[00:22] Maiko: In today's episode, I'm joined by Tania Diggory, founder of Calmer, a community that helps entrepreneurs overcome the overwhelming nature of starting up and combat anxiety and build strong mental health. Tania has been a founder of multiple startups and found herself struggling off her mental health as she embarked on the lone journey of being an entrepreneur. Today's she's overcome her mental health challenges, is the author of This is Calmer and is helping entrepreneurs worldwide to increase their well-being. Welcome to Impact Hustlers, Tania, good to have you.
[0:49] Tania: Thank you so much, Maiko, for having me.
[0:51] Maiko: I'd like to kick things off talking a bit about the cliché, right. So, when you're starting your own thing, you're supposed to be happy about what you're doing, because you're following your passion, you're doing what you wanted to do, you're not in this corporate job anymore, you're doing what you truly love. But, for some reason, some entrepreneurs actually then go into anxiety and depression, how does that ever happen?
[1:12] Tania: Sure, yes, that's a very important question, I think. So, it's a very complex journey, I believe, you know, with the entrepreneurial journey and what it entails. I think, with anxiety and depression, I mean, they are so common and really, it's a condition where it can develop over a period of time, you know, so it's really, if you could sort of rewind back from that, it's the buildup of stress, and how that impacts you. And everybody responds to stress differently, right? So, there's no two ways about it, that, you know, the entrepreneur journey has its challenges, its ups and downs, and you know, it can be stressful at times. So, you know, what I've learned is that it's important to build those kind of levels of resilience and tolerance, and understanding that and really recognizing when it is that things get too stressful for you, because that's when it can develop up into something a bit more serious, like, you know, sort of long term anxiety, depression, etc.
[02:06] Tania: So, why I believe this happens, I think there's a few reasons for this, one of them is, I believe it's the expectations that we sometimes set for ourselves or we raise the bar so high, and feel like we're not quite achieving it, but it's so high and potentially unrealistic at times, particularly in the early stages. And then that can have an impact on our confidence, you know, and so we feel like we should be here, we should be doing this, we should be at this stage. But who's to say that? You know, and that's the value, of course, of having mentors and coaches and people who have walked the entrepreneurial path to help guide you along that journey. And if you think about it, at the start of, you know, your entrepreneurial journey, it's incredibly exciting, isn't it, like you just said, Maiko, it's about, you know, leaving that corporate job, wherever you were before and actually feeling empowered and ready and excited to do something new, and you create something yourself, you know, so it's an incredibly exciting period.
[02:53]Tania: But really what can happen and what is so common, I found just know, not only from my own experiences, but others, I've mentored as well, is this sort of "yo-yo" effect, you know, you start up being really high, really excited, you know, really passionate about what you want to do, and then you slowly realize all of that entails, for getting it off the ground for launching, you know, the financial investment involved, the time commitments, that kind of thing. But then we can fall into this pit of 24/7, you know, which is a myth, really, it's unattainable, and it's not really sustainable in the long run. So, we start to realize that journey of, okay, this is involved, and if we don't have that right kind of support network around us during this time, that's when it can get, I believe, particularly challenging. So, where Calmer comes in is, sort of, you know, intercepting that point before, you know, to try and help entrepreneurs tackle that, you know, before it gets to that point where they feel things are too overwhelming, too stressful, and actually empower them to make the right decisions for them and their business. So, you know, the value that I found is, you know, during my time of being an entrepreneur is that the value of having that support network is just priceless, you know, and it's really needed. And I think a lot of entrepreneur do try to just do too much themselves too quickly. And then that's where burnout, and those issues can come in.
[4:05] Maiko: When you first started out with your first company, when did you start to realize, okay, there's some issue that like, I'm struggling with something here that shouldn't be like this?
[4:14] Tania: So, I'm a dance practitioner, so my first business was running my own dance school, as a local business. So, you know, we did really well, you know, maintained a good level for a few years, and but I didn't really sort of push myself much beyond that, you know, I mean, I loved it and I could have kept doing that. But I had other plans, other ambitions, other ideas I wanted to do. So, in terms of stepping out of your comfort zone, it certainly was, I stepped out of it to launch that business in the first place. But compared to the second business that I ran, which was an international events company, I mean, just saying that, in itself, it's a very big leap. And, you know, very typical entrepreneurial spark story, just, you know, let's do it, let's launch an international events company, we brought over people from abroad, you know, run workshops, seminars, film screenings, panel discussions, and it was all centered around the education and evolution of street dancing, hip hop culture, so it was very creative, but there was so much entailed with that, and so much involved, and I hadn't really mentally prepared myself, before making that leap in terms of all the that that would entail.
[05:12] Tania: So, you know, it was a lot more people management, growing my team. From going from being a solo printer, some may say, to, you know, having a team managing that, and all that that entails, and, you know, growing partnerships, sponsorships, you know, in relationships of venue suppliers, et cetera. So, loads to consider. And there is more, you know, responsibilities, and, of course, the financial pressure as well, you know, of actually the scale. So, I struggled to get investment in the first year, and, you know, having proof of concept and that kind of thing, so actually invested thousands of my own life savings to get it going. And I was so convinced that I would make it back, you know, at least like triple it, I just believed in the project so much. And it was very successful on the outside, you know, we did really well, and we did actually get investment the second and third year, but it was that first year that really got me and that where I realized that there was, you know, a problem that I had really faced and I was struggling with my own well-being and my mental health, because we didn't make that money back straightaway.
[06:09] Tania: Of course, you know, it takes time to build, you know, it really was that first year of launching, and we made a bit of money back but, you know, nothing compared to what I had hoped for. So, it really took a couple of years, you know, to recoup and to grow and get investment, et cetera. So, definitely the most character-building years, I would say, and, but yeah, during that time, I just sort of, you know, I believe that the body and the mind, you know, have a phenomenal way of actually telling us when something's not right, when something's off kilter. And that was the biggest learning curve that I had, during that time, you know, I tried to just forget it, I tried to just put it to the side and say, I'm fine, I'll just keep going. But I was working way too many hours, I wasn't looking after my well-being, I, you know, ended up burning out. And then that's when depression and anxiety kicked in, particularly anxiety attacks, which I had for about a year on and off, which was very scary at the time. And I did this all in the background, you know, I just sold a few loved ones in my life, and I was kind of just trying to cope and get by, you know, without really speaking out about it.
[07:07] Tania: And it wasn't until a few years later, once I'd overcome that adversity, and you know, I haven't had a panic attack now, in three years, I'm pleased to say, just goes to show the strength of the mind, you know, I started to realize just how many people are going through that as entrepreneurs and not talking about it. And, you know, just having overcome that I felt there was a real space to, you know, in the entrepreneur world to launch a program or a business that supported entrepreneurs in that way.
[07:31] Maiko: You just touched up on my next question, actually, a very few entrepreneurs talk about this openly, I know probably only a handful that might talk even like in a semi-closed audience a bit about it. But that's it. And at the same time, there's statistics that say entrepreneurs are more likely to actually suffer from burnout, depression, anxiety. How big is this problem?
[7:51] Tania: Yeah, so I've done some research and we've also done a lot of research in the early years of launching Calmer and, you know, talking to entrepreneurs running surveys and to find out, you know, how they're managing their well-being. From my knowledge, I know, there was a recent study that cited that over 60% of entrepreneurs in the UK are struggling with stress and burnout. And if you think about how many small businesses there are in the UK, there's just under 6 million the last time that it was, you know, surveyed, that's, you know, over 3 million, you know, 3.4 million entrepreneurs struggling with stress and burnout when you quantify it in that way. So, yeah, this is an issue that I feel is something that really does need to be tackled. And, as a result, that's something that we are doing, actually, this year, from September onward, for five years, we're launching a campaign called Reignite, the Reignite Project, and it's about helping entrepreneurs, supporting them to reduce those issues around stress and burnout.
[08:47] Tania: And you know, what strategies can they take on board to try and improve their well-being and empower themselves, you know, to live a fulfilled life as an entrepreneur. Because, you know, I believe we start our businesses with, you know, so much passion, ideas, you know, a long-term, big goal and vision. And what gets in the way, is often, you know, issues that can be resolved with the right kind of support, you know, whether it's your mindset, you've said something telling you, oh, I can't do this, or I'm not good enough, or things that just really unhelpful to you, or when you struggle with your confidence along the way, that's why you need support networks, you know, mentors, coaches, like-minded people in that space, doing similar things, so that it feels like you're in an environment where it's normal to have those ups and downs, you know, and then you can keep reaching that point, and you know, aiming to get to where you really want to be. So, our campaign is going to be centered around a five-year goal to reduce the issue of burnout in the UK by 10%, which means we want to impact the lives of at least 600,000 entrepreneurs and extend that worldwide as well. So, any entrepreneur that we can impact through this campaign is our big goal.
[9:48] Maiko: Do you find that many entrepreneurs are still struggling to actually, you know, sign up to events about mental health, you know, kind of be vulnerable? You know, talk about it? Or is that something that, you think is changing slowly and place to your advantage as well that you actually get people attending your events?
[10:08] Tania: Yeah, I think it's a work in progress, in that sense. We get a mixture, really, I think we have to be, you know, sensitive to the fact that if people really are struggling, they may be in a place where they don't feel open, talk about it. And so, we're not here to, you know, say, this is what you need to do, you need to be opening up, but we're creating opportunities and platforms for people to connect with other like-minded people, for those who do on some level want to improve their mindset and their well-being. I look at this in a similar way, as you would look at, you know, nurturing physical health. So, you know, just earlier, when I explained that I was having anxiety attacks on a regular basis to having not had one in three years now, you know, that's really just goes to show the strength of the mind, and it's like exercising a mental muscle, you know, so really, it is about a long-term commitment to improving your well-being, to improving your mindset, an approach to how you manage challenges and face adversity, and all those things.
[11:02] Tania: So, there are lots of different tools and strategies that you can, you know, adopt, and look into, and have support with, and to strengthen your mindset. And it just goes to show you know, over time that really you can achieve that. But, we do find that some people are sensitive to opening up about stuff and the thing is, we're not a clinical company, that's the thing, you know, we are a startup, we are about empowering, so where we are, so how we support people, I mean, is that we intercept to that point where people feel like they are struggling with managing their mental health. It doesn't mean they've necessarily developed a mental health condition, but we want to prevent it from them, and we want to empower them, and stop that issue from developing for them.
[11:42] Tania: For some people, there is still that stigma attached to mental health. And I went through that, so I can relate to that feeling. So, we're not there, you know, to be like, right, okay, you know, we've been through this, we come on the other side, you need to talk about your mental health as well, you know, it's like, we are empowering people, we're saying it's okay to struggle. You know, we're trying to, you know, flip it on its head and approach, mental health, from the point of empowerment, and mental health is something we all have, it really is just about representing where your mindset is at, where your state of mind is currently at. And its fluid, and you know, everything's temporary as well, we flow in and out of challenges. So, there's no shame in saying that you're struggling and getting the help you need.
[12:20] Maiko: So, how does it work? If I'm entrepreneur and if I join Calmer, or one of your events, how does it work? Like, how do you help me and how does it compare to other things out there? You know, I guess it's not a therapy session that you're doing. So like, how's the process actually working and how does the journey look like for an entrepreneur, and how much of that is also informed by your own experience?
[12:42] Tania: Sure, I mean, the whole company is underpinned by my experiences, and also my experience with others and mentoring others and what I found during that time. So, yeah, we have a variety of different services, I do sometimes, you know, do personal mentoring, and but we have a lot of workshop and events and programs, opportunities to, you know, create environments that get, you know, number of entrepreneurs in one space to empower one another as well. So, you know, that's all on our website, on our what we offer page, and through the campaign, there's a number of ways that you can get involved. So, we have a welcome pack on the Reignite page, which you can sign up to download and find out all the different ways that you can get involved in the campaign. And that does include you know, whether you'd like to get involved in any one of our services that we have, or if you're reading any of our articles, or, you know, listening to podcasts, or, you know, there's lots of different ways that we spread our message, and it's about how our message is getting out there and impacting lives. And that's what we want to do when I'm on a big scale.
[13:37] Tania: So, our services are all underpinned by evidence-based research, so everything we do is drawn from research. And I'm a business NLP practitioner, myself, Neuro Linguistic Programming. So, a lot of what I do is underpinned by that as well, you know, and lots of different empowering techniques and exercises to help people shift their mindset in a really powerful way. And we also collaborate with other really inspiring, amazing practitioners in business development and mental health and coaching as well. And that come from different perspectives, and they share their viewpoints and exercises too. So, a lot of it is around mindset and that's really what sets us apart in the industry. You know, so there are a lot of amazing accelerator programs, you know, business courses out there that teach you the "How to" of running a business, and what we do is teach about, you know, the "How to" of looking after yourself in business. So, it's that practical aspect as well.
[14:28] Maiko: How do you scale this if your ambition is to impact 600,000 entrepreneurs alone in the UK? It can't be just you right? So, how do you scale this? Can you build this into a product that we can launch? Tell us about those plans.
[14:44] Tania: I think that's a really key point that you said there is, it never is just you, that's the thing, even when we talk about, you know, solo printers, and you know, people running businesses by themselves, like even when I referenced earlier with me running a dance school, and that only got me to a certain point. And then I started to bring people on board. So, I was launching an events company, but then I did start having assistance and people supporting me, you know, in the classes and stuff. So, I think no matter what you're doing, of course, you start out, you know, whether it's by yourself or with a business partner, whatever the setup is, but if you are by yourself, it does get to a point where you can't physically do everything by yourself. So, of course, you need other people to support the vision and come on board. And that's how you grow and scale right, quite discrete scale, necessarily as one person. Even if it's in the background, you know, what you don't always see all the time, is other people supporting.
[15:30] Tania: So, in terms of scaling, what has been a really valuable aspect of how we've got to this point, how we've grown is through partnerships and collaboration with others, other like-minded people who understand and appreciate our vision and share a similar ethos as well, so that we can also provide support for them, you know, so it's like a two way partnership. Yeah, so, you know, obviously, it's about supporting them as much as they're supporting us that we partner with people who share similar ethos and values. We're not just impacting the lives of those who follow us, but also collaborating and partnering with other like-minded people and organizations, whose audiences can also benefit from that message. And, you know, we do obviously, have our marketing strategy, our plan for growth and, and how we promote our services.
[16:13] Tania: And, you know, I do a lot of speaking events myself, you know, I do podcast interviews and articles, I write a lot, you know, I've written my own book as well. So that's also, you know, product that's, you know, accessible for people to purchase and find out more about, you know, our ethos of Calmer and my background, et cetera. So, we're growing a lot of different products and also one way that we're scaling is through digital platforms. So, we've got a digital well-being training platform now, and the first one we've launched is the Calmer Entrepreneur. So, that's something that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. And so yeah, lots of really exciting plans for how we're growing.
[16:50] Maiko: The other day, I read an article by Ryan Holmes, the founder of Hootsuite, the social media management platform, and he talked about impostor syndrome, he was invited by his former university, and he received an honorary doctorate. And he felt like he was not worthy of it, he was being this entrepreneur, obviously, Hootsuite being a very successful company, but surrounded by all these Nobel Prize laureates and all these people that in his view, were like, much more, worthy of this achievement. Right, so he wrote an article about that impostor syndrome and I think that's something that's been prominent with many entrepreneurs, that I need as well that struggle with that, do you have any strategies to overcome impostor syndrome? So really, the feeling I'm not worthy of actually all this attention or achievement? Are there any strategies that you can use?
[17:37] Tania: I mean, that's something that I think a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to, in a way, because you're really putting yourself out there, you're putting yourself in a vulnerable position, you know, to be like, these are my thoughts, these are my ideas, this is my product, you know, and it's all come from you. And it's like, you know, there's often that there's a likeness to raising a business, like raising a child, in a way, you know, it's like, you know, it's in the baby year, the beginning, you know, you need to sort of nurture it, and really look after it but it's all comes so much from your place of, you know, your passion. And, and that's, you know, incredibly sensitive in a way, and, you know, the dealing with the knock backs here and there. And, you know, picking yourself up and moving forward and building your resilience, obviously, it takes a lot of strength to keep doing that and moving forward, especially to get to that point, you know, where, you know, achieve that amazing doctorate. I mean, you know, that's incredible. And I think it's just, quite amazing, isn't it? How, you know, even at that level, where impostor syndrome can still creep in and wear its ugly head.
[18:38] Tania: So, a technique I would suggest is flipping the language, number one, so what language is it that you're telling yourself internally, when that impostor syndrome raise its head? I'd suggest writing down what is the language that's coming up? What are the phrases that's coming up for you? So, what are the statements that are making you feel dis-empowered in that moment? And consider how you can flip that statement on its head. So, you know, if, for example, you're saying, I can't cope, if that's the phrase that comes up for you? How can you turn it around, for example, can you say, this feels challenging, but I know I can cope? Because essentially, we have the resources within us, you know, to get by, and we've got experiences in our life that can show us and remind us in, you know, situations where we've been through something challenging and overcome it.
[19:21] Tania: So, sometimes it's just about trying to re-access that and remind ourselves of the strength we really do have. So, whatever patterns are coming up for you, writing them down, flipping them on its head, and then starting to train your mind to believe those as truth. And it's not going to happen overnight, like we say, it's like with physical health and mental health, it's the same kind of thing. You know, if you commit to a new exercise routine, you don't just see results the next day, you have to keep going, keep committed and motivated. The same kind of thing, if you want to change a pattern of thinking, it does take time. So, you have to really push through that natural resistance that we're hardwired with and know that you'll get there. And that's one of the techniques that we go through, in a nutshell.
[19:58] Maiko: Mental health itself is a challenge, right? But what I'd like to talk next about is, as entrepreneurs, we often have teams, right? If you have a team for 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 people sitting there, and you struggle with mental health, how do you prevent your team being affected by it, without just locking yourself away? How do you deal with this?
[20:19] Tania: As one of the areas, actually, that's really growing in our services as a business is supporting organizations with embedding a well-being strategy. And actually, how do you create a mentally healthy culture at work, so I believe it does stem from the culture that you embed. So, as the visionary, as the leader, as the CEO of a business, you have such an influence, you know, and how that filters through. So, if you're struggling with mental health yourself, first thing is, you're human, you know, and everyone at one point or other, struggles with their mental health, you know, we all have ups and downs, we all have personal struggles, business struggles, whatever it is. So, actually understanding that, and again, reinforcing that yourself, I'm not alone, I'm not alone in this, you know, I'm by far not the only person going through this, is step one, you know, it's really important to remind yourself, you're only human.
[21:06] Tania: And I think there's an element of honesty, that's important, you know, like, I'm quite open with my story, for example. And all those that work within my team are really aware of that, and they know what I've been through, and they know how I've overcome it. And if I'm having a challenging day, I'll just be off, you know what, it's a bit tough today, and I'll just be quite open about it. Because I think, where the struggle can come is, when we resist, you know, we have that resistance. And actually, research has shown that the more we resist unhelpful feelings and things that we just don't want to deal with and they're uncomfortable, and we're trying to just move past it without really dealing with what is the issue for us. You know, it just keeps manifesting and it will stay there, it doesn't just go away, because like I said, the mind-body connection is so interlinked, and it's so powerful. So, it's your body's way of sending you a signal, when something's not right, you know, when something doesn't feel, right.
[21:54] Tania: So, it's important to pay attention to that and there's lots of ways of course of going about that. In terms of communicating with your team, there's obviously a level you want to keep, you know, in terms of inspiring them, motivating them, but just having that little edge of honesty as well with, you know, if you're struggling a bit, or just need a little bit of time, whatever, then at least they kind of, they know. And then there's going to be no misinterpretation or misunderstanding, you know, if you're not feeling your best, if they misinterpret maybe, you know, your mood or how you've said something or something they've done, you know, that's what you kind of want to avoid. So, having a level of honesty and openness, you know, can be one way of managing that as well. But that is embedded, I believe and the culture that you're sending at work. So, then you set that precedence for everybody and say, you know, let's be open about how we're feeling. And, you know, because then if you take that step forward to just say, I'm having a bit of, you know, rubbish day, then you've got support around you, you're encouraging the team to support one another, you know, and whether that's you need to take a little break, and then come back to work, you know, that's fine.
[22:50] Tania: And actually, research has shown as you know, when we take those little breaks in the day, our mind can only really cope, you know, sort of focusing on one main task or a series of tasks for up to about 90 minutes or so before it starts to get tired. So, actually powering through and not having breaks isn't really necessarily good for our well-being. So, actually encouraging little breaks, and you know, just what, you know, doing little things that make us happy is important. So, it's what culture you're setting at work is really key. But I think it can be inspiring for people as well to see people at the top, so to speak, you know, or that the top of the business or, you know, leading a business, actually being open about having days where they don't necessarily feel their best, and that's okay, and then you know, things are temporary, and they move on.
[23:32] Maiko: As we're coming to the end of this episode, if I'm an entrepreneur and listen to this podcast, or if I'm just starting out to be an entrepreneur and want to avoid running into mental health issues, what are the tangible things that Calmer might be able to help me with or that I might be able to do to watch my mental health?
[23:51] Tania: So, if you go on to our websites, which is this is calmer.com, you'll see a pop up that comes up where you can enter your details, and then we'll send you a downloadable checklist, which is called "way finder to well-being". So, that gives you five actionable steps that you can take today to nurture your mindset and look after yourself. So, that's the first step that I would suggest that we can support with. And of course, there are lots of other ways that we can help, got my book as well, which is called, ‘This is Calmer’ and that's available on Amazon and Waterstones and a few other online retailers as well. And so that's quite easy to find and that's also on our website. So, basically everything's on our website, but just, take a look at the what we offer page, see what we do. And you know, take a look at what you feel will benefit to you at this stage. And just, of course, get in touch if you have any questions or would like to talk about anything specific.
[24:37] Maiko: Thanks very much for joining today. I wish you all the best on the journey, it's amazing what you've already accomplished. But I wish you all the best on a journey of helping 600,000 entrepreneurs.
[24:47] Tania: Thank you so much, Maiko.
[24:49] Maiko: Thank you.