Lindsay Quinlan of KindSide: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness
Set screen time limits. I know that spending more time on my device doesn’t make me happier. Setting alerts helps ensure I spend more time off my phone and engaged and present in the world around me. I actually feel like a more focused businesswomen and mom when I spend less time on social media.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsay Quinlan.
Lindsay is the founder of KindSide, a mental wellness company that creates tools that support mental well-being. After experiencing the challenges her family faced in the throes of addiction for over a decade, recovering from an eating disorder in her twenties, and giving birth in a pandemic, Lindsay understands the collective struggle — and opportunities — in mental health. Prior to launching KindSide, Lindsay spent her career at wellness brands such as Health-Ade Kombucha, Cha Cha Matcha and CBS EcoMedia. Lindsay co-owns Eco-Chick.com, the web’s first sustainable living site for women.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My family was in the throes of addiction for over a decade. I developed anxiety during this intense time which lasted throughout my twenties. The constant instability, deep sadness and fear of never knowing what train wreck was next intensely impacted my mental well-being. I longed for control and this desire manifested itself in me as an eating disorder for four years. Anyone who loves someone who struggles with addiction understands you’re on the battlefield in the trenches with them. The eating disorder, which I’ve since proudly recovered from many years ago, was my mind’s way of coping. I didn’t yet have the emotional tools to tap into. I wasn’t proactive then about my mental fitness.
When my family came out of this period of addiction on the other side, and after many therapy sessions, I made a promise to myself: I wouldn’t let this lived experience be for nothing. I promised myself I’d harness all of the energy and learnings and do something meaningful with it. But I didn’t exactly have a clear vision yet of how it would come to fruition.
When COVID hit in March 2020, I was 34 weeks pregnant living in NYC. At that time, I had spent many years working in the wellness and social impact spaces, and most recently at well-known functional beverages brands helping them scale. We wound up leaving the city to give birth, pretty far away from home and where we planned. “My plan” was entirely rattled. But it was the greatest blessing in many ways. Giving birth in a pandemic forced me to re-think my career and my life’s focus. I had been running KindSide as a side hustle for some time and it started to occur to me that I could pivot our business model away from events that worked to de-stigmatize mental health and addiction and lean into producing tangible mental wellness tools. As scary as it was, being a new mom in a pandemic gave me this strong sense of creativity and empowerment I had never experienced or unleashed before. I saw and felt the collective mental health crisis, especially through the lens of being a new mom, and I decided to lean in to this entrepreneurial calling.
It wasn’t easy, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and celebrating the small victories. Since launching in Dec. 2020, in less than a year, we’ve released two tools that have helped thousands of people and expanded into retailers like Bloomingdale’s who recognize the importance of supporting their customers’ mental wellness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My first entrepreneurial pursuit was a sustainability blog. I was just starting out in my career, around 2009, and was really passionate about environmentalism so I was side-husting and blogging for a then, little known sustainability blog for women called Eco-Chick.com. This was before the proliferation of blogging and the widespread acceptance of “sustainability.” I realized the site wasn’t monetizing all of the great content we were putting out to the world so I asked the founder, Starre Vartan, if I could take on business development in addition to my writing duties.
It started taking off to the point where it made sense for me to focus on it full-time, in addition to some freelance gigs. We were bringing on some of the world’s most respected advertisers who had just started to articulate their sustainability initiatives. So I quit my day job but didn’t tell my parents for weeks because I knew they’d be upset with my decision. When they found out, they were basically like, ‘you went to college to do this? And what is a blog?” Ultimately, the founder brought me in as a partner and the blog opened so many incredible doors for me, including meeting two future employers: CBS Corporation and Health-Ade Kombucha. I traveled all over the world for the site, unearthed so many interesting stories and really fine-tuned my interest in pursuing work that addressed health issues. I remain a partner at the site to this day. I think the big lesson there for me is to trust your gut and follow your intuition, even if it goes against the grain and makes people feel uncomfortable, including your parents!
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
There’s nothing glamorous about entrepreneurship and building a brand. It requires intense resilience and hustle and sometimes, it’s even a bit lonely. I underestimated how emotionally challenging the journey building KindSide would be. We grew pretty quickly, and little did our customers know that I was fulfilling orders next to my son’s playmat and intermittently nursing him while answering emails and communicating with retailers and customers. My son was always crawling into product boxes or knocking over piles of outgoing packages. This still happens, but he’s a toddler now! I can’t even tell you how many times I had to laugh at the ridiculous situation before me.
I had to learn to be humble enough to ask for help and guidance. I didn’t have to know everything. It’s incredibly humbling to leave a career where you felt like you were somewhat of an expert and then to dive into a world where there’s this constant feeling like you don’t know something and you’re learning on the fly. I found that once I really embraced being an entrepreneur, really incredible women who are successful entrepreneurs came into my life. Their friendship and mentorship has meant everything to me. Temidra Willock of Hidden Gem and Ashleigh Stone of Poolside are two examples of women supporting women.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Two people immediately come to mind! The first is Starre Vartan, trailblazing environmental journalist and the founder of Eco-Chick. She’s been a wonderful mentor to me for many years. She was radically generous in the way in which she helped me pave my own path and encouraged my development. Starre and Eco-Chick created many opportunities for me.
Serial social entrepreneur Paul Polizzotto helped me see the world through the lens of a social entrepreneur. I worked for Paul for several years at EcoMedia, a social enterprise company he founded which was acquired by the CBS Corporation. Paul was a total renegade within the organization. Paul is an environmentalist and surfer from Manhattan Beach, and I wouldn’t say he fit into the CBS corporate executive archetype. I got to see Paul navigate that world first-hand after he had been acquired by CBS and that was really eye opening for me. Paul invited me into big meetings and conversations, some of which I probably was underqualified for, but he made sure I always had a seat at the table. Paul exposed me to the relentless determination it takes to tackle social issues as a business and how unconventional thinking — and not going along with consensus — is how you affect change and do something BIG. Even though corporate America ultimately wasn’t my speed, and Paul went on to create another company pursuing another big idea, Paul’s mentorship during that period of my life was game-changing. He was a father figure to me.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Taking a proactive approach to your mental well-being will help avoid burnout. This could mean meditating more frequently for one person and running with a dog every evening to another. Anything that gets you in a flow where your mind takes a rest and you feel completely engaged in whatever activity you’re doing. That feeling of freedom when you’re in flow is pure magic.
I’m also a huge fan of mental health days. I think we’d see a happier workforce if employees are able to identify when they need a mental health break. I hope to build a company where I’m able to offer them to my employees.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I’m focused on learning from other leaders right now and building a great company. What I do know is that I’ve been happiest in work cultures where expression of opinion and real feedback was truly valued and not suppressed. I’ve experienced that this is very hard to do.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Introduce positive affirmations. For our first product launches, I focused on the power of affirmations as a tool to help reprogram the mind and reduce anxiety. Rebecca Marcus, LCSW, who consulted with KindSide on our Hope Cards Kids Edition affirmation deck, says that our brains are trained to focus on the negative to keep us safe, it’s an evolutionary response. Repeating affirmations, like those from our tool Hope Cards, such as “I am worthy of my own kindness,” can help retrain our minds and boost confidence. According to licensed clinical psychologist Sweta Venkataramanan, and advisor to KindSide, affirmations help you internalize the idea that you have the ability to manage stress and other difficulties you might face. By increasing self-empowerment, you can reduce anxiety.
- Set screen time limits. I know that spending more time on my device doesn’t make me happier. Setting alerts helps ensure I spend more time off my phone and engaged and present in the world around me. I actually feel like a more focused businesswomen and mom when I spend less time on social media.
- Move your body. I instantly feel better when I start moving. If I’m able to get outside and immerse myself in nature, that’s even better!
- Breathe. We forget to breathe through intense moments. When I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed or if racing thoughts and anxiety is creeping in, I immediately pause, close my eyes and take 10 deep long breaths. Breathing deeply signals our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body down.
- Journal. Journaling is an easy ritual to support mental health and all you need is a pen and paper. There’s something about putting something down on paper that helps us process events, issues or even trauma. It can even remove the power of them. Our Hope Cards can serve as useful journaling prompts — just pull a card and riff!
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
It can be challenging to get pre teens and teens opening up about their complex emotions. Hope Cards can serve as a starting point for parents. It’s a fun, unintimidating tool that gets teens and pre teens talking without them feeling like they’re in the spotlight. Rebecca Marcus stresses the importance of introducing kids, pre-teens and teens to the power of affirmations early on. It’s a way to boost confidence and help them develop healthy mental wellness habits that will last them a lifetime.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
There have been so many! The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was transformative. Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a reminder to break free of the roles we were conditioned for at a young age. I read it at a time when I was just starting to embrace my true desire to start a company. It’s also a reminder to give our children permission to fully be themselves.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
At KindSide, we’re building a movement where at-home mental wellness is prioritized — we’re getting out ahead of issues. I’d like to continue to see more individuals and families proactively prioritize their mental health. We often seek therapy once there’s a problem. What if we created healthy mental health habits early on to help avoid issues? That’s where we’re going as a company.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My magic is my authenticity. I actually featured it as an affirmation in our Hope Cards tool. I spent a good portion of my life pursuing an image of someone I really wasn’t. After doing quite a bit of shadow work, which is tough stuff, I realized I don’t want to be CMO of a wellness company one day! That’s not who I am but I spent a lot of time chasing that goal. I’m now leaning into my authentic self and owning what I want — to run my own company that improves people’s mental well-being.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Our website shopkindside.com is a great resource as is our Instagram @the.kindside.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!