Set an evening routine that eliminates technology — television, computers, tablets, phones, we spend so much time with our eyes glued to these screens. Our eyes are forever scrolling, before bed we’re taking in messages, drama, negative news and more. Instead, set a timer to turn off your electronics and use the time to prepare for the following day, mediate, exercise or something else positive.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things, Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Melony Hill. Award-winning author and safe space curator, Melony Hill, is the founder of Stronger Than My Struggles, an organization to support and connect survivors and mental illness sufferers. Hill curates safe spaces to have hard conversations such as therapeutic writing workshops and the first-ever Black mental health awareness tour.
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?
Asurvivor of domestic violence in the home growing up, sexual assault and a sufferer of mental illness, I’ve long since battled dark feelings and thoughts. The writing was always an escape, a way to mentally get away from the violence and abuse I endured and witnessed. Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer, I wanted to pass that same healing practice of escaping into alternate realities through reading and writing to future generations.
After extensive therapy to find mental peace and get my life back on track, I started to write books to share My story, likewise hosting live events for survivors to connect. After publishing My 6th book, I decided to start working with survivors closely in a coaching capacity. I wanted to help them too, break free of the stigma and stereotypes associated with their pasts to create the lives they desired and knew they deserved.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Coming from such a tumultuous and unstable upbringing, it was no surprise that I started to lead an unstable life in adulthood. I fell into the wrong crowds and went down career paths that did not make people who knew Me proud. I was constantly told that because of where I came from and where it led me, I’d never had a viable future.
Once I started publishing my books, speaking on stages and sharing My story and working closely with survivors, I was being called on more often to share My opinion via online, podcast and magazine interviews. To my utter shock, one of those publications that reached out to interview Me was iconic, TIME Magazine. It’s not that they reached out that was so shocking, but that they wanted to talk to me specifically about the very career I had transitioned out of, the one people thought would destroy Me. It’s become My foundation instead.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
I had to host a two-hour workshop one day and procrastinated until the last moment on printing out My teaching guide and handouts. When I showed up at my venue, the printer wasn’t working and I only had time to set up, no time to leave and get prints. I ended up telling the group that the printer malfunctioned, and I’d send them a pdf of the forms by email. I spent the workshop half checking My document on My phone to make sure I stayed on track and half being thankful that I was teaching something I knew well. I’ve learned to always be prepared well in advance, same day printing isn’t something I should even be doing.
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?
I’m most grateful to my former therapist. I saw her 7.5 years up to three days a week. When I first started therapy, my mind was a complete mess and I lived in My trauma. After years of deep internal work, I was able to exit therapy, publishing six books, and start My journey as a life coach within eight months.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Take time for true self-care, without regret. As helpers, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to be everything for everyone. Don’t take on more than you should because others are requesting of you. Also, remember that “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your no. Lastly, take some time to unplug. When scrolling social media, it’s easy to take on the emotions and problems of others even when they haven’t personally placed them upon you. Tune out sometimes, give yourself a chance to just breathe and enjoy life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
We live in a society where people are more apt to express their opinions and feelings in their place of employment, call out sick because they need a mental health day and switch jobs if not happy faster than ever. That means we need to be more aware of the way we not only boost company morale but the personal morale of all who work with and around us. Your company values should be at the forefront of every interaction. If your values are integrity, transparency, community, etc then the way you interact with others you work with and around should show that.
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.
- Get up and go for a walk — I know it sounds too easy but it’s true. When we drive, we’re focused on traffic, lights, speed cameras, pedestrians and the like. However, when we go for a walk, even in the most familiar territory, it enables us to see our surroundings differently. It also gives us time to stop and smell the flowers, literally, window shop and even pop in a cute little store we hadn’t noticed before.
- Spend time with people who make you happy — I know, I know, these things don’t sound life-changing. They are. Stop and think about how many hours a day you spend around people you must, people you don’t like, people who make you uncomfortable or you can’t be yourself around. You must know that’s affecting your mental state even if subconsciously. Make time for the people who truly make you happiest. If there’s not enough time in your schedule, make some, it’s needed.
- Set an evening routine that eliminates technology — television, computers, tablets, phones, we spend so much time with our eyes glued to these screens. Our eyes are forever scrolling, before bed we’re taking in messages, drama, negative news and more. Instead, set a timer to turn off your electronics and use the time to prepare for the following day, mediate, exercise or something else positive.
- Indulge in a hobby. Life can not be work, bills, and obligations, there must be more. It’s not selfish to take time to do things that you enjoy, even if they are things solely for you and not for your family and/or spouse. Find something not related to your job that you truly enjoy.
- Embrace your right to say no. As I mentioned before, no is a complete sentence. Do not let others guilt or manipulate you into doing what they want. You may miss out on some opportunities and even lose the support of people you thought were your friends or supporters, but mental health is wealth. You’ll thank yourself later.
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.
It’s funny you should ask. I’m fairly young, in My late 30’s. For years, one of my closest friends has been a 74-year-old retired military chaplain. I watched him struggle with utter boredom in retirement. Being close to him, I watched firsthand how he beat the boredom.
- Volunteer — It’s hard to go from working daily and having an interactive life to just sitting around the house in retirement. Find somewhere to volunteer one or two days a week. It will do you good to know you’re contributing to your community as well as keep your life interactive.
- Become a part-time consultant — You may not want to work a full-time job or even go back to working for anyone ever again. However, if you spent five years or more in any filed, you hold a level of expertise that other individuals would be willing to pay you for. You can get paid to simply talk about the things you know most about.
- Get social — There are many local community centers, organizations, and events that you can get involved in, staying active and making new acquaintances.
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?
- Fight the need to compare — Your life is your own and it’s not supposed to be like anyone else’s. Social media especially can give you the impression that someone’s life is better than yours; it isn’t. It’s just different.
- It’s okay to enjoy your youth, you’ll have plenty of time to grow up and do grown-up things. A lot of youths who suffer emotional issues are dealing with problems that they shouldn’t at their age. Don’t grow up too fast.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story? NO
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. 🙂
I’ve actually started that movement already, a little over two years ago, it’s called Stronger Than My Struggles. Stronger Than My Struggles is an initiative I started to connect victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and those who duffer from mental and emotional instability. In the past two years, we’ve been able to impacts thousands worldwide, letting them know they are not alone by providing resources, funds and support communities. Though we’re all-inclusive, we have a focus on urban and other underserved communities where mental health and wellness are not a part of normal conversation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“What other people think about me is none of my business,” I remember 10 years ago when I was in the beginning of My career transition. After so long in a field of industry where I was so public, open to judgment and in an internet society, where nothing goes away; I thought my life was over. People kept telling me that I no longer had value, that My past would negate my future. 10 years later, I’m a respected award-winning, 8x author, life transition coach, and mental health advocate. Imagine if I’d have let others dictate My value.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I can be found at
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!