Stress, Burnout, and Reclaiming Wellness with Avery Thatcher

ON THIS EPISODE

In this podcast episode, we delve into Avery’s remarkable journey from a dedicated ICU Registered Nurse to a passionate advocate for stress prevention and holistic well-being.

Early in her career, Avery observed a disconcerting trend among her patients, one that would ultimately shape her mission. Many of them found themselves in the intensive care unit due to illnesses and diseases rooted in chronic stress. This revelation became a turning point, inspiring Avery to transition from reactive healthcare to proactive stress management.

And in case you’ve guessed it – we’re talking about burnout!

ABOUT THE GUEST
Avery Thatcher

While working in an ICU as a Registered Nurse, Avery noticed that the majority of the reasons people found themselves there were because of illnesses and diseases linked to chronic stress. In 2015 she decided to get out of the reactive side of medicine, and now helps people prevent and even reverse the negative health effects of stress through a variety of mindset strategies, embodiment and somatic practices, meditation, philosophy and yoga.

SHOW NOTES

We explore how Avery’s journey led her to recognize the pervasive effects of stress on adults, often resulting in severe health consequences. She shares her own health challenges, which served as a powerful wake-up call and catalyst for change.

Avery’s transformative journey takes an unexpected turn when she decides to change her name, a symbolic act representing her reconnection with herself and her commitment to a new way of life. We delve into the complex world of high achievement and the pursuit of true fulfillment.

Discover the concept of working in the elusive ‘flow state’ and how it can enhance productivity and well-being. Avery also guides us through the process of rediscovering our priorities in life and the importance of maintaining a healthy balance among the various aspects of our existence.

Avery’s unique perspective on the four different energy tanks sheds light on the interconnected nature of our well-being. Learn valuable strategies for harmonizing these essential ‘buckets’ in your life and setting effective boundaries.

Join the conversation about how capitalism contributes to widespread burnout in our society, and explore the power of creating a ‘release practice’ to alleviate stress and promote holistic wellness.

As we near the end of this compelling episode, we delve into the pressures of achievement and consumption in our modern world. The journey concludes with a rapid-fire round of questions that provide further insights into Avery’s perspective and experiences.

We talk about:

  • [0:00] Intro

  • [2:50] Defining burnout and how it shaped her life journey

  • [4:40] The ‘Tiger’ example

  • [6:50] Noticing the effects of stress and how adults find themselves sick because of it

  • [9:45] Experiencing her own health concerns

  • [11:30] Changing her name and reconnecting with herself with a new life

  • [17:50] Defining high achievement and finding fulfillment

  • [25:10] Working in the ‘flow state’

  • [32:15] Rediscovering what your priorities are

  • [34:30] Four different energy tanks

  • [35:55] Learning to balance our ‘buckets’

  • [38:35] Setting strict and effective boundaries

  • [45:30] How capitalism contributes to our burnout

  • [48:15] Creating a ‘release practice’

  • [51:15] The pressure to achieve and consume

  • [55:40] Rapid fire questions

TRANSCRIPT
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For some people, high achievement means that they are doing enough that they can rest, so they’re actually more equating their high achievement by the amount of time that they can actually do things quietly, and that is measurable. Another person defined high achievement by they track their feelings and emotions at the end of the day, and that they are the high achiever if they’re maintaining a certain grouping of emotions a certain number of times per week.

So there’s a number of different ways that you can do it and it’s so unique to that individual person. But really what it comes down to is connecting to your core values. Right. Because everybody has different core emotional values and those are going to help drive what really gives you fulfillment in life.

Because a lot of burnout often starts as fulfillment burnout.

Carolyn: My guest on the podcast today is Avery Thatcher. Avery is a former ICU registered nurse and the founder of Becoming Avery and the FlowState app, an app that offers short, accessible stress management strategies to help highly sensitive, high achievers recover their energy and optimize their habits so they can elevate their impact.

 So today’s recording is going to be a topic that I think many of you in the workplace are going to relate to. Either you’ve been through it, you’re going through it, or you’ve worked with somebody who has been through it or going through it, and that’s burnout. I myself have a burnout story. Not proud of it because one of the things about my burnout was that I refused to admit that I was in it.

And you know, when I think about it, it’s not that I refuse to admit it. I just, I didn’t know any other way. And I actually truly didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me. I was trying to play catch up and be just like everybody else. So enjoy this conversation with Avery. I know I I’m really excited to hear her story and the great tools that she shares with her clients.

Enjoy.

Hello, Evolve fans. I’m really excited today to have our guest Avery Thatcher on our pod today. Welcome Avery.

Avery: Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be here.

Carolyn: Yeah. And Avery is another Canadian. So it’s always great to, you know, rep our, our great country of Canada. And we met several months ago and I was really, really and I think, you know, we’re going to go into a topic here that I know is near and dear to, well, I shouldn’t say dear, but it’s near to a lot of people, which is this topic of burnout.

And what I found so incredible about your story was the action that you took and the impact that it had on you.

 So, That’s going to be our topic of discussion. Everybody tuning in is the big old hard topic of burnout. So Avery, maybe we could start off, how did like, how do we define burnout first of all?

And then why did it become such a big part of, of your life and, and really shaping where you are now.

Avery: Absolutely. So burnout really exists on the spectrum of stress and trauma. So We have chronic stress that’s really unique to our day and age. It, as we look over time, has just increased in its prevalence, and our body was not built for chronic stress. So we weren’t really meant to handle these constant drivers that all of us are really dealing with right now.

And so that’s, evolve their research around stress to really create these three stages that we move through. So the stage of alarm is that first stage when we interact with stress. And that’s what our body was designed to do is to see the animal running at us and be like and running away to safety and everything’s fine.

And then it turns off and all is good. But because again, of these chronic stressors, we now move into this next stage, which is called the stage of resistance. And so this is where our body systems are supporting us and doing the best to make sure that we’re successful in whatever it is that we’re trying to manage.

And for a while, our body can do okay in this space, but then eventually our body systems aren’t enough. And this is where we move into that final stage, the stage of exhaustion. And this is where our energy stores in all cells are depleted. Our liver can’t keep up by producing its own energy anymore. And this is where we feel.

that experience of burnout. And there’s actually four different kinds of burnout, and we can talk about those maybe in a bit. But really, this is where I found myself. Several years ago.

Carolyn: So. 

Before we go there. So can you and you know what? I think with your example, I’d love to, I know we use the tiger example often, right? Of being eaten for lunch or dinner or breakfast or whatever meal that tiger was looking for that day. what is a tiger in today’s day and age?

Avery: So a tiger can be so many things. It can be money stress, work stress, internal pressure. It can be growing up as a high achiever and really equating your value to what you can check off in a day. It can be the external pressures of social media and seeing everybody’s highlight reel and wanting to keep up with that and feeling less than.

It’s the pressures that our family and friends put on us. the expectations just in our current generation that have shifted for us. Because when we look at the generation gaps, we can see also differences in the tigers that existed. So when you think about life now versus where it was even 50 years ago, you can’t just get sick and go to the doctor.

The doctor says, yeah, you’ve got to do this. You have to take better care of your health. You have to improve your nutrition, but they don’t really help you out with how. But it’s expected. You can’t just work, you know, your 40 to 50 years and retire at 65 and be taken care of. You have to start planning for that right away.

There’s so much pressure on high school students to know exactly what their growth plan is throughout their career. There’s just so much more pressure put on us than there ever was before.

Carolyn: Yeah. And I think that’s a really important thing to to understand. I know as somebody who was around 50 years ago just born it was very different and so we can tend to think, Oh, well, what’s the big deal? I should be able to manage this. And so the stressors of our, of our lives are beyond with what our brain was built to do.

Avery: Yes, our brain, our body, so many aspects of that are not meant to handle this chronic stress coming at us from all angles because, yeah, really we’re meant to see that moment, fight or flight, and then go back into the parasympathetic rest and digest.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yep. 

Now, we’d love to hear your story, Avery, and maybe through the eyes of those three stages that you talked about.

Avery: Yes, for sure. So, I started my career working as a registered nurse in intensive care units. And so these are highly stressful places for everybody, and especially the patients and their families. And I really took a really keen, nerdy interest to understanding how stress really affects our body. And I dove into all the research around that, and then I realized that…

the top reasons why adults were finding themselves in the ICU in the first place were because of illnesses and diseases that were linked to that chronic stress. . Yeah, so I noticed that the majority of the reasons why adults found themselves there were because of illnesses related to chronic stress. So I wanted to get out of the reactive side of medicine and really start helping people prevent and reverse those negative health effects of stress.

Carolyn: So, can I ask Avery, like, what were some of the things that you were seeing there? You know, like, clearly there was something drawing you to it, but what were some of the things that were showing up for you?

Avery: Yeah. So I think Some of the main things that I could link right away with those, those patients were the heart disease, strokes even though there isn’t a direct link between increased stress and cancer with increased stress, it creates a lot of behaviors that then lead to a space where cancer can maybe flourish a little bit more.

So I was seeing a lot of these things. And then myself, I could also feel the impact and stress of working in such an environment, which is just built for the high achiever, really. And I can raise my head and say that I am very much in that group. And so I, when I decided to start this more proactive aspect of my career, I started an online business.

And so I was working more than full time 12 hour shift work. And. Running two podcasts, a blog, group programs. I had a membership and I was doing all of this on the side. So like every waking moment was busy and I felt like I was fine because I was like, I’m practicing yoga. I’m meditating. I feel good. I’m taking care of my nutrition.

Everything’s great. I was doing everything quote unquote right.

Carolyn: Right. Check, check, check. High Achiever. The High Achiever checklist, which honestly, I think it’s not even High Achiever. I think it’s just getting by like hashtag adulting, right? To, to be able to do all these things, right? Or think that we needed to do all these things.

Avery: Exactly. Thinking that we need to. And that’s something which we can chat about in a bit too, talking about how our modern in society and modern day capitalism is really fueling that burnout culture, making us feel like what I was just describing is the norm and that’s the expectation and that’s okay.

So yeah, I was doing all of these things, but also, you know, practicing what I preached and I thought that I was maintaining that balance. I thought I was in that stage of resistance. Everything was ticking along. 

But then, Christmas morning, I was coming off a 12 hour night shift, and the charge nurse looked me in the eye, and she was like, Oh, you do not look good.

Go home. Rest. Feel better. I’ll mark you down a stick for your next shift. Just take care of yourself. And so I went home, and I slept for 20 hours.

Carolyn: 20, like 2 0.

Avery: And then I did that for the next day. And the day after that. And I was like, Oh, something’s

Carolyn: is telling you something.

Avery: Something’s talking. So then I went to the doctor and it started this big journey because like I walked in and she was like, what’s that on your neck?

And I was just like, What? And I had this huge mass that was growing on my thyroid and I had so many other symptoms that couldn’t have just been explained by that. And basically went down this whole 18 month road of surgeries and painful biopsies and different tests and scary diagnoses and going to see a zillion specialists before I became the proud owner of a chronic illness and a physical disability that’s never going to go anywhere.

Carolyn: Wow.

Avery: And so my burnout led to this huge, epic health shift for me, and it made it so that I couldn’t be the person that I thought I was. I couldn’t be in the career that I thought I would be in. I was never going to be able to work as an ICU nurse again. And for about two years, since I got sick, I was just really struggling with trying to find the middle ground, like trying to figure out where, where do I meet here?

How can I reconcile who I used to be with, like, what I’m capable of now? 

And eventually, I realized that there was not going to be a middle ground, that if I really wanted to find a way forward for me, I had to grieve the loss of who I was. And I had to start over. And so for me, that part of my journey meant changing my first name. And so I spent 37 years of my life as Heather. And then I decided that I had to lose Heather. I had to let her go. And that’s where I scoured baby name blogs for two days. And the only name that jumped out at me was Avery. And the first time someone called me that. I felt like something shifted and settled in my body, I felt at home in my body again, and that really helped me connect to a purpose that was then challenged quite a bit later when the pandemic started again,

Carolyn: Wow. And, and so that’s I really, really appreciate how you felt it in your, in your body and, and, and so connected to your identity. And I mean, we are so many layers, right? When it comes to, to our identity and, and that, that couldn’t have been an easy decision in, in a lot of ways, or was it?

Avery: not at all. it was incredibly scary and nerve wracking, especially since I had built my entire business and my career around the name Heather Thatcher, everything was branded to that. Everything. So the process of undoing all of that and re figuring it out and still finding those people. And then I remember sitting down to talk to my family about it and it was Thanksgiving dinner and I’m like shaking like a leaf and you can hear it in my voice and I’m just like, Hey, this has to happen.

And it was just so wonderful how much my family embraced. The fact that they’d have to call me by a different name,

Carolyn: Wow. and what was it that, that I guess they’d seen all the pain and everything that you’d been through. But I’m curious, like that openness and and love that they surrounded you with.

Avery: it, to be honest, it surprised me a little bit because I, prior to that moment really struggled with vulnerability,

Carolyn: Hmm.

Avery: in people that were close to me, because I was so fearful of people that were thinking about me differently or losing some vision of what they saw me as by admitting that I’m struggling.

So really the only person that truly knew even the tiniest degree of what I was going through was my partner. And we’d been married for three months before I got sick and he was very patient, but throughout the whole journey It was really hard for me to let him in because I haven’t really gone through something like this with a support person that I could trust.

So for the first bit, he could know that I had an appointment with a specialist.

Carolyn: Right.

Avery: And then he could know that the date of the appointment, and then he could be there and drive me, but only wait in the car. And then he could come into the building. Then eventually he’d come into the waiting room and finally he could come into the doctor’s office with me.

And I remember that moment when he came into the doctor’s office with me, I was so nervous. But then as soon as the doctor gave the diagnosis and the prognosis and all of the things, I just felt so much relief knowing I had that person with me. And I was just like, why didn’t you do this earlier? I don’t know why, but it was just like…

This was the right time for that to happen. So it was just so nerve wracking to tell my family because I don’t think they actually really understood everything that I was going through up until that point. And so I think a lot of it all landed at once. And so they had to process the realization of what I had been going through as well as I don’t get to call her the name that I named her anymore.

So I think it’s really a testament to them and their… Commitment to openness that allowed that to go as well as it did?

Carolyn: Wow. And so, you now are Avery Thatcher. and so what has Avery been doing to be in the world?

Avery: So I think one of the biggest things that I realized was missing, especially when I was teaching people stress management, is it was very much symptom focused. Not so much cause focused.

Carolyn: Okay.

Avery: And so then I think bringing that into the mix has been really, really impactful for me as well, because it’s helped me see from an objective perspective, how to move through the world that we’re living in right now.

And then I think the other piece that made the biggest difference and that’s really changed in how I show up is redefining what high achievement means to me.

Carolyn: Wow.

Avery: And when we think about high achieving, we think about, being the ultimate productivity master. You are scratching all these things off your to do list, you’re involved in all these different organizations, and people are just like, how do you do it?

When do you sleep? And you’re just like, yes, I’m amazing. But that kind of method of seeing high achievement is actually given to you by somebody else. And so one of the things that I do with people is help them redefine what it means to them. So for me, high achievement means that I am creating a ripple effect of compassion and authenticity that spreads beyond my ability to influence it.

So when I see that I’m making a difference in someone else’s life, and then they now have the empowerment and the confidence to go and make a difference in someone else’s life, and that continues to ripple out, then I know that I’m doing my job. So then it’s not actually about how many blog posts I can write or podcasts I can be on or all of these things.

It’s more about how can I be that catalyst for somebody else to make a difference.

Carolyn: It’s, I, I just hear so much more again about being versus doing and the doing because there’s an immediate measure. I think that we have, well, not, I think we know we’re going to talk about this. it’s easier to measure, therefore I will put my worth in, into that. 

So what are some of the things then as you work with people, what, how are they defining high achievement?

Like what, what could be some examples you could share with us how other people shape it?

Avery: Yeah. So for some people, high achievement means that they are doing enough that they can rest. So they’re actually more equating their high achievement by the amount of time that they can actually do things quietly. And that is measurable. Another person defined high achievement by They track their feelings and emotions at the end of the day, and so they know that they are the high achiever if they’re maintaining a certain grouping of emotions a certain number of times per week.

So there’s a number of different ways that you can do it, and it’s so unique to that individual person. But really what it comes down to is connecting to your core values. Because everybody has different core emotional values and those are going to help drive what really gives you fulfillment in life because a lot of burnout often starts as fulfillment burnout, where we’re doing all of the things, but we just don’t feel connected to that.

Not in the way that we want to.

Carolyn: well, there’s a mismatch and it’s heavy. It’s heavy to carry that emotional disconnect. Isn’t it?

Avery: It is. And then it starts to play into those other spheres. Like you said, the emotional sphere, when you don’t feel. impactful. And then the mental sphere, because now you feel like your energy just keeps getting drained and you can’t make good decisions. And then your physical energy follows, and you really lack that.

And that’s where that holistic burnout can really hit. But often it does start with that fulfillment burnout.

Carolyn: And so the people that you work with and through your own experience, how do they find fulfillment? How can we find fulfillment? Yeah. Yep. In an environment that really prioritizes the checklist form of achievement.

Avery: Absolutely. So this always makes me think of one of my clients. His name is Hugh, and he worked at a very busy return to work rehabilitation for people that had gotten injured on the job to help them strengthen their skills and, and their physical stamina and whatnot to be able to get back to work. And it was an incredibly busy environment.

And there was a lot of paperwork and, and legal sides of things that had to be done as well for this person, but they, yeah. really got fulfillment from their work by interacting with people. It’s why they became an occupational therapist in the first place. And so they went to their boss and they’re like, Hey, like, I am feeling dissatisfied because I just feel like I’m too busy doing paperwork.

I don’t have time to interact with my clients. I don’t have time to create better recovery plans for them. And I really want to spend more time than that. And she’s like, okay, great. I’ll just increase your weekly hours by five hours a week. And he was just like, cool, but didn’t actually solve the problem.

Carolyn: That’s not what I was asking.

Avery: Already burnt out here, already working more than like so much overtime, but all right. So when he and I met, he was like feeling that disconnect and he’s like, she just doesn’t get it. And I was like, okay, well, what, what would great look like in this situation? Because absolutely you still have to do all the legal paperwork.

There’s no way around that. But what would the most ideal day look like for you? And he’s like, well. I would want at least a little bit of time with each client each week. And I was like, okay, so let’s get out of the all or nothing thinking. Let’s go for five minutes per person per week.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Avery: so he had a checklist of the people which he wanted to connect with, and he just spent five minutes with everybody, and it was wild, the difference that that made.

It improved the efficiency of his other work, and so he was actually able to spend much more time than that initial five minutes that he had planned out. And so it wasn’t necessarily that he needed more hours, he just needed more clarity. So I think when we’re lacking that fulfillment, getting the clarity on what actually lights me up in this job and what can I do to make that highlight, maybe not the majority of the time.

Well, what can I do to highlight that need?

Carolyn: And, and so the, the small, I mean, five minutes isn’t a huge amount of time. And, and, and what really came to me when you were saying that is just how much we run on autopilot. And I spent many of my years doing that, you know, you’ve got, you know, for those of us who have kids and carton them off to doing whatever, getting homework done, trying to fulfill my own obligations in the workplace, and it just didn’t have time for it type thing.

And yet. Pausing and getting some of that clarity and that presence allows us to find small things like that.

Avery: Exactly. And one of the things that I often say to people, especially if they feel like they’re too busy, that there’s never enough time is that one minute is better than no minutes. So taking the 60 seconds before you walk into a grocery store to just sit and be with yourself or take deep breaths or stretch a little, that 60 seconds, maybe in a couple of pockets throughout the day, that can make a huge difference.

And the struggle is, is your high achieving brain is going to say, Oh, but it’s just 60 seconds. I should just go in. I’ll just go in.

Carolyn: Right.

Avery: And it’s just that sort of little fight to begin with until you can start to prove to yourself what a profound impact those 60 seconds can make.

Carolyn: Well, and it’s, it’s again, just another great reminder at how disconnected our body gets from our head and you know, these, and I am continually trying to unlearn some of those patterns. Like, Oh, it’s, yeah, I’ll just, I’ll just quickly scroll through and check a few emails. You know, I’ve got one minute while I wait or two minutes while I wait for my son to, you know, go inside this, you know, the store and come back.

When we can just give some nourishment or some resources to our body. So you know, breathing, like you said, or just getting up and moving, like just going for a little walk around the car. I’ve done that a few times just to get my body out.

Avery: Absolutely.

Carolyn: So so what happened with you then?

 Like, did they end up staying there? Was that five minutes? And like, did that recalibration help

Avery: It did. Profoundly. So they were, at the time when they were reaching out to me, they were also looking to you. Find another job they were actively seeking. And so by just reprioritizing that to be the fulfillment piece that they were missing, they stayed in that job for another two years before they then advanced in the same organization.

So it’s really when people look for the quick fix, the easy fix is to go find another job, you’re likely to set yourself up into similar situations if you don’t dig into what do you really want, what’s really missing.

Carolyn: Right. Right. Cause it’s like, it’s like going elsewhere to find your answers when it’s like right here in you.

Avery: That’s it.

Carolyn: You not Hugh. You. It’s not, it’s not a Hugh.

Avery: Yes, although it wasn’t for him. Yes,

Carolyn: Yeah. And then what about, for you? So tell me a little bit more about your business and, what you’re seeing with the clients that you work with.

Avery: Yeah, so I really help people, very busy people, find those little pockets of time to work on their stress management, to find that work life balance. Because when we think of work life balance, especially the super type A high achiever, we start to want to put that into categories and start to really plan it out.

But our Work life balance is going to be different day to day. So we need to start to figure out how to have it be in flow. And so the app that I’ve developed is called the Flow State, because it not only gives you activities like yoga or qigong to flow with, but it also helps you reconnect that heart and that mind.

So that way you can really flow through life and be more like a river. Because a river, when it encounters a big boulder, it doesn’t go like, it’s in my way. I don’t really know what to do. What’s going on? It just goes, okay, and flows around.

Carolyn: Right.

Avery: want to be able to cultivate in our lives because modern day capitalism, pandemics, all kinds of things are just going to keep putting boulders in the way.

So we need to learn how to build up some of those internal skills so that we can work on moving around those kinds of things.

Carolyn: I love how you just described the boulder, like the boulder doesn’t complain or the, the water just like boom, Oh, boulders there just kind of moves around it. And we get. And I’m just thinking of myself, you just kind of get so stuck as it has to be this way. So, is it fair to say then, Avery, that as we get more in flow, we become a lot less resistant and a lot more adaptable and flowy with what goes on day to day?

Avery: Yes, very much so. And it’s not that the boulders disappear. It’s just that you’re able to embrace the boulder rather than try and pick it up and move it with you. Because that’s really where suffering truly comes from. The resistance and the struggle is when we try and hold onto it or push it away or do something with it rather than just accept like, okay, right now it’s like this.

What’s next? And this is something that the foundation was really laid for me in the ICU. Because if a patient is decompensating or something is changing, you can get upset if you want to, but it’s not going to make the problem any better. So if you just say, okay, right now it’s like this. What’s my next step?

Okay. Now, right now it’s like this. What’s my next step? And so when we can embrace life like that, it really just allows us to see what comes our way. There was a really well known Taoist story where this man he had a farm with lots of horses and this one horse escaped. And then all of his neighbors were like, Oh, that’s so sad.

It was your best horse. And like, what are you going to do with your farming now? It’s such bad news. And the farmer said, We’ll see. And then the next day, the horse came back and brought three more horses with it. And so then the neighbors were all like, Oh, this is great. The horse brought three more horses.

So good. Like you’re so lucky. And he’s like, we’ll see. And then the next day, his son is trying to break in some of those new horses and falls off the horse and breaks his leg. And the neighbors are like, Oh, that’s so sad. I’m so sorry that happened to you. That’s terrible. And the farmer’s like. We’ll see. The next day, the army comes and they’re recruiting all able bodied young men to come and fight in a war. But because his son’s broken his leg, he’s not able to go. And so then the neighbors are all like, Oh, this is such great fortune. Like your son doesn’t have to go off to fight in war. And the neighbor or the farmer says, we’ll see.

Carolyn: We’ll see.

Avery: And it’s just that ability to be like, we’ll see, we’ll see what comes.

Carolyn: Wow. So when I think of, of our workplaces this ability to say, we’ll see is really on a spectrum

Avery: Very much.

Carolyn: and I’ll be honest, I experience and hear a lot more about, I don’t have time for, we’ll see, we got to get things done. And. I think it’s just, it’s harder for people to access the, we’ll see mindset.

Avery: I agree. And I think this is where a lot of. The different pressures and societal impacts are really changing the passive way that we start to move through our workplaces. And this is where learning how to lead by that example and set that example in a very respectful but assertive way is really, really, really essential.

Carolyn: And I know I said mindset and it actually isn’t just a mindset, right? There’s emotional regulation in there. There’s getting in tune with your body and being still in present and doing, you know, some of the practices that, that I know you share in your burnout recovery classes, like, is it said Qi Gong or Qi Gong?

Avery: Qigong is how it was taught to, my partner is the one that teaches those classes. Yeah, so that’s what I understand, but.

Carolyn: Yeah. And I mean that yoga, meditation, somatic exercises, like though those types of things just will help us get into that present moment and allow us to be much more in a position to be on the, we’ll see side of things versus the, like really kind of reacting in the moment.

Avery: Yes, absolutely. But all of those things that you listed, although they’re incredibly beneficial and very important, they’re very much the band aids. They treat the symptoms without dealing with the cause. So when we only do those things, we’re basically sitting in a boat full of holes. And so those practices, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, somatic exercises, they’re like the bucket.

And so we can dig ourselves out and keep bailing out that, that boat that’s slowly sinking with full of all holes and waters coming in. And if we increase the frequency that we do things, we… get a bigger bucket and we can scoop faster, but we’re still sinking. So what we need to do is step back. Once we’re in this more regulated space where we can look at things and be like, we’ll see, then we need to start looking at like, okay, so which holes can I actually plug?

How can I make this so that I don’t have as much of a steady stream of stress coming into my life?

Carolyn: Wow. I love, I love that, that analogy. Cause I think for me, I just got a bigger bucket and just would kick it out faster. And then you think, Oh, great. Look at me go, like bring it on. There’s nothing I can’t, there’s nothing I can’t handle.

 So, well, let’s talk about some of these holes in the boat.

Avery: Yes, absolutely. So one of the most interesting things I think is a hole in everybody’s boat is the word priorities.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Avery: because the word priority was actually only pluralized after the Industrial Revolution,

Carolyn: Oh,

Avery: where modern day capitalism really started to push this sort of relentless need for efficiency and production.

Carolyn: Yep.

Avery: so that’s where you couldn’t just have one priority, because really when you get down to the Latin root of that word, it means first thing, and you could only have one first thing, really. But… modern society would lead us to think that we’ve got multiple first things. So what we need to do is learn how to open that little priority hole, let the priority come in, and then plug it until that priority is dealt with.

And so this is where my I use a three tier strategy planning. So that way every day you sit down with this and you decide, okay, what’s my priority for today? And then what are my, if I’ve got time, energy, and mental white space to do? And then the third category are the fires. And so these are the things that you actually have to drop everything to go and manage.

And there are going to be very few things that end up in that category. And so by shifting our perspective this way, we’re now again, opening up that hole to allow the priority to come in and plugging it back up so it doesn’t continue to eat away at our mental white space.

Carolyn: Yeah. That’s so, I mean, even as you were saying that, I’m like, yeah, can I have a priority for the each hour or like each, each segment of my day. And that’s kind of where I’ve gotten to is instead of having a whole list of priorities, I have like morning and afternoon. So, you know, you were my afternoon priority and making sure that I had that all set up and I wanted to show up the way that, you know, like.

You know, resourced and nourished and all that kind of stuff. So I ate lunch before is that, am I like fooling myself with that type of methodology or does it, is it really just a priority a day in your experience?

Avery: So, the frustrating answer that I’m going to give you is it depends. Yeah. So it really depends on what that priority is and the kind of pressure and what kind of energy that priority uses up. Because we have four different energy tanks that we have to work on filling and maintaining throughout the day.

And those are mental energy, physical energy, emotional energy, and that’s fulfillment energy. And so if your first task for your morning block drains mental, physical, and emotional energy, and you don’t take time to recharge those, and then your next priority also needs a lot of that, will you be as effective and efficient?

Or do you need to maybe balance your task differently? So when I say it depends, that’s kind of the lens that I mean it through.

Carolyn: It’s so interesting that you brought up physical, emotional, mental. I, I would, I used to call that other that final category spiritual. But I really like your word better. It’s like fulfillment sort of higher, bigger than myself type thing for so many years. I. Fooled myself. I shouldn’t say fooled.

I prioritized emotional, mental, and fulfillment over physical energy. And I, I’ve always been really good at getting eight hours of sleep, but movement eating, those two things have been sort of a secondary focus for me. and now I’m at a different stage in my life and realize I can’t do those other, I can’t fuel those other areas of my energy quadrants as I call them the same way.

I just, I couldn’t find the time in my day. 

So here’s my question that I’m guessing people listening or watching this are wondering. Do we have to fill all four of those buckets all day every day? Like, how do we learn what that balance is? Like, what if I, what if I can’t get on my bike for 20 minutes or I have to eat fast food or I only got five hours of sleep or, you know, you know where I’m going,

Avery: Absolutely. Yep. Great question. And the idea of like looking ahead and being like, Oh my gosh, I’ve got to like keep tabs on all of these things now on top of everything else that’s already on my brain. That’s exhausting. So what, what I recommend you do and what I do is every morning I check in with those four energy spheres.

And I look and see like, okay, so which one is the lowest right now? Which one needs the most love? And then I also look ahead at my day. And I look at the activities that I have planned, the priority that I’ve set. And I ask like, okay, so looking at this and knowing what I know about myself. What’s going to get drained?

What do I also need to make sure that I need to make some time for? And then sometimes the activities that restore the one that I initially identified I needed help with, plus the one that I think is going to get during the most throughout the day, those activities that restore those overlap. So then brilliant.

And we’re looking for things that you can do that are the most effective for you. So even though maybe meditation works really well for someone, when I’m super stressed out, I can’t meditate to save my life. Like, my brain will just, like, la la la la la, the whole time it’s like chickens running around up there.

There’s not a quiet

Carolyn: I just.

Avery: be had.

Carolyn: That’s happened a few times to me, and I just pull the earplugs, and I’m like, this is useless, and then I go for a walk. I’m like, I need to be moving.

Avery: Yes, exactly. So, it’s about playing with the right thing for you to be able to really restore it in the most effective way, and that only comes with being curious. So, testing things out, deciding, like, did that work? No, meditation did not work in this scenario. So I’m going to try something else like going for a walk or practicing yoga or going and sitting and snuggling my dog.

I’m going to do something, having a cup of tea, making lunch, whatever it is just to help restore some of those energy spheres. So really it’s not so much about making sure you’re always keeping on tabs on all the different levels, but it’s just checking in with yourself. Maybe at the beginning of the day when you have a quiet moment just to see. Is there something that I need right now that’s going to make me the best version of myself in the next couple hours of my day?

Carolyn: right, right. It’s so much more manageable than trying to like figure out the big blocks. 

Okay, so we’ve got prioritization as one of the holes. Can I take a guess at what another hole might

Avery: Yes, go for it.

Carolyn: Would it be the B word, boundaries?

Avery: Yes, absolutely.

Carolyn: There is a tone in your voice there, Avery, yes. Is that a personal thing, or is that just like a general, boundaries are hard.

Avery: Boundaries are hard, and also I feel like the way that boundaries are being talked about right now on social media is just such a misrepresentation of what boundaries are.

Carolyn: Yeah, say more.

Avery: Yeah, it’s very much like, if you don’t like this, or if you think I’m too much, go find less. And it’s like, well, but maybe you are being a little bit too much, and you need to tone it.

So, like, we need to look at it from that objective perspective. And I think when we think of boundaries, we’re either too scared to make them because we’re worried about how the other person’s going to receive it, or we’re making them way too freely without thinking it through and really thinking of how the other person’s going to receive it.

So I think when we think of boundaries although we cannot control the emotional response that somebody else is going to have We probably have a good idea of predicting how they might be triggered. So if we can manage their triggers and our triggers, then we’re able to have that calmer conversation, and to really set that boundary in the way that it needs to be set.

One of the trickiest things as well is knowing when to set a boundary and what to set it for.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Avery: if we’re feeling burnt out, our go to is to try and shut out the world for a couple of

Carolyn: Right. Yeah. Like, yep. 

Avery: And again, that’s more of a quick fix, we’re using scotch tape to cover up that hole in the boat rather than actually patching it up.

So I think boundaries is absolutely one of those holes, but it’s a little bit more complex to navigate how to effectively plug some of them.

Carolyn: something that has really resonated for me when I do my workshops, when we talk about boundaries is what do we visualize? And so, you know, when you think of that word, typically what people will say is a boundary, right? Like I’m on one side, you’re on the other and, and myself as well. In fact, like I was in a castle on a hill.

Ed Sheeran reference done unintentionally there and there was a moat and, you know, dragons surrounding the moat. Like it was very, very boundary. And what I’ve come to realize now is boundaries is really about sharing what it is that I need and asking what it is that you need so that we can be in a relational in, in relation with each other in a way that equates power and doesn’t imply like a power over.

And so that has really helped. Let me understand that when I don’t share what I need, I’m not being fair to the people I’m working with or, you know, coexisting with.

Avery: Mm hmm. Absolutely. And digging down into what you need sometimes takes a little bit of work because we can definitely go for the superficial, what we need, but asking yourself like, okay, so I need this, but why? What do I actually want? And then I want this, but what do I actually want? And you keep digging until you really get that feeling.

Like for me, it sounds like a bell ringing in my brain. I can just hear it go, bing, and I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s it. That’s what I need. And it’s really, like I talked about before, that like feeling that kind of settles in your body. So I think making sure before you set that boundary that you’re really clear on what it is that you actually are trying to Protect or show compassion towards

Carolyn: That’s such a great point because it’s so easy to say, Oh, well, I just need a day off or I just need more money.

Avery: yes. Yeah. And I think that’s where the, the compassion piece really comes into it. When I was really early in my acceptance of my illness, and I hadn’t even gotten to the point where I changed my name. I remember. going through one of the group programs that I run. And I always go through it with everybody because we always look at different layers of our upbringing and things that we want to reprogram and rewrite.

And so I always do it with everybody so that we can all see what the continual journey looks like. And so I decided I was doing this and I was going to be writing one of the exercises, which is a grief letter, where you write it to a past version of you, another person in your life that maybe you want to be able to say something you haven’t been able to say.

And so I decided to write it to my illness. And initially I started getting really angry. I was like super duper angry. And I was there writing on my treadmill because I usually do some brain dumping and like type at the end of the day and just like write it all out. So I was typing as I was writing on the treadmill.

And I, all of a sudden, Got this feeling where it shifted from anger to this incredible compassion, because I realized that this part of me that I wished would go away, that I wish I didn’t have to deal with this aspect that I wish I could build that wall or put them up in a castle or like send them somewhere else.

This part of me still deserved love. Even though. It was hurting. And so that moment where I shifted the writing from anger to compassion and really felt myself like hold this part close and said, you’re here. You’re welcome to be here. I’m going to make this a safe space for you. And then, Oh, Carolyn, I just started crying.

I was like a puddle on the floor. I had to get off the treadmill because I couldn’t see. And it was just. of grief coming out of where I realized that a lot of the boundaries that I felt like I had to set to protect this energy were all misplaced because really I needed to protect and show compassion to that part of myself.

Carolyn: What, what a release and like releasing all of that. I mean, that was trauma in your body. It sounds

Avery: Oh, very much so. And it was the ugliest, hardest cry I think I’ve ever had. And looking back on those moments, it is just so beautiful to know that that was such a really strong unfolding. That I think allowed me to be even more sure of what I wanted and what I really wanted to protect and what I needed to show more compassion to.

And that’s changed how I set those boundaries in all areas of my life because I was vulnerable enough with myself to have this big, ugly cry

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, and talk about flowing around the boulder.

Avery: Yes. Because before I was trying to shove that fricking boulder out of the way. Yes. Great

Carolyn: Yep. And it just like drains the energy and you just kind of keep banging, keep banging. So, what, what a powerful story. Hmm. Hmm. 

We have time for one more hole. Is there another hole in the boat that, that we can bring into the conversation?

Avery: absolutely. So really this, the way that our organizations are structured,

Carolyn: Yeah,

Avery: there’s a couple of different things that really are driven by this modern day capitalism view, which, like, I have nothing against capitalism. I think that there are lots of really great strengths to you. this economic model, but there are definitely things which we have to learn how to work with, because otherwise the hole in our boat just keeps getting bigger and bigger as this capitalism comes in and spreads its elbows out.

Carolyn: And we just keep trying to like bail out the water.

Avery: This is where like, especially with the mindfulness movement coming so much into corporate spaces, everybody’s like, Oh, check Kate, we’re making it better for employees. They’re going to be able to do more now because they’re all present in the moment and able to let things go. Cause the thing is with mindfulness, a lot of it’s talked about how you notice what’s happening without judgment and then you move past. Sometimes those boulders do need to be dealt with, which is why that river can still erode them, change them, make them smaller, roll them down the hill. And sometimes we do need to make those, those changes. And so some of these things that I want to get into a little bit, I think, are things that we need to start eroding a little, softening, so that we can change. Our overall stress and how that’s really impacting. So the first is really the acceleration of work timelines. Because people, especially with inflation, the cost of living, minimum wage, people are expected to work multiple jobs or to really push themselves to continue to advance because of either the need for enough money to survive or job insecurity.

Carolyn: Yep.

Avery: they’re worried that if they don’t live up to everybody’s expectations, then they’re going to fill that spot with somebody else, and they’re going to have to find something else for them to do. And so, really, this has led to us… Really utilizing our smartphones beyond the work day, and really, never, truly being off the clock.

Even if you are good at not having your work email on your phone, do you do a release practice at the end of the day to be able to leave your work? In your workspace, or does it kind of trickle in and it’s sitting there in the back burner while you’re busy eating dinner with your family? And,

Carolyn: Yep. The second one.

Avery: yeah, like it’s still kind of like, playing in back there.

Carolyn: What’s a release practice?

Avery: So a release practice is where we sit down at the end of the day. And we do maybe some deep breathing. One of the aspects of the release practice that I teach is you actually inhale and you exhale release. And you just keep doing this until your body calms down. So you say the word release. as you’re breathing.

And this just allows you to like create that little bit of transition separation. And then I ask myself, what is something that I am struggling to let go of that’s going to be impacting my evening?

Carolyn: Hmm.

Avery: And then I decide, like, okay, so this is something which I’m kind of struggling with. Do I need to bring this up to the people that I’m interacting with tonight, just so that they know if I’m, like, looking off into the distance, this is what I’m thinking about, and can you help me bring myself back to being present with you?

And then the other piece is we check in and ask what value or need of mine was not yet met today? And what do I need to do tonight to make sure that that need has been met?

Carolyn: Wow.

Avery: And when you do this, you’re slowing down, creating that separation and then setting a new intention. For that next part of your day after your work space has ended, and this is just such a powerful thing to do both with yourself, but then also with family, with roommates, with whomever it is that you’re gonna be interacting with in that evening or that next part of your day.

Mm-hmm.

Carolyn: And that’s where this commute to work that time where that would maybe you had a bit more space, you could find your way to that, that release practice a little bit more easier because I’m just thinking, I mean, so many times I’m sitting here at my desk and then as soon as it’s done, like, boom, like I’m upstairs and there’s like zero transition time and I fool myself.

I’m like, Oh, Carolyn, you’re strong. Just let go. And so. Cool. Really having an intentional release practice to get to that next part of the day. I can really, again, I can see how that would nourish my mental and emotional and fulfillment and like those three centers of energy.

Avery: And it really takes one to two minutes to do. So we’re not talking again about huge chunks of time here. It’s just those little pieces. Now, if you’re listening right now and you’re like, Oh yeah, I don’t need to do this. I’ve got my commute. I just want to ask you, What are you doing on your commute? Are you listening to an audio book?

Are you listening to a podcast? Are you doing all kinds of things to continue with your personal and self improvement? Are you running through all of the meetings from the day? Are you thinking about whatever’s going on tomorrow? Are you planning meals for the next three days? Thinking about what you’re going to be doing on the weekend?

Is it actually as much of a transition time as you think? Because maybe it is! But maybe some of those things that I just said might be resonating and you might be feeling a little called out.

Carolyn: Yeah. It’s a great, a great question. Great question. And Avery, is there another, is there one other thing that you want to share about this reference, just back to our systems and, the, the system that we work within?

Avery: Yes, absolutely. So I think the last piece that I really want to talk about is that pressure to achieve and consume. Because often people talk about, you know, like we were all this pressure to make sure that we do enough because then we are enough and really tying our worth to our to do list. But I think what a lot of people miss is that it’s also tied into this expectation to consume.

Because people are expected to earn enough money in order to buy the things to have the status that they want. And this is where digging in again into your values can be really helpful. Because if you’re always trying to keep up and not fall behind financially or socially or have your grass be green enough, you know, you really want to make sure you’re keeping up.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Avery: of that is actually out of alignment with the vast majority of people’s core values. So really bringing it back to what you value helps shift how much you really tie up your worth and what you need to achieve. So I think really the pressure to achieve and consume is something that is driven from even leadership in a lot of corporate spaces, but really understanding and how to bring that back to.

What we really want is such an important piece.

Carolyn: And, and what would the practice be like the tangible action, if somebody’s like hearing this or watching this, what could they do to help find that alignment?

Avery: So I think really it’s sitting down with yourself and asking, what do you really want? So if you’re working towards saving up to be able to get into real estate or buy a house, just dig into like, what do you actually need? What do you actually want? Are you, is it necessary that you work towards the extra large house with all of the spaces?

Or would something like a condo or an apartment actually be all that you need? So, because that gives you more flexibility to do other things, not to become, you know, house poor, or really digging into with health. Do you need to go join a gym? Do you need to? Get this supplement or the smoothie, or do you need to follow this particular diet, or do you really just want to feel good and feel healthy and confident in what you wear?

And so really coming down into those foundational things and not be fed by the consumerism machine can really help you realize that. Oh yeah, I don’t actually need to push myself for a promotion because I feel satisfied in my job. I really enjoy what I do and what I earn is enough to pay for the lifestyle that actually makes me happy.

Not what I think I want that’ll make me happy, but what actually makes me happy. So yeah, really digging into that I think would be very impactful.

Carolyn: Wow. Avery, where could anybody listening or watching, where could they reach out to you and find more information about your offerings?

Avery: Thank you so much for asking. So they can find me on my website becomingavery. com and I have two podcasts there as well that talk a lot about the burnout and really how to dig into finding those balances and finding that inner stillness and all of the chaos of our life. And one of the podcasts is actually called The Truth About Burnout, and this is where we dig into a lot of the… a lot more of the societal implications and in much more depth than what we were able to touch on today. So if you’re interested in that, then I would definitely recommend go checking that out. But one of the things that we’re really good at doing is sabotaging ourselves. We know in theory what we should be doing, but it’s really hard to actually put that into action.

And so the quiz that I have on my website. And if you just go to becomingavery. com and go to the link that says free resources, there’s a bunch there. And there’s also this quiz that helps you discover your primary self sabotage style and how to work with it rather than fight it. Because that is

Carolyn: that’s great. Well, we are going to make sure that we have all of those in the show notes for people to access. And before we close off, I ask all guests three questions. Are you are you game to head into those three

Avery: Always.

Carolyn: All right. So the first question and by the way, these questions all relate to the three elements of being an evolved leader, which is something I talk about in my book Evolve.

So the first question is all about self awareness. And, you know, we definitely have tapped into that in our conversation today. So is there an experience or a time that you haven’t shared with us already that gave you a Real tremendous insight into something about yourself that maybe wasn’t as easy to see or hear.

Avery: Absolutely. So, this is one of those cases where the red flag was hard for me to see. And I remember hearing ages ago, someone else said this and I can’t remember who it was and it kills me. So if you’re listening and you know who said this first, please tell me. But they said that sometimes we can’t see our red flags because they’re pointed at us.

And we only see the skinny side. And so sometimes we need somebody outside that can

Carolyn: To wave

Avery: Yeah, exactly. You’re like, create the wind so you can be like, Oh, there it is. So for me, I had grown my business and then a number of people were asking me to help them grow a business. And so I had started off a little side.

business there and was helping a bunch of entrepreneurs, had a really busy membership site and then grew an online marketing agency. And it was going really well. And by the outside, everyone was just like, wow, everything’s great. And I’m just like, I hate it. I hate getting up in the morning. And it was that moment when I realized that I actually dread going to work in a business that I created for myself. So I had gotten so caught up in what I felt like I should be doing instead of realizing what I actually wanted, which is what we talked about. And that’s where I realized that this wasn’t working for me. I shut it all down. I sold the marketing agency and I really focused back in on what actually lights me up and what gives me that fulfillment.

So yeah, that was a big moment.

Carolyn: It’s such a good reminder that it’s not productivity. It’s like we can be productive or not productivity, but just this consuming and doing. It doesn’t matter in what we can get, we can get over, over done in any area, really.

Avery: right. Happens to all of us.

Carolyn: Yeah. Wow. All right. The second question has to do around self regulation and what is a practice or ritual that really helps you stay grounded or centered 40.

Avery: So, for me, one of the most powerful things that I can do, and I do not feel like myself if I don’t do this, is walking my dog. If I don’t go out for a walk, I feel frazzled. I feel… really stuck and I feel so incredibly stressed. And so I go out with the dog and I just listen to the sounds of the city around me.

The birds chirping and huddling in the trees when it’s minus 40 outside and they’re like, ah, and it’s just so sweet and really it’s that moment that some of those really profound insights come to me. So yeah, for me, it’s slowing down. And the only way that that works for me is when I walk my dog. Cause then you freeze to the spot.

Carolyn: Yeah. And clearly we’re at different parts of Canada. So just to point that out, cause it’s not minus 40 here, but I do remember those days in Saskatchewan when I lived

Avery: there you go. There you go.

Carolyn: Yeah. And then the very last question is around connecting to something bigger than themselves. 

And so I like to ask people, what’s a genre of music or a song that gives you that connection to just something bigger than you?

Avery: So the song that really, I keep coming back to it’s called Tin Roof and it’s by an artist called Blessing Afar. And I’m not. I, I’m not a religious person and I know that this is a religious artist, but none, nothing in this song really talks about it in that way, but it’s saying like, I wonder really if we just need to appreciate the beauty of rain on a tin roof.

Carolyn: Oh

Avery: Cause it’s those moments, those special, simple things. It’s like, I don’t need like everything fancy. I don’t need everything to be going my way. I just need to slow down and remember the moments of rain on a tin roof. So that’s the song that always can bring me back and just help me realize what’s most important.

Carolyn: All the simple moments, the simple moments, and there’s not going to be rain in minus 40, it’s going to be snow on a tin roof. So maybe, maybe there’s an artist out there who wants to make a version

Avery: Yes. Maybe. Maybe.

Carolyn: All right. Well, again, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Avery, and just for sharing your, your knowledge, your experience, and your insight.

It’s so, it’s so easily to understand and follow what you’re saying. So thank you for all the work that you do and for coming on.

Avery: thank you so much for your kindness. It’s saying that and just thank you also for creating this space where people can talk about these things because I think it’s so important to do. So I just want to honor the space that you’re holding for this. So thank you.

Carolyn: Thank you. Thanks Avery

. All right, evolved listeners and watchers we appreciate you tuning in to this episode and we’ll catch you on the next one.

That conversation with Avery really got me thinking about what I thought success was. And it was really being on autopilot and getting really hooked into seeing how much I could get done in a day. And when I was writing the first copy of Evolve, It was, it was actually called, it had a different name, it was called The Perfect Widow.

And I remember writing a whole section about this game that I would play with myself about how much could I get done in one day. And it was so addictive. And I would pat myself on the back and just be so proud of how many things I could get done in one day. And it really became a contest for me. And in this discussion with Avery.

It’s just such a great reminder at how lost and untethered I had become from my values. And what was really important because I wasn’t present for those I love the most. And hey, when you know better, you can do better. So I’m not gonna be guilty. I’m not gonna let guilt take over. I have been guilty about it.

But when we know more, we have more of this information. We can show up the way that we want to. So I hope this conversation with Avery has given you an opportunity to think about what’s really important for you and that we’ve provided some tangible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and if you can, please like and subscribe to the podcast. It helps get the word out and feel free to share this with someone who you think could benefit. Thanks for joining us today. 

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