“Provide free resources.” With Sara Miranda

Free Wellness Resources: As a new, small, self-funded business, I can’t afford a wellness program in the traditional sense but I do care about the wellness of my team, both physical and mental, so when we first got started in February of this year, I created this shared Google doc for the team to find free […]

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Free Wellness Resources: As a new, small, self-funded business, I can’t afford a wellness program in the traditional sense but I do care about the wellness of my team, both physical and mental, so when we first got started in February of this year, I created this shared Google doc for the team to find free wellness resources to meditate, exercise, and more using free apps and websites, and encourage everyone to add to it along the way.

As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Are Helping To Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Miranda, Founder & CEO of The Good Camp, a purpose-driven marketing agency that aims to help consumers make better choices by promoting conscious brands in the most compelling way possible. Her personal struggle with chronic pain, anxiety and depression has informed her attitude toward providing wellness resources for her team, even on a small budget. Before starting the agency earlier this year, she oversaw marketing in house for brands in the natural products, eco-friendly products and ethical fashion industries for fifteen years. She holds an MBA from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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?

Incollege, I started out as a journalism major and worked at the school paper to feed my love of writing. After my sophomore year, I needed a summer job and my dad who worked in marketing for the music industry needed an intern. It was there that I learned how my love of writing could be used in marketing, starting with writing “one-sheets” for new albums. After school, I knew I wanted to use marketing for good causes, like brands in the wellness, environmental, and ethical fashion spaces. I had been doing that for about 15 years and after earning my MBA last year, I decided to start my own agency to serve exactly these types of brands.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early in my career at Bakery On Main (a gluten-free granola company), I came across a Men’s Journal article about pro cycling team Garmin (now EF pro cycling) eating a gluten-free diet to improve performance. I myself have Celiac disease, and at the time, the rest of the gluten-free market was driven by others with intolerances and weight-loss trends, but I had never heard of this use before. I wanted find a way to work with them, but I was a young marketing manager with a small budget, and thought that in order to talk to people at that level, you needed clout — or at the very least, money. I had neither so I also had nothing to lose. I eventually tracked down the team’s nutritionist and to my astonishment, I got a reply! Long story short, I ended up getting the company’s products incorporated in the team’s Tour de France fuel — and they won the team classification that year! Zero budget (just cases upon cases of product) and not only did we get to promote the team’s relationship with us, they also had their photographer do a shoot with the team just for us. It taught me early on that even if it’s a long shot, you take it.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’ve experienced true burnout a few times myself. I think it’s definitely a hazard not only for entrepreneurs, but also for anyone who feels passionate about their work. I’ve learned to force myself to take breaks and to protect my off time. It’s definitely a struggle sometimes because there is always more that needs to be done, but the structure is so important to prevent burnout. I work Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, only check email once a day and fully take weekends off. Maybe my business would grow faster if I let myself fall into old habits, but at what cost?

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

My advice is to have true empathy for your employees. Maria Ross has a great book on this. When someone needs time off, they get time off, no questions asked. Regular one-on-ones are a good start but check in with your team on how they’re doing mentally, not just for status updates. Find out if there’s too much on their plate and redistribute work as needed. The true test is being ok with doing this even during your busiest times. And, being 100% remote means getting the team together at least once a week not only to check in on projects but also to chat and laugh and get a pulse on the energy of the team as a whole.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

There’s a Latin phrase that really resonates with me; I learned about it through Ryan Holiday’s podcast, The Daily Stoic, that appears to have originated with Nietzsche in that he verbalized it, but the concept really originated in Stoic philosophy: “Amor Fati”. It loosely means “love of fate” — no matter what. The general idea is that all of life is beautiful, therefore we can find beauty even in suffering, and “love” it. So, even when something goes wrong, you embrace it, because there’s always some good that can come from it. Maybe it helps you learn to be more patient or more resilient, for example.

Personally, I injured myself about four years ago in a yoga class (note of advice to your readers: do not treat yoga as a competitive sport!), leaving me bedbound ever since. If it weren’t for that forced lifestyle change, I would not have made the time to go back to school for my MBA and ultimately start my company. I’ve also met some amazing people through my volunteer work with U.S. Pain Foundation. I wear a bracelet with the phrase every day as a constant reminder of this mindset and I find it really helps during rough times.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives you have taken to help improve or optimize your employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Free Wellness Resources: As a new, small, self-funded business, I can’t afford a wellness program in the traditional sense but I do care about the wellness of my team, both physical and mental, so when we first got started in February of this year, I created this shared Google doc for the team to find free wellness resources to meditate, exercise, and more using free apps and websites, and encourage everyone to add to it along the way.
  2. Monthly Wellness Challenges: Right now, we’re doing a meditation challenge. The team member who mediates the most minutes during the month of October will win an ethically-sourced cozy blanket and a fair-trade tea assortment to further improve their overall wellness, especially as we enter these colder months.
  3. Start Meetings with a Deep Breath in Unison: I think my team thinks it’s a little cheesy, but shallow breathing doesn’t lend itself to thinking clearly and creatively, and even one deep breath can help to calm any nerves so we can get started on a good note. I credit the inspiration for this idea to the team at Joiya, a wonderful CBD company I worked with while consulting for PR Volt.
  4. Stress-relief Care Packages: Last month we worked on an intensive client project that was on nearly impossible time constraints and I could feel the team’s collective stress, so I put together some small care packages that included peppermint aromatherapy putty by The Squeeze, a laptop sticker that reminds you to “breathe in, breathe out” and the book, Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight, to help them de-stress in a fun way.
  5. No-questions-asked Time Off: Producing great creative work isn’t possible if stress levels are too high. If someone needs to take a breather, I would never deny them of it. I need one myself sometimes, too!

What you are doing is wonderful, but sadly it is not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

Larger companies need to take the lead on this, since they have the ability to impact the largest number of people, and also to serve as an example to look up to. Smaller companies like ours can head to social media to promote what they’re doing, too. I’m happy there’s more awareness, but we all need to do our part to get the word out that it is possible and incredibly important to do regardless of budget, and hopefully it all creates a positive snowball effect.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?

I think that first, it’s important to distinguish between everyday stress or temporary blues and clinical depression and anxiety. If you suspect someone you know is struggling to the point that it affects their daily life, please urge them to seek help. Therapy is more accessible now through telemedicine so location is less of a barrier, but there aren’t enough therapists to go around during this pandemic and even before that, too many people in this country couldn’t afford therapy, online or not — the statistics vary depending on who you ask, but this report found that a mere 38.2% of the people who needed mental health services were able to get it. If finances or therapist availability is an issue, search for targeted support groups online and try apps like 7 cups, which offer free one-on-one and group peer support. If you suspect someone is going to hurt someone else or themselves, refer them to Crisis Textline, where they are trained to handle more severe issues and can send emergency services if needed.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

As a marketer it might seem hypocritical, but I think the most impactful change I’ve made personally was to limit my email time. This was a time-management tactic that I had heard of before, but 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss sold me on it. I definitely cannot achieve a 4-hour workweek, but I can be more mindful about how I spend my time. I schedule one hour per day to check and respond to only the most important email. Otherwise, I stay away. My clients know they can reach me by text otherwise. A workday can easily slip by just replying to email when suddenly you realize that nothing got done. And it’s not just for productivity — letting your inbox control your life (at least for me) creates a lot of anxiety. I definitely feel more zen about it now.

When I work on the strategy for an email marketing campaign, I think, “what can we do to get the attention of someone like me?”. If we can answer that question, I know we have a winner.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

Oh boy, I am the poster child (adult?) for all things stress reduction. It all starts with my morning routine. Yes, I’m one of those people that gets up at 5am. I give myself about an hour to ease into the day, listening to podcasts, stretching, skincare, making coffee and about 5–10 minutes of meditation. Then I get any writing-intensive work done for the day, since that’s when my mind is most open and focused. In fact, I’m writing this during my morning writing hours. Then it’s yoga and getting ready to start the day where there are demands from other people around 9am. Having this time just for me (and using it wisely) has made such a huge difference in my mental health. Even on bad days, it’s like my anchor — no matter what comes my way, I have meditated, exercised, and gotten substantial work done.

Outside on my morning routine, I also see a therapist weekly through the Talkspace app. I have anxiety and depression, and I take care of it just like you’d go to the doctor for a broken bone. I’m glad the stigma around mental illness is slowly lifting, and that I’m able to provide the supportive working environment for my team that I never felt I had. I have always been open about it, but was once passed over for a promotion and told specifically that it was because of my anxiety — they thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of more responsibility! I never want to make anyone feel the way that made me feel.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

It’s tough to pick just one, but if I must, it would be Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s like minimalism, but for your mind and life. He has a lot of great tips on deciding what’s really a priority and how to live a life you’ve designed intentionally, versus letting other people decide that for you with demands on your time that don’t align with your personal values. He calls it “less, but better”. I think my biggest takeaway was his correction on the improper use of the word “priority” which in actuality should mean one thing, one goal and instead people say things like “top priorities” with a list of ten items. Now, each day I define the one small thing I need to focus on for the day that will move the needle and help me build my business. Today, it’s this interview!

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. 🙂

This is actually a goal of mine with The Good Camp. Our mission is to help people make better choices, and right now we’re doing that through marketing brands that enable those choices, but ultimately we want to build a community of like-minded consumers to come together on their journeys to be healthier, treat the environment better and value ethical production under humane conditions and enable them to encourage others to join the movement — to join The Good Camp.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow The Good Camp there as well. On the consumer side, you can join our budding conscious living movement on InstagramTwitter and Facebook @thegoodcamp.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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