Catching up with the co-founders on Mental Health

Leejoo Hwang
August 8, 2020

Running a startup is tough!

Trust me I know, I run one myself as one of the three co-founders here at MeaningfulWork. There are lots to worry about, stress about, and often you find yourself stretched thin. I remember in a pre-pandemic world, I would boast about my ability to carry such a weight on my plate. However, over the years, I’ve learned that when it comes to mental health it isn’t a competition of who handles more and who handles less. It’s about you and you only. As we #GetReal for Mental Health Week, May 2-8, 2022, I’m exploring how my co-founders manage their mental health. 


Raaj Chatterjee

Raaj Chatterjee, CEO & Co-Founder @ MeaningfulWork


What does mental health mean to you?

Mental health for me has a lot to do with balance. I have the propensity to get stuck in orbits of unhealthy habits which can lead to burnout or periods of poor mental health. The key for me has been being able to recognize this and take action to bring myself back to balance.

I do struggle with anxiety, but being able to accept and adapt to it through my conversations with my counsellor has been very rewarding.

What are some indicators you look for, for your well-being?

Some of the things I track are my ability to let my mind go to rest at night, how I handle decision-making, feeling enthusiastic or avoidant about my responsibilities, and general energy levels throughout the day. If any of these aren’t right I know that it’s time for an intervention.

What do you practice to better your mental health? 

Going into work in person, taking breaks, regular meditation (vipassana for me), and listening to music that I’ve enjoyed from my youth. This includes jazz, studio ghibli tracks, Bollywood/Indian classical, and some 90s & 2000s pop - then trying to transcribe and improvise over these on the keyboard - definitely a strong feeling of creativity & nostalgia which helps to keep me grounded. Also taking time to meet friends and playing sports, hiking, or just immersion in nature. Spending intentional time with my family & partner.

Any tips & tricks you’d like to share with us?

It’s really important to reflect on the stigma that you have associated with mental illness - this is often the piece which prevents feeling empathy for yourself and others. This has often stopped me from asking for help or seeking treatment. Finding what works best for you can be a long trial-and-error process so it's really important to have support along the way. Even though I have been a researcher in brain & mental health - there is still a lot that we don’t know how the brain & mind and much to learn.

James Young

James Young, CTO & Co-founder @ MeaningfulWork

What does mental health mean to you?

It's very important to me. I had a troubled childhood dealing with clinical depression and anxiety, so I always need a constant reminder to take a step back and remember to breathe. Stress, burnout, or other causes of poor mental health are things I keep a constant check on.

What are some indicators you look for, for your well-being?

Headaches, stress-eating or poor diet, gaining weight or feeling the dread about going to the gym are some indicators that my mental health may be slipping.

What do you practice to better your mental?

Going to the gym, getting massages, listening to high-energy music, or meeting my friends always improves my mood. Getting a good night's sleep is optional (for me at least!) but does help!

Any tips & tricks you’d like to share with us?

I find that if I take a break and have the time to be able to reflect and think about things can help. Sometimes video games, and watching a movie can help take my mind off things too. Although it's always important to keep those in moderation as I've had tendencies to go overboard and binge watch or play for long periods of time. I'd put a time limit or have an alarm to stop these activities. Another thing that helps a lot was just being able to freely talk about what I've been going through, whether it be with a counsellor or therapist, or just really close friends. Talking and being able to relate to mental health issues is something I really wish people would be able to talk about, without fear or judgment.

I hope you got a chance to learn something new about Raaj and James.

Leejoo Hwang, COO & Co-founder @ MeaningfulWork (this is me btw!)

The way I define my mental health is through what my inner dialogue sounds like. Some things I look out for are negative self-talk, doubt, feeling unmotivated, binging and feelings of overwhelmedness. My mental health was something I didn’t have much concern for until the pandemic hit and over the last few years, I’ve been trialing and erroring what works for me. For me, I find that exercising helps better manage my mental state. On a daily basis, I enjoy running and hitting the gym. I also enjoy grabbing coffee with mentors, friends and people in all various stages of life and sharing a tad of what I’m struggling with. It’s been a great way to feel like you’re not alone in the challenges I’m facing and often I leave with good advice. I try to disconnect (which I’m still working on) myself from work by learning something new. By the time I come back, I’m re-inspired and come with new perspectives on what I’ve been working on. Lastly, practicing gratitude has been a great way to keep a positive mindset. Volunteering has been one of the activities to give thanks and shift my focus to what I have and can provide to support others which nicely connects to the reason why here at MeaningfulWork.

If you come from an ethnic background like myself, Korean in my case, seeking help may be difficult. I know growing up I’ve seen my dad refuse as simple things as going to the hospital many times. If you need support with your mental health, I hope you build the courage to seek help. I also understand it’s not always affordable. My tip would be to try seeking out “low-income” or “low-cost” therapy options. 

A note from Raaj
Volunteering can be a really healing experience, especially if it’s closely tied to the things you care about. I know many people for whom volunteering was a way to cope with mental health challenges. It’s super important to keep balance and not over-extend yourself, but volunteering will give you insights into your life that you would never be able to gain otherwise.

I hope this has been insightful. Something we always challenge ourselves here at MeaningfulWork is to have an open-minded dialogue. It’s one of our four values! As always, your feedback is welcome and take care of yourself!

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Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Mental Health Week is a national awareness week, which is intended to raise awareness not only of mental health but mental illness and wellness and everything having to do with that

Learn more about Mental Health Week