In the United States each year, did you know 19.1% (estimated 48 million people) have an anxiety disorder? I am one of the 48 million Americans with an anxiety disorder. (Stats from National Alliance on Mental Illness) Today is World Mental Health Day, and raising awareness about mental health or mental illness really matters to me because I know first-hand what it’s like living with anxiety and depression. I struggled with anxiety attacks as early as 9 years old; back then, I didn’t have the words or knowledge that I do know to cope better with my anxiety.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness strives to provide a greater understanding of the effects from mental illness and how important it is for all of us to take care of our mental health. One of NAMI's biggest goals is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. There is so much stigma that makes it difficult for people to navigate their everyday life. I understand how difficult it can be to talk about mental health and mental illness because I've lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. The past few years have been challenging. From finishing undergrad to entering the workforce, there has been lots of adjustments and emotions. I've felt lost, confused, disconnected, frustrated, and everything in between over the last five years.
As a first-time project manager, I've been challenged in new ways and put to the test in many ways. I won't sugarcoat it: it's been a difficult year. Over the past year, I've learned so much about myself—professionally and personally. I'm really grateful to be at a company that pushes me to grow while also supporting me every step of the way. Being welcomed by peers and leaders who mentor you is truly a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to grow even more in the sign industry!
Lesson 1: Sometimes sh*t just happens and I can’t always predict it.
This lesson has been one of the most difficult thus far. I am a perfectionist by nature with an eagerness to please and avoid chaos. I like to go with the flow in some parts of my life, but in some aspects, my anxiety likes to be able to control a lot of moving parts—including the ones I can't control. When it comes to my professional life, my anxiety gets worse because there's less I can control. My current job has really pushed me to get better impromptu thinking and acting quick on my feet with impromptu decision making, which I'm really grateful for.
I've had to learn how to handle these unexpected situations in a quick, level-headed manner and make executive decisions about how to proceed with certain tasks to be able to stay on track. For me, that's incredibly difficult. Learning how to adapt in foreseen situations has taught me how to be more flexible, efficient, and perform better under pressure. Of course, I still have moments where my anxiety gets the better of me (I'm human after all), but I really believe this job has helped me grow tremendously in this way. I can already see how much I've improved since last year and I'm really proud of myself.
Lesson 2: Dive into new ideas or projects without waiting for it to be perfect.
When I have new ideas or projects, I often feel like I need to plan everything and have it all sorted out perfectly before launching it. Fuor instance, I've wanted to start a podcast and I've spent a lot of time brainstorming, planning, and researching what it takes to run a podcast, but it often doesn't feel like enough. I feel as though everything needs to be perfectly thought out and prepared before I launch it. In reality, we often learn the most by actually doing the damn thing. Sometimes I'll never be completely ready, and that's totally okay!
When I first launched @BayLeighCreates on Instagram, I had a very basic idea of what I wanted to post; I had postponed starting the account because I thought everything about it had to perfect. From a beautiful logo and brand photos to a perfect manicured grid, I thought I had to all of that ready when I launched @BayLeighCreates. Sure, my content strategy was really rusty in the beginning, but now it's grown into so much more because I took the leap of faith and got started. I've learned so much about what my passions and goals are, which has impacted my account for the better.
Lesson 3: Be more confident in myself and my abilities.
I am a perfectionist and a people pleaser to a fault. In recent months, I've realized (in my personal life) that I often do whatever I can to appease or impress other people to avoid conflict, disappointment, or any negative reaction. What I'm learning is I need to give myself more credit. I need to recognize my talents and strengths. Becoming more confident in myself and my abilities will help me more than the focusing on the downside. I often spend time critiquing myself—personally and professionally—instead of building myself up and recognizing what I do well.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness each year. Chances are someone you know and love is the 1 in 5, so please take time to research about mental illness and support your loved ones. If possible, I strongly recommend going to therapy or finding a treatment plan. I have multiple times in my life and it’s been such a HUGE help for me! I'm proud of the work that NAMI does to study the importance of taking care of our mental health and highlighting the struggles of mental illness in order to end the stigma surrounding it. Please visit nami.org to learn more.