We need to talk about burnout...


I have been burned out at work. And it took it's toll on my life and my health. It detracted from strong relationships that I had built over many years. It affected my family life. It affected my health. I can recall many times waking up in the middle of the night; heart racing, in a cold sweat, with the fear of having to face it all again the next day. Yes, I had stress with my job like everyone, and there were high expectations at my place of employment, but that wasn't it. I can rise to those types of challenges. It was actually a misalignment in my calling and my daily work. At one time, my work in my field served great meaning and purpose in my life, but I changed over time, and so did my interests, values and passion. I had evolved to need something different to fuel my meaning and purpose. What I interpreted as burnout, was actually just friction between my daily work and my calling. And that was for me to figure out, not my employer. And I did. I don't have everything in my life worked out yet, but I know I'm on a path that serves incredible meaning and purpose for me and for what I have been entrusted to give to others. Not all cases of burnout require taking a new direction; some just simply require reconnecting with our original path.

Burnout is a type of stress that occurs when something you care about is at stake. In my case, what was at stake was my personal value to align my calling with my daily work. Today, one of my passions is helping people cultivate their personal resources to build resilience. It's helping people connect to what brings meaning and purpose to their lives. So if you feel as though you're experiencing burnout, take heart. You're experiencing it because you care greatly about something and your heart is trying to get your attention to find, once again, your source of meaning and purpose. It's never lost, it might just be buried under years of thoughts, emotions, images and replays. 

My pastor once told me, "we are human beings, not humans doing". Sometimes, we need to put down our phone or our computer or walk outside of our office and just be. Be alone, be with others, create safe spaces for ourselves where we can recharge and then later, re-engage with our very important world.

So, actually, we need to talk about the opposite of burnout. We need to talk about resilience. Why? Because resilience is the antidote to burnout. But guess what? We generally aren't taught how to be resilient. Even still, resilience can be built. 

Resilience can be built through a few specific areas. Keep in mind though that you already have everything you need within you. It's just a matter of bringing it into the light and consistently using it and sharing it. So, you are ready. 

Mindset and Mindfulness: In particular, positive mindsets: I'm not talking about the kind of positive mindset that thinks that everything is sunshine and lollipops and there are no bad things ever. No, I'm talking about a mindfully-positive mindset that accepts, in a non-judgmental and compassionate way, what is; while acknowledging that with all bad comes some type of good. Maybe not right away, maybe not even for a while, but holding onto the hope that it will be there. Looking for the good in situations always. Looking at the silver lining of your stress. You don't stress about things that don't matter to you, because what you do matters. Meaning comes from a mindset focused on what matters most. 

Knowing Your Strengths: Your strengths are core to who you are. These are the virtues that come naturally to you. You may not know what your strengths are, and that's OK. I knew some of mine, but certainly not all of them. You can find out by taking a free survey online called the VIA survey here and you'll receive a ranking of your strengths. Your top five strengths are called your signature strengths, but you have every strength on the list within you. You may only call them forward only at times when you really need them, or they may be in the background in use without your awareness of them. You can use your strengths to cultivate greater mindfulness in your life. And, you can use mindfulness to become aware of how you leverage your strengths and build strengths. It's a virtuous cycle. And it matters. They should teach this stuff in schools. 

Caring for Others: Research has shown that for each stressful event in one's lifetime, the risk of dying increased by 30%, but with one major exception. For those who routinely spent time helping and caring for other people in their communities, there was actually no increase in risk of death whatsoever, even if they experienced more significant stressful events in their lives. Helping and caring for others also creates resilience. 

We are individuals. What creates meaning and purpose for you will fuel your resilience; but, there is no cookie-cutter approach to building resilience. It is as individual as you are. The approaches I mentioned above are foundations to resilience, but this is a gift for you to discover. What matters most to you? 

A Stepwise approach to building resilience can help, if you are concerned about burnout. Make sure to contact us to get started. 






The Good Bowl

Are you ever at a loss as to how to eat better? How are you supposed to cram those servings of fruits or vegetables in each day? What can it look like to eat more whole, fresh foods? Well, look no further than the Good Bowl. It's your own creative palette that can change flavors and colors by the day! The Good Bowl uses an easy stepwise formula and can be thrown together for a quick and nourishing lunch or boxed up to take to work. Mix and match your favorite foods and flavors; it's limited only by your imagination, so get to creating! 

STEPS to a Good Bowl

  • A dinner-sized shallow bowl
  • A handful of greens (pre-washed, bagged kale, mixed greens, spinach, spring mix)
  • A scoop of cooked grains (I like frozen, pre-cooked brown rice, white rice, or quinoa, which is easy to heat up in the microwave)
  • A quick protein (leftover poultry, meats, or fish; canned beans, canned tuna or salmon, etc.)
  • A couple of handfuls of colorful, chopped raw or cooked fruits or veggies (tricolor slaw mix, chopped peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, leftover roasted vegetables, chopped apples)
  • A small amount of healthy fats (chopped avocado, toasted nuts or seeds, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil)
  • A burst of bright flavor (a squeeze of citrus, a bright vinaigrette, a spoonful of salsa, a drizzle of Sriracha, a crumble of goat cheese or feta, hummus, tzatziki)
  • Fresh or dried herbs and spices (certainly salt and pepper, but also cumin, cilantro, parsley, oregano, or one of my favorites, Za'atar)

Here's a quick collection of my favorite Good Bowls. Look at all of those beautiful colors! Each took less than 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish by mainly using leftovers. Share your #GoodBowls on the Stepwise Health Facebook Page and let us know what you're creating!

The Ten Principles of Health Creation- Courtesy of the "Journey to 100"

Very recently, The Evolution of Medicine and the Dandelion Foundation sponsored an event called the Journey to 100. The premise of the one-day conference on Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel, was to help Guernsey become the very first country to become a "Blue Zone". What's a Blue Zone, you ask? 

The concept of a Blue Zone was established in 2004 by Dan Buettner and a team from National Geographic, as well as the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer and better. In these “Blue Zones” they found that people reach age 100 at rates ten times greater than in the United States. 

In advance of the conference, the Evolution of Medicine asked it's functional medicine community to share their thoughts on what should constitute the "Ten Principles of Health Creation"; those things that will allow a group of people to live well into their tenth decade. These principles were announced during the conference by James Maskell, the Founder of the Evolution of Medicine.

I was inspired by these principles and hope that you will find them refreshing and encouraging. Below, I give you below The Ten Principles of Health Creation, as well as our take on how they can make a difference for you, as "Health Creation" is a cornerstone of the Stepwise Health functional medicine coaching model. 

1. Find purpose

You are a unique person and there is no one else like you on this Earth. You are here for a reason. Your gifts need to be shared. What's your "Why"? What guides you each and every day? What matters most to you? These are some clues to help you discover your purpose. If you haven't discovered clues toward it yet, don't worry. Taking time regularly to meditate and/or pray on these questions will allow your mind to broaden and you will begin to find your way. Whatever your belief system, God, the Universe, or whomever, or whatever, will help you. 

2. Environment is everything

As my dad used to say "You can't mess with your genes, but your genes can mess with you." Very true, especially if the environment in which your genes are exposed is not optimal. You may not have control of every aspect of your environment, but you can adjust many parts of it- what you eat, what you drink, how you move, how you relax, how you structure your life, etc. Adjustments can be critical because it can determine if your genes express either health or disease. Small steps here can make a large impact. 

3. Health is a skill

Skills can be learned and developed with practice. Take one small step in that direction - today. Don't think too much about it. Just start doing one thing right now that serves your wellbeing. Spend time alone in nature. Eat one more serving of colorful vegetables a day. Whatever your body is telling you it needs, deep breaths, time to rest, time to play...  Indulge in making that one commitment today, and then tomorrow and the following days until you don't think about it anymore, you just do it. 

4. The power of community

Humans are wired for connection. We need to be around other human beings. The quality and quantity of social relationships directly influence our mental health, as well as reduce age-related mortality rate.  We live longer and we live better when we connect with other people. If you are part of a community, be consistent in engaging with it. If you aren't yet, find a group of people who share a common interest with you and go there, often. 

5. Responsibility for Inputs

Think about what you consume, what you breathe, what you apply to your body, what you feed into your brain- images, thoughts, media, etc. This forms the lens through which you see the world and has a direct impact on how your body functions. Yes, there is, in fact, a connection between your mindset and your body. If you consistently subject your brain to positive thoughts, for instance, your body will respond in a positive way. 

6. Congruence with nature

Just as a plant cannot grow without clean water, fresh air, lots of sunshine and good soil, people are really no different. Think about how human bodies are designed and what we have been doing for thousands upon thousands of years. Drink water, eat lots of food that grew from the Earth. Your body is designed to be move, so move it in a way that is enjoyable to you. Your brain was designed to be challenged consistently, but also rested often.  Surround yourself with love, positivity, gets lots of fresh air and sunshine.

7. Harnessing technology

We have a great deal of technology at our fingertips to help us be healthier. Put on your fitness tracker if you haven't worn it in awhile (note to self...). Sign up for a meditation app like Headspace or an exercise app. Use it, rinse and repeat. 

8. Knowing thyself

There is a Sioux creation myth that reads: "The Creator gathered all of Creation and said "I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they create their own reality." The eagle said, "Give it to me, I will take it to the moon." The Creator said, "No. One day they will go there and find it." The salmon said, "I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean." "No, they will go there too." The buffalo said, "I will bury it on the Great Plains." The Creator said, "They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there." Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes, but sees with spiritual eyes, said "Put it inside of them." And the Creator said, "It is done."

Look inward and spend time on self-reflection. It's always intrigued me that as humans, part of our journey is learning about ourselves. We're not born knowing what has been entrusted to us to give in this world. Yet it's there and we must seek it. Learn what makes you tick. Learn what strengths you have. Be keenly aware always of what's right within you. 

9. Therapeutic order

There is extreme value in focusing on the least expensive, least invasive interventions first in medicine. Health creation begins with our lifestyle. Prioritizing our lifestyle now can save us countless healthcare dollars in our future. 

10. ?

I love this one. The Evolution of Medicine community purposely left number ten open. I suppose it was to leave it up to you to determine. Medicine is moving toward a "P4 model": Predictive, Preventative, Personalized and Participatory. 

So, I think this is our invitation to participate and personalize our own health creation. What's your number 10? What else will you do to create your own individualized, very best health?