May is mental health month. And while women may not want to admit it, they tend to suffer from mental disorders more often than men. It’s nothing to be ashamed of — it actually makes sense. Women have to deal with a host of issues men typically don’t — gender bias, pay inequality, discrimination of various types — and this creates higher levels of stress.
Couple this stress with economic stress, family stress and the already hectic work environments many of us are working in, and things like depression aren’t too far away. According to data in “The Stressed Sex,” in any given year rates of psychological disorder are 20 to 40 percent higher in women than men. Given women’s increasing prominence in the workplace, it’s an issue employers should pay close attention to.
In a May 2015 article in The Sacramento Bee, Donna Hardaker, director of Wellness Works, a workplace mental health training program, wrote that studies estimate the economic cost from untreated mental health conditions to be some $105 billion annually in lost productivity.
Maisha Wynn, lifestyle specialist and founder of Live to Wynn, is a living example of what can happen when someone’s back buckles under that last straw. She’s also an example of why women should never give up, despite adversity and challenge. Wynn turned a series of negative stressors into a whole new life. Here’s a little bit of her story.
Personal tragedy led to your current position. Can you tell us a little about what happened?
Wynn: Over the last three years, I’ve learned your greatest strength can be found at your lowest point in life. As the only child, losing my beloved mother to a multitude of health issues in 2011 — including stomach cancer and diabetes — was earth shattering. My entire world was upside down. All I could do was eat, sleep, sleep and eat some more. In the course of six months, I gained over 30 pounds from depression. Why? My beloved mother was my rock and best friend. However, I took an excursion with my cousin to Dubai, which was just what I needed to retool my mind and spirit. I will be forever thankful for that global experience.
You also lost your job around the same time. What happened there?
Wynn: As the National Advertising Director for a major luxury publication, it was very demanding. Each week, we had sales calls to go along with our reports. Anyone who knows sales knows it’s always about what have you sold for us today. It doesn’t matter if you closed a $50,000 deal the day before. Every quarter, I would take a vacation to regroup from that intense environment. However, the day before Thanksgiving, I received a call from our New York office stating it would be my last day due to a change in ownership. It was the biggest blessing ever because what I learned in sales has been truly beneficial in building and running my own business.
How did you make the decision not to look for another job, to start your own business? It’s certainly not the easiest road you could have taken.
Wynn: I believe in the power of visualization. Before being laid off my six-figure career in advertising sales, I looked at my company for two years on my vision board. I thought if I could make someone else millions of dollars promoting their brand, it was truly time for Maisha Wynn to start living out her vision to transform the world. We are making major strides daily. Some of our greatest accomplishments since conception two years ago are producing six, opulent, life-changing experiences and giving back thousands of dollars to various nonprofits.
You run a small company, but I know you’ve worked with some big players and are in talks to work with some even bigger ones. How do you keep yourself motivated and focused?
Wynn: As a lifestyle specialist, I’m all about living abundantly, which begins with your state of mind. I don’t allow the stresses of the world to consume me. I’m mindful of how I treat my temple (body) and universe (mind). Each morning, I spend time giving thanks to the universe and reading my Bible. I take yoga and Pilates to keep me centered. I fuel my temple with foods that give me energy to be my very best when pursuing clients. Over the years, I’ve learned brands buy from individuals they like and respect. Live To Wynn is not just the name of my global brand, but how I live my life daily.
If you had one piece of advice to share with other women who work, whether they’re business owners or working in an office, what would it be when it comes to safeguarding their mental health?
Wynn: The same time, energy and consideration you invest in your career, family members and/or friends must be poured back into you. You are no good to others unless you are great to yourself first. With that in mind, start making yourself a top priority by nurturing your temple and universe. Set up a weekly or monthly play date so you can love on you, whether it’s going to the spa to get a massage, taking a yoga class and/or going to the movies. Your spirit will thank you later.