For many of us over 40, we didn’t grow up making mental health a priority, am I right?
But those days are over.
No one should have to white-knuckle their way through life. However, we all deserve to feel healthy and free of the stigma and shame we used to feel when turning to mental health resources.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide is committed to sharing resources, tips and tools to help us all live with joy and peace.
If you haven’t heard of Anna Przybylski, oh, you will! Anna is the brave and totally hilarious millennial taking TikTok and Instagram by storm with her fresh, honest approach to mental health. Anna’s not-so-serious tone and approach allow us all to laugh a little at the pressures we all feel.
Anna and I talk about mental health and wellness, the difference in perspective we see when it comes to Gen X and millennials, and how we can begin to shed ourselves of judgement, expectations and start to heal from some of the programming we’ve experienced in our lives.
Jackie: The Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide audience is, I would say, Gen X; definitely over 40.
Anna: That’s my favorite generation, by the way.
Jackie: Is it really? Why?
Anna: Yeah. In my community, that’s the nicest group of people, for sure.
Jackie: I love that.
Anna’s hilarious wit in tackling things such as mental health stigmas, body acceptance, ADHD, and depression helps make these important, sometimes taboo topics more easily approachable and digestible. But she hasn’t been doing it that long
Anna: I am new to the Instagram game. Probably only like, not even a year, posting regularly. It’s been a wild ride.
Jackie: Was there a light bulb moment that you’re like, ‘oh, people like this stuff,’ or were you just doing things? How did it happen?
Anna: I actually feel like I’m lucky because I started on TikTok, where I got to feel it out because, you know before I went to Instagram, I had a year of TikTok under my belt of like, what works, who wants to hear from me?
So, I already had a voice when I came over, which was very helpful. But the first time I ever realized that what I was doing was some sort of a need was Thanksgiving of 2020. I posted how nice it was to be home on Thanksgiving because nobody makes you cry at home. And that was it. It took off, and I was like, ‘oh, people just want to know, people just want to hear that everybody else is having the same hard times.’
I just started sharing me; here’s what’s going on, and here’s how I’m feeling. Work is overwhelming, being alive is overwhelming, and every day is overwhelming. And, it just, sort of, went from there. I was never a content creator or any other thing of the sort, but I am an event planner, and we essentially had a year and a half off of work because you could not put on events for a thousand people. I was home, bored. I was consuming so much content online. And, I was like, I’m going to try. And I loved it. I feel really lucky that it fell into my lap. I mean, I could have never made a video; and you know, I’d just be doing my job every day.
It was like I finally had somewhere to put that chaotic energy and that frustrated energy and talk about the hard stuff.
Being Authentic Without Oversharing
Is there a fine line between being “authentic” online, sharing your story, your fears, and oversharing? Here’s how Anna walks that line
Anna: Definitely. I always say I share so much of my brain and heart, but I don’t share very much of my life, you know? So, I share those emotions, but I don’t necessarily ever share what I’m specifically talking about. I try to hold a little for me. So, there’s a line where you’re still getting your point across, but you’re not revealing every piece of information that’s ever happened to you in your whole life.
Jackie: Right. I think a lot of people end up sort of crossing the line of telling other people’s stories, and you never do that.
Anna: No, I’m not saying vague because it’s very specific, but it is, you know, I say ‘in general’. You know, is there that thing that you really want to do when you’re scared to do it? I don’t say the thing I’m scared to do!
Jackie: Right. Which is?
Anna: All of this has been terrifying, you know? I try to be honest about it. When people are like, ‘is it fun?’ And, I’m, ‘yes, but I’m scared.’ Every day, I never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what kind of feedback you’re going to get. You don’t know what’s going to happen day-to-day. The whole thing could fall apart tomorrow, and that’s so scary.
Gen X Programming vs. Millennial Perspective
The GAWG was started because women over 40 just didn’t talk about topics such as mental health. We just buried it deep down. But now we are being encouraged by the younger generations having these conversations much earlier – how are they figuring it out so young?
Jackie: Let’s talk about that feedback a little bit. So, who would you say, number one, is your audience? Who shows up for you again and again?
Anna: My audience, it’s 95 to 97% women across both platforms; and everybody’s pretty much over 30. I feel really lucky I found this community of people who have lived a little. As much as I want the things I’m saying to get to a younger generation, I also know that I wouldn’t have been ready to hear it at 20, 22, and now I am.
Jackie: So, now I’m 51. I have women around me who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and we’re talking about this stuff openly. I think partly, we’re encouraged by people like you because you are younger and you’re figuring it out earlier. And, I think partly there’s some envy there! How did you figure it out so young?
Anna: Well, in my own life, I mean, I’m dealing with this, with my parents. I still get that argument all the time. ‘well, we dealt with it, so you should.’ And, I’m like, ‘things being bad for one group of people is not a reason for it to be bad for another group of people. That’s a bad take.’ You know, things are hard for everybody. So, don’t talk about it.’ I’m like, ‘well, no, why don’t we find the root of this problem? ‘Why is everything hard for everybody?’ Where did we go wrong? What systems are failing us? How about addressing it instead of just saying, ‘that’s just the way it is?’
How many lives could have been saved in the last 30 years if people had felt comfortable being who they are and saying what they wanted, ‘I just don’t feel good about this, and I’m not happy?’ But I think we’re getting closer.
I find a lot of Gen Xers are trying to be cycle breakers in my communities. The Gen Xers that are in my specific community are people who are trying to break the cycle in their lives.
Jackie: How do you see Gen Xers or even yourself breaking the cycle? What do you think are the most important things?
Anna: Destigmatizing mental health is so huge. I just think of how helpful therapy could have been to me in middle and elementary school. I didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until I was 33. That’s tough.
If somebody had been like, ‘oh, do you want to talk about how your mind is feeling? How’s your heart feeling? Where’s your brain at?’ Not just, ‘you’re going to go to school, and you’re going to learn, and that’s that.’ Or ‘you play with friends, and these are the list of the things you do.’ ‘You do school and then go to college, and then you get a job.’ Okay, but when do I take care of me?
As far as breaking the cycle, it’s talking about mental health. It exists, and some of us just aren’t okay. We are struggling, and that doesn’t always have to do with your financial status or career status. Everything can be perfectly great in your life, and that doesn’t mean that your brain is keeping up, you know? Those conversations, I think, are just so important.
Jackie: What you’re doing is important for parents, too, to not try to pass that legacy of pleasing others onto your kids. if you were to ask me when my kid was in kindergarten, I’m like, ‘he’s going to a four-year school.’ And now, I’m like, ‘oh, That’s not necessarily your path.’ And, I’d love to help you figure out your path, but it’s not my path.’
Anna: One of my cousins is a senior in high school. Everybody was hounding down on her. You know, ‘what are you going to do? What are you going to do?’ I was, ‘oh man; you know that none of this matters, right?’ And, she said, ‘it doesn’t?’. ‘No, you got to do what you want to do, and you’ll figure it out.’ “And, if you pick one thing and don’t like it, you can change your mind.” Nobody told me those things.
I think the number one thing I wish I had known my whole life is you aren’t stuck. You are never trapped. I even see with my friends encouraging each other to leave their jobs. ‘Yes, you do what makes you happy.’ I’ve seen friends leave a toxic work environment and get a job, another great job where they have Unlimited Paid Time Off, and they’re happy. And their employers understand that sometimes they can’t be there, and mental health is a struggle. So yeah, why wouldn’t you walk away from a situation that is making you miserable?
Jackie: My generation was not taught that. That’s for sure. We were raised where it was like, figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. You’re all learning much younger that it’s all a bunch of bullshit.
Anna: It’s made up; none of this matters. Some guy just decided one day, that’s how it was going to be.
Jackie: Yeah. It’s kind of crazy. My oldest said to me one time, “So wait, you want me to go to college and get into debt to go somewhere that I don’t even want to go, to begin with?”
Anna: Yeah. That’s what I was raised into. And I didn’t even have a say in what I went to school for. I wanted to be a teacher. And, my dad said, no. Like, I could have still done it. I was an adult, but I was– You listen to your parents, that’s what you do. I wanted to leave college because I was happy with where I was in hospitality. That wasn’t an option either. I mean, it was, but it didn’t feel like an option. I wasted all that time and money, and I didn’t use the degree, and I never felt like I had a choice.
Self Worth is Not Tied to Productivity
One of the greatest struggles Gen Xers have is having our self-worth tied to what we do and achieve rather than who we are
Anna: I think we’re changing the conversation around self-worth. That’s one I keep seeing. And, you know, I never heard you’re inherently worthy of love, and you have value no matter what you’re doing, you know? Your self-worth has nothing to do with your productivity. That’s one of those things I have to tell myself 15 times a day when I’m getting frustrated because I’m not getting enough done, or I’m frustrated because I missed a deadline, and I’m taking that out on myself, which is very unhelpful.
I think it’s the hardest thing to unlearn because I’ve been saying it once a day for a year now, and I still don’t quite believe it. I know it’s true; my self-worth has nothing to do with my productivity.
Jackie: I actually have an episode on being enough. I told my youngest this story where if you went to a nursery, brand-new ten babies in the hospital, and they’re all lying there, you know, being babies. And, I said, what if you went to the hospital and you saw these ten babies, and you had to pick out one or two or three of them that were the unworthy ones; who weren’t good enough? And, my son was looking at me like, you’re crazy. And I said, exactly we’re born good enough.
Anna: That’s such a good example. Sometimes I just think I got lucky where I didn’t get trapped in these ruts, but I watch my friends in their 20s and 30s having these insane standards and not, you know, thinking about somebody’s heart. Or they’re like, ‘well, what’s his job, does he have a car? You know, where does he live?’
I’m just like, ‘oh my gosh, how did we get stuck on that?’ When we meet a new person, we say, ‘what do you do?’ And then, we’re assessing their value because that’s the way we’ve always done it. ‘Oh, you’re a–’ It’s like, ‘no, it’s a person.’ You should ask ‘what makes you happy? Do you have any cool hobbies?’
Jackie: And, spoiler alert, the guy with the car and the job and all of that, we have no idea what’s going to happen anymore, so that could be gone in a minute.
Anna: Yeah, totally. Everybody’s worth the same amount. Just see if you like them.
Jackie: Such a good point. I’ve been married 20 years this year, and I’ll tell you right now, it’s all about, does that person have your back? When push comes to shove, and you know, the shit hits the fan, does that person value you enough that they’re willing to partner with you through whatever it is?
Anna: Are you still laughing when the money’s gone? Because that is important. Last year, essentially, we both lost our jobs. That was one of those moments you’re like, glad I just picked someone I like being around who is a resourceful person who makes me feel comfortable in my own skin because, you know, otherwise we might be in a jam.
A mindset change makes everything different
Jackie: How has your life changed since you became this online sensation?
Anna: It hasn’t, you know, if you come to my house, nothing’s changed. We do the same activities we’ve always done. We go on the same weird trips we go on to Kentucky and wherever. It’s only truly changed online, which I think is so interesting.
I think I’m in that sweet spot right now where nobody really knows who I am. But enough people online know who I am that I stay very busy podcasting and creating content, and interacting with people. Mostly I’m just busier because now I have two full-time jobs.
Jackie: Yeah. And, I can imagine that’s got to be a lot. Do you see your life kind of turning into just this at some point? Is that the goal, or are you happy with having the two jobs?
Anna: Oh, you know, yeah, I would love to do this. I have learned so much. I find the whole experience to be so eye-opening. My entire mindset about myself has changed through talking about it online. I think it’s cool that there’s a need for it. I get messages that just break my heart. People are like, you’ve changed my life, and you’re like, ‘how, this is talking?’ but it’s happening.
Jackie: How has your mindset changed? You mentioned that changing.
Anna: I always thought my life would go one way, and I never even allowed the possibility that my life would go a different way. I went to college. I went to work. I’ve been at the same company for ten and a half years. I’m going to work here until I die. This is the plan. We bought the house that we want to live in until we die. We’re set.
And, I was lying to myself. ‘I don’t feel trapped. This is what I want.’ And then, the more and more that I branched out, I did feel trapped ‘oh, I really want to do this. I really want to do this on a bigger scale. And, I want to do this more, and I want to talk to more people.’
Then the shift in my mindset has basically just been, ‘open the door. You don’t have to walk out of it, but open it, leave it open.’ I feel like even just putting the possibility of a change in the fire, so much of that anxiety just flew out that door. And so much of that fear flew out that door. I’m not as scared as I was.
I was just so scared of not doing what I was supposed to do or what I thought I was supposed to do and not having that constant fear of disappointing everybody all of the time was like such a weight lifted off my chest. People ask me, ‘how has your life changed? You keep talking about how much your life has changed.’ And, I say, “It’s not that my life has changed. It’s that my mindset has changed, and that makes everything different.”
Jackie: You have changed.
Anna: Yeah. I have changed so much. None of it feels as scary or as impossible, or I’m trapped anymore in the “American dream.” That is actually a nightmare. I got the keys to the lock, and I can walk out if I want. And I never thought that was possible. I never even imagined that.
Jackie: Yeah. I think we automatically expect that a young person is going to want the “American dream.” And, your life is not meant to be lived for someone else. And, we’re finally talking about that.
Anna: Yes. Yes. ‘You come first’ and ‘your needs matter’ are two things I’d never heard before. And now, every single day, I’m like, ‘you come first.’ Everything else matters, but not as much as I do. My mental health matters. The way I’m feeling that day matters. It all matters. And not burning myself out matters, not letting everybody walk all over me, and not dropping everything to take care of everybody else all the time.
Jackie: You talked about the people being disappointed. What actually happens if somebody is disappointed or feeling judgment toward what you’re doing?
Anna: That has nothing to do with me. If they were frustrated or angry or disappointed in me, that doesn’t really have anything to do with me. Nothing. If you ever feel a certain way about my life, that’s very strange. Now I see that. But before, I would’ve dropped everything to change my life back so that nobody would think a certain way about it.
It’s exhausting living your life for other people.
With May being Mental Health month, one of the things that we should focus on a little bit this month is mental wellness, not just mental health. Of course, mental health, like anxiety and depression, needs to be treated and addressed but how do you think we can address mental wellness?
Anna: I always harp on the basics. Your brain is not going to function the way that you want it if you are not sleeping, eating, and drinking water. I hate that that works, the basics. It’s so frustrating. But the reality is you cannot function; your brain cannot function, and your brain cannot take care of you if you don’t take care of it.
Self-care is always the first to go when I’m super stressed. You’re like, ‘I’m skipping breakfast because I’m busy; I’m going to stay up until four in the morning to finish this proposal.’ And, it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s the same as productivity. You’re like, ‘I got to do more. I got to do more.’ It’s like, ‘Nope; you got to do less to do more.’
Your brain needs to be nurtured. You need to fuel it. And, you need to have time for yourself and not be going 24 hours a day. Are you busy, or are you happy? When you slow down to actually think about it, it’s like, okay, if you’re slowing down and feeling stressed, that probably means you need to slow down.
Jackie: Exactly. There’s no badge of honor for being busy.
Anna: That’s true. I always want to be the best, but yeah, you cannot be the best overachiever. You need to be the best at taking care of your basic needs. Rest isn’t a reward for not resting. It’s like food and water. You have to do it, or you’ll end up burnt out, as an entire generation or three generations of people did. That pandemic, I say for me, and I think for everybody, it was like, ‘you’d lived your whole life going 155 miles an hour. And then somebody put up a brick wall, and we all just ran into it.’ And, you’re like, whoa, what happened? You know, it felt like a train wreck of the brain.
Anna: And for no reason. What were we getting out of it? Nothing. I mean, there’s a lot easier ways to go through life than rushing through everything.
If you’ve checked out Anna’s recent TikTok, she’s partnered with Dove for the Detox Your Feed challenge. You could say a lot of things about the generations that follow ours but one of the things I appreciate is their desire to look at the way we’ve been living as a society and break the cycle of shoulds and all of the other stories, many of us over 40 have been telling ourselves. So, for the women like myself, trying to deprogram ourselves only to reprogram, it’s nice to see the younger generations start to take back and get rid of all of the BS stories we’ve been fed.
Anna: just keep in mind that unlearning is ten times harder than learning. So, got to give yourself a lot of grace.
Jackie: Yeah. And, do you give yourself the same grace that you tell everyone else to give themselves?
Anna: I try. I sure try.
Jackie: That’s all we can ask.
And until next time, you are a grown-ass woman. Act accordingly.
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