Shannon Paris and I met through the former What Works Network. Shannon held a special space for me as a new member and facilitates the smooth running of the community for its members. Since I perceived Shannon’s role as a person who holds space for others and is often called to be responsive to multiple demands, I thought she would have valuable insights to share.
Read on to learn about Shannon’s mental health story, and her number one mental health tip–which seems like it might be counterintuitive for those in business.
Hi! I’m Shannon Paris, Community Advocate and Ops Director for The Network – an online community that helps small business owners build stronger, more sustainable businesses.
In addition to my work with the Network, I do some occasional consulting here and there and serve on the board of a local social enterprise.
While I don’t currently own my own business other than the occasional odd consulting gig, I did own and operate a brick and mortar store for 5 years. Professionally I have been supporting small business owners in a variety of contexts for the past 15 years, first in my work with a non-profit organization working with producers and makers in the global fair trade context helping them bring their products to the North American marketplace, and now as the Community Advocate supporting entrepreneurs as they grow their small businesses.
My mental health story
I’m not sure how to qualify my mental health and wellness story exactly – but I’d say I’m relatively blessed with a secure and stable upbringing free of major trauma, and no known dispositions or diagnoses of depression or other clinical mental health issues. My family background is encouraging and supportive – so I was always encouraged to be curious, cultivate emotional intelligence, and ask for help when I needed it.
I do have a sibling who suffers from social anxieties and (undiagnosed) depression and other issues – so have witnessed and supported a contrasting mental health story throughout my life which has strengthened my empathy for others with a different mental health journey. He’s never sought help or pursued wellness, which has actually prompted me to promote wellness and welcome mental health and self-development work as I’ve seen what a huge difference it can make in people’s life experiences when they do.
My dad suffered from depression, and in contrast to my brother, was always really honest about the help he needed and super appreciative of his counselor, and committed to working on his mental health because he knew it would lead to an improved experience for himself with family and friends.
I will mention that I’ve been in therapy for the first time over the past year – as pandemic and political events stretched my emotional boundaries and I was also entering a new relationship. I was having trouble coping with it all and wanted to be able to add some emotional tools to my toolbox for my own well-being – and to be present and on solid footing for the folx around me in these crazy times.
Besides professional support – I have always been a strong proponent of taking the time to be well, avoiding burnout, and building in rest time for a busy, fulfilling life. My dad worked swing shifts in a steel mill to support us – sometimes working multiple double shifts in a week – and it wreaked absolute havoc on his body. He needed a new heart in 2001 at age 54, a new kidney (mine!) in 2010, and is still here fighting every day to live the good life he has surrounded by loving family and friends. This encouraged me to never want to have to sacrifice my body for my work.
What mental health means to me
For me, mental health is the combination of mind/body/spirit/energy filters through which all my interactions in the world flow through. The condition of those filters influences my own experiences, connections with others, and my influence on others’ experiences.
How I care for my mental health/wellness today
- Working hard at maintaining healthy, meaningful, supportive relationships with my family, significant other, and close circle of friends
- Honoring downtime for rejuvenation
- Making music whenever and wherever I can
- Eating a low carb diabetic friendly diet
- Walking, being in nature & the outdoors
The main mental wellness tip I have found useful
Letting go, releasing. That could mean a toxic relationship, a bad habit, an old grudge, childhood baggage, regret, jealousy, blame, woundedness, guilt, and worry.
The one thing I would share about mental wellness with women entrepreneurs
I’ll tag off with my mental wellness tip answer – don’t be afraid to let go. I think letting go is very often considered to be synonymous with failure. And I can’t say that I’ve perfectly overcome that association – but sometimes, releasing a product, a client, a way of doing things, a mindset, a habit, a business, is the only way to open up space for the next thing to come in: for you and for the other person/people involved.
w | shannonparis.