Quality sleep always gives me incredible amounts of energy. It would also be a day when I am in no rush. I’d turn on the music, look out of the window and greet the new day, enjoy the morning with the cup of coffee, do the 15-minutes cardio, have breakfast with my family and leave for work to be super productive.
At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.
As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olga Mykhoparkina. Olga Mykhoparkina is a Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty — a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful team communication tool is on a mission to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. Having a 9-year experience in digital marketing field, Olga is responsible for Chanty’s online presence strategy, managing an amazing team of marketing experts and getting things done to change the way teams communicate and collaborate.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Olga! 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 and to where you are today?
I’ve always had that entrepreneurial mindset that kept me busy. My part time jobs have started since I was 12. English courses, dance schools, event (travel and even marriage) agencies — my laptop folder called “Projects” has been always full of different startup ideas. Some of them stayed in the backlog, some of them have been launched. It seems like I said Yes to almost every opportunity. Soon afterwards I realized it’s a straightforward road to a nervous breakdown. So I started choosing my paths more carefully. It’s been always easy for me to start new things, make a shift from 0 to 1, but keeping that afloat — far more complicated. That’s when I realized the power of prioritization that brought me to start my marketing career and stay consistent enough to get to the executive role in a product company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Being open to co-marketing and partnership opportunities, we network a lot at Chanty. As we just started working on our product I was very active in one of the SaaS communities where I met Adam Hempenstall, CEO and founder of Better Proposals. We got on a phone call and he was extremely nice sharing their startup experience and giving advice on what should be done for Chanty on the first place. As we went on with our marketing at Chanty, we started mentioning Adam and his software a lot in our guest articles, including their tool into our round-ups and stories. We didn’t expect anything back, we just thought the guys at Better Proposals were cool and why not help great guys? Over time, we developed our friendship and it was super unexpected when Adam had invited me to visit their team in Prague where they treated me to the fantastic music festival. The entire team had a great time there and this experience once again proves the importance of networking and helping others without asking anything in return.
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?
At some point of my life I used to be a freelance marketer and have been communicating with Gary, a German-based client. All was good until he invited his colleague to join the conversation. The colleague’s first name was Kochutok, sounded weird at the time, but hey, there are all sorts of names in the world these days. Long story short, I’m chatting with the guys, sending them a proposal and referring to them as “Gary and Kochutok”. It’s been a few days later when I realized that Kochutok was actually his last name (the first name that came second has been Andrei) although it’s been put on a first place in a Slavic manner. After about an hour-long laugh and facepalms, I wrote an apology. Luckily, it wasn’t a big deal for the clients and they proceeded with our cooperation. The story taught me to double (and sometimes triple) check all the information about the clients and pay more attention to details.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?
Be the parent to the team you are leading. Just like every relationship requires communication, care and support, relationships at work are no different. Learn to really listen and participate in the lives of your teammates. Show the example and act accordingly, set the goals so everybody knows why they are doing what they are doing at work. Say thank you to everything your team has achieved to motivate them for more success. Offer your help and support; if something goes wrong say “What can I do to help you do better next time?” This kind of approach creates trust between you and your team and you can be sure that whatever goes wrong, your teammates won’t be afraid to come to you for advice and will try to show you they can do better next time.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
One of the biggest health issues that affect my entire well being is insomnia and I’ve been fighting it for a few years. That said, having enough sleep every night is what keeps me productive and full of life and energy. It’s no surprise that you body and mind thrive when you get quality sleep. I’ve tried lots of things and one that really works for me have been cardio exercises (I run every day for at least 15 minutes). The important thing is to keep your heart beat rate over 140 beats per minute (but keep it under 160). This is the sweet spot where exercising significantly reduces your adrenaline and cortisol levels which helps you sleep better at night. The other thing most people do wrong is breathing. We don’t think about how breathing is actually crucial for our well-being. Yet, it’s responsible for so many metabolic processes. I would find myself holding my breath every time I paid attention to my breathing pattern. This contributes to anxiety and insomnia. What I try to do these days is to stay aware of my breathing as much as I can throughout the day and make sure I breathe properly — taking slow and deep breaths. This reduces anxiety a great deal and helps me sleep better as well.
Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Overthinking is what you end up with after a difficult day at work with tons of tasks and meetings. When I realize I can’t control and calm down my mind, I turn to meditation. Being here and now along with paying attention to your breathing is a great cure for an anxious mind helping you get rid of the 1000-thoughts-a-minute overwhelm. I know, many women will hate me for that, but I’m doing my best to actually gain weight as stress and hard work result in my body weight going down (well, for me it works this way) so I make sure to find time for healthy nutrition — eating properly even though, often times, there’s not enough time for that. Another thing to make my mind thrive is doing new things and visiting new places. I can’t say I’m a heavy traveller, but even when I can’t go far away and change the decorations around me, I try to visit new places in my city on the weekends, eat at a new restaurant or take a new route to work. This is a proven way to build new neural pathways in our brains. This happens when we learn new things and get new experiences. That’s one of the reasons why time runs slower for kids or the first three days of your vacation at a new place seem like a week.
Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Life is no good if it doesn’t bring joy so I love spending time with my family, my kid and my parents. In fact, visiting my parents over a weekend makes me feel very happy as it’s kind of returning you to your childhood when you were safe and protected and didn’t have to worry about important decisions in life. Another thing I very much enjoy is dancing. Unfortunately, I don’t do as much of it as I want to, but whenever I’m in a great mood (and nobody actually sees me) I turn on the music and dance like there’s no tomorrow. Makes me feel free and happy 🙂
When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?
Switching from concrete walls of the apartment to the office walls, it’s imperative that I get a sense of life in a form of nature. I love observing the trees, water and the sun. Whenever I get a chance to walk barefoot, I use it to become closer to nature. Think we all need this time with nature, especially in the hectic modern world where “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” Whenever I have a busy day where I don’t have time for a proper exercise, I make sure to take a short walk outside or take a walk to work enjoying the beauty of the trees around me.
All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?
This would be a day when I got a rockstar sleep. Quality sleep always gives me incredible amounts of energy. It would also be a day when I am in no rush. I’d turn on the music, look out of the window and greet the new day, enjoy the morning with the cup of coffee, do the 15-minutes cardio, have breakfast with my family and leave for work to be super productive.
In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?
On a not-so-good day I try to embrace my current condition instead of putting energy into getting myself in a good mood. I try to accept the day as it is and do my best with the energy and resources that I have. Playing the hand that you’re dealt helps you focus on things you should do during the day rather than pitying yourself and asking the irrational questions like “Why am I in such a bad mood?”
Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.
Years ago I was into yoga and tried quite a few studios in town. I visited this yoga center next to the place I lived to save the commute time. It was my first time and it was the beginning of October, has been very cold already, but the heating wasn’t on yet at the studio. So we’ve done lots of asanas lying on the floor that day and when I came home I realized something was wrong with me. I won’t go into the details of my condition, let’s just say that I spent the next two weeks in a hospital. From that moment on I’ve been very cautious about lying on the cold floors… Can’t say I’ve done much yoga since then too.
You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?
This is quite a challenge as it’s almost in my genes to lead. However, when I come home, I have to switch hats and wear the “loving wife and mother” one. I can’t say I have a particular method of how I’m able to do this, guess it just comes naturally. A lot of it has to do with my husband setting the boundaries of things he wouldn’t tolerate and bossy wife is one of them.
Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?
Loved the Mark Manson books “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” and “Everything is f*cked. A book about hope”. Although it’s got some F words in the titles, it gets you thinking a lot about life, our existence, values we choose to adopt and questions everything you believed in. My biggest takeaway from his books has been the realization that most of us (me included) live an “infinite” and “important” life while it’s finite, fragile and… not that important. It’s nothing new, but it highlights again that we forget that in the long run it all doesn’t matter. Universe doesn’t care about you being late for work or this meeting being a success. One way or another, it’ll go on with or without you and everything we are so stressed about, is, in fact, not important. This understanding makes your life perception much easier and lets an over responsible person like me worry far less about endless to-do lists.
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. 🙂
Of course, it would be great to find a cure for cancer or give clean water to people who don’t have access to it, but let’s turn to something that we see, experience (and suffer from) in our everyday life. What I hear all the time from people of all ages around me is “I’m so tired”. I have a 83-year friend who is an acupuncture specialist and she just can’t get it how people in their 20s and 30s can be so tired. “It’s all in your mind” she says. I think it’s in our mind thanks to our phones and being always “on”. We don’t even realize how jumping between one app to another, one social media to another and one messenger to another drains us. I believe that’s exactly why our generation and younger generations are so tired. What’s the cure for that? How about a “Week without a phone” challenge? How many could really make it? We are so addicted to our phones, it’s insane. One has to have a serious self-discipline to become aware of the hand reaching out for the phone and stop it. I think this kind of movement will bring lots of good to the very large number of people on this planet.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I repeat it all the time “Do it one step at a time”. Earlier, I mentioned that I used to do a few things simultaneously, start five projects instead of one, multitask and (clearly) get exhausted fast. Life has proven it’s not the way to stay on a sane side and keep your body and mind healthy. Focus is super important and, although it sounds very obvious, you can’t sit on more than one chair.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!