How To Take A Mental Vacation

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about running Rooki - it’s that it’s so easy to fall into the trap of being ‘switched on’ all the time. It doesn’t help that I’m born in Singapore, where being busy is seen as a badge of honour. I say busy and not productive because most people tend to mix the two up. People naively assume that by always having something to do, someone to meet and somewhere to go - they must be moving forward. When in fact, they are running in circles, or worst, running in the wrong direction. 

This has resulted in a society where half the population feel stressed out by the thought of doing nothing. I admit, I’m part of the fifty percent who feels extremely stressed out by the thought of spending the day doing nothing. When I was a kid, I would always look forward to enjoying a lazy Sunday and zoning out to the sound of my favourite morning cartoons. Today, just the possibly of spending a day like that sends me into a head spin of guilt, fear and general unease. 

It got so bad that I never wanted to do anything on the weekends but work. Like most founders, I believed I was driven by passion and purpose and that meant I should have unlimited energy and the willpower to see my dreams through, no matter the cost. Predictably, this was not sustainable. I started falling sick, starting with frequent headaches, joint pain and random spouts of diarrhoea. My boyfriend soon noticed my general malaise and suggested we take a short vacation. 

“I can’t. If I go, who’s going to manage Rooki? Who’s going to manage the orders, restock our retail outlets, and engage the customers?” I said. And wasn’t he the one who sent me the article about how Bill Gates said that startup founders should not take weekends or vacations in the early days of building a company? Didn’t he know that small businesses are mostly held together by bubblegum and duct tape and that all it takes is one bad event while I was on holiday to break a company?  

“I just feel like, you need a break man. It’s great that you are having lots of work, but it has become a shadow that follows you everywhere. You worry even when there’s nothing to worry about. You worry about having work to do, and then you worry about not having work to do.”

He was right. Mentally, I was overwhelmed. I could be lying in bed, but my mind would always wonder back to Rooki…how can I improve? What do my consumers want? What do my retailers need? Honestly it didn’t matter where I was or what kind of exotic getaway I was whisked away to.

I had to learn how to take a mental vacation.

It’s been a few weeks since that realisation and my life has drastically improved. No, Rooki will not die just because you spend half a day baking cupcakes. I’ve learnt that like an old closet, you too need to set aside time to clear your headspace. Basically, I KonMari’d my unnecessary thoughts, in a way that sparked joy. Here’s how I did it: 

  

 

RECOGNISE YOUR ‘NEGATIVITY BIAS’

All of us suffer from ‘negativity bias’, which means that we tend to react more strongly to the bad than to the comparable good. Any skincare founder who tells you that 100% of her customers love their brand is straight up lying. On any given day, I may hear 90% compliments about Rooki, but there will always be that 10% response that is lukewarm, or sometimes, even negative. That is because everyone’s skin is unique, and has different needs. As much as we optimise the efficacy and suitability of our products to all skin types, there’ll always be that unique skin that is allergic to honey, or sensitive to vitamin C. 

Because I set out to improve people’s skin, it affected me greatly whenever I felt that my products did not live up to their expectations. I would spend time brooding over it - in a way that did not solve anything. It was truly a mental drain. Today, I’ve learnt to look at negativity in an objective manner. This doesn’t mean dismissing bad feedback, but rather, taking them in stride and letting them be the guiding lights that helps Rooki improve. I’ve learnt to put criticism in an ‘improvement bucket’ - a black velvet notebook that I use to track and identify possible areas of improvement, and then discuss it with my chemist. And trust me, with the latest advances in skincare, there’s ALWAYS something to improve. Being able to put criticism aside, with the knowledge that I will revisit it eventually - gave me the peace of mind to take a mental vacation without worrying that I was shirking my responsibility as a founder. 

 

SEPARATION OF WORK AND PERSONAL TIME

My favourite part of my job? Interacting with rookies! No joke, my heart literally sings whenever someone tells me about how Rooki has improved their skin. But on a normal day, my phone notifications are pretty insane. From emails to google alerts, DMs and phone calls, there would always be something Rooki-related vying for my time - even when I was technically ‘off’ work. I’ve learnt that it’s important to draw the lines between work and personal time. Now, I have two phones - one for business, and one for personal. When it’s time to relax, I put my business phone aside. It’s not perfect and sometimes I still do glance over to read my emails and notifications, but it’s getting better and that’s what counts.


GIVING YOURSELF A SELF CARE DAY

Being a founder of a skincare brand is tough. So many of us don’t know how to be kind to ourselves. Believe it or not, sometimes we’re so busy taking care of other people’s skin, that we neglect our own. I’ve found that whenever I start to ‘cheat’ on my skincare routine, that’s usually the litmus test telling me that my mental health is starting to slip to. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Because I know things aren’t right when I start to neglect my routines. 

In times like this, I will usually take a day off just to recalibrate. This means treating myself with extra care, like watching a movie or face masking with Green Pulp Paste Masque. My brother, who is a game designer, also recommends playing anxiety relief games - apparently, it’s a growing field in gaming right now. I’ve been really look forward for this game called Songbird Symphony (by a local game company) to be released. I read a story about them in the newspaper and was really intrigued because when one of the founder’s friend tried the game, he told them that it helped him ‘calm down when he was feeling anxious’. I’ve tried the demo and can attest to the fact that it is really fun and calms me down too! 

Have you ever been stressed out by the thought of doing nothing? What are some ways you take a mental vacation?

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