As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Laura Weldy is an ICF-credentialed life coach and the founder of The Well Supported Woman. Laura helps creative women with personal development, teaching them how to become better advocates for themselves, their team and their greater work in the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely! I walked the walk that many of my current clients are on now: feeling stressed, anxious, invisible and overworked, without any clear idea of how to advocate for themselves and their needs. I worked myself into the ground at an innovative up and coming nonprofit straight out of college only to soon realize that my body and mental health were both paying the price. I left that role and embarked on a long journey of getting to know myself at the age of 26. I asked myself questions about how I wanted to experience my life and career and how I could better care for myself, and the results led me to shift my entire life to help other women do the same!
According to Mental Health America’s report,over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
I think women are often silent about this topic because they are hyperaware that they may be perceived as stereotypically weak, especially in the workplace. This association is harmful and untrue, and the more vulnerable we can all be about our struggles, the more permission we grant to the people around us to speak up.
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
I am working to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness in several ways through my work as a life coach. My credentials with the International Coach Federation (ICF) has helped me understand the very clear boundaries of my work as a coach, and I encourage every one of my clients to work with a therapist for further support. I talk openly about my own experience with anxiety and depression because I want my community to know that mental health is a priority for me.
My work as a coach contributes to the de-stigmatization of mental health by flipping the script from mental illness to mental wellness. It’s my goal to encourage individuals to take a proactive approach to their wellness, rather than waiting for a breakdown to happen before addressing it. I firmly believe that cultivating habits like goal setting, visualization, mediation and personal reflection can give individuals tools to build autonomy and resilience for the long term.
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
I’ve experienced mental and physical burnout, and I had no idea where to turn. After struggling through the process of getting support myself, I wanted to make it clear to others that they don’t need to suffer in the same way I did. It’s important to note that I’m not a therapist, so my work isn’t focused on healing, but on intentional lifestyle design and action plans to help you once you’re ready to move into the next phase. I don’t want you to wait until you’re burnt out or struggling to get help in creating a life and lifestyle that nourishes you.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
I’m not a mental health professional, so my expertise is really rooted in my own experience as someone who has had anxiety and depression. I want individuals to better support people suffering from mental illness by having more open conversations about what the experience is like. I want us all to learn to practice active compassion around these issues, and I think society plays a major role in highlighting that conversation as much as possible! My dream for government involvement would include building infrastructure that allows everyone access to both mental illness treatment and things like life coaching that provide mental wellness in the long run.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Meditation: This process helps me stay centered in my daily experience and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. I started meditation when I first experienced anxiety, but I use it daily now for proactive wellness.
- Work with my coach: Like all great coaches, I work with my own coach! Having an objective person focused on helping me bring my goals into existence keeps me motivated and happy.
- Therapy: I have a therapist that I work with regularly, and I’m unapologetic about ramping up sessions when I need them. I appreciate that Nashville has a lot of affordable therapy options because I think we all benefit from access to it.
- Journaling: I use a notebook to ask myself the tough questions and let it all spill out on the page. Building daily reflection time into my schedule gives me an added opportunity to review my goals and mindset so that I head into my day fully prepared.
- Meal prepping: This tool is one of my favorites, because it frees up so much time for myself during the week. It also helps me feed my body well and takes away the pressure of context switching (changing focus from one task to the next) throughout the day so that I can be as focused and productive as possible.
- I prioritize laughter: One of the core tenets of my life coaching practice is that our personal work doesn’t need to be serious all the time. We can give ourselves grace and a bit of space to laugh and enjoy ourselves as we build happy, healthy lives.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
I love seeing the work being put out into the world on mental wellness and intentional lifestyle design by women. But I’d have to say that my favorite resources have been the people around me telling me about their experiences and feeling the powerful effect it’s had on me over the past year.
I let my passion for mental wellness fuel my work as a coach. I’m always reading new studies and books about leadership, goal setting and motivation to try to understand how aspects of our lifestyle that we control bring us happiness and joy. A personal favorite is Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.
The coach in me also wants to remind you that often YOU are your greatest resource, so start by asking yourself what aspect of your life could feel better — and then take any steps possible to get supported around that endeavor.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!