New Dundee woman "presses pause" to assist in self-care of others
New Dundee native develops kit to help student mental health
Business Tue, Mar 2nd, 2021 Yvonne Zyma
In a world seemingly designed for extroverts, those with an inward turning nature have often struggled most with the requirements and expectations of our modern world. You would expect Taylor Jackson, a person who envisioned and then successfully developed, marketed and produced a product in record time to be outgoing, creative and driven. She is a well-balanced introvert, who isn’t dependent on constant social connections to thrive.
“Press Pause” is the name of the kit that Taylor, a Bachelor of Design student at Conestoga College, developed as a 2nd year thesis project, entering it into the Social Good category for her class. Described as a tool for “stopping and taking a moment to take care of yourself and your mental health,” the kit’s hands-on appeal as a self-help tool quickly became apparent.
Beginning with the enthusiastic support of her fellow students and teachers, the project developed from a creative assignment to a finished product, endorsed by the myWELLNESS services for students at the college. When Conestoga College placed an order for over 9,0000 Press Pause kits for their first-year students, Taylor was suddenly a business person. Though it felt surreal, she got over the shock and scrambled to find the help and space to fill the order for her successful product. Her parents are big fans and helpers. The business has received the support of Conestoga’s Venture Lab, a business incubator that supports early-stage business start-ups.
Taylor’s description of herself as a homebody is at odds with the expected image of a young entrepreneur and business owner. It was her motivation to help in a hands-on way that spurred the development of Press Pause, but it also brought about The Rudy Project, which the visual designer’s website describes as "a pet portraiture business focused on capturing heartfelt memories of your loved ones." It is based on a love of animals, inspired by Jackson's dog Rudy -“my special boy.”
Her fondness and care about animals are clear as she ruefully observed that she would have cats as well as dogs, except for allergies. The dog sprawled nearby on what is surely “his” couch, attested to her caring nature. For her own mental health, Taylor is content to spend hours outside and active in the country with her two dogs for company.
"They become a part of your life," she observed, and not surprisingly, she makes sure they get social contact by going for walks in town, “so they don’t go wild.” Though she considered becoming a veterinarian when she was growing up, dealing with blood and science made that career path a dead end. In high school she always took two types of arts courses, so her desire to create was apparent.
Growing up in New Dundee, the self-described tomboy reflected about the supportive network that exists where everyone knows each other. That connection helps small communities thrive.
“Everyone is friends and family,” said Taylor, with good people working together, everyone a neighbour.
Mental health and self-care were often discussed in her family, so the stigma often attached to mental illness is something that Taylor noticed. Her desire to solve problems where she sees a need has propelled her to use her creative skills to address that stigma.
A couple of years ago, Taylor became aware of an increase in anxiety and stress among her friends as well as herself. She noticed a growing dependence on social media for connection, especially among young people, sometimes leading to other issues such as addiction to the digital media and other sources. Taylor herself has no social media connections during the week, leaving it for the weekend.
With our current isolated circumstances due to COVID, Taylor observed that extroverts, who feed off their social life, are especially at risk for anxiety and depression, although no one is immune. According to the Canadian Red Cross, 40% of Canadians say that their mental health has deteriorated in the past year, while 1 in 5 will experience a mental health crisis or be diagnosed with a mental illness.
Press Pause was designed to help individuals, primarily 18 to 29 years old, cope on a day-to-day basis with generalized anxiety disorder. Non-stop worry and anxiety become difficult to deal with and interfere with everyday activities.
“We need to care more about our youth and young adults to get them the help they need before it is too late,” said Taylor. The box is a simple and low-key collection of tools and a journal for quiet reflection, turning the focus from outward to inward.
In our COVID world, where things have been turned upside down, tools like Jackson Taylor’s Press Pause kit stop us and turn our viewpoint inward. Writing thoughts by hand seems a small thing, but it forces the brain to process information differently than the online platforms with their frenetic action. Expect to see more creative work from Jackson, who believes in recognizing a need and then addressing that need head on.
(To purchase a Press Pause kit or learn more about The Rudy Project, or just to see some lovely tributes to pets created by a self-professed “crazy dog mom”, look to Taylor Jackson’s website, www.taylorjackson.co)