Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES

@kyle-elliott | contributor
Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His goal is simple – to help people find jobs they LOVE (or at least tolerate). As a queer person, male sexual assault survivor, and someone living with mental health conditions, Kyle is proud to get to use his voice and platform to help others share their stories, get help, and achieve recovery. He is an official member of the invitation-only Forbes Coaches Council, a member of the Gay Coaches Alliance, a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), and a Stability Leader with The Stability Network. You can connect with Kyle at CaffeinatedKyle.com or on Instagram @CaffeinatedKyle.

How I Successfully Manage Chronic Migraine

Throughout high school and early college, I experienced daily migraines that would last for hours — if not days — and often left me unable to get out of bed. These severe and chronic migraines were an unfortunate yet common symptom of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Today, I experience one to two migraines per month that are less severe and far more manageable. Over the years, I have learned how to prevent and cope with migraine. 4 Ways I Manage My Chronic Migraine The following are a few ways I successfully manage my life with chronic migraine. 1. Address the root cause of my migraine. To begin, I have found that effectively managing the root cause of my migraine (anxiety) is the single greatest anecdote for my migraines. My anxiety management takes several forms. First, I regularly attend mental health therapy as an anti-anxiety step as well as to address my anxiety when it arises. Second, I maintain a meticulous self-care routine that includes, but is not limited to, regular coffee runs, daily walks, and plenty of Disneyland visits. Third, I actively talk to my anxiety (whom I named Mr. Peanut) when it manifests. 2. Take mediation to reduce my anxiety and migraine. As a fierce mental health advocate, I am proud to help fight stigma by self-disclosing that I take medication for my multiple mental health conditions. In addition to taking anxiety medication, I also take medication to both prevent daily migraines and treat severe migraines when they occur. Importantly, I am not claiming that medications are the right decision for every person or situation. However, they work for me and have dramatically improved my quality of life. 3. Prioritize high-quality sleep. There is a clear connection between my sleep and the frequency of my migraines. Subsequently, I am religious when it comes to my sleep regimen. I am not afraid to say no to an early morning speaking engagement or pass on to the fireworks show at Disneyland if it means I will get at least eight hours of quality sleep. 4. Take mental health days as needed. I used to hesitate before taking a mental health day to tend to my migraine. For some reason, I believed a migraine was not a valid enough reason to need a day off from work. Over time, I learned that trying to power through my migraines only made them last longer. Now, I freely take time off when I experience a migraine. I now know that a single day off from work — or even a half-day away from my laptop — pays dividends down the road for my mental health. While not an exhaustive list, these are a few of the most significant ways I prevent and manage migraine. If you are struggling to manage your chronic migraine, know that help is available and recovery is possible. You’ve got this!

3 Ways to Practice Self-Love This Valentine’s Day — Single or Not!

Valentine’s Day is a timely opportunity to practice gratitude, contemplate our most important relationships with others, and spend quality time with those we love. The holiday is also a chance to reflect upon our relationships with ourselves, review our current self-love practices, and celebrate our progress. As a career coach, I am constantly encouraging my clients to practice self-love throughout their job searches and in their careers. Personally speaking, I find self-love to be critical to my mental health and recovery journey  — I live with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, self-love enables me to continue doing my work as a helping professional. Below are three ways I will be intentionally practicing self-love this Valentine’s Day. 1. Continue to work less. First, I plan to continue working less. As a recovering perfectionist and careeraholic with a major Type A personality, I often find it difficult to switch off from work. Yet, several years ago, I made the difficult decision to work less and seek out happiness beyond my career. I use my newly found free time to visit my family, go on vacations, and notably, visit Disneyland with my partner, J.V. This time away from work allows me to give my coaching clients my full attention, energy, and effort when I am in the office. I am also using this additional free time to lean into the art of rest and relaxation. 2. Lean into relaxing more. Now, I am continually learning how to relax when I am not working. While I created a dedicated space for my home office, set concrete working hours, and removed notifications from my iPhone, I still find it difficult to relax when not working. However, any new skill, including learning how to relax, takes practice. Subsequently, my self-love plans for Valentine’s Day include significant relaxation. I plan to catch up on “This Is Us,” then watch at least a half-dozen episodes of “Judge Judy.” Oh, I will also go for at least one (if not two) Starbucks runs, of course. 3. Journal about what makes me fabulous. Finally, I will be leaning into one of my favorite forms of self-love — writing. I often hear from my career coaching clients that their favorite “homework” activity is when I assign them to write out everything that makes them fabulous. This Valentine’s Day, I will be assigning myself this activity and writing out all the things that make me fabulous. I look forward to giving additional thought to and writing about my distinct perspectives on job searching and careers, commitment to sharing my fabulousness with the world, resilience throughout my mental health journey, and everything else that makes me unique. I encourage you to join me in practicing self-love this Valentine’s Day. If you can — work less, lean into relaxing, and reflect on what makes you fabulous. Happy Valentine’s Day!

7 Ways to Cope With Rejection in Your Job Search

Rejection is inevitable if you are looking for a new job in the digital age. Learning to effectively cope with rejection can help you protect your mental health and stay on track with your job search. How do you effectively manage job search rejection? Below are seven ways to cope with rejection in the job search. 1. Breathe. Begin by taking a few minutes to breathe deeply. You may find it helpful to use the four-seven-eight breathing technique — breathe in for four seconds, hold for a count of seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. Some of my career coaching clients benefit from firmly placing both feet on the ground to center themselves during this high-impact breathing exercise. Other coaching clients find it helpful to go for a brisk walk or jog to clear their minds during or after the breathing exercise. 2. Release the negative energy from job rejections. The job search can be incredibly taxing on your mental health and well-being. Be sure to take time to release all of the negative energy associated with receiving a rejection from a job you really wanted. This may include screaming, yelling, or crying. Find what works for you to release that pent-up negative rejection energy. 3. Practice Ho’oponopono. Try Ho’oponopono if you are feeling anger, resentment, or frustration toward the applicant tracking system (ATS), recruiter, or hiring manager who rejected your candidacy. Repeat this powerful Hawaiian ritual to yourself until you feel fully at peace with the person: “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” 4. Ask for feedback. After you successfully release all of the negative energy associated with the job search rejection, consider requesting feedback on your application. This can be as simple as a two to three sentence email to the recruiter or hiring email asking if there is any feedback they can provide on your job application or interview. 5. Take action on your job search. You can quickly rebound from the rejection by moving forward with your job search effort. Take immediate action by updating your resume or optimizing your LinkedIn profile, submitting a few online applications, or networking with people in your target role. Try to carve out at least 20 minutes per day on your job search. 6. Ask for help with the job search. Know that you do not have to navigate the job search alone. Consider asking a friend, trusted mentor, or career coach to help you stay motivated during the job hunt, especially if you find yourself frustrated by rejections. I am a proponent of leveraging a job search accountability buddy or two to keep you feeling energized throughout the job search. This is especially important for those of us living with mental health conditions. 7. Celebrate the “small” wins. While it may seem counterproductive to celebrate a job search rejection, I advise my career coaching clients to celebrate the “small” wins throughout the job hunt. Decide how you want to celebrate every step of the job search — identifying your target companies and positions, submitting your application, interviewing, the list goes on. Even when you get rejected from a dream job, there are a lot of other important job search steps for you to celebrate! Finally, remember that finding a new job takes substantial time, energy, and effort. This is particularly true with the current job market. Be patient with yourself. Your mental health will thank you. You’ve got this!

4 Tips for Coping With Job Search Anxiety

The “Great Resignation” has a lot of people contemplating looking for a new job. Yet, looking for a job can be stressful and produce a lot of anxiety. This can lead to job search burnout. As someone living with multiple mental health challenges, I can relate. So, how do you look for a job when you have anxiety? In what ways can you reduce the anxiety associated with looking for a job? How do you overcome job search anxiety and burnout? Here are a few ways to cope with job search anxiety and protect your mental health while looking for a new job: 1. Be realistic with your job search goals. The first step to mitigating job search anxiety is taking time to reflect on how you will measure your job search progress. You want to avoid the mistake of hyper-focusing on the aspects of the job search that are outside of your control, such as how many interviewers you land. Instead, try to focus on what you can control. Examples include how many people you reach out to or the number of applications you submit. Remember that you are the one who gets to choose how you measure your job search success. 2. Carve out time for self-care. The job search process can be extremely stressful. There are truly few activities as anxiety-producing and mentally draining as looking for a new job. Subsequently, ensure you set aside time each day for self-care. Find those activities that refuel you and motivate you to stay positive during the job hunt. As a career coach, I encourage my clients to integrate daily rewards into their job searches to keep them motivated and inspired. These small yet meaningful celebrations will keep you stay motivated as you look for a new job. 3. Ask for help with your job search. You do not have to navigate your mental health or your job search alone. Ask friends, family, a mentor, or someone else you trust for help if you are feeling overwhelmed with your job search. Chances are those around you have also experienced job search anxiety. Further, they are likely happy to serve as a support system throughout your job search. The key is to ask for the help you need. 4. Give yourself grace. Finally, know that looking for a new job, particularly during the global COVID-19 pandemic, takes energy and time. Try to forgive yourself if you are not performing at the level you desire. Being hard on yourself will not solve your job search anxiety. Granting yourself forgiveness may help your job search and your mental health. You’ve got this!

How to Protect Your Mental Health Against a Toxic Boss

A toxic boss can make work feel unbearable. They can also negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly true for those of us living with multiple mental health challenges. What are your options when you have a bad boss? How do you protect your mental health in a toxic work environment? When should you go to HR or quit? Here are four ways to protect your mental health when you have a toxic boss: 1. Take care of yourself. Start by turning to your go-to self-care rituals. If you don’t have a trusted self-care practice, give Ho’oponopono a try. This powerful, 4-part Hawaiian prayer is helpful in working toward forgiveness: “I am sorry, [Boss’s Name].” “Forgive me, [Boss’s Name].” “Thank you, [Boss’s Name].” “I love you, [Boss’s Name].” Importantly, Ho’oponopono is about you and your wellbeing. Ho’oponopono is not about blaming anyone. Repeat the mantra to yourself as many times as needed until you feel better. (Tangentially, you may also find this mantra helpful when dealing with difficult colleagues.) 2. Speak with your boss. Depending on your working relationship, you may find it helpful to speak directly with your boss. As someone who has had several toxic bosses, I recognize this is easier said than done. Consider using the following assertive communication phrase, courtesy of my therapist: “I feel ___ when/about ___ and I’d like ___.” For example, “I feel anxious when I receive work texts after hours and I’d like your help in practicing work/life blend.” Keep in mind you may need to involve your boss’s boss if speaking with your direct supervisor does not resolve the issue. However, I encourage you to first consider all of your options before consulting your boss’s boss, as going over your supervisor’s head can sometimes cause even bigger issues. 3. Consult your HR department. When speaking to your boss and your boss’s boss does not work, HR may be the answer. HR can help you in speaking with your boss or provide other interventions if needed. Again, be mindful before going to HR as you want to weigh the pros and cons of this course of action. I encourage my coaching clients to write out and reflect on all of their options before escalating their concerns to HR. Also, know that some companies employ a confidential employee hotline to file complaints. This can be a helpful avenue to air your grievances without directly disclosing your identity. 4. Quit your job. At what point do you quit your job over a toxic boss? As a career coach, as well as someone who has been in multiple toxic work environments, I have learned there is no right or wrong answer here. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself: What do I need to be happy at work? What options have I already exhausted? What will it take for me to run toward a new job rather than away from my current job? These are just a few questions to reflect on as you appraise your current work situation. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself how much your happiness is worth. You’ve got this!

5 Signs You’re In a Toxic Job For Your Mental Health

“How do I know I’m in a toxic job?” This is one of the most common questions I am asked as a career coach . Toxic workplaces are regrettably common. More job seekers than I can count have come to me while in toxic workplaces. Also, I have personally been in more than a few toxic ones. It can be challenging to take care of your mental health when you are in an unsupportive workplace. The first step to protecting your mental health is recognizing you are in a toxic job. Here are five signs you may be in a toxic job that is bad for your mental health : 1. You feel burned out. Although employers are not always to blame, burnout can often be a sign of an unhealthy workplace. Begin by reflecting on the expectations your boss set. Are they reasonable or are you set up for job burnout? If you are feeling burned out, consider if your current employer is best for your mental health . 2. Your boundaries are ignored. Healthy boundaries are critical to success in the workplace. This is particularly true for those of us living with mental health challenges as healthy boundaries can enable our recovery. Ask yourself how well your current employer respects your boundaries. Lack of respect for boundaries is often an indicator of a toxic workplace. 3. Your manager is unsupportive of your mental health. Speaking of boundaries, your manager can make or break your job. Take time to examine your relationship with your boss. A supportive manager can greatly support your mental health and well-being. On the other hand, a poor manager can result in unnecessary workplace stress and anxiety . 4. Your mental health is an afterthought. While every organization approaches mental health differently, you deserve an employer that respects your unique needs. You also deserve an organization that prioritizes mental health . If your employer treats your mental health and well-being as an afterthought, you may want to look for a new job . 5. You don’t feel a sense of belonging. Finally, reflect on how you feel when at work. There is often a relationship between my coaching clients who report a sense of belonging in their current role and those who feel happy. Conversely, my clients who feel unwelcome often report feelings of unhappiness. Think about whether you want to stick around at a company where you feel unwelcome. Now, these are just a few signs of a toxic workplace. If you identify you are in a workplace that is bad for your mental health , ask yourself if this is the time to search for a new job . Remember that you deserve a career and a life you love. The right job and employer are out there. You’ve got this!

How Disneyland Support My Mental Health and Recovery

I recently visited Disneyland with my partner J.V. for “Gay Days,” an annual LGBTQ+ pride celebration at the parks. I originally signed up for Disneyland’s annual pass holder program in 2018 as a birthday gift to myself. After Disneyland sunsetted the program (I am now considered a Disneyland legacy pass holder), I quickly joined their new magic key program, a revamped version of the park’s membership program. Despite the significant investment associated with these memberships, I repeatedly prioritize my investment in Disneyland’s membership program. As someone living with multiple mental health challenges (generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder), Disneyland is invaluable to my mental health journey and recovery. Here are three ways Disneyland supports my mental health and recovery: 1. Disneyland empowers me to be myself. I am thankful to have parents who relentlessly encourage me to be my full, authentic self — in work and in life. Yet, I still find it difficult at times to find spaces where I feel 100 percent accepted and embraced. Disneyland is one of those few places where I feel a true sense of belonging and pride. The park is magical because the cast members (employees) inspire you to show up to the parks as your true self. This commitment to authenticity reveals itself in both large and small ways, from receiving a standing ovation when I proposed to J.V. at Disneyland’s Carnation Cafe on my birthday, to cast members spending extra time taking our photos in front of Cinderella Castle. 2. Disneyland inspires me to keep growing. I am also an entrepreneur. I run a career coaching business helping Silicon Valley’s top talent find jobs they love. My role as a career coach is to help my clients get unstuck, own their fabulousness, and achieve what they never imagined possible. Subsequently, I regularly reflect on this quote from Walt Disney, the park’s inventor, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Walt’s energy is still felt throughout the parks and refuels me. I use this energy as inspiration for myself — and my coaching clients — to continually imagine, reinvent and grow. 3. Disneyland allows me to step away from work. Despite how much I love my work as a high tech career coach, I am a recovering workaholic. While I took significant strides over the last few years to practice self-care and embrace work/life blend, I still struggle with completely detaching from my work and business. Working from home makes compartmentalizing my work particularly challenging. I recently learned, through therapy, physical separation helps me in this area. I now regularly schedule time away from home. Last year, J.V. and I began a practice of No Work Saturdays. We take the off each Saturday for an adventure. Disneyland is one of our favorite ways to spend No Work Saturdays — and sometimes No Work Sundays — as the park helps me truly forget about my work. Disneyland really is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” If you are struggling with your mental health, consider a trip to the parks. It may be just what you need. You’ve got this!

Practicing Self-Care as an Entrepreneur With Mental Illness

Few self-care resources are written with the unique needs of entrepreneurs living with multiple mental health challenges in mind. Subsequently, I’ve had to create my own self-care strategies to protect my mental health as I grow and run my career coaching business. Here is how I practice self-care as an entrepreneur living with mental illness: Follow a schedule that allows rest. As a business owner, I am in control of my schedule. While I recognize my generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder have undoubtedly contributed to my success as a business owner, living with multiple mental health challenges is exhausting. As a result, I typically limit my coaching calls with clients to three times per week. This allows for plenty of time dedicated to rest, relaxation, and self-care the other four days of the week. Integrate self-care throughout the day. I have learned that I must be intentional in carving out time for self-care as a business owner. I have also learned that self-care does not have to be time-consuming. Instead, I can strategically and intentionally insert brief moments of self-care throughout my day. This may look like quick a Starbucks runs, a short walk, or an episode of “Judge Judy.” I also regularly call my parents and text my friends to catch up on their days. Meditate for two minutes at a time. My anxious, obsessive-compulsive mind has always made it difficult to sit still and meditate. However, I have become a huge fan of Calm’s Do Nothing for 2 Minutes. I enjoy the bucolic meditation as the screen reminds me, “Just relax and listen to the waves. Don’t touch your mouse and keyboard.” Additionally, when my mind and schedule allow, I appreciate listening to longer meditations on Insight Timer. Share authentically with clients about mental health. Writing about my mental health journey has been critical to my self-care as a business owner. I regularly share about my mental health journey and self-care on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. This is how I play my part in curing mental health stigma and creating a society where everyone feels welcomed. Practice self-compassion and patience when anxious. When I do feel anxious or even have a panic attack (thankfully, they are far less common now), I deploy one of the self-care techniques I learned in therapy. I also strive to be patient with myself. I remember that self-care is a lifelong journey, especially as a business owner. The key is to find works for you and your individual mental health needs. You’ve got this!

How I Learned to Overcome My Addiction to Work

I spent years clocking 80 to 100-plus hour workweeks. Between a full-time job, a growing career coaching side hustle and a course load bursting at the seams, I habitually worked 12 to 14 hours per day. I regularly forfeited time with family and friends to work, study or dedicate time to my side hustle, which is now my main business. Yet, despite the number of hours I clocked, it never felt like enough. I was addicted to my career. Fast-forward to 2021 and I feel like a completely different person. Despite a full coaching practice and busy speaking schedule, I have learned to work fewer hours and found happiness beyond my career. Here is how I learned to stop working so much: 1. I tackled the root of my workaholism. First, I began by tackling the root of my addiction to work. This was a critical first step because any other effort would simply be masking the real problem. Through lots of mental health therapy and self-reflection, I learned I had anxiety and was addicted to work. After learning I had a work addiction, I slowly addressed the root of my workaholism inside and outside of therapy. Now, when I feel the itch to work, I have the resources, tools and know-how to tackle the real problem, rather than hide behind my work. 2. I decided why I wanted to work less. Next, I mapped out what my life could look like if I stopped working so much. I could feel like I was no longer constantly running out of time. I could vacation once per week instead of once per year — and enjoy the trip instead of thinking about work. And, I could finally enjoy life now instead of waiting for eventually. Knowing what was possible if I stopped working so much motivated me to make it happen. As I began enjoying activities outside of my work as much as my work, it also motivated me to continue to work less. 3. I leaned on my support system. Finally, working fewer hours would not be possible without my robust support system. My supportive partner J.V., loving parents, trusted friends and established mentors have been critical to my success as a recovering workaholic. I turn to those closest to me when I am struggling to balance my love of my work with my desire to have a full life. I also ask them to hold me accountable if I slip back into my workaholic tendencies. While I am still not at my goal of working a maximum of 20 hours per week, I am getting there. If you are a fellow workaholic, know that it is possible to stop working so much. You’ve got this!

Why I Disclosed My Mental Illness in My Job Search

The “Great Resignation” has me reflecting on the 10 years I spent working for nonprofits, universities and corporate America. A good portion of that decade involved job searching while living with multiple mental health challenges (I live with generalized anxiety disorder , obsessive-compulsive disorder  and post-traumatic stress disorder ). The job search is filled with uncertainty, stress and countless decisions. For those of us living with mental health challenges, one of the decisions we must make is if — and when — we will “come out”  as someone with a mental health challenge. As a career coach who is open about their multiple mental health challenges, I am often asked how I navigated self-disclosure while job searching. More often than not, I disclosed my mental health challenges in my cover letter and resume, as well as during the job interview. While there is no one way to share your mental challenge when job searching, here is why I chose to self-disclose during the job search. 1. I sought companies that aligned with my values. First, I only wanted to work with companies that aligned with my belief we should be able to show up as our authentic selves at work. I value organizations that believe diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are critical to carrying out their work. Sharing my mental health challenges early in the application and job interview process helped weed out those organizations that were not in alignment with my values and beliefs. Furthermore, by bringing up mental health, I was able to get a sense of how organizations, and my future supervisors and colleagues, handled sensitive conversations and approach inclusivity and belonging in the workplace. This being said, I recognize I had the privilege to be picky with the companies and positions I targeted. I was able to cross companies off my list that were unwelcoming to people with mental health challenges. If I was really in need of a job, I am unsure if I would have been as open with my mental health challenges. I am fully aware it is a luxury to be radically honest. 2. My mental health challenges were a competitive advantage. Next, rather than approach self-disclosure as a deficit, I viewed it as an opportunity to stand out in the saturated job market. While being careful not to engage in trauma porn, I self-disclosed my mental health challenges in my cover letter, resumes and interviews. Additionally, I openly spoke about my experiences with self-disclosing, stigma and mental health therapy during my interview. I also connected the dots between my mental health challenges and the organization or position. When I interviewed with a mental health nonprofit, for example, I highlighted how I was drawn to the mission because of my mental health journey. Later, when I interviewed with a university, I spoke to how my lived experiences would allow me to better support the “students of concern” I would advise in my role. I received job offers from both of these organizations. 3. I wanted to reduce mental health stigma for future job seekers. Finally, I chose to disclose my mental health challenges while actively job searching because my goal is to help cure the stigma associated with living mental health challenges. Those of us living with mental health challenges are your supervisors, colleagues, family and friends. I am fighting against mental health stigma by proudly sharing my mental health challenge. Moreover, I am normalizing conversations about mental health in the workplace. I envision a day where we unconditionally accept the diversity of all people. I am no longer job searching as I now run my career coaching company full-time. I repeatedly remind my career coaching clients there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to disclosing your mental health in the job search. The key is to find what works for you. You’ve got this!