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Coping with Bipolar Disorder as an Entrepreneur: How Genia Stevens Strikes a Healthy Work-Life Balance

How Genia Stevens Strikes a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Genia Stevens is a marketing strategist, strategic planner, and business coach. For almost 20 years, Genia has supported nonprofit and for-profit clients with strategic planning, business plan development, marketing strategy development, and community engagement. Her company Belwah Media has been named LGBT Business of the Year by the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber. Genia is also a member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invite-only organization for successful and diverse executives in marketing, PR, media, and advertising.

When were you diagnosed with bipolar disorder?

My official diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder happened when I was 26, after my fourth suicide attempt. My first suicide attempt was at the age of 13, I believe.

Tell us a little about your treatment journey.

Wow.  It was rough the first few years. I think everyone who’s living with bipolar disorder will tell you we deal with challenges with finding the right medications. We also question if medications are the fix, so we often stop taking them. I did that. Eventually, I found the treatment plan that works best for me. It includes medication, eating well, getting a lot of rest, and avoiding stress.

How did you decide you wanted to start a business?

I started a business out of necessity. I was getting a divorce. Also, I was in college, a single mom of two kids, the bills were piling up, and I needed to keep the lights on.  I remembered watching my grandmother, who ran a bar out of her kitchen when I was growing up, run her own business. Also, my father was the neighborhood handyman in our small town in Georgia. I knew there was always a way to make money without clocking in for someone else.

How do you manage your time effectively, so you don’t get overwhelmed?

When I get overwhelmed, it throws me off balance. I get anxious. I can’t sleep. And then, the bipolar mania kicks in.  It’s important for me to manage my time. I use various technology to help me work smarter. I use Square Appointments and open up only 8 hours a week for meetings. I use Asana for project management, and I schedule my entire work week – even the time I study for some courses I’m taking online.  This allows me to finish my workday by 6 and keep my weekends completely free to rest.

What do you do when your health starts affecting your work?

Several years ago, my mental health tanked very badly. I took a year and a half off from work and supported only my two largest clients. Most people wouldn’t flinch if I had cancer and I had to take that much time off work. But, because my health issue was mental health related, they cringe. Today, I take a day or two off whenever I need it. I didn’t used to do that, and that’s why I had my mental health crisis several years ago.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who are trying to manage mental health issues?

I try not to give unsolicited advice to other people living with mental health issues. My journey is not their journey. I just want to share my story with others.

If readers want to learn more about you, where can they find you online?

My website is GeniaStevens.com.  I’m also on Twitter: @GeniaStevens

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