By Christa Fletcher, contributor for The Underground Group
⏰ 6-minute read
Former media exec Julie Campistron co-founded the mindfulness app Stop, Breathe & Think after taking a three-month work hiatus to “check in with herself.”
In under three years, the app attracted more than 2 million subscribers and a five-star rating on in the iTunes App Store. Campistron’s company now has 15 employees and a second app product.
Campistron says that in addition to taking time for herself, two other unexpected factors drove the brand’s growth.
How are you? Are you happy? Are you stressed? Maybe you think you’re too busy to check in with yourself, but research suggests many of us could benefit from taking a moment to think about our emotional wellbeing.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 31 percent of adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These disorders are often associated with poor job productivity and short- and long-term work disability, per the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. That same report indicates workers with anxiety lose an average 4.6 workdays to disability and experience an average 5.5 workdays of reduced productivity per month. Of the nearly 40 million adults with anxiety disorders, only 37 percent receive treatment.
And even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, chances are you feel stressed at work from time to time. Eighty percent of Americans say they feel stress on the job, with nearly half saying they “need help” learning how to manage that stress. They cite workload as the primary cause.
Numerous high-profile executives have recently opened up about stress and anxiety.
“I was trying to do everything. I'd convinced myself I was the only person who could solve the problems,” Deloitte partner Adam Barringer told the Financial Review of the time he had a work-induced panic attack at age 34. “I was working intense hours, and I spent a lot of time worrying about worrying.”
Barringer sought help from a psychologist to learn how to manage his anxiety and delegate responsibilities to his team. This, in addition to balancing his workload, made him happier and more confident in his work.
Time to regroup
In 2015, Los Angeles tech executive Julie Campistron decided she needed to regroup. She was quite successful personally and professionally--she had served as the executive vice president of media for Demand Media Inc. (now Leaf Group) and held roles at Yahoo! and L’Oreal--but she took a three-month break from work to “check in with herself.”
The break allowed Campistron to re-evaluate what she wanted in life, she said. It led her to not only prioritize her wellbeing but also make a business out of helping others with theirs. Now, Campistron’s job includes providing more than 2 million individuals the tools to proactively manage stress and anxiety through the mobile app Stop, Breathe & Think.
Campistron co-founded the app, which has grown from humble beginnings focused on children into a resource aiming to combat mental illness in all age groups. For business leaders, Campistron’s story is a reminder that mindfulness can help you understand what makes you and your business thrive and give you the emotional resilience to overcome challenges.
Julie Campistron co-founded the app Stop, Breathe & Think, which guides
users through mindfulness exercises after asking, "How are you?".
“Some stuff happens through serendipity.”
Stop, Breathe & Think started apart from Campistron, before she took her three-month work hiatus.
Jamie Price had worked at a nonprofit for at-risk youth for 18 years, after leaving an investment banking job behind. Time and time again, she had witnessed the anxiety children experience during adolescence. (According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children.)
Price created mindfulness workshops to help the kids. She had watched children gain the coping skills to overcome anxiety and other emotional obstacles. They had started to perform better in school, were happier and used skills from Price’s mindfulness workshops to deal with their problems.
In 2014, Price used donations to develop a mobile app as a companion to her workshops. The app had activities, games and breathing exercises designed for kids of all backgrounds. As the app grew in popularity, Price decided she needed help to take it to the next level. She reached out to Campistron, a friend whose professional background seemed a perfect match for the task.
“Some stuff happens through serendipity,” Campistron said of the timely call from Price. “Partially, it’s also about putting your intention out there and waiting for the right moment. There was a bunch of stuff in my life that made it more important for me to [choose to help expand Stop, Breathe & Think]. I wanted to change lives by doing a little bit of good.”
Jamie Price (L) called on her friend Campistron to help take the app to the next level, making them co-founders.
Together, Campistron and Price committed to a mission of helping people overcome anxiety. They set out with a small development team.
In 2015, they redesigned parts of the app, adding more than 100 activities including yoga and acupressure videos and guided journaling.
Stop, Breathe & Think has since grown to 15 employees and more than 2 million subscribers, with a five-star rating on in the iTunes App Store. The company launched a second app, Stop, Breathe & Think for Kids, that caters to children ages 4-10.
The main app’s content “is geared to under 25 [year olds], but we appeal to all ages, so when we add content it reaches all demographics,” said Campistron. “We did add activities that are more age-specific, like tracks for middle school/high school and college, as well as activities around pregnancy.”
Subscription costs for one app range from $9.99 for a month to $58.99 for a year. Subscribers can get a “bundle” of both apps for $11.99 monthly and $70.99 annually.
The Stop, Breathe & Think app recommends exercises like guided meditation and yoga and acupressure videos.
Simplicity is the secret.
The apps succeed because of their simplicity, said Campistron. Keeping in line with the company’s broad demographic, the experience needs to be intuitive and user-friendly.
Upon logging in to the Stop, Breathe & Think app, users perform a quick, five-step emotional check-in: “How are you?” Based on their responses, the app recommends four meditations, breathing exercises and other activities--all under 10 minutes in length--to help them address their feelings and manage stress and anxiety. Users can choose to complete one or all four of the recommended exercises.
Since the app began as a supplement to Price’s work with inner-city demographics, the team prioritizes diverse imagery in an effort to appeal to users from all backgrounds.
“One of the feedback we received is that a lot of mindfulness apps feel very elitist,” Campistron said. “Stop, Breathe & Think doesn’t feel that way. And it has been a conscious effort from our roots.”
Campistron and Price see their app as indirectly alleviating the adult mental health crisis by boosting productivity at work. Campistron believes that Stop, Breathe & Think’s self-care tips can help adults be happier, more productive and successful and take care of their mind and body.
“You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions,” she said.
For the kids’ version of the app, Campistron and Price enlisted the help of Susan Kaiser Greenland, creator of the Inner Kids program and author of “Mindful Games and the Mindful Child,” to create a game-like experience. Kids follow the same five-step emotional check-in but answer with emoji and complete “mindful mission games” and meditations. Stickers reward their progress.
Many kids who use the app have said it helps them feel calm, relieved, happy and like they’re not alone in their feelings of stress and worry, said Campistron.
“Our mission started with helping young people,” she said. “By teaching kids self-care techniques now, they adopt these skills early, and it becomes second nature to them.”
The kids' version of the app includes mindfulness-based games.
Networking toward happiness
“Most of our new users come through word of mouth, and we do little marketing besides PR and some events,” Campistron said.
Her advice for business leaders? Network, and spend quality time with your contacts. After all, it’s what got her involved in the company in the first place. It’s also a proven mental health boost.
“You have to make yourself available to mentor others and to seek mentorship from others,” Campistron said. “ ... Opportunities often come from unexpected places. You need to be generous with your time and focus and be with others in your network.”
The team at Stop, Breathe & Think will continue to grow along with the app’s audience. With momentum from the mindfulness movement, it’s aiming to perpetuate a positive cycle of change and make lives better, one download at a time.
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