Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Mental Health Awareness with the Live Happy Crew
[00:00:02] PF: Welcome to Episode 363 of Live Happy Now. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here at Live Happy, we realize that happiness and good mental health go hand in hand. So we’ve brought the whole crew together to talk about it.
I’m your host, Paula Felps, and throughout the month of May, we’re going to focus on tools for better mental health. But to kick it off, our team sat down for a conversation about how the past couple of years have affected each of us and some of the ways that we’ve coped. Joining me for this special episode, our Live Happy CEO and Co-Founder Deborah Heisz, E-commerce Marketing Manager, Casey Johnson, Web Editor, Chris Libby, Senior Marketing Manager, Britney Chan, and Senior Marketing Specialist, Shane Lee.
I hope you enjoy this candid conversation, and be sure to stay tuned until the end of this podcast when we’ll tell you about a special deal in a Live Happy store exclusively for listeners.
[00:01:01] PF: You guys, thank you everyone for coming and joining us for this special episode of Live Happy Now.
[00:01:08] BC: Thank you for having us.
[00:01:10] PF: It’s always fun to talk with everybody, the whole gang. We don’t get to get together in person, but sometimes we can Zoom it. I know you guys see each other a lot more than I get to see you. But this was a really special talk that we wanted to have because Deb felt really strongly about Mental Health Awareness Month and us doing something on it. So that’s how I’d love to start. Deb, why was it so important for you to make sure that we covered this because we’re doing – Our entire month is dedicated to mental health awareness.
[00:01:38] DH: Well, I mean, obviously, mental health ties into happiness. I mean, if you’re not healthy, either physically or mentally, it’s really going to impede and impact your happiness. As you know, for us, happiness isn’t really about the emotion happiness. It’s about, living a positive life, having a positive assessment of how you’re doing in life. Really, it is different than the podcast name. Live Happy doesn’t just mean, “Hey, let’s go out and have ice cream and ride roller coasters and run free through fields of green and meadows.” It’s not really what we’re about. We really are about that positive emotion part of positive well-being. It really is – Happiness is a high perceived sense of wellbeing.
What we know is the pandemic has impacted people’s perception of their well-being in significant ways. In fact, Jason Dorsey, who does a lot of research on the difference between generations – I forget what the name of this company is, but he’s a phenomenal speaker. He does just a great job of identifying how boomers are different from Gen Xers and Xers are different from millennials. The millennials are different from Generation Z, but they did some research projects on Generation Z that shows that that group that is at most 25.6, 27, and at least 10, 11, or 12, that group has more mental health issues than any other group, any other generation has.
A lot of it has to do with what they’ve missed out because of the pandemic. They’ve missed graduation. They’ve missed prom. They’ve missed going to college. They’ve missed being in class with their peers. They’ve missed all of those social things that we depend on. We talked so much on this podcast about how relationships are essential to your mental health and to your happiness. All of that got taken away from a lot of people over the last two years. So I think it’s really important that we spend a little time talking about it at Live Happy and on the podcast.
[00:03:32] PF: Yeah, for children too below. Let’s think younger than those teenagers and young adults. I had read something about how the level of anxiety in children and also the fact that they’ve been wearing masks. They didn’t get a lot of that interaction. We gain so much interaction from our smiles and our emotions that we convey in our face, and those have been hidden. So there was something I just read yesterday that was talking about the need for that for us to really address it with our children and start looking for the good in the world because the last two years have been really traumatizing for them.
[00:04:06] DH: Well, I mean, there’s a lot of social anxiety. I mean, I read an article. There’s a lot of social anxiety in the under-five set. Typically, my three children, it was always play dates, getting together with kids, going to daycare, whatever you could do to get them entertained. But, no, kidding. But a lot of it was also learning how to socialize with other children and other adults, and a lot of kids just haven’t even been exposed to that. I mean, they’ve truly been with their own families on a daily basis. Or even you get into first, second, and third grade. Can you imagine going into kindergarten on Zoom and having that be your first experience? Or not getting to graduate? The other extent of that, not getting to graduate or start college in person.
I mean, there’s so much social development that goes on, and it’s really impacted mental health from Generation Z. I’m sure Jason hasn’t studied the generation after that, whatever they’re going to be called. But I’m positive it’s had just as much impact there, and that’s not even talking about those of us who are used to getting our socialization from our workplace or getting our away time by going to the movies or going out to eat at restaurants. Just how much it’s substantially changed who we are and how we live.
Even though many of us, particularly in Texas, were back to relative normal, but the relative normal is key. But that still doesn’t mean those two years didn’t impact our mental health in ways that we may not quite know or know yet. It certainly impacted the health of our children. One of the interesting facts that Jason was saying was Generation Xers – I’m a Gen X. I’m old, yeah. Our big social defining impact is like the challenger explosion, right? Millennials, for the most part, it’s 9/11. Those things are ancient history to Gen Z. Their definition, their defining point of their childhood, bring them together as a generation, is COVID.
[00:05:58] PF: Wow. Yeah. To your point, we’re still dealing with the fallout from it. It’s not completely gone, and it gets frightening for people when the media starts talking about, “Better expect another surge. We better –” They’re kind of like preparing us for that, and I hear those conversations. I hear people already being anxious for what’s to come, instead of being able to just be like, “Okay, let’s kind of take a breath and be in this moment.” It’s like we’re not being given that chance.
[00:06:25] DH: The media is certainly very good at understanding that what scares us is something we’ll watch or pay to read, so they invest a lot of time and energy in that. We’ve talked about this before, but a big part of mental health is what you allow to have mind space. What do you put in your brain? So if you’re reading those negative news reports, I’m not saying we don’t need to know about what’s going on in Ukraine. I’m not saying we don’t need to be informed about what’s going on in the pandemic.
But it can be overwhelming with a 24-hour news cycle, and you get 18 different emails with different headline news’s. Or you click on the app on your phone, or you turn on the television, or you turn on the radio. If you allow that to be the only thing that’s entering your brain, it’s going to be very hard to keep a positive mental outlook on the world.
[00:07:14] PF: Absolutely. That brings me to a question. I’d love to hear what everyone on the team kind of what has been their go to to manage the stress that we’ve all felt in the last couple of years and how you keep your mental health balanced. I guess the easiest way to do it is alphabetically because that way we’re not showing favorites. So I’m going to ask Britney, Britney Chan. What was your kind of go-to solution?
[00:07:37] BC: My go-to solution during the pandemic was, obviously, to just try my best to stay as connected as possible, even being at home. So I practice a lot of video chatting, FaceTiming, Zooming with my friends and family. It really almost became like a daily activity for me and something I really look forward to. I know there’s always this talk about tech and digital, and it’s all over the place, and it’s taking over our lives. But in this instance, it really did the opposite. It made me feel more connected, and I was able to see my sister and watch my niece and nephew play. I mean, there would be times where we would just stay on the phone. We wouldn’t even talk to each other. We would just be there and be able to see what’s going on. So, yeah, video chatting had a really positive effect on my mood during that time.
Also, Deb, you just touched on it just a second ago about choosing to put what’s in your mind. Like for me, I really made a conscious decision to not overwhelm myself with information about the pandemic or just the news in general because there’s not a lot of good news out there. It seems to be very negative lately. So I read enough to stay informed. I read enough to make sure I’m following protocol and doing the right things and all that stuff. But other than that, I stayed away from the information overload when it came to the news or even social media about the pandemic. I would kind of just like scroll past it. So those are the things I really did to help my mental health during that time.
[00:09:20] PF: That’s really smart, and it’s difficult for a lot of people because we know social media is designed to be addictive. So you end up doing that zombie scroll, and it’s like, “Oh, my god.” First of all, you’re having a panic attack by the time that you’re done. It just – You feel horrible. That’s a terrific way to do it to kind of curate what you’re going to let –
[00:09:39] BC: Yeah. That’s a good word for it. I was self-curating what I was putting into my mind.
[00:09:44] PF: That’s very cool. Casey, how about you? Because I feel like of anyone, you and I probably talked the most about all of this and what was going on. We talk about podcast episodes, things like that. So what were some of the things that you were doing? Because you always maintained such a great upbeat attitude throughout the whole whatever we were dealing with.
[00:10:07] CJ: Well, thank you for saying that. I certainly didn’t feel that way on the inside, sometimes. But, yeah, I mean, just to kind of echo Britney, I’m kind of in the same situation as she is. My sister has two kids. They’re young. So I was very grateful that we were able to video chat, and I was able to see them that way. I did find myself being glued to the news and zombie scrolling, like we were talking about. So I kind of had to check myself. I would limit my screen time. I stopped checking my phone first thing in the morning. I even started sleeping with it in the other room, which helped me sleep better. I brought my screen time down, which helped with my anxiety.
I even started – I found this like YouTube video. It was like a 10-minute like yoga meditation and it’s really hard for me to like sit still for long periods of time. So meditation has always been kind of a challenge for me. But just starting my day off like that, me not looking at my phone. Getting in touch with like my mind and body really just helped me maintain my sanity throughout that whole thing we experienced –
[00:11:03] PF: Whatever it was. We don’t even know what to call it.
[00:11:06] CS: Yeah. I’m like blocking out but yeah.
[00:11:08] PF: Thing. That’s really good, and it worked. Because, again, you were always like you’ve always been very positive and able to like see the good in whatever we had going on. So that’s been super cool and super fun to work with on you. I’m really interested to hear Chris and then Deb because they have a slightly different perspective because not only were they dealing with their own situation, but they’re both parents. That just adds another layer of complexity. So, Chris, what about you? You’ve got two little girls. How were you working this in your house?
[00:11:39] CL: Yes, I do. That easily takes up a lot of time to where you don’t have a lot of time to really think about it. But I will say, continuing what Deb was saying earlier, that the pandemic came out, and it changed all of our social behaviors. It created – There were some unintended consequences, although we were able to still keep things moving, working at home, and stuff like that. The unintended consequence was loneliness just skyrocketed. Even if you have a family, you can still find yourself in those times of loneliness.
When the kids and everybody else went back, and I was still at home, then everything got quiet. Then you’re just working all day. Then that’s when it really sets in. You’re not talking to anybody. You’re not talking to your friends as much, just because of what we’ve been through the past couple of years. So, of course, pets always are a great option. If you’re a pet owner, that’s going to reduce your stress. It takes your mind off of things. It keeps you physically active. There’s a new report that came out from Penn State actually on this loneliness kind of epidemic that we’re in and what you can do to combat that, even if you are at home alone. That is choosing activities that get you into a flow state.
Now, we at Live Happy are familiar with what the flow state is. One of the pioneers of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I think I said that right, he kind of introduced that theory. But it’s basically when you’re engaged in these tasks that kind of where time just kind of goes away, they’re meaningful, challenging activities during your free time that it can reduce your loneliness and increase just momentary moments of happiness, but at least it’s still happiness. Those are just any activity that you have a reasonably good skill, and it’s not too complicated because then you’ll lose interest. You just kind of submerge yourself in these activities like playing music, listening to music, even playing video games, different types of sports, writing, reading, painting. Just those kinds of leisurely activities that really take your mind out of it.
I live next to a park. I’m fortunate enough to I’m able to go outside and kind of take walks in the park and kind of lose myself in that way or shoot baskets, which is a really enjoyable activity for me. Because you kind of immerse yourself and just play scenarios in your head and think that you are the greatest basketball player ever.
[00:14:03] PF: Are you saying you’re not?
[00:14:04] CL: No, not really. Far from it. But when I’m out there, I am. So that’s the good thing. Those are the kinds of things that can alleviate those feelings of loneliness and those feelings of anxiety and even depression.
[00:14:18] PF: Yeah. Reframing that’s really important. We have a podcast episode coming up, I believe, in June with Eric Barker. He had done some research found that loneliness – Like people who are lonely actually spent the same amount of time with other people, as people who are not lonely. But it’s really your mental state. So that’s really interesting. The things that you’re talking about are great, like being able to employ some of those techniques, so you do feel less lonely. I think that’s a great way to handle it.
Deb, you were running a company remotely, a couple of companies. You also then have three active children. So how are you keeping all that balanced? Because, obviously, your kids were at home. You were at home. Everything changed for you. How did you keep that going?
[00:15:05] DH: Well, first of all, I have to talk about the fact that there were some positive aspects of the pandemic for me, which sounds horrible and people – The pandemic wasn’t positive. But because I couldn’t travel, and I’ve been traveling a tremendous amount for the past, I don’t know, 25 years of my life, to suddenly be in the same time zone for a long period of time, I got rest for the first time in what I think is forever.
So for me, I think it’s not just what changed that was difficult. It’s also what changed that’s positive. I don’t ever want to go back to living the way I lived before, where I was basically in four time zones, and I’m talking about hours away time zones in a month, and it makes it a bit crazy. You don’t realize what you’re missing out on. It’s like I’d spend time with the kids. I’ve always been very engaged when I’m with them. But hitting that, I feel more awake than I felt for 20 years before that. I didn’t realize it. So there was a positive aspect for me.
Of course, there also is that tiny aspect which changed for me. It used to be because I made specific time to be with my children, being engaged with them while they were there was something that was easy to do. Well, suddenly, they’re there all the time. I’m there all the time. I have other things I need to do. Setting boundaries became an exercise. I don’t want to say in futility, but it was certainly an exercise that took some time to get established. When I truly am on the phone, I truly am working. I cannot open up your Gatorade for you right now. Things that just changed.
For the kids, it was far more difficult than it was for me. Initially, those first couple months, we did a lot of puzzles. We took a lot of walks. We have dogs. Our golf course never completely shut down, so we go hit a few balls. I mean, they were closed, but they let you play. It was a weird situation. So we always had things to do, but it was very different for the kids. The kids, when school started in the fall, it certainly was very frustrating for them. We had in-person school starting in the fall of 2021, so our kids have never been not allowed to go to school. But to suddenly have masks, that social distancing, and all of that stuff, it was remarkable to me how quickly they adapted.
[00:17:17] PF: Can I ask you, how did you talk with your children about this too? Because you, of all people then in the positive psychology space, doing what you do, you’re aware of what fear does, what mental impact this would have on them. So how did you talk with your children about what was going on to keep them from – I mean, I know kids that are just terrified. They’re terrified of breathing other people’s air. They’ve been very indoctrinated with fear. So how did you explain this to your kids?
[00:17:45] DH: Well, first of all, I think it helps that we’re not by nature a fearful family. We are well traveled and somewhat adventurous from whitewater rafting, to hiking off the grid. We’re not – My children have a certain element of self-sufficiency and self-reliance already built in, just from who we are as people to begin with. So I think that helped. But the second thing was you can’t overemphasize enough that the likelihood of something bad happening is very small, and you can’t dwell on something that might happen.
We did talk a little bit about driving a car. You have likelihoods of car wrecks. There’s fuel. You fly in a plane. But these things don’t happen commonly. So we all get sick. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all had the flu. We’ve all had corona virus. We’ve all had – It’s possible we may get this. But for the most part, we need to make sure that we’re doing the hygiene things we need to do and try not to get it because nobody wants to be sick. Or if somebody does get sick, no, it’s going to happen. It’s okay. You have to tell people it’s okay.
We don’t know if it’s going to be okay. But they’re kids, right? You don’t want to say, “Be careful not hug grandma. She’s going to die.” I mean, don’t you think that’s too much? We have to be really careful and put things in perspective.
[00:19:01] PF: I’d like to learn what Shane did when he was during – Shane is our quiet one, always. So I’m really interested to hear from him and find out what were you doing with the pandemic?
[00:19:12] SL: Yeah. It was an interesting time. I will say all of the things that y’all spoke of I employed in my life. Like Deb was mentioning, just a feeling of being alone like the first year of this. I was essentially living in a one-bedroom apartment by myself. My family, they don’t live in Dallas. They live at least four hours away. So really, I just had myself and just people I had I could connect with to my phone. But still, I was pretty lonely. Even though my living situation has shifted since then, it’s still a lot of notes of loneliness. But it’s okay because through that I’ve strengthened that feeling of being able to do things for myself.
Chris mentioned this earlier but going through these first days. There’s a hobby I started doing, skateboarding, and I’ve been doing that for about a year now. It’s like a big part of my identity, but there’s always a new goal with that. I’ve learned with perseverance and patience. So that’s a fun activity I love to do, and I’m excited to do it right after this call. In addition to that, I also just love just going on walks outside, just feeling the warmth to sunlight on your skin. Photosynthesis is really hype. Plants, they really get it.
But I would say another thing is just I’ve really adopted this mindset of just living more in the present, less worrying about the past, or not anticipating the future, but really just valuing the time I spend with the people I talk with in this moment. So for example, time spent with y’all today is always time well spent. So I’m happy to just be talking with you all. On top of all of that, I try to unplug as much as possible. If I didn’t have to use it for work, I probably wouldn’t be on social media. But I don’t feel a need to like post my life on social media because I’m a firm believer in the right people know what I’m doing. Like Casey said too, I’ve also employed some time limits on my social apps. So really, I don’t spend that much time on social media or my phone in general. Yeah.
[00:21:23] PF: That’s excellent. Yeah. I think we all –
[00:21:25] BC: We’re comparing our screen times last week.
[00:21:29] PF: How did that go?
[00:21:31] SL: I did poorly. I lost.
[00:21:34] BC: I worked really hard to get my screen time down to where it is.
[00:21:37] SL: Yeah. Not all weeks are winners, but at least I’m mindful of it, at least.
[00:21:42] BC: Yeah.
[00:21:44] PF: I think we all had such a great advantage because of what we do and where we’re working because we have all these tools. Like every week, we’re talking to someone who is giving us a new tool, and we have this whole background. We’ve all been at the company for a while, so we have this pretty good backlog of mental resources of how we can handle some of these things. Like we didn’t know we were preparing for what we’ve had, but I think it was really helpful.
One thing that I did was when the pandemic hit, I was living in an apartment downtown Nashville. I loved it, going to concerts all the time. Then it was like, “Wow, I’m stuck in a box,” and I moved out into the country, a huge difference in a lot of ways. But being in nature every day has just been absolutely life-changing. Again, that’s something we really learned from Live Happy and the stories that we’ve written about how much it affects us. I see it. I see it with my animals. I see it with myself. So I do feel like Live Happy has been such a gift for us. I hope other people have gotten as much from it as we have because I think it really helped us have the tools to get through the pandemic more easily.
It’s been so great to talk to you guys. I love when we get together and do this. We’ll do it again soon. One of the things that we know is really good for your mental health is laughter. So that’s why I’m sure Chris Libby has a fantastic dad joke locked and loaded.
[00:23:03] CJ: I’ve been waiting for this moment.
[00:23:04] PF: Ready to roll.
[00:23:05] BC: I know. I’m ready.
[00:23:08] CL: I don’t know. Did you guys happen to hear that in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month that the United Kingdom is going to officially change their name?
[00:23:17] PF: To?
[00:23:17] BC: To what?
[00:23:19] SL: It’s no longer going to be referred to as the UK. Now, it will be referred to as You Okay.
[00:23:26] DH: All right.
[00:23:27] PF: That’s why we asked you to join us.
[00:23:29] BC: Round of applause. Way to go.
[00:23:32] SL: Listeners, the scenario was, that was a solid joke. I just want you all to know. My eyes rolled so hard.
[00:23:40] PF: Perfect. Well, thank you all. I appreciate you guys giving me your time today and sharing with our listeners everything that – Not everything you’ve learned but so much that you’ve learned and how we can get through this together.
[00:23:52] DH: Thanks, Paula. It was awesome as you were.
[00:23:53] BC: Thank you for having us.
[00:23:55] CJ: Thank you.
[00:23:55] CL: Thank you.
[END OF EPISODE]
[00:24:02] PF: That was the Live Happy crew, talking about mental health. If you’d like to learn more, visit our website at livehappy.com. Click on the podcast tab for some great stories and resources. While you’re on our site, you can get 20% off anything and everything in the Live Happy store just by using the code SELF-LOVE 20. That’s SELF-LOVE 20.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.