412: How to Support Your Mental Health as a Content Creator with Sherry Walling

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This episode is sponsored by Clariti.

Welcome to episode 412 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sherry Walling, a clinical psychologist and founder of ZenFounder.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Shanika Graham-White and Darnell White. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Support Your Mental Health as a Content Creator

Sherry is back on the podcast today to talk about something we should all be discussing more — the mental health of entrepreneurs.

If you have a career as a content creator, it can be difficult to separate your personal life from your professional life. It can also be lonely to run your own business. Not to mention the challenges of sharing your life on social media!

All this to say that entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when it comes to mental health, and this powerful episode with Sherry is one you won’t want to miss. She shares more about the habits you can incorporate into your life to better manage anxiety, stress, and grief, and prioritize your emotional and physical well-being.

A photograph of tulips in a vase, an open book, and a pastry, with a quote from Sherry Walling's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, "You have to have a sense of self that's deeper than the work."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why Sherry started a public conversation around the mental health of entrepreneurs.
  • The first steps to take when your mental health is suffering.
  • Why it’s important to prioritize your well-being.
  • The habits that entrepreneurs can incorporate into their lives to take care of their mental health.
  • The practices Sherry incorporates into her life to support her physical and emotional health (including the trapeze!).
  • The benefits and detriments of technology for our mental health.
  • How to live your life in a way that honors your soul.
  • How Sherry navigated seasons of grief, and the lessons she learned from those times.
  • What content creators can do to support their mental health.
  • How to separate your personal from your professional life, and why that matters.
  • Why it’s important for creators to have a hobby.


About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for Clariti today to receive:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
  • 50% off your first month
  • Optimization ideas for your site content
  • An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
  • And more!

You can learn more and sign up here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: … this episode is sponsored by Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. Here’s the question, are you manually keeping track of your blog posts on a spreadsheet or project management tool? Maybe it’s like Airtable or Asana, or maybe you’re not even keeping track of anything at all. When it comes to optimizing and organizing your content, how do you know what to change, and how do you know what you’re doing is actually moving the needle? With Clariti, all of that stuff is easier. It’s easier to keep track of things. It’s easier to know if the changes you’re making are having an impact, and that’s why we built it. We realized that we were using spreadsheets and cobbling together a system, and we wanted to create something that did that for you. And Clariti brings together WordPress data, Google data, like Google Search Console, and Google Analytics, and it brings all of that information into one place to allow you to make decisions, and also inform you about the decisions that you’ve made, and if they’re having an impact.

I could talk on and on about the features, but the best way to understand it is to get in and to work with the tool yourself. And the good news is Clariti offering 50% off of your first month if you sign up. And you can do that by going to clariti.com/food, again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to check it out. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey, there. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, and this is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team. Welcome to episode 412 of the podcast. This week Bjork is interviewing Sherry Walling, a clinical psychologist and founder of ZenFounder. This is her second time on the podcast, and she’s back today to talk more about the mental health of entrepreneurs. It’s a really powerful episode, and Sherry shares more about the habits you can incorporate into your life to better manage anxiety, stress and grief, and prioritize your emotional and physical well-being as a content creator. Bjork and Sherry, chat more about the first steps to take when your mental health is suffering, how to separate your personal from your professional life and why it matters, and why it’s important for content creators to have a hobby. I found myself nodding along with this episode, and I think it’ll really resonate with all of you content creators and entrepreneurs out there. So I’m going to let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Sherry, welcome back to the podcast.

Sherry Walling: It’s still delightful to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: People will probably know this right when they hear it, but you have a great mic because you are also a podcaster as well. It’s always an indicator whenever we do these, you wait for the response, it’s like, “Is it AirPods?” Which are fine, “Is it a nice mic?” So you do this podcasting, you’ve done it for a long time, you’ve published books, you work with founders and entrepreneurs, we’re going to talk about all of those things, but take us back to the start of a ZenFounder, your podcast. How did you know that there was a need for that, or did you know there was a need for that when you first started it?

Sherry Walling: Yeah, I started talking about entrepreneurship and mental health right after Aaron Swartz died. So Aaron Swartz was a young man who died by suicide, he was one of the founders of Reddit and MIT student, just this really, really brilliant young entrepreneur. And I found my husband, Rob, crying in his office one day. My husband, who’s a double engineer SAS startup guy, not a big crier, but he was so impacted by the death of this entrepreneur, this young, really promising entrepreneur, that we started a conversation that day around the need to talk more about mental health among entrepreneurs. And that was the beginning of this process. So I gave a talk at a conference shortly thereafter. It was received so well that we started a podcast originally together, and then I’ve carried on with it alone. And that was in 2017, so it’s been a couple of years now.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Have you found in opening up that conversation, on your end at least, that it’s allowed other entrepreneurs, or founders, or creators to open up to you? I mean, that’s part of what your job is, is getting people to open up. But what have you realized in starting that journey in terms of the need for that type of content, but also those types of conversations?

Sherry Walling: I mean, I think the beginning of a public conversation around mental health is always to de-stigmatize, and to help people understand that you are not alone if there’s a day that you feel like you do not have any energy to work on your business, or you are not alone in your struggles with anxiety. You can still be a very successful founder who finds a lot of meaning and joy in their work, and have some really rough mental health days. So that feels like topic A, just that this is important, and it doesn’t discount you from your life as a founder.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I remember having a conversation within the last year with our team, leadership team, and I remember coming to them, and I’d been in the season of just feeling anxious, which was abnormal for me, I’d never felt that before. And now when people are like, “I feel anxious.” I’m like, “Oh, not that I know exactly how you feel, but that’s what that’s like.” So wake up early when you don’t need to, or to not be able to fall asleep when you want to. And one of the things that was most helpful for me was just to come to the team and say, “Just so you know, I’ve been feeling this.” But it was really hard too, to do that. Why do you think that is? Is there something within us that exists that filters out our ability to be vulnerable? This is diving deep into the psychology of the human experience-

Sherry Walling: Yeah, vulnerability.

Bjork Ostrom: And the human mind, but I’m curious to know, in your opinion, is there something that… Why do we not want to be vulnerable?

Sherry Walling: I think speaking it aloud concretizes it, it makes it real. If we keep it in our head, it can sort of fester in the dark, but it also allows us to do the mental gymnastics of, “Is this anxiety? Am I okay? Maybe I’m not okay.” We’re churning on it. But once we come to the point of speaking it aloud, we’ve made it concrete, it exists out in the world outside of us, and other people know it too. And so I think we’re afraid of what that feels like in their heads. Once it’s no longer in our head, it becomes something we can’t control anymore, and most of us, especially founders.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you’re giving to somebody this truth about yourself that then is interpreted by them. Is that kind of what you’re getting at?

Sherry Walling: We don’t get to hold the message anymore, we don’t get to control the message anymore.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. Interesting.

Sherry Walling: And that’s pretty uncomfortable for us.

Bjork Ostrom: And do you think that exists? I would assume it exists more so for people who have more at stake with controlling the message, like creators, publishers, influencers. Does that feel true? Founders? I don’t know.

Sherry Walling: Oh, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: I mean, I think under the sort of umbrella of leadership is this sense of importance of controlling the message, and of being in charge of one’s self. And then those of us who do a lot in public, whether that’s creators or people who have a strong social media presence, writers, our selfhood can be quite interchangeable or intertwined with our brand. And so it can feel like, “Oh, if there’s a vulnerability in me, as a human, in my human heart, is that going to reflect a vulnerability on this empire that I’ve built, or this brand that I’ve built, or this thing that I’ve made in the world?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So what happens for somebody who is feeling those things? Like you are feeling whatever it might be, depressed, anxious, what’s the first step in approaching that in a way that’s healthy and constructive in terms of navigating all of the ins and outs of… I mean, it’s getting to a better headspace, to use the name of the meditation app.

Sherry Walling: Name of the app.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: I don’t think they came up with that word.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Yeah.

Sherry Walling: That’s public consumption, not trademarked. I do think that these kinds of feelings, they fester in the dark. So even though the hard thing is speaking them aloud, often, that’s the most helpful thing. And that can begin, phase one can be just to write, to journal, just even to speak aloud to yourself, audio record for yourself, “I’m not feeling well. What’s going on? Here’s what’s bugging me? Here’s what I’m burdened by.” So speaking it aloud to yourself or writing about it I think is important. For step second is to talk about it with a trusted other person, a friend, a parent, a cousin, your significant other, somebody who knows you, who is a safe person for you to say, “I am in a funk, I don’t feel well, something’s not right. Can I just process out loud?” And then of course, there’s other layers, you might need to talk to your team if it’s affecting your performance. It’s also a great time to talk to a mental health professional, or somebody who, again, you can just say the words, “Something’s off. I need help figuring out what’s off, and what the path forward is.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s such a critical piece of the puzzle when you think of what it is that we’re doing, and when I say we, I’m talking to the audience. It’s creative people who are also doing, a lot of times, it’s high-performance type stuff, you need to deliver, you need to produce, you need to execute. And so much of that requires a foundation which you can stand on to do that. And one of the things that’s difficult in the world of business, or especially in the world of publishing information online, or content online, is that a lot of times those two things are… It almost feels like those are separated out. You have your business and productivity, and then you have your headspace, your personal world, and those are two separate. But the more that we do this, the more I realize, “Actually, they’re so finely intertwined.”

And it seems like the biggest ROI, to use a business term, that you could get, is to make sure that you are in a good place as you go into the work that you’re doing. I remember Michael Hyatt, who’s I think since retired, but he started a company that’s now called Full Focus. He talked about his priorities, and he always talked about himself being number one, which is always like, “Wait, you have a family, and you have a business.” And he’s like, “But I know that I’m going to be better at those things if I put myself first.” Do you think that’s a difficult thing for people to do, to put themselves first, and is that a part of it? Is it, to put it bluntly, self-care, in the simplest term?

Sherry Walling: I mean, I think the language here can be tricky for people.

Bjork Ostrom: True.

Sherry Walling: Putting yourself first sounds so selfish.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, right.

Sherry Walling: But I like to frame it in the context of, you are the greatest asset, you are the greatest gift that you have to offer. Whether that’s the way that you think about your business, your creativity, the way that you communicate, your ability to problem solve, your efficiency, productivity, all of that comes from what exists between your ears. And so if you are not tending to yourself as the resource, as the foundation of all the things, then you are really risking the greatest asset that you have to offer. Same is true of your family. If you are not caring for your emotional well-being, for your body, for your ability to be kind, and to be focused, and be attentive, you’re not going to show up well in your family. So I don’t know that I would totally use the language of put yourself first, but I would say that all the other stuff falls apart really fast if you’re not well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like if you view yourself as an engine, or a car, and you’re out in the world, if you’re not getting the oil changed, filling up with gas, taking some time to clean the windshield off, you’re going to get in an accident, and there might be a chance that when you are driving around, you’re carrying loved ones with you, and so as much as possible caring for those core foundational things. You talk about that in, I think it’s your first book, is that right?

Sherry Walling: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: The Entrepreneur’s to Guide Keeping Your Sht Together. I love that. What are the other things for us as entrepreneurs that we can be doing that are those foundational, almost like routines, or habits? I’m working with a health coach now, and he talks about this idea of, your habits become who you are. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, it’s like, “Oh yeah, the things I do every day over time make up who I am.” What about for entrepreneurs for mental health? What are those things that you can be doing every day or every week that help you keep your sht together?

Sherry Walling: I mean, I do think that there are lots of things that can go in that pie for people, but almost without exception, are the health of our body is really important. So most entrepreneurs quickly sacrifice sleep, but sleep is of course our greatest neurological superpower, that’s where our brains do all of that juicy and important recovery work, it’s where we consolidate our memories. So in the repertoire of things that you do in a week to take care of your mental health, sleep is one of the most important. Of course, eating well, drinking food, moving, those are all physical body things, but they’re direct correlates to mental health, to how energized you feel, how patient you feel, how creative you feel. I’m also a big fan of adding in some kind of self-reflective practice, so that can be journaling, it can be being in therapy, being in a therapy group, being in a mastermind, something where you’re taking stock, like, “How am I doing? How am I feeling? How am I showing up?” And doing that in a rhythmic and intentional way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If I can ask, what does that look like for you? I know you have, specifically around movement and thinking, have some really cool things that you could share in terms of how you do that. But even in your personal world, what do those different elements… And maybe we can start with the movement piece.

Sherry Walling: Yeah, so the movement piece is the most fun, I think. I, in the last five or six years, have become somewhat of an amateur circus artist. So I perform the flying trapeze and the swinging trapeze. Yes, they’re different. Aerial fabrics. I’m learning to spin fire. So there’s a lot of different things that I do physically that require a lot of focus. A lot of is-

Bjork Ostrom: Is the trapeze like literally you’re swinging back and forth, and then you grab another one high up in the air?

Sherry Walling: A person grabs you, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Which is even scarier.

Sherry Walling: A person who’s on another trapeze.

Bjork Ostrom: To me that’s scarier.

Sherry Walling: Yeah, a human. You have to trust a human.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah, totally. What was the other one that you said? It was…

Sherry Walling: The swinging trapeze is where you do tricks on a trapeze that’s moving.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Sherry Walling: And then the aerial fabrics are, if you’ve been to Cirque de Soleil, and you see the light-

Bjork Ostrom: Incredible-

Sherry Walling: Fabric that’s hanging from the ceiling.

Bjork Ostrom: And also terrifying.

Sherry Walling: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Is it scary when you’re doing it?

Sherry Walling: It can be, for sure.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: I have a pretty healthy fear of heights, so yes, it’s pretty scary for me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And it’s interesting, I was talking to a friend, Steven, he has a site called GearJunkie, I don’t know if you’ve connected, he’s a Minnesota entrepreneur. He just did this huge ice climbing trip, and he talked about how intense it was, and how it’s the most meditative he is when he is doing that, because it requires such focus, such intense focus, because the stakes are so high. Is that part of it for you?

Sherry Walling: Yeah, absolutely.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: I mean, we talk about the monkey mind, or how our brain can jump from one thing to another, “Oh, I’ve got to remember to send that email.” And, “Oh, I’ve got to remember to get that shopping thing.” And, “Oh, I’ve got to…” But when you’re climbing, or when you’re on a flying trapeze, all that goes away, and your brain and your body are-

Bjork Ostrom: It has to almost.

Sherry Walling: It has to be safe. You’re singularly focused on one thing, which is a real gift to the brain, and obviously helpful for your body. You can get really strong during that process.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. P!nk, she’s really good at circus, is that right? When I think of somebody who I know who’s an incredible performer, live performances and stuff, where I’ve seen her do that in Cirque du Soleil in Vegas and whatnot. It seems like two things, movement and how important that is, but also potentially meditation. Do you view that as your meditation as well?

Sherry Walling: Absolutely.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: And then I would add another piece, circus is actually a team sport. You think about the single performer maybe that you see, but it’s very much a community that trains together, a community of coaches, a community of spotters. So it’s also a way for me to spend time with people that’s not based around my business or my family, but these are my circles of friendship too.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I was listening to a podcast, I don’t remember which one it was, but they were… It’s kind of in a similar vein to ZenFounder, it was a podcast called We Study Billionaires, but it was a guy talking about mental health on this podcast, Justin Karp, I think was his name, and now he’s in the world of a lot of health related stuff. Because he was this extremely focused high performer, but he started to lose his hair, he started to go blind, he started to lose his sight.

Sherry Walling: Wow.

Bjork Ostrom: All of these extreme reactions to what he was doing to himself, what he came to find out, from lack of sleep, and not eating well. But one of the things that he talked about within that was discovering that much of what he needed was what we had as humans for thousands of years, that within the last 100 years has kind of gone away. And it was things like connection to other people, it was consistent sleep. It was almost like these manifestations of culture where we don’t need to it, we’re not forced to connect in the way that we were before, and have community, weren’t forced to operate in the way that we were, and we’ve kind of then created a version of reality that’s detrimental to our health. Do you feel like the internet plays into that? Is that part of what we’re dealing with, is the fact that now we can be in a room and feel connected, but not actually connect with anybody?

Sherry Walling: Yeah, I think technology has offered lots of wonderful things, but has also offered us the opportunity and option of disrupting a lot of our natural rhythms. So whether it’s sleep related rhythms, but when we think about just relational rhythms, if you’re in a tribe, you are intertwined with maybe 100 people. Maybe you have a nuclear family, an extended family, and then you’ve got these other people around who you’re interconnected with. And so you feel their celebrations, and you feel their losses, and your life is touched when something happens to them. But now, with the connectivity of internet and news, we’re exposed to tragedy that befalls the whole human race. And although I think it’s important to stay informed and to be empathetic, I think a lot of us are also carrying the weight of events that were not necessarily designed to have the capacity to hold that much story, that much trauma, that much grief that’s happening around the world. So in a sense, it’s made our worlds too big, and I think psychologically, we’ll probably evolve to be able to handle it better, but right now we’re not.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re in this in between.

Sherry Walling: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: This morning, I had the news playing as we’re getting ready for the day, and Lindsay came down, I was like, “Do you want to listen to this?” And she’s like, “Not really.” I was like, “It’s just on the radio.” And then she’s like, “Do you think it’s irresponsible to not listen to the news?” And the spirit of it was that exact thing, which is, number one, it’s kind of a terrible way to start the days, to listen to all the bad things that have happened over the last 24 hours. But it’s that same thought of, you want to be responsible, you want be knowledgeable of what about what’s happening, but also you don’t want to be inundated with these things that create this psychological weight that you’re carrying. And yet, most of the people listening to this, the way that they create an income, the way that they’re making money is by engaging with a global audience on platforms that expose you to global news, so how do you do that well?

Sherry Walling: I think that’s where it is helpful to have a distinction between your professional/public self, and your private life. This gets harder and harder to do in the era of social media, and obviously almost all of… You and I are both on social media, and a lot of the listeners feel a lot of… Part of their business model is to be really present. But the weight of the audience as the feedback loop for your value as a content creator, the number of likes, the number of reposts, the number of shares, we all have these metrics in our mind of what constitutes good content and how we measure that. And we have to do that for our business, but we also have to separate that from our life, and from that little tribe of people that we create, where it really matters what they think, their feedback is really important to us. And that’s maybe different than the feedback loops from the masses.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’ve been reflecting on, what can I do in my life that will change how I feel, and how I operate within the world? And I think in a previous version of myself, I’d think, “Hey, I want to reach a certain level of success.” Or, “I want to achieve a certain thing.” And that’s still very much so a part of who I am and how I think, but one of the concepts that I’ve started to think more about is, one of the most beneficial things I could potentially do for myself is become really good friends with my three closest friends. I think my life would be better if that happened, versus if all of my business stuff doubled. And it’s such a strange reality to come up against, where there’s no metric to really track it, there’s no way to understand it. But if I double my connection with my three closest friends, I’m probably going to be in a better place. And yet I spend 98% of my time, not all of my time, but my active problem solving time-

Sherry Walling: Work time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, emailing, and I’m not party planning, I’m not… Lindsay gives me such a hard time about this, I bought a ping pong table a year ago, it’s a super nice one, I was like, “Here’s the plan.” And I haven’t used it once. That feels like it should be a metric that I’m tracking. But what are those other things that we can be doing that are helpful to our soul, which is good just for itself.

Sherry Walling: I love that language.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: Yeah. The language of the soul I think is really helpful to reintroduce to business conversations. And I think that language sometimes, it gets sticky with religious traditions, and sometimes people aren’t super comfortable with that word, but I think it implies a part of us that is beyond or separate from that external success. And it’s that inner world of wanting to have an inner world that’s beautiful and satisfying. One thing that I sometimes have people that I coach do, one practice, it’s a little bit dark, but it is to actually write out your obituary, and then reverse engineer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah.

Sherry Walling: If you say in your obituary, “Bjork was deeply loved by these three friends.” And they’re mentioned by name in the obituary, because their sense of that loss is so deep. And you’ve got to engineer that to be what is written about you. I think that can be helpful.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I don’t know a lot about stoicism, but one of the things I appreciate about it is this reflection the end of our own life, and I feel like that is a version of that, but also ties into this Stephen Covey, start with the end in mind, that’s the ultimate example, is what does it look like for you at the end of your life in terms of what people say about you? And if what you want that to be is different from what your current reality is, what does it look like to work backwards against that? I love that.

You talk a lot about grief and have experienced grief as we talk about loss and reflecting on our own loss, or our own lives, the end of our own lives. But I’ve also experienced loss and grief in your life as you’ve navigated loss of your brother, loss of your dad. And I know for me, we’ve navigated seasons of grief, and have had to figure out, what does it look like for us to continue to show up every day, but to show up in the truest version of ourselves? And that’s a hard thing to do. In your season of grief, which maybe we’re always there, what did you learn in going through that? And we can talk about your book, Touching Two Worlds, which dives deep into that world of grief.

Sherry Walling: Yeah, I think the title Touching Two Worlds is maybe the best summary of what I learned, which is that there was an invitation for me to be very present to grief, not numb it, not avoid it, not hide it away, but to say, “Hey, this is a really real and important part of my life as a human, is to feel deeply the losses of these people that I loved.” And to let that matter, let it hurt me, let myself feel it. And that’s one world, it’s the world of sadness. But the other side of that world is, of course, the world of love. If we feel lost so deeply, it’s because we loved so big, we tried so hard, we went so deep, we went all in. And so the other piece of this world is to live in a world where I am also leaning into something that’s joyful, that’s generative, that’s creative, that’s loving. And so for me, this time of grief was… I guess sometimes it felt like almost like a tight rope act of being in the both, and letting myself feel that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Why both? Was it an important thing to be in both of those, and what did that allow you to do?

Sherry Walling: Yeah. I think both because it was true, if that makes sense. I think the tendency for those of us who are business owners, we’re the people who make things in the world, we’re the leaders, is to stay above the surface, and not go into the depths. Because the depths are vulnerable, they’re uncomfortable, they’re painful, they slow down progress, it can feel like. And when we don’t do that though, we risk those things festering.

I mean, I’ve worked with so many entrepreneurs and leaders who have this sort of delayed grief, where they come to a point in their lives where they’re like, “Oh my goodness, I never grieved the death of my father.” Or, “I never grieved that significant loss.” And so they’ve been walking around in the world with a part of themselves totally cut off, which I believe does impact how you show up in your business, and your relationships, and your creativity and those things. It does matter. But also the why being both is because you can get a passport and go back and forth. You don’t have to go into a cave of monastic grief, and stop hanging out with your kids, stop laughing, stop doing circus, stop writing, stop growing your business. You can go back and forth.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When I think of those seasons that we’ve been in, it’s always surprising what seemingly contrasting feelings can show up, like laughter. You can be in a season of grief and also laugh, and not always, I think a lot of times you are in those seasons and you don’t feel that, but it feels like it just speaks to the complexity of human existence, that we can feel all of these things together. For somebody who is, let’s say, in that season, season of grief, and maybe they don’t have resources, or maybe feel like they don’t have immediate people around them that are able to walk with them, or understand what they’re going through, how do you take steps towards healing that grief, and would that even be language that you’d use? Are you healing grief?

Sherry Walling: I don’t use the language of grief because I don’t see grief as an injury. I see grief as the shadow side of love, it’s very much a part of the human experience, we will all hold it, and so it’s not a brokenness that needs repairing. It’s a little bit like music, sometimes you turn the volume up or down, sometimes the chords are dissonant, sometimes they’re harmonious, so you don’t want to get stuck in it. Sometimes people really suffer in grief, and they have trouble dancing with it or moving with it, so I don’t want to diminish the amount of psychological disruption or mental health pain that goes along with grief. I’m not saying, “Hey, it’s normal, just sit there.” But I am saying that it’s not necessarily a thing that I think we have to repair.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah.

Sherry Walling: So I wrote the book to try to normalize that, to give people a little bit of a guideline for some of the things that I found helpful. And there are really lovely grieving communities. Speaking of some of the benefits of technology, there are some really lovely, rich, wonderful Instagram channels around grief, and they’re super helpful and validating, and so people can reach out even in untraditional ways and find places of understanding and belonging.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s amazing how impactful other stories can be. And to your point, it feels like one of the great benefits of access to a global audience, or access to hundreds of thousands of people is, you do get those little pockets of people who are experiencing very similar things. That’s social media at its best, a hard to access community of people who are in a like-minded place. Would you know what those are off-hand? Is it little hashtags on Instagram, or…

Sherry Walling: I know so many of these. So there’s one called Untangled Grief that I really like. Refuge in Grief is another author, a woman named Megan Devine, who writes really beautifully about grief. Empowered through Grief. So there’s quite a lot, and there’s also local grief organizations in most major cities and towns.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and those would be people that you can connect with in person, kind of a roundtable.

Sherry Walling: Yeah, The Grief Project. Yeah. What is also interesting though, I mean you’ve known significant loss, and the more that you talk about your story, the more you find people who have similar stories.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally.

Sherry Walling: So by your decision to share about the loss of your child, for example, you find people who are like, “Oh, that happened to my cousin.” Or, “I had this story.” I lost my brother to suicide, which is a special kind of loss, or it’s just a unique experience of loss, but by deciding to speak about it openly, there’s a lot of people who are like, “Oh, I had the same experience.” And so you find your grief tribe that way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s amazing, and that exact experience happened for us, and it’s also one of the gifts of, at the point, having people who were familiar with us just from following online, you just are able to connect with that many more people, and say, “Oh my gosh.” People would reach out, and say, “This is my experience.” Or like you said, “We had somebody in our family where this happened.” And I think the other thing that happens in those experiences is, you go through it, and then your radar, your grief radar gets so fine-tuned that you are uniquely able to spot and respond to other people who have experienced that. My assumption now is, when you connect with somebody else who has lost somebody to suicide, you can be there for them in a way that nobody else can, and that is something for that other person on the other side is such a gift, to be there, and to understand, and to give in such a way that nobody else can.

Sherry Walling: It’s like you’ve traveled to this other country, and you have the shared language, and what kind of food they have there. It’s just this shared experience.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. So I have some more questions for you just us as creators and publishers, but I also want to make sure to have a chance to give a shout-out to this book, to your books, to make sure that people know where they can pick those up. Is it anywhere? Worked with the publisher, they’re available anywhere? Amazon-

Sherry Walling: Yeah, Touching Two Worlds was published by Sounds True, which is a major publisher, and then the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your mmm Together-

Bjork Ostrom: Family Podcast, yeah.

Sherry Walling: I did self-publish. Although I will say though, it’s my son who came up with a name for the book. I was like, “Where’d you hear that language? And also, good title, we’re taking it.” So that one is on Amazon.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. That’s great. So as we round out, we touched on this a little bit, but one of the things that I’ve noticed as a through line with, really, to varying degrees, anybody that we work with, is… Or anybody that we would talk to, anybody that we interact with in this space is, there’s the function of the work that we’re doing, you’re publishing content to social media, you’re developing recipes, you’re taking pictures, you’re building a brand or business, all of those, the function functional part of the business, but inevitably, everybody who’s listening to this is also dealing with themselves, and the struggles that come with doing all of those functional things, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, all of the emotional things that there isn’t as much… You’ve talked about this, there isn’t as many conversations happening around that, and so I think the perception is that it’s not as common.

But what we’ve found is it’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, it’s just nobody’s talking about it. So how do we as creators, founders, publishers, build in intentionality to not just get good at the function of our job, but also to get good at the health of our body and our brain? And you talked about it a little bit, but what does that look like on a repeating basis? What are the shields that we can put up to protect ourselves? And also, what are the tools that we can use that equip us to better fight back against that?

Sherry Walling: Yeah. I just want to echo how ubiquitous it is, how much anyone who is taking the risk to put themselves and their content out there in the world is battling through some version of, “I’m not good at this. This shouldn’t be me. I’m tired.” There’s always a negative story that they’re working through. I mean, that is also really hard, that’s why not everybody can do it, is because not everybody can struggle through some of that challenge. I think, we talked about a little bit, having this sense of personal and professional distinction is important, really anchoring into the people that love you no matter what your follower count is, or no matter how many eyes are on your pieces, but they just love you because you are, usually that’s your significant other, hopefully your parents, your siblings, your children.

Bjork Ostrom: What do you think it means to lean into that? What does that look like?

Sherry Walling: You know how when Mr. Rogers started Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he would come home and he’d take off his blazer and put on his sweater?

Bjork Ostrom: Uh-huh.

Sherry Walling: It means there’s a transition between your one self and your other self. It means when you are done being in front of the camera recording your YouTube video, you change into your sweatshirt and you go play with your kids. You’re transforming from one version of yourself to the other version of yourself very intentionally.

Bjork Ostrom: I remember a conversation with Lindsay, and it was in one of the harder seasons for me, and I said, “I think one of the important things for me to think about is, this is my job.” And it was almost like, “Oh my gosh.” It was this light bulb moment where I was like, “I could view this as a job.” And it was in a season where I was like, “I need to think of this as work.” It felt like the most genius idea ever, was to view my work as a job. But it was so helpful, especially in that season, to say, “This can be two separate things. I can have my job, and then I can have time at home, or friends, or with family.” And especially for people who are so intertwined with their brand, what does it look like to be passionate, and to do that well, but to not hold tightly to it, it feels like a hard thing to do.

Sherry Walling: It totally is.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sherry Walling: But it’s important, it’s sort of like any resource, you’re going to diversify your assets. You’re not putting every dollar into real estate, you’re not putting every dollar into the stock market, you’re diversifying where your resources are. Same with emotional resources. Obviously, we get a lot of validation, and love, and energy from our work, hopefully we get some of that from our family. I also think it’s really important for creators to have a hobby, something that is really different than the thing that they do all day to make money. Something that just exists for play, just camaraderie, companionship, and is a counterbalance to these other parts of themselves.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I love that idea, maybe being a finance guy, of diversification. But the peace of mind that you get, if this all goes away, if I don’t have followers, if I don’t have likes, do I have other places where I can go and still get what I need? Love, safety, security, attention, whatever those things are.

Sherry Walling: Yeah, validation.

Bjork Ostrom: Validation. And to know it’s from a source that is more steady.

Sherry Walling: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: What a great takeaway.

Sherry Walling: It’s imperative, it’s imperative. I mean, I think we’ve seen a lot of people who live in the public eye, whether it’s Anthony Bourdain or more recently, Heather Alexander, these are people who’ve built their lives in public, and who knows exactly what’s happening in the shadows of their inner world? But something wasn’t well, and so we lost them to suicide. But you have to have a sense of self that’s bigger than the work, that’s deeper than the work.

Bjork Ostrom: Man, I feel like that is a great sentiment to rest on, and to lean into, and to leave people with, to aspire to. And one of the ways they can do that is by consuming this type of content. I’ve been thinking about that for myself. I listen to business podcasts, real estate podcasts, computer podcasts, MacBreak Weekly, I’m like, “Tell me about computers.” But I’m like, “What you put in your head is what lives in your head, and so how do you be intentional to put stuff like this into your head?” And one of the ways that you can do that is through great podcasts like ZenFounder, and great books like the books that you’ve read. So if people want to do that, if they want to start putting more of this type of content into their head, if they want to start thinking about this, and rolling some of these habits into their daily routines, weekly routines. Can you talk about ZenFounder, and also talk about the work that you’re doing with founders to the extent that you have availability, or working with people on a one-to-one basis?

Sherry Walling: Yeah. Thanks for that. Yeah, my life’s work is sort of helping people navigate these spaces. So I do it in a variety of ways, there’s the top of funnel things, I’m sure your audience know that language.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we get it, you’re speaking our language.

Sherry Walling: You know it, you know it.

Bjork Ostrom: You live in this weird world where-

Sherry Walling: I do.

Bjork Ostrom: Your husband’s an entrepreneur, you’re an entrepreneur, you think entrepreneurially, you work with entrepreneurs, and then you also have the very soft skills of all the other stuff that you do.

Sherry Walling: Yeah. Yeah, so the podcast, of course, is widely available, zenfounder.com is where that lives. And then I have a couple of books as we’ve mentioned, that are accessible and available. And then I spend a lot of time working one-on-one with entrepreneurs, I also do some things in groups, and host retreats and events. It’s a full package mission, as your audience will know, but lots of different ways to engage and touchpoints. I have a team of folks that work with me that are also really amazing. So we really believe that you don’t have to do this by yourself, and most of the things that are bouncing around in your head that feel like insurmountable obstacles or things that are shadowy, painful parts of your experience, that usually there’s a way to cast some light on them, and have them feel a little bit differently, and a little bit lighter.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And all of that is through ZenFounder?

Sherry Walling: Yep. I’m also on Instagram at Sherry Walling. And my book is called Touching Two Worlds, and there’s a really beautiful website that goes along with that. If you’re really interested in grief work, touchingtwoworlds.com is where that one lives.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m guessing you knew some people that could help create beautiful websites? It’s a wonderful thing about the connections that you have in the world that you have.

Sherry Walling: That is true, but I also know my way around the back of Squarespace, I’ll tell you that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it kind of comes with the territory.

Sherry Walling: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Really appreciate, Sherry, not only what you do, the mission behind what you do, but also your willingness to come on and share your story. And I think what it does is, like we’ve talked about, open the door for other people to share as well, and it makes a difference. So thanks for coming on.

Sherry Walling: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey. Hi. Hello. Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Alexa here, and I’m here to bring you just a quick little update of what we have going on within the Food Blogger Pro membership in June. So if you’re interested in what the Food Blogger Pro membership is, instead of listening to me talk about it forever, you can just go to foodbloggerpro.com/join to learn a little bit more and get signed up right there. But in June, since this is the first full week of June, we actually published a coaching call last week. So that was with Zoha, with Bake With Zoha. Gosh, it was such a good episode. In this video, Bjork answered Zoha’s questions about things like optimizing recipes for SEO, especially when the recipes that Zoha develops are naturally highly competitive, if it matters where traffic comes from to maximize ad revenue, and what advice Bjork would give his past self.

It’s such a good one, and it’s currently live for all Food Blogger Pro members. On the 15th, we’re talking with Andrea, she’s our social media expert, and we’re talking all about Instagram. So how do you make Instagram work for you in 2023? That’s what we’re going to be focusing that live Q&A on. And like I said, that is on June 15th. And then on the 22nd, we are launching our full-blown course all about Clariti. So Clariti is our sister site, as you’re probably aware, they sponsor the podcast quite a bit. And in this course, you’re going to learn all about how to use Clariti for your site. And this is one of those things where Clariti really helps you identify different opportunities for optimizing your content. And you’ll see exactly how to do that in this course. So if you’re more of a visual learner, definitely check out this course to see if Clariti could be a good fit for you.

So that’s what we have going on in June. We always like to say that at the end of each week, your membership will look different because we’re constantly adding new content, and updating old content. So Food Blogger Pro is like our hub for the latest and greatest updated content. So again, if you’re interested in joining, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join, and learn more, and get signed up right there. But that is it for us this week, we appreciate you being here, and we’ll see you next time. And until then, make it a great week.

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