Arts & Crafts | Using Creativity To Help With Mental Health Ep 28
Hi and welcome to a new episode of the Mom Bosses Abroad podcast we are here today with Jesse and Alex Russo and they are coming to tell us a little bit how we can use creativity to help with mental health. So Jesse and Alex it's such a pleasure to have you here with us today. Welcome.
Hi. Thank you.
So yeah, so Alex is a stay-at-home mom to a 5 yo boy and she spent the last few years teaching her son through creative play art and cooking from scratch. She lives in Oregon and she is in charge of all the things design. Jessie is a mom to a 10-year old boy and she was in the restaurant industry for over twenty years but the pandemic pushed her to pursue a career change. She lives in California and she's in charge of all the operations and marketing of their venture together and. They are sisters and so wonderful to find out. You two have done so a and j books is a woman-owned small business run by 2 sisters and moms of boys. So they design beautiful things which they will tell us , themselves of what it is exactly. And they have a beautiful goal of sharing the benefits of journaling from mental wellness at any way age and as a way to connect with kids through hands-on artistic learning and so ah, we can't wait to dive in. So what made go into business together into this particular beautiful venture that you have both created.
Well I mean the pandemic switched all of our habits right? And we were at home and we had to get very creative and I was in the restaurant industry and I didn't want to go back to the restaurant industry and I started like stbling on Self-publishing and I didn't really know what that meant and I just kind of started learning and ah found out that you can make books and it's not as hard as it seems and low content books seem like a really fun thing to start with I personally.
Have used a lot of journaling and note taking in my life and seen a huge shift in my habits and my mental state of mind so I was like telling my sister one day ‘Hey I think I'm going to self-publish these journals’ and she was like ‘oh great. Can I do it too?’ and just totally like jumped on I think no joke. I brought it up in July and by August first we had a business and a whole company and everything ready to go and she just she's the designer and such a artistic person and she created this vision and designed all these books like I think we started right away with like 18 books. And yeah here we are a year later
Ah, wow that is incredible. Ah, it just goes to show when it is like when you have this beautiful idea right? and this like desire to do something nothing stands in your way.
Wow that is that is quite a fast track.
Oh that is exceptionally fast. Wow Great. So would you like to tell us a little bit more about the books themselves and the journals.
Yeah, we didn't waste any time. I mean journaling helps like it's such a fantastic tool and I think we don't talk about it or you utilize it as much and whether if you're doing it to just like. Jot some stuff down make a list, draw, right? Like you don't have to be this perfect writer. You have to just kind of be in tune to your emotions and your feelings and get it out I love making to- do list I am a busybody and I've had a lot of feelings and emotions and kind of. Figured out how to cope with things a little bit differently and writing helped me it helped me learn about myself and so it was such a great thing to do I know my sister really loves drawing and expressing herself in and another creative way too. So when we combine those two, it felt like it was a match made in heaven. We never thought like hey we're sisters will like make a business together but this was just something that was filling a void that was happening in our life and we both experience grief and deal with things differently and we lost our dad five years ago and
Journaling and being expressive and creative helped and so why wouldn't we want to share that with other people. So yeah.
Yes, and that is and that is such a ah beautiful way to not only , share what was your experience going through you know such a painful time and it still is ongoing right when we lost. Ah when we lose a loved one. It's not it doesn't have a timeline for when we're going to be over it. It's just it's like a continual process of experimenting and living life without that person right in physical form.
So it's a great way. , that you have put and honored those emotions and those feelings into this journey that now you are sharing with others and allowing them to have an outlet for anything that might be going on. Not necessarily just the loss of loved ones. But as you say mental health has been. Ah, completely exacerbated by the pandemic and a lot of people are feeling the effects now after you know 2 years where everybody was just trying to you know, find their way around the new. The new normal and trying to understand what was what was happening half the time. So this is this is really so fantastic and it's such an important subject I feel because people have still this stigma about mental Health or not being in a good space and knowing that there is no shame in going through that. But also there are so many ways that you can find something that you can connect with and and as you put it so beautifully journaling and drawing are really creative outlets that allow all of those feelings to come out.
Definitely hundred percent It's so such a cost effective tool to have and it can be as simple as 10 minutes a day or you know once a week whatever that is for you to just have that quiet time or play your favorite music and just really you know open up your book and go crazy in whatever way works for you.
Yeah, yeah, it's very therapeutic that's for sure. Yeah.
It is yeah I've yeah I've always loved writing and ever since I was in school I loved writing
essays. You know I was like the last one out of the out of the examination rules crazy. But I loved it and yeah and then even now I enjoy like you know writing blog posts and everything and it was really Iva as well who got me into the journaling for myself because I was never like a diary person or anything. But was like wow I really discovered that how powerful that is for myself and like getting things out that you otherwise you have deep inside of you but you don't necessarily think like I love that I start to write and I have no idea what I'm going to write about. But it all of a sudden starts flowing one of the things I have to say is challenging for me is I feel I don't have enough of that quiet time and you just mentioned as well. You just need 10 minutes a day you know so it doesn't seem so overwhelming. But for me still I have I'm a mom of 2. I have a 5-year-old as well and I have a little ten month old girl and it's ah it's hard for me. So what I find intriguing with what you do is that you involve your children. So can you please share with us a little bit like how to do that and how because maybe that's another beautiful way. You know for me to be able to actually journal by involving my five year old and I have no idea how I should do that.
Yeah, so when my dad passed my son was three months old so I was dealing with being a new mom and dealing with grief. So I didn't want him to see me upset and not know how to do that for himself when he got older so when he was about 2 I started writing with him and doing activities in a giant journal and we did it for 20 minutes a day and we would just pick a topic. It'd be the ocean or you know the zoo something simple for him and as he got older now he's 5 We now pick what's something that makes you feel good because he now understands emotions. So now he knows that. Okay, we're going to sit down and we're to pick a topic together.And we're to work on that work through whatever even if he's having had a bad day at school. We'll write about it or if I have a topic. He'll help me through the topic. So we're connecting together and it still only has to be a 10 minute thing
Yeah, that's really that's really powerful. Yeah.
Ah, that's fun that is such a great idea as well. Like I never thought about doing that because at this age I mean I personally find 5 such a challenging age. Oh my goodness because now they are able to express themselves.
That it was a very challenging and yeah
But somehow sometimes don't know how yet with words So that's amazing that to incorporate that and to not only write but I prese it's still got to do with a lot of drawings and you know diagramming and.
Oh yeah, I'm like more of the drawing journal. Yeah, the easiest way to start if you're new to is we you start with the alphabet start with the letter a if they're learning how to write learning how to spell learning how to read it also helps. You say Okay, what starts with a an ant and the Ant's angry and you draw that picture and you write it out and then you write out feelings and sometimes what made you angry and how you work through that anger.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's really great. Yeah, those are really great. Great tips and I love as Desiree said and as you're sharing Alex that you're finding that moment to not only connect.
Because it's really quality time but it's also a way for them to understand that it is very normal to have all these feelings and to not hide away from them because that's the that's the other thing as adults we have somewhat somehow internalized that certain feelings are not good to have and others. And others. We just need to sometimes artificially keep because that's what society wants from us so being authentic already at that age and saying like yeah I own all of my feelings and that's what it is and the great thing is that.
For them being able to override that and get to the other side of okay I'm angry at the moment but then it just goes away once you address it. It's so easy for them to see that they don't need to be stuck with the emotion the whole day or ruminate about something that happened and still feeling triggered.
Which is what we somehow tend to do as adults right? If we still are trying to master that aspect and but the other thing that I wanted to also, share which is a mindset shift I guess as well is that? I meditate with my kids and also I get asked like do can you even meditate with kids and I say yeah absolutely because it's a 2 minute meditation and technically yes they might not be meditating in the way that you conceive it as an adult like Lotus position and.
Almost levitating and closing your eyes and chanting or whatever it is. It doesn't have to be like that. But that's not the point. The point is that you are emulating a habit that they can internalize and refer to and go back to in case, they need it and they will most likely because we all need to find ways to soothe ourselves and self-soothe them and this is where all the self-care aspect comes into it. So I love that even if it's drawing an ant that's angry, but it's already.
Yeah, yeah, adding to their toolbox.
It's already creating a habit for them. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and leading by example, yeah, and yeah, and don't we all I mean as moms don't we all tend to feel to some extent guilty.
Yes, a hundred percent yeah and leading by example, right? That's what we want to do as their parents.
We don't have that space to really sort our feelings and then we use our family as a dp stair for everything that we that we were sort of containing throughout the day and then we're just like pretty much barfing on everyone and then we feel terrible about it and it's just finding the way where we can minimize that as much as possible but also carve out the time without feeling guilty that we're just doing it for ourselves when we include our children We're like oh yeah, this seems like multitasking actually which is like a mom like a mom approved type of activity right? If you can do more things at the same time more than once then it's good then then I can move forward.
Yeah, that's so cute. Oh my God my mind is racing right now I'm already like seeing myself going to the shop later on to buy a really big journal that we can start because I'm really intrigued now because it seems like the perfect way to start because like for example, I've had a rough few weeks behind me just a lot of things happening within our family dynamic it and everything and I feel I haven't been very balanced, not balanced but like not really in tune with myself either and my. 5-year-old has gone through a rough time and is talking back and doing this and like it's like Geez what's going on and I realized oh my God It's like a mere reflection of myself I can't even get mad at him because it's probably what my family sees like sees me.
He's reflecting off of you? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
He's reflecting off of me so I it's me that actually needs to get back like ground myself and really think okay I've detained my own tantrum first, before I do that so I can I think it's fantastic as he loves drawing. He loves expressing himself Sometimes he'll draw me apology notes like if we've had an argent. He'll like slide it under my door. It's really cute, but I think it's perfect. So like how do you think you can share some more tips and how I can start with him. Let's say if I've had a bad day and I think it's great like you all mentioned that it's good to go sword through it yourself and have your child at the same time understand you know, Mommy's having a difficult day may not be because of me or something. But how can I help him work through what I'm going through and in turn help us to find like our groove again.
Well, I always when I'm having a bad day I always say it out loud I used to not because we were taught as kids like you deal with your own emotions and go to your room and deal with it yourself.
Now we're doing the opposite approach right? As moms we want to implement our kids to be able to feel comfortable to come to us when they have a problem or some kind of emotion that is strong and that's what's triggering being a mom is that your kids bring those things out of you that you were like oh I thought I was okay with all of that. So with him, I always immediately say you know what? I'm having a hard time. This is what's bothering me I'm sorry and then we will do something together uninterrupted no phones, no Tv and we have this book. , that teaches different breathing techniques from a kid's perspective. I'll breathe bear and we use that it also has topics in it to use for journaling as well. So like how do you breathe like a snake and you just, we'll breathe like a snake and then we'll draw the snake breathing and we'll write out that snake is named Steve and he's breathing because he did this so we take things that we already have in the house and use that as like an example for him to work through stuff as well and that also helps me because we're zoned in on focusing that one thing I'm not distracted because my phone's ringing or I'm getting a text message or anything like that. The phone is on silent spending quality time with my son because when you do that they're mood Ifs as well because all they want is attention from you.
So so important that oh yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, oh my God I have so much to say about this and it really connects Also with the previous episode that Desiree and I did last week about, specifically screen time. And it goes into that direction and that's why I love what you do because in this digital world and again I don't have anything about against technology I use it. It's part of my business and I know our kids are being raised as digital, you know experts right? It's part of their upbringing but that being said, it is great that they have a space where their brain gets to slow down enough so that they can get to connect with themselves because sometimes what happens is that we are. You know so we live in a modern society that it's very rushed. Everything tends to be very chaotic, very fast moving and we're rushing our kids back and forth right? to school from school to our class back here over here then it's back time then it's bedtime and you know if we feel already like out of breath just by explaining what our day looks like imagine our kids that are still trying to understand and make sense of what the world is all about. So I love that what you're bringing to the table is the opportunity to connect with herself and is not bombarding our brain with dopamine the whole time like ah like a like an ipad or a Tv or a phone which is constantly you know getting our brain wired up and as I said there's a time and a place where everything and everybody makes their choices with regards to that but just to be able to rescue that and bring that back.
It feels it's so so so powerful for all families involved and I really hope that everyone that is listening can go and check out what you're doing because you know it's such an amazing meditation as you say you have like. I understand also like cutting journals so you can use scissors. You can use glue. You can use glitter and you can you can really make this an all immersive type of experience. Not just for the kids but for us like we tend to go back to being kids as well and sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed, it's like very young parts of ourselves that are still stocking in a moment in time back in Childhood. So we also get to release them in that space. But yes, yes, yes, so I just I Just love it. I love that that the premise is.
It's like a form of self-care for us as well, right.
It's slowing things down enough so that we can catch up with ourselves and it seems like not only a lovely quality time ritual but it can be something that you can implement as a night time ritual to wind down and you know give thanks or be grateful for something write and write down. You know, things that you that you're feeling happy about that happen for you that day and you can get to reinforce that on your kids So is there I'm sorry.
Yeah, you mentioned you have several sorry you mentioned you had several like books already like you have the breathe bear. , you have. Can you share with us a few more tools because I know I Myself am definitely a person I do need some like tools or like things to spark like my ideas or creativity of what to do with my little one like what other books? Do you have.
Well the activity books that we do make are 4 four year olds and up. But the way that they're constructed is that as you progress through the book. You can start building things together and by the end of the book you can create a scene with whatever the theme of the book is so for example, we have a kitchen book and in it. You can find different ingredients. You can make a giant sandwich. You can build a blender and make different smoothies, so by the end of it you can open up a pretend restaurant and that is what you can do with your kid for the day is play with the cutouts as a restaurant and there's question in there and there's prompts so that you can start conversations with your kids like okay let's go on a scavenger hut in the house. And find these things from this book and try and match them up or try and figure out what else is green that we have in the fridge. So yes, our books have you know cutouts and coloring in those things. But the reason I wanted to make them different is because we would get so bored doing the same thing over and over is cutting the same shape and it just was too repetitive for us so we took that and did the opposite that way. It's something. Yeah and the whole family can do it together and that's why like. Even we make free activities that are on our website for people that can't get a book right now that way they still feel included in our community of moms and kids that want to do something together with their families and we just want to have people connect being creative together.
I love that.
That's our main goal with kids is that they feel like it's a special time for you guys to bond.
I love that. Ah, this is amazing because this is like so helpful right now for I have a little baby as well and who if we've been dealing with a lot of jealousy or like not really jealousy I mean he's as sweet as big brother you can imagine but the cries of attention and really in different forms. So I think this is amazing to use that as a time for just us, you know, maybe during and at a nap time or something like that where we like she's sleeping. Let's go and do our journal or you know as it comes or even if she's playing alongside us but to give that uninterrupted time and I think that's fantastic. So that's great with like the different themes as well to not make it so monotonous and maybe there's days where you don't have like I hope we don't have every day that we need to work through like really grand emotions right? but that we can use these prompts and these ah themes in order to to keep on journaling with them or to to draw and to maybe uncover things that we haven't previously thought about. So yeah.
Yeah, it gets to spark their creativity and I wanted to shift gears a little bit because you ladies are sisters So also part of our listeners. You know they are mompreneurs. They are doing their own thing but as our listeners also know Desiree and I even though we have our own separate businesses. We have very collaborative projects going on as this podcast is witness to that and having a business bestie. We always advocate for it because we feel it's just it's just great. It's just like having an accountability partner but also so many things we all lead into 1 but being sisters brings another whole layer to it right? because it's like family so I just wanted to ask you what your experience has been and if there have been any challenges or any things. Ah, related to the relationship that you have you know within the business and outside of it and how do you navigate in and out of it for anyone that is possibly considering bringing a sibling along or is mulling over it but still not quite convinced that it might be the right path for them. And so forth if you will like to share about that.
I might putting you on the spot. The good the bad and the ugly.
Ah, no I have I have nothing bad to say no, it's been actually a very smooth process.
Yeah I mean yeah, we understand each other's strengths and that's the most important thing to do is like just focus on where you belong at that moment right? I Think as entrepreneurs. It's rough no matter what but entrepreneurship you have to be flexible and you have to be extremely fluid like something that maybe you thought was gonna work and does not work.
And you know what that accountability partner just will help talk you off the ledge like of not being so like a downer on yourself or failure of yourself you want to make sure that you're progressing and you go you know what? okay that wasn't that didn't work like let's shift and then you have two brains you have different ideas always going right? Like oh maybe this idea or this contest or maybe we can find this or what about so because we have technology is so fantastic. We get to do a lot now as entrepreneurs which is pretty great I think, you know, doing a podcast or social media or running contests or doing a booth like a more typical business, so I think that endless possibilities and entrepreneurship is really hard. So I think you definitely should have a partner but you got to have the right partner and I would say our relationship has gotten super strong. We talk probably almost every day now and we didn't have that before business, so yeah, it's been great and we just you know focus.
Yeah and I love what you see and I love what you say it's not only about having a partner but the right partner and when it's the right pointer. It's like you know it's just magic happens right? That's how this it and I feel with each other is like it’s, it's very in sync. So sometimes you have someone that knows where you're coming from in very few words they already they can get it. Get the gist of what's going on or what or what might be you know, needed and so forth and I I'm sure that's the same case for you as well, right? It's almost like telepathic. In fact, so in sync, you possibly have similar thoughts going into the same direction at some points.
It's made our sisterhood very strong I feel but I will say when we meet in person when we meet in person. It's hard to do. We have this vision that we're gonna do all this business. Why we're finally together. But we're with our husband like our partners and our kids and we're like having a good time and we're like oh yeah, we didn't get any work done. So you know with want to enjoy herself to be in the moment as a family that meets up so you know it's we're learning how to find how do we do business and have fun.
But you know what. Yeah, but I think that's beautiful and a lot of yeah, a lot of other people in that kind of situation I think have the opposite problem that they feel like they only do business and they don't get to enjoy their sisterhood their family time their off time right.
So I think that's actually that's actually great and then when you're apart, you know you have your calls or whatever right? then then you have that time to work and you have time to be sisters when you're together I think it's beautiful and what you said at the beginning I think is so important that it's true. It's recognizing each other's strengths and weaknesses and then also to stay out of these parts and not to meddle into the zones of Genius right? So because like my husband and I were in. We're come from the same industry were from the hotel industry and it's like I don't know if we could work together because we have like our own ideas and we'll like totally meddle into each other like no I would do it like this and this and everyone knows it better right? But like also with Ive and me it was just so beautiful. The way we like it's like natural. It's not like oh will you do. This or that it's just it's carved out. You know like the things she does on the podcast and the things that I do it just works so beautifully together. But we're also going to stay out of it and you know because it's yeah and I think that's the key and like I think that's where a lot of the challenges could come into.
I cannot design by any means so that is all my sister she has the eye I do not visually colors the way she sees them so that is definitely her wheelhouse.
Awesome! And that's the beauty of collaboration right? You bring so many more things to the table rather than you're trying to do this business by yourself or Alex if you're trying to do this by yourself. You know you need the operations like the marketing around it and everything so it allows you to stay in your zone of genius and it allows Jesse to like you know, give her zone of genius and to like that'll finish off this this beautiful venture and I think it's absolutely amazing.
And since we're in the subject of this we always have a question for our guests. about the whole concept of you know work life balance. We feel it's very outdated and it's not really even achievable because it even creates even more stress to think like balance means you know equal amounts here and there and everywhere and it's just simply impossible. So we like to think of mompreneship and doing your business but also living life in in a sense of a flow ebb flow so harmony being in harmony with what is and sometimes as you as you may know sometimes there are periods in our inner life where the business needs more attention. Sometimes it's our family our children that need it more. And so we need to be able. as Jesse is so beautifully said you need to be very fluid and you need to be able to ride the wave of whatever is coming your way so we wanted to ask you if you have any tips or any ways that you can ah bring more harmony into. Into your life or that you're already doing that that you can share with those listening today. on how they can take some tips and takeaways ah be it either. You know from your unique situation of being sisters. Or from your unique vantage point of saying yes I run a business but I'm also a mom and this is the way that I find harmony in all of those different hats that I that I am wearing.
I personally block out my time so that if I'm doing social media I have 1 hour if I'm making videos I have 1 hour and then I take a break if my son's home from school I'm focusing on him so I block out my time so that when he's not here I am getting as much done as I can that way I can focus on him when he's home and he doesn't feel like I'm always working all the time.
I love that.
Yeah I think moms definitely try to get as much done as I can wait their kids are out of the house and at school right? and so we're like rush I woke up today like I'm gonna have the most productive day ever and you can make the list but then you have to be okay, with not crossing everything off of it right? Like the pillar of what comes first is my son and our family and making sure that is served every single day and then it's like okay you fill in these pockets of like. You know when it's reset time for anybody in the family or everyone's kind of doing their own thing then it's like okay I'm going to use my time to you know work on this or figure out this or right now we are grinding really hard because it's the holidays you know so like we have , two events we're doing, we've never done in-person event before and we have 2 of them back to back. So we're just you know we're kind of overachievers too at least that's a good thing that we both have the same quality of being overachievers. So we make these really grand ideas in these great lists and then get down on ourself if we're not fulfilling them. And we have to just kind of again. It's like the pillar like we're not stopping entrepreneurship does not happen overnight. So like we're not going to stop maybe just didn't the thing didn't happen this December but we're going to keep trying and it's going to happen when it's supposed to happen.
Well, it's a long game. It's definitely a long game right? We need to play it that way and not like a sprint. Yeah, and ah, you ladies have a freebie that you brought with you for our listeners and can you tell us what it is and why we all need it.
So our freebie we do freebies every couple months I try to update them to keep them fresh for people and this month we are going to be launching a bunch of seasonal ones, coloring pages and cutting pages and my favorite one is a giant gingerbread house that the whole family can sit down and do together and younger siblings can use their scissors because the shapes are very simple. They're rectangular and then the gingerbread house itself is very detailed so older kids can do it and adults can get in and there and do it because our family every year we do puzzles. That's our tradition when we get together for the holidays we do a puzzle and we finish it in one day and I wanted to create some kind of tradition feeling for people with that gingerbread house. So that's what we will be releasing soon and then we just update it every couple months, so we'll have a new thing for spring and summer and so on.
Oh that's lovely and you keep it fresh. Certainly, so people can always find new additions and new things to check out on your website and everything. So we want to thank you so much Jesse and Alex for chatting with us today. And if you want to connect with them. You can find them on Instagram on @a_and_jbooks and they also have a link to their Facebook page and their website and we're going to be sharing also the link to their freebie in our show notes. But thank you so much for coming over and sharing with us this wonderful you know business that you have going on and that it ticks so many boxes. It's unbelievable. So thank you for bringing that into a reality.
Thank you so much for having us. We love meeting other moms that are working hard.
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Alex and Jesse Russo
A" (Alex) and “J”(Jesse) are the founders of A & J Books LLC launched in 2021 with the goal of sharing the benefits of journaling for mental wellness at any age & as a way to connect with kids through hands on artistic learning. It is a women-owned small business run by two sisters and moms of boys. Alex is a stay-at-home mom to a five-year-old boy, and has spent the last few years teaching her son through creative play, art, and cooking from scratch. She lives in Oregon and oversees designs. Jesse is a mom to a 10-year-old boy. She was in the restaurant industry for 20+ years and the pandemic pushed her to pursue a career change. She lives in California overseeing operations & marketing. They design scissor activity books, journals, & planners for families to have a creative outlet at home or on the go.
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Link : https://aandjbooks.shop/