October 10th - 16th, marked New Zealand’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) where communities were urged to take the week as an opportunity to focus on mental wellbeing.
Having personally witnessed loved ones confronted with varying forms of mental illness, it is a subject matter I am familiar with and one I believe needs to be shared no matter who you are or what you do.
As BizDojo Wellington's Community Manager my role is to identify what people need to successfully grow their business. But I’m realising more and more that our focus shouldn’t purely be on the business, we need to shift our focus to the individual as well.
Recently, the global startup community 'Startup Grind' reported 72% of American entrepreneurs were affected by mental health issues. They go on to say that this could be correlated with the boundless ambition and drive that many associate with innovators and business owners. This boundless ambition to create and innovate has also been shown to have links with strong emotional states, and when this is coupled with the all-consuming nature of owning a business then mental wellbeing can take a hit.
We felt this was also an issue within our BizDojo community that was rarely discussed. For us, MHAW provided the perfect opportunity to bring attention to the importance of mental wellbeing for our often time stretched, and highly driven entrepreneurial residents.
Our community collaborated to produce a programme of events with resident-led discussions, movement therapy, and mindfulness, all with the intention of providing support, awareness and a bit of love.
My Top 5 takeaways from Mental Health Awareness Week:
BizDojo resident, Ben Cole discussed the positive impact meditation and mindful breathing can have in reducing stress and taking control of our own minds. Ben took us on a guided meditation for 10 minutes. We were taught a mantra to make it easy for us to take this practice into our daily lives.
2. Connect with nature and get moving.
We are too often strapped to our desks where we provide excuses to ourselves as to why we cannot take a break. To combat this, we organised a walking crew and headed up Mt Victoria into the bush only 15 minutes away from our sleeping laptops. Getting the blood flowing, having a conversation with our peers, and taking the time to be grateful for our surroundings did wonders for the soul.
3. Keeping the kettle on simmer.
The key message taught throughout the resident-led discussions was the importance of "keeping the kettle on simmer" which relates to identifying the triggers that may mean that kettle starts to boil and overflow. Explore and distinguish what wellbeing tools and daily rituals work for you to prevent these triggers from overwhelming you.
4. People will surprise you.
Nick Shewring, Co-founder of BizDojo, spoke candidly with our resident’s and his staff about his struggles to cope with scaling a business and being responsible for the individuals within it. The key message here was, let’s talk about it. Business is tough so let’s be open about the challenges business owners face.
5. Thank You.
One of the most rewarding moments of the week was hearing one of our resident’s say thank you. Thank you for providing the forum for mental health and wellbeing to be explored and acknowledged. This is what MHAW was about, our resident’s knowing that we do give a shit and that support is available both from us and from their peers in the community.
Whilst MHAW was a week-long programme, we see this as an opportunity to provide this kind of support ongoing to our residents. Nationally, BizDojo will be looking at how we can take what we learnt from this week and implement mental well-being initiatives into the overall BizDojo experience so that we more effectively support our residents and the companies they build.
Monique O’Malley is the Community Manager for BizDojo Wellington, when she’s not practicing her mindfulness she’s yelling at the NBA.