Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Bounce Back from Burnout With Dr. Mary Sanders
[00:00:03] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 408 of Live Happy Now. Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a point of burnout that nobody else can fully understand? Well, today’s guest knows exactly what you’re going through and what to do about it. I’m your host Paula Felps. And today, I’m sitting down with Dr. Mary Sanders, who specializes in energetic healing with an emphasis on positive psychology.
Dr. Mary is on a mission to empower women over the age of 40 to bounce back physically, emotionally and energetically from the stresses of balancing work and life. Today, she talks with me about how burnout affects women? What warning signs we need to be aware of that indicate we might be burning out? On what steps we can take to reclaim ourselves from burnout?
Let’s take a listen.
[00:00:54] PF: Mary, thank you for joining me on Live Happy Now.
[00:00:58] Dr. MS: Thank you, Paula. It’s my honor, sincerely, to be a guest of yours. I am so looking forward to today’s conversation because I have a feeling that you and I are going to tap into some really interesting topics.
[00:01:10] PF: We are. And I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation too. Because, oh, my gosh, there’s so many things that you and I could talk about. And I guess that’s why you have a podcast because you have so many things that you can teach us.
But today, I really wanted to focus on the topic of burnout because that’s something that you address, something that you handle. And I know that burnout can mean different things to different people. So just make sure we’re on the same page, can you talk about the clinical definition when you are describing burnout?
[00:01:42] Dr. MS: Sure. Sure. It’s a great place to start. From a scientific perspective, I follow Maslach’s Burnout Inventory. And this researcher has done a phenomenal job breaking down burnout in into essentially three different categories. And the first category is what we are most familiar with, and that’s called emotional exhaustion.
You hear people – you hear women specifically saying, “I’m so tired of being tired. I am just – I feel like I have no get up and go.” That’s the physical exhaustion. The second component to burnout, clinically speaking, is cynicism, where somebody is experiencing a distrusting feeling. Or they’re, overall, just feeling really pessimistic about what is happening within the traditional work environment. That’s another category for burnout.
Then the last category is all of revolving around the professional efficacy. And what I mean by that, Paula, is are the women working for organizations in which they feel valued for their skills, and their strengths and how they contribute to the overall success of the corporation?
When you look at this – and I know, Paula, there are many, many listeners that are saying, “Yeah, but I’m not in the corporate world. How can I still experience burnout?” You absolutely can. Ladies, we are the primary caretakers of our entire families, whether that’d be our aging parents, or whether that be our children, or our spouses. It is very easy to experience burnout on a personal level as well as professionally. But characteristically, people identify burnout as being something related to the work environment.
Those three categories that I just talked about can be measured independently. Meaning that you can be experiencing the physical signs where somebody is completely exhausted. They have reoccurring illnesses. Their central nervous system is not firing up. Their immune system is compromised. Maybe they’re experiencing blood sugar issues. All of those physical symptoms are associated with the first category, being the physical exhaustion.
When you take the survey, if you’re reading high within this one category, then we know how to address those issues. We know to bring it right back to the physical body.
You may be a person who is rating really high on the cynicism and the pessimism. And so, then maybe we need to be working on the mindset. Maybe it’s something that we need to be working on finding more pleasure, joy and happiness within your life to decrease the level of pessimism that you’re carrying on a daily basis. Then that’s another category.
Third category is the professional efficacy. If we know that somebody’s reading really high or really low within this category, then maybe we’re addressing, “Hey, if you don’t feel valued as a team member, maybe we just need to find a different department within our organization that you align with. Maybe we need to find you a different team in which you feel like you can show up in your strength N.” That’s why I always use the Maslach Inventory to kind of get a baseline, “Where are you? How can we be of assistance?”
[00:05:07] PF: That’s important. Because I think a lot of times when we feel burned out, we don’t even have the skills to say in what area I feel burned out. It’s exhausting. And if you’re burned out at work, it’s pretty impossible to be there for your family. It’s just this big overall feeling. Can you talk about how big, how prevalent a problem burnout is right now? And have you seen it since the pandemic? How has it changed?
[00:05:31] Dr. MS: Huge, Paula. Huge. Right now, with the pandemic and going through what we’re calling globally the great resignation, people are now awake. They’re saying, “Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Time out. Time out. You mean I don’t have to do a nine-to-five job every day? You mean I don’t have to do my commute every day? You mean I don’t have to do face-to-face engagements anymore? Plus, I didn’t really like that. Maybe I want to do something different with my life of all.” Because there’s a greater purpose that they want to align with.
Absolutely. The trend right now is that over 50 – and again, depending upon the statistics that you look at, 50% to 60% of people at this given point in time are going to say, “Yep, I feel like I am burnt out on some level.” And if they’re not currently in that position, they can honestly say, “You know what? I resonate with that because I have been through burnout.”
And Paula, when I went through burnout – and, again, my greatest – the peak of my burnout was 15 years ago. And I’ll be honest with you. I was so embarrassed that I was experiencing burnout that I didn’t want to share it with anyone.
[00:06:42] PF: You have an interesting story. Let’s talk a little bit. I was remiss in not asking sooner. This is something you know firsthand. Tell us your journey into burnout and why you’re so passionate about helping others with it.
[00:06:55] Dr. MS: Yeah. And you know what, Paula? I’ll share my story for the sake of it being received in a light that I have learned a lot of information from going through this life experience. I do believe that we have divine timing. And I do believe that I received these lessons at the time that I did in my professional career in order to really motivate me to shift and to pivot.
I’m going to share the story. And goodness gracious. I was a practicing chiropractor. And to make a long story short, I had a large practice, a central practice. And then I also had a satellite office. I was managing not only my current patient load. I was also managing various different doctors and a big staff.
I went into chiropractic because I knew that I wanted to have my hands-on people. I believed in the healing modality of the physical adjustment. I believe that the body had the innate ability to heal itself. And because I had such a strong philosophy, and a good set of hands and a lot of perseverance and resilience, I created a successful practice.
It looked beautiful on the outside. Aesthetically, it was gorgeous. But what was happening underneath the surface that people didn’t realize is that I was thinking miserable. I was so unhappy. I literally put myself in a complete adrenal exhaustion.
The one thing that I I did for my stress management at that time was exercise. I could no longer exercise. What I could do was wake up. I could get down to my office. Treat the number of patients that I had for that day. Come home and fall asleep. That’s all the energy that I had. And that’s not a life. There was no work-life balance. There was no vitality. There was no spark in my world. It was really dull.
And so, I used food. I used alcohol. I used sleep. I used all the coping mechanisms of avoidance. I withdrew from my family and my friends. I isolated myself even more. And I know this doesn’t paint a pretty picture. But that was my world.
And my husband sat me down, and I was notorious for starting a conversation over the dinner table and then forgetting that I was having a conversation and stop and just like space out for a moment because I couldn’t really complete a sentence, complete a complete thought.
And he looked at me and he was like, “Mary, how long are you going to do this?” And I’m like, “What do you mean how long am I going to do this?” And he’s like, “Well, if you don’t make a change, you’re physically going to go down a downward spiral. You’re going to get worse. You’re going to create some kind of a life-threatening illness. If adrenal exhaustion is not enough for you, then the universe is going to create something more.” And he’s like, “Furthermore, I don’t know if our relationship is going to survive.”
And so, I was like, “Okay, you have my attention. I’m listening. What do I need to do?” And he said, “I have a question for you.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “Do you think that you could leave all of this?” I’m like, “What? What do you mean leave it?” And he’s like, “Do you think that we could leave everything that we have created and move to the other side of the world?” And I said, “Oh, no. No. No, that’s not happening.” Because, I mean, really, I have put all of my blood, sweat and equity into growing this practice. I was miserable but I didn’t want to leave it, right?
Time passed and my husband acquired a position in Ho Chi Minh City and he says, “Are you on board?” And I said, “Okay.” We sold the practices. We sold the home. We sold everything that we had. And I ended up on the other – waking up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on the other side of the world, wondering, “Paula, who am I? What am I here to do? What’s my purpose in life?” And I went through these huge identity crises and tremendous amount of depression. I did what any logical person would do. I ran away from my husband in Ho Chi Minh City and I ran down to Bali, Indonesia and I finished up my yoga teacher certification.
[00:11:04] PF: Oh, that’s fantastic.
[00:11:05] Dr. MS: I know. I know. But for the first time, Paula, I was able to think for the first time in my life. I had time on my hand. I learned to meditate. And let me tell you something, I was like, “Wow. Wow. Let me wrap my head around this.” I know the human body incredibly well from the neck on down.
Obviously, as a chiropractor, I was very familiar with the neurology. And then I’m like, “Okay, something really magical is happening with the space between my ears, the space within my head. What’s happening mentally as the result of doing meditation?”
The curiosity got the best of me, and that’s when I went and studied with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar because I wanted –
[00:11:47] PF: We love him.
[00:11:47] Dr. MS: Yeah, I know. And he has such a beautiful way of just breaking down the neuroscience behind meditation. Now I had the experience of what meditation was doing. And then I also had the intellectual knowledge.
And so, then, as fate had it at that time, my husband and I decided to create a non-profit organization in order to support teachers and the tools of positive psychology so that they can embody them and role model them into the classroom.
We left Ho Chi Minh City. Went to Bogota, Colombia. And that non-profit organization went gangbusters. We thought we were producing a product for the United States. And then, once again, I’m finding myself in kind of a stressful situation. How fast can I produce? As fast as I was producing, it was being translated into Spanish and then it would put into the classrooms in not only Colombia, but in Peru as well.
I was like, “Okay. Okay. Okay. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Let me wrap my head around this.” So then, I’m now running the same neurological pattern that I was running when I was in my business. I haven’t learned a darn thing. Even though I’m meditating and taking good care of myself, something’s happening here energetically.
We left our Bogota, Colombia. Went to Bali, Indonesia and spent a year. And it was kind of a sabbatical. And so, again, here I am doing yoga and meditating every day, eating vegan. I was just really just wanted to clean up and I wanted to get online energetically. And then that’s when I started my training at the Academy of Intuition Medicine. I was like, “Okay. Well, I got the body. I got the mind. And now I need to understand the energetics.”
And so, here we are combined now – Paula, I literally could not have planned the sequence of events that I just outlined for you. It had to happen because I had to go through burnout and I had to blow up my world in order to hit rock bottom in order to come out in a full holistic 360 perspective as to how the human body and the spirit operates as one.
[00:13:57] PF: What happens to women who don’t have the resources you do? Who don’t have a husband that pulls him out and says, “Hey, you’ve got to save yourself?” What do you see when women – we’ll just use women because I know they seem to be more prone to burnout. What do you see with the women who come to your practice who are just past what you had gone through?
[00:14:20] Dr. MS: I believe that every woman that is listening to this audio right now, this beautiful podcast, who is somewhat aligned with the idea of burnout. Chances are there’s a high probability. I’m talking about 90%, 95%, 98% of these women have received signals.
[00:14:38] PF: Do we recognize those signs?
[00:14:40] Dr. MS: Yeah. And I can talk about these signs. And that was the second part of your question. And I alluded to some of the physical signs. We know that you can literally have a hormonal shift within your body physically as the result of long-term stress. And that comes from the adrenal glands, which are small little glands that sit on top of the kidneys. And the adrenal glands are responsible for producing – when you really truly are in a fight or flight demand, they are responsible for producing epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, DHEA to name a few.
And when we are under long-term chronic stress, those hormones create – they get produced on a continuous basis and they create what is called a negative feedback cycle that travels through the entire endocrine system. And the endocrine system is essentially the system that governs all of the hormones that you produce. I’m talking about serotonin and melatonin. How are you sleeping? You know?
[00:15:50] PF: Yeah, because that’s one of the first things people lose, right? I know so many women who say, “I cannot get to sleep. I’m exhausted. And I go to bed and I cannot sleep.”
[00:15:59] Dr. MS: Or they pass out before their head hits the pillow, right? And then three o’clock in the morning, like clockwork, they wake up possibly due to a sugar burn off from the wine that they drank the night before or some kind of sugar imbalance.
I believe that the hormones and the physical body talk to us in beautiful and mysterious ways. Maybe their metabolism slows down because their thyroid is not working. Maybe they’re starting to feel sluggish and that they’re having weight gain. Maybe the pancreas is out of balance and they’re starting to see blood sugar issues. Maybe the hormones that they’re producing – and it’s a precarious time for women as they are going through perimenopause, and menopause and post-menopause. But you add those changes hormonally and couple it with the chronic stress, then you’re really feeling a little whack-a-doodle, Paula. Just your body talks to you in so many beautiful ways. And those are the signs and the symptoms that I’m inviting the women listening to really pay attention to.
[00:17:06] PF: Isn’t it often the case you might go to your doctor and they say, “Well, it is just hormones.” Because that often happen. Women, they’re not being listened to by their doctors. They’re told, “Well, it’s just hormonal. You can’t really do anything about it.” Or they give them a prescription for something that’s going to help them sleep or help them not be depressed. And then they’re sent on their way.
[00:17:26] Dr. MS: We live in a society, Paula, that we have been taught from our mother’s generation that when we go to a physician, that they are empowered to tell us what to do and they are empowered to tell us what’s happening within our body.
And I’m here to say that, I’m sorry, there’s no other physician that lives outside of your body that can possibly feel as to what’s going on in internally for you. Really, the power needed to be given back to the women to be able to understand that there needs to be an integrative approach.
Very rarely is a low back pain just a low back pain. There’s going to be a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, chemical foundation to that low back pain. And very few physicians have the knowledge skill set to treat from an integrative standpoint nor do they have the time.
I really encourage women to take that power back and to really say, “Timeout. Timeout. I know that my weight gain could be hormonal. Yes, I think that there is a chemical portion to the hormones. But I’m telling you that I live in my body and these are other symptoms that I’m experiencing simultaneously. And, oh, by the way, do you have a referral for a good psychotherapist? Or do you have a referral for a good nutritionist or somebody that can talk about the elements of food?”
I believe that we as women got to really empower ourselves. I keep coming back to that word empowerment. When we are, unfortunately – and I’m going to go into another branch of what possibly might be showing up as signs and symptoms for women. And maybe you might understand a little bit more clearly why the challenges for women to advocate for themselves, is that when somebody is going through a burnout, I don’t care if it’s professional or personal, it really messes with their sense of self-worth.
[00:19:26] PF: Nobody brings that up.
[00:19:28] Dr. MS: Oh, my goodness. Self-worth, there’s a component of learned helplessness. Thank you, Dr. Seligman, for educating us on learned helplessness. There is a lack of motivation. People just energetically and emotionally just feel flatlined. Okay?
And this creates a trigger, an emotional trigger, which is very similar to a trauma response within the body. All of this, neurologically speaking, there’s an imbalance as to the get up and go kind of sympathetic dominance. And then there’s a lack of function within the parasympathetics to auto-regulate the central nervous system from the emotional standpoint.
We absolutely are not thinking clearly. And now here I am saying we need to be empowered to ask for what it is that we need. It’s hard to do that if you’re not thinking clearly. Behaviorally, you’re like isolating yourself. You’re withdrawing yourself. You’re not reaching out to your girlfriends and your support team. You don’t have your cheer squad on your side. I see how it happens. I understand and I have so much empathy for people that are going through burnout.
[00:20:44] PF: And you take an integrative approach. And we’re going to talk about that in a second. Before we do it, what is someone to do when they know intrinsically there is so much more going on? And they go to a doctor and the doctor says, “It’s just you’re stressed. Or it’s emotional. Or it’s hormones.” Where do they then go?
[00:21:01] Dr. MS: Yeah, that’s a legitimate question. Quite honestly, Paula, that’s why I have created my signature program. Because there are very few people that are truly taking an integrative approach. And I believe, and I know and I’m thankful that there are integrative physicians that can address the bulk of the problems. But most of the integrative physicians are not taking in the energetic and the spiritual component.
I do think that there are people that can help serve, support and help facilitate the healing journey. But from my perspective it really does require an integrative approach.
[00:21:37] PF: Yeah. Tell us what you mean by an integrative approach and then what that looks like?
[00:21:44] Dr. MS: Yeah. In my world, an integrative approach is incorporating the mind, the body and the spirit. When I’m talking about the mind, I’m talking about mindset behavioral and conditions, limiting belief patterns, tapping into the subconscious through meditation. That is the mind.
The body, we’re all very familiar with the body. And so, sometimes that’s the chemical component of the body. Is it something structural that is happening? Oftentimes, I have women go through a functional blood chemistry analysis. From a functional standpoint, we look at the biomarkers, we look at the indicators and we look and compare highs, and lows, and medians and average. And then we compare whether it’d be three months, or six months, or year down the road. And then we look at your pre and post blood markers to see where normal is for you.
[00:22:46] PF: Yeah, it’s so important to point out. It is. Each person is different. And you have to find out what’s right for you.
[00:22:52] Dr. MS: Long gone are the days where medicine is cookie cutter. I believe that the next evolution of medicine, literally from the integrative standpoint, is to transition into energy medicine. The energy medicine that I’m alluding to takes into consideration that, within all of us, there is an electromagnetic current. And surrounding our physical body is also an electromagnetic current. And we’re going to call that the subtle energetic body. It’s known to some people as the aura or is known to others as the bio field.
And so, essentially, this energy that surrounds this is like the layers of the onion. It’s intended to be protective. Protective of the energy that come at us within our environment. I mean, energetically, we have so much information coming at us at all times, it’s hard to live in a dense boundary type of way to reflect all of these energies either way. I’m talking about 5G energies. I’m talking about energies from other people. I’m talking about frequencies, X-ray frequencies. You name it, those energies are coming into our bio field once it enters into our bio field. Depending upon the direction, it will enter into an energy center, also known as a chakra, within our energy body.
And these chakras have themes. They have life themes. They have emotional themes. They have nerve plexuses that are associated with them. They also have an endocrine gland that is associated with them. You can see where, energetically, if we’re not protecting the field coming into our physical body, it then can turn into an emotional disturbance, or a physical disturbance, or an endocrine disturbance.
That integrative approach, the mind, body and spirit gets to address all three of those systems simultaneously. And to provide you, the consumer, with the tools, the resources so that you can empower yourself to do your own personal healing. You start to look inward for support instead of outward.
[00:25:20] PF: That’s so powerful because that’s not a prescription you’re going to get from your doctor. And you are just really big proponent of meditation. You talked about that earlier. How big a role does meditation play in all of those things, in the mind, the body, all of it?
[00:25:36] Dr. MS: Paula, I can almost feel some of the ladies listening to the podcast cringe. I can feel their toes curl, “There’s that meditation. That word meditation. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work for me. I simply just cannot relax my mind. I have too much going on in my world. How can I possibly take the time to meditate?”
And I am an advocate. I do believe in a formal sitting practice. But I also believe that mindfulness can be bought into various different daily tasks, such as washing your dishes at night, loading your dishwasher, making your bed, or gardening, or taking the dog out for a walk.
I’m not saying that those activities are not grounding. But what I’m looking to do in meditation is to shift the various different brain waves so that you can then start to access the subconscious. So that you can leave the space of the ego and transcend into the place where the ego does not exist.
Because I believe, Paula, that as women, as human living or spirits living in a human body, I believe that all of us have the capacity to receive information above and beyond our traditional five senses. Information that is valuable to our own personal healing. And meditation opens up those channels for receiving information.
[00:27:01] PF: And then once we start receiving that information, we’re going to act on it, how does it start changing the way we look at life? Changing the decisions we make? Tell us that bridge between I’m burned out, and I started meditating and now things are clear. What is that link that takes us there?
[00:27:21] Dr. MS: Sure. Well, first and foremost, I’m going to openly admit that just because you’re burned out and you start meditating doesn’t mean that there’s going to be an overnight shift. It’s not a quick pill. It’s not a pill. It’s not a quick fix. This is something that takes time, and repetition and commitment to really see the benefits.
But in my own personal experience, I started meditating receiving information intuitively. I didn’t trust it. I still didn’t trust the information. I just kind of ignored it. You ignore it once. Yeah, yeah. You ignore it twice, oh, maybe there’s something to this. You ignore it the third time and you’re like, “What am I doing? I clearly am receiving signals about what path, or direction, or decisions I should be making. And I’m not even following the own internal advice and wisdom that’s coming from within.” I think that most women have to go through that distrust period before they completely can surrender.
And what I have heard over and over, Paula, is women saying, Oh, my God, Mary, you wouldn’t believe it. I have boundaries now. I feel full of myself. And not from a really standoff-ish place. I’m coming from it from a really heart-centered, heartfelt way.”
It’s like these transitions that women are learning to say, “No. No. Thank you. Let me think about. It I’ll get back to you. I’ll circle back with you.” Once women can understand that they have this power, this life force energy surging through their physical body and their energetic body, they blossom. Blossom into something magnificent.
[00:29:03] PF: If women are listening to this and they’re saying, “Okay, I know I’m burned out. This all makes sense. But I don’t know where to start.” Where do they start? I know you offer some great resources on your site. You’ve got a wonderful podcast that people can tune in and listen to. But what is the next step? After listening to our conversation today, what is their next step?
[00:29:23] Dr. MS: Ask for help.
[00:29:25] PF: And who do you ask?
[00:29:26] Dr. MS: Well, I would love to be a resource. I would be honored to be a resource. If I find that I am not the right match or intuitively that the woman is like, “Okay, you’re nice. But you’re not giving me exactly what I need.” Then I’m going to help find that person that provides you with exactly what you need.
One of the things that I really do enjoy about being a podcast host in the field of energy medicine is that it is developing and widening of my referral base. I’ve got a lot of cool friends and a lot of cool places.
[00:29:59] PF: That’s terrific. As we wrap up today, what is the one thing that you hope everybody that hears you today will take away from our conversation?
[00:30:08] Dr. MS: I really want people to embrace the fact that they’re not alone. And that there are people that are experiencing burnout all – it can be a different facet of burnout. But they’re not alone. That nothing is permanent. And it that if you are experiencing burnout, whether it’d be depression, anxiety, physical discomfort, know that all of those symptoms are transient. They too shall pass.
[00:30:35] PF: That’s excellent. I thank you so much for being with me today. We could talk for hours. But I appreciate this conversation and everything that you’re doing to help get us through these phases and these difficult times in our lives.
[00:30:47] Dr. MS: Thank you again, Paula. Sincerely, it is my honor to be here today. Thank you, listeners.
[00:30:57] PF: That was Dr. Mary Sanders, talking about how women can manage burnout. If you’d like to learn more about Mary, download her free Boost Your Energy Guide, listen to our podcast or learn more about what tools she offers, just visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast link.
And just a reminder that the International Day of Happiness is just around the corner and we would love you to celebrate it with us. You can do that by hosting a happiness wall in your home, office, church or school on March 20th. And if you’d like to learn more, just visit our website, that’s livehappy.com, and click on the happy X tab.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all new episode. And until then, this is Paula Felps reminding you to make every day a happy one.