Grow up with a purpose. Have fun of course but getting the balance right with commitment and wasted energy is so important in your later teen years. The most important part of growing up is to be in a loving and kind environment where your parents push you on to greater glory. Unfortunately, this is not within your control as a child. Therefore, it is my hope that adult guardians become more self-aware and responsible for setting their children up to prosper in life.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Welsh.
Anne is an internationally recognized author, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Most importantly she is a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends. A former investment banker and currently President of her own consulting firm, Anne has recently launched a memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like her, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a pathway to a gratifying life while living with pain.
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?
Myfather is an accountant and was a senior auditor for the government. It was no surprise then that I pursued an accounting and finance degree and a MSc from Cass Business School in Investment Management. This naturally led me to working for the Lehman Brothers bank. After its demise, I ventured forth with my own consultancy focused on business development in difficult regions of the world.
Sickle cell has been a part of my life since birth and I am using my networks and voice to improve awareness on a global scale and share my insights into a better quality of physical and mental well-being.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It has to be the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. When this happened in September, 2008 I had no idea what a change in my life it would create. I went from one of the largest investment banks in the world to working for a small subsidiary of the bank in the Asset Management division that survived. I was able to re-orientate myself and understand that the long-term plans can be changed on a whim. I became an entrepreneur where I can control my own destiny.
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?
Well, when I started with Lehman Brothers, I was allocated a parking stall next to the CEO’s as it was closest to the elevator and really helped me with controlling the stress on my body which often causes a sickle cell crisis to occur. Because of this closeness of the parking spaces, I often chatted to this person when we arrived in the morning. I had no idea it was the CEO and he thought before he met me that I must have been a very important manage to park so close to him, until he actually met me and realised I was just starting out in my career. We actually became good friends.
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?
My Mother, Father and two sisters were such major influences on my success that it is hard not to have them figure prominently. Without their support I would not have been able to live through my sickle cell crises as a child and young adult and eventually go on to achieve my academic standing. Without this foundation, I would not have been able to pursue the difficult and worthwhile jobs I have today.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
The advice I offer to thrive in your profession is one of personal responsibility to bring positivity to your life. I cover these in greater detail in my book Painless: Living With Pain, Finding Joy.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I would want people in my organisation to challenge themselves to be the best that they can be in whatever role they have. Your peers and important people will instantly gravitate to you because you are useful and have a can-do attitude that leads to accomplishment and success; for you and wider company.
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.
Being mentally strong means making some difficult decisions. But the important thing is that you make those decisions for good reasons. Because to stay positive and well, you need to avoid the things that bring you down. So the following is a list of steps I took to try to bring myself into the right mindset.
- Let go of your anger. This might be easier said than done, of course, but there are triggers for anger and upset and you need to be honest about them. For myself, this meant:
- No longer seeing people who made me angry or upset. There are always people in your life with whom you might have a spiky relationship. Unfortunately, for those of us who need to stay mentally strong, this can be a drain and cause stress, so it is best to avoid this type of friendship.
- Accept that people make mistakes (you know you do, right?) and try to see the funny side.
- When someone says something that might upset you, try not to take it personally. Chances are, they didn’t mean it that way anyway, so take a more relaxed, easy-going attitude to things that really don’t matter.
- Do not harbor resentments. They are harmful at the best of times, but when you suffer with sickle cell, they can make you sick.
- Don’t resent other people’s happiness or success. Be happy for them, as they would be happy for you.
- Do not compare yourself with anyone else. Worry only about yourself, your own happiness and those around you.
- Be grateful for the people who love and support you. Without them, your life would be immeasurably poorer, so remember to let them know how much you appreciate them.
- Create opportunities to celebrate life and what you have with those you love. When you come together to celebrate, it will remind you of how much you have to be grateful for.
The great news is that even though we are unable to sometimes immediate deal with our mental issues, we can alter our mindset to reduce the severity of our mental battle.
All these items I have just described can be linked to a watershed moment that occurred for me about 7 years ago. I was lucky enough to be supporting work done by an ex-President from Africa. He knew very well of my physical struggles and of the mental strain it put on me. It seemed harsh at the time but he said that to overcome your invisible illness and prosper, you must take the position that it is up to you: to eat healthier, to exercise and to learn to reduce the stress that causes self-doubt and depression. What I have written are the ways I implemented those insightful words.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
To be candid, don’t think of retirement if you want to optimize mental wellness. In this day and age, you may have to work full on until your physical body gives out, especially if you want to support any kind of lifestyle that allows you to do things rather than just sitting at home. Look around at all the billionaires that are old. They have absolute focus in life and love what they are doing regardless of the physical age. Keep feeling and acting young and that will opimise your mental state later in life.
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?
Grow up with a purpose. Have fun of course but getting the balance right with commitment and wasted energy is so important in your later teen years. The most important part of growing up is to be in a loving and kind environment where your parents push you on to greater glory. Unfortunately, this is not within your control as a child. Therefore, it is my hope that adult guardians become more self-aware and responsible for setting their children up to prosper in life. Sadly, this accountability is somehow being lost by many people in today’s generations, and they abdicate this responsibility to the community, the schools and most dangerously the government.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
It is not one particular book, but rather a collage of many. From many James Patterson novels, The 10 minute Manager, The Path to Wealth by Mary McCarthy, and finally every classic novel written that describes hope from tragedy. Shakespeare plays are often a great starting point. My point here is keep reading — there is no substitute.
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. 🙂
The movement of personal responsibility and not one of victimisation. People that accept personal responsibility are on their first step of a lengthy pathway to success and personal wellbeing. Taking on this positive attitude really benefits the wider community in which we live.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
It is my quote, so it is deeply personal to me. I have been to the abyss of despair many times and thankfully I have been able to pull back from disaster and make something of my life. I would have given up so much happiness, fun and fulfilment had I continued to step forward into catastrophe.
“Sometimes in my life, all is not well and I know all would never be well. But for me all was never lost. Thank goodness. “
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram: @ladyannewelsh (I am constantly adding content to this feed)