WHY EUSTRESSIN'?: JUSTIN CUNNINGHAM
It is amazing how when you do dope work; you connect with dope people. I had the pleasure to link up with Justin because we shared a passion for helping others through service. He, along with his friends at SocialWorks, have created spaces to help so many in Chicago and across the nation. It was a pleasure to chop it up with this dope man to learn about how he adds eustress to his life. Check it out!
HEY JUSTIN, WHY EUSTRESSIN’?
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING/ HOW LONG?
I am the Executive Director for a Chicago non-profit called SocialWorks. We work to empower youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement using innovation and collaboration as drivers. I've been in this position, officially, for 2 years.
DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN YOUR PROFESSION?
I think about mental health all the time in my profession. Whether it's mine, my team's, or our constituents, mental health can be one of our biggest allies or worst enemies. My team and I are aware of that and frequently work on each other's health or extending ourselves to your friends, family, and supporters.
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO YOU ENCOUNTER SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR JOB THAT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH THAT OTHERS MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT?
A unique challenge is..well...SocialWorks. Whether it be the unique work-environments, quick pivots, our aspirations, or the expectations we may put on myself. I now know these aren't unique, but it used to feel unique when I was doubtful of my capabilities.
When did you realize that you should also consider your mental health when taking on day-to-day activities?
I noticed I should start considering my mental health when I began having nervous ticks or outbursts. Not turrets but something where I could only relieve my stress through an eruption. I realized that my anxiety was manifesting itself, whether or not I allowed it. I didn't like that. I wanted to be in control.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE THOSE STRESSORS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
I meditate and focus on what I can control. I don't need to worry about, "why I might have done this/that and how it might be perceived." That's a rabbit-hole. I realized that I couldn't have people actively participate in shaping our future if I didn't. If I wasn't present. If I was being held back by fear. I take things one step at a time and stay present, it's with this that I've found problems have become fun and are always new. It's helped me gain confidence and agility.
HOW DOES BEING MENTALLY HEALTHY HELP IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK OR ON THE JOB?
For one, I can be there for my team. That's awesome. I can also connect with others more efficiently. I want people to believe me, and the work that we do and I don't think people would if I'm putting on a facade or if I don't engage. Being mentally healthy has helped magnify the intent and assures others that we're good collaborators.
WHAT DOES EUSTRESS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU AT WORK? AT HOME/AWAY FROM WORK?
Eustress is nothing but motivation. It looks like me being excited about phone calls, emails, sleeping, waking up - It looks like experimenting and innovating.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD TELL SOMEONE JUST STARTING IN YOUR PROFESSION OR A YOUNG PERSON WHO ASPIRES TO BE THE PROFESSIONAL THAT YOU ARE?
Being on the ground level of anything is hard, and this position is a roller-coaster ride. Make sure you take breaks and have an outlet because this work can consume you. Take the good and the bad with a grain of salt and always be looking ahead. Also, don't take yourself too seriously. It's a job and people lose jobs all the time.
Any other information you want people to know about you and what you're up to?
I want people to know that I'm working on my mental health, actively. I also want people to know SocialWorks is working on a new initiative to help people access mental health in Chicago. And it can be scaled all over! I love the climate we are in right now. I love that we can open up about this topic, and I'm glad to share my piece.
HOW CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU FOR MORE INFORMATION?