It's natural for self-care practices to benefit you in different ways at various stages of your life. For example, as a mental health care company we’re acutely aware of the fact that therapy is not for everyone, all the time.
That’s why we encourage you to build a mental health toolkit for yourself—truly consider what has a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. The toolkit can include activities like therapy, exercise, mindfulness practices (journaling, breathing, meditation), socializing, etc. Really anything that can help you to cope with demanding and stressful situations that arise in your life.
Your mental health toolkit can help you effectively control, shape and understand your human experience.
Many of our clinicians at Two Chairs encourage their clients to adopt a journaling practice as part of their toolkit. It’s a simple and effective way to get in touch with your emotions on a daily basis, gain insights, and set intentions inside and outside of the therapy room. Our friends at Silk + Sonder are modern, thoughtful champions of wellness journaling, taking inspiration from bullet journaling, positive psychology, and self-help books. Their subscription service makes reflecting easy and fun by providing new prompts and journaling experiences each month.
We were excited to connect with Silk + Sonder’s founder, Meha Agrawal, about her own journey with mental health, and wanted to learn more about her passion for intentional journaling.
Though she’s never been a therapy client herself, Meha is “a huge fan of mission-driven companies committed to making changes in the mental and emotional health space. I’m particularly impressed by Two Chairs’ thoughtfulness in creating a welcoming atmosphere, and matching therapists to individuals that are the best fit for them. Part of my reluctance to seek out therapy was how tedious, confusing, and overwhelming it was to find a therapist!”
A conversation with Meha Agrawal, Founder of Silk + Sonder
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. Both of my parents worked at UCSB and were immigrants from India. While they instilled the capacity for me to dream far and wide, I was really only exposed to a few end career paths: engineering, medicine, law, or academia.
Being my own boss, a founder, or a CEO was a “risky” endeavor that I never really saw as an option, although in retrospect, I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bug.
Given that you were only shown a few different ‘paths’, how is it you came to be a founder of a wellness brand?
I studied Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Southern California for two primary reasons: 1) I always loved riddles, puzzles, and brain games, and I saw Computer Science as the science of solving problems and 2) I knew that Computer Science would give me the flexibility to work across a variety of industry sectors since it was an applicable discipline for distinct consumer needs.
I wound up working as a software engineer and product manager for Goldman Sachs, The Muse (as their 8th employee), Stitch Fix (through their IPO), and Fueled. My early exposure to the startup life reinforced that I wanted to build a business of my own one day, which is eventually how I found my way to starting a self-care and mental wellness brand, Silk + Sonder.
Walk us through your journey with Silk + Sonder. What were your motivations for starting a company focused on self-discovery and internal reflection?
Like many millennials, every few years, I found myself experiencing a career rut. In my late 20’s, I experienced a particularly horrific rut in which I found myself waking up negative, anxious, and burnt out. Therapy felt intimidating, coaching was expensive, meditation stressed me out more than it calmed me down, and self-help books lacked the accountability I needed to help myself through the more challenging moments. I grudgingly combined my learnings from the books I was reading on self-improvement, positive psychology, and mindfulness to create a guide for myself in my blank journal. I immediately noticed a magical shift to my emotional health.
I then began to notice how self-care had (and continues to) traditionally manifest itself in forms of indulgence. Don’t get me wrong, I love my manicures and pedicures, deep tissue massages, and face masks, but I realized that self-care was much deeper, and more simple than that. It began with the mind and was most effective as a daily, proactive practice.
Given that women are twice as likely than men to suffer from anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other emotional health issues, I wanted to create a brand that would help catalyze positive change in women’s lives through milestones and setbacks, alike. Rooted in narrative therapy and community, we launched Silk + Sonder’s inaugural product—a guided monthly planner and journal subscription service so women could experience the therapeutic power of bringing pen to paper and live more intentional, fulfilling lives.
Do you remember when you started becoming more in tune with your own mental health?
In full transparency, growing up South Asian American, we don’t really talk about mental health. In retrospect, I can’t believe we live in a culture where every year, we force ourselves to get a physical exam but we adopt a tendency to de-prioritize our mental health unless we need to react to a negative event. Most of my years through college, I felt anxious and stressed all the time. I thought this was normal and an unfortunate personality trait I would never overcome.
It wasn’t until I had begun working at Stitch Fix, where I had a lot to be grateful for but still found myself in waves of negativity. I realized that significant change would only be possible if I committed to more reflection, introspection, and action—and that writing things down actually made me feel better. I then looked into the clinically proven benefits to expressive writing and wondered why no one had exposed me to this earlier on in my life.
What does mental health mean to you?
Having good mental health means having a true understanding of your personal core values, your self-limiting beliefs, and accepting it. From there, you can work towards embracing your flaws, celebrating your strengths, and overcoming hurdles so that you can feel more present.
Founding a company is inherently stressful. In what ways has being an entrepreneur affected your mental health, and how do you manage the stress?
Ha! Every day, I have to gut-check on whether I’m practicing what I’m preaching. I am attentive to patterns I see in how my schedule or certain tasks affect my moods. For instance, a lot of context switching in the mornings or pointless meetings leave me drained and grumpy for the rest of the day. This led me to create a schedule where I time-box and stack my meetings, which makes me feel a lot more balanced and refreshed.
Similarly, there are parts of my role that are more exhausting than others. For example, I never feel drained after interviewing Silk + Sonder customers. In fact, I feel more energized and connected to my purpose. Fundraising, on the other hand, is depleting. Even when you get investors, the demoralizing process can outweigh the highs you expect to feel when investors commit.
As an entrepreneur, I’m always focused on what’s next—what’s the next goal, milestone, or problem we need to solve. When I catch myself, I try to take a moment and celebrate the small (and sometimes, big) wins!
Have you ever incorporated traditional talk therapy into your life?
I have to admit—I haven’t yet seen a therapist, but I’ve worked with a few life coaches who have been life-changing (I guess that’s what they were hired for!). I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the foundational work they made me go through. I remember being reluctant, wanting a far more action-oriented curriculum but the discovery that was made possible by analyzing my upbringing, understanding my motivators, etc. was monumental into how I structure my day-to-day today.
How do you think about Silk + Sonder’s role in the mental wellness space, and the impact your subscription service has on customers’ overall wellbeing?
I’ve been overwhelmed with joy to see how Silk + Sonder has and continues to deliver on its promise. We have a seemingly simple, but incredibly thoughtful product that customers love. They see it as a gift to themselves that keeps on giving. As a technologist, I’m fully aware of how we can and will leverage deep technology to personalize our customers’ experiences.
However, I’m equally aware of how the overstimulation of technology has caused anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. Now more than ever, there’s a craving to deepen the connection with ourselves and with others so we can make more informed decisions on how to live a more liberating, rewarding life. We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible to achieve with our current product, and I can’t wait to expand and deepen our offerings in the near future!
What do you wish more people knew about the self-care industry?
I wish people understood that self-care can be achieved by oneself. The word itself signifies that, but too often, we overlook that. We think we need another individual to validate us, to pamper us, to remind us of our worth. Self-care is how we choose to define it, without having to confirm with the dictionary definition. It’s understanding how we want to spend our time, by ourselves, so that we can show up better for everyone around us.
Tell me about your mental wellness outside of journaling. What do you do for self-care?
I don’t go to therapy yet (it’s on my list of things to do this year!), but for my self-care and mental wellness, I follow a few regimens. Every day, I allocate 15-30 minutes to free-write journaling and planning in my Silk + Sonder. I try to block out my calendar and say “no” to any activities (social or work) that conflict with my schedule. In the evenings, I usually schedule a work-out class.
Monthly, I indulge. Everything from getting a makeover at Sephora to scheduling a deep tissue massage is considered a sacred self-care regimen for me.
Use the promo code TWOCHAIRS at Silk + Sonder for 15% off your first 3 months.
Photos courtesy of Silk + Sonder.
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