Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp

How Stepping Out Of Her Comfort Zone Lead To Helen McAllister Launching The Mind SetUp

We had the pleasure of interviewing Helen McAllister of The Mind SetUp for our latest female health founders story. Helen McAllister is the founder of The Mind SetUp and is on a mission to reduce the shame and vulnerability associated with anxiety and inspire positive futures. In this interview Helen McAllister shares with Bridie real honest insights into her business ‘why’, her founding business journey and game changing advice for aspiring female health founders.

Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp
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Welcome, Helen McAllister to Female Health founders. How did your journey as a female health founder begin? What inspired you to venture into this specific niche within the health industry?

Like many female founders, my ‘why’ for setting up The Mind SetUp is personal. I used to be – for many years of my life  – a poster person for high functioning anxiety. I had a successful 15 year corporate career, my boyfriend (now husband) served in the military travelling all over the world and on the surface I appeared like I was doing well. Inside I was exhausted from the constant worrying, self doubt and lack of confidence. Having my babies marked a bit of a turning point. Having two children arriving prematurely – plus returning to work full time in between – saw things get harder. My second child was born at 32 weeks and required 1 month in the NICU. 

I thought that I was okay. I thought that it was normal, after all I was really busy. I was not okay.

-Helen McAllister

Driving back from work down a country lane one summer’s evening I had the worst flashback, and when I realised what was happening I was heading straight for the ditch. That day marked a turning point in my life. It marked the start of my journey to learning more about anxiety, experiencing different types of therapy and turning my own life around. 

The future focused and brief nature of solution focused hypnotherapy which I came across in 2019 was so impactful. I felt like a weight had been lifted, confident again, enthusiastic about the future. When I had my third child in the summer of 2020, during the pandemic and born prematurely needing a NICU visit, I surprised myself with how well I coped with everything. 

I changed my path in 2022, completely pivoted… retrained and realigned and set myself on a mission to reduce the shame and vulnerability which is often linked to anxiety.

-Helen McAllister

crop Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp, hypnotherapy, with heart on palms
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As a mother it is really important for me to be a role model for my three children, to be an example for them that change is possible, that life doesn’t always need to follow a linear path & that stepping into something unknown is brave and exciting. Above all else for them to grow up with the ability to be able to have conversations about feelings, to build their own toolkit to support themselves as they navigate teenage years and beyond, to love themselves and feel confident.

Knowing first hand that anxiety (which I had assumed was just my personality and would never change) can get better has been transformational for me and in turn I want to share that with others, and help those who find themselves weighed down by anxiety and show them the path to a more positive and happier life.

As a woman in the health sector, what obstacles did you face when establishing your company? Could you share some key challenges and how you overcame them?

Having worked with many women who strive for the ‘perfect’ balance between career and family life I can see that my obstacles aren’t unique to me. I would say that the main thing that got in the way at the start was me – knowing what to tackle first, questioning how to fit it all into the compacted hours available whilst the kids are at nursery & school.

If I’m honest I also questioned myself, my ability to be CEO, Head of Marketing, Finance Director and be the face of the business all in one. Stepping out of my comfort zone felt scary.

-Helen McAllister

There’s also misconceptions about solution focused hypnotherapy to overcome. Some people imagine that it’s like stage hypnotherapy where you are going to be made to do things that you don’t want to do, or maybe thinking that it’s a quick fix for one hour and everything will be different. Neither of these are true. My business is called The Mind SetUp because the outcomes of working together are learning a better understanding of how your mind works, uncovering what you can do to unblock your thinking, and over a relatively short space of time you will start creating a more rational and optimistic perspective on life, leaving you setup to feel calmer and more able to cope and thrive with whatever life brings. 

  • When dealing with obstacles it all comes back to mindset- connecting only to the here and now and taking action. Doing that one next small thing that made progress, this is what helps to make an impact. Each thing leads to something else and so on, which becomes rewarding.
  • The other thing is to find a hub, a community of people to cheerlead you on and hold you accountable. For me that has been a mixture of family and friends, people that I trained with who are off doing well in their own businesses, and a female entrepreneurs network. You realise that you are not alone, that others believe in you and that you don’t have to be a superwoman doing it for yourself.
  • Outsource things outside of your skill set if needed, invest in future you!
  • Healthy habits are really important to maintain resilience when things aren’t going quite as you want them to. One of the things that helps me daily is being mindful of how I speak to myself- reframing any situation to see the positives. It really helps in reducing negative thoughts and keeping that pesky self critical inner voice at bay.
  • Celebrating the small things in life every day is a must!
Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp, hypnotherapy,
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What advice do you have for other women looking to start their own ventures in the health and wellness space? Any particular lessons or insights you would like to share from your experience?

It doesn’t need to be perfect to get started. There is a common misconception that you need to have a brilliant website, an incredible/high following social media presence, a full branding photoshoot before you are even worthy of putting yourself out there. This is not true. Think about the impact that you want to make, what are the positive outcomes that your work is going to create and focus on making that happen. Those individuals, companies or groups that you would like to work with will be interested in investing and connecting with the outcome, the result, the positive change that you will create by working with them. 

Start with one client, create the results and the rest will flow. All the other parts of the puzzle can be figured out as you go along.

-Helen McAllister

The other thing is to have a goal, again it doesn’t need to be perfect and in all likelihood it will change and diversify, but a goal gives you direction. Then break that goal down into small parts and start taking action.

How do you see the landscape of female health evolving, and how has your company adapted to stay ahead in this dynamic industry?

More awareness & openness on education-

increasingly women are valuing the need for self care and becoming more inquisitive to know more and explore different types of support for female health. There’s a more proactive approach to female healthcare- more conversations, more female entrepreneurs setting up health & wellbeing businesses.

-Helen McAllister

For me personally, as I suspect that it’s happening to me, I have been part of many many conversations about perimenopause and all of the unknown symptoms that are part of that stage of life. I think that the conversation is coming more to the forefront and within my field of work I believe that mental wellbeing support for this stage of life (along with better education) will become bigger.

I’m continuing to educate myself on perimenopause, menopause and other midlife wellness topics so that I can support in reducing the stress and anxiety that often occurs- and I think that this will be an ongoing education as more and more information becomes available.

Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp, hypnotherapy,
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In what ways do you believe being a female founder has influenced your approach to addressing women’s health needs? Are there aspects that set your perspective apart?

Firstly it has been empowering for me to find my voice about something that has played such a big part in my life. As the world that we live becomes more continually connected, more uncertain and with hybrid working causing blurred boundaries between work and home life, the conversation about anxiety is on the rise.

Menopause, mid life crossroads & hectic lives all lead to high levels of stress and anxiety but many people stay silent as we  live in a society where many feel like they don’t have permission to be honest, I often hear “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, look at what I have when so many others don’t”, which links back to shame. There’s also the pressure of carrying the mental load in what can feel like an unseen space- women can feel expectation (whether real or imagined) to do it all, have it all and be it all and it is exhausting.

Often people seek support for anxiety when the ripple effects are starting to creep into daily life (poor sleep, becoming disconnected in relationships with family & friends, the Sunday dread, being snappy, feeling guilty, avoiding social events). My focus with The Mind SetUp is on the solution, on creating a positive future and this comes as a relief- not to be expected to delve into the depths of the problem but rather to start making steps towards being more optimistic. Feedback is that sessions are invigorating “the sessions with Helen became the highlight of my week” (client testimonial) and it’s this perspective that is welcomed.

My goal with The Mind SetUp is to widen the conversation- making feelings of stress and anxiety less shameful. Inspiring hope that things can and will change, this will pass and it’s not forever. Providing education which creates conversations- so that no-one waits until things get so horribly bad before they speak up.

Can you pinpoint a few strategies or decisions that have been pivotal to the success of your business in the female health sector?

Retraining and continually being inquisitive to learn more. This return to learning has created new neural pathways for me which has energised me, ignited a real passion and spark. I genuinely love what I do and have such a passion for mental wellbeing. I encourage everyone to keep on learning and exploring!

In the fast-paced world of female health entrepreneurship, technology often plays a crucial role. Could you share some of the key technologies or tools that have been instrumental in the success of your business, and why you swear by them?

Being able to do sessions online as effectively as in person across a number of platforms. This has meant that you no longer need to create a huge window of time to look after your own mental wellbeing. It can be done from the comfort of your own space- which is lovely for the hypnotherapy relaxation at the end of the session. I have had clients who plan to enjoy some further rest once we hang up because they can, there is no commute and they don’t have to be super alert the moment the session finishes.

The other thing is tech has meant that you can use a hypnotherapy audio track when you need it (and it is safe to do so), so whilst life is very busy you can create those pockets of time to look after your mind and create the best version of yourself.

There’s lots of ways of using technology to simplify the overwhelm of running your business, from companies like:

  • Starling and Xero meaning that invoicing and managing finances is straightforward.
  • Canva for creative content.
Helen McAllister, The Mind SetUp
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Reflecting on your journey, what has been the most gratifying or rewarding moment in building and growing your female health-focused company?

Client feedback- hearing first hand what an impact even a few sessions can make, and how the change is long lasting as you learn how your mind works and that level of understanding helps you to check in with yourself and refer back to those tools that you created whenever you need them. I recently spoke to a client who I worked with nearly a year ago and they were talking about the things that they learnt and how much they enjoyed and looked forward to each session. Many clients keep themselves supported by having quarterly MOT sessions to check in and rebalance and it’s so rewarding to hear from them.

However the most rewarding moment for me has been being able to support my child as we uncovered more about their struggles which were becoming evident and working towards a diagnosis.

-Helen McAllister

Low self esteem and confidence had been getting worse- and being able to talk to them and help them to navigate and reduce that stress and anxiety, building their own toolkit has been incredible. 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of your business and the impact you hope to make on women’s health? Any exciting developments or projects on the horizon?

I have a few focus areas for 2024 for The Mind SetUp which I’m really excited about. Firstly a growing programme of speaking engagements to continue to educate and reduce the shame around anxiety, this includes a workplace programme to improve wellbeing in work, as well as an up and coming opportunity to share my thoughts and experience as part of  a wellness festival. Secondly, connecting with two areas which are incredibly personal and close to my heart to provide support, neonatal intensive care (charities, parents and staff) and the military community.

Top 3 Tips For Female Health Entrepreneurs 

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect- just start.
  2. Celebrate every small win (no matter how tiny), create yourself a hub of cheerleaders and accountability partners to help you to do this.
  3. Build in time for you to recharge and look after yourself.

Connect With Helen McAllister & The Mind SetUp