Mental health is as important in the workplace as it is in every other arena of life. To help Santa Clarita business owners, managers, and their employees devise strategies that improve mental wellness at work, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, had a conversation with Kelly Kozlowski, executive program director of behavioral health services at Aspire Santa Clarita.
Aspire Counseling Services is a Santa Clarita business offering counseling and other services to men, women, adolescents, and families struggling with substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions.
Aspire offers 4 different tracks of programs that include:
- Partial hospitalizations
- Intensive outpatient (IOP)
- Individual therapy
- Group programs
What is Mental Wellness?
Mental Wellness is an internal resource that helps individuals think, feel, connect, and function. It is an active process that helps us build resilience, grow, and flourish.
It has multiple dimensions including:
- Mental dimension – thinking
- Emotional dimension – feeling
- Social dimension – connecting
- Psychological dimension – functioning
Professionals at Aspire use a set of guidelines entitled “10 Essential Emotional Needs.”
“Just like physical needs that we have – the connection, the support, the community, the purpose – there are so many things that go into that,” Kelly explained. “We call them ‘human givens,’ and if we’re not fulfilling ourselves emotionally, we’re going to struggle with what we do. Just like the physical body, if we’re not nurturing our body and taking care of ourselves, we’re not going to do well.”
Management and the Mental Wellbeing of Employees
Mental wellbeing in the workplace is a component of society that is often overlooked.
“I think that we’re not doing enough within the workforce as managers or directors or corporate leaders to help our young adults when they’re entering the workplace,” Kelly said. “We’re just expecting them to be ready and prepared, but at the same time, they’re still young adults who are learning about themselves and who they are, on top of these stressors and pressures of society to become an adult and to do well in this world.”
There are many reasons mental wellbeing should be talked about more in the workplace.
“Addressing mental health issues can help prevent absences, for instance. If you’re feeling fatigued, if you’re mentally struggling with something, it can have a physical impact on you,” Amanda said. “It also can help boost confidence and identity at work. When you’re stable and you’re feeling more confident, you have an identity and a purpose when you show up every day to your job.”
Is management building a team that enables their employees to feel they belong?
“Are they allowing them to embrace their strengths and weaknesses? Or are they just fixating on their weaknesses, which is then affecting their mental wellbeing?” Kelly asked. “Are we finding out what are the strengths of this individual and where are they best suited and fitted?”
How Managers and Staff Members Can Foster a Sense of Belonging:
- Allow them to embrace their strengths and weaknesses
- Don’t fixate on the weaknesses of your employees
- Based on their strengths, find the most suitable position for the individual
- Help them find a purpose within the company
“As an employee, if you have that, you’re going to want to come in, you’re going to want to be there, you’re going to want to be a part of your company,” Kelly said. “Then these young kids are going to want to represent what they’re doing, they’re going to talk about it with their friends, and that’s free marketing within itself.”
It’s a win-win for staff members and business owners who want to improve company culture and it can even have a positive effect on the bottom line. “It can help these young adults, or anybody, manage stress and make them feel productive,” Amanda said. “You’ll really get the most out of your company’s employees when they show up to work.”
Pressures Affecting Young Job Candidates
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a collaborative study conducted this year involving college graduates age 22 to 28 found that 51% of them reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems. More than one-third of young professionals find that their workplace erodes their sense of mental health and wellbeing.
“I run a gym in Burbank, and I employ the age group we’re talking about, from the ages of 18 to 24, and these are very young adults,” Amanda said. “I think this age group gets completely overlooked because they go from being considered children to immediate adulthood. We don’t address the transitioning — from the parents’ home into college or from the parents’ home into the workforce. Some get married or go into a roommate situation. We don’t really address it; we just think that they need to know everything because now they’re adults.”
Successfully launching young adults is a collaborative effort.
“Teachers and parents can only teach so much,” Kelly said. “That’s why having strong management to help with young adults is so important, because we all do play different roles in these young adults’ lives.”
Stress and the Job Hunt
Questions for Job Searchers to Ask Themselves:
- What do you stand for?
- What are the company’s values?
- Can you work for a company that doesn’t match your morals?
- Who is the manager?
- Who will be your boss?
“The reason why they jump into corporate America is because they have pressures to start paying for things and be on their own and build a retirement,” Amanda said. “I know that some young adults will look at a job and based on just the salary, they’ll plug in to Indeed or any job boards for the salary. Or they take a management position when maybe they’re not quite qualified, and then they feel a lot of pressure to live up to that title or what the expectations are.”
The financial component is a prominent piece that’s driving young adults in the hiring space.
“In the interviews that I conduct for the new employees that come into our facility, money is such a big factor,” Kelly said. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t really want to talk about money. Let me make sure you’re the right fit; let’s get to know each other and let’s have this conversation. At the end, if we’re vibing, we’re doing well together, then let’s talk about what we want. I would rather work for a company that I feel supports me and wants what’s best for me and make less money than to make the extra $10,000 a year or whatever it is. But for our younger kids, money talks to them.”
Money talks to young adults today due to:
- Post-COVID inflation
- Rise in wages
- Young people feel they deserve higher pay
“It can be dangerous because they can get into a role where they’re not feeling fulfilled inside,” Amanda said, “which can lead to other stresses that bring on so many other issues with their health and everything else – things that I think can break somebody down.”
“Another thing I’ve been seeing when helping business owners with problems is that candidates end up ghosting their interviews or ghosting their first day on the job,” Amanda said. “This has happened to me numerous times, where I’ve set up an interview and we’ve had a great phone conversation. They sound excited, I’m excited, and they no-show. Then I text and there’s no response — nothing at all.”
According to Kelly, there are two possible explanations:
- “What if I’m not enough?” They have anxiety and fear that they can’t live up to what is on paper. “I think a lot of times these younger adults are hiding behind their phones, so actually having to face someone is something that’s so different for them,” she said.
- “I found something else that’s better, but I’m too afraid to tell you.” They just ghost you and act like nothing happened. “That kind of goes into the dating world of that generation too. A lot of things we’re seeing in the workplace people are seeing in the dating world as well,” she said.
The Effect of Boomeranging
“A lot of these young adults are still living at home,” Amanda said. “Even if they’ve gone to college, they’ve come back home because it’s very hard to afford to live on their own or even in a roommate situation. I think there are added stresses that come from their home life, probably by coming back and having to learn how to deal with that now at an older age.”
Kelly concurred. “Kids go off to college and they go get a degree within their major and they’re away at school, living in dorms and apartments and their parents are helping them with all of that,” she said. “But when college is over, they’re not going to keep paying for these dorms or these apartments for them to live in while they figure out what they’re going to do. Going from four years of being independent and now living under that roof – it’s definitely going to be an adaption that’s very hard.”
Imposter syndrome is the effect of self-doubt, when you question your success and abilities internally, even when your external performance is good.
“They don’t believe what they’re capable of,” Amanda said. “So, they feel like ‘I’m not going to apply for that job because I’m not really that.’ But, in reality, they’re very capable.”
Kelly asks her clients, “How do you know unless you try?”
“Maybe you don’t have the experience like someone else does when you apply for a specific position, but maybe you have the personality, that drive, the work ethic,” she said. “There’s so much more when we look at people coming in for a job interview. There are so many components we look at.”
In Amanda’s work with small business owners in Santa Clarita she advises job candidates in the same way. “I always tell people to just put themselves out there,” she said. “It doesn’t even matter if there are one or two things on the job description that you don’t fit. If you don’t get it, you’re practicing; you’re learning what people expect and then you can grow.”
Fear of failure can fuel imposter syndrome.
“How do you let go of that? You show up and you be your authentic self and be willing to learn,” Kelly said.
Interviewing as a Learning Experience
“They need to learn that it’s OK to go on a job interview and not get the job,” Kelly explained. “You can’t allow that one job interview to be the determining factor of your self-worth and your self-esteem. Those come from within. It doesn’t get to be decided by someone who didn’t want to hire you.”
We can’t have success without failure, and we can’t have strengths without weaknesses.
“The more job interviews we go on, the better we’re going to get at them,” Kelly said. “Then the higher position we’re going to find, or that job we’ve been looking for, we’re going to get with time.”
Be confident and proud about who you are and bring your authentic self into those interviews.
“I’ve learned that some people might not fit the position, but their internal work and the things they do while in the position really plays such an important factor,” Kelly said. “In my workplace that’s what I look for. We have so many different personalities, because in the therapy world we say that therapy is like an art form. We have different art forms, and every therapist isn’t going to be the same. We have different people and different dynamics, but when we come together, we create this, as I call it, the ‘dream team.’”
Take the interview even if you don’t meet all the requirements in the job description.
“If the person that’s interviewing you can see that you’re coachable or that you’re willing to learn and that you’re eager to know those things, or you’re reading a book that’s going to help you achieve, these experiences will level you up,” Amanda said. “You can’t just be expected to go into the job and know every single thing about it. That’s why internships are good, and mentorships are good, showing up and being willing to learn even if you take the lesser position first.”
Be willing to learn and adapt to the environment.
“I think that’s how you and I got to where we are today,” Amanda said. “Because we started somewhere and then we found a love or an interest or a passion in that, and then we explored more, and it created opportunity. I wish these young adults would let that go and just accept that that’s something you don’t know until you try.”
Tips for Executives and New Hires in the Onboarding Process
For Young Adults Entering the Workplace
There are a range of coping mechanisms new staffers can use to reduce stress and maximize mental wellness.
“The number one thing I see is time management,” Kelly said. “They’re constantly scrambled and anxious and overwhelmed and that anxiety is draining and it’s hard. By four hours into your eight-hour shift you’re so exhausted you don’t want to do anything anymore or you’re getting snippy and rude. But if you organize your time better, you walk into a workplace and you are prepared.”
Time management and organization are the two things that set you apart from any other employee.
Throughout her years in corporate work and business consulting in Los Angeles, Amanda has found some tools that help new employees with structure, including:
- Calendar To-Do List for each day
- Excel spreadsheets
- Scheduled meetings
- Proper nutrition
- Organizing your desk and workspace
When a business owner mentors new hires, they can set them up for success by becoming a role model.
“If you’re always rushing around and you’re late to work and your life is a mess – guess what? Your employees are going to do the same,” Amanda said. “If you’re a manager or a small business owner who wants success with staffers, but your life is chaotic and messy, you cannot be upset at the employees you hire if their life is chaotic and messy.”
Leadership sets the tone for their direct reports.
“So, it’s being a role model and not teaching them ‘do as I say, not as I do,’” Kelly said. “That doesn’t do anything for anyone, and a lot of these young adults learn by observing.”
Everything you say and do is seen by your staff members. “It also spreads to the whole culture of the company,” Amanda said.
Self-Care and Advocacy
Self-care is finding quiet time and space to do something for you.
“Sometimes people view self-care as, like, a nap,” Kelly said. “Getting your nails done or getting a facial or getting your hair done – these are things that should be happening. On top of that, you should be taking quiet time to reflect.”
Aspire staff members teach many forms of self-care including:
- Taking a walk outside
- Deep breathing
“You know where they teach that? In kindergarten!” Amanda said. “They want you to have quiet time on the rug.”
You burn out when you put other people’s needs above your own.
Motives include trying to please:
- Your parents
- Your boss
- Your romantic partner
- Your friends
“We do see a lot of people in their young 20s who come into our mental health intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization program due to stress and burnout from the workplace,” Kelly said.
Use self-care and determine what’s best for you by taking breaks on the job. Ideas include:
- Lock the door and watch a show on your phone or laptop
- Take 30 minutes to turn off your brain
- Put your headphones on and listen to some music
- Put on a podcast
- Go to lunch
- Take a walk
- Bring a smoothie blender to work
- Find somebody to talk to
“If there are things going on in the workplace that you’re uncomfortable with, go talk to someone about it,” Kelly said. “That should always be something you can do, to say, ‘Hey, I noticed this.’ Or if you have an idea, bring it to somebody.”
Ask for help and reach out to mentors.
“When I used to work at Hyatt, we did a one-on-one meeting with our direct reports once a month,” Amanda said. “Even if you are a small business owner of five people, I highly recommend having a one-on-one with your team because it really does allow for conversation for them to express their ideas.”
It enables new recruits to connect.
“It allows them to build a relationship with the manager and to become more comfortable,” Kelly said. “These young kids want to feel heard, understood and supported. I know you did a podcast on active listening, which is such an important skill for a manager to have, as well as a worker to have.”
Meet the Experts
Kelly Kozlowski – Aspire Santa Clarita Executive Program Director of Behavioral Health Services
Kelly has been working with people struggling with addiction and mental health challenges for the past few years. She has a unique understanding and compassion for individuals needing assistance with mental health and substance abuse experiences. Her work involves a combination of complex, integrated issues that require ongoing support from not only a treatment team, but from family, friends, and loved ones.
Kelly graduated with two associate degrees from College of the Canyons and earned a bachelor’s degree from Brandman University in 2016. She continued her education at Brandman by obtaining a Master of Arts in psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling in 2018.
To reach out to Kelly, you can call her at 661-296-4444. You can also call the Aspire intake line at 888-585-7373 or go on the website at AspireCounselingService.com where there is an online chat available 24/7.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!