2014: Mental Health, The Freshman 15, and Showing Up Anyway


 Happy New Year! Let's talk about last year.

I know it's not trendy to talk about the previous year at the top of the new year.  
I love how everyone only talks about year overview and reflection topics in December because they had it in their editorial calendar to get that done during that particular time.  Admittedly, I'm not one of those people who had their sh!t together enough in December to create such a timely post.

You ever have a bunch of ideas and plans for all the things you want to accomplish and then life gets in the way? After feeling like I was finally seeing the light after five months of putting out fires, another crisis appeared towards the end of December.  And so here I am two weeks into the new year and sitting down to not only finally write a recap of the previous year, but also give a long overdue update.  You're right, it's not really a big deal Evi, just get to the point. I'm judging myself.  Remember, I'm a recovering perfectionist.  Bear with me.

I learned a lot about myself last year. It was a really tough time all around for my husband and I. We've been working on getting our financial footing back since one of his biggest contracts ended unexpectedly, and so we've both been in start-up mode. Just when everything was finally coming together and business was back on track, an unexpected trip to the emergency room led to an appendectomy, and he was out of work for 2 and a half months. Around the same time, I had negotiated a larger contract with a client and then they suddenly had a cash flow issue and it was terminated. We were also playing house, as we had agreed to take in my teenage niece to help out my sister's family during a really rough time. Then right at the end of the year, an incident happened with someone really close to me, and we were finally able to get him the support he needed.

The Year of Mental Health

To summarize all that happened in 2014, the best explanation is that it was the year of mental health. 2014 was the year that prominent and impactful Founders Karyn Washington of For Brown Girls and Titi Branch of Miss Jessie's took their own lives. It was a year where my black (and some white) friends realized after the influx of back-to-back killings of people of color at the hands of police, they needed a safe space to address and face the weight of racism they deal with on a daily basis and/or the state of race relations today.

Mental health is a taboo subject by itself.  Add African-American culture, American culture, the expectations and demands of being an entrepreneur, and family dynamics to the mix, and it only gets more complicated in terms of stigma, treatment, and support necessary to tackle things like depression or chemical imbalance.

When I was very young, I just knew I wanted to be a psychologist. It's something that comes naturally to me. I have a great amount of empathy and understanding, the ability to disarm people, and make people feel comfortable talking about anything.  So I don't shy away from mental health issues. All I care about is getting to the root of a problem and then finding solutions.  Looking back on the last half of 2014 where I spent the majority of my energy doing the best I could to support those closest to me, I realized how important that part of my personality is within my family.

For me personally, it took a mini-vacation in May after almost five months of straight hustle, to realize that I was running on fumes and suffering from burnout.

I gained seven pounds in the last half of the year. Just enough weight to put my favorite pair of Levi's in a far corner of the closet, and make me feel slightly less confident, less energetic, and less fabulous.

I felt the weight and stress of my finances. This year had a lot of ups and downs. I accomplished many of my financial goals in terms of processes and getting organized. However, there were times over the year where I was eating pancakes for dinner and preparing to be evicted one month, and then hosting a fundraiser, signing up clients, and sipping mimosas in Mexico the next.

In 2014, I fought hard to keep going and stay sane through everything, and then also make sure I was there for my family and my clients to help them navigate these waters as well. It was a really interesting time filled with reminders that there is so much power in the choices we make, and our paths are interwoven. We really are here to help each other whether we want the help or not, and no matter how much we might resist.

The Good

2014 also showed me that good things happen when we don't resist help, and especially when we ask for the help we need. This year also had a lot of firsts for me. I celebrated a year of being president of Femfessionals Atlanta, women's professional network for down to earth, supportive business women and we had a fantastic anniversary event. I launched the Social Hand Up and we brought all kinds of interesting people together that are usually never in the same room, and raised over $3000 dollars to support children in our community during their summer camp program. I was also a nominee for the Under 30 For the Vision award. I served on the Atlanta Regional Commission's Innovative Subcommittee, which has been really eye-opening and interesting. And I came up on a year of facilitating the All In Circle that helped a group of amazing entrepreneurial women make huge waves in their lives and businesses. I got a good bit of what I wanted to accomplish done.  I had a slew of difficult conversations, and was strong enough to say "No" in instances where in the past I would have automatically said "Yes" against my best interests. I even had a really nice period where I was running 3-4 times per week and meditating regularly. And I'm really happy to have had a client gift me a much needed vacation to Mexico.

What I've Learned

Mental Health was the theme of the year and Perseverance was present in every lesson learned. As an entrepreneur this is the part about our growth we tend to take for granted. It's not simply about getting through difficult or scary conversations, putting yourself out there at an event or pitch competition, it's also the day-to-day struggle of putting one foot in front of the other when your whole world seems to be ripping apart at the seams.

I wasn't able to accomplish all of the things in my business that I had set out to do at the top of the year. I was basically only able to show up because of how much stress I was under and new situations that forced me to adapt immediately kept popping up. But in the end I’m proud of myself because showing up is 90% of the battle.

I wouldn't mark 2014 as the year of amazing success in my business, but I realized that I was wife, nurse, mom, daughter, aunt, sister, coach and friend to the best of my abilities. That's why I started this business in the first place. So I could have the freedom and flexibility to be the best me in all of those roles.

2014 Take-Aways:

1. You can be a really self aware person and not even realize that you're burned out.

2. Vacations are just as important as the work you have to get done.

3. Never forget the reasons you started your business.

4. Whether you're just starting out, or have been an entrepreneur a while, at some point you will gain weight.  Instead of viewing it as the Freshman 15 all over again, weight gain during times of stress as an entrepreneur can be thought of as pregnancy weight (even dudes gain weight when their partner is pregnant!). A friend told me this and suggested I consider a new project in business or extreme focus on tasks as the process of birthing something new. Temporary weight gain then becomes just a normal part of the process. ::snaps::

5. Get your shit together around your relationship with and mindset towards money and abundance.

6. The negative self talk is real.  Find ways to nip this in the bud.

7. Everything happens right on time

8. Mental/Spiritual/Emotional/Physical fortitude is so necessary.

9. Having the right people in your life that actively support you and want you to succeed is a must.

10. You can say "No" and ask for help only as long as you’re clear on what you want and your priorities.