who I was in those times, but if it got some semblance of love and acceptance, I would allow it. 

    I no longer turn off all my emotions. I no longer wish to be bipolar. I am, however, someone who struggles with depression. When I finally admitted my struggle, to even just myself, it broke open a dam that I had hardly realized I built. I lived within the walls of my own interior castle; I locked everyone out, even myself.

I often wondered why I could accept the illnesses of others but refused to allow myself to accept my own. The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s because I had been met with so many combative or uninformed opinions regarding mental illness. I fought hard for people to understand bipolar disorder was not something you could just turn on or off. People were uncomfortable hearing about someone being so depressed that they wished to stop waking up. I knew I was depressed, but I didn’t want people to tell me just to be happy or pray more and everything would get better. So, I held everything inside for as long as I could.

I avoided eye contact. I shifted my stance, bent my legs and rubbed my arms. I stumbled over my words. I tried to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. I tried to shrug off any level of seriousness. I laughed awkwardly. I felt shame in telling someone that I struggled with depression. I felt shame admitting there lived within me a dark monster that consumed any hope of joy and shattered any desire to face the next day. I felt shame confessing the very truth of my sad soul that I had tried for years to cover up, tried to ignore, tried to bury somewhere so deep within myself that I couldn’t remember where it lived. I didn’t like how they would look at me once they knew I wasn’t normal.

In the summer of 2013, I made a suicide attempt and spent nine days in the psychiatric ward. I was surrounded by people suffering from similar mental states, some better, some far worse. It was the safest I have ever felt in disclosing the truth about how I was doing. I have never been so brutally honest with myself, or others, then when I was in the hospital. There was no judgment, only the truth. There was no stigma. The moment I left the hospital, I felt myself start to hide the truth again. Despite having exposed the depression I had been dealing with for years, I still did not feel comfortable discussing my illness. The first few months out of the hospital, I wanted to go back. I didn’t enjoy the looks I was getting from friends who didn’t understand what was going on with me. 

When I finally was able to be comfortable in my own skin and realize that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, I didn’t feel the desire to go back to the hospital. I no longer put a stigma on myself. I talked, and still talk, openly about things I’ve gone through. I’ve seen how honesty can both help people open up and how it can cause them to shy away from me. 
Now that everything has been exposed to my family and friends, I can’t avoid my darkness anymore. I’ve accepted it. I ache for people around me to understand the complexities of mental illness so that those who have them don’t feel like they need to hide it or feel ashamed. Mental illnesses are real and should not be met with whispers and side looks and shame. Depression may always be a part of my life, but it does not define who I am. These are things that need to be spoken about, written about so that this stigma that has been attached to mental illness can be put away. 

Is This Just A Funk I’m In Or Is It Something More?

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Let me start by stating the obvious, I am not a doctor, nor a professional in the area of mental health, but what I do know, like most people, how great it is to be healthy, both physically and mentally.

When you are an entrepreneur, your mind is a constantly whirling. I swear that when it is really quiet, I can hear it hum in perfectly balanced chaos, but we are people and people develop issues and things occur that break up that normal cadence. Those things can take the shape of stress, depression, and/or substance dependence, to name a few. What do you do?

Some of the things that an entrepreneur can encounter are:

  • Employee issues - a team that doesn’t work together, counter-productive employee, maybe someone is embezzling,

  • Client issues - clients demand more, treat you poorly, leave for a cheaper company,

  • Funding issues - a client won’t pay, a bank won’t loan you money,

  • Personal issues - problems with children or relatives, problems with your home, Illness or death of a loved one.

These issues, on top of what you work with day-to-day, can put you in a tailspin. You find yourself feeling like you are living in a hole, or underwater and hoping to come up for air. You get down on yourself or you are finding yourself angry all of the time. What can you do?

First ask yourself:

  • “Can I solve or work through these problems on my own?”

  • “Can I talk to a mentor about my concerns?”

  • “Do I need to see a professional?”

Most of us deal with challenges and mental fatigue that starts to eat away at our quality of life. It can come on you like a heart attack, either building up over time or it will just hit you hard all at once. You find yourself stressed, crying, or throwing something across the room. It is common and it does not mean that you are weak or flawed. Keeping our minds healthy is as important as keeping our body healthy. You ate well today, what did you do for your mind?

Let’s start with:

Solving your problem on your own:

Can you do something to clear your head? Vigorous exercise, take a walk, meditate, get a massage, or just step away for a bit. Indulge in yourself. Dig more into a passion you might have, something completely different! Sometimes recalibration can be that easy.

Talking to someone else:

Grabbing a drink with your crew can bring relief and talking to a family member or mentor can also help for some quick problem solving, especially the people that have lived through what you are going through right now. I promise you, someone else has had the same struggle as you, find that person.

But if you have tried these things and you are really struggling or the problem seems bigger than you are, make an appointment with a professional. A professional can be anyone that specializes in that finance issue you have to a therapist that can help you unwind your issue. Computers need to be rebooted and so do you. Sometimes getting back to mental health is not just about relaxing, it is about fixing. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or in asking for help. You are not always in control of what life throws at you, it is just knowing when you have hit your limit and need to contact the pro.

Just a brief comment about mental illness. Mental illness is vast and wide in its scope and its impact. It needs to be treated like any other issue with the body and not carry a stigma. There are many programs in place to get you or a loved ones help. Still not sure if you need help? Read some of the warning signs listed at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website. Need even more help, reach out to the national organization of Mental Health of America. 1 out of 5 Americans have a life-altering mental illness or have experienced a mental crisis. You are not alone. #CureStigma

Of course if you or someone you know is in an emergency situation, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. Hang in there. Get help. It gets better.

For those of us that just know that we are in a “funk”, don’t neglect any part of you. If a run or bike ride can truly clear your head, do it. Maybe you need as much as a two week vacation? Keep working on fine-tuning you. Not only are you worth it, but your friends, family, and co-workers will thank you.

Mental Wellness: Five Favorite Tools for Stress Reduction

By Kristen Harris

I am a big believer in mental health, mental wellness, brain health. Whatever you call it, I think it’s important. We exercise to keep our bodies healthy, why not our brains? I mean, I don’t want to lose any brain capacity, do you? Of course not! 

So here are a few ways I work to reduce stress and maintain mental health:

Work It Out. Exercise has many proven benefits–what’s good for the body is good for the mind. My doctor told me the best type of exercise “is the one you’ll do”. Run, walk, lift weights, yoga, dance, jump rope, just get moving. And make it convenient; we’re much more likely to stick with something if we like it and it easily fits into our routine. Personally, I have found that I need a lot of variety because I get easily bored doing the same thing every day or week. I mix it up with yoga, boxing, running, walking, pilates, cardio machines, weights, and yes, hula hooping. Other people love to just run every day. You do you, just do something.

Breathe It Out. Meditation has become uber-popular, to the point that it might seem complicated or off-putting to some people. Don’t stress out about meditating! Keep it simple by just sitting quietly and taking a few deep breaths. If you want to take it further try an app (I like Headspace), guided meditation, or a class. Regardless of the method, slowing down for a few minutes does wonders for my stress, anxiety, nervousness, frustration, anger and more. Sometimes I go into a conference room for a few minutes to decompress before a big meeting or after a challenging conversation.

Talk It Out. Sometimes we need to verbalize our fears, worries, frustrations or concerns; it really helps me to talk through things. Depending on the issue, I might reach out to a friend, spouse, trusted colleague, or mental health professional. I’m totally up for talking to anyone who can help me, and have no qualms about calling in a pro when I think that’s what I need. “Therapy” can sound intimidating like there’s an assumption that something is wrong with you. Just think of it as a really smart friend who is trained and wants to help you.

Write It Out. Whether you keep a daily journal, write in a notebook to work out an issue, or dump all your frustration on a piece of paper then burn it, writing can be very cathartic. It helps me work out issues, solve problems, come up with new ideas, and understand frustrations. Sometimes I just have to get it out so I can let it go. Which leads me to...

...Let It Go. If I can’t fix a problem or change the situation, and it’s just continuing to upset me, at some point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it. Do I want to keep letting this person or problem take up space rent-free in my brain? Am I spending more effort and energy worrying about it than they are? Is this really going to matter 20 years from now, or even 2? It can be easier said than done but often the best course of action for me is to...sing it with me...Let It Go!

Mental health and wellness are at least equally as important as physical health. Take a little time for yourself; you need and deserve it. My experience is that slowing down and doing these activities makes me a better, kinder person.
 

Anxiety

By Annie Doherty

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I grew up in a family full of mental health fun. The men on my Dad's side are bipolar and the majority of the women in my family deal with depression--and we all have a large helping of anxiety. From a family viewpoint, things have been an open dialogue for the most part. 

My battle with anxiety began when I was 8 years old. I had panic attacks every time I went to bed and had no idea how to articulate to my parents what was happening, but only that I felt as though I was going to die. Fortunately for me, my Mother has experience in anxiety herself and in dealing with other family members. She helped me through that strange first experience with anxiety by quietly sitting with me and reminding me to breathe. She eventually got me a kitten as an attempt at a therapy animal. I still am highly responsive to touch when I'm in the middle of panic and often reach for strange textures to awaken my senses to something other than the madness in my brain. (my Mother is now a therapist!)

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When my Father passed away last January, my anxiety erupted in a grief and confusion filled storm. I had spent the past 12 years caring for my intensely bipolar Father while he battled kidney failure and kidney cancer. Our relationship was a tumultuous one. After he passed, I had no idea what to do. I had all sorts of time and freedom from my caregiver duties and felt a bit lost. My Father was a writer and a painter, something he also encouraged me to do my entire life. During the good parts of our relationship, we often discussed literature and shared our own writing with each other, we even wrote a book of poems together when I was in middle school. My apartment was littered with his paintings, and my paintings that I created so desperately in an attempt to gain his artistic approval. 

After he passed, I found myself unable to write or paint. His passing created a rainbow of emotions--ranging from relief to confusion to guilt to grief. His mental illness and lack of proper attention to it caused a lot of tension in all his relationships, mainly ours. when I sat down to write and process his death, it felt too intense. My anxiety would shoot through the roof and I'd be left exhausted and with nothing processed, so I turned to a new artistic outlet of hand lettering. I wasn't great at it, but it was soothing practice and something I could do mindlessly without having to create my own content--I could letter other people's words and quotes that meant something to me. 

A co-worker, at the time, knew I had started this hobby and suggested I participate in the #100dayproject that takes place on Instagram. I had already created an Instagram solely dedicated to my lettering, which often talked about my mental state, anxiety, depression, and the loss of my Father. I had no idea what I would do for 100 days but was definitely intrigued. 

The week before the project kicked off, I had one of my top five worst panic attacks. I had been paralyzed by the need to remove and shred a pork shoulder from the crock pot. The task seemed impossible. I had to first clean the dishes in my sink before I would be able to shred the meat, but I just couldn’t do it. I crumpled to the floor in a pile of tears. I remained in the fetal position, sobbing and trying to catch my breath for nearly three hours. My mind raced with thoughts of failure, the inability to be a decent human, and thought of being weak since I had been reduced to nothing because of the simple task of cleaning the dishes and making dinner. I almost got up and threw everything in the garbage several times, but the thought of being like my Father kept me from doing that. you see, when he got overwhelmed with things, he would just throw them away--all of his dishes, his pans, the food he couldn't figure out what to do with, clothes when he couldn't stand to wash them. I was terrified that I was turning into my father in that moment. I was 28 and completely convinced that I was going crazy and never going to make it back to anything that resembled normal life. 

But then something happened and I said to myself, "Annie, take one breath. breathe in, breathe out. now repeat," and I did that for a few minutes, then I said, "Annie, we're going to stand up now. one foot at a time," and I did it and then, "Annie, let's wash one fork. we can handle one fork," and I washed a fork, and then a plate, and another dish, and another, and next thing I knew, the dishes were clean and I was able to move on to making that pulled pork. When I was finished, I took my anxiety medication, emailed my boss that I would be taking the next day off work, and passed out.

It was the first time I ever took a mental health day. and it felt empowering. I didn't even fib and say I was sick--I said I needed a mental health day and I realized at that moment that my 100-day project was going to be about anxiety because we need the freedom to be able to take care of ourselves when the time calls for it. I reached out to 100 people to get their input on anxiety--their experience, their advice for fellow anxiety friends, their advice for people who have never experienced, and coping mechanisms. I wasn't sure if anyone would respond. but then I got all sorts of replies - and I had more than enough material for the project. 

I posted for 100 days the words of people who so bravely shared with me vulnerable details of their life. We worked to open the dialogue of mental health, in this case with a focus on anxiety and depression. I hand-lettered all the words myself, trying to make something beautiful out of something that can be so ugly. I connected with so many people across the country and even across the world. though my following is humble, I am honored that so many people have felt the freedom to share and discuss their mental health journey through the project.

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This spring, Annie kicked off part 2 of her #100daysofanxiety project. She’s currently accepting submissions via the survey link in her profile. The project runs from April 3 - July 11.

Follow her lettering Instagram handle, @pennedbythepiglet 

 

Viva Nica! The Power of Peer Groups and Getting Away

By Kristen Harris

My entrepreneur peer group took a trip to Nicaragua last week.

This one sentence and trip touch on three things I believe to be important in my life: time away (a trip), new experiences (to Nicaragua) and finding a tribe (my peer group).

Time Away

Today information is always available in the cloud and on our devices. We have the ability to work 24/7/365, but should we? I say no, and there’s evidence to back me up.

Over the past few years, there have been several studies and articles in publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Inc Magazine touting the benefits of taking time away from work. Stepping away from work, taking a break, and going on vacation all have been shown to improve both the quality and quantity of work done when we are back.

Taking time out of the office allows me to gain clarity, changes my perspective, helps me see the bigger picture, and leaves me refreshed mentally and physically. Taking a trip is great, but I also try to enjoy the weekends, take a short walk during the day and step away from my desk for a few minutes during the workday. Even small breaks can have a big impact.

New Experiences

A lot of the work we do today is not physical labor, it’s mental labor. We have to figure out issues, solve problems, build relationships, research information and develop new concepts, then we might physically build something (or not). There is a lot of thinking done every day where we’re drawing upon prior knowledge and experiences.

Having a broader range of experiences gives me a deeper well to draw from. New experiences add more data, ideas, visuals, thoughts, and perspectives to my mental database.

New experiences also allow me to get out of my “bubble”. When I do the same things, talk to the same people and go the same places, my ideas tend to stay the same as well. When I do something new my potential ideas and solutions are expanded as well. In Nicaragua, I surfed (not well) and saw an awe-inspiring active volcano, two completely new experiences.

Finding a Tribe

While it’s good to expand horizons it’s also important to find your peer group, your tribe.

Humans are social and tribal. We connect with others where we have something in common and seek support from those who understand us. This can be done formally or informally through family, business groups, social clubs, neighbors and special interest organizations.

Like most people, I have different tribes related to different parts of my job and life. I’m a member of formal peer groups, like the one that took this trip, and informal groups that share a common connection, like all the dog-owners who live on my street.

These groups allow me to share issues and challenges with people who understand what I’m going through. They may have had the same experience, can share an idea or solution for me, or just be supportive as I figure it out. And, because we usually share one interest but are different in other ways, I find that I often become friends with people I would never have met otherwise.

Together all three of these things–time away, new experiences and finding a tribe–help to expand my perspective and enhance my work. Who knows what new idea that active volcano might inspire!

 

Self-Love: Ten Tips to Take Care of Me

By Kristen Harris

It’s Valentine’s Day, so who do you love? Please, please, say “me!”

This is the season for love and there is no one more important to love than yourself. Yes, go get that card and sweet gift for your special someone, then get right back here and give yourself a little self-love.

Not even sure what that is? To me, self-love is really about being nice to yourself, doing things that you love to do, treating yourself the way you would treat anyone else that you really love. It’s a funny thing–we often don’t treat ourselves nearly as well as we treat others. Let’s stop doing that!

Here are a few self-love things I treat myself to:

  1. Time Alone. I’m an introvert. I actually like to be alone and need a break from others to recharge.

  2. Chocolate. I love really good, really dark chocolate and treat myself to it on a regular basis. No further explanation needed.

  3. Hot Tea. Tea warms and soothes me from the inside out. I especially love bringing something home from a trip as a little reminder of my travels.

  4. Reading. I love to read all sorts of things, but when I’m really treating myself it’s a good fiction book. No self-help, no improving the business. Just a great story that I can get lost in.

  5. Being Nice. Overall I’m a nice person, but we are often nicer to others than we are to ourselves. It’s important to be kind, forgive myself, and not have unrealistic expectations.

  6. Hot Bath. One of my favorite ways to wrap up the weekend is a nice hot bath with a deliciously scented bath bomb. It forces me to relax while the bath bomb oils do their magic on my extra-dry skin.

  7. Say No. I simply can’t say “yes” to every request or opportunity that comes my way. See Point #1 Introvert. Sometimes saying “no” to protect my time and energy is a form of self-love.

  8. Friends. One thing I try to say “yes” to is time with friends. I love to hang out over a cup of coffee (or tea) talking about nothing and everything.

  9. Yoga. I always feel mentally and physically untangled after a nice yoga session, whether it’s a class at a studio or fifteen minutes in my basement.

  10. Be Positive. Someone recently told me that what you say aloud is probably what will happen, it’s your truth. I’ve been accused of being unnaturally happy, so I’ll consider being purposefully positive a form of self-care.

Some of these items feel a little selfish and that’s the point. Self-love is about showing yourself love, putting yourself first. Make your own list and show yourself a little love this Valentine’s Day and every day!