Have you experienced burnout in your profession or career? This week’s episode, the first in our new Productive Living series, features my conversation with physician and life coach Errin Weisman about how we can avoid and recover from career burnout.
Launching our new Productive Living series with a conversation about career burnout
Today I’m excited to launch our new-for-2021 Productive Living series. As I mentioned in last week’s episode, this’ll be a recurring series in which I talk with women with special expertise or insight or experience in various areas that are important to us as women wanting to make a life that matters. We’ll talk about topics relevant to health, relationships, money, mindset and self-care, homemaking and home management, and creativity and fun. This week we’ll be looking at the other topical area: career, as I share with you my conversation with physician and life coach Errin Weisman.
Overcoming burnout and finding purpose and joy
Errin Weisman, DO, is a life coach, speaker, and fierce advocate for wellness in medicine. She faced professional burnout early in her career and speaks openly about her story in order to help others, particularly female physicians and working moms, know they are not alone. Dr. Weisman wholeheartedly believes that in order to be a healer, you must first fill your own cup. She lives and practices in rural Southwestern Indiana and loves her roles as a farmer’s wife, athlete, and mother of three.
As a female physician who almost gave up medicine, Errin found herself in the pit of burnout in 2014. From the outside, it seemed like she had it all–a successful career, children, a new home–but internally she was numb. And she was ready to do whatever it took to feel better. She thought she had done everything right, so why did she feels so bad? She wondered if something was wrong with her. As she began her journey to wellness, she realized she wasn’t the only one feeling this way and decided she wanted to help others.
Initially, Errin was hesitant to see a mental health professional, although she knew it may help. One day she was looking up ways to spruce up her resume to possibly switch career fields when she came across an entrepreneurial coaching opportunity, offered by a fellow physician. After participating in this program and working through many issues, Errin realized how helpful this journey would be to other women too. From there, Errin acquired her own coaching training and started her business.
Symptoms of burnout in professional women
Even though everyone’s experience is different, there are some common threads to burnout that Errin has noticed, especially in Alpha females. At an early age, a lot of us were told we could be anything we wanted and have it all. What we weren’t told was that we can’t have it all at the same time.
We also might not have realized that the goals we have when we’re young might not be the same goals we have when we’re older. Things may change and look a bit different as you grow up and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to reconsider your goals and objectives.
Ways to recognize burnout in yourself and others
There are some tell-tale signs of burnout such as feeling exhausted or cynical, but Errin also says that feeling trapped, helpless, frustrated, or anxious can be a sign as well.
She also describes something she sees a lot called the “Walking Zombie Syndrome”, which could be when someone has no life in their eyes.
Or they may post about the “Sunday Scaries” on their social media. Since the Covid-19 pandemic of last year, Errin states that she has overheard people say that they hope they get quarantined, if only just for a break. Obviously, this could also a sign of burnout.
Errin says that perfectionism, which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, can also contribute to our burnout. Errin says that there are two kinds of perfectionism, adaptive and maladaptive. Perfectionism can be our superpower, but can also cause us to push ourselves too hard, believing we are the only ones who can do it right. Things can become very black and white and we paint ourselves into a corner-which is maladaptive. Instead, we need to allow others to help us instead-which is adaptive. Errin says to not view our shortcomings as failures, but use them as feedback for the next time.
It’s also important to learn self-compassion. We need to be kind to ourselves, allow ourselves to experience our emotions, and know that we can still be good at what we do. Errin recommends a book called Self-Compassion, by Kristen Neff, Ph.D., which talks about integrating self-compassion into our lives. This is crucial for high-achieving women. Experiencing burnout is something we are all susceptible to, no matter what our chosen field is. Being unkind to ourselves or having unrealistic expectations of ourselves can contribute to our burnout.
What can we do to “recover” from burnout?
Errin says that although we might think quitting our jobs is the answer, it will not fix our burnout. You might quit your job eventually, but not now.
Having an awareness of being burnt out is the first step on the journey to change.
The second step is to “choose your hard”. There are things we do every day that are hard, but choose to be the woman who perseveres, in spite of the hard, and commits to figuring out what’s going on inside and how to fix it. Intentionally choose your hard each day.
Next, gather your community around you. We are not meant to do things alone, which the pandemic has certainly brought to light, and it’s important for us to connect to others. Intentionally reach out and find people who align with you and understand your struggle. They say we become like the five people we spend the most time with. Instead of hanging around with Negative Nancy, find the movers and shakers, those who are committed to learning about their boundaries and perfectionism and how to best leverage it. Those are the people who will change your life.
Errin’s advice for women who want a joy-filled and sustainable career and family
Errin feels that for her, burnout was inevitable because she didn’t have a mentor or a supportive group of other women around her. But for those of us who are hearing this now and are becoming aware, she feels that it is possible to have an enjoyable and joy-filled life. Errin suggests we sit down a make a list of all the ways that you thought life was going to be. Then, look over the list and consider if everything on it still aligns with what is truly valuable to you.
Joy does not come from achievement. True joy is leaning in to our values, who and what we value, and give them precedence and priority.
Errin also recommends establishing boundaries in your work life in order to avoid burnout. Identify what you’re passionate about when it comes to your work, set boundaries around that (no more saying “yes” to everyone), and then trust yourself. When you start listening to your own intuition, you get some amazing messages. Errin has found that throughout her life, when something seemed wrong, it was actually right for her.
Resources and tools Errin recommends
To begin with, Errin knows she doesn’t have to do it all, and “NO” is a complete sentence. She recommends not filling your plate up too much and also learning the art of delegation.
Errin likes to use The Eisenhower Matrix, which is a model that asks two questions; Is this important and is this urgent?
- If you answer yes to both of these questions, do the task(s).
- If the task is important but not urgent, then schedule a time to get it done.
- If the task is urgent but not important, then delegate it. This could be anything from picking up groceries to doing a work task. Empower those around you to do these tasks and take them off your plate.
- If something is not important and not urgent, delete it!
Errin also thinks it’s important for women to confront their mom guilt, as this is something she has struggled with herself. There are so many things that we might feel we should be doing, or we are supposed to be doing, but those are all messages we have written in an invisible rule book in our heads, that we heard from other people or saw modeled. Errin encourages women to question these “rules” and determine how true they really are.
Also, it’s okay to ask for help for the things you don’t want to devote time to, such as housekeeping or running errands. Delegating these tasks is not a reflection of what kind of mom or wife you are.
What do you do to get back on track on a day when everything gets away from you?
Errin definitely has these days and say’s that even she, a burnout coach, can still get burnt out. This is #RealLife and things will come up from time to time.
On days when things are getting away from Errin, she gets out her calendar and reviews all the tasks she has for the day, and whether she has scheduled in time to sleep, rest, and rejuvenate. If she is not able to find any “white space” in her schedule, then she knows she has overdone things. To get back on track, she will remove tasks, or move things around, on her schedule, to give herself times to rest. She relies on her team to help with this.
When it comes to her family activities, she will speak with her husband and children about balancing the family schedule to determine which things are most important.
When Errin has days where she is at the end of her rope and completely burnt out, she will give herself a full 24 hours to feel all her feelings, but not react. She won’t respond to emails, attempt to solve problems, or get further stressed. Errin has found that when she is rushing to action trying to fix everything, she doesn’t have the time or space to process her feelings. She tries to have compassion for herself and remember that everyone feels this way sometimes.
Errin’s last words for the listener
Girlfriend, you are not alone. The things that you are dreaming are possible. Any thoughts or desires within you are valid.
Connect with Errin
- On LinkedIn
- On Facebook
- On Instagram
- The Burntout to Badass website
- On the Doctor Me First podcast
- On the Burntout to Badass podcast-coming in 2021
Resources and Links
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
Do you have questions for Errin or me? What are your biggest takeaways from our conversation? Please share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
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Royse City, Texas