Burnout is a word that comes up a lot among entrepreneurs, especially as authenticity and vulnerability have increasingly become catchwords on social media. But how do we know if what we’re feeling is actually burnout instead of something else and what can we do to recover from it? Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen tackle this issue comprehensively with the help of their guest, Kate Steiner, a burnout recovery coach and CEO of LIFT Wellness Consulting. Join in and learn how you can diagnose burnout by yourself and what steps you can take to reclaim joy from the onslaught of life’s pesky moments. If you’re feeling as crispy as burnt toast right now, you’re going to appreciate this conversation.
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How To Recover From Burnout And Reclaim Joy In Your Life With Kate Steiner
Our topic is something that is close to home for me because of a lot of specific health issues and challenges that I’ve been experiencing for many years, probably more years than I’d like to admit. I’m super excited to dig into our guest. Whitney and I have Dr. Kate Steiner here. I sometimes feel the pre-show banter is always so wonderful because we get to know a little more intimate details about each other and each other’s lives, our pets and our struggles.
Prior to that, I had all these questions that were coming up for me. I was thinking to myself, “I’ve got to wait until we start recording. Don’t blow the whole thing before we hit the record button.” I’ve been holding back, Kate. I want to jump into the deep end, fling the floaties off, no inner tube, let’s go in the deep end with this. I was digging into a lot of your work around the topic of burnout and reading a little bit about your book and your work.
I felt my neck was going to snap off because I was nodding as I was reading through your website and some of your content. The thing that I’m curious about, I feel that the word burnout is something that is being shared on social media so frequently. Much like the word authenticity or vulnerability, it seems that burnout has become a word that is occupying an echelon where it seems most everyone, I see who is an entrepreneur, a person in the work field, or anyone who’s struggling during the pandemic. I don’t even know how long this pandemic has been going on.
Burnout is a word that comes up a lot and I’ve used it a lot because I often feel a crispy piece of toast that’s been forgotten in the back of the toaster oven. It’s like, “I forgot about that piece of sourdough and now it’s a piece of ash. I wanted that piece of sourdough.” I’m curious, Kate, about what your definition of the word burnout is. Are people accurately using it? Is it being overused? If we do feel a crispy piece of ashy sourdough in the back of the toaster, how do we diagnose burnout for ourselves? That’s a lot of questions into one. Tell us about your perception of burnout and are people misusing this word when it might be something else that they’re experiencing?
Thanks so much for that. I love the expression. I’d use the expression feeling crispy. It relates to that piece of the burnt toast. That’s good imagery for feeling crispy. When it comes to burnout and how I define that, what I would say is that when most people are referring to what they’re experiencing, and feeling now, especially through the pandemic, what they’re talking about are what I call Burn Events. These are situations and times in our life where we feel stressed, overwhelmed, fatigued, emotionally drained, but they’re not necessarily burned out. Burn out is that time where you almost as though you don’t want to get out of bed. You feel as though the work you’re doing is a burden. It doesn’t bring you any joy when it used to. It’s beyond overwhelming, beyond draining, and those kinds of things.
Burnout is often the culmination of lots of burn events together. We’re more than a year into this pandemic. If you have been experiencing a year’s worth of burn events, you probably are experiencing burnout because that severe emotional drain, fatigue, and that piece of feeling as though the work is a burden is a big piece to that. If you feel burdened by your work or you feel disconnected from your passion or the purpose that your work used to give you, those are some of the key indicators for determining if you are experiencing full-on burnout or if it’s a burn event that you can recover from a little more quickly.
Everything you described and I know Whitney will probably shake her head as my business partner and best friend that you almost said the Kate verbatim of what I’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s this idea that the things that I used to fill up my tank a sense of joyfulness and purpose, echoing everything you said and feeling sad about it. It’s this idea of wanting to be responsible and show up for my life, podcast, our business, my girlfriend, my family and realizing that so many people I love in my life are also feeling this way.
One of the most difficult things has been for me is finding the will to show up each day for the responsibilities of life, even feeling exactly what you described, to a tee. My question has been, how do I show up for life feeling this way? How do I support other people that I love in my life who are also feeling that? When I’m that drained, crispy and depleted of joy, purpose and focus in my life, it’s been a real challenge to get through my days.
One of the most difficult feelings has been, at the end of the day, checking off the proverbial boxes. We send off the newsletter, did the podcast, guesting thing, coached this client, whatever it is, but laying down in bed and feeling like, “I don’t feel good about what I’ve been doing.” I suppose my question is, how do we operate when we feel we’re burnt out? If any of the readers are resonating with what you described, how do we dance with this? I’m at a loss to find my way out of this place and find joy again. I feel like I’m in this robot mode of doing things but not feeling any fulfillment from them.
There are so many people that are experiencing that same thing, certainly, the folks that I’ve been working with. Part of it is determining what, if anything, is leading you to feel specifically burned out, overwhelmed or drained throughout the day. Are there certain things that when you finish them, you’re like, “I feel drained from this?” That would be an identifiable burn event that you might be able to prepare for differently or recover from differently if you know that it’s going to be in a meeting or getting the newsletter to send out in that aspect. If you’re like, “This is going to drain me,” find ways to take care of yourself immediately after.It’s exhausting to try to pretend to be something that you’re not. Click To Tweet
What are some ways that you can re-energize yourself immediately after that moment? Some of the recovery things that I like to incorporate into my day include play. It’s important that we play as adults. We forget about this. We do it as kids all the time. We have all of this creativity. We have fun or we sing silly songs. However, you incorporate that into your life, that brings back some of that sense of joy. For me, it’s about being silly. I have a dog and a cat. I sing stupid songs to them. It’s not unheard of for me to be in my house and be like, “Catticus, the biggest fluffy cat. Catticus, fluffy, fluffy cat.” He looks at me like I am insane. He’s like, “This woman is off her rocker.” I laugh and enjoy it. It’s the same thing with my dog, Amber. Amber gets all of these fun songs. I sing to her when I give her a meal or her food. We sing about food. That’s an important way.
It’s simple steps throughout your day. What can I do that’s playful? If I’m having a tough moment, should I have an impromptu dance party? If I put on my go-to energy music, is that going to amp me up a little bit? Thinking about what your self-care rituals look like throughout the day, these don’t have to be long practices. They don’t have to take several hours throughout the day or even as long as fifteen minutes. How are you spending the two minutes while you’re brushing your teeth? Can you run some gratitude practice in your mind in that aspect? Can you have a post-it note on your mirror that you read over that reminds you at that moment that it’s going to be okay and that you have some wins in your life and not everything has to be so overbearing?
I want to thank you for singing that song because my next follow-up question was going to be requesting that you give us an example of the animal songs. The fact that you volunteered it up Kate, we’re friends. It’s a done deal. I also make insane songs about my animals and Whitney has been requesting for years that I record an album and also get on TikTok sharing my animal songs. I feel this is probably yet another sign that I need to do that because I have a whole treasure trove of the songs that I have on my voice memos on my iPhone going back years. I have an album’s worth of animal songs. I’m glad that you have that too. The Catticus song is going to be in my head the rest of the day. Thank you for that. My question is, is your cat’s name Catticus?
His name is Catticus.
If I were ever to have a firstborn child, I would have to name them Catticus. Atticus? No. Atticus but with the Cat the front of the name. That’s genius. I also love that you gave us some quick, actionable tips on playing. Oftentimes, the conversation of wellness or self-care can feel oftentimes serious. We need to take these supplements and get the bio-mat, get the far infrared sauna and do the colonics. Why don’t you dance, play and sing to your animals? I love how simple and easy and actionable that is. There’s the point of realizing that you’re burnt out and perhaps some steps to take that I would love to get into how do we handle from a psychological and biological level when we’re burnt out.
Before we get to that, what if you’re not necessarily in full burnout yet, but you have a sense that you’re headed there? There are times where I certainly have talked to friends or I’ve had a perception of I’m not in burnout yet, but I sense if I push that final domino, I’m going to get there. If one is feeling like, “I’m in the car and I’m headed for the cliff. I’m not there yet.” What can people do? Is it possible to avoid it before you even get there?
As humans, we experienced these burn events all the time. Those lower-level pieces of feeling that fatigue overwhelms those things. Those aren’t necessarily avoidable. However, I do think that the full-on feeling of burnout can be prevented and that’s through recovery practices. When you start to feel yourself going down that road, implement recovery practices. These look a little bit different for every person. Spending some time, self-reflecting on what it is that you need for your “formal recovery” formula.
For me, that includes things I know that I need a body of water is important for my recovery. Nature, being out in the sunlight is super important for my recovery so that will look different as the seasons look different. If it’s the summertime, I can go and do paddleboarding. If it’s in the winter, I have to figure that out in some other way. What does that look like? It’s also important that people keep what I call a Comfort List. These are things that bring you comfort at any point in time.
If you think about yourself as a child, you had someone there to comfort you when you are overwhelmed or upset or scared. We have to find ways to comfort ourselves when we’re overwhelmed, stressed or feeling upset. It’s having that comfort list of things that immediately bring comfort to you. For me, it’s mac and cheese, a cozy sweater, the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark movies. I like that they’re super predictable and I know what’s going to happen. I feel good at the end of them. What are those things that you can implement as easy as turning on the TV or making your favorite meal that is going to bring you comfort at that moment? Reflecting on what you need for recovery and then acting those things are what’s going to bring you back to that space of peace, so you don’t experience burnout.
I’m mentally reviewing my comfort list as you say that, Kate. Also, acknowledging that because of the stress, anxiety and unpredictability of the world over the past year-plus, I find myself, at times, pressing some of those comfort touchstones for myself but overindulging. In the show, we have talked a lot about food addiction, my struggles with sugar addiction, Whitney talked about some of her disordered eating.
We’ve talked a lot about the significance of foods, specifically comfort food. You did bring up mac and cheese. We’re both huge fans of mac and cheese, by the way. I love it. For me, my thing is chocolate. If I feel uncertain, insecure, sad, depressed, etc., I tend to go to sweet things. My question is when we know we have these comfort touchstones of our comfort list, how do we self-regulate, so we don’t perhaps overindulge in those touchstones of comfort. I’m asking for a friend.
I feel you on that, especially with the sweets. I have an intense sweet tooth. I’m a baker, so those two things combined don’t always work out so well as far as trying not to overindulge. It’s such an important point and question you brought up. You use them for comfort, but you don’t want to overindulge in them, certainly, because something that can be effective in relieving stress can then also become damaging when you overindulge in it. For me, it’s incorporating, whether it be a mindful practice or a grounding practice while I am eating those things. If I’m going to enjoy the mac and cheese or a cupcake or something to that effect, I portion it out, so I have the serving of it. It’s not like I’ve made the entire pot of mac and cheese and going, “Here we go. I’m digging in now. This is good.”
It’s portioning it out, sitting with that and using mindful eating techniques, smelling the mac and cheese, observing the mac and cheese, placing a bite in my mouth and holding it there in my mouth and considering what this tastes like. I’m trying to describe in my mind, “What does this taste like? How would I describe this to someone who had never had macaroni and cheese before or to myself if I never tasted this before? Does it taste salty? Can I taste the different varieties of cheese that might be in this?” I’m considering that and taking a deep breath and trying to slow down your eating process.
Chocolate is good to do this with too because you can allow it to melt in your mouth and identify the flavors as it melts in your mouth and how it tastes different and what the texture is as it melts and those things. Anything that you can do to slow your anxiety or your heart rate down while you’re enjoying these things is going to help you not only keep you from overindulging but also help you enjoy it at the moment more.
That’s helpful. I think about that a lot too because having that awareness around food is so comforting. This could be a lot of things. I love this comfort list and I too was going through in my head what that might be for me. That’s incredibly important because I like to be prepared. I like to be prepared because when I come up against something that’s challenging, I like to have the tools that I can go to, to reduce the discomfort for a period as much as I can. That’s probably like a coping mechanism of mine, like, “If I can be prepared for something, then it won’t be uncomfortable, painful, or whatever. I can get through it faster.” That in itself can cause me to feel a lot of anxiety because it’s constantly trying to anticipate any potential challenges.
That’s another story. The comfort list side of it speaks to me because there are certain things that are predictable for me as a person having a uterus, every month I know I’m going to experience some discomfort and my body is going to want certain things. I’ve started creating routines and planning out on my calendar, “This is the time of year that I’m going through a certain stage of my cycle. I’m going to probably want this and that.” I set up different things for that period of my life for comfort. Routines like that are helpful, whether it’s one time a month, a few times a year, or every day, no matter what’s going on in your life. I like to sprinkle things around, so they’re accessible.
I’m a huge fan of essential oils, for example. In fact, I put on some rose essential oil and it has this lingering comfort effect that is mind-blowing to me. I’m constantly amazed by the power of scent. I have supplements and stuff around. On my desk, part of my comfort list is I have some of our favorite products from this brand called Rellies and I love these for two reasons. Not only can I ingest them in my body, but the words on them are huge too. Seeing the word joy reminds me to have that joy.
I love this idea of that because I put things around visually, I have things that I can ingest, smell, have textures. I like to have things like rocks or crystals around. As you’re saying that, it’s reminding me how much I’ve set that up in my life and how helpful that is. Going back to Jason’s food point, that is another level of it. For many of us, perhaps cultural conditioning that we might have had, we tend to eat food so quickly, that we don’t even know why we’re eating it. To your point, Kate, sometimes we want ice cream, but then we don’t even know when to stop. Maybe one bite of ice cream would have been comforting enough, but we end up eating a bowl, a cup, or a pint of it. We step back and think, “Did I even need that?” We start to associate ice cream with something bad when maybe we overdid it. We do get to see your dog now. It’s another reason to watch the YouTube Channel.
Amber has made her appearance.
Does this mean we get a song? This feels like a good time for a song break, Kate.We think we know what others think of us, but it's probably made up in our heads. Click To Tweet
Amber Bamber, what are you doing? You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you? You’re the prettiest girl in the whole wide world. Yes, you are. She’s looking at me like I’m a crazy person.
This also reminds me of something I saw before we recorded. I was watching TikTok, which is part of my comfort list. When I feel a little burnt out, that’s my cue to not do anything but my version of not doing anything is usually laying on the bed or a couch and watching TikTok videos. I try to give myself some boundaries and I’ll check in after fifteen minutes and say, “Do I need to keep watching this?” Usually, the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is yes.
I saw a great video during one of my burnout breaks, which was about how important it is for us to embrace what we might consider as cringe, it was the term that this girl is using. We are so hard on ourselves when it comes to how we show up online especially. I think about this all the time because I can be tough on myself about my appearance. I wonder if other people perceive me as attractive or attractive? This video is helpful because it reminded me that we have A, zero control over what people perceive of us and B, what if cringe means something different? Even if it is the same, the people that like you, don’t mind that cringe.
The people that don’t like you are never going to like your cringe or what you think is your best part. You might as well be however you want and if you perceive that as being cringy, honestly, someone like me doesn’t care. I like your songs, Kate. That doesn’t make me cringe. There might be a reader who’s cringing right now and we don’t have control over that. They’re probably not a good fit for our show if they’re cringing at you singing a song about your animals. Jason and I love it.
I’ve noticed this in the feedback that we’ve had from this show and a lot of the content that we’ve done. People love all the weird things that we do and people don’t mind that we swear on-air and it’s marked as explicit and they don’t mind. It’s all these little nuances of who we are because that is who we are. It’s so interesting that we’ve been conditioned to hide those parts of ourselves and this ties into burnout. It’s exhausting to try to pretend that you’re something that you’re not.
I was thinking about this where it feels completely exhausting for me to constantly be trying to make myself a person that other people will like. I was reflecting on this specifically around how I’ve been feeling a little self-conscious about my appearance when we’re making all these YouTube videos. I was like, “I never the way I look in our YouTube videos.” I feel fine when we’re recording, but I watched them back and that’s when I cringe over myself. I was thinking about that and it doesn’t matter. First of all, this is a podcast, it’s meant to be audio, but we wanted to add a video element to it.
Second of all, the people that care about me and like me, either are fine with the way that I look or maybe they like the way I look. The people that don’t like me or the people that don’t even know me are going to judge me based on the way that I look in a video are probably not my target audience. They shouldn’t matter. With that mentality, I feel less burned out because I’m not trying as hard to please everybody and I’m not trying so hard to be something other than what I am.
There’s so much there. The piece that I connected with you when you were talking about that, Whitney is that piece of letting go of other people’s opinions of us. One of the best pieces of advice that I got is that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. I don’t even need to know them. For me, something beautiful happened when I turned 40. When I entered into my 40s, I stopped caring about other people’s opinions of me. It opened up this beautiful space of being able to be myself, in most cases. That’s not to say that I don’t get self-conscious because as a human being self-consciousness happens. I certainly think about my appearance, but I stopped trying so hard.
One of the things that I have always done throughout my life is to dance in grocery stores. If it’s a good song, I’m dancing, that’s all there is to it. I used to be way more self-conscious about it. I would only do it when the aisle was empty. If someone came into the aisle, I would stop dancing and it’d be like, “I’m getting this can of beans or something else here. Don’t mind me. It’s fine.” Now when they come in the aisle or almost intentionally going to aisles where people are and then dance around them to see their reaction or to get them to smile and whatnot or to try to embarrass my partner, but he’s never embarrassed by it.
He’s basically like, “You’re fun and crazy, so that’s fine. This is daily BS for me.” He looks at other people and be like, “That’s the one I chose. I chose her.” There’s that beauty in letting go that you talked about and that does help with the burnout because when you let go of that trying so hard or trying to fit the box and allowing yourself to be yourself is freeing. All of that energy that you put into being the other person is now freed up for you to do other things.
I wonder if that’s the reason that so many people feel burnt out because to Jason’s point that he brought up at the beginning, I notice people using the word burnout constantly these days. Sometimes it’s that concept of when someone tells you not to think of a red car and next time you go outside, all you see are red cars. I wonder if I am paying so close attention to the word burnout that I noticed that all the time.
Regardless, I’ve been tuning into trying to figure out, what exactly is causing this? Why are people talking about burnout more frequently? Why am I noticing it? I feel a lot of that is coming from younger generations meaning people between probably 18 to 40. Younger is always relative. I would say skewing a little bit towards the early twenties but certainly, Millennials are struggling with this right now. It’s Gen Zs and Millennials.
They’re the ones who tell us they know we’re old if I have a side part, and I apparently can’t wear skinny jeans anymore either. Try it, get them off my body. Give it a whirl. What do you want me to wear?
It drives me nuts. It’s so funny, Kate. I had my first haircut since COVID started in 2020 in the US, so it’s been almost exactly a year since I got my haircut. I specifically went in and I was like, “I’m going to have the middle part.” I’ve always done my hair in the middle but from some habit of putting it to a side part. That’s how I would run my hands through my hair. Thanks to TikTok, I started feeling self-conscious about it.
The funniest thing was my hairstylist who’s an accomplished hairstylist. She’s been doing hair for years, she works in this nice salon in Los Angeles, you think she knows styles. She recommended that I do my hair with the side part and I was like, “No. Please, anything but that. I can’t.” It was amusing. I also thought, “It doesn’t matter.” I love skinny jeans so please, I would rather look completely old to somebody and feel comfortable and confident.
That leads me back to my point, Kate, which was, I wonder and this answers my question because it’s interesting how the younger generation and maybe it was the same when we were in our twenties and all that. We are so fixated on how we look and how others looked and it’s exhausting. It’s so contradictory to me too because Gen Z also prides themselves on being cringe comfortably and doing whatever they want.
They position themselves as being less judgmental and yet, they’re the ones telling anyone that’s not Gen Z. They’re too old if they’re wearing their hair or they’re close a certain way. No wonder they’re burnt out if they’re constantly fixated on what’s cool, what’s attractive, and all of this. Maybe that’s part of the answer to care a lot less but perhaps you don’t get to that point in your life until a certain age.
I work on a college campus. I work with a lot of younger college-age students and whatnot. Developmentally, it’s hard to be there. I know that in my twenties I cared so much about what other people I thought, thought of me, which is different. We put that assumption on other people when we are in that age group or at any point in time. It’s probably not what they think of us. It’s what we perceive them and their reactions and how we react, what our experiences of them. We think we know what they think of us but we’re probably making it up in our head. I don’t know if it was an age thing, aging out of it, or finally no longer giving a crap that something happened, that I was able to let that go. I know for sure that if someone had come up to twenty-year-old Kate and said, “You should let that go. The opinions of others are none of your business.” I would have told them to sod off.
Regardless of age, though, it would seem to me that one of the causes potentially of burnout is the rampant consumerism, comparison, and pressure to keep up. Regardless of age, you need to have the right designer clothes as an offshoot of what you brought up, Whitney and Kate. It’s what you echoed about wearing your hair a certain way, wearing the “right pants.” We have fast fashion. We have this pressure to drive an automobile that looks impressive that reflects who we are, or to live in a particular zip code or upgrade our house.
We’re in this consumerist upgrade culture. First of all, it is not only wreaking havoc on the environment, and our general mental wellness of always feeling like we have to keep up. It’s that ‘more, better, different and new’ mantra that we particularly ring the bell not in the US, but in any “developed” first world country. It’s more, better, new and different. If you’re behind, you’re this old tech, you don’t want a smartphone and you don’t want the latest car and you don’t care about getting the McMansion or whatever it is. There are a million examples.What is one thing you can do today to make you feel joyful? It doesn't have to be something huge. Getting there is about the small steps. Click To Tweet
Part of what we’re talking about not in a Millennial or Gen Z age group, but across the board is this constant, and unyielding pressure from corporations, advertising, media, social media, to fit in and be accepted by society. How do you do that? You have this thing, that thing, do this and be this and look like this. At the root level, that is so damaging, psychologically to us because we always feel like we’re never enough. We’ve got to keep up and have the latest and greatest thing. If you don’t, you’re not going to be loved and accepted. This is something that I’m raging against in my own life of not wanting to succumb to this upgrade culture to feel like I’m a better person because of what I have.
As you were saying that I’m thinking about how marketing has taken advantage of our human need to belong, and how damaging that has become for us as human beings because now they framed it in that piece of, “To belong, you have to have this iPhone and this thing. You have to look this way. You have to have these many followers on your social media.” It is hard to not allow that to creep into your psyche.
It’s even harder sometimes to recognize that’s maybe the experience or the feeling that you have that it’s probably tied to that in that sense of belonging and that miss guidance of what it means to belong, instead of feeling the comfort of being around other people or the love and support from your closest circle your family, your friends, your partner and thinking that it’s these external pieces that are going to bring you that sense of belonging when it’s more of those relationships that is the important piece to that.
How do we start to break that spell though? It’s such a rampant all seemingly all-consuming aspect of being a human being in the modern world, whatever that means? There is a certain amount of ridicule that comes from it. As an example, my mom, Susan has a Nokia phone that probably looks like it came from the year 2002. My mom doesn’t text and care about social media. Some of her friends even in her age group are like, “What do you mean, you don’t have an iPhone. You’re using this old Nokia phone. It seems that there’s this judgment and ridicule that comes from people when they observe you.”
“Tyranny of the majority was this term that was used. There was a sociologist who called it the tyranny of the majority of you have this large segment of people and if you’re the outsider, the rebel, the contrarian, you are subject to a higher level of scrutiny and ridicule because you’re the outlier. Woe be unto you if you’re the outlier.” It’s necessary if your soul feels being rebellious or being an outlier.
There’s a critical place for those types of human beings in our society because the pressure to conform is so massive. I’m curious, Kate, but also Whitney, if you have thoughts, knowing there’s this pressure to conform, knowing there’s this, “tyranny of the majority.” How do we build the will and practice believing in who we are enough to say, “I see what you’re trying to do, I don’t want any piece of that?” Even if it means I’m going to be ridiculed, even if it means the tribe won’t accept me, that takes a lot of courage. How do we cultivate that in the face of all of this pressure?
My mother’s name is also Susan, so that’s a fun little commonality we have. She does text, but she uses emojis wrong. I love and appreciate her. One of the things that I tried to ask myself when I get into almost that Doomsday cycle of thinking and when you start to feel yourself go down that cycle of, “If I do this, if I go out of the norm, this will happen and people won’t like me. People will ridicule me.”
It’s stopping myself and asking, “Do I know that for a fact? Without a doubt 100% truth, that is what’s going to happen or for an actual fact. That’s going to be the outcome?” The answer is always no. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict the future or anything to that effect. I also can’t predict how people truly are going to act. That does help me at least stop that cycle of thinking. We get more in trouble in that place than when we are in the place of, we’ve taken the stand.
Because once you’ve taken the stand, and you’re like, “This is where I’m at,” generally, other people’s opinions, if they say something to you and there’s ridicule, it’s going to sting because we’re human beings and that’s an emotional thing. It doesn’t feel good to hear those things, but it’s probably not going to stop you from doing what you’re doing because you’re already there. You’re finding at least some confidence in that or some success in that. It’s the space of when we stop ourselves before getting there because we’re worried about the outcome before it happens.
We have a term for that here. We call it Disaster Baiting. It’s true. The question you’ve posed, Kate, reminds me a lot of The Work of Byron Katie of, is this true? Can we know that thought is true? What is a thought that is truer than that thought? It’s similar to that structure. It’s important because the mind is convincing. The mind will try to protect us at all costs, “Don’t go in that dark cave. Don’t say that thing. Don’t take that risk because you might die.” Our mind is doing that on a pretty frequent basis.
To your point to question our thoughts, as my French Bulldog is trying to ram down the door. I predicted this before we started the show. As an aside, Bella would try and literally ram her tiny rhinoceros body through this door, “I told you 90 minutes.” She doesn’t know. We had an agreement of 90 minutes and she’s doing it at 45. Bad dog. If I let her in all hell is going to break loose, so we’re going to have to have the rhino at the door.
Shifting gears, Kate on your website, there was one particular sentence that smacked me in the forehead. It’s like al dente linguine whapped me on the forehead. The sentence said, “I believe that you cannot avoid burnout.” I read that sentence and my eyebrows went up like The Rock’s and I was like, “What do you mean Dr. Steiner?” Would you please unpack what you mean by that? You believe that people can’t avoid burnout. What does that mean? Go deeper into that, please?
For me, we have been approaching burnout completely wrong. We think that we can completely avoid it when I believe that it’s part of our human experience. What I mean by that is more so in the experiencing of these burn events that I had talked about. It’s these smaller-scale pieces of feeling overwhelmed, stress, fatigued, emotionally drained. You can’t avoid those. Those happen all the time.
They’re things that we can expect like a meeting with a colleague that you don’t enjoy meeting with, the tough meeting with your supervisor and an uncomfortable family gathering. These are all things that create stress, overwhelm, fatigue in our life. We can’t necessarily avoid those emotions, but that society and previous studies have set us up for some failure when it comes to how we approach burnout by saying that we can completely avoid it.
The idea that if I have my wellness plan in place, and the greatest work environment ever that I can completely avoid these feelings is a misnomer in my mind because it can still happen. You may still have unexpected things come up that cause your stress, fatigue and overwhelm. If you don’t recover from those things, they’re going to compound upon each other and cause you burnout. You could have the most perfect supervisor ever who gives you all the wellness days in the world, but you might still have other things going on. You might need some recovery help.
For me, burnout was something that I was ignoring, because I thought, “I have this great wellness plan. I’m taking dance classes, and I’m eating well.” I was only thinking about the physical wellness but in my head, I was like, “This can’t be burnout because I’m doing all of the things I’m supposed to be doing. I’m even seeing a counselor. This shouldn’t be burnt out because I’m doing all the things that I need to do to avoid it.”
When I realized that I was burnt out, I felt this overwhelming sense of failure, that I couldn’t keep it at bay by implementing wellness practices. That’s what I mean by we can’t approach it from an avoidance place because we have to constantly work at identifying it for ourselves, preparing for it, and implementing recovery from it. As opposed to saying, “I’m going to keep it over here in this box, and if I keep my wellness plan going, and all these other things going, there’s no way burnout is going to impact me.”
That’s such an important thing to bring up because one thing I’ve been trying to be more mindful of is how, for years, I thought I could optimize my way out of uncomfortable feelings. I could optimize my way to being the best person and the best version of ourselves. Similar to what I was saying before about how I’m sensitive when I hear the word burnout and I feel I hear it all the time. I’m also triggered when I hear people talking about optimization, personal development, become your best self and become better. It’s all about better.
I understand from my perception and viewpoint, I can relate to the desire to do that. All three of us with our work are in the health and wellness space. It’s about your well-being. It’s about self-care. We have such an obsession with that culturally though. Perfectionism is a huge part of our culture as well. That’s also linked to burnout. Part of the reason why we feel it in the hustle culture, this addiction to efficiency and productivity. If only I could do one more thing and that’s going to make me this much better. We’re always computing in our heads and that to me is another reason why we have burnout. It’s this constant desire to never stop improving.
It’s never enough. That’s another reason why not-enoughness is huge. That is one of the biggest things that Jason and I have found through doing this show, creating courses, and doing personal coaching. Oftentimes, people do not feel good enough. They always want more. It’s like what you were saying, Kate with marketing having plugged it in our heads that we need to have this all the time. We need to have the right look, the followers, the right things.Give yourself permission to suck. Click To Tweet
It’s always about right or wrong, good or bad. We have to have more money and this comes up constantly on this show. Jason and I, part of the reason we bring it up so much is that we’re trying to get away from that because it’s no longer serving us. It’s so exhausting to always be playing this Keeping up with the Joneses or now it’s Keeping Up with The Kardashians. It’s interesting too. When you think about the name of that show, that show is based on Keeping Up with the Joneses and when it was created, it was like, “Another reality show.”
When you think about the impact that the Kardashians have had on our society, it’s quite frightening, because they represent all the money. Everybody wants to be as successful as any one of them, any of the Kardashians. If I can follow in their footsteps, I can be successful like them, too. We’ve got them always looking hyper-perfect. Not to mention oftentimes photoshopped, but the amount of work that those women, in particular, have done on their bodies and their appearances, convinced us through remarketing, that we could achieve it too if we buy the products that they use, which is completely not true.
If you don’t have the money, the access that they have, their resources, it’s virtually impossible to look like them not to mention, most of them use editing tools for their photos and videos. They have conditioned us to always believe that we’re not good enough. That show has gotten so deep in our psyche and culturally, that no wonder the burnout is happening there. Everybody’s trying to grab something that isn’t possible.
I want to jump in quickly and say something about the language part of that Whitney view brought up of them titling it with Keeping Up with. The energetics of that language, the idea of keep up, reminds me of a race, it reminds me of being in a track race. Someone’s ahead of you, and you have to keep up with them. The other thing it reminds me of too is some of the brand names of not the logos, and the subconscious impressions that marketing has with the logotypes but with the names. Think about Chase Bank. Subconsciously, I’m chasing money all the time. I’m chasing wealth and status. I’m not going to say that was an intentional choice, but why would you name it Chase Bank, that’s on the nose to me.
It could be the last name. Chase is a last name.
It was originally JPMorgan Bank and then they changed it to JPMorgan Chase. JPMorgan, as we know, was one of the robber barons of centuries ago who was also one of the first billionaires along with Rockefeller. To your point, Whitney, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Chase Bank there’s a lot of these encoded words that we don’t think about consciously but what they represent is fascinating.
One of the things that I came to mind while you were talking about the good enough, am I enough, being enough piece is I’m a big believer in practicing gratitude. It’s an incredibly important part. It’s such an important part of my own self-care. I also consider that piece and the damage of false positivity. The idea that you shouldn’t experience negative emotions in trying to avoid any type of negative emotions. We’ll look in the bright side, look at the silver lining.
For me, sometimes gratitude is sitting with a feeling of sadness or hurt and being grateful that I’m having that experience or learning from that experience, but not trying to brush it aside. That’s an important piece too, when we think about that whole piece of avoidance. Let’s avoid anything that brings us discomfort or makes us uncomfortable because we don’t want to sit in that space, when the most growth is going to come from being in that space.
Now you know why we named our show, This Might Get Uncomfortable. There’s something interesting, similar to the word burnout, I hear that phrase about discomfort all the time now. It must be because I’m thinking about my show, but it feels it increased in popularity. It’s that concept of growth being outside of our comfort zone. It’s exciting because I feel more people are open to that now, which is probably on the positive side of this.
These are the downsides of where we’re at, but the upside is that we’re much more aware, it seems of when we’re feeling anxious. We’re feeling depressed. We’re not being authentic. We’re burnt out. Even though they’re all major issues right now, the awareness that is brought to people to think about it, and reflect on getting outside of their comfort zones, for example, is wonderful. The sad thing, though, is statistically, mental well-being is a big issue now. The suicide rate alone, especially in certain age ranges is intense.
We talked about this documentary called Childhood 2.0. I’ve been trying to be more aware of what’s going on for kids these days. That’s part of why your work is so important, Kate. It’s not for us as adults because we’re fully developed human beings. We have a lot more to learn. We probably will always be learning throughout our life. We have more perspective. For kids, many of us remember what it’s to be a kid, but we don’t know exactly what it’s for them now because technology has changed so much. The culture has changed and now we have the pandemic.
The world has changed in some significant ways. It’s important for all of us, regardless of if we have kids in our lives, to be aware of what’s going on. We need to put on the oxygen mask first, but then we need to think about what’s going on for other people. In fact, I’ve made it a big part of my day, every day, to learn more about what’s going on for children and learn more about what’s going on for non-white people, anybody of color.
Jason and I are trying to learn more about people that identify as different genders and trying to think of what’s going on for other people out there, especially for those of us that are white. We need to use our privilege in a way to stay extra aware and support other people and not assume that we’re what we’re going through is what other people are experiencing, or that we can even relate to them. This concept around how children are suffering so much because of things like technology. We can’t assume, “It’s the same for them as it was for us. I remember that being ten years old.” No.
Much has changed in a few years. Also stepping outside of ourselves and recognizing what our experiences are for our gender, race, or our privileges, I was saying with the Kardashians. We have to remember that not everybody has access to the same resources. I want to be more inclusive in our talks about well-being. Your work, Kate is so important for all these different people that are struggling in many different ways. I would love to know what you found. Are you learning different about different experiences of burnout and maybe you can share some of that too? In your research or your work, what are the differences that you find the people’s lives and how do they experience burnout, and how does it affect them differently than others?
One of the things that I’ve found in research and talking with folks is that one, like so many things, emotions and experiences, burnout is an individual experience. While we can have some, some of those tenants of a feeling of burden, feeling of no longer having joy. How that manifests in a person’s life looks different from person to person. When you are thinking about humans of different identities, you have to take into consideration generational trauma as well.
That’s something that’s going to impact their feelings of burnout, stress, anxiety, and those kinds of things, because that’s not something that you can remove. That’s something that is inherent in their human existence. That’s an important thing to keep in mind and help people define. They may not know where the stress is coming from. It could be that it’s that generational trauma that is leading them to feel that anxiety that may not have ever identified it as that.
It’s keeping that in mind and I’m a big believer in coaching. In my training as a counselor, it is person-centered so it’s much about the person’s experience and hearing their narrative, and rephrasing and using their words to help them identify what their emotional experience is where they might be coming from, is so important. I was thinking about what you’re talking about with kiddos and whatnot. Everyone is suffering from a lack of social well-being right now that are with isolation, being forced upon us and forced upon us for a long time. As humans, we’re struggling. Our young ones are struggling with this social aspect and they’re not getting the connections that they need to be socially well.
Kate, I want to ask you a question to go back to joy and the concept of joy. When you were talking about the list of the pleasures, or as I refer to them in my own life, these touchstones, I noticed that this book that you have called Burnout: A Guide for Every Professional to Identify, Prepare, and Recover Your Joy. When I read that one of the other moments of, “How do I recover my joy?” It struck a chord in me on such a resonant and deep level of, “I have no idea how to do that.” I’ve been sitting in a place of feeling I’ve been struggling to find joy in my life.
I’m sure that a lot of our readers probably resonate with this idea of, “How do I recover in my life?” To create an image in my mind, how can we create a bridge I suppose of burnout and finding our way to recovering our joyfulness? That to me feels such a critical piece for our collective and individual mental health. Especially in a post-pandemic world. How do we do that from the perspective of maybe some techniques or practices that you might recommend? Where do we even begin to recover our joy?
Going back to the concept of play is almost always the place that I go back to find a sense of joy in those kinds of things. It’s the easiest thing to do because it brings us back to that sense of childhood. Children are joyful. Sometimes they can also be kids. I’m thinking of my nephews now and sometimes I’m like, “You’re joyful, but you’re also pissing me off.” That’s an important piece but starting with that playfulness and incorporating that small piece into your life making you laugh. If you start laughing, even if it’s a fake laugh, it doesn’t take long until you’re laughing for real. We could try it now, so if we all started laughing maybe ten seconds.If you're writing your introduction, don't compare it to someone else's finale. Click To Tweet
It was ten seconds for me. I was laughing for real. I’m still laughing, but I can’t stop smiling. I realized I have a quiet laugh compared to you two. I wonder how many readers started to laugh because sometimes it’s awkward when you hear other people laughing and you don’t want to laugh. I love that Kate because I came across this on Clubhouse. There’s a couple on there. I can’t remember their names. They will go into rooms. They would do laughing and break sessions. The two of them would have everybody on Clubhouse unmute and start laughing. I thought it was such a sweet therapeutic thing, so thank you for doing that.
When you’re asked about, what is the bridge? It’s those small steps. One, we have to take that step back and think about, “What is one thing that I can do that will help me feel joyful?” Maybe it is sharing some gratitude first thing in the morning or ending your day with what were my wins for the day. It could be as simple as I made the bed today and remembering to honor that space. It doesn’t have to be something gigantic or huge. Getting there is about the small steps to get there. When we think about change, I think about it as almost a spiral going up or if you think about a slinky.
Do kids still play with slinkies?
I don’t know but they should.
Speaking of different generations.
That’s fun. Let’s get yourself a slinky. They call it the right thing. When you pull that up, and how it spirals upon it, so if you think about change in terms of a spiral or something to that effect. It loops. When we are going through change, it will loop up and you’ll find that you have a high point. As we continue to progress, you might dip down a little bit but even this low point is still well above where you started. Reminding ourselves of that is important because you didn’t slip all the way back down.
You’re still making progress but think of, what’s the small thing I can do today to bring me joy? Is it singing the silly song to my cat? Is it watching the TikTok video? Is it listing out my wins at the end of the day? Is it honoring some gratitude and including myself in that gratitude at the beginning of the day? Is it being playful? Is it laughing with my partner? Is it watching a feel-good movie? Whatever the tiniest thing is. Giving yourself a pat on the back for experiencing the joy that day. Maybe the next day, there are two things that you can do to bring yourself joy. Maybe the next day, it’s three things that bring you joy. At some point, you may be in the habit of when you start to experience more icky feelings and not trying to get out of them but knowing that around the corner is a joyful moment.
The thing that comes up for me Kate is, over the course of the pandemic I have gone to different touchstones are these things that in the past brought me joy. Part of the horror has been doing things that I used to feel joyful about. When I do them now, I don’t feel joyful. That’s been almost a panic feeling in my body of, “Picking up the guitar and playing music doesn’t make me feel joyful.” That made me feel joyful for years like spending time with my animals.
There’s been a lot of moments for me, of realizing that things that were once touchstones of joy have not been bringing me joy. If I’m experiencing this or perhaps the reader or someone who’s like, “Those things ‘don’t work for me anymore.’” It’s almost we have to be radically experimental in trying new things then if these touchstones that worked for us in the past that used to bring us joy don’t anymore. I’ve realized that I’ve been at that point a lot over the past year-plus, it has been like, “What do I do now? Because this thing hasn’t been lifting me up the way it used to.” Chocolates still do, thank God.
That’s though, that realization and we all experience that as humans. It was like this habit or this thing that has always worked for me before isn’t working now. What do I do in this experience? You hit it on the head there with that experiment and try something else and see if there might be something else that can bring you that sense. Sometimes it’s trying something new. It brings up that sensation of, “I’m nervous, or I’m not sure I’m going to be good at this or something to that effect.”
I’ve been doing a lot of live fitness classes and whatnot, so one of the things that I keep trying is, and they’re fascinating because they can see you and give you corrections and whatnot. One, I love to hear my name, when they’re like, “Your form looks great,” or whatever it is always feel good. I try new and different classes to almost put myself in that space of feeling a little uncomfortable because, by the end of it, I feel accomplished for trying it.
That takes so much of the pressure off with what you’ve said. We don’t have to show up and be perfect. We don’t have to nail it on the first try. This also is super important, Kate, because going back to the cultural programming that I observed in talking to friends, clients and being on social media, there is a mentality of having people think that they have to be great from the jump. There are prodigies. There are people that we can bring up throughout history. For the most part, if you talk to any great entrepreneur, musician, athlete, painter, teacher, coach, a lot of them admit they sucked in the beginning.
It took a long time for them to be like, “I have a level of dexterity with the instrument, my craft, or whatever it is.” It takes a while to have a vision in your head of where you want to get to, but years of trial and error experimentation and experience closing the gap between where you think you want to be or where your heroes are and then finally getting there. One thing with social media and the speed of culture now is people expecting that they have to be great from the jump and then they end up giving up on the thing because they’re not great from the jump.
Also, perhaps they haven’t built the resilience, or the patience to put in the work to get to where they want to be, and they get discouraged. I see a lot of young people being extremely discouraged, not young people, people of any age of, “I tried it and I sucked.” You sucked. You started. Give yourself permission to suck. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Give yourself permission to screw up. Give yourself permission to take the pressure of perfection off and be okay with sucking. Let’s embrace sucking for a while. That’s so critical. That’s at least my philosophy is like, “I’m going to do this and I’m probably going to suck for a while.” If I love it, I’m curious and I’m passionate about it, let’s embrace the suckage. Let’s embrace being bad at it for a while. I want people to do that.
I love that, embrace the suck. It reminds me of the expression, don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone’s Chapter 20. If you’re writing your introduction, don’t compare it to someone’s finale, because they’re going to look completely different. You’re in a different space in your book and that’s okay. That’s part of the beauty of the journey. Embracing the uncomfortable learning, sucky portions can almost be the most fun part if you let it be.
I also love on this point when sometimes artists will release their early works, whether that’s a band or a musician who has their early demo tapes that never got released. I love music. I love singing and playing music, although often it hasn’t been bringing me joy, but it’s still there. It’s still hanging out. One thing that I love is with some artists and that can be authors releasing their earliest work that never saw the light of day.
It’s always so wonderful to see the origin in the seed of some of perhaps the most celebrated people in our culture, to look at where they started and have those things come out and go, “You can see the arc of where they started now, which again, often took sometimes decades for them to get to a point of what we know them as now.” We need to do that. We need to go back and sometimes trace back the people we hold in high regard and see what their origins were and say, “They didn’t come out of the gate being this.”
You can feel the passion, the spirit, the rawness and the verve, but it was in often cases an unpolished stone. The coal hadn’t turned into a diamond yet. We can’t celebrate the diamonds. We’ve got to celebrate the coal too. With that Kate, I want to direct our readers to dive even deeper into your work. We mentioned your incredible book Burnout that I’m going to order because I want to chomp all into that book.
For you dear reader, if you are experiencing burnout, she has a wealth of knowledge and tools, and wisdom to share with you. I do mean it, Kate. I feel this has been so perfectly timed for me having these feelings that I have felt and not knowing where to go. I’m excited to dive even deeper into your book and your work so I can get new perspectives and tools so I can find my way back to some joy. Where I am going to start is singing to animals and keep singing to animals. I feel like I have lost that a little bit and I haven’t been singing to them, so you’ve given me so many great joyful reminders throughout this episode. It’s been wonderful having you here.
I am so appreciative to both of you and for spending some space and time with you. This has been a lot of fun for me.
Thank you so much!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Dr. Kate Steiner
- YouTube – This Might Get Uncomfortable
- The Work of Byron Katie
- Childhood 2.0
- Burnout: A Guide for Every Professional to Identify, Prepare, and Recover Your Joy
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
About Dr. Kate Steiner
Dr. Kate Steiner, is a Burnout Recovery Coach, and founder and CEO of LIFT Wellness Consulting. She supports her clients to recover from burnout through building a self-reflective plan that addresses all areas of wellness. Holding A Master of Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, her practice is grounded in the research-based Steiner Self-Reflective Sustainability and Wellness (SSRSW) model, published in the Oracle Research Journal. She has been a researcher in wellness and burnout for almost 20 years. Her work has been published in consumer outlets including, Authority Magazine and Thrive Global, as well as industry publications, Essentials, and Perspectives Magazine.
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