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June 9, 2021

Beating Burnout and Creating Happy Adults Through Creative Practices: Meet Katina Mountanos, Author of On Adulting and Co-Founder of Daydreamers HQ

By Emily Merrell

Raise your virtual hand if you’ve been burned out or are currently burned out? Katina Mountanos experienced the symptoms of burnout when she started her corporate high-profile job. It wasn’t until she made her musings about adulthood public that she realized that she wasn’t alone in navigating the challenges that weren’t discussed. From leaving corporate to growing a bustling online community and business, her voice has reached the hands and eyes of readers with her new book On Adulting. However, Katina is continuing her fight against burnout culture with her newest endeavor Daydreamers HQ, where she’s using creative tools (think pastels and acrylic paints) to rewire the brain. 

Finding your creative practice with Katina Mountanos. Courtesy of Alison Waldbeser.
Finding your creative practice with Katina Mountanos. Courtesy of Alison Waldbeser.

SDS: I loved reading your new book On Adulting. Can you tell us the journey from blog to published book? 

KATINA MOUNTANOS: Thank you so much, that really means a lot! My journey to writing a published book was quite atypical, but hopefully it provides a bit of inspiration and insight into a mysterious process. I started writing On Adulting (the blog) as a way to figure out why adulthood was so confusing for me in my early twenties. If I’m being really honest, it originally started as an extremely long Word document I’d send to family and friends lamenting about why it seemed like everyone around me was settling for good enough when there was so much potential for more – and that got old, fast (just ask my parents!)

 So, I decided to start a blog essentially as a public journal in 2016 and couldn’t believe how many others felt similar to me. Fast forward three years later of consistent, public writing and growing the On Adulting community – I was approached by a large publisher (via an email through my website!) to write a book for millennials about growing up in a mindful, happy way. Writing a book and reaching people through the written word has always been a dream of mine, so seeing the impact it’s had on people’s lives and perspectives has been world-changing.

SDS: This past year I had the pleasure to participate in Daydreamers HQ and your debut product. Can you tell us more about the ideation behind this product and what  we can expect in the next few months? 

KM: Yes! I am so grateful for that. Daydreamers is the mental health startup my fiancé/ co-founder and I started to help all adults live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. For a long time, Dupi and I found ourselves constantly running on that ‘work-gym-sleep’ hamster wheel, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we were struggling with burnout, stress and anxiety. We didn’t feel like the current ways to improve our mental well-being were speaking to us. 

And, we quickly realized we’re not alone by a longshot – 90% of people today say they feel burned out regularly, but 8 in 10 aren’t comfortable using traditional mental health interventions. So, being the entrepreneurs-at-heart that we were, we decided to do something about it. 

Scientifically, creativity is an insanely powerful intervention to improve a variety of health outcomes: from mental and emotional well-being to reducing cortisol levels to improving cognition. So, we’re helping make creative well-being more accessible for all adults and turning it into a consistent mental health practice by providing the tools, support via personalized well-being coaching and health analytics to do so. 

We’re officially launching later this year, but we’re giving (free) access to Daydreamers before we launch to a couple of hundred lucky folks – you can get on the waitlist by taking this quiz.

SDS: Before you were creating blogs, books and products that were changing the world, you were a girl navigating the corporate world. Can you tell us about that version of Katina and your evolution? 

'On Adulting' with author Katina Mountanos. Courtesy of Dupinder Singh.
‘On Adulting’ with author Katina Mountanos. Courtesy of Dupinder Singh.

KM: I was! I started my career in finance at Goldman Sachs and pretty quickly realized that was not the space for me. I always found myself pushing against the norms and feeling really constrained by trying to fit in the typical, corporate box. Although it’s a career path that definitely works for a lot of people, it was really misaligned with my working style, purpose and values. 

I think the biggest change between then and now is the confidence I have in using my own voice. When I started working, especially as a woman in finance, I struggled with the pressure I felt to be ‘strong’ and intense, because that’s what was modeled as success. This is almost completely opposite of my nature and leadership style – and it took a lot of growth to feel comfortable with who I was. But, once I started owning it, everything fell into place. 

SDS: For Daydreamers you work with your fiancé. How has building a business with your partner surprised you? 

KM: Honestly, I feel like it sounds unbelievable, but it’s the most fun experience ever. Growing up in a family of immigrants and small-business owners I was always given the advice not to mix family and work. But, starting a company that has the power to change the world for good with my life partner feels like the luckiest opportunity of my life.

I think that the biggest surprise to me is that it’s doable and fun. While, yes, it is insanely challenging at times – it feels like the biggest personal and professional growth for both of us. It’s also forced us to improve our communication with each other to an insane level and really be aware of how we spend our time.

Katina Mountanos, author of 'On Adulting' and Co-Founder of Daydreamers HQ. Courtesy of Dupinder Singh.
Katina Mountanos, author of ‘On Adulting’ and Co-Founder of Daydreamers HQ. Courtesy of Dupinder Singh.

SDS: Let’s talk about creativity. Do you consider yourself a creative person? What does creativity mean to you? 

KM: This is such a great question and something I want to yell from the rooftops: every single human being is creative. It’s literally in our DNA – essentially, any time our brain thinks of something new, we’re engaging in creativity. Society has conditioned us to believe that creativity is something we can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at; something we have within us or not. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth, from a neuroscience, cognition or human development perspective.

I definitely struggled with understanding this – especially growing up as a first-gen immigrant, I didn’t believe that I could be creative if it didn’t tie to future success. But, working on Daydreamers (and studying clinical psychology with a research focus on creative well-being) has made me so passionate about shifting this narrative for everyone. 

SDS: Lastly, what’s next for Katina Mountanos and where can we find out more about your upcoming ventures? 

KM: Putting Daydreamers out into the world is what I’m most excited about right now (don’t forget to sign up for pre-launch access!). I would love to stay connected with you all! You can find me on Instagram or Tiktok at @onadulting, and stay updated on Daydreamers via our newsletter, Head in the Clouds!

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