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16| Mental Health in the Workplace: Adaptability, Stress Management, and the “New Now”

Speaker: Keirstyn Secord

With all that has happened so far this year, how do we manage our own mental health while meeting work demands? How can business owners and leaders help employees adapt to new working conditions? Is it possible for us to minimize our stress? And, what is the current state of mental health in Canada? Keirstyn answers all these questions, and more, on this episode.


About the Guests

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Keirstyn Secord is a mental health advocate, speaker, writer, and recovery trainer who draws on both her lived and professional experience to #SmashTheStigma surrounding mental health. 
 
In addition to creating and facilitating recovery courses for Canada’s largest mental health organization, Keirstyn is the creator of the online mental health community "Dancing With Darkness" and the producer and host of "The Brave Space" podcast. She is also currently working on publishing her children’s book on mental health to help foster resilience and empathy in the generations to come. 
 
A self-proclaimed "positive disruptor", Keirstyn has dedicated her life to de-stigmazing mental health and empowering others on their recovery and resiliency journeys through education, vulnerability, and the creation of brave spaces. 
 
You can connect with Keirstyn and learn more about her work through her website (keirstynsecord.com) or by engaging with Dancing With Darkness (@dancingwithdarkness_) and The Brave Space (@thebravespacepodcast/@thebravespaceTM) on social media.

About the Host

Morgan Berna is the host of Olympia Benefits’ podcast, The Small Business Mastermind. Her background is in marketing, journalism, and broadcasting. Passionate about small business, she aims to create content that inspires and educates listeners.



Transcript:

Keirstyn Secord: It is just a lot of uncertainty and, as human beings, uncertainty is very scary. It is something that we have trouble dealing with as well.

 

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Morgan Berna: You are listening to The Small Business Mastermind, a podcast created to help small businesses juggle business, finance, health, and wellness. I am your host Morgan Berna.

The Small Business Mastermind is brought to you by Olympia Benefits. If you are looking to reduce your health and dental costs, visit olympiabenefits.com.

 

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Morgan: Thank you so much for tuning in to The Small Business Mastermind. On this episode, we are talking with Keirstyn Secord, who is a fellow podcast host and a mental health advocate, all about the current state of mental health in Canada. It has been a difficult and challenging year for many, so we are going to be diving into: what exactly mental health professionals are seeing in terms of trends right now, what impacts businesses are noticing, how companies can better support their teams through difficult and uncertain times, how to improve our adaptability, and how to have grace and patience with ourselves as we continue to adapt to, what Keirstyn calls, "the new now".

This episode is just part of a larger conversation about mental health that we have been having on The Small Business Mastermind and will continue to have. I would encourage you to also check out our episode about “burnout” and our one about “employee and leadership wellness,” if you have not already. All right, so with that, let us dive right into this interview. I will be checking in with you again at the end of the episode.

 

[interview starts]



Morgan: Welcome, Keirstyn Thank you so much for joining us here on The Small Business Mastermind.



Keirstyn: Yeah. Thank you for having me. It is my pleasure to be here.



Morgan: Keirstyn Secord is a mental health advocate, speaker, writer, and recovery trainer who draws on both her lived and professional experience to #SmashTheStigma surrounding mental health. In addition to creating and facilitating recovery courses for Canada's largest mental health organization, Keirstyn is the creator of the online mental health community Dancing With Darkness and the producer and host of the Brave Space podcast. She is also currently working on publishing a children's book on mental health to help foster resilience and empathy in the generations to come. A self-proclaimed positive disruptor, Keirstyn has dedicated her life to destigmatizing mental health and empowering others on their recovery and resiliency journeys through education, vulnerability, and the creation of brave spaces. We are going to be linking Keirstyn's website, her online community, and her Brave Space podcast all down in the description below.

So today, we are going to be talking about mental health in the workplace and a little bit about what has been going on. All of 2020 has been a big stressor for a lot of people, a lot of changes. So we are going to go through a bit of what mental health professionals are seeing, as well as we used to be more adaptable, and how we can be better advocates in our workplace. Let’s start out with you just telling us a bit about how you got started as a mental health advocate and what you do now.



Keirstyn: Yes, for sure. I have lots of lived experience with mental health. That is really what started making me passionate about advocating for others who are going through mental health concerns. I noticed a lot of gaps in the system and a lot of things that really frustrated me along my journey and made my recovery more difficult. So I am really passionate about making that experience different for other people. So that has led me into my advocacy work and just really working to smash the stigma surrounding mental health. I think we have come a long way as opposed to where we have been before. But we still have a long way to go.

I run an online mental health community called Dancing With Darkness. It is just a support community, recovery-focused, just to help people on their own wellness journeys. I also run the Brave Space podcast. I produce and host that. And we just have vulnerable conversations about all things mental health, healing, and growth. I interview warriors from around the world on their mental health journeys just to help people feel a little less alone. I think that is the really big challenge when it comes to mental health concerns because it is still stigmatized, is that we feel pretty alone on our journeys. So that is kind of my life's purpose to make everyone feel a little less alone when they are struggling.

I am also lucky enough to work for Canada's largest mental health organization. I work there as a recovery trainer. So I develop and facilitate our courses and we have got our courses online now. It has been a transition with everything going on in the world, just to really get our virtual platform up there. And so I have been doing those and I find that such a rewarding experience, getting to see people in the classroom environment and really help them on their wellness journeys.



Morgan: That is wonderful. And I think with this year, even though we are all going through kind of a similar experience, it is very individual what is going on with each person. Are we seeing a rise in mental health concerns?



Keirstyn: Absolutely. We are seeing a quite sharp rise in mental health concerns right now, especially surrounding anxiety and depressive symptoms. We are seeing a lot of people turning to substances as a coping mechanism, which is obviously not the healthiest choice. We are seeing a lot more dependency show up in that area. And just that overall sense of unrest and anxiety has been really high. We have noticed a lot of increase in the services that are being accessed. A lot of people are self-reporting that their mental health is suffering through this time in our world. There is actually an emergency hotline in the U.S. that reported a one thousand percent increase of their services compared to the year previous. So that kind of just gives us an idea of how much people are needing this support and needing to feel that connection piece and get some assistance on their journeys.



Morgan: Yes, absolutely. Is there anything else you mentioned there, anxiety - Is there anything else in particular that mental health workers are seeing more of? I was wondering too if you could discuss the types of services people are accessing more.



Keirstyn: For sure. Yes. We are seeing an increase in reported feelings of anxiety and depression. A lot of that is related to the increase in social isolation if they have a loss of family members or jobs, or income, that fear of contagion. There has also a been a big change and shift in the support systems as I mentioned, with the organization I work with, it has been going from an in-person environment to a virtual environment. We are seeing a lot of people adjusting to getting online. There are different barriers to that as well, as not everyone has the same access to technology. So the supports that are available are changing as well.

We are also seeing an increase of symptoms in our youth populations. They are having more irritability, difficulty focusing, restlessness, and nervousness we are seeing that in quite young children. The stay-at-home measures have also heightened the risk and the suffering of people who experienced violence and domestic abuse. And so we are concerned about that obviously as well. As these restrictions are starting to lift, that is helping alleviate that particular problem a little bit. But we are still seeing these effects. We will probably see these effects just continue to be compounded as it sometimes takes our minds a little bit of time to catch up to what is going on around us. So we may be suffering right now, but may not be fully tuned into that suffering. So it is about really having that awareness of where your mental health is at and doing what you can.

We are also seeing a lot of psychological trauma that is coming up. There are some researchers that are looking into creating a “pre-traumatic stress disorder” diagnosis for the DSM-5 which just kind of indicates - We have post-traumatic stress disorder which is what you experience after a traumatic event. If you are having trouble coping with that, we can see a lot of health complications with that. But because we are living in this time where there is always this kind of this imminent idea of trauma or loss, that is causing people to show some of these PTSD symptoms before actually experiencing the trauma. Which is a whole new thing that we have not dealt with in the mental health world before.



Morgan: I wanted to circle back to a comment you just made there. So that comment of the mind catching up, that completely rang true for me. I felt like at the beginning of this, there was a lot of denial and I saw that with a lot of people. Then suddenly two weeks later, we were all in - wearing masks, staying at home. It was almost like our mind just caught up all of the sudden.



Keirstyn: Yes, and we really are in a time of grieving right now. There is the Kubler-Ross grief cycle, which shows us that the first stage is that denial stage, right? That is why we are having those feelings of avoidance, confusion. We are feeling shock and fear. Then slowly, we start to transition through these phases. The next one being anger, where we start to see that anxiety, irritation, and frustration coming out which I think a lot of people really experience that quite intensely with not being able to go to work or having their lives just really upended. And things that they were maybe looking forward to, having to be rearranged or canceled.

Then we kind of go into that bargaining phase, where we are working to find that meaning again. We are reaching out to others. We are looking for those supports and that is kind of one of the dips in the cycle.

Then we go into the depression phase where we are feeling more overwhelmed and helpless. We tend to have that 'fight or flight' response, which I think quite a few people are in that stage right now.

Then we get into the acceptance phase where we are going through exploring our options, creating a new plan. We are trying to move forward with things. I think as we are seeing the reopening happening across Canada right now, is that these stages are fluid. They fluctuate and they are not linear. We can go back and forth between these stages. Which I think is why it is so stressful for our mental health right now, that there is not that consistency and there is not that certainty. So, we are seeing a lot of these fluctuations which is causing those feelings of anxiety and depression.



Morgan: The back and forth absolutely rings true. I think because things reopen a little and then maybe they back off a bit and it just keeps changing. But I wanted to move into a bit of talking about specifically in the workplace. So, some people have been working throughout this. Some people will not be going back to the office at all this year. And some are sort of transitioning back. In the context of workplace mental health, are there any trends that you are seeing?



Keirstyn: Yes, absolutely. I think again that depression and anxiety is showing up quite strongly. A lot of people's livelihoods have been impacted by what we are going through right now. That is a huge life change. When we look at the major life stressors that cause mental health concerns, surrounding the financial stability and job stability, that is one of the highest-rated things that we can go through as one of those impactful events in our lives. So, when we are starting to feel that instability in our workplace and dealing with all these changes, there are a lot of adjustments. Even if you are working at home and you are still employed, there is learning how to create those boundaries between work time and personal time. Where does your workspace end and your home space begin? There are challenges wherever you are at. There is a fear of going back to the office for a lot of people because of the unknown. Because we do not have a treatment yet for the virus. It is just a lot of uncertainty and, as human beings, uncertainty is very scary. It is something that we have trouble dealing with as well.



Morgan: For business owners or leadership team members that are looking to help support their employees through this, how can they support their employees' mental health through all these transitions and changes?



Keirstyn: I think the biggest thing is communication. Clear and consistent communication is so important. Just updating your employees on what is going on. What is going on with the business? Where are we at? Those timelines, if we are able to provide them, timelines do a lot for our mental health. It gives us that element or feeling of control. When we feel like okay, 'I have something I can consistently work towards' rather than working for no seeming endpoint. Which is I think what a lot of us have been going through during this time is. 'Okay, but to what end? When will I go back to the office? When will things return to normal?'

I do not like using the term “normal” because I think that is such a subjective term. I have been using the term 'adjusting to the new now' because it is a new now. This could change again but we are working on adjusting to that and increasing our adaptability. So I think from the employer standpoint, it is that communication and it is also providing a safe space. I like to use the term 'brave space' because brave spaces, we can never guarantee that someone is going to feel completely safe. We do not know everyone's triggers and all of those kinds of things but we can guarantee that we can create brave spaces which means that it is a space where people feel free to express themselves without fear of judgment. And knowing that however they show up in that moment is okay and meeting people where they are at. And I think that is really where that empathy piece comes in and also directing employees to the supports that are out there.

There are a lot of local community supports. A lot of programs are adjusting their fee scales to make it more accessible for more people. A lot of them have adopted a sliding scale. So depending on your income whether or not you are working, what you may pay for the services varies. And then there is also a lot of free services that we are seeing show up. The Canadian government has created an organization movement called Wellness Together Canada. And that is an online resource that is entirely free for all Canadians. They have a ton of mental health resources. So they have text support. They have information and videos on some of the common mental health issues we are facing right now. They have got mental wellness programs where you can do them on your own or you can do them with some coaching. They have also got communities of support on there as well as individual phone, video, and text counseling. So that is really unprecedented, that we are seeing this movement right now of people really banding together and offering these supports in an accessible way, which is so fantastic to see.



Morgan: Yes. I like the comment you made about that term that is being thrown around "the new normal." It feels like such a definitive term for a time where everything is in so much movement.

 

Keirstyn: Exactly. Yes. We are in a state of constant flux right now. One of the things, when you are in a state of flux that helps your adaptability and your resiliency, is just that ability to be mindful to bring yourself into the present moment. To focus on the things you can control as opposed to the things you cannot control. There is a lot of things we have no control over in our lives especially right now. But really re-honing your focus, 'Okay, what can I do in this moment to give me a sense of control and to help me feel better?' And really working towards setting up that system or that tool box that you can use and call on with those different tools when you need them.



Morgan: I wanted to touch on too, with a lot of the services you are mentioning that business owners and leaders can direct their employees to - do you have any comments for that business owner that thinks, “It is just not my place to bring up mental health in the workplace.”



Keirstyn: Yes, absolutely. We all have mental health. One in five Canadians have a mental health condition or concern. But everyone has mental health and it is important now, more than ever, to be supporting each other on that front. And I think, it is sometimes an awkward topic to broach. A lot of the times mental health and the workplace do not mesh together, but I think we are starting to see that trend towards more people being conscious of this. We are seeing a lot more peer support in different programs and organizations, where they are actually bringing in people with lived experience to help relate to people who are going through times of difficulty. And I think it is so important just to have that open mind and to know that it takes one person to really care and ask, "How are you doing?" Push past that grocery store response where we all kind of say. "Oh, I am fine. Thanks. How are you?" or "I am great." When in reality, that is not what we are feeling. So it is about creating that space where people feel comfortable enough to show up and to speak authentically and I think that is a responsibility. We all have. It may not be in all of our comfort zones, but no growth lives in the comfort zone and no comfort lives in the growth zone. So now is really a time we all need to band together and grow together.



Morgan: If there was ever a time where we were really all going through something together, I mean it is now.



Keirstyn: Yes and they are showing in the research. All the research is in the preliminary stages right now. We are just adjusting. It has only been four months really since this virus has taken over the world and really shifted the way we are doing things especially in Canada. And so I think what we are really seeing right now is that people who never used to struggle with their mental health are really starting to see those mental health concerns coming up for them, whether that is intermittently or more consistently. Because they may not have had those experiences in the past, they may not know what resources are available to them. And they may be even more uncomfortable talking about these things. People with underlying mental health concerns are seeing an increase in those symptoms coming up. Even though they may have more tools in their toolbox to cope with this, it is still a really challenging time no matter what end of the spectrum you are on. So I think the safest thing for us to do is not to assume where any person sits on the spectrum right now and really just to ask. Engage in those active listening skills and listening with compassion, empathy, and trying to withhold judgment as much as we can.



Morgan: With all these changes, are there things we can do to improve our adaptability? Especially with all these things we have no control over.



Keirstyn: Yes. Absolutely. I think one of the biggest things when we are talking about our adaptability and our resiliency, is that self-compassion piece. We are all just doing our best. We are all just trying to figure it out. Recognizing that it is about progress, not perfection. We are all going to have those days that are challenging, where we really just do not know what the next step is. And those are the moments where we need to focus on that mindfulness aspect. So focusing on being in the present moment as much as we can, using some grounding techniques. There are a lot of meditations that are available online. There are tons of applications that will provide you with guided meditations. So when you are feeling those swells of anxiety, really challenging yourself to come back into the moment and using one of those applications. Even practicing just some deep breathing, it sounds hokey, but it is one of the most helpful things we can do for our nervous system. Because it calms down that sympathetic nervous system, which is where we are feeling that high stress when we were in that 'fight, flight, or freeze' mode, and the cortisol is going. Just doing what we can to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and bring down that cortisol level. By doing that and controlling our breathing, we are able to just get a little bit more of that even keeled and wise mind kind of thing.

And as I mentioned before, focusing on the things we can control: our actions, our behaviors, our routines, as much as we can. It is so vitally important that we are setting up these routines to adjust to the new now. So as things are changing, modify your routine the best you can but still have that element of consistency. So if that is your morning routine, every morning you get up and you journal or you have your cup of coffee out on the patio. Whatever that routine is for you, keeping up with that. When we are able to focus on the things we can control, we are much more resilient and much more adaptable at handling these changes that we may not have control over that are thrown our way. So when we are reminding ourselves: "Nope, this is something I have control over." We are able to be more adaptable when those moments happen where we do not feel like we have control.

I think another huge piece of the puzzle is practicing “radical acceptance.” When I say radical acceptance, that means that we are accepting the current moment for exactly what it is. We are not trying to change it. We are just accepting and acknowledging it so that could be our present situation in our work environment. That could be an emotion that is coming up for us. It is important to remember that when we are practicing radical acceptance, it is not that we are saying whatever we are going through is okay or that we approve of it. It is just that we are accepting it. You know what we resist, persists. So the more we are resisting on something that is causing us to stress, the more we are avoiding dealing with it. The longer those ramifications are going to last, which is then going to decrease our ability to adapt to change. Because we are not actually dealing with the things as they come up. So really being mindful that we are doing that and then practicing gratitude. There are some great stories that are coming out of this time. We are hearing a lot of wonderful things about people practicing empathy and showing up for people in ways that maybe they would not if there was not a major global crisis going on right now. So being grateful for the little things in your life and for some of these bigger things that we are seeing as well, no matter how terrible things are. There is always something to be grateful for whether that is a loved one or if it is the fact that you are still employed, whatever that may be really try to focus and hold onto those moments of gratitude.



Morgan: So it is essentially letting ourselves feel how we are feeling but not feeling that feeling with trying to push back against it, trying to change it right away, that sort of thing?



Keirstyn: Exactly. There is an equation that I love bringing out in the courses that I run. It is that suffering is equal to pain times resistance. So as human beings, we will all encounter pain. We will all go through difficult things. It is our resistance to that pain that determines how long and how intensely we suffer. So when we are able to minimize that resistance, when we are able to accept the moment, and when we are really just able to process our feelings, we say feel it to heal it, and that is such an important piece right now. Because when we are doing this, that allows us to deal with the issue that is presenting itself and then be prepared and also better informed on the next issue that may arise because we have already dealt with this. When we start to have these little successes that makes way for bigger successes.

Part of it too is practicing and prioritizing self-care. Self-care is not just bubble baths. It has kind of been turned into a commodity in a lot of ways. But it is about getting that good sleep, practicing good hygiene, eating well, and getting some physical activity. It is really making sure you are taking care of the various aspects of your wellness. So that is your physical, mental, emotional, as well as your spiritual and just making sure that you have as much in your bucket. We always say you cannot pour from an empty cup. So if you are making sure that you are filling that cup as much as you can during these times, that is going to help you be more adaptable and more likely to deal well with all the changes that we are seeing.



Morgan: Specifically, in the context of a person that is heading back into the workplace. Do you have any tips for adapting to those changes? I know a lot of people have mentioned to me things like: You go back in but you do not know what you are going to do with your lunch break or you do not know what meetings are going to look like, or there is just a lot of different stressors there. Any tips specific to someone at work?



Keirstyn: Yes. Absolutely. I think that the self-compassion piece definitely comes into play, you know being gentle with yourself. This is new for everyone. It is okay that you do not have it all figured out. None of us do and if anyone tells you they do, they are lying. I think it is really about, again, focusing on those things you can control. So if you are not sure, "What am I doing on my lunch break?" What that may be, kind of create your own routine. Say, "Oh! I am going to bring this item in today" and kind of plan. We do well when we have plans and we have that consistency. So focusing on those things we can control and really just being as curious about your emotions as you can be and leaving that judgment at the door.

We are so hard-wired as human beings to label things as good or bad, positive or negative. That is our instant gut reaction and when we are able to let go of that judgment, we are able to deal with things a little bit easier. I think in the workplace especially, emotions are going to be running high right now. There is a lot of that unpredictability. So it is about taking that moment of pause. We are very quick to react as human beings. That initial gut instinct - that is that 'speak before you think' or 'act before you think'. We really need to be mindful of taking that time to take a breath before responding to a situation. That is actually a really healthy coping technique that we can use as well, that active response instead of reaction. Because it helps us make a more balanced decision. It helps us gain a clearer picture of what is going on around us and it is really going to help our mental and emotional well-being because we are less likely to react in a way that could be harmful down the line because we are more mindful of long-term impacts.

So I think when you are headed back into the workplace and they are still all that uncertainty and unpredictability, it is about focusing on the things that you can control. It is about talking things out and having an outlet. We are seeing now more than ever how crucial social supports are. Whether that is a co-worker, a family member, a therapist. Whatever that may be, having that sounding board in someone that you can say. "Hey, I am struggling with this." And have the outlet and also maybe get some new perspectives or advice if that is what you are looking for as well.

And again, it is just giving yourself that permission to show up as you show up in the moment and realizing that there is no normal response to an abnormal situation. So however, you are feeling however, you are responding, that is perfectly acceptable. Then it is about making sure that you are acting in a way that is more mindful rather than impulsively acting on some of those emotions you may be feeling.



Morgan: I think, you maybe had touched on this a little bit, but pandemic aside, there is going to still be regular workplace stressors. Projects need to get done, you need to make money, all that. Do you have any tips for generally just handling stressors at work?



Keirstyn: Yes. Absolutely. I think when we are looking at stress, we are really looking at doing what we can to bring down those stress levels. Often, we talk about the stress bucket. So we all have a different-sized bucket. We all have a different capacity for handling stress. And when we are looking at that bucket, as we are adding more and more stress, it is like adding more and more water to that bucket. And eventually, if you do not have taps to release any of that water, it is going to overflow and you are going to experience those feelings of burnout. You are going to start to see the mental health impacts getting more significant and more harmful. So we need to find a way to tap into our buckets and provide those faucets. And so that is finding those self-care things that work for you. That is having the social supports, that is making sure that you are eating well, and exercising and doing what you need to do to take care of your body. We look at our whole health: our mental health and our body health are parts of that. We need to do the work on both of those fronts. And we also need to be mindful.

Sometimes when we are talking about the faucets or the taps coming out of the bucket, sometimes we create these faucets or taps that actually refill the bucket so they curve up and go back into the bucket. And those are things when we are talking about unhealthy coping mechanisms. So we are talking about the substance use, some of those other addictive behaviors, we may be engaging in. For a lot of people, because we have been home, we have been eating a lot more and maybe eating more of those comfort foods that may not be as healthy or as good for us. All of these things can be actually adding to our stress. When we are doing what we can to cope in healthy ways and find those healthy ways and it is important to remember what works for me is very different than what will work for you and work for anyone else. Listening. We all need to be curious and come up with our own outlets and our own stress relievers because that is a customizable thing. What works for one person does not work for everyone. So it is about really being able to explore that and sometimes you will find "Hey, this works really well for me normally, but it is not working for me right now. What is something I can look to replace this with? That will give me that same release but is not causing the harmful effects that some of those other coping skills might."



Morgan: We just did an episode about sleep. That would have come out a couple of weeks before this episode and that was something we talked about as well. As you know, we have been home. We are probably eating a little different, maybe drinking more and all these different things. So it is always interesting to see how interconnected all of these behaviors are on the different elements of our life.



Keirstyn: Absolutely and there is so much science. We used to think that mental health concerns cause poor nutrition. But we are actually seeing that some effects the other way around. Because the way our body processes foods - we are not getting enough nutrients. We are putting unhealthy foods into our body. Our body is spending all of its time trying to digest and break those things down that it is not able to function as well in the other areas. So we are seeing those mental health effects more clearly when we are not eating well. And when we are not sleeping well and not rested, that has definite impacts on our mental health. When we are not getting that exercise and that release of our endorphins.

We talk about the sympathetic nervous system and how we have that 'fight, flight, or freeze' response. Right now a lot of us have been stuck in that freeze response, we have been in that. "Okay. I am not really sure what to do right now. So I am just going to kind of pause and maintain status quo." The problem with that is that we are not releasing those chemicals that have really collected in our bodies. We are not releasing the cortisol and activity is one of the easiest ways that we can get rid of that excess. Which is why we are feeling that high anxiety because a lot of us have kind of curbed off of that. We have kind of fallen into these patterns of - we call it the cycle of inactivity. “I do not feel well, so I am not going to do the things I know I should do. Which then causes me to feel worse which then causes me to do less." And we just get stuck in this cycle. So it is about finding ways to break that cycle.

One of the things we talked about in DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is the act of opposite action. So opposite action is a form of Behavioral Activation which essentially follows the principle: If you do the action, if you do not feel like it, eventually you will start feeling like doing the action. So it is about saying, "Okay. I do not feel like going for that twenty-minute walk today, but I know I will feel better after it." And finding whatever way you can to motivate yourself to do that, creating some sort of reward system and eventually the positive effects you will feel in your mind and body will start to replace that reward system. You will want to start doing these things that you are doing to help your whole health.



Morgan: It is so true. And I think that is why a lot of people say exercise feels addicting. Because when you start it, you get the ball rolling and, you just want to keep going because you are feeling good. But it is the same the opposite way when you stop doing it. It is so easy to just keep not doing it and feeling worse and worse.



Keirstyn: Exactly. Yes.



Morgan: For anyone listening that is looking to bring some positive mental health habits into their workplace or just advocate for their employees or for their team members. Do you have tips on where they can start?



Keirstyn: Absolutely. We discussed earlier that importance of the communication, creating those brave spaces, having that empathy, leaving judgment at the door, and it is also about setting some really clear boundaries. Our mental health is significantly improved when we set boundaries and this is boundaries with other people, but also ourselves. I think a lot of the times we forget that we can have boundaries with ourselves. It is also understanding that sometimes saying no to something or someone, if you do not have the capacity to take on another thing or to show up in the way that you maybe need to, you are allowed to say no. Sometimes saying no to something is actually saying yes to yourself. A lot of us who struggle with some of those people-pleasing tendencies have trouble saying 'no' because we feel like we are going to let people down. But sometimes when we do not say 'no', we are letting ourselves down and that is going to negatively impact our mental health.

So it is about having those moments of boundary setting being aware and reflecting. "Okay. What are my boundaries? How am I feeling right now?" Often we know when a boundary has been crossed, when we start to feel that emotionality, the irritability, maybe some resentment is to starting to grow, so really tuning into that. Our emotions are our body's way of signaling us that something is going on and we need to pay attention to those as much as possible and once we are aware, we are able to take the steps and the action. And that is again where that control piece comes in. We have control over the boundaries we set. We can say "Okay. I am setting this workplace boundary or I am setting this personal boundary or I am setting this boundary with myself." And just holding ourselves accountable to that, because we start to increase our self-confidence which obviously has a huge positive impact on our own mental well-being. When we are able to show ourselves, "Yes. I can set a boundary and I can follow through on it." So discovering what those boundaries are for you and doing that and, again, that self-care piece is so important. Finding those things that really create that idea of nourishment.

There is a difference between self-care and self-soothing. When we are practicing self-care and it is something that nourishes us, we feel better after it. We are mindful during it. We notice that those uncomfortable emotions that we were feeling before are starting to ease. When we are self-soothing, which is often something we do to numb ourselves, we are not connected in the moment. Our agitation will reappear as soon as we are done, whatever that activity is. I can think of an example where sometimes I just turn on the TV just to totally distract myself and numb out. You binge-watch a couple of seasons, whatever it may be, but as soon as you turn off that TV, everything that you were trying to escape from comes back very quickly. So that is how you start to know the difference between something that you are doing to nourish yourself as an act of self-care and something that you are doing to numb yourself. Is how you feel before, during, and after, and really tuning into that. I think a lot of us have fallen into these numbing patterns over the last few months.

So it is about trying to substitute in those more nourishing positive patterns. When we are doing that and we are trying to create change, it is really important that we are working on adding in positive things rather than focusing on just cold turkey cutting out the negative things. We are more likely to make and stick with change when we are slowly increasing the small changes that we want to make. And that will automatically make some of those unhealthy coping mechanisms fall into the background.



Morgan: Absolutely and I wanted to touch on this last. You are mentioning that more people are seeking some mental health services. We are seeing some more anxieties, things like that. But do you think there is going to be some positives that come out of this focus on our mental health and on our self-care through this whole situation?



Keirstyn: Absolutely. I hope that is the biggest positive that comes out of this. Sometimes I often say it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough. I think as a society, we have been needing to have this breakdown for a little while. We have gotten so ingrained in that hustle culture and you know prioritizing productivity over human experience and what we are feeling. I really hope that this is the moment that we all need to take a pause and say "Hold on. I am actually more productive when I am taking care of myself. Resting and healing is productive because it is regenerating me. It is giving me more of that energy." I truly hope that this is also an opportunity for people to talk more openly about how they are feeling. It is something that we are seeing as really unprecedented because we are not seeing people who are normally very mentally well having these sharp onsets of mental health concerns. So when we are having these sharp upticks in anxiety and depression, that means more people are going to be talking about it because more people are experiencing it. That is also going to increase our capacity for empathy because when we are going through these challenging times, even though we may not totally understand what someone else is going through, we can remind ourselves "No. I have gone through a struggle. I felt that challenge and I think we are all collectively feeling this struggle in this challenge." And so I really truly hope that this is a catalyst for us to move into that space of open communication, of showing up authentically, just being there for each other and being as empathetic as we can be as human beings.



Morgan: It is great to see the conversation expanding and even with this episode here. This is just a small dive into a lot of topics we could cover here. Those are all my questions for you today. But there is so much more we can talk about. I did want to see if there is anything you wanted to add before we closed out here.



Keirstyn: No, I think we really touched on a lot today. I am sure that is going to be some information overload for some of the listeners. And it is really, take what works for you, take what fits and leave what does not. When we were talking about our wellness journeys, it is about adapting, what people are suggesting to what works to us. So be curious about that and be as we have talked about multiple times today, be compassionate and gentle. That self-compassion piece is one of the highest indicators of resiliency. So when we are able to, treat ourselves as we would treat someone we love and speak to ourselves in that way. We are really going to see those benefits coming out for us.



Morgan: Absolutely. For people looking to find out some more about you, you are in a lot of spaces online. Do you want to touch on quick where people can find - We have got your community, your podcast, and then also the talks and sessions you give.



Keirstyn: Yes, absolutely. So my website is keirstynsecord.com and that is where you can connect with me and see some of those speaking engagements and different things that I get involved in. That way, that is also where a lot of my writing comes out of or is advertised on. As far as Dancing with Darkness goes, the online community for people looking for that mental health support, you can find us primarily on Instagram, but also on Facebook. On Instagram, our handle is dancingwithdarkness_. On Facebook, it is Dancing With Darkness. The Brave Space podcast, you can find us on Instagram at the Brave Space Podcast. On Facebook, under the same name. And on Twitter, you can find us at The Brave Space TM. So I really hope to connect with some of the listeners that tuned in today. I am always interested in having these conversations. If anyone would like to reach out, please feel free to do so. I really enjoy connecting with people and helping them on their wellness journeys, and I so appreciate you Morgan for having me on the show today. I really love that more and more organizations are starting to have these conversations about mental health. So, thank you for being a leader on that front.



Morgan: And thank you so much for spending this time and sharing this information with us today.



Keirstyn: Yes. Absolutely.



Morgan: Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Small Business Mastermind. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider sharing it with a colleague, friend, or family member, this helps us get the word out about the podcast and continue to bring on amazing guests like Keirstyn. If you are looking to get in touch with Keirstyn or you want to learn more about her work, all of her information is linked in this episode's description. Finally, if you are interested in joining The Small Business Mastermind's family, you can subscribe to this podcast by visiting olympiabenefits.com/podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I will be talking to you again very soon.



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