PODCAST 07: Stop Over-Efforting: an Interview with Cait Donovan

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You can find the From Hustle to Hell Yes podcast on:
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and pretty much anywhere you listen! Audio files and show notes are also accessible by clicking below.


Podcast Links and Resources:

Find Cait Donovan online at her website: https://www.caitdonovan.com

Cait’s podcast - Fried: The Burnout Podcast: https://www.friedtheburnoutpodcast.com

We didn’t talk about resources for marginalized folx specifically in the recording, but I think it’s important to share about one organization in particular that is doing great work: BEAM https://www.beam.community. BEAM is a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities. Check them out for help or to donate to the work they do.

 

Podcast Transcript:

Emily Carter  Y’all welcome to From Hustle to Hell Yes! This is the very FIRST interview I’m hosting here and I’m thrilled that it’s with Cait Donovan. Cait is a burnout expert - and when I say expert, I mean that she is the #1 go to source for information on burnout and recovery from burnout. She’s the author of THE BOUNCEBACKABILITY FACTOR, host of FRIED: the burnout podcast, and highly sought-after speaker 

On everything from Healing Burnout to Building Boundaries to the Internal and External Causes of Burnout and How To Address them… 

When Cait says that I was enthusiastic about hosting her on this podcast, it’s probably an understatement. I’m so thrilled to share this conversation with you.

Listen up as we dive RIGHT into identifying burnout, what brought Cait to this work on burnout recovery, and we explore how entrepreneurs are prone to burnout because of the situations that are SO PREVALENT in running a business But we don’t stop there – this episode is so full of excellent information. You can’t see me nodding, because this  is podcast, but I’m nodding my head in agreement so much during our conversation! 

I hope you take away as many amazing insights as I did!

(PAUSE)

You know, there's so much that the World Health Organization has pointed to in terms of burnout is a thing, and this is how to recognize it. But there's still no process in place. We recognize that it's a problem, and we can even talk about it to a certain degree, but there's still no process for once you identify it, what do you do now? And so all of these people are walking around thinking like, "I have to take a three month long retreat to get rid of my burnout," right? W ell, that's what it feels like. 

Cait Donovan  Yeah. And I don't even think that the World Health Organization has done. I mean, I think it's done... I won't say the word enough, because it's done as much as it can based on the information that we currently have. Yeah, but we still can't identify it. We can't identify it. We don't have markers for it. Because it is a system wide problem wide, body wide, physical and mental and emotional issue.


Emily Carter  Yeah, it's the whole person, and that's what makes it so complex. And why it manifests so differently in people. 


Cait Donovan  So like, even if you go to so if we were going to make it a mental health issue, it would end up in the DSM right in this gigantic book that tells us this is what's wrong with you when you are outside of the norm, which we can have a discussion at another time about how ridiculous that is... however, there's the symptoms of burnout fall into so many different, there's anxiety, and there's depression. And there's, you know, like there's all these other pieces to it that, if you look up depression, there's this list of symptoms, and you're supposed to be able to check off a certain amount of them to be able to say, this person has depression. So here it matches all of these symptoms. But to have that for burnout.

 

Emily Carter  I mean, it would be such a long list, hundreds of symptoms...


Cait Donovan  Yes, I have hundreds and hundreds of health intake forms. So when people book a free call with me, I have them do a full Chinese medicine health intake, which basically means I'm asking you about everything from like, how much you poop, and how many coffees you drink? What is your period blood look like? I'm really asking you everything you've never told anyone. And I would say that 95% of people have neck and shoulder tension. Right, as the people that fill out this form, 95% of them have no neck and shoulder tension. But neck and shoulder tension isn't part of a diagnosis. It should be in this circumstance. Yeah, about 50 to 60% of people have headaches or migraines. About 80% of people have foggy headedness, cloudy thinking and either lightheadedness or heavy headedness, just sort of a the more head symptoms you have, the likelier it's burnout. The memory and the pain and the all the different things in your head. But nobody's talking about that. I think I'm the only person that has these.

 

Emily Carter  Well, and that brings me to why you're here today.


Cait Donovan  Yeah.

 

Emily Carter  Cait, I am so excited that we're on this call today. I have been following your work for a long time now, I think. At least it feels like a long time - I picked up on your podcast right away. Right when you started Fried. And I have just loved everything that you do and the way that you talk about it. And so I'm just so so excited. Welcome to From Hustle to Hell Yes. We are going to dig into this problem. 

 

Cait Donovan  Thank you so much for having me. You wrote the most enthusiastic invitation to a podcast that I have ever gotten. And it was impossible to say no to. 


Emily Carter  Yes! Winning at podcasting! Yes. So good. So welcome. I just want to ask, I want to start out, because not everyone that listens is going to be familiar with you and your work, and I want to ask, you know, right off the bat, how'd you get here? You know, how did you come to be addressing burnout? 

 

Cait Donovan  Yeah, so the easy answer is I burned out, I burned out hard. I stayed there for too long. And recovery was messy. because there wasn't me. There was no such thing as a burnout coach, when I burnt out, and there's plenty of them now, which thank God because they're all needed. Like, I can't treat all the people I can't you know, I can't work with all the people. So I'm really glad that there's a range of people that are some people are focused on somatic processing, and some people are focused on functional medicine and some people are focused on nutrition. It's great. I love it. I'm into it. I'm Hear for it. But when I started, it was... there was nothing, there was nothing. And at the time my husband was studying doing a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, in the UK, we were living in Prague, and he was traveling back and forth. But it meant that I had access to university libraries. Which, if you've ever tried to look up research as a person who enjoys research, and you don't have access to them, you know that you're paying for every damn article, and it gets real expensive, real fast. So I was really lucky to have access to all of these things. So I downloaded everything, and I went through it for about a year and I kept being disappointed because I kept not finding myself. And I was already a stress management expert, as an acupuncturist as a specialist in Chinese medicine. You are a stress management expert by nature, because all we do is study how different stressors affect the body. That's all we do. And I'd been doing it for years, I started my studies in 2003. I got my masters in 2007, I had been practicing for over a decade. And here, I was, like, Oh, I feel broken. (You can read more about Cait's story here: https://caitdonovan.mykajabi.com/about-cait)

 

Emily Carter  And that's what it feels like, because you really just hit a wall. And suddenly, it's like, I just don't even know what to do with anything, any of this stuff. And I think a lot more of us can relate to that story. Now, we've just been through a really stressful year, all of us together, and so I think there's a little bit more awareness around what this can actually feel like. I'm also so grateful that there's so many people out there, bringing this awareness to us, right, and making sure that there's resources for us who need them. So I don't know if you've, if you've run into this in your work, but with what I do, I run into so many people who they just don't really understand what burnout really is they equate it to exhaustion. So you'll hear people say, Oh, I'm so burnt out. But what they really mean is, I'm just real tired. You know. And and I think that that's one way that burnout manifests, right? It's definitely there's definitely an element of exhaustion there. But it's also so much more than that. And there are so many more signs to look for. And would you go ahead and share your definition of burnout? And a few of maybe the sneaky ways that it can manifest for us.

 

Cait Donovan  Yeah. So I stick to the research definition. To start always, because I think that there's a lot of people talking about burnout right now. And a lot of them are making a lot of mistakes. There's a lot of people talking about burnout who have not been there, and they're giving real terrible advice. So I try to really avoid just going right into what I think and I start "Okay, well, let's start with the research." Let's be clear on what the World Health Organization and research done by Christina Maslach and her team, what it says it says that burnout is number one physical and emotional exhaustion, which means everything, pretty much any other any in any way that your body is physically tired, and in any way that your emotional bandwidth is used up. That's part of burnout. But there are two other sections. And all three of these things have to be seen at the same time for burnout to be the diagnosis. So the first one is physical and emotional exhaustion. The second one is cynicism and feelings of disconnect. So you start to be I call this your internal Negative Nancy, you start to be real negative, you're real cynical, you don't feel connected to other people, we can explain why in a minute. There's brain physiology that explains why this is true. And there's this just idea that you're alone. And nothing is real important. And everything is crappy, and nobody's helping you. Disaster, right. So that's number two. And number three, feeling that the work that you do is not impactful. Or that no matter what you have accomplished, you are not an accomplished person. So you don't have any recognition of your impact. And it doesn't matter what you do, everybody has impact on this world. And at the time that I was burning out, I was working with fertility. So I was using acupuncture and Chinese medicine to help people have babies. I helped hundreds of couples create families. This should be real important. And I dgaf at all, I didn't care. People were like I'm pregnant. I was like, Oh, thank god, there's gonna be space for a new patient because I had a waiting list. And I was exhausted. And it was just like, I don't have... good, great... It was like it was just a checkmark. I didn't feel it's importance. They felt it's importance. And I was just like, "Great. You're pregnant. Go." That's awful.

 

Emily Carter  It even sounds draining as you're talking about I can like I can, like I can revisit my own burnout and be like, oh yeah. I remember exactly how that feels where it's like, you'll have people come up to you and say, "Oh my God, thank you so much for that, it is exactly what I needed. You just changed everything for me." You're like, "okay, cool..." Whatever you hear, you know, and it's you and everybody else. Which is wild to think about now, because now I think about receiving feedback like that. And I'm like, Yes, let's go party.

 

Cait Donovan  I cry when people review my podcast. I cry. Because I'm so happy. And I was helping people have babies that had been trying for sometimes 7, 8, 9 years. And we would get through the sort of dangerous part, they'd be in week 13, 14. They'd be getting results back that everything is okay. And I would be relieved for them. I could see their joy. I just didn't engage in it. I didn't feel it myself.

Emily Carter  Yeah. And there's, there's that disconnect, right? There's that disconnection. So you can't even be with them. Even though you don't feel like you're connected to your impact. You can't even feel it with them despite that, right? So there's that isolation piece. And just being so tired being a level of tired, where you just can't care about any anything at all, right? So now that we have a good sense of, really, clinically, what burnout is, you know, you brought out something really interesting. You were just talking about isolation. And the first thing that popped into my mind was every client that I work with talks about isolation to some degree. They talk about how they're doing this on their own. When I do group work with folks, were in a group, because it helps with that isolation, right? So entrepreneurs are prone to experiencing all of the things that you just talked about, I mean, it's pretty much a perfect storm, right? Because they are going to get emotionally and physically exhausted, that's the nature of starting a business, especially in those first five years. They're gonna feel isolated, because they maybe went from a situation where they had colleagues to a situation where they don't. And then feeling disconnected from what it is that you're doing... So it can be really hard to recognize the impact that you're having, and this is why it's so important for for entrepreneurs particularly to be aware of how burnout manifests and what it really looks like. And so, when we're experiencing that as, as entrepreneurs, it's actually a bit different than than working in that corporate gig. And I want to talk a lot more about why it's different. And, and just kind of dig into that a little bit.

 

Cait Donovan  Yeah, so this is a big thing, because when you look at all the research, all of the research is about corporations and hospitals. Those were the places where people could do these studies, a lot of them are done in the 70s in the 80s. And that's what they had access to. And that's what they used. And that's where they were seeing it. Doctors are the original burnout research subjects. So we have this set of "mismatches," they call them, that lead to burnout in a corporate setting. So the first one is unmanageable workload, right? So people are giving you more work than you can handle. Okay, but as an entrepreneur, that's your choice. Right? Right. Yeah. And sometimes within a company, that's also your choice, because you're not putting up the right boundaries, or whatever. But sometimes it's that three people quit and the work needs to get done and what are you supposed to do? But as an entrepreneur, if you're taking on more than you actually have the capacity to do then, either your business structure is off, or you have a fear mindset around money, or you know, there's all these extra things that could be going on, that make you take on all of this extra stuff. I run into this as an entrepreneur myself still and I use resentment to guide me. As soon as I start feeling resentment, I start pulling out and say, "Okay, I don't need to be doing that." But I just stopped and you know, I just started a new schooling program, going to school full time all over again at night. You know, at 39 years old. I'm starting school again. And I love the school, but it made me really have to adjust what I was doing this week alone. I said no, to 10 different connections, people for coffee chats, getting on a podcast, I got asked to join three different summits this week. I can't do things for free right now, you guys, I don't have the time to do things for free right now. Unless you are ready to pay my fee, I can't do it. But for the past few years, I've been saying yes. So it's okay that people are asking. And what happens when you're burnt out is you're so frustrated that you get real annoyed that people are asking, right? You're like, Oh, don't you know how busy I am? Like, don't you know how overwhelmed I am? No, people don't know. And it's not their business, you have to be able to say yes or no. So the first thing is the workload. Another thing is a values mismatch. So either your values, and the company's values are not matched up, or the company's spoken values and acted values are different. So the company is saying that they're doing this thing, but then they're acting a different way. And you're confused, because you're not getting clear messaging. So as an employee, this is why you burn out. As an entrepreneur, when you are making decisions that are not in alignment with your own values, you're screwing yourself.

Emily Carter  Oh, yes, this is something I talk about all the time. If there is such a thing as an easy button in business, it's figuring out your core values and weaving that into every single thing that you do. It gets rid of so many decisions that you will toss and turn over. You know, it's just, I can't talk about using them enough, because seriously, it just like, "Boom!" Hit that easy button already.

 

Cait Donovan  And the research tells us that that's a burnout factor. Yeah, it's clear in the research that that is a burnout factor. Another one of the factors is lack of praise and recognition. So this is a big sticking point for a lot of people. Because especially in the coaching world, there's this sort of idea that coaching slash self help slash personal growth world, there's this idea that you should be able to, like, create your self worth internally and only feel it based on what you think about yourself and No, honey. No, we need external validation. But it's not the only thing we need, we need to meet external validation with acceptance of what we're hearing appreciation for what we're hearing, right? But but it needs to exist. And you don't need to have it all day every day. But you do need to have it. So when you're collecting testimonials, you really need to really, really, really, really read them and feel that when somebody writes, that's why I said I cry when people leave me podcast reviews, because some of them I'm like, "Oh my God, this just changed your life. That's incredible." Yeah, that's magic. This thing that I already created, that already happened, that I didn't even give to you directly that I created and threw up on a cloud somewhere... it just changed your life. When you get a review like that, when you get feedback from a client, when you read something that makes your heart sing, you better stop and take a minute and feel that because it is a burnout prevention factor. You need to have praise and recognition for your work. You must.

Emily Carter  And you have to take that and then you kind of have to internalize it for yourself, it's a two step process. 

Cait Donovan  So the next things that come up on the list of corporate work and hospital work is, you know, not getting paid enough, and getting enough compensation. So if that's happening as an entrepreneur, guess what needs to happen? If you're not charging enough for your services, and you don't feel safe financially, which most of the time as an entrepreneur, you don't feel safe financially.

Emily Carter  Yeah. And it's, it's one of the reasons why I focus on folks in those first five years, because once you make the leap, from leaving your day job, to going full time into entrepreneurship, you bump up against so much crap that you didn't even know was rolling around in you, right? Because suddenly, you've lost the security blanket. Right? And you don't realize while you still have it, how comfortable that blanket was making you feel with all of this other stuff. So that is such a huge piece of entrepreneurship that we kind of forget about. Really core piece about like, What does safety feel like in your business, right? 

Cait Donovan  Ask that again. 

Emily Carter  Oh, yeah. Listen, feeling safe is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves and cultivating that internally as entrepreneurs. What makes you feel safe in your business? Really knowing that and identifying that. And speaking to that in your business first.

Cait Donovan  Yeah, well, this is another one of the things that leads to burnout. Right? So if we're looking at a corporation or something, we're talking, we're thinking about diversity and inclusion, we're thinking about, you know, being thoughtful about different people, we're thinking about all of that. But as an entrepreneur, you have to create your own feelings of safety. That means silly things - like if you're still working at the kitchen table, and you don't feel good in there, you need a desk. Having a desk made me feel safer, because it meant that my business was more real.

Emily Carter  It meant you've made it right. You have your own space. You're a professional now, right? 

Cait Donovan  Yes, absolutely. 

Emily Carter  And these little ways that we can reinforce our own leadership and our own power... These are things that we think are small, but they're so foundational. Make it exactly what you envisioned it would look like and get as close to that as possible. 

Cait Donovan  I use resentment for that, too. You know, I mean, you listen to Fried, you know I love resentment. So I have on my desk, a lavender colored computer pad that's like, massive, because I record podcast episodes all the time. And I can't be hearing the click of a pen on a desk. Right? Right. Right. It's really important. And I found myself while I was recording, being nervous to take a sip of water. Because I was gonna clunk down on the table. So I, I paid $18 to have this lovely little desk mat. And this makes me feel safer. There is a there is a part of my day that no longer needs to be watched. Because I have taken care of it.

Emily Carter  Oh, man, can we just talk for a second about doing # all the things? I'm not even talking about feeling like you've got to have the mailing list and the podcast and the Instagram and the Facebook group and all of all of that stuff. I'm talking about what are all the little annoying things that you're dealing with? That if you just took one day, to get rid of all of that stuff, to actually deal with that stuff? How much better would your workday feel? You know, like, how much easier would everything be? Because my whole thing is ease, enjoyment, and effectiveness. You cannot separate those things. If you're running a business, that is the goal: the ease, the enjoyment, and the effectiveness. And what I find so often is folks who are really struggling, if we can just get at those tiny little things that they don't even think are important... like they won't even bring them up... I literally make people tell me like, "What else? What else? What else?" Until we get to the really small stuff that sounds silly. I will keep asking, what else is bugging you? What else are you doing? What else are you thinking about? Because those things are just going to trip you up again and again and again. Get rid of that garbage.

Cait Donovan  In your life too! Like if your eggs are sticking to your pan every morning, and every morning, it annoys you. And every morning... First of all, you're annoyed that you have to scrape your eggs off the pan. And then you're annoyed because you're gonna have to scrub this pan later, because you don't feel like washing it now. So you put water in it and you leave it in the sink, and you put soap in it and then two hours later you come back and you have to scrub this damn pan, because... Buy a new pan. Buy a new pan. Just sharpen your knives. One of the things that I noticed when I was I was through recovery and I was just using resentment and annoyance as my guide. We had just moved back to the States, so we had been really busy moving back from Europe - it's a big deal. There's a lot of moving parts, there was a lot happening. My husband moved three weeks before me with our dog, I still had to go to Poland and do some extra work and there was just a lot happening. So we get in our apartment and I start to cut a tomato and then tomato starts, you know, getting pushed under my knife because my knife is not sharp enough - and so you know how you take your knife, and you flip the handle all the way up so that you can so that you can start your tomato, to get it started. Everybody knows that because everyone has done that. And I did it like three days in a row. And I was like, dummy. Sharpen. Your. Knife. You have a knife sharpener sharpen the knife. Why are you struggling with tomatoes? Why are you putting in extra effort where there doesn't need to be effort? I was ironing clothes, like the Hulk.


Emily Carter  I love what you just said. Can you repeat that? I don't know what it was something like, just had it. And it flew out of my brain because I was like, This is so good. But it's like, Why are you putting effort where there doesn't need to be any effort? Why are you working so hard on something that you should not even be considering?

Cait Donovan  I say this a lot in the podcast, and one of my patients recently came in, who listens to the podcast, and she came in and she said, "You know, I listened to an old episode recently. And I was just thinking, and you were talking about extra efforting in the small things that we do every day." And I said, Well, yeah, you know, I love that - I talk about that a lot. And she said, "You know, then I went and I washed my hands. And I realized that I was like really pressing and I was like really into washing my hands." And she's "They're gonna get just as clean, if I do not basically punch myself in the palm. I don't need to be working this hard. The soap works just as well if you do this gently, there is no need for extra effort here." All the places of extra effort can either be you can either move out some of the efforts - take away some of the effort. Or you can upgrade your tool so that the efforting is less by nature. But when I was ironing, I had a brand new iron and I was like really pressing like, I mean, I was like, flexed. I was like a workout. It was a workout. And I was like, "this is a brand new iron because I had to buy all new appliances because I was back in the states and you know, the appliances for Europe the whole different work. I'm ironing and I'm like pressing the iron down. This is not 1930, I did not just warm this thing up on a fire. It doesn't require my biceps or my triceps or my delta lines, or my entire chest because I was really going for it. And the shirts - just to be clear, were non-wrinkle Brooks Brothers shirts. You barely have to iron them.

Emily Carter  I love this story, because it just seems to draw out  how basic this can be. So often we are over complicating stuff. I think entrepreneurs are especially awesome at over complicating things. And part of it is that we're just listening to so many people, you know, we're getting advice from like 20 different sources. Instead of saying, which three or four of these voices do I actually need to be listening to right now. So right now, if anyone out there listening is subscribed to like a million newsletters. I want you to go into your inbox and unsubscribe from the ones that don't apply to you right now. Because Yeah, they're just distracting you. I do this regularly. 

Cait Donovan  I did it today. I swear to God, I did it today. 

Emily Carter  Yeah, I'm a freebie junkie. I love all the freebies, I love getting to know what people are working on. I love hearing about what everyone else is doing and that’s part of the reason that I have this podcast. It's part of the reason that I do what I do, I love it. But also, I don't need to be in my inbox deciding "Am I going to read this? Am I going to just delete it? Am I going to ... what do I do with this email now that it's in my inbox?" That is three minimum of three decisions I'm making right there in that moment with every email that comes to my inbox, and if it's not somebody whose work I need right now, it's just taking me away from the stuff I actually need to be doing and thinking about. I can always come back to them. I can always come back to them. I have a giant folder of bookmarks of people's work that I'm like, "I like your stuff. I don't need it right now. But I like it." And I know that it's there. It doesn't have to take up space in my brain. Or in my inbox. 

Cait Donovan  100%. 

Emily Carter  So this brings me to to a different question. It's one of my all time favorite episodes of Fried, you talked about privilege and trauma and how that relates to burnout. And because I think that this is one of the things that can be so confusing when we're approaching burnout, can we dig into some of the things that you said in that episode?

Cait Donovan  Yeah, this is a really tough one. This is a really hard thing to talk about. And it's a really hard thing to accept from both sides. I am a white cis woman. And I hold all the privileges that that comes with. In addition to that, I had parents that were together, but encouraged my education - didn't have a dime to spend on any of it, I paid for all that shit myself - but, but supportive. I have a massive extended family that is very connected. So I have 36 cousins, and I grew up with about 12 of them on a regular basis. saw them, like all the time. I have this massive supportive family. These amazing parents, a great older sister. White cis, hetero relationship, married to a man who is also white, from a privileged family financially, (not in this country) but still has a different, you know, different view of things. And so when I burnt out, I was judging myself harshly for having it so good and feeling so bad. My life was good. When I burnt out, technically, on paper. I had a great job, what not a great job, a great business. I've always worked for myself. So I had a great business. I was working 25 hours a week, making all the money. My girlfriend called, it was like a Thursday... my best friend called me. I was living in Prague at the time. And she was in Warsaw, and she called me and she said, "Let's go to Paris on Monday and have dinner." And I did, because we could. That's the kind of life that I was living.

Emily Carter  Yeah. And when you're, when you're saying this, absolutely no one listening is going to be like, yeah, obviously suffering burnout, right? Because we have in our minds about what that looks like from the outside. Is, is really about what we're feeling on the inside. 

Cait Donovan  Yes. So I was doing things like that. And I was getting through my days, barely. I was exhausted every night, when I would work a six hour shift only, you know, five, six hours at a time I was working. And I would come home and I would try to walk up the hill to my apartment, and I couldn't get up the hill is a four minute walk. I've been an athlete my whole life. I couldn't, I had to stop and take a break because I couldn't make it. And then when I thought about the fact that I was gonna have to walk my dog when I got there, I would sit down on a stoop somebody else's stoop, a random stoop, and cry. Yeah. Because I didn't understand how it was going to finish getting up the hill. And how I was going to walk my dog, but I was still going to Paris and having dinner. Right? Yeah. So I had to allow myself the freedom to admit that within my privilege, I still felt like crap. And because of my privilege, I have a duty. I felt and I still feel, yeah, I have a duty to do something about this because I can. And I'm not useful to people, I cannot serve people, I cannot fulfill the places in this world that I meant to fulfill. If I am burnt out, therefore I am of no help to people that are less privileged in any of the various ways, then I I can't support them. I can't be a good ally. I can't do any of the things that are important to me. If I'm burnt out.

Emily Carter  None of that none of that work happens. It can't. You can't do it. You you physically, emotionally, mentally, none of that stuff is jiving. You cannot do it not.

Cait Donovan  Yeah. It's not possible. So part of my decision to when I recognized that it was burnout, and I started to tail part of that decision was because I'm privileged enough to be able to do it with help. So I had a coach. I went to acupuncture, I went to therapy at the same time. Right, I did all of those things. Once I was in the clear enough energetically to actually make stronger decisions. I went to a functional medicine doctor changed my diet. It could not have changed my diet. If somebody told me to change my diet week one, I would have been like, really? That was like, No, no, it's not happening yet. I don't think so. Shut up and give me my cake. Walk away.

Emily Carter  But yeah, there's no exercising your way out of this. No, you know, and there's no, there's no amount of functional medicine alone, that's going to help you and there's no amount of mindset alone that is going to help you.

Cait Donovan  And all of those things matter. Yep, they just matter at different stages. And then those stages can be different for different people, some people start with functional medicine and use some of the testing to get themselves to have enough energy to deal with the emotional stuff. My particular persona is that I can deal with the emotional stuff first, right? So everybody's a little bit different, which is why I'm okay with, you know, when people need to update their coping mechanisms, and sort of fix their relationships in their lives and create new boundaries, like I'm the person they should be talking to, because I am the best at that. But hands down, and I'm not being ridiculous, like, I'm not I'm not being braggy. Like, I'm just very good at that. Yeah, but if somebody needs to start with functional medicine, because that's the thing that they believe in the most, and they need to know that their nutrition is right, so that they have the capacity to handle those other things. Then cool. My friends, that one thing, yes, my friend Eliza, does functional medicine for people that are burned out, and everybody should go see her because she's excellent at it. Yeah, that's where she shines, right? So it doesn't, it doesn't matter to me which part is first, necessarily. I think the part that I do is necessary first, but I understand that that's not everyone's persona. That's not what everybody needs. And so, but I had this ability to do all the things, so I did all the things. Yeah. And now I feel like especially, you know, I work with women who have built themselves golden cages, right? You built yourself a business, it's real successful, you Hey, everybody, your clients and family included, and you are wishing for just a small car accident, like enough to break a leg so that you can be in the hospital and nobody can bug you. That is my ideal client. Right. And that's what I know how to do best. And that's what I feel like I need to do, because if the people that have the time and the money, and the resources to help themselves are not helping themselves, then they cannot as I could not be an ally, and support good causes. And, and I believe that and history shows and research shows over and over again, then when when women have more money, the world gets better communities get better, because we invest in good things, we invest in good relationships and good people, right? So I need women to not be burned out. So they can build these killer businesses that are making them more money so that we can change the course of history. Like I know that that's the background of my why I help people through burnout, because I was burned out, but I want you to be out of burnout. Because I want you to be a goddamn superstar that can change the world. I want that to happen. That's important to me. Right. So and and and so within that, you know, that's the those are the people that I work with, because I think that we need them in order to make other changes. And then because it's important to me to be an ally, and to be respectful of everybody's financial barriers, and everything else, I have the podcast that is free the book that is low cost, I have the resentment journal, which is low cost I have, I have all these other tools that people can use that are not necessarily one on one coaching, but can really help them move forward, if that's where they are. So it just like all the pieces together sort of work. And I'm not that wasn't where we were going. But that's where it went.

Emily Carter  Well. But I think this is important, because I love I love how you talk about your Why. Because I have a similar why. Part of the reason I'm so drawn to your work is that we have some significant mission overlap here. I want I want more entrepreneurs to wake up to the fact that they have to fill their own cup because I'm going to need them to go and make some big differences in this world, and they can't do that if they're struggling. And so so what sometimes gets lost in this conversation around privilege and burnout is that there's a much bigger picture that we can't necessarily see. When we're when we're in it. You know, when we're really in it and we can't see the big picture. Like you pointed out like, I can't serve people, I can't help people. I can't change the course of history. If I'm burnt out when we're in it. That's not where our brain is. One of the things I think is important is also to recognize that while somebody's life might look really fantastic and amazing, on the outside, you have no idea what's going on under the surface, you're literally just seeing the veneer. And underneath, you have no idea what's going on. And so there's a sense of needing not just to be to give other to give ourselves grace, but also to extend that grace to other people and, and trust them. Right. And trust that.

Cait Donovan  Yeah. Yes. And I think this is why the conversation is hard. Because I refuse to ask people that have been disenfranchised by people-that-look-like-me's choices, I refuse to ask them to trust us while we're burnt out. That's not their job.

Emily Carter  It is not their job. That is your job and my job. 


Cait Donovan Right. So this is where it gets a little bit difficult. And, and the other thing that I think is important to recognize, and this is going to be really difficult for some people to hear... Because I grew up at the very, very low end of the economic spectrum. And I always thought that once I had money, that would mean everything was fine. And now I have money, and everything was not fine. It's good now, but it was not good for many, many years. So money was not the solution, it helped me get to the solution. So I'm not anti money by any stretch, but it was not the answer in and of itself. And, but the studies, the psychological studies show that the amount of adverse childhood experiences, which is a number that psychologists come up with, basically to say, kind of how much trauma was in your early life, how many coping mechanisms you created, and how much of that is likely to influence your life as an adult. So on that, I think it's a might be a score of 14 or 15 of them, you know, I'm like, I was like a 10, out of 15, which is fairly high. But it shows that the middle class has the lowest scores. And the low class and the upper class have the highest and are basically equal. So the people that have a little bit more money than the low class are kind of doing okay. But the people that have a lot more money are really struggling just as much in different way. So there's a lot of privilege that is about skin color, and about finances and about, you know, sexual orientation, and, and there's all these different pieces of it. But there's a lot of pieces to it. There's a lot of nuance to this conversation that is not really happening in a lot of places. Like what I'm what I just said to everybody right now is the same amount of trauma is happening at the bottom that is happening at the top. The people at the top are having the same amount of trauma.

Emily Carter  There are going to be a lot of people who resist that because it's a hard thing to accept. 

Cait Donovan  But the research is clear. 

Emily Carter  The research is clear. And and part of it is this culture that we're in, I refer to it as toxic capitalism. You could call it hustle culture, you can call it whatever you want. But the bottom line is that we're looking at at money as happiness stuff is happiness. We're being told to do more and do it faster. We're being told that our productivity is our self worth. But these are messages that are so ingrained. Yeah. And what ends up happening is now success is a competition.

Cait Donovan Yeah. Well, it's always been a competition. Right? In, in a capitalist society. It's always been a competent, that's the exact premise that yes, the premise of the whole thing is it is a competition. Right? Totally. Which is scary. But you know, I have this, like, I just the reason that I talk about privilege in this way is to allow, I want people that are under privileged to know that I support them. And I want people that are overpaid, privileged to know that they have a right to have their problems. Because I know a lot of people that are beyond a place where I will ever find myself, maybe who knows, right? But are top of the Forbes list. I know those people and they often have so much guilt around what they have, that they don't address their problems because they don't feel that they deserve to address their problems because the rest of their life is so good. I felt this on a smaller scale. When I was going through burnout. One of the reasons I almost didn't heal was because I shouldn't complain because my life is good. Right and I need people to understand that no matter how good your life looks or no matter how much money you have, if you're burnt out, you're burnt out and you need help. And on the other side, if you're struggling to get through things because the world makes your life more difficult because of anything about you, you deserve the love and attention to say you deserve to not be burnt out too.

Emily Carter  Yes. All of it. Both sides. It's all of it. Because at the end of the day, we're all humans.

 

Cait Donovan Yeah. And we all know, no one deserves to be burnt out. Nobody deserves to be burned out.

Emily Carter  Exactly. We deserve to have that mental and physical energy. We deserve to feel like our contributions matter. Yeah, each and every one. And this is why I love talking with you. Because you are able to pull out some really, really important threads in this conversation. There is not a lot of nuance happening in a lot of places. And the nuance really does matter. And I really appreciate how you're able to convey that I really do. 

Cait Donovan  And I'm sure I messed it up a little bit too. You know, that's part of our being. That's part of being I guess, brave enough to say things out loud, is to know that you're gonna mess up a little bit... you're gonna get it wrong for some people and right for others.

Emily Carter  And as the great Erica Hein says, "Be humble and ready to fumble." I love that phrase. And I refer to it all the time. Because if I don't, then I won't speak up. And that's a problem. So we're going to, we're going to take a another left turn here. Because I've heard you say this, we're getting back into sort of the foundations of burnout. And I've heard you say before, that passion will not save you from burnout. And when I heard that, I think I literally shouted "Yes!" And freaked out my dog who was just minding his own business, just kind of chillin with me on the couch. So sorry, Beasley You're such a good dog. You know, you would never know from all of the memes out there. That passion alone is not an antidote. And I'd really love for you to elaborate on this because I think people feel like, "oh, if I'm just passionate enough, then I'll be able to work through this."

Cait Donovan  Yeah, the whole love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life memes... like, every time I see them my blood, my blood pressure rises... Like, stop. Stop spreading that message. And I think the people that are spreading it, are doing it with good intent.  They're trying to help people stay connected and get connected to their passion and their purpose, which is important. But just because you have passion doesn't mean you don't have shitty coping mechanisms ... My coping mechanisms that made me feel that were feelings of unworthiness, so that we have feelings of unworthiness, and then coping mechanisms to deal with feelings of unworthiness, the things that I did to deal with feelings of unworthiness was give people way more than they asked for, overwork myself constantly care more about my patient's health than they did about their own. I wanted everybody to be 140% healthy, and they were like, "we're cool at 85." And I was like, "No, 140" and they're like, "85..." Oh, my gosh, a lot of perfectionism to overcome feelings of unworthiness. So they have all these coping mechanisms to deal with this underlying feeling that I don't have enough value as a human unless I am existing to give to other people all the damn time. That's where my value is. Right? So you can be really passionate but if your coping mechanisms are not useful to you anymore, what happens is there's this sort of theory that you create coping mechanisms as a child, right? Of course, we all everybody has coping mechanisms, and they're not all bad. Grading mechanisms as a general rule are a good or a good thing. We're meant to have them we're supposed to have them there.

Emily Carter  They could be damaging, right like some people cope through drinking, people cope by having really shitty work habits...

Cait Donovan  And occasionally they can be really useful for a period of time. So, earlier in my life, my perfectionism was great for me during school, I got straight A's, I got a scholarship to Boston University, like it worked. It worked for me, and it wasn't costing me more energy than I had at the time. So it was okay. Right. So I don't even like to demonize the quote unquote, bad coping mechanisms, because at some point, they worked. And they must have worked okay, because if they didn't work okay, you wouldn't have used them to begin with... You need the positive feedback from the coping mechanism that you're using in order to continue using it. So I got positive feedback for being a straight A student, I got positive feedback for being the friend that listens to everybody all the time and giving really good advice, I got positive feedback for being the person who always cooked the gluten free meal for the one person that was coming to the party that's not eating gluten that week, or whatever it was, you know, like, I'm that person that takes care of all those details. I'm the girl that's filling up your cup of water at the party, even though you know, it's not I'm not the hostess. But I noticed that your cup is empty, and I'm gonna fill it because it makes me uncomfortable that your cup is empty, and I'm afraid that you're not asking for water, because I wouldn't ask for water because blah blah blah...

Emily Carter  Right, it's a whole thing. 

Cait Donovan  It's a whole thing. So you can be super passionate about what you're doing. But if your coping mechanisms need updating, then you're gonna burn out anyway, because you're going to give too much, do too much, sell too much even. It's gonna be too much. You need to have passion and purpose and great coping mechanisms.

Emily Carter  Yeah. And, and realizing that the answer is not always in your work. You know, the answer. Yeah, you're seeking is not always work - because straight up entrepreneurs like what they do, they wouldn't do it otherwise. It's a lot of freakin work. A lot of it is like, painful self work, you know... Entrepreneurship - there are a few things in this world that will bring up every single one of your insecurities and shine a spotlight on it. And its relationships and entrepreneurship, you know, like, those are the big two, right? You have to be able to find ways of dealing with that well, that are going to continue to work for you, you got to build up that toolbox. And a lot of times we make the leap into entrepreneurship. We didn't even know we needed that freakin toolbox to begin with. Right? And that's how we end up with a lot of burnout among entrepreneurs.  Cait, we're coming up on the end of our time here. I have so enjoyed interviewing you. I love talking to you. I hope that we'll be able to have more conversations like this in the future. Before I let you go, where can people find you? Tell us all the ways we can find you. And tell us what, what's next for you? Where can we be looking for you.

Cait Donovan  So I'm going to give you just one way to find me to make it really, really easy, because from that way you can find me all the other ways. Fried. The burnout podcast is the best way to find me. If you liked this in any way, shape, or form, that's where you get more of this. I'm always the same person. I do not adjust a lot anymore that one of my coping mechanisms was adjusting my behavior to the person that I was with. I don't do that anymore. So I'm like this all the time. So if you hated this, please do not listen to the podcast because you will not like it. Which is fine. So fried, the burnout podcast is that yes is the best place to find me. It's on every single place that you could listen to a podcast. It's available and the website is fried to burnout, podcast calm. And what's next for me is I just started a new degree program. I'm doing a I have a master's degree in Chinese medicine. Now I'm doing a bachelor's degree. So I'm going backwards and doing a bachelor's degree in bio behavioral health. And that is the combination of neuroscience biology, genetics, epidemiology, pandemics, sociology, psychology, all smashed into one interdisciplinary study, which I am thrilled about, and really excited. So hopefully in the next couple of years, it will take me about two years to finish it. So I'll finish it in about two years and then I will possibly start some research, start digging into some things that I think are not done yet in this area. Right, a couple more books. I have a book started actually about boundaries. So a second book. Yeah, first book has been out for almost a year now. But the second book, second book on boundaries is coming. So all this there's lots of fun stuff going on in the background.

Emily Carter  I will link to this in the show notes so folks can easily find you and get to all of those resources. Cait, again, thank you so, so much. 

Cait Donovan  Thank you for having me.