The Identity Factor Podcast

Supporting Your Mental Health With Gretchen Hernandez

August 27, 2023 Robin Keesler
Supporting Your Mental Health With Gretchen Hernandez
The Identity Factor Podcast
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The Identity Factor Podcast
Supporting Your Mental Health With Gretchen Hernandez
Aug 27, 2023
Robin Keesler

Leadership expert Gretchen Hernandez is here to explore the vital intersection of leadership and mental health. She highlights the importance of vulnerability and authenticity in creating a safe space for communities to openly discuss their mental health needs and seek the help they require for overall well-being and effectiveness.

Gretchen shares her insights on how leaders can serve as role models by embracing their own vulnerability, allowing others to feel safe and validated in their own experiences. She reminds us of the impact leaders can have when they lead with their humanity rather than robotic expectations, fostering an environment that values and prioritizes mental health.

Discover the powerful suggestions and practical resources Gretchen has to offer those that might be needing some support in this area in order to truly prioritize and nurture their own mental health right now. 

From self-care practices to accessing support networks, this episode equips leaders with the tools they need to not only nurture their mental health but to protect their careers in the meantime. 

Tune in to this inspiring conversation and learn how to create an inclusive and supportive culture that values mental well-being and produces exemplary leaders as a result.

You can find more of Gretchen Hernandez at her website and you can also check out her podcast My Freedom Grove Podcast.

Share this episode if you found it useful or beneficial to you in and you can sign up to join us for this live event to dive deeper into these conversation and support resources at 

Talk soon, 


Show Notes Transcript

Leadership expert Gretchen Hernandez is here to explore the vital intersection of leadership and mental health. She highlights the importance of vulnerability and authenticity in creating a safe space for communities to openly discuss their mental health needs and seek the help they require for overall well-being and effectiveness.

Gretchen shares her insights on how leaders can serve as role models by embracing their own vulnerability, allowing others to feel safe and validated in their own experiences. She reminds us of the impact leaders can have when they lead with their humanity rather than robotic expectations, fostering an environment that values and prioritizes mental health.

Discover the powerful suggestions and practical resources Gretchen has to offer those that might be needing some support in this area in order to truly prioritize and nurture their own mental health right now. 

From self-care practices to accessing support networks, this episode equips leaders with the tools they need to not only nurture their mental health but to protect their careers in the meantime. 

Tune in to this inspiring conversation and learn how to create an inclusive and supportive culture that values mental well-being and produces exemplary leaders as a result.

You can find more of Gretchen Hernandez at her website and you can also check out her podcast My Freedom Grove Podcast.

Share this episode if you found it useful or beneficial to you in and you can sign up to join us for this live event to dive deeper into these conversation and support resources at 

Talk soon, 


 Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Identity Factor Podcast. My name is Robin Kesler, and I will be your host. Let's go. Today we are interviewing Gretchen Hernandez as we continue on with our Shadow Side Leadership series, talking about identity leadership, business, mental and emotional health, and how all of that comes together.

And so Gretchen is a beautiful person to have on this. Panel. I'm so excited to have her in here. She's a business processes coach, and also a mindset coach, and she helps coaches and healers and educators design their businesses in harmony with their mental health. So this is amazing to have her here.

She specializes in, again, like I said, kind of helping entrepreneurs, um, but specifically with depression, anxiety, A D H D. Have smooth, you know, processes in their businesses while they're kind of working through some of those triggers. So Gretchen, welcome in to the podcast and feel free to introduce yourself if there's anything else that you wanna add.

And then we'll kind of hop into this convo. All right. Thank you Robin, so much for having me. So, as you mentioned, I'm Gretchen Hernandez and I'm a business process and mindset coach, and so I help with business and mental health. So Robin, you had mentioned some of the mental health stuff that I help people with cuz I'll help resolve triggers, but also create systems because I think an A D H D brain is a strength, not, uh, an obstacle.

So it's just having the right systems in place. Works great. But I also help, um, entrepreneurs with creating their products and services. And so I usually work with people that also are part of the mental health movement. So as they're creating their products and services, I'm there to help them with the structure and like defining all the AC.

Activities that go with it, the full process for how they can help their clients to get results. And then of course, because I want their business to be sustainable, I help them with their sales funnels too. So it could be in-person or computerized sales funnel, and then processes and schedules. So kind of take care of everything and help with all the tech part too, because I find that.

Tech can be one of the worst triggers for mental health challenges. It could be, no.

So I have this great, it's not like we've had had those conversations at all through this process. Not at all process. I mean, obviously not. Not at all. Not at all. Yeah. So, I'm a, I'm a systems person, so I worked in biotech for 25 years and a good chunk of that, over half of it was all with computer systems and creating brand new software and running, um, fully automated biotech plants.

So there's so many pieces and that was just kind of my jam. So I loved doing that. So coming into this space, I'm learning. All of the different software that different online entrepreneurs would use so that I can be there to support them. So, They keep bringing me once I've never seen before. I'm like, that's okay.

Share your screen and we're gonna figure this out. So, yeah, that sounds fun. Tell me Gretchen, what, um, like I get the background with the tech and um, you know, that kind of stuff and the processes, cuz like you said, that's what you did for before. So now that sounds like definitely a fun space for you to kind of be in, like coming and doing this with entrepreneurs now.

Different vibe, but similar strength. But why like, Where does that mental health piece fit in? Hmm. Thank you for asking. That is, Very near and dear to my heart on multiple levels. So I was diagnosed with depression when I was 19, and then in my twenties and thirties had the general anxiety disorder. And, um, it has created a lot of havoc in my physical life also.

So I had a mini-stroke at age 28 from work Stress and so, Now after all of this personal growth work that I've done, I see which thoughts were driving the overworking behavior that led to that. And then, um, I also have i b s that goes, stress goes straight to my stomach and it can be. So painful that I have blacked out on the bathroom floor before.

I've had to go to the emergency room five times because it will mimic all of the symptoms of a heart attack. And all of that all comes back to the mindset and depression, anxiety. Those describe what's happening in me as a result of the thoughts and the beliefs that I have. So I have slowly over the last six years been trying to identify.

All of those triggers that cause me those feelings, and then doing the mindset work to resolve those triggers. And so I've almost completely eliminated my depression. I've significantly reduced my anxiety, and then I'm able to turn around and help other people with it because, I can see symptoms in people that other people don't.

Right? Because once you've lived it, you recognize it and people don't even have to say a word. And so on top of my own struggles, unfortunately my family members have also had struggles, and so some of it is with neurodiversity. I have a son that has Tourettes and O C D, and I have a daughter with autism.

And then, uh, a husband and a mom that both have, um, P T S D, along with, um, the anxiety and depression. And, um, both of my sons have had depression really bad when they were in middle school and suicidal tendencies. And, um, and I've experienced that. And, um, unfortunately my mom. Made a suicide attempt last year.

And so this is very near and dear to me to help people with their mental health. And I find that a lot of times people have a hard time reaching out for help on their mental health, but they don't have a hard time reaching out for help on their business. Hmm. And I was like, Can I do both together?

Because after being a business coach for so long in biotech, when I first came out, I wanted to just help with the mental health part. But again, it was people that they weren't quite ready for that. And I had people that were coming and saying, uh, actually, Some men that were saying, can you, can you change like the outside of your storefront so that people don't know I'm coming in for mental health part?

Mm-hmm. And since we met in a business forum and you've done business coaching, like can you put that on there? Don't say, yeah. Because then they can explain to their family members why this charge keeps showing up. And they can say, oh, business. And it's like, well, If we're gonna do the business, let's make sure that the business gets covered too.

But my philosophy is definitely take care of the person first, and then we're gonna take care of the business. So overall, we get all of it taken care of. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And how about, can we talk about stigma for a second? Because, you know, it's interesting, even as I'm doing this series, this podcast series, like I noticed myself, like, I'm opening up these conversations because there's the thing that I believe about leadership and mental health and what I would like it to mean and the stigma and the things that I don't believe.

And yet I even in this moment still feel myself, um, being impacted and affected by that. That holdover of that belief system, right, to where even like going through this, the building, this summit has been like all the balls in the air and the stuff and the things and I'm like, oh, and the technology and it's like my bandwidth sometimes is just like, and, and so I have my own judgments even about myself that I notice coming up that I.

You know, do I think a, a fairly good job of not necessarily believing or buying into, but I'm still affected by them in the body. And that is something we can talk about later when we talk about the conscious versus the unconscious mind, because my conscious mind doesn't believe the stories about, you know, this, this persona, this idea that in order to be a leader, Or you know, to, it's like you have to be strong and have it all together and like I'm over here freaking out, losing my shit, you know?

Like, oh my God, you're not gonna work. I gotta cancel it. I'm a disaster. Everybody hates working with me. I don't have my poop in a group. I don't have my shit together. Right? Like it's just all. And so surely they're about to bail at any minute. Like, who is this person trying to lead us in this effort?

Like, good God, what did I sign up for? Right? Like, that's what's happening in my brain. And so I, I have this judgment that I'm comparing myself to, like what? This external idea of what being a leader means and what it's supposed to look like, and you're supposed to have it together. And so, I feel like there is this, this really deeply ingrained stigma around mental health, right?

Mm-hmm. About like that. It's a problem. And like if you've got that kind of stuff going on, you need to clean up your act. You need to have that cool as a cucumber, you know? Persona and energy before you step into any kind of a leadership position. Otherwise, you are gonna lose your authority. No one's gonna respect you and you're just not cut out for this obviously.

Right? Mm-hmm. And what do you think about that? I. Oh, wow. There's a whole lot of BS statements in there. Like your brain is lying to you. Yeah. And I only say that because I love you and I don't wanna, of course you suffer with any of this, but it's, but like, probably not just me. Right. That's why I bring it up, because I'm like, if I'm, if I'm.

Feeling this way. Like there, I know there are thousands of other people out there. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Because this is in my brain for a reason. Mm-hmm. And even though I consciously, I know it's bs. Yeah. But isn't that interesting how you can know something? In your brain, but not, but your body. Mm-hmm. Your nervous system, all of those, it's like, is still feeling something different.

Right. It's not aligned. Yeah. It's like people that are like, I know this intellectually that I'm worthy, but I don't f It's like there's something where I just, I don't feel it yet. Right. I know my mom loves me, but why do I still feel so unloved? Right, right, right. There's that discordance that's happening.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that every human goes through this. I think this is normal human brain functionality cuz our brain's just trying to keep us safe. And so it kind of like runs around letting us know, oh, there could be a danger over here. Could be a danger over here. Could be a danger over here.

I think that we drop the, could be. And we just hear danger, danger, danger. It's like, no, no, no. This could just be, could be. Yeah. It's like, oh, thank you brain for pointing out what could be. So I'm aware. But yeah, it's so hard when that is so loud because I experience that almost every day and. Yeah, it, it takes some getting into different practices to try to make that stop or quiet it down.

And, um, but first just recognizing when does it happen and when is it the loudest? Mm-hmm. But also acknowledging that it's like, yeah, this is what normal human brains do. There's not an illness here. This is, this is totally normal and. I can speak from lots of experience because when I was coaching in biotech, I would coach a lot of the leaders like C-Suite, all the way down to shop floor, and even the ones that seem like the coolest of the cucumber behind closed doors, because it's just me and them and total confidentiality and everything, they would open up to me.

And so usually I would go first, like I would share something I was suspecting that they were struggling with. I'd share my own story. So it might seem like it comes out of, you know, yeah, left field. But I was doing it to dissolve the shame so that they could go, oh my gosh, another human. Is going through this too, and then all of a sudden they could open up and they know sacred space.

We're not gonna talk about this outside, but just know that like, well, let's talk about this. And yeah, every leader had something. Mm-hmm. And sometimes I could detect this just like walking around the plant and I could see them starting to show the cracks on the outside. Mm-hmm. And. I wanted to give them a safe space where they could come in and do it.

Because you brought up a really good point of, if we do show emotions, does that end up like, and I don't think you used the word, but crumbling our credibility mm-hmm. With the people that we're leading. Mm-hmm. And I wanna offer the answer is no, but there is a limit to how much, because. If it's all the time and they see it constantly, then it might be like, oh, right.

Mm-hmm. Um, it all depends on the mixture of the team too. Mm-hmm. So in a corporate setting, they do kind of look to their leader like, okay, all of us can freak out. The leader's gonna help calm us down. Mm-hmm. The leader's still human. Right. And so, oftentimes, If the leader doesn't show any emotion, they've set the bar really high.

Mm-hmm. And their team is now gonna think that they're a hot mess unless they are cool and. Cool as the cucumber, like their leader. Right. And that causes even more self-judgment and causes even more mental health challenges. Whereas when the leader can express their feelings, then all of a sudden it's like, oh, the bar is not all the way up here.

Like we don't work for a robot. Like this is an actual human we work with. Yeah. And it gives permission to the team to also be human. Yeah. But as I mentioned, there's still also some limits. Mm-hmm. And so when I say limits, it doesn't mean that the person can't feel their feeling as a leader. Mm-hmm. It's just there's some that we are expressing out with the whole team, and then there's somewhere it's like, you know what?

This is an open wound. Mm-hmm. I need to come over here to this other space where I'm not the leader, I'm working with someone that can help me to heal my wound. Mm-hmm. And so that's what I would do is I would see people where they're starting to crack, where it's like, oh, the wounds are starting to show they're emoting more than like, and it's, it's hard to really describe what that limit is, but it's like, all right, come over here into this private space.

Let's talk about this. Feel all the things. Yeah. There's this meme out there that I love that kind of describes this, which is, um, About straightening someone's crown without ever letting anyone out there know that it was broken in the first place. Mm-hmm. And it's like, I don't see it as broken, but you know how it's like, okay, things are starting to go, Ooh.

It's like, okay, come over here. Let's take care of you first. Yeah. Okay. Now you're in a good spot now. Yeah. One of the things that I, uh, loved about this conversation that Brene Brown talked about that I thought was helpful around this is, um, this idea of boundaries, right? Like, like vulnerability without boundaries is not actually vulnerability.

Yeah. And so, um, because I do think this is an important. Important conversation you have. Right? Because I think a lot of this gets misinterpreted where people are like, I can't show my weakness. I can't show the areas where I'm dysregulated or feeling depressed or having any kind of, like, I can't show any of that.

Like I have to be strong for my team. I have to put out this professional, have it together always in charge. No, you know, decisive type of energy. This leadership quote unquote leadership energy and, and, and I think where it kind of gets, um, And so I think people are afraid to, to show these other parts of themselves because they're afraid that they are gonna lose credibility, um, or authority.

And I think like what you're talking about is like, yeah, like that could happen if you don't have a certain degree of like discernment or, or wisdom around how to do that, right? So it's like we don't, and I think for anyone that's listening, I believe that having that vulnerability and that honesty and that humanity actually makes you a better leader.

Mm-hmm. I actually think it makes you more impactful. I think, you know, there's so much about it that I think is important, and like you said, if you're not willing to do that, you can actually go in the opposite direction and be less effective. Right. It's like, oh, you're a robot now. You're creating all this.

Pressure and stress and everyone else. So one of the most helpful things for me, and it doesn't mean that you're always gonna get it perfect. I probably don't always get it perfect and that's okay too. Mm-hmm. However, one of the things that has been helpful for me to think about is like one of the times you and I talked last time, It's actually the second time we recorded this podcast because the first time there was disaster age happening, which is all good.

But one of the things you talked about before was like, uh, scars versus wounds, like raw wounds, right? Mm-hmm. And so I think that's a good analogy and similar to the way I think about it. So one of the ways I think about what to share versus what not to share is there's a couple, couple things that I consider.

The first one is, what's my reason? Right. So am I sharing something vulnerable, potentially, or, you know, I share all kinds of stuff with people and there are some things that I don't, but the reason that I don't share is not because I wanna hide it or I'm ashamed of it. The reason that I sometimes don't share things is because the filter I first ask myself is, who is it for?

You know, if I have a story that I wanna share about, Um, my past or, you know, where I come from, maybe my addiction or my binge eating disorder and my struggles with food or, you know, any types of those things. Um, Those are, you know, if I'm gonna share that story, my question first is like always checking in with myself.

Like, why am I sharing this? Is this for me to process my own trauma? Mm-hmm. Right? Like, cuz I don't ever wanna be in, I don't, it's like I'm not trying to trauma bond with people, right? Yeah. That's not what we're doing here. However, I'm willing to share a story if I truly believe, like if I'm sharing this in service four, like if my heart is like, you know what?

I have an experience that I'm going through right now, and I have this sense that sharing this story might actually help someone else. It might actually encourage them and so I can feel that it's for them, right? Even talking about my experience building the summit, it's like I could easily, I. Not share that, but I think it's a beautiful example of everything that we're talking about, right?

Yeah. Yeah. So because it is a lot of work and there's a lot of stressors and when people come into it, it would be nice, like cuz they'll see how huge a massive it is. And just be like, whoa, you must be a wonder woman. Be able to pull this off. And it's like, or it could be a normal human that has challenges just like you and still be able to do it.

Mm-hmm. And one of the things that helps is the spirit of collaboration. Yeah. Totally. Yeah. So yeah, I think, I think that's one of the things, just as a personal check that has been helpful. Before I share a story or share, show a vulnerability or show a side of my humanity, I check in with that first. Like, is this for my benefit in some way?

Mm-hmm. Or. If I'm truly setting all of that aside, what is my heart? Is this truly, is this in service of someone else? And if it is, I'm much more likely to share it. Mm-hmm. And then the second thing is, um, sometimes I will share something while I'm going through it again, if I truly believe it's in service to the community or to the people that I'm serving.

Right. So there's always that heart check. And then there are times that I, like you said, I won't necessarily, like, I waited to share my experience with the, the binge eating, like relapse, if you will, that I had recently. It's been about six years since I've had that. Um, that was pretty, uh, a pretty, um, prof, you know, uh, significant experience.

I didn't necessarily wait because I didn't want to share it or I was embarrassed or ashamed, although it's not always easy or fun to share. But I waited until I was kind of, not entirely through it, but until I had gone. Processed it and gotten support and gotten far enough along the journey that I had some perspective and insight to offer so that it was valuable, right?

Like, Hey, these are my takeaways. This is what I'm learning or have learned. So I think as a leader, that's the, that's the invitation that I would offer. I think similar to what you're saying is, I would enco, I think it, it's important to encourage people to be willing to be human. I think it makes you a, a, a better leader, a more impactful leader, more empathetic, more human.

It's so important. It takes so much stress and pressure off you. Mm-hmm. And it builds that connection with your team. But I think my invitation for people that are afraid about losing the authority or the credibility, I think it's just about noticing that, you know, can I do this in a way, can I offer this in a way where, I'm still in leadership energy.

Mm-hmm. Because I'm looking at it from a perspective of wisdom and how can I help support you. Mm-hmm. I have an example I'd like to share. So, um, there's an organization called nami, which is the. Is it North America Mental Illness Association or something, but I'd like it to go to mental health instead of mental illness, my own personal thing.

But they're an organization that will come and bring speakers out, and so I wanted to do this at my corporation years back during May, mental Health Awareness month. Mm-hmm. Just to start the conversation. Right, because as we talked about stigma, there's still some people who don't feel comfortable talking about mental health at all.

But what's interesting is that I, so I invited NAMI in and I set up a conference room for people to come to at a lunchtime, and there were speaker speakers who came up and shared their story. And I knew that that was gonna help. And we had about 40 or 50 employees sign up and it was a really great turnout.

And so for some people they were coming because they were having challenges, but a lot of them came cuz they knew other people that were having challenges and they're like, how can I help them? Mm-hmm. And I think what they realized as they were sitting there is not only do the, the people they were thinking about, Could use some extra support, but they actually had some stuff because one of our, our biggest ways of buffering against our own mental health challenges is to go help other people with theirs.

And just speaking from a lot of experience here, cuz that's also me. So I decided that I would share my story too. I. And it, I'll tell you, my knees were knocking. It was the first time that I was gonna publicly share and I was doing it at work, and at the time I was in a very high visible position. So I got up there and I shared my story.

I. And I did it of service. I wasn't looking to have any of them come and help me or support me because I was sharing, as you said, scars not my open wounds because I wasn't looking for them to help me with those wounds. I wanted to share what my experience was with my scars and how I healed. Because yeah, I think that part is also inspiring.

It lets people have some hope that. It doesn't always have to be this way. And what I found was by having that for weeks and months later, people would come up to me out of the woodwork that we may not have ever talked before, and we had a thousand people at this site and they knew that I was now a safe person that they could talk to.

Yeah. And when you can have boots on the ground, lots of people everywhere mixed in with life. People have accessibility to a safe person to come and talk to them and say, you know, thank you. I heard you talking about yours. I'm, I'm struggling too. And it's like, okay, now it's like not only have we shared, but we've also kind of extended an invitation that, hey, if you're struggling, I'm your safe person.

You can come talk to me about this. Yeah. And that makes you a stronger leader. Cuz all of a sudden people start seeking you out where you thought, well wait, I'm gonna lose credibility. No, people are gonna come to you because now they trust you more. Yeah. It's actually the opposite. Yeah. Because then what you do is you become an example of what's possible.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Cuz they're looking going, wait, she's in this high visibility position and killing it at her job. Yeah. And she struggles with depression and suicidal ideation. Yeah. And anxiety and like all the stomach stuff. Yeah. Yeah, I do. And I have family members and kids also struggling, trying to like, take care of all of them and do a full-time job.

And then you get the, and then you get the opportunity to truly be of service in ways that are so tangible and real and important and sacred in the in because if you care about the people that you lead, Like, I can only imagine that you care about these things cuz these are real things, important things that humans struggle with.

So then as a leader you get to be that light and that example of like, Hey, me too. And not just me too. Again, like I said, it's not in a way where you're trauma bonding or commiserating or looking for support. You're saying, me too, and here's what I learned, here's what I did. So that's how you're still, you're being a leader in this very sacred way.

Hey, if you're enjoying this episode, I wanna invite you to come join us on May 19th through the 21st for the Shadow Side Leadership Summit. It's gonna be an entire weekend where we're gonna dive into these conversations around identity and leadership, around mental and emotional health, around how to support ourselves so that we can truly lead others in a more impactful way, that we also get to experience connection, and joy along the journey.

Shadow side leadership Go sign up and we'll see you inside. Yeah. So Gretchen, what are, what are some of the things that you would, um, recommend to people or what are the, the different ways that you've made mental health, mental fitness, and everyday supportive practice? Hmm. So in my family, in my social circle, in my professional circle, we actually use the word mental health and we talk about it daily.

And we share what are things that challenge our mental health. Mm-hmm. Doesn't, again, doesn't mean it's an illness. It just means, hey, here was this thing that we didn't recognize was a trigger before, but now we know it's a trigger and we share that with others because we've decided collectively that we wanna support each other's mental health.

And so when we can have those open dialogues about, oh, well, what are the triggers for you? Oh, no, well, my triggers are this. And it's like it's, it's a funny thing to talk about that, but then we start to learn more. Yeah. Know even with like the amount of energy stimulation, like I mentioned, my daughter has autism, and so energy stimulation is huge, and if she gets overstimulated, it can cause a big mental health challenge.

So that opens up the door that it's like, okay, well let's experiment. What is the right amount of energy stimulation and when can you notice that you're starting to get a little too high? And then what's gonna be the remediation plan at that point? Because we wanna take you somewhere else so that it's like, okay, that.

Energy stimulation can come down and you can get to more equal state, and then you can go back and rejoin if you want to. Yeah. And so we're learning those different things, but if we hadn't opened up the conversation, we wouldn't know. Yeah. We wouldn't know what kind of accommodations. And I know for people that work in a work environment, They're worried whether they're a leader or somewhere in between, they're worried about their job and is this gonna go into their HR performance record?

And one of the things that I learned when I did have a trauma response at work years back and, and that's the other thing, is if we have unpro unprocessed trauma or unresolved trauma, someone else may trigger us from something that doesn't seem like. Something that would trigger someone like just a hand gesture or a certain combination of words can trigger a trauma response that had absolutely nothing to do with work, nothing to do with that person, but when you're in a trauma response, all of a sudden, like.

It's intense and you can't necessarily like scoot yourself away. And, and there are people that get truly reprimanded at work and stuff for things like that. This is, this is something I talked about, um, with decks. I don't think know that it was in the podcast interview, but just conversations I've had with other coaches, they're like, it's a real thing.

They're like, there are people who have lost jobs because they came forward with something or a mental health challenge that went in their HR review or whatever. So I think just. I don't know about normalizing that, but just honoring that. Right. Like that, the stigma and this fear is for a reason sometimes.

Yeah. Yeah. And it's for a reason and that's why it's really important. I wanted to share this, that, yeah. The Americans with Disabilities Act actually has protection in place. So if you have a diagnosed mental health condition, so for me, I had anxiety and depression. It wasn't until I had had this trauma response that I went and I looked cuz I was worried about my job.

Because I, I had to step away for two weeks because I was in full on trauma and I had to step out of my job for a little bit, and my boss was very understanding, but I needed accommodations when I came back because I couldn't get back into that triggering environment, and I wasn't gonna share with them all of my personal stuff on why this was a triggering thing.

I just needed separate accommodations, so I was really worried about my job. So I did some research and the Americans with Disabilities Act has protection that if you have a diagnosed mental health condition, if you disclose it to your employer, you cannot have action come against you as a result of your condition.

So basically, I could not be fired. For my trauma response, for my depression, for my anxiety. But I did have to submit a letter that said, Hey, I'm self disclosing. Yes, I have this. And that was really hard for me to do. And I had been with the company for 13 years. Like I had a lot of credibility built up, but I was like, oh, I'm scared I'm gonna lose my job.

Well, it turns out that that's there. Americans with Disabilities has that, and now the Department of Labor is also doing an active campaign on mental health support, and they're advocating for all of these changes within different corporations to support employee mental health. So I'm really, really excited to see that.

But I think that those of us that have the diagnosed conditions, or we've been too scared to go to the doctor and get diagnosed to realize that this actually can save you in the end. This can help you. Yeah. And provide some protection. Well, And I think that's a, a beautiful suggestion to have. So the things that I heard you just now say as far as like, you know, Supporting yourself in all of this was, first of all, um, having those conversations more openly with your family, creating that sense of safety and community, at least within the family.

Mm-hmm. Uh, then the second thing I heard you say was just knowing what your resources and protections are, right. Like understanding your rights and things like that. Um, which I think is super powerful. That's something that I didn't always do. Um, and then the third thing that comes to mind is, um, Well, there's two things.

The first is, okay, so this, these protections might be able to save my job, but like, for example, for me as a paramedic and 9 1 1 paramedic and critical care, you know, paramedic and working in, in the e m s field, um, just because something saved my job, which that was something that I also learned, didn't mean that I was safe in the environment.

Right. There was still the stigma. Mm-hmm. So there was still the social harassment and, and. Things that were, made it very, um, kind of a hostile work environment. It made it very unsafe. Yeah. It didn't feel it, so it did still impact my experience, which quite frankly worsened the mental health conditions.

Yeah. I also, as a person who also has P T S D, Generalized anxiety and a bunch of other stuff like that was profoundly, um, painful. And so it, it, even though the, my job was saved, it, it wasn't, it didn't really save my job or my experience there. Right. Yeah. So I'm wondering, Gretchen, what, what would you recommend to people who are like, okay, so I've got the legal protection, but what about this other part?

Like what are the ways that I can support myself and so, Talking with family. I mean, what else? Obviously the first thing that comes to mind, yeah. To me is they're getting the therapist a coach, some kind of professional support. Yep. Anything else come up? Mm-hmm. Oh, I have, I have several. So first I wanna share one other legal protection.

Okay. So there are anti work bullying laws that are on the books, and I'm. Very proud of my mom. She was actually part of it in California of getting some anti-bullying at work laws on the books. Um, she went through that at work and that caused huge, huge impact on her mental health. Mm-hmm. So there is that.

Um, and at the corporation that I worked at, people did lose their job from bullying other people. Like all of a sudden that. Company did start to take it seriously, but it started from an external lawsuit of an ex-employee suing and winning. And all of a sudden the corporation was like, whoa. Yes. We're not gonna condone toxic behavior anymore.

Mm-hmm. So as leaders in companies, we can make that choice that it's like, no, this is gonna be a toxic free work environment. And anyone that we hear of, and we're gonna take reports of toxic. Environment, seriously. We're gonna give a free hotline, which is what this company did, and people were getting calls and all of a sudden employees started to not be able to access the building and they were let go and all of a sudden they were turning it into a healthier work environment because they took things seriously.

Now, sometimes we. Don't feel comfortable as an employee to even say that cuz we're thinking, well, it's just me. I just can't handle this, but everybody else can. Okay. So if we find ourselves in that situation, as you mentioned, like the getting a coach or getting a counselor, um, I also had created a, um, A mental health group, like a lunch group that would get together where all of us had some kind of a mental health challenge, but we knew that we were each other's safe people to talk to about anything.

And we were like all different departments, all different levels. But it was that thing that bonded us, but it wasn't a trauma bond. Um, but it was. We are gonna have our own little circle here of safe people so that we always have someone we can turn to and that helped and that was if we chose to mm-hmm.

Stay there and have that job. Yeah. At a certain point you might be faced with that decision of, yeah, this is a toxic environment. I don't feel like this is worth the effort and the impact on my mental health. And I actually got to that kind of point where I was working too. I. And I remember listening to a podcast episode from Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School where she was talking about healthy growth versus like dirty growth.

And I, I think that's how she had described it. And so healthy growth is where we're, we are choosing to put ourselves in an environment that has enough. Triggers that we're gonna work through, cuz we wanna grow through those and maybe reprogram the triggers or we're stepping outside of our comfort zone to go do something we've never done before and know that some of the fear and stuff, but that's healthy cuz it's a choice and we're choosing how many.

But there's also the dirty growth, which is we're in an environment that has too many triggers or too much, and we can still get that same type of growth. We don't have to stay where it's dirty, where it's too much and it's like dangerous to stay. We can move ourselves to another location, another environment.

Yeah. And still grow, but at a safe pace and so yeah, that, that. Combined into my decision to leave corporate a hundred percent go a hundred percent into my business cuz I was doing both. But I was like, you know what? All of the growth that I could do here, I could also do in my own business and I don't have to.

Try to fix this work environment. I can just go and create a new work environment and yeah. And I, well, I think that gets back too to something that Wendy said in my podcast interview with her, cuz she was talking about like, she's like, one of the things that, uh, she mentioned was like, what is trusted support?

Right? So like, when you're in a. You know, a toxic work environment and you don't feel comfortable to bring up, mention your mental health, or like in my case or other people's cases where I did mention it and then it got used against me. Mm-hmm. And not in a safe place. It's like, I love that. You know, like, okay, so like if you're able to create a support group with your family, do that.

If you're able to create a support work at. Work do that. If you're able to use the law on your side, do that. But like, if you can't, like, it's okay to leave. And I know a lot of people feel trapped, like I can't leave, you know, money or whatever. And I think that's where, um, you know, like Brooke was saying, like notice what's clean growth, what's dirty growth, and if it serves you best to have a boundary and just say, this isn't healthy for me.

I need to get out of this environment. Think about it like an abusive relationship, right? I, there's so many people that stay in abusive relationships because they're scared to leave. And so are you doing that? Is that what your work environment is like? And if it is, I would beg of you to get some support, get safe support.

Mm-hmm. Right? So like, like Gretchen said, or like we said, like maybe a therapist or a coach, find someone that you can talk to that could start to help you craft a plan and the support. And that's where you're just gonna have to own your, own your own life and take the bull by the horns and say, listen, like I'm not gonna be a victim here.

I'm gonna figure out what. What my escape strategy's gonna be so that I can get myself, like you said, to a safe place. Yeah. Yeah. And just to share their, some of the hesitation of doing that, especially when you're in a job that is paying really good money, has lots of benefits, like they dangle a lot of carrots in front of you to get you to stay.

And even when I was considering leaving, I was given another promotion, I was given another bonus. Like I was, a lot of things started getting dangled cuz they wanted to keep me, but I was like, my, he, my mental health is more important than money. Mm-hmm. And some of the things with having an employee job is you've got retirement, you've got insurance.

Like what are you gonna do with all of that? And. It's interesting, the insurance part of it, we forget that there's actually free insurance that's available for people if their income is low enough. And I've always been this super high responsible person, and so it was really hard for me to think, oh, I'm gonna allow myself to temporarily accept some assistance.

Mm. But we've been paying into this system. For so long, and this is like in California, it's a Medi-Cal system. Mm-hmm. It's okay that we benefit from the thing that we've been paying into. It's like an insurance policy and it's like, okay, I'm gonna allow someone to help me for a little bit as I have a lower income than I've had since, you know, high school.

Right. That it's possible. To function on a lower financial footprint for a while so that you give yourself time to heal. And it's interesting. One of the things that I did is I wouldn't have considered this before. I actually took on a mentor who had been out on Social Security Disability for his depression for most of his life.

I wanted to learn how does someone live like that? What, how do, how do they pay their bills? How do they pay their rent? How do they get help moving? Or if they have car breakdowns and all of that. Because I hadn't been that person to live with hardly any income, I. I needed to learn from someone. Mm-hmm. So now someone who may have seen me as like a mentor, you know, a, a high position in a corporate environment, like, you know, the house, the cars, all the things.

And I'm like, no, I need your mentorship right now. Mm-hmm. It's like, it's a complete 180, but it was like my mental health was worth it. I just needed some time to take care of me. Mm-hmm. And what was your moment of greatest joy along this journey? Oh gosh.

I'm gonna go with the one that like really jumped into my head. So as I started off my entrepreneur path, I created a men's support group because they have the highest suicide rate. And so I was like, okay, I'm gonna help the guys out. And uh, so a bunch of men came together to talk about their feelings and the group was called Men's Feelings Matter.

I ran it for two and a half years. And it was the night, I think we were probably about six to nine months into it, and it was the night that one of my members turned around and was as I call them, a mental health lighthouse to someone else. Hmm. He was courageously vulnerable. He shared his story of. One of his scar stories, something he had already healed from, um, that we had actually worked on together through coaching.

But he shared that in the group because another guy was struggling with something very similar. Mm-hmm. And he, and this was someone that was not gonna talk about mental health with anybody and definitely not himself. Like he, and all of a sudden here he was opening up and sharing. And it had a profound impact on the other person.

Like all of a sudden they saw like, oh my gosh, someone else, like they bonded like, okay, you get me. You heard me, you saw me, you understand this, and here's hope on where I can go with this. And having that breakthrough moment with that person who before. Saw mental health as a stigma and now was sharing it.

Yeah. Mean, yes, we were inside of a very sacred, safe container, but oh my gosh, I just felt my soul burst that day and I was, I cried for about an hour after that call because I was like, I did it. I did it. I got, you know, even if it's just one person at a time that we help. Mm-hmm. It has that ripple effect.

And that's exactly what happened that day, and I was like this, this is what I do. This is why I'm in. This, is to help people like this. That's amazing, Gretchen. Help. Can people find more about you? So, uh, my website, and I can also be found on Facebook, um, either from my personal page of Gretchen Hernandez or from my business page, which is, uh, my Freedom Grove Dash.

Business and mindset coaching, and I'm on Instagram at Gretchen underscore my Freedom Grove, and also on LinkedIn at Gretchen Hernandez. And, um, but my website, my freedom is the best place to come. I have a podcast there. My Freedom Grove Podcast and lots of episodes on mental health on L G B T.

I'm also an L G B T advocate member of the community, and I have a huge rainbow family, so we've got lots of, um, information that we share and I have lots of friends in the community that come and share their stories on there. And then all the business stuff too. I love it. Thank you so much for being here and for coming to be a part of this.

I can't wait to see what you present at the summit, and this is gonna be such a blast. Thank you so much, Robin.

If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of it for me and share it on your favorite social media platform. And in the meantime, I just wanna invite you to remember that you are beautiful, that you are worthy, that you belong. See you next time.