The lines between work and home life have become blurred during the pandemic as more people work from home, sometimes whilst simultaneously looking after children. Against that backdrop, it’s no wonder people are feeling burnt out.
In this interview, Destiny Spurrell of Soul Spark explains the phases of burnout and provides effective methods for recovering from burnout and also preventing it in the first place.
Destiny Spurrell of Soul Spark
Website: Soul Spark Sisterhood
Facebook: Soul Spark Sisterhood
Destiny is a mindset mentor, naturopathic doctor and co-founder of Soul Spark.
Her relentless quest to understand our relationship to our mind and soul, coupled with an obsessive curiosity around the dance of our hormones, has created a powerful and holistic approach to move you from burnout to soul sparked.
Consistent energy, clarity, and confidence are available to you.
Destiny is a recovering approval seeker. Her superpower is listening deeply and helping you uncover the guiding truth that lies within. Destiny also uses this superpower with her three boys who are nine, seven, and four.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [01:41] Destiny explains her day-to-day job.
- [02:43] The three factors that can help you prevent burnout.
- [05:27] Destiny talks about the importance of understanding your physical state in relation to burnout.
- [09:16] How to change your perspective on a thought.
- [10:30] Putting a gap between your thought and your feelings.
- [11:41] Defining the term ‘burnout’.
- [13:07] Destiny explains the science behind burnout and introduces the four stages.
- [15:10] Understanding the alarm phase of burnout.
- [16:20] Looking at the recovery phase of burnout.
- [17:50] Using the example of COVID-19 to illustrate the stages of burnout.
- [18:48] Balancing stressful situations and relaxing.
- [21:00] How recognising your stressors can help you understand how you can rest and recover.
- [21:39] Understanding the compensation phase of burnout.
- [24:26] Looking at exhaustion as the final phase of burnout and understanding the physical effects.
- [28:17] How to recover from burnout.
- [29:13] The things you can do to help with an alarm phase trigger.
- [31:46] How to start to get yourself out of the exhaustion phase.
- [34:03] The importance of resting and recognising the signs of burnout before the exhaustion phase.
- [37:03] Learning to understand your personal rhythm and what you need.
- [39:15] Looking at natural cycles in your life in order to understand your rhythm.
- [42:02] Checking in with yourself to figure out what is important to you.
- [44:28] Working with your cycle to achieve balance.
Resources mentioned in this episode
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To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 113: How to avoid burnout - with Destiny Spurrell of Soul Spark
Jeremy Cline 0:00
With everything that's been going on over the past 18 months, it's no wonder that a few of us are feeling somewhat frazzled. The lines between work and home life have become blurred, and for many of you, you'll have been adding home-schooling to the mix. So, against that background, how do you stop yourself becoming burnt out? And what does it mean to become burnt out anyway? That's what we're going to talk about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:39
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. The past 18 months or so has really brought into sharp focus the importance of looking after our mental well-being. Many of you will have found the lines between work and home life have become blurred, if you were forced to work from home instead of going into the office. And some of you will have been working whilst trying to home-school children at the same time. It's no wonder that so many people have been feeling burnt out. And that's why I wanted to dedicate an episode to how you can recover from burnout or even avoid it entirely. To help us with this, I'm delighted to be joined this week by Destiny Spurrell of Soul Spark Sisterhood. Destiny is a naturopathic doctor, a mindset mentor, and she describes herself as a recovering approval seeker. And there's something I can certainly relate to. Destiny's mission is to move people away from burnout. Destiny, welcome to the podcast.
Destiny Spurrell 1:33
Thanks for having me, Jeremy. I'm happy to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:35
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what's going on in your professional life at the moment?
Destiny Spurrell 1:41
Absolutely. So, by trade, I'm a naturopathic doctor, I'm a mother of three. I am, as you said, a recovering perfectionist, and the co-founder of Soul Spark Sisterhood. So, what does that look like in my day-to-day? It means I'm seeing people in the clinic setting a full long day, one day a week, and dedicating the rest of my week to what we do at Soul Spark Sisterhood, where we really focus on taking people from burnout to Soul Spark, by reconnecting them with the wisdom of the body, the workings of their minds and leaning to those whispers of your soul. Because those are really the three core elements to becoming what I say is burnout-proof. So, what's going on in my day-to-day, yeah, the kids are home, we're balancing working from home, going to the clinic, we just got a new puppy, very much appreciate the juggle of all of the things. My boys, I have three boys, they're nine, seven and four. So, that gives a lot of context, I think, to the day-to-day, what that looks like.
Jeremy Cline 2:35
Absolutely, there's a lot going on. You mentioned three factors of Soul Spark, could you just run through those, again, explain what they are?
Destiny Spurrell 2:43
The three things that help us become burnout-proof, those three?
Jeremy Cline 2:47
Destiny Spurrell 2:47
I always say reconnecting with the wisdom of our body, understanding the workings of our mind and leaning into the wisdom of our soul. Those three components are what makes us burnout-proof. And by all means, I can tell you a story about where those came from, if you'd like to hear that.
Jeremy Cline 3:03
Yeah, go ahead, please.
Destiny Spurrell 3:05
You know, I think we kind have these seasons and rhythms of so many aspects of our life, and so many of us in our 20s, we set out and we're ambitious, and we're staking ourselves in the world and our place and whatnot. And we create these lovely things, maybe we have a partner, maybe we have kids, maybe we buy a house, and we start a career. And we kind of accumulate these responsibilities. And as we go along, we expect almost that we can still function in the same way, we can function the way that we did in those early 20s and maintain that, while we are acquiring all of these responsibilities and the things that divide our attention. And for most of us, or many of us, we reach this point where we realise that a way of functioning that got us to where we are now is what is causing our burnout right now. And it is what is keeping us stuck. And that we need to reframe how we are functioning to move forward from where we are, because life is no longer the same. Now we're juggling more things. And I think like you highlighted in the last 18 months, we're juggling a lot more things that we didn't expect. And that unexpected is a big component of that. So, really, for myself, going through postsecondary education, having my first child while I was finishing my education, before boards and all of that, starting my career and having my second child, having my third child after my second child was in the hospital, that was the point where I could no longer bring it. I couldn't bring it how I could bring it the rest of the time. The three kids, the child recovering from the hospital, my husband's focus being on his mom who was passing at that time, that was my point where I realised it doesn't matter, I can't keep functioning the way that I always have, to get through this right now. I can't just eat well, sleep, ask for help, exercise. That's not going to cut it. I have to understand what's going on in my mind, I have to lean into those whispers of my soul, it's more than just this physical aspect, to be able to, at that point, recover from burnout and move forward from there.
Jeremy Cline 5:14
There's so much there that I want to dive into. But let's just start with, briefly, can you describe what helped you at the time and how that led you to start Soul Spark Sisterhood?
Destiny Spurrell 5:27
I think the first thing, if I can actually just hit each of them, the first thing was understanding where my body was. Because there isn't one phase of burnout, we can go into that a little bit more specifically, there's really four hormone patterns, when I say hormones, I'm talking mostly about that cortisol, but also neurotransmitters adrenaline and insulin. There's more players there, but those are kind of those key hormones that we're talking about, or neurotransmitters we're talking about, in burnout. And they have different patterns in these four different phases. And what that means is what we need to do to recover is also different. So, there's three common mistakes that people make, they think fatigue is the first sign of burnout. It's not. They think that they take action that are supposed to be energising and can be energising, but they're mismatched with their hormones in their body. And they underestimate the amount of recovery that's required, because we underestimate what stress is. So, those are three common mistakes that people make. So, first of all, understanding where we are physically helps us to match our actions with our physiology, so that we can recover, as opposed to, in fact, worsening the state that we're in. So, for me at that time, I had to eat in a way that maintained my blood sugar, because my cortisol and insulin were operating in a way that couldn't generate a steady blood sugar in the body itself, it had to be from a solid, continuous ingestion of protein, fat and fibre, to have that external fuel, because my body was not able to consistently generate that. And so, in that phase, it looked like I'm tired in the morning when I wake up, I'm having a crash mid-afternoon, in that 2-to-4pm, and then before I go to bed, now I have a spike of energy. And maybe I'm waking up at night. So, that's what that looked like, and that's how I addressed that by understanding where I was. What stood out to me so much when I started seeing patients in a one-on-one setting was the parallels between how they were manifesting things physically and their perception of the world. And that's where this workings of our mind comes from. Because burnout is not just about understanding our body, it's about understanding how we, given our circumstances, are relating to ourselves within it. And that's largely precipitated by our thought patterns and how we're relating to that.
Jeremy Cline 7:49
When you were first diving into this, how did you find out about all this? Was this part of your medical training any way that you came across this, or were you seeking help from other people?
Destiny Spurrell 8:03
Both. The physical side about it, I learned didactically in an academic setting. And then, you experience it, right, and you see it in the clients that you're working with. And at that point, I also leaned on an accountability person who practised a practice called The Work, which is created by Byron Katie. And The Work is one of many different systems that helps us to, what I say is like, get in sandbox mode with our thoughts. Most of us, we have a thought, and we see it for how it passed through our mind. But when you're practising The Work, and particularly when you have somebody to mirror back to you, yourself, The Work is really just about taking that thought and looking at it from all these different angles and seeing like, 'Oh, there's more curves and edges to this. Oh, there's more perception, or there's more perspective on this', right? We get a better appreciation for what feels really real and true, outside of just the thought that arose from our subconscious mind where we are operating from 80 to 90% of the time. When we can actually examine it and say, 'Oh, this, this feels really true to me, but that original thought, it's not anchored. It's not anchored in what is true to me.' Then, it just changes, I don't know if you know this analogy, the 1%, or it's 10 degrees, I think he says, Tony Robbins uses this analogy, where if we change our trajectory, just the slightest, like a few degrees, 10 miles down the road, we're on an entirely different spot than if we hadn't changed our trajectory. And when we can just get a bit of a new perspective on a thought that we're having, it totally changes where we end up 10 miles down the road.
Jeremy Cline 9:37
A previous guest of mine recommended a book called Taming Your Gremlin, I can't remember the name of the author, but I'll put it in the show notes. And that introduced to me this concept of not just having the thoughts, but actually, taking a step back, and maybe not even analysing the thoughts, maybe not figuring out what's going on, but just acknowledging the thoughts, just kind of going, 'Oh, hang on a minute. I am currently feeling angry, stressed, upset, whatever it might be.' I don't necessarily need to know why, but a part of your brain goes, 'Ah, I recognise that.' So, I'm just going to look at it and then maybe dive into it. And I think that's kind of what you're talking about, or at least at a basic level, the first step is doing that and just acknowledging those things are going through your brain.
Destiny Spurrell 10:30
It's that space, exactly like you're saying, it's putting that gap between the thought and the reaction to the thought. And the words that I like to use for that is 'curiosity' or 'inquisition'. Or when you have a thought, and you feel that feeling, most of us will feel propelled to react right away. Well, the essence of mindfulness is simply creating a bit of space between the thought and the feeling and the reaction to that. And that's why I use the term like 'sandbox mode' and 'curiosity', because it's kind of that like, 'Oh, I'm having this thought and this really strong feeling. And hmm, this is interesting.' And just putting, you know, that's where the gold lies, because that's the difference between reactivity and responsiveness. And that's the difference between being controlled by our thoughts and feelings, and being able to use them to guide us for what is really right for us in our circumstances.
Jeremy Cline 11:24
Let's take this back to some basics. So, we've touched a bit about this, but if someone asks you to define what is burnout, I mean, is it something which has a definition for everyone, or is it something that's different for different people?
Destiny Spurrell 11:42
Both, I would say. So, that's where I think it's helpful to have these four phases. So, let's just dive into what exactly is burnout. And I think the first thing to recognise is that stress is stress is stress. So, whether it's physical stress, whether it's psychological stress, whether it's emotional stress, it triggers the same primitive pathways in our body and has the same physiological effects. Right? So, then what is that? What does that look like? What is our body actually doing? So, we can think about it, we maybe have heard of cortisol, and for those who haven't heard about cortisol, it's commonly referred to as our stress hormone. I like to refer to it as our alertness hormone. So, when you think about burnout, is there like three to five words that come to mind for you, Jeremy?
Jeremy Cline 12:29
Fatigue is definitely one of them, it's more than three to five words, but the feeling that everything is just getting on top of me. You know, you're just...
Destiny Spurrell 12:39
Jeremy Cline 12:39
Yeah, you know, stop the world, I want to get off for a minute.
Destiny Spurrell 12:42
Yeah. And some people relate to that feeling as apathy, right? And all of the things that people commonly think of when they think about burnout is way down the line of burnout, that's when we're already down in exhaustion phase. So, the four phases that we talk about, we talk about adaptive phase, alarm phase, compensation phase and exhaustion phase. So, with the cortisol, cortisol is regulated by our brain, so I'm going to get a little bit sciency on us for a second, but first, by the hypothalamus, and then by the pituitary. And these are structures in our brain that communicate with our adrenal glands, part of our endocrine system, that are way down on top of our kidneys. This is what we call our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis for short. And they communicate with each other kind of like a thermostat senses the heat in the room and compares it to the desired temperature. So, the hypothalamus up in the brain is like the thermostat, which is sending a message to the pituitary, like the relay switch that turns on the furnace, which is the adrenal glands. Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands and then cortisol feeds back and tells the hypothalamus, 'Okay, yeah, we got enough cortisol, we're at the right temperature, you can slow down, you can turn off.' So, it's kind of that system, that furnace, that circuitry. And to a large extent, I think this is a really important point to recognise, we can control the thermostat through the demands that we place on our body, both physically, mentally and emotionally. But first, it takes awareness. And that's actually what I think is the gold in this conversation for people, is bringing awareness to what does it look like before we're in exhaustion, and what can we do about that. So, if we consider, if we look at cortisol, it's part of our circadian rhythm or our daily or 24-hour hormone cycle, it is highest between that 7-to-9am, and it tapers off its lowest at about 4am in the morning. And if you think about your alertness, that's kind of a common flow of, you can relate to the idea that okay, we should, in the state of health, be most alert in the morning, kind of taper off over the day, have it lowest in the middle of the night, and then climb back up to wake us up. There's going to be blips in that when we eat or exercise or with other stressors, but that's the common pathway. That curve is what helps us to then understand these phases of burnout. Do you mind if I go through each one of them?
Jeremy Cline 15:06
Destiny Spurrell 15:06
So that you can see what they look like and their symptoms.
Jeremy Cline 15:09
Yeah, absolutely. This is great stuff.
Destiny Spurrell 15:11
Awesome. So, the alarm phase, this is where I like to start. Because the alarm phase we can recognise, it's like if someone jumps out and says, 'Boo!', and you don't know if it's, or if someone slams on the brakes in front of you, or if an email drops in your inbox and says, 'You missed this important meeting', or 'Your deadline got moved closer', we can relate to that feeling of like adrenaline and cortisol surging, and we feel that increase in blood pressure or heart rate, we start breathing deeper, we have more blood flow to our muscles and away from our digestive tract, our muscles get tense, we can understand what that feeling feels like, we might breathe a little tight, everything's tighter, right? We're getting ready to respond. If we think primitively, this is us getting ready to fight, flee, or freeze. That's what's happening in our nervous system. So, we might feel like anxious, or we might have trouble sleeping, we might have body pain from that tension. We're not thinking about reproducing or digestion. So, libido may be low, we might have symptoms like IBS-like symptoms, because that motility is not there in our digestive tract, we might feel that like a racing heart or just trouble slowing down, right? That's that phase of alarm, and what happens right after we have that initial reaction physiologically is that our body will go through a recovery phase. So, we just had a really stressful day, we fell on the brakes in traffic, we had a really big meeting, the kids were melting down home-schooling online, you know, all of these things. And for about 24 or 48 hours after, our body is trying to recover. So, it's not actually outputting quite as much cortisol because it's like, 'Okay, I need to recover before I can come at it again', right? And we've become a little bit more resistant to the stimuli, feel a little bit more tired, and we desire to rest after a day like that, because we're in that recovery phase. Can we relate? Like, can you feel that experience when I'm describing it that way?
Jeremy Cline 15:13
I was wondering if it might be helpful if you could, perhaps, kind of describe a real-world event. When I say a real-world even, it doesn't have to be a real person, but maybe someone who in their day-to-day life, what's going on in their life which, if you look under the hood, this is what's going on?
Destiny Spurrell 17:22
Well, so I think that raises an important question. So, I will come back to giving an example, but stress is not bad. This response is built into us for a very good reason. Let's think about putting on a show on a stage, we want this feeling. It's going to help us to be alert, to think clearly, to respond appropriately with our mental faculties in that moment. The issue becomes when we don't have an equal and opposite recovery to that level of stimulation. I'm trying to think of a different example, but the one that's like forefront of my mind is how did we all respond in March 2020. Everybody rallied, we all got ready, we all had these beautiful home-school schedules, we like set up to do, we were like going to take it on, we're looking for resources, we're connecting with people virtually, now we're rising to the challenge in that circumstance, right? Now, we see a lot more people, whatever, 18 months later, in more of that exhaustion phase. Because there hasn't been an equal and opposite recovery to that initial alarm for many, many people. I think you're wanting a bit more of a day-to-day example, though, yes?
Jeremy Cline 18:20
That's a great example. If you have a more day-to-day one, so I don't know, someone who has, well, maybe someone has had a rough stressful day at work, run ins with colleagues, uncomfortable conversation with a boss, bad commute home, trains running late or something like that, and they get home and they just go, 'Oh, what a day that was.' That's maybe the sort of thing that would, at least initially, give rise to this particular phase. Does that chime with what you're talking about?
Destiny Spurrell 18:48
Exactly, exactly. However, I think what happens in that evening is really important. Because that day might be sustainable, so long as we have that evening to rest and recover, and we're able to unwind and go to bed. And then, we can wake up, and we might actually find it really energising to go through that cycle of having that peak of stimulation and excitement during the day, so long as we have ability to balance it out with the amount of rest that we have. However, for most of us in the reality of our day-to-day life, we have that, you know, get up, commute to work, do all the things at work, train's late coming home, get home, kids, whatever activities, you know, doing all of these things, and then finally, everything is quiet. And that might actually be the first time where you notice yourself and your thoughts, and what is in alignment, what's not in alignment. And if everything is good and in alignment, maybe you can unwind and go to sleep. But if we're still kind of reeling, and we haven't been able to come down from those aspects of our day, we may not be able to fall asleep and rest and unwind the way that we need to, to counterbalance the acuity of the day that we just sustained. Okay in the short term, okay for periods of time, but we need to think of it as a whole. So, yes, the day, okay, but now the week, the month, the year, where is the counterbalance? Where is the play to balance the work, where's the rest to counterbalance the awake time, you're getting the picture with the two sides of the coin.
Jeremy Cline 20:18
So, the issue is that we're not necessarily allowing ourselves the time to recover from these particular stresses, or we think we're doing things which will help us recover from them, but they're not necessarily the things that we need. So, maybe someone thinks that, 'Oh, if I go to the gym in the evening, then that'll sort me out.' But that might not necessarily be the case. Or someone else thinks, I don't know, half an hour of TV, but maybe that's not what they need, or it's not enough. So, I think, if I've understood you correctly, that's what's kind of going on. We're just not allowing ourselves this time and the correct recovery, and we get this sort of accumulation of all this stresses.
Destiny Spurrell 21:02
Exactly. So, failing to recognise what is a stressor in the first place, failing to recognise what our body is telling us in that moment, so that we can do exactly what you're saying, balance that activity with the rest that we need, and unwind in a way that's truly unwinding for us. Because it is about releasing that stress from us in our body, and in our mind, to be able to allow our nervous system the chance to rest and recover to come at it again.
Jeremy Cline 21:30
Okay. So, where are we in our phases at the moment? So, we had our alarm, we had our recognition that we don't have time necessarily to recover from that sort of constant day of alarm.
Destiny Spurrell 21:40
Exactly. So, the alarm phase is not a bad thing, when it helps us rise to the challenge. However, if this stress continues over time, and we don't recognise the stress for what it is, we don't counterbalance it, that's when we move into compensation phase. So, the way that I like to describe this one is, if your child is yelling, 'Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom', eventually, you tune them out a little bit, because you're also trying to do all the other things at the same time. The first time they yell 'Mom', you might say 'Yes, dear.' And after they've said it like 20,000 times, then it might kind of become part of the background noise. So, this is similar with the communication with our hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. If our hypothalamus is saying, 'Turn up the heat, we need to be on, we need to be alert, we need to bring it, we have all these demands, we need to meet', eventually, the adrenal glands will be like, 'I'm tired, I need my recovery phase, I'm still making you lunches, I'm still taking you to your activities, I'm just not responding as quickly to you calling my name, and I'm moving a little bit slower, and it's feeling a little bit harder.' And so, physiologically, that looks like, this is our adrenaline, that alertness maybe dulls down a little bit, it's more about our cortisol and being managed by our cortisol. And we commonly see that, okay, so maybe blood sugar, and our insulin levels remain high, so we might see like the beginnings of maybe an insulin resistance kind of picture, which in terms of our energy, it's trying, it's trying to compensate for this chronic stress. Our blood pressure again, it might day at abnormal to higher level, and commonly, this is when we start to get sick a little bit more often, our immune system starts to feel a little bit taxed, cortisol plays a role in managing our inflammation. So, sometimes this is where people start to develop more reaction to a bug bite, or maybe like, 'Oh, I had asthma, and now it's flaring a little bit more', or commonly, I'm seeing a lot these days is people are having like hives, and they haven't figured out why. So, it's just this not having that kind of quashing effect to the inflammation, it can sometimes show up in these different areas. So, we might be craving caffeine, we might have that tired afternoon, we might be getting a little bit more irritable, because it's harder to keep up with the demands. We might not be so sharp mentally, like that brain fog. And things that seemed easy and basic to do are feeling a little bit harder. Commonly, for women, we start to see more PMS and changes in the menstrual cycle, and what we call 'tired but wired' feeling, so when we're tired, but we still kind of have that like stimulation, and unfortunately, it commonly happens as that second wind before we're trying to go to bed.
Jeremy Cline 24:18
Okay, and then presumably, we go from this to the final phase, exhaustion, which I guess is where it basically all just comes to a grinding halt and you kind of crash for a bit.
Destiny Spurrell 24:28
In many ways, yes. And so, if we think about that cortisol curve that we talked about at the beginning, cortisol typically being highest in the morning, tapering off over the day, being lowest in the middle of the night. In the alarm phase, maybe cortisol has gone up to rise to the challenge along with that adrenaline. In compensation phase, now it's like I said, sluggish, it's not rising as high in the morning, we have that morning fatigue, we have that brain fog, it's dipping in the afternoon, so we're not as energetic, and so it's still there, we still have a curve, but it's blunted. Once we get to exhaustion phase, we can essentially flatline that curve. So, we're not feeling alert in the morning, we don't have the cortisol to help us balance our blood sugar, and like I was describing in my situation, then we need to balance our blood sugar with the food that we're eating, that protein, fat and fibre, we can't necessarily balance or feel energised on something like a keto or an intermittent fasting diet. Once we're in this exhaustion phase, we don't have that cortisol to help us liberate the stores in our own body as fuel, right? So, hypoglycaemia can come into play, which makes us feel tired, that's low blood sugar. We sometimes are craving salt, because now our cortisol plays a role in maintaining our blood pressure, we commonly see blood pressure lagging, going down. So, sometimes people start to feel dizzy when they stand up, because they don't have the amount of cortisol they need to maintain that blood pressure. They might also be waking up during the night, because our cortisol plays a role in keeping that blood sugar stable. If our blood sugar dips too low in the night, now our cortisol needs to try and get to liberate some of the stores, but it'll wake us up, it'll wake us up to go look for food, because it's not able to generate the fuel from our body. So, it's sending us to go look for food in the middle of the night, because our body can't maintain its own fuel. So, sometimes people are waking up at 2-to-4am once there an exhaustion phase.
Jeremy Cline 26:20
And they're waking up hungry.
Destiny Spurrell 26:22
And they're waking up hungry and tired, and then, it's morning and they're still tired. And it's what people commonly think of when they think of burnout, or adrenal fatigue, or any of these words, is this phase when we're experiencing that low mood, low motivation, more of that apathy or defeat. This is where it can feel like depression, because I just can't rise to the challenge, it starts feeling hopeless and harder to derive the joy from things. You know, it can feel like I'm tired, no matter how much I sleep. And libido, that's not even a thing anymore, right? Concentration can be hard, we're getting sick more often, the allergies, the digestion is coming into play. And this is when women commonly are saying, 'Oh, my hormones are gone crazy.' Like now, there seems to be no rhythm there. Because the endocrine system is a collection of glands in our body that send out hormone signals around the body. And I use this analogy, it's like a web, we touch one part and the whole thing quivers. So, when we're in this phase of burnout, that's when it starts to draw on our thyroid. And that's like largely our metabolic regulator. That's when it starts to play on our ovaries and their hormone production. You know, some of those main signals are governed by the same pathways, the hypothalamus, the pituitary and adrenal, ovary, like these are very connected, and so we start to see this constellation of symptoms.
Jeremy Cline 27:41
Okay, I'd like to cover two things. I'd like to discuss recovery. And then, I'd like to discuss prevention. So, first of all, someone who is experiencing the symptoms that you've described, and they come to me and you go, 'Oh, yeah, you're suffering from burnout here.' How can you start to recover from this? Especially, if you are in this, what you describe as busy but pretty normal life of work and coming home and taking the kids to activities and making dinner and all that kind of stuff, and just about snatching 15-30 minutes at the end of the day for TV before it is bedtime. So, what's the path to recovery?
Destiny Spurrell 28:19
This is a very good and important question. I think the word 'attunement' is always the one that stands out in my mind, because first, we have to recognise what's happening. When we recognise what's happening, that's when we can actually employ what I refer to as micro-shifts that make a big difference over the long term. Like I was saying that 10 degree shift or I use the word 1% shift. Sometimes we don't end up trying to move towards recovery because it feels big, daunting and overwhelming, and we can't think about how we can manage one more thing. There's a quote by Gretchen Rubin, and it's 'the things we do every day matter more than the things that we do once in a while.' So, although, the vacation and the spa trip are lovely, and by all means, if that's within your repertoire of possibility, tap into that, but what we really need to do is look at what we can do in our daily life, the little thing. It's easy to think about what is this grandiose, big step that I can take to solve my problem. Now, we like those things. But when you get a picture of what that is, can you ask yourself, 'What is 1% of that for you?' So, some examples, for example, in alarm phase is we might be trying to tap into something that brings us back into our body and brings us back into with ourselves. Breathwork is a huge and powerful one. Because as soon as we start to feel like my body is tense, my heart is racing, my shoulders are tight, and we recognise, first of all, attune, we recognise we're in alarm phase, taking a deep, full, diaphragmatic breath is like a switch. It switches us from that sympathetic 'fight-or-flight' phase into more of that parasympathetic phase. It brings oxygen to our brain, it dials us down just one notch. It's what helps us put just that tiny, tiny bit of space between the feeling and the reaction. That's the one that I really like to focus on for alarm phase, because it really is such a body-mind-soul, like it encompasses all of those pieces in the alarm phase. Ultimately, there's a few other simple steps, like in alarm phase, we can have a healthy complex carb in the evening, because what's that's going to do, it's going to get our insulin to come up a little bit, make our cortisol go down a little bit, maybe that's going to help us fall asleep when we're in alarm phase, right?
Jeremy Cline 30:26
So, what's a healthy complex carb? Or can you give some examples of what would represent a healthy complex carb?
Destiny Spurrell 30:31
Exactly. So, basically, the simplest way to put it is not like refined sugar and white flour. Something not like that. So, a whole grain, a starchy vegetable, something that's going to have carbohydrates in it, but not be a simple sugar.
Jeremy Cline 30:46
So, if you're going to cook me a meal, what would you cook me?
Destiny Spurrell 30:49
I might make, this is becoming fun and culinary experience, for an evening, I might have a protein and a vegetable and like say a rice, or potato or like a sweet potato or roast carrots or, you know, something along those lines, where we're getting some of that starch in the evening.
Jeremy Cline 31:10
Destiny Spurrell 31:11
Pasta, yes, but we tend to have a lot of carbs with pasta, and not the balance of protein and like vegetable fibre. When I think about fibre, I think about vegetables. When I think about carb, I think about starchy vegetables, like root vegetables, or whole grain.
Jeremy Cline 31:28
So, these are some of the things that you can do in the alarm phase. I know we're fast forwarding here, but I'm just wondering, what are some of the first steps that someone can take when they are at this kind of crash and burn stage? You know, they are in this, 'Oh, I cannot do anything' phase. How do you start to get out of that whilst maintaining some semblance of normal routine?
Destiny Spurrell 31:50
I think that comes down to how are we relating to ourselves in the circumstance. Because I think, what's the analogy, my co-founder, she uses this analogy, she's like, 'You are recovering, you have to treat burnout as if you are recovering from a disease.' Like your body is recovering from either, you know, like you have just had an illness, like you've just had the flu, or like you've just had a baby. We need to now become our project. Can we maintain normal life in exhaustion phase? Well, we're going to have to modify some things. We're going to have to take a hard look at the things that we think that we should do every day, in order to get out of exhaustion phase. And I think looking at the reality of how we're feeling is a really important piece of it, to be very honest, because we need to recover, we need to counterbalance in a real way. What are some of the little ways that we can do that? Well, we want to reduce the things that are taxing our body right now. Right now, our body is having a really hard time maintaining our blood glucose, that is a stress on our body right now. So, we need to focus on consuming our proteins, fats and fibres. At the time that I was really burnt out, I had a breakfast that did not have carbs, because if I had carbs in the morning, I was exhausted and starving by 10:30-11am. If I had some sauteed greens with an egg plopped on there, or a sausage patty with a big heap of sauerkraut, or even something like, if we're talking about a little bit more carb, but like an amaranth porridge or something like that, that's just a really hearty breakfast, then I could make it to my lunch and still have energy. So, that's one way that we can reduce that stress on the body right there. It's important in exhaustion phase that we're not telling ourselves, 'I'm going to intermittent fast and do high intensity exercise.' Right? So, in that exhaustion phase, what do we need to do? We need to do more of, yes, move our body, yes, call our body to adapt, but we want to do it in a way that is not overstressing our physiology that's already overtaxed. So, this is not the time to, I don't know if you guys have Orangetheory Fitness in the UK, it's not the time to be tapping into those high intensity exercises, but just to be in more of a restorative, nourishing movement. And then, actually, resting. Actually, resting. In our day-to-day, the 1% of the actually resting might be at that 2-to-4pm, when you're feeling really exhausted, actually lying horizontal for 5, 10, 15 minutes, just a pause. Just a pause and a breath, recentre and then restart.
Jeremy Cline 34:22
I can hear the objections to this, which is, 'Well, that's all very well, but how would you do this when you are in real life?' And I get that you need to, but I don't know, is this something that isn't recognised, that isn't sort of something where you can say, I don't know, to an employer, 'I need to reduce hours or whatever it is', or you can say to your family, 'Oh, you know, I can't do this, I can't do that.' Those sorts of objections, how do people overcome those sorts of objections, that this basically is all very well, but just not compatible, not realistic?
Destiny Spurrell 34:57
I think the first part of that is, if we can recognise the signs earlier, the recovery is much easier and more accessible. And that's why I'm here and talking to you. Because if we can recognise it, before we get here, it's so, so much easier, we don't come up against that in the same way. And secondly, the answer, really, the frank answer is that the pain becomes more intense than the problem. So, that truly, you know, eventually, if we don't find a way to shift it, even in the slightest of ways, and start turning it around, we won't be able to continue to focus, to perform at work, to be patient with our kids, to be present with our partner. We'll run out of gas. And so, that's where I mean recognising it earlier, we can make those shifts, that's where that attunement is really, really powerful to recognise, fatigue is not the first sign of burnout. Apathy, not the first sign of burnout. Right? We can start to recognise, okay, I'm in alarm, this is a time of pressure, let me make sure that I don't schedule all of those family activities and birthday parties on the weekend, after I have three presentations this week. That can be the next weekend, because I need this weekend to recover. Just that, like starting there, appreciation early on, recognising stress for the wonderful thing that it is, helping us to really show up, rise above, meet the challenge, but also appreciating that we need the Yin to counterbalance the Yang. Life is in balance, we can't exist in one extreme sustainably over the long term.
Jeremy Cline 36:28
So, let's talk a little bit about prevention. And you've talked about some of the things that you can do. So, you've mentioned breathing, taking a deep breath when you recognise that you're in a sense of high tension, high stress; diet, your complex but not refined carbs. And this is quite an interesting one about taking more control of your schedule. So, rather than thinking, 'Oh, no, I really can't face this after the week that I've had', then perhaps going, 'Well, okay, I'm not going to then. I am just going to have a more chilled out weekend.' What are some of the other things that these one percents that people can easily incorporate into their daily routines?
Destiny Spurrell 37:07
Yeah, one of the things that I find so powerful to people is learning to understand our rhythm, so what is that rhythm. Attuning to that is what then helps us to synchronise with that, in a way that we come to understand how we function in our body and mind, then we can align our actions, we can create the appropriate boundaries or supports or resources around that, in a way that's sustainable for everybody, instead of like, 'Hey, I'm just out this weekend. Sorry, you have the kids.' Right? That's further along the line. So, whether that's our circadian rhythm, whether that's how much rest do I need after a busy week, are we introverted or extroverted, how much can I put out socially before I need to recover, or how much social interaction do I need to be energised. Right? Understanding ourselves, again, coming back to that attunement, that again is our body, mind and soul, helps us to, I want to say unapologetically, but unapologetically put the structures, the boundaries in such in place, but when we do it early, it serves everybody. When we recognise it early, it helps us, and it helps the people around us. That's a big part of that early recognition. What does it mean from a food perspective? Honestly, when we are in a phase of adaptation, we don't need to stress so much about how we're eating for energy, right? Our body can get that reserve, we might really feel energised by intermittent fasting for energy. We don't have to access it as a tool that we focus on so religiously, when our body is in that place of adaptation. But when we notice we're going into alarm, we might again want to bring in those steady sources of fuel, because our body's liberating all that cortisol to get that blood sugar up. So, we might want to bring in that protein, fat and fibre, that's our steady sources of fuel, right?
Jeremy Cline 38:54
Rather than going straight to the chocolate bar.
Destiny Spurrell 38:56
Exactly. In that state of anxiety, that chocolate bar is probably going to elevate that state for you, right? Exactly.
Jeremy Cline 39:03
You talk about learning to understand your rhythm. I mean, what does that look like? I mean, what do you look for? What do you write down? What's your end product arising from learning about your own body's rhythm? And how would you create that analysis or learning?
Destiny Spurrell 39:19
We all have rhythm, but I think one that's really helpful to the women in your demographic is to track how we are feeling over the course of our cycle, what I call the seasons of our cycle. Because how much energy is flowing inward versus outward, and what's easy or harder changes in the different phases of our hormone rhythm. And understanding, I mean, it's fun to understand, okay, how does progesterone, how does oestrogen, how does like a surge of LH or FSH make us feel, but ultimately, it's about looking at that for ourselves. Okay, so maybe in the middle of my bleed, I need to move a little slower through my day. That's going to feel more nourishing to me, that might be when I have the most clarity around my decision-making. You know, maybe around the time of ovulation, for some people, that's when it's really easy to show up and give that presentation. Or maybe for them, that's when they feel extra anxious, because that's a lot of outward flowing energy. But when we get to understand that rhythm of ourselves, then we end up fighting ourselves so much less, we end up coming against our self-judgement much less, we are riding, I always say we are surfing the waves, instead of being tossed in the turn of the waves. That same kind of rhythm exists over the course of our day, right? The cycle of our day, or the cycle of the year. I know, for myself, at the end of July, I need to take a slower pace. You know, the kids are home, we don't have a regular routine, we're trying to tap into all of the fun activities in a relatively short summer, here in Ontario, Canada. And at that point, I know that if I try and push really hard to maintain the same pace through August, I'm going to be a grumpy bear and not who I want to be by the time September comes around. So, what is that for somebody? What is their access point? Are they a woman who feels like they can track their cycle? Let's start there. It's a really powerful one. Is it somebody who can find the rhythm in their week? Let's start there if that's accessible. You know, just really simple, if we boil it down, it comes down to noticing what is a yes and a no, and starting to lean into that a little bit, giving it a little bit of credit. Because we really dismiss our yeses and our nos very easily, because we are often very driven by external measures or what other people are thinking of us, and then subsequently, impairing what we can actually be and show up as.
Jeremy Cline 41:39
Does this look like, or can this look like some kind of journaling? So, sort of throughout the day, maybe every hour on the hour, you jot down a few notes of how you're feeling. Are you feeling tired, motivated, disinterested, pumped, that kind of stuff? Do that every day for a year, and then start to look back and try to notice some patterns, is that a way of doing it? It does sound quite a lot hard work, actually.
Destiny Spurrell 42:06
Absolutely. I mean, I think that's actually pretty involved, on the hour every day for a year. I mean, one thing that we can do, we're going to notice the things that aren't working instinctively, it's how our brain is wired. Some people just start to write down, 'I did this and I felt really good. I felt really happy doing this.' And so, they write that down. That might be one person's access point, a daily check in can be really powerful. I like these three questions, with my kids I do it Rose-Bud-Thorn, but it's really ultimately the questions of what worked today, what didn't work today, what can I shift tomorrow. The kids, the roses, something that went well, the thorn is something that was difficult, and the bud is what's a possibility that I can look forward to tomorrow. Those three simple questions asking ourself that each day can be really powerful. In an entrepreneurial space or a business space, it can be really helpful to spend a week or even three days doing a time study, where we write down everything that we do over the course of that day, and we start to take note of, 'Do I have to do this? Can I outsource this?' And looking at it very strategically from that point of view, and 'Do I like doing this? Do I hate doing this?' Right? That can really help us shape our day, our week, our month, in a way that we wouldn't have necessarily thought possible when we truly look and evaluate what we are doing in each hour of the day.
Jeremy Cline 43:30
So, if I'm understanding this right, this is about awareness of when you're not so alert, and trying to plan your days, so that you kind of fit in with that. So, you know, for example, I know that generally, first thing in the morning, I'm reasonably productive, my sweet spot usually kicks off in that period around about 11-to-1, say, I usually do have a piece of fruit at 11 o'clock to keep me going, and then, that's where I'm going to get my productive work in. So, great, that's one thing that I've done, if I can perhaps expand on that and start to look at it in terms of other parts of the day, so yes, there are those parts of the day where I feel like I could just use a lie down, but it's definitely not every day, and it's definitely not always the same time each day, but maybe start to recognise patterns, then the idea is that you start to just accept that that is the way that your body operates, and you can see, to the extent that you can anyway, try to plan your activities around that.
Destiny Spurrell 44:34
You use the words of 'accept' or 'fit within', but the way that I truly experience it is it's more about leveraging and reducing resistance. Right? So, if you know that 11-to-1 is your time where you're most productive, ride that wave. Don't try and take a nap then. Right? And if you know that, 'Oh, probably, some point in the afternoon, I might feel tired', well, maybe don't plan the thing that you really need to focus on and get done at that time of the day. But it starts with recognising that piece of yourself. And to get strategic with your fruit, if you couple that fruit with a little protein, fat and fibre, it might carry a little longer. You get that sugar hit for your brain, and you modulate that curve of your blood sugar to last a little longer.
Jeremy Cline 45:15
Okay, I'll start dipping in peanut butter or something like that. Well, we have covered an awful lot here, and genuinely, I often say this with interviews, but genuinely, in this case, we have, I think, only scratched the surface. People who want to dive into this more, I mean, what sorts of tools, resources, books, podcasts, that kind of thing can they use to explore this topic in a bit more depth?
Destiny Spurrell 45:39
To explore burnout in a bit more depth. There are so many tools and resources available to us, and like I said at the beginning, I think recognising where we truly can, where we truly have influence over that temperature signal that we're sending to our body and how what we're asking it to do can be really, really important, that tracking, that awareness, that piece. I had a different resource in mind that wasn't so super specific to burnout, it was more around that workings of our mind, because, really ultimately, at the end of the day, preventing burnout is how we are relating to ourselves and our circumstances. You know, whether or not we're validating or invalidating our yeses and nos, and riding the waves or fighting those waves. It's about reducing resistance and leveraging the flow of us in our body, mind and soul. And when it comes to all of those things, I find that the most resistance for a lot of us comes in our thoughts, in our workings of our mind. And the understanding of burnout and the symptoms and the actions we take are really intellectually intriguing and interesting and cool to talk about. The most powerful thing that we can do, ultimately, to prevent and to stay out of burnout, is to understand our thoughts and our relationship to our thoughts. And the ways that we can put that little bit of space between noticing the thought and the feeling it generates, so that we can respond. And when you asked me what resource I have found most impactful and that I talk about most readily, that resource is when I mentioned earlier, and it's Byron Katie's The Work, which is five questions that helps us to examine our thoughts, to recognise the thought, and then to look at it with curiosity, so that it helps us to create that little bit of space between our reaction and our response, and to shift that from a subconscious place, instead of a conscious trying, effort-based place, so that 10 miles down the road, we're in a different place than where we started. That's one resource, coupled with an accountability person who can mirror back to you, has been probably the most impactful and powerful thing that I've experienced myself and been able to share with clients as well.
Jeremy Cline 47:49
Talk a bit more about an accountability person. I mean, is this a friend? Is this a family member? Is this a coach or some kind of work mentor? Or is it potentially all of the above?
Destiny Spurrell 48:00
What feels accessible to you. I think it has to be somebody that's not emotionally invested in the circumstance that you're in and attempting to navigate. That unbiased approach can be one of the most helpful things to just reflect back what's being seen and heard and witnessed from their side. What I've worked with, you know, psychologists, and I've worked with coaches, and I've generated benefit and not in different places each time, I think it's about that connection. Can I connect with this person, this person and I, do we match and where we are? So, with Byron Katie's The Work, there are people trained in facilitating those questions with you. She, in fact, has a free hotline that you can access, which is incredible resource, along with her books and website and all of that. And it's not the resource that I would go to if we were experiencing a true deep state of depression, necessarily. That's when I would be accessing your social worker, your psychologist, somebody, and friend and community, somebody where you can, when we just keep everything swirling in our thoughts, it's like a ball of yarn that's all looped on each other, and it gets really knotted. And it takes being able to pull that ball of yarn out and start to identify a thread, and to pull that thread apart, to be able to unravel the knot. We can loop in our thoughts all day long. I think we all know that well, perseverating, ruminating, overwhelmed, like these are all looping in our thoughts. And so, the accountability person, whatever that person is that you feel like you can access or connect with, is somebody that helps you to liven down and look at them and turn them over, see them from another angle, and start to unravel those loops that just keep spiralling, so long as they're just in our head.
Jeremy Cline 49:41
And if people want to get in contact with you and find out more about you, where would you send them?
Destiny Spurrell 49:46
Absolutely. So, you can find me @soulsparksisterhood on Instagram or @destinyspurrell, which is my personal page. We also have a website, Soul Spark Sisterhood, and that's where you can access our Burnout Scale quiz that helps you to identify your phase, so that you can appreciate what hormone pattern is playing out for you. Am I in alarm compensation, exhaustion or adaption? It also walks through what that means and some of the practical actions that you take, and invites you to a conversation, if you want to figure out how you can take that deeper through a discovery call.
Jeremy Cline 50:22
Brilliant. Links to all of those will go in the show notes. Destiny, thank you for what ended up being a more medical conversation than I was expecting, but nonetheless, an extremely useful one. So, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Destiny Spurrell 50:33
My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Jeremy.
Jeremy Cline 50:36
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Destiny Spurrell. This is another one of those interviews where there was an awful lot in it, and it may pay to listen back to it again, especially as there was quite a lot of medical detail in there. The point I'd like to draw out though, was what Destiny was saying about making a small course correction now and the impact that that can have in the future. She talked about making a one degree course correction. So, something very small, but something that over time will really change things. It could be that you make one change to your daily routine, maybe change one element of your breakfast, or do two-minutes exercise every morning, something really small, but just keeping up with the habit may mean that it has a big impact for you in the future, even if it's not noticeable at the beginning. The show notes for this episode include a summary of everything we've talked about, a full transcript of the conversation with Destiny and links to the resources that she mentioned. And you can find those this week at changeworklife.com/113. That's changeworklife.com/113. Whilst you're on the website, do please check out the Support tab or changeworklife.com/support, S-U-P-P-O-R-T, that's changeworklife.com/support, there's a few ways that you can support the show if it's been helpful for you. And you'll find all the details there of how you can leave a review, or maybe you can offer some financial support. Putting out the show and putting everything up on the website each week does have a cost to it. And so, if you'd like to see the show continue and can offer either a one-off donation or a monthly recurring donation, then all the details about how you can do that are on that page, again, that's changeworklife.com/support. Now, this podcast is about career change, and it's not about cryptocurrency, but I can't ignore the fact that cryptocurrencies have been doing some very interesting things over the past year or so. And next week, we've got an interview with someone who has changed career. He went from being an entrepreneur to working in corporate to being back an entrepreneur again, and he's also heavily into the crypto space. So, as well as talking about his career journey, we're going to be finding a bit more about the world of Bitcoin and crypto. So, if that sounds interesting to you, then make sure you're subscribed to the show, if you're not already, and I can't wait to see you in next week's episode. Cheers. Bye.
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