Yes, ‘You Got This’ … With Support & Self-Care

Colette Ellis
Apr 4, 2019 · 17 min read

Mental Health Tips for Black Female Founders

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Photo Credit: Diana Simumpande

Did you know that mental health illnesses are happening at higher rates than most other illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer? According to Erica Richards, chair and medical director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital, women are twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men. Yet, African-American women are only half as likely to seek help as their Caucasian counterparts.

Part of my mission is to ensure that women of color feel a sense of worthiness; that they know their dreams, their health, and their overall lives matter. To that end, I’ve launched a new segment on my on my Anchor podcast channel called Coach Chat — in which I interview fellow health & wellness professionals, entrepreneurs and other industry leaders who have insights and knowledge to share.

For the first episode, I’m excited to welcome my guest, Dr. Angela Clack. She’s a licensed psychotherapist based in South Jersey. She also is the author of Women of Color Talk: Psychological Narratives on Trauma and Depression. You can listen to the full episode at: https://anchor.fm/coach-colette/episodes/Coach-Chat-Segment-with-Coach-Colette-and-Dr--Angela-Clack-e3k5nq. An excerpt of the transcript continues below.

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Coach Colette
I’m excited today to talk about mental health as black women, as founders or owners of our own businesses. And, really talk about what are some of the strategies that you recommend or that you use with clients, as well as your personal experience; like the personal experiences that I’ve had as well.

Dr. Angela
OK, sounds good.

Coach Colette
Awesome! So, how long have you been a female founder or owner of your own practice?

Dr. Angela
So, I’ll preface it this way: I’ve been in the mental health field for 20 plus years. I’d say about 25 when I started out after I got my masters. But actually, as an entrepreneur, and businesswoman, and CEO of my own private practice, the last 10 years. I’ve always worked for someone or some other group I was a partner or part of; and then having established my own private practice, I want to say, maybe just slightly over 10 years.

Coach Colette
And was that an intentional decision? Like you said, “Okay, I’m ready to jump out onto my own and launch this private practice?”

Dr. Angela
Oh, no, Coach Colette, it was not.

Coach Colette
It never is.

Dr. Angela
It was quite an arduous task. But, I like the fact that we’re talking about this, because what helped me to take that leap of faith was getting a coach. I had been working for one of the state facilities in New Jersey for about eight years. And I knew that it was time to do something else. But there was, security in that position. At that time, I was a lead clinical supervisor, and I was making decent money. I can’t say I was making a lot more than I think I am now; but it was decent money. And I really liked what I was doing in terms of oversight for the mental health care of the committed youth. So, those who had committed some kind of offense and were incarcerated. What helped me to move was that there was a shift in the philosophy of treatment, with the care of the youth there. And it came down to the point where my license, well, the mental health department as a whole, our licenses were on the line. So, the powers to be that weren’t mental health, we’re making some very, very risky, poor, impulsive decisions; and it caused all of our department to be called on the carpet in a lawsuit. Just by that alone, all of us had to go through the depositions and all of that. And I knew then, that the direction that this was going was going to rob me of my ability to do my job, the way that I knew ethically, and morally, it should be done.

Dr. Angela
And so I kept hemming and hawing the whole time, my husband kept saying, “What are you waiting for? I told you to do this five years ago.” So, there was the pressure with that. And, finally, I got a coach. She helped me really to gain the emotional strength to believe in myself, and to believe if I took the leap of faith, that what I had hoped would happen, would — with hard work. And that’s what I did. I worked with her. And, I actually transitioned into my private practice. So, I started out full time; leaving my full time job, rushing to an office, I was renting for two evenings a week. I went from two evenings; the practice grew quicker than I thought, which helped me to transition out. So, it was really a push from a bad situation into where I am now.

Coach Colette
I love what you’re saying about the leap of faith and then getting support to take that leap of faith. And it sounds like the coach that you were working with, was doing something that I that I love to do, or aim to do with my clients. It’s like holding the space bigger than you might have even imagined it or seen it at that moment in time.

Dr. Angela
Absolutely. Yes.

Coach Colette
So, it sounds a little like you had, at one point, a little bit of a “side-hustle” and the full time thing. So, there are a lot of people out there that are doing that. Was that stressful? Were there things that you did to maintain some kind of balance during that period?

Dr. Angela
No, back then I wasn’t even aware, as much as I have been in the last 10 years about self-care. It was a hustle because the commute from that facility to my private practice was an hour and a half. I had to leave that place at a certain time, get through traffic and get to that office to meet my clients. And I was working until eight or nine o’clock at night. So two or three days, like that was a hustle. And then, like I said, it grew faster than I thought. So, sooner or later, I knew that I had to come out of there full time. And, so eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep leaving, like my job two or three minutes early, just to get on the road, you know. I was short changing myself somewhere. So, it was a bit of a hustle. And, it was pretty stressful. And self-care was the farthest thing from my mind. I was very focused on getting that practice up and running. I knew nothing about the business part. That’s where I really think that clinicians that are becoming entrepreneurs, or the entrepreneurial clinician, you don’t get business knowledge and business practical information in graduate school. And, so, I was learning as I was going along. And, so, I made a lot of mistakes that cost me time. And time translates into money. And, so, there’s a lot of things that now I don’t regret, because it taught me things that now I know I pay people to do. But, at least I know what they’re doing.

Coach Colette
When would you say the self-care light bulb turned on for you then?

Dr. Angela
Let’s see. If I’ve been in my private practice 10 years, I want to say about maybe halfway through. So, the last five, six years, it has been like: “OK, I’m sure I’m not supposed to be running like this. I’m sure that I’m missing more sleep than I need to. I’m probably gaining weight because I’m eating in the car.” When I started to know my health was affected, then I knew, OK, this has to change.

Coach Colette
So, how do you nurture your own mental health and physical wellbeing now?

Dr. Angela
So now, I’m so much more intentional about how I schedule my clients. I’m creating enough breaks in my schedule, making sure that I am drinking my water and taking my vitamins. And when I can, getting in walks in the afternoon in between my clients. And then if I can’t, then I just ultimately have to wait till I get home. And for me, I like doing things socially. So, going to conferences for me, is as much information as it is social, and the social connections that I like. I love reading, I love traveling. So, I try to now build in things into my practice so that now I have freedom and choice to do things that I want to do, while I’m also working on the things that need to get done.

Coach Colette
How is it that we are walking our own talk? The things that we might recommend or suggest that our clients do to maintain and nurture their mental health and physical wellbeing. How do we build time in our schedules, like you’re saying, to do the same?

Dr. Angela
When I’m talking to a client that I am encouraging or instructing or recommending self-care and health care, [and] I may be saying something to them where I’ve slipped, … I try to be very transparent. I say: “Look, I’ve kind of fallen off of my walking schedule. Or, I don’t drink as much water as I need to. But I’m telling you how I learned from my mistakes.” So, sometimes that helps me to remember. And that’s one thing I taught myself a long time ago, never ask a client to do something you wouldn’t do.

Coach Colette
Oh, that’s good!

Dr. Angela
I learned this when I was in graduate school, where they used to do the old shame attacking exercises as part of an abnormal psych class; where you send someone on this behavioral experiment, where they do something really silly in the public, that typically will be interpreted as shame. But, the person kind of goes through that process and realizes, oh, it wasn’t so bad at all. So, we get people to do really crazy things: I want you to go stand at the top of elevator tomorrow and scream, “I am …” whatever, right? And, I thought, I wouldn’t even do that. So, I’m not going to give someone an assignment or something that I wouldn’t do; no matter how effective someone said it would be. So, when I think about what I’m giving people, I consider the context in which they live and how they function and how they’re coping, and try to get as close to some kind of a challenge for them. But if I know I wouldn’t do it myself, I’m not going to put someone else under that kind of pressure.

Coach Colette
There’s a whole concept of shame. Like, we could have a whole other episode just on shame. Although what I’m hearing from you is, how do we set stretch goals, right? Or stretch opportunities for our clients so that they can step out of their comfort zones, and hopefully, gain some insight and perspective without this aspect of shame or judging or guilt.

Coach Colette
So what, if anything, do you think is unique for black female founders or, black owners of small businesses, when it comes to mental health? Or, even physical wellbeing? Are there things that we may be could pay more attention to? Are there areas where we’re actually doing, maybe, really well?

Dr. Angela
Oh, so that’s a really good question. The first thing that comes to mind is our physical health. The numbers of women who are suffering and who have had some kind of heart issue, whether a heart attack, and they’re on disability now, or some kind of heart arrhythmia. And it’s often connected to their weight, higher cholesterol, which we know if we, if we unpack it: it’s high stress, it’s breathing, and it’s the lack of exercise. Well, that comes because we’re working 12 to 16 hours a day, we’re taking care of our children, and we’re leading very over-scheduled lives. I think that’s where we have to pay more attention to our health. Because we probably are doing everything in our business, until we set up the systems. Once we get systems in place, like hiring an accountant, so we’re not doing that. And, hiring a marketing or social media person. So, we’re not also doing that. Once we put systems in place, it frees us up to do other things. But in the beginning, we’re doing everything. And I think that level of stress is where we need more support to be able to do that successfully.

Coach Colette
Exactly. Yeah, I would definitely agree. And I think of the times where I’ve had support in my business, whether it’s from interns to other coaches, or associates, and, and it really does impact my mental wellbeing, as well. That sense of: “Oh, wow, I can delegate that; that’s not on my plate, and I can focus on other things.”

Dr. Angela
I’ve had women who have decided to, and sometimes it was the right decision, to leave a very hostile and stressful nine-to-five, and to move into something more entrepreneurial, because they had the skill set. It was just a startup, and they didn’t have their partner’s support. That’s an additional stress where you’re constantly being asked: “What did you do today? How much money did you make today?” You know, while you’re trying to start that up, not having partner support. For me, that made all the difference. And my husband has always been supportive, because he’s always been an entrepreneur. I’m the one with my feet dug in the sand and saying, “No, but what about this? And what about that, and you know, the security of that.” And finally, when I first found my first office, and he said, “If I took away every excuse that you had, would you still not do it?” And the excuse at the time was, I don’t have the money. He goes, “So if I take away that, would you still not do it?” So every excuse that I came up with, he had a solution. I started to run out of things, and I had to trust him. He says, “OK, I got that. Let me help you start up.” And I said, OK. So, if it wasn’t for him, I probably would have still delayed this process.

Coach Colette
Right. That’s interesting. I always say my journey to entrepreneurship was a little bit of a different spin. I was right-sized, downsized, left-sized from two other full time opportunities. That was how I ended up in this in this world of entrepreneurship. It’s like, we’re both taking leaps of faith in different ways. And, then, having the support … I’ve worked with coaches too. You know, it’s sort of like walking my talk. And it is interesting, that sense of support. And for some, it might look like a love relationship; for others that might be a friend or other communities. Like you said, I know you like to go to network with other people in in our industry.

Dr. Angela
Yeah, exactly. And then, when you meet other people who’ve walked in your path that you’re trying, you’re like: “Oh, okay; so if, if you guys can do it there, I see myself being able to it.” When you see someone who’s already done it and says: “Hey, there’s some things you need to know. But I have every faith in you.”

Coach Colette
Interesting. So, I know that you are passionate about helping to reduce the stigma for people of color who seek mental health treatment, how do you think we’re doing on that as a community?

Dr. Angela
Some days, I feel like, wow, we’re getting better. And then other times, I’m seeing things that says we’re taking 10 steps backwards. I think we’re getting the information out there. I think we’re not getting it into deep enough into communities that really need it. So, while I see tons of articles and outlets on social media, I don’t know if the neighborhood down in South Philadelphia or in North Philadelphia has access to mental health, you know, information. So, while we’re putting it out there, we’re doing networking events, we’re doing conferences; I don’t think that everybody’s getting it. I think sometimes we have to get in the communities to get this information out there. I know that there are groups here … I can speak to like Philadelphia and New Jersey, and maybe a couple other places where I know that I’m working more directly. But they’re doing so much to give in their communities. So the work is there. I just think we have a ways to go. But I think it will be ongoing because as we know, recently, we’ve had two people who survived one traumatic event, who later we find out have taken their life by suicide. And, so with all of the information and the hotline numbers we have out there … we have the national hotline numbers for suicide, and there are other apps that people have created for mental health particularly for young people, that is still becoming a choice. It should never be that way that people are so tormented by traumatic events and depression and other mental illnesses that the way for them to alleviate pain is to not be around anymore. So, I know that I can speak to my community. I know more and more people of color are calling and they’re showing up for psychotherapy. And they are doing their work here. I love it. But I bet for everyone I get here, there are 10 who aren’t getting it.

Coach Colette
For anyone that’s listening to this, what tips or suggestions would you have? Or, maybe even better what are the warning signs would you say around whether it’s high stress, chronic stress? Like what should we be looking out for in ourselves?

Dr. Angela
You know, the first thing I would say is a real demoralization; like things just don’t seem to be working well. They don’t feel like they have any kind of support, whether it’s on their jobs or in their families, and they’re finding they’re having really, really negative conversations in their head around: “I can’t do this anymore. This is horrible. This is too hard for me. I feel alone.” And the helplessness and hopelessness are high indicators for persons who are considering suicide. So I want to be mindful of that. I think for me, the body talks. Many of us are physically and emotionally exhausted. But we won’t stop. We keep working, we keep moving. We don’t even stop long enough to check in with our own bodies. When we’re sick, we saw work sick. We don’t want to miss work, or we can’t. We’re afraid that we can’t miss work. So, we’re showing up in places and we’re not even feeling well. And the body talks; the body is telling you. And I have a lot of folks who don’t sleep. They say: “Well, I don’t sleep because of this, or I don’t sleep because of that.” And, I often say, you know, eventually, your body will shut down. You can wear it down, or it will shut down. If it shuts down, you’re probably going to be in the hospital.

Dr. Angela
If you catch it and you work on how to bring it into some kind of stability, then you probably can manage it on your own. So, either you shut your body down, or it will shut down on you. Those are the things I look for. People whose immune systems … they constantly seem to have some kind of cold, or something’s breaking out on them. Because they don’t realize that internally the stress manifests externally. But that’s all the kind of education around “What does stress look like?” is also a great conversation for people who think that stress is just breaking down. There are other steps before that. We can catch it before it gets to the point where people break down. And that’s general education. We do wellness talks all the time. We are in this world where everything is happening and should have happened yesterday.

Coach Colette
Right. Right. And again, for founders, that extra pressure, particularly if you’re a solo founder, that sense of: “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” And then, the flip side of that, like you’re saying, yes, the body keeps score. So, if you don’t make those different choices, then there’s the consequences of: OK now I’m taken down. So then, there’s the long term implications to your business for that. So, it’s kind of like taking the quick break, versus getting completely taken out and then having to take months off.

Dr. Angela
Yeah, here’s the mistake I made many years ago that I stopped. I used to think: work really hard from January through November, and then save all your safety little vacation for December, because most people take off, kids are off on holidays. And, I wouldn’t take much time off at all. And, now, you’re working 11 months, waiting to get to December, so that you can have some time off. And I realized that, over the years, by the time I reached October, I was sick. And this happened two years in a row before I really figured it out. It’s because you’re stretching yourself too far before you take a break. And so as an entrepreneur, that’s what I was doing. I was like, well, I kind of build up this fund; or I’ve got to build up this time or; or people are calling in, I have to take and meet them. And, so I was letting the business run me and not me running my business.

Coach Colette
That’s amazing. That’s a great quote, I think. And, I’m raising my hand on that too. I have definitely fallen into that mode. And, I think it’s the awareness of it, recognizing that there might be crunch times, right? And then, not letting the crunch time be 11 months.

Coach Colette
So, within that context, I ask all of my guests to share: What does Start Within mean to you?

Dr. Angela
So, Start Within for me is looking at what’s happening inside of me in terms of my thoughts, and in my body. And Start Within in terms of, if I want to make changes, whether it’s in my health, whether it’s in my relationships or my business, I have to start within me. Or, the old cliché of the man looking in the mirror. I feel like this is the same way you start within to work without. So, I can’t give to others what I don’t have; or what we say, we can’t pour into others when our cup is empty. Start Within for me is looking at what I have to offer; what I have in terms of my value, putting a worth on that, and then being able to give that out.

Coach Colette
That’s beautiful. Thank you. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that definition for you. I’m definitely going to think of a way we’re going to have another conversation together really soon. So how can people learn more about you and the work that you’re doing and if they wanted to, perhaps, take advantage of your services?

Dr. Angela
So, I’m in New Jersey in case people are listening all over the US and abroad. I can be found on social media, Instagram or Facebook. My last name is Clack, or Dr. Angela Clack. I also have my website. I’m now working to build up my YouTube channel because that’s one that I had not paid much attention to. So, I’m working on that one now.

Coach Colette
Angela, well, I’m so glad that we spent this time together. I want to thank you for the work that you are doing to support the mental health and wellbeing for people in your community and beyond.

Dr. Angela
Yes, and I have appreciated it. I really appreciate your questions. I’m thankful for the questions that are getting people to think about mental health. And even for me, I love some of the questions and the way that they came up. Even things came out of me today that I hadn’t even thought more about. So, I love when it generates the creative space in me. So, thank you so much for the interview, and for the opportunity to be a part of your community.

Coach Colette
Oh, it’s my pleasure. And, so, we’re excited to continue the opportunity to chat. And, until then, everyone remember to Start Within to Finish Strong!

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Colette Ellis

Written by

Creator, Start Within Coaching; Host, Start Within #Podcast; Co-Host, Brooklyn Savvy TV #mentalhealth #wellbeing startwithincoaching.com

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Colette Ellis

Written by

Creator, Start Within Coaching; Host, Start Within #Podcast; Co-Host, Brooklyn Savvy TV #mentalhealth #wellbeing startwithincoaching.com

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

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