Welcome to episode 277 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sherry Walling from Zen Founder about how entrepreneurs can care for their mental wellbeing.
Last week on the podcast, we shared an episode from the Irie Lemon Podcast with Liz Della Croce and Vincent Mcintosh. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Care For Yourself
The focus of today’s episode is mental health for entrepreneurs – why it’s so important, practices that support positive mental health, and how to make lasting behavioral changes.
Bjork interviews Zen Founder co-founder Sherry Walling in this episode, and she draws on her background as a clinical psychologist who has experience supporting high achieving people with high-intensity jobs to help entrepreneurs support their mental health and emotions.
Your mental health is important, it matters, and it’s okay and necessary to take the time to care for yourself.
This episode will give you some ideas and strategies to help you care for your mental health through your entrepreneurial journey.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How and why Sherry started Zen Founder
- How Sherry helps entrepreneurs
- What are the foundational practices that support mental health
- Why the “hustle” lifestyle isn’t sustainable
- How to make a behavioral change
- Why our emotions are good indicators that something needs to change
- Tools and apps that can help with habit formation and mental health
- How to control your feelings regardless of external chaos
- How to balance all of your responsibilities in a sustainable way
- How to engage your significant other in your business
- The importance of play
- What burnout is
- When to reach out for help
- Zen Founder
- Startups For The Rest of Us
- Zen Founder Podcast
- The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together
- Connect with Sherry on her website
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership
Transcript (click to expand):
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hi, hello and welcome to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast this week. My name’s Alexa and I’m part of the small, but mighty Food Blogger Pro team, and we’re just so excited that you decided to tune to the podcast today. Today’s episode is … man, I’m just so excited about this episode and to share it with you today, and that’s because it’s about a topic that we don’t talk too much about, but it’s a topic that’s incredibly, incredibly important, especially during the kind of year we’ve been having this year.
Alexa Peduzzi: The focus of today’s episode is actually mental health for entrepreneurs. Why it’s so important practices that support positive mental health and how to make lasting behavioral changes. Bjork interviews Zen Founder co-founder, Sherry Walling, in this episode, and she draws on her background as a clinical psychologist who has experienced supporting high achieving people with high intensity jobs to help entrepreneurs support their mental health and emotions. It’s such a good, important interview, and I know you’re going to love it. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Sherry, welcome to the podcast.
Sherry Walling: It is so good to be with you. Thanks for inviting me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’m excited to talk to you about something that when you take a first pass at it, you’d say, “Wait, is this a conversation around businesses? Is this a conversation around building a brand online or blogging?” Which I’m guessing is something that you hear a lot.” But I think at its core, it is the thing, it is one of the most essential things around business building, around creators, creating content online, and that is this broad category of mental health specifically for entrepreneurs.
Bjork Ostrom: So, you have Zen Founder and I want to hear a little bit about the origin stories of Zen Founder. If you could rewind the tape a little bit, what did the conversation look like? And what were you thinking when you said, “Hey, this is something that I think there’s a need for it, and I’m going to create a company called Zen Founder.” What did that look like? Take us back to that time.
Sherry Walling: Yeah, absolutely. It was a really specific moment actually, that was the birthplace of Zen Founder. Before that moment, I had trained as a clinical psychologist and had done most of my work with people who had really high intensity jobs. So, ER docs, people in the military, people who are exposed to a lot of trauma and really high levels of stress in the context of their work. So, that was my background both as an academic and as a clinician, but there was a moment, I think it was January, 2017, when I came home from my clinic and found my husband, too is a tech entrepreneur, he was sitting in our home office and he was crying and I was, “This is not a regular event in our house, this is unusual.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we need to talk about this.
Sherry Walling: Yeah. This is not like business as usual. So, of course I was like, “What’s going on, what happened?” He said, “Aaron Swartz died, Aaron Swartz committed suicide.” I said that’s terrible, I’m really sorry to hear that. Who is Aaron Swartz? This wasn’t somebody that we knew, this wasn’t a friend or a family member. But Aaron was a young entrepreneur who founded Reddit among other things, and was, I think, representative of this bright, young, amazing mind. So, it was right there in that moment that my serial technology, entrepreneur husband, and the psychologist in me hatched this plan for, what can we do about this? How do we help make sure that some of the brilliant creative, innovative entrepreneurs that we were in contact with would feel healthy and well enough to really see their full potential and to grow their businesses in a good way?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you look back at what you had thought it was, what you’re getting started with, today, does that look pretty similar to what you had imagined or as you started to build it, did you realize, “Hey, this is going to be look a little bit different and feel a little bit different than how it started?”
Sherry Walling: I think I’m happy to say, I’m still really close to the mission where we started. So we started with this idea that education and conversation around mental health need to happen in every place where entrepreneurs are gathering. I think there are certainly some forces within culture and within larger trends in business that have facilitated that. But I’m still very much part of the world of whether that’s conference talks or writing books or doing podcasts were just normalizing conversations about mental wellbeing for entrepreneurs and for people who are in business.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you work individually one-on-one? Like would you do a zoom call with entrepreneur who’s struggling, and is that part of what you’re doing? So you have a little bit of understanding of what that looks like as well as a macro level from a conference perspective?
Sherry Walling: Yeah, absolutely. So, the macro level is what we give away, right? Its mission is to provide high quality information around mental health for entrepreneurs, but then the direct intervention, so I do a lot of one-on-one meetings or meetings with co-founders or just conversations with people who are in some way feeling stuck, who want to be healthier, who wants to be more present, who want to have better relationships. So, that’s the bread and butter of the work. That’s what pays the bills, and I think fuels my ability to do the preventative work.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you are having those conversations, let’s say you and I were to have one of those conversations, what would be some of the first questions that you would ask or the things that you would look for to get a lay of the land for where somebody is at? I asked that because I wonder if there’s some type of practice that we could do individually as we think of how we are operating to self-analyze, what are the questions you ask so we could ask ourselves those questions-
Sherry Walling: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: … to get a sense for where we’re at?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. I love that question. I think I take in the lay of the land in a couple of different domains of life. So, even though you don’t think about it automatically when we’re talking about mental health, I always ask people about their physical wellbeing, how are they sleeping? How are they eating? How’s their energy level? Are they exercising or moving? Those are really helpful indicators that let me know if someone is pretty depressed or if someone is also engaging in the foundational practices that will help support mental health. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not going to feel good period.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Sherry Walling: So I think just identifying some of those vulnerabilities is an early part of the conversation.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sherry Walling: I also ask a lot about relationships, right? Like your relationship with your significant other, your relationship with your co-founder, with other people in your life. Once again, that can feel separate but it’s a good indicator if you’re feeling really irritable or having a lot of conflict in any of those key relationships that maybe something is unwell or a miss within you, it’s at least worth exploring.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s interesting. One of the things that I think is undeniable, and we talked about this a little bit, hinted at it, is that who we are and how we are showing up impacts the thing that we are creating in the world. I think one of the through lines that you hear a lot of times in the entrepreneurial journey is this idea of hustle and draining yourself in service of the thing you’re building and the reality of how much work that it takes. Do you find that with the people you work with, the conversations you have, that that spirit of work is detrimental to mental health, or is there some reality of that needing to exist, and we just need to figure out ways to support ourselves when we are in that season of hustle or whatever you would call it?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. I think it’s both and. The co-founders of Basecamp have popularized this hashtag on Twitter, but it’s killed the hustle porn, which I really appreciate. So I think we have over glamorized hustle as a way to get towards success. When we over glamorized hustle, we’re really overlooking how the mind works. That if you want a creative, innovative mind, that’s capable of focusing, that minimizes mistakes, that’s able to do innovative problem solving, that just as an organ, your brain must have a certain amount of rest, must have a certain amount of time solving different kinds of problems or dwelling on different topics. So, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: And good energy.
Sherry Walling: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Like what are these core things that are required to make this thing work?
Sherry Walling: The care and nurture of brains.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Sherry Walling: So hustle is-
Bjork Ostrom: Which is interesting because … I think about what I do, and I literally come into my office and I sit down and then my body doesn’t really move, for six, seven, eight hours is just my brain looking at a screen, two screens, going back and forth and like thinking about stuff and responding to it. When you frame it up like that, it’s like, “Oh man.” It is the most important thing that we can be doing to treat our mind, our mental health, our brain with the utmost care, because it’s the tool that we’re using every single day, not everybody’s sitting at a computer, but you can start to understand how that becomes so true. So do you see that with the conversations you’re having with people right off the bat, do you start to see those opportunities for an improvement pretty quickly and how do you go about changing those?
Sherry Walling: Yeah, I think it’s pretty easy to recognize when someone is doing the thing that they know they shouldn’t be doing, like sitting in the same chair for 12 hours. Like we sort of know, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t be doing this.” But just one more thing, one more thing, one more email, one more thing, and we get sucked into the vortex of that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sherry Walling: So, I think that any behavioral change, first step is self-awareness, right? It’s recognizing the pattern and it’s trying to identify where you’re most vulnerable to the pattern.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sherry Walling: Then secondly-
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what you mean by that, how do you do that?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. So when we talk about self-reflection where sort of identifying like, “Okay, I get really tired around 3:30 in the afternoon.” That’s the decision point of, “I could get up and go for a walk or better yet even quit for the day.” But often I just lean in and make myself slog through-
Bjork Ostrom: So relatable.
Sherry Walling: And when I send emails during that time, I make more mistakes, I’m not creative, I’m not at my best. Again, recognizing, “Oh, hey, this is how this pattern shows up for me.” This is what I tell myself to keep myself in the chair, which is just one more thing, is often what we say. If I’m going to change that pattern, I have to recognize that it’s happening.
Bjork Ostrom: That feels like it might be hard to do. I think one of the things that … It’s interesting I think from the outside, I think I can think of people that are in my life and I can see the patterns and even the mental framework that they have for decision-making or the repeat things. Like, “I’m just so busy, I don’t have time for it, or I don’t know if I’m capable of doing this or whatever the rhythms of that might be.” But I think it would be hard for me to see the things that I am doing consistently on my own repeat behaviors. Do you have any advice for people who are looking to reflect in that way to understand themselves more?
Sherry Walling: I think this is where our emotions are actually a really good tool. So, I think a lot of us who are hard workers are used to overriding how we feel and just saying, “Push, push, push.” But if we can recognize an emotion of increased anxiety of just feeling strain or stress, or feeling sad or irritable, if we can recognize that emotion, that’s often a good indicator that it might be time to shift our body, change our pattern, pay attention to something.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by shift your body?
Sherry Walling: I mean, get up from the chair-
Bjork Ostrom: Like literally move your body.
Sherry Walling: Like in this specific example. I’m getting irritated, it means I’ve been pushing my brain too hard in the same way.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. I can think of when I had my first official office and it was like $200 a month, and there was this church that had rented a building for their offices, and I had asked if I could rent a little office within those offices and it was like moldy and it wasn’t super nice, but it was like an office, and I loved it. There was a couple of times when I came up against a wall like that. I would go for a walk and I brought an apple and … To this day, remember thinking like, “Wow, this is such an impactful thing for me to like go on a walk and eat an apple.” I remember being so surprised at how my brain worked so differently in that moment compared to when I was sitting in a chair, but it’s also hard to do, especially when there’s always something, there’s one more thing, there’s always one more thing.
Bjork Ostrom: So, do you have any advice for people who want to figure out how to pattern interrupt or is it just making a decision about it and saying, “Hey, for a week, for two weeks, I’m going to try this, whenever I come up against this wall, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get up and eat an apple and go for a five minute walk?”
Sherry Walling: Yeah. I think you can do it from the inside out, which is that listening to those internal cues. “Oh, I’m getting grumpy, I’m getting tired. I’m going to make an external change.” Or you can do it from the outside in which is to say, every two hours, I’m going to set a little alarm for myself that says, “Get up and move.” Or I’m going to put a calendar alert for having a snack or for calling a friend or for doing some of these other helpful behaviors.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. So this is going back, you had said, we had rabbit-trailed off of this. You had said the number one thing and talking about some of these things. Do you remember what number two was?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. Number two is seeking support. It’s saying to someone in your life, someone who’s in your office or your coworking space like, “Hey, I’m going to work on improving my mental health by taking more breaks during the day, or I’m going to work on improving my relationships by making a list of old friends and calling someone every day and just reaching out and connecting and trying to counteract a lot of the isolation that many of us are feeling right now.” So when you speak that goal aloud to another human, you’re more likely to follow up on it, and especially if you ask them to help you follow up.
Bjork Ostrom: So, somebody you know. Yeah.
Sherry Walling: Behavior changes best in groups.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. Sure. So you have a group of people you say, or an individual that you know and trust, “This is something that I’m going to do.” An example would be, and this is important, because Lindsay would be the primary person who would facilitate this, which is I told Lindsay, I said, “I’m going to try and cut out at least just for a period of time refined sugar.” It’s like really hard when Lindsay who’s testing these recipes and baking cookies and all these great things. But now she knows, and it’s like, “Hey, she’s supportive in that.” And not only me saying that to her has been helpful for me just to speak it into the world, but also she’s like, “Hey, all right. Like if I’m testing a batch of cookies, I’ll do that at the office instead of at home. Or if I do it at home, I’ll give you fair warning-”
Sherry Walling: Hide them.
Bjork Ostrom: So you can eat some carrots, so you’re not as hungry. It makes sense how that helps in a really real way. Are there any other tools, and maybe this is solving, this is like every technologist’s problem is trying to solve it with the technology. Are there any tools or apps or services that you can think of that also would aid in this kind of habit formation or trying to improve mental health or anything in that realm?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. There are a lot of things that are preventative, things like Headspace or the Calm app that help people meditate, practice breath, practice other forms of self regulation that are positively associated with mental health. Then there are a number of different apps that will track symptoms, or you can wake up in the morning and enter into the app, how you’re feeling emotionally, it’ll track your sleep, basically looking at the full package of how you’re functioning and how that’s related to your inner state.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Headspace is an app that I’ve used before and had this rhythm of using it, got out of that rhythm. But in the season of … for us who are in Minneapolis, we just went through this season of unrest as a community. There is a global pandemic, all things 2020, and I was talking to Lindsay about it and I had this week that was just a really hard week, and that was one of the things you said, is like, “Maybe I got to get back into the rhythm of doing meditating and using an app like Headspace.” I think for some people, the idea of meditating almost seems … like it maybe seems scary, it maybe seems like too spiritual potentially. Can you talk about what meditation is and even just like the science behind it and why it’s a helpful thing?
Sherry Walling: So, meditation is one of a host of tools that help us shift from the outer world into our inner world. I think that’s particularly helpful right now, as you’ve identified, the outer world is really, really chaotic, from pandemic to racial justice and unrest. I mean, I just feel like so many of us are like, “What’s going to happen next?” I’m from California where there’s been fires and hurricanes. I mean, it’s just like, “Come on.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Right.
Sherry Walling: So, when we’re meditating or practicing yoga, practicing prayer, even just laying on the floor breathing in an intentional way, we’re just tuning into the space between our ears, we’re tuning into what’s happening inside of us, and recognizing that we have some ability to create homeostasis or control how we’re feeling regardless of how much chaos is existing outside of us.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s an analogy in Headspace, they have these little like one minute explainer videos that are so helpful, but one of them was the main character kind of the … I don’t know what they are. People, I guess, like drawings of people, but floating above their thoughts and looking down and saying like, “Oh, these thoughts are things, these are not me.” I can understand these as being things that exist in the world and can look at and understand and observe, and that conceptually has been really helpful for me as I think about like, “Oh, I have this feeling why do I have this feeling?” And being able to look at that for a feeling, not as necessarily truth or who I am, and just being a really helpful idea or concept. So, is that something that you do? I’m curious.
Sherry Walling: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: Are you somebody who meditates?
Sherry Walling: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: And you use like a guided app to do it or?
Sherry Walling: I don’t anymore. I have a different points. I think all things in my mental health or physical health, I listen to the rhythm of it. Like sometimes I’ll want a guided practice and sometimes I’m in a season where I don’t. I think for people who find meditation unwieldy or hard to get started with, a good entry point can actually be yoga, which has many of the same mental health benefits, because it does calm the mind, clear the mind and focuses on the breath, but you’re doing something, right? You’re moving your body, and that in and of itself is just a different meditative focus.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. There is friend that we have who has a popular site, and she talks about yoga being her saving grace. She’s like, “It’s the one hour a day where I know I’m going to go there, I can block everything else out, I don’t have my phone, I don’t have my computer.” It seems so restorative for her. Also maybe intimidating for people who haven’t gotten into it. I know even for myself, there’s been … like we have a Peloton Tread, and they will do like, “Hey.” And now we’re going to just do some stretches and they’ll name some of the poses. I’m like, “Oh, if I wasn’t looking at somebody, I wouldn’t know what that is.”
Sherry Walling: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: But for somebody who’s in the really beginner stage, how do they start with yoga in a way where they’re not going to feel like they go in and everybody’s staring at them knowing that they’re not a yogi?
Sherry Walling: Right. Okay, here’s a little bit of a secret, great thing about the pandemic, is you can try all kinds of things from the privacy of your own home.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right, it’s probably not happening in-person a lot now.
Sherry Walling: Yeah. Again, just figuring out how your body works and where the poses are. Then there’s also some live classes that can happen online, which are really helpful because then you have a teacher who can say, “Hey, rotate your wrist this way, or make this adjustment.” Which will help both in safety and comfort.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So, you mentioned this by talking about yoga a little bit, one of the practices that you have and how that’s a version of meditation for you. I’m curious to know, if you go to Zen Founder, if you go to the site, I think it says 72% of entrepreneurs deal with some level of mental … it was-
Sherry Walling: Concerned about their own mental health.
Bjork Ostrom: Concerned about their own mental health. So like aware of it. So, three out of four people that you interact with…
Sherry Walling: Are worried.
Bjork Ostrom: Entrepreneurs are worried about like, “I’m going to be okay?”
Sherry Walling: “I’m I okay?”
Bjork Ostrom: “Is this sustainable?” I think also very relatable, especially for online entrepreneurs can be a siloed or solopreneurs, especially if you don’t have a team. I’m curious to know for you, Sherry, as you have interacted with a lot of entrepreneurs, are there things that you have learned that exist and that are potential areas of risk that you have mitigated in your own life and developed practices around? It sounds like yoga’s one of those, but if there are other things that you’ve taken experientially from the conversations you’ve had, the things you’ve observed to form as norms or patterns in your life or things that you are insistent on, that you’ve learned, because you yourself you’re an entrepreneur. I think that’s at its core, what’s so interesting about this work. How are you as an entrepreneur setting yourself up for success based on the things you’ve learned? There we go, it just took me a while to get to that question.
Sherry Walling: And I don’t always do it perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, but I think a couple of things that come up in a lot of conversations that I’m really careful to protect against is isolation in the form of failing to really invest in friendship. And of course that’s extra tricky now that we’re not bumping into each other in natural ways. But, it’s really, really important I think for all of us, especially as adults. I’m parenting three children, my life is very full and it’s easy to say I can work and I can deal with my kids and that’s kind of all, but the reality is that, like every other human need friendship, friends to laugh with, friends to play with, friends to stay connected to over the years. So that’s something that I see a lot of entrepreneurs letting go by the wayside.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, I’ve heard … I won’t remember all the different pieces, I think it’s like social, family, business, and fitness. Pick three, and you can be really good at those. Do you think there’s truth to that? I was working with a business coach once and he’s like, “Or not.” Like just do all of the well and invest in all of them, but sometimes it can seem like … especially if you have kids, if you have family, maybe you’re taking care of a parent, it seems like, man, maybe one of these has to go. Do you think there’s truth to that? Or can you do a good job with all of them?
Sherry Walling: I think you can do a passable job with all of them. Right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Like not A++, but passable.
Sherry Walling: I do think that every day is different and every week is different. One of the habits that has been really helpful to my husband and I is, we chat every Sunday night and it’s a little bit of an assessment of like, “What do you need this week? What do I need this week?” So, some weeks I’m like, “Look, I’m done with people, I need introversion time, I need to read a book three nights this week.” And you can do that, and then the following week, you double down on some relationship energy. Then the following week you spend some extra time making a great care package for your mother. I think if we segment our days, believing that we have to get a certain amount of those things done in every day, that can feel like totally overwhelming.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Macro as opposed to micro.
Sherry Walling: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not a balance of those things on a daily level, but what does that look like on a month, week to week or month to month basis, and are you covering all those bases? One of the questions I’d be curious to know about is, you and Rob, your husband Rob, who’s an entrepreneur as well, talk a lot about your relationship together as entrepreneurs. I think one of the things that we hear about is, relationships where one person is entrepreneurial and the other person in the relationship maybe doesn’t have the same level of interest or the same level of belief in the thing working, maybe the person feels like their time is being taken away. Do you have advice … this could be an entire podcast series-
Sherry Walling: Yes, or a couple.
Bjork Ostrom: But for people who are in a relationship with somebody and they want to, in some way, bring them in or have their support, how do you do that? What does that look like for somebody who is an entrepreneur, who’s listening to this podcast to engage their significant other with them in the journey?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. In a way I think it’s great practice because getting your significant other onboard is kind of … they’re your first investor, they are the person that you want to sell enough on your idea that they’re going to sign on. I think a lot of us don’t take that seriously. We just lean our way into entrepreneurship without doing the work to bring our significant other along, and that means understanding their concerns and speaking to them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sherry Walling: So, I think, early on in our journey, Rob was an entrepreneur and I was an academic. I worked at a university, I was a professor, and so I had this very kind of traditional job and we had conversations where I was like, “Look, I don’t care what you do, but we have this chunk of … we have 20 grand in a bank account and that’s off limits.” Like, “I want that there, that’s our emergency fund. Like don’t touch that money.” And he was like, “Okay, we could agree to that.” So I think every couple has their version of that conversation, and understanding that your partner may be nervous, and that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in you, but they don’t love you or they’re not on board, but you have to listen to their concerns in order to move on in a way that you both consent to.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I love that idea of your significant other being your first investor, and it’s not necessarily like financial investment obviously. Right? But a lot of times people who have businesses-
Sherry Walling: Time, energy.
Bjork Ostrom: Think about investors, time, energy, shared resources, all of those things, and how important it is for them to feel comfortable and confident in the decisions you’re making, and not that all the questions are going to be answered. Never will that be true, but that being a really important consideration and it’s less of somebody blindly saying, “Hey, okay, I’ll do this and I’ll just follow along and you can do whatever you want to do.” And more of saying, “Hey, I really care about you, your opinion, your thoughts, I’m going to do whatever I can to walk through those and make sure that you feel comfortable with these.” Maybe it’s building out a little bit of a plan saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”
Bjork Ostrom: I know that you and Rob have done pre-COVID couples retreats for entrepreneurs, what are some of the things that you focus on in the conversations that you have for those retreats and post-COVID, whatever that means, will you guys be doing those again?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. We focus a lot on play actually, because I think entrepreneurs, we’re an intense driven crew of people and many of us don’t play very well, and that can really take its troll on a marriage, especially if you’ve got two entrepreneurs in the family or people who are doing really busy intense things and don’t take the time to play well together.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. How do you do that? That seems like such interesting … Lindsay always gives me a hard time, we have this recurring joke about being a troll and she’s like, “You’re just kind of …” Like don’t get too happy, don’t get too sad. Like just kind of this … right in the middle. But I think that one of the issues, she would say like, “You just need to lighten up and have moments where you are playing or relaxed, not always thinking about work.” When that does happen, it’s such a great thing, and I realized my own need for it. How do you do that with a significant other?
Sherry Walling: It’s a lot of silliness. So, in the context of retreat, we actually have a couple who are both yoga teachers. They come in and do this sort of joint yoga class where you’re like stretching together, like balancing on each other. It’s like absolutely guarantee that you’re going to feel ridiculous at some point. So, there’s the practice of how do you laugh it off? How do you play fully engaged? Playing games together, there’s lots of ways to just take a break or use a different part of yourself than the drivenness of entrepreneurship. That’s pretty helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I think that’s so great. One of the things that we’ve found most helpful is, and which is really hard in a world of social distancing and the reality of 2020, but building in times to not be at your house or not be at the office and to actually go somewhere else and do something else, a lot of times with somebody else, so what does it look like for Lindsay and I to go somewhere with another couple and hang out or go out to eat or … but we’ve really found the location of that to be super helpful, and then building that in, because if we don’t, inevitably it’s just going to get back filled with stuff that’s probably not going to be play or fun in the same way.
Sherry Walling: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the questions that I have around the category of … it goes back to the hustle piece that we talked about, because I think it’s really important. I think that we kind of touch on that occasionally within the podcast is saying, “Hey, there’s going to be sacrifices that need to be made. You might have to work in the margins of your day, especially if you’re working a full-time job.” How does somebody know that they’ve gotten to the place where they’re teetering on burnout? Because I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of understanding the maximum hustle amount is to know when you … because at some point you’ll tip over into burnout and then it’s like you’re done, and you’re done for a period of time. We’ve seen that happen from people who exert a huge amount of hustle over a short amount of time, and eventually they hit a wall and then they’re just done.
Sherry Walling: There’s no more.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, there is no more, and the thing that once was so valuable, suddenly becomes detrimental and that it’s taking so much from you. If somebody feels like they are there or approaching that or starting to enter into a relationship with their work where they feel like it’s taking in some way, do you have recommendations for how to course correct that and some steps that people can take to right that ship before it goes off the end of the earth?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. Great question. I think maybe a good starting place is to just quickly say really what burnout is from a clinical perspective. So, burnout is a recognized diagnosis. It’s something that we give to people who-
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting.
Sherry Walling: … experience a set of three symptoms. The first is physical and emotional exhaustion. So this is what we often think of with burnout. We’re just tired. There’s no oomph, there’s no get up and go, we’re just dragging. The other is cynicism and detachment. This is where we start to feel quite differently about maybe the people that we serve, our readers, the people who are using our product or taking our courses, and where maybe in the past, we were really excited about sharing with them or communicating with them or answering their questions or supporting them or helping them with something that doesn’t install correctly. Suddenly we’re feeling more and more like, “Another person, another question, another email.” There’s this cynicism that keeps us from being connected to people.
Sherry Walling: Then the last component of burnout is a diminished sense of personal efficacy. So, no matter how hard we’re working, we feel subjectively like we’re not accomplishing anything. So, it’s like the hamster on the hamster wheel, you’re doing all the work, you’re running, you’re running, you’re running, you’re running, but you don’t see the outcome. You don’t feel the benefit of having completed something.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Go ahead, finish that.
Sherry Walling: I was going to say, so I think it’s helpful to know that because burnout is specific, it’s not just like, “I’m tired today.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally interesting for me, I think maybe in a Zen Founder episode, you had maybe talked about that, but a good reminder, this is something that you would actually diagnose as you are burnout, you are burnout, which I think a lot of people would throw it out in a similar way to like, “Oh I’m OCD.” And it’s like, “No, that’s a thing.”
Sherry Walling: That’s a thing.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a real thing, and burnout is a thing. So to say like, I’m just so burnt out on that, it’s like maybe, but it actually is a thing which I think is helpful for people to know.
Sherry Walling: Yeah. I think you get into the danger zone when you get any of those symptoms in a light way, when email becomes … or however you correspond with the humans in your business, it just becomes something that you’re doing this internal eye roll about, tired. I mean, the under recognized preventative for burnout is to take vacation. Like it’s to take a break. People are like, “I pay you a lot of money to tell me to take vacations.” And I’m like, “Yes, I should have a travel agency business on this.”
Bjork Ostrom: And it works. Yeah. It’s a great correlated business.
Sherry Walling: It works because it lets your brain focus in something else.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Sherry Walling: Your brain is shifting its attention, it’s shifting its patterns, it’s shifting its routines. So literally on the cellular level, some of those neuronal connections get fatigued, and when you take a break and take even a long weekend away, your brain gets to nourish itself.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s just yesterday, I went for my birthday, which was seven months ago, but Lindsay gave me Dad’s Day of leisure. Like that was her gift. So, I finally cashed in on Dad’s Day of leisure and did this little road trip with my dad, and took an hour for me to drive to where he is. Then we drove for hour and a half to go look at this kind of Lake property, which it’s not something we’re moving on. It was more just something to do. But in that hour drive, on the way back home specifically, I thought, “Gosh, I haven’t had a packet like this to think, and to let my mind be the way that it’s being in a really long time.” It wasn’t a vacation even, it was just an hour of driving, but it was a realization of how important that is, but it’s really hard when vacationing doesn’t look the same. Do you have advice for how people can do that if they’re nervous about traveling in a global pandemic?
Sherry Walling: That is a fair thing to be nervous about. Yeah, and it doesn’t really require long distance travel, sometimes it can be a weekend project. It can be something that’s joyful though, not arduous, putting in a garden and building a bird house, decorating for Halloween, doing an online course, getting together with a friend for a day-long hike, there are lots of ways to give ourselves some prolonged breaks. I think people are also getting really creative about the staycation. How do you stay in your home or in your city, and do it in a way that you’re disrupting your work pattern?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. So, final question. I know that a lot of people who are listening to this will think, I might be in this category of three out of the four people who question like, “How are things going for me? What does this look like? Am I in a good place? Am I trending towards not as great or trending up?” They’ll be interested in the potential of working with somebody. At what point would you say it would make sense to reach out and to connect with somebody who can help facilitate some of these conversations to mirror back some of these things, and if somebody is interested in working with you, is that a possibility, and if so, how would they reach out?
Sherry Walling: Yeah. I think the minute you have the thought is probably a good time to make some phone calls. I’m a fan of therapy as a preventative practice, it’s like you’d go to the dentist before your teeth are rotten to try to prevent that from happening.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right.
Sherry Walling: So I think the minute that you’re like, “Wow, maybe I need a little check-in.” I think you could just go and do a little check-in. Skilled therapist can work in lots of different ways, you don’t have to go three times a week and lay on the couch and talk about your mother, there’s people who are really flexible about meeting you where you are, and sometimes that’s just a three session checkup. Then you’ve got a name and a number if and when you need more support in the future. So, as a practice of being a grownup, I think it’s helpful to have someone who’s your person, who you go to when you’re having a hard time.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. There’s a couple of different resources that you have, I’d love if you’d share those both from your site, the writing that you’re doing, the books that you have. I know that you have a book that’s coming out in the future ish, we won’t promote that, but I know people will be interested in following along, so sign up to get notified about that, but I know people, Sherry, will be personally interested in you. There’s the broader topic, but I know who you are, what you’re about, your skills and expertise in working with entrepreneurs. It’s a really great fit, and so I want to make sure that you can plug or promote or talk about the things that you personally are doing, because you are so humble and you won’t do it unless I ask you directly to do it.
Sherry Walling: Unless you specifically say. Yeah, so I do host a podcast every week called Zen Founder, and that is a place where we talk about all kinds of issues related to entrepreneurship and wellbeing, whether that’s family life or physical health, mental health. I also have a book called the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together, which I co-wrote with my husband and my 13 year old, well, 14 year old son now, suggested the title. So, it’s a family affair. Yeah, that’s on Amazon and available pretty widely, places on the internet. I am proud of it as just a nice one spot summary for all the kind of significant issues or concerns that you might want to think through regarding your own self check-in related to your mental health as an entrepreneur.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.
Sherry Walling: I was going to say, if people want to work with me directly or-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, thank you.
Sherry Walling: … have me speak for an event or their business or something, you can reach me through Zen Founder.com or Sherrywalling.com.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Sherry, so great to connect. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Sherry Walling: My pleasure. Thanks.
Alexa Peduzzi: That’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, wasn’t that an awesome episode? Definitely a little bit different from our typical episode, but an important topic for us all. I found it really surprising that 72% of all entrepreneurs struggle with their mental health. So, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone, but also know that there’s something that you can do about it. Talk to someone, whether that be a friend, a family member, or a therapist, write about it on your blog or in a journal, take up yoga or meditation, or you can chat about it in a group of like-minded people like in the Food Blogger Pro forums or in other forums online.
Alexa Peduzzi: Your mental health is important, it matters and it’s okay and necessary to take time for yourself. The links to all of the resources Sherry shared today are at the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/277 if you’re interested in learning more and diving deeper into the topics that she mentioned. We’ll see you next time, and until then from all of us here at FBP HQ may, make it a great week.