Together, let's close the gap in women's mental health. From Black Friday (Nov. 26) until Giving Tuesday (Nov. 30), Unbelts will donate $5 from every belt purchased towards expanding mental health research and resources across Canada in partnership with the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation.
When we asked Team Unbelts what their hope for the holidays is, that was the unanimous response. Because let’s face it, 2020 was a pretty rough year for most people.
Maybe for you bringing on the joy means putting on your fuzziest sweater, watching a holiday movie, and eating those Ferrero Rochers that you were planning on saving for Christmas.
Maybe it means booking an AirBnB so that you can *finally* get some alone time for the first in months.
And maybe it means talking to a therapist, or taking medication to improve your mental health.
For our team, it involves some combination of all of the above.
Last week, Unbelts Founder Claire and Director of Operations Krista sat down for some real talk about mental health while momming, business owning, and oh yeah that pandemic thing.
It was meant to be a short 20-minute chat between but (unsurprisingly!) evolved into a much longer and deeper conversation about the challenges of the last year, and some of the tools they’ve used to get through it.
Note: We recognize that our experiences are not universal, and that they’re shaped by economic, racial, and other privileges that we are responsible for using to effect positive systemic change in our communities.
Claire: We’re so excited about our pop-up but it’s not all shiny holiday wrapping and sparkly Christmas trees.
Krista: It’s been a challenging year. We’ve been through a lot of changes and a lot of ups and downs. It’s a lot right now. And it’s an ever changing landscape.
Claire: As a business owner, I thought I was pretty good at adapting to change but then COVID hit and suddenly things went berserk.
Krista: When COVID cases started to hit Alberta, I was working at Unbelts part-time, still DJing, and all my gigs got cancelled. That was a pretty steady source of income for me and I was a little concerned. And I was also concerned about how to juggle the same things that you were trying to juggle - working with having a kid who was out of school.
She had some online school but it was only for a half an hour a day. It was up to my husband and I to figure out how to balance that. And often it meant one person getting up really early and getting work done that way. Another person working late into the night.
Claire: I’m sweating thinking about this period. Because what disappeared overnight for me was any alone time. And I know for other people during the pandemic, they struggled with being totally alone. There were some days when I was getting up at 5am, or sometimes 4am. And I was trying to work and look after my baby Theo. When I wasn’t working I was parenting, and I was usually doing both at once. And the life admin just keeps coming. And even if you have someone to share that with, it just becomes so intense. There were some afternoons, when I would put the kids in the car and drive the freeway. And I would put a story on for my kids and I would cry.
Krista: My husband and I live in an apartment, and before COVID, it was great. But when there is no escape, or privacy it’s really hard. My child heavily relied on my husband and herself to entertain her. And it just threw the whole balance of our lives off. And the routine kept changing day to day, week to week, and that set my anxiety really high.
Claire: There was a lot of breaking down of boundaries. Suddenly, my kids are in my workplace and my workplace is in my parenting. And I think at the end of the day, it’s like - what are trying to do here with this business? We had to find a way to keep the business afloat and keep our kids healthy and happy. So the solution we found was to loop in another mom, Nadine, and we all teamed up. We took turns looking after the kids and helping them with online school, so that when one person had the kids, the other parents could be working.
At this point we were a few months into the pandemic, no vaccine in sight. What were your mentals like Krista?
Krista: I wanted to perform at work, I wanted to be a good parent, and I wanted to be a good partner. But trying to do all of those things under those circumstances was really difficult. I was having trouble sleeping and struggling with insomnia. I felt distracted all the time and felt like I couldn’t do a good job anywhere.
Claire: That was so hard. I remember thinking a week into lockdown, this pandemic is going to eff women up. It became obvious, so quickly that if everyone is working from home - who is tidying up? Who is making sure everyone is washing their hands? Who is making meals?
Krista: One thing that has come out of that terrible time is the relationship that we’ve built and this incredible level of trust. And being in each other’s orbits gave us an opportunity to talk about work in untraditional ways. You know, instead of having a traditional meeting, sometimes we’d go for a walk with the kids.
And we’re not out of the woods, there’s lingering mental health impacts. But there were positives and our working relationship is one of them.
Claire: Exactly. And in some ways boundaries dissolved, but in other ways, I became better at communicating boundaries. I am totally comfortable now saying “I just need to be by my damn self” when I need some alone time. Do you have any mental health maintenance tricks or tips you’ve developed, Krista?
Krista: I went to therapy throughout the pandemic. And I needed it. My therapist was really awesome, and said to me “you need a mental health toolbox and you have different tools that you pull out and use at different times.” And for me, it’s not one solution. There’s medication, there’s making sure you get a good sleep. I practice visualization, and that really helps me in my life. Going for walks, Shutting the door and having a bath without a child banging on the door. There were a few times I went to a hotel because that was my only way to have time alone. I’d love to hear some of the things you were doing.
Claire: After the first month or so of that intense lockdown. I needed new tools. I tried really hard not to judge myself for what I needed and what I thought would help. I remember the first time I felt safe enough to drive through a Tim Horton’s. And I’m under no illusions that Tim’s has the most amazing coffee but it was a sense of normalcy. When I bit into that Honey Cruller, I literally cried. It was something for me and it felt great.
I found a podcast called Meditation Oasis that I like. And I also upped my medication. I take an antidepressant under normal times, and actually just a few months ago I saw my doctor. And I was hesitant to increase it, but my doctor reminded me it’s not necessarily permanent and it’s just another tool for me.
And I also rented an Airbnb a few times just to have a night alone.
Krista: Sometimes a mom needs a night off with Netflix and a glass of wine.