Ruby Mehta Of Tempest: “Avoid getting defensive ”
Avoid getting defensive — Defensiveness is a natural response and can actually be very stressful. Instead, when you feel defensiveness rising up, remember you don’t have to believe what is being said, but at least take a moment to consider it and decide. Growing up, my mom would always tell me to brush my hair and my immediate response was “no, it’s fine”. Now that my daughter is in elementary school, every morning we fight about her brushing her hair. I simply couldn’t understand why she refused to brush it when it looked so messy until I remembered my own stubbornness. Not only do I better understand my daughter, but this incident has reminded me to check my own defensiveness. I don’t have to take someone’s advice, but perhaps they are actually saying something valuable, and my defensiveness is getting in the way of improvement!
As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruby Mehta. Ruby is a licensed clinical social worker and the director of clinical operations at Tempest where she advises the Care Team to create the most effective and supportive experience for its members. Ruby has a decade of experience providing individual, group and couples therapy to adults living with anxiety, depression, and issues related to substance use.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I’m a wife, mom of three and Clinical Director at Tempest, a digital alcohol recovery program that provides holistic, shame-free, and clinically-proven digital recovery care to anyone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol. When I tell people I went from being an investment banker to a mental health professional, people often ask me why I made the drastic change. To me the real question is why did I start off as an investment banker. Part of that could be explained by my South Asian heritage. My amazing parents, having grown up in India, did not understand what a profession in mental health meant, since the entire topic was taboo when they were growing up. However, since middle school, I had been fascinated by mental health. I always wondered: why did some classmates feel less confident and more anxious than other classmates? Why did I feel anxious ALL the time? Often, two students could appear very similar on the surface but underneath, they felt very differently about themselves and the future. Not only did they feel different, but that feeling impacted everything they did and sometimes could lead to a downward spiral.
So, after nearly a decade in the financial services industry and working hard to overcome my own addiction to alcohol, I decided to follow my long time interests and got a Masters in Social Work. I wanted to understand how mental health was treated so I started off in direct service as an addiction counselor and then worked as a therapist at a community mental health center and in private practice. When the opportunity at Tempest came up, I jumped at it because it covered so many of my interests and skills. At Tempest, I wear many hats and am lucky to get to contribute to the company’s mission to help people change their relationship with alcohol within a modern, convenient setting.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I made the shift from financial services to mental health, my first job was as a therapist at an outpatient rehab. The facility was always short staffed and incredibly busy. Many clients there were mandated to treatment for a variety of reasons and did not want to be there. One day, a client got upset and trashed the women’s restroom — toilet paper all over. All of the therapists came to see what had happened, stunned by the scene. Then one of them got a pair of gloves and started cleaning up the mess. Cleaning the bathroom was nowhere in our job description, but that was the best thing anyone could have been doing at that moment. Slowly all the other counselors chipped in and things got back to normal quickly. The takeaway: All work is important. Do the job that needs to be done.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Dozens of people have helped me to get to where I am. My partner would probably be at the top of the list, but so as not to embarrass him, I’ll share about someone else.
For the longest time I felt like I was living the life that was handed to me, like floating down a lazy river ride (or maybe more like grand river rapids) but you get the drift. In the midst of my addiction, I remember one of the counselors saying to me when I didn’t want to get out of bed one day that she saw so much potential in me. I could give it all up or I could take life by the horns — and I finally felt a shift in my thinking. Instead of being a passive observer of my life as I had been feeling like for so long, I started to work hard to create one I actually wanted with intention. The shift was slow, but constant. I had a voice, I could make mistakes, I didn’t have to do things perfectly or even well and that was OK. I gave myself credit for trying. My counselor empowered me to live a life that I chose (within the realm of possibility).
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
More than 14 million people in the US have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) each year and only 7% seek treatment. These statistics are similar worldwide. This means that there are a lot of people struggling with excessive drinking on their own, and we know that number has only gone up through the COVID pandemic. When surveyed about why people do not seek treatment for AUD, the number 1 reason is “lack of problem awareness” (55%) and #2 is stigma and shame (29%). At Tempest, we try to overcome both these barriers to care by raising awareness of AUD and normalizing and celebrating sobriety. Specifically, the lessons I (and other team members) create help individuals challenge their limiting beliefs around drinking, identify vulnerabilities and replace alcohol use with healthy coping skills.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Take deep breaths — it sounds so cliche, but it has worked for me. I was NEVER a believer in meditation or breathwork until I gave in and really tried it. Now I can literally feel my nerves going up and my deep breathing kicking in to bring it back down. In the beginning, consider coupling a breathing exercise with a designated event like the end of a meeting or even restroom breaks!
- Avoid getting defensive — Defensiveness is a natural response and can actually be very stressful. Instead, when you feel defensiveness rising up, remember you don’t have to believe what is being said, but at least take a moment to consider it and decide. Growing up, my mom would always tell me to brush my hair and my immediate response was “no, it’s fine”. Now that my daughter is in elementary school, every morning we fight about her brushing her hair. I simply couldn’t understand why she refused to brush it when it looked so messy until I remembered my own stubbornness. Not only do I better understand my daughter, but this incident has reminded me to check my own defensiveness. I don’t have to take someone’s advice, but perhaps they are actually saying something valuable, and my defensiveness is getting in the way of improvement!
- Incorporate movement — When I was younger, I did not understand the need to exercise. Gym was my least favorite activity in school, and I envied kids who were injured and could sit out. Now I work out for 20 minutes every day and it is the best thing I do for my mental health. Along with the positive chemicals that are released when I exercise, I love the feeling of getting stronger. Twenty-minute workouts may not be possible for everyone, but I encourage people to look for ways to move their bodies.
- Cut back on (or quit) alcohol — Doing what I do, the negative effects of alcohol have become abundantly clear to me. Even in smaller quantities, alcohol affects sleep quality, mood and physical health. Once the dopamine and endorphin rush wear off from the alcohol, those same “feel good” chemicals become depleted and stress hormones are released, making people feel higher stress and anxiety after a night of drinking.
- Focus on yourself — When working as a therapist, I saw the majority of client issues arising from insecurities that result from comparing oneself to others. I will go into more detail about this in the next question.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement I’d most want to contribute to (since most movements have probably already been started) is something surrounding self-pride. When I was working as a therapist, I noticed that the majority of people I worked with struggled with insecurities, particularly when comparing themselves to others. I’ve also noticed this to be the case for myself, and some of my friends and family. I firmly believe that everyone’s circumstances are unique and the only credible comparison is measuring your own progress against yourself. It’s important to acknowledge and honor our own unique challenges in order to develop positive self-esteem and self-pride.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Have a point of view: At a more junior level, it can be enough to just execute and crunch the numbers well. As I got more senior in my career, I noticed people looking for my opinion (and supporting evidence) more often and it made me wish I had cultivated this skill earlier on.
- Embrace feedback: If someone gives you feedback, negative or positive, that means they care enough about you to tell you. I’ve realized that not getting negative feedback can feel good in the moment, but it might mean there’s a lack of trust or interest. Instead, view feedback as an opportunity to grow and improve.
- If you try to do everything, nothing gets done: Usually, in every job, there is more to do than there is time to do it. So, in every job, one of the most important things I’ve learned to do is prioritize appropriately to get the most important things done and not burn out.
- Be curious: Allowing myself to be curious lets me withhold judgement until I find out more. Oftentimes, something I thought did not make sense initially, is actually a very creative way of thinking.
- Get to know the people you work with: Getting to know co-workers helps develop empathy and defuse tension and misunderstandings that come up, especially during remote work. Also, going back to priorities, when people are busy and you need some help, it is very helpful to know someone ahead of time before asking for favors!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is the dearest to me, both professionally and personally for all the reasons above. When mental health is compromised, it can affect all other parts of life: physical health, relationships/family, career, spirituality, etc. On the flip side, an improvement in mental health can lead to positive changes in all these areas!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I share interesting articles on LinkedIn from time to time, so you can follow me there. Or you can follow the work that I do at Tempest by visiting instagram.com/jointempest.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!