"It's not as easy to have the conversation about mental health as it is to have about physical health."
We are joined this week by Sara Boilen, clinical psychologist and founder of Sweetgrass Psychological Services (oh yeah, she's also an avid outdoorswoman). Sara joins us to talk about leveling up yourself in this pandemic - including tips on coping strategies, creativity over Zoom, and leadership in times of strife. Sara also dives into mental health stigma and the debate over spending time outdoors right now. You're going to love this episode!
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Ep 5.3 Transcript
Lisa: What's going on all you outdoor creatives. How's it going?
Lisa: Welcome to an episode. It's your hosts, Lisa and Iris from WHEELIE, and we are excited. Today's going to be a really, I think, really kick ass episode.
Iris: Yeah. This is one of my favorite episodes that we've done so far.
Lisa: Out of all five seasons?
Iris: I think so.
Lisa: Wow. Yeah, that's a good one. There's, there's a lot of meat or a lot of tofu or a lot of veggies depending on how you eat. There's a lot, there's a lot of meat in this one.
Iris: But before we get to our very special guest this week, what's been going on at WHEELIE?
Lisa: Oh, man, Iris, it is the day after earth day. So we've got our earth day hangovers going. And you know, environmentalism is really important to us at WHEELIE. And we are doing the plastic swear jar challenge through the Changing Tides Foundation, which is a really cool thing and you can still get involved in it if you're listening to this podcast. So the point of the challenge is to bring awareness to the amount of single use plastics we use daily by creating some accountability. So, um, every time you use or purchase an item of single use plastic, then you put a swear fine into your square jar. Um, and so, you know, a dollar in the jar or whatever feels fair for every single piece of single use plastic that you use. And then at the end of the week, you have the option to donate all your swears to the Changing Tides Foundation and, um, that will be used to benefit their environmental initiatives.
Iris: Awesome. Go earth.
Lisa: Go earth. And, Iris, while we're talking about earth day and eco-friendly organizations who, uh, who stands out on our client roster that is just kicking ass and, um, caring about the earth?
Iris: We have so many clients who do a lot of work towards conservation and being eco-friendly with their products and shipping. Like our friends at Mana Threads and we had Amelia on the, the podcast last season. We also had Mallory from Kind Apparell on the podcast last season, and both of them with their clothing wares are focused on sustainability. So Mana Threads is creating an entire line that can biodegrade in a landfill. So we're not just throwing more and more, um, plastics and clothing into the landfill to be there for a thousand years. And Kind Apparel uses plastic water bottles to create their fabric that makes up their dresses and skirts and sports bras and everything. So saving plastic water bottles from the landfill.
Lisa: Along those lines. Polartec is doing similar things with their fabric to be more eco friendly and sustainable.
Iris: We've also worked with, um, some conservation groups like River Design Group and Intermountain West Joint Venture. We've worked with Ranchlands out of Colorado.
Lisa: Yup. To sustainably build ranching into the future. Ducks Unlimited does a lot for conservation of wildlife. I just love saving animals. We work a lot with the Whitefish Trail. We work a lot with... actually tons of different trail organizations to help build trails and promote safe trail use.
Iris: Yeah. So every day is earth day here at WHEELIE.
Lisa: It pretty much is, isn't it? We could always do better. But I think one of the things that really keeps me going and keeps me fired up is that we try to use marketing... Um, or we try, we try to invest our time marketing what matters and, um, doing the best we can to make the world a better place.
Iris: Yeah. So who do we have on the show today?
Lisa: Speaking of making the world a better place, we have a really cool guest on our podcast today. Um, it was amazing to speak with Dr. Sara Boilen. She is trained as a clinical psychologist and founder at Sweetgrass Psychological Services, and she's also a mountain athlete, dog lover, all around kick ass human being.
And I'm honored that she put some time into our podcast and has so much good advice for people in our industry.
Iris: Yeah. We asked Sarah on the podcast to be a part of level one and to speak on what it means to level up yourself from the mental health standpoint. Um, something that a lot of leaders, and especially outdoor industry people can have struggles with or can feel like they can't talk about it.
And so we had Sarah on to give us just some ideas on coping strategies. She talks about creative work and how we have to improvise because now we're all working from home and using zoom calls. And that's such a different experience than being together as a team. Um, she talked about creating community remotely and how we have this unique opportunity to create brand new communities across all sorts of boundaries and how to build up culture with just tiny moments and fun, fun things as we're going through these tough times. So this is an awesome episode. Like I said, one of my favorites that we've done, and I can't wait for you to hear it
Lisa: Hey, Sarah, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Sara: It is literally my pleasure.
Lisa: It's going to be amazing. Um, the first question we ask everyone is to describe where you are and what you're looking at.
Sara: Awesome. I am in my dog's bedroom, um, which some people might refer to as a guest bedroom, but it is definitely my dog's bedroom. There's a queen size bed covered in dog hair. And then I have a nice window view of, uh, some forest and our neighbors’ land. Um, and then some laundry drying, uh, in the corner. Yeah. It's a really nice home office. \
Lisa: That's fantastic. And for our, for our audience, um, can you kind of explain who you are and what you do and why that's important to our mountain community?
Sara: Yeah, I am a clinical psychologist by training and I am the founder of Sweetgrass Psychological Services, which is a community-minded, um, psychotherapy practice in Whitefish, Montana, soon to be also in Columbia Falls, Montana. And, um. I got into the field of psychology because I had, um, lost my dad when I was eight and sort of realized at that point that we all need helpers. We all need people who we can rely on, who we can talk to and who can, you know, help us weather the storms.
And then as I got older and I became a mountain athlete and I moved to Montana, um, I became not only passionate about helping people kind of weather the storms, but helping people kind of become brighter versions of themselves. So not just helping dig you out of a hole, but helping you get to the top of the mountain. And, um, I think mountain communities suffer harder in some ways with mental health issues, we typically have less access to resources. We have higher suicide rates. We have higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse. Um, and many practitioners, you know, really skilled, well educated folks, stay in the cities where they were educated. And so I am passionate not only about helping the individuals that walk through the door of Sweetgrass, but kind of building up a community in which there is greater mental health, mental wellness and resilience.
Lisa: That's beautiful. And I'm so excited to have your perspective, especially because our audience has a lot of marketing managers and creative directors and people in leader- in leadership positions at outdoor companies. And so, um, quite often in the outdoor industry, you get promoted because you're good at a skill such as marketing or social media, and you just keep getting promoted and promoted. And there's not as much leadership training often. And so I know a lot of my friends and I are grappling with sort of like... what's your advice to leaders or people in leadership positions during this time of uncertainty and abrupt change?
Sara: That's a great question. And, um, I have a few kind of different ideas.
So first, I see our role as leaders as being kind of the anchor in our business and the, you know, rock in our team. And, um. I dunno about for you, Lisa. But for me, this has been a hard time personally as well as professionally. Um, as a business owner, it's been really scary. And as a human being, it's been really unnerving.
Um, I'm introverted, so I've not minded the social distancing and the same way that other folks have, but it's still impacted me. And when we as the rock become fractured or you know, a little shaky, that can really shake our team. And the answer to that is not necessarily to pretend as if we are more solid than we are. It's to find a way to be simultaneously vulnerable, responsive to the needs of our people. And you know, also a container and a space for them to come. And so, you know, I've been working really hard on making sure that my coping strategies are, you know, solid. And that's been tough, right? Cause for many of us skiing, running, all the things that we do have been compromised in some sense.
And, um, and yet, we have to be more on our game than ever. So how do we do that with less, you know, access. And for some the answer is whisky, you know, and maybe that works. And for others it's, you know, finding ways to connect, reading books that really inspire you. Taking up old hobbies like photography, or, for me, baking. And, um, finding ways to kind of refill so that when my team comes to me and needs me, I can be, you know, a little bit more solid than I felt yesterday.
Um, and then I think, you know, as I mentioned, kind of managing that vulnerability piece, you know, showing up as human, being able to say, “this is really hard. Yes, these things are uncertain. Um, here's how we're supporting you and here's what I can promise you and here's the assurance that I can give you, and I'm right there with you.” You know, “I know what this feels like.” And, um, I think sometimes as leaders, we think we have to be, you know, perfect or, um. You know, unfazed. And yet we're not. And so how can we show up honestly, without, you know, dumping on our people. Does that make sense?
Lisa: It does. And there's so much in there. I'm curious, how can we, or humans who identify as mountain athletes, um, kind of decide if their new coping strategy is solid or not so solid.
Sara: Yeah, that's a great question. Um, and I, I would say the same is actually true for our regular coping strategies, right. For me, uphill skiing or ultra running are healthy coping strategies sort of on paper, right. But they become unhealthy when they start compromising my ability to, um, meet expectations or be fully present with my family or do the things I know I need to do.
So it's great if I'm waking up early to skin the hill before I work, it's not great if I'm late for work as a result. And I would say the same translates… so you know, if whisky has become your coping skill, that's okay, you know, to some extent. As long as it's not interfering the next day, as long as it's not interfering that day.
Um. And making sure that our coping skills are diverse. So I recommend that everybody kind of has five and five. So five things that you can do to keep yourself well, and then five things you can do when you feel a crisis coming on. And so for me, you know, skiing and running have really been more limited. I'm dealing with an injury right now and I can't go to physical therapy because of the whole social distancing thing. And so, um, you know, one and two are, are compromised. So what's three, four, and five? And I think the problem is when we only have one or two on our list.
And, um, and then I also think making sure that those five things on the list are diverse, right? So if they're all physical, what happens if you get injured? Right? Or if they're all social, like I hang out with this friend, or this friend, or this friend, and that's your whole list. Well, what happens when you can't hang out? So making sure that they're, you know, maybe there's one social thing, there's one physical thing, there's one kind of mindless thing, one mindful thing, and then one like hobby-fun thing. Um, to make sure you're kind of well-rounded.
Lisa: That's very tactical advice.
Sara: Yeah. Yeah.
Lisa: I really liked that.
Sara: Yeah. It's, it's coming from a person who has only recently wrote down her five things. Just to be clear, this is one of those examples of revealing my own vulnerability while still demonstrating the capacity to care for others.
Lisa: Love it. Love it. Um, one thing I'm very excited to get your take on is kind of this... I think it's fun. However I don't think everyone thinks it's fun, but the fact that now we are all working remote and suddenly I'm learning so much more about my employees and clients and friends as as like... I don't, I don't necessarily go to my team's houses. And now I'm working with them and doing video chats with them in they’re, you know, some of them are in their bedrooms with roommates walking around and some have kids throwing footballs over their heads. And I mean it, we're learning so much about each other that maybe we wouldn't normally share. Um, and so from a, you know, from a leadership or an employer standpoint, how do you recommend navigating this sort of, perhaps intrusion, um, and in a healthy way?
Sara: That is such a great question. Um, okay. So I think two things. So one, Mmm. I think it kind of goes back to walking that line between, you know, strong, solid leadership and vulnerability. So I had a client session the other day with a client who was just being so hard on himself about, you know, not getting up and not doing this, and not, you know, doing all of the things that he sees his friends doing on social media.
And he's like, I haven't even baked a single loaf of sourdough bread, you know? And I was like, can I show you something? And I stood up and revealed that I was wearing fleece pajama pants, essentially. And, um, you know, I did that in some ways to bring some levity, but also to just show like, I'm human too.
And we're all seeing that right now. Um. You know, Zoom seems to have a way of highlighting pimples, uh, like of like, we might as well sort of own it and roll with it, like kind of in the, you know, jujitsu style - as opposed to like trying to fight it and pretend.
I think my first week I set up my camera on my computer in a way that all you could see was like a blank wall behind me. And one of my clients was like, that looks really creepy, you know? And I was like, Oh, good point. Um. So we are going to have those boundaries pushed right now. And I think it's a matter of figuring out like, where are those hard stops? You know, like, I don't want my, my people seeing my laundry. Right? So I do need to angle the camera away from it. But can I let them see a little bit more human side of me? And I think the answer has to be yes right now.
Um, and then as you know, any good therapists would say, right. And then process it. Talk about it. What is it like, you know. We will be changing things that we'll never be able to unchange. You know, your staff and your clients will never unsee your house. Right? So better to talk about it, kind of own it. Note that it's there. Then to try and pretend or put yourself in front of a blank wall that like everybody is like, you just look like a creeper, you know?
Lisa: And would you recommend using that same tactic from an employer, speaking to employees like, “Hey man, I like your stuffed animal collection back there.”
Sara: I mean, I think so, right? Like, I think we all need to humanize ourselves a little bit more. And, um, you know, and I think we have to be careful. So I, you know, sort of implore you and any other business owner or employer or supervisor who's listening to sorta think like, okay, like when does this become about me? And you know, when is it about being human? Right? And so if... if I'm aware that I'm starting to lean on my employees too much, or, you know, I'm starting to feel like this got a little too casual, right? I do need to reign it in and I need to maybe even set a boundary verbally like, “Hey, I know I'm in your bedroom right now, and like, this is still super professional and I still respect you tremendously and, you know, I hope we can figure out this weirdness.” Um. And sometimes even just naming it is enough to make it feel less awkward, you know?
And then there's another piece to it. Like I've had employees and clients, like almost say, “bye, I love you” at the end of video chats because that's what they're used to doing with their parents or their spouses. And, uh, you know, it gets awkward real fast. Um. But as long as we talk about that and we acknowledge like, yeah, this is weird and none of us have a script for this, and I'm glad your stuffed animals are there. And you know, it's cool to know that about you. And like, you know, it's not going to change how I think about you.
Lisa: That's, that's really nice. That's comforting. You know? That's, those are good words. And I guess that ties into the next question I wanted to ask you, which is sort of, um… for our marketing managers or anyone who's leading a creative team - most of our listeners do, um, to some capacity - where you have to bring so much of yourself to your creative work to really make it beautiful and put the precision and care and accuracy. There's a lot of, a lot of, um, self that goes into that work. So how can our leaders hold space for their employees and teammates and inspire creativity when maybe it's not there? And we also can't get in front of each other. We can't be in person.
Sara: Yeah. So I think a lot of your work and my work is actually really similar, Lisa, in that it's all, um, improv. You know, we're bouncing ideas back and forth and, uh. We're building this energy together, you know, that then brings us to this next level, and that is really hard to do over a screen. And, um, you know, I would say humbly, like, I don't know that I have an answer for that necessarily, but I think the thing that I, um, have been trying and working with is like, um… So I use a lot of visualizations and I use a lot of like, body awareness and being centered. And, uh, you know, when we plant our feet firmly, we can stand up taller, sort of mumbo jumbo.
And I think in this time when we're all feeling so off balance, um. That is some of what's getting in the way of that creativity. So yes, there is, you know, a downside to doing it over video. We're not as creative. We're not as spontaneous. We're not as able to do improv over the screen. And yet, I also think a big chunk of our limitations these days is that our minds are elsewhere. So my mind is thinking about whether or not my business is going to survive this. You know, I'm personally thinking about whether or not I'm going to lose a family member to coronavirus and all of those distractions get in the way. And so when we can become really centered and super present, that's when I think the juices can flow, right? So if I can take five minutes or five seconds, either, you know, even before a meeting or a video call and really ground in. And try and put the distractions away - So I have a little ritual. When I closed the door to my little home office, I sort of visually note or kind of mentally note, like, what am I leaving outside of this door? And I try to just be fully present. Um. And you know, getting into some of those mindfulness practices or having some sort of routine of like, you know, if something pops in your head and you're feeling really distracted, write it down and set it aside and come back.
Um, because right now, part of what's limiting all of us is that our brains are trying to multitask with the multitask being, uh, an existential threat and you can't expect anybody to like come up with really great ideas when they're worried about life or death matters. And so how do you find moments of pause and a break from that worry to dive in. And I've personally found that it's actually relieving. Like, I'm like, Oh, cool, I got to think about my job right now. Like wholeheartedly in this moment, I don't have to think about coronavirus. I don't have to think about, you know, my spouse working on the other side of that door. Like all of those things are just like gone and I'm just here. Does that make sense? That like, did I even answer the question? I feel like I just went way down a little rabbit hole of my own device.
LIsa: I loved that. That was great.
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Iris: So Lisa, we have been working remotely for, gosh, a few weeks now, four or five weeks now, and if our listeners can't tell, that's why our sound might sound a little bit different because we're coming at you from home, not from a podcast studio. And I love how Sara brought up creativity now in this new remote working time that we're in.
And I've definitely been feeling that because we're such a small agency and we sit, um, in a little pod, we call ourselves the pod squad, the part of the creative team. And I'm used to sitting right next to people and being able to bounce ideas off of them in real time. And creating with them in real time and just popping over to look at someone's screen. And that's all been changed and it is different.
Um, I think if I was maybe an accountant or an actuary or, um, some other type of job that wasn't as creative, I would be… home run, easy peasy to be working from home. But I have found it to be a bit difficult when you're trying to do creative work and stuff that's normally collaborative. And now we have these virtual walls in between us.
Lisa: Thanks for sharing that. How are you mitigating that or embracing it or, um, hating it?
Iris: Um, I think just trying to plug normalcy in as much as possible. So keeping up with our group chats and trying to crack jokes and stuff in our morning meetings and keep everything as normal as possible so it feels as close to a regular work day as we can with all these other changes that we're having at the same time.
Lisa: Absolutely, and from my perspective as a creative director, it's very difficult to quote unquote “direct creativity” from afar. And so what I'm enjoying about it is really pushing our creative team to think deeply and be... I guess trust their self-sufficiency in their creative ideas as well as understanding the bigger vision for our clients. And so that's been a really fun letting go process for me. Um, I'm surprised by how much I'm really leaning into that and enjoying it, but it also sounds, sounds like that is put in a little more weight on our team. Um, so that's great feedback. It's an interesting balance.
Lisa: But we're making it work. We're making it happen.
Iris: Yeah, we are. Okay. Let's get back to Sara because she's about to go into the importance of self care as leader.
Lisa: Also, how... a lot of, a lot of brands are talking about self care and a lot of our audience is, you know, responsible for speaking on behalf of outdoor brands. From your perspective, how can brands talk about self care in an authentic, maybe helpful way? Um, I don't know. What's, what are your thoughts around brands normalizing self care and, and things like that? Cause you see a lot of that happening right now.
Sara: Yeah, that is a great question. I do feel like mental health is having a moment and I'm really excited about it, and so it's awesome when I see things come through my newsfeed or in my inbox, you know, where it's like, Oh wow, you guys are thinking about this stuff. This is great. And yet we know there's this huge stigma and it's not as easy to have the conversation about mental health as it is to have about physical health. So I commend everyone who's trying, and even if it seems awkward, like whatever, right? Um, and I would actually say like, embrace the awkward, embrace the discomfort, and acknowledge the things that are there.
So I'll kind of break that down. So there's actually a movement, you know, called like, embrace the awkward. So we know that those conversations and those. You know, discussions and putting it out there can feel really awkward. So just roll with that. Like be like, “I have never talked about this before, but I am going to try, bear with me.” Right? And so in that humble, vulnerable place, you're sort of saying like, “yup, don't know what I'm doing either with this.” Um. And then I would also say like people about it, like name the thing, right? Right now, the, the common experience that all of us are having is one of grief. And we all know grief, grief, especially as mountain athletes, right? I don't think there's a single one of us who hasn't lost somebody. And even if we haven't lost somebody, we've lost a dream. We've lost a chance. You know, we've had an injury. And we know what the loss of anticipated reality, that grief that you feel when things aren't going as they expected, you know, when the weather window isn't right.
And, um, with that, I suggest operating in those metaphors, you know, really leaning into what you do know as a way of describing the things that you don't.
Um, and then I would say, you know, kind of lastly is… you know, asking questions, having curiosity, coming from that stance of like, I don't really necessarily know how this is going to be received, but I'm going to put it out here anyway, um, is brave and cool. And, you know, as mountain athletes, like, we are risk takers, that's what we do. Um, so how do we show up in that same risky place when it comes to our feelings, you know? And, um. I think it's a lot harder, you know? And yet I think we all have experience with that.
So one of the things that some of my friends and I have been talking a lot about is like, we do hard things right. And that can feel kind of whitewashed. It's like, yeah, we do hard things, but can we also talk about how we struggle with hard things? Can we talk about how sometimes we want to quit during hard things? Uh, would it be safe to say that I don't really want to do this hard thing. And we all know that feeling.
We know what it's like to be halfway up and to want to give up. We know what it's like to be exhausted and depleted and feel like we can't go on anymore. And whether you're talking about that in terms of a mountain pursuit, um, or in terms of, you know, your mental wellness, it's all the same.
Lisa: Yeah, that's, that's an awesome perspective to bring. And I know that you are a community minded, um, business owner. And, and brand Sweetgrass as a community minded place for people to go. Um, and I'm curious how you're seeing the word community shift or expand or change as, as people are forced to go digital and what that might mean, um, for people that… that are working with, you know, branded experiences and building branded communities, um, within the outdoor industry. Whether that's an event or, um, a Facebook group. There's all these different communities out there and how can we respond in a community... community minded way?
Sara: Yeah. So like the first one, right, is like, give free stuff away. [laughs] We've been doing webinars every week and people are like, so down with the webinar, you know, like, here's mental health 101, right? Um. But I think what's so cool is that, so the last webinar we did was on parenting, and we had parents from Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado all on our webinar joining us.
And I mean, we have never had - I've never even tried to have - an out of state presence, right. And suddenly, like the walls are down, like however you want to define community right now. Do it like you get to decide, you know, who is in your community in a way that we've never gotten to before because suddenly everybody is simultaneously alone and tremendously connected.
Um, and so I think that figuring out like, you know, starting from that place of intention of like, who do I want on the team right now? I really actually want urban professionals who are suddenly stuck at home. Like, cool, I'm going to design something that speaks to them. And are they normally part of the community? Maybe not. Right. But now they can be.
Like, I feel like there's been this like tremendous leveling of the playing field and we're all stunned and then anxious. And then confused and disoriented, denial, grief, like we have literally all gone through all of the same, um, experiences. So let's bring it together. You know, and people are hungry. They are so hungry to be connected.
Um, and then the last thing I'll say about that is that I think right now, more than anything, people are looking for a sense of purpose. So folks who have been laid off or even folks who are working from home don't feel the regular sense of like, “I'm a part of this community. I am going to work. I am doing the thing.” They feel isolated and they feel dejected and they feel lost. And so if you have something, some skill or some product or some experience that can help folks feel like they are a part of something bigger and that they have purpose and meaning, that is going to be huge because that's what we need right now.
I mean, that's the antidote to existential threat... is purpose. So find it and help them find it in themselves.
Lisa: Hmm. I love that. I love that. Um, I'm kind of okay with the world being a little more existential.
Sara: Yeah! I'm like, I hope book sales of Man's Search for Meaning or because everybody needed to read it anyway, so now's a great time.
Lisa: Do you have any advice on creating inclusion, um, in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion, um, and, and as our communities expand to reach out to people who, um, maybe aren't typically thought of or, um want to be part of a community that they aren't yet part of, or how, how can we be more inclusive, um, as we, as we create our online communities?
Sara: That's a great question. And you know, it's funny, right? You and I are having this conversation over some of the poorest, uh, internet available because of where we both live. And you know, I've been painfully aware of that, that lots of folks don't even have the ability to connect, um, because of their, you know, accessibility issues.
And so I think while the internet has been awesome, like, I've noticed that like the catalogs I've received have really diminished. And I wonder why. Like I'm just sitting here, I would read a catalog cover to cover right now. I've got nothing else to do, you know, and yet they're not coming. Um, and we know that, like, our postal service is struggling. Like, let's send people things in the mail, right? Like, you don't have to have a really great internet connection.
Um, and then thinking about, you know, um... I tend to think about diversity on like a really micro level. So like when we offer webinars, we're offering them in the evening, not just during daytime hours, because we want parents to be able to attend them after they've, you know, put their kids to bed. Um. And so I think, and you know, urban versus rural, right? Like we have this ability right now to break down all of these barriers. And it's all about how we communicate that.
And for me, I'm often thinking about mental health and accessibility and affordability issues. We're offering free services basically to anyone who needs it right now. And, um, we're doing that because that's what our community needs. And I see a lot going into supporting healthcare workers. Um, but like, you know, today I'm taking 30 masks to our local grocery store because the clerks there, it doesn't seem like are getting masks, you know, and I want to make sure they have them.
So it's like making sure that we're not just sort of streamlining our processes, but we're thinking about who's on the fringes right now and who's on the fringes might actually be different from her who is usually on the fringes. Um, yeah. I wish I had better answers for that cause it feels like it's like the... the dam has opened and the water is rushing and it's rushing in these very specific channels. Um, and yet there are all these other channels, like people who don't have good internet, kids who don't have parents who are going to attend to them long enough to make sure that they get their schoolwork done or they get access to that really cool free online thing.
And, um... You know, I think that's where we lean on neighbors and we say like, you know, who could you be helping right now and how could you be helping them? Um, and that helping doesn't have to look like, you know, buying them groceries, but helping can look like just, you know, knocking on their door, standing six feet away and asking if they're doing all right. So, yeah, I dunno. I wish I had better answers for you on that one.
Lisa: Yeah, I mean, that's so interesting to think about what times, a lot of, a lot of like exercise or a lot of webinars, you know, and how the time of day does impact different people for these digital- digital events.
Sara: Yeah. Yeah. And they don't, I mean, we're all doing nothing in the evenings. Like why not have things be available in the evenings, right? Yeah.
Lisa: Yeah. Interesting. Um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you would like to tell our creative community?
Sara: Yeah, so I thought of two things that I would like to share is like how you're keeping your team spirit up right now. And Lisa, I don't know what you're doing at WHEELIE. Um, but like, we've had a group thread, text thread, you know, that we've been using pretty much every day with like hysterical, memes about, uh, teletherapy mostly. And, um, this weekend I'm doing like a delivery run to all my team members’ houses, bringing them little care packages, um, because so much of what happens to build culture in our work groups happens in these really tiny interactions, not in these overt ways. And so how do we create those little tiny moments when we're not bumping into each other in the break room? We're not seeing each other in the hallway. Um, and I'm still working on that. So I'm curious, you know, if you have any great ideas about like, how do you, how do you do that? Like I was like, man, there's this book that I've just been loving. I'm like, maybe I just send it to everybody, you know? And then, you know, make them talk about it with me over the text. I dunno. What are, what are your ideas about that?
Lisa: So I ordered from a local potter. We did some special, like, work from home coffee mugs so that we all have the same exact mug. And when we are at our dorky little morning meetings, we hold up our mugs that, you know, or we like take, we send photos of our mugs in weird places throughout our homes to each other all day long in our group text and kind of like we are united over the fact that we all have the same object that we didn't have when we were in the office.
Sara: I love that. And what a great way of support, like a local artist as well. That's great.
Lisa: Yeah, and it's all, you know... Again, it's, we're, we're, we're a creative team, so it's like fun to take photos and, um, kind of just like be silly and creative with these objects and how we can use them in different ways. Um, even though it's just, it's just a coffee mug, it really represents, like our company culture is still there.
Sara: Yes. That's so cool. Good idea.
Lisa: Yeah. That's a cute one. That's, that was an easy one that had a good impact, I think.
Lisa: But yeah, it's been... it's definitely really, uh, intense for me as a business owner to go back to my office. Um, even if I have to go get something because it's just a bunch of barren desks without computers on them. And some people took their office chairs home and it's like, there goes a tumbleweed just like rolling by when I walk in, you know? And it's definitely very emotional to go back into that space and realize that it will never be the same.
Sara: Yeah. Yup. For sure. Yeah. Grief. Right? There it is again, there's the grief.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. But at the same time, um, you know, we're lucky where we live, that our outdoor access is still possible for us, and I feel really grateful to live in the woods and be surrounded by trees all the time, so yeah.
Sara: I couldn’t agree more. Yeah.
Lisa: What else? You said you thought of two things.
Sara: Yeah, I forgot the other. [laughs] Classic.
Lisa: Classic. I think, I think your perspective is really unique to anyone we've had on the podcast, um, because it is really about being a human being first before anything else, and so I think our listeners are going to love everything that you said.
Sara: Cool. Yeah. That's great. Thanks for having me. I feel like it's like, yeah, sometimes it feels like the mental health professionals are all like in this little cage and we're like watching and they've like muted us and we're like, well, “we have some great idea. Oh, okay. You guys don't want to hear it. Okay, cool. We'll just watch you do your thing.” And like, it's the stigma, you know, it was like the metal cage and we're just like, “but, but... okay, nevermind.” So. It's exciting that like, you know, the newspaper called me the other day, the city people called me the other day. It's like, Oh, people are like now interested, and we're like, yeah, we've been waiting for years to tell you! We have a lot to say!
Lisa: That's amazing. Oh, I have one question, actually.
Lisa: So right now there's an interesting dialogue in the outdoor industry, which is that. If we have access to skiing or mountain biking, um, some people are very much heavily in the school of thought that we shouldn't be doing those things because we don't want to drain resources if someone gets hurt or search and rescue has to come out, or you go to the hospital. And then there's another school of thought that is, but this is what I do to normalize and this is what I need to do. And then that other school of thought comes back in and they say, that's not a need. That's a want. And so how do you, how does that, how do you reconcile kind of that internal battle within yourself as, um, a helping professional as a mountain athlete, as you, as a person? Like where, I don't know, how does that feel for you?
Sara: Yeah. I feel like you're like spying on my texts with my one friend. She's, we've definitely been having this debate and, um, I'll say this, I think one part is that there's, there's stigma woven into that narrative, right? That you don't need this, right? You need to not break your knee, but you don't need to maintain your mental health. And I want to push back on that in our community that, uh, you know, people die by suicide. People die by what we call deaths of despair, which make up suicide, uh, drug abuse, overdoses, et cetera. And that is very real, like, no less real than heart disease, um, you know, diabetes or, uh, coronavirus. And so, um. I want to just like highlight that that mental health is actually real. Right?
And, um, I think that it's a great time to reevaluate that list of five and make sure that there are things on there that are not just, um, you know, risky outdoor pursuits that might get you, you know, a spot in the emergency room. And, uh, I'm going skiing after this because skiing uphill is the thing that helps me more than anything else clear my mind. And I spent time with 23 suffering individuals this week, and there's no way or... I shouldn't say there's no way, but it is a lot harder for me to metabolize all of those feelings and gunk if I don't get to go ski up the hill. And so since I can, I'm going to.
I will also say that I have three friends who I've contacted or who have contacted me sort of with this commitment of like, if something happens to you, I will come help you. Uh, we don't need to call search and rescue. And we don't need to put other people, you know, in jeopardy. We're sort of committing to supporting each other.
That said, I understand that that's not realistic for everybody, and that, you know, my friends don't fly helicopters, so it might not actually help. Right? Um, but... and I've, I've, I've toned it down, so I'm actually really limiting how far I go. Um, you know, so I might take laps up the ski hill today rather than going on a tour deeper into the backcountry, uh, because somebody with a sled, like you, could come help me off the resort, you know? Whereas in the backcountry, it might involve a helicopter or a larger search and rescue team. So I, I'm thinking about those and I'm weighing all of that out as I make these decisions. Um, and I think it's a dangerous line of thinking to pretend like our mental health and wellness isn't real and doesn't matter.
So it's a great debate. I'm happy to see it happening. And, um. And I think everybody needs to acknowledge their own risk tolerance. And if you are a risky person who really can't dial it back, maybe like going to the uphill athlete and downloading some of their workouts is the answer, right? But if you can dial it back and you can be really conservative and kind of self-contained, um, and your mental health depends on it, I'm going to go ahead and call it a need. Like I would put it in that category.
Sara: Yeah. It feels so risky to say that though. Cause like you're going to get tweeted at for me, uh, I'm not on Twitter, so it won’t affect me, but I feel like people have really strong opinions about that. Um, and that's mine, you know, I guess I have one too.
Lisa: Exactly. Well, thanks for sharing yours.
Sara: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for asking.
Lisa: Yeah. Um, cool. Well, where... you're not on Twitter, but where can people follow you? Where can they sign up for some free webinars? Um, what do you, what do you have going on? Where can people stalk you online?
Sara: Yeah. So we're @SweetgrassPsychological on Instagram and Sweetgrass Psychological Services on Facebook. And that's our website as well. And if you click special offerings, you just see, like, next Wednesday we're offering a free yoga and meditation, um, session for Earth Day. We're going to be talking about grounding and growing, and I'm super excited for that. Um, yeah, that's where we are.
Lisa: Awesome. Thanks so much for your time.
Sara: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was really fun.
Iris: Thank you so much, Sarah, for joining us on the show. You are incredible, and I've gotten so much out of this episode, and I know our listeners will too. And if you, as a listener, are struggling with your mental health or want to talk to someone, reach out. It's the best thing you can do and don't have any shame. Don't have any misgivings about it. I've done it. We've all done it, and I promise you it will make such a big difference in your life.
Lisa: I think we do a great job making mental health part of our culture at WHEELIE.
Iris: Yeah. Yeah. We definitely are really open about our mental health. And just talking about it and what medications we're on and whatnot, and just being upfront about it. And that's, um, such, so important to breaking down the stigma of mental health struggles and showing that so many of us struggle with our mental health and it's okay. It's totally normal. It's just a brain chemical. And you can do something about it.
Lisa: I think. I think it's nice when an office place can be a good container for personal growth and company growth and creative growth. And so, um, you know, I really enjoyed Sarah's perspective and I hope that our listeners can find some things that resonate with them within that. And. Um push at their edges just a little bit.
Iris: Yeah. You can find, uh, Sara’s social media links in our show notes as well as our Instagram and our website with the rest of our podcast episodes and show notes and transcripts.
And if you have a second and you like the show, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts. It really helps us get to more people.
Iris: Have a great day!
Outside By Design
A business podcast for people who love the outdoor industry.