Content advisory: Because I value choice and autonomy, I’m letting you know that this post includes mention of suicide, eating disorders, and substance use.
Please take a moment to check in with yourself to see if you have the capacity to take this in right now, and if not, please come back when the time is right. – Shulamit
My name is Laurie-ann Sheldrick and I’m a certified life coach. I started my coaching practice, Contagiously Positive, in 2013. I continue to coach women today, giving them tools, practices, and guidance that support them in strengthening their mental and emotional muscles. Along with providing support through coaching, I also host a podcast called Sisterhood and facilitate online workshops.
I live in Kemptville, Ontario, with my husband, who I have been with for 19 years, and my beautiful silver lab dog Axl.
My mental health story
Growing up, I often felt depressed, isolated, and suffered from anxiety. I fell the deepest into my depression in my first year of high school and it gradually became darker and darker as time went on. I can’t even count how many days I was unable to leave my house in high school and college when these “attacks” of anxiety would rush over me.
In high school, I developed an eating disorder. Controlling food somehow made me believe that I was controlling my life – a life I felt I had no control over and never felt like I fit into. Once I hit college, I replaced that eating disorder with alcohol abuse and partying. Doing whatever I could to anesthetize the pain I was feeling inside. When I was drinking, the pain subsided. Until the next morning when I would wake up hungover and the depression was still present.
When college ended, the idea of being in the “real” world felt too much. Many days I thought, I just want it to end. One morning, I woke up, not remembering how I got home, and I sat in the bathroom, thinking about how I could painlessly end my life. At that moment, I knew I was in trouble. I had thought about ending my life before, but this time I was serious. I knew at that moment that I would have to ask for help. If I didn’t, I couldn’t go on. I didn’t want to die, I wanted the pain to end. I thought that death was the only way.
That day, I made a decision. I would ask for help, but if I got turned down, which I believed I would, I would know it was my sign that it was okay to end my life. I didn’t get that sign because 22 years later, I’m still here. I asked for help and I fully received it. I didn’t get the help I think I wanted, I got the help that I needed. Two totally different things. It started with a mantra, “You may not always get what you think you want, but you will always get what you need. But it starts with asking.”
From that day on, my mental health has been my #1 priority.
Wherever I go, my mind goes, so triggers showed up everywhere. Which made me double down even further on my healing. I went to therapy, embraced spiritual healing practices, and explored and healed every trauma and shadow aspect of myself that has shown up, and let’s be honest, continues to show up.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, nor a perfect journey, and not always a graceful journey, but it has been a worthy and free one. I know that if I don’t care for my mental health, I will fall back into the darkness.
The temporary emotional discomfort of facing my fears, anxiety, triggers, and worries today, is way less painful than what I know will happen if I don’t.
What mental health means to me
Mental health to me means FREEDOM. I always felt so trapped inside of myself. Taking care of my mental health isn’t just some airy-fairy idea, it is mental and emotional freedom. Which to me means never taking up permanent residence in the darkness.
How I care for my mental health
I’m the #1 priority. Me first. Not, let me take care of everything and everyone else, and then I’ll try to make time for myself.
I check in with myself daily, especially before I say yes to things, make decisions, or take on a large project.
I make my mental health a part of my daily routine. That includes my mental, emotional, physical, attitudinal, and spiritual health. I do so many different things, but some are consistent.
I write in my journal almost every single day. This helps me to get out all the busyness in my mind. So often I’m able to spot a trigger before it gains momentum.
I openly talk about my emotions. I never go too long without a coach or therapist in my life. I believe that even when things are going great, it is important to have support. I think of it as a good-quality maintenance plan. Instead of waiting for things to wrong, I’m proactive, so when life happens, which it does, I’m ready for it.
I spend a lot of time in nature, almost daily, listening to uplifting music, or doing a walking meditation.
I move my body a lot. Exercise has always been such a great supporter of my mental health. I’m an intuitive eater and exerciser. I ask myself, “body, what do you want and need today?” The first thing that comes to my mind, I do it.
In fact, I ask myself what I need a lot. This has become a major part of my wellness journey.
Giving myself what I need, along with reaching out for support when I need it. I learned that I can’t expect to get something from someone else if I’m not willing to do it for myself or do the work.
Every week I give myself a big check-in and I ask myself, “what do you need mentally, emotionally, physically, attitudinally, and spiritually?” I pause between each, take deep breaths and write down the first thing I feel. Sometimes it is simply to keep doing what I’m doing. But whatever I write down, I take inspired action on it.
I also don’t play the hustle game anymore. I love my business and I love being an entrepreneur, but I have nothing to give if I’m not mentally well. I’ve gotten okay with things taking a little bit longer for me to achieve if it means I’m not sacrificing my mental or physical health for it.
And I make time to do things that really light me up. Like being in the garden, or cooking.
The most helpful mental wellness tip I have received
The best wellness tip I ever received was that it was okay to not always feel okay. In fact, it is a part of being a human being. It really helped me to overcome this limiting belief that I could never feel a negative emotion because it wasn’t safe.
I was so afraid to fall into a depression again that for a while I stepped too far on the opposite spectrum and ignored all negative feelings, living in false positivity, while becoming a pressure cooker.
When I embraced ALL my feelings as normal, that is when the true healing really took place.
This may not seem like a wellness tip, but for me, knowing that it was safe for me to not always be feeling light and love is mental freedom.
What I want women entrepreneurs to know
Your mental wellness should always come above your business.
On your daily to-do list, which will seem endless some days, put yourself first. While you get in the habit, set it into your calendar. Do something first thing in the morning that supports your mental wellness.
Set an alarm, and do something else midday. Set another alarm and do something supportive at the end of the day. Three little mini mental health breaks during the day, even just for 10 minutes will significantly impact your day. You will be more productive, and creative, and it will make problem-solving and decision-making so much easier as well.
When you feel like you are forcing, stressing, and manipulating things to go your way, that is a clear sign to take a pause for your mental wellness.
Get very clear about what you are not willing to sacrifice for your business. Like your mental health for example.
A great question to honestly answer is, “If you didn’t feel guilty for doing it, what would you do differently during the day?” If everything inside of you is saying, “go lie down for 10 minutes,” then go and lie down.
Don’t wait to get permission from the external world. You have to give yourself permission.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is worth sacrificing your mental health for.