prioritising mental health in business, with nungala creative
Founder Jessica Johnson has some tips for looking after your brain and bod while doing business.
Jessica Johnson is squeamish about offering tips on prioritising wellbeing in business because, truth be told, she’s still figuring it out herself. The Warumungu/Wombaya woman and founder of Nungala Creative design agency recently recovered from a tricky bout with COVID and had to force herself to “be horizontal for a while.” Even then, she was “just horizontal, creating with my iPad,” she laughs. “It’s a challenge to switch off sometimes.” It helps, though, that Jessica finds so much joy in her work creating content from a First Nations perspective and designing accessories as playful as they are pointed (like her super-glittery, heart-shaped ‘Decolonise’ necklaces). She is also the founding director of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, which advocates for Blak queer representation, and founder of the Trading Blak Aboriginal business collective. “Maybe I just don’t turn off,” she says. “I’m passionate about what I do, but I’m also conscious of becoming a slave to the beast.” We asked Jessica how she tries (and sometimes fails) to set boundaries and take breaks from business. Spoiler: good food helps.
KNOW THAT YOU’RE IN CONTROL The pressures of owning a small business can sometimes detract from the rad benefits. But, heck, you’re the boss: organise your life in a way that suits you. Jessica started her own agency when the daily grind of work in media began to feel “relentless”. Now, she works on her own terms, with people and on projects that matter to her. Set boundaries and say no to projects that don’t align with your core values, she advises. “I try to curate an existence for myself void of the fuckery,” she says. “But be kind to yourself, too. It’s OK to be a work in progress.”RELISH THE ‘CREATIVE’ PART OF YOUR CREATIVE BUSINESS It’s hard not to get bogged down with the business-y stuff, but nourishing your creative side is a fab source of strength. Growing up around artists and activists like her dad, John Johnson, Jessica saw first-hand how art helps people process tough experiences. A super-crafty, hands-on design session for her product range is a great meditative tool. “Making art really is a beautiful act of mindfulness,” she says. “Creativity is really healing, so having it as the foundation to a career is a win-win.” STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN “I definitely have moments where I think, ‘Do I cease to exist when I’m not in front of a computer?’” Jessica says. She grounds herself in tactile, everyday joys: laughing with mob; chilling with her pug, Pickles; or cooking up. “Eating good food sparks joy for me,” she says. “I’ll look at a pasta or salad, with all its colours, and it’s so satisfying even before I’ve eaten anything. I love how food can do that.” FIND TECH THAT MAKES YOU FEEL LIGHTER It’s a good idea to look around for digital tools that lighten the load, especially if that particular task isn’t a strength or passion (we’re looking at you, bookkeeping). Jessica uses Xero accounting software, along with an accountant, to help her tackle the burden of financial admin. “Xero is a conduit to a world I don’t fully understand,” she says. “It streamlines everything I don’t really enjoy focusing on, so it’s a breath of fresh air for me.” FIND STRENGTH IN YOUR COMMUNITY For Jessica, working on projects with a tangible benefit for her community helps her feel empowered and focused. Seek out people who know what you’re going through and are ready to lift you up. Every young, queer or Blak-owned start-up is a statement of what’s possible, Jessica says. “Know your worth and don’t underestimate your value. You come from 60,000-plus years of unbroken culture and belonging,” she says to Blak business owners. “You’re kind of a big deal.”
These helpful tips were brought to you in partnership with our pals at Xero. Whether you lead a small team or are going it alone, Xero’s online accounting helps you do business, but better. Find out more on the Xero website.