We organised the second and last installation of our Healing and Thriving Together #2 (hybrid event) last week on 11 Oct 2022, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day.
As an entrepreneur or startup operator, your pace of life is extremely fast and life can be stressful. In conjunction with World Mental Health Day, we have invited mental wellness application founders to share their mental health journey in an authentic and vulnerable way. We hope that you had the opportunity to join at least one of the events and learn about the red flags of high stress, cope, heal and stay in a state of mental wellness while operating in a high intensity mode.
It was our pleasure to speak with Anita Sadasivan, cofounder and Chief Wellbeing Officer of Mindfi, a B2B Mental Health and Wellbeing solution provider. Through her work, she aims to bring mental wellness awareness in the workplace.
If you missed our part 2 and wish to listen in or simply to catch up, check out the live recording here: https://youtu.be/yv03GkvfZU0?t=481
Anita's Mental Wellness Journey
Anita began by sharing a low point in her startup journey. Mindfi is her second venture after her first business, which is a dance studio.
During the COVID period, she had to shut down the studio for two months and only operated at 60% capacity after re-opening.
Anxiety and stress squeezed her from three directions: her landlord, dance teachers and students. She had to constantly speak to her landlord and negotiate the rental payment, cut salaries of the dance teachers and felt like she was letting them down and refunded much of the pre-paid classes to her customers and deal with angry students. It was an extremely trying time, as she suffered from emotional, psychological, mental and physical exhaustion from teaching many of the classes herself.
(from left to right: Andrew Tan, Elise Tan, Anita Sadasiva and Yen Lu Chow)
What helped her through the tough period
What helped her to make it through the stressful period were
her supportive cofounders (build good relationship so can make through tough times)
the dance teachers and her family (who didn't say much but they were helpful.)
Self love and good rest helped (We discussed this in depth in our previous post)
What she felt dragged her down a little were friends who gave advice and opinion that may be general and did not apply to her situation. She learnt to be discerning towards who she shared her troubles with and sought advice from.
Physical signs of stress/ burnout
In Healing and Thriving Together #1, we also have shared the physical signs of stress/ burnout. For Anita, she shared additional symptoms (which she experienced) and further details:
- Trouble sleeping (might be anxiety) or sleeping a lot but not feeling well rested (might be depression)
(it's possible to experience both anxiety and depression at the same time)
- Changes in appetite (such as eating more to feel comfort, happiness and distraction from the stress)
- Chest pains and tight chest muscles (or even panic attacks)
- Feeling uninterested in normal activities
- Mood swings
We operate along a spectrum of mental being, with one end requiring medical intervention so it has to take conscious effort to steer ourselves back to a state of wellbeing when you feel that you are leaning towards the unhealthy end. As a founder/ entrepreneur and a leader, it is important to know ourselves and our limits and consciously stay in 'balance'.
As Anita showed with her 'yoga' positions during her talk, being in balance for a founder/ entrepreneur may look different compared to other types of roles, as the former is certainly more demanding.
To heal and thrive, remember to:
Make time and space for yourself (see section below from Healing and Thriving Together #1)
Listen to your body, as it will send out 'signals' or 'protest' when it is stressed out
Disconnect from work daily for at least a few hours and at least once a week
Have a Support system of friends, family, in addition to your cofounders
Anita shares that it's useful to build a good relationship such as caring for cofounders as friends, not just colleagues.
And borrowing a piece of wisdom from successful marriages, aim to for a 5:1 ratio (positive to negative experiences) with your cofounders.
Have 'one-on-one' sessions with each other regularly, such as weekly, so that stress and unhappiness are addressed openly, instead of letting them pile up
And understand if your cofounder(s) has an anxious or avoidant attachment preference so that you may work with each others' styles in a more deliberate and effective way
Finally, to help your team to thrive, even if you have limited resources --
do consider having an internal resource 'centre' so that they may gain awareness of their mental/ psychological state and self assess and check out potential solutions to manage their mental health. (check out mindfi.co for self help resources)
create sharing 'circles' so that relevant groups of people to come together and share their experiences and journey with others in a 'safe' way
Make sure everyone in the team is equipped with the basic knowledge to recognise their own signs of burnout and in their teammates
subsidise their counselling sessions if they need it (Mindfi has a panel of psychologists on their platform)
We hope you enjoyed this post on the key takeaways from our final learning event of the year! Do watch the rest of the event on our youtube as we discussed other questions such as
how do we introduce a colleague or friend to therapy even when they lack self awareness
the usefulness of MBTI or other personality tests in helping to reduce stress in a team environment.
how to deal with 'mind over body' kind of work culture?
How to Heal and Cope (from Healing and Thriving Together #1)
Practise Self Love
Set aside time to do what you love
Antoinette shares that she loves to gym and she blocks out her time to do that.
Block out time, even one hour a week, to do what energises, restores you and fills up your half full cup.
Say yes to being helped
As Asians, we often find it hard to ask for help or receive help, because we simply do not want to trouble others.
But we are not an island and allowing others to support us allow us to preserve our energy and focus on what we do best. (personally I find it really hard)
Put yourself first
We are souls in a physical body, like driving a car.
As we would maintain our car in order for it to last, we need to maintain our body too. Make sure you get sufficient sleep, eat well and speak well to your body (which brings us to the next point).
Be kind to yourself
Recognise your own strengths
Speak kind words to yourself (I'm resourceful and I can get through this)
Refrain from criticising yourself (I'm incapable of doing anything)
Nourish yourself mentally, psychologically, spiritually
We can't pour from an empty cup, nor can we give what we can't have.
Start with simple things: Take time to read 5 pages of a book a day
Listen to music for 2 minutes every 2 hours on a work day.
You will be surprised by how much more peaceful you will feel. The small little things add up.
Sign up for our future events on https://www.eventbrite.sg/o/asia-startup-network-33014020703
About Anita Sadasivan, Cofounder and Chief Wellbeing Officer, MindFi: Anita is Co-Founder and Chief Wellbeing Officer at MindFi - a B2B Mental Health and Wellbeing solution provider. She is also a US-trained psychologist, counsellor and dance instructor with extensive experience working in hospitals, social enterprises as well as corporate EAP programs. She has a special interest in positive psychology and preventive mental health in the workplace. Outside of her work in mental health, Anita also owns a dance studio that aims to empower women and build confidence through movement, running close to 100 classes per week as well as special programs for cancer survivors and seniors. As a two time founder, Anita is familiar with the unique stressors and challenges that founders experience, and is deeply passionate about founder Mental Health. About MindFi: -MindFi is a B2B Mental Health & Wellbeing solution provider supporting organisations across - 8 languages - 14 countries - with a network of over 150 psychologists, counsellors and coaches.
If you need to speak to a professional
Safe Space: https://safespace.sg/booking
Continue our conversation
On mental health on SG Founder slack
Read Key takeaways from Healing and Thriving Together #1
Big Thank you to our volunteers!
(Left to right: Tauseef, Maggie, YiTing)
And last but not least, many thanks to WeWork, Hazel Lee from Wework, Vertex Ventures SE Asia & India for your kind sponsorship and support ❤️
A special shoutout to Vertex Ventures SE Asia & India and Wantedly Singapore for supporting and enabling Andrew and I to do what we love - to do our part to support the startup community here in Asia.