Mental health impacts how we feel, act and perceive the world around us. Our inner state determines how we live our lives. When you reach the darkest moment, it is hard to envision feeling better ever again or even how we were before it. The hopelessness seems never-ending and the way out seems nowhere to be found. There are so many people struggling with mental health issues. Some people deal with it in a short period, while some suffer intermittently throughout their lives. That is why it is crucial to talk about mental health as openly as possible, to know that there is a possibility of recovery always. What is more, sharing personal experiences with others helps people understand their condition and that they are not alone. Below we share two inspiring stories by two amazing women, Shreya Patel and Xiaohoa Ching, who open up about their mental health journey and mindfulness.

Shreya Patel

Shreya Patel

Model turned filmmaker, actress, and mental health advocate, Shreya Patel is a voice to empower the voiceless. She is an honoree of Top 100 Most Powerful Women of Canada (Arts, Sports, And Entertainment), Forbes 30 Under 30 (Media), Women’s Achiever Award (Youth Leadership), Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award (Creative Impact) and Emerging Leader Award Under 35. DissDash named her “Top 50 Coolest South Asians of 2021” along with Priyanka Chopra, Kamala Harris, and Hasan Minaj. A natural storyteller, she fuses many of her diverse interests and impactful activism work in film projects.

“My modelling career was taking off but my personal life was suffering which resulted in my first anxiety attack a day before walking fashion week for some of the biggest designers. I remember feeling like a plastic bag is over my head and I am unable to breathe. I went to Google and started searching “fish out of the water” in hopes to understand what was happening. Over a period of time, I realized that I suffered from an anxiety attack.

Life has a way of teaching us as well as celebrating us. We all go through many ups and downs in our lives but it’s the way we handle ourselves in those situations that makes our mental health a winner.

I urge folks to see their lives like a movie in a third-person presentative and realize that they are the main lead of their life! You have to go through all the lowest lows to feel the highest highs, that’s what builds a strong character which in turn makes a fulfilled life just like a good movie.

There will also be a time when you will feel like giving up. When that happens, ask yourself this, “What would a Warrior Goddess do?” and do that! A Warrior Goddess is a strong, resilient, and compassionate human being towards others and herself. A woman with that kind of character would never give up. It is all about growth mindset.”

Xiaohoa Ching

Xiaohoa Ching

Xiaohoa is on a mission to scale love; grounded in the belief that love is a tangible and practical force for liberation for all. She is an award winning entrepreneur, scholar, and designer. Xiaohoa is a writer of prose, poetry, analysis, and strategy. She is a designer of products, programs, and experiences for Prototype Thinking Labs, as Chief Creative Officer, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she is a program designer and facilitator. Prior to that, as Founder and CEO of Literator she helped thousands of schools around the world meet their student’s exact literacy needs. Literator won several awards and honors from TechStars Startup Weekend, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Teach For America, Tech Inclusion, Camelback Ventures, Samsung Next, Nationswell and WeWork. Xiaohoa was listed as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education and a Forbes 30×100.

“A vision of love and a vision of rage compel me to leadership. I see brokenness and believe it can be transformed–that it must be. I believe I have a role to play in that. Even when faced with enormous problems; I don’t shy away from tackling the complex systems that make up our world.

And, indeed, I have a track record to prove it. As a sixteen-year-old with a desire to confront issues in my community, I helped to found a social justice center–by 17, I was organizing nationally to produce the first ever major youth convening on the climate crisis which has evolved to become the movement sustaining Power Shift Network. I was developing a greater sense of agency and accessing more power in hopes of addressing the inequity I encountered in my educational experiences. I was 25 years old when I started a tech company to solve the very problems I saw at the root of many social inequities. Two years later I was listed in Forbes magazine as someone set to “influence the next century.”

I highlight this list of achievements to make a point. From an early age, I believed in my ability to change the world. But that narrative is incomplete without the absolute despair, depression, and sheer exhaustion I suffered through. In service of others and a better world, I pushed myself to absolute breaking points. My whole life I heard that nothing good comes easy, that the only way to really succeed is to give your all, and I believed it. I stopped eating, sleeping, and became obsessed with staying busy. What I lacked in resources or connections I would make up with a relentless work ethic. Which is how in the span of a single decade I had made myself known. But even at the earliest part of the journey, overwhelmed by the responsibilities I had taken on, afraid of disappointing others, ashamed that I could not do it alone, I found myself perched on the edge of the rooftop of a university building, weeping, ready to give up what little I had left of myself. I was 17 years old. I looked below me and saw people walking across the courtyard and thought–” this will ruin their day, scar them for life…” and hesitated. Even at that moment, I considered the needs and well-being of others. I thought of my family and how upset they would be. I found the will to turn around without once really considering my own needs, my own life, as a priority.

In the last 10 years, I have endeavored to intentionally reckon with the ardent tensions that led to such extreme burnout: ambition amidst self-doubt, care and concern for others while neglecting my own needs. I have been deliberately focused on my well-being; self-care is no longer optional; I know it can mean life or death. I had to reject the notion that it was selfish, indulgent, or shameful to prioritize myself. Over time, I learned essential tools and practices to cultivate ease, peace, and joy in my life. I began to see how my capacity to wrestle with the difficult and challenging work evolved and expanded alongside my commitment to vigilant self-compassion. 

I have been privileged to work alongside and build a community with exceptional leaders who are out to right wrongs, demand justice, serve people, or create a more beautiful, more interesting world. I have also seen how many of those leaders have and continue to struggle emotionally, physically, and mentally. We must reject the glamourization of relentless work ethic, heroic strength against all odds, and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” attitudes. We must reorient our commitments to focus on ourselves in a compassionate way, to critically examine the narratives we buy into or create about ourselves, and begin prioritizing love (as self-compassion that extends beyond ourselves), grace (rooted in a sense of common humanity), and hope (a belief if what is possible). We must critically examine how these myths were created and understand who benefits from that culture, in order to change conditions to benefit us all. It is the only way we can sustain what it takes to truly transform our world. 

For this reason, I am devoted to shifting how we assess and develop leadership growth so that it is inclusive of love, hope, and grace. Love, defined as self-love that scales to community love. “

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