“Self-care is more than just the latest social media trend. It’s real, it’s gritty, & it’s an everyday battle.”
Find Yourself in these Mental Health Boxes
New Jersey native Mal Gothelf turned her tribulation into a triumph! After getting laid off from her job due to the pandemic, Mal realized that she was not the only person who was going through uncertainty in her life, & who was going through the emotions. She wanted to create an outlet that allowed self-care to “be a personal practice, connecting you to yourself & to the people around you.”
Mal created the Find Yourself Boxes; custom packages that fit YOUR unique style of healing. The boxes are curated through the advice of Mal’s advisor, Elizabeth Alicakos, who has a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Expressive Art Therapy. Elizabeth provides feedback for the curated boxes that are sent out to customers.
Find Yourself Boxes is centered around healing & understanding of mental health. The company takes it further; for every .10 cents from a sale goes to Therapy for Black Girls, an organization dedicated to Black women finding therapists and helping them deal with mental health issues. Read about this powerful & inspirational woman’s journey through her own battles of mental health & how she wants society to feel tenuous:
- Talk about your inspiration to start this business
- Two things inspired me to want to start this business. The first inspiration came from the fact that I have a love for gift-giving. I love finding the most perfect and meaningful gifts for the people in my life. It honestly brings me more joy to give a gift than receive one. I took my passion one step further as I wanted that gift-giving to serve a purpose. Being hospitalized in an inpatient facility, I knew people were unsure what to do for me or say to me. Unlike a physical illness, a lot of people find it challenging to know what to do for those struggling with their mental health. I remember receiving letters and little gifts from my loved ones to let me know they were thinking of me. Those gestures gave me so much hope during a depressive episode that often sucked the life out of me. I wanted my business to bridge the gap between the person struggling and their loved ones. I knew there were other boxes like this on the market, but I never saw one that explicitly addressed mental illness so openly. I wanted to make sure I made a bold stance sharing openly about mental illness.
- Why is mental health an essential topic for you?
- Mental health is such an important topic for me because I have spent a lot of my life suffering from a mental illness. Growing up, I just didn’t hear people talking about it, and when people did, it was always so hush-hush. I came from a small town where people told me when something happened. Stories about what I was going through, true or not, became a topic of discussion. I remember hearing stories about myself from peers, and in high school, that wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to stand out. However, when I began publicly addressing my mental illness, I found I was taking control of my story and shaping my narrative. In sharing, other people came forward to tell me their stories and share their experiences. I began to realize that mental illness and mental health aren’t shameful topics. We all have mental health. We all need to be supporting our mental well-being. If I was going to go through what I went through, I didn’t want to be silent because being silent wasn’t helping me cope, and it wasn’t helping the next person who felt similarly. I wanted to serve as a voice for others, and from there, I have never looked back.
- How has mental health affected people during this pandemic?
- The pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental health. A health crisis typically brings a level of anxiety for people, even people who don’t usually experience anxiety. This crisis, being on a global scale, amplifies the fear ten-fold. Isolation in quarantine is also very much a factor in the overall mental health of our population. Humans are social creatures, and not having the same level of contact with others can bring our moods down. People who are more vulnerable to the virus have to grapple with another layer of isolation and anxiety. This pandemic is showing that fear is holding a lot of us, and we don’t have the standard social outlets we would typically turn to. People are hurting. That is very clear. We need to be gentle with ourselves and with others throughout this uncertainty. I have noticed that people who usually don’t have access to or time for therapy can utilize the booming online therapy resources that have come to the forefront during this pandemic. If there was ever a time to invest in treatment, this feels like a great one. The services for mental illness and mental health are becoming more accessible.
- What is the process of the Find Yourself Boxes?
- Find Your/self Boxes does not offer a subscription option at this time, but I have created curated boxes for purchase. These boxes undergo a feedback process from a mental health professional. Each item in the box was chosen with mental health in mind. There are currently 13 skews of the box available for purchase at varying price points. You can view the different boxes and find product lists and a story of what inspired that box. I am also in the process of creating a page that allows people to customize their boxes. I am hoping this will be up within the next two weeks. This new system will enable people to pick the exact items they would like for the box they are sending. It provides people who know what they want to send a little more freedom to put their stamp on the box. For people who are unsure of what to buy, the curated box option provides you with a good idea of what might help you or your loved one.
- You said that your job is to “make other people happy.” How do you do that with Find Yourself Boxes?
- I like to think about people opening their boxes with the same level of excitement they open a birthday or holiday gift. You don’t know what’s inside, and you feel a bit like a kid again. As you open the box, there are a lot of really well thought out products inside to help make your day-to-day a little more comfortable, relaxing and fun. Often these boxes are being sent to those who are working through something difficult. These boxes arrive and provide a little spark of light in a time that feels a bit bleak. From my personal experience in recovery, it’s often the small things in life that remind you why you should keep going. My hope is this box serves as that little signal to keep going. If I’m fortunate, I’m hoping people smile as they dig through the box, knowing someone wanted to show them love and support.
- You enlisted a business coach to help you with your business. Talk about that experience and why you decided to hire one. What are some tips for entrepreneurs on choosing a business coach that you can give?
- I think selecting a business coach came from knowing myself. I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. Truthfully, I’m a big picture person, a dreamer if you will. I don’t always think through the details of things, which isn’t helpful when starting a business. Business is in the details! By hiring a business coach, I was challenged to think more critically about this idea I had. Using her methods of planning, I was pushed to go deeper into how this idea would translate into a business. It was the best decision I could have made for myself. If it weren’t for Harper Spero, I would not have launched this business, and I mean that. Harper provided me with real feedback (she never told me what I wanted to hear, always what I needed to hear), kept me organized when my mind moved one million miles per hour, and held me accountable in our sessions together. If you’re choosing a business coach, it’s essential to do your due diligence. Read up on them and their skillset, read their testimonials and look at their clients’ work to see if it is in line with what you want for your business. Not every business coach is going to have the skillset you’re looking for, and their work might not be what your business needs. I’m a huge proponent of taking the time to research before making any decisions.
- Good America America did a feature on you on live television. How was that experience? What did that do for your business?
- Being featured on Good Morning America has been a life-changing moment for my business and me as a human. My inbox immediately filled with people telling me their stories and sharing their struggles. It’s so beautiful for me to have people hear my story and feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about their illness or struggle. I felt fortunate to be on the receiving end of those messages. As for the business, I have seen a considerable increase in orders, which is both exhilarating and stressful! I wasn’t fully prepared for this number of requests, and I’m working diligently to get more inventory to pack these orders. As a business that is barely four months old and very much bootstrapped with little financial backing, I am working as hard as I possibly can to turn orders around quickly. I’m also the only employee, so every email, every social media post, every message, and every box is crafted by me. That’s not a brag, just a reality of starting a small business during the pandemic! I know there is nothing in the world I would rather be doing, so this stress I’m feeling is all good stress. I couldn’t be more grateful to the segment for bringing so many beautiful new people to my business.
- You’re such an inspiration to a lot of people who were laid off during the pandemic. You turned your tribulation into your triumph! What advice can you give to others who are feeling low because of their misfortune during this time?
- I have spoken about how I turned my layoff into a business, but truthfully, it wasn’t all sunshine. I was devastated after I was laid off, even though I started working on my business the next day! It’s okay to have strong emotions about what is going on. I still sometimes think about my old job and my coworkers there. It’s natural to feel sad, scared, upset, frustrated, and angry right now. I want to make sure I validate that first and foremost. Those emotions come up for me, even while I’m doing something I love. These are unprecedented times, so your feelings are allowed to run the gamut. The most helpful thing for me during this pandemic was trying to shift my perspective. Instead of saying, “I was laid off from my job,” I would say, “I was laid off from my job, but it has provided me the opportunity to start my business.” It was a simple reframe, but it helped me see this as an opportunity rather than a setback. During this pandemic is when you can evaluate what you’re passionate about and where you want to be in your career. Or it’s a time to pick up a hobby, old or new. Or maybe it’s time you need to relax and heal when typically you’re always on the go. The stress of this moment in time is real, but reframing how you look at this situation can make all the difference in how you approach things moving forward. I do believe this time has forced us all to take a step back, and if you can use it for self-reflection, you’re going to start realizing how much is out there for you in your next steps forward.
- What is something that you want the public to know about Find Yourself Boxes?
- I would love for people to see that outside of sending boxes, Find Your/self Boxes is an open community space. I share a lot about my journey on Instagram. I write weekly emails that are often very raw and open about running a business out of the second bedroom of my home while working through my recovery. I’m working on incorporating a blog that features other amazing people in the mental health space. I want people to know that they have a place in the community I’m working to create. As a teenager, I remember thinking nobody understood me or could relate to what I was going through. My vow was never to let another soul feel the loneliness I felt. Even if you can’t purchase a box at this time, you’re always welcome just to follow along and share parts of your journey. That’s what this is all about: bringing together a community of people that love and support one another through mental illness and mental health struggles.